Episodes

205: Tithing Part 1- Surplus

surplus

Today we had hoped to start a 3 part series on tithing.  In this first part we focus on validating 12 reasons why SURPLUS is the most valid interpretation of “What income should I pay 10% on?” (Surplus, Net, or Gross).  We had planned to do two more parts where in part two we defend NET and in part three defend GROSS but that was cut short.  Please Stay till the very end to see why this had to be cut short.  Below are resources as you prayerfully make your own decision on what is a Fair and Honest Tithe!!!!  As for me, I have been paying on surplus for 2 years now and that decision came after much prayer and discussion with my Father in Heaven.  I am not imposing my interpretation on others, in fact I feel that it is very possible for God to give others a different answer then he gave me.  This is why I value the First Presidency when they taught

“No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.”

http://thoughtsonthingsandstuff.com/lds-tithing-in-a-word/

http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2012/12/are-we-paying-too-much-tithing.html

http://bycommonconsent.com/2006/11/01/tithing-and-the-poor/

https://mormonsundayschool.org/044-tithes-and-fasting-doctrine-covenants-and-church-history/

http://lds-church-history.blogspot.com/2010/12/lds-history-summary.html

https://ldsanarchy.wordpress.com/2007/10/28/the-law-of-tithing-part-three/

 

1.) “The celestial law requires one-tenth part of all a man’s substance which he possesses at the time he comes into the church (See D&C 119:1), and one-tenth part of his annual increase ever after(See D&C 119:4). IF IT REQUIRES ALL MAN CAN EARN TO SUPPORT HIMSELF AND HIS FAMILY, HE IS NOT TITHED AT ALL. The celestial law does not take the mother’s and children’s bread, neither ought else which they really need for their comfort. The poor that have not of this world’s good to spare, but serve and honor God according to the best of their abilities in every other way, shall have a celestial crown in the Eternal Kingdom of our Father.” (The Millenial Star, 1847. Orson Hyde, editor) – quotes comes post end of consecration and after law of tithing is revealed

2.) section 119 refers to surplus

3.) Encyclopedia of Mormonism on tithing as it refers to section 119 as the Lord’s new law of tithing and not consecration and speaks directly of surplus.

4.) JST of Genesis 14 – “Wherefore Abram paid unto him tithes of all that he had, of all the riches which he possessed, which God had given him more than that which he had need.” JST Genesis 14:39. (Emphasis added.)

5.) The actual words Lorenzo Snow used when he went to St. George to deliver his address on tithing – (“Gen Conf. 1899) “I pray that every man, woman, and child [who has means] shall pay one tenth of their income astithing.” – When net or gross are used everyone has means with almost no exception

6.) The church’s Doctrine – “For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, which is understood to mean income.No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.”

– while not supporting surplus as the right conclusion it certainly doesn’t exclude it. It also begs the question why the Church officially chooses not to define tithing beyond this if Surplus is a pernicious lie.

7.) the handbook – “The simplest statement we know of is the statement of the Lord himself, namely, that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all theirinterest annually,’ which is understood to mean income. No one is justified in making any other statement than this.” (First Presidency letter, 19 Mar. 1970;see also D&C 119:4)

same as number 6

8.) “The Lord’s Tenth, Pamphlet, 1968”

THE TITHE AS A RENTAL

As the matter presents itself to my mind, it is as though there had been a

contract made between myself and the Lord, and that in effect He had said to me: “You have need of many things in this world — food, clothing, and shelter for your family and yourself, the common comforts of life, and the things that shall be conducive to refinement, to development, to righteous enjoyment. You desire material possessions to use for the assistance of others, and thereby gain greater blessings for yourself and yours. Now, you shall have the means of acquiring these things; but remember they are mine, and I require of you the payment of a rental upon that which I give into your hands. However, your life will not be one of uniform increase in substance and possessions; you will have your losses, as well as your gains; you will have your periods of trouble as

well as your times of peace. Some years, will be years of plenty unto you, and others will be years of scarcity, And, now, instead of doing as mortal landlords do — require you to contract with them to pay in advance, whatever your fortunes or your prospects may be — you shall pay me not in advance, but when you have received; and you shall pay me in accordance with what you receive. If it so be that in one year your income is abundant, then you can afford to pay me a little more; and if it be so that the next year is one of distress and your income is not what it was, then you shall pay me less; and should it be that you are reduced to the utmost penury so that/you have nothing coming in, you will pay me nothing.”

Talmadge can be seen as defending all three and while some may see Gross as the conclusion here I post it anyway as there are phrases used that seem to indicate other options such as net or surplus as well as Talmadge first speaks of one’s needs and then speaks of not paying in advance but only once one knows whether one has an abundance or a scarcity. (which contradicts some modern leaders)

I admit #8 is the weakest of the quotes but share it here for others to read

9.) “In more recent times the Church has not called upon the members to give all their SURPLUS property to the Church, but it has been the requirement according to the covenant, that they PAY THE TENTH.” (Emphases added. Joseph Fielding Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1946-1949], 3: 120.). Without adding tenth of Gross, any person listening to this originally or reading it is left to assume tenth of one’s surplus. (the original law was to give one tenth of one’s surplus properties and then a tenth of one’s surplus ever after… it seems most reasonable that as the Church got into better financial shape it simply removed the first part of one’s surplus properties when one entered and members were now only required to pay the tenth (which was surplus based on D&C 119

10.) Heb 7:4 – “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.”

11.) the 1970 FP letter. It is a bit of a sleight of hand. The Lord never mentions the word “income” in the revelation(119), but only surplus and interest. “Income” is mans addition. The FP letter should read, “For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, which is understood by us without any formal revelation as income.

12.) In discussing consecration, the Lord defines surplus as giving “more then is necessary for their support” (D&C 42:33). This was always curious to me. If tithing is a lesser law, why does it demand more of your money (if using the gross or net model) than does consecration (surplus). It seems like if consecration is the goal, surplus, and tithing is a lesser law, tithing should be 10% of surplus, not gross or net, which could be much more than a persons surplus.

13.) There is also the famous three words removed from the Lorenzo Snow quote in the church manual, “who has means”

“I plead with you in the name of the Lord, and I pray that every man, woman and child … shall pay one-tenth of their income as a tithing.”

14.) In a Letter from Heber C. Kimball to his wife Vilate and subsequently reprinted in Elders’ Journal (Oct 1837) pp.4-7 detailing the early work and organisation of the church in the Lanchashire area, 1837:

Preston, Lancashire, England, September 2, 1837

My Dear Companion [Vilate Kimball],

“….We have to live quite short but the brethren are very kind to us. They are willing to divide with us the last they have. They are quite ignorant; many of them cannot read a word and it needs great care to teach them the gospel so that they can understand. The people here are bound down under priestcraft in a manner I never saw before. They have to pay tithes to the priests of every tenth they raise, so that they cannot lay up one cent. They are in the same situation the children of Israel were in Egypt. They have their taskmasters over them to bind them down. It will be as great a miracle to deliver this people as it was the children of Israel.

There are a great many believing in Preston; we are baptizing almost every day.”

Heber is suggesting those priests who are skimming off the top are practicing priestcraft.

15.) In “A Companion to your Study of the Doctrine & Covenants” written by Ludlow, 1978, in the section marked 119 you will read the following:

“I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop” Let us consider for a moment this word ‘SURPLUS.’ What does it mean when applied to a man and his property?

SURPLUS CANNOT MEAN THAT WHICH IS INDISPENSABLY NECESSARY FOR ANY GIVEN PURPOSE, BUT WHAT REMAINS AFTER SUPPLYING WHAT IS NEEDED FOR THAT PURPOSE. Is not the first and most necessary use of a man’s property that he feed, clothe and provide a home for himself and family! . . . WAS NOT ‘SURPLUS PROPERTY,’ THAT WHICH WAS OVER AND ABOVE A COMFORTABLE AND NECESSARY SUBSTANCE?

In the light of what had transpired and of subsequent events, what else could it mean? CAN WE TAKE ANY OTHER VIEW OF IT WHEN WE CONSIDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH IT WAS GIVEN IN FAR WEST, IN JULY, 1838? “I have been unable in studying this subject to find any other definition of the term ‘SURPLUS,’ as used in this revelation, than the one I have just given. I find that it was so understood and recorded by the Bishops and people in those days, AS WELL AS BY THE PROPHET JOSEPH HIMSELF, WHO WAS UNQUESTIONABLY THE ABLEST AND BEST EXPONENT OF THIS REVELATION.”

(Emphasis added, Franklin D. Richards, Nov. 6, 1882. JD 23:313.)

16.) President David O. McKay has this explanation of D&C 119:

The law of tithing as now understood and practiced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was given by revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith in response to a prayer in which the Prophet sought the Lord to know “how much he required of the properties of the people for a tithing.” The Lord answered saying, the “beginning” of tithing consisted first of “all the surplus property,” and named the specific purposes for which this “surplus property” should be used. “After that” tithing consists “of one-tenth of all the interest annually; and this,” he continued, “shall be a standing law unto them forever.” (See D. & C. 119.)

reference should actually be “David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, p.197.”

 

17.) “If a man is worth a $1000, the interest on that would be $60, and one/10. of the interest will be of course $6.— thus you see the plan.” Bishop Partridge

 

18.) Howard W. Hunter

Burton, ed., We Believe, Tithing

The law is simply stated as “one-tenth of all their interest.” Interest means profit, compensation, increase. It is the wage of one employed, the profit from the operation of a business, the increase of one who grows or produces, or the income to a person from any other source. The Lord said it is a standing law “forever” as has been in the past. CR1964Apr:35

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19 thoughts on “205: Tithing Part 1- Surplus

  1. Great podcast Bill. I came to the same conclusion about tithing a couple of years ago as well. A lot of prayer, pondering, searching and evaluation of my own experiences brought me to the conclusion that tithing is on surplus. I thought you might find this information interesting in an article by Steven Harper about Bishop Partridge’s understanding of tithing being paid on interest – he was apparently in the room when Joseph received the revelation. http://kutv.com/news/local/new-historical-information-reveals-original-meaning-of-lds-tithing

    • I was aware of that but recorded before it came out. While not quite Surplus it matches surplus closer than Net or Gross

  2. I have a personal testimony of tithing.When the Lord promises to pour out blessings he does.I struggled most of my life with tithing,thinking I could not afford to pay tithes,then years ago I decided that I would start paying an honest tithe (not surplus)but a tenth of my income,exercising faith that the Windows of Heaven would open up and it certainly did,I no longer worry about money,the first thing I do when I receive income(not surplus,but the paycheck one receives each month)is budget the remaining 90% the Lord has blessed me with after writing my tithing check first and foremost.I cannot explain it but my money worries ended the day I started to keep this commandment.

    • That’s wonderful Aaron but if you spend any part of your brain condemning others for their “different interpretation” you seem to be violating the spirit of the First Presidencies statement. Your answer is yours but no other person should be denied the chance to think about their agency and the variation of the available choices. I get fed up with folk when they hear this conversation saying “I pay on gross and I have been so blessed” and do so in a way that comes across as them wanting others to know “the true order of tithing”

  3. I agree with Bill. Aaron..you said “I would start paying an honest tithe (not surplus)…” You are implying that any other method is dishonest. There is absolutely nothing doctrinal about paying more equals more blessings. In fact…there is scriptural evidence to support the opposite viewpoint when you consider ‘do not run faster than you are able’. Surplus equals money that is there after all “necessary” living expenses are paid. What we each consider “necessary” living expenses is what the Lord will judge us on. But it makes absolutely no sense for the single mother making minimum wage to pay tithing and have the ward and church help with electricity bills and food from the Church storehouse. If your response is “that is a test of faith for that single mother”. That response I have heard forever. That is not doctrinal and is philosophies of men to the law of tithing. Many members and even Church leaders have been guilty of this because it has been church culture for years.

    Thanks for this great podcast Bill Reel. You and Rock Waterman nail it on the head.

  4. Bill,

    Is there any way that you can add your points in a comment or to the body of the podcast description?

    Also, a question with regards to the word income. The First Presidency letter from 1970 says the following.

    “‘one-tenth of all their interest annually,’ which is understood to mean income.”

    I am wondering how you take the word income and interpret it to be surplus income. If you just research the word income there is rarely a reference to surplus. Surplus income is a subset/sub category of income, but not income.

    Thoughts?

    • All I need is a rarely and that leaves room. Also the word income comes from the brethren which they self admittedly understand it that way without God’s straightening them out.

      they say “which is understood to mean income.” which means ? who understands? does their word use not indicate the Christ hasn’t made them certain but rather this is how “they understand” based on their own understanding?

      • Read Matthew 23:23 and you are going to understand that for the Lord is OK to pay tithing. Except that it is wrong to pay tithing if the organization demanding it places its own needs on top of the individuals’ needs.

    • As Bill said, the phrase “understood to mean” implies some vaguery. And my argument would be, why isn’t “interest” understood to mean “interest”?? What is interest, but the extra… interest from a savings account, interest paid on a credit card, etc. That is how it was originally applied and understood, and changing the definition of that in 1970 is akin to someone reading dialogue from a person in 1920 who says “That man sure looks gay” and defining that to mean “that man looks like a homosexual.”

      Actually, per the recently discovered quote from Bishop Partridge, who was there at the time of the revelation, “interest” at the time and as applied to tithing meant even less than what we would usually end up with after expenses… he said it was based on the interest (he used six percent, which was common at the time) of your net worth, times one-tenth. So if your net worth is a million dollars, six percent of that is $60,000 and a tenth of that is $6,000. Can you imagine someone today who is worth $1,000,000 paying only $6,000 in tithing annually and not being scorned? And yet, apparently that is the correct way per the original definition and application of the word “interest.”

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  7. It is not our to duty to define what an honest tithe is. It is our duty to willingly pay tithe. However one defines this is between them and God. If you pay off gross and it makes you happy then please continue to do so. If you pay net and it makes you happy please continue to do so. If you pay surplus and your happy continue to do so. Just do yourself and the world a favor stay happy. Don’t let complications disturb your peace. Just pay, read your scriptures , pray , and love your fellow man. Beyond that who cares.

  8. We just lost our temple recommends for paying on surplus. It went up to our area authority and he said tithing means “net or gross”. Anything less than that is not a full tithe. (We let the numbers be seen). We have spent hours in deliberation with our stake president and bishop and I’m not sure how to move forward. We even sent this podcast to the stake president and bishop. Just thought I’d pass that along. If you want to pay on surplus, better make it hidden. There is not consensus among the leadership. It’s leadership roulette.

    • I am so sorry to hear that. Sadly that kind of reaction seems to completely miss the doctrine of the 1970 First Presidency letter and the teachings such as this one by Elder Oaks

      “Teachers who are commanded to teach “the principles of [the] gospel” and “the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77) should generally forgo teaching specific rules or applications. For example, they would not teach any rules for determining what is a full tithing, and they would not provide a list of dos and don’ts for keeping the Sabbath day holy. Once a teacher has taught the doctrine and the associated principles from the scriptures and the living prophets, such specific applications or rules are generally the responsibility of individuals and families.” – Elder Oaks

      • Where is that quote from? Haven’t seen that one before. We have been emailing quotes back-and-forth with the bishop and stake president for awhile now. Their hands are tied. I can see where they’re coming from. I just wish they would agree to disagree. But they won’t.

        • First Presidency Statement on Doctrine

          “For your guidance in this matter, please be advised that we have uniformly replied that the simplest statement we know of is that statement of the Lord himself that the members of the Church should pay one-tenth of all their interest annually, which is understood to mean income.No one is justified in making any other statement than this. We feel that every member of the Church should be entitled to make his own decision as to what he thinks he owes the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.”

          and Elder Oaks Gospel Teaching
          https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1999/10/gospel-teaching?lang=eng
          Teachers who are commanded to teach “the principles of [the] gospel” and “the doctrine of the kingdom” (D&C 88:77) should generally forgo teaching specific rules or applications. For example, they would not teach any rules for determining what is a full tithing, and they would not provide a list of dos and don’ts for keeping the Sabbath day holy. Once a teacher has taught the doctrine and the associated principles from the scriptures and the living prophets, such specific applications or rules are generally the responsibility of individuals and families.

          You could always try to escalate this higher and see what response you get.

    • Read Matthew 23:23 and you are going to understand that for the Lord is OK to pay tithing. Except that it is wrong to pay tithing if the organization demanding it places its own needs on top of the individuals’ needs.

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