As a missionary, especially here in Utah, I have talked to many people who have gone inactive or less-active in the church for a variety of reasons. Like President Uchtdorf recently said in the October General Conference, the reasons for leaving the church are neither general nor simple. I won’t talk much about that talk, partly because I already talked about it (see: My Favorite Conference Talk) and partly because today I want to talk about what we as members can do to prevent our own inactivity in the Gospel.
Personally, I wish it was just as easy as saying, “I am always going to stay active in the church!” I wish that outward exclamation of will would be enough to prevent a possible falling away from the Church that I love, but having seen so many other people go inactive, I know that must not be enough. Even more disturbing to me is the fact that there are missionaries who serve honorable, full-time missions only to go inactive a year or two off their missions. I admit that I have been worried quite a bit lately about that possibility with myself. I really can’t see myself doing that, but what on Earth can I do to prevent such a thing from happening?
The answer (or rather, one of them) came to me during my personal study a few days ago. I was reading the October 1996 General Conference talks when I came across one by a nearly twenty-years younger Thomas S. Monson. The talk is titled “Be Thou an Example,” and it primarily talks about how we can receive blessings from following the Lord’s commandments and that our example can change the lives of those around us. As I was reading the wonderful discourse, I came across an entire paragraph devoted to missionaries and the council that he would give them. Here are the three things that he asked his missionaries to do when he was a Mission President in Canada:
“Prepare well for your vocation, profession, or trade, and be the very best you can be at what you choose to do.
Quoting Elder Bruce R. McConkie: “Marry the right person [at the right time], in the right place, [and] by the right authority.” Thus far, their responses were spontaneous and enthusiastic. Then I would counsel:
Always be active in the Church. Some of the missionaries would look a little quizzical before responding, and I would say, “Let me put the matter another way. Three words provide the formula: Pay your tithing.” Each would affirm determination to do so. I truly believe that the payment of an honest tithing will go a long way to ensure continued activity in the Church.”
After reading the each of the first two points, I was nodding my heading and saying to myself, “Yes yes, this is very sound advice.” When I read the third point, I did a mental double-take. Was continued activity really as easy as paying tithing? I am not sure I even finished the talk at this point because I felt like I had been given a nugget of metal more precious than gold. Perhaps this was the answer I had been seeking the whole time.
Well, after thinking about it and pondering why exactly tithing would help with continued church activity, I realized that the solution was not as easy as I had first mentally exclaimed. I thought about my own struggles paying tithing over the years and how difficult it was to give up one tenth of a hard-earned paycheck. I thought about my parents who had been dirt-poor during college and the fact that they made a concentrated effort to pay their tithing every month. My mom still speaks with great reverence about the blessings they received during those years and how she attributes them to tithing. I realized that the tithing we pay blesses us more than anything else. While it is true that the Church uses tithing to fund building construction and other projects, the Church really doesn’t need the money. President Monson could tell the entire membership that there is no need to pay tithing anymore and he would be guided to some mountain to find an untapped gold vein or something in order to fund the Church. So if the Lord doesn’t need our tithing, why do we pay it? Why is it a commandment to pay one whole tenth of the money we make to a church that could get along just fine without it?
In Malachi 3:10-11 regarding the payment of tithing, it states,
“…prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Honestly, I think the opportunity to receive a blessing “that there shall not be room enough to receive it” is a good enough reason to pay tithing, but the Lord explains even further that “[He] will rebuke the devourer for [our] sakes.” Satan himself will be rebuked and have no power over us. The “fruits of our ground” will be protected and will be given to us in the correct time. While in many cases this includes financial blessings, it often also means our spiritual fruits as well. I assume that tithing helps our church activity in this manner. If we are paying an honest tithe, we will be blessed with more spiritual sensitivity and a desire to attend church. We will be given an increased capacity to serve in the church and opportunities to grow and progress, which is the ultimate goal of this life.
My invitation to you today is to pay your tithing and see how generous God will be in blessing you. I can testify that tithing has kept my own family afloat during difficult times in our life and brought us closer together. A family that pays tithing together attends church together. If you are currently inactive in the Church, I urge you to come back and enjoy the blessings that the Lord has (and wants) for you. Our Father in Heaven wants to bless us, but we have to follow His provided commandments in order to do so.