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Gospel Doctrine D&C Lesson 17: Tithing and Fasting

Posted by robf on May 31, 2009

Today I covered this lesson in our ward. We’ve all had dozens of lessons about tithing and fasting. But I think we soon found out that maybe we still have a lot more to learn!

I started out with asking for what we talked about last week (Sabbath observance) and writing that on the board. I asked the class members what section we covered (59)–and then asked if they had read the whole section (I was visiting a different ward last week). The expected answer was no.

So then I wrote tithing and fasting on the board underneath Sabbath observance. I then asked how many members were perfect in their tithing observance (most hands up). Then I asked how many were perfect in fasting (very few hands).

Then I asked the class for what they know about tithing, since they seem to be doing so much better with that. We listed maybe 20 typical things (blessings, windows of heaven, “fire insurance”, etc.).

Then I said sometimes, because of the nature of the Gospel Doctrine class, we focus on just one part of a section or on one principle, like tithing, without really getting the full context. And that sometimes that messes up our perspective.

Then I brought out the Behold the Man painting of Christ. I talked about how some people have said that you can tell how you feel about Jesus by your opinion of whether the painting looks happy or stern. I got some wrinkled brows–some class members thought that was weird, so I asked if they thought that was strange. They did. But I said I’ve heard that several times in the ward.

Then I said, lets just pretend that we all agree that Jesus is smiling in this picture. Lets focus on that. Then I took a piece of paper with a hole cut out and placed it over the picture so all you could see were the lips of Jesus. Everyone thought that was really weird, and I could tell they thought I was off my rocker. So I asked what would be wrong about focusing just on the lips of Jesus. We got to the point where we agreed that we needed to see the whole face, the whole context, and that the lips by themselves didn’t mean much, or that we would have to distort our view of Christ to focus on his lips.

I said its exactly the same with our favorite gospel topics. We have to see them in their context, otherwise we get a distorted view sometimes.

To that end, we started by reading the full text of D&C 59–which depicts a Zion society and the blessings that the Lord wants us to enjoy. Only within that context can we really understand observing the Sabbath (the proof texts from last week) and fasting (which is brought up in vs. 13-14). Sabbath observance, and fasting, is to take place in a Zion context of joy and serving others. Otherwise fasting becomes like the lips ripped off the face of Jesus.

(as we wrapped up reading D&C 59 we talked about how every good thing on the earth–including all the animals and birds–are here for our enjoyment. It was obvious that most class members weren’t fully appreciating this gift, including the 10,000 different bird species on the planet, let alone the 40,000 different kinds of spiders!) and that perhaps their turning the back on this blessing of enjoying nature was something the Lord frowned on (since they “don’t confess his hand in all things”) and something they could do better with!).

To emphasize this we read Isaiah 58–where the Lord reminds his people that fasting is to be done to help others, not as a burden. The people had lost the context for fasting, and he was showing it to them.

We talked about being a gospel tourist (feet on the bus, visiting church, just getting by) as opposed to being a resident of Zion (feet on the ground, as mentioned in D&C 59). How Sabbath observance, and fasting, can help us learn to enjoy the blessings of peace in this life, and exaltation in the world to come.

By this point we were out of time, and hadn’t circled back around to tithing. So we quickly read the first part of D&C 119–emphasizing that there can be no tithing without first consecration (giving of the surplus). How maybe we’ve missed a big part of paying tithing–perhaps we aren’t so perfect in it after all. We think we are paying tithing so that later, someday, we’ll be ready to consecrate everything to the Lord, when in the scriptures here clearly state that tithing of increase (income) comes AFTER consecration. Lots to think about there! Maybe most of us have a backwards view of this!

I had to end it up with my testimony that the blessings we talked about today, including the commandments to fast and pay tithes, were what the Lord wants us to have, and that when we do it we will have Zion here in our ward.

Now the hard part…actually living the lesson. How should one go about giving of their surplus to the Church in this day and age so that they can participate in “the beginning” of the tithing of the people?

7 Responses to “Gospel Doctrine D&C Lesson 17: Tithing and Fasting”

  1. Michaela Stephens said

    “How should one go about giving of their surplus to the Church in this day and age so that they can participate in “the beginning” of the tithing of the people?”

    We can do several things to go about giving our surplus. First, we need to become more skilled at knowing the difference between our wants and needs. We need to become more skilled at organizing ourselves and our finances so that we are living within our means so that we will have a surplus to give. Then, we need to become good at budgeting so that we can both plan ahead for anticipated needs and gain self-control in our spending decisions.

    We can donate our goods that we don’t use to Deseret Industries. We can give of our time as volunteers in a number of different places. We can give of our money to various church funds. It doesn’t happen all at once; it is an incremental change. It requires organization and instituting order in our lives. We learn wisdom by experience adn we learn to impart as the gospel requires.

  2. NathanG said

    I’ve wondered about this beginning of tithing many times. The church must be wrong in not requiring new members to give all their excess belongings to be appropriate tithe payers. The missionaries should be sure to mention this when committing people to live the law of tithing. Since I was born into the church and started off with nothing, I should be good:)

    Perhaps an alternate reading is that “this is the beginning of the tithing of my people” was a transition from the law of consecration to the law of tithing. Do you know historically if people gave all their excess and then began tithing after this section was given, or was it just at this time.

  3. It is interesting that the actual commandment of tithing happens after first giving of a surplus. I imagine the idea was that if you entered into Zion (the city itself) then as you entered you consecrated your surplus, had a stewardship, etc. and in addition to that you gave 10% of your increase. It does make a great deal of sense. 10% is not really that hard, for a great many people, who can still live in huge fancy houses and have two cars. :) But if you gave EVERY thing that you didn’t need first, then 10% is a real, actual giving of what you have and it would make us recognize that the only reason we even had an increase, beyond our original “just what we need” starting place, was that the Lord gave it to us. And, as you mentioned from Isaiah, the only reason for all of this is to help others!! Unfortunately, we all want to focus on ourselves (“am I doing this ok?”) instead of losing ourselves in an opportunity to bless others. Sorry this was so long!

  4. There was a discussion about this consecration-vs.-tithing situation, including historical details, at the “Embracing the Law” (D&C 42) seminar blog: http://embracingthelaw.wordpress.com/ see “Context and Approach: Getting Started” post, comments numbers 3, 4, and 5 at least.

  5. RobF said

    Thanks Karen. Hadn’t heard about this latest seminar (I guess I’m so far out of the loop now that I qualify as occupying another planet!).

  6. BrianJ said

    thanks for the write-up, Rob. I especially like your object lesson.

  7. Website said

    Website…

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