What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Tithing?

The Book of Mormon only mentions tithing twice, both times in conjunction with Old Testament scriptures.

  1. Alma mentions tithing in passing in his sermon about the priesthood. He introduces Melchizedek as the priest to whom Abraham paid tithes. Although he didn’t elaborate on this incident, Alma did clarify that these “tithes” meant “one tenth part of all [Abraham] possessed” (Alma 13:15).
  2. When the Savior visited the American continent following His death and resurrection, He recited for the people the third and fourth chapters of Malachi, including this sharp rebuke:

Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say: Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
Ye are cursed with a curse, for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house; and 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 (3 Nephi 24:8-10, Malachi 3:8-10).

The Savior clearly takes it for granted that the people understood what tithing was and that they would understand Malachi’s characterization of it as a solemn duty. He also thought it was important for them to understand that great blessings are promised to those who faithfully pay their tithing—so great that the limiting factor will be our ability to receive them, not God’s willingness to grant them.

We have no record of a Book of Mormon character paying tithing, but the people whom the Savior taught clearly internalized the underlying message of the law of tithing: Don’t become too attached to your money or your possessions. Within three years after the Savior’s ministry, all of the people were converted to the Lord. They lived in peace with one another, and a vital component of that peace was their sense of shared ownership:

They had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift (4 Nephi 1:3).

In 1838, Joseph Smith received by revelation the law of tithing which is practiced in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today. Members of the Church are instructed to “pay one-tenth of all their interest [meaning income] annually” (Doctrine and Covenants 119:4).

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has suggested five reasons for us to pay tithing:

  1. “For the sake of your children and grandchildren, the rising generation, who could now, if we are not careful, grow up in the Church with absolutely no understanding as to how their temples, chapels, seminaries, and socials are provided”
  2. “To claim the blessings rightfully promised to those who do so”
  3. “As a declaration that possession of material goods and the accumulation of worldly wealth are not the uppermost goals of your existence”
  4. “Out of honesty and integrity because they are God’s rightful due”
  5. “As a personal expression of love to a generous and merciful Father in Heaven”

(“Like a Watered Garden,” General Conference, October 2001).

Today, I will remember the example of Abraham, the warning of Malachi, and the thoughtful encouragement of Elder Holland. As we approach the holiday of Thanksgiving next week, I will remember Elder Holland’s fifth reason. I will remember that tithing is an expression of gratitude to God, recognizing that everything that I have comes from Him.

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2 Responses to What Does the Book of Mormon Teach About Tithing?

  1. Aaron Roome Gmail says:

    Great list from Elder Holland. I probably shouldn’t be surprised that there’s only two references… afterall, the Book of Mormon is a book written for our time, which the Lord knew would include living prophets to teach the law of tithing.

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    • Paul Anderson says:

      I’m not sure why the Book of Mormon doesn’t talk about tithing more. But the two references are sufficient to demonstrate that the people knew about it. I agree—Elder Holland’s list of reasons is a good one, and it helped me refocus on the core purposes of tithing.

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