Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Tithe is High, but I'm Holding On

The amusing Christopher Bigelow and the thoughtful Jana Riess have written a dumb, a Dummies book...on Mormonism. Our erstwhile cross-town rival Peggy Fletcher Stack favorably reviews the book in Saturday's Salt Lake Trib.

While the Practical Mormon is a big fan of both Chris and Jana, and approves of most of what we've read so far, their comments about tithing leave us spoiling for a debate. To wit:

Tithing is only a warm-up exercise: As much of a sacrifice as paying tithing is, Mormons see it as a lesser law that God gave because people couldn't live the higher law. Basically, tithing is God's Plan B, a first step in learning to live Plan A, which Mormons call the Law of Consecration.

Lessee...How do we put this succinctly? Um...Bologna!

This, says the Practical Mormon, is the deal with tithing (At least, here's the deal so far as temple-attending Saints should be concerned):

Tithing isn't the Blue-Light Special on the Law of Consecration. The Law of Consecration is tithing, (and contrary to the assertion in this otherwise-fine Gospel Doctrine resource) the Practical Mormon holds that the Law of Consecration is not in abeyance.

OK, it's a fine distinction, but imagine, for a moment, that the Law of Consecration works this-away:

1. God provides everything, and permits the Saints to live by, or ignore, the Law of Consecration.
2. We choose to consecrate everything back to God.
3. God tells us to take stewardship over 90 percent of everything.
4. We cut a check to the Church for the other 10 percent, because God gives the Bishop (et al) stewardship over that portion.

And imagine, for another moment, that there's a wise purpose in this division of stewardship -- which we call Agency. So long as the 90 percent of God's -- and by extension, the Church's -- resources are held by agents, no damgummit can ever again confiscate those resources.

Is it possible that rather than being in suspension, the Law of Consecration is, in fact, fully operational right here, right now? And that in addition to the metaphorical lessons we usually take from the Parable of the Talents, the tale also has an entirely literal interpretation?

The Practical Mormon says eh-yup.

And gets a nasty little shiver when confronted with "I paid my tithing and found this shiny new car in my driveway" stories suggesting that paying tithing is the sure road to riches.


Christopher Bigelow said...

Wow, I've never heard tithing explained so well before vis a vis the Law of Consecration. I don't think what my coauthor and I said in the Dummies book is inaccurate as far as how many (most) Mormons understand, but if we get a chance to do a second edition I'd like to include this viewpoint too.

Dr. LauraMaery Gold said...

Methinks you're entirely correct about the "lesser law" belief of most of the Saints.

So we'll just have to teach correct principles, yes?