The law of tithing (part three)

Continued from part two.

“And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.” (D&C 119: 4)

Only First Presidency statements can officially interpret scripture and only those interpretations are binding upon the church, even as binding as the scriptures themselves. The First Presidency has already interpreted the meaning of the word interest in a letter written on 19 March 1970. Here is the quote of that letter dealing with tithing:

What is a proper tithe?

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. (First Presidency Statement, 19 March 1970)

The above quote is found in the Church General Handbook. Go up to your bishop and ask to see the section on tithing. It quotes from this First Presidency Statement. Those who understand the doctrine, such as the prophet, merely re-iterate this same statement:

President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The Brethren have interpreted the word interest to mean income. Beyond that they have not given interpretation.”

The word income, however, is open to interpretation. Who decides what it means? You do. It could mean gross income or net income, after expenses. It could mean profit, surplus or bank interest, etc. During the time of Brigham Young it was defined as increase. Get out your Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young manual and search out what he said about tithing.

Once or twice a year, a GA or two will speak on tithing. Occasionally, they will define the word interest beyond what the First Presidency has stated. Don’t take it as gospel. It’s merely their opinion, and their hope that you will interpret the word interest the same way as they do.

My personal opinion is that interest (income) means surplus. I have come to this conclusion for the following reasons:

  • JST Genesis 14: 39 states, “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.” Abram paid tithes on his surplus.
  • The saints are to pay tithing annually. Not monthly, not weekly, not whenever they get more gross income. When you pay tithing annually, the reason must be because you are doing an accounting of what came in, what went out, what was consumed and what is now left over (the interest, increase, income, surplus.) At the end of the year, you can make a determination of how much surplus you have and then give the tenth-part to the Lord.
  • Webster’s 1828 dictionary defined interest as “5. Any surplus advantage.” Webster’s 1828 dictionary defined advantage as “7. Interest; increase; overplus.” Both of these definitions equate to surplus. D&C 119 came out in 1838, so this was the dictionary in use at the time.
  • The RLDS (now Community of Christ) church defines it as surplus. They tithe after deducting their living expenses.
  • The law of tithing is not meant to oppress the poor. The scriptures define poor as anyone who has no surplus, yet has sufficient for their needs. (See Mosiah 4: 24.) Those who don’t have sufficient for their needs are also considered the poor.
  • When you make your tithing declaration at the end of the year, you can declare yourself a full tithe payer, a partial tithe payer, or exempt. Obviously some people can justifiably declare themselves exempt. Who are they? They are the poor, as defined by scripture, meaning those who have no surplus.

When interest is understood to mean surplus, the law of tithing becomes exceedingly easy to obey. Nevertheless, this interpretation is just my opinion and belief. As the First Presidency stated, You are “entitled to make [your] own decision as to what [you think you owe] the Lord, and to make payment accordingly.”

There is more to come in part four.

Next Tithes and Offerings article: The law of tithing (part four)

Previous Tithes and Offerings article: The law of tithing (part two)

Complete List of Articles authored by LDS Anarchist



  1. Amen, brother.

  2. […] part series on Tithing from LDS Anarchist – Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part […]

  3. LDSA,

    Do you still agree with, “Only First Presidency statements can officially interpret scripture and only those interpretations are binding upon the church, even as binding as the scriptures themselves.”?

    Especially the part “even as binding as the scriptures themselves“?

  4. No, I no longer agree with that statement. The only thing binding upon the saints is what they have agreed to by vote. As far as I know, First Presidency statements are not voted upon by the members. We are free to take them or leave them.

  5. […] See The Law of Tithing (4 Part Series) over at LDS Anarchy for more detail, among […]

  6. Found this quote from a post about tithing: Tithing, an unequal law:

    A wise person said, “Nothing is more unfair than treating unequals equally.” If one of the purposes of tithing is to increase spirituality through sacrifice, it certainly gives the poor greater spiritual blessings than the rich. Somehow I doubt that God thinks the poor need more spirituality than the well-off.

    Our current practice of tithing is unfair for two reasons:
    It is unfair to the poor and needy b/c it will take away from the poor [making them needy] and will further impoverish the needy.
    It is unfair to the wealthy b/c it allows them to retain their surplus, but grants them a veil of righteousness with which to cover it with.

  7. LDSA, in part two you mentioned the CYOA principle of the gentiles.
    Does that principle imply that if you are not sure in what manner to obey a principle, you set the bar as high as possible and obey the principle in such a manner that requires the most effort?
    If so, why did you not choose to pay tithing on your gross income (before tax, not deducting any expenses). This way you would follow the CYOA principle, for surely this way the 10% chunk is the largest there can be.

  8. Obviously, if you are paying more than what is required, you are still paying what is required. I have a friend who, as you say, is never “sure in what manner to obey” the principle, and so always pays on gross income. If that suits you, do that. But the Lord does not expect anyone to pay more, or do more, than what is required, so if “you are unsure in what manner to obey a principle,” I’d say the best course of action to take would be to follow this scripture:

    Wherefore, now let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence. He that is slothful shall not be counted worthy to stand, and he that learns not his duty and shows himself not approved shall not be counted worthy to stand. Even so. Amen. (D&C 107:99-100)

  9. I agree with the statement that it’s the yearly earnings after everything is deducted that may include your bills, expenses, and a lot more. I live in a 3rd world country and have felt that I’ve had not kept the Law of Tithing because of the fact that it requires 10% of the gross/net income of may salary. In line with the message, it looks that I am keeping the law since it is understandable that I have nothing left after all the bills are paid and budget for my fare and food when I go to work are secured. I will follow what the Lord has truly set in this principle of tithing for I know he look upon our hearts desire.

  10. “Bishop Partridge understood ‘one tenth of all their interest’ annually to mean 10 percent of what Saints would earn in interest if they invested their net worth for a year,” Harper wrote. He cited an example from Partridge who was reportedly in the room when Smith received the revelation.

    “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,” Partridge wrote in a letter just days after the revelation was received.

    According to Harper, six percent was a common interest rate at the time.


    “The Tithing of My People”

    New historical information reveals original meaning of LDS tithing

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