I am a little late to this party. I found out just yesterday that there has been new historical research done and published on the church web site (lds.org) about the original meaning of the word interest as found in the revelation on tithing (D&C 119). I have come across three online articles about this, so far:
“The Tithing of My People” – LDS.org, posted on January 13th, 2016
Understanding “Interest” in Joseph Smith’s Original Tithing Revelation – Juvenile Instructor, posted on February 2, 2016
New historical information reveals original meaning of LDS tithing – KUTV.com, posted on February 9th, 2016
Here is a relevant quote from the KUTV news article:
“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.
Each of the articles above are quick to note that this has no bearing, whatsoever, on modern Mormons, who practice the law of tithing in a different way, according to how their leaders currently dictate and understand it. In other words, they treat this revelation as just an interesting historical note, of no possible bearing on the current crop of LDS.
Compare that response to king Josiah’s reaction to the finding of the Book of the Law.
(1) King of Judah, 641–610 B.C. (see 2 Kgs. 22–24; 2 Chr. 34–35). While still young, he made, under the guidance of Hilkiah, a thorough religious reformation, which extended to the northern tribes. He restored the temple, destroyed idolatrous images and the high places, put down the idolatrous priests, and celebrated a great Passover (2 Kgs. 23:21–23). During this reformation a book of the law was found by Hilkiah (2 Kgs. 22:8–9; 2 Chr. 34:15–16). It made at once a great impression and led to the centralizing of all sacrificial worship at Jerusalem and the abolition of local idolatrous sanctuaries or high places. (Bible Dictionary entry on Josiah.)
2 Kings 22:8-13 says,
¶8And Hilkiah the high priest said unto Shaphan the scribe,
I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.
And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9And Shaphan the scribe came to the king, and brought the king word again, and said,
Thy servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of them that do the work, that have the oversight of the house of the Lord.
10And Shaphan the scribe shewed the king, saying,
Hilkiah the priest hath delivered me a book.
And Shaphan read it before the king. 11And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the book of the law, that he rent his clothes. 12And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Michaiah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asahiah a servant of the king’s, saying,
13Go ye, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.
So then king Josiah sets to work getting the people to covenant to obey the laws found in the newly discovered Book of the Law, so that their forms and rites of worship would exactly match what the Lord had previously revealed.
Again, compare that to the current situation among the latter-day saints. The very best understanding of the original intent and meaning of how the law of tithing was intended by the Lord to operate among His latter-day saints is discovered and published last month (Jan. 2016), and we get a *ho-hum* and yawn.
My take on this
There are factions who are trying to “take back the restoration” and create a reformation of some sort among the saints. But, I have been expecting not a reformation, but an actual restoration. And it seems to me that this historical research publication is the hand of the Lord, starting to work a restorative preparation among the saints.
Remember the new research on the Word of Wisdom revelation, where we learned that the first three verses were as much a part of the revelation as the rest? And the implication of that was that now we could partake of all those “prohibited” things mentioned in the revelation? That, also, in my view, was the hand of the Lord, beginning to do a Josiah and Book of the Law thing among the saints. (And I suppose that all of this, and perhaps more stuff to come, is a preparation by the Lord for the appearance of His Josephite restorer among us, perhaps as a sort of new Josiah to set us right in the eyes of the Lord again.)
So, everything I said about the meaning of the word interest on this site, is now null and void. I wrote with limited understanding and knowledge, just as everyone else did. We now have a fuller and more complete understanding, due to better facts. My recommendation to the saints, then, is to conform to Bishop Partridge’s understanding, and not to the one I put up on this blog previously, nor to anyone else’s.
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