Listen to Tithing and Forgiveness, a Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast that originally aired on June 11, 2012.
Most people would be offended at any organization which teaches that in order to escape damnation, giving of your financial means is mandatory. Yet, this is exactly what Mormonism teaches.
Mormonism teaches that there are three degrees of glory reserved for those who have passed on from mortality. These are called the celestial, terrestrial, and telestial kingdoms. Within the celestial there are three more levels. LDS leaders have proclaimed that what a person believes and does in this life will be tantamount as to which kingdom that person will abide in the next life. Interestingly enough, any level lower than the top level within the celestial kingdom has been described as damnation.
To clarify this we quote LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie. McConkie stated that salvation has varying degrees just as damnation has varying degrees. According to page 177 of his book Mormon Doctrine, he states that those who are damned are, “Those who fail to gain exaltation in the highest heaven in the celestial world, even though they do gain a celestial mansion in one of the lower heavens of that world.” He goes on to say, “The rejection of any covenant, the gospel, celestial marriage, or any other, assures the rebellious person of damnation.”
If one hopes to obtain the celestial kingdom in the next life, he must practice what is known as “celestial law.” In the words of third LDS President John Taylor, “We are told that if we cannot abide the law of the celestial kingdom we cannot inherit a celestial glory” (Journal of Discourses 26:133).
Brigham Young, Mormonism’s second president, stated that if a person hopes to obtain the celestial kingdom,
“it requires a strict obedience to every point of law and doctrine and to every ordinance which the Lord reveals: in short, it requires a strict observance of every requirement of Heaven, to fully prepare a people for the possession and enjoyment of the celestial kingdom” (Journal of Discourses 10:286).
Having said all this, it should be noted that paying a full tithe is a requirement under celestial law. Said Mormon Apostle James E. Talmage,
“It is important to know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has observed this requirement from the early days of its history–not because it was operative in ancient Israel, nor because it was law and custom among the Jews in the days of Christ, but because it has been authoritatively established through modern revelation in the Church.”
Talmage then quoted Doctrine and Covenants 119: 3-4, which reads,
“And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my People. 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 for ever, for my Holy Priesthood, saith the Lord.” (The Vitality of Mormonism, pp.207 – 208).
Our argument is not against tithing per se. Even tough tithing isn’t specifically mentioned in the New Testament, all of us at MRM freely give to the churches we attend. We do so, not as a means to escape “damnation,” but rather as a means of furthering the ministry of the church. Giving to our individual churches enables it to spread the Christian message whether it is at home or abroad. The Mormon may argue that he freely gives of his tithes to his church and that he does not feel he is being coerced into doing so. This may be true; however, it is the letter of Mormon law wherein the coercion lies, not an individual’s feelings about the law.
Another important aspect of celestial law is participation in the temple endowment ceremony. But herein lies the catch. In order to enter an LDS temple, it is necessary to obtain a temple recommend. A recommend is granted only when the Mormon has been found faithful in numerous categories, including tithe-paying. If a Mormon does not pay his tithes, he cannot get a recommend. If he cannot get a recommend, he cannot go to the temple. If he cannot go to the temple, he cannot go to the celestial kingdom; hence he receives damnation in the next life. Consequently, if the Mormon wants to escape damnation, he is compelled to pay up, whether he likes it or not. This is tithing by coercion, not the biblical method prescribed in the Bible.
In a general conference message Mormon Apostle Richard G. Scott not only stressed the importance of Mormons keeping all of the commandments, he also linked tithing with forgiveness. He said:
“Obedience to all the commandments. Full obedience brings the complete power of the gospel into your life with strength to focus on the abandonment of specific sins. It includes things you might not initially consider part of repentance, such as attending meetings, paying tithing, giving service, and forgiving others. The Lord said: ‘He that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven’” (Richard G. Scott, “Finding Forgiveness,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1995, p.75. Italics in original).
Ironically, Mormon 8:32 in the Book of Mormon warns, “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.” In light of the comments above, it appears that this passage describes perfectly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.