Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Orange Car: A Story about Tithing, the Thing You Pay with Faith

One of the most surprising things about the LDS experience is how common it is for members to experience the hand of the Lord in their lives when they muster the faith to pay tithing. At least I am genuinely surprised by it. I see people blessed in many ways when they strive to keep the teachings of the Gospel. Every teaching and principle the Lord has given us is there to bless our lives: morality, honesty, prayer, reading the scriptures, honoring the Sabbath day, the Word of Wisdom, avoiding debt, clean language, spending time with your kids, ministering to others through home or visiting teaching -- all of these can make our lives better and faith-solidifying miracles can occur as we exercise faith to follow the Lord in such matters. But I am intrigued by the seemingly high proportion of faith-promoting stories that come when people make the transition to becoming tithe payers. Is this just my observation, or do you see this also?

I just ran into a story that seems to fit the tithing experiences I've run into from people I've known over the years. "The Orange Car" by Elwin C. Robison in the June 2007 Ensign (scroll halfway down the Web page to see the story) shares a member's experience after getting a better car and having an old orange car that they considered giving away:
In the midst of our pleasure in having a newer car, we wondered what to do with the orange car. Yes, it was ugly, but the engine ran reliably. We could get a few dollars for it at a junkyard, but we both felt we should look for someone to whom we could give it.

On Sunday morning I went into the clerk's office to ask the ward clerk if he needed a car. He and his wife had several teens. He smiled and said no thanks; he didn't need another car. In the corner of the office, however, was a ward member writing something. He perked up at the mention of a car, so I went through the long list of things that didn't work. But I assured him it had good tires, the engine was reliable, and it couldn't be too bad since it had always been driven by a full-tithe payer.

He and his wife had only one car, and he worked nights while she worked days. He had turned down better employment opportunities because he would have needed the car when his wife also needed it. A second car would permit them to increase their income and open up advancement potential for him. So we gave them the old orange car.

This would have remained just a fond memory if it hadn't been for our conversation three months later. This ward member and his wife wanted us to know more about their circumstances when we gave them the car. As is often the case with young couples, money was scarce, and with the birth of their first child, expenses had increased more rapidly than income. They had gotten behind in their tithing and had felt awful about it. With each passing month they felt worse, but they didn't see a way out of their dilemma. They had gone six months without paying tithing, and they had prayed and felt that they just had to make things right with the Lord. That Sunday morning when I walked into the clerk's office, he had been writing out his tithing check, wondering how he was going to meet his financial obligations through the coming month.

My first thought was embarrassment at my joke about the car having been driven by a full-tithe payer. But as I reflected on the situation, I marveled at how the Lord keeps His promises when we keep ours. The ink wasn't even dry on his check when the means to resolve his dilemma unwittingly walked through the door.

I have often looked back at the example of faith shown by this young couple. It comforts me to know that if I show faith, someone somewhere can be in the right place at the right time to help solve my dilemmas. How grateful I am for a Father in Heaven who knows us so well that He can bless us even before we have finished demonstrating our faith.
We hear these kind of stories, but they don't apply to everyone by any means, even if they are surprisingly frequent. There are also some stories where people make a huge sacrifice to do what's right, and as a result seem to suffer. Some are preserved by the Lord when thrown into a lions den, while others are consumed. We must be prepared for our sacrifice to be a real one, and recognize that any miraculous deliverance or help is unearned and solely through miraculous and exceptional mercy. But the Lord seems to look for opportunities to bless us when we exercise faith. Faith is what it's all about. We pay tithing not because we have enough money, but because we have enough (often just barely enough) faith to follow the Lord in a real and tangible way.

Regardless of the outcome, I would encourage you to trust the Lord and obey His universal command to honor Him with the ancient biblical and restored LDS principle of tithing.

15 comments:

Michemily said...

I always have good intentions to pay tithing, I just forget to do it until months have gone by, but it's always in full for the year. I hope I'll remember to do better in 2009!

Ryan said...

That's an awesome story, but then this *is* one of the more strongly-worded promises I can think of, especially the way the New Living Translation puts it:

I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!

That's a close to a double-dog dare as it gets, I think...

... it is a bit sad, though, that money has such a strong pull on us that we need such a strong promise.

Tianna said...

Thank you for posting this story! I have such a strong testimony of tithing. The very jobs I've had throughout my life I can attribute to the law of tithing. It's such a cut and dry principle and one that's easy to be 'perfect' in.

Anonymous said...

I hate to burst anyones bubble but I'm having a hard time paying tithing when the church used 2 billion on a mall in Utah. I know what everyone is going to say... thats not tithing money. But it had to start from somewhere! and it could be used for better purposes.

Anonymous said...

I'm OK with tithing - it's paying taxes that is hard when the government is handing 2 TRILLION to crooks on Wall Street and beyond.

LizBeth said...

One thing is constant and true... The Gospel of Jesus Christ! Living it brings happiness and blessings unmeasured to us others around us. My husband and I have paid tithing for 15+ years and have been carried through the toughest of times. JUST DO IT!

Anonymous said...

I'm the anon from 7:15 pm above.

I appreciate LizBeths comments about 'Just Do It' but this person fails to give an opinion on spending 2 billion on a mall.

Is it right for the LDS church to do that in your opinion?

My opinion is there are alot better things like I know that missionary stipends were recently cut again. These kids seem to try to survive on nothing and yet we spend money elsewhere.

Bookslinger said...

Last anon:

There are at least two good reasons for the mall (and I don't think it's quite 2 billion dollars, about 1 billion is what I've heard.)

1. The property is an investment. It will return an INCOME. And the return on the investment will likely be better than what the stock market has done recently.

Large non-profits such as the church need income-producing investments.

2. It's not just a shopping mall. There will be offices, school facilities and residential units as part of the complex. All of those are needed downtown.

Those facilities will either produce more income, or will save the church from having to rent space elsewhere.

The "mall" will be a revenue-generating asset, and that income is needed to help pay for the revenue-consuming assets such as chapels and temples around the world. Local tithing in 3rd world countries may pay for the upkeep, but there's no way it can fund the construction going on. That has to come from the US.

Sure, the church is sitting on a lot of assets. And that's a good thing! The church (as a corporation) is rich, WOO HOO!

You ex-mos talk like all charities have to spend down their liquid or non-real-estate assets every year. That's foolish. No charity with extensive income-consuming assets (chapels, temples, schools, etc) and programs would ever think of that.

And those assets need to be put to use in the smartest way possible.

Smart asset managers know that you need to make some assets into safe and secure revenue generators in order to create and protect other essential assets that don't generate revenue.

Another principle of safeguarding assets is to diversify revenue-generating investments. The "mall" may be a good example of asset diversity.

The church building the "mall" is a very smart move, which is the opposite of what you ex-mo's have been whining about.

stephen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stephen said...

I pay my tithing to the Lord. The Lord happens uses His church to collect and spend the tithing I give Him. After I pay it, the Lord can do whatever He wants with my tithing or any other assets His church has. It's not my place to tell Him or His church what to do with them.

I trust the Lord completely and since the Lord trust His prophets and holds them accountable to Him, who am I to distrust His prophets.

You may call this foolishness. I consider it wisdom to learn in whom you can trust.

TheNastyOne said...

sensible stories on experiences of tithing blessings that dont stampede full-speed into dogmatic absurdities are refreshing.

Anonymous said...

Stephen...

I want to commend you on your faith and I wouldn't call it foolish.

I'm afraid that I can't accept this 'mall' position that the LDS church has made and that's not going to change.

Anonymous said...

As a church member I find it interesting that over the last while we have had lots of talks on tithing and it's blessings and on ones ability to provide for oneself. Instead of looking for handouts ( translation ) don’t Q outside the bishops office……. Our building is rented …when I asked if we had a budget for fixing lights and simple things like that I was told we pay the landlord and he is meant to maintain the building. And that we should be happy with what we have ( laughing)
So we sit in the dark on hard plastic seats for 3 hrs when huge amounts of money is spent on shopping malls in SLC its enough to drive me back to be a Catholic

Kevin Abernethy said...

Thanks for posting this story. I was looking for something to share with my Elders Quorum on tithing and this will be great! I appreciate the time you take to promote the Gospel on-line.

Anonymous said...

I find it sad to see this as a positive thing, I could go on and explain how the church member could have used that tithing money to purchase a car. I could demonstrate several ways to put his money to work to sustain his family. I know it will not be good enough for TBM, they will never see anything but their doctrine. For non believers they don't need to be shown, they will understand.