Friday, May 16, 2014

Is Tithing Necessary to Inherit the Celestial Kingdom?

Someone once asked me the question in the title of this post, and my answer was what would have been the other half of the title: "Only if You Are An Active Mormon."  Let me explain what I meant, realizing my wording was a bit tongue-in-cheek but also meant to be a bit of a "Zen slap" - something that smacks you upside the head and makes you think a little harder about something than you had previously.  

1) The LDS Church teaches that tithing is required to enter the temple, which, in a very real and practical way, can mean that tithing is required for exaltation.

2) The LDS Church teaches that any-freaking-body who ever has lived in the entire history of the planet earth may end up in the Celestial Kingdom and, therefore, be exalted - regardless of whether or not they have paid tithing (or even one penny in religious or charitable donations) in their entire lives.

3) Thus, tithing is taught as necessary ONLY if someone is a member of the LDS Church in this lifetime - and not for those who weren't (and there even is the underlying teaching that each of us will be judged according to how well we live what we understand individually, which provides a HUGE disclaimer even for those who have been baptized into the LDS Church).

There is an inherent conflict / opposition in that construct, if you really think about it. It is a paradoxical teaching - and, therefore, it would be easy to dismiss tithing completely as unnecessary in any cosmic way. I don't do that - for multiple reasons, one of which is that I have received adequate benefit from my own payment of tithes over the years (including the acknowledgment of the covenant relationship in providing for my needs more than once while I was unemployed and needed assistance) - and one more, which is that I have an adequate (for me, personally) intellectual understanding of the need for tithing.

So, what do I make of the conflict between the two polar opposite stances - neither of which I reject / both of which I understand and accept?

I take it to mean that God doesn't require tithing to be exalted - unless someone understands tithing and has committed to pay tithing, in whatever form that person understands. Likewise, God doesn't require chastity to be exalted - unless someone understands chastity and has committed to live a chaste life, in whatever form that person understands. God doesn't require abstinence from theft to be exalted - unless someone understands abstinence from theft and has committed not to steal, in whatever form that person understands. etc, etc, etc.

The LDS Church, however, as an organization, believes in tithing (and chastity and no stealing) and requires those things in order to state that it believes its members will be exalted - even as it does NOT require those things of those who are not members and do not understand them well enough to be accountable to live them.  Likewise, and importantly, it does not require those things of young children or the obviously mentally handicapped - again, since they may not understand them well enough to be accountable to live them.  The key is living up to what I understand. 

Hence, my Reader's Digest answer - which I believe is the fullest, most comprehensive yet concise definition:

No, tithing is not required for exaltation - unless you're an active member of the Church (but even then with theological disclaimers) who understands the reasons for tithing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed and well explained.