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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The first time I paid tithing, my gas was shut off. » The first time I paid tithing, my gas was shut off.

The first time I paid tithing, my gas was shut off.

Susan M - September 12, 2006

The second time I paid tithing, my electricity was shut off.

I used to hear these stories, you know the type. About how someone’s husband became unemployed, and they were trying to decide between paying tithing or buying groceries, and they paid tithing. And the next day, their uncle drove up in a truck loaded with his excess food storage that he no longer needed since his kids were all grown. And they lived off of it for six months.

That’s not how it worked for me.

I’m a convert. My husband and I married very young (way too young) and while he’d been born into the church, he was a Bishop’s son—so he hadn’t really been active for very long before we were married. Neither of us knew much about living the gospel. We’d never lived on our own before. We were really unprepared to support ourselves or any children—and of course, we had kids right away.

We moved a lot when we were first married and were not as active as we should have been in the church. My husband stayed home with our first baby, and I worked. He was messed up on medication a shrink had proscribed him for his ADHD (which is a whole other post, maybe a whole other blog) and unable to work. We lived in an inner-city gang neighborhood, a ghetto, and were on welfare.

I can remember praying and praying that somehow we’d be able to afford to pay tithing. I hadn’t learned that a testimony only comes by exercising faith first. First you do something, and then the testimony comes. I didn’t even know how you went about paying tithing. Finally someone explained about the envelopes outside the Bishop’s office. I don’t remember what made me at last decide to pay tithing, and pay it regularly. It was probably that we wanted to be sealed in the temple, and you have to be a full tithe payer in order to go to the temple. Or it may have also been that the bishop could help us financially if we paid tithing. Likely both.

So I paid tithing, rather than the gas bill. And our gas was shut off. It was winter. The only heat we had in the house was a gas “furnance.” (I hesistate to call that thing a furnance.) I turned the electric stove on in the kitchen for heat, and we all spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Somehow I got the gas back on—probably through a charity program the utility company had.

I paid tithing again. This time, our electricity was shut off. This was worse than the gas, because the gas furnance used electricity to blow the heat out. And now we couldn’t turn the electric stove on in the kitchen. I may have gone to the Bishop for help with that bill, I don’t remember. I know somehow I got it turned back on.

I do remember at least once being in the Bishop’s office, handing him a check for tithing in one hand, and accepting a check from him for our rent payment in the other.

Gradually, as my attitude towards paying tithing improved, it got easier. If I didn’t pay it, things got hard, and quick. Or maybe I should say, things got extra hard. I started to see the blessings in paying tithing. Eventually, my husband got off the medication that had so messed him up, and my parents let us rent a house they owned next door to theirs for cheap while we tried to get more on our feet. My parents are not LDS, but they could see the value in our paying tithing and always encouraged me to do so.

My husband began working as a VW mechanic. His hours were sporatic, and his pay was not regular. Our income was very small, but I cheerfully paid tithing on it.

And there came a certain poor widow,
and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them,
Verily I say unto you,
That this poor widow hath cast more in,
than all they which have cast into the treasury:
For all they did cast in of their abundance;
but she of her want did cast in all that she had,
even all her living.

Mark 12: 42-44

I’ve always had a different perspective than most on that scripture. When you have next to nothing, giving away part (or even all of it) just means you still have next to nothing. It’s not really all that hard.

That summer when my husband was working as a VW mechanic, just before he got a much better paying job that led to him discovering what exactly he wanted to do professionally, we had a lot of lean times. But whenever we were about to face a serious crunch, something would happen. Twice, maybe even three times, different strangers knocked on the door asking if any of the broken down, rusty old VW bugs in our yard were for sale. I’d say, “Which one do you want?” And suddenly I had grocery money.

Sounds a bit like someone’s uncle driving up with his excess food storage in a truck, doesn’t it.


  1. Which medication was it, by the way?

    By the way, there’s usually a law against shutting off the heat in winter time.

    But I have no explanation for the VW bugs.

    Comment by Seth R. — September 12, 2006 @ 5:46 pm

  2. Very nice post, Susan. I appreciate your perspective and experiences. As a missionary it bothered me that I never witnessed any “tithing miracles” among the humble Church members in Honduras. If anyone needed the windows of heaven opened — especially financial windows! — it was them, I thought. But for the most part, I watched those faith-filled, poverty-stricken saints cast in their widow’s mite…and then I watched them continue to struggle to put food on their table each day (literally).

    I don’t remember exactly when it hit me, but then I realized the true test of tithing (or of any commandment): will we continue to pay it, even when the magic stories and miraculous monetary blessings don’t follow? Which requires greater faith, greater sacrifice?

    In a related vein…just after Pres. Hinckley made the announcement about smaller temples being built, there was quite a buzz in Honduras about getting a temple there soon. Then in a stake conference, our wise stake president stood and dispelled the rumors by saying Honduras would not have a temple until the Honduran Church members paid their tithing. Ouch. That’s when I looked at their humility and faith and realized the Lord requires more than humility and faith to return to live with Him — He requires sacrifice. And one way we sacrifice is, obviously, by paying tithing.

    By the way, I am happy to say that the First Presidency has recently approved the building of a temple in Honduras. Hooray!

    Comment by Amy — September 12, 2006 @ 6:15 pm

  3. Great post Susan. I love your examples, a bit more like real life than someone showing up to my doorstep with a barrel of wheat.

    Comment by Rusty — September 12, 2006 @ 6:58 pm

  4. The medication was Imipramine. First they tried Ritalin and Dexadrine, neither of which worked. This was when ADHD was still a new thing–my husband’s parents paid for him to see a shrink to be evaluated. They couldn’t afford for him to see the doctor regularly, though, and obviously neither could we. It took us months to figure out it was the drug causing the changes in him emotionally–if he missed one dose, he’d go off the deep end. Took him years to recover from what that drug did to him, literally.

    Comment by Susan M — September 12, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

  5. Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m especially impressed by your parents’ encouragement.

    Comment by BrianJ — September 12, 2006 @ 8:25 pm

  6. The people I met on my mission were, by neccesity a frugal people, but they never were poor. Always there was the means to acheive whatever was required or needed. At first, I felt sorry for them since they didn’t have the vast mountains of stuff that Americans did; but as time went on, I realized how unimportant all that garbage is, and how imprisioned most people are by it. “The things you own end up owning you” – Chuck Palahnuik.

    Comment by Chad — September 12, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

  7. Most of you are probably too young to have heard the Ernie Wilkinson “I paid my tithing and became a wealthy, pettifogging lawyer” story. Actually, he didn’t put the “pettifogging” in there.

    The facts were too good to be true (and who knows, maybe they weren’t). A new attorney, struggling to make enough to keep roof overhead, nonetheless pays his tithing. Then one day, like a miracle, an opera singer injures her shin (yeah, her shin. not her chin.) in an accident–may have been a streetcar, but memory dims. Limps into the offices of E.L.Wilkinson, Esq., and the rest is history.

    As antidote to that, I heard regularly of my grandparents’ and their parents’ faithfulness, and of crops that failed, work that ran out, irrigation water that didn’t make it to their property before it dried up, of scraps of string and cloth saved because you never knew if there would be enough the next day.

    Of course, none of them have a building at BYU named after them (even if it is a ghastly misshapen pile).

    Comment by Mark B. — September 13, 2006 @ 8:10 am

  8. I wish I could share the same perspective. Our experience with tithing has been similar to the way your story started out. I used to joke that you could tell when we were paying our tithing, because our car was in the shop for repairs. You could also tell how much it was going to cost, because all you had to do was add up the amount we paid in tithing.

    The hardest it ever got was when I was determined to pay, regardless. Seven months. When I finally surrendered, the only saving grace was that the mechanic felt so bad for us that he only charged us half for labor. It still came to much more than we had, and I had to borrow money from my father, which took five years to repay.

    The next time we tried it, we did so with an agreement with the bishop that he would pay our housing costs if we paid our tithing (the house was in forclosure by that time, this time because of medical expenses). That worked until I got a job transfer. We are trying it again, and again our extra expenses (again, mostly medical) are almost exactly the amount we are paying in tithing.

    I tell every new bishop or branch president when we move into their unit that I would be glad to take any calling, and would be glad to talk on any subject–except tithing. Even in retrospect, I can’t see where we have been blessed for trying to keep this commandment.

    Comment by CS Eric — September 13, 2006 @ 11:17 am

  9. Well, they do say tithing is fire insurance. I guess if your gas is turned off, your house can’t explode. :)

    Comment by Kim Siever — September 13, 2006 @ 11:48 am

  10. CS Eric, I can relate. It seems like whenever we have some extra money in savings, something bad happens and it gets all eaten up.It’s been consistent enough that I actually get kinda nervous whenever we have a chunk in savings. What’s going to break now?

    There was also a period of time, after my experiences I posted about, when my husband had a decent job, but we were still just barely scraping by. I started paying extra in fast offering. I decided his next paycheck should be a certain dollar amount, and I upped my fast offering so that our total tithing/fast offering was 10% of that amount. His next paycheck, without fail, would be the amount I’d set. (He got overtime.)

    He was inactive at the time, and later on when I told him about it, he said, “So you’re the reason I had to work all that overtime.”

    Comment by Susan M — September 13, 2006 @ 3:06 pm

  11. [...] At Nine Moons: The first time I paid tithing, my gas was shut off. [...]

    Pingback by SunstoneBlog.com » Nine Moons — September 13, 2006 @ 3:07 pm

  12. Kim – lol! I had a Seminary teacher that used to say “Pay your tithing and you won’t burn! You might meet death in another unpleasant way though; like drowning, decapitation, getting run over by a truck, falling off a cliff..” etc.

    Comment by Chad — September 13, 2006 @ 9:39 pm

  13. Great post, Susan. Tells the real truth. Life is so hard for young families. We always paid our tithing, but a lot the time we were negotiating with the power company or our mortgage people to accept late payments. I think we did the right thing and we have been blessed, but it sure wasn’t easy.

    One thing I loved about John Groberg’s book is how he says they struggled despite their service to the Lord.

    Comment by annegb — September 19, 2006 @ 8:18 am

  14. Terrific post, Susan. We started off very young and very poor and have many similar stories, including one where, no kidding, our home teachers showed up with an “extra” Christmas tree they had (they really did end up with an extra through some strange turn of events), complete with lights and presents to go under it. Just before they arrived my wife and I had finished a fairly grim conversation about how we would be okay without any Christmas celebration that year, the kids were too young to notice, this would help us focus more on the spiritual aspects for the season, etc. It was a surreal moment when our HTer was at the door and then brought in, no ifs ands or buts, this big ol’ tree with all the trimmings — like being in a Seminary movie or something.

    In the long view that’s a very small thing I suppose; there were many other instances where we somehow miraculously got by while paying our tithing, or had less stress about the very thin shoestring we were on than we did during times when we didn’t pay it. But that Christmas tree incident really stands out in my memory as one of God’s “tender mercies” for those who are trying to do what they can.

    One other thing: we’ve had some very good financial years since then; one year we paid more in tithing than we did in total for our first house. I do not mean to brag — my point is that paying tithing is not easier or harder if you’re paying a lot or a little. It’s not easier on the rich or the poor. How easy it is to pay and how cheerfully and faithfully you do so is really up to you and nothing else.

    And, IMO, while the actual paying of it is the concrete test of our faith, doing so with a griping, reluctant heart makes all the difference too. With due respect to the poster above, the attitude of “talk to me about anything you like, but not tithing” sounds like nothing so much as “talk to me about anything you like except for that one area where I really need to learn something.”

    Comment by Mike — September 27, 2006 @ 6:03 am

  15. Interesting post, thanks. After my wife and I got married and I graduated from college, I had a hard time finding a job. Familiar story, newly married college students strapped for cash. I sunk into a depression and our relationship suffered from the stress. Throughout it all, we never paid tithing (we left the church before we were married). Then in one week, we found out that our only car (a sad Bronco II) was about to drop its transmission, and that my wife was pregnant. That very same week, I found out I got a great job, and that we would have to move (and get a new car).

    Well, it took some doing (and a little borrowing), but we made it through ok. I advanced up the ladder at my job, we had a healthy baby girl, and moved into a great house with a big yard. And although we have money now, and could afford to pay tithing, we still don’t. I guess this is like a like a tithing miracle story, just without the tithing ;)

    Comment by Bob — October 1, 2006 @ 3:12 pm

  16. RE: that last post, “a tithing miracle story without the tithing.” It’s sad that you can be so glib. I wonder if you will still feel that way when you are face to face with the Lord.

    Comment by Elizabeth — May 16, 2007 @ 6:21 am

  17. Too, considered stopping, i’ll sperm girls tell me out for some minutes.

    Comment by sperm — March 2, 2008 @ 9:34 am

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