What value have our worldly possessions? Surely, we need food to eat, and shelter from the elements. How much more do we need? How much effort, how much sacrifice should we make to have useful, or even pretty things?
My parents were solidly middle class, although my mother had been raised higher than that and always sought to climb the social ladder. They were dutiful. We were all vaccinated and saw the dentist every six months, got braces on our teeth if we needed them, had new dresses for prom, and money for college.
Now I found myself with three young children, heading into bankruptcy. My husband’s business was failing, tax collectors visiting, creditors calling. Although under stress, my husband was still able to see these things in objective business terms, but for me, it was a moral morass. I was worried, embarrassed, confused. Looming before us was the prospect of losing all our worldly possessions. I saw no way out, and the fear of losing everything consumed me. How would we survive?
I fretted and fumed. I was afraid to answer the phone. I was afraid to answer the door. To face my friends. To have my parents know. To have our church congregation know. Our Mormon bishop paid us a visit. As the lay leader of our congregation, he counseled us about tithing. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practices the Law of Tithing the way it has always been practiced in the Church of God — it is, simply, paying ten percent of one’s increase. Heavenly Father has promised great blessings to those who live this law.
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Online Bible: Malachi 3:10).
One of the things that was eating at me was that we were not living this law. I wanted so to be worthy of His help.
We had a giant garage sale, and everything went. We had one used car, a few mattresses, some kitchen items. We left the creditors at the bank, arguing over the proceeds from the sale of our house. We found a little condo and moved in. It was empty. But it was also America. Not so bad sleeping on the carpeted floors, and even better with a mattress. Eating on the floor was a picnic. Our children were oblivious and just as happy as ever, and, surprisingly, so were we.
My parents thought it was time for us to divorce, and they couldn’t figure out why I found it unthinkable. I was wildly happy. We had our eternal marriage covenants, our children born into that covenant—our joyous children. We could play and sing for free. Basic food, we could afford.
The discovery of how happy one can be without “things” was liberating for me. It changed my outlook completely. Some years later, we had accumulated some stuff. Through personal revelation, the Lord let us know that He wanted us to liquidate and launch out on an adventure to foreign lands. My mind and spirit hearken back to the stories of the early Latter-day Saints, forced out of Ohio, Missouri, and then their beloved Nauvoo, Illinois, by Mormon-hating mobs. The wives and moms of Nauvoo swept their floors and closed their doors and headed west into the dangerous unknown, because that’s where the prophet told them to go. They left most of their worldly possessions behind. Many of the things they did take with them were left by the side of the trail, being too unwieldy to make the trip.
Divesting ourselves by choice while paying a full tithe was a joyous experience from beginning to end. When you are doing it for the Lord, He invests His spirit into all you do.
I’ve never again been attached to things. They can come and go as they like. Once, after our third wipe out, we were living in a small, rented, 3-bedroom apartment with four of our six children. We had just managed to purchase two love-seats for the living room. The kids had bed frames for their mattresses, but our mattress still lay on the floor. We had a plastic picnic table in the dining area with plastic chairs, some plastic plates, some cutlery. And in the parking lot, one small used car. In a priesthood blessing Heavenly Father told me, “You have all you need.” I counted my assets— something to sit on, something to sleep on, something to eat with, something to carry us from here to there. And actually, the car was unnecessary most of the time. Now I knew. Anything I would ever own above that would be luxury, not necessity.
Since then, sometimes we’ve had more, a lot more. But it hasn’t made much difference. I’ve always been able to walk away. Downsizing has always been an option, and we’ve never been frivolous or showy. Paying tithing has deepened our understanding of the great principles behind it. Now we are serving as senior missionaries, watching new members of the Church of Jesus Christ chafe at the requirement of parting with ten percent of their meager incomes. Oh the blessings they are refusing to receive. God doesn’t need our money, He needs our faith, and a demonstration of our faith through our willingness to sacrifice. Then He can bless us with more than prosperity.