Alright, so Latter-day Saints believe that in order to return to live with God the Father and become more like Him after this life in the highest degree of heaven—God has asked that as an expression of our faith, we make and keep certain covenants with Him, which we do via ordinances. The first ordinance that sets you on this covenant path is baptism, which generally takes place in a baptismal font in one of our church buildings. Many later ordinances are performed in Latter-day Saint temples. We take these ordinances seriously and believe that members need to prepare themselves spiritually before making those promises with God—you need to be able to keep those promises. Thus, there are some basic standards that must be met in order to obtain a temple recommend which gives you access to temple ordinances.
Today, the temple recommend interviews consist of 15 questions. One of those questions is, “Are you a full tithe payer?” If you are not a full-tithe payer, your request for a temple recommend may be denied. This has led some people to wonder, “Does [the] tithing requirement for entry into LDS temples amount to Mormons buying their way into heaven?” Well, let’s talk about it.
People who want to join the Church through baptism are interviewed beforehand to make sure they’re spiritually prepared and are aware of what they are committing to. In this interview, you have the opportunity to share your testimony of Christ and the restored gospel, and at that time you agree to strive to live by Church standards—for example, you agree to keep the Sabbath Day holy, to obey the Law of Chastity, and the Law of Tithing.
You will notice that when you are later interviewed for a temple recommend, a lot of those same baptismal interview questions show up again. Why? Because it doesn’t make a lot of sense for you to make additional commitments with God if you aren’t able to live up to the commitments you’ve already made with God at baptism. Tithing isn’t something that suddenly becomes important when you want to enter the temple. It’s something you committed to at baptism.
But let’s go back to the New Testament for some additional context. After Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, we read about how the apostles ran Christ’s church. Acts 2 says, “And all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” Notice it’s not “10% of things in common” it’s “all things in common.”
And again in Acts 4, we read: “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” The same thing happens in the Book of Mormon after Christ visits the people there. “…they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift.”
In our faith, we call this practice of having “all things common” the “Law of Consecration.” Early Latter-day Saints under Joseph Smith attempted to live this law as well but ultimately failed. “After these early failures, the Lord adapted the requirements of the law of consecration to the capacities of the Saints and revealed the law of tithing as a practice to follow (HC 3:44; D&C 119). Although tithing does not require the giving of everything to the Lord, it teaches the fundamental elements upon which the character of a Zion people rests: self-control, generosity, love of fellow humans, love for God, and a desire to build the kingdom of God.”
For we mortals, it’s not an easy law to live—just ask Ananias and Sapphira from Acts 5, who tried to hold back from the community of believers and paid a steep price. Like the disciples of old, Latter-day Saints believe that living in accordance with the Law of Consecration helps create a Zion-like people—a selfless people that are of one heart and one mind, with no poor among them. In the temple, Latter-day Saints covenant to live the Law of Consecration. As mentioned previously, we do not currently live this law in exactly the same way as early Latter-day Saints attempted to. But we do promise that if required, we would be willing to sacrifice all of our time, talents, and resources to the Kingdom of God. Not just 10 percent—100 percent.
We believe consecration is a celestial law. And we believe that in order to live in the celestial kingdom we need to be able to live by celestial law. Thus, we don’t view tithing as a way to earn heaven—it’s a way to learn heaven. It’s not so much about what is expected of you to get into heaven, it’s about learning the kind of love and selflessness that will be expected of you as part of that heavenly community.
That is the kind of selfless community that we see operating in the scriptures after these experiences with Christ. If you want to look at the tithing requirement in temple recommend interviews as exaltation blackmail, that’s up to you. But if you are unwilling to live the Law of 10 percent Tithing, is it really appropriate for you to go to the temple and promise God that you are willing to live the Law of 100 percent Consecration? Probably not.
It’s probably also worth noting that tithing is paid on income, so there are some people who have no income, and therefore pay no tithing, but are still considered full tithe payers and can enter the temple. On the flip side, though you pay all the tithing in the world, if you don’t keep your promises with God, it’s not going to do you much good. You can’t buy your way into heaven.
In Matthew 22, Christ tells us the first and great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God…” And then in John 14, he tells us one of the ways we can show our love for God: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” I don’t look at tithing as a convenience fee attached to my ticket to heaven. I believe it is a commandment from God. And I don’t believe that Christ’s amazing saving grace exempts me from making very real sacrifices of time and resources, just as the disciples of old did, who left everything behind for Christ.
I hope this context helps. Check out the resources in the YouTube description for more info on this topic. Watch some of our other videos while you’re here, and have a great day!
- “Consecration” via the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: https://bit.ly/3hkkly1
- “What is the law of consecration? How does it affect me?” via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3t8xIH5
- “The Law of Consecration | Covenants in the LDS Temple Endowment” via the YouTube channel “Temple Light”: https://bit.ly/3piFVYe
- “Tithes and Offerings” via the Church’s website: https://bit.ly/3HrtDCV
- “The Law of Consecration and Stewardship” via the Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual: https://bit.ly/3HfQxxe
- The list of 15 temple recommend interview questions can be found here: https://bit.ly/3HgYMZL
- “What are the worthiness requirements to enter a Mormon temple?” via FAIR: https://bit.ly/3C1zC0m