Saturday, April 1, 2017, I attended the General Conference of the LDS church. The whole trip was amazing.
I flew from Houston to SLC in a modern comfortable jet. My accumulated flying miles qualified me for a FREE flight, including a plush seat with extra features and leg room. A top end SUV was awaiting my arrival to whisk me off to my graciously provided stateroom, where I would be pampered for the next 3 nights.
Saturday morning, I drove a conveniently provided Cadillac to temple square. Free parking on church property was easy to find. I strolled through the great and spacious City Creek Mall. Never have I seen such a well appointed and luxuriant building. It brought such pride to my heart that this $3 billion sumptuous shopping structure was built and is owned by my church.
Next, I crossed the street to enter the temple grounds. There stood the ornate and opulent symbol of our religion. Honor and prestige welled-up again. The grounds perfectly coiffed. The flower gardens bursting with amazing and vibrant spring colors.
On to the Conference Center. Just across the next street. Oh, what a gorgeous great and spacious building it is. I’d seen it in pictures, but never in person. So impressive. For a moment I was mesmerized by the waterfall flowing from its majestic height.
At last, I entered the celebrated Conference Center doors. Renowned as “the largest theater-style auditorium ever built.” Wow! By size alone, we have beat down every other performance hall in the history of the world. How can I not glory in the glory of our grandeur?
The carpeting showed no wear. The walls no stain. The decor all pretty and properly hung.
With hushed anticipation I crossed the threshold into the actual conference auditorium. Oh my gosh. A reverent awe slowly settled over me. The magnificent organ with its 7,708 golden and gleaming pipes. The choir seats were filled on one side by women and girls sporting all the pastels of a springtime pallet. Opposite them, the men, each costumed in debonair dark suits and matching blue ties.
The epicentral focus of the expansive chamber were the imposing & over sized regal-red wing-backed chairs. Empty now. Soon to be occupied by the equally regal men of General Authority status. They enter. We stand.
The conference convenes. Sustaining of the officers. Financial report. Statistical report. At last, the business is over and on to the weightier matters…the prophetic words from the occupants of the regal red chairs.
First speaker…Elder Hales. His appearance frail. His voice, weak. Oh man, that message of his was anything but frail and weak. My day was made by his inspiring words alone. The essence: Be a disciple of Christ & follow His teachings and example. I plan to hang on to Elder Hales message for a lifetime.
The next 2 speakers continued to dispense wise and interesting perspectives on life and the gospel.
Proclamation to the Poor
Elder Cordon then stood to speak. His native country is Guatemala, the land of my missionary service. He related a touching tale of tithing from his childhood. His voice quivered as he delivered his poignant punch line. My heart quivered, too. Better said, it quaked.
His whole point boiled down to this, ‘If you are faced with the decision of buying food for your hungry children or giving your money to the church, the correct, righteous and blessed choice is to give it to the church.’
My jaw dropped. I gasped audibly. Is this really the crux of his message? The poor should put the church before their famished family? It’s better that the poverty stricken should suffer in hunger? Really? A starving child is expected to go without so the church gets its money?
I’m sure he’s a good man. But, he’s also paid a very substantial “modest stipend” to preach this message to the poor and poverty stricken. The poor who just scrape by. Hand-to-mouth. Day-by-day. They barely make rent on their wretched quarters. Then they face this choice, “Do I use what’s left to buy food for my crying children? Or do I give it to the church for salvation?” A choice made horrible by the preaching of a rich man. Insult to injury, this wealthy man is mandated by our church to pay NO tithing on his well endowed ‘modest stipend.’ At the same time, the destitute are demanded of their uttermost farthing, while their children are back at their hovel starving.
Our church teaches that tithing should be paid before any other bill. Even if we don’t have enough funds for other necessities. It’s a teaching that I have little real problem with. I can afford it. The poverty stricken can’t.
That the poor, the destitute, the impoverished must put the church over their children is a tenet that turns my stomach. I am making the attempt to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. I see no spirit of Christ in the poor feeding the church if they can’t afford to feed their children. Never did He pronounce anything or do anything that would put the needs of the children behind the needs of the church.
Here’s the example that He set: God, the all powerful creator of this world, chose to be born in a lowly stable. During His ministry, He had no wealth. No fancy buildings. No fine twined linen. Nowhere to even call his own or a place to lay down his head.
When confronted by a wealthy man, He gave the command to sell all his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor. What might Jesus say to the wealthy men at the head of the church today? Go sell the mall and the hunting preserves? Go sell the luxury apartment projects and high rise condominiums? Go sell the massive Floridian land tracts? Go sell it all and give it to the poor?
Certainly he wouldn’t say to the poor, “Suffer your children to be hungry, for my mall is more important.”
Here is what he did say 2,000 years ago to the church leaders of his day:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses.” -Matt 23:14
Finally, Christ’s classic teaching on how to treat the least in our midst….”For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink.” This is the lovely and gentle instruction that inspires me. It’s the essence of who I worship.
Here’s my question: Should we make this Proclamation to the Poor…pay tithing even though your children are starving?
The apostles say YES.
The members say…..
Oh yeah. We have no idea. It has never been put up for a sustaining vote.
The doctrine that the poor pay tithing before they feed their children has never been presented for our vote of approval/disapproval. That makes it a temporary policy at best or a man-made horror at worst.
Is there another religion on the planet that has such a doctrine? I have asked several people outside of our church what they thought of this scheme. Without exception, they were aghast.
What member would be happy to see a child remain in hunger as the church flourishes (or languishes) in embarrassing wealth? Who would put a gawdy mall over a godly child? For one…..NOT ME!!!
If you believe in proclaiming to the poor that they feed the church before their children, I respect your right to believe that.
If you believe it’s dead wrong….VOTE your opinion. Christ has provided a way for corrections to be made in His church. Don’t stand on the sidelines and let the poor and their children be preached down to. We should be lifting them up. Not driving them further into penury.
There are now 380 members openly expressing disapproval. If you truly disapprove of this Proclamation to the Poor, consider adding your name to the Common Consent Register HERE.
Common Consent Scriptures & Doctrine, click HERE.
Common Consent Register—A Record of Those Who Disapprove, click, HERE.
Letter to My Stake President listing temporary policies of which I disapprove, click HERE.
Do We Love Jesus Enough? click HERE.
The Only True Hope for The Only True Church, click HERE.
If I Don’t Dissent…I Consent, click HERE.