Our Bishop pointed out to us that modern tithing settlement doesn’t have much of a practical purpose. Back in the day, dropping off some fraction of a beef cow in a tithing envelope every Sunday was impractical, so you needed some settling up where you brought in two steers and a heifer, and the Bishop gave you back a lamb and a few bales of hay to make it all square. Tithing settlement is a boost for the Bishop since he gets to interact with his non-”problem” members, but that’s about it. Instead, tithing settlement has–dare we say it?–a liturgical value.
Here’s a reworked post I did on this subject a few years back:
If Mormons had a liturgical year, the distinctively Mormon part of December would be tithing settlement, not a limp dutifulness like Joseph Smith’s birthday.
For me, at least, tithing settlement is part of the sweetness of Mormon life. Our oldest living daughter earned a little money this year and paid her tithing on it, so before we went we practiced what Bishop would ask her and what she should answer. When he did get down to her print-out, he asked her if it was a “full tithe.” She shook her head no and giggled. Then she caught our eyes and remembered what she was supposed to do. She sighed, took a deep breath, stood on her tiptoes, closed her eyes, and yelled “Yes!” Close enough.
Earlier, one of our good friends who is a poorer sister in late-middle age was signing up with us on the paper outside Bishop’s office. “I haven’t paid a full tithe this year,” she said wryly, ” do you think Bishop will chew me out?” He’s not averse to chewing people out, but he won’t chew her out, we know. Still, I was struck by the thought that while paying tithing requires faith and commitment, her going to take her lumps showed a kind of faith and commitment too. It was the most moving part of tithing settlement this year. Her spirit is willing and we pray next year her flesh, or her finances, will not be as weak.