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Fether

"It's between you and God (but you better pick right)"

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Been working through this thought for a bit and haven't been able to successfully put it into words, so hopefully this doesn't come across as word vomit.



I remember before getting married, I was studying about the duties of a father and mother and it talked about how important it is to have children and to not wait for education or a well-paying job to have kids. However, it always ended with "the decision to have a child is an important one and is between you and the lord. Pray and seek revelation on when to start a family". I remember reading this a feeling like it was telling me to do something, but giving me a way out if I was too scared. Almost like a "This is what you should do. But pray and ask God before making a decision. But if the decision is to wait to have kids, you chose wrong."

A similar case has recently arisen as I have been studying about the cultural teaching that you don't pay tithing on gifted cash (ie uncle Kevin sending you $50 on your birthday). The church teaching is essentially "Pay tithing on all income. It is between you and God. Make sure you pay tithing on ALL your income. Talk to Bishop and parents for guidance on it. The spirit will bless you if you live this correctly." (churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/should-i-pay-tithing-on-money-my-parents-give-meg). The same experience is typical when having the conversation of paying tithing on net or gross.

My question is not about what is the correct approach to these questions, as I know there are exceptions that really are unique to individuals.

I am asking about the feeling that comes along with them when discussing them. It seems like there is 1 clear answer, but it is telling you to pray about it... but then following up with "but really... this is what you are supposed to do so don't pick wrong."

Is there a word for this kind of dilemma?

Is there a "correct" answer to these questions, but God is wanting us to come to the conclusion on our own?

How ought we to approach discussion when, for example, I happily teach my children to pay tithing on their gifted money, but a friend teaches the opposite and a discussion begins between them? Or in a class discussion, someone asks about paying tithing on net vs gross, is there a way to teach the principle without recreating the feeling explained above?

Edited by Fether

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Three things came to mind as I read your post.

1. There is nothing wrong with seeking confirmation on something. Even if there is one correct answer and it is being taught to us having a spiritual confirmation can be greatly helpful in living that commandment.

2. Being as objective as possible when seeking to interpret revelation is huge. I think in many instances the Lord cares far more about whether our greatest desire is to do His will rather than whether we kept the commandment exactly how he intended.

3. While there is a fairly established ideal that we pursue in life our individual uniqueness and missions in life do in fact cause deviations from that ideal. But these deviations can only be known to us through revelation and as I said before by not allowing our own desires to get in the way of what God wants.

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3 hours ago, Fether said:

Been working through this thought for a bit and haven't been able to successfully put it into words, so hopefully this doesn't come across as word vomit.



I remember before getting married, I was studying about the duties of a father and mother and it talked about how important it is to have children and to not wait for education or a well-paying job to have kids. However, it always ended with "the decision to have a child is an important one and is between you and the lord. Pray and seek revelation on when to start a family". I remember reading this a feeling like it was telling me to do something, but giving me a way out if I was too scared. Almost like a "This is what you should do. But pray and ask God before making a decision. But if the decision is to wait to have kids, you chose wrong."

A similar case has recently arisen as I have been studying about the cultural teaching that you don't pay tithing on gifted cash (ie uncle Kevin sending you $50 on your birthday). The church teaching is essentially "Pay tithing on all income. It is between you and God. Make sure you pay tithing on ALL your income. Talk to Bishop and parents for guidance on it. The spirit will bless you if you live this correctly." (churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/should-i-pay-tithing-on-money-my-parents-give-meg). The same experience is typical when having the conversation of paying tithing on net or gross.

My question is not about what is the correct approach to these questions, as I know there are exceptions that really are unique to individuals.

I am asking about the feeling that comes along with them when discussing them. It seems like there is 1 clear answer, but it is telling you to pray about it... but then following up with "but really... this is what you are supposed to do so don't pick wrong."

Is there a word for this kind of dilemma?

Is there a "correct" answer to these questions, but God is wanting us to come to the conclusion on our own?

How ought we to approach discussion when, for example, I happily teach my children to pay tithing on their gifted money, but a friend teaches the opposite and a discussion begins between them? Or in a class discussion, someone asks about paying tithing on net vs gross, is there a way to teach the principle without recreating the feeling explained above?

Creating this dilemma for a person by taking this approach is wicked. It denies faith that God will lead them aright, and by coercing a foregone conclusion, a failure to teach by the Spirit.

The Handbook is an excellent resource for questions like these. 

I would call the dilemma a false black-and-white choice, there is probably a better, more scholarly term.

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3 hours ago, Fether said:

Been working through this thought for a bit and haven't been able to successfully put it into words, so hopefully this doesn't come across as word vomit.



I remember before getting married, I was studying about the duties of a father and mother and it talked about how important it is to have children and to not wait for education or a well-paying job to have kids. However, it always ended with "the decision to have a child is an important one and is between you and the lord. Pray and seek revelation on when to start a family". I remember reading this a feeling like it was telling me to do something, but giving me a way out if I was too scared. Almost like a "This is what you should do. But pray and ask God before making a decision. But if the decision is to wait to have kids, you chose wrong."

A similar case has recently arisen as I have been studying about the cultural teaching that you don't pay tithing on gifted cash (ie uncle Kevin sending you $50 on your birthday). The church teaching is essentially "Pay tithing on all income. It is between you and God. Make sure you pay tithing on ALL your income. Talk to Bishop and parents for guidance on it. The spirit will bless you if you live this correctly." (churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/should-i-pay-tithing-on-money-my-parents-give-meg). The same experience is typical when having the conversation of paying tithing on net or gross.

My question is not about what is the correct approach to these questions, as I know there are exceptions that really are unique to individuals.

I am asking about the feeling that comes along with them when discussing them. It seems like there is 1 clear answer, but it is telling you to pray about it... but then following up with "but really... this is what you are supposed to do so don't pick wrong."

Is there a word for this kind of dilemma?

Is there a "correct" answer to these questions, but God is wanting us to come to the conclusion on our own?

How ought we to approach discussion when, for example, I happily teach my children to pay tithing on their gifted money, but a friend teaches the opposite and a discussion begins between them? Or in a class discussion, someone asks about paying tithing on net vs gross, is there a way to teach the principle without recreating the feeling explained above?

I don't find it a dilemma or that their is conflicting information.  There are different situations and the Lord's gospel and mercy are able to be flexible enough for all people.

One difficulty young people have today is the selfishness of the rest of their families.  Many parents want to have stuff.  They want a Big house.  They want a lot of stuff in their house.  They don't want to continue spending a lot of money to help their married children who have babies have housing and food.  Unfortunately, Bishoprics find this out often.  There will be young members of the ward that have families but cannot pay the bills.  These young parents are many times advised to go first to seek aid from their families, and very often no help comes.  Thus, it falls on the ward to help these young parents.  It is a sad case at times because the families these young people may come from are well off, wealthy, and could help far more than the church does if they so desired.

However, there are also instances where the families are not so well off, but the young parents have tried to do their best.  The Bishop (hopefully, not all Bishops are equal or are as charitable as each other) will help these as well.

These are two different situations among many variations of this situation.  They have different things that can apply.  Each situation can be deeply personal, and thus the Lord's guidance should be sought in each situation.

A similar thing can be stated in regards to Tithing.  I know a Farmer who makes over a million dollars a year.  However, his actual net profit after all expenses are paid is less than 100K.  If he paid tithing on his gross income he would literally have nothing left over to live on.  He would actually OWE more money than he actually has after paying taxes, paying his bills, paying repairs and for labor of those who work on his farm.  How would one say tithing applies to his situation?  How much does he actually owe?

This is where the Farmer has to find the guidance of the Spirit and be directed by the Lord.  He still needs to pay his tithing, but it is upon his actual income, or what he receives to live upon. 

There are nations out there which tax upwards of 60% of one's pay.  In such a nation, what should one pay on, their gross or their net.  In the US an individual may be actually paying 20% of their actual money they receive to live on after Taxes, but in a nation where the tax rate is 60% they are actually paying 25% or more on their actual money they receive to live on after taxes.  Tithing is thus a much larger chunk of their actual real money they receive.  In such nations (at least when I was there) the usual income members tithed (that I knew) was generally on their net income rather than the gross income. 

There are cultural things which we apply in many instances in regards to our own understanding.  Several of the statements you address are related to these.  There are suggestions on how we may live more closely aligned to the Lord (have children soon after marriage, pay upon one's gross income) but they are not necessarily commandments in the same range as doctrine.  One may have a more spiritual life by following the advice of General authorities when they say that you should have children soon, as the commandment to multiply and replenish the Earth is an important one, or that by paying a full tithe on one's gross income will more fully fulfill the sacrifice and obedience in the principle of tithing...but as it is advice in general there are situations where that advice may not be applicable, or in some instances, even feasible.

This is because everyone has different situations in life.  Thus, it is often necessary for one to actually know how to recognize personal revelation on the topic and the subject.  On this, I have two stories.

1.  I have a Child that delayed having children until they had graduated from College and had a steady job.  They eventually had four children, however they have a great regret in choosing the path they followed.  They wanted to have more children, but have not been able to.  They feel that if they had not delayed having children, they would have had more children.  They feel a loss and sorrow for not following the advice to start with a family immediately after marriage.  HOWEVER...it gets deeper into the matter than simply that.  One reason they did not have children is because marriage is not just about one person, it is about both people in the marriage.  Their spouse did NOT want to have children until after graduation and a steady job.  Thus, one reason they did not push the matter was because they loved their spouse and respected their spouse's wishes.  However, the lack of having more children has greatly affected them and brought a great deal of regret and sorrow.  They are very happy with the four children they have and they are a great blessing, but at the same time greatly sorrowful about not having more children and the blessings thereof.

Thus, we can see how my child actually had several revelations on a personal level there.  They had revelation to respect their spouse as perhaps their spouse could only deal with so much, but at the same time because of the choices they jointly made, realized what they have lost in regards to those decisions.

At the same time, they have been blessed.  They had different paths and different choices.  The personal revelation revealed different paths they could take, but ultimately it was left up to them which choice and which blessings they would undertake to receive.

2.  I have another friend that got married young.  They went to medical school.  This is not an easy undertaking, and it was harder because they did not put off having children.  I think they had at least 3-4 children before they even graduated, much less went to residency.  It was NOT easy.  They went into a great deal of debt.  I will be frank, life was extremely hard on them and their family for many years.  Their children did not have much in regards to what the world would say they should have in material means.  Some of the children were in their teens before their parents were even really within the workforce and finally earning a decent amount of money. 

Now, that friend is a medical doctor and has had much success in the medical field.  They are greatly respected and have been very well off from middle age onwards.  They have many children and even more grandchildren.  However, life was excessively hard for many years and some of the children bear those emotional or mental scars to a small degree.  You can see it in how they are cautious in purchases and budgeting in how they were greatly affected. 

This family was also greatly blessed.  They had a choice as well.  Revelation extended the different roads they should take and they also chose which one to travel.

Neither family made the wrong choice, but utilized their personal revelation on what struggles they would endure and have to go through due to the choice that they made.  If we listen to the spirit and seek personal revelation, we each can see what things we may have to suffer or not suffer with various choices set before us.   What may be the right choice for one, may not be the right choice for another.  This is why personal revelation on such matters is such an important thing to seek and strive for.

President Nelson stated

Quote

In like manner, what will your seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.

Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation.”

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”

Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives

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I find this an interesting question. The first time I really encountered this was while serving a mission. We encountered a woman who took an immediate interest in our message. She started reading the Book of Mormon and initially felt good about it. However, as we challenged her to really pray about it, she reported that she received the impression that God did not want her to continue reading the BoM and studying with the missionaries. Obviously, I have no way to verify her experience, but it was the first time I had to wrestle with the possibility that God would give someone an answer contrary to the answer we would expect as missionaries.

I don't know that I have the final answer on the question. As I get older, I think there might be a bit more "It's between you and God" for a lot of things, and a lot less "you'd better pick right" than my orthodox self would have believed.

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11 hours ago, Fether said:

Is there a word for this kind of dilemma?

There is no single word that I'm aware of. But phrases for this phenomenon might include:

  • "This is no dilemma, but a chance to learn to make a righteous choice."
  • "This is no dilemma, but a chance to learn to hear the voice of God."
  • "This is no dilemma, but simply a choice to be pondered and arrived at."
11 hours ago, Fether said:

Is there a "correct" answer to these questions, but God is wanting us to come to the conclusion on our own?

In many cases, absolutely. For some fraction of such questions, the answer is surely situation-dependent. The main problem I see comes in people defaulting to the latter possibility to avoid facing up squarely to the former possibility. People mutate "Seek God's council to know the truth of what you should do" into "Do whatever you want, because it's your choice."

You mention the topic of tithing below. It's a perfect example of exactly this phenomenon. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people talk about how they worried about paying tithing on some inheritance or other windfall until the voice of the Lord spoke in their hearts that it was okay, they don't need to pay tithing on these moneys. I can't remember a single time I have heard someone say that he was praying to know whether he should pay tithing on some sum of money, and received the clear answer, "Well of course you should! And don't take off your usual deductions!"

11 hours ago, Fether said:

How ought we to approach discussion when, for example, I happily teach my children to pay tithing on their gifted money, but a friend teaches the opposite and a discussion begins between them?

"Sally's parents don't understand tithing exactly the same way your parents do. What they teach Sally is between them and Sally. Your mother and I are responsible for teaching you, and this is how we understand things."

11 hours ago, Fether said:

Or in a class discussion, someone asks about paying tithing on net vs gross, is there a way to teach the principle without recreating the feeling explained above?

"Tithe a tenth of your increase. That is the only commandment we have. If you have questions, take them to God and seek out his will. My opinion is to be as generous with the Lord as we want him to be with us. How that affects your payment of tithing is between you and him.

"But be assured that you will in fact account to the Lord for how you tithe your increase, and based on your status will receive or not receive, both now and in the eternities, the blessings he has ordained for those who tithe honestly."

Because the facts are that our actions do have consequences, that God will judge us, and that many do in fact willfully deceive themselves when money is involved. Pointing out these obvious facts of existence invites people to close introspection, which is a good thing. What they do with that information is their affair.

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These are actually two different ideas that you present:

12 hours ago, Fether said:

It's between you and God (but you better pick right)

12 hours ago, Fether said:

"but really... this is what you are supposed to do so don't pick wrong."

The first statement is perfectly fine. It admits two facts:

  • There is the commandment and the standard that is generally the correct one.
  • There are the exceptions.  But it also warns that it is all too easy to believe that our own situations are the exception when they are not. If it truly is an exception, then there is nothing wrong with it.  But if it is not, then we will be judged by the Lord while we're only worried about being judged by our fellow man.

The second statement really is about judging.

If it is your own kids then, as a parent, you are SUPPOSED to not only judge them, but also teach them the correct way.  You establish how you will do things in your family. 

If it is other people for whom you are not given a stewardship, then it is none of your business.  If they ask for advice, give it.  But in the end, the Lord will judge them.

The truth is that for each of these situations of "between you and the Lord" there is a CORRECT answer.  And each individual will eventually be judged for it by the Lord.  But we as individuals are told to not judge because we simply don't know the whole story or all the facts involved in determining whether it is an exception or the rule.  That is why it is between them and the Lord.  It's none of your business.

So, maybe the dilemma you're considering is

  • Some adult that you happen to know vs. your own child -- different rules about what you tell them and how.
  • Teaching the principle, the law, the doctrine, vs. teaching them to learn how to listen to the Spirit.

It's a careful balancing act with our own kids.  We want them to learn enough to have some sort of basis to make decisions.  So, we need to spoon feed them some level of knowledge.  At some point, we give them enough rope so they can learn from their mistakes.  Sometimes life is the greatest teacher.  But without some basic knowledge of the principles of the gospel, they will have no way of knowing whether their actions have brought about some learning experiences.

For this current example of paying tithes on gifts.  I'd say that for the most part, I wouldn't pay tithing on it.  That's my personal impression.  BUT!!! as a parent, I'd still tell my children to pay tithing on it.  Why the double standard?...

When you're a small child, gifts are practically the only way you get any significant money.  So, it is really the only time for them to learn how to calculate and how to pay.  It is the only time they can learn about the process, the payment, and the blessings.

As an adult, things get all complicated. 

If a friend gives me money to pay the bills because he still has a job and I lost mine due to COVID, that is a pretty big blessing. 
If I have no money to begin with, how would I pay tithing when it all went to pay the bills?
But since he paid tithing on his income, isn't that double dipping?  What if the friend did NOT pay his tithing? 
Am I getting an "income" or is it that the friend had an income and is choosing to pay my bills as part of what HE is spending HIS income on?
What if the "gift" is in kind -- food for the pantry or gasoline for the car? I still have no cash.  How would I pay?
I've had friends buy me lunch.  Do I calculate the value and pay tithing on that?  I probably wouldn't.
What if he were simply returning a favor that I rendered him earlier?

Oh, it can get MUCH more complex than that.  That is why it is between the individual/family and the Lord.  Can you really get into all the minutae of how they decide?  I don't think I could.

Edited by Carborendum

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11 hours ago, Fether said:

Is there a word for this kind of dilemma?

Sounds like you're looking for a variation on Morton's Fork. I don't think that's what the manuals are describing though.

We belong to a global church with millions of members. There are bound to be exceptional circumstances. The question as I see it is whether a given circumstance warrants an exception to some principle. I can't find the quote (maybe I can get an assist) but Elder Oaks mentioned in an interview that as general authorities they share general counsel to the Church which we then go and implement in our specific instances.

For the first example you share, the Church is teaching "this is the general counsel, if you are a special exception then you had better speak with God about whether this still applies to you." The individual is to have a council meeting with God. Just like any other council meeting counsel is offered, objections are freely raised, and direction is given. From my own experience, I've learned to embrace President Monson's love for the Mark Twain line, "you can't pray a lie." If I share with God the conflict I have over selfish reasons, I'm unable to carry my request very far. If, in the course of such counsel the Lord verifies that your specific case is an exception, then that is for you only and is not to be turned into a general principle. Not knowing any different, I assume the Lord directed Steve Young to forego his priesthood responsibility to serve a full-time mission. But that doesn't relieve me of such a duty.

That said, I think Steve Young is the exception. I've had a few occasions where I've voiced my concerns and the general counsel has been reiterated as applying to my circumstance.

12 hours ago, Fether said:

How ought we to approach discussion when, for example, I happily teach my children to pay tithing on their gifted money, but a friend teaches the opposite and a discussion begins between them? Or in a class discussion, someone asks about paying tithing on net vs gross, is there a way to teach the principle without recreating the feeling explained above?

"Steve Young played football instead of serving a mission!"

"I'm not trying to figure out what God wants from Steve Young. I want to know what God wants from me!"

This is a conversation I'm starting with my teenage children. Reflecting on my own life I noticed in grade school that people outside the Church had different standards than my family. As a teen I was confused that other members of the Church had different standards from my family. After graduation I was no longer confused but recognized that other members have different standards than I do. I've shared these reflections with my children so they can be prepared to uphold family standards when they see these differences.

As for tithing, or energy drinks, or dating age, you have standards for your family. If it's something you're flexible on you can let you children participate in the council process, being sure to invite God in. If it's not flexible, you let them know that this is a family standard and train them to listen to God's guidance as they develop more autonomy.

In a class discussion for teens, teach them what I just wrote - that it's a decision their parents can help them with as they try to ascertain God's will. If it's adults - I trust that we're all mature enough to be comfortable with our choices. Again, I don't particularly care what Brother Young has agreed with God to do.

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11 hours ago, mordorbund said:

I can't find the quote (maybe I can get an assist) but Elder Oaks mentioned in an interview that as general authorities they share general counsel to the Church which we then go and implement in our specific instances.

https://www.thechurchnews.com/archives/2005-05-01/elder-dallin-h-oaks-the-dedication-of-a-lifetime-91589

The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don't try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. [...] But don't ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.

Edited by Vort

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10 hours ago, Vort said:

https://www.thechurchnews.com/archives/2005-05-01/elder-dallin-h-oaks-the-dedication-of-a-lifetime-91589

The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, it is my responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don't try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don't ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.

It is my personal opinion that there are two kinds of exceptions to what General Authorities have said.  The first kind is when an individual listens to a General Authority and believes that they are an exception.  I believe this is what Brother Oaks is referring to.  The second kind of exceptions is when an individual listens to a general Authority and believes that someone else is an exception or that they think someone else believes that they are the exception.  

I think it is good that Latter-day Saints discuss and counsel with each other - especially those things pertaining to the plan of salvation and other gospel teachings.  I even think we can include science, politics and other concerns of life as well.  But each individual is granted their own agency and as such is responsible to G-d for their choices, decisions, how the scriptures, covenants, commandments and counsels are received and applied by them.  It is my understanding that Satan and his followers intend to remove individual agency and responsibility.  That there is danger - more to one's self than to others when resorting to various efforts of compulsion (See D&C 121). 

 

The Traveler

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Agency, coupled with a strong desire to mind your own dang business and not unrighteously judge, with a helping of "search ponder and pray", and a side of "trying to do what's right", and you're basically bulletproof.   I figure the desires of one's heart factor bigtime into the Lord's righteous judgments on us. 

I can only guess, but when I try to think what a loving Heavenly Father might think, I figure smoking cigarettes because you're trying to get off of heroin and that's your best option, will be looked at a certain way.  And shutting down your spouse in an angry conversation, and then pressuring your family into their church clothes, so you can get to church on time and nobody will have any reason to judge you, may be looked at another way. 

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