If one characteristic of Zion is that there are no poor (Moses 7:18), and if one means to improve the lot of the poor is to place fewer financial burdens on them (Isaiah 3:15), then the law of consecration and tithing as given in D&C 119 seems to be perfectly aligned with that vision.
God tells the Saints that “I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop” (v.1). Those without “surplus property” (i.e. the poor) are thus exempt from this form of consecration. This accords with JST Genesis 14:39 where Abram, a wealthy man, tithes his surplus property.
God then requires that on the property we thereafter retain we are to “pay one-tenth of all [our] interest annually; and this shall be a standing law . . . forever” (v.4). Sam Brunson has demonstrated, by reference to how Bishop Edward Partridge explained “interest” at the time, that this was to be worked out as an imputed interest (i.e. if property were to be liquidated and then invested, how much interest would it earn?). As they may own little to no property, the poor’s tithing would thus be small to perhaps nothing.
Consecration has gone as a practice but tithing remains. If the Partridge-explicated tithing on one’s annual interest were retained, it would look something like this:
Person A is “worth” £1,000,000. The imputed annual interest on that worth is £1,000,000*5% = £50,000. Tithing would thus be £5000 per annum.
Person B is worth £100,000. Tithing would be £500. This would be the average tithing demand on the average UK member with the average net worth. In the current de facto system of tithing on income, the average UK member on the average income pays £2600.
Person C is worth £10,000. Tithing would be £50.
Person D is worth £0. Tithing would be £0.
- Clearly this is not the de facto way tithing is understood today. The majority of Mormons would prejudice the current understanding as reflecting God’s will and would thus tithe on 10% of their “income.”
- Partridge does not tell us what “worth” means in his context. If I were calculating my worth, I might say that it is the equity in my house, my other property if liquidated, and the value of my savings and investments.
- Calculating the interest is tricky. I chose 5% to be illustrative. I could choose the Bank of England base rate +3% (the best savings account rates on offer), or house price inflation in the West Midlands region in 2015 (4%), or some other metric. Partridge chose 6%, which was a common interest rate at the time.
- It is a matter of fact that the D&C 119 system places a heavier burden on the rich whereas the current system places a heavier burden on the poor. If that is the will of God, it still demands some reflection.