Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Efficiency Isn't a Divine Virtue

I remember a bit of a General Conference talk from a few years ago, but I can't find the talk, so I'll have to paraphrase. The speaker was giving advice to people in leadership positions, and basically said, "Don't bring to your church calling the focus on efficiency that you've developed in your professional career." He pointed out that God is not interested in efficiency, since the most-efficient way for a perfect Being to do something is to do it Himself. Instead, He uses us, who are very inefficient, because our learning how to accomplish the task is just as important as completing the task. The speaker warned not to do things yourself that you should be allowing youth to do.

Well, I thought of this when I read a portion of Great Basin Kingdom: Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900, by Leonard J. Arrington. In writing about paying tithing in kind (which was acceptable until 1908), Arrington included this passage.

Produce tithing, such as dairy and poultry products, was usually used to support laborers on church public works. For example, an announcement was made in the Deseret News, on July 24, 1852, that a total of 5,046 pounds of butter, 2,254 pounds of cheese, and 1,151 dozen eggs had been received during the preceding fifteen weeks at the General Tithing Office in Salt Lake City. All of this had been given to the families of 320 laborers. The amount of butter tithing would have been greater, it was said, but the merchants had been paying higher prices for butter than those allowed at the tithing office, and thus the Saints had sold their butter to the merchants and paid their tithing in other forms, "forcing the public hands to eat dry bread." [p. 136]

The members probably thought they were performing a good service, getting the highest price available for their items and then contributing 10% of that higher value as their tithing. But tithing isn't about maximizing the Lord's income. Equal access to butter was more important than getting the highest tithing valuation possible.

More evidence that, in my long-running feud with a worker in our local temple baptistry, I'm probably in the wrong.

1 comment:

The Man Your Husband Is Worried About said...

The talk is here: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/04/walk-with-me?lang=eng