Without Hesitation

April 23, 2006 | 18 comments
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I just read a story in the Church News that I can’t make out.

It comes in the profile of two British saints, David and Dianne Baxter. It seems that as young marrieds,

the investment company where he was employed collapsed, leaving them with a heavy mortgage in a depressed home market.

Elder Baxter quickly found work and began negotiating with the bank for repayment of their debt. As the banker reviewed a list of their expenses, he drew a line through their tithing figure, saying the donation hindered their ability to repay.

Elder Baxter responded with his testimony of tithing and said that without the help of the Lord, he couldn’t guarantee repayment of the loan.

The banker listened, then without hesitation restored the tithing amount to the top of the list.

If you’re like me, you can’t get over the banker. Who was he? What was his background? This sectarian-debtor person preaches at him and then, without hesitation, he gives away 10% of his potential repayment. Why? A fascinating figure, this banker. I suppose only God knows him like he ought to be known.

We are snowflakes, I think. A cold, wet, mass, falling or fallen. Only individual flakes show crystals and the occassional upward gust. Bankers cross tithing off the list, but this banker restores it.

18 Responses to Without Hesitation

  1. Bookslinger on April 23, 2006 at 10:43 pm

    I’ve heard testimonies of tithing from a Lutheran and a Presbyterian.

  2. Blake on April 23, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    What I don’t get is why they had a testimony of tithing if his investment banking firm collapsed and he was on his last dollar so that he had to have a loan. How is that financial success such that tithing is a way of knowing things will work out financially. What could possibly suggest that tithing isn’t an assurance of economic prosprity or well-being if their present circumstances weren’t adequate testimony to that fact? Moreover, since when does a lending institution sit down with anyone and make a budget so that it just may be possible to pay back a loan? Sure, there are debt counseling centers and advisors, but they aren’t lending banks. I guess like Adam that I am confused by this story. It just doesn’t add up.

  3. annegb on April 23, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    When Bill and I were newlyweds, he was a car salesman, still is, but at a different place. Sometimes we made nothing, just nothing, a check with the number 0 on it. I don’t know how we made it. We had three, then four kids, I never worked, we always paid tithing. I canned everything from our huge garden, Bill shot a deer and the kids ate venison and fish he caught and we survived.

    At one time during a particularly rough period, we went to what’s the word–somebody we owed money to–and pleaded for leniency, not absolution, just a little time. This nice woman chastised us for our dedication to tithing, but we were absolutely adamant. Oh, and we never had welfare, we borrowed a lot and our credit suffered as his income ebbed and flowed, but we were blessed. He got a better job. It got better. It just always worked.

    And it worked out. We are in the same house for going on 25 years (I’m here 27), we provided for our kids and life is relaxing slightly. I frankly look back with wonder at our lunacy.

  4. El Jefe on April 23, 2006 at 11:58 pm

    The story adds up very well to me. When bankers lend, many times they lend based on character. I think the Baxters approach to tithing convinced the banker that hey had character, and he was less concerned about the repayment.

    Elder Monte Brough tells the story of going (many years ago) to NYC and needing a loan for $2 million for his fledgling company. The VIP banker took him to his house and showed him a magnificent collection of wines and spirits. Asked him what he would like. He said he did not drink. The banker said he was feeling a little offended and once again asked which of the many vintages he would like. He once again refused, saying he was LDS and would not drink. Elder Brough called his wife that night and said he thought he’d blown his opportunity.

    The next day he went to see the banker and the banker said: “We have a check for your $2 million. Anyone who is that devoted to his principles, is not a character risk.”

  5. RoAnn on April 24, 2006 at 12:36 am

    Blake, surely you aren’t questioning the veracity of the Baxters’ story? I hope not, because I don’t think a newly called general authority is likely to lie. Having lived several years in England, I don’t question that the Baxter’s banker might react differently than most U.S. bankers. A lot of things operate differently there.

    To me, the story of the Baxters suggests that, like Annegb and her husband, they didn’t think that paying tithing would always guarantee financial success. They paid it because it is a commandment. They also had a testimony that if they paid it, even in the most difficult circumstances, their family would have enough to sustain their lives. And now they can say, as Annegb said, “It got better. It just always worked.”

    Adam, I agree that the banker arouses our curiosity. It sounds to me like his heart was touched, and that’s why he reacted without hesitation to allow the Baxters to categorize tithing as a necessary living expense. As I understand it, the banker did not give away 10% of his potential repayment; he merely approved the monthly repayment amounts to be reduced, meaning that the total repayment would take longer (and the Baxters would end up paying the bank more in interest). :)

  6. Jay S on April 24, 2006 at 1:53 am

    I think more than the principle of tithing, it illustrates the power of testimony and the spirit. When we have such a strong conviction of a correct principle, the spirit can come through in our conversations and touch other’s hearts.

    As a tangent. I would be interested to learn more about the credit and homebuying process in other countries. My wife read a book about shopping in England (fiction), where the local banker actually wrote personal letters to collect on an overdraft. I understand that the process in Brazil is very different than the US.

  7. Adam Greenwood on April 24, 2006 at 6:01 am

    Blake,
    you’re finding imagined difficulties in the story.
    The Baxters had faith that if they tithed they’d be able to pay back their loan and it would appear this faith was justified.
    We shouldn’t assume that banking in 1960s Britain was the same as the modern US. And even today, in the US, banks and other creditors will often try to work out repayment plans, if approached.
    It’s not that the story doesn’t add up. Its that what it leaves unsaid about what was in the banker’s heart is fascinating.

  8. Mike on April 24, 2006 at 7:30 am

    “because I don’t think a newly called general authority is likely to lie.”

    Does anybody on this blog remember Paul Dunn? He was the greatest. I loved him. He kept a troubled generation in the church and gave the best talks.

    He lied through his teeth.

    Oh and Joseph Smith was less than completely honest when it came to plural marriage, but that was different.

  9. Frank McIntyre on April 24, 2006 at 7:43 am

    Mike,

    It turns out that pretty much everybody has heard of Paul Dunn. But it is, I think, still true that a newly called GA is unlikely to lie.

    Adam, that is an interesting story. It would be interesting to know if this actually meant a loss to the banker or if it just meant a longer repayment plan. But either way, it does point to the power of testimony.

  10. WillF on April 24, 2006 at 8:11 am

    #2 – I think that basing a testimony of paying tithing on a belief that it means that “things will work out financially” is a widely held, but oversimplified view of tithing’s blessings. Maybe one of the points of this article is to change how we look at tithing by showing it as a test of faith.

    As Elder Hale said in his talk A Test of Faith with Eternal Blessings:

    To those who faithfully and honestly live the law of tithing, the Lord promises an abundance of blessings. Some of these blessings are temporal, just as tithes are temporal. But like the outward physical ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, the commandment to pay tithing requires temporal sacrifice, which ultimately yields great spiritual blessings.

  11. Costanza on April 24, 2006 at 8:21 am

    I would be very interested to hear the banker’s account of the meeting.

  12. sue on April 24, 2006 at 11:23 am

    Of course it could just be that the banker saw he wasn’t going to budge on the tithing and went on to cross off other things instead. We don’t know.

  13. Mike B on April 24, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    It’s a good story, but not so unusual as to make one question its veracity. The ones that grab my attention are those which include money showing up on the doorstep or in the mailbox. My conversion to tithing involved an auto accident (30 years ago) in which the insurance company paid for my car when it was not obligated to.

    (Note: if I find out, on the other side, that the insurance co. really would have paid for the damage even if I had not paid my tithing, I will still count myself fortunate to have been converted to tithing).

  14. Mike on April 25, 2006 at 10:54 am

    Frank:

    Not wishing to pick a fight but I disagree.

    I think that the topic of religion by its very complex nature involves areas where we have incomplete information. The answers to difficult religious questions may not be comprehensible to any of us in our current fallen state. Theologians give us their best approximation to the truth, but it is always incomplete and thereby inaccurate, or worse. Some are very discrete and only tell us what they know they know, others give us speculation that they sincerely hope is accurate and some are pious frauds. They realize we need answers and the wrong answer is sometimes better than no answer at all. Lies of omission are especially common. Not telling the whole truth is as deceptive as bold faced lies.

    Preachers know that bordom is often the biggest enemy. Stories are a good solution. Stories by memory, constructed extemporaneously by skillful public speakers are seldom accurate. Our memories reconstruct events constantly and with time the stories little resmble the original events. But that does not mean they are without value. They may become of greater value.

    Do you understand what Mark Twain meant when he said: “I never let the truth get in the way of a good story?” The historical truth can obscure the point of a good story.

    I knew a wise old black man who quietly worked his whole life in the funeral industry. He had attended thousands of funerals of people he mostly knew and he told me once that all preachers are liars. They have to be.

    One of the fall-outs from the Paul Dunn scandal was that a closer look was taken of all of the General Authorities and their stories. Many of them turn out to be historically inaccurate. President Monson especially. I hope this will not be dragged back out of the closet if or when he takes the mantle of Prophet. One key difference: where Dunn tended to be the hero in his stories, Monson is often a humble observer, or even like a fly on the wall. But in the end I think they all saw what Paul Dunn went through and stopped telling stories as much and this has made conference that much more of an ordeal for the youth especially.

    I would suggest that it is highly likely and maybe inevitable that every newly called general authority will lie to us. Even if they are doing their best and their intentions are entirely pure. I wish they would loosen up and stop worrying about whether they are entirely accurate and bring back the old stories, true or not.

    I think the essence of this discussion is not whether the story is historically accurate, but how it functions as a story in the community of the faithful in getting us to do or not do certain things. Does the issue of whether you pay tithing or not hinge on the historical accuracy of this story? What if all such stories are made up? What if it actually does cost you money to pay tithing in the final analysis? Have any prospective and well controlled studies been done comparing the finances of tithe payers and those who do not? What would they prove? Does paying tithing hinge on whether the church leaders are honest but occasional pious fibbers? Or whether they are scoundrels using the tithing funds to support iniquity?

    I am amazed at how we literal minded Mormons (myself included) just can’t seem to get beyond spiffing up history and elevating our leaders.

  15. Tatiana on April 25, 2006 at 6:59 pm

    I also believe in tithing, whether or not it means we are financially blessed (and sometimes we aren’t). It’s a tremendous blessing to be able to give something out of what I earn. I love to give fast offerings, too, and to the PEF and Humanitarian Aid. They’re doing really good things with that money, and if they had more they could do even more. If we only give tithing so as to reap a financial return, then it’s not really tithing, it’s more like a surefire investment. I don’t think that’s what tithing is supposed to be. :-) However, if you make a point to provide for others in need, I do believe God sees what you do and he remembers it when you’re in need yourself, should that day ever come.

    But I do think the truth matters, and I applaud the GAs’ attempts not to tell nice fables, and pass them off as true stories. I do have trust issues with that. If they want to tell legends, then perhaps they could preface them with something like “This is a story I heard from my great-grandmother, and whether it’s true or not, I can’t say for sure, but…”

    The truth matters more to some people than others, it would seem. I always was one that always really wanted to know the truth. I can still recall intelligent questions I asked as a child, probably a bit precociously, and so I was passed off with non-answers which confused me and gave me an unreal worldview for a long time. I remember later when I found the truth I felt pretty betrayed. I think it’s great that no children will get that feeling of betrayal from General Authorities in the true church.

  16. Mike on April 26, 2006 at 7:30 am

    Tatiana:

    “This is a story I heard from my great-grandmother, and whether it’s true or not, I can’t say for sure, but…â€?

    In my mind when they mount the pulpit, they are already saying something like this.

    Imagine yourself on the witness stand in a court of law. You would say: I heard this story at church from a person I really don’t know personally who lives in Salt lake and who is greatly respected by my religious community…. and I know it is true?

    How is that any different?

    If you have trust issues (and most of do) and you look very long, you will find examples of where they say things that are not right. So I just innoculate myself before hand and that gives me the freedom to look where I want and not risk having my faith shaken up every thime I find another inconsistency.

  17. doug on April 29, 2006 at 11:03 pm

    Interesting post and comments.

    I love hearing personal testimonies of tithing, although it’s important to remember that they are just that, personal and individual. Obedience to the law of tithing does not entitle everyone to the promise of financial prosperity.

    Nonetheless, there is one “type” of tithing testimony that does make me chuckle. Often I hear people say something akin to “we scraped by, but we always paid our tithing…and you know what? We always had food on the table and a roof over our head.” This is shared as if avoiding homelessness and starvation is evidence of divine intervention. Given that most people, if they are still alive, are finding a way to eat and seek shelter, then this seems like rather weak sauce evidence that tithing had anything to do with being able to stay alive. :)

  18. Gary on May 29, 2006 at 6:45 am

    All you have to do is watch The 700 Club on TV and you’ll see and hear stories about blessings being poured out on the heads of Robertson’s contributors that make tithing blessings seem trivial in comparison. If you’re looking for a return on your investment, you’d best turn to Reverend Pat.

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