|"Windows of Heaven" by Jeff Brimley|
President Snow made the long trip to Saint George and witnessed dry fields and dying livestock all along the way. Soon after his arrival, a conference was organized so the people could hear the word of the Lord from a prophet of God. He stood to speak with deeper concern from all he had witnessed but without knowing what he could possibly say to make a difference.
Suddenly, in the middle of his remarks, President Snow paused for several moments. When he resumed his sermon, he had renewed confidence and his voice was stronger. Many of the people testified afterward that they knew he was speaking under the inspiration of the Lord. He said, “The word of the Lord is: The time has now come for every Latter-day Saint … to do the will of the Lord and to pay his tithing in full. That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion” (quoted in LeRoi C. Snow, “The Lord’s Way Out of Bondage,” p. 439). He promised that if they would pay their tithing, rain would fall and they would be able to plant and harvest good crops that year.
In the year following President Snow’s revelation, the Saints contributed twice as much in tithing as they had the previous two years. Not only were the Saints in St. George blessed with rain, but within eight years the Church was able to pay all its debts. Since that day, the Church has continued to have enough money to carry out the Lord’s work because faithful Church members pay their tithing.
The Lord promised Malachi that if the Israelites would pay their tithing he would, “open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:7-12). After months of drought and facing the prospect of having no food for the winter, I can imagine that the people in Saint George must have been overwhelmed with gratitude at the sight of rain.
At the same time, despite paying my tithing faithfully for years, I have sometimes felt that I had room to receive a lot more. I have wondered why this promise didn’t seem to be as true for me as I imagined it could be. In seeing only with my temporal eyes, have not understood what the Lord was really offering.
Elder David A. Bednar has explained:
Often as we teach and testify about the law of tithing, we emphasize the immediate, dramatic and readily recognizable temporal blessings that we receive. And surely such blessings do occur. Yet some of the diverse blessings we obtain as we are obedient to this commandment are significant but subtle. Such blessings can be discerned only if we are both spiritually attentive and observant (see 1 Corinthians 2:14).
The imagery of the "windows" of heaven used by Malachi is most instructive. Windows allow natural light to enter into a building. In like manner, spiritual illumination and perspective are poured out through the windows of heaven and into our lives as we honor the law of tithing.
Now I can see that my family has experienced an outpouring of light and understanding on several occasions. One of those experiences occurred while I was attending graduate school in Arizona. Soon after graduation, my wife and I accepted a job in Virginia. It was a big decision that came as a shock to a lot of our friends and family members. Some of them wondered out loud how we could make a decision so suddenly that wasn't even in realm of possibilities just the day before.
Of course, we hadn't made the decision suddenly at all. Years before we decided to move, we began praying for guidance and that we would be able to find a good job after graduate school. I paid close attention when my professors, most of whom were or had been active in my chosen profession, would give career advice. I interviewed for promotions within the company where I worked and started applying for jobs in my field around the metro area where I was attending school. I was constantly looking at job ads and talking with my wife about what we wanted from life, the kinds of communities where we would like to live and jobs that would help us reach our larger goals.
Over time, my wife and I began to have experiences that helped to clarify the path ahead. One interviewer at my then-employer told me I was overqualified and another told me it would be several years before the labor union would allow me to be considered for promotion. A guest practitioner in one of my classes shared stories from working in rural communities that resonated with me. The same advice about mobility and finding a first job was repeated over and over and over again by professors, mentors, role models and career counselors.
As graduation approached I was getting anxious to find a position, but it was much easier to identify the jobs that would get us closer to our long-term professional and family goals. My wife and I knew the entry-level job titles that were most likely to lead to management opportunities, the size and type of community where we wanted to live, and which states and communities we were willing to call home. Four months after graduation, I interviewed in Virginia and accepted a position that was everything we had learned we wanted.
Looking back, there was not a single epiphany that dramatically changed our course or a grand revelatory moment where the Lord commanded us to move to Virginia. Instead, the Lord opened the windows of heaven and steadily poured out a thousand smaller experiences, thoughts and impressions that gradually opened our minds, clarified our goals and led us gently down the path to where we needed to be.
Following the guidance we have received in this and other experiences like it has led to the opportunities, challenges and understanding we have needed to progress in our lives. We have been afforded greater happiness, testimony, strength, knowledge, experience and prosperity than we could ever deserve.
Just as the blessings of tithing most often come line upon line and grace for grace, Bishop Gerald Causse shared an experience in the April 2017 General Conference that highlighted the subtle blessings of priesthood service in his life:
When I was 30 years old, I began working for a retail group in France. One day the company president, a good man of another faith, called me into his office. His question startled me: "I just learned that you are a priest in your church. Is that true?"
I replied, "Yes, that is correct. I hold the priesthood."
Visibly intrigued by my response, he further inquired, "But did you study at a theological seminary?"
"Of course," I answered, "between the ages of 14 and 18, and I studied seminary lessons nearly every day!" He almost fell off his chair.
To my great surprise, several weeks later he called me back to his office to offer me a managing director position in one of the group's companies. I was astonished and expressed my concern that I was too young and inexperienced to hold such an important responsibility. With a benevolent smile, he said, "That may be true, but it doesn't matter. I know your principles, and I know what you've learned in your church. I need you."
He was right about what I had learned in the Church. The years that followed were challenging, and I don't know if I could have had any success without the experience I acquired by serving in the Church from the time I was a young man.
The Lord has taught, “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated-- And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 130:20-21). Sometimes the blessings we receive are as sudden and significant as rain to end a long drought. Quite often however, the blessings of our obedience to any principle come so quietly that we do not even notice them at the time.
This is the Lord's way: "line upon line; here a little and there a little" (Isaiah 28:10). "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Elijah stood on Mount Horeb (Sinai) and witnessed that the Lord was not in the powerful wind nor the earthquake nor the fire, but rather a still, small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). Instead of ushering in the restoration of the gospel with a visit to a prominent minister or president, the Lord appeared to a fourteen-year-old farm boy with a third grade education and a burning desire for truth. President Snow could have been inspired to know where to dig for gold or secure a large donation, but the Lord told him to go to Saint George and teach obedience to the ancient law of tithing.
You or I may still feel from time to time that we could use more of the Lord's blessings in our lives. This can also be guidance from the Lord. At such times, I have found I get the best results when I strive to be obedient and follow the counsel of a favorite hymn:
When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev'ry doubt will fly
And you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you his wealth untold.
Count your many blessings; money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven nor your home on high.
So amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged; God is over all.
Count your many blessings; angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey's end.