The law of tithing, a principle that has "opened the windows of heaven" for countless families and individuals, was received 150 years ago - on July 8, 1838. Joseph Smith was given the revelation at Far West, Mo., in response to his supplication: "O Lord, show unto thy servants how much thou requirest of the properties of thy people for a tithing."
The answer to this prayer is found in the 119th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants:". . . And this shall be the beginning of the tithing of my people.
"And after that, those who have thus been tithed shall pay one-tenth of all their interest annually; and this shall be a standing law unto them forever. . . . (D&C 119:3-4.)
Before 1838, the word "tithing" wasn't totally unknown to Church members - the word appears three times previously in the Doctrine and Covenants. But the revelation recorded in Section 119 began the law of tithing as millions of Latter-day Saints know it, and are known by it, today: one-tenth of each member's increase.
To the world, tithing has become as recognizable a part of the LDS practice of religion as the Word of Wisdom and eternal marriage and families. And its impact over 150 years has been universal - for individuals, familes and the Church.
One experience in particular has become a well-known part of Church history: In 1899, in the midst of a severe drought in southern Utah, President Lorenzo Snow stood before a congregation in St. George, and, as instructed in a vision, called on Church members there to pay a full and honest tithing. Should members heed this counsel, he said, "not only would the Church be relieved of its great indebtedness, but through the blessing of the Lord this would also be the means of freeing the Latter-day Saints from their individual obligations, and they would become a prosperous people." (Church News, Jan. 20, 1934.)
President Snow repeated the message in dozens of other locations, and the members responded. The drought ended, and many Church members received the promised blessings for their faithfulness.
Though president for just three years, President Snow laid the groundwork for the Church that would, within a few decades, allow it to be financially able to reach out, in missionaries, buildings and programs, around the world.
That progress continues at an even quicker pace today, largely because of the faithful adherence to a revelation received 150 years ago, and its promise, put to the test by Latter-day Saints every day: ". . . prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (Mal. 3:10.)