"Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.
"Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation."Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and 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. 3:8-10.)
Speaking in general conference in April 1964, Elder Howard W. Hunter, then of the Council of the Twelve, said the law of tithing is a universal law.
"The words of Malachi in which he accused the people of robbing God bring back to my mind the memories of my class in crimes in law school," Elder Hunter said. "In larceny there is an unlawful acquisition of . . . property, while in embezzlement . . . property which belongs to another is acquired lawfully and then fraudulently converted to the possessor's use.
"In order to memorize these distinctions, I pictured in my mind, to represent larceny, a masked burglar, sneaking about under the cover of darkness, taking that which was not his. To represent the theory of embezzlement I thought of a non-tithepayer. The Lord's share came into his hands lawfully, but he misappropriated it to his own use. This seems to be the accusation of Malachi."
Elder Hunter said there are some who make the assertion that Jesus denounced tithing in His last public discourse in the temple court when He struck out against the practices and teachings of the Pharisees:
" `Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.' (Matt.23:23.)
"This is not a denunciation of tithing but a rebuke of the Pharisees and their legalisms. They were paying a tithing of their herbs and vegetables, while overlooking the great gospel principles of judgment, mercy, and faith."
Elder Hunter said that after the gospel was restored in this dispensation, the Lord gave a revelation to His people through defining the law and requiring that surplus property be put into the hands of the bishop:
"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, for my holy priesthood, saith the Lord.' " (D&C 119:4.)
Elder Hunter noted that the tithe is God's law for His children, yet the payment is entirely voluntary. "In this respect it does not differ from the law of the Sabbath or from any other of His laws. We may refuse to obey any or all of them. Our obedience is voluntary, but our refusal to pay does not abrogate or repeal the law," he said.
"The Lord has established the law of tithing, and because it is His law, it becomes our obligation to observe it if we love Him and have a desire to keep His commandments and receive His blessings. In this way it becomes a debt. The man who doesn't pay his tithing because he is in debt should ask himself if he is not also in debt to the Lord. The Master said: `But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you.' (Matt. 6:33.)
"We can't walk east and west at the same time. We can't serve both God and mammon. The man who rejects the law of the tithe is the man who has not given it a fair try."