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TERRY - I have a question regarding tithing. How long do you have to pay (consecutively) to be considered a full tithe payer? We sometimes start getting a month or two behind and then it gets tough to catch back up. Then we'll start off again and start over. Our temple recommends are up to renew and weren't sure of how long we needed to be consecutively be paying to be considered full tithe payers.
JOEL - A question like yours is really up to you, your Bishop, and God. There is no "official policy" or set length of time that one must pay to be considered a full-tithe payer. Of course we are suppose to be paying it all the time. Trying to "catch up" on tithe paying doesn't really bring the blessings or show obedience to God in the way it was meant. Can we go back and live the Word of Wisdom when we have failed to do so? I don't think so. No law can be retroactively obeyed. Tithing is no different. It's not about the money; it's having the faith to make the sacrifices when it is hard to do it. But getting behind happens to most everyone once in a while.
President Lorenzo Snow said:
"I say to you in the name of the Lord God of Israel, if you will pay tithing from now on, the Lord will forgive you for all the past [nonpayment of tithing] and the blessings of the Almighty will be poured out upon this people.
I want to have this principle so fixed upon our hearts that we shall never forget it. As I have said more than once, I know that the Lord will forgive the Latter-day Saints for their past negligence in paying tithing, if they will now repent and pay a conscientious tithing from this time on."(Presidents of the Church, Lorenzo Snow Lesson 12)
The Temple recommend question simply asks if you are a full tithe payer. If you feel you are (regardless of how long you have been paying) then say yes. If you don't feel right about saying yes explain your circumstances to the Bishop. Chances are if you have been paying it for a few months before getting the recommend your Bishop might say it's OK, give you the recommend, and encourage you to keep current on it. If someone hasn't been paying at all for a long time a Bishop might ask them to pay for a few months starting now to show they are willing to do it and then give them the recommend. He might even take Lorenzo Snow's approach; commit to start paying from now on and give them the recommend. I have never known a Bishop to ask a member to pay back tithing before getting a recommend. Bishops will do everything they can to get their members in the temple, so I don't think you have much to worry about. But I don't know your Bishop and your Bishop knows you better than I do. He has been set apart to receive inspiration for counseling his members, so you should talk to him about it.