Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Tithing

Growing up, I had always planned on serving a mission. As part of the plan, I realized that based upon my family’s precarious financial situation, I would have to work for a year to finance my mission instead of going to college. After graduating from high school, I started looking for a job, but as a person with low skills and low productivity, the only avenues of employment that appeared open to me were door-to-door sales, telemarketing and fast food restaurant work. After two months of fruitless searching, I saw an advertisement for an office job working as an audit clerk. I wasn’t exactly sure what an audit clerk would do, but I felt that it couldn’t be that difficult a job. I applied and, surprisingly, I was called in for an interview.

Apparently, the job to which I applied had a high turn-over rate, so the company had turned to a temp agency to filter out the undesirables before interviewing people for the job. I passed the first interview and was set for another interview with the company the next day. At the interview, for whatever reason, I didn’t connect with the supervisor for the position. After the interview, I spoke with the lady from the temp agency who told me that she thought they had made a mistake and that she would arrange for me to have another interview with the other supervisor who had been away on vacation.

A few days later, I got another phone call from the temp agency. The lady had managed to snag me another interview with the other interviewer. This interview went much better and within a few days, I was sitting at a desk with a stack of old invoices, offer letters and other assorted documents. My supervisor and her assistant explained that I was to go through the invoices and make sure that we had been charged the right amount based on the offer letters that we had received. In addition to my lowly salary of $7.67 an hour with no paid lunch, I would also be paid 2% of whatever overpayments I found as an added incentive. Not exactly an edge-of-your-seat type of job, but I was happy to be working in an office than to have to work in the other fields of employment that were open to me.

After laboriously poring over the invoices for a day and a half, I had found a mistake or two and handed in the invoices and other papers to my supervisor’s assistant for her to check. Needless to say, I had done a horrible job and easily missed about 99.9% of the errors. I was crushed (and worried that I might find myself out of a job at the end of the day). The first few weeks were very precarious and not much fun.

Early on, I had decided that I would pay my tithing on whatever I would make. And I kept that promise. After getting paid, I would save 80% of the money I made, pay 10% as tithing and keep the other 10% as payment to myself. Even though I only took home about $500 every two weeks after taxes, in the mid-Nineties, it seemed like a lot.

In addition to my hourly wage, I was also paid the 2% bonus every quarter. Although when I first started the job, I was horribly unqualified for it, I ended up becoming one of the senior members of the department because of good job performance. I even had my own office before I left, which is pretty good considering many of my co-workers who had been there longer were stuck on out on the ‘floor’. Over the course of 15 months, I had saved the company almost a million dollars, and received 2% of that amount.

I was easily able to pay the whole cost of my mission and other attendant costs (clothing, dental work, etc.) Not only was I able to pay for my mission expense, I also was able to purchase several thousand dollars worth of guitar equipment, take a trip to Florida to visit relatives and amusement parks and generally have a really good time just going out with my friends and family. Living at home helped to minimize expenses, but I did contribute what I could to my family. Even after my mission, I had enough money saved to pay for the first year of college and to pay for a trip down to Australia to visit one of my companions.

The biggest reward for faithfully paying my tithing was that when I was out in the mission field, in my last area, I met a lady whom I will refer to as Minnie (not her real name). The other Elders in the area I was in were teaching the discussions, but she hadn’t been progressing for a couple of months. One night, one of the ward missionaries invited the four Elders and some of their investigators over to have a picnic outside. While at the picnic, I had an opportunity to sit and talk to Minnie.

I asked her how the discussions were going and how she felt about the church. She told me that she thought the church was good, but was unsure about God and the Atonement. I asked if there was anything else she was concerned about and she said tithing. For whatever reason, I felt that it was her main concern. I shared my experience with her and we spoke for about an hour about tithing, the Church, God and the Atonement. To this day, I can’t remember much of what I said, but I do remember that I spoke Japanese better that night then I had ever spoken it before (or probably since). I felt very good, very calm and very connected to Minnie. I truly felt as though she were my sister.

The next week at church, she came to me and told me that she was grateful that we had had our talk. She told me that she had been feeling like a ship in a storm and that she was conflicted about what she had been taught, but that after our conversation, she felt as though the waters had calmed and that she was ready to change her life and join the Church.

Several months after I came home from Japan, I got a postcard from Sister Minnie informing me that she was going on a mission to Temple Square. After her mission, she married a returned Japanese missionary in the Tokyo temple. I believe that they have one child. I not sure because her email address doesn't work anymore and I have otherwise lost contact with her and her husband.

This is not usually the type of story that I would post, but for some reason, the last few days I have felt that I should put it on my blog.

1 comment:

Mormon Heretic said...

Fantastic story! Thanks for sharing.