A nice piece from the inimitable Jeff Lindsay, of Shanghai:
This one has drawn a great deal of derisive laughter and even mocking hatred from certain quarters of darkest anti-Mormondom. Supposedly, according to a few, President Nelson is revealing his brazen personal greed, using the threat of damnation for non-givers in order to demand tribute from very poor Africans to support his lavish lifestyle and to fill the coffers of his obscenely materialistic “church”:
In my judgment, such complaints and accusations tell much more about the accusers than about the accused.
President Nelson is simply restating the ancient Old Testament promise:
“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.” (Malachi 3:10)
Does such an approach to poverty and economic development seem prudent by ordinary standards? Of course not. Does it presume and require faith? Of course it does. Is it surprising that faithless people regard it as foolish? Not even slightly.
I recall my father’s reaction, though, after he joined the Church when he was nearly sixty years old. He owned a smallish construction company, and had done fairly well. The idea of handing (minimally) ten percent of his income over to the Church gave him considerable pause. He wasn’t sure how he would be able to handle it. Some years later, he commented to me that, somehow, despite the fact that he was paying tithes and other offerings, he was doing much better since his baptism than he had been before. He couldn’t quite see why, and he was, candidly, astonished at it. I don’t lay this down as a simplistic rule — earn a dollar, send a dime of it to Church headquarters as a tithe, and ka-CHING! — but I’m aware of a number of similar stories, and we can home that a similar effect will be felt by the faithful Saints of Kenya and of Africa generally. I’m quite confident, on the whole, that living the Gospel, organizing one’s life according to the teachings of the Church, has raised the educational, social, and economic level of many people, worldwide.
From the Kenyan press:
I always get a kick out of the perception that we’re “shrouded in mystery.” We have scores of thousands of missionaries out there in the field at any given time, eager to tell anybody who will listen about the Church, but we’re “shrouded in mystery.”
I visited Kenya many years ago — perhaps in 1980 or, more likely, in 1979. One day, I walked into a Christian bookstore in Nairobi, hoping to buy a Bible in Swahili. (It’s a really interesting language.) While browsing, I saw two shelves of anti-Mormon books. There may have been more such books on those shelves than there were, at the time, Latter-day Saints in all of Kenya. I found it curiously flattering.