February 2, 2023

Windows of Heaven, Tithing with Lorenzo Snow

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If you are in the St. George area, this is a great historical account of the difficulties of the early St. George settlers, and the blessings from God. The movie “Windows of Heaven”, linked at the bottom of this post, depicts the Prophet Lorenzo Snow teaching the Law of Tithing to the St. George Saints, which ultimately changed the financial trajectery of the Church, making it so the Church never struggled financially again. The movie "Windows of Heaven" was a favorite movie growing up, and it turns out, like every movie based on a true story, there is a lot more to the story.

Lorenzo Snow re-instituting Tithing

Lorenzo Snow was only prophet for a relatively short time from September 1898 to October 1901, and his prophetic guidance saved the church from bankruptcy. When Lorenzo became prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints the Church was in serious debt four a couple different reasons.

The United States was recovering from a depression called “Panic of 1893”, which was a financial meltdown. In 1887, the United States government had taken large amounts of the Church’s land as punishment for practicing polygamy, they passed a law called “the Edmunds-Tucker Act” which allowed them to take from the Saints. Most of that land which was confiscated by the government was never returned. Because of the confiscation of Church property by the United Sates Government many member did not want to make tithing contributions to the Church, they worried it would be taken away by the government. To top it all off the Church had also just finished the interior of the Salt Lake Temple and that cost the Church a lot of money. Everything was piling on at the same time!

When Wilford Woodruff was sick and they knew he was not going to live long Lorenzo Snow was nervous about taking on all the problems of the time as the Prophet of the Church. He prayed that President Wilford Woodruff’s life would be lengthened, and he would not have to take on the burden of running the Church, you can read more of that story here. The Lord knew what needed to be done, and Lorenzo Snow was the right person to get the financial situation of the Church in order, with the help of a loving Heavenly Father.

Tithing

The subject of Tithing was not neglected by the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but it was taught sporadically. Understandably, the member were still very concerned that the Government would take their sacred tithes.

When President Lorenzo Snow became prophet he felt called to solve the debt problem of the church. He approved the local sale of one million dollars of Church issued bonds. This helped a little, but they all knew the relief was temporary, and they needed to make plans to fix things for the long term.

St. George Tabernacle Stake Conference

President Snow felt inspired to make a trip to St. George Utah and meet with the Saints of Southern Utah at their Stake Conference. He asked the several General Authorities and their wives to join them, along with office staff and some Salt Lake City news correspondents.

The dramatized movie, the "Windows of Heaven" protrays the meeting in St. George with more dramatics, but the reality is that it was a simple, spiritual meeting, with the Prophet of the Lord delivering a message to the St. George Saints directly from God. During the Stake Conference, President Snow spoke on many different topics, and there is not a full record of all that he said. It is recorded that President Snow did acknowledge that he did not know why he was inspired to go to St. George and speak with these Saints. President Snow spoke on the importance of paying tithing. It is presumed that this was likely the main topic of his talk, or at very least, very stirring for it to ignited the Saints to start anew in observing this ancient principle.

This simple Stake Conference was very moving for the people of St. George and surrounding areas because tithing in the Church changed forever. President Snow promised the Saints that when they started paying their tithing the Lord would bless them, and forgive them from past neglect. He also said paying their tithing would keep them safe from their enemies.

The Next day there was another Stake Conference and EVERY speaker spoke on paying tithing, and the blessings that would come from obeying this holy principle.

The talk given to the Saint of St. George became one of the most influential talks ever given by Lorenzo Snow. His son recorded it on a sonograph:

“The Lord requires me to say something to you, and since I commenced to labor in His interest, I have never failed . . . to do that which He has required at my hands; and I shall not do it today, nor any other day, the Lord being my helper.” . . “The word of the Lord to you is not anything new; it is simply this: THE TIME HAS NOW COME FOR EVERY LATTER-DAY SAINT, WHO CALCULATES TO BE PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE AND TO HOLD HIS FEET STRONG UPON A PROPER FOUNDATION, TO DO THE WILL OF THE LORD AND TO PAY HIS TITHING IN FULL. That is the word of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion.”

Preaching Tithing Everywhere

On the way home from St. George President Lorenzo Snow stopped at every town and taught the same lesson on tithing. Each settlement in Utah heard from the Prophet on the importance of the law and the promises that come from keeping it. This change everything for the Church and its financial situation. The members followed the direction of the Prophet of God and were more diligent in paying tithing. They also added it as a question to the Temple recommend interview, and the Church was able to pull itself out of the financial difficulties it was facing, to never face them again.

The St. George Drought

In the Movie “Windows of Heaven” it explains the desperate need of precipitation in St. George. Even after the Saints started paying their tithing in full, and then some, it still did not rain in St. George for a long time! The Prophet Lorenzo Snow was worried about the promises he made, when the people were fulfilling their side and the rain did not come immediately for them. The rain did start coming to St. George, but slowly. The first rain was not enough to save them from all the problems, it all took time. Four years, after the speech of the Prophet Lorenzo Snow, the St. George area received enough rain to get out of the drought that had plagued them.

It took time.

In the year 1900, about year after President Snow’s speech at the Tabernacle, he sent a member of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles down to St. George for Stake Conference and the members were pretty anxious because they had not seen the rain come. President Snow told the messenger for the twelve to tell the Saints:

“tell the people not to waver in their faith, but to pray fervently to the Lord for the necessary moisture, and he believed that the Lord would hear their prayers inasmuch as they strictly adhered to the law of tithing.”

In May 1901, two years after Snow’s landmark address, Rudger Clawson reported: “Pres. Snow had promised the people of St. George country that, if they were faithful in honoring the law of tithing and other commandments of God, they should be visited by the early and latter rains. This promise had been literally fulfilled, for a recent drought of some 5 years had been broken by copious rains.”

The Windows of Heaven Were Opened

The Lord did open the “Windows of Heaven” to the people in St. George and it was after learning, and growing in knowledge of the importance of the Law of Tithing, and trusting in God. It feels right that the drought did not go away over night but took time. St. George did receive rain they needed, but not all at once.

Again, it took time.

Sometimes we beg for blessings and answers to come quickly and yet the lessons are truly only learned over time, on the Lords timetable. There are time when the solutions come quickly, but that tends to be more rare. The Lord is teaching His people to be a people patience, and long-suffering it is the faith through time that tends to change hearts.

The drought did end and a people were built even stronger.

So cool!!

Windows of Heaven

Reference:

https://ensignpeakfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Reexamining-Lorenzo-Snows-1899-Tithing-Revelation.pdf

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