'Angels to Bear You Up' recounts the dilemma of paying rent or tithing

By Judy C. Olsen

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Jan. 30 2012 5:00 a.m. MST

Curious, I went to sit by her and asked what she was doing. She responded, “I am waiting to get some money so I can do my grocery shopping. I have been a faithful tithe payer all my life. Today I am waiting for the Lord to provide a way for me to buy groceries.”

This struck me with great wonderment. I continued to sit and wait with her. I wanted to know what could possibly happen to provide us with grocery money — right then. A few minutes later, the doorbell rang.

I could hardly believe it, and I ran to answer it. A man stood there. He inquired if we had any suits belonging to my father that he could buy. Mother recognized him and invited him in. He had been over a few days earlier after finding out we had some men’s clothing in his size. He was of a similar size to my father — short and round. The man then explained that he had been paid that very day, unexpectedly, by his employer, who usually waited until the end of the month. He wondered if we had any more suits he could buy. We did, and a bargain was struck.

The man left very pleased to have found additional clothing in his size. Mother picked up her handbag and told us she now had the exact amount of money she generally spent at the grocery store, and she left to go shopping.

I was deeply impressed as a child, both by my mother’s faith and by the immediate result. It was a lesson that stayed with me.

The following summer, my mother moved us all to Provo, Utah, where she entered Brigham Young University on a scholarship and eventually earned a master’s degree in social work. She was able to provide for our family from then on and even supported a son and a daughter on missions for the LDS Church and all of us through college.

Fast forward 10 years. I was a college student out on my own. I shared an apartment with a young woman who was not a student, so we didn’t live in student housing. The apartment had been rented in my name, so even though we shared costs, I was ultimately responsible for the rent. After a couple months, my roommate decided to move out, and I was faced with having to pay the entire rent by myself. I was 20 years old at the time and a junior in college. About then I decided to serve a mission and put in my papers, but I needed additional income to sustain me in the apartment for at least three or four months.

As I searched for some kind of part-time job, I stumbled upon the Fuller Brush Co. At that time it was a popular household brand sold door-to-door by Fuller Brush salesmen. There were few women selling it, but I wanted to give it a try and signed up.

I received my sample case and found out that it would be at least two weeks between sending in the orders, getting the products back and collecting my money. Still, it was the only job I could find that fit in with my part-time job as a receptionist in a car wash and my class schedule at the university.

One Friday, I received my check from my job at the car wash, and on Sunday I intended to pay my tithing. But as I did the math, I realized I could either pay a full tithing now, or I could pay the rent in full a week later when it fell due — but not both. I was alone with no one to help me, and I didn’t know how to get the money for the rent if I went ahead and paid my tithing as usual.

As I stood in the Mormon meetinghouse foyer undecided, I thought back to my mother’s example. The blessings that came into our home that Saturday morning years ago could not be easily dismissed. So I simply decided to pay my tithing. I did not know what to do about the rent, but in the end, I could not walk out of church without giving that envelope to the bishop.

The next day, after work and classes, I started on my first block of knocking on doors to sell hairbrushes and cleaning products. Nearly every home I went to invited me in and placed an order. Not only that, but they also all paid me on the spot. By Saturday, a week later, I had earned enough to pay the company for the products and had my profit as well. It was just enough to pay my full rent on time!

As wonderful as this was, there was yet one more lesson I learned from this experience. I continued to sell Fuller Brush products right up to the time I left on my mission, and never again did a single customer pay me up front. Not once. That’s when I realized the Lord had really opened that door for me. It wasn’t luck or just my hard work. The Lord had created such good feelings in each home I visited that first week on the job that every single customer trusted me, a complete stranger, to take their money first and return with their orders later.

The Lord had given me a testimony of the blessings of paying a full tithing first before worrying about worldly debts. I knew I had been blessed to earn all I needed that week and only the Lord could have opened that door.

This blessing of having the faith to keep this particular commandment had its start when I was only a child of 10, as I watched and learned from my mother’s example. And it came full-circle in my life as I experienced my own moment of choice as a young woman when faced with a difficult adult decision that could bring some unpleasant consequences. This faith to do the right thing led to a strong testimony of tithing that has served me all my life.

Judy C. Olsen has been writing and editing for the LDS audience for many years. She and her husband, Don, live in Sandy, Utah, and are parents of four children and grandparents of 16 grandchildren. Judy enjoys writing, sewing and crafts.