"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
November 11, 2015
A Tithe of Time
by Marian Stoddard

I don’t remember what the lesson was on in Relief Society, or even what trigger, exactly, had brought the echoes of old struggles to the surface. There was a new sister sitting next to me, and all she knew was that she saw a few quiet tears in reaction. I assured her in a whisper that I was all right, but she said, “I’m a counselor. Let’s go out and talk a moment.”

To tell the truth, the idea of someone to talk to was not entirely unwelcome. I was willing to find a friend. In the few minutes that we talked, she told me one way that she handled times that she felt she was just stumbling through: a tithe of her time. She would actively commit ten percent of her time for a week, two weeks, or occasionally even longer, to things that would spiritually replenish her.

It might be doing genealogy, going to the temple, extra effort in her calling, whatever seemed applicable. There was only one absolute rule — thirty minutes of scripture time every day.

She had had some horrific experiences in her life, and finding the Church had brought her a great deal of healing; but she sometimes needed a therapeutic spiritual boost, and this was how she found it.

She said that she could use such a deepening of devotion right now — would I like to join her?

Yes. Sure. We agreed to talk mid-week and check in with each other.

(Perhaps she was fine at the moment herself, in truth, but she was ready to join me in this tithe- of- time week for my support, and I appreciated it.)

After I was home, I thought about how I would do this for the week, and what it would mean. My first firm decision was that it needed to be consistent every day — no “catch-up” to compensate for time short on a previous day.

In other words, it wouldn’t count to come short on Tuesday and say, oh well, I’ll just add that extra fifteen minutes tomorrow. Or, on the other hand, no credit for the next day if I was able to spend even more time, if for instance I was able to get to the temple — that would only satisfy the obligation of that day. The dailyness of the process was key.

Tough rules, because it’s so easy to take a stab at something but not really commit and follow through. I knew that would be a temptation with a houseful of kids and things to do.

I calculated that ten percent of my waking time was ninety minutes. An hour and a half was one-tenth of fifteen hours, because with my physical health I needed eight hours sleep at night plus a daily nap. That might not be your formula, but it was mine. I was not going to feel guilty about whether or not I matched anyone else’s capacities. Ninety minutes kept it simple but real.

What would I do to fill the required time, and how would I keep that time clear in my day? I was working two days a week at the office where my husband was employed, and how would that work?

Those two days turned out to be the easiest to do; I had a book on tape of Harold B. Lee’s personal “miracle files” (Modern Day Miracles from the Files of President Harold B. Lee). Because the office was half an hour away, I put the tape of the book in and listened to it, coming and going. So on those two days my only remainder at home was the scripture time.

I’d been meaning to listen to this and hadn’t gotten around to it. There were some stories that really touched me, and all of them reminded me that the Lord watches over the smallest concerns.

I didn’t get a chance to go to the temple. I did get caught up on several issues of the Ensign that, again, I’d been meaning to read but hadn’t. I did call and talk to my companion in this undertaking, and I worked on my calling.

I was like one of my kids, a little bit, when they would have an obligation to practice the piano and at the beginning half their attention was watching the clock. But not too much, because I’m an adult and understand the process, and I enjoyed the Ensign articles. I was more focused on talking with my Heavenly Father, and more in tune. By the end of the week I was feeling rooted and grounded again, and more whole.

But it was the time spent with the scriptures that mattered most. I had fallen out of consistency in my personal study and reading of the scriptures. The scripture time alone was enough to set me right.

There are ebbs and flows in life, and ups and downs. We all have times when we feel like we’re running on fumes. We forget to do the things we know; we’re busy, we meant to, we’ll get back to it tomorrow which becomes another tomorrow, which becomes too long.

Or, sometimes it’s almost effortless because some remarkable experience blesses our souls, and we are floating above the cares of the world; we think that surely we can never falter again — but somehow we do.

A man wrote in to an LDS forum, asking for advice on how to find the closeness of the Spirit again. He sort of bemoaned the ubiquitous advice to study the scriptures and pray, he was hoping for something he thought would be more profound.

Most advice from people’s personal experience was, you guessed it, wrapped around increased prayer and scripture study. That’s the counsel because that’s always the true beginning of communion with God.

Communion with our Heavenly Father brings our healing. His light and love are our help. When we become spiritually dehydrated, we need IV fluids: scripture time and more attentive prayer. We need to spend time with Him to be replenished.

President Kimball said in an address to seminary and Institute teachers in 1966, “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.”

Not only will immersion in the scriptures bring us back from a spiritual distance, it will also increase our love and make our obedience easier. If an apostle (at the time) can feel distance setting in, then we can take heart that this is part of the human condition of discipleship. Every one of us has to be mindful and choose to draw near to God so that we may claim his promise to draw near to us.

My tithe of time did indeed draw me back nearer, and blessed and eased my heart. I am grateful, and I remember it when I realize that I am running on less than a full spiritual tank. I know how to fill up.

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About Marian Stoddard

Marian J. Stoddard was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in its Maryland suburbs. Her father grew up in Carson City, Nevada, and her mother in Salt Lake City, so she was always partly a Westerner at heart, and she ended up raising her family in Washington State. Her family took road trips all over the United States and Canada, so there were lots of adventures.

The adventures of music, literature, and art were also valued and pursued. Playing tourist always included the local museums as well as historical sites and places of natural beauty. Discussions at home, around the dinner table or working in the kitchen, could cover politics, philosophy, or poetry, with the perspective of the gospel underlying all. Words and ideas, and testimony and service, were the family currency.

Marian graduated from Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Maryland, and attended the University of Utah as the recipient of the Ralph Hardy Memorial Scholarship, where she was graduated with honors, receiving a B.A. in English. She also met the love of her life, a law student, three weeks after her arrival; she jokes that she had to marry him because her mother always wanted a tenor in the family. (She sings second soprano.) They were married two years later and have six children and six grandchildren (so far). She treasures her family, her friends, and her opportunities to serve.

Visit Marian at her blog, greaterthansparrows.  You can contact her at bloggermarian@gmail.com. 

Marian and her husband live in Tacoma, Washington. Together they teach those who are preparing to go to the temple for the first time, and she also teaches a Stake Relief Society Institute class.

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