As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is inadvertently refereed to by many in the world as the “Mormon Church”), we are taught that in addition to our regular tithing, an additional part of our giving is a generous fast offering. The purpose of fast offerings is to help those members of the Church who are in need of temporal assistance. The amount that a member gives once a month as his fast offering is generally equivalent to the cost of two meals (how many meals a person fasts for), though members are encouraged to be generous in their fast offerings if they are able to be.
In the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Amulek explained that often our prayers have no power because we have turned our backs on the needy. We read his words as recorded in Alma 34:28–29:
And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.
Also in the Book of Mormon, in his powerful sermon King Benjamin asked, “For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” (Mosiah 4:19). Continuing in verse 21 of that same chapter he exhorts the people:
And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.
When we fast, we feel hunger for a short time. It is during that short time that we literally put ourselves in a position where we can feel of some of the same deprivation that those who are hungry and needy must feel. When we give our generous fast offering, we are not only giving to bless the lives of our brothers and sisters in need, but in turn our lives are blessed as well. We are taught in the Bible, in the New Testament, in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
King Benjamin further taught in his sermon as recorded in the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah 4:26:
And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a modern-day Apostle of the Lord, in his messaged titled “The Law of the Fast” given during the April 2001 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints relates this story:
How well I remember my father, the bishop of our ward, filling my small red wagon with food and clothing and then directing me—as a deacon in the Church—to pull the wagon behind me and visit the homes of the needy in our ward.
Often, when fast-offering funds were depleted, my father would take money from his own pocket to supply the needy in his flock with food that would keep them from going hungry. Those were the days of the Great Depression, and many families were suffering.
I remember visiting one family in particular: a sickly mother, an unemployed and discouraged father, and five children with pallid faces, all disheartened and hungry. I remember the gratitude that beamed in their faces when I walked up to their door with my wagon nearly spilling over with needed supplies. I remember how the children smiled. I remember how the mother wept. And I remember how the father stood, head bowed, unable to speak.
We, too, can bring a wagon filled with hope to a family in need by paying a generous fast offering. If we have the means to do so and hold back from showing compassion to those in need, we are no better than those of whom the prophet Moroni spoke of in the Book of Mormon when he said, “For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted” (Mormon 8:37). King Benjamin in his sermon reminded the people, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, in Mosiah 4:22, 24:
And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done. . . . I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.
Let us all be reminded of the words of the Savior Himself as recorded in Matthew 25:42–45:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Fast offerings are a way for Latter-day Saints to reach out and help those in need with no thought of recognition or earthly reward. The act of fasting is humbling and brings the faster closer to God. Fasting brings gratitude and the opportunity to share one’s blessings with others.
Free Copy of the Book of Mormon