Mormon Fasting and Fast Offerings
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (referred to by many in the world as the Mormon Church) one Sunday each month, usually the first Sunday, is designated as a day of fasting, and is thus referred to as fast Sunday. To fast is to voluntarily go without food and drink for a certain period of time.
Fasting and Donations
Proper observance of "fast Sunday" includes going without food and drink for two consecutive meals. It also includes attending "fast and testimony meeting." Fast and testimony meeting is a Sacrament meeting during which those members who feel prompted, share (or "bear") their testimony with the other members of the congregation. While individuals are directed by the feelings of their heart and by the influence of the Holy Spirit as to what to share, the formula for a "proper" testimony includes a personal witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ, the truthfulness of the Church, of Joseph Smith's role as a prophet, and of the Book of Mormon as being Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Those testimonies which are given often include personal stories pertaining to the growth of testimony, of overcoming trials, or other faith-promoting experiences.
In addition to observing the fast days set aside by Church leaders, a member of the Church can fast on any other day, according to his or her needs and the needs of others. Fasting combined with sincere prayer can strengthen a member spiritually, bring him closer to God, and help him prepare himself and others to receive the blessings of the Savior. Where there is power in prayer, there is even more power in fasting and prayer. Caution should be exercised; however, as to not fast too frequently or for excessive periods of time.
The prophet Isaiah taught of the true spirit of the fast in Isaiah 58:6–7:
- Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"
Isaiah also testified of the blessings that come when we obey the law of the fast in Isaiah 58:8–11:
- Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. . . . If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
Proper observance of fast Sunday also includes giving, in addition to regular tithing, a generous fast offering to help those members who are in need of temporal assistance. A fast offering should be at least the value of the two meals not eaten. When possible, a member should be generous and give much more than that amount.
Latter-day Saint fast offerings are sometimes collected by members of the Aaronic Priesthood by going door to door in pairs and handing out fast-offering envelopes. Each envelope contains a "Tithing and Other Offerings" slip. A donor may record the amount of his or her fast offering and place the slip and money in the fast offering envelope while the two Aaronic Priesthood holders wait. These envelopes are handed to a member of the bishopric or branch presidency, who includes them with other donations when recording donations on Sunday. Only fast offerings may be gathered in this manner. Financial clerks play an important role in processing fast offering donations and, under the direction of the Latter-day Saint bishop or branch president, preparing payments to those in need using fast offering funds.
While administering to the needs of the poor through use of the fast offering funds, each bishop or branch president (leader of the local congregation) is also counseled to encourage individuals and families to become self-reliant through reducing debt, seeking work opportunities or improved income through education if needed, and paying tithes and offerings to receive temporal blessings from the Lord as promised in Malachi 3:8–12:
- Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. 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. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.
How Fast Offerings Are Used by the Church
Donations from fast offerings are not used for the same purposes as those monies given through tithes. Tithing funds are used for buildings such as meetinghouses, temples, and educational facilities, for the general maintenance of Church operations, and for costs of missionary and genealogical/family history work. Specifically, fast offerings are used to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other things for those who are in need, fulfilling the meaning conveyed in Isaiah 58:6–11, with attendant blessings to the giver and the receiver.
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. His words are 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 a member fasts, he feels hunger for a short time. It is during that short time that he literally puts himself in a position where he can feel of some of the same deprivation that those who are hungry and needy must feel. When he gives his generous fast offering, he is not only giving to bless the lives of his brothers and sisters in need, but in turn his life is blessed as well. The Bible teaches, 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 former apostle of the Lord, in his message titled "The Law of the Fast" given during the April 2001 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, related this story:
- How well I remember my father, the bishop of our Mormon 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.
Each member can also bring a wagon filled with hope to a family in need by paying a generous fast offering. If a member has the means to do so, but yet holds back from showing compassion to those in need, he is 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 also 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.
Everyone would do well to be reminded of the words of the Savior Himself as recorded in the New Testament, 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.
- Search for Happiness
- Basic Latter-day Saint Beliefs
- Jesus Christ in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ
- Humanitarian Aid and Charity
By Keith L. Brown.