~ by Brenda

My husband and I have a book keeper for our business who is necessarily privy to our salary information. She and I are friends and she recently saw a check that I had written to the Church. Although she is of a different faith, she knew that Mormons pay 10% of their income toward tithing. When she saw the amount of the check she immediately said, “I think you made a mistake, that is more than 10%.” I explained to her that the extra amount was to pay our fast offering. Which of course prompted her next question, the topic of today’s post: “What are fast offerings?”

Fast offerings are monies donated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to help the poor and needy, in their local areas and also worldwide. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints participate in church-wide fasts once a month, usually on the first Sunday of every month. We call these days “Fast Sundays.” Typically, two meals are skipped while participating in the fast; fast offerings are at least the value of those two meals, although we are encouraged to give much more when we can. But like the widow’s mite, it is the heart of the individual who is making the offering that is most important to the Lord. The goal, of course, is not to see who will give the most, but the spirit in which the donation is given. This is one way we show our love for God, and follow His command to love one another.

No fast should last long enough to cause physical damage. Also, people who are advised by their doctors that fasting would be harmful are excused from participating, but may choose to give up something else to show the Lord they are willing to obey.

These offerings are made to be as near anonymous as possible. No member of a congregation should ever know the amount of tithes and offerings any other member gives, except the bishop [congregation leader, who is responsible for determining how local offerings are distributed] and those who are assigned to record transactions (usually a financial clerk and a counselor in the bishopric).

Every month on Fast Sundays, we are encouraged not only to abstain from food and water for two meals, but to bear our testimonies of the Savior Jesus Christ during the Sacrament Meeting portion of our block of church meetings. We are encouraged to accompany our fasts with fervent prayer, for others’ needs and/or for our own. A common saying in our church is, “Fasting without prayer is just a diet.” The spirit of prayer, testimony, and service associated with fasting can bring significant spiritual blessings in our lives while giving us the opportunity to help those in need.

Some people fast at other times during the month as well — while seeking greater spiritual strength or an answer to prayer, to repent, to give thanks to God for a blessing, or to exercise faith on behalf of the sick and afflicted. Sometimes wards will join together in fasting for a ward member who is sick, going in for surgery, or facing other difficult trials.

Any person can follow the law of the fast regardless of religious affiliation. By fasting and praying, saving the money from two meals, and then donating that money to help others in need, anyone can enjoy spiritual benefits that come from being prayerful, sacrificing, and serving another.

Generous fast offerings enable the Church to help not only the local members’ needs, but also are used to fund the broader humanitarian efforts of the Church, like disaster relief, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked, school kits for impoverished students, local water treatment systems, and more.

In addition to fast offerings, Church members may also contribute offerings specifically for humanitarian aid. As with fast offerings, all of the money goes directly to help those in need. In humanitarian efforts, the Church will often partner with other organizations to provide assistance. For example, with the current situation in Haiti, the Church has partnered with Islamic Relief USA, the largest Muslim relief organization in the United States. Other organizations are helping with transportation (Airline Ambassadors) and distribution (Food for the Poor).  We recognize and are grateful that there are also many other organizations and individuals worldwide assisting with this current disaster and in many other ways around the world.

We love and pray for all people of the earth, and especially join with people all over the world right now with thoughts and prayers for the people of Haiti. We hope for swift delivery of supplies and relief to the afflicted.

For more information about the current efforts in Haiti, see the articles below.

Church Sends Team of Doctors to Assist Needy in Haiti

Church Sends Additional Aid to Earthquake Victims in Haiti

Church Response To Haiti Earthquake

Similar responses were given in Hurricane Katrina and in the Indonesian Tsunami. The Church has worked with numerous organizations worldwide through the years to help with hundreds of other local relief and service efforts.

To learn more about fasting and fast offerings, see the following link:

Fasts and Fast Offerings

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**Please note: The answers in “Ask a Mormon Woman” reflect the thoughts, perspectives, and experiences of individuals. Although here at Mormon Women: Who We Are, we strive to have our content consistent with the Church’s doctrine and teachings, we do not speak officially for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For official information about or from the Church, please visit www.mormon.org or www.lds.org.

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