After a bit of silence in the conference room, one person said, "Your fast offering is too high."
"Really?" I asked.
One by one, the class members chimed in.
"I think so, too."
"Especially compared to your grocery budget."
"I'm not saying you should gyp the Lord, but that's more than 2 meals."
Only one student seemed uncomfortable with his classmates' advice to lower the offering and piped in with "It doesn't really work that way," referring to the two-meal rule. But, then he hushed himself, wanting to stay out of the conversation.
At the end of class, I asked this student for his honest opinion. He was hesitant to offer it. "You should pray about it and do whatever you feel is right."
The nice thing about tithing is that we are straight out given a percentage number, leaving little room for interpretation. This makes budgeting a simple math function. But with fast offering, there is no hard and fast rule. Back home, I wondered if it was time to re-adjust our fast offering.
What is an appropriate amount for fast offerings?
I emailed my bishop. (Wow- isn't that a sign of the times?) I gave him the scenario in class and the numbers in my budget. He responded the next day. His advice:
1 Find a way to not divulge fast offerings in future classes.
2 Figure out what our family would pay for two full meals as a minimum, consider a generous amount, and prayerfully determine what the amount should be.
3 Since the law of the fast centers around sacrifice, so does the offering portion of the law, meaning it can often make us feel uncomfortable (i.e. an amount beyond our comfort zone).
He also reminded me that "the need in our ward for fast offerings is great…and that it’s only through the generosity of our ward members that these needs can be met." Immediately, images of the many neighbors who had been laid off came to mind.
Fast offerings enable us to share our blessings with others. A minimum donation is the value of the two meals not eaten while fasting. However, President Spencer W. Kimball asked us to give “much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1974, p. 184.)
President Marion G. Romney spoke concerning the funding of caring for the needy when he said:
“It has been, and now is, the desire and the objective of the Church to obtain from fast offerings the necessary funds to meet the cash needs of the welfare program. … At the present time we are not meeting this objective. We can, we ought, and we must do better. If we will double our fast offerings, we shall increase our own prosperity, both spiritually and temporally. This the Lord has promised, and this has been the record.” (“Basics of Church Welfare,” talk given to the Priesthood Board, 6 Mar. 1974, p. 10.)As I pondered on fast offerings, the thought came to mind that the law of tithe is like the Mosaic Law. Fast offering is a practice in the higher law, even, an opportunity to practice the law of consecration. Offerings allow us to adjust our giving as we become better stewards. As our wills align more with that of God's, we allow more ways for our giving to increase and bless many people.
In a 1988 Ensign article titled “Goal Beyond Victory,” President Thomas Monson wrote:
"Are we generous in the payment of our fast offerings? That we should be so was taught by President Joseph F. Smith. He declared that it is incumbent upon every Latter-day Saint to give to his bishop on fast day an amount equivalent to the food that he and his family would consume for the day and, if possible, a liberal donation to be so reserved and donated to the poor. (See Improvement Era, Dec. 1902, p. 148.)"
I discussed these things with my husband, and while he agreed it was time to reassess our offerings, he felt like we weren't too far off in our figures. He suggested we fast about our inquiry and take it to the temple.
Now, it's your turn. How much is right for your household to give in offerings?