What is your take on being on the receiving end of fast offerings?

What is your take on being on the receiving end of fast offerings?

Question

Gramps,

What’s your take on fast offerings and being on the receiving end of them from the church? I have been in different Stakes and Districts and noticed a difference in the opinions of the leaders.

Alex

 

Answer

Dear Alex,

One Sunday after giving a talk about the Word of Wisdom, President Joseph Fielding Smith was approached by a member of the congregation. “Brother Smith,” he said, “that is the first discourse on the Word of Wisdom that I ever liked.” When pressed, the man clarified “Well, you see, I’m keeping the Word of Wisdom now.” (see Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, ch 18, Living by Every Word that Proceeds from the Mouth of God). It’s understandable that when a person is struggling to live the principles of self-reliance that it feels like every sermon emphasizes their failings. This is not so. The same principles come into play whether you are on the giving or receiving end of the Church’s welfare programs.

The principles of provident living focus on self-reliance and work, giving and generosity, and preparing for the future. If a family cannot make ends meet, these principles are not ignored – rather they are placed front and center to lift the family to a more stable condition. Any income that comes in continues to be tithed (strikingly generous), if only as an acknowledgement that God provides for us. It serves as a testimony that despite challenging circumstances, the family is both a blessing and blessed.

What then of self-reliance and work? How is the family self-reliant while it is the generosity of others sustaining them? The principle here is that of work. In an address given by Bishop H. David Burton (and repeated in the pamphlet Basic Principles of Welfare and Self-reliance (a must-read for anyone involved in the Church’s welfare programs) bishops are encouraged to find opportunities for work or service for those receiving from the Church.

One of the most important basic principles [of the Church’s welfare program] includes providing work and service opportunities. For individuals to retain their dignity during a time of personal distress, opportunities for service and work commensurate with the recipients’ circumstances should be found. The value of the work or service need not be equal to the assistance received but rather sufficient to avoid the evils of the dole and the fostering of an entitlement mentality.”

Going to the bishop’s storehouse should not feel shameful or embarrassing. If such feelings attack you or someone you know, schedule a meeting with either your Bishop or Relief Society president (both are over welfare in the ward). Tell them how you feel and give them the opportunity to either tell you the ways that you are currently serving (and how much it’s appreciated) or what you can do so that you still feel like a contributing human being. Admittedly, the family is not fully self-reliant at this point, but the principle of work restores dignity and empowers the next principle.

Preparing for the future also sounds like a dormant principle while the family is struggling to survive the here-and-now but it is still fully active. The family is in an unstable and unsustainable position and needs long-term solutions. The local church can here assist as well. Many congregations have an employment specialist who aids job-seekers with resume updates, networking, and interview practice. Additionally, if basic skills or experience are first needed, the Bishop may coordinate with the local Deseret Industries (if one is near) as a stepping stone towards more long-term employment. Once again, dignity and self-worth are restored because the need for help becomes short-term as a long-term plan is worked out.

When the crisis has passed, these same principles play out in other ways to ensure long-term stability including adding fast offerings and other offerings to their budget, lifting and serving others (giving and generosity), career-building and self improvement (self-sufficiency and work), and saving for a rainy day financially and with food storage (preparing for the future).

I have found that throughout this experience, the emotional side of things is taken care of. The family members are interfacing frequently with a support group who cheers them on. They’ll meet with the Relief Society president, the Bishop, employment specialist (as needed) quorum or class leaders (again, as needed), fellow saints working at the storehouse, and many others along the way. A statement in the bishops’ storehouse guidebook reflects the mindset of those helping. “The following principles are used to help measure the success of the storehouse: Patrons and volunteers feel uplifted by their experiences in the storehouse.”

My experience working in the bishops storehouse has been uplifting and edifying. I recommend that Bishops and Relief Society presidents take off one day a year and volunteer in one (where available). It serves as an excellent reminder of the dignity found in work. It serves as an equalizer, as I couldn’t tell you which workers were in need and which weren’t. It serves as an active reminder of King Benjamin’s rhetorical questions: “Are not we 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).

So I find no shame in living the principles of provident living even when your life is less than provident. I find no cause to be embarrassed if you are on the receiving end of Christian love “that the works of God should be made manifest” (John 9:3). If there has been cause for shame, embarrassment, or guilt in these matters, I think it lies in forgetting to thank the Lord for your daily bread when it comes so readily.

 

Gramps

Why are some so public about their donations?

Why are some so public about their donations?

Question

Dear Gramps,

I live in northern Utah.  There is a very wealthy LDS family here who over the years has donated millions of dollars to various causes.  You can see their family surname posted prominently on all kinds of buildings and facilities.  Yet, I’m curious why they would do that, in light of the Savior’s admonition: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 6:1.  What do you think?

Robert

 

Answer

Dear Robert,

There’s a number of reasons why a person would want to give publicly. For instance, grandparents may want to instill a sense of giving in grandchildren. They give publicly so that, even after they’re dead, their descendants can see the name on the plaque and know “my family is a family of givers. That’s what my last name means.” By making it a public memorial, the lesson is passed on even without parents making an effort to do so. Similarly, by seeing the kind of places these donations are made, their posterity can see where their values were.

Related to this is the idea of giving to serve as an inspiration and example to others. I may know that one of the donors has an income similar to mine, and by looking at the public acknowledgement of her contribution bracket, I can see that what I deemed was unfeasible may indeed be possible if I were more generous. Her example would lead me to reevaluate my financial priorities.

Sometimes, heads of large corporations will make a public show of their philanthropy in an effort to foster goodwill. Companies are given a bad name by competitors and on occasion by frustrated consumers. At times they are perceived as “out of touch”. Open philanthropy shows that the corporate leaders share some of the same concerns as their employees and customers and can be used to shape an image.

I think these last two reasons are why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publishes some of its humanitarian efforts. There’s a perception that the Church is a multi-billion dollar tax-free business that harvests the funds of needy members and spends it on things of little value (as the critics see it). The very public aid the Church gives shows that it is a part of the world community, and the salvation it is so concerned about includes a temporal salvation. It also serves as an inspiration for other people and other organizations to give generously.

That’s all well and good, but why would a person (or even the Church) “offer alms before men” if there is no heavenly reward for it? Let’s read on and see what Jesus says:

“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and they Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”(Matt. 6:1-4, emphasis mine)

They (and the Church) give openly so they can have the open reward. These public donors are not denied public accolades that come from their public giving. They have their reward and they get what they pay for. Those who do the same anonymously are openly rewarded by God.

What do you give and how?

Gramps

 

Can I give directly to the poor and call that tithing?

Can I give directly to the poor and call that tithing?

Question

Gramps,

 I have asked many questions of you. Some you answered, some not. This very important question affects a lot of people.  I try so hard to follow D&C 119 and Section 83.  A lot anonymously (not bragging). But my inspiration leads me to think the Church could help us prepare. The leaders, out of necessity, are becoming administers to business. I consider meeting my obligation to Sec.119 by directly (anonymously)  paying tithes to our very old, special needs people

 I pay full Tithe to Church. It spends millions on  property, buildings, businesses, investments. (some of bad repute). Church says prepare economic crisis. Church could use millions on farms, ground, store houses stuffed with needful stuff. In my area good members are poor. I pay more anonymously.  I  feel I need to pay more directly to the poor and not the church. Will God recognize this as my Tithe? God will know. Church will not know, is that important?

Jon

 

Answer

Jon,

I think you’re skipping verse 1 in section 119.

“Verily, thus saith the Lord, I require all their surplus property to be put into the hands of the bishop of my church in Zion,”

It is a mistaken approach to personally interpret scripture in opposition to the teachings of those anointed to lead God’s Church in these latter-days. The proper way to pay tithing has been clearly established. Paying it in some other way and then calling it tithing is inappropriate and will not count as tithing. Yes, credit given where credit due, if we help the poor it is good. It is, in fact commanded of us that we do so if able. But this is a separate command from tithing. Tithing is to be paid to the bishop – 10% of our increase. That is the law.

Concerning the leaders becoming administrators to business, I have to ask in response, what’s the problem with that? Certainly you must understand that as the Church has grown into the size it is, that the administrative side of it would also have need to grow as well.

That being said, I reject the implication that business is all, or even primarily, the concern of our leaders. A simple look at President Monson’s travel schedule over the past years indicates a very different story. Most of his time is spent in temple dedications, missionary visits, and conferences of various sorts. This would be true for any of the general leaders. They are engaged in the Lord’s work. The fact that a portion of that work is to manage the temporal affairs of the Church does not take away from anything.

And I ask you as well, who are we to determine how the Lord will spend His funds? Are we called to make that determination? Do we have the authority or spiritual link to claim superior knowledge and understanding concerning the Lord’s will as to His kingdom on the earth.

There has been a fair amount of controversy, for example, in the recent past over the downtown Salt Lake shopping mall. Many accusations have sprung up around the web against the Church and the use of its funds. But I have to wonder, why is consideration never given to the idea that it was the Lord’s will. Somehow many of us seem to think we know better than the prophet, better than the apostles. Somehow we think ourselves more enlightened, more holy, and more in tune with God’s true will.

But we are not. Let’s show a bit of faith here that God is leading His Church. Let’s trust and sustain those He has chosen to do so, in both their efforts on the spiritual front and the temporal front of God’s kingdom.

President Gordon B. Hinkley addressed the church’s involvement in commercial business in October of 1985

.

“Why is the Church in commercial business of any kind?

Essentially, the business assets which the Church has today are an outgrowth of enterprises which were begun in the pioneer era of our history when we were isolated in the valleys of the mountains of western America. For instance, a newspaper was then needed to keep the people advised of what was going on at home and abroad. The result was the Deseret News,which has been published now for 135 years. In the 1920s, government officials encouraged newspapers to set up radio stations. That was in the infancy of the broadcasting industry. One such radio station was established by the Deseret News here in Salt Lake City. From that has grown, by the natural process of development, holdings of a number of broadcasting properties.

As all of you will recognize, the ability and the facilities to communicate are among our great and constant needs. The ownership of these properties, both newspaper and broadcasting facilities, while they are operated as commercial entities, both directly and indirectly helps us in our responsibility to communicate our message and our point of view.

The Church was a pioneer in the sugar beet industry to help our farmers who needed a cash crop. One of our present properties is an outgrowth of that.

A beautiful hotel was constructed adjacent to Temple Square seventy-five years ago to provide a comfortable hostelry for visitors to this city.

Merchandising interests are an outgrowth of the cooperative movement which existed among our people in pioneer times. The Church has maintained certain real estate holdings, particularly those contiguous to Temple Square, to help preserve the beauty and the integrity of the core of the city. All of these commercial properties are tax-paying entities.

I repeat, the combined income from all of these business interests is relatively small and would not keep the work going for longer than a very brief period.

I should like to add, parenthetically for your information, that the living allowances given the General Authorities, which are very modest in comparison with executive compensation in industry and the professions, come from this business income and not from the tithing of the people.”

Gordon B. Hinkley also addressed the church’s downtown Salt Lake efforts in 1999:

“We have a real estate arm designed primarily to ensure the viability and the attractiveness of properties surrounding Temple Square. The core of many cities has deteriorated terribly. This cannot be said of Salt Lake City, although you may disagree as you try to get to the Tabernacle these days. We have tried to see that this part of the community is kept attractive and viable. With the beautiful grounds of Temple Square and the adjoining block to the east, we maintain gardens the equal of any in the world. This area will become even more attractive when the facility now being constructed on Main Street is completed and the large Conference Center to the north is finished.

Are these businesses operated for profit? Of course they are. They operate in a competitive world. They pay taxes. They are important citizens of this community. And they produce a profit, and from that profit comes the money which is used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Foundation to help with charitable and worthwhile causes in this community and abroad and, more particularly, to assist in the great humanitarian efforts of the Church.

These businesses contribute one-tenth of their profit to the Foundation. The Foundation cannot give to itself or to other Church entities, but it can use its resources to assist other causes, which it does so generously. Millions of dollars have been so distributed. Thousands upon thousands have been fed. They have been supplied with medicine. They have been supplied with clothing and shelter in times of great emergency and terrible distress. How grateful I feel for the beneficence of this great Foundation which derives its resources from the business interests of the Church.”

We also know that Joseph Smith in his role as leader of the Church planned cities and business, so it cannot be rightly viewed that the Church has corrupted some idealistic utopia that Joseph originally envisioned.

In fact the Lord addressed the Church’s need to deal with things “in the earth, and under the earth” in D&C 88:78-80

“Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand;

“Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—

“That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.”

Your efforts to support the poor are commendable. But do not use one commandment to justify disobedience to another.

Gramps

Why are fast offerings used in ways that I find inappropriate?

Why are fast offerings used in ways that I find inappropriate?

Question

 

Gramps,

As a leader in our Ward I am aware that our fast offerings are being used to pay traffic tickets, high speed internet bills, late fees and other bills that are not considered necessities. I know members who can’t even afford internet service and are struggling but  pay a good fast offering. Its hard for me to see fast offerings of members who are struggling have their fast offering used for such purposes. I am thinking I will give my fast offering to some other category but I know I am to support the Bishop and pray about the matter but it still bothers me. Any comment?

Bob

 

 

Answer

 

Bob,

I can understand how you feel, however I want to point out some things. First of all, it is the Bishopric that determines how fast offerings are to be used within the ward.

There is a chance you don’t hear the whole story of why they are being used on such items. For instance, The traffic ticket could have been paid to avoid jail time and further struggle for the family/individual. The internet bills and late fees could have been paid to similarly alleviate damaging consequences such as avoidance of late fees (in the case of the internet) and the late fees could have been paid to utility companies to keep the heat on in the coming winter.

I could see the sense, and appropriateness, of paying such items on a one-time basis to level off or prevent debt if possible. However I would be concerned if such items were being consistently paid to the benefit of the same individuals over time.

In the end, as I stated at the start, it is the bishop that makes these decisions. As you are not the bishop, it is not your duty to 1) know all the details about any ward welfare situations. and 2) render any judgments about the bishop in his duties, especially based upon partial information. Remember that the bishop’s counselors DO have a duty and voice in these decisions. That is why there are actually three priesthood holders set to lead the ward rather than just one.

Were I in your shoes, I would likely feel just as uneasy as you do. However I would suggest continuing prayer, and faith that your fast offerings are given in the proper spirit. How they are used is no reflection on you, or your willingness to sacrifice for the good of those in need. Heavenly Father knows your heart and you will receive the blessings from obedience to Christ regardless of where your donations end up.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

If I take medication is it breaking my fast?

If I take medication is it breaking my fast?

Dear Gramps,

I have a question concerning Fast Sunday. A week ago (which was fast Sunday) I had to take prescription medicine that says, Take With Food. I fasted my two meals, but put one bite of food in my mouth Sunday morning to take my pill. One bite is all I had. Was this breaking my fast? I’ve heard different things. One person said just to not take my medicine for a day, but if I hadn’t, my ear would have been in unbearable pain. Another said we’re not supposed to fast when we’re sick, but only my ear and mouth (I had just had 2 teeth pulled) were bothering me, and I really felt the urge to fast about a certain thing that Sunday. I’ve also been told that it’s not breaking my fast; the Lord understands I had to take the medicine. This seems most logical to me, but I am confused. What do you say?

Lindsay

(more…)

Should fast offerings eventually equal tithing donations?

Should fast offerings eventually equal tithing donations?

Question

Dear Gramps

I saw your articles on fast offerings on your website and agree with everything but have one additional question. I have heard from a couple of people that they have been told in yea’s past that our generosity in fast offerings should increase as we get to the point in our lives that our kids are grown and hopefully we have homes paid off, etc  They have been told that eventually the goal would be for our fast offering to equal the amount of our tithing donations.  I can understand the wisdom of this goal but just had never read it anywhere and wondered if you had heard of it or if this counsel is in print somewhere? Sure would appreciate your advice.

Anonymous

 

Answer

Anonymous,

We have always be instructed to abstain from eating two meals each Fast Sunday and donating what we would have paid for these two meals.  President Kimball admonished us to give a generous amount

 

“Sometimes we have been a bit penurious [unwilling to share] and figured that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents and then we give that to the Lord. I think that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous … and give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more where we are in a position to do it” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 184).

 

We have been admonished us to give a generous amount in fast offering, but I have never seen nor heard where they have indicated a set amount or percentage to be paid.  I am quite certain they have never indicated that it should equal the amount we pay in tithing.   An amount equal to tithing might be a generous amount to some, unattainable by others, and less than generous to others.

When we pay our offerings we need to keep in mind the story of the widow’s mite found in Mark 12:41-44

 

41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

 

Gramps

 

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