An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

$5.00 Fast Offering

Years ago, Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency made a plea for Church members to double, even triple their fast offerings—promising that blessings would be doubled or tripled accordingly. Even though our budget was tight, George and I increased our fast offerings to 1% of our modest income—then committed financial suicide by moving to southern Utah where good jobs are scarce as Democrats in Utah County. So much for the monetary blessings we expected.

Eventually, our kids grew old enough for school, and we moved to the city for a better job for George. At a time of large teacher surplus, I landed a teaching job—having been out of the teaching field for eleven years—so maybe God does provide blessings for funds donated for mercenary motives.

Even on two incomes, our generous tithes and offerings pinched our family budget. But blessings aside, I truly wanted to help the less fortunate.

About ten years ago, Dialogue  journal published a piece by Brad Walker, a physician who returned to his Equador mission field where he was appalled at the number of malnourished Mormon children. At that time, fast offerings were kept in the country from which they were collected. Obviously, fast offerings collected in a country as poor as Equador are inadequate to help all the needy there. Walker found that LDS Humanitarian Services aid is limited to non-Mormons. Almost no Church assistance was available for Mormon children with distended bellies and stunted mental and physical growth. (I believe the Church has modified fast offering policy in recent years.)

I was appalled to learn that my generous fast offerings were not going to feed malnourished children. Of course, I knew fast offering funds are often administered injudiciously by soft-hearted bishops. With Church assistance the family across the street from us survived the father’s insistence on only accepting broadcast journalism jobs. Church assistance enabled my daughter’s ex-father-in-law to nurse his Epstein-Barr affliction for years. Another daughter living in the San Francisco Bay area knew of ward members who were bailed out by their bishop when rising interest rates soared making their adjustable rate mortgages unaffordable. Yet, somehow I expected that even with this kind of generosity to unwise Americans, at least part of my fast offerings were used to feed the hungry in other lands.

At that time I switched my fast offerings to the Liahona Children’s Foundation which Brad Walker organized and to other groups which feed the needy. I still drop five bucks in the blue envelope if I’m home when the deacons come to my door. Collecting fast offerings on Sunday mornings is one way for boys to learn service. I’m not going to ruin it for them by refusing to donate.

I rather doubt that my blessings of a comfortable, secure life result from donating a mite to feed the hungry. More likely these blessings are an accident of the time and place of my birth. But I do like the feeling that at least a few children have more to eat because I care.

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