One of the important things the Lord has told us to do is to be generous in our payment of fast offerings. I would like you to know that there are great rewards for so doing—both spiritual and temporal rewards. The Lord has said that the effectiveness of our prayers depends upon our generosity to the poor. (See Alma 34:28.)
Back in the days of Isaiah when the people complained, “Wherefore have we fasted … and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?” (Isa. 58:3), the Lord responded with this question:
“Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?” (Isa. 58:5.)
How like our performances. We are prone to get a headache when we fast, and sometimes we pretend to be starving to death. To ancient Israel the Lord put the question:
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? …
“… 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? …
“When thou hast done these things],” he added, “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 rereward.
“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.” (Isa. 58:6–10.)
Think of these wonderful blessings. They are all promised to those who generously contribute to the care of the poor.
“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.” (Isa. 58:11.)
I remember that a long time ago, over sixty years in fact, when Elder Melvin J. Ballard (former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) laid his hands on my head and set me apart to go on a mission, he said in the blessing he gave me that a person could not give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf of bread in return. And that has been my experience.
As to the nature and purpose of fasting and the purpose of the fast offering, President Heber J. Grant said:
“Let me promise you here today that if the Latter-day Saints will honestly and conscientiously from this day forth, as a people, keep the monthly fast; … and if in addition to that they will pay their honest tithing, it will solve all of the problems in connection with taking care of the Latter-day Saints. …
“Every living soul among the Latter-day Saints that fast two meals once a month will be benefited spiritually and be built up in the faith of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—benefited spiritually in a wonderful way—and sufficient means will be in the hands of the bishops to take care of all the poor.” [Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: [Improvement Era], 1941, p. 123.)
Everything we do to help the poor must be measured by its spiritual accomplishments. Those who give must give with a righteous heart and with a willing spirit. Those who receive must receive with thankfulness and gladness of heart. The Spirit must confirm a bishop’s evaluation regarding assistance. As we participate with righteous intent in this great work, our souls will be sanctified and our minds enlarged. As we spiritually mature in fulfilling our responsibilities, whatever they may be, we prepare ourselves to become “partakers of the divine nature.” (See 2 Pet. 1:4.) May it be our happy lot to be filled with that measure of Spirit that we may be sealed with the bond of charity, which, as Moroni said, “is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.” (Moro. 7:47–48.)
We should all give some attention to fasting. We haven’t really called on the Lord so that we can reach him intimately if we don’t fast occasionally, and pray often. Many of our personal problems can be solved by so doing. Do you remember what the Savior said to his disciples who couldn’t cast out the evil spirit, after they had asked why they couldn’t do it when Jesus had done it so easily? He replied, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. (Matt. 17:21.)
Let us each increase our fast offerings and assist in inspiring the Saints throughout the Church to do likewise. “Let not the rich man, who has only crumbs for Lazarus, think that he is fit for celestial glory.” (Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, rev. ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1971, p. 480.) To qualify for that glory one must generously impart of his substance to the poor and the needy.
Be generous in your giving, that you yourselves may grow. Don’t give just for the benefit of the poor, but give for your own welfare. Give enough so that you can give yourself into the kingdom of God through consecrating of your means and your time. Pay an honest tithing and a generous fast offering if you want the blessings of heaven. I promise every one of you who will do it that you will increase your own prosperity, both spiritually and temporally. The Lord will reward you according to your deeds.
It is my prayer that each and everyone of us will learn and apply these fundamental principles and gain thereby the promised reward.
1. Relate your personal feelings or experiences about the blessings of fasting. Ask family members to share their feelings.
2. Are there some scriptural verses or other quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
3. Discuss the relationship between fasting and giving to the needy. Why do you think “the efficacy of our prayers depends upon our liberality to the poor”? (See Alma 34:28.)
4. Would this discussion be better after talking with the head of the house before the visit? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the head of the house concerning fasting and fast offerings?