My wife and I married on 16 Sept. 1972. We were students at Utah State University and optimistic for what lay ahead in our future. In the spring of 1974, I graduated and took a summer job with an engineering firm in Utah County. I was all set with research and funding to go back to graduate school in the fall. I never went back except as a guest lecturer each year during the last years before I retired from Sunrise Engineering. I found the work that summer interesting and demanding with exposure to a wonderful variety of engineering which really established personal successful principles for my career. In 1975, we bought our first house in Pleasant Grove, Utah.
We had been and still felt like starving students. The house cost about $28,000 and today would probably be worth $180,000. Times have changed, but in 1976 there was a depressed housing market, so we found a way to buy the house with nothing down. The house payments, however, were a tremendous financial burden. We budgeted and stretched to meet our cash flow needs each month. The refrigerator we were using was an ancient thing that my wife’s parents had used forever and had given to us. There was only one door that opened to the shelves inside and located at the top of the shelves was a small ice box. Food and milk spoiled quickly inside that refrigerator and the ice box every few weeks would be completely enclosed in condensate ice needing manual thawing, chipping and removal.
We decided to buy a new refrigerator/freezer. You need to understand, we still had bed sheets hanging in the windows for curtains and I am confident our neighbors thought the hillbillies had moved to town. We visited the appliance store and picked out an elite, 22 cu. ft. refrigerator with: two doors, convenient pull-out two-tier bottom freezer, full-width door bins and pantry drawer, spacious, tight sealing, humidity control with strategically placed vents to balance cool air throughout the entire refrigerator and automatic freezer defrost. It would cost $1,100 as I recall. For the biggest part of the year we sacrificed and saved, and finally, we had the money for the purchase.
In those days the church required local members to pay 30% of the cost of a new building. A new Stake Center was being built in our stake so the bishopric came by and asked for a donation from us for our share of the 30% stake building project. You guessed it, our quota was $1,100. We paid it, but each time we went to the new Stake Center we walked around to the kitchen to look at our 22 cu. ft. refrigerator/freezer. Moroni stated if a man offers a gift and gives it grudgingly, “…it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such…it is the same as he had retained the gift.” (Mor. 7: 6-9) I had some repenting to do.
I learned a lesson about church donations then, and I want to specifically write about the fast and fast offerings. Isaiah taught with clarity about the fast. The blessings mentioned are symbolic using words such as: bands, burdens, oppressed, yoke, thy light, thy drought, garden, waste places, restorer, etc. You should apply what is written to your specific life circumstances, and realize the verses apply to you:
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not 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; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8 ¶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 rearward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And 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:
11 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.
12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. (Isiah 58: 6-12)
These amazing blessings come to you and are in addition to the blessings which are the purpose for your fast. It makes no sense to let your fasting be sloppy or to slide. You should have a purpose for your fast, focus your prayers during fasting for that purpose and the fast offering (verse 7 above) is an important part of the fast, including full time missionaries. The fast consists of 24 hours without food or drink, modified as needed for health reasons, and donating at least the cost of the 2 meals you missed as a fast offering to the church. But, be generous with the donation. Perhaps, when you get established, you can actually drive a little less fancy car or conserve in some other way so you can be even more generous with your fast offering.
The fast offering is the Lord’s way to provide for the poor and needy. It is the furthest thing from pathetic programs of governments. Governments confiscate by force wealth from productive people against their will, redistribute the money to the government’s voting block, creating hopelessness and more dependency on the government. The church welfare system uses the fast offering to lift people to be self-reliant and to return to the work force when possible, plus it enriches the lives of those who voluntarily give. It is a safe and effective method to give to the poor.
As I read the scriptures, providing for the poor and needy is one of the top requirements in this life. In your baptismal covenant you agree to comfort those who stand in need of comfort. (Mos. 18:9) You must impart of your substance of your own free will to every needy naked soul. (Mos. 18:28) God created all that we have so your substance is His anyway and we are all after all unprofitable servants. (Mosiah 2: 21-25) Succor those who stand in need, do not say the poor brought it on themselves, and imparting your substance provides retaining a remission of your sins. (Mosiah 4: 21-26) After ye have done all things, if you turn away the needy, it availeth you nothing. (Alma 34: 17-28) In the last days men will love money and substance more than the poor, needy and sick. Riches will canker your soul and poor men are to labor with their own hands. (DC 56: 16-17)
The opportunity to help the poor is not going away. Christ said, “For ye have the poor always with you…” (Matt. 26: 6-11)
The fast is an opportunity for true worship, for special blessings, sanctification of your soul and guidance along the path leading to salvation.