Fast offering is the term used in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to denote money or usable commodities donated to that church, which are then available to provide financial help to those (primarily active and full-tithe paying latter-day saints) in need. The local bishop/branch president has wide discretion on the expenditure of fast offering funds with little oversight from church headquarters.
Members are encouraged to fast once a month on Fast Sunday and to give the money they save by not eating two meals to the church; those who can afford to be more generous are encouraged to give more than simply the money saved as a fast offering.
When the LDS pioneers first settled in the western United States (1847), Church leaders encouraged members to perform their fast on the first Thursday of each month, and to donate the food thus saved to their bishop. These foodstuffs were collected in small buildings called "Bishop's Storehouses", and were held until needed by other members. Over time, this practice was changed: the members, who were primarily farmers and laborers, had difficulty fasting on a day of regular labor, so the day of observance was changed to Sunday; and when money became more available in the Utah Territory, members were encouraged to make their donations in cash, which could better be held until needed to purchase food.
Donations from fast offerings are not used for the same purposes as those monies given through tithes. Specifically, fast offerings are used to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other things for those who are in need, fulfilling the meaning conveyed in Isaiah 58:6-11, with attendant blessings to the giver and the receiver. Tithing funds are used for buildings such as meetinghouses, temples, and educational facilities, for the general maintenance of church operations, and for costs of missionary and genealogical/family history work.
Church members are encouraged to make regular financial contributions to the church through the leader of the local church unit, usually a bishop. The combined contribution can include tithing, fast offerings and other humanitarian funds, and is delivered to the leader on a "convenience" basis (i.e. there is no set time either in or outside of a formal meeting where the funds are requested). There is no requirement to make any financial donation (to any of the church's funds) in order to maintain one's membership; such donations are encouraged but are not mandatory.
If members are not usually able to make financial donations during the Sunday meetings, young men (deacons in the Aaronic Priesthood) are assigned to pass by those members' residences after the church meetings on Fast Sunday, to inquire if they can convey the fast offering to the church's offices.
No publicly available accounting of these funds exists however it is claimed the fast offering funds are primarily available to the bishop (to distribute to those in need) in the area where they were collected, but any excess (or deficiency) is shared with the rest of the church, first on a Stake level, then on wider levels. Since stakes/districts in wealthier countries typically cannot obtain more fast offering funds from church headquarters, they often suffer from a lack of fast offering funds. Stake/district boundaries are often drawn based on fast offering needs in order to divide up the poorer areas into different stakes/districts. The church does keep track of fast offering usage of its members.
Purpose of fast offerings, and financial prudence
While administering to the needs of the poor through use of the fast offering funds, each LDS bishop (leader of the local congregation) is also counseled to encourage individuals and families to become self-reliant through reducing debt, seeking work opportunities or improved income through education if needed, and paying tithes and offerings to receive temporal blessings from the Lord as promised in Malachi 3:8-12.
- ↑ http://lds.org "Proper observance of fast Sunday includes going without food and drink for two consecutive meals, attending fast and testimony meeting, and giving a fast offering to help care for those in need." Accessed 9 Jan. 2009
- ↑ Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Aaronic Priesthood Manual I, Lesson 4: "The Law of the Fast"
- ↑ Ensign June 1980, "Questions about Coping Financially: Welfare Services Suggests Some Answers", p. 12
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