Lavona Richardson’s Talk on Fast Offerings in the Keating Ward
Our theme for the humanitarian mission that Jay and I served in Indonesia was a quote from Joseph Smith, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone; but ranges through the whole world anxious to bless the whole human race”.
What a joy we had in helping those in need. People would ask who are you and why are you here. We would tell them that we were only there to help anyone that needed help. How grateful I am to belong to a church that reaches out to people all over the world to help make lives better for those in need.
My biggest joy was delivering wheelchairs. I took pictures and kept a record of each of the wheelchairs that we helped give. With each wheelchair I had a special feeling of gratitude to be able to help someone who couldn’t help themselves. I remember the joy of seeing a man who had never been off his bed now able to sit in a wheelchair and hold his little children in his lap. I remember a little ten year old girl who was born without legs and had never been out of her home. We had what seemed like a thousand people following us as we walked to her home with a wheelchair. The people in the neighborhood didn’t even know that she lived in that home. What a joy it was when we took the wheelchair out of the box and removed the plastic around it and then sat her in it for the first time. She was frightened with so many around so I told the people if they would go over by a nearby tree that I would take their picture. This gave me time to take the picture of the little girl in the wheelchair so the family would know that we knew she had a wheelchair and that they would not be tempted to sell it. The father promised that he would now see that his daughter went to school. We stopped by their home sometime later and saw a little girl completely changed and enjoying friends and going to school.
One more quick memory of our time in Indonesia. We would take the beautiful homemade quilts many of you made to the very poor in the third class hospitals. I would always make a presentation saying that someone in America loves you and wants you to have this quilt. I would then give a little silent prayer that both the people who made the quilt in America and the people in Indonesia would feel the love.
This is all made possible by paying our fast offerings. President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., had this to say: “The fundamental principle of all Church relief work is that it must be carried on by fast offerings and other voluntary donations and contributions. This is the order established by the Lord. Tithing is not primarily designed for that purpose.
Fast offering is the Lord’s financial law given for the blessing of the poor. For many years it was understood that fast offerings should represent the cost of the two meals not eaten. This understanding came into being because, in the early days, members were generally asked to give the actual food saved by fasting. Conditions were so desperate that money would have been of little use. Later, the understanding seemed to be that $1 per capita would be adequate.
However, in recent years, President Spencer W. Kimball has said of the fast offering: “I think we should be 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.”
It is important to recognize that the fast offering is a freewill offering, the amount of which each individual is responsible to determine. It is not the same as tithing, which is 10 percent of our interest annually. The amount is left up to each individual, and yet a prophet has said we should be very generous.
You will recall when a certain ruler asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, the Savior responded:
“Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother.
“And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
“Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
“And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
“And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, how hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
“For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:20-25)
This has been a great talk for me to prepare because I have sometimes thought that the poor bring it upon themselves. The Lord knew what I needed when in my patriarchal blessing it says, “I bless you with the good things of earth that you may have ample to provide for your own and have some to spare to help those who may be in need. Be free in helping the needy, for the Lord loves a cheerful giver and will multiply blessings upon you inasmuch that you will not miss that which you give away.”
In the book of Jacob in the Book of Mormon chapter 2 verse 17 it states “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.”
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, fast offerings assist the poor and needy. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “How much should we pay in fast offerings? My brothers and sisters, the measure of our offering to bless the poor is a measure of our gratitude to our Heavenly Father. Will we, who have been blessed so abundantly, turn our backs on those who need our help? Paying a generous fast offering is a measure of our willingness to consecrate ourselves to relief the suffering of others.
President Marion G. Romney said, “Be liberal 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.”
I think this is a fitting subject to consider as we celebrated Thanksgiving this past week and thought of the many blessings we have. A Thanksgiving memory I have growing up in Snowflake is the Wood Dance that we held Thanksgiving evening. During the week we would all help cut down trees and fill the widow’s wood boxes with wood for the winter. My Dad was a cattle rancher and around Thanksgiving would butcher a beef and cut it up to distribute to the widows and those in need.
President Holland in the last conference gave a talk entitled “Are We Not All Beggars?” He said that rich or poor we are to “do what we can” when others are in need. In his talk he also said “In our day, the restored Church of Jesus Christ had not yet seen its first anniversary when the Lord commanded the members to “look to the poor and …needy and administer to their relief that they shall not suffer.” President Holland then made the comment “Note the imperative tone of that passage…”they shall not suffer”. That language God uses when he means business.”
This past week I noticed on the news that the city of Show Low has an annual community fast where the city leaders are asking the community to set aside the cost of going without for one meal and donate that money to help the local in- need population.
At the close of World War II members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Europe faced crises both material and spiritual. In the Netherlands, people distrusted their neighbors and friends as a consequence of the social upheaval of the German occupation. Under the supervision of the church leaders the Dutch members began a welfare project where they were asked to send their entire potato harvest to Germany. This proposal stunned the Dutch Saints because not only were they being asked to sacrifice the potatoes they had worked so hard to grow, they were being asked to send that harvest to their former enemies. In the end, the Lord blessed the Dutch Saints with an abundant harvest, and the Saints in Germany received as much as 100 pounds of potatoes per family. This success inspired the Dutch members to donate more potatoes as well as herring the following year. The German members saved some of the potatoes for their own planting. During the North Sea Flood of 1953 in the Netherlands, the members in Germany sent humanitarian aid to their fellow saints as a way of showing their gratitude.
When we sacrifice to provide for each other in the Lord’s way, we show gratitude for His sacrifice, and we bear record of it. I bear testimony that Heavenly Father wants to bless us when we are obedient and strive to follow his commandments. I pray that we might remember the poor and give willingly of that which the Lord has blessed us with. I bear testimony that this is His church, even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am so grateful for my membership and the opportunity I have each week to share my testimony with others at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. . I am grateful for this Christmas Season and pray that we will all strive to make Christ the center of our family celebrations.