Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Best Financial Advice


I feel spiritually filled after General Conference this last week. I don't think I even realized how much I needed that spiritual nourishment until it was over and I felt so much better.

There were so many wonderful talks and I could probably write a post about most of them, but I was especially touched by Elder Holland's talk on caring for the poor and needy. During his talk I felt prompted that I needed to share my thoughts about fasting and fast offerings.

Elder Holland spoke about our duty to care for those who are poor or struggling. At the end of his talk he spoke about the law of the fast and how our fast offerings are used to bless the poor and the needy in our congregations. He said,
"You will recognize that I speak here of difficult societal needs that go well beyond members of the Church. Fortunately the Lord’s way of assisting our own is easier: all who are physically able are to observe the law of the fast. Isaiah wrote:  “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? …  “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 … ? [that thou] undo the heavy burdens, and … let the oppressed go free … ?”  
I know that for a long time I didn't understand the connection between fasting and taking care of the poor. Then one day in college I was struggling with a problem and I desperately needed help from God. I decided that I was going to fast until I got an answer. Two and a half days later I ended my fast, and not only did I have my answer, but I also had a new understanding of fasting. At the time I was taking a class on International Development and we had been talking about global solutions to poverty. As I sat in class my hungry tummy rumbled and the thought came to me, "Would you be willing to go hungry so that some who was starving could eat?"

It was then that the connection between fasting and caring for the poor became clear to me. I realized that my going without food wasn't just about mastering my physical body or personal suffering. I was voluntarily sacrificing what I had, and what I wanted, on behalf of another. I was going hungry so that someone else could have food to eat. I was suffering so that someone else didn't have to. That was a powerful realization for me and forever changed how I viewed fasting. 

Fasting is a Christ-like sacrifice that not only blesses the lives of those who are in need but also allows God to open up the windows of heaven and bless you. Elder Holland bore testimony of this in his talk when he said: 
"I bear witness of the miracles, both spiritual and temporal, that come to those who live the law of the fast. I bear witness of the miracles that have come to me. Truly, as Isaiah recorded, I have cried out in the fast more than once, and truly God has responded, “Here I am.” Cherish that sacred privilege at least monthly, and be as generous as circumstances permit in your fast offering and other humanitarian, educational, and missionary contributions. I promise that God will be generous to you, and those who find relief at your hand will call your name blessed forever.  
I just want to add my own testimony to what Elder Holland said. I know that when we sacrifice for others and when we give generously to the Lord he blesses us. 

Several years ago Jon and I were struggling financially. Jon was in the last semesters of his graduate program and he no longer qualified for financial aid. We found ourselves emptying our savings in order to pay for his last year of tuition. We  had enough for our needs but were just squeaking by. It was a challenging time. 

Every morning and night when we would pray Jon would ask the Lord, "that we might have enough to meet all our debts and obligations."  Each time he would pray this I would get the prompting, "You need to increase your fast offering", but I would quickly push it aside because it seemed ridiculous. We were already paying a generous fast offering each month. In fact, I'd been thinking about decreasing our fast offering. Increasing it seemed like a bad idea. I was sure that if we did that we'd probably be the ones who would NEED the fast offering assistance from the bishop. 

Yet, the feeling persisted. So one day, when Jon and I were going through finances again, I told him I thought that the Lord wanted us to increase our fast offering. My husband is a man of great faith, and so he didn't even blink twice before he agreed with me. "Done",  he said, "Lets double it". 

At that point I was certain we were doomed. It seemed like a stupid thing to do. I wasn't sure how we were going to pay for everything 

It was scary, it seemed crazy, and probably went against sound financial planing... but we doubled our fast offering. 

And can I tell you what happened.

We never ran out. 

Some how there was always enough money. Enough money for food, enough money for gas, enough for our mortgage, enough to have a baby and pay the midwife, enough to finish school and somehow... even enough for our wants (like the time I won a brand new iPad at a raffle). 

The Lord took care of us. 

And not only that-- He was generous to us--- and I firmly believe it was because we were willing to be generous with Him and increased our fast offering at a time when it was really hard to do. 

I know my testimony is simple. But I wanted to add my voice to that of Elder Holland's, because I too have seen miracles come through fasting and paying a generous fast offering. I've come to see that if a fast doesn't push you physically and the fast offering doesn't stretch you financially, it really isn't worth that much. 

It is the times when you really take the Lord at His word and do all that you can when He really is able to open the windows of heaven for you and pour out the blessings. When you are generous with God He is generous with you.

What have your experiences been with fasting and fast offerings? What blessings have you received from the law of the fast?

13 comments:

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this.

    I have struggled with fasting for a long time. The last time I had a real, 24-hour fast I was 17, and shortly after that I became very I'll and took months to recuperate. Since then, I have had an even greater struggle with eating properly than I did before, and then being pregnant twice, I haven't really tried fasting for a couple of years. This Sunday, I intend to have a meaningful fast, even if I can't go for as long as I plan to. My husband and I have been always been generous with fast offerings, but it will mean much more to me coupled with sacrificing my meals. There are so many people with such great needs all around us. Elder Holland's talk made me feel so rich compared to others, and we really don't have a lot. This is part of building Zion. If we aren't willing to help the poor and needy right now, then how can we expect to live with having all things in common when the Lord reigns? If we all help in even the tiniest of ways, we truly can make a remarkable difference in many, many lives, including our own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome! I hope that your fasting improves. In all honesty, I need to be better too. It is hard when you are in the stage of pregnancy and breastfeeding. It is easy to come up with excuses. I think you are so right about fasting being a part of building zion. It is the way we can live the law of consecration RIGHT now. We don't have to wait. The Lord is already inviting us to do it... which is exciting.

      Delete
  2. Heather,

    I just finished your book The Gift of Giving Life. What a powerful collection that was. Thank you for your hard work on it. I admire you so!

    ReplyDelete
  3. We have learned that increasing our fast offering is the ONLY thing that has improved our ever more impossible financial situation. 7 kids on a teacher's salary always looks impossible on paper, but, like you, we have ALWAYS had enough and more! He has blessed us in so many ways to get even the little things that brighten our lives, things that are definitely not needs. I always feel safer about increasing my fast offering than I do about any other investment. It was so neat to read that you have had such a similar experience! Now that we are on to the next adventure to welcome another arrow in our quiver and beginning to plan our 5th homebirth, I am completely excited to read your book!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post, and I agree with the fast offering, having been on the receiving side -- I greatly appreciate my brothers and sisters who unknowingly helped him during a critical time of my life. A humbling experience, even a little bit embarrasing. I would rather give than receive, but I understand so much more now.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for sharing your experience. We are in almost the same boat right now (just substitute starting a business for graduate school) and wondering what to do, how to get by. So your post was very timely for us. I don't know if we will double our fast offering or just increase it, but we have decided to take it out at the beginning of the month with our tithing, rather than budgeting it in at the end and hoping for the best. Just a little thing, but I think that change of priorities is important and I think it will help. So thanks for getting me thinking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are welcome! And you are right, even little changes can make a big difference.

      Delete
    2. So we made our decision on Saturday, and took out our fast offering right then (even though it was almost all the money we had!) and I just have to tell you, we have had blessing after blessing this week! It has been amazing. Just wanted to follow up :-).

      Delete
    3. Wow! Thank you for sharing. It really does work!

      Delete
  6. Thank you for sharing this. I'm really bad at fasting; it has always been an area of the gospel that I'm not strong in and haven't understood well. Seemingly out of nowhere, Elder Holland's talk totally turned things around for me and greatly increased my motivation to give fasting another try. Yesterday I fasted for the first time in a long time, and it felt good and right (despite the hunger pangs, and I'll admit that it wasn't a full 24-hour fast, but...baby steps). I am determined for this to become a regular (monthly) part of my life. I keep getting the impression that I need to do it in order for certain things to happen as they should. I believe that increased fasting will bring about increased faith, and increased blessings for me and for others who my fasting can directly help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing this! I'm so glad that you are gaining your own testimony of this. And I understand about what you mean about Elder Holland's talk-- it hit a chord with me too!

      Delete
  7. I have always been a 'perfect' tithing payer -- paying on gross income, paying on gifts, and never missing a payment. In 2007, my husband was working in another city, emptied our bank accounts, and things were very tight. Money became very tight again when he left for good in 2009. I continued to always pay my tithing and fast offerings, and I was always able to have enough for food, rent, basic bills, and even for my half of our debts. Sometimes the church had to help, and one time a friend paid my rent, but there was always enough.

    In 2012, my new husband lost $2000 and I gave him $800 for his mortgage. I hadn't checked my budget in a while, and didn't know if I would have enough for everything, and I stopped paying tithing. A couple weeks of not paying led to a couple more, and I didn't pay for over 2 years. Financially, life became easier than ever before. I always had enough and to spare.

    The lesson I learned from this was not to pay tithing out of fear that I won't be blessed financially. I believe that from age 8 to age 31, I had paid primarily out of fear. This experience taught me that I need not fear. I have recently started paying tithing again, and my finances have suddenly become very difficult, though I have still been able to cover everything. I am not sure what to make of this lesson, though some of the fear is creeping back -- like maybe because I didn't pay for 2 years, now I am being punished financially.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, it sounds like you have really been through a lot! I can see why paying tithing would be a struggle. I think you are so right that we shouldn't pay our tithing out of fear or a hope that we will be blessed financially. It is kind of like with children. You don't really want them to obey you because they are afraid of getting in trouble, you'd rather they obey because they love you and want to do what is right. Love and gratitude is ALWAYS a much better reason to pay tithing.

      I think it is important to clarify though that tithing and fast offerings are two different things. Tithing is what the Lord REQUIRES of us whereas fast offerings are what we give BEYOND what is required and giving more. It is trying to live the law of consecration, and I think when we try to do that we access a whole new level of spiritual power-- which often results in blessings. Tithing though is about obedience and gratitude. I loved this talk by Elder Bednar about tithing and how the blessings we get for obedience aren't always financial.

      https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/the-windows-of-heaven?lang=eng

      It could be that we gain more spiritual power, that we have better health, that our lives are extended, that we see things clearer, that a child is blessed, that a relationship is healed, that we overcome a temptation or some other more less noticeable blessing. I think that sometimes because we give money for tithing we expect more money back, but it doesn't work like that. I know that if you keep paying your tithing you will be blessed, that doesn't mean that your financial situation will get easier, but it does mean that maybe you will be stronger to handle it, or inspired in a different way, or blessed with health or a stronger spiritual understanding... which might be MUCH better than more money in the long run :)

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I hope things keep improving for you!

      Delete