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PROBLEMS OF THE AGE
Dealing with Religious, Social and Economic Questions and Their Solution.
A Study for the Quorums and Classes of the Melchizedek Priesthood. 1917-1918.
By Dr. Joseph M. Tanner
XXXIII. – Fast Offerings
Law of Sacrifice. – The law of sacrifice is one of the most universal of God’s laws. When ancient Israel put upon the altar the firstlings and the best of their flocks and herds and saw the flesh consumed in smoke, they would not be human if they did not feel some taint of selfishness and a disposition to keep the best for their own use. In the days of their devotion to God they were strictly honest in this divine requirement. In the days of their transgressions, sacrifices were performed in a perfunctory manner and without any scrupulous efforts to perform exactly the requirements of God.
Emerson, in his “Law of Compensation,” undertakes to show how well balanced our gains and losses, our prosperity and reverses, our benefits and adversities are. What a man gains in money he may lose in health. What he gains in the financial world he may lose in self-respect. What he gains in intrigue he may lose in friendship. All in all, among the inhabitants of the earth, the unequal gaining qualities are not so great as might be supposed.
Fasting. – God requires of his people, for example, the observance of a fast day once a month. For each person in the home a certain amount is required as a fast offering, and when this law is properly observed it nets a very considerable income for the support of the poor. True, people get hungry, but it is in that state of physical want that their humility and sympathies are reached. It is in that state of physical want that they are compelled to stop and think of those who are in actual need of food.
The satisfied man is not always a very grateful man. Neither is he a sympathetic or generous hearted man. It would be calamitous to the human family if people experienced only the feelings of satisfaction. In this active, feverish age, men are asked to stop and think, weigh and consider. Once a month fast day gives them a most excellent opportunity.
Prayer. – God, in his requirements, as set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, has prescribed that along with fasting there should be observed the practice of prayer. The two are naturally associated. Men may, when in a state of hunger, think of their hunger, but they do not give themselves up to the sins of self-satisfaction. Their physical condition reminds them that whatever the obligations of life may be, there is a duty toward the poor and toward God.
The Lord, in establishing the principle of fast offering, says that the Saints should fast that their joy may be full. It is the fulfilment of a duty in a quest for joy. The reaction from a day of fasting is one of appreciation and gratitude, and a sense of appreciation carries with it a very large measure of joy. Men and women, therefore, are blessed in their lives and their spirits and their contentment when they fulfil a duty from which they may, if they will, receive some special blessing.
One of the troubles that people in this world suffer from is the disposition to be forgetful. They do not think of the poor, and when they do not think of people much they care little for them. Then the rich oppress the poor. Such would hardly be the case were they fasting and praying for those who need their offering. Christ said, “the poor ye have with you always.” they are a part of every community, of every state, of every nation. The manner of seeking alms for their support is very often annoying, nor is it always generously given.
Compensations. – There are two compensations to fasting. One is its bodily advantages; as a health-promoting practice, too much cannot be said of it. On the other hand, it supplies an abundant need for those who are poor. Let us say that in the United States there are a hundred million people, that the fast offerings once a month average only 10 cents per person throughout the whole country. That would mean $10,000,000 a month or $120,000,000 a year. That is an enormous sum and would go far towards alleviating the sufferings of those who were too poor to meet the needs of their daily lives.
The organization of the Church is such that when the fast offerings in one ward or district are not all required by the members of that ward they may be transferred directly to the Presiding Bishop of the Church, who distributes them to those wards which need them more and have more poor people in their midst. The General Bishop of the Church has an office which might be properly called a clearing house for fast day contributions, to the poor.
What Fast Offerings Would Mean to the United States. – If the contributions were 15 cents a month per capita, they would mean 415,000,000 a month, or $180,000,000 a year. It is a vast amount, but it would be both given and saved, and no hardship whateve4r would be felt.
On fast day the meeting is given over to the audiences to bear testimonies, give expression to their gratitude and thankfulness to God for the favors they enjoy. A spirit of dependence prevails. The congregation feel the necessity of one another’s love and support. The hunger which they experience teaches them that God is the giver of life, that after all, to him we owe our “daily bread.”
Poverty General. – There are those whom the Doctrine and Covenants classes “unworthy poor” – those who through idleness, delay and neglect are themselves responsible for the unfortunate financial circumstances in which they find themselves. There are millions of the human family with inferior earning capacity, and it is not a very easy matter to determine who are the deserving and who are the undeserving; but poverty is a condition that should be ameliorated as far as possible by those who are in a position to do so. It would be better to give some to the unworthy than to neglect in fine discriminations those who are deserving. It should here be stated, however, that poverty is not necessarily an evil. It exists the world over, and some cases are due no doubt to unfavorable circumstances and conditions over which people have no control. In a last analysis something may be said in favor of the disciplinary value of those who are not possessed with much of this world’s goods. When men and women border on want they naturally feel a dependence that otherwise they do not experience. Poverty may then be said, in some instances, to be a positive blessing, since it prevents men and women from the indulgences of those evils which money too frequently encourages. It is said that among 2,500,000 rejects for the army in the recent drafts a large majority of them came from the families of the rich and well-to-do. They have been running their race rapidly and are unfitted therefore for military service. A recent suggestion has come from the physicians of the country that notwithstanding their physical deficiencies, they be drafted and taken into the training camps in order that their manhood and physical advancement may be greatly helped. This, however, would bring upon our country a large expense for many that are not needed and for the undeserving.
In the early periods of the church men were required to consecrate the property which they did not really need. This law of consecration brought the people into a living condition of common brotherhood.
Frugality, superior intelligence, and industry, would soon, however, create differences. The law respecting the poor was given by revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Revelation. – And thus, with the sword, and by bloodshed, the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquakes, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightnings also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed, hath made a full end of all nations. (Doc. and Cov. 87:6; 1:11-15).