About a year or so ago our stake made a move to improve fast offering receipts. The bishop supported this and urged everyone to donate to fast offerings and, in addition to the general admonition, he reinstituted Aaronic priesthood collection of fast offerings after church. Members were further urged to filter there fast offering donations through the Aaronic priesthood who would come by to get them every fast Sunday, rather than just tacking them on to tithing payments given to the Bishopric.
According to a couple financial clerks, this resulted in a notable increase in receipts– in a recent sacrament meeting talk one clerk put the figure at a fourfold increase. Another had earlier guessed that receipts had approximately doubled (possibly one was talking about receipts and the other about # donating). One clerk felt that the biggest change was not in the size of the individual donations, but the number of people who donated– although he was just making a guess off the top of his head, rather than performing an actual calculation.
Now, I live in Utah where such collection is surely as easy to do as it could possibly get. There are real costs in doing this kind of collection in wards that are geographically spread out. But doubling or quadrupling fast offerings is nothing to sneeze at. Is it coercive? Certainly there is some pressure to give when somebody shows up at your door. On the other hand they have no idea how much you donate, so one could easily fulfill that social pressure with very small amounts of money (or even just handing back a blank envelope if one wished). So I don’t think the coercion is all that strong.
Now, I guess the next question is, how much more money would we get if we had the Laurels collect instead? :)
My guess is that what minor coercive dynamic is involved in asking someone face to face for donations would be relatively short-lived. It would be interesting to track the increase over the long-haul and see if the number is sustained.
Here’s another “minor coercive dynamic” (to borrow Costanza’s phrase) that would work: post the donated amounts, with donors’ names.
When my father-in-law was selected as chairman for his Air-Force base’s annual United-Fund drive, he posted the officers’ donations in the Officers’ Club. This had two benefits: 1) donations hit an all-time high and 2) he wasn’t asked to chair the drive again.
I remember collecting fast offerings as a deacon. Some of the people from whom I collected were inactive but still wanted to give fast offerings. So part of the increase may be due to that factor. On the other hand we weren’t so hot on keeping very good records of who still wanted to give, so it was sometimes unpleasant to knock on someone’s door and find out they had already said they didn’t want us back.
I think one of the benefits of collecting door-to-door in person as a Deacon is that it prepares you for a mission.
As someone who drives the deacons every month, I’ve always wondered whether collecting fast offerings door to door is substantive or procedural. Last summer, when gas prices in my area were well above $3.00 a gallon, I would grab my assigned Deacon directly after the meetings and try to find everyone on our route before they made it to the parking lot. “The Lord wants us to be good stewards of our natural resources,” I would jokingly say. But really, I wondered why the Lord would have me drive an extra 40 miles, using valuable natural resources, when I could just nab the people at church. Of course, we always went to see those people who weren’t at church that day. I understand that collecting fast offerings door to door fulfills a few functions such as helping us check up on less involved church members who may not be visited any other way, or helping less active members who wish to donate make their donations. But what about Brother X, who is in the EQ presidency, but lives 20 miles away?
Sorry, I submitted prematurely. I was going to say that I don’t think coercion is a factor. I do think going door to door may simply remind people. People have different habbits as far as paying tithing is concerned, but if you’re like me and pay every two weeks at church, sometimes fast Sunday falls on an “off” week, and you may forget to bring your offering, and then it just slips by you. Having someone come to the door can help in that regard.
Rather than increasing fast offering contributions it might be a good idea to take a hard look at the expenditures. I think that everyone would feel good about giving more help to our faithful brothers and sisters who have fallen on hard times, but that is not how the system works in practice.
In my experience, most of the payments are going to people who are only nominally connected with the church. They might come to sacrament meeting for a a week or two while they are getting assistance, but then we never see again until the next time they want help. Bishops often seem to think that giving these people assistance will encourage them to become more active, but it does not really work that way. They are, more or less, “rice Christians.”
Even among active members, the benefits are distributed in a rather arbitrary way. For example, struggling young families living in apartments help make house payments for members who are, by most standards, more prosperous than they are, but have some temporary difficulty.
There is also a certain amount of fraud, since bishops generally have no way of verifying the recipient’s actual resources. In theory, fast offerings are not used to pay consumer debt, but members often get food from the storehouse or other help and then use their regular income to keep creditors at bay.
Perhaps it would be better to encourage members to give their usual fast offerings, then contribute to other organizations that offer emergency assistance, such as the Salvation Army or a community food bank. Then bishops could refer nominal members to those programs rather than assisting them directly. So yes, we do need to be more generous, but we need to be prudent and fair as well.
My guess is that the increased fast offerings are the result of the Stake President’s counsel, and not from collecting them in person. If I were the one to decide whether to collect fast offerings door-to-door, my policy would be to implement it where the routes are walkable for the deacons, because it’s a good opportunity for them to serve, and to discourage it where the routes are too big for walking. If an adult has to drive them all over, it’s not much of a service opportunity for the deacon. And I have no urge to create make-work for adults.
Sorry to fall back into the old five minute talk trap of resorting to the dictionary. Coercive has to do with or relating to coerce. The definition of coerce is:
1. to compel by force, intimidation, or authority, esp. without regard for individual desire or volition: They coerced him into signing the document.
2. to bring about through the use of force or other forms of compulsion; exact: to coerce obedience.
3. to dominate or control, esp. by exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.: The state is based on successfully coercing the individual.
So Coerce has its roots in force, intimidation, fear etc. It also relates to authority.
While sending the aaronic priesthood door to door is intended to gather more fast offerings, I don’t believe that intimidation or fear is the result of a 12 year old at the door. So i would agree. Although the aaronic priesthood gathering does involve the use of authority, I don’t think it is the kind to be concerned about when considering something coercive.
A question – I wonder what the percentage of wards who use the Aaronic priesthood to gather fast offerings are. I know my ward at my parent’s house did. My university ward didn’t (no aaronic priesthood). My last ward in Provo did (and had the elder’s drive them). My current ward does not.
Also, must the EQ/HP drive them? I assume that in many areas it is provided for safety. however, I recall doing it by myself as a deacon, except for the few times i drew a route on the other side of the ward (several miles away). And It wasn’t that long ago. However, in our last utah ward, the EQ/HP drove the aaronic priesthood, and we had a fairly small ward.
I second Matt on the fast offering routes because I remember the difference as a youth when collecting didn’t involve adults. I would also be generous on deciding what is not too big to walk–maybe two or three miles.
Thanks for all the comments!
My inclination is the exact opposite. I don’t think the plea from the stake president would have had an effect for more than a month or two (since it was not consistently repeated– nor in fact was it even given directly to members). I think someone showing up at the door is the more likely causal agent. That said, I cannot prove you wrong :).
And you’re right that walkable routes are noticeably different than not-walkable ones.
I was a financial clerk in one ward and although I agree that problems and mismanagement are unavoidable I disagree with your characterization of Fast Offerings. Most notably, I am inclined to think the money is better spent there than in most charitable organizations. But perhaps problems are more widespread than I know, and in all likelihood the problems grow with the budget, rather than shrink.
“Is it coercive? Certainly there is some pressure to give when somebody shows up at your door. On the other hand they have no idea how much you donate, so one could easily fulfill that social pressure with very small amounts of money (or even just handing back a blank envelope if one wished). So I donâ€™t think the coercion is all that strong.”
Interesting–but not entirely surprising–that you take the question in this direction, Frank. So let me play my appointed role as well. Let us stipulate that collecting fast offerings in this manner is, in fact, coercive. Let us further stipulate, just hypothetically, that the coercion, while not especially strong, is greater than that which the majority of individual contributors within the stake, if given a choice, would in fact prefer to experience. Would any of that matter? Does not being a member of a community carry with it obligations, obligations which obviate certain individual preferences? And if it does, why should we even imply that such levels of obligation-dervied “coercion” are necessarily negative in the first place?
Incidentally, brilliant idea on the part of your stake leadership. While I suppose Matt’s caveats must apply–collecting fast offerings in this way would be a non-starter in a lot of rural communities, or even spread-out urban ones–in general I think anything that makes the work we do more hands on the better.
I think coercion decreases the value of our obedience. And, in the case of charitable giving, I think doing it willingly for the right reasons is a large part of the gain. I even have a scripture or two in mind when I say this.
Lastly, I think a substantial part of the benefits of charitable giving are those to the giver, rather than the receiver, because it changes givers. As such, increasing charitable giving in general is good for both parties, but increased charitable giving using excessive coercion may actually be a worse outcome, because, with enough coercion, the benefits to the giver are eviscerated. That’s what I am thinking.
As for the community obligation, certainly we freely enter covenants in the temple that suggest the Church can ask just about anything they wish in terms of our time or resources and still be within the agreement we made. But it seems to me that God is not going to let us off the hook with a one time declaration of fealty followed by his coercive enforcement of our promise. He wants us to choose Him again and again, absent strong coercion, until we really are His.
And yes, I have been pretty impressed with the results, in the short term anyway.
My best friend says that her mother doesn’t ever go to church, but is more than willing to donate to fast offerings if someone comes to collect it.
Would we consider tithing settlement to be coercive or the Bishop calling you into his office coercive. These elements in our worship are needed and the issue of the deacon is one of authority. The lord’s representive comes to collect a commanded donation. I for one love the deacons reminding me to pay because I always forget until I get home from church. Like recieving a calling you are not forced to accept any invitation and the same goes with fast offerings. I do remember when I was a deacon traveling to a single womens home and a african armerican man answered the door wearing only a towel. He told me that ms. x was busy and quickly slammed the door in my face. I quickly shuffled back to my mothers car holding my blue envelope tightly in my hand.
We’ve had a couple of retrenchment times in our area where the bishop has decided to go back to the old deacons-collect-in-person method. But they never do it on a universal basis, which would almost certainly result in decreased contributions. That is, if the bishop told everyone *not* to contribute in the tithing envelope, then those people who normally pay that way in due course wouldn’t pay if the deacons failed to show up, which over time would be a substantial risk.
So typically they choose the people and the routes carefully, with just an active family or two thrown in to season the mix and give the deacon a shot at a good experience.
Every time this is tried, it lasts for a few months, and then we go back to just contributing in the tithing envelopes.
For the record, in case it was not obvious, I don’t see any coercion problem with this manner of collection. I brought it up because I thought it might come up regardless and because I am interested in the subject of coercive vs. non-coercive giving. I think any definition of cercion that includes this as a case is almost useless.
As one of the leaders of the young men in our ward, I have struggled with fast offering collection. I also collected fast offerings in my home ward growing up. Here are some facts associated with that:
We collected during Priesthood Meeting on fast Sunday.
We lived in SLC, and one could walk from one end of the ward to the other in less than an hour.
We collected it during the era before the “three hour block” was instituted. That’s why we could do it during Priesthood.
We collected from lots of inactives, or semi-actives. All of these people knew what the church was and what the money was going to.
Now, I live in semi-rural, semi-suburban Massachusetts. Our ward covers over many many square miles (I think over 100 sq miles.) Our Mormon density is like this: 50 active members in a town of 17,000. Only one member of the ward lives in a home that could be reached by foot from our ward-house. Everyone is at church together.
I smiled at the posting above (#4) where someone talked about getting fast-offerings collected from ward members before they leave church. In other words, its not convenient to collect at home, either for the young man, his adult driving chaperone, the member themselves, or the poor bishopric member and clerk who have to wait at the ward for everyone to get back to the ward. It seems like “make-work.” Indeed, one of our former bishops here asked certain members to please stop paying fast offerings with tithing, and do it at home when the designated deacon came by.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of the deacons, and the Aaronic Priesthood, helping the Bishop when he aids those with need in our community, ward, stake, or area. Its easy for me to understand fast-offering collections in a rural community with many in-kind donations, where Mormon density is high. I think its great for the young men to understand that there is real need in the area, and that we aid eachother through donations and service. I have simply wondered whether there is a more meaningful way of going about it.
Of course it’s coercive. In my experience anyway. The deacon, standing in my doorway, eyes my house, my TV, my car in the driveway, and my apparent good health, then says, “Nice blessings you got here. It’d be a real shame if something were to happen to them.”
Yes I am sure that is exactly what the 12 year old deacon is thinking.
I enjoyed it as a young man and I remember Monson speaking highly of it as well in conference in the form of a story. I remember as a young man certain people didn’t pay but I didn’t think anything of it and went along my merry business.
I served in the Boise Idaho Mission as well and I can tell you that there were a few people I taught the gospel from those coercive little deacons collecting fast offerings from part member family houses. It’s a good experience for young men, it’s a good move for the church, and it’s not coercive. If the deacon was acting coercive he would say, ” You are not going to pay, why do you not like feeding poor families?” or ” Gee wiz Mr. You suck”. I wonder if we would view Home Teaching of VT as coercive. The more I think about this topic the sillier it sounds.
So long as individual members can request that they *not* be visited by the deacons, I don\’t see any coersion.
I saw what I considered a much worse practice in my former ward and stake about a year ago. The bishop got up, and promised \”in the name of the Lord,\” that if members doubled their fast offerings, they would get out of debt! My then-wife promptly began doubling the family fast offering. Unfortunately, the stake president soon visited, and he promised the members of the ward in the name of the Lord that if they doubled their fast offerings, they would get out of debt! Then the temple president visited, and despite his usual topic of temple work, he promised the members of the ward in the name fo the Lord that if they would double their fast offerings, they would get out of debt! Other leaders did the same…you get the idea.
My then-wife was quite certain that the bishop\’s \”promise\” would be fulfilled by deity, though I can\’t say that it ever was. I think the problem was that we didn\’t RE-double when the stake president called on us, and then RE-double again when the temple president promised, and do the same each time we were asked by various leaders! Of course, we soon would have had no income at all to pay our bills, or even put food on the table. Maybe we\’d be driven by such practices to file bankruptcy, and THEN we\’d be out of debt! My then-wife found my logic offensive, for some reason…..
Now, I don\’t mock this whole chain of events to be nasty toward the church, or even toward those leaders. I\’m sure they felt they were doing a good thing. I think it\’s far better, however, to teach people to love and care of the poor, rather than trying to hook deity on promises of big financial rewards!
You say that you are not being critical but it sure sounds like it to me.
Interesting how fast offerings increased fourfold with a human element present. Similarly, the Salvation Army collects four times as much donations in their pots during Christmas when bell ringers are present. In fact, the Salvation Army is known to pay some bell ringers–a good investment. Probably the guilt factor that someone is watching.
Jose, I don’t ever remember putting money in a Salvation Army bucket except when there’s a bell ringer. For one thing, I know that someone’s looking over the bucket besides a vandal, and second, I feel like I have to make the ringer’s time worth his trouble. If can donate an hour, I can donate another dollar.
Frank, since you were there and I wasn’t, I’ll take your word for it that the Stake President’s counsel is unlikely to be the proximate cause.
RE: Locke (#14): â€œa commanded donation.â€ This one made me chuckle.
“On that day, we go without eating or drinking for two consecutive meals, commune with our Heavenly Father, and contribute a fast offering to help the poor. The offering should be at least equal to the value of the food that would have been eaten. Typically, the first Sunday of each month is designated as fast Sunday. On that day, members who are physically able are encouraged to fast, pray, bear witness to the truthfulness of the gospel, and pay a generous fast offering. “The law of the fast,” taught Elder Milton R. Hunter, “is probably as old as the human family. . . . In ancient times, prophet-leaders repeatedly gave to church members the commandment to observe the law of fasting and praying.” Elder Wirthlin- The Law of the Fast
“One of the important things the Lord has told us to do is to be liberal in our payment of fast offerings. I would like you to know that there are great rewards for so doing–both spiritual and temporal rewards.”Marion G. Romney
We are encouraged to fast regularly if we are able and pay a generous fast offering. If we do not you are correct that we are not disciplined by the church but it is a commandment nonetheless.
What else do you chuckle at?
Apologies. I didnâ€™t mean to offend. I understand the principle. Seeing the two words paired together made me chuckle because they have opposite meanings.
BTW, is commanding a donation a form of coercion? Nevermind. Iâ€™m easily humored by semantics.
TO A Dallas Cowboy reciever scored a TD last week on Thanksgiving and ran over and placed the ball in a Salvation Army collection bucket.
No word yet on whether the presence of the bell ringer inspired TO to make the contribution
Deacon’s Tithing on Fast Offering: An idea whose time has come?
When I was a deacon, before the block schedule, we had some clever boys in our rural Utah ward who took a 10% cut of the fast offering out of the envelops, maybe a little more, and bought donuts on the first Sunday morning of each month. This had the effect of getting more deacons out of bed early on those cold mornings and hitting more houses earlier in the morning with greater energy and it more than made up the difference.Probably doubled the amount collected.
Even though this practice generated a higher cash flow I personally thought it was wrong and refused to participate. So I missed out on a few donuts; except then I just stole them. I never figured out how they altered the slip of paper or whatever they did to keep the Bishop from finding out. (And it never dawned on me how hypocritical it was to refuse to participate and then steal donuts bought with stolen fast offering money).
The boy scouts in my son’s non-LDS troop give a direct percentage of the money back to the scout and it is far more than a measly 10% of their fund raising venue, popcorn in our case. They raise incredible amounts of money. On Saturday, 9/13/2001 in the aftermath of 9/11, my son sold over $2000 dollars worth of boy scout popcorn. So giving the youth collectors a financial incentive in the enterprise greatly increases the funds collected.
I mention these practices because it does bring up the point: Just because it increases cash flow doesn’t always mean it is the right or wrong thing to do. The opposite might be true also. Even if collecting doesn’t make financial sense, it still might have other less tangible benefits. Fast Offering is not really about the money, except it takes money to feed needy people and drive deacons who live in wards far from Utah all over tarnation; a practice our ward does not do, thank goodness.
6 – I am one of those people who have benefitted from fast offerings & am so grateful for it. I am a single mom of 2 boys with an ex that struggles with mental illness. While he provides minimal financial help it’s nowhere near what he is legally required to pay. I have often struggled about my situation – do I legally go after my ex, or do I appreciate the little bit that he does provide, knowing it’s the majority of what little he earns?
I have spent the last 2 years looking to improve my job situation with little to no success & it gets extremely discouraging. I have been praying for a miracle as it seems the cost of living just keeps getting higher & higher. Just last week I had to ask again for help from my bishop to pay my daycare & after I asked I had the most amazing peaceful feeling that this was my miracle. That the ability of my ward members to help me was my miracle.
I don’t have a doubt in my mind that my situation will improve. I will eventually get a better position within my company. We will be able to move into someplace that will give us breathing room. While I am sure there are many who take advantage of bishop’s kindness, please don’t forget that there are also many who are beyond grateful for the help.
“I am sure there are many who take advantage of bishopâ€™s kindness, please donâ€™t forget that there are also many who are beyond grateful for the help.”
Thanks for that, Lynne, and good luck.
The Lord continue to be with you Lynn #29. If all of the Fast Offerings were going to people like you, I would not make this remark. And I am betting that you would not have had any problems with what we did that I will describe below.
My experience sadly concurs with the remarks in #6.
Quite a few poor people lived in my small ward near a military base in the South in the 1980’s. If my memory serves me the Bishop was paying out about $50,000 a month more than was collected in Fast Offering. (Can this be right?) We were told by the Stake leaders that Mexico was Fast Offering self-sufficient. In other words a small amount of money was trickling up from faithful members in Mexico to support poor people here in the rich United States. That did not seem right to us and we determined to do something about it. Our ward council came up with a plan, most of it concocted by my then 22 year old wife:
First, we asked people to double or at least increase their contribution and some did.
Then, in order to receive any assistance people had to do 4 things:
1. Come to church meetings at least once a month.
2. Perform some chores around the church or ward determined by the Bishop and that fit into a reasonable schedule. It was pretty hard to come up with things for most people to do to preserve dignity and all of that.
3. Keep track of how the money given was spent. Call it the first step to a personal budget or whatever.
4. Spend one hour with Bro. Meisser (I forgot his real name) who was the Ward Financial Clerk. But he also had a job in the military as a financial counselor and attorney? for GIs who got too far into debt. It was like a free 1 hour session with a really smart legal/financial advisor. He would come up with ingenious ways to improve almost anyone’s financial situation; not just limited to the usual get a better job, pay down debt, etc. And he was willing, even anxious to spend 100’s of hours with members of the ward, if it would help. Getting people out of financial trouble was like his hobby, his lifeâ€™s passion.
Of course some people (probably like Lynn above) quietly complied and I canâ€™t even remember who they were or any thing about them. But I could not believe the howl these seemingly reasonable requests generated. As primary instigators and EQP and my wife in the RSP, it fell on our shoulders explain this plan to many of the less-cheerful recipients of financial assistance on these conditions. I had several people call me up and cuss me out. Others got so mad that they threw me out of the house or trailer and kicked me off the property. They found this insulting, trying to pay them to come to church. â€œYou are NOT going to CRAM religion down my throat!â€ Once a gun was pointed in my general direction, not that big of a deal in the South. A couple of people got up in testimony meeting and blew off some steam and stormed out of the building.
The part about chores really got some people. They would do the most passive-aggressive little stunts. Carpets were torn up by dysfunctional vacuums, grass and shrubs wilted. The Bishop’s storehouse begged us to stop sending members of our ward on assistance to work there. Before Easter this one lady put shoe polish on the pews and it stained all the cloths of the entire ward, costing every family (except the leaders sitting on the padded seats on the stand) upwards of hundreds of dollars according to our various abilities to pay as expressed in the expense of our best clothing. I will never forget all the pretty little girls in white Easter dresses cheerfully running around with big brown stains on their rumps and their motherâ€™s faces livid. It became obvious why some of these people had no jobs.
But the plan worked. The Bishop cut off the funds to those who did not at least agree to try to comply with the 4 point plan. The amount of money the Bishop was paying out of the Fast Offering tumbled down and soon came close into line with the increased amount that was collected, which figures I can’t remember. At first the Stake was delighted. Then they found out about our four point plan. They didn’t disagree with any specific part of it; but only that it was not the official church program. We suggested a compromise; weâ€™d get rid of the chores. No, it all had to go. The assistance needs soon began to creep up again. Contributions fell. Normal military turn-over quickly erased most institutional memory of this telling event as we all moved away.
I was part of implementing a similar plan in Chicago a few years ago. It went smoother then what you are describing but the Stake backed us up.
We had a few incidents though.
The ward librarian was getting assistance and was gradually cut off after I had audited his check book a couple of times and found out that he actually had some money and was misrepresenting his financial condition. He then put a big tip jar in the library with a sign that said the bishop had cut off his church welfare. He then proceeded to “salt” the tip jar with a $20.
Needless to say the Bishop hit the roof over that stunt.
Question: Would you as a home-teacher/visiting-teacher ever take a blank donation slip and envelope to the inactive members whom you home/visit teach and give it to them and encourage them to pay tithing/offerings? Would you do it on a monthly basis? Would you do it every so often merely as part of teaching the principle of tithes and offerings?
Of course home/visting teachers don’t have authority to ask if someone does pay tithing/offerings. However, they both have authority as teachers to teach about tithing and offerings. And if the person being visited is inactive, then bringing them a donation slip and envelope is doing them a service, right? Giving them the opportunity to receive the blessings that come from paying tithing/offerings is a “good thing,” right? Aren’t inactive members allowed to pay tithes/offerings? And wouldn’t they receive at least some kind of blessing from doing so?
Is that too bold? Would that be overbearing?
re: #33. That envelope would be the pre-printed one with the bishop’s name and address on it, so that the donor could just mail it in. I did not mean to imply that a home/visiting teacher would collect the tithes/offerings, which would not be kosher.
Bookslinger, sometimes inactive people want to come back, but don’t want the too-hearty welcome that could easily come from “announcing” the intention by asking the necessary questions (“who’s the bishop now? what time do meetings start now?”) Dropping off a tithing slip/envelop and a ward bulletin occasionally to somebody who has been at least polite to you in the past could do more than you know. And of course people who are merely inactive can pay tithes and offerings.
In the Idaho Boise Mission inactive people were a interesting phenomon. Some were pleasant to the missionaries and other very antagonistic. They both shared a common thread most of the time; that was the desire to not be taken off the records of the church and to continue to pay tithes and offerings. The first due to family concerns like dear aunt edna spinning in her grave and the second which was more heart warming was the desire to continue to serve. Orginally my pride attributed thier contributions to relieve the guilt of being inactive but I found out quickly that was incorrect most of the time. Tithing and Fast Offerings produce more blessings than can be imagined and especially those who are away from the flock. I am irratated at the tithing stories that end with someone getting a financial reward because most of the time it doesn’t happen and two it can’t even measure up to the inward blessing that is recieved.
Locke: that’s why I’m tending to think that dropping off a tithing slip/envelope isn’t a “bad thing” because you’re providing them and reminding them of the opportunity to receive those blessings, whether inward or financial.
Ardis: And even non-members can make contributions under every category except tithing. :-)
There’s a story in our local mission about an 80-year old investigator who said he didn’t want to join, but he asked if he could make financial contributions to the church. They got him the slip/envelope, so he did. He eventually did get baptized.
Frank: “I think coercion decreases the value of our obedience. And, in the case of charitable giving, I think doing it willingly for the right reasons is a large part of the gain.”
I understand that your position is that this particular method of asking for offerings is not coercive. I also agree that obeying for the right reasons increases the value of obedience. But it seems that there are many times when the value of obedience is greater when it is *harder* to disobey. The more banal case is when it is harder to disobey *because* the value of obedience is so great (e.g. we make it hard for people who want to stick up 7-11s); but the reverse may also be true. If I have a good relationship with someone, it is harder to fail to do my duty to them than if I have no relationship with them. We may feel ourselves forced to do our duty by our relationships because we will lose many things we like if we shirk our duty. And yet I think that the value of obedience here is even greater because we are not only obeying an absract (though real) duty to serve others but we are also cultivating and responding to relationships which are necessary and good. I have a duty to help the poor, even if the poor is someone I don’t know. But I have an additonal obligation to respond to the call of my particular church community and priesthood leadership, e.g. when they are attempting to help the particular poor within the church and without. The former duty is thinner, but harder to fulfill preceisely because of this reason–there is no individual who we imagine going without, no face appearing before us and calling upon us to serve. In the latter case I think it is harder to disobey and yet greater to obey. Yet another case, I think, where doing the harder thing is not always doing better.
Mike: “Then, in order to receive any assistance people had to do 4 things:
1. Come to church meetings at least once a month.”
I know that helping the poor involves considerably more than writing a check–teaching new skills and attitudes, even calling to repentance if necessary is part of it too. There are also some wards which I hear do have serious spending problems (though none in which I’ve had an in-the-know leadership position). But while making it into a this-for-that may bring spending in line with contrbutions, it seems far out of joint from King Benjamin’s teaching that you simply do not turn away the poor (even the ‘undeserving’ ones). It also seems sure, more than just about anything, to ‘decrease the value of obedience’ when it comes to going to church. Having lived in the church for quite a while and served in some leadershp positions, I have no illusions about the special virtue of the poor; I just don’t think that the gospel is well-designed for giving a strong jolt to those among the poor who are lazy and have a sense of entitlement. But it is pretty good at shaking the non-poor out of their sense of entitlement and superiority, since they are asked to give without virtue-testing the payouts.
Locke: “I am irratated at the tithing stories that end with someone getting a financial reward because most of the time it doesnâ€™t happen and two it canâ€™t even measure up to the inward blessing that is received.”
How do you know that most of the time it doesn’t happen? I’m willing to believe someone who says they’ve had it rough while paying a full tithe, but the only evidence I know of is anecdotal evidence, which, from what I hear from trustworthy saints, is quite good on the side of the temporal blessings of tithing. I don’t want to get to the point where we never talk about the temporal, could-have-another-reasonable-explanation type of blessings, because we are focusing on the possible and actual counter examples. I’d never want to downgrade the spiritual blessings of obedience, but temporal salvation seems pretty good, too, and the scriptures seem to be pretty high on it.
You are right I should have rephrased the above comment.
Regarding using fast offering funds to assist less active members — anecdotal, as are most of my thoughts, but a true story:
A single, disabled woman in Montana in the 1940s was baptized along with her daughters and attended church for as long as they received welfare assistance. When the assistance stopped, she was offended. She left the church.
However, in the meantime, one of her girls had become converted, even if only in small degree. Years later when her husband was attending graduate school, members of the Church found her, brought her in, taught her the gospel and taught her to be a mom, helping her overcome a dysfunctional background that would have been destructive for her own five children.
Four of those children are now active in the Church. One is my husband. I’m pretty glad there was welfare assistance for my mother-in-law’s mother, even though she was probably “just a rice Christian.”
Also, some friends in our previous ward told of a time when the stake presidency asked everyone to double their fast offerings. This family complied. They had been trying to conceive, and after responding to the stake president’s request, the wife became pregnant. With twins.
For their sake, I’m glad they weren’t asked to quadruple their offering. That’s what Frank’s title initially brought to my mind!
I was the clerk in a small branch where the Branch President only had one rule: he would only write the checks on Sundays. If the recipient wasn’t there on Sunday, no assistance. It meant that some people came at the end of the three-hour block once or twice a month, but they still came.