Making an accounting

We have entered the season of giving. Stores have put out their wares in magnificent display to attract shoppers to buy for the holidays. Children have begun compiling their lists of what they want to receive for Christmas. Many people, youth as well as adults, are perplexed as they try to figure out what gifts they might give family and friends that will be most appreciated.

Another, and higher, plane of giving and receiving is also upon us. This is the time of year that bishops and branch presidents invite Church members to attend tithing settlement. Included in the summary of tithing donations is a listing of other contributions or offerings to the Church during the year. Among such donations are fast offerings, missionary fund, Book of Mormon fund, humanitarian aid and "other." Contributions to this last category may be made for endeavors that members have particular interest in supporting.

Untold blessings come to those who pay their tithing and make other contributions. These blessings are among the greatest gifts we will ever receive.

Paying our tithes and offerings is one of the highest privileges we have as members of the Church. In essence, we enter into a sort of financial partnership with the Lord as we add monetary contributions to our labors and literally help build and sustain His kingdom here on earth and put into effect His work and will among His children.

We have before us recent and powerful examples of how the Church uses financial contributions. One is the unmatched pace of building temples. How blessed are Latter-day Saints throughout the world as more and more temples are being built in more and more states and nations. We now have 98 such sacred edifices in operation, under construction or announced. Each person who has paid an honest tithe should feel immense gratitude, pleasure and humility for having had the opportunity to be part of such an important building project.

Another example of how the Church uses financial resources stemming from contributions is the relief sent recently to victims of Hurricane Mitch in Central America. Sometimes we feel helpless when we read news reports of such widespread devastation. As members of the Church, we are empowered to render the kind of assistance most needed by victims of such a disaster. In this most recent case, individual contributions were combined to send more than 1 million pounds of food, clothing, medicines and other supplies to victims of the storm. When we contribute to the humanitarian aid fund, our hearts and minds can be at peace as we know that one hundred percent of our donations go to help people who are in need, that none goes for administrative or other costs.

While visiting victims of Hurricane Mitch recently, President Gordon B. Hinckley said of using fast offerings and humanitarian aid funds that come through the Church: "It becomes our privilege and our opportunity to help you bear the sorrow which has come your way. . . . If we are true disciples of the Lord we must reach out to help those in distress." (From an address given in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Nov. 20, 1998.)

We also help people nearer home as we make fast offering donations. While funds earmarked for humanitarian aid are for use through Church headquarters and cannot be accessed by bishops and branch presidents, fast offering funds can be used at their discretion. A fast offering is generally the cost of two meals skipped in a 24-hour period during the monthly fast. We are encouraged to be generous in our fast offerings. President Spencer W. Kimball said:

"Sometimes we have been a bit penurious and figured that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents and then we give that to the Lord. . . . 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." (Conference Report, April 1974, p. 184.)

Nurturing souls is as crucial in building the Lord's kingdom as is giving food to the needy. Therefore, contributions to the missionary fund, whether on the local or general Church level, are put to good use. While most missionaries in the Church pay their own way to serve in the Lord's army, many simply are unable to amass financial resources that would allow them to devote full-time service. Untold numbers of people have been taught the gospel because funds were made available to send into the field missionaries who, without such contributions, would have been unable to serve. Who can calculate the worth of those souls taught by these missionaries?

Yes, this is the season of giving and receiving. Although we pay tithing and make other contributions throughout the year, the month of December is generally when we "settle up" with our bishops or branch presidents. More important, it's when we make an accounting to the Lord on how we have used the resources with which He has entrusted us.

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