My bishop and I were having a pleasant conversation in his office, but in truth, I wasn’t paying much attention.
It was the middle of December, and we were meeting for tithing settlement. I had always had a testimony of tithing and had paid a full tithe, so I didn’t think much of the short meeting. And I was anxious to get back to studying for my college finals, especially because I had just found out I had failed my math final—for the second time.
I was feeling very discouraged, and my mind was elsewhere.
My bishop looked at me kindly.
“I noticed you didn’t pay fast offerings this year,” he said, smiling.
That brought me back to attention.
He was right.
Fast offerings had been at the back of my mind for months. They were something that my family rarely discussed growing up, and we didn’t really talk about them at church, either.
I mistakenly thought I didn’t have to contribute much, partly because I was now in a YSA ward, and partly because I was blinded a bit by my own pride and didn’t really have a testimony of fasting or fast offerings.
I thought that paying my tithing and just going without food was enough.
“I haven’t,” I said. “But if I’m paying my tithing and fasting, that’s what counts the most, right?”
My bishop smiled and explained to me the importance of paying a fast offering alongside fasting every month, and the number of temporal blessings it provides for those in need in the ward.
But most of all, he emphasized the blessings available to those who are willing to sacrifice and to keep the law of the fast.
He looked me in the eye and said, “Those blessings can help you with whatever challenges you’re facing at the moment, even those in your education.”
My mouth fell open. I hadn’t even told him that I had just failed my math class.
“So what you’re saying is,” I said, “if I pay my fast offerings, I’ll be able to pass math next semester?”
We both laughed, but I was a little shocked when he actually nodded.
He told me that if I would study and gain a testimony of the importance of the law of the fast and paid a fast offering every month, I would be surprised at the blessings that Heavenly Father would shower on me.
Seeing that this math class was the only thing keeping me from progressing in school and that I had struggled with math (especially math that included both numbers and letters) throughout my life, I decided to give it a shot.
At the start of the next semester, I made a promise to myself that I would study math harder than I ever had, and that I would also learn as much about fasting and fast offerings as I could.
I had always fasted growing up, but I hadn’t ever made it meaningful. Most of the time on fast Sunday, I just thought about how I was so hungry that the fruit snacks toddlers had dropped on the floor in sacrament meeting actually looked appetizing.
When the start of the new month came around, I had a hard time paying my tithing and fast offering. I was a poor college student, and I didn’t have much to offer!
But as the months went by, I felt my begrudging attitude and pride slowly fade. As I focused on the why of fasting, I felt my heart and faith change with every fast Sunday in many ways:
My prayers at the beginning and end of my fasts became more sincere and meaningful.
Paying fast offerings helped me fast with purpose, and instead of simply focusing on my stomach growling, I started recognizing the Spirit’s soft voice and influence.
The pure, yet profound, spiritual strength I would feel at the end of each fast would fill my soul and warm my heart.
I ultimately realized that when we willingly make sacrifices for others, we are refined into more Christlike beings, because sacrifice is exactly what He did for us. His life was just one long act of giving.
I felt charity enrich my soul every month as I thought of how many people we are able to serve with our willingness to give. And I also felt gratitude for all the blessings in my life that I had sometimes previously overlooked.
Fasting for the purpose of sharing light and blessings with others became much more important than what was in it for me.
I felt more connected to Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Despite ongoing challenges, I experienced many little mercies, and I felt a lot of joy in my life.
I was struck by the words of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917–2008) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when he said:
“Fasting in the proper spirit and in the Lord’s way will energize us spiritually, strengthen our self-discipline, fill our homes with peace, lighten our hearts with joy, fortify us against temptation, prepare us for times of adversity, and open the windows of heaven. …
“As we live the law of the fast, we not only draw nearer to God through prayer, but we feed the hungry and care for the poor.”1
That’s a lot of promised blessings that are just waiting for us.
Since this experience, fasting and fast offerings have become an important part of my discipleship. I feel closer to my Heavenly Father and Savior each time I give. And sometimes I even fast when it isn’t fast Sunday to seek answers and comfort for myself or on behalf of others.
I’ve realized that the law of the fast is truly a gift.
And in case you were wondering, yes, I did miraculously pass that math class that semester. And I didn’t just pass it—I got one of the top scores in the class. I studied, of course, but for once in my life, those letters and numbers just finally seemed to click in my mind.
Heavenly Father is indeed a God of miracles.
As we strive to follow Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, along with Their commandments, we can move forward with faith, hope, and charity, and They will remind us that They are with us and ready to bless us for our efforts.