Author: Hills, Dawn M.
The practice of periodic abstinence from food and drink for devotional purposes has been documented since early times. The Bible and the Book of Mormon attest to fasting in its several forms, public or private, institutionalized or spontaneous. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded the Latter-day Saints to "continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth" (D&C 88:76).
Church members fast together generally on the first Sunday of each month, in preparation for fast and testimony meeting. They usually abstain from food and drink for two consecutive meals, attend Church services, and donate a fast offering for the care of the needy. Additionally, an individual, family, or congregation may fast for a specific cause such as one who is sick or otherwise afflicted. An individual may desire the intimate communication with deity engendered by a prayerful fast when preparing for a difficult task or significant change in the circumstances of life. A person may fast when seeking spiritual enlightenment or guidance in decision making, strength to overcome weakness or endure trial, comfort in sorrow, or help at other times of special need.
General principles of the fast include prayerful preparation concerning the subject of the fast and frequent contemplation and meditation throughout to achieve oneness in purpose and spirit with the Lord; a quiet, humble, and cheerful conduct befitting one seeking blessing or spiritual enlightenment (Matt. 6:16-18; cf. 3 Ne. 13:16-18); and a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving when ending the fast.
Rich blessings are promised to those who fast and help the needy (Isa. 58:8-9). Self-control, communion with the Lord, and spiritual strength and power accompany compliance with the law. The spirit of the fast is aptly represented in latter-day scripture: "Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer" (D&C 59:14).
Ricks, Stephen D. "Fasting in the Bible and Book of Mormon." In Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture, ed. Paul R. Cheesman. Provo, Utah, 1988, pp. 127-36.
Smith, Joseph F. Gospel Doctrine, 10th ed. Salt Lake City, 1956.
DAWN M. HILLS