I Have a Question


Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

I am an insulin-dependent diabetic and cannot fast, but I feel guilty teaching my Beehive class about fasting when I can’t. What should I do?

Malcolm S. Jeppsen, M.D., Regional Representative The question as to whether one can safely fast as a diabetic must, of course, be answered by the person’s physician. Many diabetics are in the early or mild stage of the diabetic process and can fast with complete safety for a time shorter than the customary twenty-four hours. Others, with the approval of their physicians, can observe a partial fast, such as abstaining from all food except orange juice or soft drinks every two hours, to maintain an acceptable blood sugar level.

There are those who have determined that they cannot safely fast. I believe these individuals should keep several things in mind. First of all, since fasting is not required of those whose physical condition does not allow it, such a person should not feel guilty about being unable to fast.

President Joseph F. Smith stated, “The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis, and none of his works are vain or unwise. His law is perfect in this as in other things. Hence, those who can are required to comply thereto; … but let it be remembered that the observance of the fast day by abstaining twenty-four hours from food and drink is not an absolute rule. It is no iron-clad law to us, but it is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion. Many are subject to weakness, others are delicate in health, and others have nursing babies; of such it should not be required to fast.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 244.)

Those who cannot fast could draw close to the Lord in other ways. One of these is scripture study. The scriptures contain the mind and will of the Lord, not only for his people of ancient times, but also for us today. There is no surer way to draw close to the Lord than by regular and serious study of the scriptures.

One may also give more emphasis to prayer by praying more often and by making his prayers more meaningful. The Savior told the Nephites: “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Ne. 18:19). He was speaking also to our day.

We sometimes overlook the power of meditation in helping us feel close to the Lord. I have found it very important to ponder the things of God, my relationship to him, and his love for me. Meditation is especially valuable when it is accompanied by prayer and when it is done in solitude.

Renewing our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament can surely draw us closer to the Lord, as can attempting to keep those covenants by serving others. We should also take care to meet our church financial obligations, share the gospel with others, do temple and genealogy work, and strive daily to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Fasting embodies a principle of sacrifice—that of denying oneself something so that he or she can become a more spiritual individual. Perhaps one could sacrifice something other than food and drink in order to accomplish this goal. One might abstain from television, movies, or sleeping in. One can also sacrifice by paying a generous fast offering.

Finally, it occurs to me that this sister might be able to use her situation as an object lesson for her Beehive class, pointing out to her students that they should be grateful for their ability to fast.

I sincerely believe in many ideals that I don’t manage to live up to yet. I don’t feel like a hypocrite; yet to an observer, some of the things I do must seem very insincere. What is the difference?

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, mother of five and seminary teacher in the Portsmouth Ward, Manchester New Hampshire Stake When I first read the question, I wasn’t sure what was meant. But the more I thought about it, the more familiar the problem seemed. In trying to arrive at an answer, I found it helpful to focus on a homely, but I don’t think trivial, example from my own life.

I am a firm believer in vigorous physical exercise. Having read a number of books and articles on the subject, I know that people who bicycle, swim, or play tennis daily look and feel better than the rest of us. I am pleased that my third grader prefers walking to riding a bus. On cold winter mornings, as I huddle by the fire, I think of how much healthier he is out in the fresh air than cooped up with fifty other children. If I didn’t have such a tight schedule, I would walk to the library myself.

My older son sometimes accuses me of hypocrisy as I extol the virtues of bicycles over gasoline-guzzling, flab-promoting vehicles. But I drive from necessity, not choice. I am usually either five minutes late for an important appointment or loaded with groceries and children. When an opportunity presents itself, I exercise. I pick stairs over elevators, and at least twice every winter I ski the trail behind our house, always promising myself that next year I will get outside more often.

Still, there is a discrepancy between my professed belief and my daily activities. I realize this every time I streak down Mill Road in my silver Oldsmobile and pass Krista Curtis jogging or Maggie Bogle backpacking her groceries in the rain. These women arouse guilt feelings because they have internalized values which for me remain superficial. The apostle Paul wrote: “My members [are] warring against the law of my mind.” (Rom. 7:23.)

I am not a physician or a psychologist. But even if I were, I could not locate on a diagram of the human body that part of me Paul called “members” and that part of me he called “mind.” My brain can certainly tell my body to get moving, but only in metaphor can my feet and legs shout back, “Not today!” Yet the feeling of being divided is real.

The dictionary says hypocrisy is pretending to be what one is not or pretending to believe what one does not. In a strict sense, then, an inability to match belief with performance is not hypocrisy. But in trying to understand why it is so hard for some of us to move from mere acceptance of an ideal to wholehearted commitment to change, it helps to take the definition one step further. As a favorite teacher used to point out, hypocrisy is the opposite of integrity, which is not just honesty but unity of personality. Jesus emphasized this when he said to the Pharisees, “Every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matt. 12:25.)

I am sure there is a difference between the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the kind of doubleness you and I experience, just as I am sure there is a difference between murder and losing one’s temper. But the difference is one of degree, not of kind. Thus a discrepancy between belief and behavior should be a signal for self-examination.

As I examine my exercise problem, for example, I recognize that a very real part of me does not want to swim, play tennis, or jog. When I have a few minutes of free time, I invariably choose to read. While my “mind” acknowledges the well-ordered arguments in favor of exercise, my “members” respond to a deeper voice, to commands built upon patterns long set. I have never been happy on a playing field. In the fourth grade I was always the last one chosen for the team. Even group exercise in the privacy of our living room, led by our zealous twelve-year-old soccer player, brings terrible feelings of inadequacy. My spirit is not willing; my flesh is indeed weak.

Repentance begins with recognition. Thus, the first step toward resolving any inner conflict is to admit that it is real. Facing the war within can point toward ways to end it. In my case, I must begin, step by step, to substitute new experiences of success for old memories of defeat. In this, as in so many other areas, I am grateful that our Heavenly Father has not left us to trek through this life alone.

A few weeks ago my husband managed to get me and four of our children to the top of a mountain. There was a low cloud ceiling that day, and when we reached the summit, we stood in the drizzle and imagined the view that should have been there. As we returned to the car, I began to wonder what motivated people to hike. I looked at my third grader. “Was it fun?” I asked.

“It was neat,” he said thoughtfully. “This is the first time that me and my boots and my pack have been in a cloud.”

I intend to lean on his testimony of that principle until I get one of my own.

Someone was just called to a position I feel I could have filled. I feel even worse because I am upset. What can I do about my feelings?

Sherry Downing, mother of seven, Relief Society Cultural Refinement teacher, Pitman Ward, Wilmington Delaware Stake I’m glad this question was directed to me, because it’s a problem I have struggled with several times in years past. I thought for years that being called as president of the Relief Society was the ultimate achievement for an LDS woman. Failing that, being called as president of the Primary or of the Young Women was almost as satisfying.

Instead, I found myself serving as everything else. Several times I was a counselor in Relief Society, but never president.

I found reasons: “I wasn’t called because I have too many young children.” Then the next president would have four preschoolers. “I wasn’t called because I’m too young.” The next president would be younger. “I wasn’t called because I’ve only been in the ward five years.” The next president would be a new arrival.

Finally, there was to be another change, and everything pointed toward my being released as Junior Sunday School coordinator and called to lead Relief Society. I was sure my time had come. The bishop made an appointment with me “to talk about how things are going in Junior Sunday School,” but I knew he just wanted me to be surprised when he called me to be Relief Society president. I was ready with a list of things I thought would be great innovations; I had even decided who I would request for counselors.

Then came the meeting with the bishop. And do you know what we talked about? The Junior Sunday School!

I was crushed. I complained to my husband that the bishop must not think I was capable. When he gently replied that callings are from the Lord, I started to cry: “It doesn’t make me feel any better that the Lord doesn’t think I’m capable, either.”

Yes, I really suffered at the time, but something happened to me, and I have never felt those feelings again. Like you, I was shocked and ashamed of my negative feelings; I really hungered to change my attitude. And I finally did what I should have done before: I went before the Lord, confessed my feelings—all of my feelings—and searched more deeply than before for the Lord’s reasons. When I was ready to learn, he was ready to teach me. Over the next few weeks, a process began that is still continuing. Gradually my understanding was opened, and the true nature of callings in the Lord’s kingdom was impressed on my heart. I’ve come to know the following things:

A calling is an opportunity to serve, not a reward. We sometimes carry over from the business world the idea that unless we are able to “work our way up” and become president of an organization our abilities have not been properly recognized. We have to be aware that the Lord is not dispensing favors by calling us, but is asking for wholehearted service. A calling may prove to be a blessing to us, it is true, but that is dependent upon our efforts after the call.

The true hierarchy of the Church is a hierarchy of righteousness. The Lord judges our hearts and actions, not the “level” of our callings. We have celestial visiting teachers in many wards, and celestial choristers and teachers. It’s character that pleases the Lord, not calling.

We cannot second guess our Heavenly Father. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” (Isa. 55:8.) Sometimes the vantage point of a few years lets us see the purposes of the Lord unfolding in our lives. It may be as hard for us to see this as it sometimes is for our own children to understand the direction we give to their lives. We marvel that the Creator has worked things out with such delicate balance in nature. Why not trust him, then, and strive for understanding? Why not truly say, “Be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38.)

We can fulfill our own callings better. President Duane Lloyd, a counselor in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake Presidency, comments, “No one is doing his own calling as well as he could be doing.” He recommends redoubling our efforts in our present callings as an antidote to desiring the callings of others. I call it “making the grass greener on your side of the fence.” It works quite well.

We need to be humble. Jesus told several parables and gave much counsel on the importance of being humble. He knew that we (and those around us) will be happier when we are not lifted up in our pride, happier when we are not coveting another’s opportunities. One of Lehi’s sons, Jacob, made a fitting summation of all these thoughts when he said, “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand.

My earnest hope in sharing these experiences and thoughts with you is that your heart may be softened to the ways of the Lord, and that you can know that your Father loves you.