Questions and Answers


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

“What does a fast involve? I’ve heard there’s more to it than not eating.”

J. Roger Fluhman, President, Washington Spokane Mission

You have heard correctly. There is more to a fast than not eating. Consider the following:

1. We fast to learn more about the Lord and to worship him.

2. We fast to increase our spirituality and our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. We fast to gain a testimony of the gospel and to strengthen it.

4. We fast to feel the voice of the Spirit and receive inspiration.

5. We fast to understand more fully the plan of salvation and our dependence upon the Lord.

6. We fast for those who are sick and need special blessings.

7. We fast to help the poor through our fast offerings.

There are other reasons for fasting. I’ve mentioned some which are important to me.

In Isaiah 58:3–12 [Isa. 58:3–12], the true law of the fast is set forth. Here many of the reasons for fasting are given—for example, “to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, … to deal thy bread to the hungry” (Isa. 58:6–7)—and also the blessings that can come from fasting: “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isa. 58:9). These verses have made a deep impression on me. They have helped me to understand how to fast and the blessings it brings.

Fasting and prayer are companions. They are mentioned together often in the scriptures. Alma told the people that he knew the things he spoke were true. He said, “Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself” (Alma 5:46). Fasting should always be accompanied by prayer.

Remember, too, that we do not fast in a hypocritical way with a “sad countenance” to impress others (see Matt. 6:16–18 and 3 Ne. 13:16–18).

I do not have a perfect understanding of fasting. I am not able to use words very well to tell you what happens when we fast or why it happens. But the feelings which come from fasting are sacred and very powerful. They inspire, edify, build, and strengthen. Fasting and feeling, to me, are related.

Our son, Spencer, has tried to learn to fast since his baptism nearly two years ago. We have not made him feel he must fast at this young age. He may not fast as long as we do on some Sundays. In fast and testimony meeting some time ago, he whispered to me, “I think I’ll go up and bear my testimony.” I smiled and nodded my approval. His sincere testimony touched me. He was feeling something. So did I.

We will grow spiritually through fasting. Of this I am sure.