To his astonishment, Alma met his friends the sons of Mosiah as they were returning from their 14-year missionary service among the Lamanites. He rejoiced at their faithfulness and at the devotion with which they had served. Earlier Alma and the sons of Mosiah had persecuted members of the Church. But since their conversion, they had become “men of a sound understanding” because “they had searched the scriptures diligently” and “had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had … the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:2–3; see also Mosiah 27:8–37).
If we want to develop spiritual maturity like that of Alma and the sons of Mosiah, we need to do what they did: obey the commandments, study the scriptures, serve our families and our neighbors—and combine these efforts with fasting and prayer.
Earlier in the Book of Mormon, Amaleki testified that if we “come unto Christ” and offer our “whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end,” we will be saved (Omni 1:26). Since the soul consists of both body and spirit (see D&C 88:15), we offer our whole souls when we place the desires of both body and spirit in subjection to the will of our Heavenly Father. Fasting and prayer help us learn to control our appetites; they also help us to “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (Matt. 5:6). Fasting for two consecutive meals, as we are encouraged to do once a month on fast Sunday, can refine the spirit, strengthen its control of the body, and bring into our lives the joyful influence of the Holy Ghost (see D&C 59:12–14).
Sheryl Condie Kempton of Orem, Utah, describes an occasion when fasting and prayer brought her spiritual strength: “I fasted and prayed that I might withstand a particular temptation that had been bothering me. The results were miraculous. Not only did I withstand the temptation, but it ceased to be a temptation!” (“Fasting—A Gift of Joy,” Ensign, January 1978, 12).
For fasting to help increase spirituality, it must be accompanied by fervent prayer. Further, contributing to the fast-offering fund softens the heart and opens the windows of heaven.
We should exercise caution to fast in moderation, and we should not fast if our health or other circumstances do not permit it.
All who can, however, should participate in the law of the fast. When we do, we are blessed as the Nephites who “did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Hel. 3:35).