Sermoncitos, a family tradition
Every culture has a tradition of fasting for a purpose, whether to seek to be in tune with spiritual knowledge or power; or to gain some physical advantage, such as cleansing bodily toxins or losing weight. In our church, fasting is a practice with many applications and a multitude of benefits.
Fasting is going without food and drink. There is a physical advantage to letting the body rest and cleanse itself ocassionally. If going without food for a few hours causes overwhelming cravings, that may be a sign that you have been eating or drinking something that is not good for your body. For example, I used to buy candy to keep me going all day. Then I spent a night in the hospital for a problem associated with high cholesterol. When the doctor said this was caused by sugar, I quit sugar. I immediately felt much better, had more energy, ate less because I was relieved of the cravings caused by sugar, and quickly lost 40 pounds with no special effort. As a teenager I heard about the ill effects of caffeine and decided to avoid it. As a result, I spent no money on soda pop during the past 40 years, and live a healthier life without cravings for things that would make me feel badly. Being selective about what we eat and drink can result in great increases in energy and health.
When I turned 18 I decided to spend one year of extra spiritual effort in preparation for my mission. During that time I frequently would add fasting to my study and prayer, including skipping a meal or two. At the end of the year I did a 48 hour fast which I ended by taking the sacrament and rededicating my life to service to the Savior. The spirit was strong in my heart; strong enough to bring about a change in the direction of my life; strong enough to sustain my direction for many years to come. “I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit” (Alma 5:46). Fasting and prayer can invite the spirit and bring knowledge and testimony.
However, fasting should be sensible. Our monthly Fast Sunday in the church is a pattern for good practice. Eat sensibly on Saturday, then again Sunday evening after church. The two meals we skip result in a 24 hour fast associated with prayer and worship and testimony sharing. Since you did not buy food for those two meals, you save money. The church invites you to sacrifice the value of those meals in a “fast offering”. This offering of money is used to help those in need through the welfare system of the church. These sacred funds are used to help people with utilities, rent, food, and medical expenses. Thus our monthly fast is for personal spiritual and physical benefit and also a consecration of our life to help others.
Not everyone can fast, and no one is required to fast. Nursing mothers, young children, and those with medical conditions that don’t allow fasting should not fast. Those of us who do fast should “not appear unto men to fast” (Matthew 6:16-18). Instead we should be cheerful and not advertise our fasting to others.
Fasting improves our lives and gives us added strength. Fasting helps us live other principles of the gospel because it draws us closer to God. Whether you are fasting today or not, you can receive blessing by sharing testimonies and considering the principles of the Gospel.
1. Isaiah fasted for a purpose (Isaiah 58:3-6)
Isaiah fasted for knowledge
Isaiah fasted to overcome evil
Isaiah fasted to ease the burdens
Isaiah fasted for freedom for the oppressed
2. We fast for a purpose
David fasted to heal his son (2 Samuel 12:16-23)
David fasted to heal his friends (Psalms 35:13)
Alma fasted to heal his son (Mosiah 27:22-23)
3. God said that (Zechariah 8:19)
fasting is for joy
fasting is for gladness
fasting is for cheerful feasts
fasting is for truth and peace
fasting is for joy and rejoicing (D&C 59:13-14)
fasting is for mourning (D&C 95:7; Zechariah 7:5))
4. Jesus said we should fast in secret (Matthew 6:16-18)
We should look good
we should feel good
Father in Heaven will reward us
5. We can fast when we need God
Esther fasted when she needed God (Esther 4)
Ezra fasted when he needed God ( Ezra 8)
Joel fasted when he needed God (Joel 2)
Jehoshaphat fasted when he needed God (2 Chr 20:3)
6. We can fast to seek guidance from the Holy Ghost
The apostles fasted when they needed inspiration (Acts 13:2-3)
The sons of Mosiah fasted when they needed inspiration (Alma 17:3,9)
7. We can fast to worship God
The Nephites fasted to thank God (Alma 45:1)
8. We can fast to repent
The people fasted to repent (1 Samuel 7:6)
9. We can help others when we fast
We can give fast offerings
10. We can fast alone or with others