1. I think this is a great discussion, but I would add one thing. I applaud your definition of expanding what it means to fast, but want to make sure that fast offerings are still included in this “alternative” means of fasting. That way the entire law of the fast is observed as specified in Isaiah 58, not just the abstaining part.

  2. Fasting has ALWAYS been a struggle for me and I admit to feeling a bit of relief about it when I was pregnant and nursing. I do remember trying to follow the spirit of fasting by refraining from eating any dessert items until my husband was able to break his fast and enjoy them as well (believe me, that feels like a HUGE sacrifice when you’re craving the chocolate cake or coconut cream pie sitting pretty in the fridge!)

  3. An interesting piece of commentary (and, I think, very valid). Did you choose to publish it on the first day of Ramadan on purpose?

  4. Fascinating. This rings true to me.

    One additional thought. I think an essential part of fasting is the “voluntary denial.” Because in the end, all we have to give to God is our will. That said, I feel like I’ve just emerged from a year when God required me to give up a certain lifestyle (we could argue whether or not it was God, but I feel it was His will). Living without expected comforts felt like a form of fasting and has made a return to this lifestyle feel bounteous and blessed. The year without helped me “make space for God.”

    Can God impose fasting on individuals or his people as a whole? I suppose without the voluntary denial it’s a different thing. But it has had the same result in my life.

  5. Fasting is an individual choice. It’s an expression of your personal faith to God. I’m not really understanding why you use the word “required”. If you’re doing the fast merely because you “have to” then you’re doing it for the absolute wrong reason.

  6. For those who get headaches try less frequent snacking with simple carbs to include soft drinks throughout the week. This avoids the frequent rises in insulin that likely causes headaches while fasting. To correlate with article, don’t give up but be creative and try variations to include timing, planning or even the subject of fasting.

  7. I would suggest that you go on a judgement fast.

  8. I came into this article very frustrated that you might suggest a pregnant/nursing mother fast. I appreciate what you are saying and appreciate Sabra’s comment regarding what she did during pregnancy. No pregnant or nursing mother should fast, it is unhealthy for the baby and could cause the mothers milk to decrease therefore taking away need nutrients for the baby.
    All of that said, I did learn something and think choosing other things to fast of is a great alternative to those that truly can’t.

  9. I’ve been on both sides. Pregnant/nursing and trying to participate in other ways by giving up something else was not the same for me. Fully participating in a fast is a source of great spiritual strength when undertaken in sincerity and with prayer and humility. Because of my circumstances, my limit is one meal, but I make the most of that time spiritually.

  10. As a type 1 diabetic, I have had the “get out of fasting free” card for a long time–and felt really bad about it as I sneak something sweet between sacrament meeting and Sunday School. But this approach makes both practical and spiritual sense–thank you! I only wonder if foregoing my nap during the priesthood lesson will count.

  11. I always feel badly for my poor son when he is collecting fast offerings when he knocks on the door and early in the morning, the smells of bacon, eggs and maple syrup assault my young faithful deacon son who is trying his best to fast.

    Fasting is the great forgotten commandment of Mormonism.

    But you make a great point, great spiritual strength is to be found in fasting even when it doesn’t consist of the 24 hours or two meal traditional fast.

  12. Recently I read a news story about how groups of young women were challenged to go on a group hike across town specifically to reinforce the lesson that each of them has the capacity to do things that appear–and ARE–difficult, to learn to exercise their free will to conquer their appetites. It happened to coincide with a history channel story about the US moon landing effort, starting with President Kennedy declaring in a speech “We choose to go to the moon not because it is easy, but because it is hard.” He captured the American belief in proving ourselves against difficult tasks. And Mormons are taught to take the same attitude toward life and its difficulties. We LDS are often swimming upstream against the current of our contextual culture, and the Church has captured the loyalty of most of its youth by pointing to the satisfaction of proving yourself capable of doing things that you weren’t sure you could do, that others plainly cannot do.

    That is the spirit that runs through Mormon sacrifices made to pay tithing, to pay fast offerings and support missionaries, to fast, to avoid coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol and recreational use of drugs, to devote Sundays to worship and worship-compatible activities, to serve as missionaries, and accept callings to serve in the Church. We have confidence and trust and faith not just in our own powers of will, but also in the promise recited by Nephi at 1 Nephi 3:7, that God will enable us to do whatever God wants us to do, that God will transform our weaknesses into strengths if we are faithful and humble and persevere in righteous tasks (Ether 12:27), that we will prevail against the forces of darkness if we trust in God and fight righteously for righteous ends (most of the war stories in the Book of Alma).

    Fasting is a dedication of ourselves to God, an action that also happens when we are baptized, ordained, set apart in a new calling, bear our testimonies, teach each other, and participate in temple ordinances. Every one of the sacrifices we make, so often incomprehensible to people who do not have their own religious devotion, is an act of “fasting” from the mundane, the things of this earth life, in order to convert the currency of our treasure on earth into a deposit in our heavenly bank, where we will discover the matching funds from the Atonement are a thousand to one.

  13. Fasting is a personal thing; God asks people to do it and not to make a big deal about it. The scripture is Matthew 6, Sermon on the Mount,:

    ” Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to afast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall breward thee openly.

    In other words, Jesus explicitly says fasting is not something you do to please others. For that reason, it’s taboo to ask someone whether they are fasting, or to make a big deal about it yourself- it goes directly against Jesus’ original command.

    Yes, all Mormons should fast on Fast Sunday, and all not-Mormon people should too for that matter. But if our goal is to follow Jesus, we won’t make a big deal out of it and/or worry about whether other people are doing it, unless you’re a parent or a religious teacher.

  14. I thought it was an insightful article and agreed with the part about redefining what a fast was. During the second half of being pregnant and then while nursing, I would limit myself to simple foods like cereal for breakfast and a pb&j for lunch. I was still getting nourishment for my baby, but I felt like I was also “fasting” and my thoughts were focused on Christ more than they had been when I ate french toast and pancakes for the first couple of months of pregnancy.

  15. I have been a diabetic since I was 1 year old and rarely do a “proper” fast. I have done a fluids-only fast, and a no-diet soft drinks fast and so on since I was in my teens. I still get the spiritual buzz. Yes, I get a big buzz when I do the gangbusters no fluids. But I get the same buzz from doing a moderated fast that suits me and allows me to still function. I recall about 15 years ago, I had a friend tell me his wife was fasting to know if she should marry him. She refused to eat or drink until the had THE answer. Her mother finally told her to eat because she was not thinking clearly. So she ate. And the answer came. Sometimes, we just need to eat. The conditions of the fast offering are what is important, not the presumed perfection of the action.

    In this, I appreciate this post because I tire of *explaining* why “my” type of fast suits and still brings the spirit. I also tire of people trying to make me feel less because my fast does not resemble their fast. Fasting is a personal experience. Making it personal, as you have suggested, is what it is all about.

    Thank you for this.

  16. My son is a Type 1 diabetic like you. I disagree that diabetics or people with other health challenges or pregnant or nursing mothers have a “get out of fasting” card.

    If my son’s blood sugar is low, we don’t give him a treat to eat, we give him glucose tablets to raise his blood sugar. He doesn’t get a cookie, he gets what he needs to raise his blood sugar level. That might be a slice of bread or the a couple of the glucose tablets.

    As far as the pregnant women or nursing mothers. I think they can maybe eat foods that are more nutritious so their bodies are still getting the nutrients they need. Stay away from the good and tasty food. A simple meal, like oatmeal or basic fruit and veggies will work.

    I disagree with the idea that people can’t fast. If we truly want to participate in fasting we can. We just need to be creative.

  17. I thought her article was great. She is just trying to help us broaden our minds and perceptions of fasting. I’m not sure if you are offended because you are trying to justify your approach to fasting or what.

  18. I appreciated this post. I am one of those that struggles with low blood sugar and when 1:00 church comes around, completely abstaining from food isn’t something that I have ever been able to gain a testimony from. I end up with a raging headache and shaking to the point of passing out and when you have to lead music in Primary every week, that can be really hard! I decided a while ago that I would do what I could to eat the bare minimum and to fast from something that I like on Fast Sunday and it has helped me see a difference in my own life. I’ll wait as long as I can and have some dry Cheerios, for example, about a half an hour before I go to church. It isn’t much, but it’s enough to get rid of the worst of the headache and allow me to magnify my calling a little better. I think you’re right – fasting is very personal. Just like the commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy has many different applications, I believe the fast does as well.

  19. Sara my dear ithink its more pleasing to God when you do it in certain conditions cause his the author of life and if he can change doctors reports so can he provide for mum and baby through faith and have seen people testify to that in my church. Me myself have done it when pregnant and now nursing a6months old and fasting food for 41days. Thank you.

  20. So this sounds like a monthly mini-lent. Could be cool. But it would be much more effective it it were more voluntary. Guilt based religions are really taking a hit right now.

  21. Everybody remember that in Mormonism “fasting without sincere prayer is just going hungry”

  22. I loved this post, it makes this spiritual practice seem so much more doable to me. I wish I’d thought of approaching fasting this way during my years when full abstinence from food and water weren’t possible.

    Also, I really loved your book, Jana. I read it twice, and I never read anything more than once.

  23. Here is how President Joseph F. Smith described the Law of the Fast, and how he cautioned _against_ certain excesses.

    Quote: “The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis…. Hence, those who can, are required to comply thereto; it is a duty from which they cannot escape; but let it be remembered that the observance of the Fast Day by abstaining…from food and drink [for two meals] 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 [in] 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. Neither should parents compel their little children to fast. I have known children to cry for something to eat on fast day. In such cases, going without food will do them no good. Instead, they dread the day to come, and in place of hailing it, dislike it; while the compulsion engenders a spirit of rebellion in them, rather than a love for the Lord and their fellows. Better teach them the principle, and let them observe it when they are old enough to choose intelligently, than to so compel them.” End quote.

    Our fasting, indeed our prayers — even why and how and when we do missionary work – this is all personal, between us and the Lord. The bishop does not ask us how long we fast, or how deeply we fast and pray. This matter is left to us, to our own discretion. It is between our heart and the Lord’s heart. As Joseph Smith said to a Catholic priest visiting Nauvoo, “I teach the correct principles, and they govern themselves.”

  24. Author

    I’m delighted to hear it . . . thanks for reading (both the post and the book). May your fasts be uplifting, however you decide to do them.

  25. are you trying to kill your sonI’m a type 1 diabetic if I take my insulin and I don’t think I can fall into a coma if I don’t take my insulin and I don’t eat I can also fall into a coma because my sugar rise is too high so you’re trying to kill your sandwiches abuse

  26. So what are your thoughts on being sick? I think it’s stupid to take medicine without food or drink some medication say to not take unless with food or drink, so it could be harmful to your body to do so. So when you are sick and and unable to function without medicine i think it’s perfectly acceptable to skip fast Sunday and do your own fast the following Sunday when you feel better. As the scriptures state don’t kill yourself to fast. If you are sick and miserable or suffer from migraines then you should plan to fast another Sunday when you are full health and capable. It’s not making your own rules it’s finding a healthy safe way to follow a commandment.

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