Law of the fast
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A passage of scripture recorded in Matthew tells, in large measure, how we will be rewarded after the manner in which we keep the fast:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
"And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
"And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
"Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
"When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matthew 25:3140).
After He has invited the faithful to join Him in His kingdom, the King will speak harshly to those who did not give of their substance to the hungry and those who were thirsty, naked, sick or in prison:
"Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal" (Matthew 25:4546).
We watch television programs and read articles in newspapers and magazines that focus on the plight of the poor and needy, whether those among us in our own neighborhoods or in far-off places throughout the world. Often, we are brought to tears by these reports. We want to help, but we might not know how.
"Keeping the law of the fast allows us to begin to fulfill our obligations to those in need," wrote Elder James E. Faust, now second counselor in the First Presidency, in the August 1984 Ensign.
Latter-day Saints understand that a proper fast day observance consists of abstaining from food and drink for two consecutive meals once a month, attending the fast and testimony meeting, and making a generous offering to the bishop for the care of those in need.
Those who have health conditions that prohibit the skipping of meals may observe the spirit of the fast by continuing to be prayerful and contributing what they can as fast offerings.
The law of the fast is not a new doctrine nor a new principle that began with the Restoration of the gospel in this dispensation. From ancient times, the Lord has admonished His people to fast.
This law entails more than just the abstaining of food for two meals; nor is it just the contributing of monetary or in-kind offerings representative of those meals. It is essential to combine fasting with prayer, and to have an attitude of consecration, purpose and commitment. The law of the fast renders two-way blessings: the needy receive help and sustenance, but the greater blessings are felt by those who fast and contribute their offerings.
More than providing funds to help care for the needy, fasting brings powerful blessings to our lives. We are counseled to fast and pray when we face trials or seek solutions to problems, or strive for understanding and wisdom, or desire to draw nearer to the Lord. The scriptures and Church history are filled with examples of many who have gained strength or have found peace, comfort and resolution through fasting and prayer.
President Spencer W. Kimball made a statement regarding our obligations to the law of the fast; his words have become classic on the topic:
"Sometimes we have been a bit penurious and figured that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents and then we give that to the Lord. I think that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous. . . .
"I think we should . . . give, instead of the amount saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more ten times more when we are in a position to do it" (Conference Report, April 1974, p. 184).