praying hands over empty plate

In general terms, fasting means to go without food or drink for a given period of time. The concept of fasting isn’t unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or religion at all. For example, a morning meal is called “breakfast” in English because a person breaks or ends the fast they endured through the night. Sometimes, before surgery or other medical treatment, a doctor will require that the patient come fasting so that the procedure can go smoothly. The adherents of some religions consider fasting to be the act of going without certain foods like meat or dairy products. This is most often called “lenting,” and is part of the 40-day period of penance and fasting that many Christian denominations do in preparation for Easter.

Because of His human condition, inherited from His mother Mary, He could suffer the extreme pains of hunger and thirst. Yet, as a result of His immortality (inherited from His divine Father), He could survive the ordeal. Furthermore, Jesus didn’t just endure His long fast, but He used fasting as an opportunity to draw closer to God. Through heartfelt prayer and meditation over spiritual matters, Christ gained increased strength through understanding concerning His role as Savior in the plan of the Heavenly Father. He fasted to prepare for the teaching, the miracles, and the mighty sacrifice that He would perform. In answer to His fasting and prayer, Jesus was visited by angels who granted Him excellent knowledge and strength.

Why do Mormons fast?

Latter-Day Saints believe that they need to strive to follow the example of the Savior. Fasting in the Latter-Saints tradition typically means to go without food or drink for two consecutive meals, encompassing about 24 hours. During this time, a person often prays. Through these efforts, a fasting individual hopes to receive special blessings from the Lord. These blessings may include the understanding of God’s will regarding an important decision, increased strength to overcome temptation and, above all else, an enhanced awareness of God’s love. Sometimes fasting might be exercised when an individual is in mourning or wishes to show thankfulness or devotion to the Lord. One might also fast on behalf of a friend or loved one who is ill, in the hopes of a recovery.

When do Mormons fast?

A standard time of fasting for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes place on the first Sunday of each month. Usually starting on Saturday afternoon or evening and ending around the same time Sunday, Latter-day Saints unitedly implore the Heavenly Father for spiritual and physical blessings while keeping His laws of fasting. During worship services, members of the Church are allowed to stand before the congregation voluntarily and share the feelings they have received through the Holy Ghost, which have led them to know the truthfulness of Christ’s gospel. They express their gratitude for blessings from God and share their testimonies or convictions as a way of inviting the Holy Ghost to touch the hearts of others.

Another practice is offering donations for the needy, discreetly handed to a congregation leader. Typically, the donation amount is what someone would have spent on meals had they eaten instead of fasting. This donation is known as a fast offering and, when possible, Mormons try to give more generously than just the cost of a few meals.

Even though Latter-day Saints consider fasting to be a commandment, they recognize that some have special needs. Young children, pregnant women, and the sick generally aren’t expected to fast. Sometimes, Latter-day Saints may schedule a special fast. A family fast, where the entire extended family participates, can be planned when a member of the family is critically ill or in some trouble. Of course, prayer is an essential part of this fast, and miracles happen when whole families fast and pray together. A local congregation or group of congregations can call a special fast for an ill member.

Fasting has benefits.

Fasting is an excellent way for an individual to practice keeping their physical desires in check. When a person intentionally forgoes eating for the sake of gaining greater spirituality, they learn temperance and patience. They also obtain more profound gratitude for the food and other necessities that they have. This deep gratitude helps them recognize that everything they have is a blessing from God.

They find themselves more capable of controlling themselves in other areas besides eating, like maintaining chastity before marriage and fidelity after marriage. They aren’t carried away by anger or other passions.

Overall, they find themselves more capable of keeping under control the physical body that they were blessed with, something that’s not to be despised as an impediment to the Spirit. Ultimately, Latter-day Saints fast because they have the same goal as other Christian denominations: to get closer to God. Fasting helps remove any confusion and allows the spirit to gain clarity while obeying God’s word. Jesus fasted on His 40-day trek through the desert, so Latter-day Saints believe fasting is the best way to get closer to Him.

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