It takes some spiritual maturity to find joy in fasting. For most, it is no fun to go hungry. It might seem like one more way that the commandments are restrictive. But fasting is all about joy and rejoicing. Part of the reason we can’t see that is because we think the fast ends when we finally eat. This idea, conveyed in the very word break-fast, suggests the meal is unrelated to the fast—that the fast is over when the first morsel enters our mouth. That is where we miss the point!
The joy of fasting is possible while feasting on the spirit but the feast of food at the end of the fast is the reward of righteousness. The food tastes better; the gratitude is overflowing; and the prayer is heartfelt. How have we missed that this crucial climax is all part of the fast?
In speaking of fasting, the Lord says, “only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart (D&C 59:13),” as if to say, “don’t make your preparations so grandiose that all you are thinking about when fasting is the food. You are to think of spiritual things—enjoy a spiritual feast first—then enjoy the meal as the culmination of your sacrifice.” The Lord continues: “that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full. Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer” (D&C 59:13-14).
Then the Lord goes on about how the fullness of the earth is ours, the beasts of the field, the fowls, the herbs, and the good things of the earth. Why? Because that is what we are going to enjoy in the meal that finishes the fast. “Yea, all things… are made for the benefit and use of man… Yea, for food… for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the mind. And it pleased God that he hath given all these things unto man” (D&C 59:19-20). The Lord is happy to bless is with a good meal. He wants us to “eat, drink, and be happy” with a sober mind, a grateful heart, and contrite spirit.
Do you need more evidence? “The fast… shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace (Zech. 8:19).” The Fast is about cheerful feasts, joy and rejoicing, and good food enjoyed “with cheerful hearts and… a cheerful countenance” (D&C 59:15).
Isaiah 58:2-3 Wherefore have we fasted?
The tone of these first verses is reminiscent of Malachi, “wherein have we robbed thee? …In tithes and offerings” (Mal. 3:7-9). In Isaiah’s day, “wherein have we sinned? In fasting and Sabbath observance.” Isaiah is called to show the people their transgression and call on them to repent, but they are confident in their outward show of religion. Like the Zoramites, they claim to be a nation of righteousness that forsook not the ordinance of their God. They imagine to themselves that they “take delight in approaching” God and that “they seek [Him] daily.” They keep their fast but do so with a bad attitude, “Why have we fasted? What’s the point? This is torture!” Like a teenager who thinks he will die if he fasts any longer, they abstain from food but miss the point.
“[The Lord] said the Israelites were fasting for the wrong reasons. If you fast for the right reasons, the promise is to become ‘like a watered garden.’
The Lord is talking about how we should take care of our soul, and one of the ways to do that is proper fasting. We will not find anywhere in the Bible a more complete or pointed expression of fasting than in Isa. 58. If we join that with what we have in the New Testament, with what Jesus says about how to fast and how not to fast, and we put these together, we have the best teachings in the scriptures about the purpose, the way, the mode, and the blessings of fasting.” (Selected Writings of Robert J. Matthews [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 208 - 209)
Henry B. Eyring
Many children, and some adults, may for personal reasons find a 24-hour fast difficult. It can be, in the words of Isaiah, felt that the fast has “afflicted [their] soul.” Wise parents recognize that possibility and so are careful to follow the counsel of President Joseph F. Smith: “Better to teach them the principle, and let them observe it when they are old enough to choose intelligently.”
I saw the blessing in that counsel recently. One of my grandsons had found a 24-hour fast beyond his powers of endurance. But his wise parents still placed the principle in his heart. One of his school friends recently lost a young cousin to accidental death. My grandson asked his mother on fast day, at about the time he had always felt the fast was too hard to continue, whether it would make his grieving friend feel better if he continued his fast.
His question was the confirmation of President Joseph F. Smith’s counsel. My grandson had come to the point where he not only understood the principle of the fast, but it had also been planted in his heart. He had come to feel that his fasting and prayers would lead to a blessing from God for someone in need. If he lives the principle often enough, it will bring the wonderful effects in his own life, as promised by the Lord. He will have the spiritual blessing of power to receive inspiration and greater capacity to resist temptation. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/05/saturday-morning-session/is-not-this-the-fast-that-i-have-chosen?lang=eng)
Isaiah 58:4-5 Is it… a day for man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head… and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Here comes the lesson, “You have missed the point!” The Jews had used Fast Days for pleasure and oppression, for strife and debate, for violence and wickedness. In their fast observance, they were not even close. They felt afflicted, oppressed, tortured by the hunger until they took it out on others. The feeling is a common one among those who don’t understand. Satan encourages the question, “Why does God make us do this? Does He want us to suffer and be miserable? I hate fast days!”
Verses 4 and 5 are the Lord’s response to the whiners of Isaiah’s day. The Lord is asking some rhetorical questions about the purpose of the fast. “Do you think the purpose of the fast is to make yourself miserable? To mourn and suffer and wish you were dead? To sit in sackcloth and ashes and feel sorry for yourself?”Marion G. Romney
The efficacy of our fasting turns upon [caring for the poor]. So spake the Lord to ancient Israel. "Wherefore have we fasted" cried they, "and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?"
Because, came the answer, you do not keep the fast which I commanded. True, you bow down your heads as a bulrush and spread sackcloth and ashes under your feet, but you do not deal your bread to the hungry, nor provide housing for the poor, nor do you cover the naked. (Conference Report, October 1954, Afternoon Meeting 68)
Gordon B. Hinckley
It is not a burden to refrain from two meals a month and give the value thereof to assist in caring for the poor. It is, rather, a blessing. Not only will physical benefits flow from the observance of this principle, but spiritual values also. Our program of the fast day and the fast offering is so simple and so beautiful that I cannot understand why people everywhere do not take it up. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 217 - 218)
Isaiah 58:4, 6-7 Is not this the fast that I have chosen?
What is the purpose of fasting? The Lord tells us in Isaiah 58:
1. To make your voice to be heard on high
2. To loose the bands of wickedness
3. To undo the heavy burdens
4. To let the oppressed go free
5. To break every yoke
6. To deal thy bread to the hungry
7. To bring in the house those poor who are cast out
8. To clothe the naked
9. To spend time with family
Joseph F. Smith
Now, while the law requires the Saints in all the world to fast from "even to even" and to abstain both from food and drink, it can easily be seen from the Scriptures, and especially from the words of Jesus, that it is more important to obtain the true spirit of love for God and man, "purity of heart and simplicity of intention," than it is to carry out the cold letter of the law. The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis, and none of his works are vain or unwise. His law is perfect in this as in other things. (Gospel Doctrine, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 243)
Isaiah 58:6 to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens… and that ye break every yoke
Spencer J. Condie
There are great blessings promised to those who fast. Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord posed an important question, followed by profound promises: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:6.)
When we subordinate our physical needs and desires to the dictates of the Spirit, we tap into a spiritual strength beyond our own. If we are in bondage to bad habits or unkind thoughts, we can break the bands of weakness or wickedness through fasting. Our hearts will be filled with love and forgiveness, and we can get on with our lives after having broken “every yoke.” (Ensign, Sept. 1995, 22)
Henry B. Eyring
So the Lord has given us a simple commandment with a marvelous promise. In the Church today we are offered the opportunity to fast once a month and give a generous fast offering through our bishop or branch president for the benefit of the poor and the needy. Some of what you give will be used to help those around you, perhaps someone in your own family. The Lord’s servants will pray and fast for the revelation to know whom to help and what help to give. That which is not needed to help people in your local Church unit will become available to bless other Church members across the world who are in need…
Other storms and tragedies will come across the world to people the Lord loves and whose sorrows He feels. Part of your fast offering and mine this month will be used to help someone, somewhere, whose relief the Lord will feel as if it were His own.
Your fast offering will do more than help feed and clothe bodies. It will heal and change hearts. The fruit of a free-will offering may be the desire in the heart of the recipient to reach out to others in need. That happens across the world. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/05/saturday-morning-session/is-not-this-the-fast-that-i-have-chosen?lang=eng)
Shayne M. Bowen
Our Father will free us from the bands of wickedness, He will lift our heavy burdens, and He will let the oppressed go free. In fact He promises to empower us to break every yoke. What an enabling promise, to have the power to break every yoke!
Proper and consistent fasting can help us overcome sins, bad habits, and addictions. Is there any of us who would not want to be freed from the personal burdens we carry? Fasting allows us to avail ourselves of this cleansing and purifying power.
The key is to develop the faith and spiritual strength necessary to receive the blessings of fasting. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/04/fasting-with-power?lang=eng&_r=1)
Isaiah 58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry
Thomas S. Monson
The concept of fast offerings appears as early as the time of Isaiah when, speaking of the true fast, he encouraged people to fast and “to deal thy bread to the hungry, and … bring the poor that are cast out to thy house.” The Prophet Joseph instituted the practice of collecting fast offerings for the poor in Kirtland, Ohio; and later at Nauvoo, Illinois, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles sent a general letter to the Church defining “the principle of fasts,” stating: “Let this be an ensample to all saints, and there will never be any lack for bread: When the poor are starving, let those who have, fast one day and give what they otherwise would have eaten to the bishops for the poor, and every one will abound for a long time; and this is one great and important principle of fasts approved of the Lord. And so long as the saints will all live to this principle with glad hearts and cheerful countenances they will always have an abundance.”
The prophets of our day and time have been equally specific. Harold B. Lee counseled: “When you think about it, there is so much promised in the gospel for so little required on our part… by fasting and by paying our fast offerings, we are told that then we might call on the Lord and He will hear our cry and our call.”
President Lee’s successor in the Presidency of the Church, President Spencer W. Kimball, said: “We wish to remind all the Saints of the blessings that come from observing the regular fast and contributing as generous a fast offering as we can, and as we are in a position to give. Wherever we can, we should give many times the value of the meals from which we abstained.” (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 46)
Heber J. Grant
Let me promise you here today that if the Latter-day Saints will honestly and conscientiously from this day forth, as a people, keep the monthly fast; … and if in addition to that they will pay their honest tithing, it will solve all of the problems in connection with taking care of the Latter-day Saints. …
Every living soul among the Latter-day Saints that fasts two meals once a month will be benefited spiritually and be built up in the faith of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—benefited spiritually in a wonderful way—and sufficient means will be in the hands of the bishops to take care of all the poor. (Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1941, p. 123)
Spencer W. Kimball
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. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 146)
Isaiah 58:7 when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him
We wish the Latter-day Saints to meet at their respective houses, erected for that purpose, on the day appointed for a fast, and take with them of their substance to feed the poor and the hungry among us, and, if it is necessary, to clothe the naked. We expect to see the sisters there; for they are generally first and foremost in deeds of charity and kindness. Let the hearts of the poor be made glad, and let their prayers and thanksgiving ascend unto God, and receive an answer of rich blessings upon our heads. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 169)
Isaiah 58:8-12 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily
There is a law decreed in heaven… upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated (D&C 130:20-21)
The scriptures don’t always tell us what specific blessing to expect for keeping a specific commandment. In this case, the Lord tells us what is written in heaven—what is on the books as the blessing for keeping the law of the fast. Let’s make another list:
1. Thy light shall break forth as the morning
2. Thy health shall spring forth speedily
3. Thy righteousness shall go before thee
4. The glory of the Lord shall by thy rereward (support)
5. Thou shalt call, and the Lord shall answer
6. Thou shalt cry, and the Lord shall say, “Here I am.”
7. Thy light shall rise in obscurity
8. Thy darkness shall be as the noonday
9. The Lord shall guide thee continually
10. He shall satisfy thy soul in drought
11. He shall make thy bones fat
12. Thou shalt be like a watered garden or a spring of water whose waters fail not (living waters)
13. Thy posterity will rebuild old waste places
14. Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations
15. Thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.
Isaiah 58:8 thine health shall spring forth speedily
“let's take a look at what happens in your body when you begin to ingest nothing but water for a day.
“After your cells use up the sugar that's in your bloodstream from your last meal or beverage, your body has to find another source of energy for your cells. The first places that it turns to are your liver and skeletal muscles. Both your liver and muscles store sugar in the form of glycogen, and when needed, glycogen can be broken down to glucose, which all of your cells can use to produce energy for their ongoing activities.
“During a water-only fast, your glycogen stores are depleted within about 24 hours, give or take a few hours. After your glycogen stores are used up, most of your cells begin burning fatty acids for energy - these fatty acids come from your fat reserves, including fatty tissue that surrounds your organs.” (http://drbenkim.com/fasting-fast-one-day-week.htm)
The Health and Wellness literature speaks commonly of fasting as a great boon to one’s health, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol levels, decreasing diabetes, etc. However, the studies used to support this frequently speak of fasting more frequently than once per month. In one study, alternate day fasting (ADF) was found to have impressive effects on many health measures but the benefit was probably from overall caloric restriction and subsequent weight loss. That is not to say that fasting once a month is not good for your health. When it comes to a monthly fast for 24 hours, not enough studies have been done. We know fasting is good for us because the Lord has told us that our health will “spring forth speedily.” One review concluded:
“Clinical research studies of fasting with robust designs and high levels of clinical evidence are sparse in the literature. Whereas the few randomized controlled trials and observational clinical outcomes studies support the existence of a health benefit from fasting, substantial further research in humans is needed before the use of fasting as a health intervention can be recommended.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26135345)
L. Tom Perry
There is also evidence of health-promoting effects of periodic fasting. Some experiments have shown that periodic fasting not only promotes a longer life, but encourages a more vigorous activity later in life. (See Science News, 1 Dec. 1979, p. 375.)
Fasting is also one of the finest ways of developing our own discipline and self-control. Plato said, “The first and the best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.” (Laws, Book I, section 626E.)
Fasting helps to teach us self-mastery. It helps us to gain the discipline we need to have control over ourselves.
Again we can conclude that if we are wise in following the Lord’s law of the fast, we too will receive benefits, physically. (“The Law of the Fast,” Ensign, May 1986, 32–33)
Isaiah 58:8 thy righteousness shall go before thee
Spencer W. Kimball
Some time ago a sister said to me, "Why is it, Brother Kimball, that those who do the least in the building of the kingdom seem to prosper most? We drive a Ford; our neighbors drive a Cadillac. We observe the Sabbath and attend our meetings; they play golf, hunt, fish, and play. We abstain from the forbidden while they eat, drink, and are merry and are unrestrained…
Then I said to the disconsolate sister, "But for many rewards you need not wait until the judgment day. You have many blessings today. You have your family of lovely, righteous children. What a rich reward for the so-called sacrifices! The blessings that you enjoy cannot be purchased with all your neighbor's wealth."…
Then [if you live these commandments] shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.
Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. . . .
. . . then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (Isaiah 58:8-11.)
What more could one ask? The companionship of the Lord, light and knowledge, health and vigor, constant guidance by the Lord as an eternal never-failing spring. What more could one desire?
And [they] shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen. (D&C 89:19-21.)
Peace, joy, satisfaction, happiness, growth, contentment—all come with the righteous living of the commandments of God. The one who delights in all of the worldly luxuries of today, at the expense of spirituality, is living but for the moment. His day is coming. Retribution is sure. (Faith Precedes the Miracle [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972], 223)
Isaiah 58:9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer
Do you ever feel like your prayers go right to voice mail? Does the Lord’s phone have caller ID? How can we make sure we get through to the Lord?
Harold B. Lee
We are saying to the Saints, How important that you keep this fundamental law to fast and to deal out your bread to the hungry through contributions so that when you call, the Lord shall answer; when you shall cry, the Lord will say, "Here I am." (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 206)
Isaiah 58:11 the Lord shall… satisfy thy soul in drought
THomas S. Monson
(Quotes Isaiah 58:6-11)… Some years ago I accompanied President Hugh B. Brown (1883–1975), a counselor in the First Presidency, on a tour of the Samoan Mission. The members and missionaries in American Samoa had advised us that a severe drought had imperiled their water supply to the point that our chapels and our school would of necessity be closed if rain did not soon fall. They asked us to unite our faith with theirs.
Signs of the drought were everywhere as we left the airport at Pago Pago and journeyed to the school at Mapusaga. The sun was shining brightly; not a cloud appeared in the azure blue sky. The members rejoiced as the meeting began. He who offered the opening prayer thanked our Heavenly Father for our safe arrival, knowing that we would somehow bring the desired rainfall. As President Brown rose to speak, the sun was soon shaded by gathering clouds. Then we heard the clap of thunder and saw the flash of lightning. The heavens opened. The rains fell. The drought ended.
Later at the airport, as we prepared for the short flight to Western Samoa, the pilot of the small plane said to the ground crew: “This is the most unusual weather pattern I have ever seen. Not a cloud is in the sky except over the Mormon school at Mapusaga. I don’t understand it!”
President Brown said to me: “Here’s your opportunity. Go help him understand.” I did so. (“Building Your Eternal Home,” Ensign, Oct. 1999, 4)
Harold B. Lee
On one occasion when I was down visiting one of the stakes in Arizona, the president and bishops of that stake and other stakes in the area had met to discuss the intense drought that was prevailing in the area. It had been so dry for the previous two or three years that they had lost heavily on their crops. Their reservoirs were too low to afford sufficient irrigation, and they were destitute to the point of losing their farms. They held a day of fasting and prayer and supplicated the Lord to grant them rain, that their destitute circumstances might be alleviated. Then it commenced to rain, and I was there when the members of the presidency reminded the Saints that for the first time since the reservoirs had been built the dam was overflowing. The Lord had heard the prayers of these Saints.
If a time comes when things are not going right, and you cannot make a decision in some matter, it is almost always certain evidence that you are not praying enough. Maybe you ought to do a little fasting. (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 124)
Isaiah 58:11 thou shalt be like a watered garden
John H. Vandenberg
And the Lord shall guide thee continually, (or the Holy Ghost will direct your daily life) and satisfy thy soul in drought, (This is your personal security in times of need and difficulty.) and make fat thy bones: (I believe this has to do with health. In the bone there is marrow and marrow manufactures the blood that is vital to the strength and well-being of the body.) and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not (or inspiration and wisdom will flow from you continually). (Conference Report, April 1963, Afternoon Meeting 29)
Isaiah 58:13 If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath
This phrase is obviously out of context. Perhaps the translation should read, “If, on the Sabbath, thou turn away thy foot from doing thy pleasure on my holy day…then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord” The point is that the Sabbath is not a day for you to do your own stuff! It is the Lord’s Day, not yours.
Russell M. Nelson
Not pursuing your “own pleasure” on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat it as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time. (Conference Report, Apr. 2015, 142)
Quentin L. Cook
In the last six months, a most remarkable change has occurred in the Church. This has been in the response of the members to renewed emphasis on the Sabbath by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve and to President Russell M. Nelson’s challenge to make the Sabbath a delight. [See Isaiah 58:13–14 see also Russell M. Nelson, “The Sabbath Is a Delight,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 129–32.] Many members understand that truly keeping the Sabbath day holy is a refuge from the storms of this life. It is also a sign of our devotion to our Father in Heaven and an increased understanding of the sacredness of sacrament meeting. Still, we have a long way to go, but we have a wonderful beginning. I challenge all of us to continue to embrace this counsel and improve our Sabbath worship. (Conference Report, Oct. 2015, 42)
M. Russell Ballard
The recent emphasis of making the Sabbath a delight is a direct result of inspiration from the Lord through the leaders of the Church. Ward council members should assist the bishopric several weeks in advance by reviewing music and topics that have been recommended for each sacrament meeting.
All of us are blessed when the Sabbath is filled with love for the Lord at home and at church. When our children are taught in the ways of the Lord, they learn to feel and to respond to His Spirit. We will all desire to attend each Sunday to partake of the sacrament when we feel the Spirit of the Lord. And all, young and old, who are carrying heavy burdens will feel the spiritual uplift and comfort that comes from a Sabbath day of devoted contemplation of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thankfully, Christ is always near, waiting and willing to help us when we pray for help and are willing to repent and come unto Him. (Conference Report, Oct. 2015, 27)