My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

A Fast Sunday

Like I’ve said before, I kind of avoid a lot of personal stuff on my blog here. I keep it mostly to doctrinal thoughts and fun little stories. I don’t want those people I interact with each day always living in fear that they might make it to infamy in one of my posts. I’m going to go a bit off the beaten path for me though, and tell you some of my very personal thoughts from the day.

I don’t usually talk about prayer and fasting, because, y’know, Jesus said not to be like the Scribes and the Pharisees and broadcast how holy you are (Matthew 6:5). Even when telling my non-LDS family I couldn’t have lunch and dinner before because I was fasting was too public of a statement for me; so I always made some lame-o excuse on why I couldn’t eat. – “Umm, I’m watching my waistline.” (Which anyone who knows me knows is a joke.) – Following lots of LDS folks on Twitter made me laugh today though as I saw so many people broadcast how starving they were. It made me want to Tweet in all caps, “WHY DOES THE LORD WANT TO STARVE ME LIKE THIS??!?!!!? #AboutToDie” – I avoided it though…But obviously just gave into the temptation by typing this.

Nobody is perfect.

My point? Fasting is a personal sacred thing. A couple of weeks ago I was in an interview and my branch president asked about my fasting habits. It’s something I had never been asked personally before by a priesthood leader, and to tell him out-loud my own routine seemed deeply personal. In fact, I teared up. – Now I don’t want you to get the idea that I’m some holy monk fasting every other day or something. I’m not. Heck, I’m a chubby guy who loves milkshakes. – But I teared up because it’s a routine that I’ve always had with the Lord, and have always kept because He’s blessed me so abundantly.

I’ve always loved Wilford Woodruff’s example when it came to fasting. His journal is full of amazing examples. One night after a long day of meetings in the Kirtland Temple he wrote,

The interview closed about 10 o’clock P.M. I then repaired into the lower Court of the Lords house in Company with Elders Joseph B. Nobles & G. W. Meeks to spend the night (after being anointed) in prayer & fasting before God. The vales being closed We entered the Elders pulpit & there upon our knees we plead with God & we covenanted with each other in the holy stand that we would not give sleep to our eyes neither take food untill we received a blessing from God by the outpourings of his spirit upon us if it was untill the end of three days.

– Wilford Woodruff Journal 4 April 1837

On the next day Woodruff met with several of the Quorum of Seventies for a solemn assembly and he recorded:

The spirit of God sat upon us & we were satisfied with our blessing…There was much of the Spirit of Prophecy & revelation poured upon the heads of the anointed in the different quorums.

– Wilford Woodruff Journal April 5, 1837

The principle of fasting must have been very important to Wilford Woodruff, as a few years later he also records in his journal:

Day of PRAYER & FASTING. One year ago this day the Prophet Joseph & Patriarch Hiram Smith were martered. I Appointed this day throughout the Churches in this land as a day of prayer & fasting. I arose in the morning & fasted through the day. Spent a part of the day in prayer & a part of it in writing. At 6 o’clock I took sumthing to eat & met with the Saints in Birmingham at 8 o’clock and had an interesting time & returned to Br Prints & spent the night.

– Wilford Woodruff Journal 27 June 1845

Even while crossing the plains with the first group of Saints who would enter the Salt Lake Valley he would seclude himself in secret prayer and fasting.

We set this day apart for Prayer & fasting, in the morning I shaved & washed all over & Anointed my head & put on Clean Clothing, read A chapter in the Book of Mormon & humbled myself before the Lord & poured out my soul in prayer before the Lord & his spirit desended upon me & I was blessed. I spent some time in writing my Journal.

– Wilford Woodruff Journal 30 May 1847

I admire the physical preparation to fast which he went into, which was no easy task amidst his conditions treking in 1847. Do we anoint our head and prepare fresh clothing to enter into a fast?

My favorite quote from Wilford Woodruff  regarding fasting comes from when he was President of the Church. He said,

It was remarked this morning that some people said they could not fast because it made their head ache. Well, I can fast, and so can any other man; and if it makes my head ache by keeping the commandments of God, let it ache. There may be some people whose health is so delicate and fragile that they would be harmed by fasting for twenty-four hours. Such people are very, very rare; for the vast majority of us, our overall health could only improve by avoiding food for a day. I believe if the Saints, and indeed anyone else, fasted once a month, they would see real health benefits.

– Sermon delivered in the Tabernacle 2 September 1894; Reported in The Deseret Weekly Vol. 49 No. 14

I love that! “If it makes my head ache by keeping the commandments of God, let it ache.” Wilford Woodruff is what I would call a Rockstar Saint & Prophet! (Not to be confused with Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Seventy who I often call a Rockstar Hipster GA and Gospel Stud on Twitter. – That dude rocks. Seriously. Check out his talk from General Conference. He’s one of my personal heroes.)

But back to fasting…

I love the Lord when He calls out the Children of Israel who were fasting much like the Scribes and Pharisees. He asked,

[Is a fast] a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

– Isaiah 58:5

The question was rhetorical. But then the Lord teaches in direct and sacred manner the true Law of the Fast.

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?

Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

Then 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 reward.

Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:

11 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 58:6-11

What amazing and truly awesome blessings we are promised. And then even more blessings if we can but honor the Sabbath itself,

13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

Isaiah 58:13-14

Do we call the Sabbath a delight? Do we honor it, and thereby honor our Lord?

These are deeply personal questions, but ones we must ask ourselves. Because to cut ourselves from such blessings is truly nothing less than damning ourselves from progression and great abundance in life.

As I walked into Priesthood Meeting this morning in our church’s gym I noticed there was a projector and screen set up at the front of the room. One of my dear friends noticed also, and amidst the opening exercises leaned forward and said, “It’s Fast Sunday. Maybe we’re watching The Hunger Games.” I laughed, and even Tweeted it because it was funny. Then was tempted to Tweet my agitations with my own hunger…

However, is that how the Lord would have me fast? Does He want me broadcasting how holy and spiritual I am because I gave up a couple of meals and my daily Pepsi?

Of course the answer is no. Fasting is a deeply personal and majestically sacred experience.

I personally testify of the amazing power of fasting. Although my experiences have been my own and have been sacred to me, I can say that I have felt the Lord “satisfy my afflicted soul” and “guide [me] continually” as I’ve properly observed the Law of the Fast.

I invite you, my starving and perhaps non-starving Latter-day Saint friends, to take more interest in fasting. Study it in the scriptures (because I haven’t shared hardly anything), and find ways in your life to draw closer to the Lord as you deny yourself of the lusts of the flesh. I promise that as you do so you will feel a greater abundance of the Holy Spirit and feel the Lord’s great love for you.

Will you fast more reverently next Fast Sunday?

The choice is your’s. The blessings are great.

I promise you’ll be glad if you do.

Your friend,

Stan Way

To learn more about the awesome power of fasting please visit the Topical Guide and study more there. And if you’re not Mormon and somehow stumbled upon this post about fasting, I’m glad you did! You should really take the time to learn more about us crazy Mormons. After all, we don’t have 13 wives like people say we do, and we rarely sacrifice goats. To learn more about us please just click here. You’ll be glad you did.

And I’m joking about that goat thing. I hope you realize that. We really don’t really sacrifice goats. If we did, I would totally be in the goat farming business…

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