The Law Of The Fast: The Forgotten Commandment

Fasting has always been one of my least favorite disciplines.


It is known by some as the “forgotten commandment”, and I personally have spent a good part of my life intentionally avoiding it.


Recently, however, I gained some insights into this ancient practice that I feel apply to my life.


Consequently, my perspective of the “forgotten commandment” is changing into something much more appealing than anything it has ever been before.


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I have, in my kitchen window, two plants. One, a succulent; the other, a lush, green houseplant.


As I’ve observed these plants over the past months, I’ve sensed that they have something to teach me.


The succulent is a plant that thrives where most plants would shrivel. Their fleshy leaves hoard water for times of drought. This built-in resiliency makes them a perfect choice for problem places like direct sunlight, high temperatures, windy spots, high slopes, and even damp and cold climates. They require minimal outside care because they have what they need for survival within their fleshy leaves.


I’ve often found myself wondering,


“In what ways might I prepare myself to thrive in situations where others might shrivel?”


“Am I doing all I can to be prepared in all circumstances to resist temptation and be resilient during tough times?”



Resiliency is the ability to work with adversity in such a way that one comes through it unharmed or even better for the experience.


To the left of the succulent is the lush, green houseplant, growing taller each day and always moving steadily toward the light that shines though the window.


I wonder,


“Am I growing spiritually taller each day, and is my direction in life always one that is moving toward the light?”


Sometimes I’ll flip the plant around to face the darkness and watch with fascination how, over the next days and weeks, it changes course and again starts moving towards the light. It is a remarkable reminder that, when needed, I, too, can change course and redirect myself so that I’m again moving toward the light.





Occasionally, while looking at these plants, I’ll add to my growing mental list of how I might increase my resiliency and move steadily towards the light.


Up until recently, my list included, what I considered to be, all the basic and fundamental principles of the gospel: prayer, meditation, scripture study, etc.


I could sense, however, that something was missing from my list.


While I didn’t know at the time exactly what that something was, I would soon discover that it was, “the forgotten commandment”, which is The Law of the Fast.



My earliest memories of fasting are pretty painful to recall, for they involve a lot of grumbling on my part.

Matthew 6:16 says:

“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 fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”

And in Philippians 2:14:

“Do all things without murmurings and disputations.”


Looking back, did I have a sad countenance?


Did I disfigure my face?


Did I murmur, grumble, and complain?
Yes, I did.


Was I participating in a true fast?
No, I was not.


I later learned that the Greek word for grumbling and complaining is “gongusmon” which, to me, sounds like a noisy goose.




Having no desire to sound like a noisy goose, I’ve since cut back on my grumbling and complaining.


In addition, as I’ve studied and prayed and fasted over the past few years, I’ve had a change of heart regarding the Law of the Fast.


It has now become one of my favorite laws as I’ve witnessed for myself the tremendous spiritual and physical blessings that are given to those who offer righteous sacrifices to the Lord.



Let’s talk briefly about was a true fast entails.


Throughout the ages, fasting has been a powerful means of drawing man closer to God.


One Sunday each month, members of various faiths around the world, including members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, join in a day of fast. On this day we neither eat nor drink for two consecutive meals. If we were to eat our evening meal on Saturday, we would not eat again until the evening meal on Sunday.


It should be noted that fasting is not going without food for one meal and then eating twice as much the next meal.


We should always begin and end fasting with prayer and choose a specific purpose for our fast. We can fast for an increased testimony, for an answer to a prayer, for the welfare of another person, for the protection of our freedoms, for health and healing, and for countless other things. During our fast, we should concentrate on spiritual matters.




Many of us are not benefitting from fasting in a way that we can and should be.
One of the most neglected and yet most needed laws for this troubled generation in a modern world of acceleration and distraction is the Law of the Fast. Too many parents today are depriving themselves and their children of one of the sweetest spiritual experiences that the Father has made available to them.
The Book of Mormon has much to say on this topic. For instance, following Jesus Christ’s visit to the Western Hemisphere, the people were told to continue in “fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord” (4 Nephi 1:12). So complete and sincere were the people in obeying His commandments “that there was no contention among all the people in all the land because of the love of God which did dwell in their hearts. And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. And how blessed were they! For the Lord did bless them in all their doings.”
Wouldn’t it be thrilling to enjoy such a condition today!


A panoramic view of Jesus Christ standing in white robes on a flight of steps while Book of Mormon–era people gather around to see.



Great spiritual strength is to be found in fasting, even when it doesn’t consist of the 24-hour or two-meal traditional fast.
President Joseph F. Smith, stated:

“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. Hence, those who can are required to comply thereto; … but let it be remembered that the observance of the fast day by abstaining 24 hours from food and drink 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 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.”

Those who cannot fast can draw close to the Lord in other ways: such as serious scripture study, prayer, and meditation. Fasting embodies a principle of sacrifice–that of denying oneself something so that he or she can become a more spiritual individual. Perhaps one could sacrifice something other than food and drink in order to accomplish this goal. One might abstain from television, movies, social media, or sleeping in. One can also sacrifice by paying a generous fast offering.



Fasting with children in the home can be a challenge, however, don’t let your children be your reason for not fasting, rather, let them be one of your reasons FOR fasting. If we teach our children to fast, they will develop the spiritual strength to overcome temptations later in their lives.
We should encourage our children to fast after they have been baptized, but we should never force them. My father grew up resenting the fast because he was not taught the purpose behind it. On the other hand, I’ve seen a 6-year-old boy choose to fast one meal because he did understand the purpose of the fast.





Isaiah Chapter 58 promises many remarkable blessings to those who live the Law of the Fast.


These blessings include:

1. Becoming a light to the world  (Verses 8 & 10–I can’t but help but envision my lush, green houseplant that is always moving toward the light)

2. Enjoying increased health and righteousness (Verse 8)

3. Having a reputation of being righteous (Verse 8)

4. Knowledge hat the Lord will protect and be a guard for us (Verse 8)

5. A promise that God will answer prayers quickly (Verse 9)

6. A promise that God will guide our lives continually (Verse 11)

7. A promise that God will bless our lives and feed us even in times of drought. (vs. 11–Makes me think of my succulent plant…satisfied in drought, whose waters fail not)

8. A promise that our posterity will have the reputation of building and repairing the Kingdom of God




These eight promises are wonderful promises, but it’s that last promise in verse 13 that really caught my attention:


With a strong tradition of righteous fasting, we will have the power to build the old waste places, to raise up the foundations of many generations, to be repairers of the breach and restorers of the path…to be builders and repairers of the Kingdom of God.


Parents, teach your children the proper way to fast, including the giving of a generous fast offering.
Then, make fasting a family affair.
Talk together of your desire to fast and of your failed attempts at fasting.
Share your fasting successes.
And discuss with each other the blessings that come to your family from participating in an honest fast.
Just as the sins of the fathers (parents) are taught to the children and become the standard for multiple generations to come, so the habits of righteousness are passed from generation to generation as tradition and expectation.
It is our responsibility and privilege as parents to be repairers of the breach and restorers of the path and to train our children to be the same.


Plato said, “The first and the best victory is to conquer self.”

A powerful sense of self-control is yet another blessing that is obtained through fasting.


What righteous person would not welcome into their life the promised blessings of the Law of the Fast?




All can truly participate in the spirit of the Fast.
Like my house plants, we, too, can be become resilient as we consistently strive to move towards the light, correcting our course when needed.
With each of us living the Law of the Fast to the best of our ability, think of the miracles that are bound to take place in our homes, in our communities, and throughout the world.



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