Blessing #1: Bringing relief to those in need
Not long after I was ordained a deacon at age 12, one of our Aaronic Priesthood leaders gathered the deacons together on the Saturday morning before Fast Sunday and gave each of us a stack of special envelopes with names and addresses on them. He explained where the houses of these members were located and asked each of us to visit those on our list and invite them to contribute a fast offering. He explained how the record was to be filled out and how the money was to be received, returned, and accounted for.
I confess that I found this assignment a bit intimidating, especially at first, but most of the members received us kindly, and most contributed something, small as the amount may have been. This was not only my first experience knocking on someone’s door, but it was also my first opportunity to visit people in their homes, to represent the Lord, and to receive his trust and that of my leaders.
When I was about 14, my father and I stopped on a cold winter Sunday afternoon to visit a very old and poor shack in the woods of rural Georgia. It had not been painted for many years and was in great need of repair. My father would not desist when no one answered his repeated and loud knocks at the door. Finally from the back of the home came a thin, squeaky voice telling us to go away. At our persistence, a short, bent, wisp of a woman opened the door just a crack to get a look at us. Soon we were inside the cold house inquiring into the wellbeing of this poor older sister who had run out of firewood for her heating stove as well as food and other essentials. Before the day was out, my father was able to arrange for the bishop to use fast offering funds to assure that her needs were met and that she would be properly taken care of. It felt very good to have had a part in relieving the suffering of this dear sister.
In the October general conference of 2015, Bishop Dean M. Davies said, “Caring for the poor and needy is a fundamental gospel doctrine and an essential element in the eternal plan of salvation….Central to the Lord’s plan for caring for the poor and needy is the law of the fast….As followers of the Savior, we have a personal responsibility to care for the poor and needy.”
When we go without food and drink for a day so that we can bless others with our financial offering, we can feel the Lord’s love and approval of us and the joy of helping to relieve the suffering of others. Of course there are those who are quite young, ill, pregnant, nursing babies, or otherwise unable to participate fully in the fast. The Lord will certainly honor their doing whatever is within their ability in this regard.
Blessing #2: Strength to triumph over evil
In the pamphlet, “For the Strength of Youth,” we read
Obey the law of the fast by fasting each month, if health permits….Fast with a purpose. Begin and end your fast with prayer, expressing gratitude and asking for help with special needs you or others may have. Fasting will strengthen your self-discipline, fortify you against temptations, and bring the Lord’s blessings into your life. (For the Strength of Youth, “Tithes and Offerings”).
All of us recognize that we live in a world where temptations and pressures to sin aggressively assail us. How can we imagine that we can be stronger than evil if we never do hard things that strengthen our spiritual muscles? In the April 2015 general conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson said we came to earth to prove ourselves.
Could we bridle the flesh so that it became the instrument rather than the master of the spirit? Could we be trusted both in time and eternity with godly powers, including power to create life? Would we individually overcome evil?
To you dear brothers and sisters, and especially to you young people and Young Single Adults, I plead with you to observe the Law of the Fast every month! By so doing, you prove to God and to yourself that you are stronger than the desires and appetites of your body—even stronger than your own hunger! You prove that you are able to control your body, that you can be trusted with godly powers, and that you can overcome evil personally! Every time you fast, you strengthen your power to do so. But that person who has not practiced the task of overcoming bodily temptations may well find too late that he or she was not strong enough when “sore trials” came unexpectedly. Of course we can repent, but that is no easy road. It is ever so much better to prevent than to repent!
Blessing #3: Access to Heaven
I am moved by the sweet and sacred promises spoken by Isaiah regarding the fast. In Isaiah 58:6-12 we read, among other things,
- thine health shall spring forth speedily
- the glory of the Lord shall be thy rearward [or protection]
- then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
- the Lord shall guide thee continually
- thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations
I testify that these promises are true. When we fast as we have been taught, we feel the joy of bringing relief to those in need; we gain power to resist temptation and overcome evil; and we have greater access to the Lord and receive his guidance and protection, along with many other blessings.
I plead with each of you, my beloved brothers and sisters to practice the Law of the Fast monthly, beginning with the next Fast Sunday. I promise you will receive these blessings from the Lord.