Brothers and Sisters, I am grateful to be with you today and I commend you for being here for bettering yourselves, for getting more education and looking to the future. There is a saying that says habits, good or bad, are first like cobwebs then like chains. The important thing in our lives is that we become slaves to good habits and as those turn into chains, then they will guide us and direct us. I want to begin with a promise to each of you. If you will faithfully apply the principles that we talk about today, and do it throughout your life, I promise your life will not be the same. You will receive blessings that Heavenly Father has in store for you, so I hope you will listen.
What if there were a way to overcome any bad habit, addiction or burden that you have? What if there were a way to gain such confidence in the Lord that you could call down the powers of Heaven and know that He is there guiding your footsteps? I want to tell you there is a way.
What if you could teach the principles to your troubled friends or loved ones that enable them to overcome their personal challenges to draw closer to the Lord to truly feel His strength, love and concern for them? You can teach these principles.
The Lord has promised that we will never be tempted with something that we cannot overcome. The key is to develop the spiritual strength necessary to receive the fulfillment of that promise. How do we do that? How do we build ourselves to the point where we can avoid that temptation?
We need to do our part. If we are not willing to be obedient and work, we should not expect the miracle. My experience has always been that the miracles are found on the far side of obedience and hard work.
A person who can discipline himself to fast on a regular basis in the way that the Lord has designed can resist every temptation, overcome any burden and be set free from any yoke that binds him.
In 1 Corinthians 10:13 the Lord promises, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it] .”
An omniscient Father in Heaven has provided “every needful thing” so that His children can call upon Him with confidence and feel His love. He provides tools to allow us to overcome every temptation and overcome “the natural man.” One of the most powerful and often neglected tools that God has given us is the law of the fast.
As we more fully understand and use this tool as Father in Heaven intended, it will change our lives. We will then be able to go to the Lord in confidence and call down the powers of heaven.
It is my desire to help each of us more fully understand and receive the blessings and power that God intended through the exercise of this powerful tool.
Principle one: A true fast requires more than just going without food.
In Isaiah 58:6-11 we are promised very specific blessings and powers if we will fast in the way that God has chosen, Verse 6, “[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?”
He 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. How many people are oppressed by sin, by bad habits and addictions? What an enabling promise, to have the power to break every yoke.
If a person fasts properly and consistently, he can overcome any bad habit, sin or addiction that burdens his life. Is there anyone here who would not want to be freed from the personal burdens that they are carrying? Fasting allows us to avail ourselves of this cleansing and purifying power.
Principle two: A generous fast offering blesses others.
When we bless others, God blesses us. Isaiah teaches the principle of fast offerings. He teaches us that in order to receive the promised power and blessings, we must not only fast, we must also care for our poor and our needy.
We qualify for God’s promised blessings and power as we care for all of His children. In verse 7 we read, “[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?”
Verse 10 teaches the same fast offering principle, “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 noonday.”
Principle three: We will be enlightened and have the companionship of the Holy Ghost as we fast.
Not only does the Lord promise the power to overcome all of our sins, but also promises light, health and righteousness in our lives. And, just as with the children of Israel, He promises His glory will surround and protect us.
Verse 8, “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.”
In verses nine and eleven, we receive the promise that He will hear our prayers. We can approach Him with complete faith and confidence. Our hunger will be satisfied with the bread of life. Our thirst will be quenched with the living water that never fails.
“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;
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.”
Principle four: Fasting allows our spirit to subdue “the natural man,” thus inviting the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.
Proper fasting requires discipline. Fasting helps us accomplish one of the vital purposes of life: developing self–mastery.
President Nelson taught simply stated “Fasting is to establish the supremacy of the spirit over the body.” Each one of us is born with natural appetites and impatience. A new-born baby is hungry and wants what he wants when he wants it and can’t be postponed. Then maturity ensues and as we become more mature, we develop the ability to discipline our physical appetite with our mind. We develop self-mastery. Now as we read in the Old Testament, we read about fasting, ostentatious fasting. In biblical times a symbol of a Pharisee was his ability to fast evident by his contorted face. Christ never condemned fasting, he condemned ostentatious fasting, or boasting about one’s fasting.
What happens physically when you fast? Well, let me back up.
King Benjamin also taught the importance of being rid of the natural man.
Let’s see what happens when we are physically fasting.
“When a person starts a fast, biochemical adjustments begin in the blood stream to compensate for the lack of food, a carbohydrate substance known as glycogen is released from its storage areas in the liver and the muscles. The body uses glycogen as food to keep cells supplied with energy. After 24 hours this food source is used up, and another source of energy is needed.” Isn’t that interesting? 24 hours and we are asked to fast for 24 hours.
Dr. Siegfried Hayden of the Duke University Department of Community and Family Medicine, says, “The body starts looking for other energy sources. The first thing that happens after 24 hours of fasting is the breakdown of fat cells and these fat cells when they breakdown produce ketone bodies. These ketone bodies seem to have an effect on our psyche in that they make us no longer hungry.” For example, a person on their second day of fasting can sit across from a person with a delicious meal who is encouraging him to eat, the fasting person isn’t even tempted. Isn’t it interesting as you start the fast the body just screams and screams, but after the 24 hours the body isn’t screaming anymore? Ketone bodies have the ability to reduce appetite, caution must be taken this is a bad way to diet. The body not only breaks down fat, but starts to break down muscle tissue. After 50 days of fasting in most cases it is terminal. Doctors have found that the heart muscle literally breaks apart.
Let’s talk about this natural man, or natural woman. In each of us there is a physical and there is a spiritual. In the world we live in as King Benjamin, and President Nelson taught, normally the natural man is in charge and the spiritual man is subject to the natural man. What our Lord is telling us we need to do is let the natural man become subject to the spiritual man. And each time we have the opportunity to fast we can have that victory. The spiritual man can have that victory over the natural man.
Principle five: Fasting intensifies prayer.
In the scriptures alone, I have found at least 35 references to fasting. 18 of those, more than one half, link fasting to prayer.
Proper fasting magnifies our ability to study, pray, and speak.
Principle six: Bearing a personal testimony is part of an ideal fast
President Henry B. Eyring taught, “The fast also helps us to feel humble and meek so that the Holy Ghost may more easily be our companion. By our fast, we both keep our covenant to care for others and we prepare to keep our covenant to bear testimony.”
How should we bear testimony? President Eyring continues, “Those who have prepared carefully for the fast and testimony meeting won't need to be reminded how to bear testimony should they feel impressed to do it in the meeting. They won't give sermons nor exhortations nor travel reports nor try to entertain as they bear witness. Because they will have already expressed appreciation to people privately, they will have less need to do it publicly. Neither will they feel a need to use eloquent language or to go on at length.” So many times, our meetings turn into travel logs and experiences and all of those things are wonderful. I appreciate Elder Bednar for saying a similar thing as President Eyring that a testimony is what you know by the power of the Holy Ghost. You can bare a testimony in one to two minutes and explain exactly how you feel by the Spirit.
Preparation is a covenant obligation going off of President Eyring, he says, “Preparation for the fast and testimony meeting is a covenant obligation for members of the church. The offering of the gospel to those we meet and our families are covenant obligations. We can take heart that our honest effort to keep our covenants allows God to increase our power to do it. We all need that assurance at times when our promise to love and witness seems hard to do.
The question becomes, how do we incorporate these six principles into an ideal fast, so that we can call upon that power? I suggest 11 steps that will help us to put off the natural man and become “a saint through the Atonement of Christ” and claim the promised blessings and miracles from our Father in Heaven.
1. Plan for the upcoming fast.
Don’t wait until Saturday night and say oh no tomorrow is fast Sunday. Plan for the upcoming fast. Meditate on the purpose of your fast.
2. Begin your fast with a kneeling prayer.
Tell God the purpose of your fast. I think when we go to private place and kneel down and officially start that fast, it shows our Father in heaven that we are really serious.
3. Go 24 hours without food or drink.
(Those with medical problems should follow doctor’s orders. It is not required that you run faster than you have strength.) I look at the time when I start fasting and wait until its 24 hours and I love that feeling of my spirit telling my body, I am in charge, not you.
4. Whenever hunger pains come use this as a reminder to pray again about the purpose of your fast.
Don’t complain to everyone about how hungry you were.
5. Express more gratitude in your prayer than asking for additional blessings.
6. Give a generous fast offering.
I remember often times we become a little stingy and we think “Well what is the price of these two meals?” Sometimes that’s a sacrifice to say, but for others it’s not. I would say that giving a generous fast offering requires some sacrifice from you, and I won’t tell you what that is because I don’t know, but the Holy Ghost will. As we pay that fast offering generously, the promised blessings will come.
7.When prompted, bear a brief testimony in fast and testimony meeting.
8. During your fast focus yourself in reverent contemplation.
Saturday before fast day ought to be a different Saturday and it ought to be a time that we are contemplating and thinking, recognizing who is in charge and that we are really nothing without our Father in heaven. Use that time during your fast to focus yourself in reverent contemplation.
9. Study the scriptures in the time you would have been eating.
Make that time productive journal or study, but make that a productive time.
10. After Sunday meetings, go to your sacred grove and end your fast with a kneeling prayer.
I hope you all have a special place, your sacred grove, where you can go and talk to Father.
11. Commit to be a better person and make specific plans with God on how you will improve.
Brothers and sisters, I promise you that our Father in heaven wants us to be strong spiritually. As we overcome the natural man and the natural tendencies of that natural man, we will become strong spiritually. I promise you that fasting is a principle of power. It changes lives. I testify that God is mindful of the fasting and prayers of all of His children, young and old. I think of the experience that we had many years ago when our daughter, who now has four children, was in a serious accident and we didn’t know if she would live or die. As our other children went to school, many of the little children, the ward members, had told the lunch lady “We aren’t eating today” and she said “Why aren’t you eating?” They said “Because our friend Emily needs our fasting and prayers.” And that was a great school, so there they sat in the lunchroom. I know that God heard those prayers. He hears all of our prayers. He wants us to return to His presence. He is our father. Jesus Christ is our brother, and His Atonement is real. They have provided “every needful thing” to allow us “to break every yoke” and return home. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.