Of Fasting and Unity

The practice of the fast, particularly of Fast Sunday, among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a feast of unity. Its chief effect is to reinforce the oneness of the saints. The mechanics of the fast are simple: refrain from food and drink for two consecutive meals, all the while emphasizing prayer and all that directs the heart and mind to God.

First of all, there is a oneness in the voluntary collectivity of the monthly fast. The whole membership of the Church, worldwide, is engaged in the fast together. They are further united in purpose, to bless and provide for the poor and needy while approaching spiritually to God.

The blessing of the poor and needy comes from the donation of the cost of the foregone meals. The entire amount of this donation goes directly to benefit those in need, not a penny used for administrative expenses (administrative costs are borne by the tithing donations of the members). Properly done, there is no cost to the donor, since he is merely offering the financial value of what he would have eaten, and yet there is significant direct and real benefit to the recipients of the donation.

Of even greater significance, though, is that through this fast spirituality increases. I do not refer to a spiritualism of familiar spirits, but rather to a spiritual communion of divinely revealed knowledge through the influence of the Holy Ghost. All observing this fast partake of the same Spirit and are tied together thereby. They increasingly become of one heart and one mind, the heart and mind of Christ. The saints thus know and understand one another. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).

This spiritual growth is manifested in a spiritual feast joined in by all in a special Sunday worship service: the Fast and Testimony meeting. Here the saints share with each other spiritual insights and knowledge of the Savior and His work, revealed to them through the Holy Ghost. These testimonies are born of the Spirit of the Lord that unites the membership of Christ’s church. Members give vocal expression to the testimonies obtained by the Spirit, and by that same Spirit these testimonies are received by those who hear. Speaker and listener are both edified and understand one another.

The unifying Spirit, access to which is facilitated by fasting, flows within us, wells up and flows out through the sharing of testimonies–the sharing of spiritual experience–and then is received by that Spirit and continues to flow and to grow within us. Hearts become knit together in mutual testimony of the risen Christ and His mission. This is the communion of the saints.

(First published August 7, 2008)

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