Fasting means abstaining from food. The "law of the fast," as practiced in Mormonism, follows precepts taught in the Old Testament by Isaiah and Malachi, in that fasting is accompanied by an offering or donation that will be used to help the poor and needy, thus blessing both the giver and the receiver.
Through following the law of the fast, members of the Mormon Church feel sanctified, strengthened, and renewed in the inner soul as they reach outward to lift others, so that each community of Saints may follow the pattern of becoming a "Zion people." (See Helaman 3:35.) Moses 7:18 in the Pearl of Great Price explains in a few words what a "Zion society" is like: "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them."
Members are encouraged to fast (neither eat nor drink) for approximately a 24-hour period (two meals). Members donate the monetary value (or more) of those two meals to a Church fund known as the Fast Offering. The fund is available to the bishops of the Church for the immediate needs of the poor. Historically, in the early days of the Church, fast offerings were given "in kind," meaning donations of food, but today money is donated instead.
Those who have health restrictions are not required to fast, but are encouraged to participate in the blessings afforded those who share their means to lift the poor. The teachings include the importance of a prayerful, humble attitude and praying in private during the period of fasting to offer gratitude to God, and to pray for special help or guidance, either for oneself, or for the benefit of others.
Mormon leaders cite the teachings and promises of Isaiah:
- "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;
- "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:
- "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)