Chapter 1 – Understanding Isaiah
Chapter 2 – Leaders and Role Models
Chapter 3 – Gangs
Chapter 4 – Fasting
Chapter 5 – Victims of bullying
Chapter 6 – Bullying 
Chapter 7 – HomosexualitY
Chapter 8 – DatingPreface.htmlIntroduction.htmlChapter_1.htmlChapter_2.htmlChapter_3.htmlChapter_5.htmlChapter_6.htmlChapter_7.htmlChapter_8.htmlshapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1shapeimage_2_link_2shapeimage_2_link_3shapeimage_2_link_4shapeimage_2_link_5shapeimage_2_link_6shapeimage_2_link_7shapeimage_2_link_8shapeimage_2_link_9
Chapter 9 – Chastity
Chapter 10 – Obtaining Joy and Satisfaction
Chapter 11 – Fashion  and Modesty
Chapter 12 – Rebellion 
Chapter 13 – Church Meetings
Chapter 14 – Hypocrisy (Sunday-only Mormons)
Chapter 15 – The Sabbath
Chapter 16 – PornographyChapter_9.htmlChapter_10.htmlChapter_10.htmlChapter_11.htmlChapter_12.htmlChapter_13.htmlChapter_14.htmlChapter_14.htmlChapter_15.htmlChapter_16.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1shapeimage_3_link_2shapeimage_3_link_3shapeimage_3_link_4shapeimage_3_link_5shapeimage_3_link_6shapeimage_3_link_7shapeimage_3_link_8shapeimage_3_link_9
Chapter 17 – The Media 
Chapter 18 – The Word of Wisdom 
Chapter 19 – Responsibility
Chapter 20 – School and Learning 
Chapter 21 – Friends and Peer Pressure
Chapter 22 – Stewardship
Chapter 23 – Idolatry
Chapter 24 – Consecration
PDF VersionChapter_17.htmlChapter_18.htmlChapter_19.htmlChapter_20.htmlChapter_21.htmlChapter_21.htmlChapter_22.htmlChapter_23.htmlChapter_24.html

     All this stuff about fasting just happens to come from the same chapter – Isaiah 58.  It is almost like a conference talk or something. 

The Temptation to Think That What You Do While You Fast Doesn’t Make a Difference to the Lord

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not?

Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?

     Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure,

     and exact all your labours.

(Isaiah 58:3)

     “Why have we fasted when the Lord doesn’t seem to see?  Why are we doing this if the Lord isn’t taking note?” we say.

     [I]n the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours - This says something very interesting; the Lord doesn’t pay any attention to our fasting when we entertain ourselves or do all our work at the same time that we fast.  Why is this?  It’s because when we fast, we’re supposed to dedicate that time specifically to the Lord and focus completely on Him.  When we focus completely on Him, He focuses completely on helping us.  If we don’t focus completely on Him, do you think He’s obligated to focus completely on helping us?  Let me think.. um… no.

     Here’s an example.  During a vacation with my husband’s family to Florida we spent part of fast Sunday on the beach together, and we broke our fast after playing in the sand and in the water.  At the time, this bothered me for some reason, but I didn’t quite know why.  Now I know from this scripture that the Lord wasn’t paying attention to our fast, because we weren’t paying full attention to Him.  We were finding pleasure on the beach, not finding pleasure in the Lord.  (And we were “beaching it” on the Sabbath, which went against all I had been taught growing up.)  Muuuuust repeeeeeeeeeent….

     So what could we be doing instead of working or playing during our fasting?  (insert brainstorming noises here)  Reading our scriptures?  Writing in our journals?  Having discussions with our family about the gospel?  Writing letters to missionaries?  Visiting sick members in the hospital?  Praying?  Singing hymns?  All of the above?  Yes. 

     Sure these things don’t sound very fun to the natural man or the natural woman, but we’ve just learned that what we do while we are fasting is important enough that it determines how much the Lord focuses on us and our fasting.  It follows that we must do things that He wants us to do, not things that we want to do.  Perhaps we need to look at fasting as not just fasting from food, but fasting from the cares and pursuits of the world as well. 

The Temptation to Think That What You Fast For Doesn’t Make a Difference to the Lord

Behold, ye fast for strife and debate,

and to smite with the fist of wickedness:

     ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

(Isaiah 58:4)

     Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness - Another reason the Lord will not pay attention to our fasting is when we fast for the wrong thing.  In the above line, we see that we may stoop to fasting about winning contests or winning fights, both verbal and physical.  Isaiah says here that to make your voice heard by the Lord you have to fast for better things, otherwise you’ll be disappointed. 

     You’re probably thinking that principle was just too obvious and that it insults your intelligence.  The trick is to remember this the next time you find yourself in a big disagreement with someone and there is prolonged tension between you and that person and you think you’re right.  What will you fast for then?  For the ability to be kind and to keep the peace, or for victory over them?  Which would be more pleasing to the Lord?

     If the Lord got to choose what we fast for, what would He choose?

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?

7         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?

(Isaiah 58:6-7)

     The first part that is indented all means the same thing - fasting for release from slavery.  This could be actual slavery, or it could be the slavery of sin.  You can fast for yourself to be loosed, or for someone else to be loosed.  Fast for freedom. 

     The second part that is indented farther to the right all means the same thing too – fasting to become more loving.  If you are more loving, certainly you’d want to feed the hungry and house the homeless and cloth the naked.  You’d also want to be around your family, instead of wanting to hide from them.

     [A]nd that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh - Isaiah isn’t talking about some kind of hide-and-go-seek game with your own body; he uses the words “thine own flesh” as an expression for the people in our families.  (Another example of this in the Bible is Adam saying that Eve was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.)  I’ll tell you one way I used to hide myself from my own flesh.  I used to hole up in my room when my parents had lots of work that needed to be done.  I didn’t want to help.  (How terrible!  I didn’t want to make my parents’ burdens lighter!)  Another way I used to hide myself from my own flesh was when I would retreat to my room when my siblings were being annoying.  (How wretched!  I couldn’t be patient with them!)  How many of you do the same?  I wish I could have learned about this part of Isaiah back when I was a teenager, because it would have told me that I didn’t have to go into hiding all the time.  The Lord could’ve helped me to want to help my parents, and that would have made helping so much more fun!  The Lord could have helped me love my family even when they were not acting very lovable.

     It hits me that fasting is an extra fast way to become more righteous.  (Maybe that’s why it’s called “fasting”…)  You pick a Christ-like quality that you really, really want to become, and you fast for it to be added to your character.  If I were God… (*cough* just indulge me for once here, ‘kay?)..  if someone was fasting that I would help them add a righteous personality trait to their character, I’d answer them so quick it would make their head spin! ...Okay, I’m done pretending. 

The Temptation to Hate Fasting

Is it such a fast that I have chosen?

     A day for a man to afflict his soul?

     Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush,

     and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

(Isaiah 58:5)

     This is startling.  Does Isaiah mean that fast Sunday is not supposed to be painful and tiresome?  Does he mean that if we say “Oh NO!” when we are told tomorrow is fast Sunday then that means that we have the wrong attitude?  Okay, so we don’t exactly do the sackcloth and ashes thing when we find out, but it does tend to put a damper on our Saturday night.  Or, if you are like I was, you get reminded it’s fast Sunday just as you’re about to take your first bite of breakfast on Sunday morning.  DOH!!!  Resentment!  Annoyance!  Acute suffering and hunger throughout all the land!

     Why does the Lord care what we think about fasting?  Well, let’s see, if I were God… (*cough* I go again)… and I had a special ritual that I wanted people to go through while they were asking me for something extra special, which would obligate me to answer their prayers, I would be pretty offended if I saw they were whining and complaining about having to do the ritual while they were asking me for what they wanted.  It would pretty well guarantee that I wouldn’t answer their prayers, that’s for sure!  They should be happy they have a ritual set out for them that if done correctly in the right attitude would most quickly bring answers and help!  Okay, I’m done imagining, and now we understand why the Lord wants us to have a good attitude about fasting.

     I’ve found that the best way to avoid those feelings of resentment and annoyance is to actually anticipate and prepare for fast Sunday.  So this is what I recommend – don’t let it surprise you or sneak up on you any more.  You’re probably thinking, “What?!  Anticipate and prepare for 24 hours of suffering hunger?!  Anticipation makes it a million times worse!!”  No, no, noooo.  Try looking at it in a different way.  Prepare yourself by thinking about which of your many important problems and worries you will bring to the Lord for his help.  There has to be a purpose to your fast, otherwise it is nothing but senseless starvation.  What do you need help with so badly that you are more than willing to go without food for 24 hours to get that help?

     A necessary part of fasting is giving a fast offering.  A fast offering represents the value of the meals you are skipping, which you give to your bishop.  It is completely separate from tithing.  Your bishop uses fast offering donations to help needy members of the church, and sometimes needy nonmembers too.  In effect, you go without food for 24 hours so that others less fortunate don’t have to go hungry.  It is my feeling that the charitable act of giving a fast offering is what activates the power of fasting, because

     1)  The Lord is bound to bless us when we keep any of His commandments, and

     2)  He is bound to bless us when we help those who are in need, and

     3)  He is bound to bless us when we sacrifice our own comfort for others.

     Now for the extra blessings – everybody’s favorite part.

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 rereward.

(Isaiah 58:8)

     Then shall thy light break forth as the morning - There are two things I can think of that he could be talking about.  1) It could be our good example.  Kind of like how Jesus said we should let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works (Matthew 5:16)  2) It could also be the light of the Spirit of the Lord radiating from our faces.  Isaiah compares the process of that light appearing to the sun rising in the east ever so gradually until it bursts with its full glory above the horizon.  Wouldn’t it be awesome to have an aura like that?

     [A]nd thine health shall spring forth speedily - I have to admit, I was curious about whether there were any scientific studies with evidence of the health benefits of fasting, so I did a search on the internet.  The most helpful information I found was on a Muslim website.  (Muslims fast for an entire month, called Ramadan, except the fast is during the daylight hours only.)  They suggested that during a fast the digestive system gets to rest.1  From that information it is possible to surmise several things:

1)Since no food would be coming in during a fast, the body would obtain energy by burning body fat.  This would lead to a tiny weight loss. 

2)With the digestive system at rest, the energy required to digest food would be diverted to other bodily systems, such as… the immune system.  An energized immune system would be able to better neutralize bacteria and invading viral infections.  A boosted immune system is certainly a fulfillment of “thine health shall spring forth speedily”. 

  1. 3)After the fast, the digestive system would be invigorated

     [A]nd thy righteousness shall go before thee - What does it mean to have your righteousness go before you?  To me it sounds vaguely similar to the expression “your reputation precedes you”.  That suggests that one blessing of fasting righteously is that your righteous reputation will precede you.  That’s really nice, because it means that good people will already have decided they like you, and bad people will avoid you like the plague.  This can make it really easy to figure out with whom you should be friends. 

     [T]he glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward - Remember, “rereward” means “rearward” and it fits with the whole aura thing.  This phrase can refer to how people will remember you after you move away from them to another city or state.  They will remember your righteousness and good example and remember you with fondness. 

     Even if you aren’t moving, having righteousness go before you and the glory of the Lord be at your rear can happen every day.  It happens when good people are happy to see you coming and sorry to see you leaving. 

     Having your righteousness go before you and having the glory of the Lord be at your rear has very practical uses.  Here’s an example.  When my husband got laid off from his job in Austin, Texas, all of his coworkers were absolutely aghast.  They knew my husband was a really good engineer and that he had been doing his best all along, and so they decided 1) that their management was incapable of recognizing a good employee even if it bit them on the nose, and 2) that none of their jobs were secure and they’d better start looking for new ones, and 3) that my husband deserved better.  At a farewell lunch, they told my husband that if he would give them copies of his resume, they would hand them out to all their friends at other companies and do everything they could to help him find another job.  And they kept their promises.  One of my husband’s former coworkers, with whom he had been good friends, got a new job a few months afterward.  It happened my husband had also been considered for that very job, but had been rejected in favor of his friend.  My husband’s friend kept telling his new boss to hire my husband too.  “He’s a really good worker!  He’s a really good worker!  He should be hired on!”  And a few months later, my husband was hired.

     If it weren’t for Isaiah, we wouldn’t know that one of the inevitable blessings of a righteous fast is acquiring an excellent reputation.  Christ himself told us to “appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly”  (Matthew 6:18).  I can’t imagine a more open reward than the moral support and advocacy of one’s nonmember coworkers. 

     The blessings of fasting don’t stop there.  No, there’s more! 

9 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;

10             And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry,

               and satisfy the afflicted soul. . .

(Isaiah 58:9-10)

     The Lord will answer our prayers, but we have to stop the oppression that happens among us (taking away the yoke of slavery), relieve the poor (instead of pointing the finger of scorn), and speak righteous things (not speaking vanity).

. . .then shall thy light rise in obscurity,

and thy darkness be as the noonday:

(Isaiah 58:10)

     [T]hy light rise in obscurity - Not everyone has a chance to be famous across the nation.  Most of us will remain pretty obscure, but even if we are obscure, we can increase in fame for our righteousness among those who know us.  We can be famous for our goodness, the big fish in the little pond.  For instance, I’ve seen a case where someone named their newborn daughter for a particular young woman in their stake who they considered to be “a straight arrow”.

     [T]hy darkness be as the noonday - You’re probably thinking, “Hmmm. Our darkness be as the noonday? What the heck?!  It isn’t dark at all at noon!”  Exactly.  Isaiah is a tricky guy, sticking jokes in there.  I suspect that he means that even when we aren’t at our best and brightest, our light will still be bright enough to shine before men.  Our light will seem so bright to them that it will seem like we’re the sun at its highest and brightest, and that they can see everything clearly because of our influence. 

     More promises!  They just don’t stop!

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 58:11)

     Think of the Sahara Desert.  Dry.  Think of all that sand.  Empty.  Dry.  Chapped lips.  Thirsty.  Sun beating down.  No shade anywhere.  Oh yes, and very dry.  No trees.  No grass.  Barren.  Did I mention it’s dry?  And don’t forget, dry.  Makes you want to go get a drink of water, doesn’t it?

     From the verse above, it sounds like one of the blessings of righteous fasting is that the Lord will help us to not feel physically hungry and thirsty.  This would be hard for me to believe if I hadn’t actually experienced it myself. When I’ve done my best to prepare to fast, had a happy attitude about fasting, fasted for a righteous purpose, did righteous things all during my fast, and paid my fast offering, I haven’t felt hunger or thirst the entire time.  Too focused on the spiritual to notice anything else.

     This scripture also uses hunger and thirst symbolically to convey the idea that the Lord will help us feel spiritually “fed”, and so full of the “living water” that we will feel like a water garden complete with lily pads, and even a nice little fountain!  That is so cool!  Spencer W. Kimball tells us what being spiritually “fed” and “watered” is:

Freedom from frustrations, freedom from thralldom, and the blessings of peace are promised.  Inspiration and spiritual guidance will come with righteousness and closeness to our Heavenly Father.  To omit to do this righteous act of fasting would deprive us of these blessings. 2

     Since I’ve begun to fast more righteously, I’ve experienced the blessings of being spiritually fed and watered, so I know it is real.  It is so wonderful that I’ve begun to love fast Sundays.  Sometimes I even fast during other Sundays too!  That’s quite a change from how I was when I was a teenager.  I used to hate fasting then.  I wish I had known this stuff back then. 

     More blessings!

And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places:

thou shalt raise up the foundation of many generations;

and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach,

The restorer of paths to dwell in.

(Isaiah 58:12)

     Here is a peculiar blessing: to be a builder-up of places that are wasted, to be a fixer of holes, and fixer of roads, or that’s what it looks like at first glance.  I suspect, though, that there may be some symbolism lurking about unnoticed. 

     [T]hou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations - This suggests to me two important abilities.  First, the ability of a person, when they are the first person in their family to join the church, to set down a foundation of righteousness for all their future descendants.  Second, the ability of a person, when they have grown up in an abusive home or a home with word of wisdom problems, to stop the cycle of abuse or addiction and prevent the sins of the fathers from affecting subsequent generations of the family.

     Fasting makes both of those possible, because it increases a person’s spiritual strength.  That act of not eating for two meals (or 24 hours, whichever you prefer) develops the self-discipline needed to make the small yet important changes in how you live your life.  If you are fighting to escape a difficult background where the only examples you have had are bad ones, you really need the Lord’s power to change.  That power comes through the Spirit when you fast.  The act of paying a fast offering develops your ability to treat others with compassion, because if you can give generously to people whom you never meet, then you can begin to have compassion upon people with whom you deal every day.  It happens little by little.

     [A]nd thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach  - A “repairer of the breach” is an old way of referring to one who makes peace between two disagreeing parties who have been long estranged.  A peacemaker.  Excellent!

     Fasting helps us become peacemakers because it is an exercise in sympathy for others.  When we fast, we learn to sympathize with people who don’t have enough to eat.  It is only a small step between sympathizing with a hungry person and sympathizing with both sides of an issue when people are fighting.  Being able to see both sides with compassion and kindness will help us find solutions and make peace in disagreements.

     The restorer of paths to dwell in - This one puzzled me until for some reason a scripture came to my mind – “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  (John 14:6)  If we substitute that into Isaiah’s phrase, it becomes “restorer of [the way, the truth, and the life] to dwell in”.  That implies the restoration of the gospel!  Joseph Smith restored the gospel to the earth, but we have an important role in restoring the gospel to others by doing missionary work! 

     So what have we learned about fasting from Isaiah?

1) We have to make sure we’re focusing exclusively on the Lord when we’re fasting instead of working or playing at the same time.

2) We have to fast for righteous purposes to be heard by the Lord.

3) It’s not appropriate to fast for victory in arguments or fights or to fast to beat people up.  The Lord doesn’t answer those kinds of requests. 

4) Appropriate motives for fasting are loosing the bands of wickedness, to relieve the suffering of the poor, and to develop godly personality traits. 

5) The Lord doesn’t like it when we moan and groan about fasting.

6) The blessings of a righteous fast include:

A)immediate health

B)a reputation for righteousness

C)receiving immediate answers to prayer

D)being a brilliant example and having an influence for good upon those around you in spite of your feelings of inadequacy

E)not suffering any pangs of hunger or thirst while fasting

F)feeling spiritually satisfied and at peace

G)becoming a peacemaker

H)preventing the sins of previous generations from trickling down to present and future generations

I)laying a foundation of righteousness for future generations to build on

J)The ability to share the gospel with others and opportunities to do so


1 Dr. Shahid Athar, “The Spiritual and Health Benefits of Ramadan Fasting”, 5 May 2007, <>.

2 The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, Bookcraft Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, pp. 144-145.

Chapter 1 – Understanding Isaiah
 Chapter 2 – Leaders and Role Models 
 Chapter 3 – Gangs
Chapter 4 – Fasting 
Chapter 5 – Victims of bullying
 Chapter 6 – Bullying 
Chapter 7 – HomosexualitY
Chapter 8 – DatingPreface.htmlIntroduction.htmlChapter_1.htmlChapter_2.htmlChapter_3.htmlChapter_5.htmlChapter_6.htmlChapter_7.htmlChapter_8.htmlshapeimage_6_link_0shapeimage_6_link_1shapeimage_6_link_2shapeimage_6_link_3shapeimage_6_link_4shapeimage_6_link_5shapeimage_6_link_6shapeimage_6_link_7shapeimage_6_link_8shapeimage_6_link_9
 Chapter 9 – Chastity
 Chapter 10 – Obtaining Joy and Satisfaction
 Chapter 11 – Fashion  and Modesty
  Chapter 12 – Rebellion 
Chapter 13 – Church Meetings
Chapter 14 – Hypocrisy (Sunday-only Mormons)
 Chapter 15 – The SabbathChapter_9.htmlChapter_10.htmlChapter_10.htmlChapter_11.htmlChapter_12.htmlChapter_13.htmlChapter_14.htmlChapter_14.htmlChapter_15.htmlshapeimage_7_link_0shapeimage_7_link_1shapeimage_7_link_2shapeimage_7_link_3shapeimage_7_link_4shapeimage_7_link_5shapeimage_7_link_6shapeimage_7_link_7shapeimage_7_link_8
 Chapter 16 – Pornography 
 Chapter 17 – The Media
 Chapter 18 – The Word of Wisdom 
 Chapter 19 – Responsibility
 Chapter 20 – School and Learning 
 Chapter 21 – Friends and Peer Pressure
Chapter 22 – Stewardship
Chapter 23 – Idolatry
Chapter 24 – ConsecrationChapter_16.htmlChapter_17.htmlChapter_18.htmlChapter_19.htmlChapter_20.htmlChapter_21.htmlChapter_22.htmlChapter_23.htmlChapter_24.htmlshapeimage_8_link_0shapeimage_8_link_1shapeimage_8_link_2shapeimage_8_link_3shapeimage_8_link_4shapeimage_8_link_5shapeimage_8_link_6shapeimage_8_link_7shapeimage_8_link_8