Putting me in a bookstore is like putting an alcoholic in a bar — we’re both going to get something. The bargain book rack touches a special weakness. I mean, what’s better than getting something you love for a really great price?
That’s where I found Fasting by Anabaptist theologian Scot McKnight. While we undoubtedly diverge on topics like priesthood authority, for example, would we do so on fasting? For $3.00, if the venture proved worthless, I wouldn’t be in the hole for that much.
That initial investment paid huge dividends. I didn’t agree with everything McKnight had to say. But his main argument really made me rethink my approach to fasting.
McKnight decried what he viewed as the typical modern view of fasting, something that we do to elicit a certain response, sometimes from other people but more typically from God. McKnight described true fasting as a response to what he called “grievous sacred moments.” Given the mainstream LDS view of fasting is just what he decries, I wondered about his “higher way.”
“Grievous sacred moments” are really just trigger events. When one occurs, the true Christian responds by fasting. The trigger events McKnight examines include sin, moral disasters, severe sickness, death, grief, a consciousness of our own weakness and need for God, and a lack of justice in the community.
I struggled with some of his categories. And I didn’t agree with all of his arguments. But I did find his idea of fasting as a response to a trigger event quite intriguing. So I took a look at the scriptures to see what they had to say.
What the scriptures say
McKnight obviously used the Bible. We Latter-day Saints have other books of scriptures along with the Bible. I searched all for passages that reference fasting.
And what I found surprised me.
Many passages in the Bible and the Book of Mormon show fasting practiced in order to secure a response, whether from men or from God. For example, see 2 Samuel 12:16, Ezra 8:21, Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29, Luke 18:12, Acts 13:2, Mosiah 27:22-23, Alma 5:46, and Alma 17:9.
But many more passages seem to support McKnight’s main argument of fasting as a response to some trigger event.
Sins – The sins can be one’s own or that of others. See 1 Samuel 7:6, Daniel 9:3-6, Alma 8:26, Alma 10:7, and D&C 95:5-7.
Moral disasters – Esther 4:3 describes fasting as the response the Jews gave to a new law demanding their execution. Isaiah 58:3-7 extols fasting to help the poor and relieve the oppressed. And Mormon highlights fasting as the appropriate response to persecution in Helaman 3:35.
Severe sickness – I only found one verse in this category, Psalms 35:13.
Death – A part of life, death has prompted many to respond with fasting. See Judges 20:26, Alma 30:2, and Helaman 9:10.
Grief – The grief which triggers fasting is not necessarily caused by death. See 2 Samuel 1:12, Nehemiah 1:4, Daniel 6:18, Matthew 9:14-15, Mark 2:18-20, Luke 5:33-35, and Alma 28:6.
Consciousness of our weakness and need for God – I found the greatest number of references here, perhaps because this trigger connects with humility. See 2 Chronicles 20:3, Psalms 69:10, Jeremiah 36:9, JST Matthew 4:1-2, Matthew 6:16-18, Luke 2:37, Acts 14:23, Omni 1:26, Alma 6:6, 3 Nephi 13:16-18, Moroni 6:4-5, and D&C 59:13.
I also found an additional category – Response to great goodness – in Alma 45:1. Here the trigger event was something very good rather than the reverse. The people used fasting to express joy and gratitude to God.
This was just a preliminary search, so other supporting passages might not appear here.
Have your own experience
The Apostle Paul once said, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). So I decided to do just that.
My post subject for last week supplied the trigger event. Using the death of my mother’s cat as my trigger event, I fasted for half a day.
What I experienced changed my view of fasting.
Although I didn’t have a full fast, I did feel closer to the Spirit. I felt more of the love my Heavenly Father has for me and all of His creations. I felt a strengthening power flow through me that increased my faith. And my confidence that God is still in control grew as well.
I’m not saying that I’ll be fasting every time an animal dies. And again, there are scriptures that support our common practice of fasting in order to elicit a response. But I may be fasting more often as a response rather than as a means to elicit a response. Given the many trigger events that singles life and just life in general provide, I’ll take all the fortification I can get.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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