Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ancient Fasting and LDS Fasting

Tom Haws 2007 (or earlier?)

was practiced anciently and continues currently among the world religions whose adherents comprise most of the world's population.

In Christianity, fasting is practiced as abstinence from certain foods or practices at certain times in Catholicism. It is practiced as a monthly 24-hour period of zero intake in my own heritage, LDS Mormonism. In the mainline Protestant half of Christianity, fasting is not widely taught or practiced.

In Islam, fasting is practiced as zero intake during daylight hours throughout the month of Ramadan.

In Hinduism, I understand fasting is practiced.

My first experiences and awareness of fasting came as a boy younger than eight when my parents asked me to skip breakfast and not eat until after sacrament meeting (around noon) on the monthly LDS Fast Sunday. When I was around 12, I decided to attempt to fast 2 meals (24 hours). At my first attempts I experienced nausea and didn't complete the fast. But before too many months I was fasting 24-hours each month in the LDS style, trying to choose a spiritual purpose and pray over it during the fast. In the LDS style, I would also specifically pray
to begin and end the fast.

When I left the home of my parents, I began to follow the LDS custom of giving a fast offering for the poor in conjunction with my monthly fasts. At about this age (around 18 to 25 years old) I began to sometimes feel my fasting was too commonplace, and I wondered if perhaps there ought to be more to it. I considered fasting longer. I may have tried fasting a bit longer a time or two, but I generally decided I needed to simply dedicate myself more to prayer during my fasts.

Fasting brought me many blessings as a young man. I knew by repeated and common experience that the spirit me could withstand and overcome flesh appetite. I at times experienced higher spiritual attunement and vision through 24-hour LDS fasting. And I had the opportunity to remember and consider the poor monthly.

I was aware from my childhood of the 40-day fast of Jesus, and of his teaching to wash and anoint "when you fast" so that you won't "appear to men to fast". I sometimes wondered, in the context of my LDS tradition of fasting as zero intake, what exactly Jesus did for 40 days. I was aware that he was in the desert, and I didn't think the Son of God probably had zero intake for 40 days. Since I didn't have additional information, I surmised that perhaps he either ate once a day or drank water during the fast. As for his teaching about washing and anointing, it didn't really occur to me that I was without any specific understanding of what he meant.

In my late 30's, I experienced significant spiritual awakening amid significant life difficulties. I began to seek and find answers to the questions I had always had about ancient fasting. I began to practice some of the principles I learned. For my own clarity and that of my people, the Latter-day Saints, I began to think of fasting in terms of the Spirit of Fasting, LDS fasting, and Ancient Fasting. Here is a summary of what I learned:

The Spirit of Fasting

1.1. The Spirit of Fasting is simply the spirit of denying flesh appetites. Any denial of any flesh appetite for any period of time observes the Spirit of Fasting and accrues heavenly blessings (2010/2011: I think any real positive effect of this type of practice is related to increasing awareness through stopping rather than denial.).

1.2. Like all things, the Spirit of Fasting is subject to the Spirit of Love as expressed by the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount.

1.3. All accountable people old and young, rich and poor, male and female, well and sick may be blessed by observing the Spirit of Fasting.

1.4. Various religions that codify the Spirit of Fasting do so to the blessing of their adherents. Most of the major world religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism equal 67% of world ) except for Mainline Christian Protestants codify the Spirit of Fasting in some way.

LDS Fasting

2.1. An LDS fast consists of a monthly 24-hour total abstinence from intake.

2.2. To avoid constipation and extreme thirst in an LDS Fast, it helps to hydrate very well previous to the last pre-fast meal, hydrate very well previous to the fast breaking meal, and go light on both those meals.

2.3. An LDS fast is a good way to observe the Spirit of Fasting in a minimally disruptive, maximally fool-proof, and maximally intense (2011: not thinking this is a good thing) way. If I were the president of an authoritarian world-wide church (responsible and legally liable), I might (2011: maybe) codify the LDS fast.

2.4. An LDS fast (2010: zero water) should NOT be extended more than 24 hours. (2010: I don't endorse zero water fasting at all.)

Ancient Fasting

3.1. An Ancient Fast is my name for a 40-day (2011: more) or less (I believe there are reasons to call 20 days a minimum) abstinence from all intake other than plain water. After 31 years of wondering, I finally have settled my mind about this and can now see that the scriptures and ancients indicate this in many ways.

3.2. An Ancient Fast brings blessings in addition to an LDS Fast, including additional ponderings, additional appetite denial (2011: not so sure about denial, but stopping is helpful), additional health, additional vision and awareness of the mortal condition, and additional compassion.

3.3. An Ancient Fast is an art that must be understood and approached properly to be a safe blessing. There are gallons of water to drink, enemas to take (2011: possibly; the professionals say routine enemas aren't helpful), rest to observe, washing and anointing to do, and bodily conditions to expect.

3.4. Hunger and deprivation are not part of an Ancient Fast. The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.

My Fasting Plans

As I continue to fast, I am intending to keep in mind the following safety rules so that my fasting glorifies the Father rather than becoming an embarrassment:

4.1. No LDS fasting over 24 hours. Water is essential to life.

4.2. No Ancient fasting over 40 days. (2011: Safety doesn't lie in hard and fast rules, but in alert observation. My first long fast lasted only 12 days. Others have fasted well over 40 days.)

4.3. No sleep deprivation while fasting. Observe regular bedtime and adequate sleep. (2011: There's more to it than that. Fasting and rest go hand in hand. Resting means ideally a total sabbatical.)

4.4. No gluttony in association with fasting. Tapering intake is kind to the body. (2010: Overeating is the primary danger of fasting. The ending of long fasts must be undertaken with skill and discipline per Herbert Shelton and the Natural Hygienists.)

4.5. Drink gallons of water with electrolytes. I'm not sure yet what I will do for electrolytes in a long fast, whether lemons, salt, or spring water. (2011: The professional Natural Hygienists recommend just distilled water.)

4.5. Clean my large intestine with enemas, psyllium husk or other method. Entering fasting constipated is toxic.

4.6. Keep quiet about fasting and wash (toxic smells) and anoint (dry skin) per Jesus. Glorify the Father instead of alarming or impressing people.

4.6. Do good per Isaiah 58:6-7. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, liberate the captive, be there for my family.


graceforgrace said...

I like how you broke it down into three categories. I also like how you approach it with an attitude of sincerety and dedication. This in my opinion is the most important thing...not what we fast from, but how we fast.

Thomas Gail Haws said...

Thanks, Graceforgrace. I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. I added a few updates to this Fasting post based on my intervening experience and education.

By the way, I really like your blog. I think it would be neat if more people did modern paraphrases of sacred texts like the Book of Mormon.

Anonymous said...


I love your posts on gum health which led me to your fasting blog.

I am so glad you have figured out things that work best for you and have been willing to share.

I wanted to pipe in about dry fasting which is what you are calling LDS fasting. The Jewish fast was traditionally a dry fast and the Bible states that Moses on two separate occasions fasted without food or water for 40 days. The bible tells us that Elijah did the same thing and that Esther called her people to fast for 3 days without food and water.

Dry fasting is the traditional Jewish fasting and is also called absolute fasting.

There are some things written about not drinking water for a period of time. Many people mistakenly believe that it is a death sentence to go more than 3 days without water.

It may interest you to know that dry fasting for long periods of time has been practiced in Russia as medical treatment for various illnesses. The longest dry fast that I am aware of is 18 days but people have been successfully dry fasted repeatedly for 11-12 days in both Russia and the Ukraine.

The proponents claim that many bacteria, viruses, candida and parasites can live without food but can not live without water and that the competition for water makes the healthy cells healthier.

Furthermore, instead of cleansing out the colon as is the case in water fasting, in a dry fast the cells supposedly turn into little incinerators and burn out the toxins.

The feeling of dying of thirst within day 3-5 is reportedly an acidotic crisis when much of the bad stuff is being killed off and hanging on to the end of that is apparently quite healing.

I just thought this would interest you.

Thomas Gail Haws said...

I haven't seen any vlogging of a dry fast longer than 6 days on Youtube. That's what I have been using as a part of my guide, figuring that if the only references are in very ancient texts, I probably ought to wait for a modern or semi-modern validation. If you have any modern references for dry fasting, I would be very interested in getting smart.