I have a question concerning Fast Sunday. A week ago (which was fast Sunday) I had to take prescription medicine that says, Take With Food. I fasted my two meals, but put one bite of food in my mouth Sunday morning to take my pill. One bite is all I had. Was this breaking my fast? I’ve heard different things. One person said just to not take my medicine for a day, but if I hadn’t, my ear would have been in unbearable pain. Another said we’re not supposed to fast when we’re sick, but only my ear and mouth (I had just had 2 teeth pulled) were bothering me, and I really felt the urge to fast about a certain thing that Sunday. I’ve also been told that it’s not breaking my fast; the Lord understands I had to take the medicine. This seems most logical to me, but I am confused. What do you say?
It appears that we have a couple of issues to consider- one is an issue of semantics and the other is an issue of procedure. First to the semantics. The definition of fasting in the context of LDS Church procedure is to abstain from food or drink for two consecutive meals, and to give the money saved by not eating to the Church as a fast offering. A special day has been set aside once a month for the members of the Church to observe the fast together. It is normally held on the first Sunday of the month and is the traditional day on which opportunity is given to the members of the Ward to publicly express the witnesses that they have received of the truthfulness of the gospel and of the blessings of the Lord in their lives. If one takes any food or drink for whatever reason during the period of the fast, technically the fast is broken.
Now to the question of procedure. Fast day is traditionally held on the first Sunday of the month, but that is a tradition of procedure, not a principle of the gospel. For instance, if stake conference or general conference is held on the first Sunday of the month, fast Sunday is shifted to some other time.
Does fast day have to be on a Sunday? The first fast days, organized by Joseph Smith, were held on the first Thursday of each month. A fast meeting was held on that day to which the members who had fasted were to bring the food that they had not eaten, so that it could be distributed to the poor. Fast day was not changed to Sunday until November 5, 1896. The change from the first Thursday to the first Sunday of the month came about in this manner.
“Hyrum M. Smith, who later became a member of the Council of the Twelve, was a missionary in Newcastle, England, in the year 1896. On the Thursday of the fast meeting, members of the Church in that land had to get excused from their employment with a loss of pay. Some of them were workers in the coal mines. When these came from the pits, they had to go home, bathe, and change their clothes. This was a loss both of time and compensation. Hyrum wrote to his father, President Joseph F. Smith, and asked why, under such circumstances, the fast day had to be a Thursday and not a Sunday. President Smith took the letter to the meeting of the First Presidency and the apostles and presented it there. The following is an excerpt from the minutes of the meeting held November 5, 1896:
President Joseph F. Smith introduced the subject of fast meetings, suggesting that a change of the time from the first Thursday to the first Sunday in each month would probably be beneficial. This was endorsed by President George Q. Cannon, and after other brethren had spoken on the subject, it was decided that the Tabernacle services be dispensed with on the first Sunday of each month, and that the saints in this city as well as in the country wards, should have the privilege of meeting in their meeting houses at 2 o’clock p.m., to observe fast day” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 1, p. 93.)
It would seem from the above that if there were a personal reason that prevented one from fasting in the established fast day, it would be perfectly in order to choose another day on which to observe the fast. That day could be devoted to prayer, as appropiate, and could be as much a basis for a generous fast offering as would be fasting on any other day.