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Gramps,

I take prescription medicine everyday, including when I fast. Am I still fasting?

Anonymous, from Illinois

Dear Anonymous,

We may be involved in a question of semantics here. If fasting is to abstain from ingesting anything at all, then taking medicine would be breaking the fast. If fasting is to abstain from food and drink, then it could be interpreted that taking medicine would not be breaking the fast.

Perhaps a more appropriate question would be, is it all right to take medicine during a period of fasting. I imagine that it depends on what the medicine is for. If the medicine were critical to an individual’s health, it would seem foolish to jeopardize one’s health to obey the letter of the law of fasting. If, on the other hand, it were not a critical medicine-let’s say a diet pill, or a headache pill, or perhaps vitamins-I imagine that it would depend on the individual attitude and decision of the person.

The principle of the fast could well be obeyed while taking medication. One of the purposes of fasting is to give us periodic practice in dominating and controlling our physical passions and appetites. If we have the strength to deny the body’s desire for food, we may apply that strength to the control of other demands of the body. Indeed, one of the purposes of mortality is to dominate the flesh by the spirit. Another purpose and benefit of fasting is to give a generous fast offering to be used in the aid and assistance of the poor. Yet another benefit is the increase in health that periodic fasting provides. Still another is that through fasting we may increase in spiritual strength in pouring out our souls to the Lord, and in exercising the power of the holy priesthood.

We are told that the letter of the law killeth, but he spirit giveth life. Perhaps we should examine in depth our reasons for fasting, so that we may not be deceived into expecting blessings by the mere physical act of going without food for a brief period, but that we enter into the fast in an attitude of humble prayer and subservience to our Father in Heaven, that we remember the poor with kindness and sympathy and that we consciously control our fasting with the objective of gaining spiritual strength therefrom.

Gramps

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