On Fast Sunday, church members are encouraged to fast for two consecutive meals; most members of the church choose to skip the first two meals on Sunday, though some skip the last meal on Saturday and the first meal on Sunday. Members are also encouraged to give the money they save by not eating as a fast offering which will be used by the church to help those in need.
On Fast Sunday, the regular sacrament meeting is known as fast and testimony meeting, where rather than predetermined speakers on particular subjects, the members are given the chance to voluntarily bear testimony to one another of gospel truths. Non-members of the church are welcome to participate in Fast Sunday activities.
In some circumstances the week of Fast Sunday may be adjusted. This occurs in April and October when the church's general conferences are held on the first Sunday of the month, and may also adjust due to stake conferences or temple dedications.
In addition to the regular fast Sunday, individuals, wards or stakes may have additional fasts for special needs such as moisture for farmers, health for individuals, employment, missionary and temple work.
- "You know that the first Thursday of each month we hold as a fast day. How many here know the origin of this day? Before tithing was paid, the poor were supported by donations. They came to Joseph and wanted help in Kirtland, and he said there should be a fast day, which was decided upon. It was to be held once a month, as it is now, and all that would have been eaten that day, of flour, or meat, or butter, or fruit, or anything else was to be carried to the fast meeting and put into the hands of a person selected for the purpose of taking care of it and distributing it among the poor"
During the 19th century almost a fifth of converts in the United Kingdom were miners by profession. Their physical work made fasting during the week very difficult and an exception was granted allowing British miners to fast on Sundays instead of Thursdays. The practice became popular among the wider membership of the church in Britain and quickly spread. In 1896, Fast Day was changed to the first Sunday of the month, instead of the first Thursday. Since then it was commonly referred to as Fast Sunday.
Modern LDS leaders have affirmed the need for a Fast Day. Gordon B. Hinckley stated:
- "What would happen if the principles of fast day and the fast offering were observed throughout the world[?] The hungry would be fed, the naked clothed, the homeless sheltered. [...] A new measure of concern and unselfishness would grow in the hearts of people everywhere."
Research presented at a recent meeting of the American Heart Association by Benjamin Horne of the University of Utah suggests that the monthly fasts help to protect against coronary artery disease. Mormons generally have a 61% rate of coronary artery disease versus 66% of non-Mormons, which has generally been attributed to abstention from tobacco. However, among Mormons (average age 64) seeking coronary diagnosis, all of whom reported abstention from alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco, 59% of those who fasted were found to have coronary artery disease (70% blockage or more), versus 67% of those who did not fast.
- Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 115.
- Gordon B. Hinckley "The State of the Church," Ensign, May 1991, 52-53.
- "People who skip meals - are they better off?".