Christ invites all to help Him as He cares for the poor in His way, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency taught during the Saturday morning session of general conference held in the Conference Center on April 4.
“So the Lord has given us something that we each can do,” President Eyring said. “It is a commandment so simple that a child can understand it. It is a commandment with a wonderful promise for those in need and for us. It is the law of the fast.” President Eyring drew from the book of Isaiah the Lord's description of the fast and its purposes.
“[T]he Lord has given us a simple commandment with a marvelous promise,” President Eyring said. “In the Church today we are offered the opportunity to fast once a month and give a generous fast offering through our bishop or branch president for the benefit of the poor and the needy.”
Those funds will then be used to help people in need — some of whom, he noted, will be people close to an individual, possibly even a family member.
“The Lord’s servants will pray and fast for the revelation to know whom to help and what help to give,” he said. “That which is not needed to help people in your local church unit will become available to bless other Church members, across the world, who are in need.”
The commandment to fast for the poor has many blessings attached to it, he taught. Drawing from the words of President Spencer W. Kimball, President Eyring said “ ‘rich promises are made by the Lord to those who fast and assist the needy. Inspiration and spiritual guidance will come with righteousness and closeness to our Heavenly Father. To omit to do this righteous act of fasting would deprive us of these blessings.’ ”
President Eyring shared an experience he had fasting — just days prior to general conference — for victims of tropical Cyclone Pam that recently damaged Vanuatu.
“When I read [the news], I remembered visiting homes on Vanuatu,” he said. “I could picture in my mind the people huddled in homes being destroyed by winds. And then I remembered the warm welcome to me of the people of Vanuatu. I thought of them and their neighbors fleeing to the safety of our cement chapel.
“Then I pictured the bishop and the Relief Society president walking among them, giving comfort, blankets, food to eat and water to drink. I could picture the frightened children huddled together.”
Although he was far away from the devastated area, President Eyring knew that through fast offerings — given freely by the Lord’s disciples who were far away, but close to the Lord — Heavenly Father would be able to succor His children.
“My small offering may not be needed near where my family and I live and the local surplus of my offerings may never reach Vanuatu,” he said. “But, other storms and tragedies will come across the world to people the Lord loves and whose sorrows He feels. Part of your fast offering and mine this month will be used to help someone, somewhere, whose relief the Lord will feel as if it were His own.”
Fast offerings do more than just feed and clothe bodies — they heal and change hearts. Just as the receipt of the blessing of a fast offering can change hearts, so does fasting for the good of another, President Eyring taught. “Even a child can feel it.
“Many children, and some adults, may for personal reasons find a 24-hour fast difficult,” he said. “It can be, in the words of Isaiah, felt that the fast has ‘afflicted their soul.’ Wise parents recognize that possibility and so are careful to follow the counsel of President Joseph F. Smith, ‘Better to teach them the principle and let them observe it when they are old enough to choose intelligently.’ ”
President Eyring shared the experience of his grandson who fasted — even though he found it very difficult — for a school friend who had lost a young cousin to accidental death. As he fasted with a purpose, the power of fasting was planted in the young man’s heart and he came to feel that his efforts could lead to blessings from God for someone in need.
The Savior set the example when He went into the wilderness to fast and to pray. Although all of the reasons why He fasted are not known, one thing is sure: the Savior completely resisted Satan’s temptations to misuse His divine power.
“The brief time we fast every month and the small amount we offer for the poor may give us only a small part of the change in our natures to have no more desire to do evil,” he said. “But there is a great promise, even as we do all that we reasonably can to pray, to fast and to donate for those in need.”