What should I do to teach my Beehive class about fasting when I cannot fast?
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“What should I do to teach my Beehive class about fasting when I cannot fast?” Ensign, Apr. 1979, 25

I am an insulin-dependent diabetic and cannot fast, but I feel guilty teaching my Beehive class about fasting when I can’t. What should I do?

Malcolm S. Jeppsen, M.D., Regional Representative The question as to whether one can safely fast as a diabetic must, of course, be answered by the person’s physician. Many diabetics are in the early or mild stage of the diabetic process and can fast with complete safety for a time shorter than the customary twenty-four hours. Others, with the approval of their physicians, can observe a partial fast, such as abstaining from all food except orange juice or soft drinks every two hours, to maintain an acceptable blood sugar level.

There are those who have determined that they cannot safely fast. I believe these individuals should keep several things in mind. First of all, since fasting is not required of those whose physical condition does not allow it, such a person should not feel guilty about being unable to fast.

President Joseph F. Smith stated, “The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis, and none of his works are vain or unwise. His law is perfect in this as in other things. Hence, those who can are required to comply thereto; … but let it be remembered that the observance of the fast day by abstaining twenty-four hours from food and drink is not an absolute rule. It is no iron-clad law to us, but it is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion. Many are subject to weakness, others are delicate in health, and others have nursing babies; of such it should not be required to fast.” (Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 244.)

Those who cannot fast could draw close to the Lord in other ways. One of these is scripture study. The scriptures contain the mind and will of the Lord, not only for his people of ancient times, but also for us today. There is no surer way to draw close to the Lord than by regular and serious study of the scriptures.

One may also give more emphasis to prayer by praying more often and by making his prayers more meaningful. The Savior told the Nephites: “Ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Ne. 18:19). He was speaking also to our day.

We sometimes overlook the power of meditation in helping us feel close to the Lord. I have found it very important to ponder the things of God, my relationship to him, and his love for me. Meditation is especially valuable when it is accompanied by prayer and when it is done in solitude.

Renewing our baptismal covenants by partaking of the sacrament can surely draw us closer to the Lord, as can attempting to keep those covenants by serving others. We should also take care to meet our church financial obligations, share the gospel with others, do temple and genealogy work, and strive daily to follow the example of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Fasting embodies a principle of sacrifice—that of denying oneself something so that he or she can become a more spiritual individual. Perhaps one could sacrifice something other than food and drink in order to accomplish this goal. One might abstain from television, movies, or sleeping in. One can also sacrifice by paying a generous fast offering.

Finally, it occurs to me that this sister might be able to use her situation as an object lesson for her Beehive class, pointing out to her students that they should be grateful for their ability to fast.