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AARON - I have heard that General Authorities have discouraged Ward 40 day fasts, but I cannot find a source. Is it even true?

JOEL - Of course God does not expect us as individuals to go 40 days without food and water. Orson Pratt commented on the 40-day fasts as recorded in the scriptures:
"There was a power over and in those ancient servants of God, that satisfied the cravings of the appetite, in passing through such circumstances." (JD 18:265)

It's pretty obvious that actual 40-day fasts without food and water are not intended for us just because Moses, Elijah and Christ fasted that long.
The number 40, used many time in the scriptures, may not even represent an exact number of days, but may simply be a number symbolic with a long period of time, representing a period of trial, testing, probation, or mourning.

I have heard of these ward fasts where they choose a concern, such as missionary work, and then for 40 days some individuals or families in the ward take turns fasting on each day of the 40 days. I have not specifically heard of any official directive from church leaders discouraging this practice, although some may have voiced their opinion on it. This is one of those things that is left to the Bishop or Stake President to give counsel on.
It is possible that a local church leader might not want members to feel pressured into doing it; especially those who, for medical reasons would not be able to participate. This 40 day fast thing is more of a novelty. In my opinion there is more spiritual power in having all ward members fasting together for the same purpose on the same day.

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