“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.”
In the early church (beginning with the days of Adam and Moses), the Sabbath day fell on the last day of the week–Saturday (Exodus 31:12-17). This changed to the first day after the Resurrection of the Savior (Mark 16:2, Acts 20:7).
There have a been a lot of talks and discussions on how to properly observe the Sabbath day. People have created lists of things to do and not to do on the Sabbath day. It is not my intent to create or proliferate these lists. Rather, I want to share some of my thoughts on the Sabbath day. Particularly, why we should observe a day of Sabbath.
Of all the scriptures I read associated with the Sabbath day, I came across two that particularly spoke to me. The first is Leviticus 26:2-12:
Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.
If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.
And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new.
And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.
The other great scripture on the Sabbath day is D&C 59:9-20:
And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.
And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.
What I get from these two scriptures is this: If I keep the Sabbath day holy, I can be unspotted from the world and will be blessed with the fulness of the earth. All other blessings mentioned in association with Sabbath Day observance can be wrapped up in this single sentence: If I keep the Sabbath day holy, I can be unspotted from the world and will be blessed with the fulness of the earth.
The fulness of the earth means more than simply having food, water, and shelter. It references the promises given to Abraham, commonly called the Abrahamic Covenant. There Abraham was promised an innumerable descendency. We can also be recipients of that promise through the blessings of marriage in the Temple. Families can be together forever–marriage doesn’t end at death.
As I was researching this topic, I came across an interesting similarity. James teaches us about charity in these words: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27, emphasis added). In order to have charity (or pure religion as James calls it), we are to visit the fatherless and widows…and observe the Sabbath (because the Lord teaches in D&C 59 that Sabbath day observance will keep you unspotted from the world).
But I digress a bit…back to the Sabbath day. I said previously I wouldn’t go into lists of things to do and not to do, but I think it worth sharing a few quotes on the matter.
The Sabbath is not a day for indolent lounging about the house or puttering around in the garden, but is a day for consistent attendance at meetings for the worship of the Lord, drinking at the fountain of knowledge and instruction, enjoying the family, and finding uplift in music and song.
The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it.
There is no criticism of legitimate recreation—sports, picnics, plays, and motion pictures. All have potential for revitalizing life, and the Church as an organization actively sponsors such activities. But there is a proper time and place for all worthwhile things—a time for work, a time for play, a time for worship.
We should not do things on the Sabbath day that distract us from honoring and worshiping our Father in Heaven. We should not do things on the Sabbath day that cause others to be distracted from worshiping our Father in Heaven.
We should do things on the Sabbath day that bring honor to the sacrifice our Savior made for each of us (namely the Atonement). We should do things that bring us, our family, and those around us closer to our Father in Heaven.
It is a personal choice to honor the Sabbath day (and how to honor the Sabbath day). We each must decide what sign we want to give to Heavenly Father on the Sabbath day. I’ve said before that every time I read the scriptures, I get a blessing. Sometimes I only have time to read 1 verse…that’s fine. In return for my effort, I will get a 1-verse-blessing. Other times I have time to ponder the scriptures deeply. On those days, I also get a blessing…a pondering blessing. I have to decide each day what type of blessing I want from the Lord. So it is with the Sabbath day. I believe we will be blessed for our efforts to honor the Sabbath day. We just have to decide what type of blessing we want from the Lord.
Now, sometimes we may have an ox in the mire…there may be some circumstance when we feel compelled to violate the Sabbath day. I do not believe there is anything wrong with pulling your ox from the mire on the Sabbath day. The danger is to ensure that don’t put the ox in the mire ourselves!
Last week, I was sorely tempted to go to Wal-Mart on the Sabbath day. My prescription for Zyrtec was waiting on me at the pharmacy and I had no chance to pick it up on Saturday. I justified my action by saying I needed that prescription. I even got in the car with my son to pick it up. While I was driving there, I had a strong impression that I didn’t need to pick up that prescription on Sunday. I could take Allegra instead of Zyrtec and be just fine. I ended up driving to a nature park and taking my son on a walk through the fields and trees. It was a much better choice.
President James E. Faust outlined three reasons why we have been asked to observe the Sabbath:
The first has to do with the physical need for rest and renewing. Obviously God, who created us, would know more than we do of the limits of our physical and nervous energy and strength.
The second reason is, in my opinion, of far greater significance. It has to do with the need for regeneration and the strengthening of our spiritual being. God knows that, left completely to our own devices without regular reminders of our spiritual needs, many would degenerate into the preoccupation of satisfying earthly desires and appetites. This need for physical, mental, and spiritual regeneration is met in large measure by faithful observance of the Sabbath day.
The third reason may be the most important of the three. It has to do with obedience to commandments as an expression of our love for God. Blessed are those who need no reasons other than their love for the Savior to keep his commandments. The response of Adam to the angel who asked Adam why he made a sacrifice unto the Lord is a model for all. Responded Adam, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.” (Moses 5:6.)
The Lord’s Day, emphasis added
I am so grateful each Sabbath day that I have the opportunity to lay aside the tools of my trade and rest. I can let the lawn rest for a day, the chainsaw and mower sit idle. I can go to church with a focus on the Savior and not on my to-do list. Honoring the Sabbath day allows me to strengthen my relationship with the Savior by studying the scriptures and partaking of the Sacrament. It also allows me time to provide meaningful service to those for whom I have stewardship (see Ezekiel 34). It allows me the opportunity to strengthen family relationships through meaningful activities and conversations. I admit that as a younger man, I didn’t feel this way about the Sabbath day. Back then, it was often drudgery. All I can say is that I have matured.
Allow me to close with a quote John Bytheway shared in one of his motivational speeches:
“Our great-grandfathers called it the Holy Sabbath day. Our grandfathers called it the Sabbath. Our fathers called it Sunday, and now we just call it the weekend.
I ask myself often where I am on that spectrum…
is it the Holy Sabbath day?
or the weekend?
Other good reads on the Sabbath Day:
- Ensign, January 1978
- Isaiah 58:13-14
- Ezekiel 20:12-26
- Psalm 92
- The Meaning of the Sabbath
- The Blessing of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
- The Sabbath is a Delight
- The Lord’s Day
- The Eternal Family
- The Abrahamic Covenant