The Meaning of the Sabbath Day
Very good resources for this lesson are found in some of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). Especially helpful will be the manuals for Brigham Young, chapter 21, John Taylor, Chapter 12, Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 26, David O. McKay, Chapter 4 (pp. 33-34), and Spencer W. Kimball, Chapter 16. These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are found at the bottom of this page.
The Purpose of the Sabbath Day
Brigham Young explained the “purpose of the Sabbath” very well:
…we should remember to preserve holy one day in the week as a day of rest—as a memorial of the rest of the Lord and the rest of the Saints; also for our temporal advantage, for it is instituted for the express purpose of benefiting man. It is written in this book (the Bible), that the Sabbath was made for man. It is a blessing to him. As little labor as possible should be done upon that day; it should be set apart as a day of rest, to assemble together in the place appointed, according to the revelation [see D&C 59:10-12], confessing our sins, bringing our tithes and offerings, and presenting ourselves before the Lord (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 146).
President Joseph F. Smith echoed these sentiments:
Sunday is a day of rest, a change from the ordinary occupations of the week, but it is more than that. It is a day of worship, a day in which the spiritual life of man may be enriched. A day of indolence, a day of physical recuperation is too often a very different thing from the God-ordained day of rest. Physical exhaustion and indolence are incompatible with a spirit of worship. A proper observance of the duties and devotions of the Sabbath day will, by its change and its spiritual life, give the best rest that men can enjoy on the Sabbath day (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 237).
The manual states that the Sabbath “is a sacred day to be spent in worship and reverence” (p. 139). Concerning this, Brigham Young taught:
When people assemble to worship they should leave their worldly cares where they belong, then their minds are in a proper condition to worship the Lord, to call upon him in the name of Jesus, and to get his Holy Spirit, that they may hear and understand things as they are in eternity, and know how to comprehend the providences of our God. This is the time for their minds to be open, to behold the invisible things of God, that he reveals by his Spirit (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 145).
President Joseph F. Smith also gave some great suggestions:
My belief is that it is the duty of Latter-day Saints to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, just as the Lord has commanded us to do. Go to the house of prayer. Listen to instructions. Bear your testimony to the truth. Drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, as it may be opened for us from those who are inspired to give us instruction. When we go home, get the family together. Let us sing a few songs. Let us read a chapter or two in the Bible, or in the Book of Mormon, or in the book of Doctrine and Covenants. Let us discuss the principles of the gospel which pertain to advancement in the school of divine knowledge, and in this way occupy one day in seven (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 234).
History of the Sabbath
This section describes the Sabbath Day as being, “…the beginning of the earth… (p. 140).” President Kimball indicates it reaches back even further than that:
Moses came down from the quaking, smoking Mount Sinai and brought to the wandering children of Israel the Ten Commandments, fundamental rules for the conduct of life. These commandments were, however, not new. They had been known to Adam and his posterity, who had been commanded to live them from the beginning, and were merely reiterated by the Lord to Moses. And the commandments even antedated earth life and were part of the test for mortals established in the council in heaven (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 167).
President Kimball also declared:
The solemn command brought down from the thundering of Mount Sinai was “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” That commandment has never been rescinded nor modified. Instead, it has been reinforced in modern times [then quotes D&C 59:12-13) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 168).
President Kimball also suggested:
It would appear that the reason the Sabbath day is so hard to live for so many people is that it is still written on tablets of stone rather than being written in their hearts (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 175).
In this section is a powerful doctrine, that the Sabbath is “a sign of the covenant between God and His people (p. 139).” President Kimball declared:
To many, Sabbath-breaking is a matter of little moment, but to our Heavenly Father it is disobedience to one of the principal commandments. It is evidence of man’s failure to meet the individual test set for each of us before the creation of the world, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 168).
President Kimball also added:
The Sabbath day is given throughout the generations of man for a perpetual covenant [see Exodus 31:16]. It is a sign between the Lord and his children forever [see Exodus 31:17] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 170).
President Kimball also discussed the possibilities of this “covenant”:
It is a day when bodies may rest, minds relax, and spirits grow. It is a day when songs may be sung, prayers offered, sermons preached, and testimonies borne, and when man may climb high, almost annihilating time, space, and distance between himself and his Creator (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 171).
Concerning our end of this “covenant” President Kimball states:
It is unthinkable that one who loves the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and who with a broken heart and contrite spirit recognizes the limitless gifts which the Lord had given him would fail to spend one day in seven in gratitude and thankfulness, and carrying forward the good works of the Lord. The observance of the Sabbath is an indication of the measure of our love for our Heavenly Father.
People frequently wonder where to draw the line: what is worthy and what is unworthy to do upon the Sabbath. But if one loves the Lord with all his heart, might, mind, and strength; if one can put away selfishness and curb desire; if one can measure each Sabbath activity by the yardstick of worshipfulness; if one is honest with his Lord and with himself; if one offers a “broken heart and a contrite spirit,” it is quite unlikely that there will be Sabbath breaking in that person’s life (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 176).
Concerning the deep import of this “sign of the covenant between God and His people” President Joseph F. Smith boldly stated:
As I came to this meeting I overtook one of the brethren, and he remarked to me that as he passed by the station he saw a vast crowd of people there ready to go out to some pleasure resort. … If any of those profess to be Latter-day Saints, then the course they are pursuing today is contrary to the law of God, contrary to the covenants they have made in the waters of baptism, and contrary to the covenants entered into in the most sacred places to which Latter-day Saints are admitted. They are violating the Sabbath day, they are dishonoring a commandment of the Lord; they are proving themselves disobedient to the law, and they are doing that which is not pleasing in the sight of God, and which will result eventually in their injury, if not in their apostasy (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 230-1).
President John Taylor also discussed what this “covenant” can do for us:
It is pleasant for the Saints to meet together to commune with each other, to listen to the words of life, to reflect also upon their position and relationship to God, to His Church and Kingdom, as well as to examine into their own feelings, and, under the guidance of the Lord and of His Holy Spirit, try to find out what relationship they sustain to their Heavenly Father, and whether they are performing the various duties devolving upon them and are seeking to carry out the word, the will, and the law of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 109).
In this section is written, “Jesus reminded them that the Sabbath was made for the benefit of man (p. 140).” It may be very beneficial to discuss the scripture (Mark 2:26-27) which is implied at this point. Even better is to discuss it from Joseph Smith Translation (found at the end of the Bible, after the Bible Dictionary):
Wherefore the Sabbath was given unto man for a day of rest; and also that man should glorify God, and not that man should not eat;
For the Son of Man made the Sabbath day, therefore the Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath.
It would also be interesting to briefly compare this with the standard Mark 2:26-27. This statement by Jesus also follows criticism of Him by “Jewish leaders” who “made many unnecessary rules” (p. 140). The manual also refers to decisions about “how far people could walk” (p. 140). Bible Dictionary explains this interesting development under “Sabbath Day’s Journey.”
The above scripture is powerful in two ways. First, the priority is clearly in place. Man is the focus of God’s work (Moses 1:39). The purpose of the Sabbath is to bless man. Secondly, Jesus Christ can do what He wants with the Sabbath. This will be important for discussion in the next section concerning the change of Sabbath from the seventh day to the first day of the week.
The Lord’s Day
There is a great Ensign article entitled, “Why do we observe the Sabbath on Sunday when the biblical Sabbath seems to have been on the seventh day?” by Robert J. Matthews, in which he explains:
In New Testament times the Sabbath day was called the “Lord’s day” (Rev. 1:10) and was observed on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), honoring the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb. In the present dispensation the Lord called the day of worship “my holy day” in a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith on Sunday, 7 August 1831. (D&C 59:9-10.) Since Jesus is Jehovah, the Creator and the God of Israel, these different aspects of the Sabbath all bear witness of the same Lord Jesus Christ but emphasize different features of his ministry.
The Sabbath has eternal significance. The Old Testament declares the Sabbath is to be observed as a “perpetual covenant” (see Ex. 31:13-17), which does not necessarily mean that it should be forever on the same day, but rather that the Sabbath is a covenant for eternity—that is, of eternal significance—and is needed by mortals in every generation for their frequent spiritual rejuvenation. The context of the passage seems to make that point clear. It is evident from the Bible that the sacred day was the seventh day of the week during Old Testament times, whereas in the New Testament it was observed on the first day of the week by the church after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave (Ensign, Jan. 1978, 14).
This entire January 1978 issue of the Ensign was devoted to Sabbath day observance. Many questions which might arise about Sabbath observance have proposed answers in this issue.
Checking out the Bible Dictionary is always worthwhile. There are two references found there, one for “Sabbath” and one for “Lord’s Day.” Under the first, is found verification of the above:
After the ascension of Christ, the members of the Church, whether Jews or gentiles, kept holy the first day of the week (the Lord’s day) as a weekly commemoration of our Lord’s resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10); and by degrees the observance of the seventh day was discontinued (p. 765).
Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
This section states, “Our prophets have told us that we should not shop, hunt, fish, attend sports events, or participate in similar activities on that day (p. 141).”
At the earliest time possible in Utah, Brigham Young made it clear what the Lord expected of Sabbath observance:
On the day after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham Young spoke briefly to the pioneer camp concerning observance of the Sabbath. With a wilderness to tame, crops to be planted, and other pressing work of the time, he “informed the brethren … they must not work on Sunday, that [if they did] they would lose five times as much as they would gain by it, and they must not hunt or fish on that day.” He remarked that “there would be a meeting every Sabbath in this place or wherever we stop.” President Young continually admonished the Saints to keep the Sabbath “in remembrance of our God and our holy religion” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 145).
Although most of our “jobs” are no longer agriculture in nature, the concept taught by Brigham Young still applies:
By forsaking our fields for a season, to gather together to worship our God, I can assure you that our crops will be better than they would be if we were to spend all our time in our fields. We may water and plant and toil, but we should never forget that it is God who gives the increase; and by meeting together, our health and spirits will be better, we will look better, and the things of this world will increase around us more, and we will know better how to enjoy them (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 146).
Brigham Young continued and warned:
Six days are enough for us to work [see Exodus 20:9-11], and if we wish to play, play within the six days; if we wish to go on excursions, take one of those six days, but on the seventh day, come to the place of worship.
Now, remember, my brethren, those who go skating, buggy riding or on excursions on the Sabbath day—and there is a great deal of this practiced—are weak in the faith. Gradually, little by little, little by little, the spirit of their religion leaks out of their hearts and their affections, and by and by they begin to see faults in their brethren, faults in the doctrines of the Church, faults in the organization, and at last they leave the Kingdom of God and go to destruction (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 146).
President Kimball cautioned:
To hunt and fish on the Lord’s day is not keeping it holy. To plant or cultivate or harvest crops on the Sabbath is not keeping holy the Lord’s day. To go into the canyons for picnics, to attend games or rodeos or races or shows or other amusements on that day is not to keep it in holy remembrance.
Strange as it may seem, some Latter-day Saints, faithful in all other respects, justify themselves in missing their church meetings on occasion for recreational purposes, feeling that the best fishing will be missed if one is not on the stream on opening day or that the vacation will not be long enough if one does not set off on Sunday or that one will miss a movie he wanted to see if he does not go on the Sabbath. And in their breach of the Sabbath they often take their families with them. …
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 (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 169).
In the second half of the commandment, God said, “Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: (Exodus 20:9). Concerning this idea that many today do not “work” six days, President Kimball counseled:
There is time enough, particularly in our era of the world’s history, during the six days of the week in which to do our work and play. Much can be done to organize and encourage weekday activities, avoiding the Sabbath (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 169-70).
President Joseph F. Smith counseled:
Men are not showing zeal and ardor in their religious faith and duty when they hustle off early Sunday morning … to the canyons, the resorts, and to visit friends or places of amusement with their wives and children. They are not paying their devotions in this way to the Most High.
Boys and young men are not fasting with singleness of heart that their joy may be full when they spend the Sabbath day loafing around the village ice-cream stand or restaurant, playing games, or in buggy riding, fishing, shooting, or engaged in physical sports, excursions and outings. Such is not the course that will keep them unspotted from the world, but rather one that will deprive them of the rich promises of the Lord, giving them sorrow instead of joy, and unrest and anxiety instead of the peace that comes with works of righteousness (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 233-4).
Back when, I suppose, very few businesses were open on the Sabbath, President Joseph F. Smith cautioned:
Theaters and various public amusements are now held on the Sabbath day contrary to the revelations of the Lord, and they prove a potent factor in destroying the faith of those who participate in this practice. The parents of the youth of Zion should guard their children against this and all other evils, for they will be held responsible should their children go astray through their neglect (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 236).
President McKay also added:
Let us not make Sunday a holiday. It is a holy day, and on that day we should go to the house of worship and seek our God. If we seek him on the Sabbath day, get into his presence on that day, we shall find it less difficult to be in his presence the following days of the week (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 34).
Likewise, President Joseph F. Smith related:
Let us play and take recreation to our hearts’ content during other days, but on the Sabbath let us rest, worship, go to the house of prayer, partake of the sacrament, eat our food with singleness of heart, and pay our devotions to God, that the fulness of the earth may be ours, and that we may have peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 238).
Just in case some think the above advise is from “old prophets” (a very, very bad idea), President Monson drove home the idea that Sunday is a day to not “shop” in a First Presidency Message:
At the funeral service of a noble General Authority, H. Verlan Andersen (1914–92), a tribute was expressed by a son. It has application wherever we are and whatever we are doing. It is the example of personal experience.
The son of Elder Andersen related that years earlier he had a special school date on a Saturday night. He borrowed from his father the family car. As he obtained the car keys and headed for the door, his father said, “The car will need more gas before tomorrow. Be sure to fill the tank before coming home.”
Elder Andersen’s son then related that the evening activity was wonderful. Friends met, refreshments were served, and all had a good time. In his exuberance, however, he failed to follow his father’s instruction and add fuel to the car’s tank before returning home.
Sunday morning dawned. Elder Andersen discovered the gas gauge showed empty. In the Andersen family the Sabbath day was a day for worship and thanksgiving, not for purchases. Elder Andersen’s son declared, “I saw my father put on his coat, bid us good-bye, and walk the long distance to the chapel that he might attend an early meeting.” Duty called. Truth was not held slave to expedience.
In concluding his funeral message, Elder Andersen’s son said, “No son ever was taught more effectively by his father than I was on that occasion. My father not only knew the truth, but he also lived it.” Live truth (Ensign, Oct 2004, 2).
President Kimball took the concept of “not shopping” on Sunday one step further:
The Lord’s holy day is fast losing its sacred significance throughout the world. … More and more, man destroys the Sabbath’s sacred purposes in pursuit of wealth, pleasure, recreation, and the worship of false and material gods… Pursuit of the almighty dollar is winning…
We have become largely a world of Sabbath breakers. On the Sabbath the lakes are full of boats, the beaches are crowded, the shows have their best attendance, the golf links are dotted with players. The Sabbath is the preferred day for rodeos, conventions, family picnics; even ball games are played on the sacred day. “Business as usual” is the slogan for many, and our holy day has become a holiday. And because so many people treat the day as a holiday, numerous others cater to the wants of the fun-lovers and money-makers.
We continue to urge all Saints and God-fearing people everywhere to observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Businesses will not be open on the Sabbath if they are not patronized on that holy day. The same is true of resorts, sporting events, and recreation areas of all kinds.
We note that in our Christian world in many places we still have business establishments open for business on the sacred Sabbath. We are sure the cure of this lies in ourselves, the buying public. Certainly the stores and business houses would not remain open if we, the people, failed to purchase from them. Will you all please reconsider this matter. Take it to your home evenings and discuss it with your children. It would be wonderful if every family determined that henceforth no Sabbath purchase would be made (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 168-9).
President Hinckley also added:
You do not have to patronize a store on Sunday. Let the Latter-day Saints be in their homes, teaching their families, reading the scriptures, doing things that are wholesome and beautiful and communing with the Lord on the Sabbath day. He’s been very pointed in this day and time as set forth in the 59th section of the Doctrine and Covenants concerning our observance of the Sabbath day. I thank the Lord for Sunday. What a great and marvelous blessing that is (Ensign, Jul 1996, 73).
Concerning “keeping the Sabbath day holy” President Joseph F. Smith plead:
Let us teach our children that they should observe the Sabbath to keep it holy, and that, too, because they love to do it as also because God has commanded it. Then they will get recreation and rest, change and pleasure, in a legitimate way on other days. … Let us not desecrate the Sabbath (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 231)
In this section is written, “President Spencer W. Kimball cautioned, however, that if we merely lounge about doing nothing on the Sabbath, we are not keeping the day holy (p. 141).” I like the entire quote:
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. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 170).
Among other “righteous things” (p. 141) we can do on the Sabbath, President Kimball adds:
It is a day on which to read good books, a day to contemplate and ponder, a day to study lessons for priesthood and auxiliary organizations, a day to study the scriptures and to prepare sermons, a day to nap and rest and relax, a day to visit the sick, a day to preach the gospel, a day to proselyte, a day to visit quietly with the family and get acquainted with our children, a day for proper courting, a day to do good, a day to drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, a day to seek forgiveness of our sins, a day for the enrichment of our spirit and our soul, a day to restore us to our spiritual stature (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 171-2).
President Joseph F. Smith stated simply the purpose of the Sabbath:
God made or designated the Sabbath day for a day of rest, a day of worship, a day for goodly deeds, and for humility and penitence, and the worship of the Almighty in spirit and in truth.
Honor the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Worship the Lord on the Sabbath day. Do not work. Go not out to seek vain pleasures on the Sabbath. Rest, and refresh the mind in prayer, study, and thought upon the principles of life and salvation. These are legitimate labors for the Sabbath day (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 231).
Concerning the idea that “attending Church” (p. 141) is necessary to keep the Sabbath holy, President Kimball declared:
…if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the gospel. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 174).
One of the reasons the Church gave for the “block schedule” when it was introduced was to make more time for “family.” Concerning “…sharing time with children and others in the home…” President Kimball said:
Take time [on the Sabbath] to be together as families to converse with one another, to study the scriptures, to visit friends, relatives, and the sick and lonely. This is also an excellent time to work on your journals and genealogy (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 170).
President Kimball also explained how family time and attending Church should blend:
We hope … that either before or after your series of Sunday meetings, depending upon your particular … meeting schedule, you will do what the Savior asked the Nephite disciples to do: After he taught them, he asked them to go to their homes and to ponder and to pray over what was said (see 3 Nephi 17:3). Let us keep that pattern in mind (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 172).
Concerning “family time” President Joseph F. Smith also explained:
On the Sabbath days, as far as I am concerned, between the hours of service, I would love to have the privilege of sitting down in my home with my family and conversing with them, and visiting with them, and becoming better acquainted with them. I would like to have the privilege of occupying as much time as I could conveniently on the Sabbath day for this purpose; to get acquainted with my children, keep in touch with them, and to keep them in touch with the scriptures, and to think of something besides fun and jokes and laughter and merriment, and such things as these (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 234)
President Joseph F. Smith further taught:
I think it is a good thing for us to take our children under our wings, so to speak, at least one day in the week, and teach them honor and honesty, and reverence for that which is right and divine, and teach them to respect age and infirmity, and to be kind to the stranger who is within our gates. … We should teach them politeness. We should teach our boys to be gentlemen, and our girls to be ladies. And when I speak of a lady or a gentleman, I mean a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman, who observes genuine modesty, meekness, mildness, patience, love and kindness toward the children of men.
There are a great many things that we can do on the Sabbath day that would entertain, interest, and instruct our children at home, between the hours of service. … Let them have amusements at the proper time, but let them be taught better things on the Sabbath day (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 234-5)
President John Taylor also discussed family and the Sabbath:
I will tell you how I feel on a Sabbath morning. I realize this is a day set apart to worship Almighty God: now I ought to worship God myself, and I ought to look after my family and discover whether they are engaged in the same thing or not (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 108).
President Kimball also revealed the power of his own childhood and attending Church on the Sabbath:
When I was a very small boy, I was taught the habit of going to sacrament meetings. Mother always took me with her. Those warm afternoons I soon became drowsy and leaned over on her lap to sleep. I may not have learned much from the sermons, but I learned the habit of “going to meeting.” The habit stayed with me through my life.
No little child absorbs knowingly the sunlight; but unconsciously the light brings power to his little body. No child knows the value of his mother’s milk nor of the food from opened cans which gives him nourishment. Yet, that is where he gets his strength and his power to grow and to become a man eventually. …
And every child, without realizing the full portent, can absorb much from a sacrament meeting. They will absorb something every time (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 173).
The manual give a terrific guide for Sabbath pursuits:
In deciding what other activities we could properly engage in on the Sabbath, we could ask ourselves: Will it uplift and inspire me? Does it show respect for the Lord? Does it direct my thoughts to Him? (p. 142).
Concerning this, President Joseph F. Smith suggested:
We derive, or would derive all the benefit if we would only devote every hour on the Sabbath to some work, or some pursuit, or some study, that would improve our minds and make us more fully acquainted with our duties in the Church, with the law of the Church, with the commandments of God, and with the precepts of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 234).
The above question is so wonderful, a terrific discussion could be, “Why is this such a great guideline for Sabbath observance?”
In this section is the statement that, “There may be times when we are required to work on the Sabbath (p. 142).” President Kimball clarifies:
It is true that some people must work on the Sabbath. And, in fact, some of the work that is truly necessary—caring for the sick, for example—may actually serve to hallow the Sabbath. However, in such activities our motives are a most important consideration (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 169).
An Ensign article on this subject entitled, “Working on Sunday,” by Steve Gilliland (an old but dear friend) is found in the above mentioned January issue of the 1978 Ensign, p. 26.
If there are busy moms and dads in your class (okay, just assume all are busy), there is a wonderful Ensign article (worth looking up) entitled, “Teaching Children to Keep the Sabbath.” It may be well worth discussing this great idea:
Preparation is a key word in keeping the Sabbath day holy. While it may be possible for an individual to have a joyful, restful Sabbath without preparing ahead, today’s busy families may not be able to have the kind of Sabbath the Lord has prescribed if they wait until Sunday morning to prepare everything. They need to prepare some things the day before (Ensign, Oct 1989, 44).
Blessings for Observing the Sabbath
President Joseph F. Smith warned:
…members of the Church who neglect public worship and the partaking of the Sacrament and do not remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, will become weak in the faith and spiritually sickly, and will lose the Spirit and favor of God, and ultimately forfeit their standing in the Church and their exaltation with the obedient and faithful (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 236)
In the manual is the statement, “If we honor the Sabbath day, we may receive great spiritual and temporal blessings (p. 142).” President Kimball described two business men who put this to the test:
In a stake recently I interviewed a man for an important position in the stake reorganization. And I said to him, “What is your occupation?” And he said, “I operate a service station.” And I asked, “Do you operate on the Sabbath?” His answer was, “No, I do not.” “Well, how can you get along? Most service station operators seem to think they must open on the Sabbath.” “I get along well,” he said. “The Lord is good to me.” “Do you not have stiff competition?” I asked. “Yes, indeed,” he replied. “Across the street is a man who keeps open all day Sunday.” “And you never open?” I asked. “No, sir,” he said, “and I am grateful, and the Lord is kind, and I have sufficient for my needs.”
I was in another stake, also in a reorganization program, and another brother was considered for one of the highest positions; and when we asked him of his occupation, he said he was a grocer by trade. “Well, most of the stores keep open on the Sabbath. Do you?” “We lock our store on Sunday,” he said. “But how can you compete with these people who are open seven days a week?” “We compete. At least we get along very well,” was his reply. “But would not the Sabbath be your biggest day?” “Yes,” he answered, “we would probably sell twice as much on the Sabbath as we would on an average day, but we get along without it, and the Lord has been kind; he has been gracious; he has been good.” … And I could not refrain from saying, “God bless you, my faithful brother. The Lord will not be unmindful of these seeming sacrifices. Your dollars are clean. They will surely not hinder you in finding your way into the kingdom of God” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 165-6).
President Kimball continued:
In my travels I find faithful people who forego Sabbath day profits and the handling of forbidden things. I have found cattlemen who have no roundup on the Sabbath; fruit stands along the roadside, generally open day and night through the fruit season, closed on the Sabbath; drug stores, eating houses, and wayside stands closed on the Lord’s day—and the owners seem to get along, at the same time taking genuine satisfaction in abiding by the law. And every time I see good folk foregoing these kinds of earnings, I rejoice and feel within my heart to bless them for their faith and steadfastness.
I know that men will never suffer, ultimately, for any seeming financial sacrifices that might be made, for [God] has commanded us to live his laws and then has challenged us:
“… prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10) (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, p. 174).
Thus, a very important point of this lesson is, as with the promise of Malachi regarding tithing, we can trust that God will bless us if we live the law of the Sabbath.
A delightful illustration of a general authority felt upon encountering a valley where no one appeared to be working on the Sabbath is found in “The Power of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” by Elder John H. Groberg in the Ensign, Nov 1984, p. 79.