Which commandment is attached to all these blessings? The answer may
surprise you as it did me.
It's keeping the Sabbath day holy. (See D&C 59:9-23, Isaiah 56:1-7, Isaiah
58:13-14, Jeremiah 17:21-27, Nehemiah 13:15-21).
It's not a complicated commandment: "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." (Exodus 20:9-10). In modern revelation, the Lord
added, "For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors,
and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High … confessing thy sins unto thy
brethren, and before the Lord."
The Lord asks us to do "none other thing," except prepare the nourishment our
bodies need in a spirit consistent with the Sabbath. (D&C 59:10, 12-13.)
If Sabbath observance is so simple, why is it so hard to do?
Part of the reason may be that in our frenetic modern lifestyle, Sabbath
observance has fallen out of favor. As adults, we see Sunday as a day to fit in
tasks -- or even recreation -- that we didn't get to during the week. Children
see their friends treating the Sabbath like any other day, and wonder why they
shouldn't do the same.
Another challenge is that Sabbath keeping seems particularly easy to
rationalize or postpone. After all, Sunday comes around every seven days.
Look at the ways we get creative in our definition of "rest" or the way we invoke
the ox-in-the-mire escape clause, when a little reordering of priorities on
Saturday would have kept the animal out of the mud hole in the first place. Or
we may feel that if we've gone to church, we've done enough and the rest of the
day should be ours to spend as we wish.
Other times Sabbath observance is challenging because sometimes, something
we really, really want to do -- attend a party or participate in a sporting event
or other activity -- can only be done on a Sunday. In these cases, there is real
sacrifice involved in honoring the Sabbath, and it can be hard.
Perhaps we aren't serious about Sabbath observance because we don't feel the
consequences right away, much like we don't immediately feel the effects of a
nutritionally empty meal. But the effects add up, leaving us spiritually
weakened. The LDS Guide to the Scriptures
states, "When a
nation grows careless in observing the Sabbath, all aspects of life are affected
and its religious life becomes decayed."
President George Albert Smith confirmed this truth: "Much of the sorrow and
distress that is afflicting … mankind is traceable to the fact that they have
ignored [God's] admonition to keep the Sabbath day holy." (Quoted in
"Preparation for Tomorrow" by Victor L. Brown.) This
principle holds true for individuals too.
Maybe the root problem happens when our focus on the Sabbath is ourselves,
not the Lord. It's easy to ask ourselves, "How can I do what I want within the
'rules'?" rather than "How can I best honor the Lord and draw closer to Him onhis day?"
President Ezra Taft Benson taught a simple but powerful principle that can
help us change our approach to Sabbath observance: "When obedience ceases
to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us
with power." (Quoted in "Obedience -- Life's Great Challenge,"
by Donald L. Staheli.) How would our Sabbath observance
change if we saw it as an opportunity, even a quest, instead of a restriction or
These words of Elder Mark E. Petersen point to the heart of the matter: "Our
observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our
attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane,
his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead." ("The Sabbath
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught similarly when he said, "By partaking of the
sacrament each week, we focus our attention on the Savior's atoning sacrifice,
acknowledging our dependence on His mercy and His forgiveness. . . Think for
a moment how different our lives could be if through repentance we were made
clean each and every Sabbath and could start each week absolutely pure,
renewed, refreshed -- totally confident of our standing before God." (Elder
Jeffrey R. Holland, Doctrine & Covenants CES Video, "Upon My Holy Day").
The entreaty comes through in President Hinckley's words: "I wish I had the
power to convert this whole Church to the observance of the Sabbath. I know
our people would be more richly blessed of the Lord if they would walk in
faithfulness in the observance of the Sabbath." (Quoted in "Keeping the
Sabbath Day Holy" by Earl C. Tingey.)
When I read these words, I think that keeping the Sabbath day holy may be a
lot more important than we realize.
So here's this week's challenge: for just one Sabbath, honor it fully. Keep meals
simple. Avoid worldly pursuits and entertainment. Focus fully on honoring the
Lord and drawing closer to him. Ask yourself in sincerity, "What are the most
important ways I can keep the Sabbath holy?" and then do those things.
How does that change not only your Sabbath, but the rest of the week as well?
Send your experiences -- your observations, challenges, and successes. I'll share some of your experiences in future columns.
Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion
for usability and process
improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and
reward of building her family tree.
As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.
Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.
Kathryn serves as Primary music leader, her current favorite calling.