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|September 19, 2012
Just for a DayThe Best Kept Secret Source of Blessings
by Kathryn Grant
How would you like to:
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 irritation?
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 Day," .)
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?
|Copyright © 2024 by Kathryn Grant
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