THE SABBATH

I’ve shared thoughts about the SABBATH before, but I’m in the mood to share again this morning. Have an especially beautiful Sabbath.

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Keeping the Sabbath Day WHOLLY as well as HOLY.   I’m using BOTH WORDS — both have helped me as I’ve studied and pondered.  To keep the Sabbath day WHOLLY means COMPLETELY — the best we can the WHOLE DAY.  We sing [Hymn # 280]   “Welcome, welcome, Sabbath morning, now we rest from every care.  Welcome, welcome is thy dawning, holy Sabbath, day of prayer.”  Does that sound like YOUR typical Sunday?  RESTING from every care — a day of PRAYER?  WHAT ARE YOUR SUNDAYS LIKE?  Does calling it a “day of rest” sometimes seem like an oxy-moron?  I have a brother serving as a Bishop, and he said to me recently that MONDAYS look pretty good these days. PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL expressed what others have said in similar ways — that the Sabbath “contemplates quiet tranquility, peace of mind and spirit. It is a day to get rid of selfish interests and absorbing activities.”  (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball [1982], 215).  How do we make it a day like that?  Many of us probably work hard just to get ourselves and our family to meetings each Sunday.  And some have a LONG WAYS to go to get to their chapel or other place of worship.  But surely there must be some things we can do to increase our enjoyment of this GIFT from GOD — this GIFT of a SABBATH — a day of REST, a day of PEACE — a HOLY DAY —   It’s a commandment which brings ABUNDANT BLESSINGS.

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I’ve enjoyed studying, praying, pondering, and making some changes in my Sabbath activities.  I pray that what I have prepared to share will be meaningful, and that IMPRESSIONS and FEELINGS will come which will be helpful to us. I’ve been thinking a lot about CHANGE — about striving to be BETTER when we’re already PRETTY GOOD.  Messages from our leaders such as ELDER OAKS’ talk about “GOOD, BETTER, and BEST,” are very thought-provoking, aren’t they. I’ve been motivated to think of things I want to improve in my life — things which might be GOOD which need to be BETTER, and eventually BEST.  And this includes the SABBATH. Do you remember a SPECIFIC SABBATH DAY which was especially WONDERFUL and SATISFYING?  Can you remember what made it that way?  Are there some things you could do to recreate the feeling?  I’m sure I’ve  MISSED BLESSINGS which could have come to me if I were better at keeping the Sabbath Day holy. ELDER BRUCE R. McCONKIE wrote that True religion always has and always will call for a Sabbath on which men rest from their temporal labors and work exclusively on spiritual matters…. Without a Sabbath of rest and worship, men’s hearts will never be centered on the things of the Spirit sufficiently to assure them of salvation….   It is in no sense an exaggeration nor does it overstate the fact one whit to say that any person who keeps the Sabbath, according to the revealed pattern, will be saved in the celestial kingdom. (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p.390-391)

For ancient ISRAEL, Sabbath observance was a sign between them and their God whereby the CHOSEN PEOPLE might be KNOWN. (Neh. 13:15–22; Isa. 56:1–8; Jer. 17:19–27; Ezek. 46:1–7; Mormon Doctrine, 658) I wish that were true for us as Latter-Day Saints — I wish WE could be known as a people who HONOR the SABBATH.  I wish I personally could be known as someone who’s doing my best to keep the Sabbath Day HOLY.  I’d like to be a much better EXAMPLE to others. The SAVIOR’s invitation to “COME UNTO ME” has come to mean a call to CHANGE — to TURN, to RETURN.  As He said when he visited in the New World following his RESURRECTION:  (See 3 NEPHI 9:13-22) 13 O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?14 Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. 15 Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God …. 18 I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. 20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit …. 22 … whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore REPENT, AND COME UNTO ME YE ENDS OF THE EARTH, AND BE SAVED.  Again — the call to COME UNTO CHRIST is a call for CHANGE, and I think that includes a conscious and consecrated effort to keep the day He made for us — the SABBATH DAY — HOLY.  THE LORD HIMSELF ASKED: “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)  Maybe we can think of some things we could CHANGE —  some things we could ADD,  perhaps some things we could ELIMINATE, in order that we might keep the Sabbath Day HOLY (and WHOLLY)

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I’ve thought a lot about the DO’s and DON’Ts connected with the Sabbath —  Mostly the DON’Ts at first.  There were once such STRICT RULES about what COULD and COULDN’T be done on the Sabbath.  I’ve wondered what would happen if some or ANY of these rules were BROUGHT BACK.  I chose a few to share, and I’ve put them in the PRESENT TENSE so we can think about what it might be like: First, the Sabbath is to be a day of ENTIRE REST.  You can’t perform ANY WORK. You can’t kindle or extinguish a FIRE.  There are certain kinds of KNOTS you can’t tie. For example, the CAMEL DRIVER’S KNOT and the SAILOR’S KNOT are UNLAWFUL. It is equally illegal both to TIE or to LOOSE them. You can’t use any tools; in fact, you can’t even handle any tools!  You can’t knead or bake bread, sew two stitches, catch deer, save a sheep, gather sticks, comfort the sick, enliven the sorrowful, walk on stilts, or kill a flea or a camel. IMAGINE!  No walking on STILTS on the Sabbath!  No killing of fleas or camels! If you have a plug in your ear and it falls out, you can’t put it back in.  (This caught my attention because of all the PLUGS we PUT IN OUR EARS these days!) If it rains and you carry the water that falls from the sky, there is no sin;  but if the rain has run down from a wall… you can’t carry it.  Can you read on the Sabbath?… that depends on how limited or extended your exertions might be.  If you stumble and fall, can you get back up? So MANY questions!!…. There’s not time to mention ALL the rules, of course — there are far too many! WHEW!!! (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols., 1:, p.205)  OH!  And the penalty for disobeying this law of the Sabbath was DEATH! From Exodus 31:15 — Six days may work be done; but in the seventh [is] the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth [any] work in the sabbath day, HE SHALL SURELY BE PUT TO DEATH. IF THAT PENALTY WERE STILL IN PLACE, I WONDER HOW MANY OF US WOULD BE ALIVE TODAY . . . .  Not only do we occasionally tie sailor’s knots and kill fleas — I’ve actually seen people walking on stilts and comforting the sick! Perhaps we don’t need to worry too much about suffering physical death if we break the Sabbath, but it may be even worse to suffer a spiritual death, or even spiritual sickness.

PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL said this about the Sabbath: It is a day when animals may be turned out to graze and rest; when the plow may be stored in the barn and other machinery cooled down; a day when employer and employee, master and servant may be free from plowing, digging, toiling. It is a day when the office may be locked and business postponed, and troubles forgotten; a day when man may be temporarily released from that first injunction, “in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.” (GENESIS 3:19) It is a day when bodies may rest, minds relax, and spirits grow. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball, p.215)  And PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST added that Over a lifetime of observation, it is clear to me that the farmer who observes the Sabbath day seems to get more done on his farm than he would if he worked seven days…. The doctor, the lawyer, the dentist, the scientist will accomplish more by trying to rest on the Sabbath than if he tries to utilize every day of the week for his professional work. I would counsel all students, if they can, to arrange their schedules so that they do not study on the Sabbath. If students and other seekers after truth will do this, their minds will be quickened and the infinite spirit will lead them to the verities they wish to learn. This is because God has hallowed His day and blessed it as a perpetual covenant of faithfulness. (Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 45)

As I was studying and thinking, I kept getting a little reminder that THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR US.  I keep feeling that it should be a more PLEASANT part of the week —  a day to be ANTICIPATED WITH POSITIVE FEELINGS.  Thank goodness the SAVIOR brought back the ORIGINAL MEANING of “REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY TO KEEP IT HOLY.”  He wanted it to be a BLESSING and not a BURDEN!  He taught that it was alright to DO GOOD on the Sabbath, and reminded us that THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR MAN (not man for the Sabbath)  (Mark 2:27)   He performed good deeds on the Sabbath, such as healing the man with palsy (Mark 2:1-12) as well as the man with the paralyzed hand (Matthew 12:10-13)  I’m grateful there are so many “DO’s” for Sabbath worship!  We can’t pack them ALL into every single Sabbath, but they can help us make good decisions about keeping the day HOLY and WHOLLY.  DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR YOU TO PLAN HOW YOU’LL OBSERVE THE DAY?  It does for me.

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I’d like to share some ideas about ways in which we who are not yet PERFECT can keep the Sabbath Day increasingly HOLY.  What can we do to help make our Sabbath observance more appropriate, more enjoyable, more meaningful. I’m going to anticipate what some of you might be thinking:  “Well these are all going to sound just wonderful, but you have NO IDEA what our Sundays are like!”  You’re right — I don’t. Maybe you have lots of small children, or one of your aging parents or another family member in your home.  Maybe you have health challenges, or your job requires you to work most Sundays.  Maybe you have a calling which requires you to spend a LOT of time in meetings, and/or a LOT of time traveling. WELL . . . . What isn’t HOLY about caring for little children or parents, or others.  What isn’t holy about traveling to visit someone?  We do the best we can, don’t we.  And we’re not expected to do everything everyone has ever suggested on every single Sunday! These are just some IDEAS which may help to make our Sabbath Days more ENJOYABLE, more MEANINGFUL. The Sabbath can be a time for the FAMILY to GATHER — to be TOGETHER. Our SUNDAY DINNERS almost always lasted a LONG time as we just sat visiting and enjoying our time together. The Sabbath is good time for PERSONAL STUDY — for preparing TALKS or LESSONS, or just for STUDYING something you’re interested in. It’s a good day to set aside TIME for PONDERING and MEDITATION as you can. I don’t think we do enough of this.  I loved President Hinckley telling of his FATHER sitting out in their yard on a STONE WALL for HOURS … just THINKING. The Sabbath is a beautiful day for FAMILY HISTORY work — for things like RESEARCH and PERSONAL HISTORIES. Many families hold a FAMILY COUNCIL on Sundays — and by the way, a Family Council would be a wonderful time for a discussion together about how to work together AS A FAMILY to make the Sabbath Day more meaningful, more holy.  These can be LIVELY DISCUSSIONS — there may be some DIFFERENCES of OPINION. I live alone, so I just TALK TO MYSELF about such things.  Some of those discussions get pretty lively! A choice to listen to GOOD MUSIC can make a difference.  I saw a BUMPER STICKER which said “GOOD MUSIC IS NOT AS BAD AS IT SOUNDS.” Singing the HYMNS or even just reading the WORDS can be a meaningful activity — alone or together. Finding ways to SERVE can bring a great feeling of joy to the day.  One of my friends who has 8 children tells of her family gathering each Sunday when the children were young and making 36 LUNCHES to take to the HOMELESS SHELTER. VISITING others is a wonderful way to serve them.  Think of those in your area who might be lonely, or home-bound.  We may not know how much a visit would mean to those we’re prompted to spend some time with. Sunday might be a good day to catch up on READING — the scriptures, conference reports, lessons, and other good reading materials.  Read things which UPLIFT and INSPIRE you — which give you GOOD THINGS to THINK ABOUT. Writing letters to friends and loved ones is a nice Sabbath activity.  Don’t forget how much MISSIONARIES and others who are away from home love to get mail! Many individuals and families find Sunday a good day to catch up on their JOURNALS. Some families have a SUNDAY ACTIVITY BOX which only comes out on that day. I found some CREATIVE IDEAS in an Ensign article from April 2001— “Call the Sabbath a Delight.”  I’ll share just a few of the ideas from this article: A MOTHER IN CONNECTICUT shared the idea of having a THEME for Sunday.   She wrote: “To make Sundays more meaningful, our family sometimes has a theme for the day. The theme becomes the basis for our choices of the day’s activities.”  Here are some EXAMPLES:- BLUE RIBBON SUNDAY. They remember and acknowledge people who have made a positive difference in their lives.  They create two ribbons to give to someone — one ribbon for that person to keep, and one for him or her to pass along to someone else. – MISSIONARY SUNDAY. They do things like inviting the full-time missionaries over for dinner, asking them to talk about their work, and they hold meetings in their homes with the missionaries and neighbors. This Mother said that having a theme gives the family something to look forward to and helps them focus on important areas of the gospel on the Sabbath. (Shalynn Sedgwick, Bridgeport Branch, New Haven Connecticut Stake – “‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13),” Ensign, Apr 2001, 46) A SISTER FROM ARIZONA told of a their family holding a discussion — a Family Council — to talk of some changes they could make — things that would set this day apart from the other days of the week.  They chose special MUSIC, including recordings of the hymns and Primary songs.  They made their Sunday meals simpler.  They changed to comfortable CLOTHES after meetings but didn’t put on “GRUBBIES.”  Sometimes they had their FAMILY HOME EVENING lesson Sunday, leaving Monday free for another FAMILY ACTIVITY. She said:  “The effects on our family were readily apparent one Sunday when a neighbor boy came by to talk to our 10‑year‑old son about some items our son [was selling] as a money‑making venture. Our son replied simply to his friend, ‘We’re closed on Sunday.’” (Betty Jan Murphy, Pine Ward, Payson Arizona Stake – “‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13),” Ensign, Apr 2001, 46) A WOMAN FROM CALIFORNIA said she realized that before she could fill her Sundays with spiritually nourishing activities, she had to free them of all the things that drained her.  She had to MAKE A SPACE for what she most wanted to have happen on the Sabbath.  She made a personal checklist of things to be done before Sunday.  She began praying on Saturday for the blessings she wanted to receive on the Sabbath Day.  She prayed for things like an increased understanding of the Atonement, a greater appreciation of the Sacrament, the ability to learn by the Spirit, and strength and inspiration for the coming week.  She recognizes these preparations as a GIFT she gives herself — her chance for rest and renewal. (Sharli Turner, Littlerock Ward, Palmdale California Stake –  “‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13),” Ensign, Apr 2001, 46)

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What if you feel you don’t have TIME for many or any of these suggestions?  Well, I have an IDEA.  What if you were to make an EXCHANGE?  Exchange something you might often do now on Sundays for something different — something you feel would be more in keeping with a HOLY day, a SABBATH.  FOR EXAMPLE:  Let’s suppose someone likes to watch “60 Minutes” every single Sunday evening.  How about taping it and watching it early on Monday morning.  You’ll have an extra hour on Sunday, and you can now call your program “40 minutes,” because you can cut out the ads. There are important opportunities to teach our children and others BY EXAMPLE as we do our best to keep the Sabbath Day HOLY.  The Sabbath has been observed from the time of EVE and ADAM — it didn’t just come when Moses received the TEN COMMANDMENTS.  It is an ETERNAL PRINCIPLE.  It’s been here FOREVER.  It is a commandment that is repeated OFTEN in the Scriptures.  Here are just a few examples:  – From the OLD TESTAMENT: (Leviticus 23:3) Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day [is] the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work [therein]: it [is] the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. – From the NEW TESTAMENT:  (Matthew 12:12) … Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. – From the BOOK OF MORMON:  (Mosiah 18:23) And he commanded them that they should observe the sabbath day, and keep it holy, and also every day they should give thanks to the Lord their God. – And from the DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS: (D&C 68:29) And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. In addition to the SCRIPTURES, we have received COUNSEL from latter-day PROPHETS.  Here are just a few EXAMPLES: I couldn’t resist putting this in from PRESIDENT BRIGHAM YOUNG: Every person should be silent when we meet here to worship God. Remember and try to keep perfectly quiet, and do not whisper, talk, nor scrape your feet.   (DBY, 167–68)  PRESIDENT SPENCER W. KIMBALL  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 Spencer W. Kimball, p.219)  PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY If you have any doubt about the wisdom, the divinity of observing the Sabbath Day, ¼ stay home and gather your family about you, teach them the gospel, enjoy yourselves together on the Sabbath Day, come to your meetings, participate. You will know that the principle of the Sabbath is a true principle which brings with it great blessings. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 559)  PRESIDENT HAROLD B. LEE  My experience has taught me that the prompting of the conscience to a faithful Church member is the safest indicator as to that which is contrary to the spirit of worship on the Sabbath Day.   (Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living, p 148)  Using this standard, each person may decide for himself what may best be done on the Lord’s day. This puts the burden where the Lord intended — ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE INDIVIDUAL.  Once again, from the book of EXODUS:  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)  REMEMBER is an important word, isn’t it.  It always leads us back to God and His goodness, His mercy — and it leads us to gratitude, worship, obedience, and happiness.  It feels like we will have a better chance to keep the Sabbath Day holy if we REMEMBER WHY God gave it to us! As I mentioned, anciently, Israel was known as a people who SET APART one day in seven for REST and for WORSHIP. The Lord said that Sabbath observance was “A PERPETUAL COVENANT.”  PERPETUAL, which means it is STILL binding on us.  As ELDER BRUCE R. McCONKIE stated, “It is as much a law in our day as it was three thousand years ago.”  (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ, p.392)  PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST  In our time God has recognized our intelligence by not requiring endless restrictions. Perhaps this was done with a hope that we would catch more of the spirit of Sabbath worship rather than the letter thereof. In our day, however, this pendulum of Sabbath day desecration has swung very far indeed. We stand in jeopardy of losing great blessings promised.  After all, IT IS A TEST BY WHICH THE LORD SEEKS TO “PROVE [US] IN ALL THINGS” (D&C 98:14)  TO SEE if [our] DEVOTION is COMPLETE. (James E. Faust, “The Lord’s Day,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 33)   EXODUS 31:16–17 16- Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, [for] a perpetual covenant. 17- It [is] a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for [in] six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he RESTED, and was REFRESHED. God likely didn’t REST after six days because He was TIRED … He CEASED with His work of PHYSICAL CREATION.  It doesn’t mean that He did NOTHING on the 7th day, the Sabbath. It says He RESTED and was REFRESHED.  The word SABBATH comes from the Hebrew word meaning day of rest, or cessation [of labor].  IN OUR REST, WE TURN OUR ATTENTION TO GOD. (How much do we really think about HIM — focus on HIM — the rest of the week?  Too often I think I’m too much like a ZORAMITE — a little time on RAMEUMPTOM once a week, and that covers it). PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST  Why has God asked us to honor the Sabbath day? … The first [reason] has to do with the physical need for rest and renewing…. 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) (James E. Faust, “The Lord’s Day,” Ensign, Nov 1991, 33)

There may be times when WE feel that way — we do all that we can to keep the Sabbath Day holy, not knowing all the REASONS WHY, but knowing SURELY that THE LORD HAS COMMANDED IT. We have been asked to SANCTIFY the Sabbath day — to make it SPECIAL and DIFFERENT from any other day.  It’s not just a day to “hang out” — eating, sleeping, watching TV . . . . No, it’s a day when we REMEMBER — when we do things which help us feel closer to the Savior and to each other — when we do things which help us REMEMBER and RENEW our SACRED COVENANTS.  We give fuller attention to SPIRITUAL THINGS. PARTAKING OF THE SACRAMENT is one way in which the Sabbath becomes a great BLESSING to us.  This process of RENEWING OUR COVENANTS is such a WONDERFUL and IMPORTANT thing!  I pray we can make it a more MEANINGFUL part of our Sabbath and not just a chance for a few minutes of letting our minds wander. The Sabbath is TRULY A DAY TO WORSHIP GOD, and to allow Him to continue His CREATION of RIGHTEOUSNESS in us.  It’s a good day for Him to help us remove some of the WRINKLES and SPOTS from our character. It’s a day for us to STRENGTHEN and FORTIFY ourselves against the CONSTANT PRESSURE OF WORLDLY INFLUENCES. HENRY WARD BEECHER said this about Sunday: A world without a Sabbath would be like a man without a smile, like a summer without flowers, and like a homestead without a garden. It is the joyous day of the whole week. HENRY W. LONGFELLOW suggested that   Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.

 There have been a lot of changes in what happens on Sunday since I was a little girl. I imagine you’ve observed the same thing.  If our town hadn’t been so small, and life a lot simpler than it is now, it might have been more difficult to keep the day holy. ONE EXAMPLE is that in all my growing-up years, we NEVER watched TV on Sunday.   NEVER!  Not even once!  That’s hard to believe, isn’t it.   OK … so we didn’t HAVE a TV, and neither did anyone else in our town.  NONE of us watched TV AT ALL!  EVER!  But I like to say that sometimes because it sounds so impressive! I loved reading what one man said about the Sabbath in his home when he was young.  His parents had a very simple philosophy:  “The day we violate the Sabbath day and have to miss our Sunday meetings to care for the farm is the day we sell the farm.” (Earl C. Tingey, “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, Feb 2000)  It seems like many have ceased to observe the Sabbath. Not only is it an ordinary workday for many, it’s a day for RECREATION and FUN: Shopping, movies, golf, skiing, sporting events — from the Super Bowl to Nascar to the World Cup and every other kind of sport — eating out, internet games, hunting, fishing, picnicking, ETC. BROTHER ROBERT L. MILLET said that The Lord’s holy day has largely become a holiday in our fast‑paced world. Men and women scurry about on weekends in a maddened effort to grab all the relaxation and leisure they can find. In the process they do not make a way for their soul to be rested. Just as the physical body needs a diversion from the cares and trouble of the world of work, so the spirit within us needs diversion from the things that distract us from sacred matters.(Robert L. Millet, Alive in Christ: The Miracle of Spiritual Rebirth, p.142 ‑ 143)  ELDER JOE J. CHRISTENSEN  Temptations to break the Sabbath are [great].  Television is a  challenge. I love football, basketball — just about any athletic event. It doesn’t matter who is playing.  Barbara once said: “Joe, I don’t understand you. It doesn’t matter who is playing — Mars could be playing Jupiter and I’ll bet you would be interested.” [I can hear her voice as I read that!]  I agreed that if Mars were playing Jupiter, I would really be interested! … I have discovered a wonderful advantage of technology: we simply… record the Sunday programs we don’t want to miss, and then on another day, at our own convenience, we can watch those special events — fast‑forwarding through the commercials and time‑outs. We don’t have to miss a thing. (From One Step at a Time, p. 143 ff)

My niece Mary, who lives in Georgia, has a little son who asked her one January  “Mom, do we go to Church on Super Bowl Sunday?”  Definitely a “teaching moment” in the Joyner household! There are so many “TEACHING MOMENTS,” aren’t there.  It is SO IMPORTANT that we provide GOOD EXAMPLES for others.  Many years ago I was helping with “ACADEMY FOR GIRLS” program at BYU.  In one of our classes we were talking about COURAGE.  I asked them to fill in the blank:  “It takes courage to _____”  I gave them a while to think about it, then asked if anyone would like to share. One sweet young girl got up and told a story I’ll never forget.  She had taken ballet lessons for about as long as she’d been able to stand up on her own, and her biggest dream was to participate in “The Nutcracker” which was put on in the community each year at Christmas time.  When she was about 9 years old, she received an invitation to try out, and she was chosen to participate!  She was SO excited!  She went to the first meeting/practice, only to learn that many of the practices would be held on SUNDAY . . . . Her heart sank.  She went home and told her parents what she’d found out.  Their response surprised me (and perhaps it surprised her too). “That’s a real dilemma.  What are you going to do?”  She said she wasn’t sure.  They encouraged her to think about it, to pray, and told her they would support her in her decision, no matter what decision she made (who ARE these parents??).  She said she went to her bedroom to pray, already knowing what her decision would be.  But she spent a while thinking about it.  She then went back to her parents and told them she wasn’t going to be in “The Nutcracker” (how do you think they felt!….).   She called to let the person know who had invited her.  He was well aware of how long she’d waited for this chance and asked her why in the world she wasn’t going to participate.  She explained that she felt it wasn’t something she wanted to do on the Sabbath Day.  This was not an easy decision, even though she knew it was the right one.  Her dream had died. HOWEVER . . .  about a year later this same man called her to ask her to try out for “The Nutcracker” once again, and before she could say anything or ask any questions, he said “Oh, and by the way, none of our practices will be held on Sundays.”  IMAGINE!… one little girl making such a big change in her community!

Every example doesn’t have the same outcome on a whole community or group — but the possibility is there.  ELDER EARL C. TINGEY told of an experience when he had a young family and they lived in a small community where they were the only members of the Church. When our oldest son was nine years of age, he was invited to play Little League baseball. He was outfitted with a complete baseball suit, and he practiced very hard to be a good member of the team. Several days before the first game was to be played, the coach of his team came to our home and informed us that due to a recent scheduling change, all games would be played on Sunday. Our son was devastated. We convened a family home evening…and discussed the matter and left the decision to our son. Knowing of our heritage and principles, he made the decision that he would not play. I can still recall his heartbreak as I drove him to the coach’s home where he turned in his newly acquired baseball uniform. (Earl C. Tingey, “Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, Feb 2000) I am convinced there were blessings that came to that little boy and his family and perhaps others as well.

I don’t know that we always RECOGNIZE the BLESSINGS that come to us when we do the best we can to keep the Sabbath Day holy.  I also feel that we may not recognize the DAMAGE which can happen if we NEGLECT or IGNORE this COMMANDMENT.  PRESIDENT GEORGE ALBERT SMITH  (Keep in mind that he said this in October Conference of 1935!!) The Sabbath has become the play-day of this great nation —the day set apart by thousands to violate the commandment that God gave long, long ago … I am persuaded that much of the sorrow and distress that is afflicting and will continue to inflict mankind is traceable to the fact that they have ignored his admonition to keep the Sabbath day holy.  (CR, October 1935, p. 120)  SUSANNAH WESLEY (Mother of John and Charles) once wrote:  “Would you judge the lawfulness or unlawfulness of pleasure, then use this rule:  Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish of spiritual things, increases the authority of your body over your mind; that thing to you is sin.” I think she’s right, and I think a habit of BREAKING THE SABBATH will weaken our reason, impair the tenderness of our conscience, obscure our sense of God, take away our relish of spiritual things, and increase the authority of our body over our mind — and to us, this would definitely be sin.

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CAN WE MAKE CHANGES IF WE FEEL WE NEED TO DO SO?  A Latter‑day Saint couple bought a restaurant that had not previously been highly successful, but they planned changes to put new life into the business. Sunday had been one of the restaurant’s busy days, and some of their acquaintances — including a close friend who had loaned them money to buy the business — urged them to keep it open on Sunday.  They agonized over whether to close the restaurant on Sunday; after all, it defied good business logic.  But they finally decided to close it, follow their own beliefs, and trust in the Lord.  The succeeding months saw an immediate increase in sales, and since then the business has steadily and consistently grown.  Their experience, along with the experiences of others, teaches us that the Lord rewards those who obey his commandments….  (D. Kelly Ogden, “Remember the Sabbath Day,” Liahona, May 1998, 20-21)  I know we shouldn’t assume that we’ll receive great financial success or any other specific blessing if we honor the Sabbath.  Sometimes even when we’re doing our best to live the gospel we have financial difficulties.  I know that’s true.  But I’m convinced that as we obey the law of the Sabbath, the Lord will bless us with whatever blessing he knows is best for us.   Great blessings WILL COME, even some we may not be aware of at the time.   ELDER JOHN H. GROBERG  There is power in keeping the Sabbath day holy — power to help others as well as ourselves.  If we would have God’s blessings and protection as individuals, as families, as communities, and as nations, WE MUST KEEP HIS SABBATH DAY HOLY….  I further testify that when we eventually see things through the proper perspective of eternal truth, we will be AMAZED at how MUCH we were blessed in important — though often unperceived — ways through keeping the Sabbath holy.  (Ensign, November 1984, pp. 80-81)  A man looking back to his childhood shared an experience where he gained great respect both for the Sabbath and for his father.  It was a time when the family was having a hard time making ends meet.  The father, who was serving as a branch president, called his family together and they discussed the situation.  The five children agreed to go work in the fields at harvest time, and the father went with them to help supplement the small income he received working at a sawmill.  The harvest had been slowed by rain that year, and it came to a point where the crop either had to be harvested or it would probably mildew and rot.  The farm owner, Mr. Cobine, told everyone they’d have to work the next day, Sunday.  The boy watched as Mr. Cobine approached his father with that news.  His father stopped picking and asked Mr. Cobine if he could talk to him for a few minutes.  He reluctantly agreed.  Here’s what the young boy observed:  In a kind voice my father explained that the Lord provides everything we have. He told Mr. Cobine that keeping the Sabbath day holy was a commandment and counseled him not to anger the Lord by harvesting on Sunday. My father went on to testify that the Lord would provide — his men should not have to work on this or any other Sunday. He even invited the owner to attend Church services with our family.  To my astonishment, after asking Dad a few questions, the owner accepted his counsel about the Sabbath and asked his workers to wait until Monday to come back to work.  I could not have been prouder of my dad — but I was also concerned.  I thought to myself, How can my father promise him that the Lord will provide?  I said a silent prayer to Heavenly Father to help my dad.  The crop harvested on Monday was abundant and of an unusually high quality. To my amazement, there was no sign of mildew damage or decay. So many workers showed up for the picking that the harvesting was completed in record time. The Lord had, indeed, provided bountifully. That summer the ranch produced more than it had in any other year. Mr. Cobine repeatedly thanked my father for his counsel and guidance. Even though he didn’t consider himself a religious person, he believed that the Lord had blessed him for keeping the Sabbath day holy.  The lesson I learned that day from my father’s courage to stand up for what he believed has stayed with me. The Sabbath is a holy day and not one to be used in pursuit of the things of this world; it’s a day for us to become closer to our Heavenly Father.  Keith H. Morse (Ensign, June 1998, pp. 57-58)

You have YOUR OWN STORIES, and I hope you’ve written them down to share with your family and other loved ones.  I know that there are INCREDIBLE BLESSINGS waiting for us as we do our best to KEEP THE SABBATH DAY HOLY.  In a regional training meeting for priesthood leaders several years ago, PRESIDENT GORDON B. HINCKLEY expressed concern that members of the Church may have a tendency to “TAKE ON THE WAYS OF THE WORLD.” He said:  “We don’t adopt [the ways of the world] immediately, but we slowly take them on, unfortunately.  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.”  (Heber City/Springville, Utah, regional conference, priesthood leadership meeting, 13 May 1995)  Think of his comment about us taking on “the ways of the world” as we read in the Doctrine and Covenants section 59 verse 9: 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;Think of just this one BLESSING of keeping the Sabbath Day holy!  We have help in keeping ourselves UNSPOTTED from the WORLD!  PRESIDENT JAMES E. FAUST asked “Who can question but that sincere sabbath observance will help us keep ourselves unspotted from the world?” (James E. Faust, Finding Light in a Dark World, p.114 ‑ 115)  I think the Sabbath might be one of the MYSTERIES — Like Tithing, where 9 pennies go further than 10, and SERVICE, where 9 minutes go further than 10.  Think of the SABBATH, and how much further the 6 days go when we properly observe and keep this 7th day HOLY!  The SABBATH is like an OASIS, and probably increasingly so.  Living water, shade from the heat of everyday life, a chance to REST (Along with our CAMELS).  Can we move from things which may be BORING in their very ROUTINE through the week and find a BREAK? … A chance to say “WHOA!” ?  Can we move from the FAST LANE, from being SO BUSY, to a day when we make time for CONTEMPLATION? Can we STOP our HABITUAL EVERY-DAY STUFF and do something DIFFERENT?  Something REFRESHING and HOLY?  Can we give up shopping, TV, doing laundry, housecleaning, going to the office, or even “chatting” as we usually do — can we think of even ONE THING we can do which will make the Sabbath more meaningful?

During the time I’ve been preparing, I’ve come to some  CONCLUSIONS.  One of them is that there is a DANGER for SABBATH BREAKERS to LOSE THE SPIRIT!  And, sadly, they may not realize it!  The SABBATH lasts ALL DAY, doesn’t it.  The commandment does not read: “Remember the 3-HOUR BLOCK [on Sunday], to keep it holy.”  Even when we’re on a VACATION, the Sabbath is still the Sabbath.  We have been asked to SANCTIFY the Sabbath day — to make it special and different from any other day … and not just if or when it feels CONVENIENT to do so.  AGAIN:  ¶ EXODUS 20:8-11  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.  ELDER BRUCE R. MCCONKIE taught that to this very day, “the matter of Sabbath observance remains ¼ as one of THE GREAT TESTS WHICH DIVIDES THE RIGHTEOUS FROM THE WORLDLY AND WICKED”   (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed (1966) 658)  ELDER MARK E. PETERSEN  “THE MANNER IN WHICH WE SPEND THE SABBATH IS A SIGN OF OUR INNER ATTITUDE TOWARD [GOD]. ¼ “OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH IS AN INDICATION OF THE DEPTH OF OUR CONVERSION.”    (Ensign, May 1975, 49)  BROTHER WILLIAM E. BERRETT – God is not waiting to whip us or to punish us for breaking the Sabbath day. What we ARE will be reward or punishment enough.  The way we OBSERVE the SABBATH — the ways in which we do our best to KEEP IT HOLY — is a TEST!  Let’s pretend there’s a way to see how we’re doing with this TEST.  Someone with a “SABBATH EVALUATION MACHINE” comes sneaking around on Sundays to find out who is “true and faithful” and KEEPING COVENANTS and who isn’t.  (I wouldn’t let them in!).  But think about it — what would they (ANYONE) FIND and FEEL if they came to my home or your home on the Sabbath?  In 1993, The FIRST PRESIDENCY shared the following:  Since the creation of the earth, the Sabbath day has been established by God for the spiritual well‑being of His children…. We sense that many Latter‑day Saints have become lax in their observance of the Sabbath day. We should refrain from shopping on the Sabbath and participating in other commercial and sporting activities that now commonly desecrate the Sabbath.  We urge all Latter‑day Saints to set this holy day apart from activities of the world and consecrate themselves by entering into a spirit of worship, thanksgiving, service, and family‑centered activities appropriate to the Sabbath.  AS CHURCH MEMBERS ENDEAVOR TO MAKE THEIR SABBATH ACTIVITIES COMPATIBLE with the INTENT and SPIRIT of the LORD, THEIR LIVES will be FILLED with JOY and PEACE. (Ensign, January 1993, p. 80)

KEEPING THE SABBATH DAY HOLY IS CRITICAL TO SO MANY OF THE BLESSINGS FOR WHICH WE PLEAD!  LISTEN AGAIN TO THE VOICE OF THE LORD as recorded in the book of LEVITICUS  (See Leviticus 26:2-12) As I read these verses (which I’ve condensed a bit), see if you can find blessings which you need, and keep in mind that the blessings came because the SABBATH was kept HOLY.  Ye shall keep my sabbaths…. I am the Lord.  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 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 ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you….   And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight….  And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. What WONDERFUL BLESSINGS!!  HE GAVE US THE SABBATH BECAUSE HE LOVES US! This, then, is the heart of the matter. The Sabbath was made for our good — not to enslave the spirit, but to feed it.  And when the spirit is fed, the Sabbath day becomes the remarkable blessing that the Lord intended it to be.  DON’T YOU FEEL SORRY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NO SABBATH — WHO OBSERVE NO SABBATH?  I believe there is a DIRECT RELATIONSHIP between HONORING THE SABBATH DAY and being blessed TEMPORALLY as well as SPIRITUALLY.  I KNOW THIS IS TRUE!  I FEEL IT SO STRONGLY!  One impression that has come to me over and over again as I’ve studied and prayed is the CONNECTION between the SABBATH and THE LAW OF THE FAST.  I’ll share two different references to illustrate.  DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS 59:9‑14   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 now from the book of ¶ ISAIAH 58, verses 13 and 14:  If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words. Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord . . . . As the Prophet ISAIAH has been speaking of living the Law of the Fast just prior to this, it seems to me that he’s inviting us to “FAST” from what we would ordinarily THINK and DO and SAY on the Sabbath, and turn to what our Heavenly Father wants us to do.  As we do our best to keep the Sabbath HOLY and WHOLLY, we show our Heavenly Father that we have ACCEPTED HIS GIFT of a day of REST, a day of PEACE, a day for renewal and kindness, for worship and holiness.  Let’s become known as people who keep the Sabbath Day HOLY.  Let’s show the Lord, through our observance of His Day, that we DO REMEMBER HIM and His ATONING SACRIFICE, and we wish to WORSHIP and HONOR HIM on HIS HOLY DAY.  I feel DEEPLY about what I have shared.  I know that the Sabbath fills our NEED for PHYSICAL and SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT and REJUVENATION.  It is, as PRESIDENT FAUST CALLED IT, “a day of SPIRITUAL CELEBRATION.”  May our efforts to keep the Sabbath day HOLY bring the promised blessings in this day when we NEED those blessings as much as any of God’s children ever have!

EXTRA FROM ISAIAH 58:6-14 (p. 930-31) (Some of the most incredible and tender promises in any of scripture)  6) Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7) Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?   8) Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.  9) Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.  If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;10) And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday; 11) And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. 12) And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.   13) If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words. 14) Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 

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