“Anyone can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy takes the rest of the week” – Alice Walker
You can’t pick up an Ensign these days without hearing much about the need to keep the Sabbath day. This is a good thing. I hope that the Church isn’t just focus-grouping this topic as a sort of “this year’s theme,” or to just amp up the attendance numbers, but see an honest need for people to remember the Lord on a weekly basis. The Church must have data that shows how much it is in disrepair among Latter-day Saints. So it got me thinking . . .
How exactly does the Lord want me to keep the Sabbath day, and keep it holy?
President Nelson’s talk in April is a good resource. I’ve read it a couple of times and I find it to be a great discourse on the subject, as far as some basic concepts:
- Attend church to offer up sacraments, taking upon us the Name of Christ
- Rest from your labors
- Pay devotions to the Most High
- Serving others–family history is an option, visiting the lonely and sick, etc.
- Strengthen family ties
- Preparing food with “singleness of heart”
- Don’t do your own pleasures, but the Lord’s pleasure
When I was “active,” I enjoyed the gentle call of the Spirit to attend services. When I attended all three hours, I felt a better sense of renewal than I did when I just went to Sacrament meeting. I have not been back to an LDS service in some time, my Sabbath schedule interferes with attending my ward Sunday services, since one of my Sunday fellowships happens over the top of my ward schedule. There are times when I miss that interaction, and I’m challenged to fill my Sabbath worship other ways.
Among folks in this movement, the Sabbath day has also been a hot topic. I thought I would spend some time to break down some of the theories and ideas and hopefully present some ideas on what it means to keep the Sabbath day. I really don’t have a theory on the best way to do it, so maybe you have some better research or revelation as to tell you how to live it best.
Day of the Week
Does it matter? For some of our more Torah-oriented fellowship groups, this is a critical thing. The day is of a vital importance, and as with Jews, the Sabbath should be celebrated from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. They also include festivals and other holy days celebrated anciently. I’m not sure it matters. I think if the exactness of observance is done in a way that causes a greater remembrance of the Savior, it can be a good thing. If it becomes a rallying point, or a brand, or a system that sets certain people up as have the best understanding of “the way,” I think it creates more pride than it does anything. For me, I’m inclined to keep my Sabbath worship on Sunday out of convenience, knowing that for me, it’s not so much the day as it is the fact that I’m reserving one day (or more) out of the week to honor the Lord. Furthermore, I’ve read some interesting ideas that ancient Jews followed the lunar calendar, so what we deem as Saturday, the day of rest, was a roaming date that depended on the cycles of the moon. It would be quite a feat for someone to come up with THAT Sabbath schedule. Maybe someone should. I’m open to being taught more on this subject.
Thou Shalts and Nots
When I was a youth, my mother would note to me that we would never watch NFL football on Superbowl Sunday (we never watched it on any other day, but that’s beside the point). When Superbowl Sunday came round the first of the year, our family made it a point of pride that we would skip out on such an event. It was the hallmark of how closely we kept the Sabbath. We also stayed in our church clothes most of the day, listened only to uplifting Sunday-oriented music, and couldn’t watch TV–that is, until the sun went down, then on popped the ABC Disney Sunday Movie! There was no systematic approach to Sabbath worship in our home, it was all based on how she grew up and her cultural understanding. These days I watch the Superbowl, not because I like NFL football, but that it gives my wife’s family time to get together and deepen relationships–another critical element of Sabbath worship, strengthening family bonds. Sure, we could do other things, but I won’t quibble. I understand the nature of the get together at least in my mind.
Our scriptures say very little about what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath although some general guidelines are offered up in D&C 59. I have highlighted some things that jumped out to me as well as comments in parentheses.
9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; (I believe the house of prayer here is very simple, no need to go to a chapel)
10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
12 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. (See my post on confession, how could we better confess to our Brethren and not just to a church leader?)
13 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. (Maybe we should be skipping the pot roast)
14 Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.
15 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance—
Much of what we get on the topic also comes from the New Testament when the Savior was constantly testing the Sabbath cultural rules that He thought were either nonsense or looked past the mark. The point is, “to keep it holy,” and not get caught up in rules and customs that must be kept.
As I began thinking about this, I’ve applauded that the Church has avoided a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts. What President Nelson states is pretty much the sum total and it comes primarily from our own modern scriptures. In the past decade, there was a big push back in the Hinckley era to get people to stop shopping on the Sabbath. I think this is a good albeit somewhat inconsistent application of the term, “shopping,” since gas purchasing, eating out, online shopping, and other types of shopping were sort of isolated from the more leisure shopping as outlined in those discourses. My wife worked at a Mormon-owned restaurant chain in Provo and in the afternoon, the suits and ties littered the place by people who needed to eat–perhaps they were staying in town–or just didn’t want to cook but wanted the fancy meal. The point is that we could understand the need for meals for visitors who were from out-of-town, but for people that just wanted to “rest” on the Sabbath, but have the big meal, it seemed like they were passing on the sin to my wife and her co-workers, who were pretty much forced to work Sundays. Perhaps this is meant by singleness of heart–keep it simple, you don’t need pot roast every week. I think what it comes down to is how much charity do we employ towards others in our day of rest? Does it cause others to have to work harder so we can enjoy our Sabbath? Do we accelerate the engines of Babylon with our Sabbath habits or calm them down? How much does charity play in our activities? Are we using the Sabbath day to do more with the encompassing commandments to “Love the Lord Thy God, and Love Thy Neighbor?” If not, perhaps we need to repent.
The Sabbath is only the beginning
I return to the statement I quoted at the beginning. “Anyone can observe the Sabbath, but making it holy takes the rest of the week.” Perhaps the best use of the Sabbath is to set ourselves up so that we can find more ways the rest of the week, to keep it holy as well. For me, movies, TV, video games, shopping, leisure, have taken a back seat to spending time reading and pondering the gospel in my free time. I don’t say this to boast. I’ve always been a gospel hobbyist and so for me, I have to use my idle time to do more than argue about church matters on Facebook. Taking time to watch an uplifting program with my wife may be a better use of my time.
What has whispered to me as I’ve written this is that all of the debate about the right day to worship is sort of a Telestial affair. In Zion, the Sabbath day will be everyday, not just one day in the week.
I leave my post with the lyrics to Take Time to be Holy by William D. Longstaff
“Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always, and feed on His Word.
Make friends of God’s children, help those who are weak,
Forgetting in nothing His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.”