Sunday, July 14, 2013


Good afternoon, Brothers and Sisters.  Our topic today is the Sabbath.  When I was assigned this topic, I thought, “Oh, this should be a tightly-focused, narrow topic.”  My record is still perfect; ain’t been right yet.

As always, as I prepared for this talk I have been enlightened, and my mind opened to the truth vastly more than my poor words might ever convey to you, my dear friends.  I have felt no small amount of shame and remorse as my backsliding and foolishness has been made manifest to me.

In addition to the Scriptures, the main sources for this talk are from the January, 1978 edition of “The Ensign,” which was devoted to the Sabbath.  The managing editor, Jay M. Todd, wrote a short foreword to that issue:

“Early in 1976 the subject of the Sabbath was discussed with our Brethren. They agreed that a treatment of that topic could have a powerful impact on the lives of members of the Church. Thus the articles in this issue were prepared; and they are featured together here to provide a complementary unit of themes relating to Sunday. We hope that readers will find helpful the ideas and experiences voiced by members of the Church—not as official pronouncements concerning Church Sabbath-day practices, but as good counsel to be considered by all who have seen the need for renewed efforts in making Sunday the best day of the week.”

I recommend this issue of the “Ensign” with all my heart.  As Brother Todd said, it may not be official doctrine, but it is filled with dynamic power and timeless relevance.  It is available on the church web site,

From the Book of Exodus, chapter 20, verses 8 through 11, we know that to Moses was given the commandment,

“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.

In Doctrine &Covenants 59, we are told:

"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 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—

Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.”

Surely, then, the Sabbath is made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.  Think of each of the promises made in this passage as I read them again.

“The fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;

Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;

Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the
use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the

We are given all the animals to use as food when necessary, but also so that their beauty, power, and majesty might please our eyes and gladden our hearts.  We are given all good things which come from the earth – that which grows in the soil, but also the minerals and elements from the earth, itself – but it says, “…in the season thereof…” meaning as appropriate to our stewardship, not as looters.  And all of these things do, indeed nourish us physically, aesthetically, and spiritually.  And all we have to do is keep the Sabbath holy, in accordance to His commandments.

This is not the first time I have read these scriptures.  How is it, then, that I have been so easily lured into so many foolish ideas about the Sabbath?

For example, I have convinced myself that I can get as much by staying home and reading the Scriptures and reflecting prayerfully on them as I can get from going to church.  My dad used to tell me that when I was alone, I was in bad company.  The meaning of  Matthew, 18:20 was totally lost on me.  “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  Here, in our midst, is He.  But more than once I have thought that I could get as much on my couch as here, with you wonderful people whom I love, and Him.

Here’s another good one.  I actually convinced myself many times that because of my family’s financial straits, the opportunity to earn a premium wage by working on the Sabbath was a blessing, and that by working, I was honoring the gifts of strength, a job, and overtime.   What makes this even more stupid is that when I was a teacher for the priest’s quorum in the young men’s organization, I delivered a talk on the Sabbath.  In preparation for that talk, I took a handful of quarters out to my drill press and punched a 3/8 hole through each quarter.  I gave each young man one of those quarters, saying that it was to remind them that, no matter how much they might make by working on the Sabbath, something would be missing from their lives.  Even after that, I let myself get suckered by the Adversary. 

President Kimball, in the opening essay of that issue of the “Ensign,” said,

“When men and women are willing to work on the Sabbath to increase their wealth, they are breaking the commandments; for money taken in on the Sabbath, if the work is unnecessary, is unclean money. Can you imagine a person laboring on the Sabbath in defiance of the Lord’s command, and then bringing a tithe or other portion of the ill-gained fruits of this labor to Him as an offering? Just as in Old Testament times, offerings presented to the Lord must be “without blemish,” and unnecessary Sabbath-day earnings can never be such.”

Do you see my foolishness?  Yes, we were in trouble, and I never thought of myself as working to increase my wealth.  I was working to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads.  It was a grim and stressful time, which is precisely why I should have been even more attentive to the commandments, particularly that of keeping the Sabbath.  When we most needed the blessings that come with keeping the Sabbath, I was at work, trying to do it the hard way.

One of the most cleverly-disguised abuses of the Sabbath was when I decided that, because my family and I were so busy during the week, that skipping church occasionally for a day trip was a righteous activity.  Oh, to be sure, I would occasionally make a Scriptural point as we drove along, or would praise the beauty of creation.  The kids would roll their eyes and go back to reading Harry Potter or texting or whatever they were doing.  As you can see, not only did I handicap myself by shunning the blessings promised for keeping the commandments, but I dragged my innocent little children along with me!

One of the essays in “The Ensign” was written by President Eyring, when he was deputy commissioner of Church Education.  It is in response to the question, “Should I do schoolwork on the Sabbath?”

Suppose you were invited to the office of the president of a nation to meet him about an important government appointment. Would you concentrate easily as you read your algebra book in the minutes before you walked from your hotel to the nation’s headquarters? How comfortably would you slip into writing an essay on philosophy in the hours afterward? If you read before or after, it would almost certainly be either the president’s prior statements or information on topics relating to the office you were being considered for. If you wrote afterwards, it would be about your impressions, your insights, your recollections of your conversation.

“If a visit with a president would blot out interest in unrelated studies, what could be the effect of a visit with the Creator? The Sabbath is an invitation from the Master to commune with him, and we are striving, not for an office, but for eternal life. He arranges lessons to be taught from his own scriptural texts; he instructs his priesthood to serve you the sacrament; and then he promises his presence:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

And here we are, back to Him, as it has been and will be from everlasting unto everlasting.

So how can we establish the Sabbath in our own lives as the best day of the week?  One of the most interesting articles I found is in “The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women.”  Lesson 4 speaks of making the entire week a period of preparation for the Sabbath, and making the Sabbath the focal point, or climax of the week.

How many times have we entered the Sabbath stressed to the limit with the mundanities of life?  Even though they be very important and worthy things, such as keeping our homes clean, our children dressed in clean clothes, schoolwork done, meals prepared, gas tanks filled, and the million and ten details that seem to eat us alive?  Am I the only one who has ever thought at bedtime on Saturday, “Oh, my gosh!  Tomorrow is Sunday!”  It comes around just about every week, right after Saturday, and usually, right before Monday.  But so often it sneaks up on me.  

This lesson offers several common-sense suggestions for planning ahead.  Common sense means things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own in a hundred years.  The week can be scheduled with Sunday specifically in mind if we but give that commandment the priority it merits.   I’m sure some of y’all have read Stephen Covey’s masterpiece, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”  One of those habits is that of putting first things first.  I had an opportunity to see Covey speak on this topic in person.  He illustrated it by taking two large pickle jars and a selection of rocks and objects of various sizes, including some sand.  He explained that the biggest rocks were the most important commitments in our schedule.

He started by pouring the sand into one jar, then put in a few of the largest rocks.  The jar was full, but there were still a lot of rocks left on the table.  Then he took the other jar and placed in it the largest of the rocks.  The rocks came to the top of the jar, giving the impression that it was full.  Next, he put in the next size smaller rocks, which filled the gaps between the big rocks.  Again the jar was full, but it had lot more rocks in it.  He repeated the process, going smaller and smaller, and when he at last added the sand, the jar was really full, but everything was in it.  Hence the importance of putting first things first.

Now I am not about to stand up here and tell anyone what is most important.  We each have our own jars and our own rocks.  But this much seems clear to me:  remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy is a commandment, and that makes is a pretty big rock.  Speaking for myself, it is my intention to put the Sabbath – the biggest of my rocks – in my weekly jar first, so that I will never again be tempted to pass on it because there’s just too much sand.

How many of the stressful circumstances that urge us to neglect the Sabbath might be solved or even removed from our lives if we obey this commandment?

That one issue of the “Ensign” has many articles on the Sabbath, and I have only superficially touched on two of them.  It’s like a General Conference issue, but devoted solely to the Sabbath.

I would like to close by reading part of an essay from the Nov., 1984 “Ensign,”  by Elder John H. Groberg, then of the 70.  He told of driving to a speaking assignment on a Sunday.  His drive took him through the Cache Valley of Utah.  He wrote at length about the indescribable peace and serenity.  No one worked in the fields, the stores were closed, the usually busy roads were almost deserted.  The beauty of the place was even greater than usual, and it struck him that it was because so many of the people were observing the Sabbath.  They were in church, gathering in the presence of the Lord.  His description of the valley is really beautiful.  The article is worth reading, if only for that.

Months later, after an especially hectic period of immersion in the world out there, he said,

“I thought about Sodom and Gomorrah. Could they have been much more wicked than this? And yet the Lord promised to spare them for fifty righteous souls—or even down to ten—but they were not found.

“I let my imagination go and seemed to see a band of destroying angels loosed from heaven—thundering across the land. And even before I had time to think about the situation, I seemed to see myself standing in front of these determined destroyers, declaring, “Hold, hold, hold”; and they held. “Go back,” I said: and their horses reared, their eyes flashing in impatience. The destroyers’ anxiousness showed, but they held.

“The leader looked me squarely in the eye and challenged, “By what right do you ask us to hold? Have you not seen the evil of the land?”

“I replied, “Yes, I know of the sordidness of the world. I see the constant mocking of God’s laws, the merchandising on his holy day, the constant breaking of his commandments. I see the evil that exists almost universally. Yes, yes, all these things are true, still …” Then I became concerned. What right had I to ask them to hold?

“My eyes began to fall from his penetrating gaze, but something inside kept searching, searching, until finally a laserlike beam locked on to a misty memory made many months ago and faithfully filed away for such a time as this. A vista of a beautiful green valley passed before me and moved to the front of my consciousness.

“I raised my eyes and met his as he again said, “What right do you have to ask us to hold?”

“Then with the confidence of sure knowledge and spiritual direction, I replied, “You must hold, for you see, I have been through the Cache Valley on a Sunday afternoon.”

“There was no hesitation, no anger, no look of surprise, no disappointment, only obedience; and he turned and rejoined his group, and they left.”

Brothers and Sisters, can we possibly leave to our children any worldly gift that could be greater than to enable one of them – or even one of us, for that matter – to stand before the destroyers and say, “You must hold, for I have been through the Paradise Hills Ward on a Sunday afternoon?”

I thank you for your kind tolerance.  I am most humbly indebted to the Bishopric for this assignment.   I leave with you my testimony of the truth of the Gospel,  most humbly, in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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