Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants: The Holy Sabbath


Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants:

When my parents married and started their family, they faithfully observed the Sabbath, just as their own parents had done. But by the time my father returned from serving in World War II, several restaurants in our city had begun to compete for the patronage of servicemen and their families for Sunday lunch. My parents had not seen such practices in the farming communities where they grew up. In an effort to ease my mother’s burden of preparing Sunday meals, our family occasionally dined at one of the restaurants on Sunday.

Eventually, as my parents gained a better understanding of Church doctrine, they decided we would no longer patronize restaurants on this day. As I grew into my youth, I too began to understand and accept the doctrine of honoring the Sabbath.

During my younger years, many commercial businesses were closed on Sunday. Over time, laws regulating commerce on Sunday were changed, and one business after another began to open its doors every day of the week. It soon became commonplace not only for commerce but for recreation to be promoted and conducted on Sunday.

I have heard many excuses given for such activities, but aside from emergencies and essential services, these activities are not justified according to the standards set by the Lord. In Doctrine and Covenants 59 [D&C 59] we read:

“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; …

“… On this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins. …

“… 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” (D&C 59:9–10, 12–14).

It seems self-evident that we can hardly become “unspotted from the world” if, instead of participating in the activities described above, we spend the Sabbath “finding [our] own pleasure, [and] speaking [our] own words” (Isa. 58:13).

Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, love us. They give us commandments because They do “that which is good among the children of men” (2 Ne. 26:33). Our love for Them can be measured by our willingness to obey, as demonstrated by our thoughts, words, and deeds. When we are obedient, our understanding of the purposes of God increases, as does our happiness. As our understanding and happiness increase, our capacity to love our Heavenly Father and our Savior also grows.

As we read in the Doctrine and Covenants, on Sunday we are commanded to go to “the house of prayer,” or church, to participate in the sacrament and pay our devotions to God. During the sacramental service, as we sing the hymns and listen to the sacramental prayers, we are reminded of the life and Atonement of Jesus Christ. When offering our sacrifice and oblations, we press sanctified symbols to our lips in renewing our baptismal covenants. Yet although the central part of our Sabbath worship should occur during the sacrament itself, it should not be limited to this. In a footnote to Doctrine and Covenants 59:12 [D&C 59:12], the term oblations is defined as “offerings, whether of time, talents, or means, in service of God and fellowman.” We should continue to “offer [our] oblations” through silent and vocal prayers throughout the Sabbath, as well as through service to others—which is service to God (see Mosiah 2:17).

Confessing sins to God, and also to the bishop or branch president when the nature of the sin requires it, is the desire of the faith-filled, repentant soul. Confession opens the way for forgiveness and cleansing. What greater joy can we experience in mortality than to know we are clean?

Preparing our food “with singleness of heart” means, in part, that we prepare our Sunday meals ourselves rather than purchasing them from commercial establishments. It suggests that such preparation should not be laborious and that we should strive to maintain feelings of worship and devotion. It also suggests that hearts should be single to the glory of God, just as our eye is to be single to His glory (see D&C 88:67–68). After all, the most important type of feasting on the Sabbath is spiritual feasting, which on some days may be accompanied by fasting.

Interestingly, the command to “rest from [our] labors” is placed between the phrases “offer up thy sacraments” and “pay thy devotions.” For me, this signifies that resting is essential but that worship precedes and follows the resting. As important as physical renewal is, resting alone does not meet the demands of the law of the Sabbath.

I was taught in my home that the Sabbath was not intended for any labor except spiritual labor. The Lord promises that those who do “the works of righteousness shall receive … peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23). One “work of righteousness” is to keep the Sabbath day holy. I know the Lord’s promises are real. Honoring the Sabbath brings us closer to the Lord and enables us to feel His love more abundantly.

Helps for Home Evening

  1. 1.

    Draw and show a picture of a face with spots on it. Or you could attach some small paper circles to a family member’s face. Read the first phrase of Doctrine and Covenants 59:9 [D&C 59:9] and ask family members to find in verses 9–14 [D&C 59:9–14] ways to remove the “spots” of the world. Discuss how your family observes the Sabbath using ideas mentioned in this article.

  2. 2.

    Identify in this article principles dealing with appropriate labor and rest on the Sabbath. Share an experience of how proper Sabbath observance has blessed your life.

[photos] Photography by Robert Casey