Lesson 26: Do Good on the Sabbath

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1, (2002), 90–94


Each young man will understand the purpose of the Sabbath day and will desire to receive the blessings that come from observing it properly.


  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      A handkerchief or piece of rope with a knot tied in it.

    3. c.

      A pencil for each young man.

  2. 2.

    Prepare a copy of the handout “Appropriate Sunday Activities” for each young man (see page 94).

  3. 3.

    Review the counsel about Sunday behavior on pages 32–33 of For the Strength of Youth.

Suggested Lesson Development

“It Is Lawful to Do Well on the Sabbath”


Have the young men imagine that they are living at the time of the Savior, and explain that they are going to see who keeps the Sabbath day holy according to the laws at that time in history.

Allow each young man to attempt to untie a knot in the handkerchief or rope. If a young man unties the knot with both hands, tell him he doesn’t keep the Sabbath day holy, but do not explain why. If he unties it with one hand only, tell him he keeps the Sabbath holy. Be sure not to tell the young men how you are determining whether they are keeping the Sabbath holy until they all have attempted to untie a knot.

After each young man has a turn, explain that during the time the Savior lived on the earth there were many man-made laws and rules about what could and could not be done on the Sabbath day. A knot that could be untied with one hand could be undone, but using two hands to untie a knot was considered breaking the Sabbath. Persons with broken bones or dislocated joints had to wait until the Sabbath was over before their injury could be cared for. If a building collapsed and someone was buried in the ruins, it was legal to dig for them and take them out if they were alive, but if they were dead they had to be left where they were until the Sabbath was over (see James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1916], pp. 215–16; see also Cunningham Geikie, The Life and Words of Christ [London: Longmans, Green, and Company, 1903], pp. 406–17).

Scripture story

Explain that one Sabbath day Jesus entered a synagogue and saw in the congregation a man whose right hand was withered. In the crowd was a group of Pharisees, the same group of men who had created the laws we have just discussed. These men were trying to have Jesus arrested for breaking the law. They watched him carefully, trying to find a way to trap him. They asked the Savior, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days?”

  • What do you think the Savior said?

Allow the young men to respond; then continue the story.

The Savior replied with a question: “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? …

“Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (see Talmage, Jesus the Christ, pp. 214–15; see also Matthew 12:10–13; Mark 3:1–6; and Luke 6:6–8).

Scripture and discussion

Often we, like the Pharisees, see keeping the Sabbath day holy as just a set of things we can’t do on Sunday. Explain that just as the Savior told the Pharisees that we should do good deeds on the Sabbath, he also spoke to modern prophets concerning the Sabbath.

Have a young man read Doctrine and Covenants 59:9–10.

  • How can we keep ourselves “unspotted from the world”?


Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“This day … is called the Sabbath, from the Hebrew shabbath meaning day of rest. The rest, though important, is incidental to the true keeping of the Sabbath. What is more important is that the Sabbath is an holy day—a day of worship, one in which men turn their whole souls to the Lord, renew their covenants with him, and feed their souls upon the things of the Spirit. …

“And the matter of Sabbath observance remains to this day as one of the great tests which divides the righteous from the worldly and wicked.

“Sunday being the Lord’s Day, it is a day on which men should do the Lord’s work, and do it exclusively. There should be no unnecessary work of a temporal nature, no recreation, no unnecessary travel, no joy riding, and the like. The Sabbath is a day for affirmative spiritual worship” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], pp. 658–59).

We Are Blessed for Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy


“When I was a boy we lived on a small Utah farm where money was scarce and work abundant. During those early growing-up years the summers seemed especially difficult to me and filled with endless drudgery. …

“The one saving balm, the one pleasant oasis in the midst of all the summer labor was the Sabbath. We all knew that Sunday was the Lord’s day. The weeds, the hay lying in the field, and the unharvested grain would all wait until Monday.

“Stopping work on the Sabbath was not always as easy as hanging up a hoe and not returning to the cornfield. There were complications. The summers were the only real opportunities to harvest financial security. If a farmer did not prosper during those short summer months, the long winters were lean and difficult. The crops had to succeed, and more often than not the key to this modest prosperity was water—water that was scarce in Utah, water that seldom came in the form of rain, water that had to be stored meticulously during the winter and spring and rationed carefully throughout the hot, dry summer weeks.

“Each farm was dependent upon the irrigation ditch. The ditch, with its life-giving water, was all that stood between the farmer and disaster. Irrigation was imperative, and at times that posed a real Sabbath dilemma. Some years a farmer’s turn fell on Monday, some years on Tuesday, some years on another day of the week. And sometimes the turn fell on Sunday. The farmer had no choice.

“Like everyone else, Father’s turn came on Sunday some years. I remember those years well because I was always impressed by my father’s determination to keep the Sabbath day holy. I don’t suppose the Lord would have condemned him for irrigating his farm on Sunday. He knew father’s heart, and He knew the circumstances under which he and the other farmers labored. However, father wanted to avoid even that Sabbath labor. He was convinced that were the Lord to make out those watering schedules for the farmers, no turn would ever fall on His Sabbath. I never heard Father verbalize his resolve not to trespass on the Lord’s holy day but his life reflected it.

“When father’s turn fell on Sunday, he did all he could to avoid Sabbath irrigation. Friday and Saturday he would watch at the irrigation ditch for any run-off water from the farmers up the line. He squeezed every available drop from the ditch, and by Sunday the farm was irrigated. I don’t remember that he ever had been forced to work on the Lord’s day. This meant more work for him, but father was willing to make the sacrifice if it would allow him to rest on the Sabbath.

“Everything always seemed to work out. As I observed him through the years, his dedication and resolve were a testimony to me that the Lord blesses those who strive to keep his commandments.

“Then one year came a special trial of his faith. The scorching summer heat seemed to come early that year, portending a drought. The days passed slowly, the sun baking everything—the lawn, the garden, and the fields wilting under the burning rays. Of all the years to have a Sunday water turn! The farm needed water, water that had not come down the irrigation ditch as runoff on Friday and Saturday; consequently, the farm was dry on Sunday.

“One Sunday morning, my mother approached my father with great concern. ‘Joseph,’ she said, ‘I think you’d better turn the water down from the ditch, at least on the lawn and garden. They’re burning up.’

“And they were. Everything was burning up without water. There was no alternative. The farm had to have water, and if father let his irrigation turn slip by, there would be no water until the following Sunday. The farm would never go another week.

“And so, before getting dressed for his Sunday meetings, father left the house, carrying his shovel over his shoulder. It must have been terribly disappointing for him to trudge up the hill that morning. All these years he had worked to avoid this very labor, and now he was caught. We were sure the Lord would not condemn him, and yet, Father wanted very much to find another way.

“He reached the irrigation ditch and put the canvas dam in place, but before doing anything else, still bending over the ditch, he paused and contemplated. What was he to do? He pondered the Lord’s injunction to keep the Sabbath holy. Did he really believe that, not merely with his lips but with his life?

“While he was deep in thought, he received a poignantly powerful communication, one he would never forget: ‘Pull out your dam. Put up your shovel and tools. I will take care of things for you. It may not be early in the day, but I will take care of it. As for the summer, leave it to me. I will provide.’

“Father straightened up. There was no one around. He looked heavenward. The sky was clear and blue, no clouds in sight. A dry breeze was blowing, promising a stifling, suffocating day.

“With the broiling sun intense and the earth parched and powdery dry, father pulled out the canvas dam, left the ditch, and returned to the house. He had been told. He knew that. He didn’t know how he would be taken care of, but he knew he had been promised. He dressed and went to his Sunday meetings, leaving his farm to the power he had trusted all his life.

“When they returned home from their meetings, the sky was still clear, the air hot, the farm wilting beneath the sweltering sun. With no visible sign of relief, mother, still greatly concerned about the garden, again spoke to father, who had not mentioned to her the experience he had had that morning. ‘It surely doesn’t look much like rain,’ she said. ‘What are you going to do about the garden?’

“For the second time that day father climbed the hill to the irrigation ditch, saddened by his situation. Reluctantly he placed the dam into the ditch, but then he paused, amazed by his own faltering conviction. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked himself. …

“Filled with a new resolve, he pulled the dam from the ditch and went down the mountain, determined never again to make that Sabbath trek to the canal.

“Coming down the hill, he lifted his eyes to the sky and saw clouds beginning to gather. Within an hour the rain was coming down in torrents. The dry earth soaked up the needed moisture, and the lawn, the garden, and the fields were refreshed.

“That rain was a miracle, but it was only a beginning. Summer was just commencing. The sweltering months of July and August lay ahead. But father had no worries; he had been promised by Him who had given the law and who would provide the way for its compliance.

“The following week a neighbor asked father if he would trade a portion of his Sunday water turn for a portion of a Saturday one. Father was delighted. During that short time on Saturday he was able to water the lawn and garden. Still, there was no possible way to irrigate the farm’s acres of corn, barley, and hay during those few short hours on Saturday. But the Lord blessed him in another way. Periodically throughout the summer, just when rain was needed most, clouds gathered, the rains came, and the crops were watered.

“So sure was my father that the Lord would watch over him that not once during the summer did he clean a ditch or furrow out the corn. This was hot, dry Utah, where the farmer’s whole existence was dependent upon those irrigation ditches, but this summer the ditches on father’s farm were never used. Never before had father gone an entire summer without irrigating his farm, but this summer was different. This summer was the Lord’s summer, and he was providing.

“By the end of the summer father had harvested three bumper crops of hay, a bounteous yield of barley, and a lush crop of silage corn. The windows of heaven had truly opened, and the Lord had indeed provided” (Alma J. Yates, “The Unforgettable Summer,” Ensign, Aug. 1982, pp. 57–58).


  • What struggles did the farmer in this story have in keeping the Sabbath holy?

  • How did the Lord bless this man?

  • Why is it important to keep the Sabbath day holy?

Point out that all blessings we receive for keeping the Sabbath holy might not be as dramatic as those received by this farmer, but they can be just as important and meaningful to us if we have the faith to keep this commandment.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Quotation and discussion

Explain that sometimes we are not exactly sure what activities are appropriate on the Sabbath. The best way to know if an activity is in keeping with the Sabbath is to use the gift of the Holy Ghost in deciding what is right. Also we should follow the counsel of our leaders.

Read the following quotation from Elder Russell M. Nelson:

“I plead with you to do more than passively follow lists of dos and don’ts compiled by others. Generate your own policies, and live by them. Follow the standard of the Lord, who centuries ago said: ‘My sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.’ …

“Questions regarding appropriate behavior on the Sabbath are easily resolved when you study [the] scriptures and then determine what sign you choose to give to God of your regard for him” (“Standards of the Lord’s Standard-bearers,” Ensign, Aug. 1991, p. 10).



Review the counsel about Sunday behavior given on pages 32–33 of For the Strength of Youth. Give a copy of “Appropriate Sunday Activities” and a pencil to each young man, and explain the procedure for completing the quiz. Allow sufficient time to complete it; then correct it. Be sure to emphasize that each answer is yes. All activities listed here would be appropriate for the Sabbath. Discuss these activities and have the young men keep the sheet to refer to in the future. Remind them that the Savior did not approve of the rules the people had in his day because they often prohibited people from doing good on the Sabbath. Stress that this list contains only some suggestions and that each young man should strive to keep the Sabbath day holy so the Holy Ghost may be with him. If he does this, he will truly be blessed.


Suggest that the young men record their feelings in their journals at the end of each Sabbath day for the next four or five weeks. They should analyze their activities for that day and write their feelings about those activities. An honest effort in this assignment will help the young men to develop a closer relationship with their families and the Lord.