Lesson 29: Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 245–50


The purpose of this lesson is to teach us to keep the Sabbath day holy.

Introduction

In the United States during the 1930s many people could not find work. It was a time of great hardship. One priesthood bearer in Salt Lake City, Utah, got a job with the government. It paid well and promised security. There was only one problem: the new job required him to work on Sunday. But he needed the money to support his family.

He knew that the Lord is not always displeased when people have to work on Sunday, so he prayed that the Lord would approve of his work on the Sabbath. But the Lord gave him the feeling that, in his case, he should not work on Sunday. The man discussed the matter with his wife. They both felt he should tell his boss he would not come to work on Sunday. When he did this, the boss warned him that he would lose his job.

  • What would you do if you were this man?

When this priesthood holder refused to work on Sunday, he lost his job. A short time later, however, he was blessed to find another job that did not require him to work on the Sabbath.

The Sacredness of the Sabbath

In the beginning the Lord spent six days creating this earth, but on the seventh day He rested (see Genesis 2:2–3). He called this day the Sabbath. He set the example, showing us that we should honor the Sabbath by resting from all our work. God has always expected His children to devote one day in seven to Him.

Before the time of Christ, the Sabbath was observed on the seventh day of the week. But following Christ’s Resurrection most Christians have observed the Sabbath on the first day of the week (see Acts 20:7). It was called the Lord’s Day (see Revelation 1:10) in honor of His Resurrection on that day (see John 20:1).

Christ is Lord of the Sabbath (see Mark 2:27–28). As such, He has commanded us to keep “[His] holy day” (see D&C 59:9–13).

During Moses’ time the Lord emphasized the importance of keeping the Sabbath when He included it among the Ten Commandments.

The Lord told the people of Israel that the Sabbath was very important—that their obedience in honoring it was a sign of their faithfulness to Him (see Exodus 31:12–17).

The Sabbath was observed as directed by the Lord in these and other scriptures until the time of Jesus Christ. During these centuries, many uninspired religious leaders placed many restrictions on what a person could do on the Sabbath. For example, they taught that a fire could not be started or put out on the Sabbath. A person could untie a knot only if it could be done with one hand. One mile was the limit anyone could walk. Broken bones could not be reset until after the Sabbath.

It became so difficult for the people to obey all the rules that they forgot the true purpose of the Sabbath day. Rather than being a blessing and a joy, the Sabbath became a burden.

President George Albert Smith explained what our attitude toward the Sabbath should be: “[The Lord] has set apart one day in seven, not to make it a burden, but to bring joy into our lives and cause that our homes may be the gathering place of the family, … increasing our love for one another” (“Obey the Commandments,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1949, 9).

  • How can the Sabbath be a joy in our lives?

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

The Lord has not given us many rules about the Sabbath; He has simply given us some directions to guide us in keeping it holy.

  • Read Doctrine and Covenants 59:9–13. Why has the Lord asked us to keep the Sabbath day holy? (To keep ourselves unspotted from the world.) What does it mean to “keep thyself unspotted from the world”?

  • Display visual 29-a, “On the Sabbath day we are to ‘offer up … sacraments.’”

  • According to these verses, what should we do to keep the Sabbath day holy? (We should go to the house of prayer, rest from our labors, pay our devotions, offer up oblations and sacraments, confess our sins, prepare our meals with singleness of heart, fast, and pray.) What are oblations? (Gifts to the Lord. They include tithes and offerings.) What is meant by letting “thy food be prepared with singleness of heart”? (Prepare only simple meals on that day.)

The First Presidency of the Church said: “The Sabbath is not just another day on which we merely rest from our work, free to spend it as our light-mindedness may suggest. It is a holy day, the Lord’s Day, to be spent as a day of worship and reverence” (“The Sabbath,” Church News, 11 July 1959, 3).

  • What other kinds of things may we do on the Sabbath to keep it holy?

In addition to the instructions given to us in the scriptures and by our living prophets, we can learn how to keep the Sabbath day holy by studying the Savior’s life. One Sabbath day, for example, as Jesus was going into a synagogue to teach, He met a man with a withered hand. The scribes and the Pharisees, convinced that healing the man would break the Sabbath, gathered around the Savior to see what He would do.

Knowing what they were thinking, the Lord asked them, “Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?” Then, looking around at all of them, He said to the man, “Stretch forth thy hand.” The man did so, and his hand was completely healed. (See Luke 6:6–10.)

On another Sabbath day Jesus asked, “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?” (Luke 14:5–6).

  • According to the Savior’s example, what kind of work is appropriate on the Sabbath?

President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“It is true that some people must work on the Sabbath. And, in fact, some of the work that is truly necessary—caring for the sick, for example—may actually serve to hallow the Sabbath. However, in such activities our motives are an important consideration.

“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” (“The Sabbath—A Delight,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 5).

When we are faced with the decision to engage in an activity that may or may not be appropriate for the Sabbath, we might ask ourselves three questions:

  • Is it doing good?

  • Is it spiritually uplifting?

  • Would Jesus do it?

When we cannot avoid working on Sunday, we should keep the spirit of the Sabbath in our hearts.

Blessings for Observing the Sabbath

The Lord has promised us great temporal and spiritual blessings if we keep the Sabbath day holy. If we honor it “with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, … the fulness of the earth is yours, … whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards” (D&C 59:15–17).

  • What other blessings might we receive by keeping the Sabbath day holy?

Conclusion

The Lord has told us not to trifle with sacred things. One of the most sacred things the Lord has given us is His holy day. Elder Ezra Taft Benson said: “The purpose of the Sabbath is for spiritual uplift, for a renewal of our covenants, for worship, for rest, for prayer. It is for the purpose of feeding the spirit, that we may keep ourselves unspotted from the world by obeying God’s command” (“Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy,” Ensign, May 1971, 6). Keeping the Sabbath day holy expresses our love for the Lord and shows our gratitude for His goodness. When we follow this commandment, we receive great blessings from Him.

Challenge

Seek to make the Sabbath more spiritual. Gather together your family and discuss your family’s conduct on the Sabbath. Discuss ways to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remind family members to ask themselves three questions to determine if their activities are appropriate:

  • Is it doing good?

  • Is it spiritually uplifting?

  • Would Jesus do it?

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Review Gospel Principles chapter 24, “The Sabbath Day.”

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.