Chapter 21: Honoring the Sabbath and the Sacrament

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 144–53


On the day after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, President Brigham Young spoke briefly to the pioneer camp concerning observance of the Sabbath. With a wilderness to tame, crops to be planted, and other pressing work of the time, he “informed the brethren … they must not work on Sunday, that [if they did] they would lose five times as much as they would gain by it, and they must not hunt or fish on that day.” He remarked that “there would be a meeting every Sabbath in this place or wherever we stop” (WWJ, 25 July 1847). President Young continually admonished the Saints to keep the Sabbath “in remembrance of our God and our holy religion” (DBY, 165).

Teachings of Brigham Young

Keeping the Sabbath day holy brings temporal and spiritual blessings.

Take this book (the book of Doctrine and Covenants) and you will read here that the Saints are to meet together on the Sabbath day [see D&C 59:9–16]. … This people called Latter-day Saints, are required by the revelations that the Lord has given, to assemble themselves together on this day. In this commandment we are required to come together and repent of our sins and confess our sins and partake of the [sacrament] in commemoration of the death and sufferings of our Lord and Savior (DBY, 164).

When people assemble to worship they should leave their worldly cares where they belong, then their minds are in a proper condition to worship the Lord, to call upon him in the name of Jesus, and to get his Holy Spirit, that they may hear and understand things as they are in eternity, and know how to comprehend the providences of our God. This is the time for their minds to be open, to behold the invisible things of God, that he reveals by his Spirit (DBY, 167).

Every person should be silent when we meet here to worship God. Remember and try to keep perfectly quiet, and do not whisper, talk, nor scrape your feet (DBY, 167–68).

By forsaking our fields for a season, to gather together to worship our God, I can assure you that our crops will be better than they would be if we were to spend all our time in our fields. We may water and plant and toil, but we should never forget that it is God who gives the increase; and by meeting together, our health and spirits will be better, we will look better, and the things of this world will increase around us more, and we will know better how to enjoy them (DBY, 167).

We should observe [the Sabbath] for our own temporal good and spiritual welfare. When we see a farmer in such a hurry, that he has to attend to his harvest, and to haying, fence-making, or to gathering his cattle on the Sabbath day, as far as I am concerned, I count him weak in the faith. He has lost the spirit of his religion, more or less. Six days are enough for us to work [see Exodus 20:9–11], and if we wish to play, play within the six days; if we wish to go on excursions, take one of those six days, but on the seventh day, come to the place of worship (DBY, 165).

Instead of suffering our labors to occupy the Sabbath, … we should do as little as possible; if it is necessary to cook food, do so; but even if that could be dispensed with, it would be better. As to keeping the Sabbath according to the Mosaic law, indeed, I do not; for it would be almost beyond my power. Still, under the new covenant, we should remember to preserve holy one day in the week as a day of rest—as a memorial of the rest of the Lord and the rest of the Saints; also for our temporal advantage, for it is instituted for the express purpose of benefiting man. It is written in this book (the Bible), that the Sabbath was made for man. It is a blessing to him. As little labor as possible should be done upon that day; it should be set apart as a day of rest, to assemble together in the place appointed, according to the revelation [see D&C 59:10–12], confessing our sins, bringing our tithes and offerings, and presenting ourselves before the Lord (DBY, 164).

Now, remember, my brethren, those who go skating, buggy riding or on excursions on the Sabbath day—and there is a great deal of this practiced—are weak in the faith. Gradually, little by little, little by little, the spirit of their religion leaks out of their hearts and their affections, and by and by they begin to see faults in their brethren, faults in the doctrines of the Church, faults in the organization, and at last they leave the Kingdom of God and go to destruction. I really wish you would remember this, and tell it to your neighbors (DBY, 165).

Whether we are poor or rich, if we neglect our prayers and our sacrament meetings, we neglect the Spirit of the Lord, and a spirit of darkness comes over us (DBY, 170).

We are under the necessity of assembling here from Sabbath to Sabbath, and in Ward meetings, … to teach, talk, pray, sing, and exhort. What for? To keep us in remembrance of our God and our holy religion. Is this custom necessary? Yes; because we are so liable to forget—so prone to wander, that we need to have the Gospel sounded in our ears as much as once, twice, or thrice a week, or, behold, we will turn again to our idols (DBY, 165).

The Lord has planted within us a divinity; and that divine immortal spirit requires to be fed. Will earthly food answer for that purpose? No; it will only keep this body alive as long as the spirit stays with it, which gives us an opportunity of doing good. That divinity within us needs food from the Fountain from which it emanated. It is not of the earth, earthy, but is from heaven. Principles of eternal life, of God and godliness, will alone feed the immortal capacity of man and give true satisfaction (DBY, 165).

Coming to this Tabernacle to worship and do the will of God for one day in the week, and following our own inclinations and doing our own will at all other times, is a folly; it is useless, and a perfect burlesque on the service of God. We should do the will of God, and spend all our time for the accomplishment of his purposes, whether we are in this Tabernacle or elsewhere (DBY, 166).

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday must be spent to the glory of God, as much as Sunday, or we shall come short of the object of our pursuit [see D&C 59:11] (DBY, 166).

We meet together to strengthen and be strengthened.

Today [on the Sabbath] we are able to meet together to speak to each other, to strengthen and do each other good (DBY, 167).

While we have the privilege of speaking to each other, let us speak words of comfort and consolation. When you are influenced by the Spirit of holiness and purity, let your light shine; but if you are tried and tempted and buffeted by Satan, keep your thoughts to yourselves—keep your mouths closed; for speaking produces fruit, either of a good or evil character (DBY, 166).

When [an individual] opens or closes a meeting with prayer, every man, woman, and child in the congregation who professes to be a Saint should have no desire or words in their hearts and mouths but what are being offered by the [person] who is mouth for all the congregation (DBY, 170).

If any of you feel that there is no life in your meetings, as I occasionally hear some of the brethren say, then it becomes your duty to go and instill life into that meeting, and do your part to produce an increase of the Spirit and power of God in the meetings in your locality (DBY, 170).

I will take the liberty of suggesting to my brethren who address the congregation that our sermons should be short, and if they are not filled with life and spirit let them be shorter, for we have not time at this Conference to let all the Elders who speak preach a long sermon, but we have time to say a few words in bearing testimony, to give a few words of counsel to encourage the Saints, to strengthen the weak, to endeavor to confirm those who are wavering, and so forward the Kingdom of God (DBY, 167).

Brethren and sisters, I will make one request of you. When you speak, speak so that we can hear and understand you. … If you have nothing to say, take my counsel, and keep your seat. If you have anything to say, say it; and when you get through, stop. Let your feelings be governed and controlled by the principles of eternal life, as should the children of God, delighting in truth and righteousness (DBY, 167).

My greatest desire to my Father and God is that I may so speak that my remarks will be acceptable to him and beneficial to those who hear me (DBY, 168).

When I have endeavored to address a congregation, I … ask God my Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, to give me his Spirit, and put into my heart the things he wishes me to speak (DBY, 168).

I need the attention of the congregation and the faith of those who have faith; I need the wisdom of God and his Spirit to be in my heart to enable me to speak to the edification of the people. Although I have been a public speaker for thirty-seven years, it is seldom that I rise before a congregation without feeling a child-like timidity; if I live to the age of Methuselah I do not know that I shall outgrow it. There are reasons for this which I understand. When I look upon the faces of intelligent beings I look upon the image of the God I serve. There are none but what have a certain portion of divinity within them; and though we are clothed with bodies which are in the image of our God, yet this mortality shrinks before that portion of divinity which we inherit from our Father. This is the cause of my timidity (DBY, 168).

In addressing a congregation, though the speaker be unable to say more than half a dozen sentences, and those awkwardly constructed, if his heart is pure before God, those few broken sentences are of more value than the greatest eloquence without the Spirit of the Lord and of more real worth in the sight of God, angels, and all good men. In praying, though a person’s words be few and awkwardly expressed, if the heart is pure before God, that prayer will avail more than the eloquence of a Cicero [a first century B.C. Roman orator]. What does the Lord, the Father of us all, care about our mode of expression? The simple, honest heart is of more avail with the Lord than all the pomp, pride, splendor, and eloquence produced by men. When he looks upon a heart full of sincerity, integrity, and child-like simplicity, he sees a principle that will endure forever—“That is the spirit of my own kingdom—the spirit I have given to my children” (DBY, 169).

I believe it is our duty to imitate everything that is good, lovely, dignified and praiseworthy. We ought to imitate the best speakers, and study to convey our ideas to each other in the best and choicest language, especially when we are dispensing the great truths of the Gospel of peace to the people. I generally use the best language I can command (DBY, 169).

[However,] I believe … that if I had all the mastery of language that has ever been obtained by the learned, my spirit would delight more in childlike conversation, and that too, in a simple language, than in the most learned literary style that is used. A plain, clear method of expressing ideas is the most pleasing to me (DBY, 169).

Fast day is given to help the needy and strengthen testimonies.

You know that the first Thursday in each month [now the first Sunday] we hold as a fast day. How many here know the origin of this day? Before tithing was paid, the poor were supported by donations. They came to Joseph and wanted help, in Kirtland, and he said there should be a fast day, which was decided upon. It was to be held once a month, as it is now, and all that would have been eaten that day, of flour, or meat, or butter, or fruit, or anything else, was to be carried to the fast meeting and put into the hands of a person selected for the purpose of taking care of it and distributing it among the poor (DBY, 169).

In our fast-day meetings, the Saints meet to express their feelings and to strengthen each other in their faith in the holy Gospel (DBY, 169).

Do you not receive as much of the spirit of intelligence, of the spirit of knowledge, and the consoling influences of the Holy Ghost, to have people rise and testify of the things of God which they do know, of those things which they have experienced themselves? Does not that vividly bring to your minds the goodness of the Lord in revealing to you the truths of the Gospel? Does not that strengthen your faith, give you an increase of confidence and witness to you that you are a child of God? Most assuredly it does. Therefore, when any testify of the things of God, it strengthens their brethren, precisely as it did in days of old when they observed the counsel to, “Speak often one to another,” “strengthen the brethren,” and so on (DBY, 170).

By partaking of the sacrament, we remember the Savior and renew our covenants with our Heavenly Father.

I say to the brethren and sisters, in the name of the Lord, it is our duty and it is required of us, by our Father in Heaven, by the spirit of our religion, by our covenants with God and each other, that we observe the ordinances of the house of God, and especially on the Sabbath day, to attend to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Then attend the Ward meetings and the Quorum meetings (DBY, 171).

In the ordinance [sacrament] we here attend to … , we show to the Father that we remember Jesus Christ, our Elder Brother; we testify to him that we are willing to take upon us his name. When we are doing this, I want the minds here as well as the bodies. I want the whole man here when you come to meeting (DBY, 171).

I would exhort my brethren and sisters to receive this ordinance every Sabbath, when [you] meet together. … I do pray you, my brethren and sisters, to contemplate this ordinance thoroughly, and seek unto the Lord with all your hearts that you may obtain the promised blessings by obedience to it. Teach its observance to your children; impress upon them its necessity. Its observance is as necessary to our salvation as any other of the ordinances and commandments that have been instituted in order that the people may be sanctified, that Jesus may bless them and give unto them his spirit, and guide and direct them that they may secure unto themselves life eternal. Impress the sacredness of this important ordinance upon the minds of your children (DBY, 171–72).

We [partake of the sacrament] in remembrance of the death of our Savior; it is required of his disciples until he comes again, no matter how long that may be. No matter how many generations come and go, believers in him are required to eat bread and drink wine [or water, today] in remembrance of his death and sufferings until he comes again. Why are they required to do this? To witness unto the Father, to Jesus and to the angels that they are believers in and desire to follow him in the regeneration, keep his commandments, build up his Kingdom, revere his name and serve him with an undivided heart, that they may be worthy to eat and drink with him in his Father’s Kingdom. This is why the Latter-day Saints partake of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper (DBY, 172).

In what consists the benefit we derive from this ordinance? It is in obeying the commands of the Lord. When we obey the commandments of our Heavenly Father, if we have a correct understanding of the ordinances of the house of God, we receive all the promises attached to the obedience rendered to his commandments (DBY, 172).

It is one of the greatest blessings we could enjoy, to come before the Lord, and before the angels, and before each other, to witness that we remember that the Lord Jesus Christ has died for us. This proves to the Father that we remember our covenants, that we love his Gospel, that we love to keep his commandments, and to honor the name of the Lord Jesus upon the earth (DBY, 172).

Suggestions for Study

Keeping the Sabbath day holy brings temporal and spiritual blessings.

  • What are the Lord’s requirements for keeping the Sabbath day holy? What are the benefits of keeping the Sabbath holy? (See also D&C 59:9–16.)

  • President Young stated, “We are under the necessity of assembling … in meetings.” What did he tell us to do when we “assemble to worship”? What can distract us from assembling to worship God on the Sabbath?

  • According to President Young, what happens “little by little” when we do not obey the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy? Drawing on President Young’s statements, what are some questions we could ask ourselves to determine the appropriateness of certain Sabbath day activities? (For example: Is the activity for our spiritual welfare? Does it nurture our faith? Does it help us bless others?)

  • Why should we worship the Lord every day and not just on the Sabbath? (See also D&C 59:11.) How might worship on weekdays be the same or different from worship on the Sabbath? How can we spend every day “to the glory of God”?

We meet together to strengthen and be strengthened.

  • Why is it important that we meet together to worship on the Sabbath? What should be our intent as we greet one another, speak, or teach in our Sabbath meetings? (See also D&C 43:8–9.) How does your association with other Latter-day Saints help you?

  • What counsel did President Young give to those who are invited to speak in Church meetings? Why is the influence of the Holy Ghost more important than the use of eloquent words? What did President Young expect of the members in the congregation? How might we appropriately “instill life” in our meetings? (See also D&C 50:21–24.)

Fast day is given to help the needy and strengthen testimonies.

  • According to President Young, why was fast day instituted?

  • What influence does the giving of a generous fast offering have on the giver?

  • On fast Sundays we have opportunity to bear testimony to one another. What does it mean to bear testimony? Why is it vital for us to bear testimony and to hear others do the same? How do we influence others when we testify of the things of God? How are we influenced in the process? How have the testimonies of others strengthened your faith?

By partaking of the sacrament, we remember the Savior and renew our covenants with our Heavenly Father.

  • The most significant thing we do in our Sunday meetings is partake of the sacrament. Why does the Lord require thoughtful participation in the sacrament? (See also D&C 27:2.)

  • What do we covenant when we partake of the sacrament? (See the sacramental prayers in D&C 20:75–79 or Moroni 4; 5.) What does it mean to take upon us the name of Christ? What does the Lord promise to those who partake of the sacrament with full intent? How can we receive these promised blessings?

  • How can partaking of the sacrament strengthen our commitment to the Savior on all days of the week? (See also D&C 59:9–12.)