Chapter 26: Observing the Sabbath: That Your Joy May Be Full

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, (2011), 230–39


The Sabbath is a day set apart by God for us to worship, to pray, and to pay our devotions to the Most High.

From the Life of Joseph F. Smith

President Joseph F. Smith recognized and taught the great responsibility Latter-day Saints have to honor the Sabbath day. He taught the Saints to worship the Lord on the Sabbath and to use the time to teach and bless their families. He said: “On the Sabbath days, as far as I am concerned, between the hours of service, I would love to have the privilege of sitting down in my home with my family and conversing with them, and visiting with them, and becoming better acquainted with them. I would like to have the privilege of occupying as much time as I could conveniently on the Sabbath day for this purpose; to get acquainted with my children, keep in touch with them, and to keep them in touch with the scriptures, and to think of something besides fun and jokes and laughter and merriment, and such things as these.”1

He also taught the consequences of desecrating the day hallowed by the Lord. On Sunday, 12 June 1898, in the Salt Lake City Tabernacle he said: “As I came to this meeting I overtook one of the brethren, and he remarked to me that as he passed by the station he saw a vast crowd of people there ready to go out to some pleasure resort. … If any of those profess to be Latter-day Saints, then the course they are pursuing today is contrary to the law of God, contrary to the covenants they have made in the waters of baptism, and contrary to the covenants entered into in the most sacred places to which Latter-day Saints are admitted. They are violating the Sabbath day, they are dishonoring a commandment of the Lord; they are proving themselves disobedient to the law, and they are doing that which is not pleasing in the sight of God, and which will result eventually in their injury, if not in their apostasy.”2

Teachings of Joseph F. Smith

The Lord has set apart and hallowed one day in seven.

God made or designated the Sabbath day for a day of rest, a day of worship, a day for goodly deeds, and for humility and penitence, and the worship of the Almighty in spirit and in truth.3

There is a growing tendency throughout the land to disregard the observance of the Sabbath day. The command: “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” is as much the law to-day as when it was given to Israel on Mount Sinai [Exodus 20:8].4

The Sabbath is a day of rest and of worship, designated and set apart by special commandment of the Lord to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we should honor and keep it holy. We should also teach our children this principle.5

One day in seven has been set apart and hallowed for a day of worship, a day of solemn thought, a day of prayer and thanksgiving, and to partake of the Lord’s Supper in memory of Him and His matchless atonement. Let us teach our children that they should observe the Sabbath to keep it holy, and that, too, because they love to do it as also because God has commanded it. Then they will get recreation and rest, change and pleasure, in a legitimate way on other days. … Let us not desecrate the Sabbath.6

What shall we do on the Sabbath day?

Honor the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Worship the Lord on the Sabbath day. Do not work. Go not out to seek vain pleasures on the Sabbath. Rest, and refresh the mind in prayer, study, and thought upon the principles of life and salvation. These are legitimate labors for the Sabbath day. …

Let the people go from here to their homes and take this with them, and extend it to the absent members of their families. Say to them that the presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are against the violation of the Sabbath day.7

To observe the Sabbath day properly is the plain duty of every Latter-day Saint—and that includes the young men and young women and the boys and girls. It may seem strange that it should be necessary to repeat this often-asserted fact. But there appear to be some people, and sometimes whole communities, who neglect this duty, and therefore stand in need of this admonition.

What are we required to do on the Sabbath day? The revelations of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph are very plain on this subject, and these should govern us, for they are in strict harmony with the teachings of the Savior. Here are some of the simple requirements:

The Sabbath is appointed unto you to rest from your labors.

The Sabbath is a special day for you to worship, to pray, and to show zeal and ardor in your religious faith and duty—to pay devotions to the Most High.

The Sabbath is a day when you are required to offer your time and attention in worship of the Lord, whether in meeting, in the home, or wherever you may be—that is the thought that should occupy your mind.

The Sabbath day is a day when, with your brethren and sisters, you should attend the meetings of the Saints, prepared to partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper; having first confessed your sins before the Lord and your brethren and sisters, and forgiven your fellows as you expect the Lord to forgive you.

On the Sabbath day you are to do no other thing than to prepare your food with singleness of heart, that your fasting may be perfect, and your joy may be full. This is what the Lord calls fasting and prayer [see D&C 59:13–14].

The reason for this required course upon the Sabbath day is also plainly stated in the revelations. It is that one may more fully keep himself unspotted from the world; and to this end, also, the Saints are required to go to the house of prayer and offer up their sacraments on the Sabbath day [see D&C 59:9]. …

The Lord is not pleased with people who know these things and do them not.

Men are not resting from their labors when they plow, and plant and haul and dig. They are not resting when they linger around the home all day on Sunday, doing odd jobs that they have been too busy to do on other days.

Men are not showing zeal and ardor in their religious faith and duty when they hustle off early Sunday morning … to the canyons, the resorts, and to visit friends or places of amusement with their wives and children. They are not paying their devotions in this way to the Most High.

Not in seeking pleasure and recreation do they offer their time and attention in the worship of the Lord; nor can they thus rejoice in the spirit of forgiveness and worship that comes with partaking of the holy sacrament.

Boys and young men are not fasting with singleness of heart that their joy may be full when they spend the Sabbath day loafing around the village ice-cream stand or restaurant, playing games, or in buggy riding, fishing, shooting, or engaged in physical sports, excursions and outings. Such is not the course that will keep them unspotted from the world, but rather one that will deprive them of the rich promises of the Lord, giving them sorrow instead of joy, and unrest and anxiety instead of the peace that comes with works of righteousness.8

We derive, or would derive all the benefit if we would only devote every hour on the Sabbath to some work, or some pursuit, or some study, that would improve our minds and make us more fully acquainted with our duties in the Church, with the law of the Church, with the commandments of God, and with the precepts of the gospel of Jesus Christ. …

My belief is that it is the duty of Latter-day Saints to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, just as the Lord has commanded us to do. Go to the house of prayer. Listen to instructions. Bear your testimony to the truth. Drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, as it may be opened for us from those who are inspired to give us instruction. When we go home, get the family together. Let us sing a few songs. Let us read a chapter or two in the Bible, or in the Book of Mormon, or in the book of Doctrine and Covenants. Let us discuss the principles of the gospel which pertain to advancement in the school of divine knowledge, and in this way occupy one day in seven. …

I think it is a good thing for us to take our children under our wings, so to speak, at least one day in the week, and teach them honor and honesty, and reverence for that which is right and divine, and teach them to respect age and infirmity, and to be kind to the stranger who is within our gates. … We should teach them politeness. We should teach our boys to be gentlemen, and our girls to be ladies. And when I speak of a lady or a gentleman, I mean a boy or a girl, or a man or a woman, who observes genuine modesty, meekness, mildness, patience, love and kindness toward the children of men. …

There are a great many things that we can do on the Sabbath day that would entertain, interest, and instruct our children at home, between the hours of service. … Let them have amusements at the proper time, but let them be taught better things on the Sabbath day.9

Saturday evening may be wisely set apart as an introduction to the Lord’s day.

It is incumbent on members of the Church to so plan their work that there shall be no excuse for robbing the Lord’s day of its sanctity. To this end let the boys and girls have [time] during the week, which may be profitably used for recreations, leaving the Sabbath for spiritual culture and worship. It is equally obligatory that we so plan our amusements that these shall not interfere with our worship.10

Saturday evening may be wisely set apart as a time for thoughtful conversation or helpful reading as an introduction to the Sabbath day.11

A good modern … commandment might read something like this: Do not so overwork and fret on Saturday as to deprive the Sabbath of the devotions and worship that belong to it as a day of rest.

In the home, Saturday is the day set apart for house cleaning, for extra cooking, for mending and all sorts of repairs that the Sabbath is thought to require. In business, Saturday is a day for picking up all loose ends, for closing up all the unfinished details of a week’s work.

The consequences of our modern treatment of the last day of the week are too often manifested in an indolence and supine indifference that make our feelings and a total lack of energy almost incompatible with the spirit of worship. No worn-out man or woman, by the excessive toil of an early Saturday morning and a late Saturday night, can properly worship God in spirit and in truth.12

Persons who habitually desecrate the Lord’s day will lose the Spirit of the Lord.

Thou shalt honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Do we do it? Is it necessary to do it? It is absolutely necessary to do so in order that we may be in harmony with God’s law and commandments; and whenever we transgress that law or that commandment we are guilty of transgressing the law of God. And what will be the result, if we continue? Our children will follow in our footsteps; they will dishonor the command of God to keep one day holy in seven; and will lose the spirit of obedience to the laws of God and his requirements, just as the father will lose it if he continues to violate the commandments.13

Persons who habitually desecrate the Lord’s day cannot be held in fellowship, and members of the Church who neglect public worship and the partaking of the Sacrament and do not remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy, will become weak in the faith and spiritually sickly, and will lose the Spirit and favor of God, and ultimately forfeit their standing in the Church and their exaltation with the obedient and faithful.14

The Lord has said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” It is a law of God, not only unto this people, but unto all mankind. The member of the Church who does not honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy is in transgression; he continues not in the word of truth; he is not in very deed a disciple of Christ; he will not know the truth, and the truth cannot make him free unless he does know it and live by it.15

Theaters and various public amusements are now held on the Sabbath day contrary to the revelations of the Lord, and they prove a potent factor in destroying the faith of those who participate in this practice. The parents of the youth of Zion should guard their children against this and all other evils, for they will be held responsible should their children go astray through their neglect.16

It is as much the duty of the Latter-day Saints to honor the Sabbath day, and to attend to those duties which are required at their hands upon the Sabbath, as it is for them to be honest with their neighbors and otherwise to live righteous lives. … It is also the duty of the parents to set an example before their children in honoring the Sabbath day, in prayerfulness in the family circle, and in attending to every duty as Latter-day Saints. The father and mother who neglect to teach their children and to encourage them to perform their duties, will live to regret their own folly.17

Those who honor the Sabbath enjoy great temporal and spiritual blessings.

Sunday is a day of rest, a change from the ordinary occupations of the week, but it is more than that. It is a day of worship, a day in which the spiritual life of man may be enriched. A day of indolence, a day of physical recuperation is too often a very different thing from the God-ordained day of rest. Physical exhaustion and indolence are incompatible with a spirit of worship. A proper observance of the duties and devotions of the Sabbath day will, by its change and its spiritual life, give the best rest that men can enjoy on the Sabbath day.18

I sincerely desire … that we may be strengthened in our faith; and that we may become better Latter-day Saints than we have been in the past. This is one of the principal objects we have in meeting together on the Sabbath day. … I am persuaded that we have fallen into a habit of coming to meeting without any special contrition of heart. This may be considered a hard saying, and it may not apply to all of us, but I am convinced that many come to meeting listlessly, without a special purpose. I think that we should come to acknowledge before the Lord that we remember the Sabbath day and that we propose to learn of His ways. …

I think all should be imbued with the thought that there is a portion of this work [that] depends on every person. It is for each to realize that he or she will reap what is sown. Therefore, each should labor with a determination and when we come together each should have a prayerful spirit and let his soul go out, not alone for himself, but toward the whole church. If this were done, none would go away from the house of worship without experiencing the spirit of God.19

Now, what is the promise to the Saints who observe the Sabbath? The Lord declares that inasmuch as they do this with cheerful hearts and countenances, the fulness of the earth is theirs: “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 cometh of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards.” [D&C 59:16–17.]

These are all made for the benefit and use of man to please the eye and to gladden the heart, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul. All are promised to those who keep the commandments, and among the commandments is this important one, to observe properly the Sabbath day. …

Let us play and take recreation to our hearts’ content during other days, but on the Sabbath let us rest, worship, go to the house of prayer, partake of the sacrament, eat our food with singleness of heart, and pay our devotions to God, that the fulness of the earth may be ours, and that we may have peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come.20

Suggestions for Study

  • For what purposes has the Lord “set apart and hallowed” the Sabbath day? What are the blessings of having a day of rest and worship?

  • What does it mean to rest from our labors on the Sabbath? What are “legitimate labors for the Sabbath day”? How can we teach our family members to honor the Sabbath?

  • What does it mean to be “unspotted from the world”? How does Sabbath observance help us do this?

  • How are joy and rejoicing a part of Sabbath observance? (See also D&C 59:13–14.) How can dishonoring the Sabbath lead to unhappiness, loss of the Spirit, and apostasy?

  • What are our family responsibilities on the Sabbath? On the Sabbath, how can we teach our children “reverence for that which is right and divine”?

  • How can our activities on Saturday add to or detract from our Sabbath worship?

  • What is our responsibility when we go to Sunday meetings? What blessings do we receive when we have the true spirit of worship at our meetings?

  • What spiritual blessings do we enjoy when we honor the Sabbath? What temporal blessings are we promised? (See also D&C 59:9–23.)

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    In James R. Clark, comp, Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (1965–75), 5:17–18.

  2.   2.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 28 June 1898, 1.

  3.   3.

    In Conference Report, Apr. 1915, 10.

  4.   4.

    In Messages of the First Presidency, 4:210.

  5.   5.

    Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 242.

  6.   6.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 28 June 1898, 1.

  7.   7.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 5 July 1898, 1.

  8.   8.

    Gospel Doctrine, 244–46.

  9.   9.

    In Messages of the First Presidency, 5:17–18, 20–21.

  10.   10.

    Gospel Doctrine, 247.

  11.   11.

    Gospel Doctrine, 242.

  12.   12.

    Gospel Doctrine, 241–42.

  13.   13.

    Gospel Doctrine, 402.

  14.   14.

    In Messages of the First Presidency, 3:123.

  15.   15.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 21 Jan. 1896, 1.

  16.   16.

    In Messages of the First Presidency, 4:210.

  17.   17.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, 28 June 1898, 1.

  18.   18.

    Gospel Doctrine, 242.

  19.   19.

    In Brian H. Stuy, comp, Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. (1987–92), 2:364–65; paragraphing added.

  20.   20.

    Gospel Doctrine, 245–46.