The commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy was given to ancient Israel (Exodus 20:8-11), to ancient Americans (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 13:16-19), and to us. Doctrine and Covenants 68:29). We can have little doubt that God expects us to honor the Sabbath Day.
The Sabbath is the seventh day of the week and is a holy day; it is ordained of God for our benefit, a day to rest from our labors and worship Him. The word Sabbath means a day of rest in Hebrew. The Sabbath is God’s day of rest. After God worked for six periods of time described as “days” in creating the earth, He rested.
In Mark 2:27 Jesus Christ taught His followers that the Sabbath day was made to benefit man. The purpose of the Sabbath is to give us a certain day each week on which we could rest from our labors and direct our thoughts and actions towards God. It is a day of rest, but it is not only a day of rest. It is a sacred day to be kept with reverence and worship of God. The “rest” we take is a change from our usual daily labors; it is a time when our minds and spirits can be free to ponder spiritual matters more thoroughly. It is also a day when we renew our covenants with God.
Jesus Christ and His disciples honored the seventh day as the Sabbath until the Lord’s resurrection; at that time, they kept the Sabbath on Sunday in remembrance of His resurrection on that day (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). From that point on, followers of Jesus Christ appointed the first day to be their Sabbath. Whether one honors the seventh day or the first day, it is the same: six days of labor followed by one of rest and devotion; however, in our day the Lord has given us direct commandment to honor Sunday as the Sabbath and the Lord’s day (see Doctrine and Covenants 59:12).
The Lord asks us to do several things as we honor the Sabbath. The first thing He asks us to do is to sanctify the Sabbath Day. We can do this by going to the house of prayer to offer up our sacrament and pay our devotions to the Most High (Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-12). The second thing He asks of us is to rest from our daily labors and give our time and attention to spiritual matters.
Simply lounging around the house is not keeping the Sabbath holy. Some of the things we can do to keep the Sabbath holy are as follows: (1) prepare only simple foods that do not take much time or effort; (2) attend Sunday meetings; (3) read the scriptures; (4) read the words of living prophets and apostles; (5) visit the sick, aged, and loved ones; (6) listen to uplifting music; (7) sing hymns; (8) give prayers of praise and thanksgiving to Heavenly Father; (9) give service; (10) prepare lessons, (11) do family history work; (12) share testimonies, spiritual experiences, and faith-promoting stories; (13) write letters to loved ones; and (14) spend time with children and other family members.
This is not an all-inclusive list, but it gives examples of the sorts of appropriate Sunday activities. We can determine if something is appropriate for Sunday by asking ourselves if the suggested activity uplifting and inspiring. We should avoid work on the Sabbath if at all possible; when we cannot avoid it, we can still maintain the spirit of the Sabbath in our hearts to some degree.
I had an interesting experience concerning Sabbath activities in recent months. About the middle of March I embarked on an enormous project regarding quilt blocks inherited from my mother. I wanted to make quilts for my children from my mother’s blocks. Even though I have avoided sewing on Sunday for all of my life, I justified sewing on a couple of Sunday by saying I was doing family history work or even giving service. I prayed about whether or not I should sew on Sunday and felt positive about doing it for a week or two in order to finish the task. When I was finished with the project, I pondered whether or not sewing was an appropriate activity for future Sundays and made it a matter of personal prayer; I received a definite “no” for an answer.
The realization came to me that sewing was okay to do as a service to someone else – particularly in an emergency-type situation, but it was not appropriate for me to sew for my own enjoyment. I know that we can go to the Lord for help in determining appropriate Sabbath activities as well as ones that are not acceptable. I believe that many of the activities can be determined on an individual basis, according to the circumstances and always going to the Lord for the final decision.
Great spiritual and temporal blessings accompany honoring the Sabbath in a righteous manner. The Lord promises great blessings for keeping the Sabbath with thanksgiving and cheerful hearts. Some of those blessings are hearts full of joy and the fulness of the earth. He promises “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; yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:13-19).