The leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been emphasizing the Sabbath Day more in recent months. At the annual General Conference of the Church held in April 2015, Elder Russell M. Nelson said “The Sabbath Is a Delight.” He asked this question: How can you ensure that your behavior on the Sabbath will lead to joy and rejoicing?
Elder Nelson is a world-renown heart surgeon who gave up a thriving career to become an Apostle of the Lord. I feel certain that he has no regrets about his decision as he uses his experiences as a surgeon to emphasize points as he speaks to members of the Church. In this talk he told us that he first found delight in the Sabbath as a busy surgeon. By the end of each week, his hands were sore from being scrubbed with soap, water, and a bristle brush before each surgery. Sunday brought a day of relief for his hands.
The Savior taught that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). Elder Nelson believes the Savior “wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest form duty, with physical and spiritual relief.
“In Hebrew, the word Sabbath means `rest.’ The purpose of the Sabbath dates back to the Creation of the world, when after six days of labor the Lord rested from the work of creation. (See Genesis 2:2-3.) When He later revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses, God commanded that we `remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy’ (Exodus 20:8). Later, the Sabbath was observed as a reminder of the deliverance of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. (See Deuteronomy 5:14-15.) Perhaps most important, the Sabbath was given as a perpetual covenant, a constant reminder that the Lord may sanctify His people. (See Exodus 31:13 16.)
“In addition, we now partake of the sacrament on the Sabbath day in remembrance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (See Doctrine and Covenants 59:12.) Again, we covenant that we are willing to take upon us His holy name. (See Doctrine and Covenants 20:37, 77.)….
“How can you ensure that your behavior on the Sabbath will lead to joy and rejoicing? In addition to your going to church, partaking of the sacrament, and being diligent in your specific call to serve, what other activities would help to make the Sabbath a delight for you? What sign will you give to the Lord to show your love for Him?”
Elder Nelson suggested three ways we can make the Sabbath a delight: (1) “The Sabbath provides a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family ties.” (2) In addition to time with family, you can experience true delight on the Sabbath from family history work. Search for and finding family members who have preceded you on earth – those who did not have an opportunity to accept the gospel while here – can bring immense joy.” (3) “Make the Sabbath a delight by rendering service to others, especially those who are not feeling well or those who are lonely or in need. Lifting their spirits will lift yours as well.”
We had a wonderful discussion at our Stake Conference a couple of weeks ago. Under the overall theme of “Come unto Christ,” the theme for the Saturday evening “adult” session was “Developing Faith in Jesus Christ through Sabbath Day observance at Church and at Home.” Our visiting authority was Elder Daniel L. Johnson of the First Quorum of the Seventy. He asked two very important questions: (1) What change are you willing to implement to make sacrament meeting a more spiritual experience for everyone? (2) What changes will I implement at home as a sign of my feelings toward Heavenly Father?
Elder Johnson frequently emphasized that how we keep the Sabbath day is between Heavenly Father and individuals. He suggested that our Sabbath observance would be better if we understand the doctrine of the Sabbath. We should understand that the Sabbath is not our day but Heavenly Father’s day just as our tithing is not our money but Heavenly Father’s money. We can bring reverence to our sacrament meetings by coming into a teaching environment willing to learn, by preparing to actively learn rather than being taught, by starting our Sunday preparations on Monday, and by teaching our children how to be reverent with practice at home. Elder Johnson said that Heavenly Father gives us commandments so He can bless us with more commandments. The primary purpose of commandments is to help us become like God.
I returned from the conference with a much stronger desire to keep the Sabbath Day holy. I spent the remaining hours of Sunday pondering and praying about what more I could do on Sunday to give Heavenly Father a sign that I love Him and want to keep His day holy. For years I have worn my Church clothes for the rest of the day and not done any house work or extra cooking. I have tried to keep my Sunday meals simple. This time I was impressed to not do any school assignments on Sunday. This included not reading any Ensign articles that were part of assignments. I also learned that I could write essays for my blog about anything that I could share in a talk in sacrament meeting or in a lesson in Relief Society. I am sure there are still ways that I can better keep the Sabbath Day holy, but I think this is enough for me to do for the time being.