Monday, September 21, 2009

Sabbath Observance

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Ex. 20:8

As Latter-Day Saints, we believe that the Sabbath is a holy day commemorating the sacrifice that the Lord made for us. We believe that it is a day given to rest from our labors and to worship God.

The Lord instructed the children of Israel, "Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you [a perpetual covenant] throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you." Ex 31:13,16 Though the stringent regulations governing the Sabbath were done away when Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses, the Sabbath covenant between God and his people is still in effect. Where the law of Moses was very physical in nature, the law of Christ challenges us to focus on the giver of the law and the spirit in which it is given. Honoring the Sabbath is still important, but our Sabbath observances now must spring from our love of God. Our level of devotion is both revealed and influenced by the activities which we choose to pursue on this holy day. We have the responsibility to determine individually how we will honor the Sabbath, which activities will draw us closer to God and which will distract our attention from Him.

The basic principle of the Sabbath is that the day be devoted to God and his worship and service, and rest from our daily cares, not spent in pursuit of our own pleasures. Though there is no list of what to do and what not to do on Sunday, there are some generally observed practices among the Latter-Day Saints. We believe that church attendance and partaking of the sacrament (bread and water) are essential parts of Sabbath observance. Other good Sabbath activities might include rest from daily cares, scripture study, worship, visiting those who are in need of comfort or companionship, naps, uplifting interactions with family or friends, gospel study and teaching, and other things which contribute to our spiritual well-being or to the work of the Lord. There are many good activities which honor the Sabbath covenant and help us draw closer to God and increase our love for Him.

We try to avoid on Sunday those activities which serve our own pleasure or prevent others from observing the Sabbath, such as working, shopping, eating out, recreation, parties or other social events, sporting events, elaborate meals, or unnecessary housework or repairs. Of course some work is necessary, but even those who must work, such as those who provide essential services, like medical care, do their best to observe the spirit of the Sabbath. Again, there is counsel, but no checklist so every LDS home will have some unique patterns and traditions. The essence is this: we believe that the activities we choose should flow from a love of God and should help turn our hearts toward Him.

The Sabbath day is a blessing. I am grateful for this one day every week that I can rest from the pressures and worries and distractions of the world and focus more on those things that really matter.

“Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us” 1


I am interested to know how the Sabbath is observed in other Christian religions. (I previously assumed that Sabbath observance was not considered important by other Christian faiths, but I think that I may have been mistaken.)