Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy as a Family
After God created the world, He rested on the seventh day. This became the Sabbath. During this time, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. So the Garden of Eden was not only a place, it was a time. It was a day of rest, worship, spiritual instruction, and learning, before Adam and Eve were sent out to face the lone and dreary world together.
2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made (Genesis 2:2–3).
Once Adam and Eve left the garden, they continued to follow God's commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy.
“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
“But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:8–11).
After the children of Israel were led out of Egypt, the Lord explained to Moses that if the people would observe the Sabbath day, it would be a sign between God and them of His covenant (see Exodus 31:13) . Surely, a people delivered from bondage would have been happy to be allotted a day without work. We can see that the Sabbath day isn't new, but do we also see that it is not antiquated?
No, this law given by our Father in Heaven is not out of date. It pertains to us here and now. In fact, we are promised in our day that if we observe the Sabbath that “the fulness of the earth” will be ours (see D&C 59:16–20).
Can you imagine how different the world would be if everyone kept just this one commandment? Can you imagine how different it would be if even all the Latter-day Saints observed the Sabbath day to keep it holy? I believe that through the keeping of this commandment, we will be much better prepared to keep the first two great commandments of loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind and of loving our neighbors as ourselves. There are some steps each of us can take individually and as families to improve our Sabbath day worship.
So how do we do it?
I think that it is important that we don't become like the Pharisees in Christ's day by just creating long lists of do's and don'ts. That misses the mark. It doesn't really benefit anyone, and it does not show gratitude to our Heavenly Father. But there are some fundamentally important things that we must never forget.
If we want to learn how to observe the Sabbath day better, we can find a lot of clues from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. He worshipped in the Synogues on the Sabbatth. He taught; He healed; He served.
So first, if keeping the Sabbath day is a sign of our covenants with God, we need to remember our covenants and renew them. We can't do this on a golf course, in the mountains, or at the beach. Why? Because the sacrament is not typically served in those places, by someone holding authority and authorization to institute it. If we are to worship Heavenly Father in Spirit and in Truth, we must do this in the manner that He has commanded us.
Doctrine and Covenants 59:
9 And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
10 For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;
11 Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;
12 But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
13 And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.
How can partking of the sacrament on Sundays give us focus for our worship that day and strength for the week ahead?
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, a recent member of the Quorum of the Twelve said: “Windows must be washed regularly to clean away dust and dirt. … Just as earthly windows need consistent, thorough cleaning, so do the windows of our spirituality. … By partaking of the sacrament worthily to renew our baptismal covenants, we clarify our view of life’s eternal purpose and divine priorities. The sacrament prayers invite personal introspection, repentance, and rededication as we pledge our willingness to remember our Savior, Jesus the Christ” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 103; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 77).
Maybe, and probably so, if we do these things as families, our eyes will be more clearly opened as to how we can progress together as families towards our goal of eternal life. While another important part of Sunday Church worship is meeting with our fellow saints and strengthening one another, today we are going to concentrate more on how we can use the Sabbath day to strengthen our own homes and families.
The best starting point should be for us to look at what is working for us now and also to seek the Spirit to determine what we need to incorporate into our Sabbath day observance to pay devotion to the Lord better and to strengthen our families more.
One thing to remember is that the Church is here to support us in teaching our children the gospel and not the other way around.
So if you are not having family scripture time or family home evenings, Sunday would be a good place to start. I know that when my husband worked six days a week, we did have family night on Sundays.
Are we reevaluating our own lives and our goals? Sunday is a great time to review our Patriarchal blessings. It is also a great time to help our children learn to set goals, referring to our church's programs of Faith in God, Duty to God, and Personal progress, allow with long-term educational and temple worthy goals, such as vocations, missions, and temple marriage; plus, short term goals of personal interest. When we set goals, reviewing progress and accomplishing milestones, the Lord is pleased with us; and we feel the satisfaction of our growth through the validation of His Spirit. As we help our children through this process, they will experience those same feelings, which will increase the binding of their relationships with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and with us as their parents. As we teach our children to rejoice in each other's accomplishments and to aid each other in their goals, they will also grow in unity.
Overbooking our activities with our children will not be relaxing to them or to us. So we should allow for quiet, reflective, renewing time for everyone. But Sabbath days should also concentrate on family togetherness. So family dinners together are extra important on this day. We can also share our thoughts on the past week's activities and our schedules for the new week. We can discuss church meeting topics and our feelings about talks and lessons. Even when we don't agree with presentation, we should remember to be kind and not to demean our leaders or fellow worshipers.
Some things our own family has done on Sabbath days: when we are on vacations, we always still make it a point to attend church, especially Sacrament meeting; and to observe the Sabbath in the best way we can, even if we are visiting with those who don't attend church. Last month, after church and a family dinner, we drove to see four of the Utah temples and to feel the spirit on those grounds. We often drove to the Redlands temple site on Sundays while it was being constructed. I believe that this did not only mark the growth of the temple, but the growth of our children's testimonies of the importance of the temple.
Bob has been doing indexing for years, and we have followed in his example to do some indexing on Sundays. Sunday is a great time to work on our own family history, including genealogy research and journal writing. It is also a great day for writing letters to extended family, or phone calling, or Skyping.
Many times we have visited with extended family or friends on Sundays as well. Sometimes we have had others over to sing around our piano. While we might not have scripture time every single evening, we are sure to do so on Sunday, and on Monday as part of family night. If we are going to make visits with other people, whether socially or as home or visiting teachers, we need to make certain that we are not imposing upon their observance of the Sabbath day.
I know that the Butlers watch Bible stories with their children on Sundays. The church has great videos with stories from the life of our Savior. We can all watch and benefit from them. They are readily available at mormon.org, or we an purchase the set from Distribution for a excellent price.
As our children grow older, it is still important for us to still have Sabbath day rules in our home, but it is also important to allow for agency. The best way to lead is always by example.
I hope that we can all feel the importance of Sabbath day worship and gain the Spirit of that worship in our own families. I know that Heavenly Father will bless us as we keep His commandments and honor the covenants that we have made with Him. Each Sunday we make promises to always remember His Son and to keep His commandments. That is a wonderful gift and protection for us as we start our new week. We need to remember that Sunday, our Sabbath, is the Lord's day, so we need to center our thoughts and activities around Him throughout the day, worshiping Him and serving as He would have us do. In doing so, He will bless us.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.