One of the most challenging of all commandments, at least for me, has been to honestly, fully, “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” I believe for many Latter-day Saints, this is or has been the case, especially during the unprecedented “corona closure” of 2020. On one hand, we are asked to keep the Sabbath holy, but the Sabbath is also described as “a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High.”
That first bit, “a day…to rest from your labors” seems to invite many within the restored church to justify many different things. We might feel justified, for instance, in watching a bit of our favorite television show/program/sport, because hey, it is a day of rest, right? Some of us will also just “pop on down to the store” because we realize we are out of this or that ingredient, for our Sunday dinner. And so it goes.
Now, I am not advocating we should begin spying on our fellow ward members, begin tattling to our bishops, or sit in prideful silence “righteously” judging those around us. In fact, such is contrary to the gospel and the counsel of the brethren. For instance, Elder Earl C. Tingey stated: “we should not be self-righteous or appear to elevate ourselves in the eyes of others. We should simply observe the Sabbath day…because we know it is correct and because we receive personal joy and strength from doing so.”
Indeed, there is no “official” or “golden” list of Sabbatical dos and don’ts. Our own prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, after prayerful scripture study, suggested that rather than looking for or creating such a list, we remember “[our] conduct and [our] attitude on the Sabbath [constitutes] a sign between [us] and [our] Heavenly Father.” And so, whenever he has had a question about whether an activity is appropriate for the Sabbath or not, he has asked himself, “What sign do I want to give to God?” That question [has] made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear.”
Keeping the Sabbath During the Corona Closure
The closures of businesses, churches, schools, and much of society these past few months have been a challenge for many (though I’ve heard from a few introverts who have actually enjoyed the experience). Yet through it all, my personal testimony of the fact that the church is led by modern revelation has only been strengthened. The fact that these past few years, the church has been encouraging a more home-centered gospel program was certainly inspired, and it has come to full fruition during this pandemic. Yes, the camaraderie of Primary, Relief Society and Elder’s Quorum is lacking, to be sure, but as the scriptures teach, “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.”
I have found, in my dealings with others I know and in our own ward, that our own personal level of commitment to living the gospel makes a big difference in how beneficial our Sabbaths are/have been to us during this closure. For instance, while it may seem easier not to bother dressing in our “Sunday best,” we have found in our family that it makes a huge difference in making our home more conducive to the Spirit. It helps us better focus on our family Sacrament meeting, which then-Elder Dallin H. Oaks called “the most sacred and important meeting in the Church.”
I want to be clear: our family is no shining beacon of Sabbath day observance. We have, at various times, engaged in activities that, upon reflection on President Nelson’s question (“What sign do I want to give to God?”), I have to honestly say we could have and should have done better. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is ultimately a personal/family matter, but our example to others, especially our children, is something whose effects will reach into the eternities. As my wife often reminds me, “little eyes are watching.” How very true this is, and I hope we all remember to be the very best examples we can be.
Speaking of examples, I’d like to share the example of my own parents. I was raised by a mother and father who took keeping the Sabbath day very seriously. They were quite strict in what we could and could not do on Sundays, and while I don’t necessarily agree with everything they ever did (or at least, the way they did it), as a parent myself now, I understand why they did it. They wanted to make sure their children understood their position on the matter – and it was crystal clear. It is a lesson that, to this day, I have never forgotten. Truly, they followed Joshua’s example, who declared, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” As I have reflected on my own upbringing, and also on my own efforts as a father and husband in this regard, I realize while there is much good that we are doing, there is also much room for improvement.
I want to be the kind of disciple of Christ, that when I do finally meet Him again and He asks me, “Joseph, did you keep the Sabbath day? What sort of example did you set for your family and others?” that I can respond truthfully: “Lord, we did the very best we could to serve Thee and do Thy work, especially on the Sabbath.” I am not there yet, by any means, but it is something I am working on. I testify Christ loves us and gave His very life for us, and that we are children of our Heavenly Father. God has asked us to reserve just one day of seven for Him and His service. I believe it is a truly small request, given that every day He gives us is a blessing and a gift. May we all seek to better honor the Sabbath, and seek to make it less about us, and more about the Lord and His will.
- “The Lord’s Day” -Elder James E. Faust, October 1991
- “The Sabbath Is a Delight” -Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 2015
- “Gratitude on the Sabbath Day” -President Henry B. Eyring, October 2016
You can follow Joe on Twitter at @jaubrickster.