25 September 2017

The Sabbath Day

Talk I gave in church recently.

Many of you know that we recently bought a house in -------. You know that because you helped us clean it, do part of the yard work, and then move our belongings into it. We are so grateful for your service and hope we can either return the favor or pay it forward as we serve in the branch. This particular house was built in 1896; it’s a large three story, with full basement, Victorian mansion. While it is structurally sound, it is suffering from a century of benign neglect. The last occupant was unable to do even the most basic cleaning or upkeep.

As I’ve worked on this house, cleaning it, repairing it and making plans to refurbish it I’ve felt inspired that this house is a metaphor for our lives. With daily, weekly and seasonal maintenance and repairs we can keep both our physical homes and our spiritual lives in order, up to date, and thriving.

Daily housekeeping can be compared to daily prayer and scripture study. Communing with our Heavenly Father and reading His words daily keeps our spirits clean and aligned with His goal for us of immortality and eternal life. It takes just minutes to read, ponder and pray each day, but those acts serve to keep us on the path, holding fast to the iron rod, leading to the tree of life. When we neglect these daily devotions, our spirits get dusty, covered with the little spills and the debris of worldliness that result in a big mess that takes so much time and effort to clean up. How much better to keep up our physical and spiritual housekeeping daily.

Seasonal deep cleaning, often called Spring and Fall cleaning is when I move furniture to clean underneath. I launder curtains, wash woodwork and light fixtures, open windows wide to let in fresh air and prepare my home for the coming season. I catch things that need to be repaired before they get too big to do ourselves, and make lists of needed supplies to acquire for preparedness.

We can compare this to participating in General Conference. We listen to the counsel of our prophets, apostles and other leaders, then look into the deep recesses of our souls and make adjustments to our lives, repenting, repairing and maintaining our souls before problems get too big. I love General Conference for the chance it gives me to measure my obedience, how well I’m doing. If a subject is talked about that makes me squirm I know I need to pay attention and do some repenting to bring my life into harmony with the will of the Lord.

I’d like to talk more in depth today about a level of maintenance between daily and semi-annual. At home I have a schedule where I clean each area of the house once a week. This is more than just a quick wipe down or tidy up. It is meant to clean and keep organized each room, noticing anything that may have been missed or overlooked due to lack of time in a daily clean up.

The Lord has blessed us with a day each week to accomplish a more thorough job on our spiritual houses. He set the pattern from the beginning of the existence of this earth.
Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 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. 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 2:1-3)

The Law of the Sabbath is as old as Adam and Eve. It was known among those who followed the prophets of the Old Testament. The Lord spoke of it to Moses even before it was codified as part of the Ten Commandments. Instructing Moses about the gathering of manna the Lord said to gather twice as much on the sixth day for “Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake today, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning.” (Exodus 16:23) This was the only time the Israelites could save manna overnight. Any other time the manna “bred worms and stank.” (Exo. 16:20)

Subsequently, Jehovah revealed to Moses the law for His people. Listen to the language of the Lord recorded in what is now known as The Ten Commandments:
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)

Later Moses records further instruction about the Sabbath: “Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of the thy handmaid and the stranger, may be refreshed.” (Exodus 23:12)

When we first moved to Iowa I looked for a grocery store that was closed on Sunday. I did so because of a story I heard years before about President Joseph Fielding Smith told by then Presiding Bishop H. David Burton.
When Sister Burton and I were first married, we lived in the southeast part of the Salt Lake Valley. On occasion, as we purchased groceries from a small neighborhood store, we observed President and Sister Joseph Fielding Smith in the same store making their purchases. After several such observations, I finally mustered the courage to inquire of President Smith why it was he traveled all the way from downtown, past a dozen grocery stores, to shop at this particular store. Looking over the tops of his glasses he emphatically said: “Son! . . . Sister Smith and I patronize establishments that keep the Sabbath day holy.  (General Conference October 1998)

This story so affected me that after that I too sought out stores that honored the Sabbath. They aren’t easy to find. In Iowa I found Fareway; and in looking on their website was interested to find the story of their founding.
Fareway's policy of being closed on Sunday has been in place for as long as our company has been in existence. We believe our customers, employees, and business partners deserve a day at home with their families - free from the fast-paced life we all live the other six days of the week.

The idea of resting on Sunday is something our founder, Paul S. Beckwith, firmly believed; in part because of his religious beliefs and a story told to him by his father. Paul's father was a pioneer who traveled to new territory by wagon train. Some pioneers were in a hurry, and drove on every day, leaving behind those who stopped for a day of rest and worship. As settlers continued to move westward, families who had taken Sunday off began to catch-up with those who had pushed ahead; finding broken-down wagons, lame animals, and weary people. Paul's father told him he decided that the Bible was right; neither man nor beast was made to work seven days a week.

While still on Mount Sinai, the Lord further instructed Moses, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep; for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you. Ye shall keep the Sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days may work be done but in the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord, whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.” (Exodus 31:13-17)

Fortunately, we are not put to death physically for breaking the Sabbath; but we still die a little each time we don’t keep the Sabbath holy. We become spiritually dead and disconnected from God.

Many years ago when Steve was a new member of the church and our children were young and rambunctious, we argued about how best to keep the Sabbath day. He asked me, “Why do we have to do things your way?” To which I responded, “I don’t want to do things my way, I want to do them the Lord’s way.”

So what is the Lord’s way of keeping the Sabbath? Just this week in our morning scripture reading we read Luke’s account of one Sabbath when the Pharisees took Jesus to task because he healed a man’s hand. Jesus responded, “I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the Sabbath days to do good, or, to do evil? To save life, or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9) What an easy distinction! To do good and to save life! We are asked to rest from OUR labors on the Sabbath, and engage in HIS labors, to do good and to save life.

How many things can you think of that come under those categories?

Home and Visiting Teaching
Family History and Missionary work
Writing letters to loved ones
Visiting the lonely or homebound
Studying next Sunday’s lessons
Watching past General Conference talks
Reading current church magazines
Taking a walk or drive to view and appreciate Heavenly Father’s creations
Preparing for Family Home Evening

And so forth. We can ask ourselves of our activities: Is this doing good? Is this saving life? Especially spiritual life?

Mormon, through the writings of his son Moroni gives us another way to judge our choices.
But behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man [and woman] that he may know good from evil; wherefore I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. (Moroni 7:15-16)

Isaiah wrote of this also, “Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgement, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.” (Isaiah 56:2)

Remembering what the Lord said to Moses about keeping the Sabbath as a sign of a covenant Elder Russell M. Nelson recently said:
In my much younger years, I studied the work of others who had compiled lists of things to do and things not to do on the Sabbath. It wasn’t until later that I learned from the scriptures that my conduct and my attitude on the Sabbath constituted a sign between me and my Heavenly Father.12 With that understanding, I no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts. When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, “What sign do I want to give to God?” That question made my choices about the Sabbath day crystal clear. (General Conference April 2015)

In the writings of Isaiah we also read the word of the Lord, “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

Keeping the Sabbath day holy and doing good takes some daily preparation, including repenting so we come to church ready to partake of the Sacrament to renew our baptismal covenants. What a delight it can be to see fellow saints each Sunday, to sing the hymns of Zion together, to partake of the sacred emblems of the Sacrament; to study the gospel together sharing insights and testimony gained through daily study; to feel united, “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens . . . of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19); to feel refreshed by laying aside our worldly cares and activities to “do good” and to “save lives”.

I know from my own experiences that when I keep the Sabbath day different from the rest of the week, when I keep it holy and special, I feel the strength and refreshment from doing so. When we do things the Lord’s way he pours out his blessings, we feel his love and approval, and we accomplish what we were sent here to do.

I testify that Our Father in Heaven is real, His son, Jesus Christ, our elder brother, is our Savior and Redeemer. We are led today by a prophet and apostles; who in recent years have taught us and exhorted us to Keep the Sabbath Day Holy, as a sign of our covenant with God.

May we be blessed to do so.