On Sunday I gave a talk in church about the Sabbath Day. This isn’t exactly what I ended up saying, but here are my notes I got ready as I prepared:
D&C 68 tells us to observe the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. The context for this part of section 68 comes in verse 13: this is in addition to the past commandments, which read “laws and commandments” originally. It seems clear this is referencing D&C 42 and the several revelations that followed, especially since this is talking specifically about families in Zion.
In verse 25, parents are told they are accountable to teach their children the gospel, and if they don’t the children’s sins are upon their heads! These verses on teaching children lead into other messages to those in Zion. Those in Zion must remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy (v.29). Verse 30 reminds them not to be idle in general, which must refer to D&C 42 and its discussion of idleness.
Section 59, coming after D&C 42 but before D&C 68, is also a good place to go and look.
D&C 59, starting with verse 9, is our classic place to go to read about the Sabbath day in modern revelation. There we read the familiar words: “rest from your labors.” In verse 2, we also get these same words, but surprisingly, it is not talking about the Sabbath day:
“Resting from labors” is something that the dead do. It reminds me of Alma’s words: night wherein no labor can be performed.
But is death the end? Of course not. Life continues. So if life continues, but our labors do not, what does this mean?
Let’s look for a moment at the way heaven is talked about in the scriptures.
Lehi sees God on his throne, surrounded by angels. Alma also sees these angels singing and praising God, and his “soul did long to be there (Alma 36:22). What did he long to do? To sing, to praise.
Others talk about sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The D&C talks about all the prophets gathering together: before Christ was resurrected, at Adam-ondi-Ahman, etc. The heavens are a place where the righteous gather together. Joseph Smith talks about the fathers gathering together, and counseling on who to send to bless their children. Heaven is described as a place of being together with others, to plan, counsel, and prepare.
Does this describe our Sabbaths? Is our Sunday like a Resurrection? Reread D&C 59:9-12. On Sundays, we also can rest, pray, be clean, devote ourselves, and gather together with the Saints. In some sense we are acting out – or getting a taste of – what it is like in the Resurrection.
What else does God say about when He rested from His labors? D&C 77 has an interesting perspective on this.
“A. We are to understand that as God made the world in six days, and on the seventh day he finished his work, and sanctified it, and also formed man out of the dust of the earth, even so, in the beginning of the seventh thousand years will the Lord God sanctify the earth, and complete the salvation of man” (link at new.lds.org)
It seems that perhaps it was not just the day that was sanctified, but by that day His whole work was sanctified. It was on this day that He made man (in this account) and therefore in the end He will complete the salvation of man in the seventh time. The seventh day (time) is a time focused on the salvation of man.
This can be a time for us to focus on the salvation of our children as well. Or to come together to counsel on the salvation of those in our ward, etc. It is a chance to give meaning and perspective to what else we are doing in the week.
Some of the next verses in D&C 59 also remind me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden:
16 Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth;
20And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; (see link at new.lds.org)
Note that when we keep the Sabbath day, then we are given all the fulness of the earth to enjoy. All the plants, the animals, are given for man’s use and also to please the eye and gladden the heart. The list sounds very similar to the creation: beasts, creeping things, etc. See Genesis 1:28-31. (As a side note, notice that in D&C 59, D&C 42, and D&C 49, there is an emphasis on enjoying and having all that we need, but not having more than others or using extortion.)
So perhaps this idea of preparing food with singleness of heart, etc., can be linked up with the time in the Garden. Here, things were ready of Adam to eat. He did not eat by the sweat of his brow, he simply plucked and ate. We could say he was in some sense resting from labors he had not yet been given! God had worked for 6 days, and now made man and rested. Adam was living in a perpetual day of rest, a perpetual Sabbath day. When he ate the fruit, he left this state and began to work for his food. He follows the pattern we have – work 6 days, then rest. Sunday can for us become yet another way in which we are like Adam and Eve.
Just like in the Resurrection, Adam walked with God. In both cases, whether we look forward to the heavens or back to the Garden, the Sabbath is a time to commune with God as if we were not in this mortal, fallen world. As much as possible, we leave those things outside of our day and enjoy! We rest. We rejoice. Look again at D&C 59: fasting and prayer on the Sabbath are joyful. We get to rest. We get to enjoy. We get to eat. It’s not a day to stress about how much or how little we are working: we don’t have to worry, we get to enjoy! By not focusing on work, we are reminded that, like Adam, God is providing for us.
Whether we see in our Sabbath day a connection with the Israelites, with Adam, or with the Resurrection, it seems that from all this the Sabbath Day is a time to rest. To read scripture. To teach. To be with God and the Saints as if there had been no fall: or, knowing there has been, to plan and save souls. A day to rejoice.