Sabbath is a word derived from the Hebrew language that means “rest”. This idea of resting one day out of seven is directly tied to The Holy Bible, particularly Genesis 2:2–3:
“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested … And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it”
Through Moses, Jesus commanded the descendants of Israel to “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), and they designated that 7th day to start on Friday evening at dusk until Saturday evening. Such a tradition, however, is not unique to the Jewish religion as various cultures and people around the world have maintained similar traditions; Including the Nephites (see Jarom 1:5). To the Israelites it was a sign that they were God’s covenant people (see Exodus 31:12–13, 16; Isaiah 56:1–8; Jeremiah 17:19–27).
While Jesus was upon the earth, he also followed the Israelites tradition of honoring the seventh day as the Sabbath. Jesus was crucified on Friday and put in the tomb before the Sabbath began that evening. It was then on Sunday that he was resurrected. Since then, Sunday has been observed by Christians as the day of worship to honor the resurrection (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2); making the Sabbath the first day of the week instead of the last (see Mark 16:2).
Even today, the Jewish religion sees the Sabbath day as one to commemorated God’s day of rest after He finished the Creation; which is why they celebrate it on Saturday as it’s traditionally recognized as the last day of the week. This is also where the name Sabbath comes from as it’s derived from the Hebrew verb “שַׁבָּת” or “sabat”, meaning to stop, to cease, to rest, or to keep. Christians obviously observe the Sabbath day differently, by commemorating Jesus Christ’s Resurrection from the dead which occurred on Sunday.
While there are secular attempts today to try to redefine the beginning of the week to be Monday, and ending on Sunday, mostly for connivance in accounting and for the standardized Monday through Friday work weeks, and has little bearing on Christian and Jewish cultures.
Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
While the Jewish culture created many rules to follow on the Sabbath day; mostly to restrict what can be done or to limit their activities. Jesus, however, taught that the Sabbath day was made for our benefit (see Mark 2:27); basically telling the Jews they were looking at it backwards. Jesus also taught through his example that serving others was an acceptable task to perform on the Sabbath (see John 5:1–18). It is a day we set aside to rest from our usual daily activities. To give our minds time to focus on spiritual matters without the usual distractions of the world. It’s a day we use to renew our covenants with the Lord and feed our souls the things of the Spirit.
In Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-12 a revelation given to the prophet Joseph Smith, we learn that we should go to church (the house of prayer) and offer up their sacraments, rest from their labors, and pay our devotions to God (the Most High). Similarly The Lord told the Israelites, “Thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle” (Exodus 20:10).
Isaiah said we should “call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable” (Isaiah 58:13). In the LDS Church we are encouraged to spend the day being productive with things such as: attending Church meetings; reading the scriptures and other spiritual resources; visiting the sick, aged, and loved ones; listening to uplifting music; singing hymns; praying; performing service; doing family history work; spending time with our families engaged in spiritual activities; writing letters to missionaries and loved ones; fasting with a purpose; and other things the spirit may direct us to do.
While we should not engage in activities that promote businesses to be open on Sundays, some people do have legitimate needs to work on Sundays. in these situations it’s often recommended that they still attempt to participate in Sunday sacrament meetings, and do other things to help them observe the day as a holy day.
Preparing for the Sabbath Day
There’s an old primary song called Saturday. It calls it a special day, because it’s the day we get ready for Sunday. While it may seem a bit antiquated by today’s standards, the song certainly drives home a good point. We need to be prepared if we want to get the most out of our Sabbath day worship. While simply showing up is always good, if we are not ready to focus on the meetings, sacrament, and other spiritual feasts that are available to us on Sunday, we are likely not going to get much out of it.
Being prepared the day before, makes the morning of go more smoothly. When we aren’t stressed out over getting to church on time, or having some other issue occupying our mind, it’s easier to focus on our worship. Knowing there are things we simply do not do on Sunday can also help us to not think about them throughout the day. That’s why it’s always good to finish up projects and homework the day before.
If we have things that are constantly coming up on Sundays, like an Ox that keeps getting into the mire, it’s likely time to sell the Ox. In other words, sometimes we need to make changes in our lives or behaviors so that we can properly worship on the Sabbath day. Being prepared the day before certainly makes it easier to worship on Sunday. This would be like symbolically fixing the fence the Ox keeps getting through every Sunday morning.
Blessings for Observing the Sabbath
We receive blessed for Observing the Sabbath day. One particular promise of this is found in D&C 59:16–19:
“The fulness of the earth is yours, … whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
“Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul”.
The catch is that we are must do it with thanksgiving, cheerful hearts, and a cheerful countenance (see D&C 59:15).
Other blessings may include our relationship with Heavenly Father becomes stronger. It can be a day of personal healing, both physically and spiritually. Doing family history work on the Sabbath can help us feel the spirit of Elijah. Taking the sacrament can remind us of the Savior’s love and mercy, and help us renew our commitment to the covenants we have made. It gives us opportunity to minister to others, and share the gospel. As we engage in spiritual activities on the Sabbath with our families it gives us opportunities for good family discussions.
Doctrine and Covenants 59:9 states, “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world”
The Sabbath day wouldn’t be complete without the sacrament taken in sacrament meeting every Sunday. The most important thing we do outside of the temple is to take the Sacrament on Sundays. This is always done in a Church building unless circumstances permit, and permission from the Bishop is given to do otherwise. This is an essential ordinance that we can take weekly to renew our covenants with God. It allows us to leverage the Jesus Christ’s atonement on a weekly basis.
“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;” D&C 59:9.
I’ve heard many times that Church is not a place for perfect people, rather it is a hospital to help us recover from spiritual wounds we have amassed during the week. The Sacrament is a key part of healing those spiritual wounds so we can move forward the next week with renewed spiritual strength and fortitude.