Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Fourth Commandment

In 1747, a young missionary named David Brainerd died. He had spent the last four years of his life preaching to the Delaware tribe of Native Americans, living among them and teaching them about Jesus Christ. His life story, as recorded in his journal and popularized by Jonathan Edwards was a bestseller in the eighteenth century and is still in print (and read) today.

As a full time representative of Jesus Christ, Brainerd took his religion a little more seriously than most, but as I read through his journal, nothing struck me more than his reverence for the Sabbath Day. On each Sunday that he made an entry in his journal, Brainerd began the entry with the title "Lord's Day" and then described his day's activities. On one Sunday, Brainerd writes that he preached to a group of Christiant "about sanctifying the Sabbath, if possible to solemnize their minds; but when they were at a little distance, they again talked freely about secular affairs. O I thought what a hell it would be to live with such men to eternity!" (63). For Brainerd, keeping the Sabbath day holy not only means avoiding secular affairs such as work, play, etc.; it also means avoiding thoughts and speach about such things. How do you measure up to Brainerd's standards for Sabbath-Day observance? Would you make it to Brainerd's heaven?

Now, Brainerd's standard may not be your own; I'm not even suggesting that it is mine. But, the depth of his feeling for the Sabbath Day was a nice reminder to me of how I ought to feel and think about the day which our Heavenly Father has designated for our worship of Him. With the possible exception of the first commandment to "have no other gods before me," (especially if you're a fan of Spencer W. Kimball's talk, "The Gods we Worship,") I can think of no commandment violated more frequently and casually than the Lord's commandment to "[r]emember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:3, 8). There are only two commandments (of the ten most famous) that ask us to DO something; most are DON'Ts. But that doesn't make honoring your parents and remembering the Sabbath any less important.

Much as a one hundred percent focus on spiritual things is desirable, it may not be wholly practical: if you're leaving for a trip on Monday morning, you might need to talk to your spouse about that and pack on Sunday night, unless you had enough foresight to take care of those activities on Saturday. I don't think the Lord would condemn you for such an action. But--there are standards which modern prophets have given us for Sabbath day observance, and I've collected a selection of quotes on the subject that I'd like to share with you.

“Our observance or nonobservance of the Sabbath is an unerring measure of our attitude toward the Lord personally and toward his suffering in Gethsemane, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead. It is a sign of whether we are Christians in very deed, or whether our conversion is so shallow that commemoration of his atoning sacrifice means little or nothing to us.”

James E. Faust, “The Lord’s Day,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 33

“The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, sleeping, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day to which he is expected. To fail to do these proper things is a transgression on the omission side.”

Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1969, pp. 96–97.

“When He instructed us to be unspotted from the world, I believe He not only expected us to stay away from worldly places on the Sabbath, but also to dress appropriately on His day. I often wonder what happened to the good old saying, 'Sunday best.' If our dress deteriorates to everyday attire, our actions seem to follow the type of clothing we wear. Of course, we would not expect our children to remain dressed in their church clothes all day, but neither would we expect them to dress in clothes that would not be appropriate for the Sabbath.”

L. Tom Perry, “The Importance of the Family,” Ensign, May 2003, 40

"...appropriate Sunday activities include (1) writing personal and family journals, (2) holding family councils, (3) establishing and maintaining family organizations for the immediate and extended family, (4) personal interviews between parents and children, (5) writing to relatives and missionaries, (6) genealogy, (7) visiting relatives and those who are ill or lonely, (8) missionary work, (9) reading stories to children, and (10) singing Church hymns.”

Hartman Rector Jr., “The Resurrection,” Ensign, Nov. 1990, 76

"The mechanic will be able to turn out more and better products in six days than in seven. The doctor, the lawyer, the dentist, the scientist will accomplish more by trying to rest on the Sabbath than if he tries to utilize every day of the week for his professional work. I would counsel all students, if they can, to arrange their schedules so that they do not study on the Sabbath. If students and other seekers after truth will do this, their minds will be quickened and the infinite Spirit will lead them to the verities they wish to learn. This is because God has hallowed his day and blessed it as a perpetual covenant of faithfulness."

James E. Faust, “The Lord’s Day,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 33

Have a happy--and holy--Sabbath.


Jenny said...

Thanks, Z. I often think about this concept, and loved this story. I like to hang around in my skirt on Sunday, because it does feel differently.

Schenewarks said...

Thanks for the reminder - wish I had read this Saturday evening. We try hard but can definitely do better. Love you!

Becky said...

great reminders. we wax and wane - sometimes we are really good and other times we need these reminders. thanks zach. we will try harder as a family to keep the sabbath day holy!

priscilla said...

Last week we were at the Ortons for the Sabbath and Kayla got her fun book taken away for 3 days for reading it.
Doing your ancestral work at the computer is a good thing on His Day.
You and your buddy try hard.