RS/MP Lesson 16: “Offer Up Thy Sacraments upon My Holy Day” (George Albert Smith Manual)
Posted by kirkcaudle on August 14, 2012
The end of this lesson lists this quote under teaching help, “A skilled teacher doesn’t think ‘What shall I do in class today?’ but asks, ‘What will my students do in class today?’; not, ‘What will I teach today?’ but rather, ‘How will I help my students discover what they need to know?’” (Virginia H. Pearce, in Teaching, No Greater Call, 61.) With this quote in mind, these notes will consist mainly of questions for you personally to ponder or to ask your class.
A link to the full lesson is here.
From the Life of George Albert Smith
The lesson starts with a great a teaching moment given by President Smith’s mother. As a child, President Smith wanted to play sports on Sunday. When tempted with this action he records his mother’s reaction, “She did not say, ‘You cannot do it,’ but she did say: ‘Son, you will be happier if you do not do that.’ I want to tell you I am grateful for that kind of training in the home.” Two things stand out to me in this story.
1. Faithful Sabbath observance (like most other commandments) cannot be forced. We can force others into certain actions, but we can never change their hearts. I think President Smith’s mother was trying to change his heart, not his actions.
2. Breaking the Sabbath can make you happy. Notice that his mother said he would be “happier” if he decided against playing the game on Sunday. I know many people (members and non-members alike) who work, do recreational activities, and perform other similar actions on the Sabbath. Are they happy? Yes. Do I believe that they would be happier if they abstained from these actions? Yes. I cannot think of a day in my life that I regret keeping the Sabbath day holy. However, cannot say the same about breaking it.
What do you think is the point of this story?
God’s commandment that we keep the Sabbath day holy is not a burden but a blessing.
“One of the first sermons that were preached in this [the Salt Lake] valley was by President Brigham Young, and he warned the people to honor the Sabbath day and to keep it holy, and no matter how difficult their circumstances they were not to go out and do manual labor on the Sabbath day.”
I think that this is a pretty controversial thing to quote in church today. In our wards and stakes many men and women work on Sundays to support their families. Was this Brigham talking to his own people or do these words still apply to us today?
One way to think about the answer to this question is to consider one of the principal reasons for the giving of Sabbath day, sacrifice. The Sabbath is a day of sacrifice. What are we sacrificing to the Lord each Sunday? This idea of Sabbath day sacrifice dates all the way back to the Old Testament and Moses, “And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two-tenths of an ephah of flour for a grain offering, mixed with oil, and the drink offering thereof” (Num. 28:9). I think of how easy it would be for someone to approach the Priest at the temple and say, “I can only bring one lamb today because I have to feed my family the other one, my children are hungry.” When we work or do other activities on the Sabbath we are telling God, “the sacrifice that you are asking of me is just too much at the moment.”
It is not my intention to pick on those who work on the Sabbath. In fact, I work on Sundays every now and again myself. My intention is to bring to light the immense sacrifice that God often asks of us every week. What do the scriptures tell us about exceptions to Sabbath day breaking?
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” The mouth of the Lord has spoken (Isa. 58:13-14 NIV).
Maybe the question should not be IF we should work, but WHEN we should work on the Sabbath. Isaiah would have us ask, are you doing YOUR work or HIS work? We are told to rest from OUR labors, not HIS labors. How can we tell the difference? Are his labors only church callings or can they consist of secular activities?
Attending church is an important part of keeping the Sabbath day holy.
“This is the Lord’s holy day; this is the day that he has set apart in which we are to worship him . . . and there [in church] acknowledge our faults and bear our testimonies in the presence of one another” (D&C 59:9-12). These verses list two purposes for going to church every Sunday.
1. To acknowledge our faults
2. To bear our testimonies
Now, the second of these is easy. We have many opportunities to bear our testimonies at church every week. We can bear our testimonies at the end of lessons, through a comment in class, during a conversation with a friend, etc. However, the first purpose listed is harder to figure out.
What do you suppose it means to acknowledge your faults each week at church in the presence of others? Do you take this literally or is it just saying “I am a sinner” without going in detail? How do you feel that acknowledging your own faults every Sunday helps you keep the Sabbath day holy?
Personally, I hear many more testimonies bore at church each Sunday than I hear confession of sins. Matthew 18:20 reads, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Perhaps part of this gathering consists of knowing the faults of one another and so we can better pray and support one another?
It is a sacred privilege to partake of the sacrament on the Sabbath day
Hands down the most important reason (in fact, I would say THE reason) that we go to church every week is to partake of the sacrament. However, what would you say to a person that goes to church that cannot partake of the sacrament? There could be many reasons for this, such as sin and/or a church disciplinary action. Does the reason for going to church change if one can no longer partake of the sacrament?
Worthily partaking of the sacrament renews our spiritual strength
President Smith records, “We should partake of it [the sacrament] in humility.” What do you suppose that means? The opposite of humility is pride. It is possible for one to take the sacrament in a prideful way? Is taking the sacrament in humility part of our spiritual worthiness?