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RS/MP Lesson 24: “The Sabbath Day” (Gospel Principles Manual)

Posted by BrianJ on December 12, 2010

I taught the Gospel Essentials class for two years. This lesson was always a piece o’ cake. Now, thinking about teaching it in priesthood (or relief society) seems impossible.

Here’s the “problem”: Sabbath day observance varies widely among the Saints, and individuals typically feel pretty strongly about their own set of Sabbath guidelines. On top of that, there’s really not a whole to go on in the scriptures—at least, in terms of specifics. So, how would I approach this lesson were I to “teach” it to the high priests?

Question 1. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20). And what if I don’t, huh? Can I actually make the Sabbath day unholy?

Obviously, I cannot; regardless of my actions, the Sabbath day will always be a holy day. The only thing that changes is my place in—or relationship to—the Sabbath day. (No, I don’t think this is a profound question or answer, but it helps to lead into the next questions.)

Question 2. “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2). Okay, now name something that wasn’t made for man.

I think everything God made he made for man, so what’s so different about the Sabbath? Nothing, really, in that respect. And that’s precisely the point Jesus was making. He was pushing back against those who subscribed to a set of rules designed to exalt the Sabbath rather than to exalt man; i.e., their focus was on “keeping it holy” by protecting it from man (see Question 1).

Question 3. “What kinds of things should we avoid on the Sabbath?” “What kinds of things may we do on the Sabbath?” (Gospel Principles manual). Is there a better question we could ask that wouldn’t carry so much potential of causing us to totally ignore what we discussed in Question 2?

It’s difficult for me to follow a criticism of “Jewish leaders [who] made many unnecessary rules about the Sabbath” by going and making my own list. Furthermore, it makes no sense for me to think in terms of “righteous things I can do on the Sabbath”; I try to do righteous things every day!

The manual includes some questions later on that I think are more helpful, even if they’re perhaps still phrased in list-making language:

“In deciding what other activities we could properly engage in on the Sabbath, we could ask ourselves: Will it uplift and inspire me? Does it show respect for the Lord? Does it direct my thoughts to Him?”

If class members started to list do/don’t activities, I would probably ask them to explain how that activity did/didn’t help them get the full benefit of the Sabbath. And no, that wouldn’t be a line of tricky questioning; I really do want to know how my class members find value in the choices they make. Additionally, this line of questioning would hopefully steer us away from comparing and contrasting (and contending over) one another’s lists and allow us to discuss Sabbath observance in terms of principles that we have in common despite our differences in practice.

Question 4. Why even have a Sabbath?

I like how I answered that question here.

Question 5. What do you want out of the Sabbath?

Maybe this question should come sooner…. At any rate, it seems that if the Sabbath was made for me, then I should be milking it for all it’s worth! {wink} D&C 59 has a neat little phrase that puts this in less irreverent terms:

“And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.”

A simple guideline then, is to do whatever brings you joy. “But what if what brings you joy isn’t good?” you ask. Well, then you have bigger problems then deciding what to do on the Sabbath! But seriously, look at the list of suggestions in the manual and ask yourself if those things bring you joy:

  • attending Church meetings
  • reading the scriptures
  • visiting the sick, the aged, and our loved ones
  • praying to our Heavenly Father
  • performing Church service
  • bearing our testimony
  • sharing time with children and others in the home
  • etc.

I know that some things might show up on the “brings me joy list” that would be seen by many as inappropriate-for-Sabbath activities—e.g., fishing, gardening, running—and I’d be interested to hear how the class responded to that conflict.

Closing Thought. Saturday Monday is a special day: it’s the day we get ready for Sunday!”

When I wrote the post linked to in #4, I considered that at some time we will no longer be subject to the demands this earth places on our mortal bodies. With no need to labor to obtain food, shelter, etc., the Sabbath day injunction to avoid work will be quite unnecessary; we will live in a “perpetual Sabbath.” Thus, for us today, the Sabbath is a day to look forward to that time—but for now we can only look forward, we cannot fully live the Sabbath the way God lives it because we are subject to mortality on Sunday as on all days. Nevertheless, we can minimize the demands of mortality on the Sabbath by laboring six days so that the ox is in the barn (instead of the mire), the homework is done, the groceries are in the cupboards, and the bathroom is clean—unless, of course, scrubbing the toilet brings you joy!

6 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 24: “The Sabbath Day” (Gospel Principles Manual)”

  1. Matt W. said

    I am teaching this next sunday, so thanks for this. I’m going with more quotes from GAs for this lesson, but liked your take. I agree, this is a lot harder to teach EQ than New Members.

  2. BrianJ said

    Please post the quotes here, if you like!

  3. Charmaine said

    Always helpful. I think I’ll up some of the questions. But I don’t want my lesson to turn into a list of “whose family is more holy” kind of thing. So I’m giving a disclaimer that different things work for different families, but that there are some common things we all “can” do to keep the Sabbath day holy. Then I’ll ask for what we “Can” do.

    I also found a great story President Monson told in General Conference that I’m using to bring up that keeping the Sabbath Day Holy is still an important commandment that our current prophet finds important.

    It’s in the Oct. 1999 General Conference, about a father teaching his son not to purchase things on the Sabbath.
    I teach in relief society, but I’ll be using your first few questions.


    • BrianJ said

      “I don’t want my lesson to turn into a list of “whose family is more holy” kind of thing. So I’m giving a disclaimer that different things work for different families….”

      I might ask the follow up question of why a particular thing works for a certain family. It would give insight into why they have chosen to do that thing and what benefit they gain. Other class members would then be better informed as to whether that thing would be of valuable to their own families.

  4. Deno P said

    One of the things I am adding to the list of questions you need to ask yourself when deciding if an activity is appropriate is, “Does this activity interfer with anyone else’s ability to observe the Sabbath day?” Both my husband and I have had jobs in the past that required us to work on Sunday: retail sales and restaurant services. If people in our community had observed the sabbath with this question in mind, then we would have been free to spend the sabbath day in church meetings and with our families. I’m not suggesting that all services (for instance health and safety services) should cease to be available on the sabbath. But most businesse could close their doors on the sabbath.

  5. Shaws Circular…

    RS/MP Lesson 24: “The Sabbath Day” (Gospel Principles Manual) « Feast upon the Word Blog…

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