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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?

16 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 16: “Offer Up Thy Sacraments upon My Holy Day” (George Albert Smith Manual)”

  1. Roberta said

    I’m glad you posted this lesson because I have a question, maybe answerable or maybe not. Why do we LDS claim we keep the Sabbath day holy when we don’t? We observe the Lord’s Day (Sunday), not the Sabbath (Saturday). Why do we call Sunday a sabbath? Throughout history as much as the different calendars have come and gone and changed, the seven day week has always remained constant and the last day in that seven day week has always been known as the Sabbath. If you look up “Sabbath” and “Lord’s Day” in our Bible dictionary, it tells us that Sabbath observance fell off over time “by degrees” and the two days were never confounded but “carefully distinguished from” each other. Please don’t misunderstand me, I totally understand the symbolic nature connected with holy-day observance (sacrament, etc.) but I don’t get why we call Sunday a Sabbath…it seems incorrect to my way of thinking. Thoughts?

    • B.H. Failor said

      I have heard, but not experienced it directly, that members of the church observe the sabbath, i.e. hold sacrament meeting which includes the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, either on Saturday or Sunday, depending on where they are living. In Israel, I have been told, sacrament meeting is held on Saturday. I assume that this is true of Islamic countries as well, in which the society as a whole, observe the sabbath on Saturday.

      • Roberta said

        B.H. Failor: That’s interesting to think about. Thanks.

        Kirkcaudle: I apologize for steering your lesson notes off track and onto my personal tangent from the get-go. I was just curious what others might know. :)

      • kirkcaudle said

        Roberta, I don’t mind tangents and I think that your question is very valid and related to the lesson.

  2. kirkcaudle said

    The time/day of Sabbath observance was debated in early Christianity. In the year 321 A.D., Constantine decreed, “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed” (Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1). Constantine ended the debate and Christians started worshiping on Sunday.

    Interestingly, it appears from New Testament times Christians meet in groups on Sunday, “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). However, it is unclear if those early Christians viewed Sunday at the “sabbath” or just a meeting day.

    This might seem strange at first, but even in LDS history members have meet on non-sabbath days. For many years PH meetings were held during week days.

    So why do Mormons have a Sunday and not a Saturday Sabbath? I think that Mormons would agree with Dr. Adam Clark, in his Commentary on Revelation 1: 10, “The Lord’s day” the first day of the week, observed as the Christian Sabbath, because on it Jesus Christ rose from the dead: therefore it was called the Lords day; and has taken place of the Jewish Sabbath, throughout the Christian world.

    This are just some scattered random thoughts and so I’m not sure if any of this helps or not.

  3. Roberta said

    Thanks! I don’t take to task our Sunday worship, I guess it just seems odd to me that we would call Sunday the “Sabbath” but from what I gather from your response the term “Sabbath” is used more loosely than I’m rendering it. I guess I’m taking a too literal position but it seems concrete to me in scripture and different from what we practice. Anyhoo, just a thought.

  4. Marie Renard said

    Thanks for the commentary on the lesson Kirk. I was just wondering about your thoughts on the first of the two reasons for going to church: to acknowledge our faults. You talk about confessing. The way I read it, it’s more like the process of repentance when partaking of the sacrament. We come to Church to be cleansed and we cannot do that without first recognizing our sinful state. I believe that’s an essential role the sacrament, and by extension, the sabbath play in our lives as Christians. We set aside the things of the world to look inwardly, examine our deeds of the week, acknowledge sins and repent. The process requires time for meditation and prayer and would be difficult to accomplish if work, play, or other concerns were not set aside. That is why I think sabbath observance is so crucial for progression. Just a thought…

  5. jacob said

    Amen to Kirk and Marie, I feel that John 6: 26-63 beautifully reveals the importance of the Sacrament towards our salvation and progression in Christ. Therefore keeping the sabbath day holy in preparation for the sacrament as well as keeping it holy after partaking is fundamental to our reliance and faith on the merits of Christ. Kirk’s thoughts also reminded me of Lehi: “Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” 2 Nephi 2:7.

  6. kirkcaudle said

    I agree 100% Marie. However, what do you suppose D&C 20 means by acknowledging our faults, “in the presence of one another”? Do you think that refers simply to taking the sacrament in a group during church or do you think there is something even more communal going on here?

    For example, I agree that taking the sacrament is part of a process of repentance. Therefore, what if every week when you went to church you actually confessed your faults to another person? Maybe you are mad at your Bishop, or you gossiped about someone and need to stay that you are sorry, etc.

    I think taking the sacrament every week is how we confess our sins to Christ. Acknowledging our sins to one another is how we prepare to take that sacrament.


    • Clint J said

      Your thoughts on acknowledging faults in the presence of one another are pushing me. I do feel that we are generally too concerned about appearances in the church culture. After all, we could help one another much more effectively if we understood, well, how we could help one another. For some sins, this “confession to one another” is much more built in to church attendance, as in the case of “more smelly sins”. In that case, the confession comes more as a result of simply coming to church which serves as an admission of the struggle–all the more reason not to shun such a person who by their action of attendance is obviously seeking to change. For other sins and struggles with the flesh, our attendance at church may not offer us the same motivation to change. On the other hand, perhaps this is why church can sometimes be a beauty contest–so that we all have an unrealistic assessment of how we perceive everyone else is doing so that we are more motivated to meet that standard ourselves… :)

  7. Troy said

    I learned something new while preparing to teach this lesson. While I was on my mission I always felt that I was very lucky to not have to worry about so many aspects of “normal” life (girls, jobs, movies, money, etc). I have been jealous of missionaries since I returned from my mission because they had the opportunity to live in that “fairy-tale land” where they only had to worry about one thing: teaching the gospel. I realized while reading the lesson that the section on viewing the Sabbath as a blessing rather than a restriction was inviting me to view Sunday like I viewed my mission: a day when I could forget about all those other things in my life and focus on having the spirit with me as the sacrament prayer promises. One day in seven can be lived in the magical fairy-tale land where I don’t have to worry about all those other things and can focus on the gospel. What a blessing!

    • Clint J said

      Awesome insight! This is something that I have pondered during the years since my mission. It is, indeed, a great blessing that we have one day of the week wherein we can care for the life of the soul. Then, with proper Sabbath observance, certain elements of the Sabbath could ‘spill over’ into the rest of my life.

      I am much to lax with my scripture study, not truly feasting upon them every day, sometimes not even snacking. Again, with diligent Sabbath observance once a week, taking joy in the Sabbath…regarding it as a delight, I am more reminded the rest of the time of what I am missing by not feasting daily upon the word. This would lead me to be more likely to make time for essential spiritual activities such as scripture study, meaningful prayer, temple worship, etc, and not just doing these things as a matter of habit, but with meaningful participation.

      I have been thinking a lot about what it means to “do all that [I do] in the name of the Son” and I have concluded that, at least in part, it means that I should seek to live a consecrated life in all aspects of my life. I’m not talking about a silly, debilitating sort of attitude that necessitates having to stop and pray over every little decision and thus seek to have God compel me to do everything I do ( I think that we have all heard this discussion come up at one point or another in relation to the injunction to pray always. Rather, I am envisioning a state of being where I live life with a purpose, His purpose, of going about doing good, and seeking to always be open to the nudges and direction of the spirit (“having [my] heart full and drawn out in prayer”?).

      I believe that Heavenly Father may really care what we do for our profession, where we live, etc, because there may be unique opportunities for us to serve others with our talents and abilities and certain means that he intends to serve and instruct us and perhaps even trials that he intends for us to pass through, all of which may not occur in a different situation.

      Again, I am not suggesting the need for definite guidance to the point of debilitation. I am merely suggesting that perhaps our lives need not (perhaps should not) be so compartmentalized as we sometimes regard them. We need not separate church and state in our lives and minds! Then, we are more like the great disciples that we know and admire (ex., Henry Eyring who spoke in a scientific setting, and afterwards was surprised as his son told him, “Dad, you bore your testimony!”) I’ve noted that this mental non-segregation of the spiritual and secular seems to be common to all who I have held as great examples of missionary work. It’s just a part of who they are and they choose not to filter their words or actions out of a sense of ‘political correctness’.

      Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but these are a few thoughts that I have had on the matter.

  8. Becky B said

    Members who attend ward or branches in Islamic countries attend church on Friday. I have friends who just moved to Jordan and hear the call to prayer from their apartment.

  9. Kim Berkey said

    Kirk, these are particularly helpful lesson notes. Great job! And thanks.

  10. kirkcaudle said

    Thank you Kim. Glad they helped.

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