It’s an odd thing to consider that of the great Ten Commandments that the God of Israel gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, the one He chose to expound upon the longest is also perhaps the most disregarded in our modern society:
Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.”
The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew verb shavat, meaning to cease or stop. The primary purpose of the Sabbath is to be a pause amid the constant rush of life: a day to stop and get your bearings. A day of rest, of course, doesn’t mean to lie around the house all day. The Sabbath is a day to worship God in church, to partake of the Lord’s sacrament, to visit friends and family, to read good books and hear good music. Because we are only instructed to “keep it holy,” every Mormon family observes the Sabbath a little differently. But there are some commonalities: it is not a day to play sports, for instance, or go shopping, go boating, or spend money. Some families choose to forego television or movies or other media, in favor of spending quality family time together.
The move from an agrarian society to an industrialized world has changed the appeal of the ancient practice of the Sabbath. For the majority of Mormons, at least in the United States, the change from weekday to the Sabbath is not quite, to borrow a phrase from Herman Wouk, “the old dramatic plunge from gloom, trouble, penury, and crisis to peaceful and graceful pleasure.” Rather than the much needed privilege of rest it has historically been, the Sabbath Day is now almost viewed as an inconvenience—a painful restriction on a day otherwise useful for work or recreation.
But by making a conscious decision to consecrate one day per week to your Creator, you can have what the Sabbath offers: a serene peace amid a crazy bustling world. I love my Sabbath. Admittedly, when I was a child, I saw it as a day of “can’t”—the only day I wasn’t allowed to play sports, or go swimming, or watch movies. But now I have come to need it. I’m so busy with school and work and an almost frantic need to have fun, the Sabbath has become an oasis of peace for me. You may ask: “How do you keep competitive in business, work, or school when you’re losing an entire day every week?” Here’s my answer: I’ve been doing this my whole life and it’s just the opposite. Sure, as a biochemistry researcher it’s often hard to delay or pause a multi-day experiment mid-run to observe the Sabbath. But whether as a function of the weekly restoration to mind and body, or as a blessing from God, I know that I’m more productive during the week for it, and I’ve never felt at a disadvantage. I’ve come to trust in the words of Isaiah:
Isaiah 58:13 “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Do you feel like you don’t spend quality time with your family? Keep the Sabbath Day. Do you feel constantly overcome by deadlines? Keep the Sabbath Day. Are you tired of the frantic commercialism and materialism in the world? There’s no better way to escape a hectic life than donating one day of your week to the Lord. It works.