(This is Part II of a five part series on The Sabbath)
To Keep Ourselves Unspotted from the World
In President Kimball’s article, he gave several examples of communities which kept the Sabbath, and communities that broke the Sabbath. He spoke of communities where the hay balers stood idle in the field and the businesses were all closed. He spoke of other communities where people were lined up at the theater, or heading off for the hunt on the Sabbath. The Lord expects us to avoid recreation and business transactions on the Sabbath. Elder Perry called these “worldly distractions.”
President Kimball clarified the problem with recreation and business on the Sabbath. “There is no criticism of legitimate recreation—sports, picnics, plays, and motion pictures… But there is a proper time and place for all worthwhile things—a time for work, a time for play,a time for worship.” It is good to have one day where we remove ourselves completely from the world and simply worship. He went on to say, “Sometimes Sabbath observance is characterized as a matter of sacrifice and self-denial, but it is not so. It is merely a matter of shifting times and choosing seasons. There is time enough, particularly in our era of the world’s history, during the six days of the week in which to do our work and play. Much can be done to organize and encourage weekday activities, avoiding the Sabbath.” There is a time and a season for all things, and with careful planning, we can do all our work and play in the other six days of the week, and save the Sabbath for worshipping the Lord. As I have been working on preparing for the Sabbath each Saturday (all the while singing in my head the song “Saturday is a special day, it’s the day we get ready for Sunday.”) I have discovered this counsel from President Kimball to be true.
There is some work that must be done on the Sabbath. People don’t stop getting sick on the Sabbath, no matter how healthy we all try to be (although there are probably people who would go to the hospital on the Sabbath instead of waiting for Monday when they really could wait), people don’t stop breaking the law on the Sabbath, and accidents and tragedies don’t rest on the Sabbath, unfortunately. So there is a place for those jobs that never sleep. However, President Kimball pointed out, “Many industries have processes which, it is said, cannot be interrupted for the Sabbath—in those industries the workers ‘have to work’ on Sunday.This may be true. But ‘necessity is the mother of invention,’ and I have often wondered how long it would take to invent new methods of production, which would not require Sunday work, if everyone in a particular industry simply decided to keep the Sabbath day holy.” There are certainly industries where I think this is true, but there are also industries (such as the ones I mentioned) that truly do have a need on the Sabbath.
There are some “jobs” that we must do on the Sabbath that may actually be good to do on the Sabbath. President Kimball said, “some of the work that is truly necessary—caring for the sick, for example—may actually serve to hallow the Sabbath.” Because caring for the sick, and offering that service to the feeble is something that we may do to keep the Sabbath even if it isn’t our paid job, working that job can be an experience that brings us closer to Heavenly Father, and helps us honor Him. President Kimball, however, cautioned, “in such activities our motives are a most important consideration.”
“When men and women are willing to work on the Sabbath to increase their wealth, they are breaking the commandments.” To me, this would be like a nurse taking on Sunday shifts at the hospital because she wants to earn more money to buy a car or a house. On the other hand, I’ll share an experience my sister had. She works in a hospital lab. She normally works a week day shift, but a few weeks ago, when they were working out the winter holiday schedule at work, a mother who usually works the Sunday shift asked if someone would take her shift on Christmas day (since Christmas day this year is a Sunday). My sister doesn’t have any children of her own, and she offered to take the shift – not because she wants to work on the Sabbath, but because she knew that this woman would be able to spend Christmas (and the Sabbath) with her children if my sister took her shift. My sister was also more than willing to switch a shift with this woman. My sister’s motivations were pure – she wanted her colleague to be able to spend Christmas with her children. Her heart was not set on the extra money she would earn from the shift, but helping the other woman’s family. If we work on the Sabbath, we would be wise to carefully consider our motives, as well as the need – is it really necessary?
Sometimes, even if we do not work on the Sabbath, the ox may fall in the mire, and we are not condemned if we pull out our ox to save it. However, President Kimball pointed out that “no one deliberately puts the ox in the mire every week, or lets him get in the mire with no effort to keep him out.” I like both parts of this – we should not deliberately put the ox in the mire (that is, we shouldn’t try to make there be situations where we must break the Sabbath) and we should try to keep the ox out of the mire. An example of deliberately putting the ox in the mire would be choosing to cook a meal on the Sabbath that requires an ingredient you don’t have, therefore “requiring” that you go to the store to obtain the necessary ingredient. An example of taking no steps to keep the ox out of the mire would be letting your car run empty on Saturday evening and thus you must purchase gas on the Sabbath in order to get to your Church meetings. I think most of us would not deliberately put ourselves in a situation in which we must pull the ox out of the mire, but I know that I have sometimes neglected to take the necessary precautions to keep the ox out of the mire.
Elder Perry also explained that the way we dress on the Sabbath has something to do with keeping ourselves unspotted from the world. “We know that when Sunday dress deteriorates to everyday attire, attitudes and actions follow…by the clothing we encourage [our children] to wear and the activities we plan, we help them prepare for the sacrament and enjoy its blessings throughout the day.” I think this is important. And at the same time, I worry that sometimes the Saints judge each other because of their Sunday dress, perhaps thinking that Sister So-and-so isn’t as righteous because she brings her children to church in sneakers and a t-shirt. The greatest thing I ever learned about the term “Sunday best” is that “best” is relative to the other things in your closet, not the other things in someone else’s closet. The reason I don’t put my children in sneakers for church on Sunday is because I have dress shoes and a suit for my son, and I have nice dresses for my daughter. The reason I don’t wear flip-flops to Church is because I own dress shoes. We should wear our Sunday best, but we should also be careful not to judge others whose Sunday best might be more casual than our Sunday best.
How do you keep yourself and your family “unspotted from the world” on the Sabbath? If you work on the Sabbath, what is your motivation? What steps do you take to keep the ox out of the mire? How do you organize your week so that you can devote the Sabbath to the Lord? What does “Sunday best” mean to you?