For many Christians today, the Sabbath day is a day to go to church…and when that is over it just becomes another day. For Mormons, the Sabbath is an all-day event. Mormon is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon beliefs take literally the teachings of the Ten Commandments, and one says:
“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:
”For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it“ (Exodus 20:8-11).
From midnight to midnight, Mormons are taught to keep the Sabbath day holy. This means attending church for the full three-hour schedule. A traditional worship service lasts about an hour and ten minutes and includes the taking of the Sacrament (communion). This is followed by classes. Children attend the Primary, beginning at age eighteen months. Until they are three, they are in a nursery class where they have lessons, art, music, stories, and games appropriate for their age. After they are three they attend regular classes, one in a classroom with children their own age and one in a larger setting where they also have a music lesson.
Adults and teenagers attend Sunday School, where they study the scriptures on a four-year-rotation, with two years spent on the Bible, one on the Book of Mormon, and one on Church History/Doctrine and Covenants. (This last is a book of modern revelations.) Then adult men and teen boys attend Priesthood class while the women attend Relief Society and the teen girls attend Young Women’s. These are classes that teach gospel principles and show students how to apply them to everyday life.
But the Sabbath Day doesn’t end when church ends. The Bible didn’t say to keep the church service holy. He asked us to keep the entire day holy. For this reason, Mormons try not to have to work at their employment on that day. They also try not to cause anyone else to have to work that day—the commandment tells us not to have others who work for us work, and in our modern society, many people work for us indirectly. We don’t want to be the cause of having them work on Sunday, so Mormons do not shop or attend community events on that day. Mormons are allowed to make exceptions for the “ox in the mire,” meaning an emergency, but as one leader put it, we must make sure we didn’t push the ox into the mire to begin with.
To avoid emergency work, a Mormon will shop on Saturday if there is anything she needs. The family will clean the home, set out clothing, and make any other preparations necessary to ensure the Sabbath day requires as little work as possible. On Sunday, the family will do only the essential chores, such as keeping up with dishes and caring for children. They often choose to prepare simple meals or to complete some meal preparations the night before.
With work complete, the Mormon family is free to spend the Sabbath day in spiritual matters. Rather than going on picnics or shopping, they will read scriptures and spiritual books, work on family history (a spiritual responsibility for Mormons), listen to quiet, spiritual music, and prepare church lessons. They will help children do quiet things that help them to think about Jesus, such as writing letters to family, visiting grandparents, writing in journals, reading religious children’s books and playing with quiet scripture-themed toys. Some families will perform simple service for others. It is a peaceful time of rest and rejuvenation. The day is spent doing anything that helps Mormons to think about Jesus and to become closer to him.
The commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy was so serious when it was taught to Moses that the penalty for violating it was death. We don’t, of course, kill people today for breaking the Sabbath, but this does help us understand that God considers the Sabbath to be an essential part of our spiritual lives. We give him one day of the week of days he gives us. Six days are ours; the seventh is His.
A Mormon who has kept the Sabbath Day holy begins the work week rested and spiritually strengthened. It can be challenging to be a Christian in an increasingly secular world, but the Sabbath day helps us to have the spiritual strength to carry out our spiritual and temporal lives. It demonstrates our love for God and our willingness not just to take from Him, but to give to Him.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.