Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8)
As a child, I was taught to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. We were members of a different church (from the Latter-day Saints), which we attended most every Sunday. Sometimes, the congregation stayed afterwards for social activities, but my dad never wanted to stay. We went home, and thus ended the Sabbath for us. We didn’t go to church in the summer because Sunday school classes didn’t meet then. When my brothers were old enough to play in a junior football league, we stayed home from church in the fall because the games were on Sundays.
I remember thinking how interesting it was that the Sabbath took a back seat to a sporting event. By the time I was in high school, I wasn’t attending church much at all, for various reasons including part-time work. It seemed I fell in the habit of forgetting the Sabbath day too. Still, I learned early on to love my Savior, Jesus Christ. For some reason, that stuck with me, even when I wasn’t in church.
My conversion and re-dedication
And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can you feel so now? (Alma 5:26)
Through a series of events in my life, I was led to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After careful investigation which included many hard questions, reading the Book of Mormon with a humble heart, and earnestly praying to God to know His will, I took the plunge, so to speak, and was baptized.
Faith enough to believe on His name
And now behold, I say unto you, and I would that ye should remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name; therefore he desireth in the first place, that ye should believe, yea, even on his word. (Alma 32:22)
It was a new life for me, far different in many ways from my old life. Commandments were taken more seriously than ever before, partly because I was excited to learn, but also because the members of the restored gospel are generally more dedicated to keeping their covenants than I had been. My church has no paid clergy, so members are asked to fill various positions including local leadership, fellow-shipping, teaching, and giving sermons on Sunday. Activity such as this made it impossible to “hide in the last pew” during the worship service or even entering a meetinghouse without being greeted by a friendly soul.
This involvement put the issue of Sabbath day observance out front for me again. As a child, my observance was limited, weekly, and seasonally. Now I was expected to keep the day—the whole day—holy. How does a person do that? I had a lot to learn.
The Lord’s way of teaching
…I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom… 2 Nephi 28:30
I was baptized because I received a testimony that the Book of Mormon was true. It was an undeniable feeling of peace and clarity which gave me direction to continue forward in this path. But it was only the beginning of a process of learning truth. There was more doctrine to learn, more scriptures to ponder, church history to study, even social and cultural norms had to be discovered and appreciated. I found it best to learn the doctrine first, then to add the rest as I grew.
First and foremost in importance was learning the doctrine and practicing it so I could gain a testimony of it. Sabbath day observance was one of those doctrinal policies; however, it did not have strict rules. Attending worship service and the other meetings on Sunday was a given, but there were no set guidelines for what to do during the remainder of the day. For instance, some families had traditions they followed on the Sabbath that others did not, like wearing your Sunday clothes all day rather than changing after church. There is no doctrinal edict about this, which makes it a subjective practice. Others followed a strict rule of not working on Sunday, but that is also loosely kept, especially if you have a career that requires work on Sunday such as law enforcement or the medical field.
I decided to first look at the most important parts of the Sabbath day observance as a top priority—church attendance and partaking of the sacrament—and then build from there. The cleansing of the soul, week after week through the partaking of the sacrament, was vital. Studying the Savior was also a must. Later, I received callings to teach various classes for Sunday school and other groups at church, and I quickly learned that service in this capacity was edifying to my spiritual soul.
Keeping the remainder of the day holy was a different challenge. I wasn’t used to that, but I was willing to give it a try. I soon learned early on how giving priority to the Savior throughout the day could lengthen the feelings of spiritual closeness to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I listened to church music, read from church magazines and books, visited people in need, and did my best to refrain from shopping, entertainment, and work. I can’t say I was perfect, but I did try my best.
Tender mercies of the Lord
I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance. (1 Nephi 1:20)
The Lord blesses us with his tender mercies when we keep the Sabbath day holy. He pours His spirit out to us when we do our best to keep the commandments of God. I know this because I’ve felt His spirit. I’ve witnessed the blessings. They have guided me throughout my life. I know that when I observe the Sabbath day as a holy day, I witness these blessings more fully. When I miss church I feel sluggish and burdened by life. When I come back and take the sacrament. I am renewed again. When I observe a full day of Sabbath observance, I feel closer to the Savior. That closeness sustains me for the rest of the week.
Is it hard to keep the Sabbath day holy? I’ve lived my life both ways, following this commandment sometimes, ignoring it at other times. I testify that my life is happier, sweeter, and more spiritually alive when I keep the Sabbath day holy. While it may seem hard at first, the blessings outweigh the difficulties. In time, the habit does become a delight—something to look forward to week after week—and the blessings are of eternal worth.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.