“Should I do schoolwork on the Sabbath?” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 14
Henry B. Eyring, deputy commissioner of Church Education Suppose you were invited to the office of the president of a nation to meet him about an important government appointment. Would you concentrate easily as you read your algebra book in the minutes before you walked from your hotel to the nation’s headquarters? How comfortably would you slip into writing an essay on philosophy in the hours afterward? If you read before or after, it would almost certainly be either the president’s prior statements or information on topics relating to the office you were being considered for. If you wrote afterwards, it would be about your impressions, your insights, your recollections of your conversation.
If a visit with a president would blot out interest in unrelated studies, what could be the effect of a visit with the Creator? The Sabbath is an invitation from the Master to commune with him, and we are striving, not for an office, but for eternal life. He arranges lessons to be taught from his own scriptural texts; he instructs his priesthood to serve you the sacrament; and then he promises his presence:
“Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matt. 18:20.)
But once the meetings are over, what is wrong with schoolwork? Nothing, intrinsically. Schoolwork is a good thing to do—on most days. However, every hour you study secular subjects on the Sabbath is an hour you don’t spend in the Lord’s service, in the ways he asks us to spend his day.
Although time outside meetings on a Sunday can be well spent with the scriptures, I’ve felt the love and companionship of the Holy Ghost and of the Savior as often, or perhaps more often, in service to others. Most Sundays during my years as a student at the Harvard Business School, I drove out in a red Volkswagen to visit some branch of the Church in the New England countryside. My 600 classmates would be recovering from a night of parties or having worked until late Saturday; then they’d start homework sometime Sunday. I didn’t begin that work until early Monday.
The rewards of those years aren’t the fact that I did better academically than most, but more that I remember the warmth of the Master’s presence in those cold, old halls and on those wooden folding chairs in Providence, in Worcester, or on Cape Cod.
My desk still holds a pack of slightly faded five-by-seven cards on which I wrote outlines of sermons, never given, which came to me on rides with President Wilbur Cox as we headed home in the Sunday twilight. I’ve long since discarded the class papers I turned in during those years.
When I’ve tried it, I’ve always found this scripture true; Sabbath delight has crowded out school study:
“If thou turn away … 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.” (Isa. 58:13–14.)