Chapter 27: The Law of the Sabbath

“Chapter 27: The Law of the Sabbath,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 72–74

“27: Sabbath,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 72–74

Chapter 27

The Law of the Sabbath


In every dispensation the Lord has commanded His people to “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Many promises and blessings are extended to those who keep the law of the Sabbath. For example, in the days of Jeremiah, the Lord promised to spare Jerusalem and its inhabitants if they would keep the Sabbath (see Jeremiah 17:20–27). In our day the Lord has promised us the “fulness of the earth” if we will obey this commandment (D&C 59:16).

Doctrinal Outline

  1. Sabbath observance is a law of God.

    1. Jehovah rested from His creative labors on the seventh day and called it the Sabbath (see Genesis 2:2; Moses 3:2–3; Exodus 20:11).

    2. The Lord commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath holy (see Exodus 20:8–11; Deuteronomy 5:12–15).

    3. The Lord declared that Sabbath observance would be a distinguishing characteristic of His chosen people (see Exodus 31:13, 16–17; Ezekiel 20:12).

    4. The Savior observed the Sabbath and kept it holy (see Luke 4:16; 13:10–17).

    5. Latter-day revelation affirms the significance of the Sabbath in this dispensation (see D&C 59:9–13).

  2. The Sabbath day was changed in the meridian dispensation.

    1. In Old Testament times, the Sabbath was observed on the seventh day (see Exodus 20:8–10; 31:14–17; Deuteronomy 5:12–14).

    2. In New Testament times, Church members began to observe the Sabbath on the first day of the week to commemorate the Savior’s Resurrection (see Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2; John 20:19).

  3. The Lord has given some general guidelines for proper Sabbath observance.

    1. We should attend Church meetings on the Sabbath and worship God (see D&C 59:9–13).

    2. The Sabbath is a day to renew our covenants by partaking of the sacrament (see D&C 59:9; 3 Nephi 18:1–10).

    3. The Sabbath is a day to rest from temporal labors (see D&C 59:10; Exodus 20:10; Leviticus 23:3).

    4. On the Sabbath we should prepare our food with a singleness of heart (see D&C 59:13).

    5. The Sabbath is a day to perform good deeds (see Matthew 12:10–13; Luke 6:1–11; 13:11–17).

    6. The Sabbath is a day to do the Lord’s will and refrain from seeking our own selfish pleasure (see Isaiah 58:13–14).

  4. Blessings come to those who observe the Sabbath.

    1. Observing the Sabbath can help the Saints remain unspotted from worldly enticements (see D&C 59:9).

    2. Keeping the Sabbath holy is a work of righteousness that can bring to the individual “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23).

    3. Both temporal and spiritual blessings come to those who keep the Sabbath (see D&C 59:16–20).

A family arriving at church

Supporting Statements

  1. Sabbath observance is a law of God.

    • “No law in all scripture has been more clearly defined than that of the Sabbath. From the time of Genesis to our own day, there has been no subject spoken of more directly or repeatedly than the Sabbath.

      “It is one of the laws most dear to the heart of God. Yet it is noted far more in its desecration than in its acceptance and proper observance” (Mark E. Petersen, in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 70; or Ensign, May 1975, 47).

    • “This very day upon which we meet here, to worship, viz, the Sabbath, has become the play-day of this great nation—the day set apart by thousands to violate the commandment that God gave long, long ago, and I am persuaded that much of the sorrow and distress that is afflicting and will continue to afflict mankind is traceable to the fact that they have ignored his admonition to keep the Sabbath day holy” (George Albert Smith, in Conference Report, Oct. 1935, 120).

    • “An acquaintance of mine had purchased a lovely boat and had just finished varnishing it and painting it. When I stopped by, he was admiring it. I surmised that he was getting it ready to take it, with his family, to the reservoir the next Sunday. He said, ‘It is complete and in readiness except for one thing.’ Then he asked me, ‘Could you suggest an appropriate name for the boat?’ I knew him very well. I thought for a moment, and then I said, ‘Well, perhaps you should name it The Sabbath-Breaker.’ He looked at me, and he understood” (ElRay L. Christiansen, in Conference Report, Apr. 1962, 33).

  2. The Sabbath day was changed in the meridian dispensation.

    • “The Church accepts Sunday as the Christian Sabbath and proclaims the sanctity of the day. We admit without argument that under the Mosaic law the seventh day of the week, Saturday, was designated and observed as the holy day, and that the change from Saturday to Sunday was a feature of the apostolic administration following the personal ministry of Jesus Christ. Greater than the question of this day or that in the week is the actuality of the weekly Sabbath, to be observed as a day of special and particular devotion to the service of the Lord” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 449).

  3. The Lord has given some general guidelines for proper Sabbath observance.

    • “People frequently wonder where to draw the line: what is worthy and what is unworthy to do upon the Sabbath. But if one loves the Lord with all his heart, might, mind, and strength; if one can put away selfishness and curb desire; if one can measure each Sabbath activity by the yardstick of worshipfulness; if one is honest with his Lord and with himself; if one offers a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ it is quite unlikely that there will be Sabbath breaking in that person’s life” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 219).

    • “To many, Sabbath breaking is a matter of little moment, but to our Heavenly Father it is one of the principal commandments. It is a test to ‘see if we will do all things’ commanded. …

      “In the early days of Israel specific injunctions were given, and the death penalty was imposed for violation. Perhaps this was the only way that these former slaves could be taught the law of obedience and be brought to an understanding of the commandments of the Lord. Rabbis and priests made mockery of the commands by carrying them to unwarranted extremes in which a knot could not be tied nor loosed; a fire could not be kindled nor extinguished; a broken bone could not be set; a dead body could not be moved from wreckage; a bed could not be moved; sticks could not be gathered. And it was against these excesses that the Savior lashed rather than the Sabbath day itself, for he who instituted the Sabbath had greatest respect for it. …

      “It would appear that the reason the Sabbath day is so hard to live for so many people is that it is still written on tablets of stone rather than being written in their hearts. …

      “In the days of weak Israel it seemed necessary for the Lord to specify the many things which people must not do on the Sabbath, but in our own day it would seem that he recognized the intelligence of his people, and assumed that they would catch the total spirit of worship and of the Sabbath observance when he said to them: ‘Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in righteousness, even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit.’ (D&C 59:8.)” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 217–18).

    • “A man of my acquaintance remained home each Sabbath and justified himself by saying that he could benefit more by reading a good book at home than by attending the sacrament meeting and listening to a poor sermon. But the home, sacred as it should be, is not the house of prayer. In it no sacrament is administered; in it is not found the fellowship with members, nor the confession of sins to the brethren. The mountains may be termed the temples of God and the forests and streams his handiwork, but only in the meetinghouse, or house of prayer, can be fulfilled all the requirements of the Lord. And so he has impressed upon us that: ‘It is expedient that the church meet together often to partake of bread and wine in the remembrance of the Lord Jesus.’ (D&C 20:75.)” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 220).

    • “For Latter-day Saints, to offer up ‘sacraments’ in the house of prayer as the Lord commands means for you to present your devotions before the Lord in the form of songs of praise, prayers and thanksgiving, testimonies, and the partaking of the sacrament and the study of the word of God. In its most widely accepted usage it means for you to stand for any sacred right or ceremony whereby you affirm your allegiance to your Heavenly Father and His Son” (Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World, 72).

    • “The Savior said that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath is for man to obey and in which to find profit but not to break or desecrate. The Savior repeatedly insists upon the hallowing of the Sabbath day. He recognized the fact that livestock must be loosed from the stall and taken to water and fed and that other chores must be done. He recognized also that the ox might get into the mire or the ass fall into the pit; but neither in the letter nor in the spirit did he ever approve the use of the Sabbath for ordinary and regular work or for amusements and play. He healed the sick on the Sabbath, preached in the synagogues on this day, but he gave the Sabbath not for amusement and labor but for rest to the mind and body, change and relaxation from heavy service, and leisure for works of mercy. The observance of the Sabbath is a part of the new covenant” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 216–17).

    • “The Sabbath day is given throughout the generations of man for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between the Lord and his children forever. It is a day in which to worship and to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Lord. It is a day on which to surrender every worldly interest and to praise the Lord humbly, for humility is the beginning of exaltation. It is a day not for affliction and burden but for rest and righteous enjoyment. It is a day not for lavish banqueting, but a day of simple meals and spiritual feasting; not a day of abstinence from food, except fast day, but a day when maid and mistress might be relieved from the preparation. It is a day graciously given us by our Heavenly Father. It is a day when animals may be turned out to graze and rest; when the plow may be stored in the barn and other machinery cooled down; a day when employer and employee, master and servant may be free from plowing, digging, toiling. It is a day when the office may be locked and business postponed, and troubles forgotten; a day when man may be temporarily released from that first injunction, ‘In the sweat of thy face shall thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground.’ (Genesis 3:19.) It is a day when bodies may rest, minds relax, and spirits grow. It is a day when songs may be sung, prayers offered, sermons preached, and testimonies borne, and when man may climb high, almost annihilating time, space, and distance between himself and his Creator.

      “The Sabbath is a day on which to take inventory—to analyze our weaknesses, to confess our sins to our associates and our Lord. It is a day on which to fast in ‘sackcloth and ashes.’ It is a day on which to read good books, a day to contemplate and ponder, a day to study lessons for priesthood and auxiliary organizations, a day to study the scriptures and to prepare sermons, a day to nap and rest and relax, a day to visit the sick, a day to preach the gospel, a day to proselyte, a day to visit quietly with the family and get acquainted with our children, a day for proper courting, a day to do good, a day to drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, a day to seek forgiveness of our sins, a day for the enrichment of our spirit and our soul, a day to restore us to our spiritual stature, a day to partake of the emblems of his sacrifice and atonement, a day to contemplate the glories of the gospel and of the eternal realms, a day to climb high on the upward path toward our Heavenly Father” (Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 215–16).

  4. Blessings come to those who observe the Sabbath.

    • “We constantly talk about the worldliness of the present day and speak of the fact that our young people face more serious temptations than did those of a generation ago, and this is probably true. Also, more parents seem to be caught up in the worldliness of today than was the case a generation ago.

      “What can we do to protect ourselves under these hazardous circumstances? How can we better help our young people to remain unspotted from the world?

      “The Lord gives us the answer, and says that it can be done by sincerely observing the Sabbath day. Most people have never thought of it in this way, but note the words of the Lord in this regard: ‘That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world’—note these words—‘that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shall go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day.’ (D&C 59:9.)

      “Think about that for a moment. Do we really believe in God—sincerely? Are we convinced that he knows what he is talking about? If we are, then will we take him and his word seriously? Or will we further trifle with divine revelation?

      “The Lord does know what he is talking about. Sabbath observance will help us to more fully remain unspotted from the world” (Petersen, in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 70; or Ensign, May 1975, 47–48).

    • “Sunday is worship day. It is holy. [The United States] is a Christian nation, and the Lord has promised that as long as we keep him in mind and worship him this Country will stand—this Government will stand. No other nation can take it or destroy it. But if we forget Him, God’s promises are not binding.

      “Why should Sunday be observed as a day of rest? First, Sunday is essential to the true development and strength of body, and that is a principle which we should proclaim more generally abroad, and practice. …

      “A second purpose for keeping holy the Sabbath Day is: ‘That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world.’ Contemplation during that sacred hour, self communion, and higher than that, communion in thought and feeling with the Lord—the realization that He is near enough to be aware of what you are thinking. What you think about—is really what you are. …

      “There is a third reason. Keeping holy the Sabbath Day is a law of God, resounding through the ages from Mt. Sinai. You cannot transgress the law of God without circumscribing your spirit. Finally, our Sabbath, the first day of the week, commemorates the greatest event in all history: Christ’s resurrection and his visit as a resurrected being to his assembled Apostles” (David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Oct. 1956, 90).