Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 16: The Sabbath—A Delight

“Chapter 16: The Sabbath—A Delight,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 165–77

“Chapter 16,” Teachings: Spencer W. Kimball, 165–77

Chapter 16

The Sabbath—A Delight

The Sabbath is a day for active, joyful worship.

From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball

As President Spencer W. Kimball traveled throughout the Church, he was pleased when he found the Saints honoring the Sabbath day. He told of meeting two men in particular who had been blessed for their efforts to keep the Sabbath day holy:

“In a stake recently I interviewed a man for an important position in the stake reorganization. And I said to him, ‘What is your occupation?’ And he said, ‘I operate a service station.’ And I asked, ‘Do you operate on the Sabbath?’ His answer was, ‘No, I do not.’ ‘Well, how can you get along? Most service station operators seem to think they must open on the Sabbath.’ ‘I get along well,’ he said. ‘The Lord is good to me.’ ‘Do you not have stiff competition?’ I asked. ‘Yes, indeed,’ he replied. ‘Across the street is a man who keeps open all day Sunday.’ ‘And you never open?’ I asked. ‘No, sir,’ he said, ‘and I am grateful, and the Lord is kind, and I have sufficient for my needs.’

“I was in another stake, also in a reorganization program, and another brother was considered for one of the highest positions; and when we asked him of his occupation, he said he was a grocer by trade. ‘Well, most of the stores keep open on the Sabbath. Do you?’ ‘We lock our store on Sunday,’ he said. ‘But how can you compete with these people who are open seven days a week?’ ‘We compete. At least we get along very well,’ was his reply. ‘But would not the Sabbath be your biggest day?’ ‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘we would probably sell twice as much on the Sabbath as we would on an average day, but we get along without it, and the Lord has been kind; he has been gracious; he has been good.’ … And I could not refrain from saying, ‘God bless you, my faithful brother. The Lord will not be unmindful of these seeming sacrifices. Your dollars are clean. They will surely not hinder you in finding your way into the kingdom of God.’”1

President Kimball saw the Sabbath as a day for active, joyful worship—a time to leave behind the things of the world and fill the day with righteous activity. Quoting scriptures, he encouraged the Saints to make the Sabbath “a delight” and to approach the day with “cheerful hearts and countenances” (Isaiah 58:13; D&C 59:15).2

Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball

The Lord has always commanded His people to honor the Sabbath day.

Moses came down from the quaking, smoking Mount Sinai and brought to the wandering children of Israel the Ten Commandments, fundamental rules for the conduct of life. These commandments were, however, not new. They had been known to Adam and his posterity, who had been commanded to live them from the beginning, and were merely reiterated by the Lord to Moses. And the commandments even antedated earth life and were part of the test for mortals established in the council in heaven.

The first of the Ten Commandments requires that men worship the Lord; the fourth designates a Sabbath day especially for such worship:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. […]

“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 20:3, 8–11.)

To many, Sabbath-breaking is a matter of little moment, but to our Heavenly Father it is disobedience to one of the principal commandments. It is evidence of man’s failure to meet the individual test set for each of us before the creation of the world, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25.) …

The solemn command brought down from the thundering of Mount Sinai was “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” That commandment has never been rescinded nor modified. Instead, it has been reinforced in modern times:

“But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.

“And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that … thy joy may be full.” (D&C 59:12–13.)3

The Sabbath is not a day for business or recreation.

I … would urge upon all Saints everywhere a more strict observance of the Sabbath day. The Lord’s holy day is fast losing its sacred significance throughout the world. … More and more, man destroys the Sabbath’s sacred purposes in pursuit of wealth, pleasure, recreation, and the worship of false and material gods. We continue to urge all Saints and God-fearing people everywhere to observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Businesses will not be open on the Sabbath if they are not patronized on that holy day. The same is true of resorts, sporting events, and recreation areas of all kinds. Pursuit of the almighty dollar is winning, it seems, over the Lord’s commandment, “Keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary” (Lev. 19:30).4

We note that in our Christian world in many places we still have business establishments open for business on the sacred Sabbath. We are sure the cure of this lies in ourselves, the buying public. Certainly the stores and business houses would not remain open if we, the people, failed to purchase from them. Will you all please reconsider this matter. Take it to your home evenings and discuss it with your children. It would be wonderful if every family determined that henceforth no Sabbath purchase would be made.5

We have become largely a world of Sabbath breakers. On the Sabbath the lakes are full of boats, the beaches are crowded, the shows have their best attendance, the golf links are dotted with players. The Sabbath is the preferred day for rodeos, conventions, family picnics; even ball games are played on the sacred day. “Business as usual” is the slogan for many, and our holy day has become a holiday. And because so many people treat the day as a holiday, numerous others cater to the wants of the fun-lovers and money-makers. …

To hunt and fish on the Lord’s day is not keeping it holy. To plant or cultivate or harvest crops on the Sabbath is not keeping holy the Lord’s day. To go into the canyons for picnics, to attend games or rodeos or races or shows or other amusements on that day is not to keep it in holy remembrance.

Strange as it may seem, some Latter-day Saints, faithful in all other respects, justify themselves in missing their church meetings on occasion for recreational purposes, feeling that the best fishing will be missed if one is not on the stream on opening day or that the vacation will not be long enough if one does not set off on Sunday or that one will miss a movie he wanted to see if he does not go on the Sabbath. And in their breach of the Sabbath they often take their families with them. …

There is no criticism of legitimate recreation—sports, picnics, plays, and motion pictures. All have potential for revitalizing life, and the Church as an organization actively sponsors such activities. 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 true that some people must work on the Sabbath. And, in fact, some of the work that is truly necessary—caring for the sick, for example—may actually serve to hallow the Sabbath. However, in such activities our motives are a most important consideration.6

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.7

The Sabbath is a day for us to be spiritually enriched through worship and worthy actions.

The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected.8

Take time [on the Sabbath] to be together as families to converse with one another, to study the scriptures, to visit friends, relatives, and the sick and lonely. This is also an excellent time to work on your journals and genealogy.9

In Hebrew the term Sabbath means “rest.” It contemplates quiet tranquility, peace of mind and spirit. It is a day to get rid of selfish interests and absorbing activities.

The Sabbath day is given throughout the generations of man for a perpetual covenant [see Exodus 31:16]. It is a sign between the Lord and his children forever [see Exodus 31:17]. 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. … 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 shalt thou eat bread, until thou return unto the ground. …” [See 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 [the Lord’s] 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.10

We hope … that either before or after your series of Sunday meetings, depending upon your particular … meeting schedule, you will do what the Savior asked the Nephite disciples to do: After he taught them, he asked them to go to their homes and to ponder and to pray over what was said (see 3 Ne. 17:3). Let us keep that pattern in mind.11

A full and abundant Sabbath includes attending Church meetings and partaking of the sacrament.

It seems the Lord’s idea of a full and abundant Sabbath is the worship and the learning of him and partaking of his sacrament. He would have us fill the day with useful and spiritual activities. He would have us do these things with thanksgiving and cheerful hearts and countenances, and not with much laughter. He would have our men and boys attend their priesthood meeting having prepared their lessons and with a glad heart. He would have his people attend the Sunday School and there learn his plan of salvation. He would have his people attend the sacrament meeting to sing with the Saints and to pray in spirit with him who is mouth, and to partake of the sacrament emblems, repledging total allegiance, unconditional surrender, undeviating works, a constant remembrance of him.12

Who should attend sacrament meetings? The commandment was addressed through the Prophet to those “whose feet stand upon the land of Zion,” the membership of his church [see D&C 59:3,9]. The requirement is not confined to adults but includes young and old alike. … What could parents do to better help in solidifying the family than for the entire family, large and small, to go in a body to the meetinghouse to the sacrament meetings? There the children will learn the habit of regular attendance, will be kept from breaking the Sabbath, and even though very young, will absorb of the teachings and testimonies, and of the spirit there. Stake and ward and quorum leaders should be exemplary in this respect to the people.13

When I was a very small boy, I was taught the habit of going to sacrament meetings. Mother always took me with her. Those warm afternoons I soon became drowsy and leaned over on her lap to sleep. I may not have learned much from the sermons, but I learned the habit of “going to meeting.” The habit stayed with me through my life.14

No little child absorbs knowingly the sunlight; but unconsciously the light brings power to his little body. No child knows the value of his mother’s milk nor of the food from opened cans which gives him nourishment. Yet, that is where he gets his strength and his power to grow and to become a man eventually. …

And every child, without realizing the full portent, can absorb much from a sacrament meeting. They will absorb something every time.15

Wouldn’t it be a loss of a great deal of time and effort if every Sunday morning we had to stop and say, “Shall I or shall I not go to priesthood meeting? Shall I or shall I not go to sacrament meeting today? Shall we or shall we not go?” What a lot of wasted effort. … Settle it once and for all.16

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.)17

We do not go to Sabbath meetings to be entertained or even solely to be instructed. We go to worship the Lord. It is an individual responsibility, and regardless of what is said from the pulpit, if one wishes to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, he may do so by attending his meetings, partaking of the sacrament, and contemplating the beauties of the gospel. If the service is a failure to you, you have failed. No one can worship for you; you must do your own waiting upon the Lord.18

The Lord has promised blessings to those who faithfully observe the Sabbath.

The purpose of the commandment [to keep the Sabbath day holy] is not to deprive man of something. Every commandment that God has given to his servants is for the benefit of those who receive and obey it. It is man who profits by the careful and strict observance; it is man who suffers by the breaking of the laws of God. …

In my travels I find faithful people who forego Sabbath day profits and the handling of forbidden things. I have found cattlemen who have no roundup on the Sabbath; fruit stands along the roadside, generally open day and night through the fruit season, closed on the Sabbath; drug stores, eating houses, and wayside stands closed on the Lord’s day—and the owners seem to get along, at the same time taking genuine satisfaction in abiding by the law. And every time I see good folk foregoing these kinds of earnings, I rejoice and feel within my heart to bless them for their faith and steadfastness.19

I know that men will never suffer, ultimately, for any seeming financial sacrifices that might be made, for [God] has commanded us to live his laws and then has challenged us:

“… prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10.)20

With respect to this commandment, among the others, let us follow the prophet Joshua: “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: … choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Josh. 24:14–15.)

Then we can hope for the blessings promised the children of Israel: “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

“If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;

“Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

“And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.

“And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid.” (Lev. 26:2–6.)21

If we love the Lord, we will observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

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 our own day it would seem that [the Lord] 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.)

… He gave us the first and great commandment:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matt. 22:37.)

It is unthinkable that one who loves the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and who with a broken heart and contrite spirit recognizes the limitless gifts which the Lord had given him would fail to spend one day in seven in gratitude and thankfulness, and carrying forward the good works of the Lord. The observance of the Sabbath is an indication of the measure of our love for our Heavenly Father.22

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.23

Suggestions for Study and Teaching

Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.

  • Review pages 167–68. Think about the importance the Lord has given to the Sabbath and why the Sabbath is different from the other days of the week. What makes the Sabbath “a delight”?

  • Review pages 168–69, looking for things we should not do on the Sabbath. Why are these activities inappropriate on the Sabbath? On pages 170–74, President Kimball gives examples of “useful and spiritual activities” for the Sabbath. What have you and your family done to enrich your observance of the Sabbath?

  • President Kimball said that “motives are a most important consideration” for those who are required to work on the Sabbath (page 169). What can people do to maintain the spirit of Sabbath-day worship when they are required to work?

  • What do we mean when we say that the Sabbath is a day of rest? (For some examples, see pages 170–72.) Why is it wrong to merely lounge about, doing nothing on the Sabbath?

  • Review the purposes for attending Church meetings on pages 172–74. When have you recently felt worshipful at a Church meeting and why? How can you make your Church attendance and worship more meaningful?

  • President Kimball testified of blessings we receive when we keep the Sabbath day holy (pages 174–75; see also the stories on pages 165, 167). What are some blessings you have received as you have kept this commandment?

  • In a family home evening or family council, consider what your family can do to help each other keep the Sabbath day holy.

Related Scriptures: Genesis 2:1–3; Mark 2:23–28; 3:1–5; Mosiah 13:16–19; D&C 68:29


  1. In Conference Report, Oct. 1953, 55.

  2. See “The Sabbath—A Delight,” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 4–5.

  3. Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 267–69.

  4. In Conference Report, Oct. 1978, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1978, 5.

  5. In Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 6.

  6. Ensign, Jan. 1978, 2, 4, 5.

  7. Ensign, Jan. 1978, 4.

  8. Ensign, Jan. 1978, 4.

  9. In Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 62; or Ensign, May 1981, 45.

  10. “The Fourth Commandment,” in M Man–Gleaner Manual 1963–1964 (leader’s manual), 277–78.

  11. In Conference Report, Apr. 1980, 5; or Ensign, May 1980, 4.

  12. “The Fourth Commandment,” 279–80.

  13. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 221.

  14. In Conference Report, Oct. 1944, 43.

  15. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 517.

  16. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 517.

  17. The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 220.

  18. Ensign, Jan. 1978, 4–5.

  19. Ensign, Jan. 1978, 4, 5.

  20. In Conference Report, Oct. 1953, 56.

  21. Ensign, Jan. 1978, 5.

  22. “The Fourth Commandment,” 275–76.

  23. “The Fourth Commandment,” 280.

Sunday School

“Call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord” (Isaiah 58:13).

family entering Church

The Sabbath “is a day in which to worship and to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Lord.”


President Kimball taught that the Sabbath is a day “to visit quietly with the family.”