In each era, Sabbath day instituted for worship, rest

As the ancient Israelites left Egypt and looked forward to establishing a new home in the Promised Land, the Lord reminded them of His law. The Ten Commandments, given at Mount Sinai, set forth the basic principles governing the people's relationship to God and to each other. (Ex. 20:3-17.)

On at least two similar occasions in the latter days, the Savior has reminded the Saints of these fundamental principles. One of these, Section 59, provides some significant insights into how we should live the Ten Commandments today. Verse 5 suggests that our commitment to the Lord should be total and complete, and that it should be reflected in service. (Compare Section 4, and Mosiah 2:17.)Another verse, D&C 59:6, reminds us that we should not only refrain from stealing, killing or committing adultery, but that we should also avoid doing anything "like unto" these things. This principle enables us to relate these commandments to such diverse matters as being fair with our employer, opposing the spread of abortions, and keeping ourselves free from a variety of deviant sexual behaviors.

The next verse, D&C 59:7, suggests an important facet of our relationship with Him who is the giver of all good gifts. (See also verses 16-21.) Keeping the Sabbath day holy is the commandment receiving the greatest emphasis in this revelation (especially verses 9-14).

Our English word "Sabbath" is derived from the Hebrew shabbath, related to the verb shabath, meaning "to rest." It is also interestingly similar to the word, sheba, meaning "seven." On Mount Sinai, remembering how He had created the earth, Jehovah commanded His people to keep the Sabbath day holy. (Ex. 20:8-11.) In New Testament times, Sunday, the first day of the week, came to be honored as "the Lord's Day," because on it, He had been resurrected. (John 20:1,18; Rev. 1:10; see "Sabbath' and "Lord's Day" in Bible Dictionary.)

Many people have thought of the Sabbath only in terms of things they should not do. It is almost impossible, however, to come up with a list of all the things we should avoid on that day. (See "Will the Real Ox in the Mire Please Stand Up, Ensign, June 1972, pp. 18-21.) Furthermore, such an approach is negative, rather than positive.

A more beneficial approach might be to identify the positive purposes of the Sabbath, and then to judge the appropriateness of any activity by asking how it contributes to, or detracts from these purposes. Section 59 identifies two basic functions of the Sabbath.

The first is to worship the Lord: "Thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day." (D&C 59:9.) President Ezra Taft Benson has explained: "The purpose of the Sabbath is for spiritual uplift, for a renewal of our covenants, for worship, for rest, for prayer. It is for the purpose of feeding the spirit, that we might keep ourselves unspotted from the world by obeying God's command." ("Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy, Ensign, May 1971, p. 6.) This is also a day when people may render appropriate service to one another. Verse 12 directs us to offer "oblations" to God on the Sabbath day. "Oblation" is an archaic word for "offering" (see, for example, Lev. 7:38, and D&C 59:10.)

The second major purpose of the Sabbath day is to rest from our daily work. (D&C 5910.) In recent years, the world had "discovered"' the fact that taking a break enables us to become more productive in our work.

This revelation emphasizes that a proper attitude is particularly important. Note how verse 14 equates fasting, not merely with abstaining from food, but rather with rejoicing. (See also 59:13, note a.)

The Lord concludes this reiteration of His ancient commandments by giving us a tremendous promise: "But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come." (D&C 59:23.) - Richard O. Cowan

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