I asked him how he did it. Among the few things he mentioned, he added, “…and I never study on Sunday.” To me this seemed surprising! With all the pressures he faced, how could he set aside his school work on the Sabbath? Obviously, it would require a lot of discipline and hard work the other days, but I could see how he considered school work to be a part of the personal labors he should forego on the Lord’s Day. I decided to do the same, and since that time at age 15, I have never done school work on Sunday, though sometimes it has been hard. The Lord has rewarded me with many academic and other blessings, far beyond anything I deserved.
Of course, there is not a “rule” in the Church against studying on Sunday. Each individual and family must make their own decisions in such matters. But this is a “sign” that I chose as one of the ways I would demonstrate to my Heavenly Father that I do remember Him and his Son and that I am trying to put Them first in my life. We read in the Bible,
“And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God” (Ezekiel 20:20).
In the days of ancient Israel, after the death of Moses, the people had driven the inhabitants of the land out, and the Lord had given Israel their lands. But the people of Israel were tempted by the wicked practices of those few who remained in the land, and they desired to enjoy their sins and take their young women as wives and their young men as husbands and to embrace their false gods.
Shortly before his death, Joshua called the leaders of Israel together and warned them that the God who had given them so many victories in battle would not tolerate their embracing evil ways but would destroy them in their turn. Yearning for Israel’s physical safety and spiritual salvation, Joshua declared,
“…choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods” (Joshua 24:15-16).
It matters whether we serve God and put him first in our lives! In fact, the first commandment given by God to Moses on the mount was,
“I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3).
Only when they chose to keep this first commandment was Israel prepared for the fourth commandment,
“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 20:8-11).
I believe that the key to keeping the fourth commandment, “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,” is the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
We keep the Sabbath holy when we truly put God first in our lives; when all day on Sunday we do those things, both at home and at church, that become a sign to God that we seek first to do his will and to set aside the things of the world. Obviously, this would include attending our church meetings, partaking thoughtfully of the sacrament, and serving others in appropriate ways. Hopefully, each family will counsel together and decide what activities they will and will not pursue on the Sabbath.
One of the things that is most wonderful and most powerful about the Sabbath is that it is most easily observed as a family. Though a single individual can determine how he will worship the Lord on his day, it is easiest and most effective when the whole family discusses and decides these things together and then helps each other to live by the guidelines they adopt. Faith grows when families strengthen each other.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said in the April 2015 training, “Our whole desire is that throughout the Church, we focus our Sabbath day worship on the Lord…We felt that it was urgent that we strengthen the faith of our people.”
I testify that as we put God first in our lives on the Sabbath, we will better be able to put Him and his purposes first on the other days. If we learn to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, truly “all [other needful] things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).