|Elder Kevin W. Pearson|
As evidence that the water has flowed into the final furrow on this topic, we heard our bishop address the topic in a recent sacrament meeting where our stake president presided, and then we received instruction from our stake presidency in a letter that was distributed throughout the stake, as follows:
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Kamas Utah Stake, July 2015
We would like to communicate direction we have received from church leaders for each of us to strengthen faith in God by observing the Sabbath day with greater purpose.
Church leaders have felt the importance of encouraging families and individuals to rethink and refocus our efforts on what we do on the Sabbath day. We recently met with Bishoprics and Stake leaders, they in turn have met in Ward Councils to discuss what we can do within our Wards, Branches, families and as individuals to renew our personal and collective worship on the Lord's day. As a Presidency, we have prayed and pondered on this direction and would like to announce the following change to our meeting block order and invite all members of the stake to focus on the Sabbath in the following ways.
First, starting on Fast Sunday August 2nd, we will change, where possible, the order of our meeting schedules so that the Sacrament meeting is first. This is recommended by the leaders of Church so that the sacred sacrament ordinance and the sacrament meeting can begin our block of meetings. Your Bishop or Branch President will announce the specific meeting schedule for your Ward or Branch. Let us use this change as a catalyst to renew our commitment to the Sabbath, such as being on time to Sacrament meeting, increasing our reverence in the chapel, and pondering on the words and meaning of the Sacrament prayers.
Second, between now and August 2nd, we invite and encourage all members of the stake to hold a family council, or personal pondering based on family circumstances, regarding how we can elevate our observance of the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Consider such questions as "What changes can we make to improve our Sabbath observance?" and "What can we do to give the Sabbath back to the Savior?".
Third, on August 2nd, we invite all members of the stake to fast and pray with the unified purpose to improve our Sabbath worship and keep the Lord's day holy. As we fast, let us include a desire to receive an increase in the spirit individually and collectively, and receive the blessings that the Lord has in store for all those who honor Him and strive to keep His Sabbath day holy.
"If thou turn away...from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord...and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure...Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth." Isaiah 58:13-14.
Fourth, we encourage you to view between now and August 2nd, the communication and video from Church leaders on this topic. It is found at this website. Please view the video presentation and read the short overview. This will help set the tone for our fast.
We express our love for you. We testify that we have living prophets today, who lead and guide us, and communicate to us the Lord's will. We know that obedience brings forth the blessings of Heaven. We promise that as we increase our individual and collective observance of the Sabbath day, we will be richly blessed. (emphasis mine).
Mark T. Durham
Howard N. Sorensen
Matthew L. Flinders
* * *
I continue to be grateful for inspired leaders in these last days, filled as those days will be with discouragement and distress on all sides. There seems to be so little peace. The observance and the full embrace of the Sabbath day can provide the nourishment and the refreshment we all need.
I've been reading several articles this morning about the Sabbath, and most come to one conclusion - it should and can be a day of rest and joy. Yes, observing the Sabbath day is the fourth commandment in the list of Ten, but when it is observed with a fullness of heart it should not be oppressive or onerous filled with "shalt nots". Rather than focusing on how our neighbor is or is not observing the Sabbath, let us decide for ourselves what will bring the greatest joy and satisfaction possible to us, and then do those things. I do not suggest a list here. That is for everyone to come to on their own.
When we cease "finding thine own pleasure" on the Sabbath, as Isaiah suggests, then we are free to "delight thyself in the Lord". I have always called the Sabbath "a delight" because it gives me a chance to think about and to do those things that focus on the Lord. It is more than coincidental that God "blessed" the seventh day of creation from the beginning. It was sanctified by Him and consecrated for us as a day in which to rest from our labors and to return our thanks to Him.
July has brought a full house of delightful chaos, as we have had visits from every child and their families. We have loved the noisy squeals of joy as they have played with each other, since so many of our empty nesting days are nothing but dead calm and silence. Now that our home is empty of little children requiring our constant guidance and instruction, we are finding it much easier to spend the day in quiet bliss and pondering on the blessings of the goodness of their lives.
Long forgotten are the hard times, the tears of remorse some shed, the contention and the bickering that too often marred the peace of the Sabbath in years gone by. Now we have nothing but deafening silence to greet us on the dawns of our Sabbaths. Now they are the ones who are giving instruction and guidance to their children, and in every case they are doing much better than we ever did. For that we are constantly grateful, and we express that each time we pray to our Heavenly Father. There is no greater joy than the blessing of a posterity who are trying to do good.
Going to Church on Sunday is only the least part of observing the Sabbath day. I have found much solace in writing my feelings, as I do constantly on this page on a Sunday. As you will note above, our meeting schedule has changed. We might be the last stake on earth that wasn't holding sacrament meeting first in the three-hour block. We're also meeting in the afternoon while the roof on our stake center is replaced and we are lovingly compelled to share our building with another ward that took our morning slot.
All of these structural changes in the Sunday routine call for flexibility and accommodation, but they are all possible because of our abiding faith in the underlying and overarching principles of the purposes of the Sabbath day.
Many years ago I was chairman of the boundary committee in our stake, and we were grappling with some contentious and difficult recommendations about pending changes that involved new boundaries and creating new wards. In the middle of one of those meetings, I reminded the members of the committee, "It doesn't really matter what we do. Faithful saints will show up to worship on top of a mountain at dawn in a tent if that's what the recommendation might be." I was expressing the point of view so many of us know to be true. It is not when and where we worship, so much as it is HOW and WHO we worship. Section 59 of the Doctrine and Covenants provides the counsel needed to explain the Sabbath spirit of worship.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work;
But the seventh day, the sabbath of the Lord thy God, thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates;
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all in them is; wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Mosiah 13:16-19).