#LDSConf: Stake Conference Talk – “Honoring the Sabbath as a Sign of the Covenant for all Generations”

I pray the Spirit may attend us and guide my words as He speaks to our spirits.

I was assigned the topic: “Honoring the Sabbath as a sign (of the covenant) between God and His children throughout the generations.”

Most of us know the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20, verses 8 through 11:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work… For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

If you notice, in the Ten Commandments, the Lord says to remember the Sabbath, which means the people already knew about it.

They already knew about it because the Sabbath came from the very beginning.

When we go all the way back to Genesis, we read:

The first creative period was called “the first day”, and from the chaos came the cosmos.

That’s when we got “the heavens and the Earth”, which function as space and time.

The second creative period was called “the second day”, and the atmosphere developed to function as weather.

The third creative period was called “the third day”, and the dry land and plants grow to function as food.

Do you see how the first three days give the functions, while the next three days name the elements that serve those purposes?

That’s the priesthood, present even from the beginning, the first being spiritual (Melchizedek), and the other being physical (Aaronic).

How does space and time, created on the first day, maintain function?

That’s creative period four, which is called “the fourth day”, and it names the elements of the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Why does this matter? Because it is only by orienting ourselves to our function in the present, we find that there is purpose in the time and space in which we live. It is ordained, this fulfilling of what we promised long ago that will lead us home again soon.

It is ordained.

What is the function of the atmosphere, this weather in Oklahoma that changes so quickly, and the lakes that are finally filled once again?

That’s creative period five, called “the fifth day”, which names for us the animals that need the heavens and the waters. The birds and the fish live and move and breathe and have their being in the waters and the skies, both of which flow and have currents and shift with seasons.

Why does this matter? Because we, too, must live within the boundaries of our environment. We must pace ourselves, align our will with His, and flow with the season in which we live and breathe.

It is ordained.

What is the function of all this food grown? That’s creative period six, called the “sixth day”, the naming of the land animals, and even the arrival of people.

טו וַיִּקַּח יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים, אֶת-הָאָדָם; וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן-עֵדֶן, לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ.

15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

The Hebrew words there, when function is given to man, are ‘abad and shmr, which indicates a priestly role.

Do you see?

It is ordained.

It is more than Adam just having dominion over the land and animals all the thing of our planet that sustain our lives.

Yes, Adam was “king” over the land.  But he was also “priest.”

Adam was a prophet, the first one that we know!  It’s true!

Adam, the people, mankind, Adam and Eve, are not just king and queen over the land, but priest and priestess, too.

That’s why the Garden has a capital G when referenced as the holy-of-holies in the garden (little g) of Eden, because Adam was a priest in that temple space, where Heavenly Father and the Lord literally came and met with them, talked with them, and even taught them.

[Compare G’s related to the Lord’s presence in D&C 29:41 and also in the temple movie text with captions.]

That’s what the Sabbath means!  That the Lord came down.

It doesn’t mean He went on vacation, or got to watch the game, or took a break from all the creating and serving He was so good at already.

It doesn’t even mean that He celebrated all that was “good” and “very good” (Genesis 1 and Moses 2) or “obedient” and “very obedient” (Abraham 4).  He had already done that.

When it says “the Lord rested,” it means He came down to His house, to the temple space there!

The Garden in the garden of Eden was a temple space, and the Lord came there!

Because it was “the House of the Lord.”

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

Traditionally, every ancient near east culture that surrounded ancient Israel had six day creation stories, and all of them were temple texts. In all those ancient stories, these six day was the day in which there was an image of the god placed in the temple.  In all of those ancient stories, these six days were followed by the seventh day, during which the deity came to “rest” there, which meant came down from the heavens to dwell there amongst the people.

When we read the six day creation story in Genesis, the images of the deity that are placed in the temple are Adam and Eve themselves, who were created in the image of God.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

So when God rested on the seventh day, it wasn’t because he was worn out from all that work.

It means HE. CAME. DOWN.

Do you see?

The Sabbath was given as a sign of our covenant with Heavenly Father,
which means it was the first sign of the first covenant,
which was given in Eden,
because the first Sabbath was the seventh day of creation,
after Adam and Eve were already set there,
understanding the rules of their covenant,
and receiving instructions about this great plan of happiness,
which was for us to become His people,
even a holy people,
dedicated and set apart
as His children.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

This is what it means when we read that the Sabbath is the sign of the new and ever-lasting covenant.

It is ever-lasting because it is eternal.

It is new because it is renewed with each dispensation.

The Sabbath is the sign of this new and everlasting covenant, this eternal and renewed covenant, meaning it is God’s sign to us that we are His people.

And as His people, the token we give Him is our remembering the Sabbath, which means we are remembering His plan by which He makes us His people.

And if the Sabbath is the day in which His presence comes to the temple, then His presence with us in the temple is the sign.

I mean to say that during the creation cycle, the Sabbath was not when Adam and Eve were left alone because the Lord had the day off, but was the Sabbath was when they actually walked with God in the Garden.

It wasn’t until Monday (“so to speak”), when they had to work things out for themselves.

And just as God was with Adam and Eve teaching them on the Sabbath, so also should we be with our children, teaching them on the Sabbath.

Time goes so quickly,
and only too soon Monday will come,
and they will be out in the world,
off to practice making their own choices.

The Sabbath is set aside specifically to ensure we are walking with God, and teaching our children what He has taught us.  Remembering the Sabbath means remembering our covenants, and preparing our children to make those covenants.

Honoring the Sabbath is our sign to Heavenly Father that we are keeping our covenant,

Teaching our children is the token.

When we remember the Sabbath, we remember the fullness of the Gospel, this plan by which we are redeemed and claimed as His holy people.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

The Sabbath is when we renew the covenants we have made with Him, by which we become who He has promised we can be.

This is both temporal and spiritual, as Nephi said all things are (1 Nephi 22:2-3).

We stay ready for Him, prepared for Him, worthy (by the atonement) for Him to literally visit the earth so close to us, and prepared (by the Spirit) to do His bidding.

Are we, on the Holy Sabbath, listening for what Him to come near and give us direction for what He needs us to do, right here in our families and in our communities where we live?

That’s what the Sabbath means.

We pay our respects to the Sabbath because He is here.

D&C 59:9-10 says:

“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;
“For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High.”

We pay our devotions to the Most High, who has come among us, to His holy temple!

In 2001, Elder Gillespie quoted President Kimball, saying:

“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, sleeping, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day to which he is expected. Failure to do these proper things is a transgression on the omission side.”

Our beloved prophet Gordon B. Hinckley has promised: “If you have any doubt about the wisdom, the divinity of observing the Sabbath Day, … stay home and gather your family about you, teach them the gospel, enjoy yourselves together on the Sabbath Day, come to your meetings, participate. You will know that the principle of the Sabbath is a true principle which brings with it great blessings.”

These great blessings are that of dwelling with God!

President Kimball continued,

Jesus taught, “The sabbath was made for man.” What does that mean? It means for a man to have the joy and happiness which the gospel promises, on this day he must sacrifice the world, set aside his employment as possible, and keep the eternal covenant of the Sabbath day. The Lord commanded: “Wherefore the children of Israel [which includes all Latter-day Saints] shall keep the sabbath … throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever.”

Of all people on the earth, the Latter-day Saints must lead out in sanctifying this appointed day each week. “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,” said the Lord, “ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

We cannot enter the kingdom of heaven later, if we will not welcome it now.

The Sabbath creates a temple in time, do you see?

One of my “fathers”, Don Murnan, always talks about the temple as “celestial turf”, where heaven and earth meet.

This is what the Sabbath is, except in the dimension of time instead of space.

The Sabbath is a temple in time, in which and during which, we can be taught by the Lord.

He comes to us!

He comes to us, His people!

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

The book of Genesis begins with the phrase, “in the beginning.”

The beginning begins with the temple, because it is by the temple that we get home again.

The creation story of Genesis is not just the story of how things all began, but tells us the function and answers how it all works together.

It is a template for creation itself, for the fullness of our function, which is to create temple spaces and temple times in our very own temple homes.

It is our effort to become more like Him, and our invitation for Him to come down to us.

Please, come.

Come, and then go and do likewise.

Ezekiel 20:20 says:

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.

We honor the Sabbath as a sign between the Lord and us, so that we might know Him.

We only know Him by being with Him, in the places He has created to meet with us: the holy space of the temple, and the holy time of the Sabbath.

Exodus 31:12-13 says:

And the Lord said to Moses, “Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.

This is who we learn the Lord is: not just our Redeemer, which is miracle enough, but the one who sanctifies us.  We are not only claimed, but cleansed.  We are not only cleansed, but transformed.

We are made holy.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

Isaiah promises that fresh Sabbath observance will bring us to a new place of favor (56:4-7).  We read of these Sabbath renewals in Nehemiah (13:15-22) and Isaiah (56:2-7; 58:13-14) and Jeremiah (17:19-23), where it is always “a sign of God’s call for renewed loyalty from his people. And always, when this call occurs in the text, it is mentioned in such a way as to imply that everyone basically knows what the Sabbath is and why it is commanded to be kept. The only question is whether or not the people actually keep it or not.”

[Wright, N. T. Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2013.]

Further, Sabbath keepers also have the promise that the new place of favor is not just special blessings or more prosperous times, but that this special favor is a divine one ensuring the renewal of the monarchy (Exodus 23:12; 31:13; 34:21; 35:2; Leviticus 19:3; 23:3; Numbers 28:9; Nehemiah 9:14; Ezekiel 20:13; 22:26; 44:24).

But this monarchy isn’t just any monarchy with just any ole king.

Keeping the Sabbath holds the promise of ushering in the return of the Savior Himself, a sign that the whole purpose of creation is being fulfilled.

It is about returning God’s people to him, announcing redemption to all who will receive it, and the restoration of creation as things are put right again.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

Isaiah says that the world falling apart, the chaos in society today, the weather testifying against us, is all because we are not choosing righteousness, and even more specifically, because we are not keeping the Sabbath.

Jeremiah said that if we do not keep the Sabbath, creation would lapse back into chaos, that the bounds which the Lord has set would return to being “without form and void”
until the very destruction of society, even the created world (4:23, cf Genesis 1:2).

Keeping the Sabbath also holds within it the ideas of justice for the poor and redemption of debt, whether financial or merely emotional grudges. It is about redemption, about liberation, about being set free from bondage and placed back in the order as created by God.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

The Sabbath points to the physical presence of the Savior.

He will be our Priest and our King, just as in the beginning.

And if we want to hasten his arrival, we must keep the Sabbath.

He does already come, to our temple, I promise.

And He is coming to reign, soon.

And then, when that new heaven and new earth are established – our very earth renewed – those millennium years will be a perpetual Sabbath.

Because the Sabbath is about spending time in His presence, which is what prepares us to return home to our Father.

Holiness to the Lord, the House of the Lord.

In the name of Jesus Christ,


About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


#LDSConf: Stake Conference Talk – “Honoring the Sabbath as a Sign of the Covenant for all Generations” — 1 Comment

  1. From Inez Aljets: We really enjoyed your talk in Stk. Conference! It was a “hot” topic in our “Gospel Doctrine” class today! [Everyone wants a copy]
    You are greatly Loved, and admired! Larry and I hope to see you again soon.