Many businesses struggle with the fourth commandment, about keeping the Sabbath Day holy. It’s rare to find a large establishment that closes its doors on Sundays, Chick-fil-A, Hobby Lobby, and R.C. Willey being exceptions.
But a friend of mine, who operates several retail stores, recently had a personal revelation he shared. This is a family business of several generations. His dad, who passed away not long ago, had chosen to keep the doors open on Sundays. He felt the large family needed the extra revenue, and built a profitable company. And while he was alive, his several grown sons worked alongside him to follow that business model.
But after their father passed, two of the brothers felt inspired to close the doors on the Sabbath. My friend, who held his dad in high esteem, felt somehow disloyal. He went to his dad’s old office, and sat across the desk from where his father had sat for so many years. He stared at the empty chair and muttered, “Sorry, Dad, but we’re going to stay closed on Sundays.”
At that moment he distinctly heard the words, “You shouldn’t apologize to your dad for closing the doors; you should apologize to me, for keeping them open in the first place.”
It struck him at once as the answer to his prayers. It was both a confirming vote of confidence, and a humbling rebuke. He never should have rationalized, never should have broken the Sabbath, and he knew it in his heart.
Keeping the Sabbath is a very individual thing. We used to hear lessons and talks that listed approved activities and ones to avoid. Then President Russell M. Nelson summed it all up beautifully in his 2015 talk, The Sabbath is a Delight, saying, “When I had to make a decision whether or not an activity was appropriate for the Sabbath, I simply asked myself, ‘What sign do I want to give to God? ‘”
And there it was. We should choose activities that give the right sort of sign to God. Every human being was born with the light of Christ. We all know instinctively how we feel as we engage in various pursuits. Some of those bring us closer to God and honor Him, and others belong to the rest of the week, our “workday” life.
If this is an area where you struggle, try this idea. What if we tried to keep the Sabbath perfectly, just for one Sunday? Without trying to make a list, I’ll share with you how I picture the day: What if we made sure we cause no one to work? What if we expend most of our labor to prepare meals on Saturday? Could Sunday be a day to visit the lonely, the sorrowing, the forgotten? Could we gather more family names to take to the temple? What if we delve into the scriptures a completely new way—maybe studying by topic, instead of chronologically? Do we use this opportunity to ponder and listen for inspiration? To express gratitude for our blessings? To study Conference talks?
That night, let’s measure how we feel. Instead of merely “rested” might we feel like rejoicing? Could it be we can reach a higher plane of spirituality that surprises us? What if we sense real guidance and direction about a problem that’s been bothering us? What if we feel an immense amount of love from our Heavenly Father? Can we call the Sabbath a delight, as Isaiah tells us? He went on to say, “…and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)
Wow. To ride upon the high places of the earth. There are many endeavors in life which yield almost exactly the amount of benefit as the time invested. But this one—this one gives back a thousand-fold. And for so little sacrificed. This is a truly amazing commandment, as we can reap its benefits instantly.
Today my friend is feeling distinct promptings about his business, and can document several financial miracles that have occurred, indisputably showing God’s hand in his life. He showed us a drawing his young daughter had made, of the Israelites marching to bring down the walls of Jericho. At the top she wrote, “Trust in the Lord even if it doesn’t make sense.”
And isn’t that often the way? God prompts us to do something we can’t imagine would work, yet it does. Of course inspiration often goes against our own ideas, because if we were already on the right track, we wouldn’t need course correction.
Obedience brings blessings and exact obedience brings miraculous ones. Isn’t that what all of us want?
Hilton teaches Seminary. She is also an award-winning playwright, and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.
Becca HowardOctober 27, 2022
My husband and I raised our children with the traditional dos and don’ts, and I’m sure we heard plenty of the “lists” in our classes. We had to meet the challenges of business trips or visits to relatives of other faiths who wanted to eat out on Sunday. As empty nesters, we believe we are pretty good about doing the right things. For me the joy comes when I turn off a Hallmark movie or a BYU program and devote more time to Come, Follow Me or family history. A recent study challenge given at our stake conference has especially helped me feel an extra spiritual boost on the Sabbath and that I am spending my time well.
Beth TOctober 27, 2022
Thank You for strengthening our faith & testimonies in Sabbath day worship. My heart is FULL!!!