Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Sabbath: Holy and Delightful

The Sabbath: Holy and Delightful
Scott L. Vanatter, July 19, 2015 (Chantilly Ward), July 26, 2015 (Franklin Ward)

INTRO - Illustration
Picture in your mind a beautiful song. Imagine how it sounds. And feels. Melody and harmony wonderfully blend together. At times, the song soars -- and you are lifted. At other times, it settles into a soft, gentle phase -- you are at peace. You notice no dissonant chords. All the parts of the song come together as One Great Whole to form one of those perfect songs.

Let’s compare the melody in this song to how we daily interact with our family and our neighbor here on earth. Let’s think of the harmony as how we daily interact with God in heaven.

In this thought experiment, the melody mirrors the kindnesses we extend and the hope we engender; the truth and goodness we embrace – everything which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” on this earth.

Closely-related is the harmony. It is written daily by our “deep and often poignant thoughts” of God. [1] It is our yearning for -- and our reaching out to -- God our Father through his Beloved Son. It is reflected by how we seek His Righteousness, His Vision, His Way, His Truth, His Life, His Love. This harmony is the immediate and constant “at-one-ment” which we feel with everything which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” in God’s true nature and character.

Perhaps the soaring musical interludes are sacred events such as births, baptisms, ordinations, temple experiences, marriages, awakenings – perhaps even large multi-generational family reunions. Moments of exquisite joy.

Conversely, perhaps the soft, poignant phases are such things as funerals, or personal or shared trials, troubles, and tribulations. Moments when we receive soothing comfort.

Question: Over time, what keeps the beat? ‘Turn your thoughts into your hearts, and ask yourselves,’ what is the heartbeat of the beautiful music of our lives?

Humbly, I suggest, it is the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath Day provides the firm foundation for the beautiful melodies and harmonies of Holiness.

THEME – The Idea

Remember the Sabbath Day, to Keep it Holy – both at Church and at Home. That is our theme today. A Holy Sabbath Day provides a constant, rhythmic, steady heartbeat. ‘These [are] days, never to be forgotten’ as we discover and re-discover the tender mercies of the Lord.

Remembering Jesus on the Sabbath Day provides a needed oasis and focal point of a heaven-connected life. The Sabbath provides a sure anchor and familiar touchstone in the sometimes hectic busyness of life. [2]

BACKGROUND: What prompted subject

Let’s discuss for a moment why we have been assigned to speak on the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy.

Over the past year the prophets, apostles, and general women’s auxiliary leaders of the church pondered what teaching could be undertaken which would most help the church grow in faith and spirituality. After prayerful deliberation, they determined that, for now, it would be to “elevate the spirit and power of the Sabbath Day.”

Last April conference, in training meetings for visiting local leaders . . . various apostles, seventies, and women’s auxiliary leaders spoke on keeping the Sabbath Day holy at church and at home.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, who led this effort to elevate the Sabbath Day, gave a talk in general conference entitled, The Sabbath is a Delight. (By the way, he has now been formally set apart as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.) In this talk, President Nelson said that when he was younger he studied various lists of things to do and not do on the Sabbath Day. Later, he learned the deeper truth about our attitude and conduct on the Sabbath Day. He related that after he learned that a holy Sabbath serves as a “sign” of the relationship between us and our Heavenly Father, he, quote, “no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts.”

He cited Ezekiel’s revelation, “Hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” A sign can be a remembrance, a token, or proof of an agreement -- where we gave our consent. As we grow in how we “always remember Him” we create and receive an even ‘more sure’ sign -- or symbol -- of the status of our relationship with the Father and the Son. 

Elder Nelson cited scripture calling the Sabbath a delight. A delight is something pleasant, soft, delicate, happy. This calls to mind the Still Small Voice, and the ethereal counsel, “Be Still and know that I am God.”


Let’s take a few moments to briefly define some scriptural concepts. As we do, think of how Jesus relates to each of these core principles.

Let define the words of the phrase:  Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy.

Remember: To remember is to have an image in your mind of a person, place, or something that happened or was said in the past. To remember is to bring a fact back into your mind that you knew before. To remember is to keep a particular fact in your mind because it is relevant. To remember is to do something that you promised to do – and not forget about it. To remember is to think about someone or something with respect, honor, or positive feelings.

Sabbath: In Hebrew the root of the word of Sabbath means “rest.” To rest is to stop doing a particular activity, or stop being active for a period of time.

Keep: To keep is to observe, to guard, to preserve, to heed. To keep is to stay in a state, condition, or place. To keep is also to do something many times. To keep is also to continue to have something. Lastly, to keep is to do what you said you would do.

Holy: To be holy is to be set apart as sacred, consecrated, sanctified, or hallowed. To be holy is to be dedicated to righteousness, goodness and truth. [3]

So, with all these definitions in mind, listen to and ponder once again, the phrase: Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it Holy.

Levels of Meaning

As Sister Patricia T. Holland taught a few years ago -- in relation to Eve and the phrase “Mother of all living” -- the words we read in the scriptures can be thought of as, quote, “very carefully chosen words . . . . Rich words -- with meaning after meaning after meaning.” End quote.

Let’s look at the deeper levels of meaning of the scriptural idea of Rest. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (in chapter 4) informs us that: “Jesus [has] given [us] rest . . . 11Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest.” Alma connects ordinances with the idea of rest. “Now these ordinances were given after this manner, that thereby the people might look forward on the Son of God, it being a type of order . . . that they might enter into the rest of the Lord.” Joseph Smith revealed more about the deeper meaning of this kind of rest when in 1832 he taught (D&C 84) that this “rest is the fulness of his glory.” A careful study of the Doctrine and Covenants shows that there are several near synonyms -- or cross references -- for the word rest: Such as life, light, power, fulness, even honor, work and glory. In last April’s leadership training, Elder Oaks briefly spoke of another close synonym for rest: name. The name of Christ. By the way, Elder Oaks has written a whole book on the meaning of taking upon us the Name of Christ.

DOCTRINE: Basis of change

One of the wisest and most important insights of President Boyd K. Packer’s was to observe: “True doctrine, understood, changes attitude and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior.”

Yes, the true doctrine of the Sabbath, understood, will change our attitude AND behavior. The study of the doctrines and purpose and blessings of the Sabbath will help make our Sabbath Days a delight quicker than will a study of a list of dos and don’ts.

It is reported that a Catholic Bishop once visited Joseph Smith in Nauvoo – which at the time rivaled Chicago in size. He asked Joseph, “By what power do you govern so great a people?” Joseph replied, “I do not govern them. I teach them correct principles and they govern themselves.”

Let us be wise in applying this same principle as we seek to understand -- and delight -- in the doctrine of a Holy Sabbath Day.

COVENANTS: Remember Jesus

Now, let’s think about our covenants partaking of the sacramental bread and water. Mormons are a covenant making and keeping people. Covenants give life to Truth. [4]

Why Ordinances are connected to Covenants

Lesson 5 of the Temple Preparation Course which can be downloaded from by anyone in the world, teaches that ordinances, quote, “help us remember important things…. [They] can teach us abstract truths that might be hard to learn in other ways…. When [ordinances] are repeated, we learn to understand them better…. [Ordinances provide] a visual and tactile reminder of [our covenants…].” End quote. [5]

Of course, the Sacrament ordinance is the pinnacle and most sacred part of Sabbath Day worship. As we fully participate in the ordinance of the sacrament we offer to God a sacred sign of our devotion. In this sacred ordinance Sister Oscarson said women, especially those with young, active children yearn for an oasis. We can imagine a refreshing Sabbath Oasis in the midst of a sometimes lone and dreary and parched world.

As we let the focus and power of this sacred covenant wash over us, we will enjoy the “at-one-ment” we all yearn for. Women and men alike. This sacred sacrament oasis is a weekly stand-in for ALL our (baptismal, priesthood, and temple) covenants in the New and Everlasting Covenant.

Jesus as Bread and Water

The Sacrament is a curious, yet wonderful, thing. Think of it. It is both private and communal. It is both simple yet also as deep and wide as eternity. It is both plain and beautiful. It is only a moment in time, but it connects us to the Eternities.

We meet together to remember Jesus by taking into our bodies the most basic sustenance, bread and water. Yet, it can be – should be -- a feast for souls yearning spiritual food, manna from heaven. [6]

Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger…. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my [body], which I . . . give for the life of the world…. [7] so he that eateth [in remembrance of my body], even he shall live by me.” (John 6:35, 51, 54, 56, 57) 

Likewise, Jesus, the Living Water, said “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly -- or, rather, out of his inmost self -- shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38) In other words, His kind of life flows like refreshing water into and through our whole soul -- body and spirit.


Jesus often paired two principles together to illustrate eternal truths about his life and mission. Bread and Water, Yoke and Burden, Resurrection and Life, Work and Glory, Light and Life, even Alpha and Omega.

Thinking of the bread and water of the sacrament ordinance, I can imagine the Bread signifying His Yoke, and the Water signifying His Burden. Paradoxically, as we partake, our yoke becomes easy, and our burden becomes light.

I can imagine the Bread signifying Resurrection and the Water signifying The Life. “Jesus said . . . I am the resurrection, and the life . . . .” (Matthew 25)

I can imagine the Bread signifying His Work and the Water signifying His Glory. For, said He, “This is my Work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality and the eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39)

I can imagine the Bread signifying the Beginning and the Cup signifying the End of the Atonement He has wrought. “I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” From 3 Nephi 9 (18).

I can imagine partaking of the Bread as signifying the Outer. We live in the physical world; a world of action; a world where we extend tangible blessing to others. In other words, a realm of doing. In like manner, I can imagine drinking of the Cup as signifying the Inner. We yearn for the eternal world. A world of the spirit, and the spiritual life we must live. In other words, being or becoming.

Thoughtfully partaking of the Bread and Water helps us to remember to always remember. Always remember Him.

How we remember

How is this ordinance the heartbeat of our lives? The Sacrament is the time set aside during each week where we slow down, pause, ponder, and model how, during the rest of the week, we can “always remember Him” and “always have His spirit” – in each moment of every day.

No longer do we bring an animal sacrifice to the altar, but rather, we offer up a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We don’t resist Jesus; we receive Him, and His will as we “receive the Holy Ghost”.  We don’t hold on to bitterness and wallow in sorrow; we rejoice in His holiness and the spiritual confidence which replaces a sometimes nagging, or even despairing doubt.

In this sacred ordinance all these things are “manifested” to our souls. In this holy ordinance our souls are “sanctified” as we humbly bow our head and acknowledge that not only has Jesus died for all mankind, but that, “Jesus died for me.” And in love we are drawn to Him.

This is why the Sabbath is the heartbeat of our mortal/eternal lives. It gives order and structure and fullness to the melody and harmony of our lives.

Remember what [8]

The more we cherish up His life and teachings in our studies, prayers, and in our service to others, the more closely we can focus during the sacrament service on His heart and His love for us. We can recall to our minds who He was, what he did, and especially His relation to us, and our personal connection to Him . . . that we have the spark of divinity deep within us. That He desires us to be with Him and be like Him.

We as parents and grandparents can be “creatively persistent” in helping our children and youth have a unique Sabbath Day experience. One tailored to your and their interests and personality. One, where the Sabbath becomes a delight.

During the week, we can remember to see Jesus in others. For, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” And, after all, when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are only in the service of our God.


Let’s recall that Jesus pointedly taught that the Sabbath was made for us, not the other way around.

Did you know that the component parts of the word religion means to re-tie ourselves to God. IOW, not just to tie ourselves to God; but to re-tie ourselves to Him. To bind ourselves back to Him once again. In all Christendom, Mormons uniquely have a keen insight to this “re-tying” as we teach for doctrine that we all used to live with God in our pre-mortal life.

Joseph Smith offered keen insight on how our already-existing relationship with God should help us as we re-connect with him, quote, “The relationship we have with God places us in a situation to advance in knowledge.” And that when we “understand rightly the character of God . . . [we] comprehend [our]selves.” End quote.

Why Not

So. If there really is a God in Heaven who wants to teach us and reach us, why NOT give Him sufficient time to make the connection. Yes, overtly several minutes every day, but why not several hours each Sabbath day. There are literally scores of ways He can and will reach us, if we give ourselves over to the idea that he wants to relate to us.

I can imagine this, as we are grandparents living across the country from beloved grandsons. Believe me: When you have grandkids so far away, you would want to spend more than a minute or two with them on the phone or via video conferencing. And it is a true joy when they eagerly and of “their own free will and choice” want to spend extended time with you as the grandparent.

Why NOT seek to keep the Sabbath Day holy? Why not devote an extra amount of time on THAT day to learning and experiencing Holiness. [9]

On every day, but especially on THIS day, why not turn our hearts to God? Properly viewed, a restful, engaged Sabbath Day is filled with hope, and promise, and blessings, and comfort, and Joy and Delight. It is filled with “at-one-ment” -- which becomes the model for the other days of the week. It can be filled with the key experiences associated with Purpose of Life itself. 

I invite us all to earnestly and creatively see the Sabbath Day for what it is, an opportunity to rest and reach out and grow by having authentic spiritual experiences. [10] When we do, we will thoroughly enjoy expending the effort to gain the inspiration to create the attitudes, skills, and habits that bind us to God.


It has often been observed that we are not just physical beings seeking to have a transcendent spiritual experience, but, rather, we are spiritual beings sent here to have a tangible / physical experience. We come to this earth to bind as “inseparably connected” the inner and the outer. When we are one within ourselves, and with God, we can then “receive a fullness of joy.” We come here so we can experience the heights and depths of a tangible world – one filled with the struggles of opposition.

This “tangibleness” with all its ups and downs helps make real all the theoretical, preliminary joy we were introduced to in our pre-mortal world. It is during the struggle here on earth that we learn and grow the most.

Like Eve’s courageous, conscious decision, we knew this mortal journey could be punctuated with moments of loneliness, pain, disappointment, suffering, and sometimes even crushing sorrow. However, being valiant in following the Son -- as he followed the Father’s plan – we realized that to ultimately appreciate the scintillating heights of ecstatic joy in the Celestial Kingdom, we needed to be fully exposed to the depths of sorrow in a lower sphere.

In this we were assured that our Elder Brother also would experience all that we could possibly suffer -- and so much more. In the worst of our suffering we would know that we are never ever alone. He is right there with us. Just as he will be right there with us welcoming us back home when our time comes to pass through the veil for the final time -- to enter fully into the glorious Rest of living with “the whole family of heaven” in Celestial Glory. Where every day will be a Holy Sabbath Day.

During each moment of every day, how can we “always remember him”? I have found that this is closely related to “praying always.” In a wonderful way, we can literally have a constant echo -- of all our studies and all our desires and all our prayers and all our service – that informs each and every thought. We may not be fully conscious of particular specific thoughts, but I testify that we can have a constant awareness, a constant closeness, a constant connection to and with our Savior. When we are proactive in letting Him in, and willingly letting our heart be soft (and even broken) and our spirit open to where we can repent and improve (being contrite) then we can enjoy the sweet co-dependent blessings of “always remembering” along with “always having his spirit to be with us.”


God promised that as we give ourselves over to Holiness that blessings would naturally flow unto us and distill upon our souls as gently and thoroughly as the Dews of Heaven. [11]

I bear my witness that the beautiful melody and harmony of our lives can be fostered and perfected on the sure foundation of the heartbeat of a holy Sabbath day.

I pray we let the Holy Spirit draw us into a more sacred, more spiritually aware, more spiritually satisfying Sabbath experience.

I pray we worship more deeply, and more often, more intimately.

I pray we would always remember Him, that we would always have his Spirit to be with us, in the sacred name and power of Jesus Christ, who is our Exemplar and Friend. Amen.

# # #


                    INTRO: Illustration
                    THEME: The Idea
                    BACKGROUND: What prompted subject 

                    DEFINITIONS: Key Words
                    DOCTRINE: Basis of change
                    COVENANTS: Remember Jesus

                    PERSPECTIVE: Why not
                    PURPOSE OF LIFE: Follow Eve


#1 This harmony is written by our personal and familial and communal encounters with the Heaven.

#2  I invite us all, old and young, male and female, convert and life-long member to remember to keep and enjoy a holy Sabbath Day – one where we “remember Him” and where “we always have is spirit to be with us.”

#3  A key component of all of these definitions: they all end up being related to and fulfilled in the ordinances of the temple, which, in turn, are epitomized by the sacramental prayers. 

#4  Inherent in the New and Everlasting Covenant is the fact that it is God’s constant yearning that we enter into the covenant. Further that we actively participate in and receive its blessings not only when we die, but now.
#5  Joseph Smith taught the power of symbolism, “All things whatsoever God has seen proper to reveal to us are revealed to us in the abstract…” Remember that whether it is baptism, the sacrament, or temple endowment, all these ordinances are abstract representations of “vast [spiritual] realities” -- too vast for our minds to comprehend -- without the aid of the spirit.

#6  The ordinance of the Sacrament is the ritual focal point of our weekly worship. This intimate interaction with the Divine comes through giving ourselves over to the solemnity and intimacy of the experience.

#7  [and he] dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father:

#8  So, how can we “always” remember Him? What specifically can we remember, and when?   During the Sacrament prayers, we let the eternal principles denoted and connoted by each word and phrase -- and the reality that supports them -- speak to our eternal mind and our softened heart. During the passing of the Sacrament, we can continue to remember the Teachings He taught, the Life He lived; the Atonement He wrought.

#9  What an opportunity!

#10  What a day. What an opportunity! An opportunity to keep, to delight in our Savior. To let our Sabbath Day worship serve as a sure sign of our heartfelt devotion to the Father and the Son. 

#11  Let’s love it, revel in it, and yes, remember and keep it. Keep it holy. I testify that a Holy Sabbath Day can be the lively heartbeat needed to transcend the ordinary-ness of everyday life.