Sunday, July 12, 2015

James E. Faust on Sabbath Day observance

President James E. Faust (1920-2007) was called as a Seventy in 1976, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve in 1978. He served as a counselor to President Hinckley from 1995 until his death in 2007 at age 87.
"The Mosaic injunctions of Sabbath day observance contained many detailed do's and don'ts. This may have been necessary to teach obedience to those who had been in captivity and had long been denied individual freedom of choice....
"In our time God has recognized our intelligence by not requiring endless restrictions. Perhaps this was done with a hope that we would catch more of the spirit of Sabbath worship rather than the letter thereof. In our day, however, this pendulum of Sabbath day desecration has swung very far indeed. We stand in jeopardy of losing great blessings promised. After all, it is a test by which the Lord seeks to 'prove you in all things' (D&C 98:14) to see if your devotion is complete.
"Where is the line as to what is acceptable and unacceptable on the Sabbath? Within the guidelines, each of us must answer this question for ourselves. While these guidelines are contained in the scriptures and in the words of the modern prophets, they must also be written in our hearts and governed by our conscience. Brigham Young said of the faithful, 'The spirit of their religion leaks out of their hearts.' (Journal of Discourses, 15:83.) It is quite unlikely that there will be any serious violation of Sabbath worship if we come humbly before the Lord and offer him all our heart, our soul, and our mind. (See Matt. 22:37.)
"What is worthy or unworthy on the Sabbath day will have to be judged by each of us by trying to be honest with the Lord. On the Sabbath day we should do what we have to do and what we ought to do in an attitude of worshipfulness and then limit our other activities. I wish to testify unequivocally concerning the blessings of Sabbath day worship."
- James E. Faust, "The Lord's Day," Ensign, November 1991, pp. 33-35
Click here to read the full talk

President Faust is correct in noting that the scriptures don't contain "many detailed do's and don'ts" related to Sabbath observance. Such lists have come from many, including Church leaders, who are commenting on the scriptural injunction to keep the Sabbath day holy.

President Faust warns that in our day, the "pendulum of Sabbath day desecration has swung very far indeed." I read a brief non-religious analysis recently of which of the 10 Commandments was the hardest to keep today, and this one led the list, just above taking the name of the Lord in vain. But President Faust views this as a critical test that shows our real devotion to the Lord.

And the key is to have guidelines "written in our hearts" so that we can be "governed by our conscience." President Faust's summary of the guideline is this:

Wise counsel. It's all about the attitude of the heart; when that is right, appropriate actions will follow.

The short passage President Faust quotes from Brigham Young is an interesting one. The context was actually a talk about Sabbath Day observance given in 1872. Here is a little more of the section:
"Now, remember, my brethren, those who go skating, buggy riding or on excursions on the Sabbath day—and there is a great deal of this practiced—are weak in the faith. Gradually, little by little, little by little, the spirit of their religion leaks out of their hearts and their affections, and by and by they begin to see faults in their brethren, faults in the doctrines of the Church, faults in the organization, and at last they leave the kingdom of God and go to destruction."
- Brigham Young, "Observe the Sabbath Day," Salt Lake Tabernacle, June 2, 1872; see JD 15:83
The distractions of 143 years ago—skating, buggy-riding. excursions—seem quite trivial by our standards today. But the application is the same. Failing to observe the Sabbath in an attitude of worshipfulness leads to the spirit of our religion leaking out of our hearts.

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