As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have been encouraged to increase our devotion to the Lord by more fully keeping the Sabbath day holy. A few years ago, Neil L. Andersen said, “The First Presidency and the Twelve have felt an undeniable direction from the Lord to declare and reemphasize the Sabbath day and the importance of worthily partaking of the sacrament.”1 One recent declaration came from David A. Bednar when he reminded us, “The Sabbath is God’s time, a sacred time specifically set apart for worshipping Him and for receiving and remembering His great and precious promises.”2
I am excited for the opportunity to study the Sabbath day as our fourth-Sunday curriculum for the next six months. I am confident that as we prayerfully study and participate in the monthly discussions we will come to understand, in a greater way, the reasons for this reemphasis and the blessings that will come as we heed the admonition of the prophets and apostles—blessings Elder Andersen calls “compensatory spiritual power for the righteous.” He promises, “As the world slides from its spiritual moorings, the Lord prepares the way for those who seek Him, offering them greater assurance, greater confirmation, and greater confidence in the spiritual direction they are traveling. The gift of the Holy Ghost becomes a brighter light in the emerging twilight. … This added blessing of spiritual power does not settle upon us just because we are part of this generation. It is willingly offered to us; it is eagerly put before us. But as with all spiritual gifts, it requires our desiring it, pursuing it, and living worthy of receiving it.”1
January’s lesson is “The Sabbath is a Day to Remember What God has Done for Us.” We are reminded that there are mighty works that God has associated with the Sabbath. The three discussed in this lesson are the Creation, the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt and the Savior’s Resurrection. Reflecting on their significance and considering the symbolism each can have in our lives will help us remember some of the mighty works our Heavenly Father has done for us and will continue to do for us as we rededicate our lives to Him.
“Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth (see Mosiah 3:8; Moses 2:1). From scripture revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, we know that in the work of the Creation, the Lord organized elements that had already existed (see Abraham 3:24). He did not create the world ‘out of nothing,’ as some people believe.”3 The symbolism I see here is that our Heavenly Father can make more of us than we currently are—new creatures, if you will. This is possible, however, only if we are willing to submit our will to His will. Neal A. Maxwell once said, “When you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”4
When the Savior visited the Nephites after his Resurrection, an event which had been prophesied among this people for six hundred years, Jeffrey R. Holland teaches us something profound about what he calls the “introductory utterance from the resurrected Son of God.” Elder Holland said, “Of all the messages that could come from the scroll of eternity, what has he brought? … He speaks, ‘I am the light of the world; … I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, … I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.’ That is it. Just a few lines. Only fifty-two words. … I have thought very often about this moment in Nephite history. I cannot think it either accident or mere whimsy that the Good Shepherd in his newly exalted state, appearing to a most significant segment of his flock, chooses first to speak of his obedience, his deference, his loyalty, and loving submission to his father. In an initial and profound moment of spellbinding wonder, when surely he had the attention of every man, woman, and child as far as the eye could see, his submission to his father is the first and most important thing he wishes us to know about himself. Frankly, I am a bit haunted by the thought that this is the first and most important thing he may want to know about us when we meet him one day in similar fashion. Did we obey, even if it was painful? Did we submit, even if the cup was bitter indeed? Did we yield to a vision higher and holier than our own, even when we may have seen no vision in it at all?”5
The Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt
The exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt symbolizes leaving the world behind as we free ourselves from the bondage of sin. That freedom from sin comes only through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Just as the Israelites celebrated their deliverance with a Passover meal, the sacrament is the weekly reminder of our own deliverance from the evils of this world and the sins which hold us down.
L. Tom Perry said, “During the administration of the sacrament, we set aside the world. It is a period of spiritual renewal as we recognize the deep spiritual significance of the ordinance offered to each of us personally. If we were to become casual in partaking of the sacrament, we would lose the opportunity for spiritual growth. Elder Melvin J. Ballard once said: ‘I am a witness that there is a spirit attending the administration of the sacrament that warms the soul from head to foot; you feel the wounds of the spirit being healed, and the load is lifted. Comfort and happiness come to the soul that is worthy and truly desirous of partaking of this spiritual food.’ (“The Sacramental Covenant,” Improvement Era, Oct. 1919, 1027)”6
Speaking of the sacrament, Elder Holland reminds us that “every ordinance of the gospel focuses in one way or another on the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, and surely that is why this particular ordinance with all its symbolism and imagery comes to us more readily and more repeatedly than any other in our life. It comes in what has been called ‘the most sacred, the most holy, of all the meetings of the Church’ (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56, 2:340). Perhaps we do not always attach that kind of meaning to our weekly sacramental service. How ‘sacred’ and how ‘holy’ is it? Do we see it as our passover, remembrance of our safety and deliverance and redemption? With so very much at stake, this ordinance commemorating our escape from the angel of darkness should be taken more seriously than it sometimes is. It should be a powerful, reverent, reflective moment. It should encourage spiritual feelings and impressions. As such it should not be rushed. It is not something to ‘get over’ so that the real purpose of a sacrament meeting can be pursued. This is the real purpose of the meeting.”7
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
The symbolism of the Savior’s Resurrection is new life, renewal, transformation. Because of Him, we have an eternal perspective and can see beyond the things of this world. As we “look to God and live,”8 we find new life. As we follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, our lives are transformed.
“No doctrine in the Christian canon is more important to all mankind than the doctrine of the resurrection of the Son of God,” said Howard W. Hunter. “In spite of the great importance we place upon the resurrection in our doctrine, perhaps many of us may not yet have fully glimpsed its spiritual significance and eternal grandeur. If we had, we would marvel at its beauty. … It is the greatest of all of the miracles performed by the Savior of the world.”9
Russell M. Nelson reminds us, “The gift of resurrection is the Lord’s consummate act of healing. Thanks to Him, each body will be restored to its proper and perfect frame. Thanks to Him, no condition is hopeless. Thanks to Him, brighter days are ahead, both here and hereafter. Real joy awaits each of us—on the other side of sorrow.”10
Dallin H. Oaks teaches, “The ‘lively hope’ we are given by the resurrection is our conviction that death is not the conclusion of our identity but merely a necessary step in the destined transition from mortality to immortality. This hope changes the whole perspective of mortal life. The assurance of resurrection and immortality affects how we look on the physical challenges of mortality, how we live our mortal lives, and how we relate to those around us. The assurance of resurrection gives us the strength and perspective to endure the mortal challenges faced by each of us and by those we love, such things as the physical, mental, or emotional deficiencies we bring with us at birth or acquire during mortal life. Because of the resurrection, we know that these mortal deficiencies are only temporary! The assurance of resurrection also gives us a powerful incentive to keep the commandments of God during our mortal lives.”11
Studying these mighty works—the Creation, the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt and the Savior’s Resurrection—has given me greater insight to and appreciation for the many mighty works Heavenly Father has done and for the mighty works He has done for me personally. I testify that as we submit our will to the Father’s, He can make of us more than we can ever make of ourselves. As we submit our will to His, we will desire to turn from the world and to the Savior. As we submit our will to His, we will be following the example of His Son, whose Resurrection offers us hope and joy in a fallen world. As we submit our will to His, the Sabbath day will be more holy and sacred to us. As we submit our will to His, we will come to know, in a very real and personal way, the compensatory spiritual power promised for the righteous.
1. A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous – Neil L. Andersen
2. Exceeding Great and Precious Promises – David A. Bednar
3. LDS.org Topics – Creation
4. Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father – Neal A. Maxwell
5. Obedience: Submitting to the Will of the Father – Jeffrey R. Holland
6. As Now We Take the Sacrament – L. Tom Perry
7. This Do in Remembrance of Me – Jeffrey R. Holland
8. Alma 37:47
9. He is Risen – Howard W. Hunter
10. Jesus Christ—The Master Healer – Russell M. Nelson
11. Resurrection – Dallin H. Oaks