A week and a half ago I received a phone call asking if I would speak in the Sunday session of our Stake Conference tomorrow. I was hesitant for personal reasons, but accepted the assignment anyway. One early morning shortly after the call, I woke to words running through my head. I knew the Lord was giving me the words to my talk. I was taught day after day as I read and studied and wrote. I had several personal hardships along the way which usually stunt inspiration, yet it continued to flow. I am so grateful for that experience. Having finished my talk early, I decided to go to the temple yesterday to calm my nerves. I came home feeling peaceful and ready. Then I received a phone call from my Stake President informing me that the agenda for the weekend had been changed and my talk was no longer necessary. Truthfully, I felt completely deflated and hurt. I had given this talk my all for the last week and a half. Hours and hours of study and work and practicing as I geared myself up to actually stand at the pulpit and say the words. I share this not for sympathy, there are far worse things that can happen to a person(ok, a little sympathy would be nice though) I share this because I don't know what else to do with all of my hard work. I recognize that some things in life are just for our learning alone, but I was kinda hoping this one what would help someone else as well.
Here is the talk I was going to give:
The Weightier Matters of Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
One early Spring morning many years ago I took a walk down the shady dirt lane near our home in Perry. Fields of cows slowly grazed along side of the dusty road, separated now and again by a fence indicating the property line of neighboring farmers. After several minutes of walking I came upon a cow that had gotten her head stuck between two pieces of a wooden structure. In her distress she had given birth to her calf which still lay in its sack of waters at her feet. This poor mother unable to attend to her baby let out a bellowing cry for help. Being nearly 9 months pregnant myself at that time, I felt an immediate kinship with this poor mother cow and waddled as fast as my belly would allow to go find help. I saw a neighboring farmer out working around his house.
I thought to myself "surely he knows what to do".
I quickly related the distressing scenario to him with something like this:
"Mr. Farmer, there is this cow down the road and she is stuck and she has had her baby and she can't get to it!"
Thinking he would heroically and immediately jump to the rescue of this poor creature and her newborn baby, I was quite fairly shocked when his response came
"Not my cow."
Stunned and in somewhat of a stupor, I asked him who's cow it was so that I could call and alert the proper owner. He gave me the name and I left him to continue his own work, on his own property, with his own fields and his own cows.
Through the years Craig and I have, in good humor, often repeated the farmer's response "not my cow" when referring to something that in our minds is not our problem. There are times when keeping our noses out of other people's business is the proper response, but in regards to living Christ's gospel and following counsel from our Prophets and Apostles, having this attitude of disregard will surely hinder our progress along this mortal walk of life.
Recently in our Stake the three hour time block on Sundays has been rearranged to have the Sacrament portion of our meetings first. This change of schedule is in response to counsel given from Apostles and leaders to place a greater emphasis on the sacred nature of the Sabbath day.
Why is the commandment to keep the sabbath day holy of such importance to us that it would render the given attention from those who we sustain to guide us?
From Adam down to our day, those that follow Christ have been taught to obey God’s commandments. Out of the ten commandments revealed to Moses by the Lord in ancient times, there are only two that specify to do something rather than “shalt not” do. In Exodus it reads “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) This commandment along with the other nine, pave the way for obedience to other gospel principles. President Uchtdorf once said "In striving for obedience to God’s commandments there are many good ideas. However, one person’s good idea-that may work for him or her-can take root and become somewhat of an expectation [for all]. Gradually eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas”."
This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.
What are the weightier matters in regards to “remembering the sabbath day, to keep it holy”?
At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi gives record of the vision his Father had of the tree of life. Having a hope and desire to know the things his father had seen, Nephi sat and pondered in his heart until he was “caught away in the Spirit of the Lord”.
And the Spirit said unto Nephi: “what desirest thou?”
And Nephi answered: “to behold the things which my father saw.”
Further questioning the testimony of Nephi, the Spirit asked him if he believed that his father Lehi had seen the tree of life. Answering in the affirmative, Nephi was then granted a vision of his own.
“And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
“And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.”
Nephi then wanted to know the meaning of the tree. The Spirit proceeded to show him the time of Christ’s birth and said to him
“Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.”
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.”
Nephi recognized the simile between God’s only begotten Son and the precious tree of life. When we prepare to partake of the sacrament each Sunday, it is as if we are approaching the tree of life itself. It is as if we are approaching the Savior himself.
With this image in mind, it is of little wonder that the sacrament portion of our meetings is the most important part of every Sabbath day. The Sacrament is the most repeated ordinance in Christ’s church, the only one that we repeat for ourselves. It is a sacred moment in a holy place.
If you had an appointment on your calendar tomorrow to personally visit with the Savior, would you want to be prepared for that meeting? After such a meeting would you rush to the next item on your busy schedule or would you enjoy some time to think about your experience? Would you choose activities that helped you remember your time with the Savior or ones that took your mind elsewhere, causing you to momentarily forget?
The commandment to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy is not a commandment that is meant to benefit God. He does not need us to worship Him.
“His power and glory are not diminished should we disregard, deny, or even defile His name. His influence and dominion extend through time and space independent of our acceptance, approval, or admiration.”(President Uchtdorf)
No, God does not need us to worship him one day out of seven for His benefit. (Mark 2:27)
It is for our benefit that God has given us this small portion of our week to rest from our daily toils and labors, to be healed and cleansed of our sins through the partaking of the sacrament, to learn and grow with a clean and pure heart in our gospel classes, and to love God and feel loved by Him in return.
God's love is infinite and pure. God's love gives us a divine sense of security as it binds us to Him, replenishes us, and brings unspeakable joy to the soul. God's love is the motivating source of life that lends us courage to make the changes that are necessary to our salvation. God's love is the enabling power that turns ordinary daily acts of devotion into extraordinary mortal experiences that will perpetuate beyond the grave. God's love is the key to happiness in this life and in the life to come.
"For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6) If we choose to regard the Sabbath day and keep it holy, leaving our "fields" and our "cows" for one day, we show our love to God and we will feel His love more abundantly in our lives.
I bear witness that God lives. He knows how to love us perfectly though we be imperfect. Because of that love we have the gift of His son Jesus Christ as our mediator with the Father and it is through Him that we can return to live with them once more. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.