The Importance of the Sabbath Day & Family History

In my ward, I’m one of the family history leaders and we wanted to talk about the importance of family history. We were also assigned to talk about the Sabbath Day, so I tried to combine the two topics as smoothly as possible. This is the talk I gave yesterday and hopefully you can take one thing from reading this and be able to apply it in your life. 🙂

We all know that the Sabbath Day is an extremely important day of the week. A well known scripture in Doctrine and Covenants 59 tells us why: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High”.

I LOVE this scripture because of the phrase “more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world”. The world we live in isn’t exactly pretty. Just in the past couple of days we’ve seen a lot of hatred because people disagree on what they feel is right or wrong. The world is getting farther and farther away from Christ. So how are we supposed to stay close to Him with all the world’s philosophies surrounding and suffocating us? By dedicating our Sabbath day to prayer, taking the sacrament and reflecting on the Atonement, and paying our devotion to the God who has given us everything.

As we partake of the sacrament each week, we are made clean again, just as we were at baptism. However, I have to say that doing this just on Sundays isn’t enough. Verse 11-12 in D&C 59 continues on saying: “Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times. But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations (or offerings) and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.” Obviously, we don’t take the sacrament every day. But we can’t be made clean when we take the sacrament on Sundays if we haven’t adequately repented for the previous weeks sins and mistakes. We must be vigilant in remembering our covenants every single day of the week.

Mark 2:27 tells us that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” I interpret this to mean that the Sabbath day was given to us for two things: first, a reprieve from the world. Second, as a model for what we should be doing on the other 6 days of the week. Yes, we have work, school, activities and other such things we need to do in order to provide for and nurture ourselves and our families, but spiritually speaking, we cannot live without striving daily to be more like our Savior. Sunday is the day we receive the most guidance on how best to accomplish that and it is those things we learn that we need to apply throughout the week. Isaiah 58:13-14 teaches us that putting the Lord first instead of ourselves is the best way to find lasting joy and be able to “call the sabbath a delight”.

Now, more than ever before, our examples need to shine forth for the world to see.  My favorite scripture is Matthew 5:14-16. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” We need the Sabbath day to help us climb to the top of the hill and let our lights shine brighter. We are the ones called in this last dispensation to spread the Gospel over the whole Earth.

In 1830, the Prophet Joseph Smith established Christ’s church once more. EVERYTHING Christ taught in His time and EVERY doctrine and eternal truth that has ever been taught since the beginning of time was restored exactly as it had been previously. We live in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. This means that our dispensation is the one that “includes all others, both in heaven and on earth.” Doctrine and Covenants 128:18 states: “It is necessary … that a … welding together of dispensations … should take place … from the days of Adam even to the present time.”

According to Elder David B. Haight, this means that our dispensation is the dispensation which will fulfill all of the decrees of a loving Heavenly Father for the ‘salvation of [all] men and the redemption of the earth itself.” Elder Haight also answered the question of why the Church spends so much time and money on gathering records and articles for family history research by saying: “[We do this] because we love them. Because they are entitled to the same blessings that we enjoy. Because this is a major part of the heavenly plan for this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, for the blessing of all people.”

I want you to think for a moment on your life. When have you felt Heavenly Father’s love specifically for you? We all come from different backgrounds and different cultures. We have different experiences and different talents. Some of us were baptized within the last few years. Many of us grew up in the Church. We’ve all made mistakes, big and small. But I feel confident saying that you have each felt the love of God in your lives at least once. Sit for a minute and remember how that felt – how it feels now. . .

Now ask yourself this: If God loves you and each of us here today in a way that not one of us can fully comprehend, how do you think He feels about His children who have lived on the Earth previously and who did not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I guarantee you that He feels the same about them as He does about you.

President Howard W. Hunter once asked: “Does it seem reasonable that persons who have lived upon the earth and died without the opportunity of baptism should be deprived throughout eternity? Is there anything unreasonable about the living performing the baptisms for the dead?”

The scriptures teach us that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). He gives every single one of His Children every opportunity He can to learn of Him, to accept Him and to try to become as He is.

Malachi 4:5-6 says: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

I’ve thought about these verses a lot. Often, it just seems a jumbled mess of words that I know means something significant but can’t really put my finger on. I know it has to do with temple work for our ancestors but that’s about it. As I thought about it in preparation for this talk, though, I came to understand a deeper meaning. The hearts of our fathers – our ancestors – turn to us, waiting, hoping and pleading with us to do the work they can’t do on their own. They are being taught by spirits on the other side of the veil, but they are waiting for us to help them seal their faith with the saving ordinances beginning with baptism and confirmation. Just as they turn their hearts to us, we need to turn our hearts to them.

Family History is something we all know is extremely important, yet it often gets put on the back burner for a variety of reasons. It is our privilege as well as our duty as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to reach back through time and give our ancestors what they cannot get for themselves without a physical body. President Hunter continued in his remarks: “Perhaps the greatest example of vicarious work for the dead is the Master Himself. He gave His life as a vicarious atonement, that all who die shall live again and have life everlasting. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. In a similar way, we can perform ordinances for those who did not have the opportunity to do them in a lifetime.”

The Savior knows and loves each and every one of us. We knew Him before we came to this Earth. We knew Him well and we all loved Him. We wouldn’t be here without that love. Just as the Savior knows us and loves us, so should we come to know and love our own ancestors. A minute ago, I talked about how our hearts need to turn to our ancestors as their hearts turn to ours. We can do this through family history work as we dig through journals, newspaper articles, or call parents and grandparents. The Atonement of Jesus Christ would not have worked, or continue to work, without Him fully knowing or loving us each individually and I believe that same principle applies to us. We can be saviors to our ancestors by doing their work in the temples, but only if we first come to know and love them as the Savior has come to know and love us.

Brothers and sisters, I have a testimony and a knowledge that family history and temple work is some of the greatest work we can and will ever do in our lives on Earth. I also know that families can be together forever.

The day I started my mission was also the day my brother died. I know I’m not the only one here who’s lost a family member and knows the pain that death brings and the hole that comes into your life. It’s not an experience I would ever wish anyone to go through. But it’s not an experience I would have the Lord take away from me, either.

I often wish my brother was still here despite my faith in God’s plan, but I can also say that I truly am grateful for the trial and experience. My family wasn’t particularly close while I was growing up. As I continued on my mission a few days after his funeral, I came to understand and love my family more than I ever had before. I gained a greater understanding of the Plan of Salvation, the healing power of the Atonement and the importance of families. I gained a desire to learn more about my extended family, who I really don’t know well because I’ve only met them a few times throughout my life. That desire grew to wanting to know about the ancestors who have already left this Earth. As I’ve heard stories about my parents and grandparents growing up, I’ve come to know that my ancestors were full of love, energy, joy and selflessness. As I’ve done temple work for my ancestors, I’ve come to feel their love and protection for my while I do my work on the Earth. My ancestors and brother who have left behind a legacy of faith and have inspired me to become better every day and to strive more and more to be like the Savior are my heroes.

I know my Savior lives. I know that He loves me and each of you. I know that this Gospel is true and that we have been saved for the latter-days, to lift and inspire the people around us and to bring the Gospel to the world. I know this all to be true, and I say it humbly in the name of our Brother, Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.