In the memory of some among us Utah had “blue laws,” which required businesses to remain closed and prohibited the sale of alcohol on Sunday. Such laws were once common throughout the U.S. and some states and counties still have remnants of those laws. But at one time there was a tremendous push to abolish these “prudish” and “old fashioned relics of an oppressive religious past.” Sadly, Utah was one of the early states to revoke these laws, many years prior to even New York doing so.
Blue laws prevented certain behavior not consistent with God's commandment to keep the Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8). One might argue that while nobody was out shopping or getting soused on Sunday, saints were somewhat weak in this area because they did not face the kinds of temptations we face today. However, blue laws did little to write the law in the hearts of the people (2 Corinthians 3:3).
Today each of us has a clear choice. We can go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments (D&C 59:9), serve our God and our fellowmen while confessing our sins (D&C 59:12), and “do none other thing” that our “joy may be full” (D&C 59:13), or we may choose to follow the ways of the world.
Today our choice in Sabbath observance doesn’t even need to come to the attention of anyone. We can choose to follow the ways of the world without going shopping; thereby, avoiding the possible embarrassment of being spied by another ward member who is also out and about. We can stay home and shop on the Internet, engage in entertainment that is not in keeping with the Lord’s holy day, or just fail to use the day as the Lord has commanded.
Quite honestly, I have to wonder why so many Latter-Day Saints were shocked to have their children exposed to the half time show of the 2004 Super Bowl. Although the Super Bowl is a widespread American cultural event, how do we as Saints reconcile watching it or attending a Super Bowl party with what the Lord and the Brethren have said about Sabbath observance? Are we averse to having our joy made full, or are we just allowing ourselves to be lulled away by the enticing carnal whisperings of the adversary?
I have an honest desire to preserve the Sabbath for the Lord’s purposes. He commands us to rest from our labors (D&C 59:10), but not from his on the Sabbath. Sometimes my wife and I grouse about me having a calling that requires me to be away from home for about eight hours on an average Sunday, but we always find joy when we work together so that this calling can be fulfilled. With five children under 14, sometimes our best efforts to have a worshipful experience on the Sabbath are less than fully successful. Still, we work very hard at keeping worldly influences out of our Sundays. I always have a better experience when I approach the day as a worshipful celebration.
Nobody is going to force us to keep the Sabbath day holy. Today there are no civil laws that would keep us in the narrow way. Unlike saints of long ago, we won’t be excommunicated if we break the Sabbath. In fact, our bishops and stake presidents don’t even directly question us about it when we interview for a temple recommend. It is only included in a broader question about whether we keep the commandments. The only way to have our joy made full through proper Sabbath observance is to freely choose it ourselves.
Do you want a joyful experience? This Sunday try earnestly approaching the Sabbath as a joyful celebration of the Lord’s sacred day. You may discover that the joy you receive will far outweigh any sacrifice you make.