Relief Society Lesson 16 The Sabbath – A Delight

Rationale (background info for yourself)

The lesson in the manual spends a great deal of time talking about what to do and what not to do on the Sabbath. I am personally not so compelled by such specifics, (since I like to think that it’s a somewhat personal decision), so I’ve avoided directly asking a do’s/don’ts question. But you’ll notice that my very first question will allow people to go in that direction if they choose to. Also, this lesson plan may be a bit short, depending on how talkative a group you have. So you may need to supplement. (see last sections for additional ideas.)

Engage and Connect (easy question to get the conversation going):

President Kimball saw the Sabbath as” a day for active, joyful, worship – a day to leave behind the things of this world and fill the day with righteous activity”. Numerous times he would refer to the Sabbath as “a delight.” While I know that for some people the Sabbath really is their favorite day of the week – my husband for example – for others, like me, I know it can be a struggle.

Let’s take an informal poll. For how many of you is Sunday your favorite day of the week? Raise your hands. What do you like about it?

Instruction and discussion

I. Keeping the Day Holy

At different points in the lesson, President Kimball emphasizes that keeping the Sabbath involves going to church as well as refraining from and engaging in certain activities. In the fifth section, while focusing on the importance of people attending their Sunday meetings, he mentions different people who struggle with the Sabbath in different ways.

Kimball mentions the challenge of many parents with young children – how his own mother would always bring him to church when he was young, and how he would often sleep through the meeting. But Kimball emphasizes that it was beneficial because he would absorb something and because he got into the habit of going. (p. 172).

A couple paragraphs later he talks about a man who decided to not always go to sacrament meeting because he felt like he got more out of staying home and reading than he did going and listening to poor sermons. (p. 172)

As I read this, I began to think about various ways people – at different times of life – struggle with – and find peace and joy in – the Sabbath.

(Earlier in the week, invite a thoughtful older woman and a thoughtful younger woman to talk about their evolving experiences with the Sabbath. Encourage them to talk about its joys and its challenges. And ways they have found to make it a delight despite – or because of – the particular phase of life they are in.)

After their contributions, open the question of challenges up to the rest of the class.

What challenges have the rest of you faced in keeping the Sabbath, and how have you learned to deal with them constructively? (if audience does not bring up the following, you may want to be more specific – mention families that have one parent gone on Sundays because of time consuming callings. Mention the fact that spouses often disagree about what it means to keep the Sabbath. Mention the fact that sometimes people simply have to work on Sunday. All these situations are difficult – are there ways to make the day special despite the challenges? )

II. Deeper Principles behind the Sabbath.

We’ve spent some time dealing with the day to day practicalities of making Sunday a special, holy day, but I’d like to spend some time thinking about the principles behind this commandment. Why would God command us to do this?

Kimball mentions one reason: he says that Sabbath breaking is “ evidenced of [wo]man’s failure to meet the individual test set for each of us before the creation of t he world, “to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God will command them.”

So to him it’s a test. But I believe he would agree that there is a purpose – deep principles we should be learning – behind the test. In fact, later in the lesson he says, “The purpose of the commandment is not to deprive [wo]man of something. Every commandment that God has given to his servants is for the benfit of those who receive and obey.” (174) So I’ve been asking myself, – and I’d like you to think about this too – what are the benefits, the deeper principles and qualities I should be learning and practicing? For me personally, I am drawn to thinking about the Sabbath as a time for personal and spiritual rejuvenation.

Jana Reiss, a Mormon convert and religion editor for Publishers weekly, once wrote about her experience with the Sabbath. She says that having been raised as a non-Mormon, Sundays were never very special and different. But now as an adult the Sabbath has become to her a day of renewal and insight.

She writes that it has become a “site of exchange and openness [with God], a time when we relinquish control in order to see beyond the mists of the everyday into something liminal, something undefined.

“Sunday is the day where on the surface, it seems that I am most restricted….[but] I have come to see Sunday as the day when I am the most free…. My usual life, dictated by…lists and demands and missed deadlines, allows no possibility for those stolen insights. Sunday is the only day of the week when every hour of my day is not scheduled. It is the only day of my week where spontaneous phone calls and dinner plans and visits to friends are even possible. It’s one of only two days of the week where my cooking has the potential to become a lavish gift of love rather than a mere hustle to get something nutritious on the table. It’s also the only day when as a a writer, I routinely find unexpected and unsought insights suddenly crowding my mind, which is usually too cluttered to receive such astonishing gifts of discernment.” Sunstone issue 141 p. 23-25.

So both Jana Reiss and I are drawn to the idea of the Sabbath as a day of life giving renewal, of regeneration, insight, and of Godly connection. But there are certainly other deep, important principles behind the Sabbath commandment. What do you think some are? Which principles are you personally drawn to, and why? ( note: this question may be difficult to answer. You may have to prompt them with ideas like peace, family, service, worship, and fellowship.)


Kimball says a lot about the Sabbath in this lesson, but I am particularly inspired by Kimball’s transcendent understanding of the Sabbath’s potential to renew us and draw us closer to the divine.

“It is a day when bodies may rest, minds relax, and spirits grow. It is a day,… when [wo]man may climb high, almost annihilating time, space and distance between [her]self and [her] creator.”

Optional directions to take the lesson/things to add:

*D&C 59:9 “go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments.”. Note the plural use. What are your personal sacraments? What other ways do you personally find to worship, other than going to church? (and other than reading scriptures and praying)

*Sabbatical years in old testament – all debts would be forgiven, so this is symbolic of forgiveness from savior. (check out bible dictionary.)

*What can we learn about the Sabbath from the savior’s example? Read Luke 13: 10-17. The story about Jesus healing the bent over the woman on the Sabbath, and the synagogue leader who objects because he thinks Jesus is breaking the Sabbath.

Optional resources if you have time:
Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting by Marva Dawn

Sabbath Keeping Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest by Lynne M. Baab

lease share your questions/ideas for this lesson as well!


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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  1. Bored in Vernal says:

    Thank you, Caroline. This is the kind of RS lesson I love–full of thought-provoking questions and plenty of time for sharing among the sisters. To me, the very best part of RS is the fellowship and opportunity to hear how the other sisters are “doing their lives.”

  2. Deborah says:

    Since I’m now stationed in primary, I really enjoy reading these lessons. I hope you get called as an RS teacher at some point, Caroline. This lesson even *reads* like the rhythm of an effective class.

  3. Caroline says:

    Thanks! Glad you liked it. My favorite part of RS also is listening to women’s stories. Not always, but sometimes, I feel like we can get beyond superficialities and be real. I love that.

    You’re kind. Thanks! I do hope I’ll be a RS teacher someday.

  4. Amy Sorensen says:

    I am a little bit late in jumping into this conversation, but I had to add that my favorite part of this lesson was the scripture from Leviticus (26:2-6). I’d never focused on that one and it seems so promising to me—the metaphorical “rain in due season” etc. Thanks, Caroline, for your insight; it was helpful in my planning!

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