It’s Saturday night and I can hear the rain pouring outside and see the lightning flashing. I’m glad. It started out as a nasty dust storm, but eventually the rain came. It’s so much better than Friday night when a ferocious dust storm came roaring through and left broken limbs and dirt everywhere – but no rain.
We’ll take the rain, gladly, We need it. We really need it.
I know that much of the West is in severe drought, Utah being hit especially hard. It looks like 99.9% of Utah is in “Severe Drought,” and they aren’t alone. (link) Reservoirs, lakes and snowpacks are at all-time lows, and it is getting worrisome.
As the drought has gotten worse, my mind has kept reflecting back to something I learned way back when I was a teenager. I’ll get there in a minute…
There have been calls for fasting and prayer to plead with the Lord to send rain. This is a good thing, and often the pleas and faith are rewarded. Sometimes, not so much.
I am not a fan of “Vending Machine Obedience.” It is the idea that if you push B-7 on the vending machine, you will automatically get a Twix bar. It makes faith, obedience and blessings a bit too “transactional.” We need to obey for the right reasons, not just greed, although God often encourages us to obey by making promises. There is some merit to the idea that specific acts of obedience will call down specific blessings from the Lord. He himself stated it:
“There is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessings from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)
That’s basically the Lord’s description of “Vending Machine Obedience,” without any nuance.
So, here’s what has been bouncing around my brain lately, from something I learned when I was young: Has the Lord revealed a law that is directly linked to avoiding or recovering from a drought – other than fasting and prayer?
The answer is yes, and the law is one of the original 10 Commandments. #2 to be precise. “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8)
Moses didn’t link rainfall to Sabbath observance in Exodus, but he did in Leviticus:
“Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them;
Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. (Leviticus 26:2-5)
I first heard this idea taught by President Kimball back in 1977 when there was a significant drought going on in Utah. In April Conference, President Kimball quoted this same passage regarding the Sabbath, but prefaced it with the following:
“The Lord uses the weather sometimes to discipline his people for the violation of his laws.” (Link)
This is reinforced by what is taught in the book of Kings in the Old Testament, “When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee.” (1 Kings 8:35)
President Kimball followed with this sobering statement:
“Perhaps the day has come when we should take stock of ourselves and see if we are worthy to ask or if we have been breaking the commandments, making ourselves unworthy of receiving the blessings.”
The Lord gave strict commandments: “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.”
Innumerous times we have quoted this, asking our people not to profane the Sabbath; and yet we see numerous cars lined up at merchandise stores on the Sabbath day, and places of amusement crowded, and we wonder.”
“But today numerous of the people of this land spend the Sabbath working, devoting the day to the beaches, to entertainment, to shows, to their weekly purchases. The Lord makes definite promises. God does what he promises, and many of us continue to defile the Sabbath day.” (Link)
I know that the scriptural references have been predominately Old Testament, but the flavor of D&C 59 is the same. We are all familiar with that section as the Sabbath/unspotted section, but the promises of obeying the Law of the Sabbath described make it special:
“Verily I say, that inasmuch as ye do this, the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walkers upon the earth;
Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards;
Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;
Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.” (D&C 59:16-19)
What do all those blessing require? Water.
What are we in dire need of? Water.
Maybe “fasting and prayer,” just isn’t enough. Collectively, as a people, do we deserve rain? Probably not.
Can we turn it around as a people? I dunno. I sometimes feel that society has reached that tipping point where sabbath day observance is a thing of the past for most. I’m not sure if that genie can ever be put back in that bottle.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t tighten up my sabbath day observance. I know that it has been tough during – and since – COVID. When you don’t have to dress up and head to the chapel it puts the responsibility to treat Sunday as a sacred day squarely on our individual and family’s shoulders. Personally, I have found it to be tougher, and I don’t think I am alone fighting the casualness, especially now that travel is back in play.
One thing I do know for sure, is that God is a forgiving God, and he looks for opportunities to bless us.
“When heaven is shut up, and there is no rain, because they have sinned against thee; if they pray toward this place, and confess thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou afflictest them. Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.” (1 Kings 8:35)
I doubt that everyone affected by the drought is going to race to church and focus on sabbath day observance, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t – and maybe that will be enough to open the windows of heaven and pour out literal drops of blessings.
Elder Renlund on “earning” blessings: “Abound With Blessings.”