Under the Law of Moses, the Sabbath day was a sign of the covenant between the Lord and the children of Israel. Much of the Law of Moses is concerned with teaching the people the difference between clean and unclean, between holy and unholy. The Sabbath was part of that same theme. The Lord explained to the children of Israel that the significance of the Sabbath day (other than that it represents the pattern of the creation) is that it is to remind the unholy that the Lord is the one who sanctifies them, Verily my Sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you (Ex 31:13). At this time, the Lord was dealing with a very stubborn and spiritually immature people. Therefore, he applied what seems to be harsh punishments for disobedience. The punishment for violating the Sabbath day was to be put to death (Ex 31:14). We should be thankful that the Lord is more lenient with us today. But this punishment for violating the Sabbath demonstrates how important the principle is to the Lord.
Joseph B. Wirthlin
"The Lord said: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy' (Ex. 20:8) and made Sabbath day observance a sign between Him and the people to indicate their obedience. (See Ex. 31:13-17). That commandment and sign have never been rescinded. In our day, standards for keeping the Sabbath day holy are lowered a little at a time by some individuals until practically anything seems to become acceptable. The sign between the Lord and His covenant peoples is trampled underfoot as Church members skip Sunday meetings to seek recreation at lakes and beaches, in the mountains, at sports arenas, and at theaters. Parking lots at supermarkets and discount stores often are full on Sundays. Many store owners feel compelled to open their doors on Sundays because of the demand for the merchandise and services. The people who misuse the Sabbath lose the blessings of spiritual food and growth promised to those who keep this commandment." (Ensign, Mar. 1993, p. 71 as taken from Latter-day Commentary on the Book of Mormon compiled by K. Douglas Bassett, pp. 194-5)