(This is Part V of a five part series on The Sabbath)
Several months ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a recent convert to the Church. I mentioned something about not going to the pool on Sunday, and she said to me, “Wait, we can’t go to the pool on Sunday?” My friend was sincerely wanting to learn more about the Sabbath, and later when she and her boys moved in with us for a few weeks, we had an opportunity to talk more about the Sabbath.
The first thing that struck me when she asked, “Wait, we can’t go to the pool on Sunday?” was that word “can’t.” To me, it’s not as much about can’t as it is about don’t. We don’t go to the pool (or participate in other recreational activities) on the Sabbath because we are too busy participating in “worthy and holy activities.” President Kimball said, “The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things.” Of course, that leaves us with the question “What is a worthy or holy activity?”
When the Church reorganized the meeting schedule to have only the three hour block of meetings on Sunday, they issued some instruction about what to do with all the time they would now have on the Sabbath. When before, families were attending meetings or traveling between meetings nearly all Sunday long, now they would attend their three hour block, then have the rest of the day to choose their activities. “Because the new schedule will give families time together on Sundays, parents will want to plan activities for the Sabbath that will spiritually strengthen the family.” So there is the key – worthy and holy activities will be those that spiritually strengthen families.
The Family Home Evening Manual has a really good “test” for Sabbath day activities. “To determine whether a specific activity is appropriate, ask, ‘Does it bring me closer to my Heavenly Father?’” This should be a pretty easy question to answer, but the answer for this question might not be the same for every person. Each of us must ask this question about our own situation. Prayerfully ask this question, and you will probably be keeping the Sabbath day holy.
President Kimball had some suggestions for appropriate Sabbath day activities. “The Sabbath … is a day for consistent attendance at meetings for the worship of the Lord, drinking at the fountain of knowledge and instruction, enjoying the family, and finding uplift in music and song.” He also said that to observe the Sabbath day, “one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, writing letters to missionaries, taking a nap, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day at which he is expected.”
The Church News listed some good suggestions as well.
[Families] may wish to spend some time with the family each Sunday in gospel discussion and instruction, under the direction of the head of the household. They may use the scriptures, the most recent general conference talks, family home evening manuals, Church publications, and other publications as a resource.
Other appropriate Sunday activities include (1) writing personal and family journals, (2) holding family councils, (3) establishing and maintaining family organizations for the immediate and extended family, (4) personal interviews between parents and children, (5) writing to relatives and missionaries, (6) genealogy, (7) visiting relatives and those who are ill or lonely, (8) missionary work, (9) reading stories to children, and (10)singing Church hymns.
As somewhat of an illustration of what is not appropriate for the Sabbath, President Kimball shared this story, “A seminary group planned a service in the mountains on Sunday. They felt justified in the have their meeting and enjoyed a spiritual hour together, but after that hour the day became a day for picnicking, games, hiking,and climbing, with no further thought of the Sabbath. The one hour of devotion did not make of that day a holy day.” We have to make sure that we don’t fall into the mindset of being able to whatever we want to on the Sabbath just because we spent a few hours meditating and studying the gospel.
Further, the Church News article stated, “Many activities are not appropriate on the Sabbath day, such as gardening, family parties, and household projects. Families may wish to plan family household and recreational activities for Saturday or other weekdays when parents are home with their children.” I thought it was interesting that they included “family parties” in this, because I know many people who use Sunday dinner as an excuse to get all the family together, but often that means getting together for a very labor-intensive meal, followed by chatting, games, movies, or other not-so-appropriate Sunday activities. It would be one thing if a mother and father had all their grown children over on the Sabbath for a light dinner (think sandwiches, or a crockpot soup prepared the night before, or a casserole or something prepared the night before) and followed their dinner with a gospel discussion, reading from the scriptures and the words of the prophets, or watching Church videos about Christ and the plan of salvation. But too often, “visiting family” on the Sabbath turns into a chance to “play” with your family, watch a movie together, and partaking in worldly activities.
Our situations are all different, and that is the beauty of personal revelation. The Lord can help us find, through revelation, the activities that are appropriate for the Sabbath and the things that will bring us closer to Him and help us worship Him on His holy day. Whether you are single, married with no children, a part member family, or a grandma and grandpa with many grown children, you can still put forth an effort to keep the Sabbath day holy, and the Lord will bless your efforts.
The prophet Isaiah taught
If thou turn away … from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways,nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
The Sabbath day isn’t a day to deprive us of “fun” things – it is a day for us to practice putting our will in line with the Lord’s will, finding the things that He would have us do, and growing closer to Him in the process.
What a blessing it is that the Lord would set aside an entire day so that we can devote all that time to growing closer to Him without having to worry about all our worldly cares!
So this Sunday, as you plan activities with your family, ask yourself, “Does it bring me closer to Heavenly Father?”
What kinds of activities do you participate in on the Sabbath? Do you have specific struggles that make Sabbath day observance a challenge?