7 Ideas to Strengthen the Family Through Sabbath Observance

strengthen the family

If there is any day of the week that causes members of the Church confusion, it is the Sabbath. The world treats Sunday as a one-day-in-seven holiday. Most major sporting events are held on Sunday. Concerts are on Sunday. Many sales start or take place only on Sunday. If we step outside of our homes and look at our communities we will see the stores full of shoppers, the parks full of fun and games, and lawns being mowed, watered, and played on. Keeping this day sacred and holy is no mean feat, but somehow we need to figure out how we can strengthen our family though appropriate Sabbath observance.

Staying inside on Sunday sometimes reminds me of the times my brothers, sisters, and friends were all out playing (during the week), but I had to stay inside and practice the piano. All I could think of was the imagined bliss I was missing by having to discipline myself while others frolicked and played. That made it very difficult to keep my focus.

The Brethren have determined that one of the ways the Church can hold on to the new member, activate the inactive, and help families become stronger in the gospel, is for all of us to look more closely at how we treat the Sabbath day. I know what you are thinking. I’m thinking the same thing; “Oh no, not another list of things I should or should not be doing on Sunday!” Well I hope this isn’t one of those lists. I intend to look at why we do things on Sunday, not what we should do on Sunday.

1.  Our lives will be blessed, and our family will be strengthened, if we are all working on being more observant of Sunday as a Holy day. Doing what is right is not easy if you are the only one making the effort. Admittedly, we don’t all live in a multigenerational home, but the principle doesn’t change. Including every generation within our home, be that one, two, three or more, working as a family is the easiest way to keep the Sabbath day as we ought to.

If the parents are the only ones doing anything to keep Sunday a sacred day it becomes difficult to maintain reverence because the children are playing Nintendo or computer games, watching shows that are not in keeping with the covenants of the day or they want to go out and play because they are “bored.”

If the children are trying to do activities they are taught in Primary or the youth classes, but mom or dad, or both, don’t feel a need for any restrictions to their activities on Sunday, it makes it difficult for the children to stay the course. The same goes for including the grandparents. If grandpa and grandma figure they have put in their time in the Church and are now due a reprieve from service and observance of certain commandments, their lack of Sabbath day observance also causes those around them to be more likely to slack off as well. This spans irreverent activities from eating out and shopping on Sunday to long naps followed by endless hours of television. (I’m guessing most of us are guilty of at least one of those things.)

Let’s face it, the whole Church is strengthened if the multigenerational home has adopted the habit of keeping the Sabbath day holy. The observance of the Sabbath carries many blessings with it, and a stronger and more unified family is just one of them. It’s like one person trying to diet but the others are not. It can be incredibly tough to maintain the discipline. But if the whole family has decided to eat healthier then everyone is supportive of the goal, and it is easier for everyone to stay the course. Let’s face it, strengthening the family becomes easier when everyone contributes to the effort.

2. Just as the sins of the fathers (parents) are taught to the children and become the standard for multiple generations to come, so the habits of righteousness are passed from generation to generation as tradition and expectation. Just as the curses pronounced by the Lord are passed on to the children of wayward parents, so too are the blessings of righteous parents passed on to their observant children.

This is a good spot to insert the “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it,” quote from Proverbs 22:6. We all know that the sentiment of this verse is not a guarantee. Just look at Lehi from the Book of Mormon. I’m sure Lehi was a pretty decent parent, being a prophet and all, but he had some wayward children. But the bulk of his children kept to the good path. No parent is fully responsible for the decisions of a grown child. The best we can do is teach them all we can to make good choices then pray for them and love them through their efforts to find their own way in their physical and spiritual journey.

3.  The Lord wants us to find joy in the Sabbath, not just endurance. In Isaiah 58:13 – 14 the Lord talks about our attitude toward how we see the Sabbath day. I quote:

13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, 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:

14 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.

Verse 13 holds the conditions for the desired blessings. Verse 14 presents the rewards for fulfilling the conditions of the desired blessings. Let’s look at verse 14 first. The Lord uses pastoral (farming) images a lot in the Bible. When feeding sheep the promise is to take them to the high places where it is not so hot and there is green grass and food in abundance, along with clean water for the sheep. We are His sheep. He is promising to take very good care of us for being obedient to His holy day. The heritage of Jacob is the Abrahamic covenant, that of eternal life with our family in the presence of God. This promise includes not just us and our spouse, but as many of our children and descendents as are willing to obey the commandments.

Verse 13 requires of us that we turn aside from our personal pursuits on this one day. On this day we need to seek to please the Lord, not ourselves. If we can get to where this day becomes a delight, a joy to us, and we learn to spend the day honoring God, doing His will and not our own, and seeking to speak and act as He would speak and act on this sacred day, rather than how we normally do the other six days of the week, then all the blessings of verse 14 will be ours.

Think of spending the day in the temple or in the church building. What activities, conversations, attitudes would be appropriate to demonstrate if you were to spend the day in the temple or the church house? If we can do that when we are at home then we will be closer to accomplishing what the Lord has in mind for us.

4.  Remaining unspotted or untainted by the sins of the world requires observance of the Sabbath. Just as we go to church to renew our baptismal covenants, thus realigning ourselves with the promises we have made to the Lord for the week to come, so properly keeping the Sabbath day will help us stay unspotted or unstained from the sins of the world during the other six days.

This requires separation from the world. Yes, we are still in it, but we are not of the world on this day because we are spending our time in sacred pursuits. This day of the week we gladly say adios to what the rest of the world so values, as we  spend the day trying to find ways to please God, strengthen our family ties and bonds, and looking for ways to gain inner strength for the upcoming week out in the world. We do this by indulging in fasting or prayer, study of sacred things, reading good books, listening to good music, visiting the sick, caring for others, and all those other things that will uplift us and bring us closer to our family and to God.

5.  How we approach the Sabbath day makes all the difference in the world. Normally we don’t think of helping someone roof their house as an appropriate Sunday activity, but it can be. We have been sent home from church by our Bishop on more than one occasion to help everyone in the ward shovel the heavy snow from everyone’s roofs. We had a couple of houses where the weight was threatening to collapse their homes. We spent the day sweating in the freezing cold shoveling other people’s rooftops. It was a glorious activity that brought the whole neighborhood closer together, LDS and those of other faiths alike.

It is important to remember that the Lord during His mortal ministry always met people where they were spiritually then lifted them higher. We can do the same thing as we seek to serve as the Savior did. Remember the requirement for being appropriate for the Sabbath is if it is wholesome and will help you find the Spirit. That can happen in many ways.

6.  One of the most important things we can do on Sunday is to participate in the ordinance of the Sacrament. The sacrament is the most often renewed covenant we have. Under normal circumstances we don’t go more than seven days without revisiting this covenant to check to see where we are in terms of our obedience and commitment to keeping the most basic promises we made to the Lord at the time of our baptism.

As a reminder, I will say just a few words about the two emblems or symbols used in the ordinance, the bread and the water. The bread represents the body of Christ. It was through Christ’s body that he suffered physically for the sins of the world. It was because He offered Himself up to die as a sacrifice to ransom all of us from eternal estrangement from God that He was able to resurrect himself and can now offer us eternal life with a resurrected body. We owe Him a lot just for this part.

The blood of Christ, represented by the water we drink, represents the spiritual payment of eternal law for our sins. The suffering He endured because of the payment He was required to make was so great that it caused Him, God, to bleed at every pore great drops of blood. It was because of His willingness to shed that blood on our behalf that we are able to be cleansed from sin when we repent.

It is not possible to over emphasize the importance of the sacrament in our lives. We truly need to remember from minute to minute Christ’s sacrifice that saved us from eternal banishment from our Father in Heaven. Making sure we are in sacrament meeting and participating in that ordinance is very important. Attending sacrament meeting is a commandment if we want to be forgiven of our sins.

7.  It is important to remember that we are each in control of our attitude about the Lord’s day of rest. We all live under slightly different conditions. Some don’t have control over how the family spends their time on Sunday. Others are alone, with very little outside support. Sometimes it is you in an apartment with roommates. Others have multigenerational homes where they can call the shots for most everything. What is important is that Sunday observance, Sabbath observance begins as a personal endeavor.

Learning to properly observe the requirements of the day, and to actually make it holy and sacred to you in your own life will take practice. Each of us has to decide what is worthy of doing on Sundays, and whether or not we feel it brings us closer to the Lord. What we feel is okay to do today may not be acceptable to us five years from now. Start where you are and make a little change, but be aware that you are making a change and that you are doing it with a purpose.

Keeping the Sabbath day holy doesn’t happen by accident. Keeping any day holy requires that we be keenly aware of everything we do on that day. Every activity is mentally weighed in the balance to see if it will accomplish the purposes of that day. If we want to strengthen our own faith, bring our family closer to the Lord, and begin to feel joy in being able to call the Lord’s day a singular delight, it will take a conscious effort on our part. The Lord’s blessings will begin to flow as we make our changes. New changes and possibilities for appropriate ways to be reverent on that day will come to us through the Spirit. Our lives will be greatly blessed.

About the Author:

Kelly is retired and living in Rexburg, Idaho, USA. He currently writes for gospelstudy.us. You can find articles by Kelly on ldsblogs.com, ldsliving.com, and moronichannel.org as well. He has also published multiple works, including Premortal Promises, and Contributions to the Kingdom, both available on Amazon.com.

9 Comments

  1. Heather June 8, 2015 at 2:32 am - Reply

    I think Sunday’s for the LDS community can certainly be a challenge. It is supposed to be a day of rest but for many with callings with endless not always worthwhile meetings, it’s not necessarily a delight.

    I also shake my head that activities with friends that seem to be discouraged are okay if it’s with family. I’ve never understood why you can’t attend a friends birthday party but it’s fine if he is your cousin

    I do question a couple of things in your article. Being nitpicking, I don’t think watering the lawn is any different from doing the dishes. And I don’t know that you have to be inside to observe the Sabbath.

    I’d like to know doctrinally where it says that you must take the Sacrament to be forgiven. Not trying to be argumentative, but there are plenty of examples even in the scriptures where that’s not the case. Of course, I don’t proclaim to know a lot.

    Thanks for your words

    • Kelly Merrill June 8, 2015 at 3:42 am - Reply

      Heather,
      You make some good points. I agree with you that there seems to be a discrepancy in activities between friends and family. I think the point to look for is what is it in the activity, whether with family or friends, that invites the Spirit in what we do. How does each of our activities promote the Lord’s agenda on this one day. If doing dishes seems counter to that end, then perhaps this one day of the week paper plates could be used. The one thing we should avoid like the plague is becoming pharisaic about our activities.

      With regards to taking the sacrament and being forgiven of our sins, I don’t think there is necessarily a one-to-one correspondence. I don’t believe that if I take the sacrament today I will automatically be forgiven of something, but if I miss taking it next week I won’t be forgiven. But it is a commandment to be in attendance at sacrament meeting, and we are commanded to regularly take the sacrament. If we choose, for whatever reason, to voluntarily skip the obedience to that commandment then I have difficulty seeing how we can possibly be forgiven of the sins we seek to eradicate. Taking the sacrament is very important to the Lord precisely because it is so important to our salvation that we take it to keep us in remembrance of His sacrifice. I just don’t see how we can continue to be forgiven of our sins if we don’t make the effort to go to church to take the sacrament.

      I hope this helps. Thanks for the comments, they are great!
      Kelly

  2. im the mome June 8, 2015 at 1:46 pm - Reply

    I always ask my family if what they want to do on Sunday- “How is it building the kingdom of God?” sometimes they come up with good answers and sometimes not. a good answer gets them the activity on Sunday. a bad answer equals a no on Sunday. As to doing the dishes on Sunday- It goes to the part of feeding the animals or brushing your teeth or hair. Some things just have to be done on Sunday. But if you want to wait till Monday to do your dishes- go for it. But I still think you should brush your teeth on Sunday. It really is a personal law. When going to a friends it is a question of are you there to have fun or to support. When we go to our family are we there to have fun or to support. Living the law gives us a personal testimony of the law. I love this because it helps us to be sensitive to the spirit and to not judge others. I also really like your example of shoveling snow on Sunday. Getting the ox out of the mire. our sprinklers come on some Sundays such as putting in new grass. but others it is not appropriate when we can do it another time. We want to limit our work to the minimum so we can focus on the building the kingdom.

    • Kelly Merrill June 9, 2015 at 6:05 pm - Reply

      I heartily agree with you. The holiness of the Sabbath day is all based in our attitudes toward our activities and our reflections of the day. We can do the same activity and have it be to our blessing and benefit, but with the wrong attitude it is done to our hurt and detriment. I like your question about how the activity qualities. Thanks!

  3. im the mome June 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    quoting Oct 2001 James E. Faust: “The Atonement and the Resurrection accomplish many things. The Atonement cleanses us of sin on condition of our repentance. Repentance is the condition on which mercy is extended. 25 After all we can do to pay to the uttermost farthing and make right our wrongs, the Savior’s grace is activated in our lives through the Atonement, which purifies us and can perfect us. 26 Christ’s Resurrection overcame death and gave us the assurance of life after death. Said He: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” 27 The Resurrection is unconditional and applies to all who have ever lived and ever will live. 28 It is a free gift.” ———–Sooooo I take from that- that the atonement and repentance or forgiveness are different but intertwined. We must have both. So we can be forgiven but we must also use the atonement. one is our step toward Him and one is his step toward us. He forgives us as we repent and we use the atonement by taking the sacrament.

  4. Malcolm Massie July 18, 2015 at 6:24 am - Reply

    I think we should make Sabbath observance on Saturday so we can prepare for our lessons beforehand, and ponder the meaning of the Sacrament more fully before partaking.

    • Kelly Merrill July 18, 2015 at 8:06 am - Reply

      I think you make a good point that we need to be thinking of how we stand before God well in advance of actually sitting down to eat the bread and drink the water. Being aware of where we are in our covenant keeping is something that should be happening on an ongoing basis.
      Thanks for the great comment.

  5. Malcolm Massie July 18, 2015 at 9:44 am - Reply

    Dear Brother Kelly,
    With regard to your article on keeping the Sabbath holy, one of our sister missionaries just gave a talk in Sacrament that they had been directed to speak by the First Presidency on the importance of this topic. However, I find it more useful to read your comments religiously (play on words is deliberate) on Saturday in preparation for the Sabbath – something to pray & ponder in preparation for Sunday. THANK YOU!! God bless you for your efforts.
    Sincerely & Respectfully,
    Malcolm Massie,
    Cobourg Ward (Joseph Terry, bishop),
    Oshawa Ontario Stake (David LaFrance, President)

    • Kelly Merrill July 20, 2015 at 4:31 pm - Reply

      Bro. Massie,
      I am on the High Council and we were instructed to speak on the subject of keeping the Sabbath holy as well. The Brethren can see that if we, as a Church will learn to better keep the Sabbath day, we will be better prepared for what is to come. I haven’t seen a push like this since they tried to get us all prepared by encouraging us to put money and food aside for a time of need. I am glad to be of some small help in your gospel studies.
      Kelly

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