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.