Sunday mornings in our home are sometimes bittersweet. My children jump out of bed, invigorated with the prospect of a full day with no piano practice, no homework, no chores and no yard work. But with the sweet relief of day-to-day labors for my children comes a slight letdown; Sunday is the Sabbath. Today we will dress in our best clothes. Today we will attend church, take the sacrament and remember to be reverent. Today we will focus all our activities towards drawing closer to Jesus Christ.
It’s not the same for adults. But it’s a tough compromise when you’re young. And there are occasional Sundays where my kids would rather struggle through piano practice than try to sit quietly through church meetings.
We are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as Mormons) and we believe in the Sabbath. We believe the Sabbath to be an eternal principle, “existing all the way back to the time of Adam, whenever the gospel was on the earth among men…. The importance of a sacred day for man to rest from his temporal labors, contemplate the world of the Lord and assemble for public worship is a major item in a person’s spiritual development.” (LDS Bible Dictionary, Sabbath.)
There are various ways in which Latter-day Saints celebrate the Sabbath. And there are generally no hard-set rules with regards to activities except the necessary attendance and worshiping at church and the avoidance of business and shopping. President Spencer W. Kimball, a previous prophet of the LDS Church has remarked on the observance of the Sabbath;
“The Sabbath is a day on which to take inventory—to analyze our weaknesses, to confess our sins to our associates and our Lord. It is a day on which to fast in ‘sackcloth and ashes.’ It is a day on which to read good books, a day to contemplate and ponder, … a day to study the scriptures and to prepare sermons, a day to nap and rest and relax, a day to visit the sick, a day to preach the gospel, a day to proselyte, a day to visit quietly with the family and get acquainted with our children, a day for proper courting, a day to do good, a day to drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, a day to seek forgiveness of our sins, a day for the enrichment of our spirit and our soul, a day to restore us to our spiritual stature, a day to partake of the emblems of his sacrifice and atonement, a day to contemplate the glories of the gospel and of the eternal realms, a day to climb high on the upward path toward our Heavenly Father” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball , 216).
When I was in college, I decided to honor the Sabbath better by refraining from homework on Sunday. I wanted to set aside more time for building my relationship with God and family. My experiment began in the fall semester of my sophomore year – a semester where I was taking a burdensome course load, full of statistics, French, economics, Honors English and more. I desperately needed all the time I could have for study, and still, I decided to put my experiment to the test and complete all my necessary homework on Saturday and early Monday morning. That semester I received my highest marks I had ever achieved in schooling. And I found myself looking forward to Sunday. Here was my day to put all those worries aside and focus on the spiritual side of my life. The experiment went so well, I continued the practice through the rest of my undergraduate degree and into my graduate years.
As a parent, the Sabbath has come to mean something much more elemental and necessary in raising my four children. I cheer the opportunities we set aside on that day to worship our Heavenly Father and talk about the Gospel. We visit family, take walks, play games together, work on family history and spend more moments contemplating the sacred than we normally have the chance to get to during our usual hectic week.
For any believer of the bible, honoring the Sabbath holds tremendous meaning and blessing. In Leviticus it states;
“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. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. … For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you” (Lev. 26:2–6, 9).
What amazing promise! The promise of enough food, rain and above all, peace, seem to be just as necessary and desired today as they were for the Israelites in the Old Testament. I imagine a more peaceful, family-focused, better society if individuals would place greater meaning on the Sabbath.
At their age, my children don’t fully understand the peace and rejuvenating feelings that come through the Sabbath. I didn’t really grasp the concept until I was a bit older. And I suspect it will be the same for them. The important point is that they are living the practice with their parents now and will come to recognize the feelings as they grow.
I am grateful for the Sabbath observances in my home. They strengthen my family and bring us closer to Jesus Christ. It is reassuring to know and look forward to that one day of the week where one “contemplates quiet tranquility, peace of mind and spirit.” (215).