Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
by Jay and Victoria Gunther
My name is Vickie Gunther. As
parents raising ten children, my husband, Jay, and I have worked really hard at (and
struggled with!) being able to have the Sabbath be a holy day in our home. With a family
our size, that's not always easy. Of course, if you have any children you already
knew that! Even on your own, keeping the Sabbath day holy can be challenging.
With our main Sunday meetings scheduled together in one
block of time and with the directive to reduce and simplify our other Sunday meetings,
most of us have many hours on the Sabbath that are spent outside of church meetings. How can we appropriately spend that time? Here are a few guidelines that we use in
conducting our Sabbath days.
1. Sunday is a day for the family to devote to worship and
We try to have all of our Sunday activities basically fall under one of
those categories. By service, we don't mean the "mow somebody's lawn" kind of
service. It's more the "visit someone in the hospital, write to the missionaries,
take cookies to the new member" kind of service.
"We urge all Latter-day Saints to set this holy day apart from activities of the
world and consecrate themselves by entering into a spirit of worship, thanksgiving,
service, and family-centered activities appropriate to the Sabbath. As Church members
endeavor to make their Sabbath activities compatible with the intent and Spirit of the
Lord, their lives will be filled with joy and peace." (First Presidency Message,
2. The Sabbath is a day of rest.
This doesn't mean to us that Sunday is a day to lounge
around all day "resting". We feel that it is a day to rest from the things of
the world and our wordly labors.
"Sweet is the day of sacred rest. No mortal care
shall seize my breast..." (Hymn # 147)
It is also a day to more fully enter into His rest.
Moroni 7:3 -- "Wherefore, I would speak unto you
that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained
a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time
henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven." D&C 84:24 -- "...which
rest is the fulness of his glory."
"True, Sunday is a day of rest, a change from the ordinary occupations of the week,
but it is more than that. It is a day of worship, a day in which the spiritual life of man
may be enriched. A day of indolence, a day of physical recuperation is too often a very
different thing from the God-ordained day of rest. Physical exhaustion and indolence are
incompatible with a spirit of worship. A proper observance of the duties and devotions of
the Sabbath day will, by its change and its spiritual life, give the best rest that men
can enjoy on the Sabbath day." (President Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine)
President Spencer W. Kimball made these comments:
"The Sabbath is not a day for indolent lounging about
the house or puttering around in the garden, but 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.
"The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from
work and recreation is important, but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive
thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is
breaking it. To observe it, 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." (President Spencer W. Kimball, First Presidency
Message, January 1978)
3. The Sabbath is to be spent, for the most part, with the family.
Instead of scattering in a dozen different directions at
friends' homes, and at this and that activity, the Sabbath should primarily be a day that
is spent together as a family. Elder Clayton of the Seventy recently said the following:
"The 1980 letter from the First Presidency about
the block schedule of Sunday meetings, made it clear that one of the main purposes of the
new schedule was to give families more time to be together. This is time that can be spent
in studying the scriptures and in activities which strengthen the home.
"This places a greater responsibility on the family. Sundays should be carefully
planned and carried out so that families can experience greater spiritual growth.
Appropriate activities are ones which would strengthen family ties, bless the sick, and
encourage participation in such things as service, journal writing, supporting and
encouraging missionary work, and so on.
"Sunday is a family day. Protect it as such at all costs." (Redlands, California
Stake Conference, April 1998)
There are, however, many family activities that may not
be appropriate on Sunday. In our home, television watching is one of these, unless it is a
church video, something along the lines of an animated scriptures videotape for the
younger children, or other uplifting gospel-related program. President Hinckley recently
"It is beneath the dignity of the Latter-day Saints to watch TV on the Sabbath day,
especially sports." (1998 meeting in the Salt Lake Temple with the General
Authorities, per Elder Clayton)
We also do not shop, participate in recreational activities, attend
parties, and play or watch sports, as these are all activities that we have been counseled
to not be involved in, during recent General Conferences.
I like this illustration used by Clifford E. Young years ago in General Conference:
"I had the privilege of attending a sacrament meeting
in this city during the summer vacation. To attend this meeting I came up from my home in
Utah County with my daughter, and as we were riding along Sunday afternoon we passed a
ball park. Two games were being played, one in one end and the other in the other end of
the park, and there were hundreds of people there and a large number of boys and girls
witnessing these games. My daughter remarked: 'Dad, just what harm is there to these boys
and girls in watching this sport? Isn't there a rather wholesome influence about it?
They're doing no harm here Sunday afternoon; aren't they better here than they would be
some other places?' I was rather challenged. These questions are always a challenge. I
didn't say anything. We rode along. We had a lovely meeting. The spirit of it was so
impressive; it was reflected in the music, the administering of the sacrament as it should
be, and in very deed we were made to feel that we were remembering the Lord, that we were
renewing our covenants, taking upon ourselves again his holy name, being made to feel that
he is near, and when the meeting was over, we felt that we wanted to keep his
"After meeting, we rode home. My daughter's reaction was heartening, 'Dad,' she said,
'I know the answer now. I know the harm. I know the danger. If this thing is permitted to
go on, boys and girls will lose their desire for the lovely thing that we have had
tonight, and something will be taken out of their lives that they can't recover.' She
continued, 'If men and women and boys and girls could just realize what it means to be
spiritually fed on the Sabbath day, many of our problems of keeping this day holy would be
solved.'" Clifford E. Young, October 1948 General Conference
4. The Sabbath is a spiritual gauge of our desire to be God's people.
One of our favorite mentors, John Lund, instructs that the
way we keep the Sabbath day holy (or not) is a fairly good indicator of our level of
spirituality and closeness to the Savior. There are blessings associated with the sacred
observance of the Sabbath day which impact on all areas of our lives.
"There is power in keeping the Sabbath day
holypower to help others as well as ourselves. If we would have God's blessings and
protection as individuals, as families, as communities and as nations, we must keep His
Sabbath day holy." (Elder John H. Groberg, October 1984 General Conference)
Observing the Sabbath signifies that we are God's people. It was chosen to be the sign of
the covenant that exists between the Lord and his chosen people.
Exodus 31:12-13 -- "And the LORD spake unto Moses,
saying, Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, 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."
"...Recognition of a sacred Sabbath signifies the perpetual covenant existing between
the Lord and His true followers. But if the sign of the covenant disappears, does the
covenant itself cease to exist? Can we afford to be deprived of this covenant? Can we
count the cost of such a loss?" (Elder Mark E. Peterson, The Way to Peace)
5. The example set in the home by how parents honor the Sabbath will
do more to teach children than any other instruction or influence.
We all know that our children watch us and don't miss much.
They hear talks in sacrament meeting, General Conference, Primary, Sunday School or
seminary about how we should observe the Sabbath. When they then see us doing something
else, it sends a powerful message, whether we want it to or not. That message is:
"The gospel is just something we talk about. It has to do with 'church', but not much
do to with how we really act in our home or in our lives."
Is that the message you want your children to learn? What about when what they've been
taught about and talked to about honesty or chastity or some other critical aspect of the
gospel becomes "something we just talk about at church" in their minds?
President Thomas S. Monson shared this story about the
power of parental example in honoring the Sabbath as a holy day of rest:
"The son of (the late) H. Verlan Andersen related that years earlier, he had a
special school date on a Saturday night. He borrowed from his father the family car. As he
obtained the car keys and headed for the door, his father said, 'The car will need more
gas before tomorrow. Be sure to fill the tank before coming home.'
"Elder Andersen's son then related that the evening activity was wonderful. Friends
met, refreshments were served, and all had a good time. In his exuberance, however, he
failed to follow his father's instruction and add fuel to the car's tank before returning
"Sunday morning dawned. Elder Andersen discovered the gas gauge showed empty. The son
saw his father put the car keys on the table. In the Andersen family the Sabbath day was a
day for worship and thanksgiving, and not for purchases.
"Elder Andersen's son declared, 'I saw my father put on his coat, bid us good-bye,
and walk the long distance to the chapel, that he might attend an early meeting. No son
ever was taught more effectively by his father than I was on that occasion. My father not
only knew the truth, but he also lived it.' " President Thomas S. Monson, October
1996 General Conference
We hope that understanding how the Lord feels about this holy day, along with possibly
implementing some of the ideas on the next page, will help us all in showing our desire to
be his people, plus set an example for our children, by more fully observing a sacred