"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

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 service.

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, 1993)

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 said:

"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 commandments.

"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 holy—power 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 home.

"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 Sabbath day.



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