Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How Holy is the Sabbath Day?

Originally posted October 19, 2009

I am really proud of my husband.

He spent all of last semester working on a design competition with several other students at his University. The project wasn't for any of his classes, it was something he took on in addition to his regular school work and his graduate research. He and his teammates worked really hard on their project and as a result they won the State design competition and got to go to Florida to compete in the National competition--- all expenses paid. He was thrilled.

A few months later I checked "Chariots of Fire" out from the library and Jon and I watched it one Friday evening. The movie is about Eric Liddell, the "Flying Scotsman", who refused to run the 100 meter dash (the one everyone thought he would win) in the 1924 Paris Olympics because it was scheduled on Sunday. Liddell was a committed Christian and refused to run on the Sabbath despite the pressure he got to do so. Instead he ran the 400 meter, one of his worst events. Right before he ran it one of his American competitors came up and put a paper in his hand with 1 Samuel 2:30 on it which said, "Those who honor me, I will honor". He ran with that paper in his hand and... well... I won't ruin the ending for you.

This story really impressed Jon and I and made us re-evaluate our dedication to our own beliefs and faith. Would we have been able to do what Liddell did?

Then just a few days after we watched the movie, Jon was looking up the schedule for the conference he was going to attend to find out when he would be presenting his design... it was scheduled for Sunday.

He turned to me and said, "Heather, I can't do it. I really can't present on Sunday."

Me, being the supportive and righteous wife that I am, said, "Well, why not! God won't mind this one time. You've worked so hard and you deserve to do this."

But he stuck to what he felt was right. He told his teammates (all of them are also Mormons) that he couldn't present on Sunday. They were understanding and said that they would present for him. But they felt that since he had put so much work in to it that he still deserved to attend the conference. So we went to Florida and he didn't present on Sunday, instead we went to visit his aunt and uncle. I kept hoping that maybe because he had made such a big sacrifice that God would bless his team and they would win.... didn't happen... but they still did a really good job. Later Jon had the opportunity to meet the president of the organization and told her that next year they shouldn't have the student competitions on Sunday. She said she'd think about it.

I really admire my husband's decision to keep the Sabbath day holy because, if the truth be known, if I had been in his position... I would have presented on Sunday.

It makes me feel sort of bad to admit this, but I probably would not have given the fact that the presentation was on Sunday a second thought. I would have easily justified it... I'm on vacation... I've worked so hard... It isn't that big of a deal... God won't mind this one time... Everyone else is going to do it and they are Mormons too.

But watching my husband stand his ground, especially when all the others on his team were of the same faith, really made me re-evaluate my feeling about the Sabbath day.

Do I really understand why God ask us to keep the Sabbath day holy?

How "holy" does he expect us to keep it? Is it up for personal interpretation?

How do you stand up for what is right, when everyone else is of the same faith as you, without sounding "self righteous"?

These are the questions that have been floating around in my mind, and I am still searching for answers.

What do you think? Would you have presented?


  1. I don't have any real answers to your questions, but I would highly recommend reading The Holy Secret by James L. Ferrell. I think it will help you answer a lot of those questions for yourself.

    Also, good for John! But from what I remember of him (I used to work with him at BYU), this doesn't surprise me one bit. :)

  2. ((HUGS))

    Keeping the Sabbath Day holy is one of those principles that I'm continually learning more about as life goes on. I think your husband made a great choice, yet I also understand how you feel had you been the one in his place. I would not have presented, but many I know would have and honestly I do my best to trust others have prayed over their decisions and leave it between them and God.

    In a related vein - Christmas is on Sunday this year. Will that change the way your family celebrates in any way? I know we're still deciding what we'll do. We already don't 'do' Santa (or Halloween or the Easter Bunny) as his story, while nice, detracts from the real meaning of Christmas. I am thinking that we may do gifts the day before becuase we will be having Sacrament meeting on Sunday/Christmas day and I don't want the kids to be distracted by new toys at home. We'll see...

    Now I need to find that movie, it sounds like a neat one to watch!

  3. There are commandments that are difficult to keep like having charity in all situations. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is a bit easier. It's sort of like a Law of Moses commandment. Doing and sticking to it commandments are soooo much easier than character commandments. So I wouldn't have had any trouble with it at all. BTW-I watched that movie in the theater years ago and it is one of the reasons I feel the way I do about the Sabbath. I may just have to buy that movie for my library. It's outstanding.

  4. I have not been a very good Sabbath keeper my entire life - in fact, my college years, and subsequent married years were some of the worst times - sure, we never went to the store or to the pool or sporting events on the sabbath, but we were still really lame sabbath-keepers.

    What kind of changed it all for me was Elder Perry's talk at April General Conference (The Sabbath and the Sacrament). I felt really prompted that day as I listened to that address that we needed to study the sabbath day as a family and sit down and evaluate the way our family observed the sabbath, and the things we maybe should change.

    I have been writing about all the things we have been learning in a five part series about the Sabbath - I have one more piece to write, but I have found a lot of really good information from the prophets about the Sabbath - including President Kimball's talk from the 80's called The Sabbath - a Delight.

    As we have been striving harder to keep the Sabbath day holy (and really understand what that means) we have really felt a greater measure of the spirit in our homes - especially on the Sabbath, but it carries over through the whole week when we properly observe the Sabbath.

    I admire your husband's courage to do what is right, even if it might mean missing out on something right now. Heavenly Father will surely bless him - maybe not by him winning the competition, but there will be blessings, I'm sure of it :)

  5. Initially I wouldn't present, but pressure from fellow Mormons would likely sway my decision. I'm not very good at standing up for what I believe, but I'm striving to do better in this regard.

    I struggle with the Sabbath. I try to keep it holy but this is one of those commandments I don't quite 'get' yet. And by 'get' I mean it doesn't fill me with joy the way fasting does, or reading the scriptures. One day I'll get that lightbulb moment just like I did with fasting, but right now I don't have much to add...

  6. Even church employees work on Sunday. A good friend has worked on the security detail for decades. I don't think that simply "not working" is enough to make it a holy day.

    As others have commented, we can be at home, not shopping and no TV and still not keep the Sabbath day holy.

    That said, I probably wouldn't have presented since it's not part of a job requirement. I do believe we are blessed we we live as close to the light that the Lord gives us.

  7. Tristan,

    I hadn't really thought about changing our Christmas because it was on Sunday. That is certainly something to think about.

    Amy, I think you are right that just not working on the Sabbath make it holy. It is really about your mindset and heart. This post was written two years ago but I was thinking about it because my husband just got back from another conference a few days ago. This time though he asked AHEAD of time not to be scheduled on Sunday and they were more than happy to oblige. Also, it opened up some really good missionary opportunities for him because he was in China and so they knew he was Christian because he had requested not to present on Sunday. He still attended the conference on Sunday though (going to a Christian Church wasn't an option) but he wore his church clothes the whole time and limited his activities. I think that there are times when we do have to "work" on Sunday but that we can still keep the spirit of the Sabbath in our hearts by doing things to make it different from other days.

  8. Elder Mark E Peterson (apostle to Spencer W Kimball) gave this really thought provoking talk in Gen Conf 1975.

    Sabbath observance is deeply connected with our conversion and the state of our heart (in the "change of heart" sense). As we are attuned to the Spirit, we can feel and know what we personally need to do (or not do)to sanctify this day.

  9. Like your husband, I would have been determined to not present on the Sabbath. But I was raised in a family that took it very seriously. If the activity takes our focus away from the Savior or from family, then we will not do it. Even family togetherness must meet certain criteria in order for me to feel it's okay for the Lord's Day. Of all the time we are given to do our own things and focus on our daily duties, one day a week to rest from our labors and focus on things of an uplifting nature really isn't that huge of a sacrifice. It's a way to show the Lord (and ourselves) that we are willing to let Him be our first priority, at least for that day. I love the Sabbath. I love that all music/tv enjoyed is uplifting, that I don't have to stress about my home, and that I can take time to be with those I love most.

    We will be doing a few things different this year. We'll still hold a big family dinner (but get all prepwork done ahead of time) and I think I will let my children play with their new toys, though we will open them on Saturday (or maybe Monday...the Babe received his gifts some time after his brith anyway). I need to talk that over with my sweetheart.

  10. I found the comment separating out Sabbath from 'character' commandments interesting. I'm not at all convinced that keeping the Sabbath isn't part of what it means to develop Christlike attributes. I'm not sure you can separate them out too easily. I think it's all intertwined. Sure, you can make a 'list' about Sabbath day dos and don'ts, but I think the spirit of the law of the Sabbath really is more about our hearts than about a checklist.

  11. I would not have presented on Sunday. It has been a process, though, getting to this point. My husband and I used to go to the store on Sunday, or go out to eat after church. We don't do those things any more, but I know there are still many ways we can do better at keeping the Sabbath day holy.

    Recently, my 9 year old daughter was invited to a birthday campout with her friend's family that was on a Saturday night. We allowed her to make her own decision, but guided her in what we thought the right decision would be. She decided to decline the campout because she didn't think it would be an appropriate Sabbath day activity. We were proud of her, and the friend's family were impressed with her decision. They arranged with us for her to spend Saturday only at the campsite with them so that she could still have some fun with her friend.
    When we went to pick her up on Saturday evening, we saw some friends from the ward camping at the campground--the old bishop and the current ward clerk and their wives. They were staying through Sunday, and even mentioned needing to run into town to buy charcoal on Sunday morning.

    Sorry for such a long comment, but I guess my point is just that people are at different levels of understanding and commitment. I think it's great that your husband made the choice he did.