When I was a little girl 7 years old, a girlfriend invited me to see a movie at a theater with her family - on Sunday. I don't remember who the friend was, or what the show was. But I do remember talking to my mother about the invitation. What should I tell my friend?
"All I can tell you is what Heavenly Father has told us," my mother said. "The Sabbath is not like the other days of the week. It's His day. It's a day to go to Church and to show our love to Him and others. He wants us to keep it holy."I understood what she was explaining. And then she taught me about choice and accountability.
"But it's your decision whether to go or not. You know what the Lord has told us about Sunday," she said. "You decide what you should do."
Do you want to know what I did? I think you can guess. Even though I was only in the second grade, and was far from being the perfect little girl, I wanted to do what the Lord asked. And I remember a warm feeling welling up within me, because my mother trusted me to make the decision.
The principle of keeping the Sabbath day holy has been with us since the creation of the world, when God rested from all His work on the seventh day. "And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." (Gen. 2:3.) He designated it a sacred day, dedicated to the worship of God, setting a pattern for all of humanity to follow.
Some of us follow it better than others. So many distractions call to us, activities that would keep us from devoting the Sabbath to worship. But despite the actions of some, it is a holy day, one which we are commanded by God to keep holy. A commandment is not simply advice or counsel. It is a direct imperative from God, which needs to be taken very seriously.
Along with the commandment, Heavenly Father has also given us the gift of agency, to make our own decisions about exactly how we're going to keep the Sabbath holy. It's obvious that some activities are inappropriate, like going water skiing or snow skiing, cleaning the garage or washing the car, or attending a concert or going to an amusement park.
But some people have legitimate questions about what is appropriate for that day. By giving us principles instead of spelling out every "do" or "don't" to us, Heavenly Father gives us the opportunity to draw closer to the Spirit and find out what's appropriate if we aren't sure. Our decision-making process can become a teaching moment with the Spirit, as we offer our hearts to keep the Sabbath holy in full measure. Listening to the Spirit is essential.
One group of teens decided that they wanted to dress in shorts and go hiking in the mountains after their Church meetings. They would take their scriptures with them, they said, so it would be an "appropriate" Sunday activity.
What they didn't ask was if it were a reverent way of honoring the Sabbath. Or if their attire was in keeping with the spirit of the Lord's honored day. Or if they were really in a situation to have the spirit of the Lord to be with them. Or if their example would have a positive impact on younger people who looked up to them.
There are many activities that would pull us away from the Spirit on Sunday. It's a good general rule to stay away from activities that you aren't quite sure are appropriate for the Sabbath.
To many people, the Sabbath has become a day like any other day of the week. For some it's a day to make money, even though the money is not for family finances or other necessities. To others, it's a day to spend money. What they don't realize is that these behaviors deprive them of Sabbath blessings that could be a part of their lives.
"The Lord has given the Sabbath day for your benefit," we're told by the First Presidency in the pamphlet, "For the Strength of Youth." Even though we're honoring the Sabbath day and the Lord, it's for our benefit.
How does it benefit us? Through many ways.
By honoring the Sabbath, we also take time from our often very busy schedules to slow down and think about what's really important. These may be things such as the Savior, our love for Him, and His sacrifice for us. The sacrament provides this opportunity for us on a regular basis. It gives us the opportunity to think about what it means to be willing to take His name upon us, and to promise to always remember Him, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. The Sabbath gives us time to draw close to Him in many other ways, too, whether through music, or reflecting on our lives and blessings and writing about it in our journals, or doing His work through visiting and helping others.
When you show your love to the Lord by honoring His commandments, you find a peace, even in the midst of outward turmoil. Most of us can use that kind of spiritual refreshment. By obeying God's commandments, we are in a sense joining "His team." We are becoming His workers, yet paradoxically we find rest and inner peace. "Take my yoke upon you . . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matt. 11:29.)
The Sabbath provides us with an opportunity to spend time with our families, a feat that seems more and more difficult these days. I have wonderful memories of spending time with my parents and brothers and sisters on Sundays, doing things that built family relationships and brought us all closer together.
It also gives us time to help other people. How many of us have the desire to help others, but just don't seem to have time for it? My father is a doctor, and I remember him taking our family to visit some of his elderly patients in their homes on Sunday. He taught us some wonderful gospel principles about caring and service through his actions.
As we keep the Sabbath holy, we are showered with many blessings. That's what happens when we keep the Lord's commandments.
What are some of the principles about the Sabbath that we learn in "For the Strength of Youth"? (pp. 16, 17.) Here are just a few.
Sunday dress: "Your dress before and after meetings should reflect your respect for the Sabbath."
Working on the Sabbath: "When seeking a job, you may wish to share with your potential employer your desire to attend your Sunday meetings and keep the Sabbath holy. Many employers value employees with these personal convictions. Try to choose a job that doesn't require you to work on Sunday."
Appropriate Activities: "Many activities are appropriate for the Sabbath; however, it is not a holiday. You should avoid seeking entertainment or spending money on this day."
Keeping the Sabbath holy is not so much an act as an attitude. The Lord tells us "Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you. . . . " (D&C 88:63.) That process of drawing near to the Lord, of worshipping Him on this day, of offering your heart and mind to Him will bless your life. It is a kind of sanctifying of our lives, turning them over to the Lord so He can make us clean.
"Therefore, sanctify yourselves that your minds become single to God, and the days will come that you shall see him. . . . " (D&C 88:68.)
May we reverence the Lord by keeping His Sabbath day holy, and be grateful for the blessings that come from keeping that commandment.
About the author\ Kathleen Lubeck, a member of the Young Women General Board, was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works as director of National Media Placement in the Church's Public Affairs Department. A member of the Westwood 1st Ward, Los Angeles California Stake, Sister Lubeck has served as a Sunday School teacher, Relief Society teacher, and served on the General Activities Committee. She has also served on several Utah state commissions. Writing under her professional name, Sister Lubeck has written articles for many magazines and newspapers. She is married to Dr. John L. Peterson of Los Angeles, Calif.