Observing the Sabbath day with greater purpose has been the focus this year of Church leaders in local and leadership training meetings around the world.
President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles set the tone in his address in general conference last April. “What did the Savior mean when He said that ‘the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath’?” President Nelson asked in his sermon. “I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief.”
In addition to taking part in worship services, he discussed ways in which Sabbath observance can lead to joy and rejoicing, including strengthening family ties, teaching one another the doctrine of the kingdom, engaging in family history work, and rendering service to others.
Consistent with the emphasis on Sabbath day observance, the Church News has asked readers to submit personal accounts of how they have found joy in observing the Sabbath. Here are some responses that have been received so far.
Elaine Chandler of Weiser, Idaho, teaches the class of 9-year-olds in Primary. Though they bring their scriptures and are good readers, she had noticed that they were not paying attention in sacrament meeting.
“I thought, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” she said.
“I challenged them to pay attention to the meeting and tell me who had said the prayers, who the speakers were and the title of the closing song. The next week, they all had the answers and received a treat for a reward.
“Then, it became a contest. Soon they all had little notebooks and were writing the information in them — even the priests who said the sacrament prayers, who played the organ and who directed the music. If there was a special musical selection, who performed it. If there was a new missionary announcement or one coming home, they noted that too.
“They had become engaged in our meeting and in getting to know the adults in our ward.”
Soon, the children wanted another challenge, so Sister Chandler gave them each a large index card and had them write down how many times certain words or phrases were used in fast and testimony meeting or in other sacrament meetings.
“It has made me pay more attention too, as I have to know if they are right,” Sister Chandler remarked. “It has really increased my testimony of keeping the Sabbath holy. And it makes me thankful to be teaching such a good group of kids.
“At the first of the year, I was very reluctant to teach Primary again, as I am a widow and I felt a real need to have the companionship of the sisters. But I have received much joy from teaching this class and have really increased my own study of the life of Jesus Christ. I have been blessed by accepting this calling.”
Susan Whetten Udall wrote about her son, Nathan, a competitive swimmer in college who asked his coach to put him “on the B team” so he could observe the Sabbath day.
He is a member of the Tuscon YSA 3rd Ward in the Tuscon Arizona Stake.
While a student at Mesa High School in Arizona, Nathan’s swimming ability stood out. He became co-captain of the swim team, and he attended a regional leadership swimming conference with his coach and other team leaders.
“Prior to leaving for California, where the conference was held, his parents talked with him about what he would do on Sunday, the last day of the conference,” Sister Udall wrote. Nathan had always attended church on Sundays and had never played sports on that day. Options were discussed, including attending church on his own, and the decision was left up to him.
“Nathan wasn’t allowed to leave the conference, but he didn’t get in the pool on the Sabbath. Instead, he read the Book of Mormon while other team captains (and his co-captain) swam with Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps. The Olympian stole glances from time to time at the kid who sat on the deck, and he squinted as he tried to read the title of the book that held the interest of a swimmer who sat poolside on a Sunday instead of training with an Olympian.”
During Nathan’s freshman year of college, a rare tumor was discovered in his right ankle. After 2 1/2 years of treatment, he was given leave to serve a full-time mission for the Church. He served in the Texas Fort Worth Mission, speaking Spanish.
While serving, he was accepted to all of the BYU schools as well as universities in Arizona and Texas. He chose the University of Arizona because of its water polo team.
“He told the coach at tryouts that he wouldn’t play on Sundays because of his religious beliefs,” Sister Udall wrote. “He asked the coach to put him on the “B” team, which wasn’t as highly competitive but would allow him to observe the Sabbath day.
“The players on the team respected his decision not to practice or play on Sundays, and he had many opportunities to share his beliefs with his team members and in a leadership fraternity he joined while attending the University of Arizona. ...
“Nathan feels like his life has been greatly blessed by having great mentors, including coaches, employers, Church and Scout leaders, loyal friends and amazing institute teachers. But the most important discipline he gained was through staying true to his commitments, beginning with the decision as a young man to keep the Sabbath day holy regardless of the situation.”
Alice Brower of Logan, Utah, wrote that she received a testimony of the importance of keeping the Sabbath holy many years ago while attending college in Maine.
Toward the end of her sophomore year, she joined the Church near Albany, New York, her hometown, and while at college attended a small branch of the Church in Auburn, Maine, she attended Church while at home.
“Sometime during the day each Saturday, I would pile my books and study materials on the corner of my desk and not touch them until Monday,” she recounted.
“I very much enjoyed attending the Church meetings in both places. Many of the people in both branches were new converts, and there were fine members from the West also, especially in Albany. The Spirit was strong — I loved it. In the Auburn Branch, an older couple would often invite me to dinner after the services, and that was extra special.”
To get from her college town of Lewiston to Auburn each Sunday, she would have to cross the Androscoggin River.
“It was very polluted, at the time, and it smelled terrible,” she wrote.
In the winter the bridge was icy, and she had to hold tightly to the railing to keep from falling.
“I compared it to walking through the dark and dreary waste holding on to the iron rod.”
At the end of her college career, Sister Brower compared her grade points for the first two years with those of the second two years. They were exactly the same.
“I had not gained a single grade point by keeping the Sabbath day holy for the last two years,” she wrote. “But I had gained something of much more value. I had gained a Sabbath day each week, and the blessings of attending the meetings, of associating with the Saints and not having to study for my college courses for a whole day.”
Alice T. Clark of the Newton Creek Ward in Roseburg, Oregon, wrote of her family’s plan for increasing reverence on the Sabbath day.
“First, in preparing for the Sabbath, we would make sure that our meal plans, our house cleaning, and setting out our Sunday clothes were completed as much as possible on Saturday.
“Second, we would try to do more spiritual things on Sunday, such as listening to good music, visiting friends and neighbors (especially those who have been ill or troubled or absent from Church), inviting people into our home, and having an on-line gospel discussion with our children one Sunday each month.
“Finally, we agreed to be more conscientious about our efforts on the Sabbath to avoid sports activities, including swimming in our pool, shopping, watching movies, or anything that detracted from the Spirit in our home.”
The family posted their commitments on the refrigerator and left home for 10 days. When they returned, they decided it was time to be more active in their resolve.
“We spent several hours after Church visiting ward families who had not been to Church for awhile. We took them produce from our garden, inquired after their concerns and encouraged them to attend their meetings.
“As we returned home, we couldn’t believe the joy and peace we felt in our hearts. We knew immediately that the Lord acknowledged our efforts and blessed us as He promised He would.
“We are now more enthused than ever about keeping all of our new Sunday resolutions, and feeling grateful that we moved out of our comfort zone for these additional blessings.”
Edith Wiggers of Pocatello, Idaho, wrote:
“My parents, Erich and Marta Freter, had a little deli/grocery store in Elmhurst, Queens, N.Y. It was the old-fashioned type of store, where they would get a can or two of items the customers wanted from high up on shelves, with my parents using a long pole with a grabber at the end. They also sold cold cuts and my mother prepared salads.
“Then on Feb. 11, 1965, my father died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 58. All their savings were tied up in the store. There was no life insurance.
“My mother was anxious to sell the store to have access to the money she needed so desperately. She put ads into the local newspapers, hoping for a buyer. The store was closed, but she would go there every weekday and every Sunday, hoping a buyer would come, in response to her ad. She waited week after week for a buyer to appear, but apparently no one was interested in buying the store. She was getting desperate because of her financial situation.
“My husband, Gene, counseled her that in order to obtain the desired blessings, she needed to keep the Sabbath day holy and Heavenly Father would do His part to provide the blessings she needed. She followed his counsel. Instead of spending the Sabbath at the store, she came to Church with us for the first time in a long time. That Monday morning, there was a phone call from an interested buyer. The store was sold.
“We have often told this to our grandchildren and others to help them understand that prayers are answered when we obey Heavenly Father and keep the Sabbath day holy.”
President Paul D. Parkinson of the Mount Logan Utah Stake submitted the following account:
“Upon receiving the counsel to more fully observe the Sabbath, our stake council met and discussed how we might properly allow families and individuals to make the Sabbath a delight. One thing we all agreed upon was that there are too many meetings being held on the Sabbath, many of which can be held during the three-hour block and some during the regular weekly mutual night. Some do not need to be held at all.
“With a sustaining vote by the bishoprics in our stake, as well as the members of the stake council, we implemented a moratorium on Sunday evening meetings in our stake. We now ask families and individuals to not hold any meetings on Sunday evenings. Being on Utah’s Wasatch Front with such proximity to meetinghouses, we tend to fill Sundays to the point there is no time for the family.
“We are receiving reports of families spending more time together, Church leaders having more time with their children, and much more ministering taking place. This includes families ministering to individuals who are single parents, widows, etc.
“One family had their father home for the first Sunday evening in many months. They decided to make cookies as a family and deliver them to a recently widowed sister in their ward. Had they been at a Sunday evening Church meeting, they would have been listening rather than doing. And the family would not have been all together.
“We hope to be able to help our stake members realize that one way to make the Sabbath a delight is to eliminate unnecessary Sabbath day meetings. We would never tell the families what to do with this additional time they will now have on Sundays, but we have great faith in the families and individuals in our stake. They will know how to use this time to make the Sabbath a delight.”
Observe the Sabbath
Glenn Shields of the Mesa 30th Ward, Mesa Arizona East Stake, wrote of some counsel given by Bishop Jay Allen of the same ward in sacrament meeting.
“He recounted the events leading up to and including the Last Supper. In conclusion, he asked the Ward members, to more fully observe the Sabbath during the sacrament meeting, to consider our chapel similar to ‘the upper room’ wherein the Savior instituted the sacrament.”