“What We Do with All That Time,” Ensign, June 1981, 7–8
“Mom, dad. Wake up. It’s Sunday,” said seven-year-old Jesse, already dressed in his Sunday clothes. “Hurry up. It’s almost eight o’clock.”
Could I believe my ears? What a change from the way Sundays used to be! We used to wake up, drag around the house in our pajamas a while, then get dressed, eat, hurry to get to church on time, arrive late, come home, eat, and try to fill up the time between Sunday School and sacrament meeting with something constructive and spiritual for all of our children, who range in ages between four months and thirteen years. The task seemed insurmountable as neighborhood children would come to our door and coax our children to come play, or the TV would mysteriously flick on.
But now things are different. What has caused this change of attitude about the Sabbath and given each of our six children enthusiasm for it? Two things: the consolidated meeting schedule and our renewed determination as parents to keep the Sabbath day holy.
We’ve devised the following plan to use our extra hours together on Sunday. It’s what we call our ideal schedule; we’re realistic enough to know that every Sunday won’t go just like this—but many have. The schedule works around the afternoon consolidated meetings, but with slight adjustment it would work for other meeting times as well.
By 8:00 A.M. all the kids are up. Everyone has one hour to get dressed in Sunday clothes and eat breakfast. The older children help the younger ones, I take care of the baby, and dad reviews his family lesson presentation. Bathing and preparing Sunday clothes have to take place on Saturday for this to work.
Then we assemble in the living room, sing a Primary song around the piano, and kneel in family prayer. Dad welcomes everyone to family time and calls on me to review the calendar of upcoming events. By planning the week’s activities as much as possible, we have fewer last-minute surprises.
Next we have a family council to discuss current family problems, such as teasing, finances, food storage, whose turn it is to weed the garden, etc. Each child feels as if he has a say. This is also a time to compliment children for good behavior.
I next tell a story from Jesus’ life using pictures from our family picture file that I’ve assembled over the years. The few minutes we spend retelling a parable or incident in Jesus’ life have been some of our most precious moments together. As our children witness our tears as we testify of the Savior, they likewise learn to love him and feel the Spirit.
Dad follows this story by telling us what scripture he would like us to memorize during the week. It is usually only one simple sentence, since the children are small. We expect each child who can talk to memorize it by the next Sunday. I write it down on our scripture chart and place it in our eating area in plain view. We try to say it together from memory at each meal after the blessing. The scripture usually relates either to the story of Jesus that I tell, or to dad’s family lesson presentation, or to current family problems (“Cease to contend one with another,” or “A soft answer turneth away wrath”). We feel that this kind of exercise will not only help teach principles, but will also prove useful in missions later on.
Next, dad gives a lesson, and then we have journal-writing time. Each of the children has his own journal—even the two-year-old. As the older children write in theirs (and each has to write at least ten lines), dad and I help the two youngest. This is a time when we like to write down some of the cute things they say, which we would otherwise forget. This means that mom and dad have to find time later on in the day to write in their own journals. Since we’ve just reviewed the week’s events on the calendar, the children usually remember much that has happened to them that they want to record.
When we’re through writing, the children finish getting ready for Church, or play the piano, or help mom get lunch, or listen to Church-related tapes or records. During this time on Fast Sunday, dad gives father’s interviews. He takes the children one at a time into another room and discusses with them how they are achieving the goals they have set for themselves for the year, and how their life is going. Sometimes a child who is having difficulty in school or with behavior will receive a special father’s blessing at this time. These interviews help the children feel important. It gives them a chance to express their feelings, and it draws them closer to their dad. They are more likely to listen to his counsel because of this time together. This is a good time for husband/wife planning sessions, too.
After lunch, we go to our meetings from 1:00 to 4:00. On the way we discuss such things as proper church behavior and reverence, and also the need for everyone to hurry out to the car right after the meeting to avoid the confusion of not knowing where someone is.
Afterward we all pile into the car and drive to grandma’s house across town. On the way there we discuss what each of us learned in our classes, and we follow up on concepts that might be confusing to our children. Each one gets time to tell what he remembers and what he liked best about church. We also sing songs and play car games relating to church topics—like “twenty questions” using scriptural characters.
At grandma’s, we have family prayer and dinner. The dinner is simple, to keep the work down to a minimum. Each person cleans up after himself. Our brothers and sisters and their children frequently come to grandma’s at this time also so all the cousins can get to know each other better. This is a perfect time to renew family ties, review family histories, and strengthen both our immediate family and our extended family.
After about two hours it’s time to start for home. Now after a full day like this, what are we going to do with the hours remaining on the Sabbath? The first few Sundays on this schedule we didn’t plan anything, and inevitably on would go the TV, which seemed to us to be an unwelcome intrusion into an otherwise perfect Sabbath. We knew we couldn’t expect the children to sit through anything more along the line of a lesson—we needed something light. So I went to the library, checked out several books on old-fashioned parlor games, and typed out the instructions. Besides having fun playing these games together, we also try to teach important principles—like being good sports, taking turns, and watching out for each other. We close this time with lots of laughter, hugs, kisses, and a family prayer.
We’ve also enjoyed doing compassionate service during this time—like taking a special treat to a friend or an elderly person, taking a previously prepared casserole to a new mother, or best of all, secretly taking a box of groceries over to a family in need. It’s been good to include our children in this kind of service. As they share the excitement that comes from helping others, they learn the beginnings of true compassionate service and what gospel love means.
After everyone is in bed and the house is quiet, mom and dad have time to write in their journals and study the scriptures individually.
As parents, we have a feeling of satisfaction after spending a Sabbath day this way. Oh, not all our Sabbaths have followed this routine. We said that this schedule was the ideal. But at least we have a plan that helps us use Sunday time in uplifting, gospel-oriented ways. Unforeseen things come up, sometimes the morning activities take longer to do, and an occasional meeting sometimes takes time away. But we try to keep these things to a minimum. By giving ourselves family things to do all day long, we feel much closer as a family, and the Sabbath really becomes a “blessed island in the midst of a stormy sea of weekdays.” Our family gives thanks for the consolidated meeting schedule.