‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13)
April 2001

“‘Call the Sabbath a Delight’ (Isa. 58:13)” Ensign, Apr. 2001, 46

“Call the Sabbath a Delight” (Isa. 58:13)

Ideas that help us keep the spirit of the Sabbath.

“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). These words of the Savior remind us that the Sabbath day was meant to be a blessing rather than a burden to those who observe it. Its blessings flow not only from attending Church meetings but also from engaging in activities appropriate to the spirit of this sacred day. Because circumstances differ among Church members, the kinds of Sunday activities each of us may choose in order to gain spiritual strength and draw closer to the Lord will vary. Following are some experiences shared by Ensign readers on this important topic.

Observing the Spirit of the Sabbath

My parents grew up as nonbelievers in Russia, so when we were baptized in 1992, we were converts not only to the Church but also to Christianity. We understood that joining the Church would change our beliefs as well as our attitudes and our very lives. One source of that change was the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy, which was totally new to us.

At the time of my family’s conversion, some Church members in Moscow were from other countries and were living in the city as employees of their governments or of private businesses. These members were our walking manuals; it was by being around them that I learned what Church members should do to please the Lord. My best friend then was a Latter-day Saint named David Matthews, who was a teenager like me. Whenever I visited his family on Sundays, I could tell it was a special day. I remember how quiet their house was on that day. They had many children in their family, and during the week all kinds of sounds could usually be heard in their home. But not on Sunday. The children behaved differently, and not because they had to but because they wanted to. I felt the same spirit in David’s home that I felt when priesthood holders administered the sacrament in church.

A few years later I finally learned where this spirit of Sabbath peace and worship came from. During a trip to St. Petersburg that I took with some other Church members, I was discussing with one of my friends, Rebekah Nielson, our plans for the coming day, which was Sunday. Of course our plan would include going to the local branch to participate in Sunday meetings. “Then,” Rebekah said, “we will come back to the place we are staying and will have a quiet and peaceful Sabbath.” She said this with reverence and devotion, and I could feel her love for our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ. Sabbath observance was a commandment that was written on the tables of her heart (see 2 Cor. 3:3).

And so it happened. After returning from the branch meetings, the group of us sat together and talked about the things of our souls. We read the scriptures together; we talked about things we were grateful for. We spent the day with “thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances” (D&C 59:15). I felt the same spirit I had felt in the home of the Matthews family. It was the Spirit of the Lord, which spoke peace to our minds (see D&C 6:23).

I shall never forget that special Sabbath day when I learned that it is not only the letter of the law but also the spirit that makes the day holy. It changed my whole view of that day of the week. Now I knew that the only true source of rest was Jesus Christ Himself. Only in Him could I find enough strength for the week ahead. Since then the Sabbath has become a day of my Lord, or, in other words, a day when my joy can be full (see D&C 59:13).—Ivan Makarov, Severo-Zamoskvoretsky Branch, Moscow Russia North District

Clearing a Space

As a desire grew in me to keep the Sabbath day holy, the first thing I realized was that before I could fill my Sundays with spiritually nourishing activities, I had to free them of all the things that drained me. Over time I have learned to let Sunday be the focus of my week and to spend time during the other days preparing for it. I have my own personal checklist of things that are to be done before I go to bed Saturday night: have the house clean, have my lesson prepared, make sure there is gas in the car, plan dinner and prepare as much of it as possible ahead of time, wash and lay out church clothes, and pack my church bag.

At first it was a struggle to plan ahead and make sure all of these things were done and still go to bed at a decent hour on Saturday night. Now I think of such preparation as a gift that I give myself each week. It is such a joy to wake up on Sunday morning and be able to focus calmly on the things of the Spirit. The renewal I feel after a peaceful Sunday more than makes up for the extra effort I spend during the week preparing for it.

In addition to the temporal preparations I do on Saturday, I have begun using it as a day to prepare spiritually. I begin praying on Saturday for the blessings I want to receive on the Sabbath day: an increased understanding of the Atonement, a greater appreciation for the sacrament, the ability to learn by the Spirit from the talks and lessons, and strength and inspiration for the coming week.—Sharli Turner, Littlerock Ward, Palmdale California Stake

“Closed on Sunday”

The example of a neighbor not of my faith—whose dedication to keeping the Sabbath day holy was an important part of her own faith—prompted our family to reexamine our approach to Sunday. After a family discussion we decided to do some things that would set this day apart from other days of the week.

  1. We selected special music for use on Sunday—classical music, Mormon Tabernacle Choir recordings, and recordings of the hymns and Primary songs. When we put this music on as we were getting ready for church, we found that we went to our meetings with a calmer, more receptive spirit.

  2. We began opting for simpler Sunday meals that could be cooked slowly in the oven while we were at church. In addition, we tried to prepare desserts a day ahead.

  3. We refrained from changing into “grubbies” after meetings. Instead, we changed into comfortable clothing that would be appropriate to greet company in. We began to notice that everyone modified their behavior to conform to this better dress.

  4. For our Sunday activities we played quiet games together; had parent-child interviews; wrote letters to missionaries and to grandparents; read scriptures, Church magazines, and other good books; listened to inspirational talk tapes; and occasionally took a nature walk together. Sometimes we had our family home evening lesson on Sunday, leaving Monday free for another family activity.

The effects on our family were readily apparent one Sunday when a neighbor boy came by to talk to our 10-year-old son about some items our son sold as a money-making venture. Our son replied simply to his friend, “We’re closed on Sunday.”—Betty Jan Murphy, Pine Ward, Payson Arizona Stake

Making Sunday a Family Day

Some think of the Sabbath as a day of prohibitions—a day you can’t do this or that. But it’s actually a day of privileges, a day of celebration, a day to reflect, a day to restore our souls. When we observe the Sabbath, we don’t miss out on things; we learn to appreciate life and our families.

Over the years, for us the Sabbath day was first and foremost a family day. Among other things, we invented several games we could play on Sunday that helped both young and old focus on the gospel.

For one such game we divided into two teams and then took turns trying to guess gospel-related words and phrases that we had previously written on slips of paper. For another activity we wrote different gospel topics on pieces of paper and put them in a bowl. Each person would draw a paper and then have about 10 minutes to prepare a talk on that subject. My husband and I helped the younger children prepare theirs, and when everyone was ready we would take turns giving our talks. We discovered that we have very imaginative and creative children, and this activity turned out to be a great source of fun.

When our middle daughter, Julie, was 17 and had many nonmember friends, I asked her if it was hard to say no to them when they asked her to go to a movie, go swimming, or participate in a similar activity on Sunday. She said: “No. In fact, by Sunday I am grateful to get away from the outside world. I really need that time to just be with my own family. It’s great to be able to say no, I can’t go with you because I spend Sundays with my family.”—Sharlene T. Barber, Farragut Ward, Knoxville Tennessee Stake

Sunday Activity Box

When our children were young we found a way to help them enjoy the Sabbath day and at the same time maintain a degree of reverence: a Sunday activity box. We used this special box for years, and I was always on the lookout for additional items so we could rotate what was included. With our children’s help, we filled it with such things as copies of the Friend magazine; pencils; crayons; coloring books with gospel themes; Church-related books, tapes, and games; puppets; a flannel-board kit; and even some small toys the little ones could play with quietly.

One idea we came up with was to cut out small pictures from past Friend magazines, organize the pictures by topic (such as the sacrament, the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon), and put them in small photo albums that could be looked at on Sundays. We also put in the box a small flip chart that we used to write some scriptures we wanted to memorize. When the Primary children’s sacrament meeting presentation was coming up, the words to the songs went on the pages of the flip chart so we could learn and sing the songs together.

In this way our family was able to observe the Sabbath and create priceless memories of good times together.—Connie Jameson, Anderson Ward, Greenville South Carolina Stake

Having a Theme

To make Sundays more meaningful, our family sometimes has a theme for the day. The theme becomes the basis for our choices of the day’s activities. Here are some examples:

Blue Ribbon Sunday. On this day we remember and acknowledge gratefully people who have made a positive difference in our lives. The children each create two decorative ribbons to give to someone of their choice: one ribbon is for the chosen recipient to keep; the other is for that person to pass on to someone of his or her choice. Our children write notes expressing their feelings of gratitude to the person they’ve chosen and encouraging them to honor another person with the second ribbon.

P.I.E. Sunday. This is a Sunday on which Dad has a “priesthood interview for everyone,” and Mom makes a favorite pie to be eaten afterwards. This is a great day for self-evaluation, setting goals, and working on journals and scrapbooks.

Missionary Sunday. Activities for this day might include inviting the full-time missionaries over for dinner and having them talk about missionary work, writing to and making things for family and ward missionaries currently serving in the field, holding a meeting in our home with missionaries and neighbors, attending missionary open houses and firesides with our friends who aren’t members, and so forth.

Service Sunday. On this day we focus on serving others, doing such things as home teaching or visiting teaching or making appointments for future visits, presenting an appropriate and short musical program at a local nursing home, inviting others over for family home evening, taking a loaf of homemade bread to someone who needs a boost, or collecting some food and supplies from our pantry for a charity drive.

This thematic approach to Sabbath observance gives our family something to look forward to and allows us to regularly focus our attention on important areas of the gospel.—Shalynn Sedgwick, Bridgeport Branch, New Haven Connecticut Stake

Book of Mormon Time

Several years ago my wife and I shared a common concern that our children were reading the Book of Mormon but were not necessarily gaining personal testimonies of it. After praying and counseling together, we decided to establish in our home what we called “Book of Mormon time.” Each family member committed to personally read from the Book of Mormon daily whenever possible. My wife offered to read with the younger children so they could participate. Each of us agreed to select something from the week’s reading to share with the family on Sunday.

Book of Mormon time has become a highlight of our Sabbath day experience. We gather and take turns sharing the chosen passages. Each family member follows along in his or her personal copy of the Book of Mormon as the reader reads the selection aloud and tells the family why it was chosen.

Book of Mormon time has had such a profound impact on our family that our three sons who have served missions faithfully continued to share their verses each week in their letters home. I, in turn, recorded the references and thoughts from each family member to send to the missionaries in my weekly letters to them. We all love the Book of Mormon, and we know that the Holy Ghost teaches us eternal principles through it.—Dale S. Bills, Spanish Fork 12th Ward, Spanish Fork Utah South Stake

Ideas for Fast Sunday

In the last few years we have tried to do a lot better at using fast Sunday as a means for enhancing our family’s Sabbath day worship. Here is what has worked for us:

We begin our fast together on Saturday afternoon following a family meal. While we eat we discuss with the children common purposes for the upcoming fast and ask each child if there is a specific purpose he or she would like to add. After the dishes are done we review the purposes for which we are fasting and then kneel together in prayer, asking for divine help to make the fast day meaningful for us and our children. Throughout the fast day we remind each other of our family’s purposes in fasting.

Immediately after returning home from our Church meetings, and before closing our fast, we have a family gathering in which we bear our testimonies and express our feelings. As our young children have observed their parents and older siblings bear testimony, we have seen their testimony of the gospel grow and their ability to bear pure testimony increase. We have had many joyous experiences that have bound us together spiritually during this family testimony meeting.

One of our family traditions is to have each child receive a father’s blessing on the fast Sunday following that child’s birthday. We do this following the family testimony meeting because it seems that then our spirits are more receptive to the Spirit.

We close the fast by kneeling together and praying sincerely about the purposes of the fast. We have knelt in a circle and asked each family member to offer a prayer. Afterward we ask our children what they have felt prompted to do as a result of their fasting.—Jeff and Juanita Hill, Canyon View Third Ward, Orem Utah Canyon View Stake

A Great Day for Family History

The Sabbath is a great day to get people involved in various forms of family history. For example, sometime during Sunday each member of our family goes to his or her room for about an hour of personal time. During this time the children might write in their journals. Sometimes I will go in their rooms and give them ideas of what to write about. This has been our children’s first experience in recording their personal histories. Even the children who can’t write still record their experiences by dictating their stories to their older siblings. Setting aside a specific time for journal writing on Sunday makes it more likely that family members will actually do it.

Viewing home video recordings is an especially exciting way to involve everyone in family history. Children are usually thrilled to see themselves on the TV screen. This activity strengthens family relationships as we relive some of our happiest moments together.—Shannon Stahura, Orchard First Ward, Orem Utah East Stake

Living away from Home

Sunday had always been a family-oriented day for me. When I left home to attend college, however, that changed. Sunday was no longer a family day, but it remained a special day. In many ways I think I learned to appreciate and honor the Sabbath day more while I was on my own, for it was no longer Mom and Dad’s responsibility to make Sunday unique but mine.

One of the major things I did to set the Sabbath day apart from the rest of the week was to set aside my homework. When I did so, I found that Sunday brought needed physical and mental renewal and a welcome freedom from stress and worry. It allowed me to concentrate more fully on the Savior and the gospel.

Besides participating in such Sunday activities as listening to uplifting music, reading Church magazines and good books, writing letters to family and friends, and attending firesides, I found it helped me to get up a little earlier than my roommates and use the quiet morning hours to study my scriptures, write in my journal, review my patriarchal blessing, or read from the Relief Society lesson manual.

Sunday also provided the opportunity for “roommate bonding.” Since our schedules during the week were so different and so busy, my roommates and I rarely had time when we could all be together. On Sunday, however, we set a time to gather in the kitchen and pooled resources to make a respectable dinner. We talked and laughed as we prepared and then enjoyed the meal together. Afterward everyone helped clean up and do the dishes. Although we were all away from our families, our Sunday dinners together helped us feel not so far from home.

Going away to college gave me the opportunity to learn to value the day the Lord set apart for us to rest from our labors and cares. I came to realize that no matter where you are or what your situation, you can make Sunday a special day.—Lesley Taylor, Italy Padova Mission

“What Can We Do on Sunday, Mom?”

Children sometimes ask what they can do on the Sabbath, and with a little thought we can provide a variety of answers. As you and your family consider the ideas below and generate some of your own, you will likely come to feel that there are many more things to do than not do on the Sabbath day.

  • Read the scriptures, Church magazines, and good stories and books.

  • Research a gospel question or word, perhaps using the Topical Guide in the Bible.

  • Dramatize and videotape scripture stories.

  • Hold a spelling bee using scripture words or other gospel terms.

  • Create crossword puzzles that feature items from the Book of Mormon, names of Primary songs, or facts about your family.

  • Listen to or read talks given by General Authorities.

  • Listen to appropriate music.

  • Learn a Church hymn in sign language or another language.

  • Record your testimony, special events, and memories in a journal.

  • Watch a Church video (usually available for checkout from the ward library).

  • Work on family history, books of remembrance, or scrapbooks.

  • For dinnertime, create a table centerpiece that features an ancestor and his or her time period, then read about that ancestor during or after the meal.

  • Using a gospel or family theme, write a poem or song or make a simple poster together.

  • Create a newsletter to send to family or friends.

  • Make a card, draw a picture, or write a thank-you note, letter, poem, or story for a specific person (such as a shut-in, newcomer, bishop, teacher, relative, missionary, or someone in military service).

  • Attend a fireside or hold an extended-family fireside that features a newly returned missionary, a newly married couple, an elderly family member, or someone else you’d like to hear from.—Carol Hansen, Huntington Beach Sixth Ward, Huntington Beach California North Stake

Is It Worthy of the Sabbath?

President Spencer W. Kimball

“People frequently wonder where to draw the line: what is worthy and what is unworthy to do upon the Sabbath. But if one loves the Lord with all his heart, might, mind, and strength; if one can put away selfishness and curb desire; if one can measure each Sabbath activity by the yardstick of worshipfulness; if one is honest with his Lord and with himself; if one offers a ‘broken heart and a contrite spirit,’ it is quite unlikely that there will be Sabbath breaking in that person’s life.”
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (1982), 219.

Photo illustrations by Tadd R. Peterson

Photos by Steve Bunderson and Craig Dimond

Photos by Steve Bunderson, Marty Mayo, and Matthew Reier

Photo by Scott Tanner

Photo by Steve Bunderson

Photo by Jed A. Clark

Photo by Welden C. Andersen