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There’s Really No Such Thing as a Sabbath “Cannot”

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Something Was Missing

My Sabbath day attire as a child and youth was often either a swimsuit or pajamas. Many of my Sabbath day memories include sitting in the open bow of our family ski boat. I remember appreciating the scenic beauty, feeling the wind whip through my hair, and loving the warmth of the summer sun on my face as my family took turns on waterskis behind the boat.

The Sabbath day had very few “cannots” for me when I was young. I remember thinking about God out there on the water. I knew He was there in the surrounding beauty, but I always felt like something was missing—like He was just out of reach. It took some growing up and some pondering before I realized what was bothering me: we didn’t speak of Him. If anyone in my family acknowledged Him on  the Sabbath it was generally kept within the confines of our own minds and hearts.

I always wondered how God felt about our Sunday recreation. When I did, I was left with a subtle ache and an emptiness in my heart and a concern that I might somehow be disappointing Him. As an adult, I’ve traded in my often preferred childhood attire for my Sunday best, and I’ve also managed to trade in that subtle ache for a great deal of peace.

Sabbath “Cannots”

An important lesson I’ve learned about the Sabbath is that there’s really no such thing as a Sabbath “cannot.” The Sabbath day is like any other day in one way—I can use the 24 hours however I want. And like any other day, those choices invite God closer to me or keep Him at a distance. Time and time again, I’ve found that the best feelings come from choosing Him every chance I get—especially on His holy day.

I’ve also learned that obedience yields the greatest blessings. One of the Ten Commandments is “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my choice as an adult to honor the Sabbath day was a “sign” between me and God. I’m still reaping the rewards of that choice.

The Senses of Sunday

All of the recent talk on the Sabbath day prompted me to ask my husband and three daughters what they considered to be “acceptable” Sabbath activities.

Our family’s list of Sabbath “cans” included resting, reading scriptures, improving talents, writing letters, spending time with family, visiting the sick or elderly, and other typical answers, but the conversation got interesting when I asked them how Sunday was different than every other day according to their five senses.

For sight, they spoke of seeing the faces of loved ones, images of the Savior, and God’s green earth. Sounds of the Sabbath were favorite Primary songs, talks, hearing the sacrament prayers, and even birds. For Sunday tastes and smells, the bread and water of sacrament meeting was mentioned, and my husband’s family tradition of roast and potatoes was at the top of the list. One of my daughters also spoke of the familiar scent of our Church building.

I was surprisingly moved when my daughters spoke of Sunday’s physical touch. To them, this meant Daddy’s clean-shaven face, the embrace of loved ones, the feel and flow of wearing dresses, and even touching the fabric of the pews. This sense alone deepened my love for my family and for the Lord’s day. I’m feeling more and more like Sunday is a treasure trove of both unrecognized and undiscovered blessings.

I’m now eager to uncover more spiritual treasures that perhaps I’ve been missing each week.

Sabbath Signs

Our family was pleasantly surprised to discover a long list of loving signs we can give to God on His holy day. Many of our ideas were inspired by President Nelson’s general conference talk “The Sabbath Is a Delight” and this Ensign article.

Here are just a few of the activities we came up with:

  • Go on a nature walk
  • Watch old home videos of our family or Church-produced videos
  • Journal
  • Play your instrument for Heavenly Father or someone else
  • Create a menu plan that follows the Word of Wisdom
  • Read something inspiring (scriptures, Church magazines, biographies, etc.)
  • Draw, color, or paint a picture for Heavenly Father or someone else
  • Scrapbook
  • Invite someone to dinner
  • Write a letter to Heavenly Father or someone else
  • Have a family fireside
  • Make a treat for the family, a neighbor, or a friend
  • Visit family, friends, or someone who needs some company
  • Organize the family calendar

Download your own Sabbath can label and fill it with your family’s ideas of Sabbath-appropriate activities.


Linda Clyde is a lover of all things creative, especially writing. She is a wife and mother to three beautiful daughters and resides in Springville, Utah.