The Sunday I Discovered the Sabbath


After my conversion to the Church, it took me some time to understand all the principles of the gospel. Some commandments and doctrines just weren’t clear to me at first—such as keeping the Sabbath day holy.

Before I was baptized, I had led a youth group in many Sunday afternoon recreational activities, ranging from touch football to kite flying. I saw nothing wrong with it, even after I joined the Church. I felt it contributed to the solidarity of the group and increased camaraderie between the members. But one Sunday afternoon in particular caused me to think about what I was doing.

The group wanted to play ice hockey, but we were short of players. I had a great idea. Why not call the Harrisons—the branch president’s family? Four of their seven children were old enough to play. That would double our number, and it would be a good way to acquaint the youth with some Church members. I called Les, who was the oldest, and he eagerly agreed.

But as I stepped into the house while I was waiting for them to gather skates and extra jeans, I could sense something was wrong. President Harrison looked displeased, and Les looked bewildered, so I knew I had interrupted a serious discussion between the two of them. Finally the silence was broken when the president looked at me and said kindly that his children had their agency, but he didn’t approve, and did I know it was Sunday? Three of the four went with me, but I left the house feeling pretty guilty.

The Church magazine arrived that week, and I found several articles that focused on the Sabbath. I read it from cover to cover to see what the Church leaders had said on the subject. I made an elaborate list of “don’ts” for the Sabbath and resolved I was going to keep the Sabbath holy, even if it killed me.

The next Sunday I found myself wondering what to do. I was following the letter of the law but not the spirit of the Sabbath, and something was definitely missing. The hockey episode took place near Christmas, and January had its share of Sundays, but no Sabbaths.

Then in February a new convert named Keith moved into our small branch. He had been a member for five months and had the enthusiasm of four new missionaries in one. When the college we attended announced a foster grandparent program involving a local rest home, Keith suggested that we, the only LDS students on campus, should join and be good examples. We talked about visiting two branch members who lived in the rest home, but we took no action.

Then one Sunday President Harrison gave a talk on faith. He said faith was putting your words and beliefs in action. That afternoon Keith and I decided to visit the sisters in the rest home.

Our first visit was a disaster. We visited each sister alone, and we didn’t really get beyond “How are you?” “Fine.” As we left we knew to things: first, they needed us; second, we could do better. And even though we spent much of the next Sunday afternoon driving the 150 miles home from district conference, Keith and I convinced Les Harrison, his sister LeAnn, and Portia (a nursing student) to visit the women with us.

We wheeled both sisters into a quiet corner. Keith read an article from a Church magazine, Les read a scripture, and Portia offered a beautiful prayer. We felt good about the experience, and the next Sunday we came with seven Young Adults and youth. With President Harrison’s permission, Les and Keith blessed the sacrament and passed it to the sisters. We then wheeled them into a small chapel in the rest home and sang a hymn. We took turns reading an article from the Church magazines, then a poem and a scripture. We had a closing hymn and prayer.

It was three o’clock before we left, and since we were all hungry, Les invited us to his house for soup and crackers. So that Sunday afternoon I was again in the branch president’s home—but this time it was very different from the Sunday I went there looking for someone to play ice hockey. During the week the seven of us were scattered about the town, and many of us were without families in the Church. But for two hours that Sunday afternoon, we sat around the table and talked with each other and Les’s parents, sharing jokes, stories, and the problems of being lone Latter-day Saints out in the mission field. It was truly an inspiring experience.

When I finally returned home at ten o’clock after several other meetings, I had no time left to work on my genealogy or write a letter to a missionary as I had planned. As I knelt for prayer that night, I realized there were more “dos” for the Sabbath than I could ever fit into one short day. I thanked my Heavenly Father for the special day he had set apart to bless us.

[photo] Photograph by Welden Andersen

[photo] Photograph by Steve Bunderson