Sabbath Liberated

by Susan Arrington Hill

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    Speaking with the wisdom of a former Sabbath bender, I can say truly that the first day of the week has a great purpose in the eyes of the Lord.

    “For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High.” (D&C 59:10.)

    The Sabbath has always been a day of rest to me—oh yes, I looked forward to Sunday. It was a welcome change of pace. Church meetings were included, but what a perfect day for a multitude of other projects!

    Gradually, precept upon precept, I have gained a new understanding of the Sabbath. This new understanding has led me to make some changes in my life.

    It all started with a roommate in college who began to get “holy” (I thought). She only played Bach on Sunday. Well, I enjoyed Bach, but please, let’s have a little more contemporary music too! Let’s not be translated yet (or so I thought). Soon the spirit of that day came to me through music, just listening music, beautiful symphonies, a fitting background for thinking and meditation. Gradually I weaned myself from the music of the world on Sunday, and the light of the gospel shone in me in this single precept.

    Some of my best reading has been done on Sunday, not to mention the piles of studies that I did because I played on Saturday. During my last year at college, I decided, to my own amazement, to abolish Sunday study. And I did—to the last degree. I still played on Saturday, but when Sunday arrived, I could not study, so I didn’t worry about tests and papers. I did just as well in school, and my mind was renewed and refreshed, a vital part of the Sabbath.

    Later I decided not to read the giant edition of the Sunday newspaper on that day; this was asking a lot for I used to read all the papers and comics before church and then spend the rest of the day picking them up. Now they lay folded on the table until Monday morning. And I was free. Sound silly? Try it and you’ll find as I did that it makes Sunday a pleasant day. Nor is it a tremendous sacrifice; it’s a joy!

    Since I now listened to special music with no din of radio and not even a newspaper, I decided to go a step further. I’d try no television on the Lord’s day. In my early days I would have cried, “Fanatic!” or other such things. I mean, what is really wrong with television on Sunday? Nothing. But this step seemed logical to me, and I know the Spirit was guiding me. After I, who had supported Sunday TV for so many years, had taken the giant step, I noticed that without fail the “cream of the crop,” yes, only the most wonderful movies, were shown on Sunday. But I had decided, and I stuck by my guns. Those movies couldn’t uplift me. A whole new world unfolded in my life. Some of the most special moments I have enjoyed have occurred on Sunday evening as I have basked in the spirit of the day and shared my feelings with friends and loved ones instead of rushing home from sacrament meeting to watch my favorite western. Maybe there’s not really a definite commandment about not watching television on Sunday, but what choice experiences I’d have missed by going along with the crowd.

    From college days I already had a foundation in preparing my Sunday meals on Saturday. It is my hobby to try and be creative in thinking ahead so that when we have company on Sunday I can enjoy them and my family and not be fretting about the food. This again frees me, and I don’t run the risk of being a frazzled, frustrated, Sunday hostess, trying to set the table, fry the chicken, and make a banana cream pie simultaneously. How can anyone meditate on the mission of Christ in that atmosphere?

    You may ask, “If you have so many things you don’t do on Sunday, what do you do? Isn’t it a boring day?” I have found exactly the opposite to be true. “Don’t these rules cage you in?” No, instead I am liberated.

    I am given time to write to people I really care about but haven’t found that special moment to convey my thoughts to. I call on friends and visit the sick and the widows and the friendless. (What? In this day and age?) I’m too busy on weekdays, but when I find myself with a spare minute on Sunday, a special spirit tells me who needs my smile that day. This has been my best time to read poetry, and I even take the time to write some. I do things I need to do but haven’t taken time for.

    Sunday is a lovely day to recuperate—it is a day of rest—and we must refresh our bodies too. This is a time to snack on succulent Sunday dinner leftovers and play quiet games and sing around the piano with family and friends. I didn’t have time before because I had to watch television.

    People who read the Bible on Sunday (or any day) used to appear to me as totally out of touch with everything. Now I see they are in touch. Sunday, along with each day, is a special day for scripture study. The standard works come alive, the Ensign and the New Era uplift, and this is an opportune time to read General Authorities’ writings and to profit by their experiences with Christ.

    I do not omit the most important part of the Sabbath—that of going to the Lord’s house to give and to receive. This is a major joy—a sustenance of this day—to partake of the sacrament, to hear the words of counsel, and to share the glow of joyous fellowship with the Saints.

    Don’t misunderstand. I am not preaching repentance to all the world, saying that unless you keep the Sabbath this way you are sinners! Far from that; I only say that as this has become my way of living, the Sabbath has evolved in my life almost in spite of myself, and I have found new peace and joy. Vistas of the gospel are opening, and the Savior does truly come to my home in spirit sometimes because I am waiting for him.

    “For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High.” (D&C 59:10.)

    Illustrated by Ralph Reynolds