Like many Mormons, I am made for the Sabbath. Like many of you, I’m exhausted and yearn for a weekly day of rest. Sadly, I rarely get one and that’s a problem.
Theologically, the Sabbath celebrates God’s enthronement as Lord of Creation. The work is done and God rests in His temple (the Earth). The elision of this Jewish Sabbath with the Christian Lord’s Day is something to discuss elsewhere, but given the mandate offered by Doctrine and Covenants 59 and 68, Mormons are committed to a Sabbath as both a day of rest and a day of worship. In my experience of Mormonism (throughout my whole life and in three countries), we have let worship (defined as talking) overcrowd rest. I think the balance needs to be restored.
The problem is a modern one and has to do with the terrible busyness of our lives: six days do we labour and on the seventh . . . we labour again. I work full-time for five, sometimes six days in a week. My wife works. My children are busy. We do not live extravagant lives — we both work because it would be very difficult to afford respectable housing in the United Kingdom without two incomes; this may be lamented, but it is what it is — and our children do about half of what they could do. And still we are busy. If I am not working on Saturday, I am busy (as is Rebecca) doing the life chores we do not have the time to do during the week.
And then to Sunday. A typical Sunday for me sees me at church from 8 until 2 and then often back again in the evening. If we have Stake events, they are an hour’s travel each way. My calling certainly adds to the hours, but I am not an outlier. My mother, who isn’t as busy at church, has always called Sunday the “most exhausting” day of the week. I used to enjoy a walk on a Sunday afternoon but have recently found myself collapsed on the sofa instead.
At this point, some of you are no doubt thinking of writing a comment making fun of such first world problems or are ready to talk about your days growing up on a farm, milking the cows at four in the morning. Don’t. The stress and pressure of modern life is not nothing, even if we have the comforts that make it all look trivial. All of this masks real and crippling stress for many people.
Most Sundays I really crave a Sabbath day, a day of rest. This is not a craving for a lie-in with the papers. I want to go to church but we have let it get out of control, building hour upon hour of talk upon talk as if it is some holy thing. It isn’t. I have noticed that for even the most pious of the Saints, their happiest Sunday is the Sunday they are given a guilt-free break from church: snow days, sniffly children, General Conference. Don’t say you don’t believe me. What’s that feeling you get when you wake up on General Conference Sunday and contemplate a morning in your pajamas? Happiness. Don’t lie. The angels know when you lie.
And so to some suggestions for giving a day of rest back to the Mormon people (or giving us one if we’ve never really had one):
1. The obvious one and the perennial Bloggernacle joke: 2 hour block! That extra hour really would make a big difference.
2. If we are going to insist on three hours, change the culture to allow executive meetings to take place during that time (thus saving another trip to church for PEC/Bishopric/Ward Council). Also, you already have two hours’ contact time with the youth on a Sunday — why on earth do you need to bring them back for a BYC or a fireside?
3. Sunday evenings should be held as sacrosanct as Mondays.
“Most of the things we need to be most fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest” (Mark Buchanan).