Improve the Sabbath moments

Do you like that title? It just came to me. (It’s a play on Hymn #226–GET IT?) I’ve been interested to see what comes of this new Keep the Sabbath Day (Better) campaign the church has started. The first thing I saw was this meme about how the Sabbath should look different, feel different, sound different. As much as I endorse the idea of the Sabbath being different, I’m kind of cutesy-Pinterest-memed out these days. I’m a terrible human being, but it makes me kind of nuts that all gospel teachings are instantly transformed into some attractive design you can tweet or post on Facebook. (Personally, I’d rather not read the words of God’s prophets out of context and randomly chopped into different fonts and sizes and pasted against the image of someone standing on a cliff, but different strokes, I guess.) Besides which–

I can’t tell which is supposed to be the Sabbath chair. I mean, the left looks like it might be a choir seat…or a movie theater seat…and the right looks like it might be at home in Relief Society or someone’s bingo night…it’s just not clear. I guess if you’re the bishop or the ward chorister (or, in our ward, a deacon), you probably get to sit in the comfy seat–provided you attend church in a building with a chapel (that includes comfy choir seats)–but if not, the Sunday school seat should be a refreshing change from your usual MO of sitting on your fat can eating popcorn and watching Marvel Comics blockbusters. On the other hand,

If the right side is supposed to represent the “right side,” then folding chairs:choir chairs::suit & tie:basketball jersey. I guess. No, I’m not being deliberately obtuse. I’m just messing with you. Obviously, you should always Choose the Right, which is why the bishop and the ward choir should get off their fat cans and into Sunday school (no snacks).

Then there’s this:

At first that looked like only one choice, but then I realize it’s half-electric, half-acoustic. Since we’re choosing the right, the acoustic guitar is clearly more reverent (though it’s not clear if they’re allowed in sacrament meeting or not; so long as you play it while sitting in a folding chair and wearing uncomfortable clothing, I don’t think it should be a problem).

But my personal favorite is

In theory there is nothing inherently “less reverent” about pizza, so long as you make it yourself and don’t order it from a restaurant. Maybe you don’t think slaving over a hot stove (or pizza oven) all day is in keeping with the spirit of the Sabbath, but the article on lds.org whence I got these images says that “if everyone in the family helps with meal preparation and clean-up, this tradition can promote the spirit of the Sabbath.” In our house, Brother J usually cooks dinner on weekends, and I personally like to stay the heck out of his way while he’s in the kitchen, unless he specifically asks for my help–which he sometimes does (usually if he sees that I’m reading a book), but mostly he just yells at people to get out of his way. I don’t know about the rest of you, but our kitchen isn’t big enough for all six of us (sometimes seven, when Grandma coves over) to help with meal preparation and clean-up, and our kitchen isn’t small. But this is quibbling. I was very pleased to see that they acknowledged the work and pain-in-the-neckitude that accompanies a delicious Sunday dinner, I appreciate the effort to discourage people from piling more work on Mom (or, in our case, Dad, but sometimes Mom when Dad is at a meeting or doesn’t know how to cook meatloaf).

I appreciate the effort, in general, to focus on what we should be doing on the Sabbath instead of what we shouldn’t do on the Sabbath. There’s already a Relief Society craft for this: the Sabbath “CAN.” (Because it holds a bunch of craft sticks telling you all the things you “CAN” do on the Sabbath. GET IT?) That’s super. Of course, it’s hard to talk about what you CAN do with no implication as to the things you can’t do. (You CAN go to all the bother of cooking Sunday dinner because you can’t order pizza. You CAN wear a suit and tie all day because you can’t play basketball. You CAN sit in a folding chair because you can’t go to the movies or be the bishop.) But when we had the big Sabbath Talk in our ward’s Fifth Sunday lesson last month, our bishop specifically tried to steer us away from making a list of all the stuff we shouldn’t do. This didn’t stop us from spending twenty minutes talking about how you avoid shopping or eating at restaurants on the Sabbath while you’re traveling, but at least he tried.

At our Family Home Evening last night, Brother J went over the letter we got from the Ward Council, which focused on the doctrinal reasons for keeping the Sabbath and ways to improve our sacrament meeting experience. (I was pleased to note that one of the suggestions under the latter category was “Look for ways to support and help mothers with small children on Sunday.” Yes, theoretically fathers have small children also, but the most common reasons mothers with small children need support are that their husbands travel frequently for business or are serving in callings that prevent them from active fathering during sacrament meeting, so that’s how that goes. I guess we support the fathers indirectly by keeping the mothers from resenting their husbands’ jobs and callings.) My oldest child commented, predictably, that she personally does not find the Sabbath restful; she finds it a chore. This was (certainly) not the first time she’s said so–in fact, she said it during sacrament meeting the day before, for the 247th time. And not for the first time I responded by saying, “Join the club, sister. I haven’t had a restful Sabbath since you were born!”

Which probably wouldn’t fall under the category of promoting loving family relationships, but at least I was empathizing with her (sort of).

While we were discussing our options for improving our sacrament meeting experience, my husband reminded me that in one of our old wards, they used to end sacrament meeting after an hour and do all the announcements after the closing hymn and prayer. We both thought that was a good idea (not that anyone asks us how they should conduct sacrament meetings). On the one hand, fewer people miss the announcements because they were late getting to sacrament meeting. On the other hand, more people miss the actual sacrament if they’re late getting to sacrament meeting. So it may not be worth it. Personally, I would like to see the talks cut in half and the music doubled, just because I find it easier to listen to music (such as it is) than talking. But if there is such a paucity of musical skill in one’s ward that doubling the music seems like a greater punishment than all of the talking, that obviously won’t invite the spirit. Maybe we could come up with some other appropriately reverent activity that could help fill time, but I admit I’m at a loss as to what it might be.

My husband says there’s also talk of moving all church-related meetings (besides those comprising the three-hour block) from Sunday to other days of the week, so people can spend more time at home with family. In theory this is also a great idea, except that the reason people have all their church-related meetings on Sunday is that it’s the one day of the week they have no other commitments. When my husband was choir director, he would have far preferred to have had choir practice on some weeknight, but recognized that doing so would have resulted in a choir of zero (instead of our usual robust seven). So naturally we continued to have it on Sunday, just as the three choir directors before him had done, and as our current choir director does. These days we have church at 1:00 p.m. but have to go to choir practice at 10 a.m., which I hate, but at least we don’t have it at the building, so no one expects me to show up in my Sunday best. Well, not yet, anyway. I’m still waiting to see what happens now that we’re (allegedly) raising the Sabbath bar.

Comments

  1. At our regional conference on Sunday one of the speakers (who knows which one? I don’t: I have screaming kids!) talked about how different families had received different, personalized answers to prayers as they asked how best THEIR families should observe the Sabbath. I liked that, because one of the families got “service” and another family got something else, probably “no tv” or something equally horrifying. The idea of MY little family praying how best to observe has really stuck with me.

  2. Can we *please* *please* *please* stop with this meme in the Church about having non-essential Sundays meeitngs on other days of the week? Sunday is the best day for those because there is no time during the week!

    Newsflash – Church leaders (both genders) have JOBS and those don’t fit neatly into an 8-5 schedule, M-F schedule.

  3. (As a side note, I am with you on the pinteresting of the gospel. I am so tired of feeling like they are constantly trying to SELL me something.)

  4. Eh, I don’t mind the pinteresting, it says they are trying to be social media relevant and work with those who are online. It’s always better to have the full context of course, but these are at least linked to the full context, unlike the decades of handouts I’ve received.

  5. I looked at those pictures / memes and just shook my head. How did we become a people so obsessed with that which is corny and trite? Then I noticed the images were from lds.org.

  6. Different thing motivate people differently. Just because something motivates you doesn’t mean it will them and vice versa. I’d rather be happy people are at least trying.

  7. Extra Sunday meetings are horrible. The only thing worse would be more weekday meetings.

  8. Active LDS here. I personally hope this so-called move to more spiritual Sundays doesn’t come with a new rule book our greater eyebrow-raised scrutiny from church leaders. I can’t think of a more infuriating moment of my church life than a stake priesthood meeting scheduled to coincide with the Super Bowl kick-off. That kind of stuff is so Bush league controlling, and I hope we don’t start seeing it and it’s ilk connected to this new campaign. I completely and utterly agree with your daughter – Sunday is far from restful and very much a chore. The idea that I now must “humble” myself and take on even more chore-ful duties and somehow an even more spiritual mindset is quite off-putting. The church already pounds the heck out of my Sundays. No mas por favor!!

  9. Okay, I’ll be the one to say it.

    So when are they replacing all the big red chairs at GC with the folding variety?

  10. It frustrates me that the message we constantly hear at church is how important the family is but then the church imposes so many non-essential meetings, activities, and calling-related demands on our time that there is very little time remaining to spend with family.

  11. Orwell, as soon as you watch GC in a folding chair. Or, alternatively, as soon as they let these worn out elderly men spend their last years in peace instead of running a massive organization day in and day out. Let them have their nice chairs.

  12. If this is what the latest focus is, I’ll just say – it could be worse! But I agree that I didn’t understand several of those pictures either.

  13. Unconfirmed rumor suggests apostles paid in red chairs, other plush furniture.

  14. This movement FINALLY compelled (yes, compelled) our Stake to move Sacrament meeting to the first instead of the last hour of the block. We had been suffering and barely enduring week by week to hold small children together for the last most important and most boring hour of the church experience. It is now a little easier to have Sacrament meeting first. But, I vote for some format changes or at least variety for the Sacrament meeting. It hasn’t had a makeover in probably 100 years. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Primary program change into multiple Sundays of primary classes speaking and singing. Multiple small talks would be a big improvement on two speakers (most often two males) struggling to fill the time. And yes, to more music. Our conservative Stake feels that the veil was closed on sacred music in 1985. We don’t do anything but green hymns. The lack of variety in musical worship in my stake feels monotonous and monotone. I would also like to whine about 1:00 church. Though we have only two wards in our large building, our Stake leaders see no other options. Ugh. Thanks for the witty post!

  15. Why can’t the ward chior be a Sunday school option? Gospel doctrine, mission prep, gospel principles, and a Ward choir class. The primary children have music time as part of their instruction on Sundays. Why can’t that be an option for adults? We are at church for three hours (THREE hours!!!) every Sunday. And honestly, why can’t we make good use of those three hours? For half the ward, childcare is already built into two of those hours. For the other half of the ward missing ward chior class/practice is an acceptable loss for having a legitimate out of RS/EQ.

    Is there some rule written into the Handbooks that says you can’t do this? Or is it just tradition that is making everyone go to church early or stay late for choir?

  16. I think that a lot of the issues that are “tradition based” could be dealt with pretty easily, if we didn’t have so many leaders who are from Utah or went to BYU/BYI-I. The area I live in now has tried to split the military between wards, and apparently, that is unusual. The biggest complaints about it come from the military families who are frustrated that this makes the wards less likely to meet their actual needs. I caught the tail end of a bathroom discussion about this, and asked two of the women who I already knew, what things they missed. “Choir class” during church was a common things in some base communities, and allowed more adults to participate. Having church start 2 hours after base shift rotation, whatever time that was, and allowing families to be active in the ward that fit the schedule for the family’s shift rotation were things they missed. They also missed having Primary almost exclusively taught by single men and women, who added a lot to their children’s lives, and gave them a break. I asked about singles wards, and apparently they do exist, usually as sacrament meetings only, on big bases.

  17. Two thoughts on this. For those who want to see changes in their Sacrament meeting content and structure I would strongly recommend you start lobbying / bribing your Ward Council leaders because based on the training they are now the people who determine the themes, speakers and musical content of your Sacrament meetings. The structure won’t likely change but what is presented and how is open for a great deal of interpretation.

    As for the “sabbath dinner” I’ve long admired a certain sister who decided that if the Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest then allowing someone in the family to tire themselves out in extensive labor preparing an elaborate meal for Sunday dinner was absolutely not in tenor with the call in D&C 59:13:

    And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.

    What does it mean to prepare your food with singleness of heart? Acts 2:46 gives an insight to it being an activity of unity. Though many translations call out simplicity as a word for consideration in that verse.

    So what does that Sister do? They order pizza the night before and heat it up to eat the next day for dinner. That’s what got me laughing when I saw that split photo. Yes, it does taste different because no one did any work in order to prepare it. They kept it simple. And clean up was easy too.

  18. Choir Sunday School – – I presented that idea to a member of the bishopric 4 years ago. So many advantages. He didn’t run with it. Last year, our stake shut down a Preach My Gospel Sunday School class in our ward because that’s not a SS course. !!

  19. To me the real kill comes from the fact that we changed the church program 33 years ago to the block schedule so that the time in the week could be dedicated to families. Yes Sunday was a full day, but then it was done. No need to drive back and forth for Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday stuff. We can’t even reinvent our own wheel really well.

  20. Daniel, I don’t give a crap what kind of chairs the brethren sit in. I just can’t believe no one thought about that when they made the image.

  21. I enjoyed this post very much. And I love the idea of a choir class during Sunday School. Our ward/stake does classes on all sorts of other topics, and this sounds so much better. I was once invited, with a number of other adult members, to attend a class “for imperfect people.” I thought that over, then said, “Is this a class about addiction?” Turned out it was, so I explained that I really enjoyed our gospel doctrine teacher’s lessons (I didn’t comment on what a rarity that is) and that I thought that I would just continue to study the scriptures in his lessons. But a choir class could be a really good thing – dare I say it might even be uplifting? As it is, we have practice after church when everybody’s hungry and nobody has child care and nobody wants to stay.

  22. For many people, Sunday is the busiest and most stressful day of the week. I think about the number of hours bishops and stake presidents and their counselors (and clerks) spend at the church building on the Sabbath and can’t imagine how any of them (or their families) manages to get a day of rest, unless they schedule their rest for some other day during the week.

    It does seem as though church leaders want to persuade us to radically rethink how we do things on Sunday, but has no particular interest in leading on this front by, say, radically rethinking how they do things on Sunday.

  23. I’m looking forward to Sunday renditions of Classical Gas.

  24. https://www.lds.org/church/news/five-ways-to-celebrate-the-sabbath-as-a-family?cid=HP_WE_7-22-2015_dOCS_fBYU_xLIDyL2-3_&lang=eng

    See the author bio at the bottom. Apparently BYU has a thing called an “associate professor of marriage, family, and human life.” HUMAN LIFE.

  25. The Other Clark says:

    Okay, here’s a little history for those that didn’t know:
    ** Josidave, the last major overhaul of sacrament meeting was not 100 years ago. It was in 1980, when President Kimball (1) reduced it’s length from 90 minutes to 70 (2) moved it from an evening meeting to part of the three hour block. Other changes include allowing women speak and to offer the opening and closing prayers (same time frame of late 1970s).

    **Cat– Actually, before the three hour block, Sunday was full of meetings and so was every other day of the week. Young Men and Young Women met on weeknights (YW actually gained a mtg with the block, as previously there was no Sunday meeting dedicated to female youth). Children had “Junior Sunday School” on Sunday and “Primary” one afternoon a week (now they have cub scouts and activity days). Relief Society met on Thursday evenings.

  26. The Other Clark says:

    Rebecca J (at 1:33pm) hit the nail on the head. Change has to start at the top.

    If the Church is serious about me spending more time with my family on Sunday and making it a joyful day, it needs to give me time to do so.

    I’m in a bishopric, and am away every Sunday from 7:30 am until 4. (Bishopric meeting for an hour, followed by either PEC or Ward Council, the 3-hour block at 11, then finances, BYC, recommend interviews, etc. and a half-hour each way to the meeting house) I come home ravenous, grumpy, and with a pounding headache regularly. Typically, though, there are more church assignments I need to follow up on, or home teaching, or being home taught. For my wife and I, it’s the busiest day of the week BECAUSE of the church, not in spite of it.

  27. I think there may be more to this–keeping the Sabbath day holy is a commandment which has the weather as the particular blessing associated with obeying it. We’ve been told that violation of the Lord’s standard of marriage will result in calamities coming. Calamities are usually weather related. So it follows, that protection may be found by keeping this commandment.

  28. p.s. I recall the Church went to the block schedule years ago due to the gasoline crisis. It was to have people drive to church once instead of twice.

  29. The cheesy pics are great. What the brethren are trying to tell us is about the Sabbath is: a. worship God b. spend time with family c. make it a little different than other days. Beautiful message.

  30. I find the guitar picture amusing. Unless things have changed, the handbook specifically says that guitars are not appropriate for musical numbers in sacrament meeting. Now I’m sure what they were going for was to listen to the EFY music instead of rock but it’s still amusing to me.

  31. Bryan, I took it as you listen to rock music during the week and acoustic on the Sabbath. Not necessarily in sacrament but at home after church. Fire up Radiohead Unplugged and you’re good to go.

  32. Plenty of metal groups have acoustic albums too. Pain of Salvation’s “12:5” comes to mind. We now apparently have official permission to listen to this stuff on Sunday (or at least that’s what I’ll tell the wife). Or try California Guitar Trio for your Sunday acoustic rock fix (one of the band members is even from Salt Lake).

    Reminds me of the mission where we could listen to Christmas music as long as it was religious. Trans-Siberian Orchestra! (Although I was smart enough to realize that that music would make me homesick and so opted to not take advantage of the mission president’s lax rules in this case).

  33. it's a series of tubes says:

    Funny how people eat it up when it is by the “Trans-Siberian Orchestra”, but nary a blip when it is by “Savatage”. What’s in a name, indeed.

  34. It’s an American thing. The music stores here even put TSO in their “Classical” section. In Europe, they’re placed right next to Savatage (like any other side project).

    I’m not typically a fan of Christian music, but there are some exceptions. I’ve learned more about the true significance of Adam and the Fall and how it relates to me by listening to a certain hard rock album (electric guitars included) than by years and years of faithfully attending church. And yes, that album fits great into my Sunday (as long as my wife doesn’t have to hear it).

    I think we’re best off setting our own family rules for Sunday–and then following them. Yes, Sunday should be different. But where to draw the line should be up to individual families, not the local bishop or stake president.

  35. Half of my family are not Mormon and as someone who on occasion attends Christian worship, I feel like we really need to revive our stale sacrament meetings. I’m not advocating a rock fest, but we need a lot more feeling in it. At Christian worship people sing with much more passion. Teenagers stand and praise. Honestly, I feel the spirit more there then with our funeral dirge 19th century slog fest hymns.

    I once asked my bishop if I could set up the projector to show a picture to go along with my talk. Nope. Not handbook approved. Our over correlated service eliminates so much that could edify and actually get people to not feel compelled to turn to their phones in boredom.

  36. it's a series of tubes says:

    Tim, it appears we have similar tastes. Which album are you referencing?

  37. Neal Morse (previously Spock Beard’s frontman)–“One.” Very proggy and very christian.

  38. I remember my older sister deciding she wasn’t going to listen to rock & roll on Sundays. I still tend to follow that myself: on Sundays I’m more likely to listen to Bach . . . actually on most days I’m more likely to listen to Bach.

    What if they had made the right half of the picture a cello?

  39. My church duties on Saturday and Sunday came to a total of 22 hours. If I hadn’t had my daughter change out of her PJs on Saturday evening to go grocery shopping with me, I wouldn’t have seen her at all that day.

    That being said, at least there were two productive things that happened. One was to arrange a recommend for a living ordinance, and one was instructing a new deacon on the need not to pick his nose and not drool over cute girls while passing the Sacrament. More productive weekend than most.