A Day of Rest

It’s probably pretty familiar. The Sabbath Day is appointed for:
1) Sacraments
2) Rest from Labor
3) Paying Devotion to God.

And I wonder – what am I doing that reflects these priorities?

Sacraments
I go to sacrament meeting each week. I wonder, what does “sacraments” even mean? According to dictionary.com – sacraments are visible signs of inward grace, especially one of the solemn Christian rites considered to have been instituted by Jesus Christ to symbolize or confer grace.

So – in sacrament meeting, we are doing what Christ taught us all to do – when He was in the upper room shortly before his suffering in Gethsemane and death on the cross:

“And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” – Luke 22:19-20

On Sundays, during our sacrament meetings, we do as Christ instructed. We take bread and water as tokens of His everlasting sacrifice. We remember Him. We covenant with Him to follow Him, and the ordinance of the sacrament is a small token of our commitment to Him.

Rest from Labor
On the Sabbath we rest from our labors. This is tricky, to me. I don’t work on Sundays – as in I don’t go to work. And I try not to do work-related things on Sunday. However, I know that there are some people who must work on the Sabbath.

Even though I don’t work on Sundays, rarely do my Sabbath days feel restful. I am a mom. I have a house to run – even on the Sabbath. I scale back some of my chores, but things still must be done, mouths must be fed, kids must be cared for. You know how it goes.

Additionally, I have a lot of work to do for church. I understand that the Sabbath is a great day to do our church work.

It’s just that sometimes, it doesn’t seem very …restful.

Onto the next subject for a second. But we’ll get back to a day of rest.

Paying Devotion to God
The Sabbath is a day set aside for us to pay devotion to God. Once again, I think that it is helpful to understand what that actually means. Devotion is profound dedication or consecration.

Of course, we should spend every day of our lives devoted to God. But the Sabbath day has been especially consecrated by God, and we should also be sure that this is a sacred day in our lives, too. I won’t get into the many ways that we can or can’t or do or do not show our devotion to God. This isn’t a post of do’s and don’t’s.

I will say, however, I have to change my attitude. Sometimes I go to church, and I might feel a little judgmental about a lesson. Maybe it could have been better. Maybe I disagree with a little something that someone said. If my mind is consecrated to the Lord, then I won’t let little things bother me at church. I will, instead, maintain a worshipful and joyful thought pattern. (To accomplish this, sometimes I turn on my phone and look at pictures of nature! They help me to remember the majesty of God and of some of my sacred experiences.) Whatever keeps my mind turned to God is good, I guess…

img_4172

When I have trouble bridling my thoughts, I just take a breath and look at a picture like this.

***

Okay, so sometimes there is still a little bit of a disconnect for me about the Sabbath day – if it is a day of sacraments and devotion to God, then how it is also a day of rest? These other two aspects of the Sabbath can sometimes feel a little bit at odds with resting – going to church for three hours?! Meetings?! Choir practices?! Sometimes my sacraments and devotions make me feel that Sunday isn’t a restful day at all.

Rest…REST! Sounds good, right? When I think of Rest, the first scripture that comes to mind is the invitation we get from the Savior:

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

Hmm…I’m noticing a connection…

I think that I may have misunderstood what “rest” really is.

One
Rest from our Labors – this is the part of “resting” that WE do. We decide that the Sabbath day is consecrated and set apart, so we rest from our worldly labors and concerns and instead focus on our devotion to God.

This is the more obvious understanding of “rest,” and sometimes it may not feel all that “restful” because we are still working hard.

Two
This is the good one!

There is “rest” that we cannot do – that we cannot achieve on our own. There is a “rest” that is only offered to us through Christ.

Rest doesn’t only come when we sit back and put our feet up. That’s nice, for sure, and it is certainly a part of rest, but it isn’t really all there is to it. Rest, in the sense as quoted in Matthew, is a result. Rest is a consequence of us coming unto Christ.

This doesn’t mean being busy. It means being prayerful and contemplative. It means coming unto Him through covenanting with Him. It means serving Him. When we come unto Christ, we will offer up our sacraments and devotion to Him, and as a consequence of such behavior, we will find rest.

So – let the Sabbath Day be a day of rest – by choosing to come unto the Lord and letting Him bless you with His rest. I know that this rest is what will get us through the stress and difficulty of our lives. What a blessing and promise. The Sabbath truly is a day of rest and a delight!

What are Mormon Church Services Like?

When I was growing up, I often went to two churches. We would go to my Mom’s church – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then, we’d also attend a Mass with my dad at the local Catholic Parish.

While both services had plenty in common; I always noticed two major differences: Dad’s church wasn’t long. And you didn’t have to wear a dress. (Just so you know, my Mom always made us wear a dress or dressy clothes to my Dad’s church because we were going there to worship God. We were expected to worship God in our Sunday best – the girls wearing dresses, the boys in suits and tied, and all of us with hair and teeth brushed.)

As I got older, and the topic of church came up with my friends, they would often act horrified to learn that our church lasted for three hours. They couldn’t imagine sitting for that long…and in a skirt, or suit and tie! Usually, when this reaction came up, I’d try to explain a little bit about our services…

Sacrament Meeting

The Ordinance

The Ordinance of the Sacrament (similar to communion) is the most important part of our Sunday worship. It is what Sunday Worship is all about. We are commanded to keep the Sabbath Day holy, worshiping God is an integral part in keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn

“And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;

Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;

But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.” – Doctrine and Covenants 59:9-12

We have been commanded to prayerfully and humbly pay our devotions to God. We do so through commemorating the Lord’s Last Supper: we partake of these holy emblems in remembrance of the Body and Blood of Christ. Through this ordinance, we recognize our need for Him – that The Atonement He performed will pay for our sins and enable us to be reunited with our God. Through Christ’s atonement, we can overcome both physical and spiritual death. The Sacrament is a token of our commitment to Him. It is a sign of the covenant that we have made with Him at baptism: that He will cleanse and sanctify us from our sins – and we will keep His Commandments and Always Remember Him.

As you can see, this is a very personal and intimate experience. Sacrament is a reverent meeting – revolving around the actual ordinance of the Sacrament: where bread and water is blessed by those with authority and then passed to the congregation – who may partake of it if they wish.

Attendance

All are invited to attend Sacrament Meeting. You do not have to be a member of the Church. We do not have an age restriction. Everyone is welcome.

Entire families attend Sacrament together – which means children are there. This can seem a little distracting. Often, Mormon Sacrament Meetings (where there is a large amount of families with children) can have the lively buzz of children. We try to teach our children to be reverent, but we understand what Christ taught about the Children “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 19:14).

If you attend a Mormon Sacrament meeting, you can expect to find a meeting that may be lively, but that is also filled with the love of those who come to worship their God.

Dress

At Mormon Sunday Services, we are encouraged to wear our “Sunday Best.” This means different things to different people. But, just as the ordinance of sacrament is deeply personal, so is the concept of “Sunday Best.” Typically, in churches in the U.S., you will see men wearing suits and ties, and women wearing skirts or dresses. There is no limitation, though. I have seen men in jeans, tee-shirts, shorts. I have seen women in slacks. I honestly don’t have much of an opinion about what people wear. For myself, I dress modestly and in a fashion that promotes and denotes my worshipful and loving attitude for the Savior. The meeting is about Him – about His sacrifice for me and all of human-kind.

I also encourage my children to dress modestly – in a way that doesn’t draw attention and in a way that helps them to act a little more reverently. I have found that the way I dress can influence the way I act. I want my children to act reverent and to respect the sacredness of the Ordinance of the Sacrament. Two of my children have been baptized. They are under an obligation to the Lord. They need to renew their covenants as much as I do. It is up to me to teach them how to do that in a way that is loving and respectful. Dress is a part of it. Of course, it isn’t the most important thing – Above all, I want my children to turn their hearts to the Lord, and it is crucial that I do the same.

The Sacrament Meeting/Program

Sacrament meeting consists of

  • announcements (usually made by a member of the Bishopbric – local leaders)
  • prelude music
  • opening hymn (all of the congregation sings)
  • We will then be welcomed, again, to the meeting by a member of the bishopbric. If there is some kind of business that needs attending (perhaps the blessing of a child or welcoming of a new member to the congregation) then it will be attended to after the opening prayer
  • the rest of the program is announced
  • The ordinance of the sacrament is performed
  • Speakers – typically there are two to three assigned speakers. They are usually members – men and women – of the congregation. Often, they have been asked in advance to prepare a talk to give for the meeting.
  • There may also be a special musical number at some point after the ordinance of the Sacrament itself.
  • Closing Hymn
  • Closing Prayer

Sacrament usually lasts about 1 hour 10 minutes.

Other Sunday Meetings

After Sacrament meeting, most Mormons attend other meetings including:

  • Sunday School – 60 minutes – organized by age group from ages 12 to adult
  • Primary – for children ages 3-11
  • Nursery – for children ages 18 months to 3
  • Young Women – for girls ages 12-17
  • Relief Society – For women over 18 years
  • Priesthood – for men ages 12-adult

***
I have to admit, I love my Sunday services. It is nice to see my church friends. Each week, when I attend church, I feel refreshment and renewal. It helps me to strive and stay determined on the course back to my Heavenly Father. But, above all, I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to partake of the Sacrament and renew my covenants with the Lord. I love Him. I want to please Him.

You can find out more about Mormon Sunday Services here.

Sabbath Day Circus

So, I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, but I keep putting it off…I’m finally getting around to it.

Generally speaking, I love Sundays. My husband is home. My family is home. Sometimes, I have a few meetings, but otherwise, we are all at home. We are able to enjoy one another and kind of relax. It’s so nice.

HAHA! I always think it’s going to be so nice, but then my kids get a little bored. They want to play Wii. Or they want to watch something that is not okay for Sunday. They start to fight. They complain. They whine. etc. You get the idea. I’m sure you’ve experienced it, too.

One morning, at breakfast, the bickering had begun. Kid “B” reported to me, “Mom, [sister] has the plate I wanted. I never get that plate…” I said, “It’s just a plate.” It wasn’t even 8AM, and I was already exasperated. Of course, there was more to the argument (like a little bit of sneakiness on Kid A’s part, but it doesn’t matter right now). I announced to the girls, “Today, after you are ready for church, I have a little surprise for you.”

They were excited. I told my husband my plan – we were going to make them write reports! hahaha! However, I wanted them to be excited about it, so we came up with the title, Sabbath Day Circus.

I found two of their old notebooks, wrote their names on them, drew a little (horrible) picture, and wrote: “Sabbath Day Circus Notes.” (sounds fun, huh?)

Time for fun…

So – I gave each girl a notebook with an topic and writing assignment. My children are 9 and 7. I wasn’t sure how they were going to like this idea, but with the right presentation (Circus! Fun!), they were a little excited.

I wrote their assignments on the first page. If you choose to do this for your children, keep in mind their ability. Here is an example of one of the assignments I gave:

[date] – Topic: Honoring Parents – Write a report on Honoring parents. Who should honor their parents? Why should we honor our parents? When do we honor our parents? Who has told us that we should honor our parents? Why should we honor our parents? How can we honor our parents? If we honor our parents, are we blessed? How are we blessed?”

I gave this topic to my 9-year old – who has been having a little bit of trouble with talking back lately.

Amazingly, she took to it. In fact, here’s the report she wrote. I didn’t help at all…

I’m doing a report on honoring parents. Children honor their parents. We should honor our parents because they teach us to be a righteous person. They also teach us to walk and talk and lots of other things. We should honor our parents all the time. We should honor our parents everywhere we go with them. We should honor them everywhere because then we will feel warm in our hearts. We can honor our parents by being kind, serving them, and a lot more. We will be blessed if we honor our parents. We will be blessed because it’s something Jesus would do. In Colossians 3:20 it says, “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleaseing unto the Lord.” That is another thing on how we will be blessed. It is well pleasing unto the Lord. I just did a report on how honoring our parents blesses our lives.

Pretty cool, huh?

So – if you want to do the “Sabbath Day Circus,” here are a few ideas to make it work.

  • Give each child a unique assignment.
    • This is a great way to tailor to the specific needs of each child.
  • Remember to make the assigments very specific.
    • We give the kids a topic for two weeks at a time. For the first week, they write a report. When giving them this assignment, be very specific. If your child is young, they may be new to writing – especially writing reports. So, if you ask a few guiding questions that they can answer, they will begin to see that they can write a report!
    • The week after our children have written a report, they get a creative assignment on the same topic.
      • Poetry – Sometimes, I assign the children to write a poem. You may need to help them a little bit more with it. When assigning a poem, it helps to have a poetic form in mind. You can click here for a list and explanation of poetic forms. Poetry writing (especially rhyming) can be a little difficult for children, so they need a lot of help, but my kids really love writing the poetry. They get excited. So – don’t be afraid to try it. Here’s an example of some poetry that has been written by the kids.
      • (This poem was written completely by Kid A. It is in “Acrostic” format. Children usually can do this on their own. The subject is Fasting)

        For blessings in your life
        A long time till you eat
        Sometimes want to eat
        Tempting not to eat
        It pays off afterward
        No eating for a long time
        Good to do

        (Don’t you love that poem!? It is exactly how fasting can feel sometimes!)

        another:

        (This poem was written by Kid-B – who is seven. Obviously, we had to work together on it. I didn’t write the poem, per se, but I did coach her on things that rhymed. She really felt happy when it was done. Her topic was faith.)

        Faith
        While writing a poem about faith
        I began to think
        Of the time I spent yesterday
        At the roller-rink.

        It may sound funny,
        But I think it’s true
        Skating and faith are alike in many ways –
        Here are a few:

        With skating and faith
        I would suppose
        You must be taught
        By someone who knows.

        Roller skating and faith
        Are both hard to do
        No one else can do it –
        It must be you.

        With roller skating you need balance
        Which is something you feel.
        Faith, like balance, can’t be seen,
        But both are real.

        At first skating and faith are hard-
        You may want to cry
        But you’ll get better if you practice
        And give it a try.

        Getting good at skating and faith
        May take a little while
        But when you can do them
        You will have a great big smile.

      • Sometimes, other than poetry, you may suggest that your children write an original story that displays their topic in some way. I won’t include an example here, but my children have also really loved doing this.
  • Give the children plenty of time to complete their assignment. But don’t force them to take too long either – give them ownership. Then it won’t feel like a chore.
  • Remind them to use their scriptures and topical guides. Encourage them to do as much on their own as possible.
  • Have them present the reports in a fun way – This is The Circus!
  • It may be fun to have a goal – submit a poem or story to the friend or make a goal that after so much has been written, you will type up their work and publish it in a little book. (We will probably do this, eventually).
  • You may want to consider, periodically, participating, too. It may be fun to see what kind of story mom or dad may write.

This may seem like a crazy idea to some people. In fact, when I first presented it to our family, I kind of had this skeptical voice in my head saying, “Have them write reports…are you crazy?!”, but it has worked really well so far. The kids are now busy on Sundays with something that is positive and gospel centered. Yet, they are in control of their work, so they seem to be very happy. They love taking ownership, doing a good job, and then getting a positive response. They have also loved doing the creative assignments.

I have also noticed how this has helped them become more comfortable with the scriptures. They are looking in the topical guide. They are figuring out how to make meaning of the scriptures. And when we do creative assignments, they can apply these principles to real-life scenarios (like roller skating!). So…anyways, I thought I’d share this little tradition we’ve started in our family. Maybe you might like it, too.

***
If you do this, or if you have any other insights, please, let me know…comment and share.

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