17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sabbath Day Litmus Test

When I was little, I remember begging my mom to let me play outside on Sunday afternoon after church. As part of my persuasive argument as to why she should grant my request, I promised I would "think about Jesus the WHOLE time" and once I think I even said I would name the books of the Book of Mormon with every pump of my legs on our swingset. I don't think my argument always worked with my mom, but sometimes it did, because I do remember playing outside on the Sabbath (even if it was in my dress because our family did not change from our Sunday clothes).

I have been thinking today about appropriate Sunday activities. Mostly because I found out today that, despite my best efforts, Princess' ballet recital will be held on Sunday. I mean, I would rather her not be in a ballet recital on Sunday, but when it comes down to it, is a ballet recital really inappropriate? I remember playing in piano recitals on Sunday. Was that appropriate? I remember going to many music based firesides on Sunday. Maybe when it comes to the arts just gospel singing and instrumental music is good for Sunday. How about a lyrical dance concerts to church? What if the songs are by Afterglow?

I don't want my kids playing soccer on Sunday. Does the level of physical exertion make the difference? What if they are exceptionally good at their sport (the Steve Young exception)? What if the activity is a once a year Sunday event? What if their absence lets their team down? Do you make an exception? Or is this the slippery slope down to hell?

I have seen a lot of posts about birthday parties on Sundays. Most people have come to the conclusion of a blanket "no". Before I came to a blanket conclusion of my own, I was faced with a Sunday birthday party invite for Princess. We decided to go. In the end, I feel (through circumstances that were unknown to me beforehand) that it was indeed the right (or at least an okay) thing to do on Sunday. Then I think about all the times we have had people over on Sunday to eat and visit - family and friends (especially at the times when we had no family close). The kids play (while thinking about Jesus of course). We sometimes even break out a boardgame or two. Some people might even call it a "party". And I don't feel inappropriate (maybe I should?) Is it the cake and invitations that make a difference? Or maybe the magician and the bounce house? But what if the birthday party doesn't have a bounce house? Or is it because the families who have their parties on Sundays are non-members? Is it more appropriate to associate with members on Sunday than non? Doesn't seem like it should matter, but my past activities and the culturally accepted sabbath activities make it seem otherwise.

There are the obvious activities that add to the "holiness" of the day like scripture reading and service (though I know some people who would feel uncomfortable helping in a soup kitchen on a sunday but would be fine with spending an hour fixing a nice Sunday dinner for their own family). Family bonding seems to open the door for more interpretation. How about a Sunday drive? No, gas is too expensive these days :). How about a family bike ride? What if your "family" happens to be made up of friends at the moment?

I know there are a ton of questions in this post. They are mostly rhetorical. My question is not where you draw the line, but why you have decided to draw the line where you do? Have you come up with a litmus test that seems to be working for your family when it comes to deciding on Sabbath day activities? Do you think your litmus test will always hold true? Do you think it might change as your children grow older? Or if they turn out to be really good at soccer :)?


  • I have been thinking about these things a lot lately as we get more and more involved in our new community. I am most definitely on the "liberal" end of things but these are our half-baked ideas of a Sabbath for our family:

    -Spending time with family and in church are the priority. Bike rides with family? Definitely. Soccer games? I would say that I wouldn't sign my child up for a team that played the majority of games on Sunday, but if it happened ocasionally, I would leave the decision to my child.

    -Currently, I let my kids play outside on Sundays. They go nuts if they don't have some time outside everyday. I do try to balance it out on Sunday with quieter activities and turn on classical or primary music while they play.

    -Avoid shopping/restaurants except for emergencies. We are pretty strict with this most of the time...but I admit it all goes out the window when nonmember family is in town.

    I'll be curious to hear other responses...
    posted by Blogger Jen at 5/31/2007 11:19:00 AM  

  • I will be watching this post very carefully as I do not have a good answer for any of your fabulous questions.

    The rule at our house is we don't play outside on Sundays, but I don't have a burning testimony about that decision. For the moment, the best reason I have for not letting them is - it's MY day of rest. I don't want to clean up the spilled bubbles, bandage the scraped knees, catch the lizards and crickets, jump on the trampoline, push kids on the swings, fill the washer with the several changes of clothes per child, and end the day with a bunch of dirty, sweaty kids in the bath tub - if only one day per week. BUT then when we go to someone else's home - family or friends, suddenly the rule doesn't apply. And I don't know how I feel about any of it.
    posted by Blogger rebecca at 5/31/2007 12:04:00 PM  

  • This is honestly one of the most difficult issues I've dealt with as a part. It's involved, yucky, and I really don't want to think about it too much. My DH was raised watching church videos on Sunday and that was about it. I could go out in our own backyard, but friends were pretty much off limits. BUT, as time went on and I excelled in volleyball, I played club ball from the age of 12 on and missed a TON of church. You really have no other option if you want to be recruited. My parents were at odds about it and that was hard. I was fine with missing church and haven't ever "fallen" away because of it. I ended up with a scholarship to BYU to play and it seemed worth it. Now, I have NO clue what we'll do with our own 4 girls. It seriously makes me crazy to think about it. I've basically said that we will cross each road when it comes. I think it is sooooooooooooooo hard to never bend regardless of the situation. I just think it's better to be flexible because you really don't know what lies ahead. For the past 8 years, my husband has been in Med School/residency and I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be ok with some of the Sabbath activities we've participated in. But, I've been ok with them because it's been a matter of sanity and balance for me. Ideally, I think we all want to be the perfect mormom mommy that worships all day in the most appropriate ways, but sometimes life just doesn't work that way. It's been a more difficult "task" than I imagined it would be. Oh, it's only just begun too :) Girls are only 8,6,4,and 2!
    posted by Anonymous cali at 5/31/2007 12:31:00 PM  

  • Sorry, that "parent" not "part" in the first sentence.
    posted by Anonymous cali at 5/31/2007 12:33:00 PM  

  • I think the main thing is that it's something you feel ok about. Ultimately it's between you and your family and your Heavenly Father and your relationship with him. What's ok for someone else, might not feel ok for you.

    For our family, we say, "it's family day". Our week is pretty crazy, so Sunday is our day, all day, together. When friends come to see if they can play, they just say "nope, it's our family day". But, we certainly go outside and play, ride bikes, be together, whatever that is for us. We love to play games and cook and eat. We also get together every Sunday with my husbands family (siblings and kids. ..altogether it's about 20 of us). Not everyone is active in church. The kids play and we eat and talk, and although the topics aren't Sabbath related, we are taking advantage of the time we have together. We know that it's unusual that we all live close and have great relationships and love to be together. Yes, the kids get crazy sometimes, but they are with their cousins and grandparents and those are important relationships!

    As far as sports go. . .my daughters team she signed up for ended up playing on Sundays, so we dropped it. She's only in kindergarten. If it were to happen when she's older and she really had a gift for it, we'd revisit it then. I think there are so many church activites for the youth, seminary, mutual night, that missing a few sundays won't hurt. But that's me. ..
    posted by Blogger wendysue at 5/31/2007 01:15:00 PM  

  • Sunday should always be more than about a set of rules that one has to follow. Honoring the Sabbath goes beyond not working/playing/shopping, etc. It's a day set aside for man to reflect, worship, and honor God. A time to slow down, express gratitude, and renew ourselves for the week ahead.

    The prophets and apostles have been vocal about some things (avoiding shopping, working, competetive sports when possible), but they have been silent about other things (wearing Sunday clothes all day, watching no television). So, yeah, the Litmus Test is very personal. It's different to everybody.

    I hate shopping/eating out on Sunday. HATE IT. But my in-laws do it all the time. I have to give a little when we're with them, and sometimes it's hard for me, but that's okay.

    My kids are still young enough that nothing has really come up that would be controversial to us. We'll have families over for game night, we go to the park as a family, we watch movies together, we nap, etc.

    What do I want, though? I want my children to choose church and family first ALWAYS. That might be an impossible dream, but I'm hoping for it. And at least until they are teenagers I can enforce it a little... :)
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/31/2007 01:48:00 PM  

  • Hi - I am new here due to a link from Rebecca's blog.
    This is a great topic of discussion on a blog because everyone has a different opinion...for what its worth, here's mine:
    When we first got married, my hubby and I decided to test out this whole sabbath day holy thing. We opted not to do any homework of any kind on Sunday (this is NOT something I grew up doing - I remember many a Sunday night cramming for a Monday morning exam!). This was particularly difficult because my husband was in dental school and was completely swamped with homework all the time. In the 4 years of dental school and the following 2 years post-grad, he never once studied on Sunday. The result? Chad graduated summa cum laude from UCLA dental school with the highest grades in the history of that dental school (and then they changed the grading system, so he will always hold that record). He will forever give the credit for that to being obedient to the commandments and my prayers. I guess you could say that we learned a HUGE lesson about keeping the sabbath day holy from that! As a result, we're pretty careful about what we do on Sundays. I found an Ensign article has some excellent guidelines. I encourage everyone to check it out - “Teaching Children to Keep the Sabbath,” Ensign, Oct 1989, pg. 44.
    posted by Blogger Laura at 5/31/2007 02:30:00 PM  

  • laura-
    That is so cool! Thanks for the Ensign info...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 5/31/2007 02:38:00 PM  

  • My general reaction is to say, if you can do it in Sunday clothes (not that we stay in Sunday clothes), do it. For me, this marks the difference between a walk (totally fine) and a hike (controversial, I know). I say no sweating on Sunday.

    Special things (like music recitals) are harder. I have watched my Mom on this. With her younger children, they all got into string instruments. So, it went from the occassional Sunday recital to the regular Sunday concert to sometimes rehearsals on Sundays, to all too frequent missing Church for rehearsal/concert/recital. Sure, there is a huge spectrum of Sunday activity, but once you start moving along, it is hard to draw a line where we say "no." I think if you were to ask my Mom of years ago "OK, do you want to start this if you know that your high school kids will miss a quarter of their Church meetings and start seeing lunch at McDonalds on the way to rehearsal as normal?" I think she would have said no. But they have slid there.
    posted by Blogger a spectator at 5/31/2007 02:51:00 PM  

  • Keep in mind that your children are watching you. How you choose to spend your Sundays will have an effect on them and how they value Sundays. They're being told to keep the Sabbath holy and they look to you to help them define what is or isn't okay on Sunday.

    That said, why don't you pray about it? Let your child know you're praying about it; if she's old enough ask her to pray too. Maybe you can even pray together. This sounds like a good opportunity to work on spiritual decision making.
    posted by Anonymous Proud Daughter of Eve at 5/31/2007 03:10:00 PM  

  • DH and I have a few hard and fast rules (no studying, no sports - well, that one is more mine than his, only appropriate tv, no shopping/eating out unless we're travelling) and they rest we just go by feel. We have people over for dinner and games quite frequently. It's a great time to get together and have some good clean fun.

    We probably don't do as much spiritual stuff as we should, but at least it's different from every other day of the week.
    posted by Anonymous Amy at 5/31/2007 04:22:00 PM  

  • I have a really hard time with this. For a while I was trying to do the no shopping no eating out no chores thing but I've got some sort of degenerative inflammatory process going on and I'm exhausted all the time. I simply can't seem to get even the laundry and dishes done, during the week or on Saturday. I can barely get up 5 days a week and dress and get to work. I rarely go to church because I don't think I could manage six. Though I miss taking the sacrament very much.

    So on Sundays I try to rest as much as possible, and to pray a lot, and read spiritually uplifting stuff like the Ensign or scriptures. I don't watch television at all so my Sundays are free from television, at least. But I don't really succeed in keeping the day holy, I'm sad to say. I would like to do better.
    posted by Anonymous Tatiana at 5/31/2007 07:25:00 PM  

  • What I want out of Sunday is to feel the spirit... strongly and hopefully often throughout the day. Some Sundays this happens more easily than others. My child is very young, so this mostly applies to DH & I, but I do agree with the comment that said "your children watch you and are looking to you for guidance". I do want to be consistent with what my children learn at church and what they see at home. I think this is definitely a personal decision and yes, there are guidelines (or suggestions), but you need to pray about it with your family. I do want Sundays to feel special to my family, but like Jen, I may be a little more liberal about choices we make (I think I make pretty much the same choices as her family does on Sundays). But I feel good about those decisions. I know where we need to improve, too. I'm interested in the responses though, especially from those of you who have older children. I do think that you never know when your kids are gonna pick up on what you are doing, so you might as well start when they are itty bitty.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 5/31/2007 09:44:00 PM  

  • My brother is currently dating a non-member. She is open to our religion, though, and really cares for my brother. Last Sunday she shared with me that she had suggested taking their kids to a movie that night and my brother told her that that wasn't allowed. She then said "I'm still learning the rules." In our home, growing up and now with my boys, Sunday is a day for family time, not spending money, and no sweating (unless the temperature soars and then we sweat even taking a nap). Playing catch in the backyard with your cousin is okay, but going to a ball game or playing in one is not. In the end, we always base our Sabbath activities on how they make us feel and if we would invite Jesus to join us. Granted we aren't perfect, but we are trying to be good.
    posted by Anonymous colds1 at 6/01/2007 08:27:00 AM  

  • We struggle with this one, too. For us, there are some very definite NOs for Sunday: No grocery shopping, no eating out, no going to a place where we would spend money, like a carnival, circus, whatever.

    Here are the gray areas:
    We've limited birthday parties, but have gone to a few before we moved when we knew our son wouldn't be seeing those kids again. We let him play outside with the friends in our cul-de-sac on Sundays, simply because it's easier than forcing him to stay inside to hang with his parents. We won't let him buy ice-cream from the ice-cream truck on Sundays, but even this one, I wonder what we've accomplished by fighting that very difficult battle.

    My parents were pretty lax about Sundays, and I remember them being pretty lazy days around our house. I seem to have retained my testimony, so maybe some lax rules are okay. I really don't know, though.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 6/01/2007 08:39:00 AM  

  • This post reminded me of a funny story my nephew told me who just came back from his mission in Texas.

    Two of the sister missionaries in their branch were driving on Sunday and ran out of gas. They refused to buy gas on Sunday because they wanted to keep the sabbath day holy. So they found some water, put it in, and prayed for it (aka commanded it) to turn to gas.

    Needless to say, they were reprimanded and had to walk or ride bikes the rest of their mission.
    posted by Blogger tamrobot at 6/01/2007 09:15:00 AM  

  • That sister missionary story has been around. My husband told the exact same story from his mission in cali in the late ninties. Either there are alot of stupid sisters, or that is mission folklore :)

    As for the sabbath, we have no kids and I can't say we have any 'rules' other than go to church. We often stop by the store (cause I'm really unorganized like that and always need something in order to have a sunday meal at home). Sometimes we go out to dinner.

    Growing up our families were pretty typical, no sports, no playing with friends, no shopping etc. but they weren't super strict. The one thing we grew up doing and do still is watch sports, its like a sunday tradition :)
    posted by Anonymous Veritas at 6/01/2007 12:41:00 PM  

  • Well at the very least, I am comforted to hear that this subject is a tough one for most people. I think my Sunday habits just came from the way I was raised and I hadn't taken much time to really think about why I did the things I did and didn't do the things I didn't. I love the idea of not having Sunday "rules" but on a certain level you sort of have to with a family, even if they aren't "official."

    Cali, your story is exactly the kind of thing I am talking about when it comes to sports. It's so tough. It could be even tougher if your other child's talent lie in classical music performing (which you might have less of a problem with Sunday performances).
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/01/2007 03:36:00 PM  

  • Oh, I meant to add in with the last scenario another choice - instead of "holding them both back" do you believe there could be a chance of even higher achievement if your children don't perform on Sunday (like the popular "no homework on Sunday" testimony).

    Again, you don't have to answer the question, but I think it is an interesting thing to think about as you decide where you are going to "make your stand".
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 6/01/2007 03:42:00 PM  

  • The Sabbath Day is a big "thing" for me. It was always what I was good at standing for. I was a competitive gymnast and never had to participate on Sunday. The state of California made special exception for me to compete all of my events on Saturday. I was young, but it was my decision and I appreciate my parents allowing me to make that choice.
    Fast forward 10 years. Yeah, I keep the Sabbath holy, but do I make it a holy day? I don't think all of my activities uplift me. That is just something I need to work on. Sometimes I think it's easier to make a big life decision(no I will not compete on Sunday) rather than the little ones (watch tv, study, etc).
    This is an extremely tough subject...so much grey area. It's great to hear others thoughts.
    posted by Blogger Melissa at 6/01/2007 06:09:00 PM  

  • This totally reminds me of something. Around the time I converted to the church Halloween landed on a Sunday and there were people saying that their kids weren't going to trick-or-treat. I didn't know how I felt about that (and still am not sure to some extent). Do you allow your children to do those sorts of activities? I mean, I guess it's not that big a deal .... you only have to deal with it every 6 or 7 years.
    posted by Blogger Beth at 6/01/2007 10:07:00 PM  

  • Lots of great ideas here- thanks for the tips. For what it's worth, I'll add a few of my own thoughts.

    I think it has got to ultimately be a family decision on how to spend your Sundays. I love the tips of praying about it and I think it should be decided between spouses when the children are young so that a routine can be established. My hubby and I were raised completely oppositely with regards to Sunday conduct.

    I was raised very strict (staying in our dresses the whole day and everything) and he was raised having it as a family day- whether that meant camping or boating or going out to dinner. I like to sing to my kids that old primary song "Saturday is a special day. It's the day we get ready for Sunday..." It reminds me to get organized on Saturday (not an easy task with four kids under age 6 when my husband works most Sundays, but I feel much better when I give it my best effort) and prepare to have an uplifting, holy, spiritually uplifting Sunday.

    I admit I have let things slide in the past, especially with inactive in-laws who want to spoil their grandkids. However, I can't stand when people judge others by their Sunday activities or the whole "holier than thou" attitude. That drives me NUTS- it's so against what our church is all about. I think that is almost worse than disregarding the Sabbath day altogether. It only brings people down and causes pride. What's the point?

    Those people need to give others who choose different Sunday activities a break and do your best to keep your family on the right track and in check. It's hard to teach my kids that Sundays are holy and special, but I know that I am a happier mother and have a more positive week when I try my best. I think everyone should give themselves some credit too and not stress so much about the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. At least you GO to 3 hours of church each week and make the best effort to raise a righteous, eternal family. I think some people are are harder on themselves than they need to be by trying so hard to live perfectly. I think ultimately God asks us to do our best and that is all we can do.

    Anwyay, there are always exceptions, but I have personally found it my family devotes ourselves and "seek ye first the kingdom of God", then we are ultimately blessed both short term and long term. It is a blessing to have a day of rest and time for family and worship. I think we would all burn ourselves out if we didn't have Sundays. We need the spiritual uplift and renewal for each week ahead. Thanks goodness for Sundays!
    posted by Anonymous LJ Mommy at 6/01/2007 11:20:00 PM  

  • Wow! What a hot topic! I too am a friend from Rebecca G.'s blog. I just had to approach this topic with my son today. His end of season baseball team party is next Sunday. Do I let him go? In deciding as a family what to do on Sundays, I have tried to teach my kids that it is a commandment to Keep the Sabbath Day holy. That of course is up for interpretation. What is holy? When the kids want to play GameCube, play with friends outside, watch cartoons, etc. I ask them if it feels like it's keeping the Sabbath Day Holy. Does it help us set this day aside from Tues, Wed, or Sat? What keeps Sunday special? I don't let them do those activities. I loved Melissa's comment about Keeping it holy vs. making it a holy day. Avoiding certain activities may not be enough. Maybe it's the activities we do participate in. Do they draw the spirit near? Growing up my Dad was not a member so we didn't follow the Sabbath rule. I don't have that experience to draw from except to say that when I started dating my hubby and was hanging around his parent's house on Sunday afternoons, THEY kept the Sabbath Day holy and you could always feel the spirit there. It was a much different feeling than my own house and I longed to have that in my life. I'm grateful for their example and try to give that to my kids. As for my son's party, I guess I feel I should teach him consistency. Do we only keep the Sabbath Day holy when it's easy and convenient? Do we keep it holy always except for baseball season? I feel I have an opportunity to teach him a great lesson here. I agree that it's the bigger things like shopping, eating out, etc. that are easy to say no to. The little things sneak up on us and it's harder to know where to draw the line. Thanks for listening. Thanks for everyone's comments. It's comforting to know we're not alone in our efforts to do what's right for our families.It's definitely a personal decision. I'm off to look up Laura's Ensign article. Nicole
    posted by Blogger MOMMYDRBA at 6/03/2007 12:37:00 AM  

  • I am having a hard time too.
    I want to be super strick with the Sabbath day, but for the last 4 weeks I have become lazy.
    After reading these comments I realized that we are all working toward something and no one is perfect and we all have to do what is best for the family.
    I posted on my blog about this recently.
    Thanks so much for posting this, I feel better knowing that its not all or nothing.
    As a convert (14 years)I am still learning how to handle many things.
    One thing I am grateful for is that I have a church that always keeps me growing...and thats what is important.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 6/13/2007 08:15:00 PM  

  • I grew up in a very active LDS family (and it still is) with 5 older brothers. My mom always said, "I don't want our boys to hate Sunday because I won't let them go outside and play."
    If anything happened while they were playing (injuries), my mom would quietly mention that it was because it was Sunday. That was her way of teaching us.
    You have to find a fine balance between the two. Above all, don't be hard on yourself!!!! (words I should live by)
    posted by Blogger Al at 6/15/2007 07:43:00 AM  

  • I am really a know no body. I was looking on the web for some ideas of fun things to do with my 2yr old for Sabbath day activities and I accidently ran into your blog. I hope it is not intrudeing. Sabbath day for our family does mean staying in Sunday dress, except when I was pregnant with the twins and it was just too uncomfortable. We think mostly not about things that we don't do on Sunday, but on the things that we DO on Sunday. Things we can take the time to do that we normally don't make the time for during the week. Maybe we do it this way because it is easier. However, I find our day is filled with good activities and no complaints. We have something special on Sundays, cup cakes, cookies, some snack...and we do special things...play with toys or games that are "untouchable" during weekdays. It just makes it so that it is more of a priviledged day than a "not to" day.
    You sound like you are all doing excellent, I hope I will be as good a Mom as you have been.
    Love to all,
    posted by Blogger peacemaker at 6/24/2007 12:41:00 PM  

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