Sabbath day observance is tricky when you have a house full of people with differing stages of commitment. Dedicating a whole day to the Savior can seem like a waste of time to some and a delight to others. How do you help others to see the delight when everyone is on different levels of spirituality? It requires respect and understanding and sometimes patience and compromise where you least expect it—after all, doesn’t our Father in Heaven show us the same type of consideration?
Let’s modify an old object lesson involving a Mason jar to help us refine our understanding of both the Sabbath day and the importance of family unity on the subject.
Filling the Mason jar
Begin with a Mason jar, several large rocks, a pile of pebbles, and some sand. All the objects should fit in the jar. At first glance, it would appear you have more things on the table than can ever fit in one small jar. If you start with the smallest object, you will come to a stand-still. The sand would fill half the jar, the pebbles would lie on top, and there would be no room for the rocks. But if you reverse the order, you would find success. Begin with the rocks, placing them carefully inside the jar. Then add in the pebbles, which will fall around the rocks. You can then pour the sand inside with ease. The pebbles and sand fill in the crevices around the large rocks.
Likening the lesson to Sabbath day observance
For those who are strong believers in Christ, it is easy to understand what everything represents. The jar is the Sabbath day and the objects are activities and habits appropriate for Sabbath day observance. The size of the objects represent priority—largest rocks represent going to church and taking the Sacrament, while the pebbles may be service-related activities or family time, and the sand might represent personal time. It then becomes easy to understand the method used to fill the jar—make sure church attendance is top priority, etc.
What if your family disagrees on what the objects represent?
When your family is on board with the meaning of the objects, life is good. Sabbath days are Christ centered, and all is well. But most families experience disagreements from time to time, and Sabbath day observance can be a heated topic. There are differing levels of spirituality for each family member. Questions will arise, especially as children get older and seek to find their own way. Why should we always go to church? What constitutes family time and service? Why are my personal activities so limiting? Filling the jar may not be as easy for some as it is for others.
Church attendance—going through the motions or feeling the Spirit?
Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a talk during last General Conference that relates quite well to this topic. (The Music of the Gospel, General Conference, April 2015.) He asked if you’ve ever driven up to another car and saw the driver “dancing” to his radio. The driver looks silly because you can’t hear the music playing in his car! Then Elder Andersen compared this to the habit of church attendance. If we attend church and don’t feel the stirrings of the spirit, we, too are “going through the dance motions” without “hearing the music”. It doesn’t feel right. We are missing the purpose.
In the Mason jar analogy, how do we come to understand that the large rocks are important and need to go in first? How do we feel the Spirit enough to make church a priority in our lives? It begins with a leap of faith.
Faith to feel the Spirit
A child first believes what his parents teach him. Later he must find out on his own and develop his own testimony. Many people live life simply by going through the motions without putting their faith to the test. There is a better way—through faith.
Have faith that you are a child of God. Understand that you can have a personal relationship with Him. He answers prayers with a warm feeling of peace and clarity that comes to your mind and heart. He answers after the trial of your faith. You can feel something during church that is unique and spiritual—you can feel the Holy Spirit testify to you of the love Heavenly Father has for you. You can receive a personal witness that Jesus is the Christ, which can be nurtured each week. You can feel the blessings of His spirit residing with you. It begins with the faith to study, ponder and ask.
You can gain a witness of the importance of the Sabbath day in like manner. You can pray to know Jesus is your Savior. You can study his life and read about Him from the scriptures, especially in the New Testament of the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon. Then when you approach the Sabbath with humility, you are an empty vessel ready to receive more of his Spirit. This in turn not only makes it easy to prioritize the Sabbath but to make it a delight.
Find what speaks to you. Sometimes people feel the spirit strongly through the sacred music during the worship service. Sometimes the sacred prayers touch hearts in ways we may not have felt before. Sometimes the motion of taking the sacrament stirs a reverence we do not feel in any other place. Sometimes the talks or sermons are the exact words of comfort we’ve been looking for. Indeed, to be present—mentally and physically— is to receive an opportunity to grow in Spirit, every week for the rest of our lives.
Children feel the spirit more than we think
We can help our children recognize the spirit by talking to them about what they learned in church. When they mention things in their lessons or when they sing songs about the Savior, we can point out the feeling of warmth and peace they are feeling. This will help them to look for the same spirit next time. Sharing our personal feelings about the Savior and our spiritual experiences will help our children to understand better how the spirit works. It also can give our children the desire to feel the same things for themselves. It will build our relationships with them too, which in turn builds family bonds. When you can share something sacred between family members, your bond to Christ is also strengthened.
Church services take on a deeper meaning, one that has levels of sacredness that everyone can relate to. This in turn helps to elevate the Sabbath day church services. When everyone feels the spirit—even a small portion of it at first—they may be more willing to see where that spirit takes them. In this case, it brings them closer to the Savior.
What about the pebbles and the sand?
The question arises over what to do for the rest of the day to keep it holy. Again, it is an easy question to answer when everyone in the household is on board with church, but somewhat difficult when they are not.
In my next article I would like to address the pebbles and the sand. This is where we as family members might clash the most. We must learn to be accepting of everyone’s level of spirituality. What one person may consider an important Sabbath day observance might actually hinder another’s ability to feel close to the Savior. This might hold back one’s spiritual development rather than move it forward.
All is not lost—there are ways to help move the spiritual progress of the family along, utilizing respect, compassion, and patience. It involves seeing things through heavenly eyes and having a desire to do things according to His will as opposed to your own.
Did I say it would be easy? No. But it will be worth it.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.