When the Fourth of July Falls on the Sabbath

Bored in VernalMormon, sabbath 28 Comments

Avatar-BiVYesterday’s activities began with a Pancake Breakfast over at the Church, followed by a softball game.  We loaded up several of the kids from the Ward, my children’s friends, and hauled them all to the beach in both of our vans.  Arriving home at 5:00, we joined some neighbors for a potluck and barbecue.  There were even some small fireworks lit out in the field behind our house.  I enjoyed the day very much.  It was a lot like what we’ve done on the Fourth of July in years past — but this was on the third.  As I read some of the facebook pages of friends from around the country, I saw that a lot of Mormons were doing what we had done.  I suppose that celebrating Independence Day in the U.S. a day early this year was an effort to keep the Sabbath Day holy.

But why is a celebration of our country’s freedom considered a non-Sabbath avocation?  Would it be unthinkable to hold a short worship service followed by a Ward pancake breakfast? At our breakfast we had a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a congregational singing of patriotic hymns and prayer.  Then we ate and fellowshipped with one another.  The celebration seemed particularly well suited to worship and thankfulness.  The wholesome recreational activities gave us a break from our usual weekly work.  And watching fireworks with our families on Sunday doesn’t really strike me as detracting from the spirit of the day.  A 2001 Ensign article, Call the Sabbath a Delight instructs:

“…the Sabbath day was meant to be a blessing rather than a burden to those who observe it. Its blessings flow not only from attending Church meetings but also from engaging in activities appropriate to the spirit of this sacred day. Because circumstances differ among Church members, the kinds of Sunday activities each of us may choose in order to gain spiritual strength and draw closer to the Lord will vary.”

It seems to me that in many LDS homes, the Sabbath is as far from “a delight” as can be.  It has become a somber day of “don’ts” which our children and youth dread. My college-aged kids are home for the summer, and they have begun a tradition along with my high-schoolers.  They sit up on Sunday until the stroke of midnight, then they pile in the car and head off to Wal-Mart to buy snacks and fete the end of the Sabbath.  Our family attends our meetings, avoids purchasing things, and observes the general LDS guidelines for Sundays, but I wonder what exactly we are doing to gain spiritual strength and draw closer to the Lord.

A scripture in Galatians reads:

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

What do you think? Does the liberty offered us through Christ to supersede the Law of Moses extend to our Sabbath Day activities?  Would it be following the flesh to celebrate the Fourth of July with barbecues, picnics, fireworks watching?  Or could such family time be considered loving service? Does your family plan to eschew some of the activities you would normally do on Independence Daythis year because it falls on the Sabbath?

Comments 28

  1. If you have the view that the Constitution was written by the hand of God then I don’t see a problem with celebrating on a Sunday. In my view Sunday is a day when everything should be focused on the Lord and focusing everything on a country is not in line with the spirit of the sabbath. It could also be argued that governments of man are of the flesh since they are temporal.

    I live in D.C. and I will be watching fireworks with church friends today on the 4th.

  2. I think it’s because the 4th has turned into a recreation holiday. We don’t alter Christmas, Easter, although to give us a chance, the US government designates the Monday after as the day off holiday to celebrate these holidays.

  3. Happy overthrow the government day!

    I don’t see a problem with celebrating with your family the ability to have liberty (although we aren’t not nearly free as we should be). Of course, I might be a lot more laid back about the issue (and a lot more strict compared to some).

    @Dan, I guess I’m knit picking here but the 4th of July is independence day. Not constitution day.

  4. BinV and Dan

    “Would it be unthinkable to hold a short worship service followed by a Ward pancake breakfast?”

    No, not unthinkable, just inappropriate. Let’s be careful how we use the word ‘worship’.

    “Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure these things up in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C43:34)

    A worship service is not for Romper Room. It affects what we will be doing a billion years from now.

    “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.” (D&C59:12)

    Our worship should center itself on the oblations and sacraments we offer, not on the pancakes and softball games. Yes, we can read the Constitution of the United States on Sunday, but let’s not do it during the worship service. There is an urgency for us to take the sacrament. There is an urgency for us to take it worthily. There is an urgency for us to take it often and on the Sabbath Day. The Sabbath day and the worship service within it affects our existence for a long time to come.

    “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
    Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isaiah 58:13-14)

    Imagine that. One of the blessings of keeping the Sabbath Day holy is that we will ‘delight ourselves in the Lord’. I have just as much problem with Sundays as anyone else and maybe it’s because I have never delighted myself in the Lord in my life. Maybe people need to step forward who have delighted in the Lord and describe what the Sabbath is to them.

    Now BinV and Dan! I don’t think either of you have boring or sinful Sundays even though you mentioned some things I don’t care for. And as far as “They sit up on Sunday until the stroke of midnight, then they pile in the car and head off to Wal-Mart to buy snacks and fete the end of the Sabbath” I’ve done that trick too and could be pushed into it again without a lot of effort. For the weaker saints, they need to draw lines. The sabbath begins at the end of Saturday and ends on the beginning of Monday. The main thing is that they do, indeed, draw them and stick to them. For more advanced information see those who have delighted in the Lord. (the last sentence is not meant to be discouraging.)

  5. I am happy to be an American.

    Yes, we live in a country that has rules and regulations. I am grateful for them. We can not have liberty with out rules and regulations. Without rules and regulations there would be anarchy. I am grateful for a country where when we hold elections, we don’t wind up with tanks running up and down the streets because of the election results. And before anyone says anything, yes we have had elections end up in the Courts but at least it not a military court.

    It really angers me when people get pissed off about rules and regulations and then say we don’t have liberty. Are you kidding me, try living in some communist country. (i.e.)Cuba, if you tried to say something like that, you’d be whisked away somewhere and never seen, nor heard from again.

    I am grateful to live in a country that allows me the freedom to be whomever or whatever I want to be.

    Are there things that I don’t like about our country, yes of course, I don’t like the immigration laws, I don’t like that we send our military all across the globe at the drop of a hat, that being said, Countries across the globe do have a tendency to look to the U.S to solve its’ problems, and then turn around and want to slap us in the face because they say we ask for too much in return. I don’t like that the rich keep getting richer and its’ harder for the poor to get buy.

    I don’t see a problem with celebrating the holiday today, even though its’ a Sunday. After all if your lucky enough to have a sacrament meeting first thing in the morning your still holding the sacredness of the day. And it is a fast and testimony day so, you would be grateful for the food, and blessings that come along with the spirit of the day.

  6. @Dan – Yes, a little knitpicky but you are right, it is Independence day. What percentage of testimonies were about how great America is and how thankful people are to live here did everybody hear today?

    I’m thankful that I’m not a Commie!

  7. We have several ex-Brits in our ward. I’m glad we didn’t sing My Country Tis of Thee (which is to the tune of God Save the Queen). I’m also not a fan of America the Beautiful since it has been used to death to sell contact lenses and cheap eyeglasses, but at least it’s not going to offend our ex-pat crowd. And the Star-Spangled Banner should only be sung in a Whitney Houston bring-the-house-down solo style.

    For us, we had a great Sunday because it was our son’s 12th birthday yesterday so he was ordained a deacon. That and a Sunday nap superceded patriotic activities. But with his birthday being on the 3rd every year, and so many of our close friends on diets this year, I was relieved to forego the pool party of years past.

  8. I thought about this today as well. I personally don’t like when Christmas or the 4th of July falls on a Sunday since it combines going to Church with celebrations/observances, but thankfully it’s not that often. Our ward also did a pancake breakfast/Primary activity on the 3rd and then had a typical fast and testimony meeting today. I went to a family gathering this afternoon with the side of my family who are not members of the church, so it was mostly sitting around talking, but swimming and badminton were also available. My sister took the approach that it’s family time and we don’t get together all that often so let’s enjoy ourselves, so she did some swimming and badminton. I mostly talked and visited with various family members. I didn’t swim or play badminton, though I don’t know if I would’ve played even if it hadn’t been a Sunday. It’s all a personal choice. I definitely think you can meet all the classic requirements of keeping the sabbath day holy while still celebrating our independence since many of the things we associate with “celebrating” are really more recreation than any kind of observance as a previous poster pointed out. But in the end, how we observe the Sabbath is up to us. I don’t fault my sister one bit for spending time with our cousins by swimming and playing badminton or consider what I did more “righteous”. There are so many variables! “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath!”

  9. I am a Jewish convert and work amongst ultra-orthodox (now known as observant) Jews who are in the majority of positions, both administration and faculty, at my college here in NYC. What’s so funny here is that you sound so much like them it’s hilarious. I remember my life in Utah County when the poor in Orem couldn’t do anything on Sundays, but the rich in Alpine could enjoy the swimming pools in their backyards on Sundays. It was a complete dual-standard. What difference does it make when we celebrate independence from England? Is it work? NO! It’s not work. What’s the Sabbath day for? To cease from work. What else is it for? to draw closer to G-d. If we do that in our observance of independence, then it’s OK. If we move farther from Him, then such activity would NOT help. And so, JRid, I’m with you. Enjoy life! My greatest regrets at this point of my mortal run (now in its sixth decade) is all the years I wasted in fear of offending someone. And as for patriotism, let us ALL be careful of using patriotism as a holier-than-thou war cry. I’ve seen it misused so often, it makes me just shake my head in disbelief. Which is exactly what ANY day should not cause. In my experience, patriotism gets dangerously close to Pride. And we know what Prez. Benson said about that!

  10. I agree with JRid and think there is a time for everything. I am reminded back to my mission, where the mission president’s house had a pool. Someone asked him once, after seeing him swim in it, if it was ok for mission presidents to swim when missionaries weren’t allowed to swim. He said that when he was swimming with his kids he was being a dad, not a mission president. If I was in a situation where I was celebrating the holiday with family members, I’d celebrate with family members. We will be with family forever. The Sabbath is here for man in mortality.

  11. If you’ve ever been in charge of a breakfast for the ward you wouldn’t ask the question ‘what’s the harm’. It’s a ton of work. Not something I want to do on a Sunday. It might seem like a great idea for a lot of people – but for the few that do the work it sounds like a nightmare.

  12. Dawn – thanks for the friendly reminder – I forgot how much work is involved (and how little the men get involved with cooking!). Sorry, us Jewish men are typically ones to get into the kitchen and pull our fair (read 50%) share. I think that’s the upside to marrying a Jewish convert. The downside, of course, is our stronger than usual relationship with our mothers, which, of course, LDS wives get spooked by – just ask my ex-!

    Isaiah, whether we are Jewish or LDS, TRULY, the Sabbath is Saturday – it is THE day of rest, whether as instructed by Torah, or whether as a reality from the hard work that Saints put in to pull off the program for their children.

  13. @7

    I’d much rather sing America the Beautiful, or My Country tis of thee,over the Star Spangled Banner any day of the week and Twice on Sunday.
    First of all, It’s easier to sing, Ray Charles rendition moves me to tears. Second of all, Francis Scott Key couldn’t even see the bombs bursting over the air because he was in jail at the time.


  14. I too went through this discussion in my head yesterday. My conclusion was that Sunday is celebrated as the Lord’s Day and celebratory activities consistent with that were fine. Observance of the Sabbath or Lord’s Day have always been a sign of the covenant disciples. The cook-out and softball reminded me a bit too much of our Protestant brothers.

  15. I would agree that the Sunday activity at Church should be no different than usual. It was fast and testimony day…what more needs to be said?

    However, with the 3-hour block over by noon, there was plenty of time to chill (Star Wars marathon and 15-inning Giants game on TV), and then brave the fireworks show at the Sunrise Mall (Citrus Heights, CA). And then actually fall asleep afterward at my stepdaughter’s house while her husband, their two kids (ages 2 and 3), and my daughter set off a few hundred bucks worth of fireworks (we didn’t start until 10:30 pm).

    Bottom line is that there’s plenty of time to “celebrate” one’s American patriotism even if the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday. However, by voting and keeping abreast of issues affecting our country, I’ll be “patriotic” the other 364 days as well. Just as we live our religion (hopefully, or at least to varying degrees) Monday thru Saturday as well, so it ought to be for patriotism…which is also good for our Canadian, Mexican, Brazilian, and other brothers and sisters. And WHY can’t the British LDS sing “God Save the Queen” as part of their worship?

  16. @Doug

    The reason why the British LDS shouldn’t sing “God save the Queen,” should be obvious, it’s the meaning behind the July 4th, we, rather, our founding fathers fought the revolutionary war in order not to pay homage to the King and Queen of England. The Ex- Brits are just that, (ex) and as the saying goes,”When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

  17. For many church members, especially those in leadership positions, the entirety of Sunday and “keeping it holy” is defined as the number of meetings they must attend during the day and how they must say good-bye to their families until the evening.

  18. My extended family, including a serving bishop and a boatload of high councilors, celebrated the Glorious Fourth on the Fourth, the way God intended. Anyone has a beef, see Colossians 2:16.

    We ate shellfish and pork, too. The amount of Old Testament practice individual Mormon families retain varies by family. I’m thankful mine is more Pauline than Petrine. “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.”

    Dblock, Key wasn’t in jail — he was being held as a security measure on board the flagship of the British force bombarding Fort McHenry; he’d gone out under a flag of truce to negotiate the release of a friend of his, taken prisoner by the British. He watched the attack from the deck of the ship.

    “I don’t like that we send our military all across the globe at the drop of a hat…”

    Drop of a hat, drop of a skyscraper or two — whatever.

  19. @ Thomas

    When I stated that I don’t like Our military being sent at the drop of a hat, I did not mean to suggest that the current situation was not necessary, That being stated, where were the weapons of mass destruction, there were none. And there is no clear plan for Afghanistan either, but that’s a different post all together.

    I did mean to suggest that whenever there is a conflict that doesn’t directly involve us, that we are dragged into it.

  20. @ Thomas

    The terrorist that are being “detained,” in Gitmo are in jail. Francis Scott Key couldn’t leave on his on accord, that makes him be in Jail, whether on the deck of a ship or not.

    Something else to think about, most of the founding fathers were Deist, I don’t think they would have a problem with celebrating July 4th on a Sabbath.

  21. Dblock, Jefferson was a closet Deist, as was James Madison. Benjamin Franklin was. That’s about it. The rest were conventional Christians, of varying degrees of devoutness. The myth that “most” of the Founding Fathers were “deists” is a convenient myth for people who wish it were true.

    Semantics aside, the point was that F.S. Key absolutely did see “the bombs bursting in air,” whether you call it “jail” or not. And I like his song, especially the rarely-sung third verse.

  22. #17 (DBlock) – methinks the comments about what the BRITISH (not ex-Brits) would sing was likely misunderstood. Yes, in the U-S-of-A, we don’t pay homage to any foreign monarchs (not the UK, and not in parts of the US that were once under the Houses of Bourbon (France and Spain) or the Romanov dyansties, or the Kamemehaha House in HI). But in the UK, it should be proper to sing “God save the Queen” (no jokes about Edward II) as a prayer that the British monarch will lead her Commonwealth in righteousness and fear of the Lord as is the intent of the song (even though, obviously, the Queen is the figurative Head of the Church of England).
    Likewise, any local patriotic song that upholds LDS values and complies with the Apostle Pauls directive in Roman’s 13:1 should be proper for a hymm in whatever country the Saints are assembled in.

  23. I was happy to head down to the riverfront on Sunday evening and watch fireworks.

    For me* keeping the Sabbath holy not a list of “do nots”. I try to live each day with deliberate intention to do what is skillful and good. I may rest more on Sundays but other than attending church, Sundays are not a day of demarcation from how I should be living every other day. Frankly, I find the temple the holiest of places and it’s closed on Sundays.

    *My choices and beliefs are my own. You’re free to have your own, too.

  24. (Re: #24, Ren)…agreed. Does Stimpy feel the same way? LOL

    It’s good that you’re a “7-day Saint”…I agree that other than attending meetings and fulfilling callings that couldn’t be better done during the rest of the week, Sunday is but a day to generally stay home and chill. I’ll unabashedly watch a ballgame and barbecue, or putter about in the garage. I’ve always had a project car as my “excuse to stay out of bars”. These days I have two project vehicles for extra resistance to temptation.
    If others feel that going to watch Fourth of July fireworks on Sunday night would displease the Lord, they’re welcome to behave IAW their ideals, but, please don’t judge me because I let my kids and grandkids indulge their inner pyromaniac once a year.

  25. I sang a little God Save the Queen to myself during My Country Tis of Thee. I also skip out the remaining meetings to go to the parade in town as my Son had the starring role portraying our community’s greatest citizen. And since it was raining and it was my daughter’s birthday we set the bouncy castle up in the ward gym for the party.

    Then we went to the park for the free concert by the city orchestra and fireworks.

    Hopefully they have a bouncy castle in hell for me.

  26. Our ward had a linger-longer/break-your-fast BBQ after the block; each quorum/auxilary had a job to do so that it wasn’t onerous. I was delighted and surprised that my very conservative bishopric would consent to such a thing (no-one seems to know just whose idea it was), and I made it a point to tell each of the bishopric members how excited I was to have it (before the BBQ) and how wonderful it had been and “didn’t we have a lot of visitors and less-actives!” (after the BBQ).

  27. Oh, and then we had our usual neighborhood bash (complete with illegal fireworks) on the evening of the 4th. We invited our LDS neighbors, of course, one of whom sniffed, “We celebrated *yesterday*; we won’t be attending.”

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