Yesterday’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?