Although one of the chapters in our book Why? is “Why Should I Keep the Sabbath Day Holy?” we still get many questions wondering why this or why that is or is not in harmony with the commandment to keep the Sabbath Day holy. Since there are literally thousands of things that we could do on the Sabbath, and since answering whether each one is appropriate or not would be impossible, we feel it best to do as Joseph Smith counseled and teach some correct principles so we can better govern ourselves on Sunday.
Below are some activities that might be questionable if done on a Sunday. Take a look at the list and ask: which of the following activities is breaking the commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy?
Surfing the web
Buying something on-line
Buying something from the store
Playing a board game with your family
Playing a board game with your friends
Watching sports on T.V.
Watching a movie
Playing sports outside
Doing yard work
Doing the dishes
Going on a walk
Going on a hike
Going on a run
Taking a drive as a family
Going boating as a family
Reading a book
Taking a nap
Some of these might seem obvious to you, while others are not quite so clear. Our internal thoughts could be like this: “Going on a walk? That’s fine! But what if we go on a walk in the mountains? No, that is not Sabbath worthy. That’s hiking, and we hike on Saturdays because we get all sweaty. So, not being sweaty is the key to keeping the Sabbath day holy. Yeah, no hiking. That is, unless you live in the mountains and are hiking to church. Then its fine!”
To alleviate some internal Sabbath difficulty, the following are a few principles found in D&C 59 by which to judge our Sunday behavior:
• Does the activity keep me “unspotted from the world?” (D&C 59:9). In other words, does it help keep worldly ideas, thoughts, images, and desires out of my mind and heart?
• Does the activity help me “rest from [my] daily labors” (D&C 59:10)? What are my daily labors that this day is designed to allow me to rest from in order to concentrate on more holy things?
• Does the activity help me “pay [my] devotions unto the Most High” (D&C 59:10)? In other words, does the activity help me draw nearer to God? Does it allow me to worship Him, make covenants with Him (see D&C 59:9), understand Him and His purposes more, or help me become more like Him?
• Does the activity allow me to “offer [my] oblations” of “time, talents, or means, in service of God and [my] fellowman?” (see D&C 59:12, footnote 12b). In other words, does the activity help me to give of myself in selfless service to God’s kingdom and those around me?
• Does the activity help me to repent of my sins (see D&C 59:12)?
When President Benson was in the Quorum of the Twelve he gave the following list of things NOT to do. Don’t:
• Stay up late Saturday [and be] exhausted the next day.
• Fill the Sabbath so full of extra meetings that there is no time for prayer, meditation [and family].
• Do gardening and odd jobs around the house.
• Take trips to canyons or resorts, visiting friends socially, joy riding, wasting time, and other amusements.
• Play vigorously and go to movies.
• Engage in sports and hunting.
• Read [things]…that do not contribute to spiritual uplift.
• Shop (Ensign, May 1971, pp. 6–7).
When President Kimball was an Apostle he wrote about things we should do on Sunday:
“The Sabbath is a holy day in which to do worthy and holy things. Abstinence from work and recreation is important but insufficient. The Sabbath calls for constructive thoughts and acts, and if one merely lounges about doing nothing on the Sabbath, he is breaking it. To observe it, one will be on his knees in prayer, preparing lessons, studying the gospel, meditating, visiting the ill and distressed, sleeping, reading wholesome material, and attending all the meetings of that day to which he is expected. To fail to do these proper things is a transgression on the omission side” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pp. 96–97).
It is significant that the Lord, nor his modern prophets, don’t give us lists of 100s of things we can’t do on Sundays. That may be because depending on the purpose of many Sunday activities, it changes whether it is or is not in harmony with keeping the Sabbath Day holy. If we understand the divine purposes and doctrines of the Sabbath day, then our activities on that day will become increasingly clear as to whether they are appropriate or not. We testify that as we keep this day pure, blessings flow (see D&C 59:15-19), and it truly becomes a holy day—the highlight or and best day of the week.