My mom hated football season because in a house with my father and five boys we each had chosen different teams to follow. Unlike basketball season, we weren’t united in celebration or mourning. But more than anything, she didn’t like that it had taken over our Sabbath. My mother often enforced a “no football” policy for Sundays with little to no success. On more than one occasion, I remember rushing out of the church and running home straight to the television to catch up on the scores.
My wife grew up in a completely different environment. She wasn’t baptized until she was 18, and soon after learning about Sabbath Day observance she embraced it completely. She was the only member in her family and was met with stiff resistance in attending church and even more as she tried to keep the Sabbath after church services. My wife often locked herself in her room and poured over the scriptures.
After we were married, I often called my wife a Sabbath Nazi as she took away some of my favorite idols. I begrudgingly accepted, but slowly broke her down with, “I’m not a bad person, there are surely a lot worse things I could be doing.” Or, “you need to stop causing contention and making us lose the spirit over little things.” For a while, I was able to take in the occasional game with her blessing. And our spirituality suffered.
In a previous post, I wrote about my Mission President teaching me that keeping the 10 Commandments was the threshold for reaching the Terrestrial Kingdom. It was right after that exchange that he asked what that meant for Sabbath breakers. “Telestial Kingdom,” he said. I now understand why, and it doesn’t have anything to do with “to-do” lists or football, but with filling our tank.
I have come to simply understand this world is too difficult a place to live in and survive all the way until our next opportunity to partake of the Sacrament without being battered and bruised along the way. The Lord has given us a way to remain “unspotted” from the world:
And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High. (D&C 59:9-10)
If I were to take a long road trip, would I want to fill up my tank with gas, or would I try and get by with $5 or $10 dollars? I submit to you that relying on two hours of church to get us through the week is equivalent to putting 10 bucks in the tank and seeing if we can make it to next Sunday. It is unwise at best, and malfeasance at worst.
Is it a sin to watch football or participate in other activities on Sunday? Maybe it is or maybe not, but there are better questions when deciding how we devote our Sabbath time:
- Is there a better way to fill up my tank in preparation for the war we’re participating in the rest of the week?
- Could my refusal to fill my tank cost me later in the week when I need the power to overcome temptation?
In recent years, the Brethren have placed an increased emphasis on Sabbath Day observance. I was able to catch their vision and align myself with my wife’s conversion to the principle, and more importantly, the Lord’s will for my life.
A short word to myself and others out there who decry judgment for those who want better for us: It is worse, and even more judgmental, to shame someone who is trying to correct your wrong than the “shaming and judgment” decried by those in the wrong. My pride cost my family and myself spiritual progress and that required change and repentance. I am nowhere close to where I need to be managing my time on the Sabbath and on other days, and I remain lightyears behind my wife, but I have a testimony of the blessings that come by filling our tanks on His Holy Day.
“The Sabbath Is a Delight” -Elder Russell M. Nelson, April 2015
“Exceeding Great and Precious Promises” -Elder David A. Bednar, October 2017
Dustin Turner is a life long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a mission in Monterrey, Mexico (2002-04). He has been married 15 years to his wife, Paola and together they have five boys. You can follow him @dmturner1232