Relief Society Lesson 16: “Offer Up Thy Sacraments upon My Holy Day”
If someone asked what this lesson is about I would say it is about two things;
- Keeping the Sabbath Day holy, and
- Partaking of the Sacrament
These things are, incidentally, things that are kind of a sore spot with me as regards to motherhood. I’ll explain why a bit more later, but I do apologize if this ends up being too mommy-centric. Anyways! Here are my thoughts:
Observing the Sabbath is God-like behavior.
Lots of commandments don’t really feel like something God does. For example, does Heavenly Father pay tithing? Also, many of the commandments that are something God would do are things He’s just doing to be a good example. For example, Jesus didn’t need to be baptized.
But! Resting every seventh day is something we’re told that God actually does. It is, in fact, one of the first things God is documented as doing after creating the world. So yes, God works hard, but then He takes a break- and so should you.
Observing the Sabbath entails what, exactly?
I have a friend who is a pastry chef. She makes cookies and cupcakes all day long. When she gets home she so sick of cooking that she eats cup noodle for dinner way more often than she’d like to admit.
I am a stay at home parent and I cook for my family every day. Cooking is the part of at-home parenting that I enjoy most, but it is quite often a chore, and sometimes I just need a day or so off of spending every few hours planning what food we will be eating next.
I have another friend who is a music teacher. Baking and decorating cupcakes with her four children is one of their favorite family activities.
So here’s a question, is baking or cooking on Sundays “work”? Will that answer to that question be the same for me and my friends?
In the manual President Smith says :
The Sabbath has become the play-day … —the day set apart by thousands to violate the commandment that God gave long, long ago,
So I knew we weren’t supposed to ‘work’ on Sundays, but playing? What type of playing is he referring to here? I think we can get an idea of what he’s referencing a bit later where he says
…to pursue pleasures and engage in activities incompatible with the spirit of the Sabbath…
So what is the spirit of the Sabbath? Again, a few paragraphs later he says:
to bring joy into our lives and cause that our homes may be the gathering place of the family, that parents and children [I would include friends here] may assemble around the family hearth increasing our love for one another.
Kind of interesting how an increase in love tends to be at the root of most of these things.
To revisit my cooking example, given what I’ve just quoted, I would say that baking is totally appropriate for my music teacher friend, probably not appropriate for my pastry chef friend, and conditionally appropriate for myself.
To further illustrate this idea I’ll quote sister Okazaki:
The doctrines of the gospel are indispensable. They are essential, but the packaging is optional. Let me share a simple example to show the difference between the doctrines of the Church and the cultural packaging. Here is a bottle of Utah peaches, prepared by a Utah homemaker to feed her family during a snowy season. Hawaiian homemakers don’t bottle fruit. They pick enough fruit for a few days and store it in baskets like this for their families. This basket contains a mango, bananas, a pineapple, and a papaya. I bought these fruits in a supermarket in Salt Lake City, but they might have been picked by a Polynesian homemaker to feed her family in a climate where fruit ripens all year round.
The basket and the bottle are different containers, but the content is the same: fruit for a family. Is the bottle right and the basket wrong? No, they are both right. They are containers appropriate to the culture and the needs of the people. And they are both appropriate for the content they carry, which is the fruit.
Lastly I wanted to share that one of my most vivid and enjoyable memories of growing up with my family was playing poker with candy on a Sunday evening. Face cards, and gambling in this case, used appropriately to increase love among my family members
As an interesting aside the manual says:
[I]n this latter day he has given an additional commandment that we shall go to the house of prayer and fasting upon his holy day, and there acknowledge our faults and bear our testimonies in the presence of one another…
Maybe it’s just me but I see very little acknowledgement of faults at church. I’m just as guilty as anyone else, but I think that church might be a little more effective if more of us were willing to take this to heart.
One last thought on Sabbath observance that I had came from this quote:
unless we the Latter-Day Saints, in many cases, repent of our attitude of indifference toward the holy day of our Heavenly Father, there will not come to us all the joy and happiness we desire to enjoy here, and it will not be with us in eternity.
Sabbath observance should be bringing us joy and happiness here. Now. In our lives. While we’re still alive. So if it isn’t bringing you joy and happiness then something is wrong, and it may be worth changing some things to make it so that it brings you joy and happiness. (I would like to point out that maybe some of those things we could change might include being less strict on ourselves about what is and is not okay on Sundays.)
Partaking of the Sacrament.
I significantly fewer thoughts on this portion of the lesson. Sorry.
So the manual says:
It should be, and I presume [it] is, in the minds of every one of us a most sacred and solemn occasion…
I read that and my stomach clenched shame remembering every time I’ve drug a screaming child out of the chapel while the sacrament was being passed. My kids are getting old enough that they actually do sit still and quiet for the sacrament now, but for the past several years the passing of the sacrament has been one of the most stressful 10-15 minutes of my week. Granted my ward has a total of 15 children in it (there are a lot of retirees in our ward) and so sacrament meeting is almost deathly silent and even the slightest noise seems unreasonably loud. Then the manual says:
I fear sometimes that as the sacrament is administered in some of our meetings there is not the solemn atmosphere that there should be. It is such a sacred privilege. … Those who [partake] of the sacrament should have in their minds the obligation that is indicated in the prayer.
It isn’t a big stretch to say that my mind has been highly focused on making sure my kids are quiet during the sacrament, and not so focused on the content of the prayers. Which is backwards, so I haven’t really been getting the blessings of partaking the sacrament even though I’ve physically been there and trying hard.
President Smith quotes Corinthians 11:23-30, which is interesting, and then I got to verse 30 which says:
For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
Wait. I feel weak, and sickly, and tired all the time. But these verses keeps talking about taking the sacrament unworthily, and how that leads to damnation. Unworthy feels like a really strong word to use for somebody who is distracted by her motherly duties, and damnation feels like a really strong word to use for being distracted but I think that the general principle applies. so let’s re-word those verses to make them more applicable to us (and by ‘us’ I mean ‘me.’):
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, distractedly, shall be guilty of [ignoring] the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a woman examine herself, and so let her eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For she that eateth and drinketh distractedly, eateth and drinketh misery to herself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.
If I’m reading this right, I’m hearing it say that partaking of the sacrament properly will give me strength and energy, both physical and spiritual. Being able to focus on the sacrament with small kids next to you is no small feat but I think it is probably worth figuring out some way to do it, because mothers of young children need that physical and spiritual strength and energy just as much as anyone else. Take turns wrangling the kids with a spouse, find a friend to help you, do what it takes to get that in your life.