I grew up in a protestant home and so I knew that the Sabbath was a holy day but I had not been taught – nor did I ever enquire – what the term ‘holy’ really meant. I never went to public entertainment or took part in public activities on the Sabbath, perhaps mainly because I went to a Christian boarding school for seven years and had grown up in South Africa, where at that time, all shops and public forms of entertainment were closed on the Sabbath. So I didn’t have to make a choice about those things.
Later in life, the missionaries came and shared the Plan of Salvation with me. I received a testimony of the truth and was so thrilled at what I was learning that from that day forward I had no problem in my conviction to keep the Sabbath day holy – but the practice of doing so was not always easy.
I was married at the time I began meeting with the missionaries and my husband did not share my enthusiasm for the Church – yet he was a good man with high principles and a Lutheran background. But I was challenged on how to stay true to my Sabbath Day convictions without causing grief and discord within my family. During this ‘wilderness’ time for me I received important advice that my family was most important and that I should do whatever I could to keep us together.
Baptism was withheld from me and so I did not have the constant companion of the Holy Spirit to guide me. But I loved my family and so I embarked on a course of whenever possible to stay true to honouring the Sabbath where I could, yet allowing myself to join in my husband’s social activities if he planned these on the Sabbath – without complaint. These activities were mostly contained within our circle of friends and sometimes they involved business or public functions.
Even after South Africa no longer adhered to keeping the Sabbath day holy, I chose never to fill my car with fuel or purchase household or personal goods on the Sabbath, something that was encouraged by my husband. An activity that my husband did enjoy was watching Formula 1 motor racing on TV on a Sunday afternoon and he wanted me to share his interest, which I did. Our home was generally peaceful on the Sabbath and we both liked to listen to good classical music and which I intermingled with sacred music. I also found, when it was appropriate to my conditions, to keep my Sunday dress on. This helped me mentally choose fitting activities and behaviour while staying in harmony with my family circumstances.
I had challenges at first in going to church and chose to attend only Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School – so as not to be away from home for too long. On Saturdays I always pre-prepared a good Sunday meal and any animosity from my husband at my Sunday absence from home was soon forgotten. This was the pattern of my life for 22 years and there was in the end a greater harmony and acceptance of my limited Sabbath day values, but fully integrated in our life-style. Eventually, heartened by my husband changing attitude, my journey in the Church culminated in my baptism. Now I could have the companion of the Spirit to help guide me in the future.
I now felt freer to follow my feelings for keeping the Sabbath holy – this time with the Holy Spirit’s promptings. I also started attending full Sunday Church activity without problems. I allowed myself to indulge in the driving urgency to search out my family ancestors and in so doing stimulated my husband’s interest by asking his mother to record memories and pictures she had of her family. She produced, as a legacy, a beautiful hand-written book with photos. This became a motivating activity on Sundays in which my husband showed interest. (The modern digital age was not so advanced as it is today, so it was a very time-consuming activity.) This led to writing many letters to family members and institutions in other countries searching for information – and the Sabbath Day allowed me time to do this, although I had to temper my enthusiasm so that it did not dominate my entire Sunday to the exclusion of family time.
Sometimes Sabbath observance was difficult as my husband in his work did a lot of travelling outside the country and liked to have me with him. If there was a Church in any of the towns we visited, and nothing was planned, he was always agreeable to be attending Sacrament Meeting, but at the same time I never curtailed his plans for a social get-together if he chose to do so. Overall, the Sabbath became a firm family unity-day for us.
Now, I am widowed, but sealed in the Temple to my husband – and I still find the Sabbath a delight. Not only do I enjoy full Sunday Church activity, but I relish the thought of doing family history research in this new digital age and preparing names for Temple ordinances. I am fascinated in getting to know my ancestors by researching and writing their stories and sharing copies with extended family members. I love the couple of quiet hours of morning scripture study uninterrupted by any other demands. I relish an hour or so of rest, listening to a mix of gentle light classical and sacred music . And, on some Sabbath days I connect with long-distant family members by phone, email, or WhatsApp.
It has been a journey, but I have learned that, truly, the Sabbath can be a delight.