Before becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the age of 25, I had stopped attending my former church on Sundays. I had spent my teenage years visiting various churches in the towns where I grew up, where I was invited to play the guitar and sing. I accepted invitations from different churches each week and I promised myself that when I found the ‘right’ church – where they knew who God is and where I felt at home – I would stay. Depending on how many churches were in a town, I simply repeated the cycle after a few months.
Then one cold winter's day, two missionaries knocked on my door. By then, I was married with two young children and living in a very small town. I seemed to be their only prospect, and the Elders came around to teach me on a daily basis. On the Friday, they invited me to attend church with them that Sunday. PANIC! In our discussions, they had mentioned the importance of the Sabbath: that members refrained from shopping and time-wasting frivolities and spent the day attending church (THREE hours?!?) and engaging in various activities that would build the family and bring them nearer to God. They had also discussed reverence and showing respect through our clothing choices – the expression ‘Sunday best’ was mentioned. Why the PANIC? I didn’t own a dress or a skirt!!
There was only one dress shop in the town and I didn’t rate my chances of finding anything suitable too high. Sadly, I was right. The only option was a cream-coloured pleated skirt that my grandmother would have loved! I shuddered… and to add insult to injury, the price was exorbitant! But, I couldn’t walk away from the church that not only knew that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father and a separate personage, but also showed reverence by dressing and behaving in an appropriate way. So I bought the hideous cream-coloured skirt – thinking I would at least blend in. The reality was that there were only 3 members in the branch and 12 missionaries – so I stood out anyway!
Decades later, I still remember the feeling that choice inspired: the opportunity to show my love and reverence for my Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, by choosing my ‘best’ clothes and going to learn more of Them. Of course it’s not actually about the clothes - Heavenly Father loves us every day, barefoot and wearing jeans. It’s about honouring Them and showing respect.
Six weeks later I was baptised and committed to becoming the very best I could be. My testimony was much bigger than my actual knowledge of the gospel, so I was frantically studying and seeking answers. Trying to keep the Sabbath day holy was difficult with a husband who was not a member.
DO’S AND DON’TS
I asked a visiting District Presidency member to give me a list of things to avoid – what I was not allowed to do. He told me to avoid any activity that would pull me away from God. So I asked him for a list of things I must or should do. He told me to do all those things that would help me draw nearer to God.
At the time I didn’t think he was very helpful at all but keeping the Sabbath day holy isn’t about lists of do’s and don’ts. There is no scorecard where we add up the ticks to pass. For me it is about learning and growing, recharging my spirit and refocussing myself and my life on achieving my eternal potential – striving to become more like the Saviour. This week I may spend 6 hours working on family history; next week I may lie on cushions in the lounge reading Book of Mormon stories with my granddaughter. The 2 hour church schedule gives us a little more time to work on the areas where we need the most growth. The new curriculum materials are designed to empower us as we teach our families AND strive to perfect ourselves. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we’re all at different stages of our development, so our choices will be personal and may be totally different from that of another family.
Another valuable lesson I learned as a new member was the value of the promise in D&C 82:10. “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
I was studying by correspondence at the time and my wonderful, diligent missionaries taught me this principle and promised me that if I didn’t study on Sundays, I would be entitled to call upon the Lord for His help with my exams with confidence that He would help me. I thought that was a more than fair deal.
As I sat in the exam hall for a 4 hour accounting paper, I started reading the exam paper with horror! I had to answer 5 of the 6 questions. The first question was incomplete with essential information missing so I no longer had a choice, I had to answer the other 5. All went well until I realised the last question was on an aspect not covered in my notes. I prayed and started writing an answer.
When I got home afterwards and relooked at the paper, I realised that the first question was not missing information; it was simplified and had I read it properly, I would definitely have received an A for the exam. At the same time, the answer to the question for which I hadn’t studied had flowed so easily – but I had no way of checking to see if my thinking had been correct.
The result? I received an A+ for the paper, which meant the misunderstood question and my answer had to have been correct. But the REAL result? A strengthened testimony that is unwavering. I learned that the Lord truly keeps His promise if we do our part.