© Rachelle J. Christensen
“In the ideal home, Sunday would be the happiest day of the week. We should look forward to its coming because it is the day we go to church together and then come home and discuss together what we learned in our various church meetings. Around the kitchen table at dinnertime would be an excellent opportunity to have [everyone tell about what they learned in their meetings]. How we observe the Sabbath indicates our feelings toward our Father in Heaven.” LeGrand R. Curtis, “Happiness Is Homemade,” Ensign, Nov 1990, 12
As we look forward to the start of a new year where we’ll be presented with new lessons and manuals to study at church, I thought these tips might be helpful to incorporate. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I realize there are many ways that we can get more from our church meetings, these are just a few ideas.
1. Read the lesson beforehand. This is important because it gives you a deeper understanding of the principles being taught. You’ll also be able to participate more readily if you’ve reviewed the lesson.
With a young family and many interruptions, sometimes it’s difficult for me to remember during the week to read the lesson and nearly impossible to do in one sitting. I’ve found that if I leave my manual out, I’m reminded to read bits and pieces throughout the week. If you can, make an effort to read the lesson for the next week after church, then you have all week to think about the principles to be taught.
2. Pray that you might be receptive and learn something to improve your life. We have been taught that when we do our part and pray with purpose, the Spirit will be with us and fill our minds with those things we need to be successful in life. The Holy Ghost is always prepared to sow seeds of learning in a fertile mind.
3. Participate in the lesson. Commenting is not the only way to participate. Make eye contact with the teacher, listen attentively and encourage your whispering friends to do the same. Volunteer to read scriptures or other materials when the teacher asks for readers.
4. Follow the promptings of the Spirit when you comment. Don’t monopolize the lesson by commenting on every thought that comes to your mind. Teachers love to have participation, but may find it difficult to complete their lesson materials when someone makes several very long comments during the lesson. It’s wonderful to make comments, but be mindful that there are other members of the class who may feel prompted to share as well. This is difficult to do if one person answers every single question and doesn’t leave time or opportunities for others in the class to participate.
5. Turn off cell phones and other electronic devices. If you are on call, keep your pager or phone on a setting to vibrate and do not make calls in the church hallways. Step outside, in the foyer, or make the call in your vehicle. While I stood outside the chapel with my fussy baby, I still had a desire to participate in taking the sacrament, but it was very difficult to hear the prayers because someone was standing in the hallway talking on their cell-phone.
6. Set the mood before Church. It is difficult to get yourself and the family ready for church and still find time to feel spiritual. I’ve found that getting ready for church can be so hectic that sometimes I arrive frazzled. One remedy is to allow enough time to get yourself prepared for church far in advance so that you can have time to concentrate on other family members, responsibilities, stay calm, and arrive at church on time.
Playing instrumental or church music helps to remind you and your family of the Sabbath day. Also preparing all lesson materials and other duties before Sunday will help you to enjoy the Sabbath more.
Setting the mood for church can begin on Saturday when you take time to prepare clothing and shoes for the family. Ironing and hunting down shoes at the last minute creates stress and frustration that can zap a good mood.
7. Write in your journal. Write thoughts about what you learned in your meetings and your plans to incorporate lessons into your everyday life. Keep a record of spiritual moments where you felt your mind was awakened to a new concept or understanding of a gospel principle.
8. Write a word or thought from your lesson for a visual reminder of what you learned. Using a whiteboard, mirror, strips of paper, etc. write your thought in a prominent area to remind you for the entire week of the enlightenment you experienced on Sunday. Keeping a small notebook handy during church to jot down these thoughts of inspiration ensures they won’t be forgotten by the time you get home.
9. Plan to do an act of service for someone during the week. Apply what you learned from your meetings by serving others. Perhaps you could share your Sunday experience with someone who couldn’t attend the meeting. Involve family or neighbors to help make Sunday an active part of your week by utilizing the principles you learn all week long, not just once every seven days.
10. Discuss the lessons. Talk to your spouse, family member, or neighbor about things you learned in Relief Society, Priesthood, or Sunday school. I’ve found that talking with others has often deepened my understanding and cemented certain thoughts in my mind. It’s nice to extend the Sunday experience from just a three hour block to something we live all week.
President Kimball taught how we might observe the Sabbath: “The Sabbath is a day on which to take inventory—to analyze our weaknesses, to confess our sins to our associates and our Lord. It is a day on which to fast in ‘sackcloth and ashes.’ It is a day on which to read good books, a day to contemplate and ponder, … a day to study the scriptures and to prepare sermons, a day to nap and rest and relax, a day to visit the sick, a day to preach the gospel, a day to proselyte, a day to visit quietly with the family and get acquainted with our children, a day for proper courting, a day to do good, a day to drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, a day to seek forgiveness of our sins, a day for the enrichment of our spirit and our soul, a day to restore us to our spiritual stature, a day to partake of the emblems of his sacrifice and atonement, a day to contemplate the glories of the gospel and of the eternal realms, a day to climb high on the upward path toward our Heavenly Father” (Teachings, 216).