Orson Scott Card: Orson Scott Card: Sabbath suggestions for dad

Published: Thursday, Nov. 4 2010 5:00 a.m. MDT

There's a reason why the church does not provide us with a list of Sabbath-day dos and don'ts.

First, as soon as the rules are spelled out, people start finding ways to get around them — to obey without obeying, by following the letter of the rule while defeating its intent.

Second, lists like that quickly become a source of contention and fault-finding in the little villages we Mormons live in.

Third, as soon as we start making lists that are the same for everybody, we run into cultural differences — places in the world where this rule or that can't possibly work.

Fourth — and perhaps most important — a list of rules would remove from us any reason to think and pray about how we should go about honoring the Lord on the Sabbath.

It's a day of worship, a day when we show the Lord his "worth-ship" in our lives — in other words, how much we respect him and his many gifts to us, from scripture to sustenance, from ordinances to the loved ones who are part of our lives.

We share his gifts on that day by teaching each other at church. We set aside our ordinary worldly labors and amusements in respect for him. We devote ourselves to the people in our village — and to the people in our homes.

Which is why I have a small suggestion to the men of the church who are fathers with young children.

In most such households, it is primarily the mother who tends to the needs of the children during the week, feeding and dressing them, amusing and teaching them.

In a home governed by the priesthood principles of Section 121, the father already pitches in as soon as he comes home from work; or if both parents work away from the home, he bears an equal share of this burden.

Yet it is still in the nature of most children that they look to their mothers for comfort, to their fathers for judgment.

Here's what fathers can do, as part of their Sabbath worship, to ease the burden of their wives while blessing the lives of their children in ways that will redound through the generations.

You can create a three-hour block of time on the Sabbath — morning, afternoon or evening, depending on your church-meeting schedule — in which you devote yourself completely to your children.

No, I don't mean a time when you sternly organize them in yet another Sabbath duty. The goal is not to make the children resent you and dread Sundays.

Nor do I mean commercial amusements, jaunts or trips. They must see that you stick to whatever line your family has drawn between worldly activities and Sabbath ones.

What I suggest is that you join the children in their age-appropriate activities.

Do you have little girls? Learn to play house. Feed a doll. It's good for them to see that you know how.

Do you have little boys? Face the humiliation of losing to them at their own games and show them how a good sport acts.

Building with Legos, reading aloud from children's or family literature, or even watching some uplifting DVDs may, depending on your family's Sabbath practices, be things you can share with children of any age. I suggest DVDs like "From Lark Rise to Candleford," "Sense & Sensibility," "A Man for All Seasons," "Gandhi" or even some comedies can give rise to family discussions about what is good or bad in human behavior, even when the movie doesn't refer to Christian values directly.

Men, I promise you that when you let children direct your play — or your television or movie watching — you will sometimes be bored out of your minds.

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