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Two newlyweds found themselves on their honeymoon in Athens, Greece, on one beautiful Sunday morning. They searched through phone books and asked people where they could find an LDS church to attend, but "it was all Greek" to them.

Erik and Michelle Lehnardt of Salt Lake City finally decided to put on their Sunday clothes and head out to catch the first streetcar to come along. Two stops later, a man in a white shirt and dark suit joined them.

"Mormon?" the husband asked the suited man.

"Yes," he answered, startled.

Three streetcars, two buses and several blocks on foot later, they arrived at an English-speaking branch, just in time for sacrament meeting.

No vacation stops the Lehnardts from attending their Sabbath-day meetings.

Even years later, on a Sunday in Vienna, Austria, they sent their boys into a German-speaking Primary classes.

"They were amazed that the songs and pictures were the same as at home and were surprised at how much they were able to understand," Michelle Lehnardt said. "My 16-year-old still remembers the lesson taught in that Primary class seven summers ago."

We asked Mormon Times readers to share their thoughts on how they spend the Sabbath day while on vacation.

"I believe that how we treat the Sabbath while on vacation is a true indication of our commitment to the gospel," Debbie Nobles, of Honolulu, said.

Nobles said she finds it inspiring that on many Sundays, there are tourists in the congregation of her Aliamanu Ward of the Honolulu West Stake during sacrament meeting.

"Coming to Hawaii is expensive, and for those members to take time from swimming, shopping and enjoying the beautiful sights here to attend church ... is a testimony-builder not only to them but to the members of my ward," she said. "I know those people must be very faithful members in their home wards."

Although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not specify how members should spend the Sabbath while on vacation, its Web site, www.lds.org, does inform that the Sabbath is the "Lord's day."

The Sabbath "is set apart each week for rest and worship," the site explains. Because it is a "holy" day, it should be reserved for worthy and holy activities, which may include "praying, meditating, studying the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets, writing letters to family members and friends, reading wholesome material, visiting the sick and distressed, and attending other church meetings." According to www.mormon.org, another official Web site of the LDS Church, members should refrain from "shopping or participating in other commercial and sporting activities that now commonly desecrate the Sabbath."

Dale Lewis, of Spring City, Utah, said he and his family make church services a priority while on vacation.

"As a family, we decided to always plan on attending church," he said. "That way everyone came prepared with church clothing and eliminated many of the excuses as to why we couldn't be where we're supposed to be."

The Lewises have visited Saints across the globe in Spain, France, Guatemala and Peru.

"It's been a blessing to be able to visit with members in small homes, unique church buildings and even (at) stake conferences with general authorities," Lewis said. "Fond memories are created when your boys are able to participate in the ordinance of the sacrament, while the blessing takes place in another language."

Lewis said when his family traveled with a tour group, attending church created missionary opportunities, as people asked him why they made it a priority.

"Keeping the Sabbath day holy is so much easier when you first make the decision to attend church meetings prior to departure," Lewis said.

According to Sue Christensen, attending different wards and branches while on vacation showed her children that the church is true no matter where you are.

"They see that things are run the same way in Hawaii as they are here at home; that church in Kamas (Utah) is just as spiritual as it is in West Valley City (Utah); that your primary teacher in Florida is just as nice as the one at home," Christensen said.

After church meetings, Christensen, of West Valley City, Utah, said her family plays games, reads or sleeps. Once, while in Orlando, Fla., they went to the temple and toured the visitors center after church.

"(The Sabbath) has been something that our kids have remembered from every trip we have been on," Christensen said. "It has been the highlight of some of our trips."

Once, she and her husband, Layne, were in Cozumel, Mexico, attending a church meeting that did not have anyone to play the piano. Sue volunteered to play even though she did not speak the language.

"I did not know any Spanish, but one of the other members of our group did, and so he would flash me the hymn number with his fingers after they had announced it from the pulpit," Christensen said. "Then I would start the song, not knowing what it was, and then I would recognize it and be able to play it."

She said it was a very humbling experience, and the highlight of her trip.

Tami Maloney, of Decatur, Ala., said her family's vacations were more enjoyable when they decided to honor the Sabbath wherever they were.

One trip was a stake conference in New York City in December 2000, where a new bishopric was being called and sustained.

"We were filled with the spirit as the stake president assured the congregation that the Lord's hand was over the Saints in New York, providing for their needs and for their missionaries," Maloney said. "The tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred a short nine months later."

For Robert Collier, of Arden, N.C., Sunday School lessons taught by "unique and gifted teachers" around the United States have provided memorable experiences.

"Over the years, one of our great testimony-builders has been to have visited many wards and branches of all sizes and in hundreds of locations ... confirming the fact that there are faithful people everywhere," Collier said.

Collier said he remembers the "thrilling" gospel doctrine class in St. Augustine, Fla., where a "humble sister who was a recent convert had taken time to chart the entire succession of Jaredite kings on a six-foot-long chart made of taped-together salvaged paper place-mats from the restaurant where she worked long hours every day.

"I remember a priesthood meeting in Seattle where the teacher, an elderly patriarch, led us through the 13th Article of Faith, word by word, analyzing the depth of the meaning of each word and phrase to bring an understanding I had never realized," Collier said.

Before leaving on vacation, Stanley Feil and his family look on the church's Web site for a chapel near their destination and call ahead to find out the times of church meetings. After meetings, the Feils, who are from Visalia, Calif., visit any nearby temples or relatives.

Sometimes, despite every effort, not every Sabbath ends up in sacrament meeting, Lehnardt said.

"A Sunday in Orlando was spent driving around in vain looking for a chapel," she said. "Eventually we found the temple. Even though we couldn't renew our baptismal covenants, we were able to spend time walking on the temple grounds. It was a poor substitute, but it did refocus our minds on the importance of family over the importance of Disney."

Sometimes sacrament meetings don't have to take place in a chapel, David Dickey, of Millville, Cache County, Utah, said.

The Dickey family often travels to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, where church meetings are held in various locations throughout the parks, Dickey said, including, but not inclusive to, Grant Village Amphitheater, Canyon Amphitheater, Old Faithful Lodge, Mammoth Hot Springs and Jackson Lake Lodge.

Feil said that meals can also be challenging when on vacation.

"Eating on the Sabbath is always an issue, because normally, we never make purchases on Sunday," he said. "However ... many motels have a free continental breakfast, so that meal is taken care of already. For lunch and dinner, we try to keep it very simple, and not focus on the actual dining experience."

While eating, the Feils also look for opportunities to let others know why they are dressed up, why they are in the area and why family is important to them, Feil said.

Maloney said that if the place her family is staying has a kitchen, they shop for groceries or bring groceries with them so their Sunday meals are eaten in.

"Wherever we have dinner on Saturday night, we order extra food to take to the hotel for Sunday," Maloney said. "We shop for simple breakfast and lunch items — bagels, muffins, fruit, things for sandwiches and chips — and then just need to reheat dinner. Sometimes, when we attend the local ward, a member will invite us to their home for lunch or dinner."

Lehnardt said that Saints will be blessed for their efforts to honor the Sabbath.

"The greatest blessing from Sabbath observance while on vacation is the feeling of renewal and invigoration I get from feeling the spirit," she said. "It is one of the few times in life where the reward for keeping a commandment is instantly given."

Mormons can feel the spirit and feel at home anywhere they go, because of the fact that they are Mormons, Lehnardt said.

"Every LDS ward is a home-away-from-home," she said. "It's a small world, but it's much smaller for Mormons."


E-mail: mwilson@desnews.com