Last autumn, I spent three months in Europe. I worked remotely as a blog writer while living in Birmingham, England, and traveled on my days off. Occasionally that included traveling on a Sunday. As a devout Mormon, one thing on my mind was how I could best honor the Sabbath Day. I wanted to make the most of my weekend trips; I also wanted to honor God. How could I do both?
I was often impressed to stay in my home base in Birmingham on the weekends. I found ways to rearrange my schedule to visit amazing places during the week so I could honor the Sabbath on the weekends. However, there were also other weekends when I had to travel.
If you make a similar decision, here are some scenarios to ponder:
Getting to Church
The happiness of heaven is the constant keeping of the Sabbath. Heaven is called a Sabbath, to make those who have Sabbaths long for heaven, and those who long for heaven love Sabbaths.
Do you long for heaven? You may just get a taste of heaven in church on Sunday.
It can be tempting to rationalize away the thought of going to church while traveling, but trust me: whether among the majesty of nature or the glory of the city, there is no better place to be on Sunday than in a house of God. If you approach this glorious event with a sincere heart, you may even find your vacation to be brighter and better.
Attending various wards on the weekends not only gave me the spiritual nourishment I need, but it was a unique opportunity to understand the worldwide church. It was also comforting in its familiarity. There are often a few fascinating cultural differences, but the heart of worship in an LDS church is always the same.
When you plan your trip, make sure to arrange your schedule and the proper transportation to attend an LDS church building in the area. I would highly recommend attending all three hours – even if that means paying more for a flight because of the times. You can use this Meetinghouse locator to find the most convenient place to go.
See if you can find a way to get there without spending money on transportation. Maybe you can drive or ask for a ride or even walk if you stay close by. If this is not possible, it is much better to go to Church than it is to avoid paying for transport and not go at all.
Having Church When There is No Church
Before you put yourself in a place where a church building isn’t accessible to you on Sunday, you’ll want to pray and ponder about it earnestly. God will let you know whether this is the right move for you.
The first few days of my trip to Europe, I bounced around London. It was magnificent. That Sunday I attended a YSA ward at the historic Hyde Park chapel in South Kensington. Despite my best efforts to make it to church on time, I missed the Sacrament. The next day I was planning to travel to the Isle of Skye for four days. This was a remote part of Scotland where the closest church would be eight hours away. I needed the Sacrament to sustain me that week, and missing it quite honestly devastated me.
After church was over, I felt impressed to sit on a certain couch in the building, and someone would come and talk to me. That person turned out to be no other than the stake president of that area. He was a middle-aged man with a sort of President Eyring quality about him. He had circular-shaped glasses and warm smile. I told him what happened, and he said he understood.
He also told me that due to his line of work, he had at times needed to travel to parts of Asia on Sundays to where an LDS church simply wasn’t around. He said that he would kneel down on those Sunday mornings and pray to the Lord, repent of his sins, study the scriptures, and reflect upon his week. Because he drew near to the Lord on these Sundays, he felt the sustaining influence of the Sacrament, just as if he had taken it.
Sideswiping the Purchasing Problem
“Sunday is not a day for shopping, recreation, or athletic events. Do not seek entertainment or make purchases on this day.”
-For the Strength of Youth
Sometimes it is nice to take a day and just relax. After all, is a vacation truly a vacation if you can’t take a day off from the world? However, sometimes it’s difficult to pass up the shops, the museums and the restaurants on the Sabbath. I made concerted effort to go to the grocery store the day before and to pack lunches while traveling so that I had food to eat on Sunday. It wasn’t exactly convenient, but my conscience was clear.
Before you leave for your trip, think about bringing materials for activities that will keep you occupied on the Sabbath. This can require some planning, especially if you are traveling as a family with young children. TenCowsInc suggests over 1000 activities for keeping the Sabbath Day holy as a family. Many of these activities can be done in a hotel or a park close by.
Not everyone keeps the Sabbath the same way. How you honor God on Sunday is ultimately between you and the Lord. However, a word of caution: sometimes we can mistake rationalization for inspiration.
As you seek true inspiration, you will be blessed to stand in holy places at all times and in all places. God will help you make it work.
Do you have more ideas on how to keep the Sabbath Day while traveling? Feel free to share in the comments below.