We have some letters today from Meridian readers who have tried to fit Sabbath observance into their vacation plans, with suggestions on how they have succeeded in melding the two.  But first, we have one last letter of advice for those who are suffering spiritual lows in their lives.  Let’s see what the reader has to say:

I have delighted to read all the comments that people have made regarding the subject of recovering from spiritual starvation.  They are priceless.  I just wanted to add one thing that has made a difference for me.

I have found that when I feel “stuck” anywhere in my life, the most important thing I can do is go to the Lord and ask Him to change the way I look at things.  It has inevitably been my perspective that is the problem, and not the circumstance.  When I am stuck, it is an indication that the Savior wants to teach me something very personally.  It is an invitation for me to knock on His door.  The difficulty I am experiencing is His knock on mine. 

“I give men weakness that they may be humble,” the Lord tells us.  He wants us to come unto Him and find something about the power of His grace.  It never fails to amaze me how quickly the Lord responds when I ask Him to change something in me ? not in others or my circumstances.  “Behold, I come quickly” is true when I give Him that invitation.

He has given us our agency and protected it with His promise.  He will not change our hearts and perspective without our request and invitation.  That is sacred territory to us and to Him.  Perhaps because it is so sacred, He deems it an honor to be invited.  He knows it take courage to say, “Come in.  Have at it.  Please change my mind or my heart.”   But it is amazing to me that what may seem a scary thing, always ends up being sweet and simple.   He comes always bearing gifts and tenderness.

It is His increased understanding I need when I feel that what others say and do are irritating or not enough.  It is His presence for which I really yearn when I feel isolated or excluded.  When I have tried everything I thought I knew and nothing works, I always find that it is because I have forgotten the “simpleness of the way” of looking to the Savior in trust.  Whenever I do this, asking Him to change my paradigm and perspective, He inevitably points me to one of the simple truths that I have heard over and over again in my life, in my meetings and maybe in my own thoughts or words ? a simple truth that finds its way more deeply into my heart through the light and love He provides because His heart is there.

It applies now in a way I had not seen before.  It brings greater light and strength to my life from this time forward, and becomes now a stepping stone to go forward and face other such “stumbling blocks” with the faith that He always will be there to accompany me and lift my heart and mind and life in greater knowledge of Him.

My prayer is that the dear brother that first presented his dilemma will be blessed in the desires of his heart.  It took some courage and real desire to pose that in the first place in such a large “Sunday School class,” with likewise courageous participants willing to contribute for the blessing of all.   That in itself is an invitation for the Lord to help.  This is the spirit that the Lord would have us experience as a body together.  This is the reason He deems it important to come together as a body, for we all have something to contribute and we all have something to learn, something we lack and something we can share.

We are here in our collective weakness to feel and to bear one another’s burdens through Him and to learn the way to do it, stumble as we may.  He made the journey difficult so that we must feel after Him to be successful.   We were not meant to do it in isolation.   His commandments are centered on our relationships both with Him and our fellow man.   They are given to guide us in difficult situations that come whenever there is the meeting of two or more.

This life and the church is our testing and proving ground.  Our covenants are to bind us to a commitment to endure through many things with the perfect brightness of hope that faith in Him provides.  We have those covenants in common.  He wants His family to return and be as one with and through Him.  As we so seek Him diligently, feeling after Him both individually and collectively, He will surely make Himself known.  May God bless us all in that endeavor!             

Teressa Howell

Thanks for a great letter, Teressa.  There was wisdom in it that far too often we overlook.  We often pray to ask for God to change the circumstances of our lives, but we rarely pray to ask Him to change our hearts.  Thanks for the reminder.

Now, on to today’s topic:

I usually try to attend church when I travel, even though it is not always possible (if you’re on an organized tour, you may have to just read your scriptures). On a trip to England and Scotland with some friends a few years ago, our first Sunday we were in London, and attended the Hyde Park Ward, which was within walking distance (although it was a long, 45-minute walk) of our hotel. The following Sunday, we were in Airdrie, Scotland, and attended services there. We even got in a temple session that trip, stopping in Chorley overnight and doing a session in the Preston temple the next morning. So if you have a car, you shouldn’t have any problems.

I also go camping every summer with friends, often to the Grand Tetons [a national park in Wyoming]. In Jackson Hole, they even have a special sacrament meeting for visitors, and we like to go to that one, although at times we haven’t wanted to get up early enough to leave our campground in time to make it to that 9 am meeting, so we have selected a later one. Last summer, we were privileged to hear a General Authority speak, who was also there on vacation.

If we are coming home on Sunday, we sometimes will wait to attend church somewhere along the way ? wards in Afton, Wyoming, or Paris, Idaho, being a couple of the places we have stopped. I have also attended church in Cedar City and St. George, Utah; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Kona, Hawaii; and Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. You can always look up online the area you will be in on a Sunday and you can find out where the various wards and branches are and their meeting times. Just make it a part of your trip planning and you should have no problems.  That’s the key ? planning ahead.

I went on a cruise a few years back and we even had church onboard. It was conducted by priesthood holders, although we were not able to partake of the sacrament.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Sharee

Salt Lake City 

You’re right that it’s not always possible to attend church when you’re travelling, Sharee.  If you’re on a cruise, for example, and the only day in your life when you’re ever going to be in Auckland or the Azores or Paris happens to fall on a Sunday, meeting attendance may not be possible.


 

 

Like you, I once went to sacrament meeting on a cruise ship.  It was a surreal experience.  It was a Caribbean cruise, and we had no idea there would be a church group on board and that sacrament meeting would be held.  If I’d known, I would have taken a dress.

The ordinance of the sacrament was interesting.  Nobody thought to bring sacrament cups, so we drank the water from cups that were emblazoned with the words, “Seattle’s Best Coffee.”  That was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

I face the same reality of how to handle Sundays as I travel and in past years how we travelled with the children.  Here are a plethora of suggestions we have used through the years:

  • Down load general conference and read a talk or listen as you travel.  I often have to travel on a Sunday and I just plug my Mp3 into my ears.  Instantly I am at conference, basking in the light of the prophets.  And if people ask me what I am listening to and enjoying, well I have an in to talk a bit about the Sabbath and my religion.
  • Likewise when we had children at home we would travel on Sunday on purpose.  All the kids in the car together listening to conference, and then a discussion. No outside influences, just great discussion times.
  • We would have evening devotionals while we travelled when the children were teenagers.  Each child would have a night to put together the program.  Those are still some of my children’s favorite memories.  It was my vacation, so they were to do the devotionals and lead the scripture reading.  Now they are the parents and doing the same in their own households.  Great training.  No, they weren’t long.  We’d have a prayer, a thought, read the scriptures, discuss the day and what was up the next day. It only took 15 or 20 minutes, but it was such a special time. 
  • One of those devotionals would be on the Sabbath and what is appropriate on the Lord’s day.  Then touring beautiful cathedrals and art galleries could be incorporated into the Sabbath events after listening to a conference talk.  My son and I did that last year. We were stranded in Toronto on Sunday, on our way to Israel.  We toured churches that day before their services started and saw some wonderful artwork and met some devoted and faithful “men of the cloth.”  They all welcomed us to see their art treasures, maybe listen to their choir practice and just enjoy and share in their Sabbath peace and celebration.  It was a special day.  I just start getting tears up thinking about it.

I am now remembering a special Sabbath we had up in the mountains of Colorado. We had a Sunday service as a family using a conference talk, then went out on a leisurely hike to enjoy God’s universe.  There were no churches in miles and miles, but the spirit was right there with us that day.

The Sabbath is a state of heart. 

Debrah Roundy

Rupert Idaho 5th Ward

Loved your last sentence, Debrah!  Thanks for sharing some great ideas.

One of my favorite things about going out of town is the validation I get from the consistency of our wards.  I love that no matter where I go, the Spirit is the same, as are the order in which the meetings are run.

I still try to rest more and read the scriptures more and keep a quiet countenance.  In fact, it is often easier to keep the Sabbath day holy when outside the realm of my normal life.

For me, though, often my trips are to Utah or Southern California, and I end up driving on Sunday to get back to Las Vegas to work on Monday.  I find (and family members visiting here as well find) that getting to a 9 AM sacrament meeting prior to hitting the road still allows for the necessary pit stops for gas and potty breaks, without really feeling as though the Sabbath has been broken. But then, I work most Sundays when I am home, so keeping the Sabbath holy is a very loose interpretation for me.

It is my belief that the Lord knows what we carry in our hearts.  For example, He knows how badly I wish to have Sundays off, but after 12 years on this job, I still have not been able to get them.  Therefore, I have to believe He has me there for a reason.  I do notice that most of the inactive members I work with ask me weekly if I attended sacrament meeting prior to coming in on Sundays.  It is my hope that I am setting an example that could possibly be a rung in their ladder back to church.

I do, however, strive to make sure I don’t need to stop for gas or eat out, or go to the stores when I am home and working.  And I would prefer to wait until Monday to come home, when that is possible.  But we do what we can, when we can, and the Lord guides us to His end.  When I attend my temple recommend interviews, it seems to be the attitude of my bishop and stake leaders, as well.  I think this is where I have obtained this thought.

Vacations for me are an opportunity, if you will ? a real blessing to be able to attend all my meetings, rather than only sacrament meeting to be rushed out of and hurriedly go off to work.  So I guess it is a matter of perspective, but going to church is a perk of vacation for me, not something made more difficult!

Tess in Vegas

It was interesting, Tess, to see from your letter how people’s situations give them different perspectives.  Some people think, “We’re on vacation!  We don’t have to go to church!” Meanwhile, others think, “We’re on vacation!  We get to go to church!”  I agree with you that the Lord knows what we carry in our hearts, and that he understands the reasoning behind every decision we make.

Though I am American, on a number of occasions I found myself in European cities on Sunday.  What a blessed treat that can be! I have sat through an LDS service in French, even though I didn’t speak French.  It didn’t matter; I felt the spirit there.

Many cities have at their centers beautiful cathedrals filled with stunning religious artwork from centuries gone by.  How peaceful it has been to sit in a 1,000-year-old church and gaze at paintings depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament.

I have been able to attend worship services of other faiths and see areas where they can inspire me to be a better person.  I have walked through lovely cemeteries and pondered the Lord’s work being done today to preach to the spirits in prison and redeem the dead.  I enjoyed sitting in a quiet park on a Sunday afternoon and reading the Ensign or a church book.


 

  I would sum up my comments by recommending a Sunday filled with quiet reflection and contemplation, and that leaves you refreshed for the week ahead. 

Traveler

I agree with you, Traveler, that worship experiences can be found in many places.  I remember a Sunday many years ago when I sat in the car while Clark was taking pictures in New Bern, North Carolina (home of Pepsi Cola, if you ever need that for a trivia question).  Although we were in the center of town, there was nobody in sight.  There were no cars, either. 

I lay back on the car seat, and all I could hear were the autumn leaves falling and the birds singing.  It reminded me of the scripture, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  I was so struck by the thought that when Clark returned, we collected enough perfect autumn leaves for me to laminate them and give them to the women in Relief Society the next time I taught a class on peace.

When we traveled the country visiting 48 states in 1960, we dressed for church on Sunday and tried to find a place of worship. We were not members yet.

Mt. Shasta Ward is fantastic to visit when we camp locally. People remember our family from year to year since 2001, and we’ve been invited to the bishop’s home.

Fast forward to 2008, and our 10-day cruise to Alaska (my 49th visited state). I found out the name of the bishop, and his wife agreed to meet us in front of the Red Dog Saloon in downtown Juneau. It was Mother’s Day. We found it and true to her word she met us there to take us to services. We ended up staying for both wards, and a brother took us by the glacier on our way back to town. It was great.

Our next experience was two weeks in Hawaii (my 50th visited state), in 2009. I had already gotten the address and directions to the Honolulu Tabernacle. What a blessed time! I stayed for three wards one Sunday and we were walking distance from our hotel and returned for seminary graduation, Relief Society, and dance lessons during the week! It was absolutely wonderful. There was a barbecue in the courtyard our last day, and from there we arranged a ride to the airport with a brother.

Visiting local wards while on vacation adds so much to the traveling experience. Back in the day when I traveled all over Europe if I couldn’t find a chapel I would visit another denomination.

I wrote a blurb about this topic on my blog www.gypsyolie.blogspot.com while in Hawaii.

Olivetta Chavez

Concord 1st Ward

Concord, California

Olivetta, your experience in Juneau reminds me of a time when Clark and I were in Juneau as part of an Alaska cruise.  Our home teacher happened to be there for the summer, and he home taught us in a Mexican restaurant less than a block from the Red Dog Saloon.  It wasn’t great Mexican food, but it was a terrific memory for two Virginians to be home taught by a third Virginian in the capitol of Alaska.  Jeff Wynn was the home teacher of a lifetime.  I still miss him.

I also live in the UK. When we go on holiday, we always go to church on a Sunday morning. We go onto www.mormon.org to find the nearest meetinghouse to our accommodation, and to get directions.  If you don’t drive, getting to church is more difficult, but on the site is the bishop’s name and telephone number. You could call and get some travel advice or even a lift.

After church we have lunch then head out to a park or some gardens for a long walk and enjoy nature.  Then we go back to the accommodation for dinner and play games or watch a family DVD together.

For Edinburgh I suggest Arthur’s Seat

Bonnes vacances!

Vim

Thanks for reminding us that we can find church meetings from mormon.org, Vim.  I do want to mention that the sites are not infallible, though.

Last week, Clark and I went to Williamsburg for the weekend.  We wanted to attend a nearby branch (until recently the New Kent Branch Relief Society met in a little red caboose!), so we checked the website for meeting times.  Not satisfied with that, we went to the stake website to check the calendar and make sure they weren’t having stake conference or something.  Everything checked out, so off we went.  We got to the meeting site early and waited for someone to show up.  Nobody did.  Sure enough, the Newport News Stake must have been having stake conference on Sunday after all.  So there Clark and I were, all dressed up and no place to go.  And to think I put on pantyhose for nothing!

Our most recent vacations have been camping in the U.S., so it’s fairly easy to find a branch and schedule the trip. I’m the one who does the homework and research before we head out (driving, with an RV). It’s always a good idea to call ahead, because the church website info isn’t always up to date. If it doesn’t look like it’s going to be possible to find a meeting, my husband asks our bishop for permission to bless the sacrament and we have had some sweet experiences holding our own meeting.

I cringe as I remember the tactlessness I had on one occasion as I asked a friend who holds a prominent position in the Church what he did! He candidly told me, with a total straight face, that when forced into that position by circumstances, he and his wife hold their own service in the hotel before they leave it. Looking back on that, I can’t believe how, what, innocent, cheeky, and rude I was, and yet how grateful to know what other people do who want to keep their covenants. That’s why I’m sharing it here.

When it’s just not possible to go to a meeting, because of travel schedules or whatever, I hold my own devotional and prayers. I know the Lord knows I would be at a sacrament meeting if I could.  I hope this helps.

Cay Galán, Puerto Rico

Gee, Cay, if I had read your letter last week I would have known to call ahead when we were traveling on Sunday, and I wouldn’t have worn pantyhose in vain.  Cay is right ? don’t rely on the websites.  Use the number provided and call ahead.

That was an interesting question about Sabbath day observance. I was reminded our family vacation the summer of my 13th year. We spent one Sunday morning with our family RV parked near the rim of the Grand Canyon. We read scriptures, had a mini-Sunday School lesson, and enjoyed some quiet time to ourselves before heading out for our adventures for the day. It is still a fond and spiritual memory, even though we did not attend an actual church service.

In my mind, Sabbath observance is about our attitude on that day. I’m not saying it’s ok to skip going to church as long as we maintain a reverent attitude (indeed, renewing our covenants in a weekly Sabbath meeting is a commandment); I’m saying an occasional Sabbath day spent in a foreign place where church attendance is difficult can still be a sacred day if we spend time in quiet pondering or meaningful worship.


 

 

Kathleen Hoopes

Phoenix

You’re right, Kathleen.  Attitude is crucial, whether we are sitting in sacrament meeting or meditating on a rock.  And although we should never stay away from church on the theory that you can worship more effectively in nature, the truth is that if we sit in church and let the words go past us instead of through us, we are only a little better off than if we hadn’t gone at all.

It was a beautiful Sabbath morning as we were loading our houseboat at Lake Powell for our week vacation. I noticed that on a houseboat nearby, the people were in their Sunday dress clothes and heading out back to the parking lot ? probably going to church, I thought to myself, and chuckled out loud. Then a thought came in to my mind, “And why aren’t you heading to church?”

Then the rationalizations in my head started.  We were just invited as guests on this boat.  It’s not our place to ask to change the plans and head out on Monday instead so we can keep the Sabbath day holy.  It’s so hard with four small kids, and I didn’t pack church clothes.  We won’t swim today (but we are still missing church).

That chuckle earlier came back to haunt me later in the day.  The winds on Lake Powell in the summer are unforgettable.  We had tied the three ski/fishing boats to each other and we were dragging them behind the houseboat when the 40+ mph winds started and the rope broke that was connecting the boats to the back of the houseboat. (Our boat was a 3-month-new Tige wakeboarding boat.)

We tried to turn the houseboat around to get back to the three boats, and the wind almost tipped us over sideways as we were turning. We were scrambling to get life jackets on all our kids, and trying to figure out what to do about the boats above the roar of the wind and the five-foot waves. My husband decided to dive into the “ocean,” as did the owners of the other two boats. Little did they realize that the ropes had wrapped themselves around the props.

Our boat motor started up, but my husband could tell something was wrong. He did get the boat slowly moving, and was trying to head over towards Rainbow Bridge, but the waves kept crashing over the bow of the boat, and it was sinking deeper and deeper. He felt like he was going to drown in the middle of that huge lake.

Just in time, one of the fishing boats came over and rescued him off of our brand new sinking dreamboat. We finally got the houseboat safely anchored around a bend, and we were reunited as a family, which was truly a great blessing. The next day we found our boat in a little cove filled with water. We gathered up all the cushions that had blown out onto the shore and talked about what to do with the boat. We decided to have my husband swim under the boat, hold his breath, and push with all his might, while we were panning water out of the boat to see if we could get it to float.

It actually worked! (My husband is very strong!) So we towed the boat back to our beach and figured out what to do next. There’s a lot more to this true story, but we learned such a powerful lesson. We never miss church. Even if it is a sacrifice to get to a church, that is where the Lord wants us. I do a search at www.lds.org before each vacation and find the ward that we will be attending. There is safety in the chapel walls. We then do the best we can to keep the rest of the Sabbath day holy. Please, learn from our experience. 

Kathleen Terhufen 

What a great story, Kathleen!  Thanks for sharing it with us.

I love Sundays on vacation.  Often the better part of the day is spent figuring our transit and getting to church and back.  That is part of the adventure.  The adventure is even bigger if they speak a language I don’t understand, like Russian (Lithuania).  Often if I am somewhere church is hard to find, my plan is to watch for missionaries and get help.

In Lithuania we were staying in the apartment of a friend’s friend.  The church website was no help at all (partly because everything was terribly disorganized there).  My son and I were sitting at the window and I saw the backs of two missionaries as they were going by.  I opened the windows and yelled out “Elders!”  They were very surprised to hear English and turned around to meet us.  They got us to church and helped us out.  I have similar stories for other places I have been.

Another big part of the fun is going to church and having no responsibilities.  I can just relax and enjoy.  Occasionally I don’t make it, but as long as I have tried I am ok with that.

I also really enjoy the down time and I read and relax if I can afterwards.  Sometimes I am with nonmembers and I just have to do my best between not giving offense and Sabbath keeping.

Those are my least favorite choices.  If I have a translator I try to stay for all three meetings. Sometimes we attend mid-week activities.  On my last big trip, I had the most amazing olive oil ever made by one of the brethren from his own trees.  I have had some really fine oil in my life, but this was transcendent.  In that ward every year the men put on a dinner for the sisters and cook everything themselves.  There were quite a few people in that ward who were English- speaking, and I had a great time.

Once our whole family went to a Mother’s Day activity in Mexico, and it was a blast.  We all speak Spanish, so we more or less knew what was going on.

I don’t know if this is any help to someone traveling with a non-member spouse, but it is how I handle it.

Still Happy

Thanks for sharing your experience, Happy.  It was fun to read how you look for those white-shirted missionaries to lead you to church meetings.

Okay, readers, we got some great letters today, but as “Still Happy” pointed out, not one of them dealt with traveling in a part-member family.  What do you who are in part-member families do?  There’s still time to join the conversation by sending your comments to [email protected].  There are plenty of people in part-member families who need your sage advice!

Until next time ? Kathy

“A vacation is like love ? anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.”

Author Unknown