The Lord’s command to keep the Sabbath Day holy has been a truly invaluable blessing in my life. Though it is tempting, from one perspective, to see Sunday as a test of faith and endurance, with a bevy of activities deemed inappropriate, those who keep this commandment with a sincere heart come to see that its observance is a “delight” (Isaiah 58:13. The Savior taught that “the Sabbath is made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27); in other words, the whole purpose of this holy day is not to test us, but rather to bless us. It is for our benefit. Through the years I have found that sanctifying this day has brought me a nearness to Heavenly Father that fortifies me throughout the week’s trials and tribulations. Attending meetings, visiting the lonely and afflicted, studying the scriptures and words of the living prophets, calling loved ones, writing in my journal, doing home teaching, and many more activities serve to focus my mind and soul on Christ, providing a respite from the world’s buffetings.
It would seem that kicking back and enjoying a film would be more suited for a Friday or Saturday evening. This is not necessarily true, however, as clarified by the Gospel Principles manual:
“In deciding what other activities we could properly engage in on the Sabbath, we could ask ourselves: Will it uplift and inspire me? Does it show respect for the Lord? Does it direct my thoughts to Him?” (p. 142).
Remembering moderation in all things, I have found that an occasional Gospel-centered film on the Sabbath can help individuals, couples, families, and friends to fulfill the day’s purpose as a day of rest and as a day to focus on the Lord. I am not suggesting that we become Sunday couch potatoes, neglecting our duties to the sick and the poor, failing to do the essential things like magnifying our callings and having conversations with our loved ones. Neither am I suggesting that we “replace the book with the movie,” as nothing takes the place of the Standard Works and the power of the God’s word.
However, film is not merely an entertainment medium; in the hands of the talented it is an art form, as capable as poetry, music, painting, and sculpture to glorify God and invite His Spirit. The Church is aware of this; otherwise, there would be no LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo, Utah, creating films to inspire the Saints and interest investigators. The Church itself produces many fine films which beautifully testify of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His Gospel. These films inspire testimony in those who see them.
At both BYU and at Auburn University in Alabama, I started a tradition of the Sabbath Movie Night, where my friends and I (both members and not) met in my apartment to watch films that drew our hearts to the Savior. The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd catalyzed conversations about The Book of Mormon and LDS doctrine about Jesus with a friend who knew little about either. The Work and the Glory series did the same for the Restoration and the prophet Joseph Smith. Fiddler on the Roof encouraged us all to learn more and gain greater appreciation for the faith and traditions of the Jews. Charly gave me the chance to testify of the eternal nature of the family. The Errand of Angels and The Best Two Years allowed several in the group to reminisce about missionary experiences and remember the Lord’s hand during that period of our lives. The Nativity Story gave us insight into the world of the New Testament. One Night With the King inspired a relative to crack open the Old Testament and revisit the amazing story of Queen Esther.
There are so many wonderful works of cinematic art that invite the Holy Ghost, and they are often forgotten or ignored unless we make time for them. What better day than the Sabbath? These films can serve as springboards for Gospel discussions with youth and may encourage them to take interest in the original texts. If you’re looking for something to fill your Sunday evenings, may I humbly suggest a Sabbath Movie Night? Grab some popcorn (and maybe your scriptures for afterwards) and let the Gospel come to life in your living room.
For suggestions of Sabbath-appropriate movies, see my articles here, here, and here.
Also recommended: Treasure in Heaven, Only a Stonecutter.