When my now-returned-missionary daughter was in second grade, her class had a Halloween party. I sent her to school in a little blue Sleeping Beauty princess costume. As the teacher was setting up for the party, one of the students informed her that she was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and that she could not participate in the festivities. The teacher made arrangements for this child to go and sit in the back of an adjoining empty classroom and read books while the class was having the party. My daughter, seeing that another classmate was making a difficult sacrifice for her religion, and knowing that her religion also required the sacrifice of many fun things (like birthday parties on Sundays), told the teacher that her religion did not allow her to go to Halloween parties either. She sat in the back of the classroom that day with the other girl. When my daughter came home that afternoon and told me about what had happened, she said that she couldn’t remember if we were supposed to celebrate Halloween or not (despite having a Sleeping Beauty costume on!!), but she did know that there were lots of things we weren’t supposed to do because of our religion. She figured if someone else was giving up a party for religion’s sake, that it was a safe bet that her religion required it also. My daughter had internalized the part of our religion that requires sacrifice and abstinence. As Jeremiah 31 would have it, this aspect of the law had been written in her heart. After this experience, I wanted to be more careful about how I presented Mormonism to my children. I didn’t want it to become solely a religion of “don’ts.” I recognize the importance of asceticism, but I wanted my family to learn to serve the Lord and keep commandments with a sense of joy and love rather than obligation and fear. I’ve been thinking about this part of SS lesson #43 as we approach the Sunday Halloween 2010. I’m sure that we will see all sorts of different decisions made by LDS families as we decide what our participation in the holiday and our honoring the Sabbath will look like. As we do this, I think it would be instructive to ponder the laws that have been written in our inward parts. For those who decide to hold Halloween festivities on a different day, or to abstain completely:
- Are you doing this in the spirit of self-restraint or asceticism?
- Do you feel that fun, costumes, or candy will take away from your focus on worshipping God?
- Do you believe that the emphasis on Halloween ghoulishness is inimical to keeping the day holy?
- Is there an aspect of fear of divine punishment if you stray from prescribed Sunday ritual?
For those of you who have decided to celebrate the holiday in the usual manner:
- Are you succumbing to social or family pressure?
- Do you view the time spent together as wholesome family recreation?
- Do you make partial concessions to the holiday by such actions as putting candy on your porch, but abstain in other ways?
- Do you think that pleasure and family fun is an acceptable way to honor God?
- How do you justify your decision to stray from more accepted forms of worship?
How has the law of the Sabbath been written in your heart, and how does it affect the decision you have made to participate or not participate in Halloween activities this year?