The Sabbath as “Family Day”?

May 1, 2006 | 46 comments
By

Are we losing the battle for Sundays? Children, especially teenage children, are being asked with increasing frequency to participate in school activities, club sports, and minimum wage jobs on Sundays. This issue is not entirely new, of course, but Sunday encroachments seem more pervasive than ever. I have an idea that might win Sunday Sabbath observers some new allies: Family Day.

This idea first occurred to me when we lived in Oregon. Our oldest son wanted to enroll in the local Tiger Cub program, but some of the other parents proposed scheduling all of the activities on Sunday. We had warned our son that this might happen, and he asked us to press the issue. At the first organizational meeting, we announced that we would not be able to participate if the activities were scheduled for Sundays. Several other parents chimed in, noting that they usually reserved Sundays for family activities. One mother referred to Sunday as “Family Day.” This sentiment gained momentum until most of the activities were rescheduled.

Over the course of my parenting life, I have encountered similar challenges to Sabbath observance on a regular basis. I have dealt with potential Sunday encroachments by teaching my children the spiritual benefits of Sabbath observance, and this has worked pretty well for my family. But the costs of Sabbath observance seem to be escalating.

I wonder whether we might gain back some lost ground by partnering with people who value Sundays as Family Days.

46 Responses to The Sabbath as “Family Day”?

  1. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 2, 2006 at 6:48 am

    That is an interesting approach, and an excellent idea.

  2. S. Hardy on May 2, 2006 at 7:03 am

    This “family day” idea has worked well for our family. It provides an easy way for our children to turn down Sunday invitations. It also provides a guideline for what we consider appropriate: most of our approved activities on Sunday have to include the family. This, for our family, is why it is OK to go on a family bike ride, but not OK to ride bikes with friends. (However, for reasons that maybe you can explain to me, we won’t go swimming with friends or family on Sunday.)

    One note of caution: We explained to friends and neighbors that Sunday was a family day… and they noticed, and even commented on the fact that I was almost never around on Sundays. I was in all sorts of meetings (PEC, etc.) and this meant that I was away from 7 am to evening. I have never figured out how to maintain Sabbath observance and fulfill a demanding calling. Because of the travel involved (we live about 40 minutes from our ward-house) moving meetings to other days would result in even less time spent with my family.

  3. LDSDanny on May 2, 2006 at 8:13 am

    I have had to deal with this issue too. There are a coupl eof activities that I am intersted in participating in, in my town, but, for some reason the organisers keep scheduling these on sundays. I have joined the board of one of these groups and am trying to use Gordon’s method to influence them to quit scheduling evenys on sundays.

  4. Jeremy on May 2, 2006 at 8:52 am

    A few years ago there was a commentator on an NPR show (don’t remember who, or which show), who gave a very compelling argument for sabbath observance, along these same lines. What’s more, he proposed it from an entirely secular point of view: a “refresher” day to spend time with family and away from work and commerce. Because the argument was secular in nature, it was well-suited to public/civic discourse such as this.

    (Of course, sometimes I’m tempted to cry “family day!” when I’m asked to attend too many and too-long church meetings as well…)

  5. Gordon Smith on May 2, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Jeremy, Interesting. Thanks for noting that.

    Also, the Church has made efforts to discourage meetings on Sunday, and I have used that more than once in arguing against this or that meeting.

  6. D. Fletcher on May 2, 2006 at 9:37 am

    My last two Sundays, in the evening, I hosted a bloggersnacker. It seems vaguely… worthy of the Sabbath.

    :)

  7. greenfrog on May 2, 2006 at 9:45 am

    My family has developed the tradition (?) of inviting others to our house 1 or 2 Sundays each month for a leisurely and informal dinner/get together. We adopted the custom from a marvelous woman in Chicago who extended the same courtesy to us, binding people who happen to sit in the same chapel into a ward family. It gives us an excuse to cook interesting foods and to extend the borders of our family a bit.

    Our youngest (now 11) insists on it as frequently as he can. It feels a bit like Gordon’s Family Day.

  8. Wilfried on May 2, 2006 at 10:06 am

    Interesting topic, Gordon. Some thoughts from European perspective and from convert situations. In Belgium, like in many European countries, Sunday IS basically family day, but precisely because it is so, it often comes into conflict with Church principles. Sunday is the day to go and see grandparents and other kin, or invite them over for festivities, or the day to go on a trip to the seaside or the countryside with the family, or to attend, as a family, one of the numerous cultural and social activities that all kinds of public and private organizations offer. Not only our view on Sabbath observance seems to clash with many of those activities, but our very schedule of meetings often prohibits this kind of “family day”, leading to tensions within part-member families. So the challenge for converts is how to honor both family and Church obligations within a view of Sunday as Family day. Would it be wrong, in this intercultural perspective, to plead for an adaptation of the concept of “Sabbath observance” so as to harmonize conflicting family and Church expectations?

  9. Mark IV on May 2, 2006 at 10:47 am

    Gordon,

    Last Sunday, at least one member of my family was involved in at least one of the following activities, in addition to the regular three hours of meetings:

    1. Quorum presidency meeting
    2. Scout committee meeting
    3. Ward welfare council
    4. Stake sponsored missionary preparation class
    5. Youth fireside
    6. Choir practice
    7. Home teaching
    8. RS accountability interviews

    This isn’t to complain, I’m glad we are involved and I think all of those things are worthwhile and good for my family. But if we are battling for the Sabbath as family day, we have already lost the battle, and the church itself is a big part of the problem. As you note, there have been efforts over the years to try to discourage excessive church involvement on Sunday, but if that is what we really mean to do, we need to start asking ourselves harder questions. Which of the eight activities/meetings my family attended last Sunday would I eliminate, or move to another time? I can’t think of one.

  10. roland on May 2, 2006 at 11:11 am

    Several years ago, our family moved Family night from Monday to Sunday for the following reasons. First our rowdy boys need some type of forum to help them be more reverant around the house on Sundays. Second, during the rest of the week the boys are buried with schooling, sports, scouts and other activities and need the extra time on Monday to catch up on their homework. We feel greatly blessed for modifying our family schedule accordingly.

  11. Bonjo on May 2, 2006 at 11:16 am

    In my experience, the counsel from the First Presidency to limit Sunday meetings and activities is usually invoked only when someone doesn’t like a proposed meeting, doesn’t want to go, etc. Otherwise, it’s business as usual, unless the presiding local authorities make this a priority. Like Mark IV, I agree that many of these meetings are beneficial, and often Sunday is the only day we can easily hold many of them.

    As a friend of mine once said… “We’re the only religion that marries them for eternity, then separates them for life.”

  12. jimbob on May 2, 2006 at 11:34 am

    “But if we are battling for the Sabbath as family day, we have already lost the battle.”

    That’s really the question, isn’t it? I’m not so sure the Sabbath should be family day, at least how that term is be used here. And as someone who works far too much billing far too many hours, I always appreciate that all my church meetings happen on the day I can virtually guarantee that I’ll be there.

  13. Gordon Smith on May 2, 2006 at 11:37 am

    Bonjo: “the counsel from the First Presidency to limit Sunday meetings and activities is usually invoked only when someone doesn’t like a proposed meeting, doesn’t want to go, etc.”

    Guilty as charged! Though I have a pretty expansive list of meetings that I don’t want to attend.

    Most of the commenters have assumed that my Family Day proposal would require Mormons to change their behavior, but I was being much more crass. I viewed Family Day as a nice way to move some non-Church activities off Sunday. Of course, Family Day could be part of a concerted effort to take back the Sabbath from Church activities, too, but that was not the point.

    Actually, we use Sundays in much the same way as greenfrog’s family. (Could it be the Chicago experience?) We invite families from our ward to dinner, then play games like Apples to Apples afterward.

  14. norm on May 2, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    I understand that ideas about “keeping the Sabbath day holy” and “Sabbath-appropriate activities” vary widely from place-to-place–and that this includes places like LaVerkin, small Bible-Belt, and blue-law state towns where there really isn’t Little League on Sunday, where supermarkets close (at least for Sunday morning), etc.

    However, I can’t help but think that the activity-free Sabbath day isn’t, in (greatest) part, another Golden Age mis-remembrance–a longed for “way we never were”. Surely people moving from LaVerkin to New York or LA will notice a change–and often atttribute it to changing times rather than places. But, even coming from the heart of Mormondom (Provo, Springville, and Bluebell, Utah) (pop

  15. norm on May 2, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    … But, even coming from the heart of Mormondom (Provo, Springville, and Bluebell, Utah) (pop

  16. norm on May 2, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    (sorry, my comment was cut-off halfway)… my grandparents and great-grandparents recall dances, fishing, baseball games, pageants, radio programs, etc. from the Sundays of their youth. My grandmother and grandfather held high-school and college jobs where they worked on Sundays–and they say that was very normal for teens in Provo and Springville 60 years ago. While those jobs weren’t at Walmart or McDonald’s, the theaters, rail depots, dairy farms, construction projects, etc. still worked on Sundays, even in the Golden Age.

    It’s easy to complain that ‘it didn’t used to be this way’ when we mean ‘i wish it weren’t this way’. But isn’t this conversation more about invoking religion in an attempt to exercise more control over children and their lives than it is truly about there being more and more activities on Sunday? Back in Brigham Young’s Utah there were dances, concerts, and plays on Sundays. He said ‘courting’ was a Sabbath day activity. If we’re going to long for Golden Ages–I’ll long for the one where prophets wrestled with fellow-saints after sermons, and where fiddles & dancing, dating & ‘calling on’ one another (along with farm chores) occupied Sundays, instead of sitting around being reverant.

  17. Harold Curts on May 2, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    The Chicago experience was a great introduction to a path for Sabbath observance. Aunt Cathy, I think put in place a workable norm for a Sabbath.

    As I moved around in various places, one of the things that have struck me, perhaps, because I have tried to make Sunday a down day, is that we as Mormons don’t really have much of a cultural norm for Sabbath Day observance. We have a norm of Sabbath day observance, but not for any particular content. We have a greater or lesser list of things not to do. Sometimes people will point to a much less recognized, or practiced list of things to do, but no cultural norm that says Mormons usually do this on Sundays.

    Well of course except for a three hour block, and various priesthood leadership meetings that involve a relatively small percent of any congregation.

  18. Starfoxy on May 2, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    I don’t know about “the way we never were.” My dad spent several years of his childhood with a woman who refused to do anything remotely like work on Sunday, and wouldn’t let the kids in her care do anything either. My dad says he remembers being dressed up, taken to church, coming home, eating cold fried chicken (prepared the night before) and sitting in the ‘sitting room’ being quiet for the rest of the day. There were at least some people who just sat around being reverant. :)

  19. pjj on May 2, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    starfoxy, where’d your dad grow up? I grew up in northern Utah, and remember Sunday as Norm described (and I’m 47). I moved away from Utah when I was 21, and it took years for me to quit missing those Sundays. Since most of the families were farm families, there was a lot of work that had to be done everyday, no matter what, but after that, and church, we spent a lot of time with other members of our extended families, and friends. It was just a given that people would probably drop by on Sunday, or that you’d go drop by someone else’s house. And the tradition of a Sunday drive was still alive and well. We had to go to a neighboring town for stake conference, and there was a particular meadow that many people stopped at on the way home, with their picnic lunches in the spring time. It seemed to me that this spirit was already gone among more urban Mormons when I left Utah.

  20. queuno on May 2, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    Anyway, getting back to Gordon’s point about alliances with the Family Day crowd — I think that’s the way it needs to be handled if we want to get any leverage with the soccer associations, etc. The other thing is that you have to fight these things from the INSIDE not as the outsider who “just wants to change things”.

    My son’s soccer team this year consists of half LDS kids (6 kids, ages 4-6, they play three at a time with no goalie). We have put forth a united front on the Sunday games — none of us will show up. They’ve had to forfeit one game where the coach had to be at another game at the same time and so his son couldn’t attend, so they only had 2. They’ve had to skip potential tournament play because the games were Sat and Sun (and none of the Mormon kids would play). The soccer association won’t listen to the parents, but they will listen to coaches — so the new approach is for every LDS dad who can stand it to sign up as a coach for his kids’ teams (and then not accept any schedule with a Sunday on it). One of the best teams in our association is coached by a BYU alum who played on the club teams, and they listen to him. The key is that you can change things from the INSIDE.

    We had a member of the Church as the head of the PTA for a number of years, and she successfully lobbied to hold PTA meetings on a night other than Monday. Now she’s gone and they’ve reverted back to Monday nights (although, my wife loves using FHE as an excuse to avoid PTA meetings).

    Several of the local churches, including ours, banded together to push the schools into honoring “youth activity nights”, whereby the schools assign less homework on those nights because a large number of the better students are participating in scouts or the activity night of choice at their congregation. Again, they worked within the system.

    These are local examples of working within the system to get Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays reserved for Church activities. It’s a bit tougher to get friends to honor Sundays, but with continuing (re)education, it can happen. Part of it involves being a little flexible as to what is good and bad on Sunday. We will go to a friend’s house for dinner and games, but we’ll stay out of the pool.

    With regard to Sunday activities, I think that we like to blame it on our leaders, but we are our own worst enemy. The bishop generally doesn’t schedule choir practice or home teaching, so there’s no excuse to hold those on those days. I personally do not let my home teacher come on Sunday, unless he works nights. I want Sunday for me and I want him and his influence to come during the week. I don’t have a problem with youth firesides on Sunday — that’s a valid activity. As far as PPI or RS interviews, there’s no reason why you can’t tell a leader, “I’m sorry, but we have a family activity planned; I’d be happy to come over on Tuesday night and do it then.” Quorum presidency meetings are the responsibility of the quorum leader; our EQ does them on Wednesday nights while waiting for their children at their scout meeting. Bottom line — outside the Sunday block, some ward council/welfare/bishopric meetings, there is no institutional need to hold these meetings on Sunday. The “leader” in charge of these things is rarely the bishop or stake president. Again, work within the system but you don’t have to sit back and take it! But, be proposed to suggest a valid alternative.

  21. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 2, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    I have heard of stakes that have a family Sabbath once a month where NO meetings (stake or ward level) and no home/visiting teaching are to take place. Sounds like an interesting way to at least have one guaranteed day of no non-family conflicts.

  22. awv on May 2, 2006 at 3:23 pm

    I live in an area where there are a lot of Mormons and Jews. One LDS Soccer mom commented that the Mormon families wanted no Sunday games and the Jewish families wanted no Saturday games. They compromised – half the games on Saturday and half on Sunday. I thought that was an admirable way of accommodating the desire of both faiths to “keep the Sabbath Day holy.”

  23. Nehringk on May 2, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    In our stake, a recent meeting that had been scheduled for a Sunday was moved to Saturday. The rationale given was that the 1st Presidency had directed the leaders to avoid unnecessary meetings on Sunday so we could be with our families. To me, moving it to Saturday made it even more of an imposition. On Sunday, I do not resent Church meetings, as I look at Sunday as a day for the Lord’s errands if nedded or to be with the family as possible (I serve on the High Council). It is Saturday that I have tried to reserve as my “day off” to spend at home or whatever. Sigh…

  24. anon on May 2, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    awv: I’m curious where you live. There are not a lot of Jews in the Mormon corridor, and there are not a lot of Mormons anywhere else. Orange County? Westchester?

  25. awv on May 2, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    anon asked: “awv: I’m curious where you live . . .”

    Maryland suburbs outside of Washington DC. The woman I referred to lived in Bethesda, MD.

  26. DavidH on May 2, 2006 at 4:53 pm

    “They compromised – half the games on Saturday and half on Sunday. I thought that was an admirable way of accommodating the desire of both faiths to ‘keep the Sabbath Day holy.’”

    When our children were younger, we had an informal rule that they would not attend Sunday birthday parties, unless the birthday person was a practicing Jew.

  27. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 2, 2006 at 5:24 pm

    23
    I, too, find Saturday church stuff harder, esp. since it is also a catch-up-on-things-I-can’t-do-on-Sunday day (in my mind, I break into the Primary song, “Saturday is a Special Day”)….

    I have long since called Sunday not a day of rest but a day of change. :)

  28. norm on May 2, 2006 at 6:29 pm

    Starfoxy,

    I know families now that are very similar to what you describe. (Although ‘cold fried chicken’ would be pretty extreme if you owned a microwave.) I can easily picture those children growing up and in 30 years posting on this board about how the times have changed, when in fact, they merely came from a weird family in their own time–and somehow thought everyone else acted like their own families–(maybe since they never saw what anyone else did on Sunday.)

    The point is, I know they’re not typical now, that they weren’t when I grew up, and I suspect that 50 and 100 years ago they weren’t either.

  29. Starfoxy on May 2, 2006 at 6:33 pm

    pjj #19, The home that I described was in Arizona, probably Flagstaff, but perhaps a bigger detail is that the lady running it wasn’t Mormon. I think she was Catholic. My dad cites this woman’s Sunday habits whenever people claim that little boys just can’t sit still or be quiet, because he and at least six other boys did it all day every Sunday for several years.

  30. DMS on May 2, 2006 at 10:18 pm

    There was a family here in Northern Utah that moved to the Loma Linda, CA area recently because they were Seventh Day Adventist and their son wanted to play baseball – but since many of the games were on the sabbath (Saturday) he couldn’t play. There are many SDA’s in So Cal near Loma Linda so they have their activities on Sunday. I wonder if you would feel right trying to change that “from the inside” if you lived in that area?

    I have had mixed feelings about communities wanting to close pools and golf courses on Sunday knowing that some devoutly religious people consider a day other than Sunday to be the sabbath. Then again most of the people who use these on Sunday are not SDA or Jewish. At least with the pool the patrons can choose not to use it on Sunday even if it is open. The employees may feel differently. It is difficult to accomodate everyone.

  31. Silus Grok on May 3, 2006 at 11:19 am

    DMS raises a good point… I’ve often seen efforts in Provo (where I lived for 12 years) to close various public amenities on Sunday… and I always felt that they were missing the mark. Instead of foisting their personal religious observances on others, members of a pluralist society should finding ways of legislating through some form of principled approach… I’d like to empower employees to be able to get needed days off for religious observance, that would accommodate the widest possible range of belief systems. Because aren’t we really just trying to make it possible for folks who may not have a choice in employment to be able to still be active in their community of faith?

    Anyway… I’m rambling. Maybe I should put something together and post on it on my blog.

  32. roland on May 3, 2006 at 11:26 am

    And I always wondered if going to the temple could count as a Sabbath Day activity. I remember as a youth that the trip to the temple for baptisms would wipe out the entire Saturday.

  33. D. Fletcher on May 3, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    I occasionally attended the singles ward here in Manhattan, whenever requested to play music. One time, the main speaker’s talk was about a lot of things, but primarily about a trend in that singles ward for several groups of singles to go out to dinner after Church. The speaker called this “selling your birthright for a mess of potage,” essentially concluding that it was breaking the Sabbath. And yet, the singles in Manhattan (and everywhere else) don’t have their families with them — it seemed to me a perfectly worthy way of spending Sunday evening, with other members of the Church.

  34. Heidi Ann M on May 3, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    I was not raised a member of the Church (joined at age 19). I grew up in the Dallas area, but I was born in central Illinois. My mom grew up there and my dad grew up near Chicago. My mom was raised in, and I was born into the Mennonite Church (NOT Amish, nothing like that). My dad had no particular denomination, but he went to church with us when I was little. We became Presbyterians when we moved to TX because there were no Mennonites around. Anyway, that was just a little background. When I was growing up, we didn’t go play with friends or formal sports activities on Sundays. That day was for church and family. As I got into my teen years, I would go out with friends some on Sunday. But Sunday was mostly reserved for family. We’d rest, watch TV, eat dinner, spend time outside, but for the most part together. Sometimes we would go out to eat. Now that I have a family of my own, we do much the same things, with the exception of going out (to eat, or with friends), and watching TV. Since my parents aren’t members, they try to respect our beliefs. They don’t go out to eat on Sunday when we visit. And they don’t ask us to go to the store. They do watch more TV than we do, but they what they watch isn’t anything offensive. We try to provide other activities for the kids, rather than TV when we’re there. On Sundays, we have no problem being outside together, I suppose we might even swim if we were with my parents, but that’s never come up. My husband and I do our best not to H/VT on Sundays, but we will if it’s all that can be done. Thankfully our callings don’t require many Sunday meetings (I’m primary pianist, he’s employment specialist). This was really long, forgive me.

  35. Mike B on May 3, 2006 at 5:55 pm

    I haven’t read all of the above comments, so sorry if I’m repeating something.

    Several years ago when I was on the high council our stake pres attended a regional SP training with Elder Dallin H. Oaks. SP reported to us that Elder Oaks read a copy of the letter announcing the change to the block schedule in 1981(?), and reiterated the reasons for such change. He told the SPs present that we, as a church, have gotten away from freeing up our Sundays for family and crowded them with meetings. Our SPs response was to move almost all non-block meetings off of Sunday (our chapels are within several blocks of all members, so weekday meetings are not the challenge they would be to members in other areas). Our newest SP has moved our stake priesthood meetings back to Sunday morning (previously held on Saturday nights) to free the family up for Saturday night activities. This move was heralded by most stake members.

  36. Carlton on May 3, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    D. Fletcher,

    During my mission service in the Utah, SLC mission, 1991-93, I had a colleague (companion) whose uncle was a Seventy. During conference we received special permission to attend at the Tabernacle, usually reserved for the missionaries who had less than six months before going home. After each Sunday session he and his family took us out to eat. My companion was from Mexico, and whenever I teased him about it he, in his Spanish accent, would say, “hees ox was een the mire!, hees ox was een the mire!!!!”

  37. Jim F. on May 3, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    The solution isn’t to move the meetings to a different day. It is to have fewer and shorter meetings. Many of the meetings we have could be much shorter or simply not held. Often we could find ways to solve problems without having a meeting.

    Oddly, however, people often demand that we have them. My wife is a three-stake Family History Center director. She didn’t feel that some of the meetings held by the previous director were necessary, or that they were only needed occasionally. However, when she canceled them, she received a lot of flack from people who expected that a calling came with meetings to attend!

    I think this is more than a failure of leaders to figure out how to follow the counsel given. It is a fault in our culture: we are meeting maniacs. (And as a BYU prof, I can testify that our meeting mania isn’t confined to church work.)

  38. BrianJ on May 3, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    Jim F, post 36: I heard that at Dell, most company meetings are done standing up. How long would your faculty meetings last in a room with no chairs? (no pun intended, but you could answer either question.)

    During college, I worked as a manager in a couple different companies. I liked to consider the cost in “employee hours” of each meeting that I held. For example, a one-hour meeting with eight employees would cost eight hours–in other words, an entire day’s work for one person. Did I accomplish as much in the meeting as that one person would have accomplished in eight hours? From the obvious answer to that question, you might guess that my meetings were very short.

  39. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 4, 2006 at 12:37 am

    It is to have fewer and shorter meetings. Many of the meetings we have could be much shorter or simply not held.

    Sometimes when I have thought this, I have checked the Handbook, only to find that what was happening is what was expected. If it’s not in there, however, I would say scrap it if at all possible. I remember Pres. Hinckley saying that the Brethren basically went over everything in the Church with a fine tooth comb to try to simplify as much as possible, and there wasn’t much to give up (that was when temple recommends went to 2 years, I believe). Apparently, some meetings are deemed necessary. But they should be short, well-planned, well-facilitated and focused.

  40. claire on May 4, 2006 at 7:38 am

    Does anyone have any insight into our swimming prohibition? I personally don’t see the difference between kids running around, playing on the swing set etc. and playing in the pool.

    As for Family Day, it works pretty well for us. Our family has decided to attend some birthday parties on Sundays if the whole family is invited and they are at a home or other non-commercial venue. We explain that we don’t shop or go out to eat as a chance for others to have a day to spend with their families. We make rare exceptions to the rule for church meetings we think are important enough.

    Our Stake President has made the point rather vehemently that family activities take precedent over church meetings. I have the feeling that in the situations Wilfried alludes to, he would go with family unity over Sabbath Observance.

  41. M.J. Pritchett on May 4, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Claire:

    We have a no-swimming-on-Sunday rule in our family, and I have wondered about it myself.

    I think one reason is the Mormon folk belief that Satan has some special power over the water (or in a milder version, the inherent danger of swimming), so you need God’s special protection when you swim, which you might forfeit by swimming on Sunday. Another reason is that swimming involves swimming suits, which makes swimming a somewhat suspect activity, especially for Mormon adults. Finally, swimming is often a commercial activity.

    When I was a teenager I worked as a lifeguard at a public pool and occasionally had to work on Sunday. However, even then I wouldn’t swim for fun on Sunday, only the minimum amount necessary for my job!

    However, despite our general prohibition on Sunday swimming, when one of my kid asks to swim with his or her neigborhood friends in one of the friend’s backyard pool on Sunday or is invited to a Sunday birthday party that involves swimming at someone’s house, I generally say ok. I think the reason I can’t say no is that it seems less dangerous than in a lake or river, it’s kids not adults, and it’s non-commercial. (I’m not advocating this as the correct standard, but I think my own rationalization of this particular exception reflects the cultural reasons underlying the the no-swimming-on-Sunday rule.)

  42. Lee on May 4, 2006 at 7:29 pm

    D. Fletcher, 33. I don’t know what you mean by “go out to dinner”,
    but if you mean patronizing a restaurant, that’s possibly what the
    speaker was concerned about, rather than the fact that members would
    gather together outside church. Had they met at somebody’s home and
    cooked dinner together, they would not be breaking the Sabbath.
    Claire, 40. I agree, there’s little difference, but many members don’t
    believe kids should be playing on the swing set on Sunday, either. As
    a father of five active children all under 12, I admit that the reason
    my kids refrain from both activities on Sunday is that we own neither
    a swing set nor a pool.

  43. claire on May 6, 2006 at 1:38 am

    Lee, I know what you mean and I see no issue there. Different families interpret the commandment of Keep the Sabbath Day Holy differently…. refraining from both seems congruent, but refraining from one and not the other smacks of wierdness to me. And the ‘folk doctrine’ about Satan having power over the water is just plain strange.

  44. Mike B on May 8, 2006 at 11:17 pm

    I’m sure the comment wasn’t intended the way I take it, but I always find it interesting when someone cites a general authority, stake president, mission president, bishop, etc., when they want to justify deviating from what is commonly accepted as a Mormon “practice.”

    I will try not to judge the Seventy who took missionaries out for dinner between conference sessions. However, as a local priesthood leader I won’t do certain things because I do not want to be cited as an example of [insert whatever you want here: Sabbath swimming, dinner, drinking coke, having more than one wife, what have you]. If one is going to patronize a restaurant on the Sabbath, do it because that’s your personal interpretation of “keeping the Sabbath Day holy,” not because so-and-so did it.

    The implication is that the leader is perfect (or at least “acceptable” to the Lord), and if he chose to interpret the Sabbath that way, then I will, too. However one chooses to live the Sabbath, the appropriate thing (in my opinion) would be to ponder and pray about it. If the Spirit whispers that your interpretation is correct for you, then go with it. Using somebody else as an excuse for not going through that process is lazy. In my opinion.

  45. mullingandmusing (m&m) on May 9, 2006 at 1:48 am

    However, as a local priesthood leader I won’t do certain things because I do not want to be cited as an example of [insert whatever you want here: Sabbath swimming, dinner, drinking coke, having more than one wife, what have you].

    This was the reason our (then) Stake Pres. would not go to see “Passion of the Christ.” He didn’t want to be the reason for someone’s personal justification of seeing a rated-R movie (even if this one was not one that was necessarily problematic per se…it was the principle of the thing).

  46. Carlton on May 9, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    Mike B,

    I forgot to mention that the Seventy who took us out actually did have more than one wife (three, if I remember correctly), drank Coke and used the F word (fetch!). He also wore a button-down collar. I guess they do things a little different south of the border.