What does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints teach about how to keep the Sabbath day holy? Well, many things, and yet very little.
Heavenly Father doesn’t want us to be “commanded in all things,” meaning that he wants us to learn and grow and decide for ourselves what is right. Doctrine and Covenants 58:26. Because of that, you won’t find a list of exactly what is appropriate and what is not. Below are three decisions I have made which I feel have been rewarding decisions. The reasons each decision was made and the authority I have found to support my decision are cited as well. Mormons are Christians, and we do our best to keep the Sabbath Day as a holy day. As with anything on this site, I am not trying to declare doctrine, but share what I have learned in the hope that it might help others make their own decisions.
When I was twelve years old, I spent my weekly allowance of $1.50 at the gas station and convenience store near my house. I would bike up there with my friends and buy as many football cards as I could, and blow the rest on Big League Chew and Chick-O-Sticks. This left little money for buying larger items that I craved such as a brand new K2 real leather football, or a Dallas Cowboys Tony Dorsett jersey.
My friend had a newspaper delivery route that he did on his bike each day. He was rolling in cash, in my mind. When I went to his house he always had new Estes model rockets for us to shoot off in the field near his house. I resolved to deliver papers myself, and put in an application.
I got the job. I delivered papers to a housing area two miles from my neighborhood. I was issued a bike bag that attached to the handlebars of my blue ten speed bike, bought a large bag of rubber bands from the newspaper company, and was on my way.
I must have started early in the week, on a Monday or Tuesday. The first day was hard, because I wasn’t used to the weight on my bike handlebars, and I didn’t know the route. By the second or third day, I was in a rhythm and began to be more confident.
The bundle of papers would be dropped off on the curb in front of my house, then were rolled and rubber banded by me, stuffed in my bike bag, and delivered to the customers’ porches.
The pre-teen mind is not revered for its foresight.
It was probably during delivery on Saturday that it dawned on me that the next day was the Sabbath. Suddenly, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I realized that I would be working on a Sunday, which was something I did not feel was right. It wasn’t just that I had learned it was wrong in Sunday School, but that I felt it was wrong.
My parents, who had carefully quizzed me on my comprehension of the responsibility when I had told them I intended to take the job, must have had a reaction when I informed them I was quitting. This many years later, I cannot say whether they nodded with an “I told you so” look on their faces, or whether they were proud that I had not quit because of the hard work, but because of my religious standard. They made me call the lady myself and tell her my decision.
I felt responsible to continue the route until the newspaper could find a suitable replacement, and informed them that I would do so. On Sunday my spirit felt heavy as I pedaled my bike over to the other neighborhood. Somehow the heavy Sunday papers with all of their advertisements and extra sections made pedaling my bike a real chore. While I suffered physically because of the heavy load, it could not compare with the spiritual anguish I suffered for having made such a mistake in foresight. I knew better, and I knew that God knew that I knew better. The route was miserable that morning. By mid-week, they had replaced me and sent me my first and final pay check.
From the feelings I had when I was on that route, it was an easy decision for me to determine never to work on a Sunday again. How could I serve the Lord on Sundays if I was serving the local paper? How could I gain spiritual knowledge if I was delivering secular knowledge?
After graduating high school, I put in my application to be a missionary. When I received the call, I learned I wasn’t to report to the Missionary Training Center for another four months, which left me plenty of time to earn more money to pay for my mission.
I remember getting my resume together and driving out to go put in some applications. Upon driving out of the neighborhood, the first place I saw was a local chicken and barbecue sandwich joint. It had a Now Hiring sign out front, so I went in. I was handed an application and was still filling it out when the manager came to interview me.
He found out I was an Eagle Scout and told me I was hired on the spot. He didn’t even let me finish my application. I explained my circumstances: I was leaving on a mission in four months, but was happy to work any shift at all until then, excepting Sundays, which I explained were not available for work for religious reasons. He indicated that would be no problem at all.
Every single week, when the schedule came out and was posted, that manager put me down to work on Sunday. Every single week, I would look at the schedule, walk straight to his office and remind him of his commitment to me, and ask that he change it.
At first, he feigned forgetfulness. Soon, he showed annoyance. After two months of this routine, he one week put his foot down and said that he didn’t have anyone else available, and that I had no choice. He actually told me that the good of the company has to be my priority sometimes.
He had misjudged me. I could immediately see that he was calling my bluff. Little did he know that I had made that decision seven years earlier as a new paperboy, and that I have a rather stiff spine when people try and challenge me. I told him that I would not work on Sunday because of my religious beliefs, reminded him that he knew that when he hired me, explained that I had taken all of the busy Friday and Saturday shifts that no one wanted, and asked him again to change the schedule.
He refused to budge.
He asked me to reconsider.
I left that day wondering how in world I would ever get another company to hire me for only two months. I should have had more faith. The Lord blessed me immediately. I got a job at an Albertson’s grocery store bagging groceries which paid me better, didn’t involve frying chicken, and respected my Sundays off request. I was treated with respect by everyone there and am left with a very favorable impression of their company. I worked there until I left for the MTC.
Now that I am grown, I have picked a career which allows me to serve the Lord and spend time with my family on Sundays. I have worked on two total Sundays in my adult life – both of which involved law enforcement-related duties which could not wait until Monday, for public safety reasons. Obviously some people must work Sundays – those in health care, public safety and similar careers which involve emergency services. While I don’t regret those two Sundays, overall the decision I made as a young paper boy to keep the Sabbath day holy has blessed me ever since.