My husband and I sat next to each other in bed and stared at our laptops. “I’m not answering that email! You do it!” he said. “No way. You’re the priesthood authority. You do it!” I snapped. Then silence.
The email? Just a friendly invitation to our son’s baseball team dinner next week. On a Sunday. Oh, I hate when this happens. My son is definitely not going, but what do I say? Do I want to be completely religious and tell the coach that we keep the Sabbath Day holy? And unlike most other Christian denominations that means not eating out and having a grand old time. Or do I just want to play the family card and say Sundays are not a day for friends? Which isn’t exactly true. I know we’re a peculiar people, but sometimes I just want to be normal and easy.
Keeping the Sabbath Day holy has always been a perplexing thing for me. I grew up in a house of incredibly strict Sabbath-keepers. Never has my mother been to a store or eaten out on a Sunday. Ever. Even though we lived in Michigan where Sunday was just another Saturday for everybody else.
I missed every ballet recital growing up. The dress rehearsal on Saturday was the best that I got. Strangely, piano recitals were OK with my Mom. Maybe she figured that since the piano is played at church, in the chapel even, that it is a Sunday-sanctioned activity.
Fortunately I wasn’t involved in sports when I was young. I never had to decide what to do about swim meets and games that fell on a Sunday. But now those things are staring me in the face. My husband and I made the decision years ago to not let our children play a sport that requires Sunday participation. It’s been a pretty easy decision to stick with. It’s just these odds and ends that pop up that make me squirmy.
Are piano recitals an appropriate Sabbath activity? What about the championship game? Am I supposed to think of that guy from Chariots of Fire and say “sorry, not on a Sunday”? It’s easy to say, “It’s the finals! It’s not like I’m going to play every Sunday! I’m sure Heavenly Father will understand.” But I guess that’s the natural man talking. The celestial me shouldn’t have to think twice.
There were a lot of Jews where I lived in Michigan. Most Saturdays we would see the more Orthodox ones walking to synagogue. My mom explained how driving was seen as an inappropriate Sabbath activity, so our Jewish friends had to walk to church instead. But they could only walk a certain number of steps. My little mind saw this as completely absurd (driving is more work than walking? Huh?)
Now that I’m oIder I kind of like the idea of a list of do’s and don’ts. I’m sure all of the members of our church agree that playing sports on Sunday is not good. But what about watching sports? Some people frown on that on the Sabbath. Some frown on TV altogether. Some people are Sunday-dress-all day wearers (which seems a little strange to me as I actually wear skirts three or four days a week anyway. I like to treat it literally as a day of rest and stay in my P.J.s as much as possible.)
I never minded my kids playing with their friends on Sundays when they were little, but I feel strange about it as they get older. There were other Mormon kids in our neighborhood who were not ever allowed to play with friends on Sundays. Does that mean that one of us was right and one of us was wrong?
I know that we are supposed to limit Sabbath activities to those things which enrich and edify and bring us closer to God. And we’re supposed to rest. (That’s a big thing for me. I like to nap. I don’t do a big Sunday dinner. It’s Hot Pockets and ramen for us.) However it’s hard not to judge our fellow church members with our standards. I have seen members of my ward drive off to the lake on a Sunday morning and I’ve thought badly of them. And I’m sure members of my ward have seen my kids running around the neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon and thought badly of them (or at least of us, their parents.)
If it’s such a big deal why don’t the brethren make a list of what’s OK and what’s not? Is it all a matter of interpretation? Can something be breaking the Sabbath for one person but not another? Most importantly, how do we keep from judging other Mormons by our own personal standards?
PS. I ended up writing the email to my son’s coach. I told him that Sunday for us is a day for church and family. He answered back and said that it wouldn’t be a big deal to do it on a different day. All that stress for nothing. Why don’t I ever learn?