Last month my son, York, was in his high school’s musical. It was his first time being in a show of any sort and he loved nearly every minute of it. The director pulled him aside after the first month of rehearsals. “You’re Mormon, right?”, she asked. “Because there’s a performance on Sunday.” The director assured him that they’d be able to cover his parts and that he shouldn’t worry about it.
Later that week York found out that the other two Mormon boys in the show would be performing in the Sunday matinee. I wondered what the director and the other cast members must be thinking. I really didn’t know what to think, myself. It’s fine to say, “to each their own” and let the chips fall where they may. But is that the right response when the people making bad decisions are fellow members of the church?
I guess I need to clarify that I think performing on the Sabbath is a bad decision. I know there are plenty of my fellow Latter-Day Saints who wouldn’t dream of missing a game or play or recital if it’s on a Sunday. But I look at the fourth commandment and pretty much make an across-the-board decision: if it’s not holy, it’s not happening.
OK, I have been known to travel on the Sabbath, and I have eaten out on the Sabbath too. My own mother—a Sabbath stickler—allowed me to perform in piano recitals on Sundays but not ballet recitals (much to my childhood dismay). I do feel, though, that it is important to show kids that they need to stick to their guns and keep the Sabbath holy even when it’s not convenient.
What I want to discuss here is not what’s OK on the Sabbath. But what do you tell your kids and non-members when it’s your fellow Mormons who are the ones not setting a good example? Since the other boys in the school play had bigger parts than my son, does that make it OK for them to be in a musical on a Sunday?
I really struggled with what to say to York. We do not live in a society that condemns people’s behavior. We’ve been thoroughly convinced that we must never tell another person that what they are doing is wrong. Ultimately, though, I thought the other boys’ decisions were wrong. And that’s what I told York. If they had been skipping classes or partying on the weekends I most certainly wouldn’t feel bad about pointing out their poor decision-making skills. But this grey area stuff makes me pause.
Is Sabbath-keeping a grey area to you? What about other commandments that seem up to interpretation, like dressing modestly and watching rated-R movies? Do we have the right to pass judgment on how people keep these rules? How do we explain this to our children?