TOTW–What Mormons (Don’t) Do On The Sabbath

TOTW=Thought of the Week

Ya dig?

Aside from just answering your awesome questions, I’ll also be posting a thought of the week on all sorts of random topics–cool, huh? (Just say “yes”…)

So, the Sabbath.


Chances are, if you know some Mormons, and you’ve asked them to do any number of things with you on a Sunday, you’ve gotten one of the following response:

  1. “I can’t today, sorry” or…
  2. “<Insert lame, probably not entirely true, excuse>”

Similarly, if you live in any of the Mormon Meccas (ie: Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, etc.), you’ll notice EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday (and you thought Chick-fil-A being closed on Sunday was an outrage…)

Here’s why:

Mormons practice somewhat strict Sabbath day observance.

I’ll explain:

From The Beginning…

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word Shabbath (or Shabbos) sabbath in hebrew, which came from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to rest, to end, or to cease. Simply, the Sabbath was Biblically designated as a day of rest.


Genesis 2:2-3 states:

“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”

(Am I the only person who finds those verses to be a tad redundant??? Anyway…)

This idea of resting on this sanctified, seventh day, was so important that its observance became one of the Ten Commandments:

“Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:9-11)

And in his review of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5:12-14, Moses expanded on the Lord’s requirement regarding the Sabbath:

Keep the Sabbath day to sanctify it, as the Lord thy God hath commaned thee. Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work…”

Phew! I think you get the point!

Jewish people continue to observe Shabbat on the seventh day of the week (from sunset on Friday until nightfall on Saturday). A few New Testament scriptures (Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2), however, indicate that following Christ’s death and resurrection (which occurred on a Sunday), Christ’s disciples began worshipping on Sunday, the first day of the week; this is likely why most Christian’s consider Sunday to be the Sabbath. Just an interesting fact.

And while some may think the call for Sabbath observance is outdated (since it is not explicitly commanded in the New Testament), the Old Testament and modern revelation confirm that it is in fact an “everlasting covenant” to be continued “forever” (Exodus 31:16-17, Doctrine & Covenants 59:9-12).

What Do Mormons Do On The Sabbath?

  1. Partake of the sacrament and attend church meetings
  2. Rest/Do spiritual things
I keep saying “rest,” but taking a 16 hour nap isn’t really productive Sabbath activity, and is probably contrary to the spirit of Sabbath observance. I think this is the best explanation:

“In Hebrew the term Sabbath means ‘rest.’ It contemplates quiet tranquility, peace of mind and spirit. It is a day to get rid of selfish interests and absorbing activities” –Spencer W. Kimball
In short, we spend time with family, do church-related work, study scripture, reconnect with friends, perform service for others, and reenergize ourselves spiritually. It’s meant to be a day of worship, to reflect on our relationship with God, and to rededicate ourselves as disciples of Christ.

What Don’t Mormons Do On The Sabbath?

Generally speaking, we are counseled to not work (obviously some people MUST work ie: police, doctors, etc.) , shop, or engage in  sporting events or recreational activities on the Sabbath. Aside from those few things, the extent of Sabbath observance, however, is very personal and is largely left up to the individual.

Some people feel the need to wear church clothes the ENTIRE Sabbath day. Some refuse to watch any sporting events on Sunday, Super Bowl included. Different strokes for different folks.

Rather than be given a list of Mosaic Law-style do’s and don’ts, we are encouraged to prayerfully consider whether an activity is in harmony with the spirit of the Sabbath, and then decide for ourselves. Apostle Russel M. Nelson stated that after he realized his activity on the Sabbath constituted a sign between him and God, he “no longer needed lists of dos and don’ts;” he simply asks himself “What sign do I want to give to God?” and judges accordingly.

What do you think? Think Sabbath observance is still necessary and/or relevant?

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