My mom and dad instilled an ethos of Sabbath worship in my childhood home. Sunday was a time of togetherness and worship, yet between August and March my dad was (and still is) often traveling on Sundays to meet his obligations as a sports broadcaster. My own Sabbath crossroads came years later as my two-year Church mission came to a close. I foresaw an oncoming collision between the Sabbath-day command and the requirements of my chosen fields for university study and career—journalism and public relations. Sunday work is inevitable in such realms—the Monday newspaper is created on Sunday, and the larger world just doesn’t stop its frantic whirl for the sake of the religiously devout.
Can one perfectly untie this knot? All I know so far is that I made peace with this complex reality in college 10 years ago. I continued in my chosen vocation, and in my time since as a journalist and public relations specialist—including now working for the Church—I've had to work many Sundays. Such Church work—as noble as it may sound—is still work. It exhausts the body and the mind on Sunday the same way it does Monday through Saturday. And I know I’m not alone in my Sabbath work—many police officers, firefighters, medical doctors, nurses, pilots, journalists, and others are required to fill occasional Sabbath shifts (to say nothing of the 24-7 efforts of parents with young children).
There are no easy solutions, and in this vein we can learn much from our Jewish friends, many of whom keep the Sabbath so well. Former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, an Orthodox Jew whose Sabbath devotion was deep and admirable during his 30 years of government service, was faithful to his faith’s Sabbath laws and, when necessary, carried out time-sensitive government responsibilities that only he could do.
“In the end,” he says of his fellow Jews, “we each have to interpret the Torah for ourselves, doing what seems right. … When circumstances demand, [God] wants us to stop our rest and do what needs to be done, such as protecting life and health, defending our security, and helping others with urgent needs.” Senator Lieberman also says we should be careful to not “put form over substance, to elevate the law above the values on which the law is based, and to forget that the Sabbath is primarily a day to affirm and uphold the life that God has given us” (The Gift of Rest, 177, 182–83).
Nurturing the Heart’s Sabbath Yearning
Keeping Senator Lieberman’s wise counsel in mind, I also give considerable thought to the power of remembering
on the Sabbath. President Russell M. Nelson
says our conduct and
attitude on the Sabbath constitute our sign to God of how we honor Him on His holy day. I've come to see required work on Sunday more as opportunity than irreconcilable collision of commandments. President Nelson’s comment on our Sabbath attitude,
coupled with the command in Exodus 20
the Sabbath day” tell me that the very act of remembering the sacredness of the day can be a significant attitude shift to help me render the day holy even if I have to work.