“Should a Latter-day Saint have a job that requires him to work on Sundays?” Tambuli, July 1978, 7–9
Steve Gilliland, Director of the LDS Institute, Cambridge, Massachusetts
“We do shift work here, and everyone takes his turn on Sunday shift,” the foreman said. His Latter-day Saint employee, anxious to keep the Sabbath day holy, is also concerned with earning a dependable income. Jobs are scarce. Can he afford to give up his good job in order to honor the Sabbath? Should he even concern himself about it?
For some the question of working on the Sabbath might be simply answered, “If your job requires you to work on the Sabbath, get another job.” But the problem may require deeper analysis.
For instance, there are certain essential services that must be continued on the Sabbath. Those who provide emergency services, such as hospital personnel, ambulance drivers, policemen, and firefighters, must remain on duty all day every day. If the bus and taxi system shut down on Sunday, how would those with no other form of transportation get to Church? And what about those who work in motels, where some travelers must stay to minimize Sunday travel?
Some work must be done on Sunday. And it seems clear that we should not take the position that all such work should be left strictly to nonmembers. We need good Latter-day Saints in all honorable occupations, to influence and to bless those they work with and those they serve.
The question of Sabbath work, then invariably becomes an individual one. Knowing that some Sunday work is not only justified, but also needed, we must ask ourselves, “Is my situation such that Sunday work is unavoidable?”
Even though our decision may affect the lives of many people, the full weight of such a decision is upon the individual. But we needn’t decide alone. The Lord has promised inspiration and guidance in such major decisions.
If you are already in a job that requires Sunday work, you need to ask yourself the following:
Is there an alternative to Sunday work? Can I change my schedule?
If I did not work on Sunday, would it put an unfair burden on other employees? Could we trade Sunday shifts?
If I quit this job, what would happen to my family? Are there other employment possibilities that could keep us secure and yet allow me to participate fully in the Church and obey the Lord’s commandments?
Is there a ward where I can still attend some or all of my Sunday meetings even though I work?
Am I sure I’m not using my job as an excuse for laziness?
Discuss these questions with your spouse or family; and take your answers to the Lord for his counsel.
And if your prayerful decision, accepted by the Lord, is to continue or to enter a career that requires some Sunday work, then follow that course as long as the Spirit directs, forgiving any fellow Saints who, not understanding, might criticize you.
What can be done to continue your spiritual growth even though some Sunday work is required of you? The following suggestions have come from Latter-day Saints who have found them helpful:
1. Begin your Sabbath with a special devotional service. If you are married, include your family. Because of travel or unusual hours, some have begun their Sabbath on Saturday evening.
2. When traveling, read the scriptures or Church-related publications. Individual study of the Melchizedek Priesthood Personal Study Guide has been beneficial to many brethren who must miss priesthood meeting.
3. If your work requires much driving or the kind of labor that takes less than maximum concentration, and yet doesn’t let you read, listening to cassette tapes can be very rewarding. Tapes of the general conferences and scriptures are available for loan at most meetinghouse libraries.
4. Dress for the Sabbath, even though you may have to change at work, especially if you are able to attend a nearby sabbath meeting.
5. Seek every opportunity to give extra service, to be extra kind. Avoid the grumpy “I wish I didn’t have to be here today” attitude. Do not be apologetic for being there. Be prayerful and let the Lord guide you to bless those around you.
6. Be a missionary. You aren’t the only person who remembers it is Sunday. Sometimes people are more open to religious discussions on Sunday than other days. Bear testimony.
7. If at all possible, attend as many Church meetings or parts thereof as you can. Sometimes you may have to slip in to meetings in your work clothes just to be there—it would be a shame to miss a meeting because you don’t have time to change.
8. A medical intern has his wife and children come into the hospital for a meal each time he has a Sunday shift and they then spend a few minutes in a corner reading and discussing the gospel. The children review their Sunday School lessons. Seeing their example, other workers, not members of the Church, have begun inviting their families into the hospital to eat together on Sunday. One quiet example is making a difference in many lives.
9. One brother never misses having family prayers on Sunday even when the family has to crowd around with their ears to the phone during the prayer.
10. Spend more time in prayer and meditation on other days of the week.
11. Take time during breaks and idle moments to read the scriptures and mediate. Invite others to read and study the scriptures with you during breaks.
Those who have had to work on Sundays each stated that they really missed the meetings. Some who had once had a habit of complaining about attending meetings said that now they hungered to worship with other Saints. “Just to sit and sing the hymns with the Saints is a special privilege,” said one. “It means a great deal to me to go to all Church meetings now. Even after working twelve hours, I try to find a Latter-day Saint meeting to attend wherever I am.” And some hold special worship services with their families on other days of the week.
These faithful Saints who have tried to have Sabbath experiences each week in spite of Sunday work have caused me to realize that even though I do not work on Sunday I sometimes do not make that day as special and spiritual as I should. They have motivated me to strive harder to do so.
And I wonder if it isn’t the responsibility of those of us who don’t work on Sunday to also help the Sunday workers to have a good Sabbath. Why couldn’t home teachers or friends take notes in priesthood and sacrament meetings to share with them later?
Sunday employment should be avoided, where possible. And when a member of the Church must work on Sunday, he still should do his best to keep the Sabbath. The Lord judges us by the intent of our heart, guides us when we seek his counsel faithfully, and will help us over all the hurdles of life, if we live righteously. The Sabbath, like all the gifts of God, was made for man; and whatever our situation, if we seek his help, the Lord will guide us into ways of partaking of the blessings of the Sabbath.