Following the rules or Seeing the Forest Through the Trees
I’m not someone who is particularly good at following the rules, at least some rules. And believe it or not, depending on who you talk to, Mormonism had a lot of rules. What type of soda/pop to drink, what kind of music to listen to, etc.
What always astounded me was the insistence on following the rules instead of following their intention. Going out to eat on Sunday is a great example of that.
I certainly understand a busy family taking some time to go out to eat. I think it can be good for family togetherness. No one in the family is responsible for the meal or for the cleanup.
I can respect that some families choose not to go out to eat on Sundays. The theory is that the employees of those restaurants would like to spend time with their families on the sabbath, and because people patronize those restaurants, the employees are not able to spend time with their families.
My own parents agreed with this while I was growing up, the only time we would go out on Sunday was to buy medicine. In other words, my parents took the guidance quite literally. I think it was in the eighties that places began to be open on Sundays. Before that time, throughout the midwest (especially smaller towns), most places were not open. Not restaurants necessarily, but grocery and hardware stores. (I might be mistaken about this). I think there has been a gradual move towards convenience and being open seven days a week.
To my mind, there are some assumptions being made here. First, that the employees of the restaurants and stores would spend their free time with their families. And who can say that time wouldn’t have been spent during the week? Why not spend Wednesday evening as a family, instead of Sunday afternoon?
Ah, but there’s the second assumption, that everyone agrees that there is one right way to spend the sabbath, as a family in church. And some churches (like the LDS church) don’t have flexible schedules and evening services. So, if someone works at a brunch place on a Sunday morning, and their LDS ward is scheduled for morning church (at 8:00 a.m.), they’re out of luck.
There’s also the biblical guidance about keeping the Sabbath day holy. But there is plenty of conflicting guidance about that – especially now in the twenty first century.
Does keeping the Sabbath day holy mean not watching tv? Or reading? Or doing homework? Or going to a park as a family? Again, I’ve heard many families (LDS and not) that have interpreted this guidance as all three.
So some people (see these comments on Jana’s post at Exponent II) might believe this. That the only way to spend time with one’s family on Sunday is to be in church, and to not patronize businesses on Sundays so that the employees can spend time with their families in church.
I simply don’t agree with the assumptions that by going out to eat after church on Sunday, that a person is forcing someone else to work and forcing that person to stay away from their families (and church). It may be true in some select cases, but I believe it’s more nuanced than that.
As a waitress, I worked my share of Sundays and holidays. If my memory serves me, I usually got the best tips on holidays.
I know many people might disagree, but I see the celebration of holidays when my family is able to get together. If it’s not on Christmas morning, or Father’s day exactly, what’s important is that we’re together.
I want to be able to have the freedom to choose where I work and when, and I give others the same freedom.
And it’s one thing to try to fix family meals at home when there aren’t little ones at home. But it’s quite another when there are little ones running around – I can definitely see why Sunday could be the most stressful day of the week for many LDS mothers of toddlers. Why it would not be considered a day of rest and reflection.
This is also why sometimes I felt like mormonism missed the forest for the trees. Following the letter of the law (not drinking coffee, for example) was seen as more important than following the spirit (trying to be healthy).