Sunday, May 15, 2011

The 2010-11 Oklahoma City Thunder And The "Sabbath Factor"; LDS Doctrine On The Sabbath

An interesting report from the Daily Oklahoman has triggered this post. The Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association are preparing to play the deciding seventh game of their playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Since the game takes place in OKC, one would think the Thunder have the home court advantage. In addition, the Thunder had a better regular-season record (55-27) than the Grizzlies (46-36); furthermore, while the Thunder were 30-11 at home, the Grizzlies were only 16-25 on the road.

Slam dunk for the Thunder, right?

Not so fast. The game is being played on a Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. And while the Thunder finished 55-27 overall, their Sunday record was only 6-9. The difference is also reflected in home games; while the Thunder's overall home record is 30-11, their record in Sunday home games is only 3-7. The trend has continued in the playoffs, where the Thunder are 1-1 in two Sunday games, both at home (I used the Thunder schedule record documented on ESPN as my reference).

So does that mean that God hates the Thunder for playing on Sunday? What about the Grizzlies? According to their schedule record, the Grizzlies are 6-2 in regular-season Sunday games, and 2-0 in Sunday playoff games so far. how could God hate the Thunder for playing on Sunday, but like the Grizzlies for playing on Sunday? Doesn't make sense, does it? But the dichotomy in the Thunder's Sunday record opens up an opportunity to present and discuss the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in regards to the Sabbath.

Update: Looks like the Thunder overcame their Sabbath jinx, beating Memphis 105-90. Next stop, Dallas.

The LDS Church fully incorporates and preaches the Fourth Commandment; numerous references are identified HERE. The Fourth Commandment is set forth in Exodus 20:8-11:

8. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

10. But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

11. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

While the Bible contains some examples of the proper threshold of obedience, such as the incident where Jesus Christ defends his practice of healing the sick on this Sabbath under the premise that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath, modern-day prophets and General Authorities continue to provide more guidance. During the recent 181st Annual General Conference, Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve identified and defined the Lord's expectations from us on the Sabbath in two key paragraphs of his address, "The Sabbath and the Sacrament":

As we consider the pattern of the Sabbath and the sacrament in our own lives, there appear to be three things the Lord requires of us: first, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world; second, to go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments; and third, to rest from our labors.


Sometimes we think of resting from our labors as merely letting the hay baler stand idle in the field or putting a Closed sign on the business door. Yet in today’s world, labor includes the everyday work of our lives. This could mean business activities we may accomplish from home, athletic competitions, and other pursuits that take us away from Sabbath day worship and the opportunity to minister to others.

Because athletic competitions are listed, many devout LDS athletes elect not to compete on the Sabbath, even sacrificially. In April 2010, the BYU Women's Rugby team received favorable national publicity for refusing to compete on Sunday at the risk of forfeiture. In 2008, two New Zealand women's basketball players, Charmian Purcell and Nonila Wharemate, elected not to play on Sunday with their coach's consent. During his major league career, Vernon Law would normally not pitch on Sunday; of course, increasing his bargaining power was the fact that he pitched 200+ innings per year and won 20 games once.

On the other hand, NFL quarterback Steve Young did play on the Sabbath throughout his NFL career, and not only survived, but thrived; he became one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Of course, the alternative for Young would have been to not play in the NFL at all, since most of their games are played on Sunday.

The bottom line: What I take away from all of this is that we are expected to take care of the Lord's business first and avoid activities disharmonious with the Spirit on the Sabbath. This means that once we have attended our meetings and fulfilled any duties attendant with our callings, the rest of the Sabbath is a day of rest for us, to do with as we will so long as the activities are in harmony with the spirit of the Sabbath. We are not required to give up a productive profession and become paupers merely to keep the Sabbath holy. We are not required to sit around in our homes in Sunday best in a position of attention with a sad countenance on our faces and listen only to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to keep the Sabbath day holy. We are permitted to actually enjoy life on the Sabbath.

Yes, remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy, but also remember that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Keep the Sabbath holy out of genuine love for Jesus Christ and not out of fear of divine retribution; only a slothful servant needs to be commanded in all things.

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