Sunday morning: I sit in my recliner perusing a Buddhist text. Through my window, I see my neighbor Jamie backing from her driveway. Our Mormon ward sacrament meeting begins in ten minutes. Jamie, a single mom, will be hugged and welcomed at church. Her 3-year-old and 5-year old will be greeted by name and made to feel important.
After sacrament meeting, Jamie will get a 2-hour respite from parenthood while her kids are in Primary and she attends Sunday School and serves as Relief Society secretary. Jamie will return from the 3-hour block spiritually fed and emotionally refreshed.
Our ward substitutes for Jamie’s missing husband and for the dysfunctional family in which she was raised. The Church strengthens Jamie and other members. We all need love and support, and Mormon wards are organized to provide that quickly—even to new move-ins.
Active Mormons don’t always understand that not everyone needs the kind of succor they offer, and that other places exist from which to draw spiritual and emotional sustenance. Less-active members don’t always appreciate persistent invitations to attend meetings. More tolerance and understanding from both sides would help.
Jamie receives peace and comfort from attending Sunday meetings. My peace and comfort come from uplifting reading, meditation, and nurturing the plants in my garden. Both Jamie and I keep the Sabbath in our own way—the way that is holy for us.
I grew up in a very different Mormon Church than the one existing today. Being an active Mormon in the ‘50s meant not drinking or smoking, attending Sunday meetings occasionally, sending the kids to after-school Primary, and having the family sealed in the temple before you died.
My dad’s Provo grocery store was open on Sundays and all but the most devout of our neighbors stopped in for a carton of milk, loaf of bread or necessary ingredient for Sunday dinner. When Christmas fell on Sunday, we didn’t notice the difference.
By the early ‘60s, the Church entered retrenchment mode. December 25, 1960 fell on a Sunday. Was it just our ward or was there a general Church announcement that Sabbath observance precluded holiday festivities? Santa should delay his visit until Monday, the legal holiday. The women in our ward went ballistic, making profound statements like, “Christmas has been on December 25 for 2,000 years. The Church can’t change it now.”
I don’t know if any of our ward members asked Santa to delay his visit 24 hours. Since our family didn’t attend meetings regularly, it didn’t matter much to us.
The next couple of times December 25 occurred on a Sunday, I recall Improvement Era and then Ensign articles extolling the advantage of having two days for Christmas—Sunday for the religious observance and Monday for Santa’s gifts. We never asked our kids to wait until Monday to open gifts. The thrill of Santa’s visit on Christmas Eve and waking up early to see what Santa brought was a tradition too magic to alter.
By the late ‘70s, I think Church leaders had abandoned any idea of delaying Santa when Christmas fell on Sunday. The meeting schedule on Christmas Sundays was shortened to one-hour—mostly the sacrament service and singing carols—a rather nice way to observe the day before visiting friends and family.
This year my nine-year-old granddaughter informed me that since Christmas is on a Sunday, they might wait until Monday to open their gifts. And I’m wondering—Is this official Church policy or have her parents decided current Church rules and regulations aren’t restrictive enough?