Jewish tradition holds that the Sabbath is from sundown one day until sundown the next day. For us as Christians, and particularly LDS Christians, does that mean from sundown Saturday night till sundown Sunday night? If so, I need to curb some of my Saturday night activities. Also, does that mean I can free up some of my Sunday evening activities? What are your thoughts on this?
This is an intriguing question and as you will see the answer is not a simple one. On one hand, church dances for youth end at 11:30 in order to allow the participants to arrive home “before the Sabbath.” This implies that the Sabbath, as we currently observe it, begins at midnight Saturday night and ends at midnight Sunday night.
I say as we currently observe it because as you know, before Christ’s crucifixion the Sabbath was observed on Saturday. Sometime after the crucifixion, the Sabbath was changed to Sunday in honor of Christ’s resurrection.
That seems like a simple answer, doesn’t it? However, it is more complicated than that. For example, FAIRMormon.org explains it this way:
Interestingly, however, the most important aspect of Sabbath worship for the LDS seems to be the worship, and not the day on which it is held. Most LDS worship occurs on Sunday. General Authorities, who must often travel on conference assignments on Sunday, fast and receive the sacrament weekly on Thursdays. Church branches in Israel worship on Saturday. Branches in Muslim countries, such as Egypt, meet on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Wrote one account of the Church in Israel:
Jerusalem is home to three major religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. None of the three shares the same day of worship. Islam recognizes Friday as a holy day, Judaism celebrates the Sabbath on Saturday, while Christianity generally adheres to a Sunday day of worship. These differences posed significant challenges in the lives of the Saints living in the Holy Land, and David Galbraith posed questions regarding this matter to President Lee during the Prophet’s visit to Jerusalem [in September 1972].
Following President Lee’s visit, branch president David Galbraith wrote a letter to the First Presidency wherein he outlined four major concerns and formally recommended that the day of worship for Latter-day Saints in the Holy Land be changed. The four concerns were as follows: First, for the Jews, public transportation ceases on Saturday, stores and places of entertainment are closed, and in Jerusalem the streets are full of families going to and from their synagogues. Second, Sunday, on the other hand, is a normal working day. Those attending the universities have classes, many of the children have school, and, in fact, everyone except those in the diplomatic corps have other obligations on that day. Third, the members were scattered throughout the country, and the majority relied on public transportation. It would be impossible to hold late afternoon or evening services on Sunday. Fourth, the members of the Church had been holding their meetings on the Jewish Sabbath rather than Sunday for some time with at least the tacit approval of the mission.
Two months after President Harold B. Lee’s visit to the Holy Land, he authorized President David Galbraith to conduct worship services in Israel on the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday). This authorization is dated November 20, 1972. This decision in Israel served as a precedent to include Friday observance as a day of worship in countries of primarily Islamic populations, such as Egypt and Jordan.” LaMar C. Berrett and Blair G. Van Dyke, Holy Lands: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Near East (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2005), 372–373.
Another example of this is Hong Kong. In order to accommodate domestic helpers, many of whom are from the Philippines and who only get one day a week off (these days vary), church services are held every day of the week. LDS Church Meetings held every day of the week in Hong Kong
Thus we see, that the Lord is more concerned that we set aside one day of the week to worship Him, than that we do it on a prescribed day. That said generally speaking, I think it’s safe to say that the overwhelming majority of LDS congregations observe the Sabbath on Sunday from midnight to midnight unless you live in a region where adjustments have been made by either a Mission President or General Authority.