Question: Why do Mormons follow the practice of most Christians by resting and worshiping on Sunday?

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Question: Why do Mormons follow the practice of most Christians by resting and worshiping on Sunday?

The Latter-day Saint practice of observing the day of rest and worship on Sunday is consistent with the earliest Christian practice of which we have record

The Old Testament commands men to rest on the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. Why do Mormons then follow the practice of most Christians by resting and worshiping on Sunday?

Latter-day Saints do not base their worship practices on an analysis of early Christian history, or on the comments of scholars in Biblical commentaries, though these sources can confirm Church teachings. Rather, the Saints follow the guidance of a living prophet. However, it seems clear that the Latter-day Saint practice of observing the day of rest and worship on Sunday—like most of the Christian world—is consistent with the earliest Christian practice of which we have record.

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.[1] 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.[2]

Early Christians chose a new Sabbath day, partly to separate themselves from their Jewish roots

Clearly, the Lord is far more concerned that His people worship Him regularly, and that they set aside a day to dedicate to him. He does not wish us to contend about a matter as trivial as the day dedicated to his worship.(See: 3 Nephi 11꞉29-30, Colossians 2:16.)

Early Christians chose a new Sabbath day, partly to separate themselves from their Jewish roots, and to make clear that the Christian covenant of grace was a new covenant or testament from the Mosaic law.

The modern Church, guided by prophets and apostles, does not seek contention with others over the "proper" day of worship; rather, they invite all to worship and come unto Christ. This tends to be done on the day which accords best with the practices and patterns of the culture in which they find themselves.

We believe the Lord's day (Revelation 1:10) to be the first day of the week.

This understanding is not unique to the Latter-day Saints; in fact, it has its origins early in the Christian century.

Old Testament law and practice was substantially changed in the early Christian church

There is no question that the Old Testament refers to the Sabbath being on the seventh day — but, it is important to remember that the Old Testament law and practice was substantially changed in the early Christian church.

As Hebrews 7:12 says

For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.

The Mosaic law was fulfilled and so worship was altered, and this included the Sabbath as well.

To be consistent, advocates of the Old Testament Sabbath should also keep the seventh month of every year, and the seventh year as Sabbaths also. And in the seventh year, the fields which you farmed would have to be left to the poor and to the beasts of the field. You would also have to release all debts owed to you in this selfsame year. Other requirements that would still be in force would include the preparation of all food the evening before the Sabbath, and you wouldn't be able to kindle a fire on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:3). And those breaking the Sabbath would have to be put to death (Exodus 31:14-17)! This view of Sabbath worship is not the same as that spoken of in the New Testament.

The Acts of the Apostles tells us

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight (Acts 20:7).

Thus, in the earliest days of Christian worship, a group of Christ's followers gathered together in a house (where Church meetings were held in those days) on Sunday, where bread was broken (a term used for the sacrament or communion (1 Corinthians 11:24), while a Church leader teaches of Christ. This sounds like a Church meeting held on the Sabbath.

Early Christian authors on the Christian Sabbath

Other Christian authors not found in the Bible support this view of Acts.

Ignatius (died A.D. 98–117) was taught by John the Apostle, and he understood what the Lord's day meant in John's Book of Revelation. He said

if, then, those who walked in ancient customs came to a new hope, no longer sabbathing, but living by the Lord's day, on which we came to life through Him and through his death....

Ignatius makes a distinction between "sabbathing" (i.e. observing the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday) and the "Lord's day" (the first day of the week). He continues:

let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days [of the week]. Looking forward to this, the prophet declared, “To the end, for the eighth day,” on which our life both sprang up again, and the victory over death was obtained in Christ, whom the children of perdition, the enemies of the Saviour, deny, “whose god is their belly, who mind earthly things,” (Philippians 3:18-19) who are “lovers of pleasure, and not lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,” (2 Timothy 3:4). These make merchandise for Christ, corrupting His word, and giving up Jesus to sale; they are corrupters of women, and covetous of other men's possessions, swallowing up wealth insatiably; from whom may ye be delivered by the mercy of God through our Lord Jesus Christ![3]

Here he gives a little more detail on the Lord's day. It is the "eighth day," or the first day of the week, and can be understood in Justin Martyr's (A.D. 100–165) teachings as such:

The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days , is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.[4]

Justin also wrote:

the day of the sun is the day on which we all gather in a common meeting, because it is the first day, the day on which God, changing darkness and matter, created the world; and it is the day on which Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead for He was crucified on the day before that of “kronos” (Greek counter part of the Roman god Saturn which is where Saturday gets its name); and on the day after that of “kronos”, which is the day of the sun (Sunday), He appeared to His Apostles and disciples, and taught them these things which we have also submitted to you for your consideration.

He also taught

and on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together in to one place, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read as long as time permits; then when the reader has ceased, the President verbally instructs and exhorts to imitation of these good things....[5]

Here, Justin points out that Christians worshiped on Sunday. He also says:

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.[6]

The Epistle of Barnabas, which purports to have been written by Barnabas, Paul's missionary companion, reads,

Lastly he says to them, I cannot stand your new moons and your Sabbaths. Consider what he means by it: the Sabbaths, he says, that you now keep are not acceptable to me, but only those which I have made, when resting from all things I shall begin the eighth day, that is, the beginning of the other world." Wherefore, also, we keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead. And when He had manifested Himself, He ascended into the heavens.[7]

In the Didache, which was written around A.D. 140, it says

on the Lord's day of the Lord gather together, break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.[8]

Again, we see that the Christians are told, on the Lords day (Sunday) they are to gather together and meet for the celebration of the Lord's supper (LDS readers would call this the "sacrament.")

The redundancy of “the Lord's day of the Lord” in Greek indicates that the term “Lord's day” had already become a common usage for Sunday, so much so that it is now used as a distinct term apart from its root meaning.[9]

Augustine (A.D. 354–430) says:

"the Apostles decreed that Sunday must be kept holy" and "every lover of Christ celebrates the Lords day, consecrated to the resurrection of Christ, as the queen and chief of all days." [10]

Biblical Commentators

Various Biblical commentators also agree that the Sabbath as observed by the early Christians was Sunday:

Dr. Adam Clark, in his Commentary treating Revelation 1:10, says:

'The Lord's day' the first day of the week, observed as the Christian Sabbath, because on it Jesus Christ rose from the dead: therefore it was called the Lords day; and has taken place of the Jewish Sabbath, throughout the Christian world.[11]

Dr. Thomas Scott, in his Commentary dealing with this same verse, says:

This was 'on the Lord's day' which can be meant of no other, than the day on which the Lord Jesus arose from the dead, even "the first day of the week": and it is conclusive proof, that the first day was set apart, and kept holy, by the primitive Christians, in commemoration of the great event: for on what other account could it have been thus mentioned!"[12]

In the Jameson, Fausett, and Brown's Commentary on this same passage, they write:

...on the Lords day--Though forcibly detained from Church communion with the brethren in the sanctuary on the Lord's day, the weekly commemoration of the resurrection, John was holding spiritual communion with them. This is the earliest mention of the term 'the Lord's day!' But the consecration of the day to worship, almsgiving, and the Lord's supper, is implied, Acts 20:7;1 Corinthians 16:2, cf. John 20:19-26. The name corresponds to 'the Lord's supper,' 1 Corinthians 11:20. Ignatius seems to allude to 'the Lord's day' (ad. Magnes, 9) and Irenaeus in the Quaest. ad Orthod. (in Justin Martyr). Justin Martyr Apology 2:98 &c. 'On Sunday we hold our joint meeting; for the first day is that on which God, having removed darkness and chaos, made the world, and Jesus Christ our Savior rose from the dead. On the day before Saturday they crucified Him, and on the day after Saturday, which is Sunday, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, he taught these things.' To the Lord's day Pliny doubtless refers (Ex 97, B10), 'The Christians on a fixed day before dawn meet and sing a hymn to Christ as God.'"[13]

Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible reads:

In the early Church[,]Christians met for worship on Sunday in honor of the day of Jesus' Resurrection (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2). In addition, Sunday was the first day of the week in the Jewish calendar, and therefore it reminded people of the first day of creation and of Jesus' re-creation through redemption. It was also called the eighth day, pointing to the coming day of judgement. Early Christians may have believed that Christ would return on his day, Sunday.[14]

Non-Christian authors

The Roman historians, Suetonius and Pliny, who lived and wrote in the first centuries of the Christian era, during the bloody martyr ages, are good witnesses in this problem. As they were neither Christians nor Jews, but heathens, and not concerned in the controversy in any respect, their incidental historic testimony is compelling.

They report that Christians charged with violating Roman law through their worship were asked: "Dominicum servaste?" — "Hast thou kept the Lord's day?" The Christian responded: "Christianus sum" — "I am a Christian." "Intermittere non possum" — "I can not omit it." This response doomed the Christian to martyrdom.[15]

To understanding the above exchange, it is important to note that the Jewish Sabbath was never was called "the Lord's day," but simply "the Sabbath day." If the early Christians had kept the seventh day, they would have been asked: "Sabbaticum servaste?" — "Hast thou kept the Sabbath day?" But this question never was asked by their persecutors. It is historically untenable to deny that the Lord's day was kept from the Apostolic age onward.

It is a significant fact that the day of Pentecost, upon which day the apostles received their spiritual endowment by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, “that year fell on the first day of the week”—that is, Sunday.[16]


  1. Personal communication from those who have lived in Israel and Egypt, FAIR e-mail list.
  2. 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.
  3. Irenaeus, "Ignatius to the Magnesians," in Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:63. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  4. Justin Martyr, "Dialogue with Trypho," in Chapter 41 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:215. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  5. Justin Martyr, "First Apology," in Chapter 67 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:186. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  6. Justin Martyr, "First Apology," in Chapter 67 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:186. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  7. Attributed to Barnabas, "Epistle of Barnabas," in Chapter 15 Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Philip Schaff (Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886)1:147. ANF ToC off-site This volume
  8. [citation needed]
  9. William A. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, (Liturgical Press, 1970), 5.
  10. [citation needed]
  11. [citation needed]
  12. [citation needed]
  13. [citation needed]
  14. Ann Coble, "Lord's Day" in Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible ed. David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2000), 821.
  15. John Farrar, A Biblical and Theological Dictionary: Illustrative of the Old and New Testaments (London, 2nd Edition, 1852), 551.
  16. "Lord's day," in Smith's Bible Dictionary (Hackett and Abbott’s edition) 2:1677. See also First Name Bramhall, "Discourse on the Sabbath and the Lords day," in Need Title (Oxford edition, YEAR?) vol. 5:51—“and when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in place.” It is very possible that all the believers were in "one place" was because they were worshipping together.[citation needed]Note need for more info on these references