IVAN - Do you have any thoughts on how an LDS professional ball player reconciles keeping the Sabbath day holy, when they must play games almost every Sunday of a season?

JOEL - This is a very personal thing that each professional athlete must decide on there own and then answer to God for it in the end. If one were to be perfect at keeping the Sabbath day holy, he would not engage in sports on Sunday. He would not even get into professional sports in the first place since they do play on the Sabbath. But nobody’s perfect. Some were already professional athletes before they joined the LDS Church. Having to give up a successful career in order to keep the Sabbath day holy would be a very difficult sacrifice; especially if they don’t have much else to fall back on to make a living.
What we do on the Sabbath has a lot to do with our attitude and our reasons for doing it. Mormon athletes such as Steve Young, Danny Ainge and Dale Murphy chose to play Sundays, reasoning they could be ambassadors for their church. They refer to passages in the scriptures that support their choices -- where the Lord speaks of "being a light to the world and positive influence on others." And perhaps they’re right. Their associations with their fellow team mates and fans has probably been responsible for bringing many people into the Church. But does that still make it right to play on Sunday? They feel that it does. On the other hand, Eli Herring, who was one of the top offensive tackles in college football as a senior at Brigham Young University, refused an NFL career because of Sunday play. NFL scouts had slotted him as a first- to third-round selection in the April draft. Even after he sent a letter to each of the 30 NFL teams explaining to them that he would not pursue an NFL career because of his Mormon beliefs, the Raiders drafted him in the sixth round in the hope that he would have a sudden change of heart when he realized the financial windfall he was turning down. The Raiders even sent their personnel director and an assistant coach to Provo with a $500,000-a-year offer, but Herring still refused the offer.
One might ask, how it is that certain LDS sports figures do not keep the Sabbath Day holy and yet be held up by the Church as good examples and have them give speeches, etc.
It might seem hypocritical, for the Church to praise these people and give them so much recognition, but even though LDS sports professionals do play on Sunday, Church leaders still like to recognize them because they know that people like to have heros in all different walks of life. Church leaders want people to see that a person can have a high standard of morals and spirituality as members of our Church, even though they are in a profession that might tend to encourage the opposite. Also, I think if we were completely honest, a big name draws a big crowd to meetings where more people will have a chance to hear the Gospel.
What should we teach our children in regards to playing on Sunday? My own children have been very good in soccer and we have encouraged them to develope their talent as much as possible. There comes a point though when they start participating in the more competitive leagues that they are required to play a few games on Sunday. Our policy has always been that they do not practice or play any pick-up games on Sunday, but if there is a regularly scheduled tounament game then they support the team and play. But we do allow them to make the decission on whether or not they feel the team really needs them or not. Fortunately this only happens two or three times per year. If their game is at the same time as Church and they choose to play, then they attend another ward's meeting at the different time. Of course the perfect thing to do is that if you know that there is going to be Sunday games then you shouldn't join the team in the first place. But then of course their is almost no way to futher develope your talent.
My philosophy is that if you do join any team, you should support that team 100%. There have been times when our kids were on teams that had 4 or 5 other LDS players and when there were Sunday games many of those kids did not show up. This meant that the team had to forfeit the game and lose a tournament. This did not make anyone happy, and the other players, parents and coaches were very dissapointed.
When it comes right down to it , it is not our place to judge who is right or wrong for the decisions people make about Sabbath day observance. That is between them and God. We only need to care about ourselves and do all we can to live the commandment the best we can.

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