Mormon Olympians: Honoring the Sabbath Day
Olympic athletes all face a new level of limelight shining on their personal lives.Most have come to accept and deal with that very well, but what happens when it comes to making very personal spiritual decisions when you’re in that limelight?
For LDS Olympians, one of these choices has to do with the basic commandment to “Honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). In general, the Latter-day Saint tries to observe the Sabbath as a day devoted to worship and reconnection with God.It is a day to renew our bodies and spirits and refocus on what matters most.It is a day we revisit our commitment to Jesus Chris and our membership in His church.
How that is accomplished becomes a personal matter for each saint to decide, but there are some basic parameters.We try to avoid working and other extra curricular activities that can draw us away from God’s spirit and place our focus back on worldly demands instead of our Savior Jesus Christ.We try to avoid shopping and other activities that would cause others to have to work on our behalf.So, where do athletics fall in this realm of spirituality and Sunday practices?It depends.
That’s the question some LDS Olympians faced during the 2008 Olympic Games in China.What would you do if you wanted to honor your religion, but you also wanted to honor your God-given talents? For some the choice is clear, for others it is more difficult decision.For every athlete, it is one more decision made under scrutiny by those who would criticize their choice, no matter what it is.
Mormonolympians.org does not suggest that any particular athlete made a right or wrong decision in personally determining if they would compete if their event was scheduled for a Sunday.For some there were alternatives, for some there were not.
Here are a few examples of how various LDS Olympians chose to “Honor the Sabbath day” in China, 2008.
Natalie Purcell (women’s basketball, New Zealand) played in the final game against United States; this is consistent with the choice she has made throughout her basketball career regarding Sunday games.Fellow team mates Noni Wharemate and Charmian Purcell, though in attendance, did not see action in that last game because of their preference not to play on Sundays.This, again, was consistent with their previously established decisions.In fact, there was a great deal of concern, regarding whether or not both these women would make the New Zealand team because of their Sunday playing practices.Both women were blessed to make the team and to have their wishes honored by their coaches and team mates.
Tairia Flowers and Laura Berg (softball, US) played a Sunday game against the Netherlands.The United States won this game, 8-0.
Melanie Roach (women’s weightlifting, US) competed on Sunday amid cries of “Go Mom” from the stand.She took 6th in her event.
Josh McAdams (steeplechase, US) did not have to compete on Sunday.Instead he invited a friend to attend church with him and Lindsey Anderson (steeplechase, US) in China. Though they attended an English-speaking congregation, Josh does relate a few communication mishaps along the way in his blog.He also emphasizes the blessing that it was to find the same church worship and teaching schedule no matter where he travels in the world.