← Back to David O. McKay Diary Excerpts Index

David O. McKay Diaries – “Sabbath”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Sabbath.” You can view other subjects here.

Search the diary entries below for specific dates, names, and keywords using the keyboard shortcut Command + F on a Mac or Control + F on Windows.

Fri., 3 Feb., 1950:

“Bishop LeGrand Richards telephoned regarding Bishop Taylor of Fillmore who wants to know if the Presidency has any objection to a Bishop running a restaurant business and keeping it open on Sundays.  I told Bp. Richards to tell the Bishop to write a letter to the First Presidency, and the matter can then be taken to Council and a written decision will be sent to him.”

Sun., 6 Aug., 1950:

“5 p.m.  Returned to Salt Lake–As we were driving past the Temple Square Hotel, Sister McKay said:  ‘Let’s have dinner in there, instead of going home and spending the time to prepare something to eat.’  Although I should rather have a bowl of milk at home, I knew that Ray likes to eat out occasionally, so we stopped at the Temple Square Coffee Shop, and had a very delicious dinner.”

15 Nov., 1955:

“November 15, 1955

(Conference with President Ernest L. Wilkinson as reported by President Wilkinson)

November 21, 1955


I had the privilege of meeting with President McKay on November 15 at 1 p.m.  The following business was transacted at that conference:

1.  Studying on Sunday.

I informed President McKay that the reason I had made inquiry of the Board of Trustees as to whether it was improper for students to study on Sunday was that President Sherman Hill of the East Provo Stake, supported by Brother Mark Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve, had urged students at the last quarterly conference of the East Provo Stake not to study on Sunday, since that was the work they regularly did on weekdays.

President McKay reiterated the advice given at the meeting of the Board of Trustees, that it was not wrong for students to study on Sunday, provided they attended to all of their other Church duties.

Sat., 20 June, 1959:

The Sabbath Day

The First Presidency issued the following statement today through the press, indicating that the Church is not in harmony with the opening of large chain grocery stores on Sunday.  (see clippings from newspaper following)

Saturday, June 20, 1959


Statement By The First Presidency

When Israel, fleeing the Egyptians, reached Mount Sinai, God ‘spake all these words’ of the Ten Commandments, a code of laws for His children that has survived for nearly three and a half milleniums since that time.  The fourth of these commandments reads:

‘Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

‘Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

‘But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

‘For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.***

‘And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.’  (Ex. 20:8-11, 20)

In the days of the Captivity, rules and regulations were developed touching burden and transportation that discouraged if they did not indeed prohibit trading in foodstuffs on the Sabbath.

That modern Israel might know this law still stood, and giving emphasis thereto, the Lord gave a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding the Sabbath.  That revelation reads:

‘And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day;

‘For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High;

‘Nevertheless thy vows shall be offered up in righteousness on all days and at all times;

‘But remember that on this, the Lord’s day, thou shalt offer thine oblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, confessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.

‘And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that thy joy may be full.

This was the limitation – a proper observance of the Sabbath.

To make clear to us the many blessings that the limitation did not touch, the Lord went on:

‘And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances, not with much laughter, for this is sin, but with a glad heart and a cheerful countenance – *** the fullness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth; Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards; Yea, all things which come of the earth in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

‘And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.

‘And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.

‘Behold, this is according to the law and the prophets; wherefore, trouble me no more concerning this matter.

‘But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.

‘I, the Lord, have spoken it, and the Spirit beareth record.  Amen.’  (D.C. 59:9-24)

Latter-day Saints should not permit these commandments regarding the Sabbath to slip from their minds.  All during this, the Last Dispensation, the Prophets of the Lord have urged Sabbath-observance upon the people.  Different concepts of Sabbath-observance have been urged upon us by unbelievers, partial-believers, and by the thoughtless, concerned primarily with the pleasures of the world, sometimes under the guise of recreation, sometimes by activities the Lord has told us were sinful.

The Sabbath is not just another day on which we merely rest from work, free to spend it as our lightmindedness may suggest.  It is a holy day, the Lord’s Day, to be spent as a day of worship and reverence.  All matters extraneous thereto should be shunned.

We must bear in mind all these principles.  We must remember particularly actual Sabbath-breaking labor which might be required from a great number of Lesser Priesthood members in any Sabbath-breaking activities, including interference with their duties and attendance at quorum meetings.  For all these and for many other reasons affecting injuriously the religious duties and activities of the whole Church membership, Latter-day Saints, with a testimony of the Gospel and a knowledge of the spiritual blessings that come from keeping the Sabbath, will never permit themselves to make it a shoppng day, an activity that has no place in a proper observance of the Holy Day of the Lord, on which we are commanded to pour out our souls in gratitude for the many blessings of health, strength, physical comfort, and spiritual joy which come from the Lord’s bounteous hand.


David O. McKay

J. Reuben Clark, Jr.

Henry D. Moyle

The First Presidency

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

June 19, 1959

Deseret News – Saturday, June 20, 1959″

Wed., 29 July 1959:

“Sabbath Day – Sunday Closing Law

I read to the Brethren at the meeting this morning a letter from John Talmadge, assistant to Governor Clyde, which reviewed the Governor’s interest and position with respect to the Sunday Closing Law and explained again the governor’s veto of the bill to enforce Sunday closing to certain grocery stores.

After consideration, it was agreed that the Statement of the First Presidency on observance of the Sabbath, recently published in the Deseret News be republished in the newspaper and that a circular be prepared of a statement for distribution to the homes of the Saints by the Ward teachers.  Assignment was made to carry out this purpose.

Thurs., 16 Nov. 1961:

9:30 a.m.

B.Y.U. and College Quiz Program

Following Brother Hunter’s departure, President Ernest L. Wilkinson, Brigham Young University, called and stated that sometime ago he accepted an invitation for our students at the B.Y.U. to participate in a General Electric program known as the College Quiz program; that it is a nation-wide contest over television under the auspices of the General Electric Company whereby each school has a team of about four individuals and the program is one in which they ask a lot of questions on literature, history, mathematics, and other academic subjects.  The General Electric Company pays the entire expense of the team to go to New York to participate in this nation-wide television presentation, and to the team that wins the contest they give certain scholastic emoluments to the individuals and a certain presentation or prize to the school.  President Wilkinson said that this contest has been going on nationally for sometime; that many of the better eastern schools and some schools on the Pacific Coast have participated, but that never before have any of the schools in the intermountain region been invited, and B.Y.U. is invited this year.  He said that the question has been raised by some as to whether it would be violating the observance of the Sabbath Day to participate, inasmuch as this is a Sunday program..  He asked if they might go ahead with the program, and I said that there is no objection to their doing this.

Tues., 21 Aug., 1962:

“Sunday Closing Act Following the meeting of the Orlando Livestock Company, we met with George L. Nelson who came in by appointment regarding the Sunday Closing Act. He said he came as a lawyer representing a group of business men who have asked him to prepare a bill to be presented to the coming State Legislature regarding Sunday closing. Brother Nelson said his only purpose in coming to the Presidency was to be assured of their sympathetic approval. Brother Nelson mentioned that a bill of similar import was passed by a good majority by the last Legislature and was vetoed by Governor Clyde; that also, six years prior to that a bill was presented which was vetoed by Governor Lee. Brother Nelson said he hoped they had now met all the substantial objections to this bill which arose while the bill was in the Legislature and while it was on the Governor’s desk. He said the Kennecott people have signified their approval, that they had gone to all the groups that could have anything to do with it, and he felt it was a step in the right direction. He said it would accomplish the closing of general business, that, however, we have exceptions in cases of hospitals, industrial plants, power plants, and things having to do with health, life and recreation. He mentioned that the Supreme Court of the United States had made a decision sustaining Sunday closing as a principle. The growth of Sunday opening is going at such a pace that it is feared all stores will be open on Sunday unless something is done about it.

I wished Brother Nelson and his associates success in this undertaking.  I said I have always been in favor of the Sunday Closing Law.  Brother Nelson said they were not asking for the Presidency’s public approval of it, that that may not be desirable, but they did desire our approval.

I said for them to go right ahead with it.”

Thurs., 31 Jan. 1963:

“8:00 a.m.

Sunday Closing Law

Met by appointment at his request, Brother George L. Nelson of the Legislature.  We discussed the proposed Sunday Closing Law.   I told Brother Nelson that as far as I know, the members of the Twelve are in favor of the passing of the law, but that we should be very careful about giving the legislature the idea that we are looking upon the law as a religious act; that we do not want the members of the Legislature to feel that we are using undue influence, and that if any of the members would like any advice on the matter they might come down and seek it.  I said I felt sure the members of the Twelve would be glad to tell them where we stand.  I reported to Brother Nelson that I had met Governor Clyde, not on that particular matter, but did mention the possibility of having a Sunday Closing Law, that I said to the Governor that I think Utah ought to have such a law, to which the Governor agreed.

Wed., 27 Feb. 1963:

“8:30 a.m.

Was engaged in the meeting of the First Presidency.  Many matters of general importance to the Church were discussed and passed upon.  Among them were:

Sunday Closing Bill

I commented upon the Sunday Closing Bill before the State legislature, and said that when the Governor had asked about it, I told him that if there is any State of the Union that ought to have a Sunday closing law, it is Utah.

Wed., 27 Mar. 1963:

“8:00 – 10:30 a.m.

First Presidency’s meeting held.  President Moyle in London.

Sacrament Meetings – Speakers’ Use of Visual Aids

President Lloyd Prestwich’s letter of Redondo Stake asked ‘how far we should permit Bishops to go in using visual aids to help speakers in Sacrament Meeting.’  He quoted the Presiding Bishopric’s ‘Messenger’ advising that speakers stay with gospel doctrine, and that musical recitals are not for Sacrament meetings.  He cited an example of a speaker using placards and a blackboard to illustrate his talk on the importance of having the Era in the homes.  He said the BYU offers a film for Sacrament meetings which President Joseph Fielding Smith said should not be used in Sacrament Meetings.  I agreed that this is not right, and that I think it should be discouraged, and that the Sacrament Meeting is the one official spiritual meeting of the Church that was established by the Lord for the purposes of the Sacrament.  It must be reverential and any extraneous matters should be prohibited.”

Sun., 5 May 1963:

“Spent a few hours at the office taking care of special Church duties.

Later, when I returned to the apartment, I was disturbed to see men working on the Kennecott Building across the street.

I tried to reach Graham H. Doxey, Manager of Zions Securities Corporation, by telephone to ask him to call the Contractor and have the work stopped immediately; that it is a disgrace to the Church to have this work going on on the Sabbath.  I was unable to reach him.  I called my secretary, Clare, at her home, and asked her to have the next man in charge at Zions Securities call me at home.  However, he did not know the name of the Contractor.  Later, I learned from Brother Doxey that the Contractors — Garff and Ryberg, and the Oakland Contractor have the job together.  They learned about the work Sunday at 4:00 p.m., and stopped it immediately.  It seems that the sub-contractor — Weyher –, although they have been told not to work on Sundays, had one of his men working against orders.  They have now been told, and this will not happen again.”

Wed., 22 May 1963:

“Sunday School – Two-and-one-half-minute Talks should not close with the name of Jesus Christ.

We read the letter from President William R. Cahoon of the East Pocatello Stake in which he explained that in a recent Sunday School Convention in the Stake, a member of the General Superintendency of the Sunday School advised that the name of Jesus Christ should be used only in closing a testimony and not as a close to a Sunday School two-and-one-half-minute talk.

I said that I think the Superintendent has a right to give that instruction.  Called attention to the fact that the Lord Himself changed the name of the Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God to the Melchizedek Priesthood to avoid the too-frequent use of the name of Deity.  I said that in answering the question, we should mention the word of the Lord upon the subject, which I think is a full answer.

Tues., 12 July 1966:

“Sabbath Day – Employment on

A letter was read from Rex J. Hess, Jr. dated July 3, 1966, asking regarding Sunday employment.  He states that he is a student at the BYU and that during the summer months he hopes to earn enough money to take him through the year at the school.  Brother Hess mentions that he has been forced to resign his job because he refused to work on Sundays, that prominent members of the Church — Bishops and Stake President, have told him that it would be all right to work on Sundays during the summer.  Brother Hess inquires if this is the attitude of the Church.”

Fri., 27 Jan. 1967:

“Sunday Closing Law

In discussing the legislation that has been introduced in the State House of Representatives regarding Sunday Closing, we felt that the First Presidency should not make a public statement; however, permission was given for President Tanner, since he said that he had had several phone calls about the matter, to talk to two or three of the senators and indicate to them how the Church feels about the matter; that we feel that they should endeavor to pass legislation that would require the closing of all business houses, markets, etc. on Sunday.”

Thurs., 16 Oct., 1969:

“Temple Meeting

I was interested in the following minutes from the Temple Meeting held on this day.

Sunday–Opening of Businesses on Sunday

Elder Hinckley mentioned that recently the Sears Company gave the Church some paintings that were in their building, and in connection therewith received much favorable publicity.  The following day they made an announcement that the store was going to open on Sundays.  Elder Hinckley read to the brethren a note from a reporter at the News on this subject of Sears and other stores announcing that they are going to remain open on Sundays, that coupled with the Sears store announcement is a consideration by J. C. Penney Company of doing likewise, they having said that it is only a matter of time when they will remain open on Sundays.  Elder Hinckley said this reporter attended a meeting of the retain merchants association and made his report to the editor, which report mentions that both Sears and the Auerbachs will keep their stores open on Sundays by the new year, and that in about a year they will all be open on Sundays.  Elder Hinckley felt the matter should be brought to the attention of the legislators.  He said that there is no doubt in his mind that unless some decisive action is taken within a year or two this will be a town in which Sunday will be as much a day of merchandising as any other day of the week, which would be a serious reflection on the Church in the eyes of visitors who come here by the millions.

President Tanner said he did not feel that we should let this Sunday closing matter hang in the air, that we should decide to do something about it, and get action.

Elder Lee recommended that we have the committee that has already been serving, namely, President Tanner, and Elders Romney, Hunter and Hinckley, counsel together and bring in their suggestion.  Elder Monson seconded Elder Lee’s motion, which was unanimously approved.