Welcome to Agreeable, a bimonthly advice column in which I will tell you, dear Reader, as to whether your planned course of action is “agreeable” or “hmph”. Direct your questions (max 200 words, please!) to the admin address (see ‘About’, above) with the subject line “Agreeable”.
My wife and I recently had a baby girl. She is going to be blessed in sacrament meeting and we plan to host a luncheon at our house afterwards. We expect seven couples made up of family and close friends along with their many children for a total of about 45 people. We originally planned to prepare a main dish and have our guests bring side dishes but after looking at the cost and prep time decided it would be easier to hire a local food truck to serve tacos.
My wife is a convert to the church and has traditionally relied on me to guide her in the finer points of Mormon culture. We moved to Utah a few years ago and the normative social influence of the host culture has undermined my position as the arbiter of Good Mormonism. The question has been raised whether it is appropriate to engage in commerce in support of the after-party following an ordinance on a Sunday. I told my wife the taco truck wasn’t a serious breach of Mormon protocol and we should attend to our guests instead of worrying about food prep. What do you think?
Agreeable. But a tough call. On the one hand we have been commanded to keep the Sabbath holy and modern prophets have interpreted this to mean that we should avoid commerce on Sundays. On the other hand, when Jesus’ disciples plucked ears of corn Jesus reminded those who criticized them that the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Add to that Mormon social norms and your desire to be a good host and it becomes quite a pickle.
Those unfamiliar with Mormon culture might find your question silly. But for members of your community, Sabbath day observance is both important as a matter of worship and a signaling device of in-group behavior. If you flout those norms you can expect that some people will take note and may question your commitment to church standards. More important than the idle chatter of neighbors, however, is your obligation to be a good host to your guests. You have indicated that you want to take care of the people you are inviting into your home. As part of that you should consider whether your guests will be comfortable eating food professionally prepared and served on a Sunday. If you think this is a concern, you should do the extra work and prepare food yourself ahead of time.