Why Can’t Mormons Swim on Sunday?

May 2, 2010

Q. Why can’t Mormons swim on Sunday?

Swimming is something we do mainly for recreation, like sailing, golfing, four-wheeling, and going to the movies.  The Lord has asked us to spend one day of our week in worship.  Recreation often distracts from this goal.  We prefer to find activities that focus our thoughts on the Savior and bring us together as families.

Is there something inherently evil about swimming?  No, but we can lose our spiritual balance when we overfill our time with fun-seeking.

The Lord instructed Joseph Smith, “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” (D&C 59:9–10). Notice that there is a blessing associated with Sabbath observance, and you can choose to claim it or not.  Freedom from the ‘spots’ or moral pollutions of the world is more important to me than swimming.

The blessings of closer communion with God easily outweigh the pleasure I might get playing Marco! Polo! in the community swimming pool (called the ‘Municipool’ where I live), especially when I can enjoy a swim on six other days of the week.

The blessings are not reserved only for Mormons, either.  Give it a try and see how you feel.  See David’s excellent article on Sabbath Day worship to learn how.

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44 Responses to “Why Can’t Mormons Swim on Sunday?”

  1. Eric

    I think it’s important to point out that the specifics about what we do or don’t do on Sundays are at least in part of matter of individual conscience.

    We’ve gone as a family to a nearby state park on a Sunday afternoon, a park with picnic tables as well as a lake for swimming. For me and my family, that is a perfectly fine Sunday activity. I probably wouldn’t go to a municipal pool and buy concessions and that sort of thing on a Sunday, but I’d bet there are some faithful LDS folks who do.

    Jesus warned about legalism, and in particular with regard to Sabbath observance. I find it wise to keep in mind the purpose of a sabbath day rather than get hung up on particulars.

  2. Thaddeus

    Eric, you’re right that Sabbath observance is a matter to be decided between an individual and the Lord. I would just caution our readers that this does not mean it’s up to you alone. There is a certain danger in legalism, but there is an equally threatening pitfall on the opposite side of the spectrum: rationalization. We can fool ourselves into blinding our consciences and subtly moving the standard backward without really noticing it.

    Constantly communicating with the Lord and listening carefully to his chosen servants (including his prophet and apostles, as well as local leaders) is the best way to keep from falling either way.

  3. I’ve thought about this recently. I’ve come to the conclusion that the things we are taught not to do on Sunday are really secondary to the things we should be doing on Sunday. There may be nothing inherently wrong with doing those things we’re not “supposed” to on Sunday, except that they’re taking us away from the things that Sunday is meant for. If we’re following our favorite sports team or keeping track of the stocks all day the same as we do all during the rest of the week then we’re probably not taking time to rest, ponder and study the scriptures. I find that the people who don’t appreciate Sunday for the spiritual power it offers are often the same people who complain of never having “time” to study the scriptures.

    At any rate, I’ve come to realize that if we focus on doing what we should on Sunday, then not doing what we shouldn’t entirely takes care of itself.

  4. Dave

    Eric: yes.
    Thaddeus: yes.
    Steve: yes.

    You guys are right.

  5. LuluBelle

    Who says Mormons can’t swim on Sunday? We’re Mormon and we swim on Sundays. We have a pool in our back yard and on a hot Sunday afternoon with little kids, I can’t imagine telling them they can’t go out there and swim. It’s a family activity and we hang out together and that, to me, is a wonderful bonding time that we don’t get often enough, since my husband and I both work full time hectic jobs. Now we don’t have ‘parties’ out there and have loud boisterous music, but my kids play together while I sit on a chair and read (oftentimes church material) and it’s nice and peaceful and cohesive and, for our family, perfectly appropriate.

  6. Ben

    This post was to answer a question that was posed from a viewer of the website about Sabbath day observance, its intention was not to make a “list” of things that were acceptable and unacceptable to do on Sunday. As the previous comments by Thaddeus and Steve have pointed out, the point is to keep the Sabbath day holy by it being a day to worship God. That is, do your activities take you away from God, or bring you closer to Him? If you contemplate on your family or personal activities and then can truthfully say you meet this criterion then you are keeping the Sabbath day holy.

  7. Bus Gillespie

    When Jesus was criticized for healing someone on the Sabbath he stated that the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath. What a gift to have one day which was made for me. My responsibility then is to find the best way to use it for my edification.
    In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray goes through countless attempts at finding out what activities actually bring him joy and peace. We all have that opportunity with our Sunday worship and activity.

  8. Kate

    i think mormons should be able to swim on sunday its not bad. sunday is a day to be with your family and how does swimming make it so we cant??? i think we should be able to swim on sundays and its wrong to keep your kids cooped up inside all day when you live in california and and its summer and its hot all the time its just WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Ben

    Dear members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:

    It is apparent that this post has really struck a chord in your hearts, because several of you seem to be offended that we dare suggest it is wrong to swim on Sunday. We aren’t saying that, all we are saying is that you should reflect on your Sabbath day activities. Please read Thaddeus’, Steve’s, Dave’s, Bus’ and my comments above. No one is saying what you can and can’t do on Sunday, we are simply asking you and all other people, “Do the activities you do on Sunday bring you closer to God?”, “Are your activities done in a spirit of worship?”, “Are you keeping the sabbath day holy, or are you making it a holiday?”

    Kate, as for your comment, I understand your point about kids not wanting to be cooped up all day, but oftentimes what we think and what God thinks may differ. Our job is to get ourselves in line with His will. We can know his will for us by sincerely asking to know it and then being willing to do it, regardless of what He may say. Now, whether He thinks swimming on the Sabbath is considered disobedience or not for you, I don’t know. You have to make that decision between yourself and God.

  10. Thaddeus

    Also, this post was made to answer a question posed by a reader whose Mormon friend declined a Sunday invitation to go swimming. Many Mormons choose not to swim on the Sabbath and this article gives some insight into why, though it may not be the blanket answer for every Mormon everywhere.

  11. Curtis Beverly

        I believe in Jesus Christ and the main message that I get when I read my bible is the deliverance through faith and a constant walk towards being christians.I do not get the sense that we should focus ourselves on religion but more on relation. What relationship do you have with the lord? Open, honest? or look im being perfect while missing the point of your salvation.Keeping scripture but not having Christ in your heart will not ensure your place in heaven.To pinpoint specific scriptures on drinking tea, swimming etc… will in my opinion, surprise many who do not inherit the kingdom of God.

  12. Jodie


    I agree with you that the relationship we have with our Savior is pretty important and relevant to our salvation.  After all, the greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart’ (Mark 12:30), right?  But in my opinion, keeping the commandments is equally important in that it is how we show our love for our Savior.  “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

    I should mention, though, that not swimming on the Sabbath is not a specific commandment we keep.  You just find it a lot when talking to people about how they keep the Sabbath day holy.

  13. Curtis Beverly

      I agree with you as far as keeping the commandments. What if you have to work on the sabbath? Are you less than a Christian? My main point is, in my opinion of course is not that we can alter Gods word but follow scripture with common sense. In the example of doing something different on the sabbath day, I honestly believe that an outing where a father is splashing around in the pool, spending time with his kids is glorifying the lord. Being a father especially loving is pleasing to the Lord and in that way you are giving reverence to Christ. What do you think? Please respond as I look forward to your approach on the matter. 

  14. Jodie


    Wow.  I feel like you’re asking me to make judgments on situations I know nothing about.  I could see myself having opinions in either direction.  If the father has had a long week and hasn’t had much time to spend with his kids, I’d say go for it and have fun.  On the other hand, if the father is using that Sunday pool time as an excuse for not spending time with his kids the rest of the week, I probably wouldn’t agree with that choice.

    Personally, I try to make Sundays special compared to the rest of the week.  For example, if I’ve spent a lot of time reading books that week, I’ll try to do something different with my free time on Sunday.  However, if I’ve been busy with other things, I may turn to the book.

    I’m guessing that for the most part we probably agree on this issue.  Common sense is usually necessary for keeping the Sabbath day holy.  The Church’s guidelines are to not work, not shop, and attend church.  (As a missionary, I’d point out that shopping would be making someone else work.)  Even then, though, we do as much as we are able.  Is the Church going to tell a doctor not to deliver that baby, because the mother went into labor on Sunday?  No.  Does the church tell us not to join the military, because they can’t have consistent Sundays off?  No.  Police officers?  Firemen?  There are professions that just can’t work out that way.  Similarly, what am I going to do when my son has a high fever and I run out of Ibuprofen?  Go to the store and get it, of course.  (And probably vow to pay more attention to my supply next time, especially since I’m probably going in the middle of the night!)

  15. Curtis Beverly

     Wow, I was actually paying you a compliment not asking you to make a judgement. What I was saying is there a person who believes as well as practices Gods commandments without being over religious. We can see around the world when religion goes wrong for example terrorist acts in the name of faith. You seemed to share the  same principles in regards to certain issues. Thank you for your response and I apologize if I was misunderstood 

  16. Jodie


    Thank you for the compliment.  I’m sorry I misunderstood.  I admit I have a 6 month old baby and I was pretty tired when I got on the computer.  I’m also sorry about the wording of my response.  ‘Wow’ just meant I wasn’t sure what to say, not that you were asking too much.

  17. Curtis Beverly

     Congrats on having a new baby and with your moral stability you are probably a great mom. I again thank you for your comments and maybe we can talk via this website again, as always God bless you and your family. 

  18. Bus

    The motherhood issue actually brings up an interesting point about Sabbath observance.  When Jesus said the Sabbath was made for man not man for the Sabbath he was speaking against the long list of observances the Jews had developed and were forcing everyone to live by.  By that same token sometimes the church leaders have mentioned some activities that they don’t believe are helpful in growing close to God and people jump on those as the latest commandment.   It a situation with children in the house the parents feel the need to teach the kids correct principles and therefore may come across a little more dogmatic than they would sharing their beliefs with other adults.  Kids seem to need a little more structure and possibly having a list of do’s and don’ts for the Sabbath serves that purpose.

  19. Tina

    Seems to me there is a lot of emphasis on “doing”. The Bible clearly states it’s not what you “do” or “don’t do” to become closer to Him. If it is living by rules…how much is enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? How much is enough to attain saving grace? I believe the Bible tells us, the standard for enterance into Heaven is perfection…none of us are perfect…there was only 1, Jesus Christ.

  20. Arlow

    God makes blanket laws that apply to everyone so that a small subset of them won’t go overboard and sin. Makes perfect sense.

  21. Thaddeus

    Tina, you are saying that obeying a list of rules won’t bring us salvation and that we can only hope for help from the Savior. Is that right?

    Arlow, are you referring to God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath day holy? I’m not sure what your meaning is.

  22. Tina

    I am not saying this, the Bible clearly states it. Also, we can’t only “hope for help” we can receive the free gift of salvation just by the acceptance of the free gift from Christ. He has already paid the full price.

  23. Arlow

    (responding to Thaddeus) I was being sarcastic – i assume you got that – so to answer your question: I was referring to (the post topic) swimming on sunday, but perhaps more generally to every kind of behavior that is declared “sinful” (including keeping the Sabbath Day) by a blanket prohibition on a good thing. One would expect that god would/could get these things right, and not be so ham-handed with his policy declarations. Family swim time on Sundays could be a huge source of clean fun and shared family time. In Arizona during the summer, many mormons suffer in their hot homes sleeping the day away, afraid to swim because they heard, like i did as a child, that it’s a sin.
    — Just think what could be accomplished for the good of families if church leaders said “you should swim on sundays with your families!”. SO MUCH GOOD! They never will because it goes against the blanket prohibition made long ago.

  24. Curtis Beverly

    I think we should strive to live a clean humble God fearing life. I think we should listen to that voice inside of us that guides our actions, as I believe that is the holy spirit talking to us. We all have a sense of right or wrong. Keeping Gods commandments are important and is not something you will achieve in a few years. I believe it is a life long journey to be like Christ. I think our focus is off, I sit back and laugh at people who are so holy and yet you would not associate them with Christ because of there countenance. We should attract others to God by our love,unselfishness, forgiveness not push people away by pointing the finger at people at a pool.

  25. Thaddeus

    Arlow, what’s this blanket statement you mentioned?

  26. Kassie

    I think it is awesome that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sundays so their employees can spend their day with their families and worship as they see fit. Isn’t the man who owns Chick-Fil-A LDS?

  27. Yawanathan

    The sabbath is on saturday

  28. Willie

    Kassie, the founder of Chick-Fil-A is a Southern Baptist.

  29. Joe

    D&C 61: 3-20 and pretty much the whole section will answer most of the member’s questions. I would invite the non members to read this with an open mind. I also found it interesting no one has talked about how we are not allowed to swim a single day on our two year prosciliting missions. Again, section 61 answers these questions for me and I am satisfied.:)

    thanks for all of your thoughts…

    D&C = Doctorine and Covenants.

  30. Kassie

    One observation I might make is that we can swim or shop or do other things—- what I call “leisure activities” six days a week. Why wait till the Sabbath and then say “What a bummer that I can’t go swimming today! What a bummer that I shouldn’t go to a restaurant or go to the mall today!” It is one day of the week that God has set aside for us to focus on the two most important things in the world. Our relationship with Heavenly Father and our families! We should be so grateful that He gave us this day every week. My kids (I have 9 of them) are grateful they don’t have to clean out the garage or wash windows on Sunday. Believe me they are glad to have scripture study and Church activities all day! Kassie

  31. Curtis Beverly

    I would never knock anyone’s religious beliefs but in my opinion our lord is not impressed with religion it’s more relation. Following everything to a tee won’t secure your place in heaven. If you ever watched Star Trek Spock used logic. He based everything on what is supposed to be instead of the feeling of being human. I’m not comparing our lord to a science fiction movie but I’m using a metaphor of us being like Spock and following a doctrine instead of allowing Gods love to flow through us. Do you really think God will be impressed with the fact that you didn’t swim or shop on Sunday? I think he will be more impressed with the love you showed your children, how you treated other people and religious denominations. We’re you racist? were you tolerate of others? Did you pray and love those who have sinned against you? Members of some of the most radical groups in society have been religious do you think these people represent God? The KKK, Hitler were religious, do you think they are examples of what God wants us to do.

  32. Kassie

    Curtis I agree with many of the things you said. We do need to love our families, treat other people kindly, be tolerant of others beliefs (I believe that is one reason this board was started!) We need to pray for others at all times and love those who have sinned against us. You are so right. I do not believe that not swimming or shopping on Sundays assures me of a place in heaven by any means. I believe that Jesus died for me in the Atonement and restored His Church in these Latter Days so that we can know the fullness of the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also believe God asks us for obedience to his teachings through the Prophet the Church has. And I believe in direct personal revelation from my Heavenly Father to guide me as to the best way to live my life. Kassie

  33. Curtis Beverly

    Dear kassie,
     Well put and believe me this is not an attack on anyone’s faith. I believe in Christianity with common sense. I do not think the lord wants anything done in his name begrudgingly. When you tithe, pray or praise it should be with the right spirit. We all know religion is man made and must be careful not to be caught up in it. There is a huge controversy over some of the beliefs of the LDS interpretation of the views on Minorities. Mitt Romney actually switched the subject when asked about these prior teachings of the founder of your faith. At no point in the KIng James bible does it teach segregation yet not until recently did the LDS re teach it principles on minorities. Evidence of something that possibly the spirit within you should challenge because it’s man made and not of God as most religions are in my opinion, twisted to serve mans agenda not spread Christ gospel. Last point what about a father who’s only day off is Sunday? He shouldn’t take his children to shop or swim after church that morning because it’s against God? I had a friend who let there sick parent die because of there religion and policy on accepting blood from others, Nonsense pure Nonsense !!!

  34. Kassie

    Curtis-what a sad story about the sick parent dying because of their religion. I suspect that individual was a Jehovah’s Witness and it has always been a sad teaching to me. They claim there are blood substitutes that are just as effective and perhaps they are. The only thing I would disagree with in your post is that “religion is man made.” I believe our Heavenly Father set up a plan of salvation for us before we were ever born on earth. Perhaps the word “religion” is the off putter in many cases. “religion” and “faith” and “church” are not necessarily synonymous in any case. Lots of people turn away from what they call “organized religion” in any form. I can understand that when they see so many religions like the one you mentioned. We need to educate ourselves about different religious beliefs in order to be more tolerant and understanding of them and why they believe the way they do. I took a lot of theology classes in college because I wanted to know the beliefs of others having been raised LDS. It only confirmed my faith in Heavenly Father and the Church I call my own. Best regards. Kassie

  35. Kassie

    Forgot to address your point about the father who works all the other days of the week and only has Sunday with his children. The only thing I might suggest is that there are plenty of other family activities (board games, hiking, reading together as a family for example) that can be done on a Sunday besides just swimming or shopping. I think we can get caught up in legalism here. It isn’t about what we “can” do. It comes back to making decisions through free agency, the greatest gift our Heavenly Father gave us in my opinion. Without it we would all just be programmable robots! Each must seek their own personal relationship with God to know what is best for them and for their family. The Holy Ghost won’t lead us astray if we ask with a contrite heart. Kassie

  36. Curtis Beverly

    I actually like your perspective and you are right my friend was a Jehovah’s witness. You are obviously intelligent. I guess we can agree to disagree on some aspects but you didn’t address the aspect of deportation which was practiced or still discretely. The bible passage was about a dark smog which was placed on the people as a curse but was interpreted by your faith to mean black or dark Spanish people. Here is a example of religion being man made. God made us all how can the LDS possibly believe that God meant minorities, man made? As far as Sunday you are right there are other activities that can be enjoy with the family that don’t involve worldly aspects but in a hot day would the children enjoy a day at the beach with the parents.

  37. Curtis Beverly

    Not deportation segregation auto spell on the iPhone sorry people.

  38. Kassie

    Nice chatting with you Curtis! Rather than go over my beliefs and opinions on the racism issue, Steve wrote an article here on the board that is really good on Blacks, the Priesthood, etc. If you enter it in the search you will get his article. I can’t figure out how to put a link in this!!! Kassie

  39. Curtis Beverly

    Likewise it was nice to talk with you too and I apologize if I touched upon a topic that may be sensitive. Although I’m not a minority I’m proud to have been raised to love all races. Luckily, I don’t see a persons race when I meet them. Your beliefs I’m sure have guided you to become a productive member of society. I wish well God bless you.
    Take care,

  40. Kassie

    Well thank you Curtis and I hope we have a chance to chat on some of the other great topics on this board. It isn’t that blacks holding the priesthood is such a sensitive issue, but I do believe it is a misunderstood issue. Many non LDS believe blacks aren’t or weren’t allowed to join the Church which was never true. Since this is off topic for the “swimming on Sundays” thread perhaps we can pick up on the other message thread I referred you to. Hope to see you there! Kassie

  41. Ryan

    Wouldn’t you want to embrace Gods creation? What he made for us to enjoy? And enjoy his masterpiece with family? I don’t know just my take on it

  42. Curtis Beverly

    I’m sorry, are you saying that its ok to swim with your family on Sunday or that it’s against God to do so?

  43. Jane

    I think many people would be fine with taking a relaxing stroll on Sunday. How is taking a relaxing swim that different? A big part of Sunday is doing things that are restful. I probably wouldn’t get in the pool and think “Okay I have to get in 30 minutes of vigorous exercise” on Sunday, but I see nothing wrong with just relaxing in the water. So many of these “rules” are just culturally derived.

  44. Just Curious

    Why is it that Mormon’s refuse to do anything with friends or swim with the team on Sunday because it is a day of rest and worship yet I continue to see facebook posts on Sundays, sitting by the pool on Sundays, and playing Fantasy Football on Sundays. And then they’re upset with us because we planned something on a Sunday and the “can’t go” because they do not “believe” in it, yet they are watching football, swimming, and facebooking all day? Seems hypocritical to me. Just curious…