Latter-day Saints and the Sabbath

Russel Thomsen is a young Seventh-day Adventist doctor currently working at the LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City. His book is a zealous, missionary-minded effort to persuade Mormons to his point of view. Written primarily as a tool for that purpose, the present work was originally presented to the Loma Linda University (the SDA institution near San Bernardino) in 1968 as a master’s thesis in religion, under the title The History of the Sabbath in Mormonism. Printed by the Seventh-day Adventist publishing house, it is an attractive paperback of 150 pages, plus appendix, with notes for each of its nine chapters, and a bibliography. It is generously illustrated.

Thomsen’s overall approach is basically polemical and hortatory and his work consequently suffers from a lack of objectivity and of critical evaluation. By an objective standard, he fails to establish his major thesis, that Latter-day Saints have nothing more than tradition as a basis for keeping Sunday as a Sabbath day of rest and worship. Not withstanding this failure, there are points of interest in the work. The chapter on “Sunday Closing Laws and Mormonism,” while written with some animus against the LDS Church, does provide historical documentation of an issue upon which the Seventh-day Adventist have been very sensitive. The section on James J. Strang, although often used by Thomsen as a vehicle for taking “pot shots” at Joseph Smith through Strang, does remind us of the Saturday-sabbath practices of that interesting Mormon offshoot. One can, however, hardly credit Thomsen’s incredible assessment that except for the Prophet Joseph, Strang “possibly bears no equal in the history of the Mormon movement”!

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