Vai's View: Vai's View: Responses to the email bag

Published: Friday, Oct. 7 2011 11:00 a.m. MDT

Bottom line regarding last week's issue for me is this: More so than any other state in the Union, Utah has a dominant religion. Certainly, that fact requires more scrutiny of separation of church and state than anywhere else. But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be some consideration given because of the prevailing LDS culture. I live in an East Coast, predominantly Jewish community with several synagogues nearby. Our public school system observes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I don't begrudge them for that nor the fact that their Sabbath is Saturday and not Sunday — there aren't many Latter-day Saints living in my area.

My children attend Catholic school where they celebrate holidays that we didn't know existed, like All Saints' Day. Despite my personal feeling that there are too many such holidays given how much tuition I pay, I recognize it's a Catholic school and we're LDS. I encourage my kids to attend Mass at their school, without taking communion, because I think it's important they understand and empathize with the religion providing their education. I respect the dominant cultures where we live, Jewish and Catholic, and recognize the force for good they provide our community.

I don't think it's inappropriate to wonder why the Pac-12 can't recognize that there's a dominant culture in Utah that tries to observe the Sabbath and holds its semi-annual conference in April and October. But for some reason, there's discomfort with my asking why Utah's A.D. so easily acquiesces to its new conference without much consideration to the dominant culture or the demographics of the players on the teams who play at the U. I'm not afraid to ask because that's what I do for a living.

Consider a scenario that is altogether possible. Suppose the Israeli women's basketball team came on an American tour in the fall. What are the odds that the hosting university would schedule a game on Yom Kippur, the holiest of the Jewish High Holy Days? Or even the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, which is not as important. Would the hosting university disregard that fact or would they make scheduling accommodations to avoid the conflict? It just seems to me we are often willing to bend over backwards for everyone else, but we're squeamish about making demands on issues that matter to us.

Conference Saturday for Latter-day Saints is probably comparable to Rosh Hashanah, in that it's important but not as important as our Sabbath, or Yom Kippur, for Jews. The Church made accommodations last Saturday by tape delaying priesthood session in the U Institute, but it will never budge on Sundays.

Herby from Hurricane: "What about NFL players who play on Sunday Vai? Did it ever cross your mind to avoid entering in the NFL to avoid playing on Sundays??? It's like the pot calling the kettle black."

Despite the sarcastic tone of Herby's post and as one who sometimes resorts to sarcasm, I'll address it because Herby echoed the sentiments of other posters. I'll give a quick response here because it's an issue that dogs LDS pro athletes and an issue that most guys (and a few gals) feel is a no-win situation. I will, however, attempt to discuss the subject more extensively in coming weeks.

Yes, I played my sport on Sundays. It was my career, temporary as it was.

Most careers will require, at some point, working or traveling on Sundays, maybe both. But you'd be foolhardy to ignore counsel from someone who has had that experience. If you're LDS, you likely sustained Elder Gifford Nielsen last year to the Quorum of Seventy during General Conference. If he happens to preside at your stake conference and speaks on Sabbath observance, would you dismiss it because he played for the Houston Oilers? Or if you're a member of Danny Ainge's ward in Boston where he's a bishop, would you do the same? Or if your son or daughter just received his/her call to serve in the Florida Tampa Mission, would you tell your child to follow all of mission president Bruce Summerhays' counsel unless he's talking about the Sabbath because he spent 16 years on the Champions Tour earning $9 million by golfing on Sundays?

Do Bronco Mendenhall and Kyle Whittingham have credibility to encourage kids to serve missions or should they be ignored since they chose not to serve missions themselves? Few of us have the conviction of Eli Herring to pass up playing pro sports when we're given the opportunity. True, none of us who played professionally can claim the blessings Herring received, but that doesn't mean the Lord abandoned us or that we abandoned Him. Just as President Boyd K.

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