I have a few different questions I hope you can help with. I really enjoy reading your Beliefs pages and am so appreciative of the time you take to answer our questions. Why is Easter not celebrated on the same date each year? If I was reading it correctly in the Bible, the date of Christ’s death is listed as April 7. And Christ’s birth is listed as February 4, with a note that it is usually given as Dec 5. Why is his birth celebrated on December 25? This is something that has always confused me. As a Catholic, during Lent we are asked to make a sacrifice. This can be in the form of giving something up for 40 days or doing something you would not normally do for 40 days. My question is, what happens if you vow to sacrifice something, and then don’t fulfill it for the 40 days? My daughter gave up chocolate for Lent – (not an easy task for her!) and has given in a few times. She asked me if that was a sin – I really did not know how to answer her. Does your church require the same type of sacrifices during Lent? And my last question has to do with the Sabbath – my husband is in a job where he works every Sunday. He has no choice as his place of employment is opened 7 days a week. Is this a mortal sin? You said in answer to another question that honoring the Sabbath was the greatest test of all commandments, or something along those lines. This really concerns me.
You asked several questions: “Why is Easter not celebrated on the same day each year. If I was reading it correctly in the Bible, the date of Christ’s death is listed as April 7 and Christ’s birthday was listed as February 4, with a note that it is usually given as December 5. Why is his birth celebrated on December 25? This is something that has always confused me.”
Over the centuries, Christ’s birth and death have been celebrated on various days. In modern times, Easter is celebrated according to the Christian calendar and I’m really not sure why that changes from time to time.
Regarding the date of his birth, I was unaware that February 4 is noted as his birth date and always believed that it was more toward the Spring of the year, such as April, because shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks, a thing they probably would not have been doing in February. As far as why it is celebrated on December 25, I can only find that it is tradition and an agreed upon time by the Christian world in general. I believe that we don’t really need to be too concerned about the difference in exact dates. It is more important that we do reverence and revere him at the time, in remembrance of his birth and his death, no matter when we do it.
You also said, “As a Catholic during Lent we are asked to make a sacrifice. This can be in the form of giving something up for forty days or doing something you would not normally do for forty days. My question is, what happens if you vow to sacrifice something and then you don’t fulfill it for the forty days? My daughter gave up chocolate for Lent (not an easy task for her) and has given in a few times. She asked me if that was a sin. I really did not know how to answer her. Does your Church require the same type of sacrifice during Lent?”
Lent is a Catholic observance and we do not practice or celebrate it in the way that it is done in the Catholic Church. Our practice is to give up food for two meals on the first Sunday of each month. That is, we do not eat breakfast or lunch that day and we give the amount of money that we would have spent on the food to the Church which distributes it to the poor. As you can imagine, the amount of money is significant considering the members of the Church who observe “fasting” opportunity. In fact, over the last ten years after the Church provided food, clothing, and shelter for its own poor, they also gave more than $165 million to various relief and charitable organizations throughout the world to assist in feeding the hungry and poor worldwide.
As for the question of “sin”, I am not an authority on what is “sin” and what is not “sin” as far as your faith would say, but if you want my opinion, my perspective is that even though your daughter has “given in a few times,” with chocolate, I suspect that this is not a sin. What our Father in Heaven is most concerned about is that we give up real sins that separates us spiritually from him. He wants us to keep his commandments and draw closer to him with our hearts and minds. Of course, we should try to always keep our vows and promises we make to God, but all of us are imperfect. God looks at our hearts and our intentions.
The other day, when my wife’s brother got married in the Salt Lake City temple, the man who performed the ordinance said something prior to the marriage as council to the new bride and groom to be. It was on this very subject of trying to be a perfect spouse but we know that we all are imperfect at times. He quoted Christ when he taught
Matthew 5: 3 and 6
“3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… 6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”
Christ didn’t say “Blessed are the righteous”, for we know theirs is already the kingdom of God. He said “Those who hunger and thirst”. In other words, it is the intent of their hearts, not just an outwardly expression or deed.
If my child had “given in” and eaten during one of our fast Sundays, I would try to help them keep their promise they had made, just from a basic principle point of view for personal integrity. But I would also assure them that they are still loved by our Heavenly Father because of their intent. Incidentally, it is not required to fast until after 8 years of age.
Your last question was about the Sabbath. You said, “My husband is in a job where he works every Sunday. He has no choice as his place of employment is open seven days a week. Is this a mortal sin? You said in answer to another question that honoring the Sabbath was the greatest test of all commandments or something along those lines.”
Your husband’s greatest and first responsibility is to provide for the physical well-being of his family. If his job “requires” him to be working on Sunday, this is not a mortal sin. If he has a choice, he should change his work schedule, but if his attempt to change his work schedule would cause him to lose his job, and he cannot find comparable employment, then as you have said, “he has no choice.” The Lord loves him and knows his heart and will bless him for his goodness and his willingness to provide for his family. I am faced with this kind of challenge many times, but when I have a choice, I choose not to work on the Sabbath.