SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - To meet a marked change in public opinion, an increasing number of Utah stores and shops are opening their doors for business on Sundays.
Unless you live in Utah County.
Nearly 90 percent of the businesses outside Utah County contacted by the Deseret Morning News for a copyright story in Sunday editions said they didn't close Sundays. But in heavily conservative and Mormon Utah County, that number was only about 47 percent.
But both numbers are significantly higher than a half century ago, when most businesses were closed.
In 1898, the Legislature passed a law forcing most businesses to close on Sunday or pay a fine. That law was only stricken down in 1943 when the Utah Supreme Court ruled it was arbitrary.
Sunday openings began to skyrocket after 1959, when then-Gov. George D. Clyde vetoed a mandatory Sunday closing law, calling it an unwise intrusion on personal liberty, according to a 1962 Utah retailer's association report.
For its story on the current state of Sunday sales, the Deseret Morning News contacted 2,476 retail stores statewide, including nearly all grocery and convenience stores in the state plus larger retailers, chain stores and businesses in the state's major shopping malls.
And a new Deseret Morning News/KSL-TV poll by Dan Jones & Associates found that two of every three Utahns reported shopping on a Sunday sometime during the past year, with more than a third of Utah residents saying they shop frequently or very often on Sundays.
Only 6 percent of residents surveyed say they would never shop on Sundays, while 87 percent said they will shop under varying circumstances. For instance, nearly a third said they would shop on Sunday as they would on any other day of the week, and do not do it just to meet pressing needs.
The poll of 623 people was conducted Jan. 3-6 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.
Poll results showed that 54 percent of Utah County residents say they never shopped on Sunday during the past year far higher than the state average of 37 percent.
Officials in Utah County, population 400,000, make some obvious guesses about why more stores are closed there on Sundays: Fewer residents seek to shop on Sunday because of strong religious convictions; and, as home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-owned Brigham Young University, it may also attract some of that church's more committed members.
About 88 percent of Utah County residents are LDS, the highest percentage of any county, according to Brigham Young University geography professor Sam Otterstrom.
At the other end of the spectrum, Grand County, where Otterstrom said only 25 percent of the population is LDS, the lowest in the state, 87 percent of its stores contacted are open on Sundays.
The new poll showed that 48 percent of LDS members surveyed said they had shopped on a Sunday during the past year. In comparison, 100 percent of Catholics surveyed said they had shopped on Sunday, as did 97 percent of Protestants surveyed and 100 percent of those who belonged to other churches or no church at all.
For Mormons, shopping on Sunday goes directly against the wishes of church leadership.
''There is no need for people to shop and desecrate the Sabbath day by buying things on Sunday. That is not the time to buy groceries. You have six days of the week, and you all have a refrigerator,'' church President Gordon B. Hinckley has said.
''You do not have to shop on Sunday,'' Hinckley said. ''Let this be a day of meditation, of reading the scriptures, of talking with your families, and of dwelling on the things of God. If you do so, you will be blessed.''
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