What Does “The Ox Is In The Mire” Mean? |Mormon Speak Translated

2014 February 2

It’s Sunday afternoon, I’m excited about a new recipe for dessert and I just realized we don’t have any eggs!

Is the Ox in the Mire?

As always I’m only speaking for myself and my personal interpretation of LDS Church Doctrine and practices. But short on eggs isn’t usually enough of an emergency to ‘Break the Sabbath’ by running to the grocery store. Or saying it differently: Oxn a grassy fieldSaving the ox from drowning in a river or a boggy mire on a Sunday is okay even on a Sunday.

This is a euphemism used by Mormons when they seriously or jokingly feel they must (or want) to break the Sabbath. (Breaking the Sabbath is another euphemism.)

We try not to shop on Sundays. We also don’t recreate on Sundays, we don’t go boating or camping etc. But we might play basketball in our driveway together, or go for a mild hike at a nearby preserve. We genuinely try to create a ‘day of rest’. Rest from our usual chores, jobs and activities.

And yes I almost always take a Sunday Nap!

But we also attend 3 hours of church including a one hour Sacrament Meeting, Sunday School and a breakout hour of auxiliary meetings. And there are often other meetings on Sundays as well. Like: Evening youth firesides (for the teens).

We’re encouraged to find ways to give service on Sundays and spend time with family. As well as spending extra time reading the scriptures, fasting and praying.

Back to the question about that Ox and why is he stuck in the Mire?

I think it was a phrase that painted a clear picture to the early Mormon Pioneers. Crossing the plains on foot mostly with Oxen teams pulling wagons and people pulling handcarts in all kinds of weather. Including wet and muddy crossings of rivers. If their Ox was bogged down in the mire of a swampy muddy bank it could mean the difference to their very lives. They would HAVE to help that Ox even if it was a Sunday and they were doing their best to observe the commandment to keep the Sabbath Day Holy.

I don’t have any Oxen. I’m not even sure what Oxen are? (Okay I do know… they are ‘trained cows’.) But where would I get a pair of Oxen?!

Obviously it’s a metaphor.

And once again this is why I love the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Interpretation of the commandments and doctrine is clear and yet on so many levels you are asked to come up with your own personal revelation and understanding with God. It shouldn’t be a conversation about what you CAN’T do on the Sabbath but what you SHOULD be doing on the Sabbath.

When I run out of eggs I might call a neighbor and see if I can borrow 2 eggs. If that fails, next I remember there’s a recipe for eggless chocolate sheetcake made with vinegar and baking soda and voila! Dessert is saved from the mire (or something) and I didn’t break the Sabbath.

Are there times when I choose to go save the Ox? YES. Usually we’re on vacation for one thing. And sometimes a teen ‘forgets’ she has a project due on Monday and we don’t have any poster board. It’s a fine line and sometimes we stumble on the wrong side, but we try to keep the commandment more than not.

It’s a matter of preparation on Saturday. I often run into other Mormons late Saturday night shopping for last minute Sunday Dinner prep items (and ice cream)! Making sure our Sunday clothes are clean is another Saturday chore as well as tidying the house and yard in order to enjoy our day of rest. Reminding the kids to get homework finished before Sunday apparently needs to be higher on my Saturday to do list.

We try to keep the Sabbath Day Holy and herd the Oxen away from the Mire on Saturdays. Planning ahead for a restful day of worship and service and not getting bogged down in the mire-filled can’ts.

Please check out the other posts in the Church Chat series.

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