You probably know the Primary song about Sunday observance by heart:
Saturday is a special day
It’s the day we get ready for Sunday
We brush our teeth and we go to the bathroom
So we don’t have to do it ’til Monday
Well, that’s how my sister and I used to sing it anyway. So, how liberal or orthodox is your interpretation of Sunday observance?
Rescuing one’s “ox from the mire” is a Mormon euphemism for breaking the Sabbath. This phrase (sort of) originates in the NT when the Savior was accused of doing work when He healed a man of the dropsy on the Sabbath. The Savior’s response is in Luke 14:5:
5 And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the asabbath day?
This begs the following questions:
- Why do we say “ox in the mire”? There is no “ox in the mire” in scripture referring to Sabbath breaking. My theory is that it’s because people are too dainty to use the accurate phrasing. So, the next time you are caught in a questionable Sunday activity, just say, “Sorry, bishop. My ass was in a pit. This was just one of those “ass in a pit” situations.”
- So, when (to re-coin the original phrase) is one’s ass in a pit? The answer varies greatly from person to person. There are some who would go so far as to not read the newspaper or turn on the TV on a Sunday. There are others who will eat in a restaurant on a Sunday if it is a special occasion. Our classic “ass in a pit” scenario occurred a couple months ago when we awoke to find the second story of our house had flooded overnight.
I found an interesting talk from 1972 that included results of a study. The study showed that most active members shopped at least once per year on a Sunday (43% once per year, 21% 6-10 times per year, 32% 1-2 times per month, and 4% nearly every Sunday). Active members were asked to respond to a variety of situations to see if they would “break the Sabbath” (percentages indicate the % of respondents who agreed it was warranted):
- Someone is sick and needs medicine (98%)
- To buy gas to attend a distant church meeting (82%) – this might be perceived differently now that most gas purchases can be done with no human interaction.
- At church, you discover there is no bread for the sacrament, so you buy some at the store (46%)
- The car needs gas for personal use (42%)
- Your parents want to take you to dinner (38%) – my parents would never suggest such a thing.
- Friends are visiting from out of town, and you take them to dinner rather than cook (31%)
- You go to dinner for a celebration with a significant other (28%)
- Friends are coming over, and you need to buy snacks to serve them (25%)
- Your son gives a talk at church, so you take the family out for ice cream as a reward (15%) – hopefully the talk was not on keeping the Sabbath day holy.
- You get a run in your pantyhose (11%) – not sure how the men responded on this one
- There is a “Sunday-only” sale and you really need to save money (11%)
- Someone you like asks you on a date (8%) – not sure how the marrieds answered this one, unless they were also flexible on adultery . . .
Here are some that were not on the list that I would add:
- Pool owners – do you swim on Sunday? (My parents claim there are alligators in the pool on Sunday; since they live in Florida, they might be right.)
- Do you vacation as a family on Sundays? (Which usually involves things like restaurants, hotels, buying gas, air travel, etc.)
- Do you purchase from vending machines on Sunday?
- Do you speed on Sundays, causing policemen to work in order to give you a ticket?
These numbers might be different if the same questions were asked today, although I suspect they are pretty similar today. So, when is your “ass (or ox) in a pit”? Is it the same or different than your family’s threshold? Your in-laws? Your spouse’s? (And let’s try to avoid the Sabbath = Saturday rigamarole that has already been addressed at Gen Conf ad nauseum). Discuss.