See also: Exodus 20
Reflect on how inoperative the Ten Commandments are in many lives. Today, killing, stealing, and bearing false witness still carry some social stigma and legal sanction, but sanction is effectively gone regarding sexual immorality, the Sabbath day, honoring fathers and mothers, and the taking of the name of the Lord in vain. Some of this decline represents the bitter harvest of ethical relativism, the philosophy of choice of many, reflecting no fixed, divine truths but merely the mores of the moment. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1994, p. 88
No wonder we have been told, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” and this includes self-worship! (Exodus 20:3). One way or another, the grossly selfish will finally be shattered, whimpering, against the jagged, concrete consequences of their selfishness. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1999, p. 25
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world today would have some real understanding of just the simple Ten Commandments, which the Lord cut with His own finger into tablets? Moses came down from Mount Sinai to show the children of Israel, who were riotous, so that they wouldn’t say they didn’t understand what was said. When Moses brought down the tablets, the people would be able to read the Lord’s own statements: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) and “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” (Exodus 20:4) – something else to worship – but they should love the Lord, love God. The Lord said that we should not take the name of God in vain, that we should honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, that “thou shalt not kill,” and that “thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:7-8, 13-14). Imagine what that would do in the world today and in the United States and with the political spin doctors. And “thou shalt not steal” or “bear false witness” or covet your neighbor’s oxen and farms, his wife, or anything that he has (Exodus 20:15-17). — Elder David B. Haight, Ensign, May 1998, p. 8
The first two commandments refer to worshiping false gods and idols. President Spencer W. Kimball taught, “Few men have ever knowingly and deliberately chosen to reject God and his blessings. Rather . . . when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the ‘arm of flesh’ and in ‘gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know’ (Dan. 5:23) that is, in idols. This I find to be a dominant theme in the Old Testament. Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.” — President Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, p. 4
Traveling over the country as I do, I recall an experience I had not too long ago when I went into a certain hotel. A group of men sat down around a table. They were businessmen. The first individual made a statement. What did he do first? He took the name of the Lord in vain. The individual there who answered his question and gave him the information he wanted, what did he do? He took the name of the Lord in vain, too. But in the Church of Jesus Christ, brethren and sisters, we never use the name of the Lord unless we are going to talk to Him, and in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is the only time we use those two names. — Elder Joseph L. Wirthlin, “The Kingdom of God is Righteousness,” BYU Speeches of the Year, 1960, p. 6
I thank the Lord for the Sabbath day. [The Lord’s instruction regarding it] comes from the Ten Commandments, but it is reaffirmed in strong and moving language in the modern revelation of this Church. No one has to shop on Sunday. You don’t have to buy butter on Sunday. You don’t have to buy milk on Sunday. You don’t have to buy clothes on Sunday. You don’t have to buy furniture on Sunday. No, of course not! Thank the Lord for the Sabbath day reaffirmed in this dispensation as the day of the Lord, sacred unto Him as it should be sacred unto us. — President Gordon B. Hinckley fireside, Liverpool, England, August 31, 1995; Ensign, April 1996, p. 73
Man must unlearn his changing liberal attitude toward sex that minimizes the sacredness of sex behavior and opens the way for licentious living. I proclaim with all the power of my being that God’s seventh commandment to the children of Israel through Moses, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” is a law as binding upon man today as then. Adultery is one of the most abominable sins in the sight of the Lord (Alma 39:5), and forbidden by our God. (See D&C 42:24, Exod. 20:14.) Those who willfully violate this law must pay God’s penalty, which is denial to the celestial kingdom. (1 Cor. 6:9-10.) — Elder Delbert L. Stapley, Conference Report, April 1967, p.33
“Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the Lord commanded from Sinai (Exodus 20:14) and repeated in modern revelation (D&C 42:24; see also D&C 59:6). “Flee fornication,” the New Testament commands (1 Corinthians 6:18; see also Galatians 5:19; 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Always the prophets of God have condemned whoredoms. Yet these eternal commands have frequently been ignored, opposed, or mocked by powerful traditions in many lands. This is especially visible today, when the movies, magazines, and Internet communications of one nation are instantly shared with many others. Sexual relations out of wedlock are tolerated or advocated by many. So is the rapidly expanding culture of pornography. All who have belonged to these cultures of sin must repent and change if they are to become the people of God, for He has warned that “no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom” (3 Nephi 27:19). — Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Ensign, November 2003, p. 38
Cecil B. DeMille, producer of the movie The Ten Commandments, made this observation:
“Some, who do not know either the Bible or human nature, may see in the orgy of the Golden Calf only a riot of Hollywood’s imaginations – but those who have eyes to see will see in it the awful lesson of how quickly a nation or a man can fall, without God’s law.
“If man will not be ruled by God, he will certainly be ruled by tyrants – and there is no tyranny more imperious or more devastating than man’s own selfishness, without the law.
“We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them – or else, by keeping them, rise through them to the fulness of freedom under God. God means us to be free. With divine daring, He gave us the power of choice.” (Commencement Address, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, Provo, 31 May 1957.) — Old Testament Student Manual, p. 127
Elder Mark E. Petersen said: “By his own finger the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone. They represent the basic law of the Almighty and have formed the underlying elements of civil and religious law ever since.
“They are fundamental to our relationships with God. They are an integral part of the restored gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and are essential to our becoming perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. (D&C 42; D&C 59.)
“Variations of these laws are given in the rules laid down in Leviticus and Deuteronomy as they are applied to specific matters, but generally they form the foundation for all proper human conduct.” (Moses, p. 110.)
These commandments show us the three great priorities of life. The first four commandments show us our proper relationship to God. The fifth commandment establishes the importance of the family and proper family relationships. The last five commandments regulate our relationships with others. If we are committed to the perfecting of our relationships with God, family, and others, we are well on our way to being perfected in all things. — Old Testament Student Manual, p. 127
At first some may think that this demand for exclusive worship and devotion by God for Himself sounds selfish. But two things should be remembered. First, as Lord and Creator of all the universe, and as one who has all power, knowledge, and glory, God does not need man’s adoration and worship to add to His state of being. So, His jealousy is not a protective concern for His own status.
The second thing to remember is that the Lord taught Moses that God’s work is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Anytime His children set anything before God in importance, they begin to thwart His work for them. He is the only source of power and knowledge sufficient to save. To set anything above Him lessens their ability to draw on that power and knowledge for their salvation. That is why He says to His children, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
One Bible scholar put it this way: “This commandment prohibits every species of mental idolatry, and all inordinate attachment to earthly and sensible things [things which appeal to the senses]. . . . God is the fountain of happiness, and no intelligent creature can be happy but through him. . . . The very first commandment of the whole series is divinely calculated to prevent man’s misery and promote his happiness, by taking him off from all false dependence, and leading him to God himself, the fountain of all good.” (Clarke, Bible Commentary, 1:402–3.) — Old Testament Student Manual, p. 128
I believe it was George MacDonald who reminded us that the only door out of the dungeon of self is the love of one’s neighbor. How proud we ought to be, in a quiet way, that we are members of the church of the most selfless being who ever lived. How proud we ought to be to belong to a church that makes specific demands of us and gives us specific things to do and marks the strait and narrow way, lest we fall off one side of the precipice or the other. I am so grateful that God loves us enough to teach us specifically. Had secularists written the Ten Commandments, they might have said, “Thou shalt not be a bad person.” Note what the Ten Commandments say: “Thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not covet, thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, thou shalt not commit adultery,” and so on. The gospel of Jesus Christ is specific because God cares specifically for each of us and, caring for us, will mark the way carefully lest we fall out of happiness.
A vague creed is fitted only for a vague God. We have a Father who loves us specifically and gives us things to do and, because he loves us, will cause us, at times, to have our souls stretched and to be fitted for a better world by coping with life in this world. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “But For a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, September 1, 1974