The Ten Commandments
Can anyone measure the impact of the Ten Commandments on the history of the world? Where would civilization be without them? Where would we be individually without this guide of morality?
“America’s Founders believed the Ten Commandments are essential for the existence of men and women in society and a necessary legal foundation for civilization. They said so in their writings. They believed the Ten Commandments provide a solid base for morality, and said many of the statutes have universal application in civil and municipal government.
To remind future generations, Moses and the Ten Commandments were etched in stone on U.S. government buildings.
“Moses is carved on the façade of the U.S. Supreme Court (center, holding the Ten Commandments). A giant, stone carving of Moses holding the Two Tablets of the Law is the central figure on the rear façade of the Supreme Court building.
“In the United States House Chamber, Moses looks directly at the Speaker of the House. The symbolism is obvious. Moses oversees the proceedings of America’s lawmakers because the Ten Commandments were the foundation of our legal system.
“Moses is centered full-face on the top of the wall in the United States House Chamber. Around the wall, smaller images of famous lawmakers are shown in–profile.” (http://www.youshouldbuygold.com/2011/07/ten-commandments-essential-laws-for-a-civilized-society)
“Read how the Ten Commandments affected the views of America's leaders:
- “The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion” - John Adams, Nov. 4, 1816, letter to Thomas Jefferson.
- “The fundamental basis of this nation's laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and St. Matthew, from Isaiah and St. Paul. I don't think we emphasize that enough these days." - Harry S Truman, Feb. 15, 1950, Attorney General's Conference.
“See references to the Ten Commandments in court cases:
- "The Ten Commandments have had an immeasurable effect on Anglo-American legal development" - U.S. District Court, Crockett v. Sorenson , W.D. Va. (1983)
- “It is equally undeniable ...that the Ten Commandments have had a significant impact on the development of secular legal codes of the Western World." - U.S. Supreme Court, Stone v. Graham, (1980) (Rehnquist, J., dissenting)” (http://www.americanminute.com/store/product.php?productid=20)
Hugh B. Brown
Sometimes men speak of breaking the ten commandments, but as Cecil B. DeMille observed, "Men do not break the ten commandments, they only break themselves against them." (Continuing the Quest [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1961], 225)
Ezra Taft Benson
I would urge you to heed strictly the commandments of God, particularly the Ten Commandments. As long as we regard God as our Sovereign and uphold His laws, we shall be free from bondage and be protected from external danger.
God has not left us alone to flounder over right and wrong in the area of personal ethics and morality. His laws are circumscribed in the Decalogue—the Ten Commandments. These laws embody our relationships with God, family, and fellowmen. Yes, the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are the foundation principles upon “which our personal happiness is predicated. To disregard them will lead to inevitable personal character loss and ruin.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 353)
Joseph F. Smith
I believe with all my soul in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in the law of God, and I do not think any honest and intelligent man or woman could help but believe in the justice, the righteousness and the purity of the laws that God wrote upon the tablets of stone. These principles that I propose to read to you are the foundation and basic principles of the Constitution of our country, and are eternal, enduring forevermore, and cannot be changed nor ignored with impunity. (Gospel Doctrine, Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 401)
Spencer W. Kimball
Moses came down from the quaking, smoking Mount Sinai and brought to the wandering children of Israel the Ten Commandments, fundamental rules for the conduct of life. These commandments were, however, not new. They had been known to Adam and his posterity, who had been commanded to live them from the beginning, and were merely reiterated by the Lord to Moses. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 150)
Exodus 20:3 thou shalt have no other gods before me
Certainly, the most obvious meaning of this passage is that we are not to worship the god of the sun, the god of the moon, Zeus, Baal, or any other false god. For the Israelites, this was perhaps the single most difficult of the Ten Commandments to keep. It is the main theme of the history of Jewish and Israelite kings (2 Kings, 2 Chronicles)—whether or not they encouraged the people to practice idolatry. Their ultimate destruction at the hands of the Babylonians was because of failure to keep this commandment.
Baal was the god of choice, not Jehovah. (www.lds.org/ensign/1990/01/no-other-gods-before-me?lang=eng) Prior to the Babylonian takeover, the Jews had as many other gods as they had cities in Israel; the altars built to them were as numerous as their streets (Jer. 11:13). God’s response to them:
Thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God…
But in the time of their trouble, they will say, Arise, and save us.
But where are thy gods that thou hast made thee? Let them arise, if they can save thee in the time of thy trouble: for according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah. (Jer. 2:19, 27-28)
In modern society, Baal no longer has his appeal. The idolatry now takes other forms. Some worship the god of science, the god of evolution, the god of technology, the god of atheism, the god of materialism, the god of power, the god of vanity, or the god of fame. Modern idolatry takes many forms, even as numerous as the cities and streets of America.
Russell M. Nelson
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Yet carnal man tends to let his loyalty drift toward idols.
For example, we marvel at computers and the Internet that enable transmission of data with remarkable speed. We are truly grateful for these electronic servants. But if we let them take over our time, pervert our potential, or poison our minds with pornography, they cease being servants and become instead false gods.
The Master warned of those who “seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.” (D&C 1:16)
False gods can only lead to dead ends. If our journey through life is to be successful, we need to follow divine direction. The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” (D&C 6:36) (Conference Report, Oct. 2000, p. 16)
David B. Haight
Some years ago, Cecil B. DeMille, producer of the epic film The Ten Commandments, gave an address in which he discussed the pressing need for making that great film. Many today in this so-called “modern” and materialistic society think these commandments a bit archaic. But our Lord God revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai the great governing principles we all are subject to and by which man will be judged. Moses received these commandments twice—on each occasion written by the finger of the Lord on tablets of stone.
The first commandment:
I AM THE LORD THY GOD. THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME.
We do not bow before giant birds of carved granite or wooden idols with stone eyes.
But we have other gods competing with God.
We may never have bowed before a calf of gold, but we may still worship gold. . . .
Is there a man or a woman who can honestly say that he has never put his ambitions or his vanity above God? Or worshipped flesh more than God? Or worshipped the blue-white glisten of a fine diamond, or the earthy beat of rock and roll, or even worshipped himself above the worship of God? . . .
These . . . can . . . enslave us and betray us into modern idolatry. (https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/david-b-haight_streams-life)
Ezra Taft Benson
The great test of life is obedience to God. "We will prove them herewith," said the Lord, "to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them" (Abr. 3:25).
The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.
The great commandment of life is to love the Lord...
To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being-physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually-to a love of the Lord.
The breadth, depth, and height of this love of God extend into every facet of one's life. Our desires, be they spiritual or temporal, should be rooted in a love of the Lord. Our thoughts and affections should be centered on the Lord. "Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord," said Alma, "yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever" (Alma 37:36).
Why did God put the first commandment first? Because He knew that if we truly loved Him we would want to keep all of His other commandments. "For this is the love of God," says John, "that we keep his commandments" (1 Jn. 5:3; see also 2 Jn. 1:6).
We must put God in the forefront of everything else in our lives. He must come first, just as He declares in the first of His Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).
When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.
We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives...
May God bless us to put the first commandment first and, as a result, reap peace in this life and eternal life with a fulness of joy in the life to come, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. ("The Great Commandment-Love the Lord," Ensign, May 1988, 4)
Spencer W. Kimball
The Brethren constantly cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord… Sadly, however, we find that to be shown the way is not necessarily to walk in it, and many have not been able to continue in faith. These have submitted themselves in one degree or another to the enticings of Satan and his servants and joined with those of “the world” in lives of ever-deepening idolatry.
I use the word idolatry intentionally. As I study ancient scripture, I am more and more convinced that there is significance in the fact that the commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is the first of the Ten Commandments.
Few men have ever knowingly and deliberately chosen to reject God and his blessings. Rather, we learn from the scriptures that because the exercise of faith has always appeared to be more difficult than relying on things more immediately at hand, carnal man has tended to transfer his trust in God to material things. Therefore, in all ages 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. (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1976/06/the-false-gods-we-worship?lang=eng)
Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image
“The second of the Ten Commandments the Lord gave to Moses is ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.’ (Ex. 20:4.) While this commandment was initially given to fortify Israel against the idolatry rampant in the land of Canaan, it has great application for us today. Since the Lord has not rescinded the commandment, we need to look at our lives and see if we are worshipping graven images. There are ‘golden calves’ all around today—tangible images like cars, and others that are more intangible. When anything wastefully dominates our time, compromises our loyalty, or confuses our priorities so that God and his work become second, we are flirting with idolatry.
“… Anciently the consequences for idol worship were grave: The cities of idolaters would be wasted, their lands made desolate, and the people scattered. (See Lev. 26:30–33.) Israel was warned that images were ‘vanity’ and the ‘work of errors’ and that there was ‘no breath in them.’ (Jer. 10:14–15.) Worshipping graven images divided the heart (see Hosea 10:2), and worshippers would corrupt themselves (see Deut. 4:16). Isaiah called images ‘wind and confusion.’ (Isa. 41:29.) These consequences are still in force. Worshipping modern graven images still results in confusion, corruption, and a divided heart. Since material possessions cannot save, trusting in them will eventually lead to a personal scattering away from God and his kingdom
“…The Old Testament policy of not tolerating idol worship should be a model for us today. The Israelites were commanded not to bow down or serve idols. They were to break them, burn them, abhor them, and detest them. (See Ex. 34:13; Deut. 7:25–26.) If at some future day we look back on our lives and see that what we worshipped caused us to lose the blessings of exaltation, we would certainly ‘abhor’ and ‘detest’ those things we had treasured in mortality…
“Anything can become a ‘golden calf.’ When activities or material blessings become so important that by turning to them we turn from God, we are breaking the second commandment. We are walking ‘in [our] own way, and after the image of [our] own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish.’ (D&C 1:16; emphasis added.) The solution is to prioritize our loyalties and turn our affections back to God. (Dennis Largey, “Refusing to Worship Today’s Graven Images,” Ensign, Feb. 1994, 9-13)
Exodus 20:5 I the Lord thy God am a jealous God
Jealousy is a negative quality. It’s not a good thing, but here God declares that he is a “jealous" God. What does this mean? Well, the Lord is famous for adapting to the language of his audience (D&C 1:24; 29:33). The Israelites understood jealousy in a relationship; if God said he was a jealous God, they understood what that meant. It meant, “Don’t cheat on me!”
Now stop for a minute and ask yourself how God might really respond to his covenant people practicing idolatry. Would he pace around and stammer in a jealous rage that his children had gone after another God? Or would he weep that his children had gone from the source of living waters to the source of their own destruction?
Jealous Jehovah later expressed this sentiment as jealous Jesus, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets… how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matt. 23:35)
The term, “jealous God,” sets the tone for the covenant relationship that Israel was to have with Jehovah. “The Savior… commonly described his relationship with ancient Israel as a marriage. So when Israel descended into patterns of sustained disobedience to Jehovah's commandments, Israel was ‘unfaithful,’ like an unfaithful spouse. The Lord thus warned through Moses that Israel should not worship other gods, for Jehovah ‘is a jealous God: Lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they go a whoring after their gods.’ (Exodus 34:14-15. See also Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 31:6; Judges 8:33.) Said Jehovah through Jeremiah, ‘Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you’ (Jeremiah 3:14; emphasis added); and ‘My covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord’ (Jeremiah 31:32; emphasis added). In expressing the permanence of his covenants with Israel, again the Lord used the language of marriage: ‘I will betroth thee unto me forever . . . and I will say to them . . . thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.’ (Hosea 2:19, 23; emphasis added.)” (Bruce C. Hafen and Marie K. Hafen, The Belonging: The Atonement and Relationships with God and Family Heart [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 142)
Dallin H. Oaks
The meaning of jealous is revealing. Its Hebrew origin means “possessing sensitive and deep feelings” (Exodus 20:5, footnote b). Thus we offend God when we “serve” other gods—when we have other first priorities. (Conference Report, Oct. 2013, 72)
Exodus 20:5 visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation
Joseph F. Smith
Infidels will say to you: "How unjust, how unmerciful, how un-Godlike it is to visit the iniquities of the parents upon the children to the third and fourth generations of them that hate God." How do you see it? This way; and it is strictly in accordance with God's law. The infidel will impart infidelity to his children if he can. The whore-monger will not raise a pure, righteous posterity. He will impart seeds of disease and misery, if not of death and destruction, upon his offspring, which will continue upon his children and descend to his children's children to the third and fourth generation. It is perfectly natural that the children should inherit from their fathers, and if they sow the seeds of corruption, crime and loathsome disease, their children will reap the fruits thereof. Not in accordance with God's wishes for His wish is that men will not sin and therefore will not transmit the consequences of their sin to their children, but that they will keep His commandments, and be free from sin and from entailing the effects of sin upon their offspring; but inasmuch as men will not hearken unto the Lord, but will become a law unto themselves, and will commit sin they will justly reap the consequences of their own iniquity, and will naturally impart its fruits to their children to the third and fourth generation. The laws of nature are the laws of God, who is just; it is not God that inflicts these penalties, they are the effects of disobedience to His law. The results of men's own acts follow them. (Conference Report, October 1912, 9)
Sterling W. Sill
The most effective way to set a curse in operation against one's own son is to develop the cause of the curse in his own life. And then as our children play with us this interesting game of "Follow the Leader," it will not be long before the curse will begin to appear in their lives—that is, the power to lead, possessed by every parent, is also the power to mislead. The power to mislead is the power to destroy; it is the power to cause eternal suffering.
It is a little bit startling to realize that this father and son tragedy is being enacted in real life in many of our own homes. (Conference Report, April 1960, 67)
Exodus 20:6 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments
One purpose of scriptural commentary is to slow down the reader, to allow time for things to sink in, to digest an important principle. Verse 6 is worthy of a moment of contemplation. Tucked amidst the list of commandments is the reminder that God is a God of mercy. His mercy is demonstrated first in giving us commandments, second, in blessing us when we keep them, and third, in forgiving us when we break them. He is more capable of showing mercy than we can comprehend, but he wants two things from us, our love and obedience. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” was Jesus’ request of the Twelve (Jn. 14:15). God wants to bless us; He wants to show mercy. “O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God, ye [are they] whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings, ye that hear me” (D&C 41:1)
Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments… than we are apt to suppose. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 257)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Mercy is of the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The degree to which each of us is able to extend it becomes an expression of the reality of our discipleship under Him who is our Lord and Master. (Ensign, May 1990, pp. 68-69)
Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain
“Violating the third commandment has as much to do with the way we live and the way we are as it does with the way we speak. It is tied to our eternal perspective—the way we think and act upon sacred things.
“We cannot fully appreciate the seriousness of violating this commandment without understanding what it means for people to take the name of God upon themselves, and then for them to speak and act and pray in the name of the Lord.” (Robert L. Millet, “Honoring His Holy Name,” Ensign, Mar. 1994, 7)
Vaughn J. Featherstone
Profaning God’s name is a great offense to the Spirit, and to do so is Satan’s great ploy to mock our God. (Ensign, Nov. 1999, 13)
Gordon B. Hinckley
When I was a small boy in the first grade, I experienced what I thought was a rather tough day at school. I came home, walked in the house, threw my book on the kitchen table, and let forth an expletive that included the name of the Lord.
My mother was shocked. She told me quietly, but firmly, how wrong I was. She told me that I could not have words of that kind coming out of my mouth. She led me by the hand into the bathroom, where she took from the shelf a clean washcloth, put it under the faucet, and then generously coated it with soap. She said, “We’ll have to wash out your mouth.” She told me to open it, and I did so reluctantly. Then she rubbed the soapy washcloth around my tongue and teeth. I sputtered and fumed and felt like swearing again, but I didn’t. I rinsed and rinsed my mouth, but it was a long while before the soapy taste was gone. In fact, whenever I think of that experience, I can still taste the soap. The lesson was worthwhile. I think I can say that I have tried to avoid using the name of the Lord in vain since that day. I am grateful for that lesson. (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 46)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Those who resort to swearing and the use of filthy language only advertise the poverty of their vocabularies and a glaring paucity in their powers of expression. I plead with you, my dear friends, to hold sacred the name of our Eternal Father and of His Beloved Son, the Redeemer of the world. How can anyone who is a member of this Church, who has been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and who has partaken of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper, stoop to profane those sacred names? [page 6] How can anyone who regards himself or herself as a child of God stoop to the use of foul and filthy language concerning the body which is made in the image of God and which, as He has declared, is the temple of the spirit? (Ensign, June 1996, 5–6)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Be clean in language. There is so much of filthy, sleazy talk these days. I spoke to the young women about it. I speak to you also. It tells others that your vocabulary is so extremely limited that you cannot express yourself without reaching down into the gutter for words. Dirty talk is unbecoming any man who holds the priesthood, be he young or old…
That commandment, engraved by the finger of the Lord, is as binding upon us as it was upon those to whom it was originally given. The Lord has said in modern revelation, “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit” (D&C 63:64).
A filthy mind expresses itself in filthy and profane language. A clean mind expresses itself in language that is positive and uplifting and in deeds that bring happiness into the heart. (Ensign, May 1996, 48)
Howard W. Hunter
Swearing or cursing is usually the result of an effort of one who is inarticulate to impress others. Blasphemy is a disgusting habit which commands no respect. (Conference Report, April 1965, Second Day—Morning Meeting 56)
George Q. Cannon
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." (Exodus 20:7.) This was one of the commandments that the Lord gave to the children of Israel when He led them out of Egypt. All the people were required to observe it, and if they did not, the penalty was very severe. . . .
The Lord required not only the children of Israel to observe this commandment, but the stranger also who should be living in their midst. The penalty for breaking the commandments was . . . death. It is a terrible punishment, but then the crime was a great one. Suppose that every one were punished with death now who took the Lord's name in vain. A great many would have to die. Even among those who call themselves Latter-day Saints a great many would fall victims to this penalty.
If it was wrong in the days of Moses to take the name of the Lord in vain, is it not wrong now? If a man were stoned to death for blaspheming the name of the Lord at that time, what should be the penalty now? Moses did not punish that man until he had asked the Lord what he was to do with him. (Leviticus 24:10-17.) He was killed by a command of the Lord. This shows that the Lord wants all men to honor His holy name. (Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of President George Q. Cannon, selected, arranged, and edited by Jerreld L. Newquist [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987], 448)
Gordon B. Hinckley
So serious was violation of this law considered in ancient Israel that blasphemy of the name of the Lord was regarded as a capital crime. There is an interesting account in the book of Leviticus: (quotes Lev. 24:11–16).
While that most serious of penalties has long since ceased to be inflicted, the gravity of the sin has not changed. (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 45)
Exodus 20:8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy
Spencer W. Kimball
In Hebrew the term Sabbath means "rest." It contemplates quiet tranquility, peace of mind and spirit. It is a day to get rid of selfish interests and absorbing activities.
The Sabbath day is given throughout the generations of man for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between the Lord and his children forever. It is a day in which to worship and to express our gratitude and appreciation to the Lord. It is a day on which to surrender every worldly interest and to praise the Lord humbly, for humility is the beginning of exaltation. It is a day not for affliction and burden but for rest and righteous enjoyment. It is a day not for lavish banqueting, but a day of simple meals and spiritual feasting; not a day of abstinence from food, except fast day, but a day when maid and mistress might be relieved from the preparation. It is a day graciously given us by our Heavenly Father. It is a day when animals may be turned out to graze and rest; when the plow may be stored in the barn and other machinery cooled down; a day when employer and employee, master and servant may be free from plowing, digging, toiling. It is a day when the office may be locked and business postponed, and troubles forgotten; a day when man may be temporarily released from that first injunction, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground." (Genesis 3:19.) It is a day when bodies may rest, minds relax, and spirits grow. It is a day when songs may be sung, prayers offered, sermons preached, and testimonies borne, and when man may climb high, almost annihilating time, space, and distance between himself and his Creator.
The Sabbath is a day on which to take inventory—to analyze our weaknesses, to confess our sins to our associates and our Lord. It is a day on which to fast in "sackcloth and ashes." It is a day on which to read good books, a day to contemplate and ponder, a day to study lessons for priesthood and auxiliary organizations, a day to study the scriptures and to prepare sermons, a day to nap and rest and relax, a day to visit the sick, a day to preach the gospel, a day to proselyte, a day to visit quietly with the family and get acquainted with our children, a day for proper courting, a day to do good, a day to drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, a day to seek forgiveness of our sins, a day for the enrichment of our spirit and our soul, a day to restore us to our spiritual stature, a day to partake of the emblems of his sacrifice and atonement, a day to contemplate the glories of the gospel and of the eternal realms, a day to climb high on the upward path toward our Heavenly Father. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 216)
I was brought up under the blue laws of Connecticut, when Presbyterianism ruled throughout the state as the religion of that state; and I dared no more go out to play on a Sunday than I dared put my hand in the fire. It would have been considered an unpardonable sin. We could not attend a ball and dance; we did not dare attend a theatre, and from Saturday night, at sundown, to Monday morning, we must not laugh or smile, but we must study our catechism. This we had to do whether we were members of the Church or not. My father was not a member of any church. This early teaching had its effect upon me. (Journal of Discourses, 11:61)
Heber J. Grant
I am opposed to Sunday baseball, and have been so from my boyhood days. When a young man, I was passionately fond of the game. Today I am happy in contemplating the fact that, much as I loved to play it, I never played a game on Sunday. I am grateful to know that I also persuaded more than one young man from playing on Sundays. (Gospel Standards, compiled by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1981], 249)
Gordon B. Hinckley
On the first Sabbath in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young said, "We will not work on Sunday, for those who do will lose five times as much as they gain." I believe God will honor and bless and magnify and be quick to help those who try to keep His commandments. The commandment on the Sabbath Day is the longest of the Ten Commandments. The Lord was very specific about it, very detailed about it. I can't help but believe that the merchants would not be open on Sunday if we did not patronize their stores. Therefore, that responsibility rests upon our shoulders. I hope you will not shop on Sunday. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 560)
The Lord has planted within us a divinity; and that divine immortal spirit requires to be fed. Will earthly food answer for that purpose? No; it will only keep this body alive as long as the spirit stays with it, which gives us an opportunity of doing good. That divinity within us needs food from the Fountain from which it emanated. It is not of the earth, earthy, but is from heaven. Principles of eternal life, of God and godliness, will alone feed the immortal capacity of man and give true satisfaction. (Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 165)
L. Tom Perry
As we consider the pattern of the Sabbath and the sacrament in our own lives, there appear to be three things the Lord requires of us: first, to keep ourselves unspotted from the world; second, to go to the house of prayer and offer up our sacraments; and third, to rest from our labors. (www.lds.org/general-conference/2011/04/the-sabbath-and-the-sacrament?lang=eng)
Joseph F. Smith
My belief is that it is the duty of Latter-day Saints to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, just as the Lord has commanded us to do. Go to the house of prayer. Listen to instructions. Bear your testimony to the truth. Drink at the fountain of knowledge and of instruction, as it may be opened for us from those who are inspired to give us instruction. When we go home, get the family together. Let us sing a few songs. Let us read a chapter or two in the Bible, or in the Book of Mormon, or in the book of Doctrine and Covenants. Let us discuss the principles of the gospel which pertain to advancement in the school of divine knowledge, and in this way occupy one day in seven. I think it would be profitable for us to do this. (Gospel Doctrine, compiled by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], 242)
George Albert Smith
That seems such a little thing for us to do in return for the blessings that we enjoy. But to forget that it is the Lord's day, as some of us appear to do, is ungrateful. He has set apart one day in seven, not to make it a burden, but to bring joy into our lives and cause that our homes may be the gathering place of the family, that parents and children may assemble around the family hearth increasing our love for one another. And if we do what our Heavenly Father would have us do we will go to his holy house upon the Sabbath day and there partake of the sacrament in remembrance of the sacrifice that was made for us by the Redeemer of mankind. (The Teachings of George Albert Smith, edited by Robert McIntosh and Susan McIntosh [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 108)
Ezra Taft Benson
What fits the purpose of the Sabbath? Here are a few suggestions: Activities that contribute to greater spirituality; essential Church meetings in the house of prayer; acquisition of spiritual knowledge-reading the scriptures, Church history and biographies, and the inspired words of the Brethren; resting physically, getting acquainted with the family, relating scriptural stories to children, bearing testimonies, building family unity; visiting the sick and aged shut-ins; singing the songs of Zion and listening to inspired music; paying devotions to the Most High-personal and family prayer; fasting, administrations, father's blessings; preparing food with singleness of heart-simple meals prepared largely on Saturday. (God, Family, Country, p. 104)
Russell M. Nelson
I am intrigued by the words of Isaiah, who called the Sabbath “a delight.” (Isa. 58:13) Yet I wonder, is the Sabbath really a delight for you and for me?
I first found delight in the Sabbath many years ago when, as a busy surgeon, I knew that the Sabbath became a day for personal healing. By the end of each week, my hands were sore from repeatedly scrubbing them with soap, water, and a bristle brush. I also needed a breather from the burden of a demanding profession. Sunday provided much-needed relief.
What did the Savior mean when He said that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath”? I believe He wanted us to understand that the Sabbath was His gift to us, granting real respite from the rigors of daily life and an opportunity for spiritual and physical renewal. God gave us this special day, not for amusement or daily labor but for a rest from duty, with physical and spiritual relief.
In Hebrew, the word Sabbath means “rest.” The purpose of the Sabbath dates back to the Creation of the world, when after six days of labor the Lord rested from the work of creation. (Gen. 2:2-3) When He later revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses, God commanded that we “remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” Later, the Sabbath was observed as a reminder of the deliverance of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. (Deut 5:14-15) Perhaps most important, the Sabbath was given as a perpetual covenant, a constant reminder that the Lord may sanctify His people. (Ex. 31:13, 16)
In addition, we now partake of the sacrament on the Sabbath day in remembrance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. (D&C 59:12) Again, we covenant that we are willing to take upon us His holy name. (D&C 20:37, 77)
The Savior identified Himself as Lord of the Sabbath. (Matt. 12:8) It is His day! Repeatedly, He has asked us to keep the Sabbath or to hallow the Sabbath day. We are under covenant to do so. (www.lds.org/general-conference/2015/04/the-sabbath-is-a-delight?lang=eng)
Exodus 20:9 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work
For those who underestimate the value of good, hard work, we might look at this verse as a commandment. When God says “Six days shalt thou labor,” does that mean the same thing as “thou shalt labor six days”? The latter makes it sound like a commandment. Maybe that was not the Lord’s intent, but those who have worked for early retirement and spent the rest of their days doing as little as possible are certainly wasting away their days of probation.
Elder Ezra T. Benson
The time is now—I feel persuaded of it—for us, Elders of Israel, to work while the day lasts—to work while there is time and opportunity, while God is softening the hearts of the people. Now is the time for the Elders to visit the nations and tell them what they know concerning this great work of the last days. And when we do well for the kingdom of God, we do well for ourselves. When we do well for the people among the nations of the earth, we do well for ourselves, if we go and do as we are told; and that is to preach what we actually know and verily believe. (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 6: 262)
A work is given unto this people designed to benefit every human being that has lived or that lives upon the earth. It is not confined to the few millions that dwell upon the earth today, but it extends into the spirit world. I care not what we say or what we do, it will be to our own exaltation or to our own condemnation. The night will come when no man can work. But the day is given to us in which we labor. (Conference Report, April 1898, Second Day—Morning Session)
Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother
Ezra Taft Benson
To honor and respect our parents means that we have a high regard for them. We love and appreciate them and are concerned about their happiness and well-being. We treat them with courtesy and thoughtful consideration. We seek to understand their points of view. Certainly obedience to parents' righteous desires and wishes is a part of honoring.
Furthermore, our parents deserve our honor and respect for giving us life itself. Beyond this, they have almost always made countless sacrifices as they cared for and nurtured us through our infancy and childhood, provided us with the necessities of life, and nursed us through physical illnesses and the emotional stresses of growing up. In many instances, they provided us with the opportunity to receive an education, and, in a measure, they educated us. Much of what we know and do we learned from their example.
May we ever be grateful to them and show that gratitude.
Let us also learn to be forgiving of our parents, who, perhaps having made mistakes as they reared us, almost always did the best they knew how. May we ever forgive them as we would likewise wish to be forgiven by our own children for mistakes we make.
Even when parents become elderly, we ought to honor them by allowing them freedom of choice and the opportunity for independence as long as possible. Let us not take away from them choices that they can still make. Some parents are able to live and care for themselves well into their advancing years and would prefer to do so. Where they can, let them.
If they become less able to live independently, then family, Church, and community resources may be needed to help them. When the elderly become unable to care for themselves, even with supplemental aid, care can be provided in the home of a family member when possible. Church and community resources may also be needed in this situation. (Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1990], 79)
Sterling W. Sill
As I understand it, the observance of this commandment brings more benefit to the children than to the parents, for when we honor an ideal, our lives are uplifted by it. It has been said that "the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children," but that may also apply to their virtues; for, as the poet said—
When the high heart we magnify
And the sure vision celebrate
And worship greatness passing by,
Ourselves are great.
(Conference Report, April 1957, Third Day—Morning Meeting 107)
James E. Faust
[A] transcendent but often unheeded message which peals down from Sinai is "Honour thy father and thy mother" (Ex. 20:12). I have frequently walked by a rest home that provides excellent care. But it is heartrending to see so many parents and grandparents in that good care facility so forgotten, so bereft of dignity, so starved for love. To honor parents certainly means to take care of physical needs. But it means much, much more. It means to show love, kindness, thoughtfulness, and concern for them all of the days of their lives. It means to help them preserve their dignity and self-respect in their declining years. It means to honor their wishes and desires and their teachings both before and after they are dead. . . .
Besides being one of God's commandments, the kind, thoughtful consideration of parents is a matter of common decency and self-respect. On their part, parents need to live so as to be worthy of the respect of their children. (In the Strength of the Lord: The Life and Teachings of James E. Faust [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1999], 381)
Thomas S. Monson
There comes thundering to our ears the words from Mount Sinai: "Honour thy father and thy mother." (Exodus 20:12.) Oh, how our parents love us, how they pray for us! I know that parents are praying for our welfare every morning and every night. We must honor them. How do we do that? We can follow them and pattern our lives after theirs.
An example of honoring one's mother took place in a human drama in Salt Lake City. Ruth Fawson, mother of six, had just undergone life-threatening surgery. Her devoted husband and her three sons and three daughters were all at the hospital. The physicians and nurses explained to the family that they could return to their homes and that the staff was prepared to adequately care for Sister Fawson. The family expressed thanks to the hospital staff but indicated a desire for one of their number to be present with their mother, each taking a turn. One of her daughters, Lynne, expressed the feelings of all: "We wanted to be here when Mother awakened and stretched forth her hand, so that it would be our hands she would grasp; it would be our smiles she would see; it would be our words she would hear; it would be our love she would feel." (Live the Good Life [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988], 96)
Exodus 20:13 Thou shalt not kill
The original Hebrew meaning of this verse has reference to killing another human (The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. by W. Gunther Plaut [New York, The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], 554). It does not apply to sheep, goats, mice, rats, flies, mosquitoes, or plants. It does apply to teenagers and mother-in-laws.
The best commentary on this verse has come from the Lord himself in a revelation to Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord said:
…behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come.
And again, I say, thou shalt not kill; but he that killeth shall die (D&C 42:18-19).
For pre-meditated murder, there is no forgiveness (see commentary for D&C 42:18-19). The differentiation between 1st degree murder and 2nd degree murder has to do with premeditation. One’s intent matters. Manslaughter is a different crime and a different sin. This is interesting especially in light of the fact that Moses committed manslaughter in killing the Egyptian (Ex. 2:12). Murder was punishable by death, but manslaughter was punishable by banishment to a designated manslaughter city. Moses punishment, so to speak, was self banishment from Egypt.
He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
And if a man lie not in wait (no premeditation), but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.
But if a man come presumptuously (with intent to kill) upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die. (Ex. 21:12-14)
“We know that the Atonement is efficacious for all except those committing the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost (see Matt. 12:31). However, in our associations with each other on earth, violation of the sixth commandment represents the most heinous crime that can be perpetrated. The murderer, by terminating an individual’s earthly experience, sins grievously against the person he has killed. Those who murder steal the precious gift of mortal experience from another and set themselves in open opposition to God, the giver of life.
“Further, murderers place themselves in a position where it is impossible to ask forgiveness of the one sinned against or to make restitution—at least in this life. So grievous is the act that the Prophet Joseph Smith said murderers ‘cannot be forgiven, until they have paid the last farthing.’
“Further, many of the major moral issues of our day are related to the sixth commandment in one way or another when we take into account the postscript the Lord added to it in modern revelation: ‘Thou shalt not … kill, nor do anything like unto it’ (D&C 59:6; emphasis added). Today’s news headlines and broadcasts are full of issues ‘like unto it’: suicide, abortion, mercy killing, toxic pollution, knowing transmittal of AIDS, and more.” (Arthur R. Bassett, “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” Ensign, Aug. 1994, 28)
Spencer W. Kimball
Perhaps one reason murder is so heinous is that man cannot restore life. Man's mortal life is given him in which to repent and prepare himself for eternity, and should one of his fellowmen terminate his life and thus limit his progress by making his repentance impossible it is a ghastly deed, a tremendous responsibility for which the murderer may not be able to atone in his lifetime. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 188)
God said, "Thou shalt not kill;" at another time He said, "Thou shalt utterly destroy." This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. (History of the Church, 7 Vols. 5:135)
Spencer W. Kimball
Men unfortunately must take others' lives in war. Some of our conscientious young men have been disturbed and concerned as they have been compelled to kill. There are mitigating circumstances, but certainly the blame and responsibility rests heavily upon the heads of those who brought about the war making necessary the taking of life. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 418)
M. Russell Ballard
I feel that judgment for sin is not always as cut-and-dried as some of us seem to think. The Lord said, “Thou shalt not kill.” Does that mean that every person who kills will be condemned, no matter the circumstances? Civil law recognizes that there are gradations in this matter—from accidental manslaughter to self-defense to first-degree murder. I feel that the Lord also recognizes differences in intent and circumstances: Was the person who took his life mentally ill? Was he or she so deeply depressed as to be unbalanced or otherwise emotionally disturbed? Was the suicide a tragic, pitiful call for help that went unheeded too long or progressed faster than the victim intended? Did he or she somehow not understand the seriousness of the act? Was he or she suffering from a chemical imbalance that led to despair and a loss of self-control?
Obviously, we do not know the full circumstances surrounding every suicide. Only the Lord knows all the details, and he it is who will judge our actions here on earth.
When he does judge us, I feel he will take all things into consideration: our genetic and chemical makeup, our mental state, our intellectual capacity, the teachings we have received, the traditions of our fathers, our health, and so forth. (Ensign, Oct. 1987, 7-8)
Exodus 20:14 Thou shalt not commit adultery
Murder is bad because it involves the taking of life; adultery is bad because it tampers with the giving of life. Both the taking of life and giving of life belong to God and not man. He defines the bounds of our mortal probation; He has predetermined the manner in which children are to be born. Murder and adultery violate God’s plan for both. In the annals of time, consider how many murders have been fueled by adultery! They often go together. (2 Sam. 11:15)
“Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity.” (The Family: a Proclamation to the World) Adultery endangers both of these rights: 1) a child’s right to be born within the bonds of matrimony, and 2) a child’s right to be reared by parents who are faithfully married to each other.
With these principles in mind, we shall consider gradations of severity with respect to sexual sin. The worst is when the adultery violates the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, or a temple marriage. Next is when adultery violates a civil marriage. There is a difference because there are eternal consequences for the children of a temple marriage.
Fornication is sexual sin between unmarried individuals and is a lesser sin because no marriage covenants are broken, but the participants sin against their future spouses. As such, fornication is a sin against God, a sin against oneself, and a sin against the future spouse. Every repentant fornicator who seeks a temple marriage must confess their transgression to their future spouse. It is slightly less offensive to God when the fornicators marry. While they have still sinned against God, themselves, and their future spouses, at least the sin against their future spouse was reciprocal.
Jeffrey R. Holland
This distinctive and very important Latter-day Saint doctrine underscores why sexual sin is so serious. We declare that one who uses the God-given body of another without divine sanction abuses the very soul of that individual, abuses the central purpose and processes of life, “the very key” to life, as President Boyd K. Packer once called it. In exploiting the body of another—which means exploiting his or her soul—one desecrates the Atonement of Christ, which saved that soul and which makes possible the gift of eternal life. And when one mocks the Son of Righteousness, one steps into a realm of heat hotter and holier than the noonday sun. You cannot do so and not be burned.
Please, never say: “Who does it hurt? Why not a little freedom? I can transgress now and repent later.” Please don’t be so foolish and so cruel… Secondly, may I stress that human intimacy is reserved for a married couple because it is the ultimate symbol of total union, a totality and a union ordained and defined by God. From the Garden of Eden onward, marriage was intended to mean the complete merger of a man and a woman—their hearts, hopes, lives, love, family, future, everything. Adam said of Eve that she was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh, and that they were to be “one flesh” in their life together. This is a union of such completeness that we use the word seal to convey its eternal promise. The Prophet Joseph Smith once said we perhaps could render such a sacred bond as being “welded” one to another.
But such a total union, such an unyielding commitment between a man and a woman, can only come with the proximity and permanence afforded in a marriage covenant, with solemn promises and the pledge of all they possess—their very hearts and minds, all their days and all their dreams. (Ensign, Nov. 1998, 76)
Dallin H. Oaks
Outside the bonds of marriage, all uses of the procreative power are to one degree or another a sinful degrading and perversion of the most divine attribute of men and women. The Book of Mormon teaches that unchastity is “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost” (Alma 39:5). In our own day, the First Presidency of the Church has declared the doctrine of this Church “that sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder” (“Message of the First Presidency,” 6:176). Some who do not know the plan of salvation behave like promiscuous animals, but Latter-day Saints—especially those who are under sacred covenants—have no such latitude. We are solemnly responsible to God for the destruction or misuse of the creative powers he has placed within us. (Ensign, Nov. 1993, 74)
Harold B. Lee
One of the painful things that I have as a responsibility is to have a flood of recommendations for cancellations of sealings of those who have been married in the temple. It is frightening, brethren, and much of it stems from one of the greatest of all the sins next to murder, the sin of adultery, that is running rampant throughout the Church. Brethren, we must ourselves resolve anew that we are going to keep the law of chastity; and if we have made mistakes, let’s begin now to rectify these mistakes. Let’s walk towards the light; and for goodness sake, brethren, don’t prostitute the wonderful opportunity you have as men, as those who may link hands with the Creator in the procreation of human souls, by engaging in a kind of unlawful relationship that will only go down to disgrace and break the hearts of your wives and your children. (Ensign, Jan. 1974, 101)
Spencer W. Kimball
Those who seem to flout the institution of marriage, and who regard chastity before marriage with fidelity after as old-fashioned, seem determined to establish a new fashion on their own and impose it upon others. Can they not see the gross selfishness that will lead finally to deep loneliness? Can they not see that, pushed by pleasure, they will become more and more distant from joy? Can they not see that their kind of fulfillment will produce a hollowness and an emptiness from which no fleeting pleasure can finally rescue them? The law of the harvest has not been repealed. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 272)
Exodus 20:15 Thou shalt not steal
God told Adam to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow. Satan tells us to take someone else’s bread. That sure sounds easier. The natural man seeks something for nothing—stealing is just that. We should not take that which is not ours. Murder is the taking of life. Adultery is the taking of virtue. Stealing is the taking of property. When an honest person begins to steal, there is usually another problem.
“For most narcotic addicts, predatory crime (larceny, shoplifting, sneak thievery, burglary, embezzlement, robbery, etc.), is a necessary way of life. This was clearly recognized by the law enforcement officials… the close relationship between property crime and drug addiction in their communities…
“The New York University and the Chicago studies on drug addiction support the notion that drug addiction necessarily leads to predatory crime as a way of life. For example, Chein and Rosenfeld make the following comments based on their studies of juvenile addicts: ‘Drug use leads to a criminal way of life. The illegality of purchase and possession of opiates and similar drugs makes a drug user a delinquent ipso facto. The high cost of heroin, the drug generally used by juvenile users, also forces specific delinquency against property for cash returns. The average addicted youngster spends almost forty dollars a week on drugs, often as much as seventy dollars. He is too young and unskilled to be able to support his habit by his earnings. The connection between drug use and delinquency for profit has been established beyond any doubt.’ A Chicago study comes to a similar conclusion: ‘...Almost without exception addicts resort to theft to obtain money for the purchase of the drugs. The compulsion of the addiction itself coupled with the astronomically high cost of heroin leads the addict inescapably to crime. For the addict there is very simply no alternative.’” (http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/dacd/appendixa_9.htm)
One Branch President was saddened to learn that his clerk had been embezzling a small amount of money from the Church. He felt to say, “if you had just come to me asking for money, I would have given it to you. Then you would have had no sin!”
“When you are hungry don't steal. Come to me, and I will feed you.” (History of the Church, 6:59)
James E. Faust
Stealing is all too common throughout the world. For many, their reasoning seems to be, “What can I get away with?” or “It’s OK to do it as long as I don’t get caught!” Stealing takes many forms, including shoplifting; taking cars, stereos, CD players, video games, and other items that belong to someone else; stealing time, money, and merchandise from employers; stealing from the government by the misuse of the taxpayers’ money or making false claims on our income tax returns; or borrowing without any intention of repayment. No one has ever gained anything of value by theft. In the play Othello, Shakespeare has Iago teach a great truth:
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
’Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.
The stealing of anything is unworthy of a priesthood holder. (Ensign, Nov. 1996, 43)
Dallin H. Oaks
The white-collar cousin of stealing is fraud, which gets its gain by lying about an essential fact in a transaction.
Scheming promoters with glib tongues and ingratiating manners deceive their neighbors into investments the promoters know to be more speculative than they dare reveal.
Difficulties of proof make fraud a hard crime to enforce. But the inadequacies of the laws of man provide no license for transgression under the laws of God. Though their method of thievery may be immune from correction in this life, sophisticated thieves in white shirts and ties will ultimately be seen and punished for what they are. He who presides over that Eternal Tribunal knows our secret acts, and he is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12; D&C 33:1). (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 20)
Exodus 20:16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor
For centuries, this commandment has been truncated to “Don’t lie!” For now, let’s consider the entire phrase, “bear false witness against thy neighbor.” It is one thing to lie. It is another to lie about someone else. It is one thing to say, “I didn’t do it;” it is another to make the accusation, “He did it.” While it is wrong to lie about yourself, it is much worse to lie about another. To bear false witness against thy neighbor is to commit perjury in the court of public opinion. It is slanderous and damaging to another person’s reputation, and the gravity of all sins depends on how much they harm another (which is why murder is the worst).
Consider whether the following story is it about bearing false witness or about gossiping?
“A young woman I know felt saddened and frustrated because a friend had made unkind, untrue remarks about her. It distressed her that those who heard the false accusations would believe them. She wanted others to know the truth, and she wanted her friend to realize how much hurt her words had caused.” (Rex D. Pinegar, Ensign, Nov. 1991, 40)
Think how damaging it was for Joseph of Egypt to be falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife (Gen 39:20)! For him it meant 2 years in prison (Gen. 41:1). We conclude, therefore, that the worst form of this sin is to deceitfully charge another person.
Howard W. Hunter
Primarily this commandment has reference to false testimony in judicial proceedings, but it is extended to cover all statements which are false in fact. Any untruth which tends to injure another in his goods, person, or character is against the spirit and letter of this law. Suppression of the truth which results in the same injury is also a violation of this commandment. (Conference Report, April 1965, Second Day—Morning Meeting 57)
George F. Richards
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)
He (God) gave [this commandment] because of the subtle methods of the adversary in his effort to divide and tear asunder the love and the unity of the Lord's people! To bear false witness may not appear to be a very serious offense, but its results are far-reaching and cruel, hence, the use made of it by the instigator of evil. The Lord warns us against this evil practice. Bearing false witness, talebearing, slander, gossip, scandal, fault-finding, backbiting, and evil speaking are in the same category of evil practice and are some of the means employed by Satan to disunite us as a people and destroy brotherly love, kindness, and helpfulness toward one another… No one loves a character assassin. By the Spirit of God one is led to love his fellow men and to speak well of them, magnifying their virtues. (Conference Report, April 1947, First Day—Morning Meeting 24)
Next, we will consider bearing false witness to thy neighbor, or simply lying. Lying hides our misdeeds from others. In this context, it is very often associated with the other commandments. Murderers lie; adulterers lie; thieves lie; and the covetous lie. Think about it. Murder, adultery and stealing beget lying, but lying begets lying as well. Once the first lie is told, the die is cast and a second lie is frequently required to establish the first. Then, a third lie and so on until a web of lies has been spun, and the lie has taken on its own life. Like a cancer it grows out of control.
O, what a tangled web we weave;
When first we practice to deceive!
(Sir Walter Scott, Marmion)
He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, Aug. 19, 1785)
Any behavior that is inappropriate can prompt us to be dishonest about our disclosure. God’s way is quite the opposite. We are to confess our sins, not hide them. We are to be humble, not proud. We are to be truthful, not deceitful.
Lying is practiced to deceive… Lying in this sense is the concealing of all other crimes, the sheep's clothing upon the wolf's back, the Pharisee's prayer, the harlot's blush, the hypocrite's paint, and Judas's kiss; in a word, it is mankind's darling sin, and the Devil's distinguished characteristic. (Wellins Calcott, Thoughts Moral and Divine)
Hyrum M. Smith
Always speak the truth. We know that commandment, but there are some who apparently cannot keep it; who have grown accustomed to back-biting occasionally, speaking evil of one another, or accusing one another falsely. As Latter-day Saints, it seems to me that, of all persons in the world, we should be most free from that sin. By reason of what we have had to suffer because of the false witness that has been borne against us by our enemies, all the days of our lives—from the beginning until now have we suffered because our enemies have been guilty of the sin of bearing false witness against us—we should not indulge in the same crime, even towards our enemies, to say nothing of indulging in it, in relation to one another. (Conference Report, October 1906, Second Day—Morning Session 45)
Gordon B. Hinckley
I believe that honesty is still the best policy. What a destructive thing is a little dishonesty. It has become a cankering disease in our society. Every insurance adjustor can tell you of the soaring costs of dishonest claims. Cheating in the payment of taxes robs the treasury of millions and places undue burdens on those who pay. Employee theft, padded expense accounts, and similar things bring tremendous losses to business institutions. The institution may be able to stand the loss of money, but the individual cannot afford the loss of self-respect. ("This I Believe," BYU 1991-92 Devotional and Fireside Speeches, March 1, 1992, p. 79.)
A letter and an old ash tray came to the office of the Presiding Bishop the other day. The letter reads: “Dear Sir, I stole the enclosed ash tray from your hotel in 1965. After these many years, I want to apologize to you and ask for your forgiveness for my wrong doing. I have enclosed a check that attempts to reimburse you for the ash tray.”
The check was in the amount of $26.00, one dollar for each year he had kept the ash tray. I can imagine that during those twenty-six years, each time he tapped his cigarette on the rim of that tray he suffered a twinge of conscience. I do not know that the hotel ever missed the ash tray, but the man who took it missed his peace of mind for more than a quarter of a century and finally ended up paying far more for it than it was worth. Yes, my brethren and sisters, honesty is the best policy. (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 268-269)
Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet
Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Lu. 12:15)
The commandments are all related. It is the man who covets his neighbor’s goods that steals; it is the man who covets his neighbor’s wife that commits adultery; it is the man who covets his neighbor’s life that murders. Covetousness is a sin of desire, a sin of the heart that leads to more grievous sins.
“It may be that this commandment has even greater relevance in today’s materialistic world than it did in Moses’ day. In our modern society that seems to urge people to satisfy their every desire, obedience to the tenth commandment affords us spiritual and temporal protection from the effects of a host of other evils. For example, when we faithfully abstain from covetousness, we will not fall into the traps of adultery or theft, for we will be free of the unrighteous desires that precede those sins. Thus, the commandment “Thou shalt not covet” is intrinsically related to all of the other commandments.” (Brent L. Top, “Thou Shalt Not Covet,” Ensign, Dec. 1994, 22)
Gordon B. Hinckley
I wish to discuss a trap that can destroy any of us in our search for joy and happiness. It is that devious, sinister, evil influence that says, “What I have is not enough. I must have more.”
When the finger of the Lord wrote the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone, He gave as the tenth and final commandment: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” (Ex. 20:17.)
There have been many changes in this world since that time, but human nature has not changed. I have observed that there are many in our present generation who with careful design set out on a course to get rich while still young, to drive fancy automobiles, to wear the best of clothing, to have an apartment in the city and a house in the country—all of these, and more. This is the total end for which they live, and for some the means by which they get there is unimportant in terms of ethics and morality. They covet that which others have, and selfishness and even greed are all a part of their process of acquisitiveness.
Now, I know that everyone wants to succeed, and I wish that everyone might succeed. But we must be careful of how we measure success. One need only read the daily newspapers to know of case after case of those whose driving, selfish impulses have led to trouble and serious, abysmal failure. Some of those who once drove about in the fanciest of cars and owned the fanciest of homes are now languishing in prison. They are, without question, persons of tremendous capacity and ability. They have good minds, but their cleverness led to their downfall.
I think if the Lord were speaking today and giving us the last of the Ten Commandments, He might say, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his position in society, nor his car, nor his boat, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.” (“Thou Shalt Not Covet,” Ensign, Mar. 1990, 2)
Gordon B. Hinckley
“Thou shalt not covet.” Is not covetousness—that dishonest, cankering evil—the root of most of the world’s sorrows? For what a tawdry price men of avarice barter their lives!... Good persons, well-intentioned persons of great capacity, trade character for trinkets that then turn to wax before their eyes. Their dreams become only haunting nightmares. (Ensign, Oct. 1990, 5)
Exodus 20:18 all the people saw the thundering, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking
Secularists have seen value in the last six commandments but not so much in the first four. If every society would honor their parents and respect the lives and property of others, then that should be good enough. Atheists agree with this approach as well.
Latter-day Saints argue that the first four commandments are even more important than the rest. What good is moral behavior without a belief in God? The secularist wants everyone to play nice but doesn’t want to acknowledge an ultimate source of niceness. Can there be good in the world without a divine source of that good? The answer is no—no more can there be warmth on the earth without a sun in our solar system. Atheists think they can grow gardens and flowers without the light of the sun. It can’t be done.
Can we get rid of the first four commandments? “The difference comes down to a question of where morality originates: from God or from people.”
Well if that is the question, God left no question in the minds of the Israelites. He brought down lightning; he sent smoke; they heard his voice; and he declared, “I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 20:2) Therefore, the law comes from God. The good comes from God. The morality originates with God. Alma declared, “Whatsoever is good cometh from God” (Alma 5:40).
So God’s demonstration of power in thundering, lightning, and smoke serves a great purpose. These weren’t Moses’ rules. It leaves no question as to who is in charge. It leaves no question as to who is the source of morality. Today’s secular society has forgotten both.