I’ve been reading my scriptures lately. I had gotten out of the habit. So I was surprised by a theme that keeps coming up repeatedly — that the Lord has set the American continent as a promised and choice land. He promises to bless those who live here, but only while they remain righteous and keep the commandments. However, when they “ripen in iniquity,” He will wipe them off the land (I assume to make room for those who WILL live righteously). Is that scary to anyone else?
I’m worried because I can see all around me that as a people, we are ripening in iniquity. We are not living the way God has asked us to. How can we tell? Well, let’s do a little review — it may help you see what I mean. Then, hopefully as we are focusing on the commandments a little more, we can correct our courses so that we don’t need to worry anymore that we will be “wiped off the face of the land.”
I haven’t deeply focused on the Ten Commandments for years. Mostly it’s just something in the back of my mind, because I don’t have to remind myself daily not to kill someone. (My daily commute excluded!) But as I really began to review the commandments again, I realized how deep in meaning they truly are. They are found in Exodus 20:1-17 if you would like to read the full text, but I will just highlight the commandments here.
1.Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me
When we place anything ahead of the Lord in importance, we are serving another god. For example, if we put careers, money, or even travel ahead of keeping the commandments, we are creating a false god. We have so many things in our lives that are wonderful! We just need to make sure that God has the most important place in our hearts. We need to be sure we keep our promises to Him.
I can hear you thinking that there are many things we need to put as priorities in our lives. Having God in our hearts will make us better spouses, children, friends and neighbors — and keeping our promises to Him will bring blessings from heaven that will make it easier to be the kind of people we want to be.
2. Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Graven Image
A graven image is a statue. I know that the people of the Bible and ancient times often created statues of their gods and left them offerings. There are still religions today that have graven images. But in my own life, I see a graven image as any goal that keeps me away from God. This isn’t gospel, so don’t quote me on that! But if I have set my goal, whatever it is, ahead of keeping my promises to God, that is my modern day graven image.
3. Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord Thy God in Vain
Do we really understand what it means to take the name of the Lord in vain? When we use God’s name as a way of expressing our frustrations, His name is taken in vain. We need to be sure we are only using His name when we are talking about Him. Otherwise, we need to be using a different word. We have a lot of fun with this in my family. Growing up, the funniest one we found was “Oh My Peanut Butter Fudge!” With so many other words we can use, showing respect for our Heavenly Father should be easy. We may just need to correct a bad habit.
4. Remember the Sabbath Day, to Keep It Holy
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has specified that on Sunday we aren’t supposed to work or make anyone else work. Sadly, in this day, there are many people who have no choice but to work on Sunday because their jobs demands it. But we can still remember the Sabbath and keep it holy by remembering it is a special day — whether we are at home or at work.
I’ve had to work on Sunday before. But when I keep a prayer in my heart and remember that it is not just any day, it still can feel like the Sabbath. Likewise, when I don’t work, there have been times I forgot it was Sunday and didn’t give the day the weight it deserved. So it’s all about your mindset. We need to find a way to spend our Sabbath differently than other days, allowing ourselves time to do things that bring us and our families closer to God.
Aside from going to church, I like to do family history indexing on Sunday. We spend family time together, sometimes doing Guitar Hero battles. That bonds us. We also visit other family members. But exactly how you honor the Sabbath isn’t spelled out in stone. It is very much about following the spirit of the day and remembering the Lord. It’s also a wonderful time to show your gratitude to God by spending extra time in the scriptures, setting personal goals, and fostering family unity.
5. Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother: That Thy Days May Be Long Upon the Land
We joke about this one at my house. I tell my family that they will live longer when they listen to me. But in all seriousness, honoring your parents is a really easy commandment to follow when your parents are good examples. But even when they aren’t good examples, the Lord blesses us for respecting them. They gave us a wonderful gift — the gift of life. Even if you have never met your parents, you can be grateful to them for that.
As a mother, I know that all the instructions I give my child are for his good. Don’t run into the road, don’t stick that knife in the electrical outlet, don’t throw rocks at other people — that kind of thing. I have even read studies that show that family relationships across generations make your happier and help you live longer. Clearly, the Lord knows something we don’t.
6. Thou Shalt Not Kill
This one should be clear and doesn’t need any elaboration. However, I do want to point out that God is talking about people, and hunting is not part of this commandment when done for righteous purposes.
7. Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery
I have a friend whose father decided to have an affair, and left their family. The pain of his choices will echo through their family for years to come. My own grandfather chose to commit sexual sin, having affairs and even marrying another woman in another state while still married to my grandmother. The pain of his choices still affects our family many generations later.
Some people may think that living together before marriage or having premarital sex is not a big deal. But I have lived with the pain it causes and I can tell you it IS a big deal. Those who choose to break the commandments, and especially this one, have no idea what they are doing to their children. Your children are watching what you do. They are getting their example of how to live and how to follow the Savior’s example by watching you. And I know you never want to be in the position where you are someone your children are trying not to be like.
8. Thou Shalt Not Steal
Another one that is pretty straightforward — but I know the reason behind it. The Lord wants us to know the value of work. It’s one of the reasons the Church doesn’t approve of gambling. You get something for nothing when you gamble, and often lose more than you gain. But the lessons that come from work are something that grow both the soul and the mind. Plus, it makes you feel really good about yourself, increasing your confidence. But when we skip working for something and steal it instead, not only do we hurt the person we stole from, we lose that chance to increase our abilities and provide for ourselves.
9. Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Thy Neighbor
This commandment is all about honesty. We could even rephrase it to say, “Be Honest in all your dealings.” As I have watched the news, I really think many politicians in Washington DC could be reminded of this little commandment. Our political system seems deeply mired in contention and lies. They use them as weapons and are undermining any chance of finding common ground. Repent Washington, repent!
10. Thou Shalt Not Covet
To covet is to really want something someone else has, and it makes us willing to do anything necessary to get it. Coveting makes you forget all the good things you have; instead, all you can think about is how good someone else has it. Not only is breaking this commandment dangerous for us (because we will soon be breaking other commandments to get what we want), but it also removes gratitude from our hearts — and God always wants us to be grateful, because He can bless us hugely when we are. In fact, I think gratitude is one of the greatest things we can learn.
I also mentally add Matthew 22:36-40 to my personal list of commandments. I think you will see why.
36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
For me, following these “two great commandments” outlined in Matthew puts us into the mindset of the Savior. He loves us all, and He wants us to love each other. And as we love Him, we will want to be more like Him, which will make all the other commandments easier to follow.
Now I could go on and explain how our society has broken each of the commandments. But that would be a VERY long, deeply depressing article, and frankly I think we all already know all about it. Instead, I want you to think about yourself and ask yourself how you are doing in your personal quest to follow the Savior.
In loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and in seeking to follow His example, there is a richness that comes to your life that comes in no other way. You begin to see those around you in the way the Savior sees them. It becomes easier to stop judging every mistake, and instead embrace the divine potential both in them and in yourself.
Our Heavenly Father wants us to succeed. That is why He has given us instructions to follow. As we follow the commandments, we will step away from the cliff edge to misery, and into the safety of being on the Lord’s side. There is a beauty in the way the Lord works because instead of focusing on the negative, He is always positive. As we focus on ourselves as individuals, we will change the world, one person at a time. And that is the only way for us to reverse the trend of broken commandments.
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.