The Ten Commandments in Mormonism
On Mount Sinai, the Lord gave a law for Moses to convey to the house of Israel. Engraved on stone tablets, the Ten Commandments spelled out some fundamental principles by which God’s people should conduct their personal and spiritual lives as well as their dealings with one another. We have record of these principles in Exodus chapter 20.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormons) continue to abide by the Ten Commandments. They understand that these basic guidelines form a strong foundation for society as well as for one’s personal life. A candidate for baptism in the Mormon Church must declare in a private interview that he or she believes in and observes certain things, including the Ten Commandments.
1 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Beyond our merely abstaining from the worship of pagan (false) gods, the Lord forbids that we displace Him by loving other things or people more than Him and His commandments. Mormons strive to put God always first in their lives, keeping in check their desires regarding financial security, recreation, education, friendships, and even family relations. One example of this is the practice of Mormon males’ leaving on two-year missions to preach the gospel at the age of 19. Many postpone schooling and even sacrifice scholarships in order to serve the Lord first. Another example is the fact that many people who have become convinced to join the Mormon Church through the influence of the Holy Ghost do so despite being disowned by parents and cast out from their native societies. Again, such Mormons see the importance of putting God first; they recognize that even Jesus declared that His gospel causes division (Luke 12:51-53).
2 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them . . . .Idols come in many forms. The Egyptians and many other ancient societies fashioned statues and other pieces of art which they worshiped as deity. Some religions today have icons and other portrayals of historical figures, before which adherents light candles, kneel, and pray. Other religions include the practice of ancestor worship. Modern societies with virtually no religion also observe a kind of idolatry in the shape of materialism-the love of worldly goods and luxuries. Little room is left for the true Lord when people are so preoccupied with various idols.
3 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain. Faithful Mormons are strict in not using careless exclamations that are so very common in the world, such as, “Oh, my Lord!” and, “Oh, God!” The only reason this author chose to actually write out these exclamations-after a great deal of trepidation-was to ensure that all readers will understand exactly what is in question. Let it be known that such phrases are not an expression of faith, but are a display of great disrespect for God. This commandment has a second meaning. By using the name of God or the Savior, we are invoking their power. To do so in meaningless expression is to use their names uselessly, or in vain.
4 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Please refer to this website’s detailed article on the Sabbath.
5 Honour thy father and thy mother . . . .Family relationships are continually emphasized in the Mormon Church (see our article on families). Even when a non-Mormon parent has disowned a child for joining the Church, the child is encouraged to do everything possible to maintain positive and respectful relations with the parent, show a good example and, with a spirit of gratitude, remember all the good things that the parent taught, even if in the end that parent does not embrace what Mormons believe to be the fulness of the gospel. Furthermore, Mormons show respect and consideration not just for their immediate parents but also for grandparents and more distant ancestors. They trace their genealogy (family trees), learning all they can about their forebears and even doing special work for them by proxy in Mormon temples.
6 Thou shalt not kill. Mormons do not interpret this commandment to mean that eating meat is forbidden; rather, they believe that animals are given by God for the use of man, but are to be used wisely and sparingly. As far as killing other humans, whom Mormons believe are nothing less than brothers and sisters under God, the law is strict with but few exceptions: capital punishment, warfare against an enemy which threatens our liberty or families, and the like.
7 Thou shalt not commit adultery. Please refer to this website’s detailed article on chastity.
8 Thou shalt not steal. Mormons understand that stealing may include such dishonest practices as purchasing pirated music and movies, riding on a bus without a ticket, not working hard for one’s wages, lying on an income tax return, and others. Mormons try to rise above the worldly habit of justifying little sins, and cutting corners in keeping the commandments. (On the other hand, they strive to keep a healthy and wise balance by not obeying the “letter of the law” so fanatically or sanctimoniously that they miss out on the “spirit of the law.”)
9 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Besides avoiding the fabrication of stories in an effort to get others in trouble or to conceal our own faults, members of the Mormon Church also are taught to avoid gossip and backbiting, which can be very destructive to the speaker, the hearer, and the victim. Even if a person has truly done something wrong, there are times when no comment is needed and other times when the act should be reported to the proper authority-but still not to the neighborhood. The world finds great pleasure in “dirty laundry,” and the news and popular television programs are driven by it. Mormons are taught to be very cautious about engaging in such things.
10 Thou shalt not covet . . . .Jealousy is fueled by pride, which is an attitude where people believe that they are more deserving of possessing something owned by another. Envy and pride lead to so much strife, neglect, and abuse between people. They lead to self-justification, thievery, adultery, murder . . . in all, a complete abandonment of God’s commandments, because pride eventually puts us at odds even with Him. The Book of Mormon is very powerful in describing two distinct nations that were obliterated because of pride, and this after they had enjoyed so many blessings from the Lord because of earlier obedience to the gospel of Christ.
The Ten Commandments are a wonderful means to individual and societal happiness. Mormons stand firm in declaring that the Lord has never rescinded them. Observance of these basic laws is actually more imperative in these, the latter days, than ever before.