Taking the Lord’s name in vain

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One of the ten commandments (Exodus 20) is “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Often, this commandment is used to support the admonition to avoid profanity.

For example, Dallin H. Oaks said the following in the April 1986 conference:

>This scripture [using D&C 63:61-62 to expound on Ex. 20] shows that we take the name of the Lord in vain when we use his name without authority. This obviously occurs when the sacred names of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, are used in what is called profanity: in hateful cursings, in angry denunciations, or as marks of punctuation in common discourse.

Last year, President Hinckley said the following in the April conference:

>To each of you I say, be clean in your language. There is so much of filthy, sleazy talk these days. Failure to express yourself in language that is clean marks you as one whose vocabulary is extremely limited. When Jehovah wrote on the tablets of stone, He said to the children of Israel, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThou 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.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

As I was pondering this last night, I was thinking that if taking the Lord’s name in vain means to speak profanity than why isn’t the commandment: Thou shalt not say the name of the Lord thy God in vain?

Maybe taking the Lord’s name means something deeper than just speaking it.

In a March 1994 Ensign article, Robert L. Millet, an ancient scripture professor at BYU, stated that the word “take” is a translation of the Hebrew word Nasah, which can mean: to lift or lift up, raise, bear or carry (as we carry a burden), and take or carry away (unjustly).

Thus we see that it is more than simply using it without meaning. In fact, Millet goes on to list 3 ways we can take the name of the Lord in vain. Unsurprisingly, the first on the list is related to profanity.

1. His children take his name in vain through profanity and vulgarity.
2. His children take his name in vain through the breaking of oaths and covenants.
3. His children take his name in vain through being flippant, sacrilegious, and irreverent.

One need only read Mosiah 5 and the sacrament prayers for just 2 examples of covenants we make involving our taking upon us the name of Christ. When we don’t do our part ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù such as keeping the commandments and always remembering him in relation to the sacramental covenant ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù then that is one way we end up taking his name in vain.

Likewise, using Millet’s definition above, it is also interesting to understand that taking Jesus’s name upon us isn’t just about being faithful. It’s also about raising his name up,

5 thoughts on “Taking the Lord’s name in vain

  1. I’m sorry, I’m just a little confused by what you wrote:

    …if taking the Lord’s name in vain means to speak profanity…

    But it doesn’t mean just that, right? Which is why Elder Oaks said it also means more. And even though some profanity doesn’t involve taking his name in vain, some does.

    why isn’t the commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain?

    I’m pretty sure that is the commandment.

    Honestly, I’m not trying to be annoying; I’m just confused.

  2. But it doesn’t mean just that, right?

    Right. Which is the point of the post. Despite the fact it means much more, that’s often the only part of it we hear.

    I’m pretty sure that is the commandment.

    That should say “say” instead of “take”. It’s fixed now.

  3. Its not even a “correct one”. The original form, in Hebrew is:

    Nasa’ Shem Yehovah ‘Elohiym Shav’

    Don’t take up or accept the name of God with falsehood or emptiness.

    There are two interpretations I have seen of this version, one is based on an near identical line in Psalm 24:4, which differs only in a few words, and speaks to calling oneself a believer, and giving false faith, while not actually living as one. Which, would basically cover most Christians, since a) the commandments (there are at least 5 versions, if you read an old enough Bible to not have this fact glossed over) it comes from are the “first set” given prior to their original breaking (the set given after doesn’t include this, but does include following a bunch of Jewish holidays), and b) its now believed that mere belief is sufficient for salvation, which means on can say, do, claim and profess anything, and get saved, as long as they actually “believe” in Jesus. This is hardly the intent of the commandment… But, then.. How many of them do we follow in law, literally, as written, to today anyway?

    The second interpretation I have seen is a more complex analysis of just what using gods name entails, and when and how you are and are not supposed to use it. The two cases where it is forbidden are 1) For the purpose of begging god for something selfish, and 2) demanding/requesting/suggesting to god that he do something to harm another. There are certain idiots in the US, all of them among so called “Biblical Literalists”, claiming to know the “one true path”, and insisting that only crazies like themselves are actually Christians, who use some variation of what one calls “Imprecatory prayer”. Prayer with the specific intent of demanding of god that he do something to certain people, including in the case of the man that brought it to my attention, god’s killing of Obama via “act of god”, which very clearly falls under this interpretation. Its some idiot trying to tell his god what god should be doing for them.

    The “interpretation” that implies 1 or 2 from your list didn’t really show up until the a decade after the Protestant Revolution, when certain groups in that moment decided that they didn’t like the “language” of certain people, or the tendency of some people to even question the validity of their definition of what god was, so starts shoving every case of irreverence, imagined sacrilege and common word that made them vaguely uncomfortable or seemed uncooth to them, into the same pile, and insisted that it all fell under that old commandment (one that, ironically, isn’t even included in the “final” set of commandments that Moses supposedly gave his people, after the first set (or was it 4? its a damn muddle in those passages), got destroyed.

    In any case, the one you here the most often, literally, has jack shit to do with the commandment at all! Well, except in the specific case where the name of god, which means the literal name, not just god, is used to attempt to curse someone, or conjure up miracles for personal gain (the two most common, and accepted uses for his name in modern times).

    Its probably a good thing he likely doesn’t exist. I am pretty sure, if he does, he is a whole hell of a lot more pissed off by the blasphemy of the millions of Christians in the world than the tens of thousands of atheists, like me, who just say, “We are doing the best we can manage and trying to be nice, but.. we see no evidence, and if there was any, how do you find it among the billion+ idiocies of these people that claim to be following god?” Just saying..

  4. Oh, and.. just for a good laugh, the word “Imprecatory” comes from “to impricate”, which is defined as, “to invoke evil”. Talk about missing the frakking point…

  5. To clarify, it wasn’t my list; it was Robert Millet’s list.

    Thanks for your enlightening comment. :)

    For the purpose of begging god for something selfish

    That sure brings a whole new perspective to prayer.

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