23 March 2014

The Lord's Name in Vain


"There is no peace in vulgarity."1

MY MOM DOESN’T LIKE IT EITHER
It was a sunny day in the late 1990's. I was probably about seventeen or eighteen years old. I was nervous about going over to Charlie Bennett's backyard to skateboard on his half pipe. I wasn’t afraid of getting hurt on my skateboard or falling off of his large skateboard ramp but I was more afraid that I wouldn’t be accepted as among those who were labeled as cool.

You see, in my hometown of Manteca, California, Charlie Bennett was not just a regular old Joe. There wasn't a person from both of my hometown high schools that didn't know him. Charlie was the greatest and most well known skateboarder in our area at that time. He would awe passersby's with his talent and gained a lot of attention everywhere he went. You can imagine me wanting to make a great impression on him and his friends. 

It was my turn to go down the ramp. I felt relatively competent enough to try the ramp since I myself was not a bad skater myself. I remember saying a cuss word and to my great surprise Charlie told me to stop. I was a little baffled at his reaction because I thought since he was "cool" and "popular" that he would also have a foul mouth. For some strange reason I remember asking why he wanted me to stop and he replied, “Would your mom like it if she knew you cussed?” I said, “No,” and he replied, “Well my mom doesn’t like it either.” I was really taken back at that and remembering feeling embarrassed. After that I never tried to swear and cuss to fit in ever again. 

A DEEP RESPECT
Years ago, me and my father went to church on a weekday to play basketball which was allowed back then. As we entered the church we saw a big piece of poster paper taped to one of the doors. The poster read, "Want to come learn about God? Come this Wednesday @ 7pm." My dad looked at it for a second and cringed with a face of disgust. Looking up he said, "this is inappropriate," and ripped the poster down and into the garbage. I never forgot that moment and to this day it still remains fresh in my memory.

Though not all would agree with what my father had done, I had learned of his deep respect and love for this Father in heaven. To my dad, the use of His name should be Holy and Sacred and not to be used flippantly or in a way that would be used as common everyday language. President Joseph Fielding Smith taught that we should limit His name by using it sparingly and with reverence. "Even in some of the sacred hymns that are universally used, the frequent and familiar use of the name of the Lord enters, and spoils their use so far as we are concerned. A few hymns of this nature, with noble, uplifting thoughts, have found their way into the musical exercises of the Latter-day Saints." (JFS Improvement era 1941, No.9)

In the words of the prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, "The taking of the Lord’s name in vain is a most serious matter." https://www.lds.org/youth/article/take-not-the-name-of-god-in-vain?lang=eng

PLEASE!, PLEASE!
Spencer W. Kimball had many health problems as both an Apostle and as a Prophet. President Kimball suffered from boils, open heart surgery and throat cancer.  One day, the prophet Spencer W. Kimball was in the hospital about to receive surgery. When he heard someone take the Lords name in vain. The following story is quoted from, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, “He was wheeled from the operating room to the intensive care room. The attendant who pushed the gurney which carried him stumbled and let out an oath using the name of the Lord. President Kimball, who was barely conscious, said weakly, "Please! Please! That is my Lord whose names you revile." There was a deathly silence; then the young man whispered with a subdued voice, "I am sorry." (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 198)

I GOT SO ANGRY THAT I SWORE 
It is often difficult to know the true character of a person until that person is under some kind of stress. If you would like to know the true character of a person it would be wise to see him angry, in pain or under some kind of a stressful situation. Non-fiction writer, Robert McKee understood this principle as such, “True character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure - the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character's essential nature.” (Robert McKee, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting)

In essence, what a person does or says under pressure is revealing of his or her true character.  Such was the case of Elder A. Theodore Tuttle. He told the following story in a 1965 General Conference:

"When I was growing up in our town my friend and I used to hear lots of the boys swearing and taking the name of the Lord in vain. This offended us. Our parents had taught us not to swear. We knew that we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. One day as we were talking about this, my friend and I promised each other—we made a covenant—that we would never take the name of the Lord in vain. During the intervening years, each of us kept the vow which we had made.

A few years later, … I moved away from our home town to a farm in another valley. It was there that I met head on with trouble. We were hauling hay one hot summer day and had taken a break for lunch. After we unhitched the horses, my father sent me down to the well with a gallon jug to bring back some cool water. I mounted one of our work horses and loped down to the well. After filling the jug I put my finger through the handle, threw the jug over the back of the horse, and tried to jump up on its back. But before I could get completely on the horse, he wheeled around and started off on a trot back to the hayrack, jogging me on his back. There I was, half on and half off, bouncing along on the bony withers of that horse. My finger was so twisted it was about to break with the weight of that jug of water. I tried to jerk on the reins to stop the horse with the other hand, but he would not stop.

… With everything going all wrong I got so angry that I swore at the horse and took the name of the Lord in vain. At the very moment I did this, I realized what I had done. A great wave of guilt swept over me because I had broken my covenant with my friend. But worse, I knew that I had offended the Lord, and I had failed to be true to the standard I knew. As I finally managed to fall off the horse, I kneeled immediately—right there in the stubble of the field—and asked the Lord to forgive me. I vowed again, this time with repentant fervor, that I would never again break the pledge which my friend and I had made about swearing. (In Conference Report, Oct. 1965, pp. 30–31; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1965, p. 1117.)

THE LORD'S PRAYER
The Lords Prayer is crucial to our understanding the relationship a disciple should have between our God and us. When Jesus' disciples asked him how to pray he simply addressed his Father in a sacred and familial way: "Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name..." (Luke 11:2; Matthew 6:9) Why did he choose at this time to use a familial terminology while in prayer? Couldn’t he have simply said, “Our God, which art in Heaven?” Jesus is teaching us something very special to his followers and that is God is literally our Father in Heaven. The most next important thing to consider is the sacredness of His name, “Hallowed be thy name.” The noun Hallow is Old English meaning holy or sacred therefore we know that the name of God is holy and sacred and should be exercised righteously and with prudence. “Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips,” says a modern revelation to the prophet Joseph Smith. (D&C 63:61)

FATHER TO SON RELATIONSHIP
The term, "Father," is a verb and derives from its noun, "Fathering," meaning the involvement of a one on one relationship, father to son in which the father is heavily involved with the rearing of his child. The role of a father is more than a title or term, rather it action and encompasses the rearing and nurturing of his son or daughter. The scriptures teach us that, “this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true and living God whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) In the King Follet discourse the prophet Joseph Smith stated, “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for a certainty the character of God, and to know that we may converse with Him as one man converses with another, and that He was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all…” 

To truly know the Father is to have a relationship with Him  President Hugh B. Brown once told a story a fascinating story that may help us understand  the difference between someone who does and someone who does not have a relationship with Deity. He says,

Sometime ago a great actor in the city of New York gave a wonderful performance in a large theatre, at the close of which there were rounds of applause. He was called back again and again. Finally someone called to him, “Would you do for us the Twenty-third Psalm?”

“Why, yes. I know the Twenty-third Psalm.”

He recited it as an actor would, perfectly, with nothing left to be desired as far as a performance was concerned. When he was finished, again there was thunderous applause. Then the actor came to the front of the stage and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, there is an old man sitting here on the front row whom I happen to know. I am going to ask him without any notice if he will come and repeat the Twenty-third Psalm.”

The elderly gentleman, of course, was frightened. Trembling, he came to the stage. Fearfully he looked out over the vast audience. Then, as though he were at home only with one, he closed his eyes against the audience, bowed his head, and talked to God, and said:

“The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

Then changing to address the Savior directly and intimately:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” [Ps. 23:1–6]

When the old man finished, there was no applause, but there was not a dry eye in that house. The actor came to the front of the stage. He, too, was wiping his eyes. And he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I know the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, but this man knows the Shepherd.” (http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1980/10/know-the-shepherd?lang=eng&query=not+applause)


THE MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD

The priesthood is often spoken of as the power and authority of Jesus Christ delegated to man for the salvation of mankind. It was initially termed, "... the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood." (D&C 107:3-4)

I often ponder on this scripture and its significance to us as Latter-day Saints. The use of the Lords name is so sacred that priesthood terminology was literally changed to keep His name pure and clean in our hearts and on our lips. The vain repetition of His name is an unholy and impure practice regardless if you are a disciple or not. During Jesus’ ministry he told his disciples not to use vain repetitions, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7) 

SACRED ORDINANCES
The Sacred ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ all address God as our Father. There is not a single ordinance in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that solely uses the name of God. Is this by chance or coincidence or is there something that we need to learn here?

It is of my personal opinion that the Lord is directing His saints to understand and realize the relationship of a Father and a son. To explain my point let us begin with the very first priesthood blessing one receives after they have been born into this world, that is the naming and blessing of children. If we look at the direction of the First Presidency we understand that the blessing being performed must begin by addressing not God but, "Heavenly Father." (http://www.lds.org/manual/family-guidebook/priesthood-ordinances-and-blessings?lang=eng)

This is also true when we speak about the ordinance of baptism. The direction is that we state the person's full name and say, "Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen" (D&C 20:73). This is also true of the sacrament. The verbiage that has been directed by revelation is as follows: "O, God the Eternal Father." (Moroni 4:3; 5:2, D&C 20:77,79)

This is also true when priesthood brethren are asked to consecrate olive oil for the purpose of healing the sick and afflicted or for the dedication of graves. A Father is what and who God is and if we are to address Him we should muster up within us the deepest respect, love and care for Him. We must become true disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ and, “hold in the utmost sacredness and reverence all things that are holy. The people of the world have not been trained as we have been in such matters, notwithstanding there are many honest, devout, and refined people in the world. But we have the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the revelations of the Lord, and he has solemnly taught us in our own day our duty in relation to all such things.” ((JFS Improvement era 1941, No.9)

PUNISHMENTS
Those in violation of the third commandment are punished according to the scriptures, "If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you...." (D&C 95:12) 

The breaking of this and all other of His holy commandments cuts us off from His love. Just as Adam and Eve were literally cut off from the presence of the Lord after transgressing His commandment so to we in like manner are cut off from His Spirit through our disobedience. 

This of course does not mean that our Heavenly Father does not love us, that would be contradictory to His character, mission and purpose. If Father ceased to love us then He would cease to be God, "... for God is love." (1 John 4:8) Since God does not cease to be God and He loves us with a perfect love then  why cannot we feel His love when we are disobedient to His commandments? 

Our Father in Heaven cannot force us to feel of His unconditional love. We must accept His love through obedience to His laws and ordinances of His gospel. As we accept and become, "partakers of the divine nature," (2 Peter 1:4) we in reality partake of the fruits of the Spirit which the greatest among the fruits is love. We can find this doctrine in both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. Paul's epistle to the Galatians teaches us that, "the fruit of the Spirit is love..." (Galatians 5:22) 

It is not that our Father in Heaven does not love us because His love for His children are perfect and eternal. GOD IS LOVE. Because we know that our Father in Heaven loves us perfectly, His love is ever present. It is you and I who make the decisions to close the door on His love. Take for example the illustration of the Sun. When the sun is at it's high noon peak it's brightness and glory is shed forth to all who desire to claim it. Just because someone decides to stay in doors and away from the sun does not alter the fact that the sun is still there shining it's brilliancy to all mankind. 

The scriptures teach us that those who do not keep all of the Lord's commandments are lost and  as Oliver Cowdery once said they are as those, "groping as the blind for the wall." (JSH) In the Doctrine and Covenants we read, "If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness." (D&C 95:12)

The Lord's commandment to not take His name in vain is not a suggestion. As the prophet Thomas S. Monson once stated in the October 2011 General Conference  "Although the world has changed, the laws of God remain constant. They have not changed; they will not change. The Ten Commandments are just that—commandments. They are not suggestions. They are every bit as requisite today as they were when God gave them to the children of Israel."

Most people only memorize the first sentence of this particular commandment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain..." but one thing is yet lacking from this oft quoted statement and that is the rest of the sentence, "...for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." (Exodus 20:7)

As Thomas S. Monson has stated previously, the command to not take the Lord's name in vain applies to us today. A modern revelation from the Lord given to the prophet Joseph Smith on August 1, 1831 says, "Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?"

Doctrine and Covenants 63 gives us a description of what happens to those who use His name in vain and direction on how to use his name:

"... For I, the Lord, am not to be mocked in the last days. Behold, I am from above, and my power lieth beneath. I am over all, and in all, and through all, and search all things, and the day cometh that all things shall be subject unto me. Behold, I am Alpha and Omega, even Jesus Christ. Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips— For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority. Wherefore, let the church repent of their sins, and I, the Lord, will own them; otherwise they shall be cut off. - D&C 63:58-63

Here we read the Lord's caution to "Beware." This is a warning that the Lord gives to us. In fact, just three verses prior to this statement the Lord says, "For this is a day of warning..." (vs 58) 

In an 1859 General Conference Apostle Orson Pratt stated that a persons faith in Jesus Christ is in vain who break the Commandments of God and refuse to repent, "Have you taken the name of God in vain? What saith the law of God? " Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. " Are there not many people in this city who have used thatname in vain? Are there not many persons present this morning who have blasphemed His name? If there are, you are the persons I mean: you are the individuals who have need of repentance. You are the persons that must reform from this sin, or else your faith that Jesus is the Christ will do you no good." (The Ancient Gospel -- Adam's Transgression, and Man's Redemption from Its Penalty, etc)

We can know of a surety that those who use His name in vain do not have a current and faithful relationship with Him. It is contrary to the Gospel of God to love Him while at the same time  being guilty of this broken commandment. Brigham Young asked in an 1868 General Conference a rhetorical question asking the saints, "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and take His name in vain, curse and swear? No, never! If the love of God was really in the hearts of all who call themselves Latter-day Saints, there would be no more swearing..."

THE RIGHTEOUS USE OF THE LORDS NAME
The Lords direction on how to use His name is found in the Doctrine and Covenants section 63. Here we find a detailed instruction to keep us safe and guiltless when we use His name. The revelation states to his disciples, "Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation." - D&C 63:63

The key to using the Lords name then is having the Spirit with you which is obtained through prayer. According to this scripture, without the constraint of the Spirit we should keep His name silent.


HOLY ENVY 
Swedish Theologian Krister Stendahl coining the term, "Holy Envy" meant, "that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krister_Stendahl) 

I must say that I have Holy Envy for devout Jews who honor their God by never pronouncing their name. When they read their scriptures and come across God's name they replace it with another. The reading of God's name in Hebrew is pronounced YOD HEY VOB HEY or YWAH. This word is sacred to the Jews and is never pronounced. Instead they use the name Adoni meaning, "Lord."

The writers of the Qumran Scrolls were extreme in the way they handled the name of their God. If they made a mistake in translation or simply misplaced the name of God in their writings they would never cross it out but put small dots around the word which signified a mistake. Crossing out the name of God was an unholy and impure practice in their writings. 

In the religion of Islam, devout Muslims honor and revere their prophet Muhammad and never speak his name without afterwards saying, "Peace be upon him." This shows respect and reverence to their prophet. When Muslims use his name in literature they afterwards use the shorthand, "PBUH" (Peace be upon him)

Those who want to dishonor the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith do so through the cunning of diminutive grammar such as "Joe Smith." A child who calls their mother or father by their first name shows irreverence and disrespect. Likewise we should not call our Father in Heaven by His name but to use it only when it is requisite to do so. 

THE LIFE OF JESUS CHRIST
I hope to be understood and not misunderstood. We as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are told when to use the Lords name and when not to use the Lords name. During Jesus' ministry he taught by using God's name often but never was it irrespectful or in vain. We can learn something pertaining to the life and teaching of the Savior about using profanity. Gospel theologian and philosopher Truman Grant Madsen once said, Many have thought of Jesus as one who came into the world as it were in a cosmic diving suit who was not exposed to the buffetings of the real world, who walked through life in a white robe, never was tired, never wearied, never pushed or pulled in different directions. But our scriptures teach us otherwise."

In the Book of Mormon we read that Jesus, "shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people." (Mosiah 3:7)

Within all of these trials and tribulations did the Savior of mankind ever use profanity? Never once! Mormon Prophet David O. McKay once said, “A person's reaction to his appetites and impulses when they are aroused gives the measure of that person's character.”  (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, (2011), 102–11) Under Jesus’ extremity of the lack of food we find his true character. The defining moment of a man’s character is determined upon the extremity that he finds himself in. “It might well be stated as a rule of human nature that when a man reaches his greatest extremity, a moment of extreme danger, pain, emotion, or critical need, a point in life which is marked by imminent destruction or death, the true nature of his soul becomes evident from statements he makes at that crucial time. Why? Because a man’s words mirror his innermost soul. His speech betrays what his character is really like—the quality of his concerns, his compassion, his love—the whole focus or thrust of his life, whether noble or mean, depraved or exalted. At his greatest extremity the very depths of his soul are bared for all to view; the intensity of the moment calls forth comments that mirror his inner self. A glorious example of this rule is the life of Jesus of Nazareth. His last seven recorded utterances permit all the world to see and know the true quality of his character and the divine nature of his soul.” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, (1979), 178–87)

1. M. Russell Ballard (The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom) https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2002/04/the-peaceable-things-of-the-kingdom?lang=eng