Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Perspective On Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

The Deuteronomy Scroll
A copy of the Ten Commandments as recorded in Deuteronomy 5
The Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit - Philadelphia, PA - 2012

Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority
When I visited the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit in Philadelphia I was very moved by the display of The Deuteronomy Scroll, which recites the Ten Commandments.
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold guiltless the one who takes his name in vain. The Deuteronomy Scroll*
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. KJV Deuteronomy 5:12
Recently I was using email to coordinate care of a mutual a patient with a Jewish friend and colleague.  After I had recommended some laboratory testing and treatments, he got back to me as follows:
"Copy and G-d bless!"
I was amazed. These days respect for the name of God has all but disappeared in the working language of many people--even the most religious. Devout Jews, have always excelled in showing God not only respect, but also reverence. I was so refreshed to see reverence for God in an ordinary email. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we also take the directive in the 3rd commandment very seriously. I know this reflects well on us, just like it reflects well on our Jewish friends. 

Up until recently, I've viewed the 3rd commandment from the narrow perspective of the profane use of the name of deity.  This all changed for me while I was studying the process of taking on the name of Christ. I searched the scriptures using two search words: "take" and "name". At first blush, the results seemed to be contaminated with references to taking the name of the Lord in vain.  I passed over the contaminated search results and focused on on the subject at hand: taking on the name of Christ
And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day. 3 Nephi 27:6 (emphasis mine)
There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives. Mosiah 5:8 (emphasis mine)

The more passages I reviewed, the more impressed I was was how frequently scriptures that tell us to take on the name of Christ also emphasize the need to endure to the end (see also 2 Nephi 31:13-15; Moroni 6:3; D&C 18:21-24; D&C 20:37). It then occurred to me that my search may not have been 'contaminated' at all. 

To take on the name of Christ, yet fail to endure to the end, is to take the Lord's name in vain. Such a person supplants Christ's name with another name. And, no matter what that name may be, it will not save them. It is the vainest of hopes to somehow believe it will. In fact, it may represent the most egregious example of taking the name of the Lord in vain

Taking the name of Christ is the most important thing we ever do as a believer since it is the first step in accessing the atonement (Acts 4:10-12; Galatians 3:27; Mosiah 5:10). It becomes the charge of all those blessed with a witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ and the restoration of his Church to not only take his name, but to identify with his name, and then reverence it through the lives we live--to the end. 

* Abegg, Flint & Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible (1999, Harper: San Francisco), page 154.

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