Relief Society Lesson 14: “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me”

President Kimball’s words are in regular font. Mine (and Shakespeare’s) are in italics.‘Tis mad idolatry To make the service greater than the god.” – William Shakespeare

…As I study ancient scripture, I am more and more convinced that there is significance in the fact that the commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is the first of the Ten Commandments.

Why is this commandment the first? Is it because it’s the most difficult, the most important, the least important?

In all ages when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the “arm of flesh” and in “gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know” (Dan. 5:23)

The OT is full of stories of people worshipping idols/false gods. Often, the idea of worshipping a golden calf or giant chocolate bunny seems so ludicrous that people think the OT doesn’t apply to us today. But, if we remember that the scriptures carry messages for us in the latter-days, then, it stands to reason that God is pretty worried about us worshipping idols.

Let’s define what we mean by idolatry.

Few men have ever knowingly and deliberately chosen to reject God and his blessings. Rather, we learn from the scriptures that because the exercise of faith has always appeared to be more difficult than relying on things more immediately at hand, carnal man has tended to transfer his trust in God to material things…

I think it is interesting to think about idolatry in relation to other gospel principles like faith, even humility.

How can we show faith is we can’t trust God to take care of our needs? Could it be an issue of pride (a form of self-idolatry) when we prioritize other things before God?

Are there other gospel principles that relate to idolatry? (careful: this could give class members an opportunity to threadjack the lesson)

Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry…

When we place our hearts and trust in anything above the Lord, we are worshiping our own false gods.

What idols do we worship today? (the manual lists tons of stuff)

Could there be idols we worship w/o even knowing it?

To keep myself in check, I often compare myself and my worship to the Pharisees (see Matthew 12 for an example

of a story where the Pharisees put the culture ahead of the Gospel)

Could focusing on the culture of the Church rather than the Gospel be a form of putting other gods before our God?

What would focusing on the culture over the doctrine look like?

I think this can happen when we focus on the appearances in Church rather than the substance of the Gospel: if I, as a Primary leader, work on my kids to memorize the words to the songs, but I don’t take the time to explain the meanings of the songs or if I, as a teacher, want to make sure the Sunday School class is comfortable and don’t push them with tough questions or try to delve deeper into the lesson, I’m putting other things ahead of the worship of God.

Sometimes I want things neat and orderly and focusing on culture can let me do that, but I try to make sure I’m not putting appearances ahead of more important matters.

Rather than set our hearts on things of the world, we should use our resources to build up the kingdom of God.

I worry about this section of the lesson a lot. When I think of what I have compared to other people in the world, I get nervous. What am I doing to build the kingdom of God with the blessings I’ve been given?

What are we all doing to build the kingdom of God?

Forgotten is the fact that our assignment is to use these many resources in our families and quorums to build up the kingdom of God—to further the missionary effort and the genealogical and temple work; to raise our children up as fruitful servants unto the Lord; to bless others in every way, that they may also be fruitful. Instead, we expend these blessings on our own desires, and as Moroni said, “Ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not.” (Morm. 8:39.)

As the Lord himself said in our day, “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.” (D&C 1:16; italics added.)

When I’m not comparing myself to the Pharisees, I also compare the United States to some of those great cultures of the past like Babylon.

Are we, as Americans, using our resources to build the kingdom of God?

The Lord has said, “… seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33.) Too often, though, we want the “things” first.
Perhaps the sin is not in “things” but in our attitude toward and worship of “things.” Unless an acquisitive person can positively accumulate and hold wealth while still giving full allegiance to God and his program—unless the rich man can keep the Sabbath, keep his mind and body and spirit uncontaminated, and give unstinted service to his fellowmen through God’s appointed way—unless the affluent man has total control and can hold all his possessions in trust, subject to the call of the Lord through his authorized servants, then that man, for the good of his soul, should certainly “go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, … and come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:21.)

How can we know that as a particularly blessed people we are doing enough? That we aren’t too focused on worldly things?

We should love and follow the Lord with all our hearts.

It is not enough for us to acknowledge the Lord as supreme and refrain from worshipping idols; we should love the Lord with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. We should honor him and follow him into the work of eternal life. What joy he has in the righteousness of his children!

The manual lists typical Sunday School answers for how to show our Heavenly Parents that we love them (repent, be baptized, prepare for the Second Coming). What else can we do? What do you do in your daily life to show you love God?

It may seem a little difficult at first, but when a person begins to catch a vision of the true work, when he begins to see something of eternity in its true perspective, the blessings begin to far outweigh the cost of leaving “the world” behind.

Artwork by Mark Kostabi



EmilyCC works for a national non-profit and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her spouse and three children. She is a former editor of Exponent II and a founding blogger at The Exponent.

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  1. Todd Wood says:

    When I’m not comparing myself to the Pharisees, I also compare the United States to some of those great cultures of the past like Babylon.

    There are lot of good phrases in this post. You have struck a nerve with me in much of my reading in bloggernacle.


    I have been in Isaiah . . . studying a chapter each week.

    Just recently
    *Isaiah 21 – desert of the sea
    *Isaiah 22 – valley of vision

    Our hearts are perpetual idol factories. But God wants us helplessly, joyfully dependent on Him. He alone gets the glory.

    My humble prayer is that America will look to its Maker.

  2. mckenzie says:

    What would focus on the culture over the doctrine look like?

    No man can serve two masters. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 demonstrate the chaos of too many captains, a ship without a clear purpose or compass. I think to love “One God” is to be ‘accountable’ to one master and not try to make everyone happy. I am willing to be accountable to Jesus priesthood authority. Then why do I feel like I am being held accountable to the entire Relief Society?

    Some of the most difficult people, or ‘idols’, we will ever encounter in life are “church ladies”.. and I AM a proud one. We overcommit ourselves then look for someone to blame and second guess. We deny diverse and personal revelation when we try to fix and patronize each other. How do we focus on one god and not allow the pressure and social shame to push us out?

    ‘Tis mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god.” – William Shakespeare

    A problem with women’s groups is the tendency to cloak a women’s worth in volunteerism. I believe in service. How do we support each other in accounting to one master while focusing on a ‘strengths’ based psychology. That is what is right with people instead of what is wrong supposedly? How do we develop an atmosphere of understanding and respect for human dignity?

  3. Teresa says:

    I am teaching this lesson today, as a substitute, after a long dry spell in devotion and church activity. I appreciate all of your insights.

    I am a former RS President who darned near left the church after I was released. Long story, not important, here…

    This lesson pricked my heart big time. I’m on my way back, God has chastened me with mercy and great care, but the things that kept me from Him are throughout the lesson.

    My challenge as I teach today is to create the environment so that the Spirit can prick the hearts of anyone else who is ready to hear it.

    The false gods of money and education are not the idols of my ward — my sisters are very poor, many are on welfare. Their idols are substance abuse (including the illegal kind), poverty, addiction to bitterness and poor health and despair. They are quite comfortable in their bondage.

    For those who are better off, their idols can be conflict, pride and judging. And, of course, there are many lovely sisters who will need the Lord’s help to surface and destroy their own idols, as I have had to do.

    I am adding something to this lesson. The Book of Acts tells about Paul’s great success in Ephesus.

    “And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.” (Acts 19:18)

    The beauty of the story goes largely unnoticed. Paul preached among people who worshipped the goddess Diana. There was a huge industry set up around this idol worship. Demetrius, one of the silversmiths who created images for Diana-worship, called his fellow craftsmen together so they could deal with this threat to their wealth.

    Not only at Ephesus but throughout all Asia, “this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands; So that not only this our craft is in danger… but also that the temple of Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed”… (Acts 19:26,27)

    Paul did nothing to preach against Diana, and for this reason, the city leaders dismissed charges against him.

    His success against idol worship came from preaching the power and majesty and truthfulness of God. When people could see that God could heal, could lift from the bondage of sin, could encourage, and their own idols could do nothing, they raced to embrace the true and living God.

    This will be the focus of my lesson, how to identify and overcome the false idols in your own life.

    Bless you!


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