So, how will having no other gods before God solve problems? First of all, keep in mind the second and fourth requirements. This commandment is for everybody, whether Jew, Gentile, Muslim, Christian, atheist, Buddhist, or what have you. One of the fundamental principles of this commandment is the need to focus on one great goal, and if everybody is working towards that same goal, there is a greater chance for harmony and peace. I might even suggest that we take the world as it is now. There are many different religions, we each believe in a God, yet in perhaps different terms. Following this commandment, as it applies to each individuals religion (as set forth by that individuals standard and set forth religious beliefs), will help those individuals focus on that which is most important. I’m no scholar on any religion but my own, but I think it’s safe to say, if everybody put their God first, as He and their religions truly suggest, then there would be less bickering, less immorality, less deceit, less selfishness.
Now if we apply the fourth requirement, we would ideally all recognize that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. He it was that said there shall be no other gods before me. That means we should all accept Jesus Christ as our God, and along with that our Savior. It was Jesus who created all things as directed by our Father in Heaven. It is Jesus who is the author of our salvation, through the Atonement. He, in a very real sense, is the father and God of the “born again” or “new” person that we are to become when we go through the continual process of accepting, applying, and renewing the Atonement in our lives. As we put God and Jesus first in our lives, we focus on the things they want us to do, and ultimately become like them (see Matthew 5: 48 and 3 Nephi 12: 48).
So, in summary, when we have no other gods before God, we are able to all have the same focus and intent, which helps us work together, which cuts back on the conflicts. There are many other facets to this commandment, and probably all more important than I just summarized. Below are a few quotes from modern Apostles about following the first of the ten commandments.
In order to have no other gods before God the Father, we must love Him.
James E. Faust, “‘Them That Honour Me I Will Honour’,” Liahona, Jul 2001, 53–56
In reverence for the sacred, overarching and undergirding all else is a love and respect for Deity. During most of the world’s history, mankind has labored much in idolatry, either worshiping false gods or becoming preoccupied with acquiring the material opulence of this world.
The requirement that we should love the Lord above fish, bank accounts, automobiles, fine clothing, stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, or any other possession is total; it is absolute. The first commandment given unto the ancient Israelites was “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” 4 The Savior Himself amplified this command when He told the lawyer who asked Him which was the greatest commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” 5
To put God first is to have faith in him.
Dallin H. Oaks, “The Atonement and Faith,” Liahona, Apr 2008, 8–13
The first principle of the gospel is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Without this faith, the prophet Mormon said, we are not fit to be numbered among the people of the Lord’s Church (see Moroni 7:39). The first commandment Jehovah gave to the children of Israel was “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). We should always put the Savior first. This powerful idea—that we must have faith and put the Lord first in our lives—seems simple, but in practice many find it difficult.
The scriptures teach us that faith comes by hearing the word of God (see Romans 10:17). The word of God, which comes to us by scripture, by prophetic teaching, and by personal revelation, teaches us that we are children of God the Eternal Father. It teaches us about the identity and mission of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. Founded on our knowledge of those truths, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a conviction and trust that God knows us and loves us and will hear our prayers and answer them with what is best for us.
Faith in the Lord is trust in the Lord. We cannot have true faith in the Lord without also having complete trust in the Lord’s will and in the Lord’s timing. As a result, no matter how strong our faith is, it cannot produce a result contrary to the will of Him in whom we have faith. Remember this when your prayers do not seem to be answered in the way or at the time you desire. The exercise of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is always subject to the order of heaven, to the goodness and will and wisdom and timing of the Lord. When we have that kind of faith and trust in the Lord, we have true security and serenity in our lives.
We look first to our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our model. Our model is not the latest popular hero of sports or entertainment. Similarly, our most precious possessions are not the expensive toys and diversions that encourage us to concentrate on what is temporary and to forget what is eternal. Our model—our first priority—is Jesus Christ. We must testify of Him and teach one another how we can apply His teachings and His example in our lives.
When servants become masters, we have other gods before us. This happens when we let them take over our time, pervert our potential and poison our minds.
Russell M. Nelson, “Living by Scriptural Guidance,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 16–18
Few find the way because they ignore the divine road map provided by the Lord. An even more serious mistake is to ignore the Maker of the map. God declared in the first of His Ten Commandments, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” 7 Yet carnal man tends to let his loyalty drift toward idols.
For example, we marvel at computers and the Internet that enable transmission of data with remarkable speed. We are truly grateful for these electronic servants. But if we let them take over our time, pervert our potential, or poison our minds with pornography, they cease being servants and become instead false gods.
The Master warned of those who “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.” 8
False gods can only lead to dead ends. If our journey through life is to be successful, we need to follow divine direction. The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” 9 And the Psalmist wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” 10
Whatever a person sets their heart on, that is their god. If that god is not the same as the living God of Israel, then that person is laboring in idolatry. Spencer Kimball gives several examples of what other gods people set their hearts on. If all of a person’s effort is spent on worldly things, they miss out on the greater blessings and greater treasures that God has for them later.
Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship,” Tambuli, Aug 1977, 1
The Brethren constantly cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord: against pollution of mind, body, and our surroundings; against vulgarity, stealing, lying, pride, and blasphemy; against fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and all other abuses of the sacred power to create; against murder and all that is like unto it; against all manner of desecration.
That such a cry should be necessary among a people so blessed is amazing to me. And that such things should be found even among the Saints to some degree is scarcely believable, for these are a people who are in possession of many gifts of the Spirit, who have knowledge that lets them put the eternities into perspective, who have been shown the way to eternal life.
Sadly, however, we find that to be shown the way is not necessarily to walk in it, and many have not been able to continue in faith. These have submitted themselves in one degree or another, to the enticings of Satan and his servants, and joined with those of “the world” in lives of ever-deepening idolatry.
I use the word idolatry intentionally. 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.
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. Therefore, 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” (D&C 1:19) and in “gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know” (Dan. 5:23)—that is, in idols. This I find to be a dominant theme in the Old Testament. 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.
It is my firm belief that when we read these scriptures and try to “liken them unto [our]selves,” as Nephi suggested (1 Ne. 19:24), we will see many parallels between the ancient worship of graven images and behavioral patterns in our very own experience.
The Lord has blessed us as a people with a prosperity unequaled in times past. The resources that have been placed in our power are good, and necessary to do our work here on the earth. But I am afraid that many of us have been surfeited with flocks and herds and acres and barns and wealth and have begun to worship them as false gods, and they have power over us. Do we have more of these good things than our faith can stand? Many people spend most of their time working in the service of a self-image that includes sufficient money, stocks, bonds, investment portfolios, property, credit cards, furnishings, automobiles, and the like to guarantee carnal security throughout, they hope a long and happy life. 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.)
And so it often seems to be with people, having such a firm grasp on things of the world—that which is telestial—that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade them to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets them in his grip easily. If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up for ourselves a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.
In spite of our delight in regarding ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord.
Bible Dictionary, Idol. Ten different Hebrew words translated as idol. The Israelites fell into idolatry by making “images that stood for Jehovah” or worshipped a neighboring nation’s heathen god along side their worship of Jehovah, “such idolatry being some form of nature worship, which encouraged as a rule immoral practices.” We can see our society heavy into the idol worship of nature and the immoral practices that go along with that. Just think of the 1960’s hippie movements and you think about back to nature and free love. It’s as Pres Hinkley or McKonkie has said, the new morality is just the old immorality with a new name. “People speak of a new morality, which is, in fact, immorality under a new name.” [Bruce R. McConkie, devotional address at Brigham Young University on 28 January 1975].
Covetousness became the new idolatry for the Israelites, and seems to be one of the greatest forms of idolatry in today’s society.