by Joseph Fielding Smith in Improvement Era, 1941.
In the Improvement Era for April, 1941, there appeared an article dealing with the subject, "Using Names In Vain," and calling attention to certain improper expressions and the corrections, both in addressing Deity and also in respect to sacred titles of authorities in the Church. Since then requests have come asking that this subject be carried still further, and that instructions be given in relation to the spirit of reverence and worship, and particularly regarding the proper form of address in approaching Deity.
Members of the Church are under obligation and commandment to "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God," and through their study and faith, worship the Father and the Son in spirit and in truth. Too frequently Latter-day Saints indulge in conduct foreign to these definite instructions. In our Sacrament meetings, and other solemn gatherings, there occasionally enters a spirit of levity and noisy conduct before the meeting is called to order. And, then, at times, there are exercises which are permitted to enter into the worship which are not in harmony with the spirit of the meeting. We are commanded to "cast away idle thoughts," and "excess of laughter," and to "cease from all light speeches, from all laughter, from all your lustful desires, from all your pride and light- mindedness, and from all your wicked doings." Undue levity in a sacred meeting hampers the free expression of the Holy Spirit. All our singing as well as our speaking should be in full accord with the nature of these sacred services.
Above all else we should hold the name of Deity in the most sacred and solemn respect. Nothing is so distressing or shocks the feelings of a refined person more than to hear some uncouth, ignorant, or filthy creature, bandy around the name of Deity. Some individuals have become so profane that it appears almost impossible for them to speak two or three sentences without the emphasis--as they think--of a vulgar or blasphemous oath. There are some individuals also who seem to think, at least that is the impression they leave upon others, that it is a manly accomplishment and elevates them from the common run of mankind, if they can use blasphemous language. A person is known as much by his language as he is by the company he keeps. People who swear and profane belong to the same class as do those who think, or leave the impression that they think, that to have a cigarette, cigar, or pipe, in their mouth, lends dignity and manliness--do we have to say also womanliness?--to their character.
Good stories have been frequently ruined simply because the authors have not understood the propriety of the use of sacred names. When blasphemous expressions are placed in the mouths of otherwise respectable characters, instead of enhancing the story they detract from its value and interest. Many expressions where the name of Deity occurs, without question, occur as a means of emphasis. How strange it is that some people, and good people at that, think that to use some expression involving the name of the Lord, adds interest, wit, or power, to their stories! How often this is seen in the moving pictures, even in shows that otherwise are commendable. But all such expressions in the theatre, and the use of tobacco and liquor, are detrimental to the morals and spirituality of those who witness them, and especially is it true in the case of the youth of tender years whose character is in the formative stage. It is a shame that such expressions are found so frequently even in the higher class publications which come into the homes of Latter-day Saints.
Above all other peoples on the earth, the Latter-day Saints should 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.
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 speaking of the Redeemer in some other sense than by reference to His official title it is well for us not to use the article, but the whole name of our Lord, or, even better still, in order to avoid the too frequent repetition, we can say, our Redeemer, or Savior, or the Lord.
The great lesson for us to learn, in all our preaching, writing, and conversations, is to use the name and titles of Deity sparingly, not with familiarity, or with lack of reverence.
The Psalmist has instructed us wisely: "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer."