The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be singe, thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matthew 6:22-24
Years ago during a time of great financial stress I drove into the city early one morning. As I approached the city center, I saw the very tallest buildings first—Wells Fargo, Chase, US Bank... Then I looked down and saw the people walking on the dirty sidewalks in the early morning light, and whether I was projecting or not, they looked just as downtrodden and trapped by this world as I felt at that time. Finally, I looked up, beyond the buildings towards the mountains as one of the most stunning sunrises I had ever seen grew in brilliance and diffusion of color through the clouds. I thought about how at some point in the future the buildings and the grime of the city would be gone, but light and life from God would continue forever.
Often when I see contrasts like this between the darkness of this world and the light that comes only from God my mind is turned back to the creation:
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis 1:2-3
As I have been thinking and writing about the third commandment, I think about the contrast between darkness and light in terms of that commandment as well. In the creation account before the light, there is profound darkness, inescapable without God, without form, and void, or in other words vain and empty. And to continue in or return to darkness and promote it while at the same time professing His name merely extends and deepens that darkness. This is easy because man comes from and remains in darkness as a matter of nature, not emerging from it without receiving the power of God:
And the light shineth in the world, and the world perceiveth it not.
He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God; only to them who believe on his name. JST John 1:5,11-12
To truly take His name requires a powerful, revolutionary change of spiritual nature, just as Christ is powerful and completely revolutionary within this world of darkness.
Existence is full of imagery and principles of darkness and light. The waters of baptism, for instance, are without form, and void, representing death and the grave and at the same time, in a relationship of duality, refreshment necessary for rebirth. Through faith to receive, a person is completely immersed in this symbolic condition and then, not through their own capacity but through the power of Christ, drawn out to light and salvation. Death and resurrection are the same, and through evening and morning, winter and summer, new and full moon, God teaches us again and again through the principle of seasonality these fundamental lessons of the darkness that exists without God and the light that comes only from Him.
After the death of Christ He teaches this lesson in a powerful way in the Americas beginning in terms of darkness that is so profound that man cannot introduce the least glimmer of light into it:
And it came to pass that there was thick darkness upon all the face of the land, insomuch that the inhabitants thereof who had not fallen could feel the vapor of darkness;
And there could be no light, because of the darkness, neither candles, neither torches; neither could there be fire kindled with their fine and exceedingly dry wood, so that there could not be any light at all;
And there was not any light seen, neither fire, nor glimmer, neither the sun, nor the moon, nor the stars, for so great were the mists of darkness which were upon the face of the land. 3 Nephi 8:20-22
After three days the darkness is dispersed through the power of Christ who is declared by the Father, and who then speaks to the people saying:
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. 3 Nephi 11:10-11
Christ is always the sole source of light in this world. His teachings and ways are simple yet profound, and in this world they are revolutionary.
Again, darkness is natural. Man comes from darkness and will individually and as a group naturally cling to, justify, and return to darkness. Nimrod of whom I wrote last time, as are others, is a type of darkness, but he isn’t alone in his responsibility for evil in his time as despite his name and reputation he is merely part of the culture in which he lives, which is full of darkness as are all other cultures of this world.
In contrast, people of faith reject darkness and through faith receive and continue in light. Moses is one example of this kind of faith. The name Moses means to be drawn out, and as Moses is drawn out of Egypt, rejecting the world completely and receiving light to a revolutionary degree, so too must anyone do to separate from darkness.
Self and cultural justification lead to violation of the third commandment when God is accepted as a cultural component rather than in truth, and ironically extreme violation of the third commandment is enmity towards God as the cognitive dissonance of taking His name in appearance and word and at the same time opposing Him in allegiance to darkness and in deed is too much to bear, and too much of a threat as well. The leaders of the Jews at the time of Christ take God’s name in vain to this extreme to the point where they cannot abide His existence as it threatens theirs. Ironically His existence threatens their ability to take His name in vain. Again, as discussed regarding the word vain in Hebrew it means vanity, emptiness, and deceit and at the same time, it means destruction.
An individual needs the rest and refreshment of night, but cannot then remain in rest and darkness without becoming weakened and descending further into darkness and deceit. In the same way, water in motion is clear and clean and provides healthy refreshment, while water left to pool and stagnate becomes increasingly murky and disease filled. In human terms, this occurs with King David when he retires from battle and sins as a result. As well, any culture of this world over time descends further into sin and deceit, increasingly losing the power to operate in truth and light, becoming twisted and dark from an enlightened perspective, while representing normalcy for those who accept and remain within cultures of this world and descend the path to destruction. Christ in revolutionary contrast associates with many different kinds of people and is familiar with many cultures and classes while being part of and loyal to none of them:
But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all things.
And needed not that any should testify of man; for he knew what was in man. JST John 2:24-25
Just as Christ does, anyone who truly receives light must be observant of many different things, people, and cultures, must associate, listen, and through God’s gifts bless, but cannot truly be part of any culture of this world. Identification with any culture of this world leads to identity beliefs, values, behavior, and conflict that are profoundly destructive, while enlightenment is evident in those who reject worldly cultures in their revolutionary pursuit of and commitment to truth. As another example of this principle, Gandhi rejects not only the British culture of oppression but also his own culture of similar oppression—oppression and overall darkness appearing differently between the two cultures from a limited, culture-bound perspective, but being not in the least different from culture-free, enlightened observation. It is only his rejection of his own culture in his powerful commitment to truth that sets Gandhi apart and gives him profound and lasting influence. Like Moses he is drawn out of symbolic Egypt, rejecting it in word, loyalty, and deed.
Cultural identification takes many forms and is practically universal in this world to one degree or another, but with the degree meaning little in the end if cultural identification is not transcended. Whether it be identity with and allegiance to a sports team, school, political party, race, movement, nationality, socioeconomic class, philosophy or school of thought, special interest, lifestyle, or any other eternally baseless foundation, cultural identification is darkness leading to destruction. Cultural identification works naturally to keep people in darkness, away from God and in conflict with a neighbor, rather than loving both. Identification with Christ in word, loyalty, and deed leads to light and eternal life.
Another instructive example of taking the Lord’s name in vain viewed in the context of cultural darkness is expressed in Joseph Smith History verse 19 in the Lord’s response to Joseph’s question as to which Christian sect he should join:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”
This verse, again, illustrates that it is form and appearance based observance and action on a foundation of the commandments or philosophies of men and the power of cultural identity that constitute vanity in opposition to God and truth—taking His name in vain. The closer form and appearance approach God’s true ways while beneath the surface being founded in vanity, deceit, and darkness, the more adherents oppose and fight against God. This is one way of looking at the third commandment: it is the vanity and deceit of holding self or anything of darkness up as light in contrast with humbly, loyally, and fully recognizing, identifying with, and holding up God as the only true source of light.