Selected Teachings on
Examples of Modern Day Idolatry

Spencer W. Kimball (Quorum of the Twelve)

From Mount Sinai came God's unalterable command:

Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them (Ex. 20:3-5. Italics added.)

This proscription embraces not only images in the form of God or of man, but the likeness of anything which is earthly in any form. It would include both tangible and less tangible things, and everything which entices a person away from duty, loyalty, and love for and service to God.

Idolatry is among the most serious of sins. There are unfortunately millions today who prostrate themselves before images of gold and silver and wood and stone and clay. But the idolatry we are most concerned with here is the conscious worshiping of still other gods. Some are of metal and plush and chrome, of wood and stone and fabrics. They are not in the image of God or of man, but are developed to give man comfort and enjoyment, to satisfy his wants, ambitions, passions and desires. Some are in no physical form at all, but are intangible.

Many seem to "worship" on an elemental basis they live to eat and drink. They are like the children of Israel who, though offered the great freedoms associated with national development under God's personal guidance, could not lift their minds above the "flesh pots of Egypt." They cannot seem to rise above satisfying their bodily appetites. As Paul put it, their "God is their belly." (Phil. 3:19.)

Modern idols or false gods can take such forms as clothes, homes, businesses, machines, automobiles, pleasure boats, and numerous other material deflectors from the path to godhood. What difference does it make that the item concerned is not shaped like an idol? Brigham Young said: "I would as soon see a man worshipping a little god made of brass or of wood as to see him worshipping his property."

Intangible things make just as ready gods. Degrees and letters and titles can become idols. Many young men decide to attend college when they should be on missions first. The degree, and the wealth and the security which come through it, appear so desirable that the mission takes second place. Some neglect Church service through their college years, feeling to give preference to the secular training and ignoring the spiritual covenants they have made.

Many people build and furnish a home and buy the automobile first--and then find they "cannot afford" to pay tithing. Whom do they worship? Certainly not the Lord of heaven and earth, for we serve whom we love and give first consideration to the object of our affection and desires. Young married couples who postpone parenthood until their degrees are attained might be shocked if their expressed preference were labeled idolatry. Their rationalization gives them degrees at the expense of children. Is it a justifiable exchange? Whom do they love and worship--themselves or God? Other couples, recognizing that life is not intended primarily for comforts, ease, and luxuries, complete their educations while they move forward with full lives, having their children and giving Church and community service.

Many worship the hunt, the fishing trip, the vacation, the weekend picnics and outings. Others have as their idols the games of sport, baseball, football, the bullfight, or golf. These pursuits more often than not interfere with the worship of the Lord and with giving service to the building up of the kingdom of God. To the participants this emphasis may not seem serious, yet it indicates where their allegiance and loyalty are.

Still another image men worship is that of power and prestige. Many will trample underfoot the spiritual and often the ethical values in their climb to success. These gods of power, wealth, and influence are most demanding and are quite as real as the golden calves of the children of Israel in the wilderness. (The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.39)

Spencer W. Kimball (President)

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 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, it is hoped, 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.) (Ensign, June 1976, 4)

Neal A. Maxwell (Quorum of the Twelve)

Take away regard for the seventh commandment, and behold the current celebration of sex, the secular religion with its own liturgy of lust and supporting music. Its theology focuses on “self.” Its hereafter is “now.” Its chief ritual is “sensation”—though, ironically, it finally desensitizes its obsessed adherents, who become “past feeling.” (Eph. 4:19; Moro. 9:20.) ("Put Off the Natural Man, and Come Off Conqueror," Ensign, November 1990, p.14)

Those who “live without God in the world” anxiously glean their few and fleeting satisfactions, but they are unable to find real happiness (Mosiah 27:31; see also Mormon 2:13). Today, many are caught up in one form or another of the “club-and-pub” culture. Others focus on the popular and pervasive substitutes for real religion--sports and politics. All this is accompanied by political churning as you and I watch the secular “Princes come, Princes go, An hour of pomp and show they know” (Robert Wright and George Forrest, lyrics from “Sands of Time,” Kismet).

As in the days of Noah, many individuals become preoccupied with life’s routine, such as “eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, until the day” (Matthew 24:38; see vv. 36–39). Many of those comfortably situated say, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17), while being confused about causality, saying, “My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). It is much today as in ancient Israel when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6; also 21:25). In our time, “every man walketh in his own way, and after . . . the likeness of the world” (D&C 1:16), which might be called everyman ethical relativism--and we are swamped by it in our time. (Address to CES Religious Educators, 3 February 1995)

Gordon B. Hinckley (President)

It seems as if the whole world has become obsessed with sex. (Ensign, May 1996, p.48)

We live in a sex-saturated world.... A wise writer has observed that "a new religion is emerging throughout the world, a religion in which the body is the supreme object of worship to the exclusion of all other aspects of existence.

"The pursuit of its pleasures has grown into a cult ... for its ritual no efforts are spared.

"We have bartered holiness for convenience, ... wisdom for information, joy for pleasure, tradition for fashion." (Abraham Herschel, The Insecurity of Freedom, p. 200.)

Nakedness has become the hallmark of much public entertainment. It reaches beyond this into the realm of sadistic perversion....

Can there be any reasonable doubt that in sowing the wind of pornography, we are reaping the whirlwind of decay?

We need to read more history. Nations and civilizations have flowered, then died, poisoned by their own moral sickness. As one commentator has remarked, Rome perished when the Goths poured over its walls. But it was "not that the walls were low. It was that Rome itself was low." (Jenkin Lloyd Jones, U. S. News & World Report, May 26, 1962, p. 90). [Conference Report, October 1970, p.65-66]

Spencer W. Kimball (President)

We live in a culture which venerates [ie. reverences or worships] the orgasm, streaking, trading wives, and similar crazes. How low can humans plunge! We pray with our Lord that we may be kept from being in the world. It is sad that decent people are thrown into a filthy area of mental and spiritual pollution. We call upon all of our people to do all in their power to offset this ugly revolution. (Ensign, November 1974, p.4)

Harold B. Lee (President)

I read something recently which seemed to strike right to the heart of the ugly temptations of immorality among us today:

"The principal reason for sex deification is loss of belief in God. Once men lose God, they lose the purpose of life; and when the purpose of living is forgotten, the universe becomes meaningless. Man then tries to forget his emptiness in the intensity of momentary experience.    

"Sex has become one of the most discussed subjects of modern times. The Victorians pretended it did not exist; the moderns pretend that nothing else exists." (Fulton Sheen.) (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, p.226)