Latter-day Saints, like many Christians, are encouraged to not use phrases like "Oh my God!" because they are seen as violations of the commandment to not take the name of God "in vain." However, in some languages (e.g. Arabic), God's name appears frequently in common phrases and is not considered offensive by most. Has an LDS leader ever commented on the application of this commandment in other cultural contexts? Has an exception ever been made for cultures, like Arab culture, where it is so common?

(I am asking this in an LDS context specifically, although I understand this issue is applicable more broadly as well.)

3 Answers 3


It may be helpful first to understand exactly what is mean by the word "vain." The NOAD defines vain as "producing no result, useless" and "having no meaning or likelihood of fulfillment." The use of God's name is usually reserved for prayer. Calling upon God is meant to have some kind of effect, but only if the caller is penitent and sincere. If the use of God's name is not intended to produce such an effect, then it is used in vain.

George Q. Cannon, a former Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, stated the following:

“Do angels take the Lord’s name in vain? The idea is so ridiculous that we scarcely like to ask the question. … How dare we do that which angels dare not do? Is it possible for us to argue that that which is forbidden in heaven is praiseworthy on earth? …

“Though we are sure no boy can tell us any advantage that can arise from the abuse of God’s holy name, yet we can tell him many evils that arise therefrom. To begin, it is unnecessary and consequently foolish; it lessens our respect for holy things and leads us into the society of the wicked; it brings upon us the disrespect of the good who avoid us; it leads us to other sins, for he who is willing to abuse his Creator is not ashamed to defraud his fellow creature; and also by so doing we directly and knowingly break one of the most direct of God’s commandments”

The instructions from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve apply to the Church in the entire world, regardless of culture. In no culture is it acceptable to use the name of God lightly.

It should be clear that while invoking God's name without real intent is not acceptable, it is acceptable to respectfully reference God by name in a conversation.

Additional information may be found in this talk by former President Gordon B. Hinckley of the Church.

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You can say the Lords name in many languages with out it being in vain or offensive. LDS consider any use of the Lords name that does not show Him proper respect to be in vain.

In English there are several cus phrases and expressions which encorperate the Lord's name in it's various forms, but are used to verbally express anger, frustration, or disbelief. They are not being used in a context of reverence, and their flippant or disrespectful use is considered foul, crude, or offensive language by most people.

There are many phrases in English which encorperate the Lord's name which are not considerd offensive as well. Such as "God bless you", and "Go with God." Likewise, there are many phrases used in other languages which are not used vulgarlly, but respectfully venerate God each time they're used. Then there are languages like french, where virtually every cus word is religiously themed.

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    Though I strongly suspect you are right, you probably do need a source or two.
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    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 7:35

I'd like to expound on @intcreator answer. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does discourages vulgarity, swearing, and foul language (talk by Gordon B Hinckley is great), the meaning of 'not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain' is more than just a prohibition against irreverently using the Lord’s name.1

[Its] injunction is even more profound. The Hebrew word translated as “take” means to “lift up” or “carry,” as one would a banner that identifies oneself with an individual or group. The word translated as “vain” means “empty” or “deceptive.” The commandment to not take the Lord’s name in vain can thus mean, “You should not identify yourself as a disciple of Jesus Christ unless you intend to represent Him well.”

We become His disciples and represent Him well when we intentionally and incrementally take on ourselves the name of Jesus Christ through covenants. Our covenants give us power to stay on the covenant path because our relationship with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father is changed. We are connected to Them by a covenantal bond.

Language/culture is inconsequential to the commandments of God. From Loving Others and Living with Differences Oct 2014 General Conference, by Elder Dallin H Oaks

We are to live in the world but not be of the world. We must live in the world because, as Jesus taught in a parable, His kingdom is “like leaven,” whose function is to raise the whole mass by its influence (see Luke 13:21; Matthew 13:33; see also 1 Corinthians 5:6–8). His followers cannot do that if they associate only with those who share their beliefs and practices. But the Savior also taught that if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (see John 14:15).


Even as we seek to be meek and to avoid contention, we must not compromise or dilute our commitment to the truths we understand. We must not surrender our positions or our values. The gospel of Jesus Christ and the covenants we have made inevitably cast us as combatants in the eternal contest between truth and error. There is no middle ground in that contest.

See also:

  • Gospel Topics: Baptism

    Those who are baptized enter into a covenant with God to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ

1 Accessing God's Power Through Covenants, Elder Dale G Renlund, Apr 2023 General Conference


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