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.)

2 Answers 2


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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    Jul 31, 2015 at 4:15

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.
    – fredsbend
    Jun 22, 2015 at 7:35

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