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The “Shalt Nots”—Doorways to Freedom
Wednesday, October 5, 2011 • Posted October 7, 2011 10:42 AM

From April into June of 1957 north-central and northeast Texas and much of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana received 20 to 36 inches of rain, leading to widespread flooding.

(How different times can be!) On May 31 of that same year, the noted film producer, Cecil B. DeMille, at Brigham Young University’s commencement exercises, spoke of the freedom that comes through obedience to God’s laws.

To make his point, he said, “We have been reading about the terrible, destructive floods in Texas and Oklahoma—the lives lost and property ruined by the awful, unbridled power of water when it is unchecked and unchanneled. But the power of that same water when it is checked and channeled between strong levees or stored behind a great dam, could have given light and warmth and health and joy to ten thousand homes. The Law of God is the dam and the dynamo that channels and converts the power of human freedom for human good.”

The commencement address by Mr. DeMille was given not long after the release of his epic movie, “The Ten Commandments.” He described the scene of “the orgy of the Golden Calf.” He assured his audience that his film version was “rather milder than the Bible’s,” as recorded in Exodus 32.

“The children of Israel had been freed from the bitter bondage of Egypt,” he said. “They had seen the wonders of God in the desert and the divided sea, as His strong hand led them forth. They were free, they thought.

“Then Moses left them to go up the mountain and receive the Law. No sooner was he gone the short space of forty days and nights when, in spite of all his teaching, in spite of all the marvels they had seen God work, the children of Israel became slaves again—not this time of a tyrant like Pharaoh, but slaves of their own passions and their own fears.

“Some who do not know either the Bible or human nature, may see in the orgy of the Golden Calf only a riot of Hollywood’s imaginations—but those who have eyes to see will see in it the awful lesson of how quickly a nation or a man can fall without God’s Law…We cannot break the Ten Commandments. We can only break ourselves against them—or else by keeping them, rise through them to the fullness of freedom under God. God means us to be free. With divine daring, He gave us the power of choice.”

Mr. DeMille went on to say, “We are too inclined to think of law as something merely restrictive—something hemming us in. We sometimes think of law as the opposite of liberty. But that is a false conception.” (Brigham Young University, “Speeches of the Year, 1957)

Thomas S. Monson said of the Ten Commandments, “These are the laws of God. Violate them and we suffer lasting consequences. Obey them and we reap everlasting joy.” (Ensign Magazine, March 1988)

Robert D. Hales in an April 1996 conference address said, “Every commandment of the Lord is given for our development, progress and growth. God has designed our happiness…He will never institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed.”

A loving earthly parent establishes rules to keep a child safe; our Heavenly Father has given us commandments for the same reason. May we see the “shalt nots” as doorways to freedom, safety and happiness rather than barricades that restrict us. And may we incorporate in our daily lives all the “shalt nots” He has given us to help us, truly, to be free. (Excerpted from Deseret News, Week ending September 17, 2011, p.16)


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