Exodus 20: The Ten Commandments

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 51


On one of the three trips Moses made up Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19), God taught him the commandments we read about in Exodus 20. These teachings are widely known as the Ten Commandments. The Lord said later that the Ten Commandments are the “words of the covenant,” or the requirements to receive the covenant (see Exodus 34:28). Consequently, the Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites for their acceptance before they were allowed to go up Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments at that time were much like the standards required today to obtain a temple recommend.Later, the Ten Commandments were written on stone tables, placed in the ark of the covenant (which you will read about later), and called “the testimony.” Having a testimony of the principles of the Ten Commandments is basic to understand the gospel principles which the Savior and the Prophet Joseph Smith later taught (see Deuteronomy 10:1–5).Elder Bernard P. Brockbank, Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “The God-given Ten Commandments are still a basic part of God’s way of life and a basic part of the gospel of the kingdom. The way we live and respect the Lord and his commandments in the home has a relationship to the degree of Glory that we will merit in the hereafter. If all mankind would live the Ten Commandments, we would have self-respect, peace, love, and happiness on this earth” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1971, 41; or Ensign, Dec. 1971, 63).

Understanding the Scriptures

Exodus 20

Graven (v. 4)Carved, chiseled, created 
Image (v. 4)Object of worship 
Likeness (v. 4)Picture, statue, or other representation 
Iniquity (v. 5)Sin 
Vain (v. 7)For no worthy purpose 
Bear (v. 16)Speak or give 
Hewn (v. 25)Cut and fitted 

Studying the Scriptures

Do activities A–C as you study Exodus 20.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Exodus 20:3–17

The fourth and fifth commandments (see Exodus 20:8–12) tell us what we should do. The other commandments tell us what not to do. Rewrite these “thou shalt not” commandments as “thou shalt” statements so you can see ways to keep each commandment.

Activity B iconWhat Do You Think?

Which of the Ten Commandments do you think the world needs to pay more attention to today? Why?

Activity C iconHow Did They Respond?

  1. 1.

    What did the children of Israel do after hearing and seeing the things in Exodus 19–20? (see also Exodus 20:18–21).

  2. 2.

    Why do you think some people choose to not get any closer to God or to draw away from Him?