The commandment to have no other gods has been and is essential but has only sometimes been correctly understood. Even in our enlightened time of the Restoration, understanding this commandment challenges many. When Ezra prayed about the people of Israel accepting and practicing the evil practices of the people in the regions where they lived he was explaining the extent of the wickedness that had become the common practice. One of the princes of Israel, Shechaniah, stated what the people of Israel needed to do. “Now, therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.” Ezra 10:3 This is extreme and needs to be correctly understood in context.
Many Israelites had married wives from the people of the land where they were living and those wives practiced idolatry and other abominations. In the past, such practices had been the cause of much suffering by the Israelites. These people did not live in a time of diversity and inclusion, therefore we cannot apply our modern morals to their responses. But we can learn how the blessings and protection from the one true God prevented suffering or how His withholding blessings when Israel strayed from the commandments allowed their enemies to destroy them and take them captive. Shechaniah insisted that removing the abominable practices had to happen to keep Israel safe. His extreme suggestion is similar to the Savior’s suggestion that if our hand offends us we should cut it off.
In our day as in Ezra’s day, keeping covenants requires full submission to God’s will. When children of God stray from the covenant path, they become subject to natural consequences without the guidance and help of God. This is not a punishment from God but it is punishing. In our day we cannot easily separate ourselves from worldly influences. But we must learn to recognize practices that lead us from the covenant path and we must do whatever we can to avoid adopting those practices. We are called to gather Israel, which includes gathering those who will be adopted, “all the world”. Therefore, we must embrace diversity and include everyone with love as we help them understand how their worldly practices are preventing them from receiving the love and redeeming grace of Jesus Christ.