The second commandment, as found in the King James version of the Bible, Exodus 20:4-6 reads:
4. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6. And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
While still popular in some parts of the world today, idol worship was much more popular back in the Old Testament times. The people were confused as to the nature of God and would create idols in the shape of animals, birds, and fish, believing that these idols were in fact images of their gods. They prayed, offered sacrifices, and burnt incense to these idols, believing that their petitions would be heard and answered.
While this type of devotion is admirable, it’s also misplaced. Only our Heavenly Father is truly God, and we can see in the above verses that He gets angry when people worship idols rather than Him. Not only does this take their attention and time away from proper worship, but it diverts their gratitude onto another who was not the source from whence the blessings came. Furthermore, one of the most beautiful truths restored to us when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith is that God is a man, and we are in His own image. The ancient Israelites were perverting one of the most amazing parts of the Gospel—the fact that God has a form like unto ours—by claiming that God is a fish or a bird or a bear.
I love kneeling down in prayer to my Heavenly Father and feeling a deep, personal connection as I realize that I’m talking to my Father, my true and literal Father. I don’t have to come before Him with wild chants, burning incense or bringing offerings. When I come to Him in sincerity and with a true desire to know, He is always right there. He is a personal God. He is not a distant being of clay or taking on another form to keep His followers at a distance. He truly is God and He truly is a man, and He truly does listen to us as a father listens to his children, because He is our Father. Our Eternal Father.