Mormonism and the nature of God/Worship of God

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How Latter-day Saints worship God


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Why do we worship or praise God?

"To worship God is to give Him our love, reverence, service, and devotion."[1]

The Savior commanded, "Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great."[2] He also commanded, "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving.[3]

But what are the blessings of praise? Why do we worship God?

Elder Dean M. Davies explained the blessings of worshipping or praising God:

When we worship God, we acknowledge and receive Him with the same reverence as those ancient people of the Americas. We approach Him with incomprehensible feelings of wonder and awe. We marvel in gratitude at the goodness of God. And thus, we acquire hope.

We ponder God’s word, and that fills our souls with light and truth. We comprehend spiritual vistas that can be seen only through the light of the Holy Ghost.10 And thus, we acquire faith.

As we worship, our souls are refined and we commit to walk in the footsteps of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ. And from this resolve, we acquire charity.

When we worship, our hearts are drawn out in praise to our blessed God morning, noon, and night.

We hallow and honor Him continually—in our meetinghouses, homes, temples, and all our labors.

When we worship, we open our hearts to the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. . . .

Through sincere and heartfelt worship, we blossom and mature in hope, faith, and charity. And through that process, we gather heavenly light into our souls that infuses our lives with divine meaning, abiding peace, and everlasting joy.[4]

God's commandments to worship him—to praise and honor him—provide us an opportunity to improve ourselves, to develop more godly attributes, to become more like him and be prepared to join with all the righteous who are with him in eternity.[5]

Do the Latter-day Saints use praise of God as part of their prayers and songs in worship?

Praise, and the language of praise, is integrated into the worship of Latter-day Saints in both prayer and song

The most common "recipe" that is given children in teaching them to pray in our church consists of 4 parts:

  1. Open by addressing Heavenly Father.
  2. Give thanks for the blessings He has given you.
  3. Ask for the things that you need.
  4. Close in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

These parts are illustrated in "I Pray In Faith," from Children's Songbook, the Church's hymnal for children aged 3-11:

1. I kneel to pray ev’ry day.
I speak to Heav’nly Father.
He hears and answers me
When I pray in faith.

2. I begin by saying “Dear Heavenly Father”;
I thank him for blessings he sends;
Then humbly I ask him for things that I need,
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen. [6]

Two areas here often are used for praise in the Church, with a third being used on occasion.

A great deal of praise is often attached to the addressing of Heavenly Father. Such praise will often describe traits of God that we wish to praise. Common words of praise are: kind, merciful, exalted, gracious, and many Latter-day Saints include the phrase from the Lord's prayer "Hallowed be Thy Name." This can be taken to excess, and when that happens it can seem to be "praying for to be seen of men." Thus it is more common in the Church not to prolong this aspect during public prayers (private prayers are another matter) but if one examines temple dedicatory prayers, more lengthy examples are available.

The second area where praise very commonly enters prayer, is when the one praying is giving thanks for blessings. This occurs more in personal prayer than it does in public prayer, but gratitude is a form of praise, and when pondering blessings it is good for a Latter-day Saint to allow the Spirit to move them to praise. But even in public prayer, praise can be manifest in this section of the prayer as God's many blessings are enumerated.

Occasionally praise can enter during the requesting part of prayer as we proclaim the mercies of the God we are requesting a boon from.

In any case, praise is an important part of prayer as a way to draw closer to God. Latter-day Saints in public are, perhaps, a bit less exuberant or extroverted about it than some other Christians. But we are no less grateful to God.

Praise in Music

We have a great deal of praise music in the Church. If you look in the back of a hymnal you will find a topical guide and in there you will find a listing for praise. Here in the Church online Library you can find a list of songs from that list from our Hymnal: Songs of Praise.

Songs of Gratitude can also be considered songs of praise and you will find many of the same songs under that topic in the Hymnal: Songs of Gratitude.


Question: Does the Church violate the Biblical command against "graven images" by displays sculptures of Christ?

Exodus 20:3-4 does not mean that one cannot have pictures, statues, or images of earthly or heavenly things in one's home or in church

It is claimed that the Church violates the Biblical command against "graven images" because it displays sculptures of Christ, statues of the angel Moroni on the spires of our temples, or paintings showing scriptural scenes, within temples, chapels, visitors' centers, and publications. (See Exodus 20:3-4.)

Since

  1. God is the revelator of the verses in question, and
  2. God is God, and
  3. Moses was there and heard firsthand,

one should side with God and Moses and say that Exodus 20:3 does not mean that one cannot have pictures, statues, or images of earthly or heavenly things in one's home or in church.

Instead one should stick with the unambiguous interpretation of this principle that is given in Exodus 34:17, "Thou shalt make thee no molten gods." We are commanded not to worship images, or anything else besides God, and members of the Church do not.

It is ironic that those who accuse the LDS of not being Christians then complain that the Saints use images of Christ to remind them of their worship of him.

The prohibition in Exodus 20 is not the production of graven images per se but the bowing down and serving of such images

The prohibition in Exodus 20: (see also Deuteronomy 5:) is not the production of graven images per se but the bowing down and serving of such images. We should remember that God later commanded the construction of the seraphim and cherubim for the ark (Exodus 25:17-22, Exodus 37:8-9) and temple of Solomon (1 Kings 6:23-35, 1 Kings 8:6-7), and the veneration given to the Ark of the Covenant, as well as the brass serpent (Numbers 21:6-9).

In similar fashion, Latter-day Saints do not bow down and serve/worship images of Moroni and images of past and present leaders.

One of the facts that must be reconciled with any interpretation of Exodus 20:3-4 is that the Bible states that God explicitly commanded that the Israelites make images and include them in their holiest places of worship. The text explicitly says that these images were revealed to Moses while he was on the mount (Exodus 25:40 and Exodus 26:30), meaning that they were given at the same time as the Ten Commandments and are part of the environment in which Exodus 20 must be interpreted.

For example:

  • Exodus 25:18-20: God commands that gold Cherubim be made to cover the mercy seat in the tabernacle. (Exodus 37:7-9 says that Moses made the image.)
  • Exodus 25:33: God commands that the tabernacle bowls be almond-shaped with flowers. (Exodus 37:19 says that Moses made the image.)
  • Exodus 26:1: God commands that Cherubim be fashioned on the Tabernacle curtains. (Exodus 36:8 says that Moses made the image.)
  • Exodus 28:33: God commands that pomegranates be sewn onto the hem of the high priest's robe. (Exodus 39:24-26 says that Moses made the image.)

And finally:

And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them. (Exodus 39:43).

Furthermore, we have not even mentioned all the images that were used during the construction of Solomon's Temple, such as the oxen holding up the brass sea (see 1 Kings 7:25) or the lions, oxen, and cherubim on the base (see 1 Kings 7:29).

Those people who reject all images of things on earth or in heaven have an interpretation of Exodus 20:3-4 that doesn't agree with God's interpretation of those verses or with Moses' interpretation of those verses.


Notes

  1. Gospel Topics, "Worship".
  2. Revelation 19:5.
  3. Doctrine and Covenants 136:28.
  4. Dean M. Davies, "The Blessings of Worship," October 2016 general conference.
  5. See Doctrine and Covenants 76:50–70.
  6. Janice Kapp Perry, Song #14, "I Pray In Faith," Children's Songbook (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). off-site