Dimensions (2.1.1) — Messianic Judaism & LDS Culture Juxtaposed: Praise

This entry is part 5 of 8 in the series Dimensions
Praise is something that the Messianic Jews do a lot and Latter Day Saints do hardly ever; why is that?

Note: In the current context, we confine praise to mean a direct, personal expression of adoration to God. That does not include thank you. A testimony is not praise, thought it might include praise. It is not a demonstration of love through righteous works. Teaching someone that they should praise the Lord is not praising the Lord. Quoting a scripture or song or poem about praising God is generally not praising God (though a couple of instances of this are used in examples, below). We furthermore ignore the use of the word related to “the praise of the world” and praise of anything or anybody that is not God. These may be considered forms of praise in other contexts, but not in this post.

The Messianic Jews praise God. A lot. Initially we were taken back by the response to nearly every compliment we would offer, “praise God.” In a normal Shabbot service of approximately three hours, which doesn’t even include the community meal and closing prayer meeting in which God is thanked for the meal that was just eaten, over an hour is spent in praise through a combination of song, and prayer.

If you are LDS, you may be thinking that we have songs of praise. Yes, we do, but relatively few. There is a difference between singing about God, and praising God. Here is a hymn of praise (note the author):

  1. All glory, laud, and honor
    To thee, Redeemer, King,
    To whom the lips of children
    Made sweet hosannas ring.
    Thou art the King of Israel,
    Thou David’s royal Son,
    Who in the Lord’s name comest,
    The King and Blessed One.
  2. The company of angels
    Are praising thee on high,
    And mortal men and all things
    Created make reply.
    The people of the Hebrews
    With palms before thee went;
    Our praise and love and anthems
    Before thee we present.
  3. To thee, before thy passion,
    They sang their hymns of praise;
    To thee, now high exalted,
    Our melody we raise.
    Thou didst accept their praises;
    Accept the love we bring,
    Who in all good delightest,
    Thou good and gracious King.

Theodulph of Orleans, ca. 760-821

Praise in Scripture

Mormons are pretty comfortable with frequent use of the words “we thank thee.” Use the word praise too many times and members get uneasy. This is quite odd, for if you search the scriptures, you will find praising God is a very common theme. For example, it is brought home quite powerfully in the first chapter of the Book of Mormon (highlights mine):

And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.
(1 Nephi 1:8)

And it came to pass that when my father had read and seen many great and marvelous things, he did exclaim many things unto the Lord; such as: Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty! Thy throne is high in the heavens, and thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!
And after this manner was the language of my father in the praising of his God; for his soul did rejoice, and his whole heart was filled, because of the things which he had seen, yea, which the Lord had shown unto him.
(1 Nephi 1:14–15)

And towards the end:

7 And [He] hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before [Him] at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in [His] kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.
(Mormon 7:7)

It seems pretty obvious from scripture that praising God in prayer and song is unequivocally fundamental to one having a heart turned towards God. It may be the case that those who will not dwell in the presence of God in His kingdom won’t be ceaselessly praising God. Historically, Joy and I are probably more like those folk. It is rather inexcusable, given the richness and clarity demonstrated in the scriptures and more particularly through the example of the Savior. We are now trying to move our personal culture closer to that of the kingdom of God.

Praise in LDS Conference Addresses

My personal perspective on the acceptability of vocally praising God in the LDS Church was that it associates too closely with “saved by grace” Christianity to be appropriate in something so sacred as our communication with deity. When I searched the conference addresses from 1971 through 2015, I fully expected to find no instances of praise (as defined above). I was wrong. I have included here everything I found. These are ordered chronologically. Highlights are mine.

Note: please don’t condemn me for including a song and psalm written in the third person. I would have preferred the honorific second person (e.g., I’ll worship Thee with all  my might), but considered it in poor taste to exclude these simply because of the choice of artistic expression. Additionally, it may well be that many of the subsequent quotes were rooted in the expressions of praise offered by this apostle.

I shall take the liberty, both by way of testimony and to set the tone for what is involved, to read these words of my own composition:

I Believe in Christ
I believe in Christ, he is my king;
With all my heart to him I’ll sing;
I’ll raise my voice in praise and joy,
In grand amens my tongue employ.
I believe in Christ, he is God’s Son;
On earth to dwell his soul did come;
He healed the sick, the dead he raised,
Good works were his, his name be praised.
I believe in Christ, O blessed name,
As Mary’s Son he came to reign
’Mid mortal men, his earthly kin,
To save them from the woes of sin.
I believe in Christ, who marked the path,
Who did gain all his Father hath,
Who said to men: “Come, follow me,
That ye, my friends, with God may be.”
I believe in Christ—my Lord, my God—
My feet he plants on gospel sod;
I’ll worship him with all my might;
He is the source of truth and light.
I believe in Christ, he ransoms me;
From Satan’s grasp he sets me free,
And I shall live with joy and love
In his eternal courts above.
I believe in Christ, he stands supreme;
From him I’ll gain my fondest dream;
And while I strive through grief and pain,
His voice is heard: “Ye shall obtain.”
I believe in Christ; so come what may,
With him I’ll stand in that great day
When on this earth he comes again,
To rule among the sons of men.

(1972, April, Bruce R. McConkie, ‘The Testimony of Jesus,’ Ensign, July 1972, ¶ 7–40)

I think the Lord’s people should rejoice in him and shout praises to his holy name. Cries of hosannah should ascend from our lips continually. When I think of the revealed knowledge we have about him whom it is life eternal to know, and of the great plan of salvation which he ordained for us; when I think about his Beloved Son, who bought us with his blood, and who brought life and immortality to light through his atoning sacrifice; when I think of the life and ministry of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who has done more save Jesus only for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man who ever lived in it, and who crowned his mortal ministry with a martyr’s death—my soul wells up with eternal gratitude and I desire to raise my voice with the choirs above in ceaseless praise to him who dwells on high.
When I think that the Lord has a living oracle guiding his earthly kingdom, and that there are apostles and prophets who walk the earth again; when I think that the Lord has given us—the gift and power of the Holy Ghost so that we have the revelations of heaven and the power to sanctify our souls; when I think of the unnumbered blessings—the gifts, the miracles, the promise that the family unit shall go on everlastingly, all the blessings that are poured out upon us, and offered freely to all men everywhere—my desire to praise the Lord and proclaim his goodness and grace knows no bounds. And so in this spirit of praise and thanksgiving, which is the same spirit that attended the expressions made by President Romney this morning, I shall conclude with these words of my own psalm:

Praise ye the Lord:
Praise him for his goodness;
Praise him for his grace;
Exalt his name and seek his face—
O praise ye the Lord.
Blessed is the Lord:
Bless him for his mercy;
Bless him for his love;
Exalt his name and seek his face—
O blessed is the Lord.
Praise ye the Lord:
Praise him who all things did create;
Praise him who all things did redeem;
Exalt his name and seek his face—
O praise ye the Lord.
Seek ye the Lord:
Seek him who rules on high;
Seek him whose will we know;
Exalt his name and seek his face—
O seek ye the Lord.

 (1973, October, Bruce R. McConkie, ‘“Think on These Things”,’ Ensign, January 1974)

This is the gospel of Christ. He is our Lord. This is a Christian church. We follow him. We love him. We praise him. We glorify him. And now we must go forward and follow him in every detail.
(1975, October, Spencer W. Kimballᶜ, ‘Spoken from Their Hearts,’ Ensign, November 1975)

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest thing in heaven or on earth. We rejoice in the glorious truths of heaven we have received. We praise the Lord for his goodness and grace. And we know within ourselves of the truth and divinity of these things.
(1977, April, Bruce R. McConkieᵇ, ‘Come: Let Israel Build Zion,’ Ensign, May 1977)

It is a great joy to greet the priesthood of the Church this glorious night. All over the world we gather to worship the Lord and give him praise.
(1978, October, Spencer W. Kimballᵇ, ‘Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live,’ Ensign, November 1978)

He is our Savior and Redeemer. His was a ministry of mediation and of reconciliation; he brought to pass the great and eternal plan of redemption. Because of him we can be justified; we can be sanctified; we can be saved with an eternal salvation. He is our God and we are his people, and we sing praises to his holy name forever!
(1979, October, Bruce R. McConkie, ‘The Mystery of Mormonism,’ Ensign, November 1979)

With our souls attuned to the infinite, we seem to hear a heavenly choir whose celestial strains resound through the mountains of Israel. The music purifies our souls and the words become a psalm of worship—the Psalm of the Restoration. From peak to peak the echoing strains acclaim:

Glory and honor unto the Lord our God. Let heaven and earth acclaim his name, for he hath wrought wondrous works in all the earth.

Sing unto him, for he sendeth his holy angel and restoreth his pure word. He calleth truth from the earth and raineth righteousness from heaven.

Blessed be his great and holy name. He restoreth the kingdom to Israel; he gathereth his elect out of all nations; he inviteth the Gentiles to join with his people.

All glory to the Lord our King, for he cometh to reign gloriously among his Saints. He cometh with fire, and the wicked are as stubble. He cometh with loving kindness, and his redeemed inherit the earth. Glory and honor unto the Lord our God. Sing unto him for his wondrous works. Blessed be his great and holy name. All glory to the Lord our King.

And as these psalmic words echo and reecho in our hearts, we hear other things that it is not lawful for us to utter; and there comes into our hearts that sure witness that he who called his ancient covenant people, he who guides and preserves us at this hour, even he will be with us and ours everlastingly.

Our souls are at rest.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

(1980, April, Bruce R. McConkie, ‘The Coming Tests and Trials and Glory,’ Ensign, May 1980, ¶ 55–62)

This is the Almighty of whom I stand in awe and reverence. It is He to whom I look in fear and trembling. It is He whom I worship and unto whom I give honor and praise and glory. He is my Heavenly Father, who has invited me to come unto Him in prayer, to speak with Him, with the promised assurance that He will hear and respond.
(1986, October, Gordon B. Hinckleyᶜ, ‘The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,’ Ensign, November 1986)

Now, in closing, I humbly declare, “Glory be to the Father”—first, for rearing such an Incomparable Son. Second, “Glory be to the Father” for allowing His special Son to suffer and to be sacrificed for all of us. On Judgment Day, brothers and sisters, will any of us want to rush forward to tell our Father how we, as parents, suffered when we watched our children suffer?

Glory be to the Father, in the name of Him who can succor us amid all our ironies and adversities (see Alma 7:11–12), even Jesus Christ, amen.

(1989, April, Neal A. Maxwell, ‘Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,’ Ensign, May 1989)

My heart is full of gratitude and great joy. Rejoice with me in bearing testimony of the Savior: “Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(1997, April, Elaine L. Jack, ‘“A Small Stone”,’ Ensign, May 1997, ¶ 24)

We love Thee and Thy divine Son. We seek to do Thy will. We praise Thy holy name. We lift our voices in anthems of worship. We testify of Thee and of our Redeemer, Thy matchless Son. Majestic is Thy way, glorious the tapestry of Thine eternal plan for all who walk in obedience unto Thee.
Wilt Thou smile with favor upon us, we pray in the sacred name of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

(2000, October, Gordon B. Hinckleyᶜ, ‘This Great Millennial Year,’ Ensign, November 2000, ¶ 82–83)

God be praised for the cleansing, purifying, forgiving power of the Atonement brought by the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom I bear witness. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(2000, October, Boyd K. Packer, ‘“Ye Are the Temple of God”,’ Ensign, November 2000, ¶ 57)

Praise be to Jesus for bearing the sins and pains of all “the family of Adam” back then (2 Ne. 9:21; 2 Ne. 2:20). Let us strive here and now to take especial care of our families as Jesus did of His, “even the family of all the earth” (2 Ne. 2:20). I so pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(1994, April, Neal A. Maxwell, ‘“Take Especial Care of Your Family”,’ Ensign, May 1994, ¶ 41)

Something I have heard President Hinckley do many times publicly is to give all the glory, the praise, and the honor to God. This is something I am going to do more often, including today, incorporating my appreciation for God’s tutoring and blessings.

No wonder, of all the things for which we might praise Jesus when He comes again in majesty and power, we will praise Him for His “loving kindness” and His “goodness”; moreover, we will go on praising Him for ever and ever! (D&C 133:52; see also Mosiah 4:6, 11; Alma 7:23). We will never need to be coaxed.

Finally, my humble praise today flows not only to God the Father for His loving plan of salvation and to Jesus, the Lord of the universe, for His marvelous and remarkable Atonement, but also to the Holy Ghost, about whom we speak less. Among His many roles I express my particular and personal gratitude today for the recent ways in which He has been the precious Comforter, including in the mid-night moments!
In the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.
(1997, April, Neal A. Maxwell, ‘“From Whom All Blessings Flow”,’ Ensign, May 1997)

May God bless us to see things as they really are and as they really will be (see Jacob 4:13; D&C 93:24), and may we give the glory and honor and praise unto God, which I now do. In the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen!
(2000, October, Neal A. Maxwell, ‘The Tugs and Pulls of the World,’ Ensign, November 2000, ¶ 49)

I testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of all mankind. His life, His Atonement, His Resurrection, His awaited return are as sure and certain as the rising sun. His name be praised forever and ever.In the holy name of Jesus Christ, amen.

(2010, April, Neil L. Andersen, ‘Tell Me the Stories of Jesus,’ Ensign, May 2010, ¶ 44)

…I join my voice with that of the early inhabitants of ancient America, exclaiming: “Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God!”

(2012, October, Walter F. González, ‘Learning with Our Hearts,’ Ensign, November 2012, ¶ 19)

There are probably more instances, and the selection criteria is, admittedly subjective. Nevertheless, I attempted to be fair and thorough. There are at least two take-aways:

  • relatively speaking, this type of praise is rare in the LDS Church — we experienced more praise of God in an hour of the Messianic Jewish worship service than appears to be recorded in more than 40 years worth of General Conference;
  • praise is unequivocally required by LDS doctrine.

And yet, it doesn’t stick.

Why there is a cultural dissonance with this doctrine is beyond the objectives of the current thesis, though it is an interesting question. It is certainly foreign to US culture to consider bowing down before another individual. We have experienced examples of “an attitude of praise” being in conflict with the very US-centric-attitude of the equality of all men. We don’t dip the flag for the host nation at the Olympics, would we for God? Pride?

I remember a radio program where the host asked a visiting LDS bishop what he would do if he saw Christ. “I would go up to Him and shake his hand,” was the curt reply. Now, I realize that the bishop was probably thinking of D&C 129. Nevertheless, some people talk as if Christ is our best friend and drinking buddy, our big Bro., rather than as the Lord and Savior of who’s feet we would gladly kiss and wash with our tears. Their speech has this overtone of equality, as if they think they will continue to progress until they are like He is and that His progression is somehow complete, allowing them at some future time to be co-equal, co-partners in eternity. That may be taking the point of having all things in common a bit too far. No one would actually agree that those are their actual thoughts. Would they? The key question remains, how far off is our culture from the culture of heaven?

I highly recommend searching and reading all instances of praise in the scriptures. You might better understand how you “shew forth the praises of him who hath called [us] out of darkness into his marvellous light.”
(1976, October, Marion G. Romneyᵇ, ‘Your Gift from God,’ Ensign, November 1976, ¶ 39)

This seems to be a dimension of the gospel that we in the LDS Church might amplify, without leaving the other(s) undone.

To Be Continued…

Series Navigation<< Dimensions (2.1) — Messianic Judaism & LDS Culture JuxtaposedDimensions (2.1.2) — Messianic Judaism & LDS Culture Juxtaposed: Blessing >>

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