Mormon Monday: On Worship

I like to listen to the radio on my drive home from work, and I found a station a while back while channel surfing that plays a Christian sermon just about the same time as I am driving home.   I initially started listening because the preacher is Irish, and has an interesting accent, but I keep listening because he has some nice insights into the scriptures and the gospel of Christ.   I don’t agree with everything that he says, but for the most part he “inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him” (Moroni 7:13), so I believe he is “inspired of God”.

I find it fascinating to listen to another’s view on biblical scripture and it is nice to hear an uplifting message encouraging me to do good, to be good, and to think of Christ.

One thing I have noticed, especially when I compare the sermons he delivers with what I normally hear in LDS church meetings is the fact that there is a word used by this preacher, and most Christian preachers, that is not used much at all in LDS church services.   That word is “worship.”  I have been thinking about this recently, after reading an article titled, “Why are Mormon Church Meetings So Dull?”, where one of the points the author makes is:

“We think we’re there primarily to learn about God, not to worship God.  It’s no accident that we call our Sunday gatherings “sacrament meetings” rather than worship services. We do lots of good things in those meetings, like taking communion every week (one of the few things we consistently do right). But if you take a straw poll of Mormons and ask them why they’re there, “worship God” is not going to show up in your top five. ”

So, what exactly is “worship”, and why do Mormons not believe that “worship” is part of the reason why we attend church meetings?  

Searching the scriptures on for the word “worship” returns the results found in the LDS Standard Works, separated by book, and the results are very telling.   Old Testament results for “worship” are 106, and New Testament 69.   That’s 175 uses of the word worship in the Bible, and that’s even using the LDS version of the KJV.   When you look at the other Standard Works, that number decreases significantly.   Book of Mormon only has 43 references, the Doctrine and Covenants has 15, and the Pearl of Great Price has 12.

I think this not only reflects a Mormon attitude toward the concept of ‘worshipping’ but also a Mormon attitude toward the scriptures, and which scriptures seem to be more important.   Those churches who only use the Bible rightly see that there is an emphasis on worshipping God, but for Latter-day Saints, who tend to focus mostly on the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, they do not see worship as a vital part of church services.   Latter-day Saints believe “…the Bible to be the word of God” according to the 8th Article of Faith, but that is often trumped by the next phrase, “as far as it is translated correctly”.  Unfortunately, many Mormons do not turn the Bible as often as they do other books of scripture, and so, I think we miss this biblical emphasis on worshipping God.

So, what does it mean to worship?

In searching for General Conference talks that use the word “worship”, I found that President Joseph Fielding Smith in October 1971 said:

Our responsibility in the Church is to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, and this we are seeking to do with all our heart, might, and mind. Jesus said: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt. 4:10.)

We believe that worship is far more than prayer and preaching and gospel performance. The supreme act of worship is to keep the commandments, to follow in the footsteps of the Son of God, to do ever those things that please him.

And Elder W.  Mack Lawrence in April 1991 said,

What does that mean, to worship? It means to reverently show love and allegiance to him, to think about him, to honor him, to remember his sacrifice for each of us, and to thank him.

And I found a talk given by Elder Bruce R.  McConkie in October 1971 titled “How to Worship”, which I will definitely take the time to read and study more thoroughly, in which he said,

“To worship the Lord is to follow after him, to seek his face, to believe his doctrine, and to think his thoughts.

To worship the Lord is to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, to center our whole hearts upon Christ and that salvation which comes because of him.

To worship the Lord is to walk in the Spirit, to rise above carnal things, to bridle our passions, and to overcome the world.

To worship the Lord is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.

To worship the Lord is to study the gospel, to treasure up light and truth, to ponder in our hearts the things of his kingdom, and to make them part of our lives.

Worshiping, it seems, from an LDS perspective, is focused on the action one takes because of one’s faith and belief in Jesus Christ.   It is more than thinking about God and being thankful, though those are, of course necessary in our worship of God.   Worship is to recognize that God is the source of all that we have and all that we want to be, and that we can and will receive all that he hath as we draw near to him and become like him.   We worship God by sacrificing all that we are, our human nature, our natural man, and become as he is, as he would have us be.   

And with this understanding of worship from an LDS perspective, it is not so surprising that most Mormons do not consider worship as a purpose to come to Church meetings.  This sort of worship is what needs to happen in one’s personal life, on one’s own.  We tend to see worship as extremely personal, though we recognize the importance of coming together to learn from one another and help each other know the doctrines and apply them into our lives.   But, ultimately, worship is done by one’s self, in one’s own mind and heart.

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