In commemoration of the birthday of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Dec 23, 1805) I thought I’d write a short post addressing a common claim made by Evangelical critics (mostly CARM types). It is sometimes said that Mormons worship Joseph Smith because we “praise” him in the song “Praise to the Man” (hymn #27). The opening verse of this song goes like this:
Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him and nations revere.
If praising someone or something is equivalent to worshipping it, than Bible-believing Evangelicals have got a problem on their hands. There are many passages in the Bible that refer approvingly to “praise” that is directed at someone or something that is not God. I suggest that in light of this we reconsider the strange conclusion that “praise” = “worship”. The following list of passages is not meant to be exhaustive, and represent only a cursory search that I’ve done.
Genesis 49:8 ¶ Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.
1 Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
2 Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.
Proverbs 31:30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
Song of Solomon 6:9 My dove, my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, she is the choice one of her that bare her. The daughters saw her, and blessed her; yea, the queens and the concubines, and they praised her.
Ecclesiasted 4:2 Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
Isaiah 62:7 And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem an object of praise in the earth. (see NET Bible footnote)
Zephaniah 3: 19-20 (speaking of Israel)
19 Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and I will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.
20 At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord.
Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
1 Cor 11:2 Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.
I want to add this bit of information that I recently came across. The following is from the Apocryphal book Ecclesiasticus, also known as Wisdom of Ben Sirach, which is included in our 1792 KJV Brown’s Bible. It describes Moses in glowing terms similar to the hymn “Praise to the Man”:
“From [Jacob’s] descendants the Lord brought forth a godly man, who found favor in the sight of all. And was beloved by God and people, Moses, whose memory is blessed. He made him equal in glory to the holy ones, and made him great, to the terror of his enemies. By his words he performed swift miracles; the Lord glorified him in the presence of kings. He gave him commandments for his people, and revealed to him His glory. For his faithfulness and meekness He consecrated him, choosing him out of all humankind. He allowed him to hear his voice, and led him into the dark cloud, and gave him the commandments face to face, the law of life and knowledge, so that he might teach Jacob the covenant, and Israel his decrees.” – Sirach 44:24-45:5
At this time when we are remembering the birth and life of Jesus Christ, let us take a small moment to thank God for restoring his gospel to the Earth once again. Let us be thankful that he chose a man as praiseworthy and faithful as Joseph Smith to do it.