“Praise to the Man” = Worship?

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.

Proverbs 27:1-2

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.

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.

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8 comments on ““Praise to the Man” = Worship?

  1. Robert Boylan says:

    The charge that “Praise to the Man” is akin to idolatrous worship of Joseph Smith is, surprisingly, a common claim amongst some of the more idiotic core of anti-Mormons, such as Reachout Trust in the UK (namely, Mike and Ann Thomas, former LDS, and Doug Harris). If anything, just shows that such critics don’t have a clue about the Bible, the text they claim LDS abuse and/or ignore.

    Oh, and Merry Christmas, James.

  2. James says:

    Robert,

    You find it surprising that the “more idiotic core of anti-Mormonism” thinks that “Praise to the Man” is worship? :)

    Do you like the new look of the site? I’m still tweaking it here and there to make it more spiffy.

  3. Robert Boylan says:

    Well, the claim is so utterly bogus and stupid beyond belief, eve n in comparison to many of the other things they claim, that one would feel they would be better off at focusing upon other areas Though, you do have a point . . .

    It is different. I miss the feature on the side that showed the recent posts and threads containing such. Overall, however, it is “spiffy.”

  4. NRA-Jeff says:

    Hi, James. I, too, am sick of the “You Mormons worship Joe Smith and elevate him above Jesus” accusation from those prejudiced extremists at CARM et al. Is their illogical, often-double-standard attack done out of stupidity, really? Or are they intelligent enough to realize the fallacious logic of the attack–but the bully in them cannot resist the lure of ego-gratification that comes from attacking, at any cost, the new or different kid at the playground, so they subscribe to the “ANY attack on the LDS is a good attack” mentality? Do they subscribe to Ed Decker’s rationalization that when fighting what one feels to be the devil’s church, any dishonest attack is justified? I like your website; it is a good source of scholarly support for LDS doctrines. Thanks for all you do.

  5. James says:

    Robert,
    Your wish is my command.

    Jeff,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve seen you battling at CARM before, and I admire your resilience for sticking it out there. Thanks for the compliments also. I hope to see you around more.

  6. Nathan Yeung says:

    Interesting website! I stumbled upon it when doing a google search for Alma Chapter 7 after reading a devotional by Elder Scott given at BYU in March 2008. I admire your hard work ethic in posting about issues that most of us encounter! Thanks for all that you do! I’ll add you to my blogroll.

  7. Steve says:

    There’s another angle on this to consider and that is the history of the hymn and specifically WHO wrote it. William W. Phelps, the author of this hymn fell away from the church. His false accusations against Joseph and the Saints added fuel to the fire to the saints being driven and persecuted. After a time, Mr. Phelps sought entrance back into the church with a humble plea to his old friend Joseph Smith. This is how Joseph responded:

    “Dear Brother Phelps: You may in some measure realize what my feelings, as well as Elder Rigdon’s and Brother Hyrum’s were when we read your letter. Truly our hearts were melted into tenderness and compassion when we ascertained your resolves, etc. I can assure you I feel a disposition to act on your case in a manner that will meet the approbation of Jehovah, (whose servant I am), and agreeable to the principles of truth and righteousness which have been revealed. And inasmuch as long-suffering, patience, and mercy have ever characterized the dealings of our Heavenly Father towards the humble and penitent, I feel disposed to copy the example, cherish the same principles and by so doing be a savior of my fellow men. It is true that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior–the cup of gall already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us. One with whom we had oft taken sweet counsel together, and enjoyed many refreshing seasons from the Lord–‘had it been an enemy we could have borne it.’ However, the cup has been drunk, the will of our Father has been done, and we are yet alive, for which we thank the Lord. And having been delivered from the hands of wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary, be brought into the liberty of God’s dear children, and again take your stand among the saints of the Most High, and by diligence, humility, and love unfeigned, commend yourself to our God, and your God, and to the Church of Jesus Christ. Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal. Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, for friends at first are friends again at last. Yours as ever. Joseph Smith, Jun.”

    One month after Joseph Smith’s murder, Mr. Phelps wrote this hymn that was published in the Times and Seasons. I don’t so much think of it as an anthem to Joseph, but a display of love from one true friend to another and an insight to what Joseph meant to Mr. Phelps. So I can’t sing this hymn without remembering Joseph’s act of compassion toward the estranged Mr. Phelps and how the only reason we have this hymn was because an act of forgiveness. For that, I gladly sing “Praise to the Man”.

  8. James says:

    I came across a relevant passage today and I want to put here in the comments for safekeeping.

    Jeremiah 51:41 describes Babylon as the “praise of all the Earth”. The Bible praises Babylon, but we can’t praise Joseph Smith??!!

    http://net.bible.org/verse.php?book=Jer&chapter=51&verse=41

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