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But do we worship him?


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I suppose it is my turn to post?

I came home to change so I could go to the Joseph Smith broadcast at the Stake center. It was just late enough that I thought I might be late getting there. That sealed the deal for watching it via the internet- which I am doing right now. I don't have to change- that's a plus. I don't have to talk to or see other people- both a plus and minus. (I should be more social.)

One additional benefit is that I can do other things while watching the broadcast. Cleaning my room, (probably won't happen) blogging, (clearly has) and eating some food.

While driving home I thought "I need to hurry and change to get to the Christmas broadcast thing" then remembered we already had the Christmas broadcast and thought it kind of strange that we had the Christmas broadcast as kind of a regular Sunday fireside- but Joseph gets a special devotional on his actual birthday.

So, to somewhat link to D-Train's post, is there some truth to claims of people like Decker? Certainly I believe Joseph Smith was a true prophet. But, do we revere him to a point that it interferes with a focus on Christ? Do we focus more on the fact that we have the true messenger than on what the message is?

President Packer offered the opening prayer. It seemed almost a history lesson/sermon on Joseph Smith as much as a prayer. But, it started with thanks that we could be gathered on this sacred occasion. I thought "sacred?" It kind of made me wonder where we fall, and why we are surprised when people think we worship the prophet Joseph.

Buddhists of most stripes reverence towards the Buddha certainly seems to be definable as worship. Many people mistakenly believe that Muslims worship Mohammed - but I suppose depending on the definition of worship many/all of them do. When we hear something along the lines of "There is one God, Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." many of us define that as worshipful.

Because really, what is worship? Do we revere the prophet? Certainly. But where is the line?
So, in some measure, do we worship the prophet Joseph Smith? I don't know that we can define it as worship- but should we really be so prickly in being defensive or offended when people assume that we do?


18 Responses to “But do we worship him?”

  1. Anonymous Ronan 

    OK, some random points about the broadcast:

    - President Packer giving thanks to Emma (hooray!), and both prayers' mentioning of Joseph's descendants (that they be remembered).
    - President Hinckley and Justin Butterfield would get on famously (historical minutiae about granite monuments)
    - It could have done a bit better in taking our gaze beyond Joseph to Christ. This broadcast would have horrified many Christians, especially at Christmas (I expressed my opinion about this at BCC: certainly the commemoration is appropriate, but.....)

  2. Anonymous Ronan 

    One other thing:

    What did that guy who said the closing prayer (a descendant of Joseph) mean when he said that Joseph "had claim on only one son" when he died? Am I remembering that correctly?

    Speaking as an international Mormon: talk of the bloodline of Joseph is not something I find spiritually important.

  3. Anonymous D-Train 

    I cannot comment specifically on the broadcast, but I might watch it when I get home from Tulsa.

    Here's the thing: I think we probably do worship Joseph at a level that is higher than is proper. Here's the litmus test: what are prophets telling us now that you can't get anywhere else? Phrased another way, what does the Church understand that nobody/essentially nobody else does? Here's what I can think of:

    1) Authority to perform ordinances. We've had that since the Restoration of the 1820s and 1830s.

    2) The necessity/existence of those ordinances. Again, since Joseph's time.

    3) The Book of Mormon as another testament of Christ. Since Joseph.

    4) Doctrine concerning the true nature of God. This evolved somewhat, especially during the Nauvoo period and early Deseret years, but basically solid by the time of the 1890 Manifesto.

    5) Word of Wisdom - since Joseph, some minor clarifications, but basic "alcohol, tobacco, tea, coffee" line solid since Taylor.

    All of this leads me to one basic conclusion: prophets are giving us good, inspired advice a lot of the time, but most of it is just Mormon-specific versions of what other churches are talking about. Other churches have long condemned "hippie morality", rock music, drugs, tattoos, sexual impropriety, et cetera. Inappropriate media and other cultural phenomena are tackled by other churches as well, often more vocally and more forcefully. Given all of this, I have to conclude that Joseph was the "great revelator" of the restoration and that most subsequent prophets have been more administrators. They're still inspired of God, but let's face fact: He hasn't chosen to reveal a hundredth as much through anyone else as through Joseph Smith.

    Given that undeniable reality, we have to place Joseph above the other prophets of the Restoration. We respect prophets, we worship God, and we "revere/acknowledge/pay respects" to Joseph. We don't worship him, but we clearly treat him as more than a man. There's nothing wrong with that, but as Mike said, people are going to notice.

  4. Anonymous D-Train 

    something's wrong with our comments....

  5. Anonymous RoastedTomatoes 

    I was alarmed by the comment that "faith and believing blood" united in Joseph Smith's family. Haven't we moved away from doctrines of believing blood? I thought this was in the Mormon folklore bin at this point -- and then I suddenly get ambushed by it at this meeting!

    My feeling was that some of the talks altogether neglected the reasons why anyone might want to commemorate Joseph Smith's birthday. Surely it's not because of a leg operation, a grandfather's service in the Revolutionary War, or a sudden freeze that allowed his monument ("large polished shaft," or, in Hinckley's terms "erection"!) to be installed on time...

  6. Anonymous Genevieve 

    I also did not hear the broadcast as I was at work but my Stake has being having Joseph Smith specific firesides one Sunday a month since August. The last one coming in January with that "Rolling Stone" author speaking is much anticipated.
    They've each focused on specific parts of Joseph's life and or calling as a Prophet. They were interesting and all the Missionaries in the area were tickled pink to have an informative meeting to bring their investigators to.
    My issue is with how we idolize all of the Prophets and "Brethren." I KNOW that Joseph himself neither sought after nor allowed others to pedistalize him. He was deeply aware of his short comings and was always whenever possible, very boy like and fun loving. He took the Lord seriously but I don't believe that God would have allowed Joseph to take himself seriously. So many people and especially members take the occasion of some visiting authority to much into their own ego's and treat them with a reverence and awe that should really only be given to Christ himself.
    I personally have no real interest in meeting or shaking hands with any of the main body of leadership in the Church unless of course I could really have the time to talk with them and make a spiritual connection. I've met Pres. Packer 4 times for example and although he was kind it was not a shaking the hand of the Pope kind of experience for me.
    Now touching Jesus is an all together different thing. :)

  7. Anonymous Ronan 

    RT,
    As I said above, prayers about "believing blood" leave me cold. Too dynastic and utterly Deseret-centric. It's also a poke in the eye of the RLDS, as it claimed that Joseph "lost" his children. Joseph Smith III would beg to differ, probably.

  8. Anonymous Mike 

    I was wondering whether any one would comment on the believing blood comments or the discussion of Joseph's descendants.

    When President Packer prayed that the surviving bloodline of Joseph Smith might come into the true Church I about fell out of my chair. I wondered how it would be taken by any of the RLDS who might be listening.
    Not that praying that others come into the true church is a bad thing. It was just kind of strange to hear a somewhat specific group targeted that way. And I want to say "well, why them more than any one else?" But, even if we don't really talk much about things such as believing bloodline, personal posterity is still, at least doctrinally, pretty important. The eternal family thing and the importance of having posterity still seems to be portrayed as something we should want to have happen. If Joseph Smith believed we couldn't be saved without generations before and after being sealed to us- then I suppose it would be important for the generations following him to be sealed in his lineage.

  9. Anonymous Crystal 

    Given that we don't know Christ's actual birthday, I think that it is just fine that we have a fireside on any given Sunday. Aside from that, how many people do you think would actually come to a fireside on Christmas day? Probably less than would go on a Friday night. ;o)

    As far as letting the messenger get in the way of the message, I think that is something each person has to evaluate and decide for themselves, but as a people, I don't think we go too far.

    I think we do a good job of letting the world know that we are the Church of Jesus Christ. I think there is a point where we would be going too far. It would be sad to lose sight of the importance of the Restoration.

  10. Anonymous Crystal 

    For clarification: I don't think we could go too far in letting the world know we're the Church of Jesus Christ. I meant that we can go too far in downplaying Joseph and continuing revelation.

  11. Anonymous Mike 

    I agree that we shouldn't forget how wonderful the restoration is, or even try to claim Joseph Smith was less important than he is- but that is part of why I ask the question. I was one of the standard missionaries that was a big fan of the Joseph Smith tapes from Truman Madsen, I'm pretty certain that my birthday present from wrapped and waiting to be opened is Bushman's new biography of the prophet Joseph Smith.

    But I also think that at the same time we claim to be a peculiar people- it's only ok when peculiar and its synonyms are coming out of our mouth. In the last 20 years as we have become much more mainstream in the view of outsiders and in our own view we often get really bothered when it becomes clear that the extent to which we are viewed as mainstream only goes so far. We are, somewhat understandably, offended when people believe that we aren't Christians.

    Yes, it does hurt when people just reject our testimony of Christ flippantly with a statement of knowing what we actually believe. But, I think that the broadcast reminded me that a whole lot of that is self imposed. Our focus on Joseph Smith, our lack of focus on certain aspects of Christ and his atonement and grace, our self righteous and holier than the wicked world attitude: in total all our words and behavior really do a lot to create the impressions that people have.

  12. Anonymous Crystal 

    Mike,

    What aspects of Christ and his atonement and grace do you think we do not focus on?

    It was only five years ago that I took the discussions, and though one of the discussions focused on Joseph Smith, the rest were Christ and principle centered and all mentioned the Atonement and Grace in some sense.

    I think we also are very Christ and Heavenly Father centered in our worship and our study.

    It's been really hard for me in the short period of time that I've been a member. I've fallen away and doubted and despaired too many times to count. What has kept me coming back is the strong testimony I have of Joseph's work.

    I've believed in God and Christ since I was old enough to grasp to concepts, but it wasn't untill I learned of the Restoration that I was able to accept the authority of a Church.

    So, for me, it is my testimony of Joseph that brings me closer to the Savior, because it is through the Church that Joseph restored that I learned the true nature of Christ.

    Now I know that Jesus is not incorporate and trinitarian, and that he is not silent. The heavens are open and revelation continues.

    Because of Joseph, I am truly able to worship the Living Christ.

  13. Anonymous Mike 

    Crystal-

    I think that answers it then- We don't focus too much on Joseph.

    I'm going to agree- I think that we should focus on and talk about the prophet Joseph Smith and on the restoration. However, I think that with the extent that we do focus on this we shouldn't eb so bothered/offended/angry/defensive when people have false perceptions due to our focus.

    I don't think doctrinally we neglect the atonement- but I think culturally we do. We don't really glory in the grace of Christ and are kind of embarrased by being associated with the Jesus freaks of the world. We are really hard on ourselves and demand perfection all the time.

    I am extremely grateful to the prophet Joseph and the things he did to bring forth the restoration and to restore truth. I have always loved Elder Bruce R Haffen's talk about the restored doctrine of the atonement. I think it covers some of these things really well.

  14. Anonymous Crystal 

    Mike,

    I do think you're right to a degree. Culturally, sometimes our focus can seem skewed to outsiders, and we should strive to educate where it would be useful and just ignore the naysayers who condemn just to condemn.

    And I gotta be honest. I don't really want to be associated with Jesus freaks. The connotations the term has are not desireable. It's become a charactiture of what it really means to be Christian.

  15. Anonymous Mike 

    I agree that it has ebcome a charicature and that wanting to not be a part of it makes sense. But I think that sometimes we distance ourselves so far as to not seem to share the common beliefs we do happen to have.

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