I have been struck for a long time by the different ways that people interpret and speak of praise, honor and glory – particularly how they use these terms to describe our relationship with God. Each has a distinct meaning, separate from the others, but they get conflated and used interchangeably all the time. First, consider the following foundational facts:
1) The word “praise” occurs in our scriptures 188 times. (Interestingly, this word appears in the D&C only three times, in the BofM less than 20 times, and in Psalms nearly half of the other times.) In every instance, it means nothing more than its standard dictionary definition: (n) – “expression of approval or admiration; commendation; laudation.” (v) – “to express approval or admiration of; commend; extol.”
2) “Honor” (“honour” in the Bible) is found 123 times – with 105 of those times being in the Bible and the other 18 times split almost evenly between the D&C and the BofM. The dictionary definitions all focus on “respect” – but the scriptural references add an element of obedience to those verses that deal with honoring God. They carry the distinct implication that those who “respect” God will submit to what he asks of them. (Much like John 14:15 – “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”) There is another fascinating implication – that of “honoring” God by “bringing honor to” Him.
3) “Glory” is far more common, as it is found 352 times throughout our canon, with “glorify” occurring 27 more times. Imo, the most interesting thing about these words is that “glorify” is used EXCLUSIVELY in reference to God and His name, but “glory” is used to describe many things – God, man, and the creations of both.
In the dictionary, “glory” is defined as: “resplendent beauty or magnificence; a state of great splendor, magnificence, or prosperity; a state of absolute happiness, gratification, contentment.” “Glorify”, on the other hand, is defined as: “to elevate or idealize; to cause to be or seem more glorious or excellent than is actually the case.” The first is understood to be a positive thing, while the second is seen as a negative thing.
Why do I go through this exercise in this way? Simply to illustrate the unique place these words hold within Mormonism – distinctly different than within most, if not all, other religious traditions and the dictionary itself. Mormonism has added something fundamental to the religious lexicon by claiming a distinctly different aspect to glorifying – and it is not a trivial addition.
When praise, honor and glory are used within orthodox Christianity, they are used to mean simply what the dictionary itself states – namely, the utmost admiration, respect, splendor and magnificence. “Giving glory to God” generally can be summarized as praising Him (e.g., “Our God is an awesome God.”) and recognizing that He is so far beyond us that it is impossible to make Him “be or seem more glorious or excellent than is actually the case.” Therefore, we “glorify God” by “elevating or idealizing” Him, but we are not to “glorify” others (including ourselves) by making us “be or seem more glorious or excellent than is actually the case.”
This is the heart of the charge of blasphemy leveled against Mormonism – that in its presentation of the doctrine of exaltation and Celestial Glory, it elevates and idealizes humanity beyond what is actually the case to a state that should be reserved only for God. Since God alone is elevated above us, anything that *appears* to place us as equals is considered heretical – an act of “glorifying” man and not just God, as they believe the Bible so clearly states should be.
How do Mormons reconcile this dilemma? Ironically, by keeping the basic definition of praise and honor in place but changing radically the overarching (or underpinning, whichever seems more apt) principle of glory to fit more closely the differing degrees or applications in our canon – specifically the Bible. (That is truly ironic, since the Book of Mormon says next to nothing on this topic.)
Mormonism takes the basic concept of “glory” being applied to God and all His creation and focuses on the concept of growing through glories taught most directly in a few NT passages:
1) 2 Cor. 3:18 says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2) 1 Cor. 15:40-41 says, “There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
3) John 17 contains some fascinating verses, including the following:
a) verse 4: “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
b) verses 10-11: “And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
4) Matthew 5:48 says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (This verse is the subject of an upcoming post.)
By citing these verses and many others like them, Mormonism places “glorifying God” in a different light. It posits that “this is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39) – in practical terms, defining the process of glorification as the accomplishment of Matthew 5:48 and John 17:11, among many others. Within all of Christianity (including Mormonism), praising, honoring and glorifying God are used to elevate and separate Him from us, but within Mormonism, His praise and honor and glory is defined as flowing from His grace and mercy in changing us to become like Him and His Son – in truly making us “perfect, even as (He) is perfect” and “one, as (He and His Son) are one”.
What separates Mormonism at the most fundamental level from the rest of Christianity is that we take these and other similar scriptures literally – and that literalness changes the very core of our view of God’s glory. We don’t praise and honor His glory; we praise and honor him by realizing that we are His glory, unworthy though we are and everlastingly “below Him” though we also ever will be. We give glory to God, our Eternal Father, in the same way that my children give glory to me – by becoming what I hope and pray they become, NOT by telling me how wonderful I am.
I believe the following is a false dichotomy, but If I had to choose between my children praising, honoring or glorifying me (as I believe each is defined and laid out in our scriptures), I would choose glorifying every time. I can live happily without verbal expressions of praise and honor (“admiration and respect”); frankly, I don’t really care what is said nearly as much as what is done. What I really care about is what my children become – that they maximize their glory (“beauty, magnificence, splendor, [spiritual] prosperity, absolute happiness, gratification, contentment”). If that happens, I truly will be glorified myself; if not, no praise or honor will make up for it – and my Mormon self simply can’t picture God being any different, given what I believe is taught in the New Testament.
I used to be bothered by some of the scriptures that make it seem like God wants or needs praise. If anything, God should be/is the most humble being in the universe, so why would he want glory? Some of your insights clarify it nicely, imo, in the sense that WE are His glory.
Adam, I don’t think God “needs praise” – but I do think we need to praise and honor Him. If we don’t see Him as praiseworthy and deserving of honor, we won’t try to emulate and glorify Him. I’m sure you agree with that, but I just wanted to make it clear.
Agreed. Through praising or honoring Him we become like him.
I like the picture that Psalms 46-48 portray. I think it puts the triumphant and celebrational aspect of God’s majesty and reign over the whole earth into something that, poetically, seems more than the sum of the dictionary definition of “praise.” Furthermore they underscore our total humility and dependence toward Him.
There certainly is a different nuance between the nature of Man between the trad. LDS and trad. Christian views. I was reading Millet’s “Grace Works” in preparation for an interfaith dialog I’m leading and was surprised at how difficult was his apparent purpose to portray a “delicate balance” between faith and works that is very much informed by the “Protestant” view, while also trying to speak out of the other side of his mouth to the traditional Mormon view. While I have my critiques I could give his material, I have admiration for what Millet was trying to do, which is to encourage LDS members to stop stereotyping and fearing the doctrine of Grace. And stop exalting their human nature so high as to think we can save ourselves or become abandoned to grief and gult when we can’t. Where Millet struggled most I think it was in his difficulty bridging the difference between a Christian view of depraved, sin-natured, fallen humankind with a “fallen forward” and only-so-fallen-as-God-needs-us-to-be perspective that often appears in LDS.
As a self-described Christian Humanist I’ve occasionally had thoughtful LDS persons ask me why I don’t think the LDS view of “joint-heirship”, theosis, “pseudo-fallen” nature of mankind, and “universal salvation” is more humanistically inspirational than the traditional Christian views. Since I don’t have time to post more at length right now on all the details — some of which resolve around some of the scripture you mentioned — I’ll say that for me it boils down to what I see from a transformational Christian perspective: Christ taught us our reliance and total dependence on God. In a here-and-now Kingdom of God sense I see that he invites us to be action-oriented in abandoning our individual self in favor of the collective Kingdom. For me the traditional Christian theology better addresses this separation, better informs the theology of Grace and what it means to become our perfected and glorified selves: joint-heirs in Christ. I see in the LDS worldview a humanity where free will is exalted perhaps too greatly and our complete dependence on God tempered a little too far with a distaste for addressing the Fall in the same sense of separation and deprivation. However, I appreciate that there are LDS folks like Millet who recognize the pragmatic results that have culturally divided our denominations and seem to be trying to make efforts to bridge differences.
Actually, Adam, I disagree with that statement.
I know plenty of people who “praise and honor” their supervisor (or a higher manager) at work, but they don’t make any effort to become like that person. I think this is similar to why, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”
That really is my point about glorifying God. One stance says that “saying unto me, Lord, Lord” (praising and honoring the Lord) is what glorifies Him; another says that “doing the (commandments or following the law) of my Father” is what glorifies Him. Our unique contribution is the idea that neither of those alone glorifies God, but rather the active recognition that the Father’s “will” in this case literally IS to become like him – not necessarily by what we say or do in and of those things themselves, but literally by trying to become like Him. After all, if all it took to glorify God was lockstep obedience to a list of do’s and don’ts while telling someone how great they are, Satan’s plan would have been a much better option than God’s. That’s worth considering.
Adam, let’s change this around just a little bit. Can you conceive God “wanting praise/worship” (not needing) if His reason for wanting it is as a way of sharing Himself with us?
“I see in the LDS worldview a humanity where free will is exalted perhaps too greatly and our complete dependence on God tempered a little too far with a distaste for addressing the Fall in the same sense of separation and deprivation.”
JfQ, I also see this too much in the perspectives of too many members, but I don’t see it in the actual teachings of the Restored Gospel. The theology for what you are saying is there, I just think (as I said recently on another thread) we generally swung too far in opposition to the “easy grace” concept that prophets saw and tried to keep the members from embracing. I think that movement hardened during the 60’s and 70’s – for obvious cultural reasons.
Iow, I agree that the former emphasis created issues, but I believe it was much more an issue of emphasis rather than “worldview”. Our emphasis now is much more on grace and reliance than it was even two decades ago – or even one decade ago.
Bruce, yes! And that was the statement I was trying to make that Ray disagreed with, lol. Sometimes it’s hard to communicate through my pithy-yet-abstruse sentences.
Adam, got it now. Thanks Bruce. 🙂
That was interesting. Thanks.
Ray said, “JfQ, I also see this too much in the perspectives of too many members, but I don’t see it in the actual teachings of the Restored Gospel. The theology for what you are saying is there, I just think (as I said recently on another thread) we generally swung too far in opposition to the “easy grace” concept that prophets saw and tried to keep the members from embracing. I think that movement hardened during the 60’s and 70’s – for obvious cultural reasons.”
I generally agree, though I think if the Book of Mormon, D&C and PoGP are taken on their own they give a much less clear picture of Grace that accords with the New Testament. Together with the Bible I think, at least on this subject, they collectively complicate the issue more than illuminate. I think it is hard to accept the biblical description of Grace as complete rescue from our total, willful separation from God in sin, when one believes that God intended or wanted humanity to sin in order to bring about His plan of redemption; such postures that man is basically in good standing with God (just not salvationally self-sufficient) vs. fundamentally separated from Him. Very differently nuanced world-views.
I thought Millet was having to strain a bit, having to creatively nuance some LDS scripture, to make his case for a more Protestant-like view of Grace, but I still think he made his case fairly persuasive. He obviously is advocating a change while trying to to be too harsh on the LDS past. Not easy. (Read the “desert parable” of his Delicate Balance chapter and I still don’t think it quite presents the doctrine accurately — it is still giving too great a nod to the historical LDS prejudice.)
Given the “hardened movement” as you describe it I do think yours is the most significant explanation for the resistance to Grace more so than actual LDS doctrine. For the latter the case is not unequivocally in favor of Grace to the extent Millet took it, however. I think the evolution of emphasis is a good one, since it is fundamental and pragmatic to fostering the hope we are promised in Christ. I don’t want to put that effort down. It is, to be sure, somewhat a matter of rediscovering LDS doctrine that was there all along. But it is also, to be honest, requiring some earlier authoritative statements to be deemphasized. It hearkens back at that usual Protestant frustration with the malleability of determining what LDS actually consider authoritatively establishes its doctrine. 🙂
Anyhow, this is a bit academic. It’s a good thing to see LDS minority voices, like yours, working to help your fellow believers find more hope, praise and joy in Christ’s Gospel — to see our glory is His glory, fully and apart from our own individualistic impulse to want to reserve some of the credit for ourselves.
Ray–great post–in other words, I praise you for glorifying Heavenly Father.
Pingback: Common Scriptures in Review: JSH 1:19 at Mormon Matters
I expected to find more here concerning a definition of what God’s “glory” is. I think that Ray’s last thought comes close to nailing what “glory” is – “What I really care about is what my children become – that they maximize their glory (“beauty, magnificence, splendor, [spiritual] prosperity, absolute happiness, gratification, contentment”). If that happens, I truly will be glorified myself” The Hebrew sense of glory is the best definition in all scriptural contexts, especially verses such as D&C 93:39, “the glory of god is intelligence, or light and truth”. In Hebrew (kabod) we are talking about a tree laden or heavy with fruit, i.e. fruitfulness. All of the attributes that Ray mention indicate a spiritual son or daughter that is fruitful. Certainly we understand the imperative to multiply and replenish – has that initial command gone away, or are fruits, especially those of the Spirit still requisite? The fulness of glory that Christ received from the Father and gave to man, “that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn 17:22), was his gracelovecharitymercy, the pinnacle of all fruitfulness (glory). Many imagine that glory is light. That maybe so, but the light which was divided from the darkness was purposed to produce life (fruit) on the third day, and the greater light (the sun, son) of the fourth day was revealed to bring the multiplying and fruitfulness of the fifth day. Temporal creation, a pattern of our spiritual creation speaks his glory – which is fruitfulness.
Jn 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 9As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
Isn’t it interesting that Satan sought the Father’s Honor? I think Honor is more then just a respect that makes us want to follow someone – it is the power of persuasion. It is the ability to have people follow you without force. The docrine and covenants goes on to equate honor with power. Honor is the only righteous way to wield power. God’s attributes allow us to honor HIm in a way we could never honor man. That is why he has the power to save us if we come unto Him and follow Him. In so doing we certainly glorify Him and I love that part of this post.
I mention this only because it seems like Praise is definately the lowest form of worship in the discussion, but honor also seems to be an afterthough in these comments. I think it is because of God’s Honor that we each take the steps to glorify Him. Honor and praise were used too interchangeably in my opinion. They are very different forms of worship.