Ruminations

The LDS and worship of Jesus

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Traditional, historical Christianity renders worship and prayer to the second person of the Trinity–the Son, Jesus Christ.  This adoration is equal to the level given to the Father, and is not a lesser form of veneration as would be given to the saints.  This is based on the understanding that the Trinity is one God and three Persons that are equal. The Holy Scriptures occasionally make direct reference to addressing Jesus in prayer (eg Acts 7:59, John 14:14, 1 Cor 1:2, 2 Thes 2:16).  However, this is not believed by religious movements that reject Trinitarianism as “pagan” doctrine, especially ones that believe the New Testament has been corrupted.

The Mormons sometimes say “we also worship Jesus.” However, this is a common careless slip, since Mormonism discourages and rejects Jesus worship and says they only worship Heavenly Father. This is odd since the Book of Mormon gives explicit instructions to worship Jesus:

And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out.–2 Nephi 25:29

But the common Mormon response and interpretation is that “worship” means being “in awe of” and “honor.” This can be summed up with former LDS member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Apostle/Elder Bruce R McConkie who stated:

1. We worship the Father and him only and no one else.
We do not worship the Son, and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense—the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator.–Bruce R McConkie, Our Relationship with the Lord, March 2, 1982

So to be clear, Mormons only worship “Heavenly Father,” not the Son, and certainly not the Holy Ghost–a person Mormons do not even know where He came from (The Father, a brother of the Father, somewhere else?).

The problem with the usual Mormon interpretation of this verse is that it does fine to explain away one word–worship, but does nothing to explain the rest of the verse that says, “worship him with all your might, mind, and strength.” This is obviously something the Bible says about God the Father, a point some LDS know so they construe the verse as being about worshiping the Father in “Jesus’ Name” though the verse is strictly about Jesus. If you are told to worship Jesus with all that you have–your might, mind, and strength, what else is left? That is everything, which means that is the same worship that the Father is to be given! Even, the Doctrine and Covenants, another one of the many Mormon additions to Scripture refers to the same verse in the Torah, Deuteronomy 6, when it says:

 Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.–Doctrine and Covenants 4:2

And again in,

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him”–Doctrine and Covenants 59:5

To a Mormon when the D&C says “God” that means “Heavenly Father.” So why is Jesus being given worship that Mormons say should only be given to Heavenly Father? To make things even more confusing–to the LDS Jehovah is the Old Testament name of Jesus, which the D&C often just uses “Lord” for. D&C 59:5 also seems to contradict 2 Nephi 25:29 which says to worship Jesus with all your might, mind and strength, but here in D&C 59:5 it makes a distinction between “Lord the God” and “Jesus Christ” that it says you worship God in the name of. But if we were to look at Deuteronomy 6:4 in Hebrew it uses the word transliterated as Jehovah.

And thou shalt love the LORD [YHVH/Jehovah] thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל-מְאֹדֶךָ

יְהוָה is the Hebrew spelling for LORD/Jehovah/YHWH. So, the verse is saying to worship Jesus, is we accept the LDS interpretation Jehovah=Jesus. LDS.org on who Jehovah is, in the Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel Teacher Manual, 2015 states:

“In testifying of the Savior Jesus Christ, modern prophets have declared: “He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign or Liahona, Apr. 2000, 2). Jesus Christ, as Jehovah, established Heavenly Father’s everlasting gospel on the earth in every dispensation of time in order to gather in every one of God’s children who were lost.”–Lesson 5: Jesus Christ Was Jehovah of the Old Testament. Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel Teacher Manual, 2015

But, even if we were to pretend Jehovah is not meant in the verse in 2 Nephi 25:29, it still renders to Jesus something Latter Day Saint theology says is reserved for Heavenly Father alone. Interestingly, from personal experience there is a very small minority within the LDS that confess that it is acceptable to pray and worship Christ in the fullest sense because the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants mention it, despite the rejection of the practice by church leadership.

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