I have sung “Praise to the Man” many times and noticed that the lyrics to the song seem a lot like we are worshipping Joseph Smith. Is there a explanation on why that is? Or a way new perspective on why it has the lyrics it does? Thanks.
There are all sorts of lies and misconceptions out there about every religion, and Mormonism is no different. No, we don’t still practice polygamy; no, we don’t believe that women are subservient to or less equal than men; and no, we don’t worship Joseph Smith Jr. I do not understand why critics of the Church believe that polygamy is still in practice or that women are subservient to men, but at first glance I can see why people would get confused as to how Latter-day Saints treat Joseph. However, it quickly becomes apparent that while we respect Joseph, we worship only God and Jesus Christ.
The specific hymn you mentioned, “Praise to the Man,” was originally a poem composed shortly after the martyrdom of Joseph. The author, William Phelps, was not only a believer in Mormonism but also a personal friend of Joseph. After a falling out with the Church, Phelps later rejoined and it’s clear by the lyrics that he greatly admired Joseph. Poems are often translated into music, but their meanings might become slightly confused.
Joseph Smith Jr. is an iconic figure in the life of all Latter-day Saints. It is not hard to figure out why believing Latter-day Saints treat him with such respect. Our Father in Heaven chose him to translate the holy scripture of the Book of Mormon and to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ that had fallen into apostasy. Since our Heavenly Father chose Joseph to restore the truths of the gospel of Christ, active Latter-day Saints believe he is a worthy of respect and reverence. We treat him the way any other God-fearing people would treat their revered prophet.
The word “worship” is defined as “the feeling of expression or reverence and adoration for a deity.” The definition is very clear. It clearly and unequivocally says that the expression of reverence is only for a deity. Joseph for all the good he did, is not a deity. Therefore, we only “worship” God and Jesus Christ. In a question of terminology, the answer is obvious and very clear.
Let there be no confusion, Jason. We are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We close every prayer in the name of Jesus Christ. Who we worship should be clear even to our sharpest critics even if we do show great respect for the prophets that God has chosen to lead our church.
Hope this helps,