A topic for Sunday: Praise

February 7, 2004 | 9 comments
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A few weeks ago in our Sacrament Meeting, we sang 4 hymns composed by Eliza R. Snow, in honor of the 200th anniversary of her birth. One line from one of those hymns has been on my mind since then. It’s from this verse:

He lives! He lives! We humbly now
Around these sacred symbols bow,
And seek as Saints of latter days
To do His will and live His praise.

We talk a lot about how to discern and do the Lord’s will, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about how to “live His praise,” and I wonder what that might mean.

I would think, at a minimum, that it would mean doing His will, following the commandments as well as we possibly can, but there’s also an element of joy, even exuberance, in the word “praise” that I think is often missing from discussions of Saintly living. In fact, we don’t really praise much at all–even when we gloss the Lord’s Prayer, we turn “hallowed be Thy name” into a pattern for the expression of gratitude. Gratitude is subtly different than praise, and carries (to me, at least) more of the force of what one ought to do, what is owed to God. Praise suggests an abundance of delight in the Lord’s creation and sustaining power, a spontaneous overflow of love for God. It strikes me that many Mormons (myself included) are more comfortable with the prosaic duties to do God’s will and be grateful than with the poetic wildness of praise.

So, Saints, what do you think it might mean to “live His praise”?

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9 Responses to A topic for Sunday: Praise

  1. Gordon Smith on February 7, 2004 at 8:51 pm

    Great question, Kristine. Francis Bacon said, “Praise is the reflection of virtue.” Perhaps the hymn would be rendered in more expansive prose as “live in such a way that you reflect virtue.” If that is right, then this seems related to the idea of spiritual rebirth, of “receiv[ing] his image in your countenances.” (Alma 5:14)

  2. Kaimi on February 7, 2004 at 8:54 pm

    Kris,

    It strikes me that one possibility is that Eliza is refering to Matthew 5:16:

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven

    Or, she may be refering to praise. Our church seems to de-emphasize praise. I taught discussions of prayer using the four steps (I think this is still taught)

    Our Father in Heaven
    We thank thee
    We ask thee
    In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

    That’s how many (most?) members pray. Notably absent is a praise section. This leads to a little bit of awkwardness when discussing the Lord’s Prayer, which begins with a (short) praise section.

    On the other hand, maybe we don’t want to dwell on it because praise makes people a little wierd. You get people trying to out-praise the other. At least, any time I hear someone pray in that vein (and it happens a lot in mission-field wards) I feel a little uncomfortable.

  3. Kristine on February 7, 2004 at 10:25 pm

    Don’t forget I’m from Nashville, and thus fully cognizant (and wary!)of the possibilities for wacky and gushingly emotional expressions praise.

    I wonder how (and when) we changed from being at least semi-comfortable with speaking in tongues to getting nervous if people are a little over the top in their praise. Probably it’s the fault of my stodgy Swedish ancestors converting en masse ;)

  4. cooper on February 8, 2004 at 12:05 pm

    Perhaps it is our attitude. The way we approach even sorrow in this life. Remembering the scripture (again) in the D&C 122:8, and deciding that he actually did succumb to all the evil, negative, painful and sorrowful so we wouldn’t have to be alone in our suffering (oversimplification here).

    How many of us accept that sacrifice willingly? How many of us approach life as covenanted Eyores? We testify of the truthfulness of the gospel yet complain at having to experience the mundane and ordinary or repetitive tasks.

    It is finding joy in the fact that we know Him. And that is worth everything.

  5. Jim F. on February 9, 2004 at 9:30 pm

    Running the danger of beating a dead horse and patting myself on the back at the same time (does that make me the dead horse?), it seems to me that what I say about gratitude (http://www.timesandseasons.org/archives/000401.html#) is applicable here. You are right to be wary of gushingly emotional expressions of praise. But that is exactly why the phrase “living his praise” is apt. Praise of God has at least as much to do with the lives we live as it does with what we say. The question is whether our lives praise God, not whether our mouths do.

  6. Jim F. on February 9, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    On the other hand (philosophers are like economists, they can’t think without two hands), I also think that we are often too wary of praising. Kaimi mentions that we hear more praising in mission-field wards than in other places, and I think he is right. But to some degree I wonder if that isn’t because we have been badly acculturated. We are too afraid to praise and, so, don’t do enough of it.

  7. Greg Call on February 9, 2004 at 9:45 pm

    One of the things I love about my branch is the absence of Wasatch Front acculturation. Over the few months I’ve been in the ward, several speakers have ended their talks with seemingly impromptu a cappella songs of praise (not those found in the hymnbook) and a member of the bishopric began a talk with a moving rendition of Amazing Grace on the harmonica.

  8. Kristine on February 10, 2004 at 9:41 pm

    My kids have been learning the Primary song “A Child’s Prayer.” One line goes “some say that heaven is far away, but I feel it close around me as I pray.” My five-year-old, Louisa, heard it incorrectly the first time and has been going around all week singing “I feel it close around me as I play.” It strikes me that that must be exactly what it feels like to “live His praise!”

  9. Adam Greenwood on February 11, 2004 at 10:22 pm

    I hate to be a wet blanket, but it seems to me that if you can’t be told what living his praise means, and if you know it you can’t define it. Well, perhaps you could relate an experience.

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