dsnell

Should "Praise to the Man" stay in the new hymnal?

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I think it's safe to say that "Praise to the Man" is one of the faster, catchier hymns in the hymnal, but considering it's lyrics, do you think it should remain in the new iteration of the hymnal coming out sometime in the future? I write for ThirdHour.org and was thinking about doing an article about people's opinions on this. What are your thoughts? I personally think it's a fantastic hymn, I love it, but I think it weirds people out that are new or unfamiliar with the Church. I feel like it borderline deifies Joseph Smith, misrepresents his role in our religion, and slightly deviates our focus from Christ to Joseph during sacrament meetings. But maybe I'm overthinking it and it's actually just a great song honoring a prophet. What are your thoughts? Here are the lyrics for reference:

1. Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

(Chorus]
Hail to the Prophet, ascended to heaven!
Traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.
Mingling with Gods, he can plan for his brethren;
Death cannot conquer the hero again.

2. Praise to his mem'ry, he died as a martyr;
Honored and blest be his ever great name!
Long shall his blood, which was shed by assassins,
Plead unto heav'n while the earth lauds his fame.

3. Great is his glory and endless his priesthood.
Ever and ever the keys he will hold.
Faithful and true, he will enter his kingdom,
Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old.

4. Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven;
Earth must atone for the blood of that man.
Wake up the world for the conflict of justice.
Millions shall know "Brother Joseph" again.

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Should we also de-canonize D&C 135?

IMHO our God is big enough not to get His nose out of joint just because, every now and again, we say (or even sing!) that a particular prophet did a pretty good job.

And frankly, if anything the modern Church probably downplays the significance of Joseph Smith’s life and ministry; as well as his role as the head of our dispensation.  There are already several restorationist churches that throw Brother Joseph down the memory hole, and we don’t need to be trying to occupy that theological niche. 

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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1 minute ago, Just_A_Guy said:

Should we also de-canonize D&C 135?

IMHO our God is big enough not to get His nose out of joint just because, every now and again, we say (or even sing!) that a particular prophet did a pretty good job.

And frankly, if anything the modern Church probably downplays the significance of Joseph Smith’s life and ministry; as well as his role as the head of our dispensation.  

Fair enough.

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I think you may be overthinking it. Keep the old tried and true hymns like this and remove overly solemn hymns like ’Twas Witnessed in the Morning Sky. Also, if you are concerned about misunderstanding, then "We thank thee oh God for a Prophet" needs to go. There are still people who think it is about how the prophet is the "bounteous hand" sung of in the hymn. "We'll sing of his goodness and mercy" is not about the prophet's goodness and mercy, it is about the Lord's goodness and mercy. I have come to dislike this hymn as I have realized how misleading it is.

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One other thought:  there are several hymns that serve not only to directly praise God; but that bind us together and forge us into a distinct people by reminding us of our shared heritage.  “Praise to the Man”, “Come, Come, Ye Saints”, “The Spirit of God”, “O Ye Mountains High”, “Ye Elders of Israel”, and “High On The Mountain Top”; among others.  I should be sorry to see any of them go.  The world isn’t going to let us forget our peculiarities; so we may as well embrace and draw strength from them.  

Edited by Just_A_Guy

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@dsnell I would vote to keep it myself. I find it to be one of the most powerful hymns of the restoration and I often feel the spirit when singing it, listening to it, or even just reading the lyrics right now. 

I would also agree with @Just_A_Guy's point and state that it is not just a hymn but an anthem that unites members in the faith. It would be an unfortunate day to see the church distancing itself from a past that is crucial to understanding the church today.

Out of curiosity, what do you see as the issues with the hymn? Is it seeming like we worship Joseph and not God? Is it the line about mingling with gods... suggesting polytheism? There is nothing wrong with remembering and honouring prophets. As for mingling with gods, I suppose that does create a potential conversation that isn't most easily understood as many conversations in these forums about the nature of god and whether or not lds are monotheistic or not will attest to. Nonetheless, there is no sense hiding what we believe either. People need to eventually be converted and willing to accept true doctrine for what it is or they will leave the church anyway. If the idea of becoming gods doesn't come up while investigating the church or singing hymns in church it will certainly come up in scritpure study and at the temple. Perhaps, the argument could be made that when a testimony is more mature it can handle this better. On the flip side I would have concerns that people would feel deceived (not simply by removing the hymn, but by making efforts to eliminate anything potentially confusing as a rule) as though this was a hidden from them to "trick" them into the church. I know with a lot of church history that is less savoury people tend to feel like the church has been covering up or lying to keep people in the church. So transparency is a good thing. If the hymns instigate conversation or questions, I think that's a good thing.

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13 minutes ago, Emmanuel Goldstein said:

I think you may be overthinking it. Keep the old tried and true hymns like this and remove overly solemn hymns like ’Twas Witnessed in the Morning Sky. Also, if you are concerned about misunderstanding, then "We thank thee oh God for a Prophet" needs to go. There are still people who think it is about how the prophet is the "bounteous hand" sung of in the hymn. "We'll sing of his goodness and mercy" is not about the prophet's goodness and mercy, it is about the Lord's goodness and mercy. I have come to dislike this hymn as I have realized how misleading it is.

I agree, we need to drop some of the overly solemn hymns. When it comes to Praise to the Man, I just think that if I were visiting a Latter-day Saint congregation for the first time I would have a lot of questions after listening to that hymn.

What Gods is Joseph mingling with? (this is a huge one)

I thought Latter-day Saints believed in one God? Why are they singing about multiple Gods (big "G")?  (another important one)

Why is Joseph entering his own kingdom and not the Kingdom of God? (makes sense to us, but might seem weird to others)

Why is he being crowned? Is he the king of the prophets? If so, why?

Anyway, I'm probably overthinking it (though from personal experience, investigators have gotten hung up over the "Mingling with Gods" line). I guess I just think that if it were removed it would cause more good than harm. Don't get me wrong, I'm Team Joseph through and through, I just think this hymn can be misleading. Though it would be painful to sacrifice one of the more upbeat hymns.

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4 minutes ago, dsnell said:

I agree, we need to drop some of the overly solemn hymns. When it comes to Praise to the Man, I just think that if I were visiting a Latter-day Saint congregation for the first time I would have a lot of questions after listening to that hymn.

What Gods is Joseph mingling with? (this is a huge one)

I thought Latter-day Saints believed in one God? Why are they singing about multiple Gods (big "G")?  (another important one)

Why is Joseph entering his own kingdom and not the Kingdom of God? (makes sense to us, but might seem weird to others)

Why is he being crowned? Is he the king of the prophets? If so, why?

Anyway, I'm probably overthinking it (though from personal experience, investigators have gotten hung up over the "Mingling with Gods" line). I guess I just think that if it were removed it would cause more good than harm. Don't get me wrong, I'm Team Joseph through and through, I just think this hymn can be misleading. Though it would be painful to sacrifice one of the more upbeat hymns.

It is indeed possible that some random person hearing it will come across with the wrong impression.  I don't think that mean we should always shut up about these things though.  Rather if you have an investigator with you on that day, spend the time to explain the actual meaning here (like the fact that this song is an eulogy, the Godhead, etc).  It's an opportunity to explain beliefs, rather than hide them.

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So what if it brings up "hard" questions. We already get accused of not telling converts everything up front, so why risk being worse in this way? Keep this, If You Could Hie to Kolob, and O My Father.

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Oh, I vote it in!  Don't you dare take it away.

Joseph Smith is the leader of this dispensation.  And as such he is in the same category as these men: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Peter.     I know that the church does not proclaim that Joseph Smith is an arch-angel, but in my mind he is one of the seven that stands before the throne of God (Revelations 8:2).

Without Joseph Smith, there is no Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, or D&C (other than the couple sections written by other modern day prophets). 

We should stop making excuses for Joseph Smith and let everyone know that he is a Modern Day Moses.  

All Christians should appreciate Joseph Smith.  And, eventually they will...

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8 minutes ago, SpiritDragon said:

@dsnell I would vote to keep it myself. I find it to be one of the most powerful hymns of the restoration and I often feel the spirit when singing it, listening to it, or even just reading the lyrics right now. 

I would also agree with @Just_A_Guy's point and state that it is not just a hymn but an anthem that unites members in the faith. It would be an unfortunate day to see the church distancing itself from a past that is crucial to understanding the church today.

Out of curiosity, what do you see as the issues with the hymn? Is it seeming like we worship Joseph and not God? Is it the line about mingling with gods... suggesting polytheism? There is nothing wrong with remembering and honouring prophets. As for mingling with gods, I suppose that does create a potential conversation that isn't most easily understood as many conversations in these forums about the nature of god and whether or not lds are monotheistic or not will attest to. Nonetheless, there is no sense hiding what we believe either. People need to eventually be converted and willing to accept true doctrine for what it is or they will leave the church anyway. If the idea of becoming gods doesn't come up while investigating the church or singing hymns in church it will certainly come up in scritpure study and at the temple. Perhaps, the argument could be made that when a testimony is more mature it can handle this better. On the flip side I would have concerns that people would feel deceived (not simply by removing the hymn, but by making efforts to eliminate anything potentially confusing as a rule) as though this was a hidden from them to "trick" them into the church. I know with a lot of church history that is less savoury people tend to feel like the church has been covering up or lying to keep people in the church. So transparency is a good thing. If the hymns instigate conversation or questions, I think that's a good thing.

See my reply to Emmanuel for more details, but to elaborate a little more...

I agree that the hymn is great at uniting members in the faith. It's undeniably a rousing and majestic hymn. But yes, I think it can be interpreted as Joseph-Smith-worship. I know that's not what we're doing by any means, but we're hailing, praising, honoring, and blessing Joseph. He's a hero, crowned in the midst of prophets, great is his glory, the earth lauds his fame, Kings are extolling him, and he's mingling with Gods. One of the biggest misconceptions about our faith (IMO) is that our prophets are infallible, and I think this hymn doesn't help with that idea very much.

The "Mingling with Gods" line is definitely bothersome. Doctrinally, Joseph is in the Spirit World like everyone else. So I guess I don't understand which Gods (big "G") he is mingling with? I don't think we need to hide our doctrine of deification, but I do think it's a subject that deserves a little more tact than this lyric gives it. But I guess I never understood it to be a reference to deification, since Joseph is not deity to anyone at this point. 

Anyway, again, I think it's a fabulous hymn and doesn't bother those that are familiar with our faith, but to many others I think it could be misleading. But most others seem intent on keeping it around so you're probably right about overthinking it.

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5 minutes ago, zil said:

So what if it brings up "hard" questions. We already get accused of not telling converts everything up front, so why risk being worse in this way? Keep this, If You Could Hie to Kolob, and O My Father.

I guess I sort of look at this hymn in the same way I look at a lot of Church artwork. For example, below is a famous painting of Joseph Smith translating the plates ... but we know now that that's not really how he translated them. Most of the time the plates were covered, he used the seer stone in the hat, etc. It's a great work of art, but not totally accurate, you know what I mean? In the same sense, I don't think Joseph is mingling with Gods, nor, if we want to get really anal about doctrine, has he "ascended to heaven" (unless you're referring to the Spirit World).

But I agree that there needs to be some poetic license with hymns. And indeed the lyrics were first a poem before the music was added. And of course I don't think we need to amend the lyrics to include an enumeration of Joseph's flaws haha. 

Related image

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Somewhere in a drawer, I have a first edition hymnbook.  I have to dig it out, because the original Praise to the Man had additional verses.  Something about murdering the priests of Ammon or something.   Gotta go refresh my memory.

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28 minutes ago, dsnell said:

I agree, we need to drop some of the overly solemn hymns. When it comes to Praise to the Man, I just think that if I were visiting a Latter-day Saint congregation for the first time I would have a lot of questions after listening to that hymn.

What Gods is Joseph mingling with? (this is a huge one)

I thought Latter-day Saints believed in one God? Why are they singing about multiple Gods (big "G")?  (another important one)

Why is Joseph entering his own kingdom and not the Kingdom of God? (makes sense to us, but might seem weird to others)

Why is he being crowned? Is he the king of the prophets? If so, why?

Anyway, I'm probably overthinking it (though from personal experience, investigators have gotten hung up over the "Mingling with Gods" line). I guess I just think that if it were removed it would cause more good than harm. Don't get me wrong, I'm Team Joseph through and through, I just think this hymn can be misleading. Though it would be painful to sacrifice one of the more upbeat hymns.

Sounds like a great opportunity for a missionary moment.  :)   

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12 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

Puts him on a pedestal? Sure. Too much focus on him...debatable. But deifies?

I hope people don't get that impression, but in the lyrics he's "Mingling with Gods," "Great is his glory and endless his priesthood," he's "Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old," and he's entering his own "kingdom." I hope people don't get the deified vibe but I'd understand if they did.

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14 minutes ago, pam said:

Sounds like a great opportunity for a missionary moment.  :)   

Haha you've got a point. I guess there are some questions I wouldn't be able to answer. Not even being sarcastic, if you have an explanation I'd love to hear it. What Gods is Joseph mingling with? I honestly don't know how that line works.

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8 minutes ago, dsnell said:

I hope people don't get that impression, but in the lyrics he's "Mingling with Gods," "Great is his glory and endless his priesthood," he's "Crowned in the midst of the prophets of old," and he's entering his own "kingdom." I hope people don't get the deified vibe but I'd understand if they did.

Right. Heaven forbid anyone speak of anything in sacrament meeting that an investigator might misunderstand! ;) Let's make sure all content in our sacraments meetings and classes is standard "Christian" material so no one gets the wrong idea.

And....sarcasm off.

Edited by The Folk Prophet

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5 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

Right. Heaven forbid anyone speak of anything in sacrament meeting that an investigator might misunderstand! ;) Let's make sure all content in our sacraments meetings and classes is standard "Christian" material so no one gets the wrong idea.

And....sarcasm off.

BOM as an example. When I was an investigator I wonder why you guys talked about the BOM so much. Then I read it and I was like oh ok.

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56 minutes ago, dsnell said:

I agree, we need to drop some of the overly solemn hymns. When it comes to Praise to the Man, I just think that if I were visiting a Latter-day Saint congregation for the first time I would have a lot of questions after listening to that hymn.

You are not the first person to ever have had this concern. I've thought it myself on occasion. I can easily see criticisms about worshiping Joseph Smith stemming from this song if a visitor doesn't then go on to ask follow up questions and misses a missionary moment.

An outsider's surface view of "Praise to the Man" might not be too far off from their understanding of what "Praise the Lord" means. The misconception that members worship Joseph Smith doesn't necessarily come out of thin air.

P.S. Keep the song. :)

 

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1 hour ago, dsnell said:

I think it's safe to say that "Praise to the Man" is one of the faster, catchier hymns in the hymnal, but considering it's lyrics, do you think it should remain in the new iteration of the hymnal coming out sometime in the future? ... I feel like it borderline deifies Joseph Smith, misrepresents his role in our religion, and slightly deviates our focus from Christ to Joseph during sacrament meetings. .... :

Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!
Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer.
Blessed to open the last dispensation,
Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.

Ouch! No way should it be removed! "

Rock of my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
Rock of my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
Rock of my soul in the bosom of Abraham,
Oh, rock of my soul!

And I say,

So high, you can't get over it, 
So low, you can get under it,
So wide. you can't get around it, 
Oh, rock of my soul!

The Bible is full of holy men and the hymn, PRAISE TO THE MAN is a perfect way of getting the question out into the open. 

It's a way of teaching dispensational theology. Seven is the number of completion in the Bible. Lots of people know that. And we have seven dispensations:

1. Adam
2. Enoch
3. Noah
5. Melchizedek/Abraham
6. JESUS CHRIST
7, Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith was a dispensation head and as such is due much respect, even as Moses. In Acts 3, the apostle Peter tells the Jews, "...and [God the Father] shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." In this final dispensation, it was Jesus Christ who appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1836 and accepted the temple in his name. And Moses and Elijah followed that visitation and restored the keys of the gathering of Israel and the keys of sealing families---the fathers and the sons back through time until the days of Adam, and the sealing of husbands to wives. And these keys will never need to be re-restored again. Joseph Smith also gave the saints a key, he said, that would "never rust," meaning, of course, that it was the sure word of God: If one would 1. follow the majority of the Twelve Apostles and, 2. the records of the church, one would never be led astray. Think of the people who have been misled by the Reorganized Church and the polygamous cults that claim priesthoods they've made up out of nothing. If they just follow the two most important things besides Jesus himself, the keys that are in the hands of the apostles and the records, which are the records of the exercise of those keys, they will never be led astray. If explained thusly to non-members, they can see why we hold Joseph Smith in such high regard. 

We have never taken Joseph Smith out of his context as a man among other men, warts and all. And like other men, he made mistakes, and it's a good way of explaining some of those mistakes, such as the 116 pages. He was a great man, true, but he was only a man. 

So I'm for keeping the hymn in, and using it as a teaching opportunity. 

 


 

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