26 April 2010

We pray to the Father

On one of my blogs a reader asked something along the lines of “Why do LDS pray to the Father when people in the Old Testament prayed to Jehovah or Jesus?”

I wish to write a few words about our reverence for the Lord. It is important that our brothers and sisters from other faiths know that we believe in and proclaim the divinity of Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God. Elder Bruce R. McConkie was quoted as saying: “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.” What follows clarifies what Elder McConkie meant: “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” (Bruce R. McConkie, Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, p.60).

The Savior Himself was always the first to point out His own continual loving deference for the Father in all that He did. The Holy Scriptures are full of examples. I will give one. To those who asked, “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” our Lord and Savior clearly distinguished between Himself and the worshipfulness owed to the Father: “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.” (Luke 18:18-19).

It was the Savior who taught us to pray to the Father by example: “I will pray the Father for you”(John 16:26). Our Hymns are full of praise for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Some of the Hymns we use were composed by some of our Christian brothers and sisters from other faiths, and some were written by our own members. A few of my favorite hymns of devotion and praise to the Savior include: “Jesus, the very thought of thee,” “Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King” and “Jesus, Once of Humble Birth.” The musical instructions have the words, “Worshipfully” or “Reverently” by them. A scripture from the book of Mormon is also a hymn of reverent praise: “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 25:26).

I wanted to also introduce a Pseudepigraphical work here, The Ascension of Isaiah. I have both the Charles and Knibb translations. The latter is part of the two-volume The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha. The Ascension of Isaiah is a very old manuscript. The scholars have placed parts of this somewhere between two centuries before the birth of the Savior to about a century after. It is difficult to trust dates very well, as people are often guided by their own beliefs on this matter. I believe that the book of Isaiah (see my book, Isaiah Testifies of Christ) was written by one prophet. Those who hold a different view tend to ascribe Chapters 40 onward to a much later date. But for our purposes, even if we take The Ascension of Isaiah as written as late as 100 AD, we see that some early Christians clearly believed that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost were three distinct beings and one in purpose. The Holy Ghost is depicted as an angel visible to Isaiah (“this is the angel of the Holy Spirit who has spoken in you”—I love that expression, spoken in you, Ascension 9:36). Isaiah is first permitted to see and worship the Lord Jesus Christ, along with Adam, Abel, Seth and many of the righteous (Ascension 9:27-32). We see both the Lord and the Holy Spirit worshipping God the Father. It is interesting to me that both the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are both called by the title of respect and veneration, Lord. “And I saw how my Lord and the angel of the Holy Spirit worshipped and both together praised the Lord” (Ascension 9:40). Finally, Isaiah is brought before the presence of the Father, who is called the “Glorious One” (Ascension 10:1-2) and called “the Father of the Lord” (Ascension 10:6). We see the commission of the Savior: “And I heard the voice of the Most High, the Father of my Lord, as he said to my Lord Christ, who will be called Jesus, ‘Go out and descend through &c.” (Ascension 10:7-8). Just so people do not think this is just my misunderstanding of the text, Knibb writes in the introduction: “What is perhaps of greater interest is that a superior status is attributed to the Father in that ‘the Lord’ and the angel of the Holy Spirit are presented as worshipping him” (p. 154). These three beings are spoken of as being clearly distinct from each other in this Pseudepigraphical work. Jessica, a few posts above, took us to her Blog where much of this conversation has continued.

But returning to the question above, why do LDS pray to the Father when there are clear references that people prayed to YHVH in the Old Testament? An anonymous contributor, Psychochemiker, made some excellent suggestions which I combined with some of my own thoughts on the subject. This individual spoke about the pivotal place of the atonement and the change that it brought about:
With the fall, mankind lost the right and privilege to be in the presence of the Father. Although cut off from the presence of the Father, mankind was not left totally alone but was given access to the mediator of the New Covenant, even Jesus Christ, who is also YHWH of the Old Covenant. Jesus the Christ opened the way for our return to the Father through the atonement (or at-one-ment). Through the process of Divine Investiture, a sort of power of attorney, Jesus spoke in the name of the Father. The Savior explains: “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things” (John 8:28), and “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (John 12:49). In the meridian of time the Savior came to bring us into the proper relationship with the Father. When we pray to the Father we are acknowledging that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant. Why would those who have access to the supernal gift of communing with the Father give it up, especially when Jesus explicitly commanded it?

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