“In Praise of God,” Ensign, Oct. 1995, 16
I tried to read on in my Book of Mormon, but I couldn’t. This verse—“glorify the name of your God” (2 Ne. 6:4)—and others like it were always stumbling blocks for me. In the past, skipping troublesome scriptures asking me to glorify our Father in Heaven had gotten me nowhere and only turned my sincere questions into lingering doubts. It seemed contradictory to me that Lucifer was punished for seeking honor for himself, yet God asks us to honor him. I knew that as long as I harbored this issue in my mind, it would seep into my heart and affect my attitude regarding other gospel teachings.
I pondered a bit and decided not to gloss over the verse again as I had done before, but to stand firm, trust God’s word, and study about it.
I wondered if perhaps I didn’t fully understand the meaning of the words honor and glorify. A search through the topical guide yielded many similar scriptures. I found a synonym to glorify—praise—but no scriptures addressing the seeming contradiction that bothered me. This was obviously a matter for in-depth study and prayer. But how could I express to God in prayer my feelings about this doctrine?
Taking courage from Joseph Smith’s experience of asking God for wisdom, I prayed for understanding. No instant answer came, but I was impressed to prove God herewith (see Mal. 3:10) by trying out the principle of thanking him, surely a form of praising God.
In my prayers each morning, I thanked my Heavenly Father for many things, from the gift of Christ’s atonement to the flowers in my yard. I felt awkward for the first few days, thinking at times, Who am I, with all my problems, to think I should be extolling our Father’s goodness? He is already great and perfect, so why should he desire the thanks and feeble devotions of a child like me who is so far from reaching her own potential?
Yet, as I continued my prayers, I discovered a new truth—that such heartfelt devotions to the Most High are actually for our own good. He has no need for our honors, but our sincere gratitude and devotions to him help us in important ways as we strive for perfection in our own lives.
I learned that we tend to emulate those whom we admire. If we take time daily to ponder God’s greatness, we are more likely to strive to be like him, more likely to repent and become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4). Gradually, I began to enjoy feasting on the scriptures to learn more of our Father and our Savior. I began to feel as Nephi when he said, “O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee” (2 Ne. 4:30). I realized that there is so much wisdom and beauty in the scriptures, so much to apply to my life, so much to praise!
A friend told me that if I recognized how “big” God is and how “little” I am by comparison, I would have faith to place my life in his hands. I have found that to be true. Though I cannot create a flower or the hills around me, I can plant a seed, climb the hills, and bear a child—all because God, in wisdom and greatness, has made it possible for me to do so.
With my growing appreciation of God’s greatness, goodness, and power, I am learning not only to put my life into his hands but also to recognize his hand in all things (see D&C 59:21). I am learning to say “Thy will be done” and really mean it, trusting in his greater knowledge of my personal needs. It may be difficult for me to be truly grateful in times of trial, but it is easier for me to look for—and find—the good side. I thank God for helping make my burdens light.
Acknowledging Heavenly Father’s goodness also raises our feelings of self-worth. If I consistently commend my husband for the good things he does for me, I feel good about myself. In the same way, thanking my Heavenly Father reminds me that I am his daughter, that he chose me to be one of his servants for some good reason. This assurance increases my desire to be a humble, profitable servant and to live up to what is expected of me.
Another unexpected blessing from my experiment in praising God has been my enhanced appreciation for the beauty of life itself, for things great and small. At first I couldn’t think of much to say, so I began by rejoicing in the simple beauties of God’s creations all around me: mountains, cows in the field, the song of birds, blue skies, and colorful flowers. I noticed more often my toddler’s smile and other small but marvelous things made possible only by God. And further, because I now find more joy and pleasure in things I like, I can more easily accept things that I do not like and cannot change.
But my greatest blessing has been a deeper love for and understanding of the Savior. I have always believed in him, in an abstract way, but never did I feel deeply of his atoning mission until I began to deeply thank Heavenly Father for the gift of his Son. Now my soul is filled with gratitude for the Lord and his love that “passeth knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). And as the Apostle Paul said, “For this cause I bow my knees [in praise] unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 3:14).
Fundamental to prayer and worship, praising God includes thanksgiving but also transcends it. For instance, we thank our Father in Heaven for specific blessings, but we praise him for the goodness and perfections of his very person. Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve expressed it this way: “We … ought to have as the purpose of some prayers sheer adoration” (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball et al., Prayer, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 47).
We can openly recognize God’s hand in our lives. All of us, in sharing with others the blessings he has given us, are essentially honoring him by attesting to his goodness and reality. This is most effective when our lives are in harmony with gospel principles. To try to become like God through our whole-souled obedience to his laws is the highest form of praise, the highest glory. “Our lives must become a … symbol of our declaration of our testimony of the living Christ, the Eternal Son of the living God” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, Apr. 1994, p. 5).
We even praise him in song! Many of the Psalms—the word means “Praises” in Hebrew—were originally set to music as means to glorify God. I don’t sing very well, but my family never seems to mind when I burst into joyful song as I work. And as for the Lord, he has said, “My soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me” (D&C 25:12).
“Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men?” (Alma 26:16.)
Now that I have experimented with the principle of cherishing the perfections and person of God, I for one cannot say too much in praise of him. Like Ammon, I too “have reason to praise [the Most High God] forever” (Alma 26:14). And although “I cannot say the smallest part which I feel” (Alma 26:16), I feel to exclaim as did Nephi in his moving psalm: “My soul delighteth in the things of the Lord. …
“O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (2 Ne. 4:16, 30).