I desire to give some rather plain and affirmative counsel as to how to worship the Lord. There is probably more misinformation and error in this field than in any other area in the entire world, and yet there is no other thing as important as knowing who and how we should worship.
When the Lord created men and placed them on earth, he gave “them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship.” (D&C 20:19.)
Jesus confirmed this most basic of all commands when he said: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8); and the constant cry of all the prophets of all the ages is: “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Ps. 95:6–7).
As the spirit children of the Eternal Father, we have been placed on earth to be tried and tested, to see if we will keep his commandments and do those things which will qualify us to return to his presence and be like him.
And he has planted in our hearts an instinctive desire to worship, to seek salvation, to love and serve a power or being greater than ourselves. Worship is implicit in existence itself.
The issue is not whether men shall worship, but who or what is to be the object of their devotions and how they shall go about paying their devotions to their chosen Most High.
And so, at Jacob’s well, when the Samaritan woman said to Jesus, “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship,” we find him answering: “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
“Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship; and salvation is of the Jews.
“And the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. For unto such hath God promised his Spirit.
“And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.” (JST, John 4:22–26.)
Thus our purpose is to worship the true and living God and to do it by the power of the Spirit and in the way he has ordained. The approved worship of the true God leads to salvation; devotions rendered to false gods and which are not founded on eternal truth carry no such assurance.
A knowledge of the truth is essential to true worship. We must learn that God is our Father; that he is an exalted and perfected personage in whose image we are created; that he sent his Beloved Son into the world to redeem mankind; that salvation is in Christ, who is the revelation of God to the world; and that Christ and his gospel laws are known only by revelation given to those apostles and prophets who represent him on earth.
There is no salvation in worshiping a false god. It does not matter one particle how sincerely someone may believe that God is a golden calf, or that he is an immaterial, uncreated power that is in all things; the worship of such a being or concept has no saving power. Men may believe with all their souls that images or powers or laws are God, but no amount of devotion to these concepts will ever give the power that leads to immortality and eternal life.
If a man worships a cow or a crocodile, he can gain any reward that cows and crocodiles happen to be passing out this season.
If he worships the laws of the universe or the forces of nature, no doubt the earth will continue to spin, the sun to shine, and the rains to fall on the just and on the unjust.
But if he worships the true and living God, in spirit and in truth, then God Almighty will pour out his Spirit upon him, and he will have power to raise the dead, move mountains, entertain angels, and walk in celestial streets.
Now let us ask how we should pay our devotions to him who lives and rules and is. The key to true worship is contained in a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1833 in which the Lord revealed anew the testimony of an ancient disciple.
This record certifies that Christ was “in the beginning” with the Father; that he is “the Redeemer of the world,” and the light and life of men; that he “dwelt in the flesh” as “the Only Begotten of the Father”; that in his mortal progression “he received not of the fulness at the first, but continued from grace to grace”; and that finally, in the resurrection, “he received a fulness of the glory of the Father; And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.”
Then the Lord said: “I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.
“For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.” (D&C 93:7–20.)
In other words, true and perfect worship consists in following in the steps of the Son of God; it consists in keeping the commandments and obeying the will of the Father to that degree that we advance from grace to grace until we are glorified in Christ as he is in his Father. It is far more than prayer and sermon and song. It is living and doing and obeying. It is emulating the life of the great Exemplar.
With this principle before us, may I now illustrate some of the specifics of that divine worship which is pleasing to him whose we are?
To worship the Lord is to follow after him, to seek his face, to believe his doctrine, and to think his thoughts.
It is to walk in his paths, to be baptized as Christ was, to preach that gospel of the kingdom which fell from his lips, and to heal the sick and raise the dead as he did.
To worship the Lord is to put first in our lives the things of his kingdom, to live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God, to center our whole hearts upon Christ and that salvation which comes because of him.
It is to walk in the light as he is in the light, to do the things that he wants done, to do what he would do under similar circumstances, to be as he is.
To worship the Lord is to walk in the Spirit, to rise above carnal things, to bridle our passions, and to overcome the world.
It is to pay our tithes and offerings, to act as wise stewards in caring for those things which have been entrusted to our care, and to use our talents and means for the spreading of truth and the building up of his kingdom.
To worship the Lord is to be married in the temple, to have children, to teach them the gospel, and to bring them up in light and truth.
It is to perfect the family unit, to honor our father and our mother; it is for a man to love his wife with all his heart and to cleave unto her and none else.
To worship the Lord is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world.
It is to work on a welfare project, to administer to the sick, to go on a mission, to go home teaching, and to hold family home evening.
To worship the Lord is to study the gospel, to treasure up light and truth, to ponder in our hearts the things of his kingdom, and to make them part of our lives.
It is to pray with all the energy of our souls, to preach by the power of the Spirit, to sing songs of praise and thanksgiving.
To worship is to work, to be actively engaged in a good cause, to be about our Father’s business, to love and serve our fellowmen.
It is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to comfort those that mourn, and to hold up the hands that hang down and to strengthen the feeble knees.
To worship the Lord is to stand valiantly in the cause of truth and righteousness, to let our influence for good be felt in civic, cultural, educational, and governmental fields, and to support those laws and principles which further the Lord’s interests on earth.
To worship the Lord is to be of good cheer, to be courageous, to be valiant, to have the courage of our God-given convictions, and to keep the faith.
It is ten thousand times ten thousand things. It is keeping the commandments of God. It is living the whole law of the whole gospel.
To worship the Lord is to be like Christ until we receive from him the blessed assurance: “Ye shall be even as I am.”
These are sound principles. As we ponder them in our hearts, I am sure we shall know increasingly of their verity.
True and perfect worship is in fact the supreme labor and purpose of man. God grant that we may write in our souls with a pen of fire the command of the Lord Jesus: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8); and may we in fact and with living reality worship the Father in spirit and in truth, thereby gaining peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.