"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

Language of Prayer

Elder Bruce R. McConkie
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
President Joseph Fielding Smith
President Spencer W. Kimball
President Stephen L. Richards

Elder McConkie stated:

Prayers of the saints are expected to conform to a prescribed standard of divine excellence; they should fit into the approved pattern of proper prayer. They are to be addressed to the Father; should always be made in the name of Jesus Christ; must be reverential and worshipful in nature, which requirement includes use of the language of prayer (the pronouns thee and thine, for instance, never you and your); and above all they must be offered in sincerity of heart, with real intent and purpose, and must come from the lips of those who have broken hearts and contrite spirits; and finally, they should be closed with the word Amen. As a token of reverence and respect, when occasion permits, they should be made from a kneeling position. (Mormon Doctrine, p.581)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

When we go to worship in a temple or a church, we put aside our working clothes and dress ourselves in something better. This change of clothing is a mark of respect. Similarly, when we address our Heavenly Father, we should put aside our working words and clothe our prayers in special language of reverence and respect. In offering prayers in the English language, members of our church do not address our Heavenly Father with the same words we use in speaking to a fellow worker, to an employee or employer, or to a merchant in the marketplace. We use special words that have been sanctified by use in inspired communications, words that have been recommended to us and modeled for us by those we sustain as prophets and inspired teachers. . . .

Modern English has no special verbs or pronouns that are intimate, familiar, or honorific. When we address prayers to our Heavenly Father in English, our only available alternatives are the common words of speech like you and your or the dignified but uncommon words like thee, thou, and thy that were used in the King James version of the Bible almost five hundred years ago. Latter-day Saints, of course, prefer the latter. In our prayers we use language that is dignified and different, even archaic. . . .

In our day the English words thee, thou, thy, and thine are suitable for the language of prayer. (CR1993; Apr:17,19)

A Question to President Joseph Fielding Smith:

"In our Sunday School class we have come to the question in our lesson on prayer on which we need further instruction. The question is this: Is it important that we use the words, thy, thine, thee, and thou, in addressing Deity; or is it proper when directing our thoughts in prayer to use the more common and modern words, you and yours? Our bishop and our stake president have told us that the older words should always be used, but we seek further information on this question."

President Smith's Answer:

Your bishop and stake president have given you proper advice which should be followed strictly.

Our Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, should never be approached in prayer in the familiar expressions so commonly used in addressing human beings. The Father and the Son should always be honored in our prayers in the utmost humility and reverence. These common pronouns, you, yours, may with perfect propriety be used in addressing our equals. In the days when the Bible was translated into English it was common for men and women to greet each other using the pronouns thy and thine, thee and thou. As time went on and men and women became more worldly minded, such a custom was discontinued, and these more formal pronouns were confined to their manner of speech in addressing royalty or persons of great distinction and in poetical expressions. Prayer and poetry certainly would miss much of their value if this were changed.

In countries with republican forms of government, where every man feels himself equal to his neighbor, the use of the more formal pronouns was discontinued. Moreover the farther man gets away from the true worship of God, and his mind pictures Deity as a force, or an invisible shapeless spirit, a something intangible and incomprehensible, the tendency is natural for respect and reverence to diminish.

Today the scientific world and the religious world have forsaken God as a Personal Being, and absolutely as an anthropomorphic Exalted Man. Therefore their tendency is a natural one to look upon such a being as unworthy of divine worship. Many of the modern scholars have gone so far as to teach and maintain that God is the imaginary creation of the mind of man, and that he has become "progressive," from age to age since the days of the "cave-man," to the present enlightened age. Therefore he is worshiped as a God of love and mercy, yet, after all, the creation of the active mind of man who seeks some superior power on which to bestow his worship.


Dr. Martin B. Anderson has said:

A volume might be filled with illustrations of the truth that the language of nations is a mirror in which may be seen reflected with unerring accuracy all the elements of their intellectual as well as of their moral character

This certainly is true. Therefore as mankind gets farther and farther away from the worship of the True and Living God, the less respect and reverence man will give to God. Therefore, this reverence being weakened or missing, the less inclined are men to look upon the Supreme Being with awe, humility, and reverence.

Members of the Church should be very grateful that the Lord inspired the Prophet Joseph Smith, in the translation of the Book of Mormon, the D&C, and the Pearl of Great Price to give us these sacred records in the sacred form in which the Bible has come down to us. The changing of the wording of the Bible to meet the popular language of our day, has, in the opinion of the writer and his brethren, been a great loss in the building of faith and spirituality in the minds and hearts of the people. (Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.2, p.15-17)

President Spencer W. Kimball:

In all our prayers, it is well to use the pronouns thee, thou, thy, and thine instead of you, your, and yours inasmuch as they have come to indicate respect. (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 201)

I have noticed . . . the youth . . . who address the Father with the words "you" and "yours." The Presidency of the Church are quite anxious that everybody address the Lord with the pronouns "thee" and "thou" and "thine" and "thy". . . . Youth may feel that "you" and "yours" are a little more affectionate. But would you do what you can to change this pattern? (Addressing seminary and institute faculty, June 18, 1962)

President Stephen L. Richards:

I think, my brethren, that in the quorums and in the classes, you would do well, as in the homes also, to teach the language of prayer "Thee and Thou," rather than "you." It always seems disappointing to me to have our Father in Heaven, our Lord, addressed as "you." It is surprising how much we see of this in the mission field among the young men who come to serve there. I think you might make note of it, and avail yourselves of any opportunities that may come in order to teach the sacred and reverential language of prayer. (CR 1951; Oct:175)

(See Daily Living home page; Teachings About Prayer home page)


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