This is a reprint of an earlier column.
"And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him." (3 Nephi 11:17)
By Joseph A. Cannon
The Old Testament word usually translated as "worship" has a sense of to depress, as in to prostrate, especially in homage to royalty or God; to bow down; to stoop; to fall down flat.
The New Testament word is essentially the same, with the added sense of reverence and adoration.
In English, the word "worship" means to honor or adore as divine or sacred, especially with rituals or ceremonies; to offer prayers to God; to regard with extreme respect, devotion or love; to idolize; to regard or treat a person with honor or respect, specifically, to bow down or salute (Oxford English Dictionary).
There are two aspects of worship. First, there is the more formal sense of worship, such as sacrament meetings, public prayers and temple worship. The second aspect is our own personal attitude of worship. Of course, the two are intimately linked. Simply sitting in a worship service without a personal attitude of worship is not worship.
It is in this more personal sense that the elements of "to fall down," "to prostrate oneself" or "bow down" become more instructive. Paul, in speaking of spiritual gifts, notes that "so falling down on his face he will worship God" (1 Corinthians 14:25).
Most of the scriptural uses of worship have this sense of personal submission to the divine. In its deepest sense, worship means the surrender of our will to God's will. We are taught "that the right way is to believe in Christ … wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul" (2 Nephi 25:29).
The scriptures also admonish us what not to worship. Isaiah teaches that people have turned away from God when their "land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made" (Isaiah 2:8).
President Gordon B. Hinckley captured the highest sense of worship when he taught about the Savior:
"He is the Savior and the Redeemer of the world. I believe in Him. I love Him. I speak His name in reverence and wonder. I worship Him as I worship His Father, in spirit and in truth. I thank Him and kneel before His wounded feet and hands and side, amazed at the love He offers me" (Liahona, March 1998).
Joseph A. Cannon is editor of the Deseret News.