“Thou”  and “Thee” vs. “You” and “Your”

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

“Our Eternal Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, should never be approached in prayer in the familiar expressions so commonly used is 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 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.” 1

Dallin H. Oaks reiterated the teachings of President Smith:

“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 which 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.

“The men whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators have consistently taught and urged English-speaking members of our Church to phrase their petitions to the Almighty in the special language of prayer. President Spencer W. Kimball said, “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.” 4

Proper Titles for Church Leaders

Joseph Fielding Smith

Reverence should also be given to other sacred titles or names.  Frequently we hear the brethren of the General Authorities addressed on the street and in private conversation as well as in public by their titles or the offices which they hold in the priesthood.  This should be avoided except at the time and place when such usage would be proper.  For example, it is not the best form to refer to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve as Apostle ……, either in speaking of him or to him.  The Lord has given us the general designation of Elder which may be applied to any man holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, and no matter what office a man may hold, it is an honor for him to be so designated and addressed. 5

In addressing a member of the First Presidency, it is perfectly proper to say, President Grant, President Clark, or President McKay, and the same designation should be applied to the President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles.  These brethren will take no offense or consider it an act of disrespect if they should be called Brother, for it is also an honor to belong to the brotherhood of the Church and be in fellowship with the faithful members.  The proper title by which the members of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and the First Council of Seventy may be called is that of Elder.  This title may also be applied to the members of the Presiding Bishopric, although the title Bishop has been used from the beginning and may be without offense, whether applied to the Presiding Bishopbric or to other bishops in the Church.

In introducing one of the members of the Council of the Twelve Apostles or of the First Council of Seventy, the brother conducting the exercises in the meeting may say, Elder ………, or Brother ………., of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, or of the First Council of the Seventy.6

Reverence in Chapel

Gordon B. Hinckley

“Socializing is an important aspect of our program as a church. We encourage the cultivation of friends with happy conversations among our people. However, these should take place in the foyer, and when we enter the chapel we should understand that we are in sacred precincts. All of us are familiar with the account in Exodus of the Lord’s appearance to Moses at the burning bush. When the Lord called, Moses answered, “Here am I” (Ex. 3:4).

“And the Lord said, “Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).

“We do not ask our people to remove their shoes when they come into the chapel. But all who come into the Lord’s house should have a feeling that they are walking and standing on holy ground and that it becomes them to deport themselves accordingly.

“Most important of all is the training of our people, and particularly our young people, in the importance of reverence in the chapel.” 7

  1. Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 2 pg. 15-16
  2. Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 201.) Numerous other Church leaders have given the same counsel. (See Stephen L Richards, in Conference Report, Oct. 1951, p. 175; Bruce R. McConkie, Ensign, Jan. 1976, p. 12; and L. Tom Perry, Ensign, Nov. 1983, p. 13./2

    . . . Brothers and sisters, the special language of prayer is much more than an artifact of the translation of the scriptures into English. Its use serves an important, current purpose. We know this because of modern revelations and because of the teachings and examples of modern prophets. The way we pray is important.” 3The Language of Prayer, April 1993

  3. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 1, pg. 121-122
  4. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation Vol. 2, pg. 122-123
  5. Reverence and Morality, April 1987
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