From the Archives: Vain Repetitions and British Heathens

By December 20, 2007

In the June 1840 issue of The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star, editor Parley P. Pratt included the following short article. Aside from the humor of Pratt’s piece, I’m curious as to what sticks out to readers.

 

VAIN REPETITIONS

“When ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking: be not ye therefore like unto them.”

We were present at one of their meetings lately, and among the most dreadful scenes of confusion, we distinguished the following repetitions in some of their prayers, with this difference, that we do not repeat them so many times over as they did:—

“O Lord, save sinners–save sinners–save sinners–save sinners–save sinners–save sinners. By thy blood–by thy blood–by thy blood–by thy blood–by thy blood–by thy blood. Just now–just now–just now–just now–just now–just now. Send the power–send the power–send the power–send the power–send the power–send the power. Right on him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him–down upon him.”

Now, whether their God was asleep, or whether he was talking with someone, or whether he had gone a journey, was not for us to determine. But suffice it to say, they had as hard a time as the 400 prophets of Baal had in the days of Elijah. –ED. [1]

It strikes me that Pratt identified these British Christians as “heathens” (seemingly more pointed and stinging than “gentiles”). More significantly, I find it interesting that Pratt uses the purportedly unscriptural manner of prayer demonstrated by the these “heathens” as a means of establishing the truthfulness of Mormonism (which, the reader is left to infer, does not use “vain repetitions” when praying).

____________________________

[1] The Latter-day Saints Millennial Star, Vol. 1, No. 2 (June 1840), 47.


Comments

  1. I am finding interesting that he is equating the God of Christianity with the god Baal. Maybe you shouldn’t have posted this in these political times! (Note: said with tongue firmly in cheek) And yes, it is interesting that he decided to ridicule the practice of their faith as a way of showing how “better” we are. I’m also left wondering what he would think of nourishing and strengthening our bodies.

    Comment by Jacob M — December 20, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

  2. By any chance, was he visiting a cavernous, empty church with an active echo?

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — December 20, 2007 @ 3:59 pm

  3. “with this difference, that we do not repeat them so many times over as they did” – That is hilarious, given what follows.

    I had the same echo thought as Ardis, but I have attended an evangelical youth ministry rally in the Deep South that could have been this meeting based on the prayer. If you change the “dashes” to “ellipses” … the body of the prayer was extraneous to the fervor of the repetitions. It really was striking (along with a request **during the prayer** to promise the person praying [by name] that the listeners would commit to follow Jesus. That jolted me out of my own reflection and meditation.)

    Comment by Ray — December 21, 2007 @ 1:09 am


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