My LDS friend, Walter Reade, made an interesting observation regarding my prior post on the topic of praise. He noted that the negative uses of the term “flattery” in the scriptures, especially in the Book of Mormon, can refer to praise used to manipulate others (see Jacob 7:4, Alma 46:5, Alma 61:4, 3 Nephi 7:12). Modern prophets have also warned us against the flattery of the world. Praising others seems like such an inherently positive thing, but there are many negative uses, and I think it is worthwhile to carefully consider what we are doing and especially why we are doing it when we feel an urge to praise.
By the way, dear readers, you are the greatest! Thanks for reading my posts and for sharing your comments. And you know what? I think I actually mean it. Cheers!
2 thoughts on “Praise and Flattery”
No, you’re the greatest! I very much enjoy your posts. I have you linked over at my blog and hope that in so doing, I can in some small way increase the blogosphere’s exposure to Mormanity.
By the way, I really liked your EXMO virus post and didn’t think you really needed to retreat on your position there.
I’ll disagree with jf: I thought the Exmo virus thing was a rather insensitive satire and it was nice you mellowed things out a bit in later comments. This is part of the difference between putting up a website and blogging: bloggers get comments and feedback from a community of visitors and other bloggers, and learn how to not offend those with a different point of view. [There are always a few who get offended no matter what you say or how you say it, of course.]
About flattery–I think the scriptural criticism is only directed at those who use praise to manipulate others toward bad beliefs or actions. Using praise to motivate good beliefs and actions is both widespread and arguably commendable. That said, no one likes to be manipulated and in Church there’s always a fair amount of charitable manipulation in the air. I guess trying to distinguish between sincere and insincere praise is more promising, recognizing that praise intended to motivate good belief or conduct need not thereby necessarily be insincere.