Traditions of Our Fathers Pt 1

Being Zion

Part 1 of 7

Steeped in our cultural traditions, we become cynical street-wise hustlers in the mortal world of vertical hierarchies, prevaricative deference to authority, and subordinates available for ego-boosting dominion. Our cultural blinders have ingrained in us the idea that this is standard organizational structure, procedure, and behavior.

A U.S. President once said, “The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie—deliberate, contrived and dishonest—but the myth—persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” (John F. Kennedy, Commencement Address at Yale University, June 11, 1962)

The Lord analyses the problem from a slightly different angle by identifying light and truth as effective weapons against forces of evil. Care must be taken to hold fast to light and truth. It can be lost, and then you become vulnerable. "The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth. Light and truth forsake that evil one…And that wicked one cometh and taketh away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers." (D&C 93:37,39)

Joseph Smith attempted to reveal a new paradigm of thought about organizational structure, but those in Kirtland and continuing in Nauvoo had no ears to hear the message. The traditions of the Campbellite and Cochranite fathers, restricted their field of view of what the Lord offered through Joseph. The former expected, with much emotional attachment, a New Testament-style church, while the latter was already steeped in polygamy.

"And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them." (1 Sam 8:7)

Like Samuel, Joseph gave the people the New Testament-style church organization their tradition demanded. However, polygamy was off the table. Joseph and Hyrum were fiercely adamant about that. And they paid the ultimate price for their opposition.

Guarding against the strangling influences of false traditions requires rationality, intelligence, and wisdom. One of the most helpful things I can do, in this effort, is to always hold out for the possibility that I could be wrong. This allows me to more effectively recognize truths the Spirit teaches, but which may run counter to long-held, but false traditions, especially those with deep emotional attachment.

“We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.” (Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom, University of Chicago Press, 1972)  

That people, at times, follow strange traditions is no surprise. The Lord established His religion with Adam, which most rejected for their own strange brews. When the Jews returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity, the "Deuteronomists" reconstructed a religion that excluded the concept of a Savior and drastically altered what was originally taught. 

During His mortal experience, Christ assembled a reminder of Jewish history by setting Peter, James, and John to represent Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the twelve apostles representing the twelve sons, (or tribes), of Jacob, etc. This was certainly not a new religion, or tradition, but a reminder of what had gone before. Christianity did not begin at Jesus' birth, notwithstanding the Campbellite tradition. The Lord had, and still has, something far grander for us to enjoy. It is for us to choose which voice to consider, Babylon or Zion.

As mortals, we are subject to all manner of evil influences which exacerbates our problem of finding and recognizing truth. This evil is designed specifically to excite our particular sets of weaknesses along with those listed in various places in the Book of Mormon, but most succinctly in the last verse of 3rd Nephi. Written to us, now, Mormon writes:

"Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations..." (3rd Nephi 30:2)

That's quite a list of "weaknesses." Frankly, it sounds like prime-time television. We are entertained by this stuff. We thrive on it to the tune of billions of dollars a year in ad revenues. These statistics don't lie and these weaknesses constitute our current cultural tradition.

Noteworthy at the top of the list are "lyings and deceivings." Lots of opportunities for evil to covertly cloud our thinking, or feelings, with false traditions. Remember, the "Gentiles" the Lord addresses were identified as those who were in possession of "these things," otherwise known as the Book of Mormon, and no one else. The Book of Mormon speaks to us, now, today. It is our divine and urgent message of deliverance.

Mormons have lost their position as a "peculiar" people. They have correlated out of Mormonism all that is unique. They have joined the ranks of the rest of the citizens of Babylon and desire no deliverance. Their hierarchical thinking and Nauvoo pride keeps the empire growing and the royalty enjoying big perks. They would not be happy in Zion. What would bean-counters and dowagers do, anyway?

There plainly appears work that needs to be done. Though whether societal or institutional issues are addressed is not nearly as important as each individual's relationship with the Savior. 

A Crutch, a Bed, a School, a Miracle

The church is many things. It is a thankful crutch for the injured, a bed for the weary, a school for the seekers, and a miracle for the faithful. 

What it is not, is salvation. Its primary task is to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who seek it. The church offers the Gospel, and the Gospel offers salvation through the Savior. It is, after all, His "Good News" for us, about what He did and why. No organization can take a molecule's worth of credit for that.

By commandment, we seek Him not through an institutional relationship; our journey to Him is personal, intimate, and direct. Our Lord never said, "Come, follow an organization." The more we learn and grow, in the Gospel, the more we realize that essential truth. It is a beautiful truth about spiritual growth and progression as we rise nearer to our Savior; a goal we all share.

As Elder Ronald J. Poelman taught in the October General Conference of 1984,

“As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance and application of gospel principles, we become less dependent on Church programs. Our lives become gospel centered.” (Quoted from")

This quote, of course, is from the inspired, (and unedited), talk Elder Poelman actually gave at the Conference. His point suggests a membership thirsting for knowledge and an opportunity to exercise spiritual creativity and the wings of agency. 

Such people would learn much from the various educational opportunities provided by the church. But there comes a point when the chick has learned enough to fly alone. While out there on the wind, the nest always offers needed respite for tired wings and further instruction.

But the nest never demands a growing young bird remain so closely tethered to the nest as it ventures forth. As it grows, the bird's strength, ability, and judgement take it to a more trusting and reliant relationship with the wind, itself.

The bird often returns to visit the nest where a new crop of chicks eagerly gathers to hear tales of the wind's willingness to support their little wings as they fly. Further, then, they are taught to help others to fly, as well.


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