Today, you will be treated with a great post from one of my readers, Cory W. After my post "A VOICE OF WARNING", I received an email from Cory where he pointed out many of the false traditions in the Church. I invited him to write a guest post about it. The rest is history and found below.
The Culture of Tradition
When I read the blog post titled 'A Voice of Warning', it really resonated with me. I really connected with the part about false traditions. In my opinion, there could be volumes of materials devoted to this subject within any church, including the LDS Church.
The true prophets of scripture and the Restoration have always been persecuted because of teaching things that were not pleasant to hear. I loved what I heard a friend say recently, that 'Jesus was not killed for teaching Blessed are the Peacemakers or for teaching 'Love one Another'. Indeed, the most persecution typically comes from teaching against false traditions. Joseph said:
"I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God, but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions..." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p 331; emphasis added). He also said "I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down."
The problem with tradition is that it is so close to our hearts. We are just like the people in Joseph's time. We fly to pieces like glass whenever something is taught contrary to what our tradition is. But it gets worse, whether on purpose or not–the current church has woven in so much tradition in today's framework that an individual begins to feel justified in their traditions.
I invite you to challenge your belief system in all traditions. I have compiled a short list of very simple traditions that we are scared to break down. We have been sufficiently indoctrinated such that even the small things have become tradition. How can we ever be expected to let go of more significant things if we can't even let go of the simple things?
I have heard it said that a white shirt and tie is 'the uniform of the priesthood' (read about the background here). What a great tradition! It sure makes us look more professional and uniform. However, I'm pretty confident that Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Lehi, Peter, Joseph Smith and even Jesus Christ himself NEVER wore a white shirt and tie. This teaching is very similar to the Pharisees. The Savior cursed them for 'making broad their phylacteries'. (Matthew 23:5) The phylactery was an article of clothing that contained the holy writ. Apparently, making it more visible would give the wearer more stature in the eyes of the public.
I remember a high councilman telling me that it was the Stake President's belief that if a man did not wear a white shirt, it was because he wasn't worthy to pass or bless the sacrament and didn't want to be asked to help. I knew that I was worthy no matter the color of my shirt. I recognized this for the false tradition that it was and started wearing colored shirts.
Sitting on the Stand
In Matthew 23:6 He accuses the Pharisees of 'loving the chief seats in the synagogues'. I'm amazed at how much this tradition is loved by men of our age. I've heard constant griping from bishopric members and others about how much they wish they could sit with their families, yet when given the opportunity, they rarely take it. High councilmen and visiting leaders clamor for the opportunity to sit up front. While they never say it, they enjoy being where the whole congregation can see them.
I understand the need to have someone that visitors or investigators can look to as a leader or someone to ask questions of. Have we let it get a little out of hand? Could we just leave it with the member of the bishopric who is conducting? Do we need to have 3 members of the bishopric, the high councilman, the member of the stake presidency and anyone else who needs to feel important all sit up there? I have often imagined that if someone were visiting, they would be very confused at exactly who the leader is because there are so many of them.
Standing for an Apostle
I believe the first time I was present when an Apostle arrived was while I was in the MTC. The second he walked through the door a wave of people started to stand up. It began where he was and spread throughout the entire auditorium. It was almost a race to see who could be the first to recognize him and stand up. Every time that I have seen an Apostle in person since that day has been the same.
While I understand that there are individuals who garner respect from us, I challenge the notion that a calling automatically gives that respect. I would venture to guess that the large majority of the people in each of those situations did NOT know the Apostle individually. They were honoring a MAN that they did not personally know. This sounds an awful lot like worship of other gods to me. It has turned into an unwritten commandment that all must stand or suffer the wrath of embarrassment.
Once again, I'm not sure where this false tradition started, but I'm sure it wasn't practiced by the people of Enoch, the Nephites or in Joseph Smith's day. In fact, Joseph Smith made a point to show that he was just a common man and didn't merit any extra praise or attention.
Here is another tradition that has found it's way into the Church Handbook's. For some reason we believe that the presiding authority should be served the sacrament first. How stark in contrast is this to the last supper! The Savior serves those around him first, and is the LAST to partake.
We go to extreme lengths to make sure that the bishop or stake president is the first person served. What is so noble about being first? Is it because they want to make sure that the bread/water isn't poisoned? Where did this tradition start? It's beginnings are clearly not within the gospel taught by Jesus Christ.
Throughout the scriptures and Church History we are commanded to Fast and Pray often. I completely agree. These are two things that help to bring the Spirit into our lives and help us get nearer to the Savior. However, nowhere in the scriptures have I been able to find an instance where we are commanded to fast once a month on a particular day. It is my belief that church leaders recognized that members were not fasting enough and decided if they made it a church wide day, that more people would do it.
While their intentions were noble, this is too close to 'going through the motions'. What benefit do we get from fasting when our purpose in doing it is because it is the right day of the month? This is an activity that is best served by fasting when the Spirit prompts us to do so. It may be more than once a month, it may be less. The fact is that we limit ourselves to less revelation when we do things blindly rather than seeking them out for ourselves.
I feel like I am starting to be repetitive. Once again, this is something that has no basis in the scriptures. Was Joseph Smith a home teacher? Was Jesus Christ a home teacher? I believe the answer is YES. However, I do NOT believe that they had a list of 3-5 families that they were required to visit every 30 days.
They listened to the Spirit and knew who needed to be visited. They were sensitive to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost and were not afraid to act on them. They were not concerned with if it was the 3rd of the month or the 30th of the month. They did not care if they had visited the same person the day before, or if it had been a year since they saw the individual.
I could continue on and on with dozens more topics where we commonly practice the traditions of men. Are we ready to let them go? Are we ready to focus on our personal relationship with Jesus Christ rather than all of the 'outward ordinances'? Or are we so set in our traditions that this very post makes us 'fly to pieces like glass'?
I encourage you to not take my word for it. The above areas neither collectively nor individually should be believed simply because you read them on a blog. Rather, take it to the Lord and find out for yourself. Ask Him which traditions you should keep and which you should change. Ask Him what changes you should make.
-- Cory W.