The scriptures are full of the problems that people run into because of “the traditions of the fathers” — mistakes made in the past and passed along and taken for fact that mislead the children and the children’s children.
We’ve had some of those in our own time. What is fascinating is the times when church leaders recognized that.
For example, Joseph Fielding Smith was asked about a point of doctrine. He gave a clear answer.
He was wrong. Even better, he did some research after answering the question and wrote back to the person he had given the answer to in order to let them know he was wrong.
I have always assumed that because it was what I was taught, and it made sense, but you don’t have to believe it to be in good standing, because it is not definitely stated in the scriptures. And I have received no revelation on the matter.
From Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball as published by Deseret Book included a CD-rom with a pdf copy of a longer draft. This quotation comes from chapter 20, p5, footnote 12 of that draft.
That caught my attention. He took the time to check his answer after he gave it and then to write back and correct himself. And to point out that it was only his opinion, but that he had received no revelation on the matter. Others have written on the power of tradition.
I’m more interested in the times we examine our presuppositions and the times we do not. I’ve touched on that before, but I’m going to do it again. I’m going to start with three scriptures.
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2“The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. 3Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.
Finally (from Acts 15:23-29):
From the apostles and elders, your brothers, to the Gentile brothers and sisters in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia, greetings! 24Since we have heard that some have gone out from among us with no orders from us and have confused you, upsetting your minds by what they said, 25we have unanimously decided to choose men to send to you along with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, 26who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas who will tell you these things themselves in person. 28For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: 29that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what has been strangled and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from doing these things, you will do well. Farewell.
I’ve seen a lot recently about how “well Christ didn’t say that” or “the entire law is done away with in Christ” or “my anger is righteous anger.” I had someone close to me who for a long time used to say “well, of course you are supposed to forgive people, but that person was in the wrong, and they wronged me, so the rule doesn’t apply here.” (Really. Used to drive me crazy. They’ve gotten over it after about forty years). Offense will always come.
So what do we make of what Christ actually said. Did he say we should leave part of the law undone?
That we should rise up in righteous fury and stone the sinners, especially those caught in the very act?
What did he say?
At whom should we be offended?
Should we try not to give offense.
The answers may seem obvious, especially from how I’ve framed them. But if they are obvious, perhaps they aren’t the right answers so much as they are tradition. Regardless, if you think I’m right, you are probably wrong (since I’m probably wrong).
So, when you set aside tradition, and you set aside your preconceptions and your offenses, what does Christ say to you now?
How is that different, if at all, from what you thought he was saying to you when you started reading this post?