What is meant by statement in Lynn G. Robbin’s Nov. 2014 Conference talk: “Some members don’t realize they are falling into the same snare when they lobby for acceptance of local or ethnic traditions of their fathers . D&C 93: 39 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.” Do you know what are the local or ethnic traditions referred to in his talk?
The full answer is that it could be almost anything. In short, any local or ethnic traditions that conflict with the Gospel of Jesus Christ would serve to prevent someone from receiving light and truth from Heavenly Father. One example from the scriptures that comes to mind would be the hatred of the Nephites by the Lamanites. Sure, Laman and Lemuel had their sibling rivalries with their younger brother, but why was that attitude continued?
One reason it happened is that we tend to look up to our parents as examples of how ‘grownups’ must behave. Thus as Laman and Lemuel had children, those children sought to exemplify what they saw in their parents. As each generation came into its own, the pattern repeats itself. So a sibling rivalry becomes a family tradition. As the two groups of families grew even further apart, this tradition became an ethnic tradition as Lamanites vs. Nephites throughout much of the Book of Mormon. Indeed, that lone tradition was a key element in the destruction of the Nephites and a loss of blessings to both sides over the centuries.
What is interesting in this example is that on more than one occasion, both the Nephites and the Lamanites were able to ignore that tradition of hatred for a period of time. As they did so, the blessings immediately began to come into their lives. Indeed, after Christ visited them, there was over 200 years of peace among all the people. It was so successful, they didn’t even identify themselves as Nephites or Lamanites during that time.
That brings up an interesting point that needs to be considered, and that point is the use of labels. Christ would have us all be one in unity together. Any time we label ourselves, we are immediately dividing ourselves up. Now, differences exist to be sure, however using labels on ourselves and each other creates an opportunity for contention. Contention is, by its very nature, harmful to the Holy Ghost and its ability to remain with us. When the Holy Ghost cannot remain with us, the light and truth that he testifies of cannot be given to us, or remain with us for long.
Take a look at the world as it stands today. Many of the wars and other events going on have a basis in local and ethnic traditions. Imagine if they went away tomorrow, and what measure of peace would come to the world as a result. Now, the key to this scripture is not found on the world stage. Rather it is given to us on an individual level. The reason is because the best place and time to prevent situations like the Lamanites vs. Nephites and similar problems is at the individual and family level. Thus the problem is prevented before it can gain momentum.
Speaking individually, ‘traditions of their fathers’ could range from drinking alcohol, thus conflicting with the Word of Wisdom, to any other aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, such as modesty, body piercings, tattoos, and so on.
Having said that, at no time has the Lord said that we are to abandon our familial and cultural heritage. There is a vast and rich diversity of culture in this world that is beautiful and good, wherever it may come from. We are only cautioned against those elements that would put our salvation and exaltation at risk. We cannot look at how the world is and imagine that this is how Heavenly Father wants us to live in the eternities. There is so much more in store for us that we don’t even know about, let alone the blessings to come that we have been given. It would be foolish to let anything stand in the way of our goal as found in the Celestial Kingdom. Only then will we be able to become all that Heavenly Father has wanted us to be.
Our coming here in the first place has been to take all the steps necessary to obtain that goal. We need to be careful in our examination of what traditions are good and what traditions are bad. A prayerful examination is always the best process to use in any effort to improve our lives in the manner Christ has given us. As we do so, we will have a better view of what treasures our ethnic fathers have given us, and what traditions we can safely let go of for the sake of our eternal progress after this life is done. May God be with you and guide you always