“Does the Church want anyone to give up his culture to be a good member of the Church?” New Era, Dec. 1971, 43
Answer/Frank M. Bradshaw
The Church has provided wonderful friends for me, no matter where I have gone in the world. Wherever I am, all I have to do is look up the Church, and immediately I have many brothers and sisters to whom I can relate because we both embrace the gospel. These persons might be Indian, Japanese, Chilean, South African, French, or American, but the most important thing about them is that they are members of the Church and love the Lord.
Without exception, the gospel can make a people better if they let its influence come into their lives. Through the gospel, life becomes different and richer. Even so, the gospel does not require that we abandon anything in our cultures that is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy.”
The following ideas should be weighed:
1. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. It is not an American church or a Utah church. It is a universal church and crosses all national and racial boundaries. The Savior makes this point clear:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the ends of the world.” (Matt. 28:19.)
In August 1971, President Joseph Fielding Smith shed more light on this matter in an address given at the area general conference in Manchester, England:
“The day is long since past when informed people think of us as a peculiar group in the tops of the Rocky Mountains in America. It is true the Church headquarters are in Salt Lake City, and that the Lord’s house has been erected there. … But now we are coming of age as a Church and as a people … and not only shall we preach the gospel in every nation before the second coming of the Son of Man, but we shall make converts and establish congregations of the Saints among them. … So I say we are and shall be a world church. That is our destiny.”
President Smith went on to bless the Saints in the British Isles to grow and flourish in their own land.
2. With respect to our own cultures, the Lord expects us to be “in the world but not of the world.” There are in the background and culture of most peoples many wonderful and enlightening traditions. There are also some traditions and behaviors that would be better forgotten. It is the responsibility of the member of Christ’s church to draw upon the good and turn from the evil. Therefore, if there are good traditions, we should preserve or develop them in our lives; if there are bad traditions that violate the principles of the gospel, then we should turn from them.
We should remember that when we accept the gospel we are not required to leave our homeland or give up our culture; “… what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8.)
Closely related to this is the commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” (Ex. 20:12.) This not only means honor of our immediate parents, but also implies looking to our ancestors and our people and showing appropriate honor and respect to them.
Certainly, part of honoring them is to find out about them, to emulate the good in their lives, and then to do the genealogical and temple work for them so that they too might enjoy the blessings of the gospel.
All nationalities are children of our Father in heaven. We all should strive to be a good influence in the world and in our own culture. For the gospel to spread throughout the world, it will need members of the Church setting a proper example in the area and cultures in which they live.