The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a missionary church. 296,800 new converts joined the Church worldwide in 2014. Many traditions and cultural practices are in keeping with gospel doctrine, but every convert, no matter which state or country they call home, gives up some traditions and makes cultural changes when they join the flock. Here are some powerful quotes from general conference about giving up old traditions, and fully embracing the gospel culture.
‘It is not an easy thing’
“It is not an easy thing to become a member of this Church. In most cases it involves setting aside old habits, leaving old friends and associations, and stepping into a new society which is different and somewhat demanding.
“With the ever-increasing number of converts, we must make an increasingly substantial effort to assist them as they find their way. Every one of them needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with ‘the good word of God’ . It is our duty and opportunity to provide these things.”—President Gordon B. Hinckley
‘A new celestial culture’
“I have seen the good fruit of the gospel blossom in my home continent of Africa. … In the doctrines and principles of the restored gospel, many are finding a sure anchor for their faith. Families uprooted from their rural communities in search of a better future in the towns and cities have found a new way to hold on to the strong family traditions which have come progressively under attack in this era of globalization. The Spirit of the Lord is moving powerfully among the people.
“A new celestial culture is developing in homes, nurtured by the ready hearkening to the counsel of the living prophet to have daily prayer and scripture study and to meet once a week as a family in home evening. As a result, many are able to break free from the shackles of traditions that restrict the exercise of their agency.” —Elder Joseph W. Sitati
‘A unique gospel culture’
“There is a unique gospel culture, a set of values and expectations and practices common to all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This gospel way of life comes from the plan of salvation, the commandments of God, and the teachings of the living prophets. It is given expression in the way we raise our families and live our individual lives. The principles stated in the family proclamation are a beautiful expression of our gospel culture.” —President Dallin H. Oaks
“I suggest that you place the highest priority on your membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. Measure whatever anyone else asks you to do, whether it be from your family, loved ones, your cultural heritage, or traditions you have inherited—measure everything against the teachings of the Savior. Where you find a variance from those teachings, set that matter aside and do not pursue it. It will not bring you happiness.” —President Howard W. Hunter, quoted in conference by Elder Richard G. Scott in “Removing Barriers to Happiness”
‘Practices that must be changed’
“The traditions or culture or way of life of a people inevitably include some practices that must be changed by those who wish to qualify for God’s choicest blessings.” —President Dallin H. Oaks
‘Powerful traditions in many lands’
“Always the prophets of God have condemned whoredoms. Yet these eternal commands have frequently been ignored, opposed, or mocked by powerful traditions in many lands. This is especially visible today, when the movies, magazines, and Internet communications of one nation are instantly shared with many others. Sexual relations out of wedlock are tolerated or advocated by many. So is the rapidly expanding culture of pornography. All who have belonged to these cultures of sin must repent and change if they are to become the people of God, for He has warned that ‘no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom’.” —President Dallin H. Oaks
‘A wrenching change’
“Weekly attendance at church is another example of a commandment contrary to popular traditions. The Lord has commanded us to attend church and ‘offer up [our] sacraments’ on His Sabbath day. This requires more than passive attendance. We are commanded to participate in worship and in service, and that requires a wrenching change for many non-Christians and even for those Christians who have attended church only as irregular spectators.” —President Dallin H. Oaks
‘Treatment of women’
“There are cultures or traditions in some parts of the world that allow men to oppress women, but those abuses must not be carried into the families of the Church of Jesus Christ. Remember how Jesus taught: ‘Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, … but I say unto you …’ (Matt. 5:27–28). For example, the Savior contradicted the prevailing culture in His considerate treatment of women. Our guide must be the gospel culture He taught.”—President Dallin H. Oaks
“I testify that the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is the faith of our Heavenly Father. It is His truth, revealed to His servants the prophets from the days of Father Adam until our own time. The Father and the Son appeared to Joseph Smith to restore the faith of our Father on this earth, never to be taken away again. God desires that all of His children receive it, irrespective of their background, culture, or tradition. True religion should not originate from what pleases men or the traditions of ancestors, but rather from what pleases God, our Eternal Father.”—Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
“In the message of the gospel, the entire human race is one family descended from a single God. All men and women have not only a physical lineage leading back to Adam and Eve, their first earthly parents, but also a spiritual heritage leading back to God the Eternal Father. Thus, all persons on earth are literally brothers and sisters in the family of God.
“It is in understanding and accepting this universal fatherhood of God that all human beings can best appreciate God’s concern for them and their relationship to each other. This is a message of life and love that strikes squarely against all stifling traditions based on race, language, economic or political standing, educational rank, or cultural background, for we are all of the same spiritual descent. We have a divine pedigree; every person is a spiritual child of God.
“In this gospel view there is no room for a contracted, narrow, or prejudicial view.”—President Howard W. Hunter
‘The social transition … is the most difficult’
“Simultaneously with doctrinal conversion there must be a social transition. Friends, habits, customs, and traditions not in harmony with the life of a Latter-day Saint are abandoned, replaced by new friends and activities that support a new life. Of the two important changes that must occur in a convert’s life—the gaining of a testimony, or doctrinal conversion, and learning how to live as a Latter-day Saint, or the social transition—the latter is the most difficult to achieve. It is best accomplished with the love and support of members. Your worthy example and caring support can lead them through each step required to learn to live as a Latter-day Saint.”—Elder Richard G. Scott
Another meme for the same quote that I made for an earlier blog post, Inspiring General Conference Quotes on Life Transitions and Change
‘You made a commitment’
“When you embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ and His plan of happiness, you were baptized and confirmed a member of His kingdom here on earth. You took upon yourself His name. You made a commitment to be obedient to His teachings and to make whatever changes in your life were required by those teachings. For the fulness of joy, you need to receive the ordinances of the temple. That pattern will provide you the greatest happiness here on earth and throughout the eternities. For almost everyone, joining the Church requires a fundamental change in lifestyle. … No one who truly understands the significance of Church membership has any hesitancy in making these adjustments to receive the blessings of worthy fellowship in His kingdom. Also there are other things, perhaps less clearly evident, that also need to be set aside in order to enjoy the fullest measure of happiness from membership in His kingdom.” —Elder Richard G. Scott
“Two companion qualities evident in the lives of our pioneers, early and modern, are unselfishness and sacrifice. Our Utah pioneers excelled at putting ‘the general welfare and community goals over individual gain and personal ambition.’ That same quality is evident in the conversion stories of modern pioneers. Upon receiving a testimony of the truth of the restored gospel, they have unhesitatingly sacrificed all that was required to assure that its blessings will be available to their children and to generations unborn. Some have sold all their property to travel to a temple. Some have lost employment. Many have lost friends. Some have even lost parents and extended family, as new converts have been disowned for their faith. This must be the greatest sacrifice of all.”—President Dallin H. Oaks
“The gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to change. ‘Repent’ is its most frequent message, and repenting means giving up all of our practices—personal, family, ethnic, and national—that are contrary to the commandments of God. The purpose of the gospel is to transform common creatures into celestial citizens, and that requires change.”—President Dallin H. Oaks