New Members, New Traditions


F. Melvin Hammond

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no limit to its capacity. It is a living, growing entity. The Lord welcomes every soul who wishes to repent, pass through the door of baptism and confirmation, and enter His kingdom. Said He, “All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church” (D&C 20:37).

Having met these requirements, we who are baptized become the children of God by spiritual rebirth: “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). We become part of the most remarkable family on earth, and “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). Peter described this family as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9). It makes no difference if we are poor or rich, learned or illiterate, old or young, sick or well—all are invited to repent, be baptized and confirmed, and become part of this unique family.

When we become members of this new family, we should remember that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). There are no social strata in this Church. No one is any better than anyone else, for God is “no respecter of persons” (D&C 1:35).

What this family can be is described beautifully by Mormon following the visit of the Savior to the American continent: “There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.

“And there were no envyings, nor strifes, no tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.

“There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God” (4 Nephi 1:15–17).

When we join ourselves to the kingdom of God on the earth, we leave behind our former traditions that are not in harmony with the gospel, and we take upon us a new culture with new traditions. Our loyalty is to Jesus Christ and His prophets. We leave behind those old things that pollute the body, the mind, and the spirit, and we cling to a better way of life. Some of the wonderful traditions that we adopt as new members are the following:

1. We sing the hymns. Too many of us are hesitant to sing the Church hymns, thinking that our voices are not good enough or that it takes too much effort. Remember that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me,” saith the Lord (D&C 25:12). To the young and the old alike, open your mouths and sing out! It will help you feel more a part of the Church family, and it will bring the Spirit into your life.

2. We attend all our meetings. On Sunday we attend our meetings, including sacrament meeting, and during the week we attend any other meetings to which we are invited. We attend to learn more about the Savior, to renew the covenants we made with Him at our baptism by partaking of the sacrament, and to discuss and learn the important truths of the gospel. We are also given an opportunity to mingle socially with our brothers and sisters in this new family and to cultivate eternal friendships.

3. We fast and pay fast offerings. The law of the fast is God’s way to teach us charity, the pure love of Christ, by providing for the poor and the needy among us. It is intended that every member who is physically able go without food or drink for two meals once a month on fast Sunday and then contribute the cost of those two meals to the Church to assist our brothers and sisters in need. There are few things that humble us more and help us to draw nearer to the Lord than fasting with prayer.

4. We pay tithing. Tithing is one-tenth of our increase. This money is returned to the Lord because of His goodness to us. The money is used to further the work of the Lord by building chapels and temples, sending missionaries to preach the gospel, printing Church materials, and doing a host of other meaningful activities. Every member old and young should pay his or her tithing.

We often say, “Tithing is not a principle of money, but of faith.” The Lord said, “Prove me now herewith, … if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). We cannot afford to withhold our tithes from Him who gives us everything.

5. We have family and individual prayer. The Savior commanded us to pray always. Prayer allows us to communicate personally with our Heavenly Father in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. Each prayer is heard and answered in God’s own way and time, and even if the answer is not what we wanted or expected, it always blesses us. We ought to take the opportunity to offer a prayer of thanksgiving over every meal and to pray morning and night as families and individuals. Through prayer we come to know our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. And to know Them is to have eternal life (see John 17:3).

6. We have family home evening on Monday night. Monday night is to be kept free from other activities to allow us to be together as a family. It is a wonderful time to study the scriptures, have fun and exciting activities, make future plans for the family, and thus progress together spiritually.

Adjust home evening to the size and needs of your family. If you are single, ask your bishop or branch president about home evening groups. Even if you have no spouse or children, you can still be blessed by having family home evening and adapting it to your own situation.

7. We have a calling in the Church. Every member should have an assignment or responsibility to serve his or her brothers and sisters in the Church. President J. Reuben Clark Jr. (1871–1961), First Counselor in the First Presidency, said, “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how” that is important. 1 We do not aspire to callings nor should we ever turn down a call to serve, even if we do not feel adequate for the position. When we serve each other, we serve God and grow in our love for our fellowmen and our Heavenly Father.

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said many times that every new member in the Church ought to have a friend, a responsibility, and nurturing by the good word of God. 2 Serving one another is one of the greatest traditions we enjoy in the Church.

8. We prepare ourselves to go to the temple. Only those who are faithful may enter the temple, the house of the Lord. In the temple we participate in ordinances and make covenants for ourselves and for our ancestors. No unclean thing can enter the presence of God. To enter the temple, a recommend is required, which is signed by the bishop and the stake president (or by the branch and mission president). The temple prepares us for the most sublime privilege of all, to enter the celestial kingdom, where God and Christ dwell. “Families can be together forever,” but only through temple covenants and ordinances. 3

9. We study the scriptures daily. We have been counseled to study the scriptures every day. The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Book of Mormon introduction). Certainly we should study the scriptures and, especially, read from the Book of Mormon every day.

10. We live the Word of Wisdom. God has instructed His children that by following His law of health, they can be strong in body and in spirit. We are counseled to abstain from alcohol and tobacco in any form. We are told that tea and coffee are harmful to our bodies. Drugs are addictive. They destroy the senses and cripple the body. Regular exercise, when done wisely, can strengthen us and prolong our lives. The promise to those who obey this commandment is that they “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint” (D&C 89:18–20).

Many other traditions are a part of the new culture we have joined, but these 10 will keep us close to one another and to the Lord. I am confident that as all of us progress in understanding, as we become more mature, more obedient to the will of the Father and the Son, we will enthusiastically embrace these traditions and become heirs of the Father in His wonderful family. Peter said it best: “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God” (1 Peter 2:17). These special traditions will establish and solidify the everlasting bonds in the new family to which we all belong, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

[photos] Photographs by John Luke and Christina Smith; photographs posed by models

[photo] Photograph of Seattle Washington Temple by John Telford

Elder F. Melvin Hammond served as a member of the Seventy from 1989 to 2005.

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    “Not Where You Serve, but How,” Improvement Era, June 1951, 412.

  2.   2.

    See “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Liahona, July 1999, 122–23; Ensign, May 1999, 108.

  3.   3.

    See Hymns, no. 300.