Contending with Culture: Part I

treeI am sure if I asked any LDS congregation, regardless of geography, demography, or point in time, if they felt overwhelmed by the impact of the prevailing culture in their lives most would confidently respond that they are immune to negative cultural influences. On the surface, this makes sense. God has designed a church that stands opposed to any worldly culture. The Word of Wisdom, Law of Chastity, tithing, Sabbath day, and many other standard commandments truly set us apart from the world.

filthyBut I do not believe these commandments do enough to shield us from the subtle and overt tugs and pulls of our culture. Indeed, I feel that culture is analogous to the filthy waters and great and spacious building Lehi and Nephi saw in their dreams. Culture surrounds us. It is in our face. It mocks us. It does all it can to wrap its tantalizing tentacles around our minds and hearts.

We are certainly not alone in our difficult battle against culture. This has been a problem since the beginning of time. The Book of Mormon gives us a clear example of how God worked closely with a small group of people He to free them from the clutches of their culture. Keep in mind, the Book of Mormon is written for our times. Because of this, I feel God is telling us through this example how e will help us contend against the cultural challenges we are facing today.

Jared and his brother lived in a culture where people prided themselves on their own abilities. They were convinced that what they accomplished was a direct result of their own intelligence and acumen. They freed themselves from the burden of divine clutter.

Now these people were all taught the gospel in its fullness. They were not too far separated from Noah. But culture gradually replaced true doctrine. Culture simplified things. Religion had constraints through commandments. Culture had freedom, or at least the allusion of freedom. Religion required personal accountability. Culture was devoid of consequences.

towerAs a result of abandoning religion for culture, the people perverted the pure truths they were taught. Chief among those truths was how to return to God. Rather than keeping the commandments, repenting, and having a broken heart and contrite spirit, they resolved to build a tower enabling them to demand entrance into God’s presence.

Ridiculous, yes. But this is what culture does. It lies to us. It uses its pleasing siren song to lower our defenses and lull us into crippling complacency.

God was not impressed. To humble these people God did two things. First, He confounded their language. Second, He removed Jared, his brother, and their small community who were that small minority still clinging to the truths.

I am convinced that these people, physically removed from the prevailing culture, represent us. We are the ones who are asked to stand apart from the culture. But they, like us, were not immune to their culture. In the next post I will focus on how God worked long and hard to purge the impact of culture from these already righteous people.

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