Generations may feel separate from each other, but all generations, in many ways blend into each other. The habits, beliefs, and outlooks of one generation come from the generations before it, and will extend into the generations that follow. Changes from one generation to another are sometimes incremental and sometimes drastic, but there are always holdovers.
Memories of my past
I’ve been thinking about my grandparents and what made them special to me. When I went into my grandma’s bathroom it always had a particular scent. It took me years before I realized that she always had a bowl of rose
Once I found a set of Fire King bowls on ebay and got all kinds of excited. It took me a while to remember that my grandmother used to serve us breakfast in Fire King bowls and juice glasses. She would get so insulted when we requested ketchup for our scrambled eggs. I miss her glass walls lined with African Violets and her needlepoint chairs done by my great, great grandmother. But most of all I miss my grandmother.
It has occurred to me that I am connected to past generations by my association with members of those generations. I appreciate the movies from the 40’s and the 50’s because those years were special to my parents, so that is what we watched. And it wasn’t just the outward things that have stuck with me. My father was in the military and I remember going to the theater on base and watching the newsreels about the “enemies” of freedom. It was politically okay in those days to make reference to people and races in unkind terms. I learned that my roots in racist thinking stemmed from my exposure to those older generations. To this day I have to guard myself against those things that naturally want to flow out of my mouth because of my upbringing. I don’t really feel that way toward others, but how I was raised occasionally shows in thoughts that flit through my mind unannounced.
Those thoughts led me to think about the spiritual and social holdovers that linger from past generations that influenced me. I have written in these pages before about the problem some cultures have breaking free of past disciplining patterns that in today’s society are considered abusive. It is difficult for them to change their ways because it is all they have seen in the past. They have to learn new ways of thinking and new justifications for doing something other than what their parents did before them.
Think about what it might have been like when the Church was first organized back in 1830. Every one of those converts to the Church were either Catholics or Protestants. Everyone came into the Lord’s Church with the ways and customs of their family traditions. Many of the troubles and trials of the first century of the Church were made more difficult because the Lord was trying to break the saints of old habits and trying to teach them new ways of thinking. This kind of change does not happen overnight, just as my upbringing still affects my decisions and behaviors. Over my lifetime, I have changed many things, but there are still holdovers from my past that influence me for good or for ill.
Our spiritual growth
I was told by my first Institute of Religion teacher that it is the responsibility of each generation to be more righteous than their parents. Only in this way will we, as a people, ever become a truly Zion society – a people of one heart and one mind. We all come from different backgrounds, different cultures and family expectations, that cannot be helped. But what we do with that diversity is up to us. When we see someone correcting a child do we judge or do we try to see how we can help and support both the parent and the child to ease the situation. When we go to Church and someone is dressed “funny” or what we would deem inappropriately, do we shun them or help them feel welcomed and wanted?
If we look back at our own lives, we will see that over time the Spirit works with us and changes us as individuals. Obedience to gospel principles has that natural effect on people. If you need an example, look at a recent convert to the Church. They may dress and groom more like the world and less like the other members of the Church at first. But with time, and exposure to the doctrines and the culture of the Church, hairstyles change, clothing often gets an upgrade, behavior patterns begin to reflect the norm for our area, and the awkward new person begins to blend into the ward family like they were always there.
Be that as it may, please keep in mind that for the rest of their lives, though on the outside, what is visible to all around them, they may look like just one of the saints, on the inside they are still dealing with all the thoughts and feelings of their past. Remember that full conversion and assimilation into the culture of Christ is not generally accomplished in one generation.
Normally it will be two or more generations before the patterns once held so dear by the original converts give way to new patterns, without so many of the holdovers from previous generations getting in the way. If we are aware of these patterns and issues we can be far more patient with each other. After all, we are each trying to be better today than we were yesterday. Sometimes just being aware that something exists can help us act more wisely and be better in certain situations. We all need to remember that we each have holdovers from our family’s past, and only patience and kindness will smooth the way before us.