(January 21, 2014)
I think that a great deal about what we believe in this Church is either tradition, or culture, or even outright wrong. I don’t mean to say that the Church is wrong, but I am rather speaking to the beliefs that we carry about the Church. For example, look at the process by which Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized – it seems so strange and disordered compared to the mechanics of the Church today. I understand why those mechanics are in place, and I think they often serve important functions (and we shouldn’t violate them willy-nilly), but I think in my own mind I elevate the mechanics up to the level of the Gospel. This is a mistake. The Gospel is eternal, while the mechanics may be useful (or even wrong, from time to time).
The other thought I had was about why Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were commanded to lay hands on each other after they were baptized. There is something there that goes beyond the simple mechanics – something important. John the Baptist gave them the authority to baptize (and thus qualify themselves for the Aaronic Priesthood), but the final action had to be a mortal process rather than a process performed by their Heavenly messenger. Tangentially, we should remember that when we want to criticize our local leaders – there are enough in the Heavenly Host to fulfill each Bishopric position or every quorum leadership position. The Lord, however, has left mortals in charge for His own purpose – and we buck that purpose at the peril of our own salvation.