“Heritage” generally refers to practices or characteristics that are passed down through the years from one generation to the next.
For example, our family’s recipe for making sauce for pasta (or gravy for macaroni, depending on who in the family you talk to) is part of our Italian heritage. For me personally, the lovely dark tan I get in the summer comes from that same heritage.
Speech mannerisms in different parts of the country — the way yinz or y’all pronounce certain words — are part of the heritage of those geographic areas. Historical landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell, are part of the American heritage — these items are not owned by any individual but are collectively owned by the American people and are passed down from one generation to the next.
In 3 Nephi 22, Jesus shares the words of Isaiah (from Isaiah 54) with the Nephites. In this prophecy, God lets the House of Israel know that He will never forsake them and that He will protect them against their enemies. The prophecy ends with these words:
“This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord.” (3 Nephi 22:17)
All of the promises that God has made to the House of Israel over time — beginning with the promises made to Abraham and continuing down through the generations via various prophets — apply as much to the House of Israel today as in any previous era of time. All of these promises are part of their heritage, having been transmitted through the generations, and they will continue to apply to future Israelite generations who serve the Lord as well.
In The Church of Jesus Christ, we also have a heritage that has been passed down to us. Jesus and His original disciples began the Church with specific practices (such as the ordinances) and characteristics (such as the power of God) which were meant to be passed down through the generations for all who would be servants of the Lord in His Church. As we observe in history, these practices and characteristics were altered for a period of time — a period of time referred to as the “Apostasy” — but God restored these things about 200 years ago such that we in this period of time can be part of that great heritage established by Jesus Christ.
It is now our responsibility to preserve this heritage such that it can be passed on to future generations. God won’t restore it again. How can we do our part to preserve this heritage?
- BELIEVE IT: In order to preserve the gospel in its pureness for future generations, we need to believe that it is correct as is. People’s attempts to change things around is what caused the apostasy.
- TEACH IT: We won’t live forever, so we have to teach the gospel to our younger members, and they need to learn it well enough to be able to continue teaching it when we’re gone.
- LIVE IT: Words only go so far. The way we live our lives and the decisions that we make in life must illustrate the validity of the gospel. Instead of letting the world change us, let’s do our best to try to change the world.
For any heritage that we enjoy today, we should be grateful to our predecessors for preserving the heritage for us. And, unless we want it to end with us, we should do our best to preserve it and pass it on to future generations.
This is especially true for the gospel of Jesus Christ. By all means, let’s enjoy the blessings that come with the rich heritage we have as servants of the Lord; however, let’s also take our responsibility as stewards seriously and do our best to preserve this heritage for future generations. Prophecy says the Church will be successful in this — let’s be among those who God uses to make it happen.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.