Quotes on Unity

In keeping with the un-theme of this blog, I now present something completely different...

Belonging to a church with a lay clergy, it's my turn to speak once in a while to our ward, a congregation of about 130 on an average week. I seem to get called on every couple of years (more than I would like, but less than some!) Last Sunday (before Memorial Day) was my turn again, under the general topic of "unity". Following are some notes and quotes I gathered for the talk, for anybody interested. No, I did not use all this stuff in the talk... there's only so much you can say in 20 minutes!

First, it was appropriate to recognize the service of those in the military - unity in their efforts is essential to accomplishing their missions. There were four specific characteristics that are exemplified both in military service and I believe more generally in any effort by a group to accomplish something together. First, personal honor, commitment, and integrity - unity of the self. Second, a clearly shared common goal with a mechanism to help make decisions toward that goal. Third, sacrifice: at the least of time and mental effort, but wealth, health, and even lives must sometimes be laid on the line. And fourth, love: both of those you are serving with, and the larger community of humanity you are sacrificing for.

Unity stems naturally from qualities universally recognized as good - honesty, love, gratitude, respect, humility. Their opposites - pride, greed, selfishness, envy, hate - are naturally divisive, putting one person above another, separating one group from another, most of all persuading a person to look out only for themselves, rather than for others.

Brigham Young(1) on this:

"A perfect oneness will save a people, because intelligent beings cannot become perfectly one, only by acting upon principles that pertain to eternal life. Wicked men may be partially united in evil; but, in the very nature of things, such a union is of short duration. The very principle upon which they are partially united will itself breed contention and disunion"

1. Personal unity

Integrity is, by one definition, the "quality of being whole or united" - unity of the self. Whatever the place or context, we remain steadfast, unwavering, honest, good. This isn't easy...

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn(2), pondering after he received self-sacrificing care from a man he knew had done terrible things, wrote:

"Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed
by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil."

Howard W. Hunter(3):

"... the key to a unified church is a unified soul—one that is at peace with itself and not given to inner conflicts and tensions. So much in our world is calculated to destroy that personal peace through sins and temptations of a thousand kinds."

D. Todd Christofferson(4):

"we must begin by becoming one within ourselves. We are dual beings of flesh and spirit, and we sometimes feel out of harmony or in conflict. Our spirit is enlightened by conscience, the light of Christ, and naturally responds to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit and desires to follow truth. But the appetites and temptations to which the flesh is subject can, if permitted, overwhelm and dominate the spirit."

Mosiah 3:19:

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. "

Christofferson(4):

"through the Holy Spirit, the Lord will tutor us if we are willing until, in process of time, it may accurately be said that He is in us as the Father is in Him."

Humility is necessary:

Henry Eyring(5):

"be humble. Pride is the great enemy of unity."

2. The common goal

As church members we share the goal of our Father in Heaven regarding us:
Moses 1:39

"For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

Henry Eyring(5):

"joy comes when we are blessed with unity. We yearn, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, for that joy which we once had with Him in the life before this one. His desire is to grant us that sacred wish for unity out of His love for us."

Mosiah 18:21:

"And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another."

How do we choose between two paths that might reach our goal? We need to rely on the guidance of the Spirit:

Henry Eyring(5)

"Revelation is the only way we can know how to follow the will of the Lord together."

In the military it may be wise to rely on a chain of command with responsibility for major decisions resting at the top, but in the church and in many other situations, effective councils require far more equality and the reaching of consensus among those who participate. And simple agreement is not enough for the church, it must also be inspired. This may be slow work, but it is important if we are to do the Lord's work...

President Thomas S. Monson(6):

"A sweet spirit of unity exists among the General Authorities. The Lord has declared, “If ye are not one ye are not mine.” We will continue to be united in one purpose—namely, the furtherance of the work of the Lord."

Having a common enemy certainly helps bring unity:

3 Ne 11:28

"He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil"

Pres. Eyring(5):

"Satan ... plants the seeds of discord in human hearts in the hope that we might be divided and separate"

Howard W. Hunter(3):

"I know of no stronger weapons in the hands of the adversary against any group of men or women in this church than the weapons of divisiveness, faultfinding, and antagonism."

But unity does not imply identity or blind obedience. Paul, after talking about the gifts of the Spirit in 1st Corinthians, writes:
1 Cor 12:14,21,26:

"For the body is not one member, but many."
"And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you."
"And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."

Brigham Young(1):

"You may gather a people together, and no matter how widely they differ in politics, the Gospel of Jesus Christ will make them one, even if among them were found members of all the political parties in the country"

James Faust(7):

"We become heirs to the kingdom of God, having joined the body of Christ and spiritually set aside some of our personal differences to unite in a greater spiritual cause. We say to all who have joined the Church, keep all that is noble, good, and uplifting in your culture and personal identity. However, under the authority and power of the keys of the priesthood, all differences yield as we seek to become heirs to the kingdom of God, unite in following those who have the keys of the priesthood, and seek the divinity within us. All are welcomed and appreciated. But there is only one celestial kingdom of God."
"Temple worship is a perfect example of our unity as Church members. All of us answer the same questions of worthiness to enter the temple. All the men dress alike. All the women dress alike. We leave the cares of the world behind us as we enter the temple. Everyone receives the same blessings. All make the same covenants. All are equal before the Lord."

When we join the church, the unity we seek may follow Ruth's example:
Ruth 1:16:

"Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God"

3. Sacrifice, forgiveness, equality

Enoch's Zion:
Moses 7:18

"They were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them"

H. Aldridge Gillespie(8):

"seeing that the homes of members are visited faithfully and that sound doctrine is taught in these visits"

Callings in the church represent a sacrifice of time and talents in building Lord's kingdom

H. Aldridge Gillespie(8):

"everyone needs to feel that he or she is an integral part of the ward; unity and perfection come through involvement in the ministry."
"payment of tithes and fast offerings are the first signs of the sacrifice that leads to salvation"

Forgiveness means giving up that feeling that you were wronged in some way, sacrificing that:
D&C 64:9:

"Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. "

The Savior, at the time of his great sacrifice on the cross, also found time for forgiveness:
Luke 23:34:

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

There are many examples of sacrifice, devotion and unity from early in (original or restored) Church history.
Joseph Smith(9):

"let every selfish feeling be not only buried, but annihilated; and let love to God and man predominate, and reign triumphant in every mind, that their hearts may become like unto Enoch’s of old, and comprehend all things, present, past and future, and come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ"

The equality needed was exemplified in the early phase of Alma's church, after the death of Mosiah:
Alma 1:26-28:

"And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength.
And they did impart of their substance, every man according to that which he had, to the poor, and the needy, and the sick, and the afflicted; and they did not wear costly apparel, yet they were neat and comely.
And thus they did establish the affairs of the church; and thus they began to have continual peace again, notwithstanding all their persecutions."

4. Love

Gillespie(8):

"sacrifice is the basis of love, and without love we cannot achieve the unity"...
"consider ... the boundless love a mother feels for her children - because of her years of sacrifice for their welfare and happiness?
... we develop a love for that for which we sacrifice. As we honor our covenants and sacrifice our own interests for the well-being of other Church members, we build a greater unity through love."

And the great unifying passage for all of Christianity:

John 3:16

God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son ...

Pres. Eyring(10):

"union in love... is a necessity"

Concluding thoughts...

D&C 38:27

"I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine"

Gillespie(8):

"Unity in a ward ... is a commandment of God, and is one of the
observable fruits of the gospel of Jesus Christ".

Great intercessory prayer
John 17:20-23:

"[I pray] for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me."

The following can mostly be found by searching or following links from www.lds.org.

  1. Brigham Young, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church #48: "A Call for Unity, a Testimony, and a Blessing"
  2. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn - The Gulag Archipelago
  3. Howard W. Hunter, "That We May Be One", March 1976 general conference
  4. D. Todd Christofferson - "That They May Be One in Us", October 2002 general conference
  5. Henry B. Eyring - "Our Hearts Knit as One", October 2008 general conference
  6. Pres. Monson, "Looking Back and Moving Forward", March 2008 general conference
  7. James E. Faust, "Heirs to the Kingdom of God", March 1995 general conference
  8. H. Aldridge Gillespie: "Be Ye One", June 2004 Ensign
  9. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church #23 "How Good and How Pleasant it is... to Dwell Together in Unity"
  10. Henry B. Eyring, "Be One", September 2008 Ensign