The day after the election, President Obama told us, “We’re all on one team.”
This got me thinking about unity, and if unity is possible when there are such polar opposites in the country and the world at large. Can a people be unified, even through great differences? And if so, what can unite us? How does it happen? I think it’s possible, but I’m not sure how. Speaking religiously for a second, in Doctrine and Covenants 38:27 it says, “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.”
So, if Christ tells us that without being “one” we cannot really be His followers, there must be a way for wildly different people and wildly different ideologies to come together in unity. After all, we were not all made to be identical, act identically, or think identically.
Doctrine and Covenants 38 is actually a really interesting chapter. Let’s look at what is said before and then after that phrase that we so often hear and quote:
26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
30 I tell you these things because of your prayers; wherefore, treasure up wisdom in your bosoms, lest the wickedness of men reveal these things unto you by their wickedness, in a manner which shall speak in your ears with a voice louder than that which shall shake the earth; but if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.
No respecter of persons
The chapter then goes on to talk a little bit more about the Church’s work, specifically in regards to looking after those who need assistance:
If we study the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, we can’t be surprised that the Lord isn’t a “respecter of persons.” In fact, that very phrase is used in Acts in the New Testament as well as the Doctrine and Covenants. And remember in 2 Nephi 26:33 when it says;
“he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
Christ wants us to be unified. He wants us to take care of one another. And He wants us to love one another. Division, contention, and hatred are not of Christ. 3 Nephi 11:29 says:
“29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.”
But how do we avoid contention?
It can be hard to be unified despite differences. So often differences of opinions or race or ideology seem to naturally lead to contention and difficulty rather than unity. It feels like men and women want to fight instead of compromise or work together for a mutually beneficial solution. Sometimes it seems to me like we need a common enemy in order to be united, or else something even stronger—a common belief or ideology that spans and encompasses all of us. I suppose that’s where religion comes in. Or respect and love. Or all of these.
It is easy to hate and find differences. It is easy to get lost in the anonymity of rioting crowds and feel justified in breaking or hurting. But it’s harder to love. It’s so much harder to be humble and meek. It’s more work to look after those who are worse off than you and to share. Just ask an angry toddler whose toys are being played with by a younger sibling or friend. Our first resort is often anger, but if we want to be on the same team—if we want to be unified—we have to overcome that, all of us. We have to do what builds and strengthens rather than what tears down and destroys.
(And yes, I keep thinking of Operation Ivy’s song, “Unity,”—though the language isn’t quite appropriate for a Mormon blog, haha— if you want to read the lyrics, click here 😉