How do we create and maintain unity at church while valuing diversity and avoiding conformity? Do we have to embrace the diversity of those who value conformity? Do we have to unify with those whose diversity gives us the heebie jeebies?
This post is actually a virtual RS/PH lesson, #23: “How Good and How Pleasant It Is . . . to Dwell Togehter in Unity.” See how I snuck that in there? Here are some interesting points from the lesson:
The first part of the lesson emphasizes how temple building brought the Saints together in a common purpose. It is interesting that the focus is on the work to build the temple, and there is no specific implication that the temple itself would create unity among the Saints, a point made more eloquently by joe spencer here.)
How Action Unites Us
The efforts of the Kirtland Saints were typical of the unity, sacrifice, and devotion that would make it possible for the Lord’s purposes to be fulfilled in the years to come. This was one of many times when the Saints would pull together, heeding the admonition of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “A long pull, a strong pull, and a pull all together.” (JS quoted by BY in 1867)
Q: Although we are no longer typically involved in the act of building temples, how does temple construction still bring church members together? What other action-oriented events create unity of purpose? Consider: lay clergy, visiting/home teaching, humanitarian/service projects, etc.
Q: How do church members sometimes pull in different directions vs. together? What happens when church members pull in different directions rather than together?
Q: Does a lack of action create disharmony (as the saying goes “idle hands are the devil’s playground”–or something like that)?
A Diverse Church
“We would wish the Saints to understand that, when they come here, they must not expect perfection, or that all will be harmony, peace, and love; if they indulge these ideas, they will undoubtedly be deceived, for here there are persons, not only from different states, but from different nations, who, although they feel a great attachment to the cause of truth, have their prejudices of education, and, consequently, it requires some time before these things can be overcome. “ (1841)
Q: Do people still expect perfection of other church members? How do these expectations create disunity in the church?
Q: How do cultural divides cause disunity in the church? How can we overcome that in a global church that includes members from all personalities, political persuasions, and socio-economic divides?
Q: What “prejudices of education” still exist in the church today? How do we overcome these prejudices?
A Social Church
“We, all of us, have our friends, our connections, our families and associations; and we find that the ties of friendship … and brotherhood have indissolubly united us together with a thousand endearing associations; we have embraced the one common faith. A kindred sympathy runs through the whole body, even the body of Christ, which, according to Paul’s statement, is his church; and no one part of the body can be injured without the other parts feeling the pain, for says Paul, if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one member rejoice all the rest are honored with it.” (1842)
Q: Who should be considered part of the Saints? All who self-identify as Mormons or just those who practice their religion? All who sympathize with Mormons?
Q: How do our ties to others in the church increase the church’s strength despite the many flaws we and other members have?
Q: How do we help those who may feel like a minority in the church feel fully welcome and valued as a part of the group? How do we keep the majority from driving out the minority?