We are seeking unity with each other as children of God by talking about it in articles, authored by different people, in a series that will continue on Meridian for several weeks. We invite you through the comments section to join in our quest to comprehend and live in unity with each other. If you haven’t yet read the first article you can find it HERE.

Richard Eyre invited 14 scholars and friends to write an essay about unity. This has just been published as the book, No Divisions Among You, Creating Unity in a Diverse Church. Part of this article is a small excerpt from Maurine’s essay.  

It’s easy to think that the reason we don’t live in unity is because all those other guys refuse to.

We are sure we are not part of the problem. We can’t find in ourselves judgment, or dismissal, or quick disdain for others. Certainly, anger isn’t part of our nature.

Yet, considering we have grown up in a fallen world, it would be hard not to be part of the disunity problem.

If Zion is of one heart, then Babylon, where we all reside, is going to be riven with division. It is the problem, of course, of those other people who irritate us.

We have grown up in an individualistic society where we are carefully taught to watch out for ourselves. We build a resume, seek to be important, love our own point of view, and discount—or worse dislike others–who see it differently. We huddle together with those most like us and cast a wary eye on those others outside our circle.

What’s strange is that we don’t recognize that we do that. Our blindness towards others, our quiet dismissal is often invisible to us.

Richard Eyre wrote in our new book, No Division Among You:

A friend of mine who knew about this book agreed that Unity was a growing problem in the Church but certainly did not think of herself as being part of it.  Then she had a troubling little experience. She had become acquainted with a young family that had just moved into her ward and was very impressed with them—they were bright and friendly and anxious to be involved and to contribute—she looked forward to getting to know them better.  When she dropped by their home a couple of weeks later to deliver a small gift, she saw a political yard sign in their front lawn that surprised her—it was for a candidate she thought of as extreme, even dangerous, and it worried her to the point that she didn’t stop or leave the gift, just drove on past, shaking her head. It was this small incident that made her realize that she was part of the problem. She had let one little yard sign cause her to judge this couple and to change, rather instantly and dramatically, what had been her favorable opinion of them.

Disagreement is not the problem.  It is the judgment, the categorizing and stereotyping, and the wall-building that goes with it which turns differences into destructive divisions and dissention.  Not agreeing with a person does not disrespect him or her, but dismissing that person certainly does.  The moment we dismiss someone—because of their opinion, their race, their sexual preference, their religion, their politics, their party, their education, their news source, their vaccination or lack thereof, their accent, their “activity” in the Church, their “faith crisis,” their podcast preferences, their mask-wearing, their “conservative” or “liberal” gospel or scripture interpretations, the appearance or behavior of their children, etc. etc. etc.—we have not only disrespected them, we have judged them and separated ourselves from them, essentially dismissing them, and thus limiting or eliminating what we could do for them, what they could do for us, and what we could do together.

The Lessons of the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon could not be more pointed in its call for unity. This is taught to us through a repeated story. The Nephites are living in peace and prosperity, but then contention and division erupt among them. When that happens, they become weak, angry and ready for defeat at the hordes of the Lamanites as they come against the Nephites in war.

Of course, in these cases, the Nephites lose. The Lord does not support a covenant people who refuse to live their covenants of charity and, then, turn against each other. Such divisions always leave the Nephites vulnerable for attack.

Alma 50, for example, tells about the problems of the Nephites. The Lord could not support them in their wickedness in the wars they faced, and in listing their wickedness the scripture starts like this: “it has been their quarrelings and their contentions…which brought upon them their wars and their destructions.” Of course, quarrelings and contentions are among an entire list of other evils the Nephites embrace, but these two come first.

When the Lord visits the people in the promised land in 3 Nephi 28,29, he immediately warns them: “There shall be no disputations among you as there have hitherto been…I say unto you he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil.”

When the world is so divided at the end of time, the worst wars this planet has known begin, but the Saints of God will be caught up in unity to meet Him.

The Lord has a reason to stress that we must live in unity and love.

In my essay for the book, I realized that there could be no unity, unless it began with each of us. Unless it began with me. The excerpt is here:

Unity must start with a human soul yearning to be united and understanding that is what heaven requires. President Russell M. Nelson was trying to help us with that when he issued a challenge on Sunday morning at General Conference in 2022. He said, “Two weeks from today we celebrate Easter. Between now and then I invite you to seek an end to a personal conflict that has weighted you down. Could there be a more fitting act of gratitude to Jesus Christ for His Atonement. If forgiveness seems impossible, plead for power through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to help you.”

My husband, Scot, and I took that challenge very seriously. We talked for hours about it. We couldn’t find in our souls any demanding and active animosity toward anyone, but we thought we should sift deeper. Have we allowed the Lord to make us totally whole in the area of taking and giving offense? Do we have hardness toward some people, carefully hidden away in our souls, little icebergs of rejection toward others, a sense of superiority towards some and a disdain for others?

It was as we talked that I began to see both how serious and how hard being united in love really is. It was in a realm of spiritual maturity that calls for our soul’s deepest spiritual calisthenics. It is not a characteristic of the natural man. It is where prophets live. It is how Christ lives. The Savior’s last words during his mortal ministry were “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”[xii]

Intentional Thinking

That is why a small moment spoke so loudly to my soul. Scot and I lead tours each year to Israel where we talk about the Savior’s life, and as we ended our talk in the Garden of Gethsemane, a woman came up to my husband and said a surprising thing: “I’d like to ask your forgiveness because I have been having resentful feelings toward you this last hour. I asked you when we got off the bus, if you thought we needed a coat, and you said, ‘no’, but it has been cold this last hour during our meeting. I really could have used a coat and I felt upset at you. Will you forgive me?”

Now, I didn’t think she needed to ask for forgiveness, but I was very impressed that she had noticed those feelings of resentment in her soul, and cut them off to the quick. I could see in her an intentionality of thought that allowed soul growth. She wasn’t going to leap toward resentment, even for a little time, yet alone dwell in it. She noticed it and stopped it.

I wanted to also be that intentional, so that I didn’t go through life reflexively and quickly making judgments, piling up disapproval, feeding resentments—and all the time not knowing it because it was an invisible habit in me, a bequeathal of a fallen world. I could see that believing wholeheartedly in the majesty and importance of unity, wasn’t enough to be that kind of person. I had to be intentionally, actively and prayerfully choosing love and unity.

So often we are like marbles rattling around in a box, knocking up against each other, chipping each other in casual blows and contacts, and unaware of it.

I didn’t have to wait very long to find resentment slouching into my soul. On the way home from that trip, we flew through the night and landed in Munich around 5:00 am. Half bleary-headed, muscles and joints aching, exhausted with that kind of dullness that is lost sleep, we juggled carry-ons and back packs, with too few hands, and dragged to the first place open where we could get a bit of breakfast and sit down to eat it and unload ourselves for a minute for sweet relief. We bought our smoothies and a couple of bagels. Thankfully, about 25 tables and accompanying chairs were open. Balancing our smoothies as we began to unload ourselves in this sea of inviting open space, we were immediately stopped. A young man, with a healthy head of blond hair and a nose ring said, “You can’t eat here.”

We answered, “Aren’t these the chairs and tables that go with this restaurant?” He answered, “Yes, but you ordered the wrong kind of food. Only people who order off the menu can eat here.”

“But it is empty and we are so tired.We can count 25 empty tables,” we persisted. “You can’t stay,” he said. I could feel every ounce of my exhaustion rising up in silent anger as I gazed at the inviting tables and back to the young man. In my heart, I thought, he was an unfeeling idiot. Now I would have two more things—a smoothie and a bagel– to juggle in my weary walk to the far-away gate, and nowhere else to sit.

Then I saw it. I realized what I was doing. I was creating a case against him in my mind. I had judged him quickly. I had not one ounce of human kindness toward him. I was caught. I realized how far my soul had to develop yet to live in unity and love, and I asked again for the Lord to help me when I go to give Olympic scores to the performance of the human beings around me. If I do this over small things, like our encounter at the airport, am I also prone to disunity with others in more serious matters? Obviously, there is so far to go.

Intentionality and working at being right in our minds with others is good, but clearly not enough. Teach me how to love, I plead. Teach me how to be at-one with thee and with my brothers and sisters. I have to add real spiritual power to my best intentions.

How We Learn to Love

It is the Lord who teaches us to love. I turn to Him with all my heart in the quest for the love that creates unity, because what is required is more than I can manage alone, with good intentions. This scripture rang in my ears. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him.”[xiii] (emphasis added)

Filled with this love, we become unified as in Lehi’s dream where he is carried away in a vision, “even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.” The word concourse here means a coming together, a flowing, an encircling the throne of God. We are unified around the Lord. We are unified in his cause. The light that emanates from his presence fills and governs the entire universe, and we are unified because that light fills us with God at our center. He is the source of unity.

God is everywhere. “He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God forever and ever.”[xiv]

Ah, so love and unity are gifts the Lord bestows on those who spiritually yearn for them. I can be lifted and transformed through his atonement, but I have to offer not only my willingness, but truly “a broken heart and a contrite spirit.”

When the Lord asks us to love others and then to live in unity, He is asking us to remodel and transform all the corners of our soul–even the hidden corners.

So what do we do when the Lord asks us to live something beautiful like unity, but harder than we thought to attain?

That’s just a piece of my essay. We publish it here to invite you to join in the discussion. I went on to explore the question I posed, but we would love to hear from you.

How do you attain unity and what changes does it demand in your own soul?