In the Church we hear about the need for us to become a Zion people. We need to become of one heart and one mind. But why? The Lord would not require that we become united unless there was a distinct advantage or power in that unity.
The Command to be One
As early as the days of Enoch in the Old Testament, the Lord referred to those living in the city of Enoch as Zion. We read in Moses 7:18 “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them.”
Being of one heart and one mind has been the gold standard of behavior, the goal of every godly society since the beginning. Why? There is power in being united as a people, as a family, as a ward, or as a stake, that we take for granted. When we are at peace, the power that created that peace tends to become invisible to us. We forget what power granted that peace.
The kind of peace we are talking about here is not just absence of war, but the kind of peace that allows us to leave our doors unlocked because we trust our neighbors. The kind of peace that allows us to let our children play at other people’s homes, because we trust that they won’t be harmed or neglected when out of our sight. This is the kind of peace that leads a person to declare that all is right with the world.
In John 17:11 Jesus prays to the Father of us all and asks Him to keep those whom He has given to Christ so they can be as unified as He and the Father are unified.
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
Here is the definitive word on how important it is to become one and to be unified as a people. It is found in Doctrine and Covenants 105:3-5.
But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them;
And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom;
And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.
Wow. So becoming unified and one as a people is a celestial law. If we don’t learn to live that law we will not be worthy of a celestial glory. It is a requirement of living in the presence of God to be able to put the needs of others before our own. This is one of the principles of the celestial law.
We keep reading that we need to be unified, that we need to be one. What the scriptures are not specific about is what exactly that means, and how we accomplish such a feat. Let’s turn to some scriptures and some modern prophets for examples of what it means to be one, to be unified, and how it is done.
Examples of unity
In the New Testament, after the ascension of Christ, the Church lived a common law life. Acts 4:31-32 tells us that those who were members of the Church did not consider anything in their possession to actually belong to them, but was theirs only as part of the common good.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
We don’t currently live the united order, where everything is given to the Bishop then parceled back to each family based on their needs and wants. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still live the law in our hearts. Before we can live such a law physically, we must be able to live it emotionally.
When the Bishop or some other church leader we have raised our hand to sustain in their calling calls for our help in a service project, do we move heaven and earth to be there? Is it a priority to answer the call of our leaders or is it a priority of a convenience that we will think about if we have nothing better to do that day? When asked to clean the chapel do we whine about the fact that it is our turn again or that it should be someone else’s responsibility or do we quietly accept the charge to do the Lord’s work and show up with a cheerful countenance?
Becoming unified, becoming one, means that we put the needs of others before our personal desires. Our wants take a backseat to the needs of others. And this change of attitude actually brings us joy. Thinking of others first becomes the natural way of thinking. That is how the Savior thinks. He never once put his own needs or wants before those of anyone else, least of all of His Father.
In a talk given by Elder Marion G. Romney about being unified, he said this:
Some members assume that one can be in full harmony with the spirit of the gospel, enjoy full fellowship in the Church, and at the same time be out of harmony with the leaders of the Church and the counsel and direction they give. Such a position is wholly inconsistent, because the guidance of this Church comes not alone from the written word but also from continuous revelation, and the Lord gives that revelation to the Church through his chosen prophet. It follows, therefore, that those who profess to accept the gospel and who at the same time criticize and refuse to follow the counsel of the prophet are assuming an indefensible position. Such a spirit leads to apostasy. It is not new. It was prevalent in the days of Jesus and in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
He continued on in his talk to explain that following the wisdom of the world breeds disunity. Only by seeking out the Lord and His will, then doing it will enable us to become unified as a people. Unity is the natural result of obedience to the commandments.
There is but one way that we can be united, and that way is to seek the Lord and his righteousness. (See 3 Ne. 13:33.) Unity comes by following the light from above. It does not come out of the confusions below. While men depend upon their own wisdom and walk in their own way, without the guidance of the Lord they cannot live in unity. Neither can they come to unity by following uninspired men.
The way to unity is for us to learn the will of the Lord and then to do it. Until this basic principle is understood and observed, there will be no unity and peace on the earth. The power of the Church for good in the world depends upon the extent to which we, the members thereof, observe this principle.
The major reason for the world’s troubles today is that men are not seeking to know the will of the Lord and then to do it. Rather do they seek to solve their problems in their own wisdom and in their own way. The Lord, in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, which he revealed as the preface to the book of his commandments, pointed this out and marked it as one of the causes of the calamities which he foresaw coming upon the inhabitants of the earth. Listen to this ringing declaration:
“They have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way.” (D&C 1:15–16.)
Brethren and sisters, do not rely upon the counsel of men nor trust in the arm of flesh (see D&C 1:19), but seek the Lord to establish his righteousness (see D&C 1:16).
President Henry B. Eyring gave a talk in Conference about being one as a people. This is a down-to-earth, real-life example of what it means to become one as a people.
When it was announced in 2002 that missionary work would become the responsibility of the bishops … one bishop I knew saw it not as an added duty but as an opportunity to draw the ward together in a great cause where every member became a missionary. He called a ward mission leader. He met with the missionaries himself every Saturday to learn about their work, to encourage them, and to learn about the progress of their investigators. The ward council found ways for organizations and quorums to use service experiences as missionary preparation. And as a judge in Israel, he helped young people feel the blessings of the Atonement to keep them pure.
Recently I asked how he explained the surge of convert baptisms in his ward and the increase in the number of young people ready and eager to take the gospel of Jesus Christ out to the world. He said it seemed to him that it was not so much the duty anyone performed but the way they all became one in their enthusiasm to bring people into the community of Saints that had brought them such happiness.
For some it was that and more. Like the sons of Mosiah, they had felt the effects of sin in their own lives and the marvelous healing of the Atonement within the Church of God. Out of love and gratitude for the Savior’s gift to them, they wanted to help everyone they could to escape the sadness of sin, feel the joy of forgiveness, and gather with them to safety in the kingdom of God.
It was the love of God and the love for their friends and neighbors that unified them to serve the people. They desired to take the gospel to everyone in their part of the world. And they prepared their children to be worthy to be called by the Lord to teach, to testify, and to serve in other parts of His vineyard.
He closed his talk with this sentiment:
I pray that wherever we are and whatever duties we have in the priesthood of God, we will be united in the cause to bring the gospel to all the world and that we will encourage people we love to be cleansed from sin and to be happy with us in the kingdom of God.
I used to think that becoming one as a family or as a people was some great mystery. It is not. In a talk given by Hugh W. Pinnock called “The Blessings of Being Unified” he presented some basic and universal ways we can become unified with those around us. The principle of unity is applied the same way for a family as it is for a ward, stake or the Church. For example, Elder Pinnock said, “Are we one with our neighbors? Is the street where you live a little more peaceful because you dwell there?”
He also said, “We forget personal pettiness and silliness as we work together. We subordinate ourselves to serve the organization and the cause.” The difficulty is in learning to subordinate ourselves to the needs of others, and like it. When we do it we find that it brings a personal sense of joy and inner peace. It calms the soul to be a blessing to another person. An acquaintance of Elder Pinnock who dealt with faiths of all kinds around the country had this to say about the Latter-day Saints:
“One of the most remarkable characteristics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that you seem to be working together. You are headed in the same direction. As one, you concentrate upon doing that which you believe Jesus wants you to do. You all study the same doctrine. You respond to your leaders. You are unified.”
Elder Pinnock went on to observe, “One of the facets that makes us different is that we strive for compatibility.” Seeking to be compatible, to be able to work well with others in a peaceful fashion is an attribute that is quickly vanishing from today’s society. Too many today are focusing on individual rights and liberties that almost always come at the expense of someone else’s rights and liberties. This is not the way of the Lord, nor the way of His people.
Search the scriptures and you will find that the happier the Lord’s people are, the more prosperous they are. The more prosperous they are, the more generous they are. It is only when our allegiance switches from each other and the Lord to our “possessions” that sorrow and suffering set in.
The secret to becoming a Zion people, to be unified and one in heart and mind, lies in our desire to seek the understanding of the principles of righteousness and apply them in the service of those around us. When our life’s desire is to lift the life of another, and our peace is based on the peace we can bring to another, then, and only then, will we be well on our way to being one as a people as the Lord wants us to be.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.