Viewpoint: Find Unity amidst Diversity
Contributed By the Church News
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is defined by the diversity of its members.
- One of the great gospel miracles is that people of all backgrounds can be one in Christ.
Recently a wreath hanging on the front door of a home in the south end of the Salt Lake Valley was set ablaze. The adornment and the door were destroyed, but, fortunately, there was no serious damage to the home and no one was injured.
Such an isolated act of vandalism wouldn't typically make news headlines, but this incident seemed different. The motive likely went beyond mere mischief. News reports said the wreath was decorated in the team colors and logos of one the local universities. The homeowner said it wasn't the first time he'd been targeted by vandals. Other similar-themed items in his yard, including his mailbox and lawn signs, had been stolen or destroyed in past years.
No arrests were made and a police investigation remains open, but most agree the foolish and dangerous prank was likely perpetrated by a fan of a rival school.
News of the damaged wreath and door soon became fodder on social media sites and message boards. Posters were understandably disgusted. They lamented that a college sports rivalry could prompt such mean-spirited behavior.
Furthermore, a supporter from the “other” school was, like many, disappointed that the actions of a single person might disparage an entire fan base. So he and a few others quickly organized an online fundraising effort to raise enough money to replace the wreath and damaged door. Within a few days they had more than doubled their goal.
The well-publicized incident served as a reminder of the many divisions that set neighbors at odds—and the possibilities of people looking past such divisions and realizing unity and true community.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is defined by the diversity of its members. The Church is beloved and followed across the globe by men and women who speak different languages, belong to varied cultures and races, support opposing political parties, and, yes, cheer for rival sports teams.
But one of the great gospel miracles is that people of all backgrounds can be one in Christ. Unity through the Savior is not simply a worthwhile social endeavor—it's a commandment. As Paul wrote: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement” (1 Corinthians 1:10).
Many of Paul's apostolic contemporaries have shared similar teachings.
In his October 2010 address at the priesthood session of general conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said unity in the gospel can be undermined by the divisive sin of pride. Perhaps, he said, there is “no better laboratory” to witness such a sin than in the sports world.
“I have always loved participating in and attending sporting events. But I confess there are times when the lack of civility in sports is embarrassing. How is it that normally kind and compassionate human beings can be so intolerant and filled with hatred toward an opposing team and its fans?
“I have watched sports fans vilify and demonize their rivals. They look for any flaw and magnify it. They justify their hatred with broad generalizations and apply them to everyone associated with the other team. When ill fortune afflicts their rival, they rejoice.
“My dear brethren of the priesthood, my beloved fellow disciples of the gentle Christ, should we not hold ourselves to a higher standard? As priesthood bearers, we must realize that all of God’s children wear the same jersey. Our team is the brotherhood of man. This mortal life is our playing field. Our goal is to learn to love God and to extend that same love toward our fellowman. We are here to live according to His law and establish the kingdom of God. We are here to build, uplift, treat fairly, and encourage all of Heavenly Father’s children.”
A sacred promise of unity is made to all God's children who accept His gospel: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
Despite the many differences that exist within the membership of the Lord's vast Church, there are no strangers and no outcasts.
“There are only brothers and sisters,” declared Bishop Gérald Caussé at the October 2013 general conference. “The knowledge that we have of an Eternal Father helps us to be more sensitive to the brotherhood and sisterhood that should exist among all men and women upon the earth.”
Unity, he added, will not be realized by ignoring or isolating those who seem different or by only associating with people “who are like us.”
“On the contrary, unity is gained by welcoming and serving those who are new and who have particular needs. These members are a blessing for the Church and provide us with opportunities to serve our neighbors and thus purify our own hearts.”
In his March 4, 1861, inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln offered to his divided nation a timeless plea for unity:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory … will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
As fellow members, we also must follow “the better angels of our nature” by looking beyond our many divisions, looking out for one another, and recognizing always our shared devotion to the great Unifier and His restored gospel.