Viewpoint: The Church Thrives with Unity and Cooperation
Contributed By the Church News
- Just as oxen are more powerful as they pull together, the Church can rise to heavenward if its members work together.
“We have a great opportunity, the opportunity to rise heavenward, to gain the spirit of the gospel as we have never enjoyed it before. This we can do by developing among us that unity required by the laws of the celestial kingdom.” —President Marion G. Romney
Several years ago, President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and his wife, Donna, visited a country fair in New Hampshire.
The center of attraction at the old-time fair was an oxen-pulling contest. Several teams of oxen with heavy wooden yokes were lined up to compete. A wooden sledge was weighed with cement blocks: ten thousand pounds—five tons—to begin with. The object was for the oxen to move the sledge three feet.
“I noticed a well-matched pair of very large, brindled, blue-gray animals. They were the big-boned, Holstein, Durham-cross, familiar big blue oxen of seasons past. Because of their size, of course they were the favorite.
“Each team was given three attempts to move the sledge. If they were able to do so easily, more weight was added until the teams were eliminated one by one. In turn, each team was hitched to the sledge.”
President Packer was amazed when the big blue oxen did not even place in the contest. Instead, a small, nondescript pair of animals repeatedly moved the sledge and won the pulling contest.
President Packer asked a well-seasoned local in the crowd how such an outcome could occur.
“The big blues were larger and stronger and better matched for size than the other team,” the man explained. “But the little oxen had better teamwork and coordination. They hit the yoke together. Both animals jerked forward at exactly the same time and the force moved the load.”
On that day, President Packer was reminded of the power of cooperation and unity (from “Equally Yoked Together,” delivered at regional representatives seminar, April 1975).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is defined by vast diversity. Members of the 15-million member Church hail from scores of countries and speak dozens of languages. They dress differently, vote differently, eat differently, and cheer for different (and often opposing) sports teams.
We welcome the many remarkable characteristics and cultures found in a global Church. General Authorities, for example, are invited to deliver their general conference talks in their native languages. And temple dedications are typically preceded by youth cultural events that celebrate a nation or city’s unique history and traditions.
But cultural or national diversity need not preclude gospel unity and cooperation. In fact, the Lord has commanded that His people be one people:
“Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).
Like a single, sturdy rope woven by thousands of individual fibers, there is power found when believing people work together. The story of the Restoration is replete with episodes of remarkable cooperation. The Mormon pioneer experience, for one, was made possible because many people from many backgrounds worked together to reach Zion.
“Our people have always been characterized by their loyalty and obedience to the direction of their leaders, by their unity, and by their extraordinary capacity to cooperate in a common venture,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. “We see the modern manifestations of these pioneer qualities in the great contributions our brothers and sisters make in a wide variety of private projects and common efforts that require unity and cooperation.
“Another modern manifestation of Mormon obedience, unity, and cooperation is our unique missionary program, from the preparation and service of young missionaries to the remarkably diverse activities of mature couples throughout the world” (“Following the Pioneers,” Oct. 1997 general conference).
Cooperation and unity in the Church is anchored, of course, in Christ. After the resurrected Savior ministered to the inhabitants of the New World, they “were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites an Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.
“And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift” (4 Nephi 1:2-3).
In his April 1983 general conference address, President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency taught that unity is realized only when members seek the Lord and His righteousness.
“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” (“Unity”).
As President Packer witnessed at the country fair oxen-pulling contest, teamwork often tops individual size and capacity.
“Surely we need this unity and this strength in this day in which we live,” said President Romney. “We have a great opportunity, the opportunity to rise heavenward, to gain the spirit of the gospel as we have never enjoyed it before. This we can do by developing among us that unity required by the laws of the celestial kingdom.
“If, in the expediency of the moment, we set God aside to follow the teachings of men, we disown Him.
“Only a united people, keeping God’s commands, can expect the protection which he alone can give when the floods come, and the rains descend, and the winds blow, and beat upon our house.”