From the Life of Wilford Woodruff
President Wilford Woodruff loved the fellowship of other Church members. Many of his journal entries included words of gratitude for the “spirit of union and love” that was present in Church meetings.1 After one such meeting, he recorded that two of the speakers had to leave to meet another engagement. They had a difficult time getting to their appointment because “they could scarcely get out of the house, so many wish[ed] to shake hands with them.” Of the same meeting, he wrote: “The Spirit of the Lord was with us. Love and union pervaded the congregation. I was made glad with the scene of beholding so many Saints united in the new and everlasting covenant.”2
President Woodruff hoped to see this spirit of unity extend from Church meetings to all aspects of life. Through his public sermons and his everyday example, he encouraged the Saints to be unified in their homes, in their Church responsibilities, and in their temporal labors. Matthias F. Cowley wrote: “To his mind there was no place in the Church for contentions, misgivings, and opposition. The work was of God—that was enough. There were the properly appointed authorities. Upon them the responsibilities of the kingdom had been placed. He was not therefore concerned about what others thought was a lack of wisdom in them. He was not avaricious [greedy]; and financial reverses, to his mind, could never thwart the purposes of God; and he was not troubled about how much of this world’s goods came to his possession. A glorious message had been given to the earth, and he wanted every one to know its value to the human family and to understand the blessings of salvation to those who yielded obedience.
“Wilford Woodruff always felt out of place in the midst of contention. He shunned it, and never cared for the association of those who were given to fault-finding, criticisms, and personal griefs. He never saw the necessity for them. It was never hard for him to agree with his brethren. He was never unreasonable in his demands, never had private ends to foster, and never hesitated when there was something important to be done. He was loyal to the Prophet, true to his brethren.”3
Teachings of Wilford Woodruff
Unity prevails among the members of the Godhead and in the celestial kingdom.
The Savior said to His Apostles anciently, and to the Apostles in our day: “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” [D&C 38:27.] “I and my Father are one.” [John 10:30.] There is a principle connected with this that I think is very important to us as a people and as a Church here on the earth. With all the divisions, and all the discontent, and the quarrelings and opposition among the powers on earth, or that have been revealed from heaven, I have never heard that it has ever been revealed to the children of men that there was any division between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. They are one. They always have been one. They always will be one, from eternity unto eternity. Our Heavenly Father stands at the head, being the Author of the salvation of the children of men, and having created and peopled the world and given laws to the inhabitants of the earth.4
Jesus was one with the Father. Says He: “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” [John 6:38.] This union was never broken between the Father and the Son. The first revelation given to Joseph Smith was that of the Father and the Son. The heavens were opened, and the Father, with His Son, appeared to Joseph, in answer to his prayer, and He pointed to His Son and said, “This is my beloved Son; hear ye him.” [See Joseph Smith—History 1:17.]5
There is a celestial kingdom, a terrestrial kingdom, and a telestial kingdom. There is a glory of the sun, a glory of the moon, and a glory of the stars; and as one star differs from another star in glory, so also is the resurrection of the dead [see 1 Corinthians 15:41–42]. In the celestial Kingdom of God there is oneness, there is union.6
Who, to use a comparison, expects to have a forty-acre lot alone in the kingdom of God, or in heaven, when we get there? None need expect it, for in that kingdom, in heaven or upon earth, we shall find unity, and the Lord requires at our hands that we unite together, according to the principles of his celestial law.7
Prophets must be unified with the members of the Godhead, and all members of the Church should seek that same unity.
In reading the history of the dealings of God with men, from the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, we can see that, from the days of Father Adam, the Lord has raised up a class of men, in every dispensation, upon whom He has bestowed His Priesthood, and unto whom He has given power and authority to do His work upon the face of the earth among the children of men. And these men have been in possession of principles of union with God, with the Son of God and with the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost was given to Father Adam; he was filled with it when, in his last days, he blessed those of his sons who were High Priests and the residue of his posterity [see D&C 107:53–56].
Father Adam, Enoch, Moses, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all those old patriarchs and prophets were obliged to have communion with God. They were under the necessity of seeking unto the Lord, for unless they had this communion they were not qualified to do their duty. They were dependent upon the Lord for revelation, for light, and for instruction to have power to carry out the commandments of God. This union that the Lord required of the ancient patriarchs and prophets, and which Jesus required of His Apostles, was required of Joseph Smith and his brethren. It has been required of all Saints of God from the foundation of the world till today.8
I realize that the Presidency of this church stand between this people and the Lord, for they are the head, and I realize that God reveals to them his will, and therefore we should look unto them for light and for information. The head may be full of light, of inspiration, revelation and of the mind and will of God, but if those officers who stand next to them, and if we ourselves are asleep in relation to our duties, and are not in a fit state to receive that light, do you not see that the river is dammed up at the head? There is no current or medium whereby the light may flow to the limbs and branches of the body.
I realize that it is the duty, not only of us who hold the priesthood but of this people generally, to present ourselves in humility and faith before the Lord that we may obtain the blessings which are in readiness for us, and we can obtain all the light, the knowledge, the faith, the intelligence and power which is necessary for our salvation by humility, obedience and submission to the will of God. We should attend to this in order that our minds may be prepared and our bodies become fit subjects for the reception of the Holy Ghost, so that the Spirit of God may flow freely through the whole body from the head to the foot. Then when this is the case we will all see alike, feel alike, and be alike, and become one as far as the gospel and kingdom of God is concerned, as the Father and Son are one, and then this people will begin to see the position and relationship which we bear towards each other and towards God, and we shall feel the importance of attending to our duties and we will willingly step forward and improve our time, make good use of our talents and obtain the blessings that the Lord has for us to enjoy; but do you not see that if the people are asleep and slothful and not living up to their privileges, and the Spirit of God begins to flow from the head to the body that it soon becomes obstructed and dammed up?
We may trace this principle through the church and kingdom of God, and you may carry it into the family government. … It is like the vine with its limbs, its branches and its twigs [see John 15:1–11]. This is a very good figure to teach us the principle of righteousness.
In order for us to be prepared to do the will of God and be in a position to build up his kingdom upon the earth, and to carry out his purposes, we must not only become united and act as the heart of one man, but we must obtain the Holy Spirit of God and the mind and will of God concerning us, and be governed and controlled by it in all of our movements and acts in order to be safe and secure unto ourselves salvation.9
Unity brings strength.
I do not think it requires a great deal of argument to prove to us that union is strength, and that a united people have power which a divided people do not possess.10
We should be united and stand together in the midst of the opposition that we will have to meet.11
It is not ordained for the wicked to have power to bring to pass evil upon us, if we are united.12
Babylon may divide; the inhabitants of the earth may have all the division they wish for; but they will receive the results of that disunion, and have done all the way through. City after city, nation after nation has been destroyed by the judgments of the Almighty whenever it has become ripened in iniquity, as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre and Sidon, and a great many other ancient cities and countries. But the Saints of God cannot prosper unless they are united.13
As the church becomes more numerous, and the kingdom of God is becoming more fully established, the importance of union among its members is still more manifest. It is absolutely necessary that not only a professed union, but a cementing of heart and soul should dwell with all presidents, councils, and branches of the church of Christ, in order to accomplish the designs of God in the building up of Zion, or in obtaining those blessings which it is their privilege to enjoy; for, be assured, ye Saints of the Most High, that the heavens will be stayed over the heads of any presidency, quorum, council, or branch who are divided in heart, sentiment and feeling, and so will they remain, and the blessings be withheld until the evil is removed; for the Lord will never pour out the richest blessings of heaven, and the priesthood and gifts of the gospel, [except] upon the principle of that union which the celestial law of God requires. … By the united efforts, alone, of the Saints of God, in this last dispensation, the building up of Zion will be effected, and the kingdom of God on earth, be prepared for a union with the kingdom of God in heaven; and thus shall the chain which has bound together in one the hosts of heaven, extend and grasp in its circumference all who have been obedient to the mandates of God.14
We should be united in our doctrine, in our labor in God’s kingdom, and in our love for one another.
I always rejoice in seeing my fellow men come to a knowledge of the truth by obedience to the gospel as taught by the servants of the Lord. When men have gone forth in the waters of baptism and received the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, they receive the same truth, the same light as we have received, and thus we become of one heart and one mind, and follow out the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, which attend His gospel. In preaching the gospel and administering the ordinances of the Lord’s house, the spirit of inspiration of Heaven accompanies those who officiate, that it will remain ever with them, if faithful, in all the duties of life.
When I hear the brethren speak of the dealings of God with the present generation, I perceive that their minds all run together; the record which they bear is one; they all agree in their testimony; they are one in stating that the work of the Lord our God will prevail over all its enemies.15
There is one particular feature connected with the preaching of the gospel: You may send out a thousand elders and they will all teach the same doctrines; they will all labor for the building up of the same Church, they will be united; for their faith, their doctrines, and the organization of the Church have all been made known unto them by the revelations of God: hence they will see eye to eye in regard to the principles of the gospel. … Our union and oneness of sentiment constitutes one of the prominent beauties of the organization of the kingdom of God.16
Labor in God’s kingdom
We have to build up this kingdom by union and faithfully following those men set to lead us, or else we will be scattered; the blessings of God will be taken from us if we take any other course.17
It is my duty to have fellowship with God, as weak an instrument as I am in the hands of God. It is my duty to have power with God. And when I have this, then my counselors should stand by me and with me. We should be of one heart and mind in all matters, temporal and spiritual, that come before us in the labor of the Church and kingdom of God. And I am thankful to say that this has been the case since I have been called to this position, or since the organization of [this] Presidency of the Church. Standing connected with us here are the Twelve Apostles. It is their duty to be of one heart and one mind. They have no right to be otherwise. They cannot be otherwise and prosper before God. They should be one with us, and we one with them. They have their rights; they have their agency. But when the Presidency of the Church say unto any of them, “This is the word of the Lord,” or, “This is right,” they should take hold and work with us. The law of God requires this union at our hands. It is the duty of the seventies, also, to be united with the Twelve Apostles. The seventies are called upon by the apostles to go forth and labor in the vineyard of the Lord, and they work together. So, brethren and sisters, with every organization in this Church. There should be union. There should be no discord, no disunion. If there is, the Lord is not pleased with it, and we are hindered in our work.18
Everywhere upon the face of the earth we can see what the effect of disunion is. The more that nations, communities, families, or bodies of people in any capacity under heaven, are divided, the less power they possess to carry out any purpose or principle imaginable; and the more union they possess, whether in a legislative or any other capacity, the more power they have to accomplish what they desire. We can see that the people of the world are becoming more and more divided every day, and the evils resulting therefrom are everywhere apparent. We are called to build up Zion, and we can not build it up unless we are united; and in that union we have got to carry out the commandments of God unto us; and we have got to obey those who are set to lead and guide the affairs of the Kingdom of God. …
… The principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ which have been revealed in our day are the power of God unto salvation to all that believe, both Jew and gentile, in this age of the world as well as any other; and inasmuch as we will be united in carrying out the counsel we have received, we can overcome every evil that lies in our path, build up the Zion of God, and place ourselves in a position that we may be saved therein.19
Love for one another
Be kind to one another. Do not find fault with one another. … Bear one another up.20
There should not be a selfish feeling on the part of any portion of a family,—“I do not care what becomes of this, that or the other if I can only get what I want myself.” This is selfishness, it produces disunion and is inconsistent with the profession of a saint of God. We should labor, each and every one of us, to put such feelings from our hearts, and then we, in our family organizations, should strive to promote the general interest of the members thereof.21
If our religion does not lead us to love our God and our fellow-man and to deal justly and uprightly with all men, then our profession of it is vain. The apostle says:
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” [1 John 4:20.]
We can best exemplify our love for our God by living our religion. It is vain to profess a love for God while speaking evil of or doing wrong to His children. The sacred covenants we have made with Him strictly impose upon us the duties we owe to one another; and the great office of religion is to teach us how to perform those duties so as to produce the greatest happiness for ourselves and for our fellow-beings. When the obligations of our religion are observed, no words are spoken or acts are committed that would injure a neighbor. If the Latter-day Saints lived as they should do, and as their religion teaches them to do, there would be no feeling in any breast but that of brotherly and sisterly affection and love. Backbiting and evil-speaking would have no existence among us; but peace and love and good will would reign in all our hearts and habitations and settlements. We would be the happiest people on the face of the earth, and the blessing and peace of heaven would rest upon us and upon all that belongs to us.
If there be unhappiness and heartburnings and quarrelings and hatreds among us, they exist because we do not observe the religion which we profess. They are not its fruits. Where these evils exist there is a crying necessity for repentance. …
As Latter-day Saints, it is our general custom to partake of the sacrament once a week. If the teachings of our Lord, in remembrance of whom we observe this sacred ordinance, be regarded, no one who has trespassed can be permitted to share in it until he has made reconciliations. It is the express commandment of the Lord Jesus that no one shall be permitted to partake of His flesh and blood unworthily [see 3 Nephi 18:28–32]. A more perfect system to prevent the existence of improper feelings and wrongs among brethren and sisters can not be imagined. If the Saints do their duty, difficulties do not remain unsettled beyond the Lord’s day when they assemble to eat and drink in remembrance of Him.22
I would exhort all the Saints, that we unitedly observe the sayings of our Lord as recorded in the 12th, 13th, and 14th verses of the [15th chapter] of John—if we love one another as Christ has loved us, we can easily settle all difficulties that may arise in our midst, forgive one another, and be filled with mercy, and light, love, joy, union, peace, and fellowship will be the stability of our times, which will be much better in the sight of God, angels, and men, than long pettyfogging over the faults of our brethren.23
We should be of one heart and of one mind, and not permit anything of a temporal or spiritual nature to separate us from the love of God and man.24
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Review the first paragraph on page 237. What similar experiences have you had?
In what ways are Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost “one”? (See pages 239–40.)
In what ways are prophets unified with the members of the Godhead? (See pages 240–41.) How can we all achieve such unity? (See pages 241–42.)
Review pages 240–42, looking for President Woodruff’s comments about a 40-acre lot, a river, and a vine. What can we learn from these analogies?
Read the first paragraph on page 243. What experiences have shown you that “union is strength”?
Think about or discuss the different backgrounds, characteristics, interests, talents, and duties of members in your ward, branch, or family. How do you think such individuals can be unified for good?
What are some blessings we receive when we are unified for good in our homes? in our Church organizations? What are some consequences of disunity at home and at church?
What resources does the Church provide to help us be unified in the doctrine we teach? What can we do to ensure that our teaching is unified with the teachings of latter-day prophets?
Why is it impossible to say that we love God but that we hate our brother? (See page 246.)
Study the second full paragraph on page 247. How does the sacrament help us be unified?
Journal of Wilford Woodruff, June 21, 1840, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; see also Journal of Wilford Woodruff, April 2, 1841; April 5, 1841; February 16, 1845; July 20, 1845; August 31, 1845; March 26, 1847.
Journal of Wilford Woodruff, February 16, 1845.
Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors as Recorded in His Daily Journals (1964), 70.
Deseret Weekly, August 30, 1890, 305.
Deseret Weekly, August 30, 1890, 305–6.
Deseret Weekly, August 30, 1890, 305.
The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham (1946), 83.
Deseret Weekly, August 30, 1890, 305.
Deseret News, February 4, 1857, 379.
The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 172.
Deseret Weekly, March 23, 1889, 391.
Deseret Weekly, June 22, 1889, 824.
Deseret Weekly, August 30, 1890, 305.
“Union,” Millennial Star, November 15, 1845, 168.
Deseret News, June 26, 1861, 130.
The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 135.
Deseret News, May 13, 1857, 76.
The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 89.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, May 25, 1867, 3.
Deseret Weekly, October 22, 1892, 548.
Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, September 20, 1870, 2.
“An Epistle to the Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Millennial Star, November 14, 1887, 729–30.
“To the Officers and Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British Islands,” Millennial Star, February 1845, 142.
Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm, June 15, 1895, 385.