In his Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul spoke of a vision that seems highly elusive or even impossible. He envisioned the church “fitly joined together” with all members coming “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man . . .” In light of our individual human frailties and biases, this seems unattainable. Certainly, recent years have seen the Church of Christ wrecked by dissension and apostasy. So how is it possible to hope for the type of unity spoken of by Paul?
Elder James A. Cullimore of the Seventy provided some answers to this pressing question in his talk entitled “The Importance of a Personal Testmony” in the April 1972 conference. Elder Cullimore noted that “[i]n a day when churches are generally losing members and declining in popularity, many wonder what the secret is in the growth and stability of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The primary answer and theme of his talk came from President David O McKay who emphasized that “[t]he secret lies in the testimony, possessed by each individual who is faithful in the Church, that the Gospel contains correct principles . . . ” Elder Cullimore even more forcefully made this point when he noted that “[a] testimony of the gospel is one of the most valued possessions of a member of the Church. The strength and unity of the Church depend upon each member so living that he comes to know for himself that the gospel is true.”
But a testimony in what? This unity “manifests itself in [1)] the obedience to Church calls, [2)] the acceptance of basic doctrines, and [3)] the belief that we are led by a living prophet of God.”
So the key to gaining the a testimony which can lead to unity is found in a shared doctrinal foundation, a willingness to hearken to those that we sustain, and a willingness to serve in whatever capacity we are asked to serve in the Church.
Not surprisingly, this same pattern is reflected in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. That’s why Paul notes that “he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” Receiving our callings and engaging in service “for the perfecting of the saints” and “for the edifying of the body of Christ” is how we can become fitly jointed together.
This sequence suggests something that is absolutely critical to keep in mind. If we struggle to gain a witness of the divine truths of the Gospel as taught by his living oracles, the solution is to lose ourselves in Church service and to be obedient to the things that we are taught. If we do so, then we are promised that we can “come to know the truth, as it springs forth from the printed pages of scripture or from the lips of our living prophets.” Those who distance themselves from the church because of doubts are doing the antithesis of the formula that Paul and Elder Cullimore describes.
It is through faithful and obedience service that we come to know fully for ourselves that verity of the truths taught by our leaders. It is through acting upon their counsel that we can further light and insight.
As Elder Cullimore explained, “The spiritual condition of the membership of the Church is determined by the degree to which the members live the gospel and are worthy of the companionship of the Holy Spirit in giving witness of the truth of this great work. It would follow that the prosperity of the Church is also measured to a great extent by the strength of testimonies of its members as demonstrated by their worthiness and righteous living.”
Righteously living the Gospel and following the teachings of God and the promptings of the Spirit are ultimately the key to the unity that we all seek.
Posts based on talks from this session:
- The Family, The Family, The Family (Nathaniel Givens at Difficult Run)
- LDS Conference April 1972 – Godless Conspirators & Gentile Partners (J. Max Wilson at Sixteen Small Stones)
- Personal Dispensation (G at Junior Ganymede)
- Fitly Joined Together (Daniel Ortner at Symphony of Dissent)
- Skip My Commentary and Read President Benson’s Talk (John Hancock at The Good Report)
- The Restoration and Western Humanity – Triumph or Crisis? (Ralph Hancock at The Soul and The City)
- “This We Can Do!” (Walker Wright at Difficult Run)
- Not Belief: I Know (Silver Rain at The Rains Came Down)
- Oh, To Be Excommunicated! (Jan Tolman at LDS Women of God)