At the conclusion of the April 1976 conference President (then Elder) Howard B. Hunter shared a powerful message about the vital importance of unity – in society but especially in the Church. Strikingly, he connected the future growth of the Church to the degree that members would be able to maintain unity.
As we think of the great growth of the Church, the diversities of tongues and cultures, and the monumental tasks that yet lie before us, we wonder if there is any more important objective before us than to so live that we may enjoy the unifying spirit of the Lord. As Jesus prayed, we must be united if the world is ever to be convinced that he was sent by God his Father to redeem us from our sins.
It is unity and oneness that has thus far enabled us to bear our testimony around the globe, bringing forward tens of thousands of missionaries to do their part. More must be done. It is unity that has thus far enabled the Church, its wards and stakes, branches and districts, and members, to construct temples and chapels, undertake welfare projects, seek after the dead, watch over the Church, and build faith. More must be done. These great purposes of the Lord could not have been achieved with dissension or jealousy or selfishness. Our ideas may not always be quite like those who preside in authority over us, but this is the Lord’s church and he will bless each of us as we cast off pride, pray for strength, and contribute to the good of the whole.
I wonder if some of the slowing growth we see in recent years is as a result of growing disunity in the Church. We are divided over a myriad of political, social, and cultural issues. We are encompassed by a large number of “ites” such as Snufferites (or more controversially, followers of groups such as Ordain Women). Therefore, we appear to the world as a church in conflict rather than a united one.
One thing that I truly value about my membership in the Church is the degree to which there is doctrinal unity in the Church. I love having a source of authority to look to for definitive answers from the Lord about perplexing moral and spiritual problems. I love that we need not be children tossed to and fro by the deceptions of the world. There’s a reason why primary children across the world sing “follow the prophet.” Doing so is the key to a united membership and to the spiritual power that comes as a result.
It brings me great sorrow to see so much division and disunity. If we could simply, as President Hunter suggested, “cast off pride” and put on the mantle of love and charity, we would see conditions improve I the Church and in the world.
Elder George P. Lee in the same session echoed similar thoughts about unity:
To me you’re all equal in the sense that you are all Latter-day Saints and that you are all rich spiritually. What I see in the audience today are people from all walks of life. I see doctors and lawyers sitting next to common men. I see a farmer next to a professional person. I see professional people, educators, and teachers side by side. I see composers, musicians, and artists–all kinds of people from all walks of life, sitting together side by side. And this is as it should be, because if you want to know what the celestial kingdom looks like, you are witnessing today a glimpse of the celestial kingdom and heaven.
One of the miracles of the church is how it brings people of diverse backgrounds together to serve together as one. That is the celestial kingdom in action. We need to put off our differences and put our shoulders to the wheel in valiant service.