The key to a unified church is a unified soul

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Tuesday Afternoon Session from the April 1976 Conference.
I've been on the lookout for more insight about unity for…well…YEARS now. It's something I've thought about and struggled to understand for a long time, and here's why: it just seems too hard. Ha! It's not that I want everyone to be the same. There are some differences I really do appreciate and enjoy. But there just always seem to be so many fundamental, lonely, isolating unlikenesses that crop up, in ANY given group, really. Even in families and marriages. Even in churches and among groups that are trying, really trying, to love each other! And I can even embrace the ideas of tolerance and mutual respect and "disagreeing without being disagreeable"—great ways to get along, all of them—but none of those are truly UNITY…are they? None of those necessarily include the type of deep, soul-satisfying understanding and agreement you feel when you completely agree with someone on not just what to do, but how and why to do it.

I do have a couple things I keep coming back to. Number one, I've considered the idea that complete unity won't be possible until we're all a lot closer to perfect. That seems plausible, in which case maybe all we're trying to do here in mortality IS just to get along the best we can and try to love each other in spite of our inevitable dis-unities.

I've also considered the idea that my mortal mind just can't handle the contradiction of unity and uniqueness co-existing, but that on some spiritual/eternal level, it IS possible. I do believe that when we are "one heart and one mind" in some eventual heaven, we will still have things that make us ourselves. Gifts or talents or ideas or whatever. I know God doesn't want us all to be boring clones of each other. But HOW that will work…I'm not sure.

So, you can consider this quote from Elder Howard W. Hunter's talk one more piece in the ongoing Unity puzzle. I thought it was interesting how casually he stated it—saying "of course" this is the key…like it's obvious. Because this is not really something I'd thought of this way before:
Of course, the key to a unified church is a unified soul—one that is at peace with itself and not given to inner conflicts and tensions. So much in our world is calculated to destroy that personal peace through sins and temptations of a thousand kinds. We pray that the lives of the Saints will be lived in harmony with the ideal set before us by Jesus of Nazareth.
This surprised me. I would have thought that plenty of people have absolutely NO "inner conflicts and tensions"…which condition makes them SO confident in their own worldview, SO "at peace with themselves" and so sure they are right, that they CAN'T find unity with anyone else. But obviously, Elder Hunter has thought a lot about unity too (as I recall, it was one of his recurring themes as prophet) and this apparently casual statement has a lot of depth behind it.

One thing it suggests to me is that some of our disunity comes from internal conflict, even if we don't know it. That kind of goes along with my point #1 above, and it also reminds me of the concept of self-deception (which is a whole huge thing; this book by my former bishop talks about it and I still don't understand it fully, but it's powerful. Here's an overview of the idea, though)—where whenever we go against what our spirits know to be right, we find ourselves trying to blame others to hide our own internal flaws. If Elder Hunter says this too, I'm willing to believe that much of what I find myself really resisting and hating in other people has roots in things I need to change about myself—and as I make those changes, some of the rough edges I'm encountering in my interactions with others will likely disappear.

So when Elder Hunter says the potential for unity comes from a soul "at peace with itself," he doesn't mean that the soul is smugly complacent. I think he means that the soul is at rest, at peace, because it has voluntarily submitted to God's will. The owner of that soul knows where true happiness lies, in other words, and so is not constantly shifting and worrying, trying to justify himself and his sins. That leaves energy for putting others above self, and brings a sort of assurance that is very UNlike pride.

Another thing I see in this quote is the reminder that growing closer to Christ really does solve every problem. This is something I should have (and probably have) thought about anytime I think about unity. Even if I don't see HOW, I know that when I feel, and then in turn show, Christlike love, I will be one step closer to a true unity with the rest of His followers.

Here's one more unity-related thought I had, sparked by this quote from a different talk:
Each age has satisfaction which can be known only by experience. You must be born again and again in order to know the full course of human happiness.
It occurred to me that part of what makes me feel alone and dis-unified sometimes, is that I've just had different experiences than other people! Either I can't understand them, or I feel they can't understand me. But as I get older, I realize my experiences AREN'T as unique as I once thought. And I DO start to understand things that used to baffle me about others, because I've tasted some of those things myself. So…maybe part of being unified is just living a long time and having a lot of experiences to compare between. After eternities…maybe I will have seen and done so many things that I will have practically lived whole other lives. I will understand other people because I've BEEN "other people." Of course, again, Jesus Christ is the best example of that perfect empathy. But maybe as I'm "born again and again" I will start to becoming attuned to it as well.

Other posts in this series:


  1. First let me say that your three daughters are just delightfully pretty! I was blessed with only one girl (and four boys) so I didn't get enough girliness as we raised our children, thanks for sharing yours. And thank you for sharing your thoughts about unity. The older I get, with the attendant experiences, the more I understand that Zion begins with me. I have to be the peacemaker, the forgiver, the one who reaches out, the one who comforts, the one who guides by example. Big responsibility, but I don't have to do it all by myself; the Savior can give me the enabling power through his atonement to become more like him. Like any other goal I will get there one step at a time as long as I keep moving forward. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Oh, thank you! After starting with my three boys I always have a slight sense of surprise when I look at the 3 girls together! :) But I'm the only girl in my family and that was great too. I love that concept of Zion begins with me. It's really the only way that makes sense... and definitely gives me a lot to work toward!

  2. I liked this:

    "So when Elder Hunter says the potential for unity comes from a soul "at peace with itself," he doesn't mean that the soul is smugly complacent. I think he means that the soul is at rest, at peace, because it has voluntarily submitted to God's will."

    Because when you were talking earlier about people being certain and not having inner conflict, I was thinking very similar thoughts. Something like, "No. that's not inner peace. That's just smugness." There's definitely something there when I feel calm and close to God that takes the edge off my comparisons and annoyances, etc and helps me feel more united and close to other souls. Maybe even that's a start. Not yet true unity of purpose, but an increase in me feeling united more to others in the "bound and tied and connected to them" sense that at least helps me on my end to not feel such walls and divides that inhibit me from properly loving and supporting and lifting.

    1. Yes, my thoughts are going in that direction too. As far as "the right way of doing things," compared to God we're probably all wrong together. So maybe the best place to start is just that feeling of love and connection. We were talking about it with our siblings etc, so maybe that could grow to encompass other relationships too.


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