The study I have just concluded, one based on the need to serve to one another, suggested a new topic to me. In that research it seemed evident that we are designed to be social. Our hearts yearn for a sense of community, to regard one another as brothers and sisters, and to support each other on a shared adventure.
The scriptures definitely support this idea of us all being members of one family under God, and the way of the hermit is not what our nature was designed for. Given that, I would like to study what the ties that bind us together are, how they are strengthened, and what blessings can only be obtained as a group.
Obviously some of us are supremely lonely. And sometimes we are by necessity, such as when our belief in God puts us at opposition to those around us. But even then we still believe in communion with God and angels, a group of believers that extends beyond the veil to support us. I’d like to explore this aspect of the gospel as well.
Colossians 3:13-15, Ephesians 4:3
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
From these verses we learn that charity is one of the bonds of unity, and twice we are told that the peace of God also calls us to one body. I wondered why, and after reading what others have written about these verses and mulling it over, I think I have at least a partial answer.
Being at peace does not necessarily mean that people are united, but being in conflict does necessarily mean that they are not. Therefore, peace is a prerequisite to unity because it establishes the climate where unity can be cultivated.
All this being said, I do believe that there is such a thing as “friendly disagreement,” and I don’t think we have to surrender our beliefs as a way to avoid contradicting others’ philosophies. But perhaps we can recognize that for all our differences, we still have more things in common. To be able to do that, to focus on the good in others and not the bad, is to have charity. Thus charity is essential for us to have peace, even with our differences.
And be ye thankful
Charity and peace are pleasant things, and we are meant to feel pleasure when we are in their presence. We can be very thankful in the moments that we enjoy them. But also we should remember that these blessings are given to us for for a reason. Yes, they make us feel soft and nice, but they are also tools, meant to be used to make the world a better place.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Before today I was already quite familiar with both of these accounts: the one where Jesus promises to be in the midst of a group gathered in his name, and the other where Peter wonders how many times he is expected to forgive another. But until now I had never contemplated that these moments are placed one immediately after the another.
It makes for a fascinating contrast, one where Christ is calling for unity, and then we have Peter trying to find out when he is allowed to create a division. It is as if Peter is asking “at what point can I not be expected to gather with a particular other?”
And Jesus’s answer is, essentially, never. We must not forget that Christ made his own company among sinners. Not only repentant sinners either, remember that he did some of his most beautiful work shoulder-to-shoulder with the man that would ultimately betray him. The world around him was rotten at times, but he still stayed a part of it.
In the end, we are all we have. God isn’t giving you a backup planet with new brothers and sisters if you can’t work things out with the current set. As such, we should stop looking for opportunities to write off a particular brother or sister as a lost cause, and instead start gathering together.
Galatians 3:28-29, Malachi 2:10
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?
Have we not all one father? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother?
For ye are all one in Christ Jesus
We love to make divisions. For some reason we feel this need to put ourselves as better than others. There are the obvious criteria of segregation: race, religion, sex, and age. Thankfully many of us today have accepted that discriminating on these terms is entirely inappropriate.
That is good, but I don’t any of us are still entirely in the clear. If we keep listing out other metrics by which people judge one other, I believe sooner or later each of us will feel a twinge of guilt. You might think less of others because of their education level, or what sort of car they drive, which political party they most frequently vote for, their physical or mental handicaps, their success or their failure, their resting facial expression, their parenting style, which words they use, what clothes they wear, their weight, whether they have clear skin or not, whether they had things handed to them on a silver platter, their choices…we could go on, but I think you get the point.
Somehow we get the notion that some people are “less” children of God than us. To be sure, there are choices people make, and some truly do make poorer ones that others…. But not one bit of that makes a person any less God’s child than another. Your testimony that you are a child of God is important, but it is incomplete until it includes a fervent belief that so is everyone else.
Luke 22:24-26, Romans 12:3-6
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office:
So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest
We have a common insecurity. We all want to be the best, the smartest, the favorite. We want to be the hero of the story, and have everyone else be the supporting characters. We fight for the love of parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors. We don’t just want them to approve of us, we want them to choose us above all others.
To be clear, our individuality is not a sin. There is nothing wrong in wanting to be a distinct person, in fact that uniqueness is a wondrous gift from God. But we do not need to convolute that beauty by making it into a competition.
Perhaps this insecurity is part of our nature, or maybe it is inflicted on us by life’s disappointments. Whatever the cause, at some point or another we grow uncertain either that we are unique, or that our uniqueness is good. So what does one do with this insecurity?
Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us
The scriptures might not support us in trying to be better than one another, but this one does give us permission to be better at some things. You can honestly and proudly acknowledge that you really do have your own strengths. Your special abilities distinguish you from the rest of the world in wonderful ways.
It is not God’s intention for you to live crippled by your insecurities. He wants to give you have a one-of-a-kind role to play, one suited to your unique and precious talents. Then, by acknowledging your divine individuality, you will finally be able to let go of your insecurities and allow that everyone else can have their own individuality as well.
3 Nephi 11: 29-32, John 17:21-23
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
That they may be made perfect in one
All good principles are in harmony with one another. Love, kindness, peace, wisdom, patience, understanding, justice, mercy…all of these are able to coexist in full measure and never undo one another. They are a complementary set.
To that unity we can add God. God is a perfect being in harmony with all that is good. Also to that unity we can Jesus Christ. Christ is a perfected being that is in perfect harmony with his Father, and so he must also be in perfect harmony with all that is good. We are taught that the Holy Spirit is united in this perfect harmony as well.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us
Having acknowledged this unity between God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all good principles; now let us ask what is the purpose of the gospel we have received of them? What is its objective? What is the end result that it attains? Well, we don’t have to guess, because the author of that gospel has already told us for what purpose it was given.
And that purpose is so that the unity between those perfect beings and forces can be ours as well. Our supreme destiny is to come in perfect harmony with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and every good principle. The gospel is the process by which this is accomplished.
Not only do we come into harmony with those perfections, but by extension we also come into harmony with every other brother and sister that strives for this same unity as well. We will have total harmony with saints, angels, the prophets, and nature after it has been perfected. By all of us converging on one perfect goal, we will converge with one another as well. And yes, we will all still be our own individuals, but we will be individuals in harmony.
1 John 4:7-8, 11
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love
I think we all know that we are supposed to love each of God’s children…but sometimes we just don’t. How can we make ourselves feel things for those that we don’t know, or for those that irritate or even offend us? It seems an impossible requirement.
But then, when I look at my young son I realize that most of us were once able to love so freely, when we were still children. Children are able to love others as soon as they meet them, children are able to forgive and restore love instantly. But while growing up we become jaded and cynical, we start making stipulations to limit the affection we show our fellow man.
That does not have to be the end of the story though. The maker of all things is also the re-maker of the heart.
We must never forget that we did not invent love. We are not the authors of how it works. We are not the ones that set the rules for when it comes into the heart. All we have power over is whether we keep it out.
God is the gatekeeper of love, and the closer we get to Him the more love He gives us for His children, the more He restores our natural affection for all mankind, the more He binds us to them. Perhaps you cannot make yourself love another, but God can.
Revelation 22:8-9, Hebrews 13:2, Matthew 17:3
And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
For I am thy fellowservant
Some have entertained angels unawares
There appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him
I wanted in this study to look at our brothers and sisters beyond the veil, to consider how they are included in our family unit. And really there isn’t too much to find. We really know very little about the work of angels, I suppose we have enough to worry about on this side.
What we do know is that they are the souls of those that once lived on the earth, that they are still among us today, and that they are concerned with our affairs. All of which means that the notion of death separating us from the cares of this world is deeply misguided. The living and the dead are still very much kin to one another, caught up in the same war between good and evil, and each called to support one another in that struggle.
My suspicion is that when we get to the other side we will be surprised at how integral our angel brothers and sisters have been to everyday life. I am sure their work is not only limited to those rare moments of miraculous manifestation, but rather that their time is filled with many invisible efforts that we have never noticed.
While there many wonderful lessons in this study, there was one particular message that spoke to me most of all. While reviewing the scriptural verses on the Family of God, I found myself constantly drawn back to our tendency to put up barriers between ourselves and others, and the need to break them down. I guess this was the message that I needed most, and I am glad to have found it.
I don’t think any of us would deny that there is a lot of division in this world right now, and that it is holding us back as a society. We each have a vision of a united people, but we can’t seem to agree what that unity should look like. Different ideologies each come with different pros and cons, and none of them leave everyone entirely satisfied.
But this endeavor to fashion a new family structure is just us reinventing the wheel. We do not need to solve an already-answered question, the original answer is still the best. Our role as children in a divine family was chosen before we were ever born. The unity we need is God’s unity, and the path we need to follow is His.
Our Fates Are Tied Together
I do not know why we try to make reaching heaven such an isolated effort. We seem to have this idea that I am to get myself to heaven, and you are to get yourself there. We might expand it a little bit to say Jesus and I will get me to heaven, and Jesus and you will get you to heaven, but there is still no overlap between you and I.
If this was truly the model God intended for our salvation, why not just create a few billion individual worlds where He could work with us in isolation? Each of us in our own little bubble, getting saved separately one at a time.
But that isn’t the environment God chose for us. Because in the end, none of us was meant to come to heaven alone. Our very existence here mandates that we are directly tied to at least two separate human beings, and then by extension to all others. God tied us together because we are supposed to be tied together. Our salvation is not mine and yours, but ours.
Matthew 18:20- For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Malachi 2:10- Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?
There Is No Place for Contention
Because of our dependence on each other, all that is necessary for us to to fail is to see our friends as our foes. No wonder, then, that Satan prioritizes sowing discord. Once we are unable to work together it doesn’t matter how much good we try to do in isolation. He has cut us off upstream, and there is nothing to work with down below.
In his ingenuity he has taught us to be self-righteous about it, too. We tell ourselves that we cannot work with that person because they are bad. If we had some real Christians to work with that would be something else, but to associate with these would be compromising our standards!
And so we undo the ties we were literally born with, and divide the one world we were meant to share into those billions of isolated ones I mentioned above. And then, separated and alone, we are far more easily overpowered by the adversary.
Luke 22:24- And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
3 Nephi 11:29- For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Rely on One Another’s Strengths
Now to be clear, there are certain things that we brothers and sisters can simply never do for one another. I can never atone for your sins. You cannot cleanse me from past mistakes. No brother or sister can teach us all the mysteries of heaven and earth. There are needs of ours that will only ever be answered by God, the Savior, and the Holy Ghost.
But on the other hand, there are also things that we are only going to get from each other. Not because God couldn’t directly give these things to us if He wanted, but because He doesn’t want to. Anyone who has prayed and asked for answers knows that often God insists on sending us the answer through another person.
Think of it another way. What are your personal strengths? What God-given gifts do you hold? Okay…now what are you supposed to do with them? Surely it is to help other people in some way, to do something essential for them. To fill a role in their life that only you could fill. Alright, now if you have strengths that God gave you for the express purpose of helping others, doesn’t it only stand to reason that He also gave gifts to your brothers and sisters for the express purpose of having them help you? To do something essential for you? Something that only they can?
By myself I have many weakness and many flaws. But with my brothers and sisters, I start to approach the perfection God meant for me.
Romans 12:4-6- For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us.