When I first began this blog, I did have a list of specific topics to cover with it. I never had any intention of stressing the need for unity so heavily, but over the months it has certainly become a recurring theme for me. My studies just keep coming back to this idea over and over. Perhaps it is a message I really need to share, or perhaps it is a message I really need to hear.
I certainly haven’t grown tired of promoting it, though. The more I think about it, the more I see the gospel as a vehicle of unity. Unity between us and God, unity between each other. If we could remove our divisions from our fellowman, we would no longer sin against each other. And if we could remove our divisions from God, we would no longer sin against Him either.
In this study I wanted to focus on a specific division that so often falls between us: that of different religious beliefs. I wanted to advocate for holding to your own beliefs, for maintaining your confidence in your own truth, but also for being gracious to those that disagree. Here are a few of the main points from this study.
We Are a Bigoted People
To our society’s credit, we have made great strides in breaking down some of the walls that divide us. It is generally accepted that I should not look at another person’s skin color, gender, income level, or educational degree, and judge them as inferior.
These are wonderful developments, ones that break down the mentality of “us” and “them.” It allows us to truly view one another as brothers and sisters, and to work together for our common good.
Unfortunately, the same progress can’t be claimed when it comes to differences of opinion. People might be accepting of outward appearance, but they cannot tolerate someone that thinks differently from themselves. Once you call yourself a conservative or a liberal, you have made enemies. Once you disclose that you are spiritual or atheistic, people start labeling you as an idiot. Once you speak for or against any social clause, you are recognized as fundamentally flawed forever.
3 Nephi 11:29-30- 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.
We Are on the Same Side
To be clear, I absolutely believe that there are forces of evil in this world. I see wolves in sheep’s clothing, trying to lead flocks astray. I fear that certain social movements have the express intention of undermining the foundation of good that Christ has given us.
But I see all this, and still believe that we are far too quick to label our brothers and sisters as servants of the devil. The fact is, most of those that disagree with you also want the exact same things as you: to spread good through the world. Just because another ideology does not use the right name, or emphasize the right focus, or worship on the right day, does not mean that it is a force of pure evil!
Human beings are basically good. They are all born with the mark of divinity within them. Yes, they are all flawed, but they are also all tended towards good by default. Take any person off the street, and it is almost a certainty that that person is your true brother or sister in their heart. Yes you have a few differences, but you also have so much more in common.
2 Kings 6:16- They that be with us are more than they that be with them.
Luke 9:50- And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.
Who Are You Fighting?
I believe that all of Satan’s attacks fall into one of two categories. The first is to challenge our belief that we are truly sons and daughters of God. The second is to challenge our belief that our brothers and sisters are also sons and daughters of God. He breaks many of us with the first assault, and catches many of the rest with the second. Those that fall to the first assault will sin against God. Those that fall to the second will sin against their fellowman.
When the young ruler came to Jesus, he attested that all his life he had kept the commandments, and had done his due diligence to God. Jesus did not dispute this, but pointed out that the man could do better by his fellowman.
Peter tried to diminish his obligation to his fellowman when he asked Jesus whether seven times was not enough to forgive one that had wronged him. Jesus immediately suggested that Peter try 490 times instead.
A lawyer asked Jesus what was necessary to obtain eternal life. Jesus said to love God and love one’s neighbor. The lawyer did not dispute the first half, but trying “to justify himself,” asked for clarification as to what qualified another as his neighbor. Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, by which he meant that all others are our neighbor.
So which side are we on when we condemn our fellowman? Whose war are we championing? What way would Jesus have you treat your brother or sister, even one that is flawed? The same way that he has treated you.
Luke 11:17- But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.
John 13:35- By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.