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October 24, 2014
by Jeff Lindsay

When the Resurrected Lord made His dramatic visit to Book of Mormon peoples, as recorded in Third Nephi, He introduced Himself, called his disciples, and gave them authority to baptize.

Then, having taught the principle of baptism, He links it to the unity of God and then calls for an end to disunity in the Church.

Note the special emphasis given to the issue of contention and disputations within the Church. As recorded in 3 Nephi 11: 28-35, Christ warned against disputations and contention, identified the author of contention, exposed the Adversary's strategy, and again reminded the people of the oneness of God.

28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

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.

30 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.

31 Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

32 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.

33 And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God.

34 And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned.

35 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost.

36 And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

Unity is linked to our baptismal covenant and the ability to receive the Holy Ghost. The unity of the Godhead is held out to us as the example to ponder and follow. In contrast, Satan seeks for men and women to be divided with anger. This is Satan's doctrine and core business model, in direct contrast to Christ's doctrine.

The opportunity for contention in the Church is enormous, especially in an increasingly diverse, international Church. Any two randomly selected people in the Church may find large differences in their views and cultural perspectives.

Differences in race, gender, age, ethnicity, political views, economic status, and a dozen other variables may contribute to misunderstanding. Each of us can find things that are troubling or annoying in the attitudes, behaviors, assumptions, and tastes of any other person, especially when backgrounds are widely different.

But the challenge before us is to look past those differences, as well as the frequent errors that humans make, and see one another as brothers and sisters in the Gospel with a common divine heritage and common goals.

It is so easy to find fault with mortal Church leaders. It is so easy to share critical attitudes. With the power of social media, some find great sustenance from others in being offended and experience delight in showing their biting wit. But this is not the doctrine of Christ.

The oneness of the Godhead was emphasized in Christ's great intercessory prayer in John 17, where He explained the nature of the unity of God.

11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. . . .

20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;

21 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.

22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:

23 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.

Mormons, of course, believe in the Bible and accept the teaching of Christ that He and the Father are One. They are one God. But the question is in what way are they one? Is it a metaphysical oneness of incorporeal substance, with three persons but one Being? Or is it more like a perfect unity of will and purpose?

In my opinion, the writings of early Christianity provide evidence that the modern Latter-day Saint view is surprisingly close to what early Christians and Jews believed, in fact something of a restoration. For related information on this topic, see my LDSFAQ page on the oneness of God.

The point, though, is that the type unity shown of the Godhead is one that we are commanded to seek. We are to become one as God and Christ are one.

In the Church, we are to become one in heart, unified, knit together in love, in spite of the many differences we have with each other, and especially our differences with those who have the burden of serving as our leaders.

May we resist the temptation to find fault, to sneer, to ridicule, or to even feel anger when they disagree with our views or say things that offend us. They are mortal, and sometimes they may be wrong, just as we may very well be wrong on the issues where we disagree.

Learning to love, support, and sustain fallible mortal leaders is a demanding challenge, one of the great challenges for those seeking to become a Zion people, but one that we can approach that goal if we regularly turn to the Lord for guidance.

Putting differences on hold can be a start, along with not putting them on Facebook or Twitter. Discussing problems with our leaders privately and patiently can be helpful when the matter is urgent and serious. May we learn to forgive when wronged or hurt, and always act with the desire to bless others rather than stirring them up to anger or scorn.

Contention, disputations, finger pointing, name calling, bitterness, anger — these are not the fruits of the Spirit, and not the tools of Christ in helping us to become one. It is His doctrine that such things be done away.

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