Knitting a Worldwide Church Together

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“Knitting a Worldwide Church Together,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 49

Knitting a Worldwide Church Together

Humble, sanctified hearts bound in unity and love can, with God’s help, significantly advance the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

Latter-day Saints in a worldwide church differ in many ways, such as educational and employment background and opportunities, economic status, cultural heritage, historical and political orientation, the system of government under which we live, and the foods we eat, clothes we wear, and entertainment we enjoy.

Yet, for all this variation, “all are alike unto God” (2 Ne. 26:33), the Father of our spirits. The differences we perceive in others are most often of the superficial sort, while many moral and spiritual qualities seem innate to all of us. In addition, all people share a divine heritage and possess eternal spirits that are capable of progression and refinement. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Savior of all, inviting men and women everywhere to come unto him and to receive eternal life. The gospel’s power and appeal can transcend any manmade barriers to reach the hearts of all who seek to learn of Christ and to live his teachings. With the Holy Ghost as their guide, good men and women throughout the world who have accepted the message of the restored gospel learn of their divine heritage and of the plan of salvation; they keep the commandments, receive saving ordinances, and cultivate Christlike attributes that make them truly alike: pure and “of one heart and one mind” (Moses 7:18).

Yet, as the restored gospel continues to spread worldwide and Church membership becomes increasingly diverse and international, and as the influence of evil grows more pervasive, so too grows the need for Latter-day Saints to be bound together in unity and love and understanding.

In April 1845, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles issued a proclamation: “As this work progresses in its onward course, and becomes more and more an object of political and religious interest and excitement, no king, ruler, or subject, no community or individual, will stand neutral. All will at length be influenced by one spirit or the other; and will take sides either for or against the kingdom of God” (James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. [1965–75], 1:257).

Polarization, hardness of heart, and a “lowered capacity to achieve reconciliation” are conditions that Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles associated with the “intense and immense challenges” of the last days (Notwithstanding My Weakness [1981], 17–18). These realities are compelling and urgent reasons for a repeated emphasis on uniting in spirit and understanding the Church’s diverse membership. Why? Because without unity we simply cannot be Christ’s, for he has said, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27).

As fully as we accept the absolute necessity of being one, we also must honor the eternal principle of agency and recognize and respect the wide spectrum of spiritual gifts and talents we possess.

“A More Excellent Way”

Alma taught new members of the Church that “there should be no contention one with another, but … they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21). In this way, our hearts also become knit together in unity and love with Jesus Christ (see Matt. 25:40).

Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ are encouraged to seek to unite their hearts not only with fellow disciples but also with others—even our enemies (see Matt. 5:43–48)—in a love that transcends natural friendships, family bonds, and collegial congeniality. The Apostle Paul described this love as “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). Such love—complete, finished, and perfected in Christ—is charity. Other love can fade, perhaps even be destroyed, but charity—the pure love of Christ—“never faileth” (Moro. 7:46).

The Apostle Paul also taught: “Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

“… And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1 Cor. 13:2–3, 13).

Humility and the Atonement

In order to knit our hearts in Christ’s perfect unity and love, it stands to reason that we must, in essence, “break” our old and perhaps imperfect hearts first. We must become humble. The scriptures repeatedly affirm that humility is the prerequisite for faith, hope, and then for charity.

The prophet Mormon tells us that a person “cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.

“If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity. …

“… Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure” (Moro. 7:43–44, 48).

In addition to repentance, humility helps perfect and purify our unity and love and thus helps make us one with Christ. Without humility, our fondness for and loyalty to each other could, in many circumstances, lead us away from the influence of the Spirit. Without humility, our unity could become restrictive and haughty, perhaps even directing us up the steps of a latter-day Rameumptom instead of into the footsteps of the Master. One of Satan’s counterfeits for hearts being knit together in unity and love is proud hearts seeking other proud hearts in order to fulfill selfish desires.

King Benjamin taught that humility begins when we acknowledge on whom we depend for life and breath here in mortality and for eternal joy in the hereafter. Humility is knowing that because of Christ’s Atonement we can be saved from sin, as well as from carelessness, inadequacy, bitterness, anger, revenge, poor esteem, selfishness, fear, and all the other tendencies of the “natural man.” Whether we need Christ’s grace because of transgression, unwise choices, the natural opposition in all things that is the test of mortality, or simply because we heed Christ’s invitation to humble ourselves, the vessel into which the Lord’s healing, comforting Spirit is poured is a broken heart.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” the Savior pleads. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28–30).

To learn of Christ is to understand his Atonement; to take his yoke upon us is to accept with gratitude the conditions of that redeeming sacrifice—namely, repentance; to listen to his words and to walk in the meekness of his Spirit (see D&C 19:23) is to make his Atonement effective in our lives. Humility is the state of mind and the condition of heart that enables us to receive the full blessings of coming unto Christ.

“I Rely on the Lord”

My grandmother, Malinda Porter Rogers, was a woman of great faith and humility. Her father, a farmer and mail carrier, was tragically killed in an accident with a mail train just before my father was born. Grandma struggled in school and completed the eighth grade.

In 1936 her oldest sons, ages 12 and 10, drowned in a river. Four years later, her husband died of a kidney ailment, though many of his friends said he died of grief over the loss of his boys. Grandma faced life with five children and no savings, no previous work experience, and no government relief. Her widowed mother came to live with her in her small, one-bedroom home. Grandma washed the bishop’s milking equipment at his dairy in exchange for milk for the family. She cleaned the ward building, kneeling to scrub the crayon marks off the linoleum of the nursery, in return for Church welfare assistance. She could mend a corner tear in the sheerest of fabric with stitches invisible to the eye.

Several families living nearby who had no electricity kept a wringer washer at Grandma’s house for their laundry needs. When her last child married, she gave her little house to the newlyweds and never owned her own home again. She was a faithful visiting teacher and contributed her widow’s mite toward the construction of the Relief Society Building in Salt Lake City. And never once did anyone who knew Grandma ever hear her complain about her circumstances or express doubt, self-pity, bitterness, depression, or anger.

I don’t think anyone ever treated her as Job was treated, asking her what terrible sins she had committed to deserve what had happened to her. But she was asked on several occasions how she kept going in the face of it all. Her answer, in characteristic patience and meekness, reflecting her willingness to bear without murmuring all the Lord had seen fit to place in her life, was, “I rely on the Lord, and he has blessed me.”

The lessons of humility are often learned in a rigorous school, and I find that I must keep paying my tuition. Sometimes the abilities and gifts God has given us seem inadequate for some challenges that ultimately compel us to be more humble so we can better recognize our complete and total dependence on our Heavenly Father.

I grew up in the small town of Joseph City, Arizona. After my service as a full-time missionary, it seemed that every time I went home to visit I was asked when I would get married. When traveling home one time and dreading more inquiries into my unmarried status, it seemed that a beam of pure light entered my heart through a tiny crack. I remembered my feelings of love for those who always asked me those embarrassing questions. They had taught me in Primary and Mutual and Sunday School. I remembered their goodness as neighbors. I was struck by several impressions: These people care about you. They are interested in you. They have no idea what kind of job you have, so they can’t ask about it. Their questions come out of their neighborliness and their interest—not because they want to hurt you. Be grateful. What a difference that realization made! The usual questions came,but I felt no resentment, no sense of inadequacy. That ray of humility made me stop judging their intent as hurtful and start viewing it as an expression of their love and concern.

To Be Stripped of Pride

I once heard that genuine humility is defined as recognizing the source of true strength. It is true that the poor in spirit who come unto Christ and rely on his strength have access to a special brand of courage. To be humble, we must be willing to give up our sins to know God, and we must be willing, as Alma 5 makes clear, to experience a change of heart, to walk blameless before God, to be stripped of pride and envy. It is not enough to avoid taking advantage of another because of his words or avoid digging pits for our neighbors (see 2 Ne. 28:8); we must actively seek to bless the lives of others. Humility will help us magnify our callings as it also teaches us how to uphold others, as we do our Church leaders, with our “confidence, faith, and prayer” (D&C 107:22).

Humility allows us to receive the Holy Ghost, who will “show unto [us] all things what [we] should do” (2 Ne. 32:5). Through his own humility, our Savior made possible our eternal joy and happiness by completing the Atonement. We must learn to say, as the Savior did, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42), and then listen carefully to hear his voice amid the din of many who would shout contrary advice.

President Ezra Taft Benson eloquently taught that the test of today’s Saints is the test of pride. Pride can keep us from humility, and without humility we cannot have charity and unity.

Mormon recorded how pride had entered “into the hearts of the people who professed to belong to the church of God—

“And they were lifted up in pride, even to the persecution of many of their brethren. Now this was a great evil, which did cause the more humble part of the people to suffer great persecutions, and to wade through much affliction.

“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Hel. 3:33–35).

Do we hunger for joy and consolation? Do we each desire a purified and sanctified heart? If so, our humility must be strengthened. Day by day, as we pray for humility, fast for it, seek it, and make every conscious effort to practice it, we move one step closer to the Savior. The humble, broken heart is the only one that can be sanctified, and sanctified hearts bound in unity and love are what help build up in significant ways the kingdom of God on earth.

President Benson also taught that “[those] who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace” (see “Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 20).

“Hearts Knit Together”

Once we have acquired humility and charity, those qualities help us serve without making unrighteous judgment about how the person we are serving got into that situation in the first place. Hearts knit together in oneness and charity celebrate all that is good in each other. If the weak are to be encouraged to be faithful, oneness and charity make it possible to communicate that encouragement with sensitivity and grace. Those who have humble hearts surround their expectations of another with a cocoon of gentleness and charity. Hearts knit together in unity and love are not jealous, envious, or demeaning of another’s gifts or material blessings, because they know that God’s promised blessings are rarely the kind that are listed as assets on the world’s balance sheet.

Knit together in unity and love, we can accept with gratitude what another humbly offers, knowing that we, like the Apostle Peter, have given such as we have (see Acts 3:6). Hearts knit together in unity and love seek forgiveness and then freely forgive, and if it takes one a little longer to forgive, the other will continue to love, knowing it isn’t always possible to give peace to a contrite soul at the first apology. Hearts knit together in unity and love with humility exercise every attribute of charity and meekness while seeking to find the good in another’s heart. They are offended less often, recover more quickly from hurt, and serve with less fanfare and much more courage.

Some of my greatest challenges to exercising humble charity have come in my reactions to people who should “know better” or when I have “expected better.” One of our family members made choices that took him away from the Church. He hurt us deeply and I was angry, especially because he knew better. I found tension in every interaction with this charming, personable, hardworking member of our family. Several years after his abrupt departure from the Church, I had one of those quick and all-too-brief moments of enlightenment when my hard heart began to break. I realized that during my mission I had spent hours teaching people who, taken together, had been involved in almost every kind of sin and bad choice imaginable. Yet, I had loved them and testified to them that Christ loved them and that the Atonement made it possible for them to be reconciled to God. I had accepted them with patience and treated them with kindness. Could I not do the same for a member of my own family? I have felt peace in loving those who were taught to share my faith but who have made choices different from my own.

“No More Strangers”

I also have had special blessings in learning to love those who do not share my faith. And I have been enriched by those who share my faith but whose lives are so different from mine that, without our faith, we never would have met.

I had been in Nigeria several months when my Relief Society president, Sister Faustina Otoo, invited me to her home for dinner. She told me she had been wanting to invite me to her home but was afraid I would look down on it and be uncomfortable. But after giving a Relief Society lesson on being “no more strangers or foreigners” she knew that inasmuch as I was a stranger in her part of the world, the Lord expected her to help me feel welcome. If the Lord expected it of her, she was determined to do it, she told me; so she humbled herself and was willing to expose her circumstances to me. We became the dearest of friends.

Now here is the story from Faustina’s perspective: “[Sandra] was living in Lagos to do her doctorate work.

“She took an interest in me. … I was down and very sad. She said she wanted to comfort me, but I wouldn’t give her the chance. I never wanted to invite her to my house, because I have always had the impression that … where I live is not good enough. … So I never invited anybody.

“We were having a lesson in Relief Society that said that we in the gospel are ‘no more strangers … , but fellowcitizens’ (Eph. 2:19). I told Sandra that I had always really wanted to invite her to my place. She said she didn’t mind how I lived, so I invited her.

“She humbled herself to the extent that she slept on the floor with me. …

“… We read the scriptures together, and that was the first time I had had that type of experience.

“… I told Sandra that she has show[n] me the life I think Christ wanted his children to have. I will send her my birth certificate and other papers, so that should I happen to die, she can go to the temple and do my temple work for me.

“She lowered herself to befriend me—somebody who doesn’t have any background. I am nothing that she should become my friend” (“All Are Alike unto God,” ed. E. Dale LeBaron [1990], 70–71).

It is powerful to me to observe that the friendship Faustina and I share was built on the humility we perceived in each other.

Truly, with hearts humbly knit together with unity and love, we can be a mighty force for good in our homes, in the Church, in our work, and in the world.

Photography by Steve Bunderson, Barb Christiansen, Craig Dimond, Diana S. Haley, J Malan Heslop, Jacqueline Wilson