Saturday, February 27, 2010

Becoming One

The idea of being "one" (as Christ put it in His great Intercessory Prayer in John 17: 20-23) has been oftentimes misunderstood and the source of abuse.  There should be nothing compulsory about this process.  "Oneness" is a byproduct, and not an end.  When we seek it as an end, then we have missed the opportunity to achieve it.

Believing "oneness" is achieved by making people think alike, look alike, be alike, or behave alike is so wrongheaded as to be Satanic.  The ideal expressed by Christ as He prayed to the Father was that we should each attempt, in our limited capacities, to be more like Christ.  The closer we approach that ideal, the more we become "one" as a byproduct.  Merely giving a list of behavior as the way to "oneness" is not only foolish, but it is impossible.  It must come from within, and cannot come from without.

Paul's 14th Chapter of Romans is actually the only way in which "oneness" can be attained.  Let everyone decide what they believe will make them closer to Christ, and allow them the freedom to follow that path.  Let all others refrain from judging the behavior of others.  Whether they "eateth herbs" or "eateth meat" let each be free to do what they believe to be right before God.  "Judge not him that eateth: for God hath received him."  Let everyone do what in their own heart they believe is right before God, because God will respect anything done on His behalf.  And let everyone else refrain from judging these honest efforts, but bear with one another.

This will give rise to widely diverse behavior. but will result in an absolute uniformity of intent.  Everyone should be free to do what they believe God is asking them to do.  And everyone should also respect the honest efforts of others.

Over time, perhaps over generations, behavior will grow closer as a result of the purity of the underlying intent.  Not because someone is compelling uniformity, but because light and truth will eventually bring harmony.

Being "one" just as building Zion cannot be a goal in itself.  It is always a byproduct of the kind of people which changed hearts produce.

In a private conversation with someone a few years ago he commented that he wished the definition of "Mormonism" would be changed.  He thought that anyone who was willing to accept the ordinances of the Church ought to be regarded as being Mormon, no matter what else they may differ on.  I've thought about his comment for years now.  I'm inclined to see a great deal of wisdom in that idea.  I've grown to see that those comments echo the earlier writings of the Apostle Paul.


  1. Denver, I love it. Great post. Very personal, as I have just recently finished a couple of discussions on this precise topic, in the manner of thinking you've displayed here.

    Especially incredible that you use Romans 14. You are making my blog obsolete in preemption, incredible. Love it, keep up the good work.

    Many would readily see pauls thoughts here to be counter intuitive, counter productive, as they produce DIVERSITY! How can that be oneness? Like a vast ecosystem of living things, souls, things to be acted upon and things to act which all are in one. Men too shouldn't just accept those who are different, they should embrace them. We NEED those who are not like us to help make us better, and they us. By shunning them and seeking conformity, we limit that growth on an astonishing level.

    Indeed the Babylonian Business model is again at work and automatons able to produce black model T's is what it is creating.

    The Zion business plan builds a culture of colors, of flowers and plants and trees and swift antelope and slow turtles who all rely on each other and love to do so.

    God Speed brother.

  2. I really like and appreciate what you've said here, but I'm confused by the last paragraph. If someone is willing to accept the ordinances of the Church, what else could they be but a Mormon? Your friend must be referring to something here that I'm not catching. Please clarify.

  3. The fellow who made the remark was excommunicated for "apostasy." He wanted to be a member, but wasn't allowed back into the Church. His lament was that even if his personal views were objectionable to others concerning doctrine, he was willing to accept the ordinances and believed in their power to save. Therefore, he thought the definition of "Mormon" should be broad enough to permit anyone who would receive the ordinances to be a Mormon.

    I thought about this for years. This definition would allow, for example, a Catholic Bishop to be baptized into the Church, receive ordinances from our Church, and yet continue to be a Catholic Bishop. Although this may seem odd at first glance, I see nothing wrong with it. He would have to reconcile his preaching with the things he accepts in our ordinances, but that would be up to him. Similarly, a Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim who would accept our ordinances could be viewed as "Mormon" because he/she accepted the rites.

    Joseph said he did not think Latter-day Saints should be like the Methodists. That is, we should not have creeds which establish borders and keep people out.

    In one sense, once someone accepts the truth of Joseph Smith's status as a prophet, realizes our new scriptures are from God, then receives the ordinances of the Gospel, they are really on their own individual journey to increase in light. We can try to help in an organized way through Sunday School, Sacrament meetings, Priesthood and Relief Society, Primary, Stake and General Conferences, but really the individual must find the path back for themselves. By widening the definition of Mormon to include anyone willing to accept the ordinances, we are acknowledging that if someone sees power in the ordinances they are converted to the truth. Being fully converted, and fully acknowledged by God is a long process thereafter. So why would we try and "herd" people when they can't be herded in any event.

    I could go on, but I try to keep posts quite short. This is a big topic, but I would just say: Think about it. Why not? This post on "Becoming One" describes how this process must be "without compulsory means." (D&C 121: 46) We need to relax. Teach the upside. Set a proper example. Convert gently, by persuasion and example. Then allow people to come along at their own pace. When enough truth and light is offered in a kindly, gentle and persuasive way, they will come.

  4. That's a very interesting idea. How far are you willing to take it?

    For example, when I was a missionary in Germany, I tracted out a really great family. They wholeheartedly accepted the gospel, but had one problem: they were having a hard time quitting smoking. For this reason they could not be baptized, and to my knowledge they never did (hope I'm wrong). Should we have baptized them anyway and hope for the best? (The WoW wasn't a commandment initially anyway, but made one.)

    In another example, some missionaries liked to tract Afrikaners because they were 'easy' to get baptized, but they just as easily slipped away, largely due to cultural differences and not fitting in.

    In the case of the family, maybe we should've just baptized them. We don't automatically ex someone just because they have a smoking habit. The Afrikaners, on the other hand, would in many cases accept baptism, but would it do them or anyone any good if they just walked away into the sunset like they often did? Is there somewhere to draw the line?

  5. I have always felt compelled to "love" people to the fold of God. When helping others know the Lord, it's also by following the spirit to know how you can help that person to Him. I've had experiences where I felt I should say something to someone about God, but was restrained. Later I felt very strongly to say something subtle that I thought had little meaning that ended up being part of a conversion processes. So to me, love is the key to helping others to Christ. Love the child of God that they are and love God to have His spirit with you.


  6. I am in total agreement with you on this idea of oneness being a byproduct of trying to live Christ like lives. I do have one concern, however, you wrote: " Let everyone do what in their own heart they believe is right before God, because God will respect anything done on His behalf." What of atrocities done in the name of religion or God? For example, the Christian crusades, religious extremists? How does this ideology prevent someone from slipping into a relativism? It seems to me that in these extreme cases these people are doing what they think God really wants of them.

    I don't mean to "stir the pot," but I think this is a legitimate concern. Should we just allow this type of behavior and idly stand by?

    I am interested to hear what you have to say.

    Thank you


  7. jw:

    I wouldn't draw a line. Remember the Ethiopian eunuch that Philip met near Gaza. One brief encounter, in which Philip explained a passage in Isaiah was about Christ. The eunuch believed, Philip baptized him and they departed from one another. The eunuch "saw him no more; and went on his way rejoicing." (See Acts 8: 26-39.)

    Now I can't begin to explain the problems which this eunuch would have had to encounter and overcome as a result of being baptized. But Philip did it. He didn't try to integrate him into a program, nor to organize him into a quorum, but to simply deliver the message of salvation and ordinance of baptism.

    I respect and obey the Word of Wisdom. I can state that with a clear conscience when in a temple recommend interview. I support it without any mental reservation. But I do not think it a virtue. I have no trouble with the fact Christ drank wine. Nor do I have any trouble with the fact Joseph Smith was drinking wine the day of the martyrdom to lift the spirits of those confined in Carthage Jail. I do not view that as a moral lapse by either Christ or Joseph Smith. At one point we had a wine mission in Southern Utah, where we produced our own domestic supply of wine. I also do not think I have any moral superiority as a result of being a teetotaler. It does not invest me with any greater value before God. I suppose it reduces the likelihood I will contract some diseases, and reduce the likelihood I will die in an accident. So it has value. But not in a "God likes me better" sort of way. At least in my view.

    I'd baptize anyone willing to receive the ordinances and let them receive such benefit as they can obtain from them. I would make Mormonism a movement and not just an institution. And I'd let the institution acquire such followers as would be willing to participate. But those interested in joining the movement and receiving ordinances would be permitted, if I were able to make the decision.

    You must understand that this is exactly WHY I think I am not in a position to make such decisions. I'm just not an "institutional" guy. Therefore I do not think in those terms. I value the institution and support and sustain those who serve in it. I do whatever calling they ask of me. But I view the Gospel of Jesus Christ as encompassing all mankind, all truth, and any who will come to Christ everywhere. Not matter how minimally they may be willing to go in their first steps. The Church is Christ's tool to be used to advance His work. But, as I have shown in Beloved Enos, it cannot and does not encompass all those things which the Lord presently has in His inventory for bringing salvation to mankind.

  8. Jonathan:

    I do not believe in atrocities in the name of Christ. I believe in meekness, gentleness, persuasion, love unfeigned and no control or compulsion as part of the Gospel. The moment someone begins to exercise control, dominion or compulsion over the souls, minds or bodies of men, amen to their priesthood and amen to their participation in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (See D&C 121)

    I think we have a long way to go in getting where we need to be. But the way to get there is by example. We need to live and learn correct principles. Once that is done we can begin to be in a position to teach correct principles. And correct principles allow people to govern themselves.

    If someone is tempted to commit atrocities they really are without understanding of Christ's teachings. They need to be taught. I've written a chapter on this in Eighteen Verses. That book is about the major problems facing modern Mormonism.

  9. Truth is not the domain of the LDS Church. God can, and does, speak truth to us through Catholics, Muslims, Jews, etc. Truth can even come to us from life-long aetheists. We need not fear or eschew truth because of the source. The Spirit can distill the best parts for us.

    The more I come to know God, the more I realize that He just sees sons and daughters. We're the ones coming up with the distinctions and drawing rather erroneous conclusions about those who adhere to one belief over another, or draw conclusions about how God loves one set more than another!


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