As His mortal ministry drew to a close, Jesus offered a sublime Intercessory Prayer on behalf of His Apostles and all who would believe in Him. He supplicated the Father in these words: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:20-21). In this simple but profound prayer, Jesus is teaching us how to get back home.
As in all things, Jesus Christ is our example. He is perfectly united with His Father in purpose, in mission, in mind, and in heart. He is “the good shepherd” (John 10:11) who is lovingly guiding us. When we try to forge our own paths, we usually struggle and can become a lost lamb.
Even though God has a particular path in mind for us, we may decide to go a different way. Jesus knew that just as Satan tempted Him in the wilderness, the adversary would tempt us in ways that would destroy our relationship with the Father. With incomprehensible love, Jesus pleaded for all of us. As I read the words of His Intercessory Prayer offered more than two thousand years ago, they still kindle in my heart a desire to change.
Remodelling Our Souls
Only Christ can remodel our soul. He guides us down certain paths because He knows what is best for us and how to build godly character: ultimately becoming a member of God’s family. We will achieve oneness with each other only as we seek to be one with Him. When the Lord taught the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “If ye are not one ye are not mine” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27), it was to nurture this oneness. Unity of action and purpose was vital for the work. It is still central for us today in the work of His kingdom. When we are in harmony with God’s word and doing our part, we move as one. This unity of action is also for “the perfecting of the Saints” (Ephesians 4:12). In order to reach our divine destiny, we need each other.
Harold B. Lee explained, “If we are not united, we are not his” (Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, Section 38 p.78). Satan tries to divide us; every temptation is meant to break the bonds of unity. But as we strive to live the gospel and love and serve others, we feel at one with our brothers and sisters and more in tune with the divine. In united harmony, we become “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). As we stand together in like-minded cooperation, we bring glory to God.
Unity through Revelation
President Henry B. Eyring taught three principles on unity: “One of those principles is revelation. Revelation is the only way we can know how to follow the will of the Lord together. It requires light from above. The Holy Ghost will testify to our hearts, and the hearts of those gathered around with us, what He would have us do” (“Our Hearts Knit as One,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 70).
When the Prophet Joseph Smith announced the Lord’s commandment for the Saints to gather to Ohio, not everyone attending the conference was in harmony with this revelation. As Phebe Carter explained when the time came for her to leave her comfortable home, “Had it not been for the spirit within I should have faltered at the last” (Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021, 69).
Today, we also need the comforting words of a loving Father confirming that what is asked of us is actually His will.
Unity through Humility
President Eyring taught, “a second principle to guide our progress to become one is to be humble” (“Our Hearts Knit as One,” 70). During the last supper the Savior told His disciples; “One of you shall betray me” (Matthew 26:21). Their responses demonstrated humility, “they were exceedingly sorrowful, and began every one of them to say…Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:22). President Dieter F. Uchtdorf explains, “In these simple words, “Lord, is it I?” lies the beginning of wisdom and the pathway to personal conversion and lasting change” (“Lord, Is It I?,” Ensign, Nov. 2014, 56). Likewise, we need to recognize our potential to lose our way in following Christ.
Unity by Speaking Well of Each Other
President Eyring taught: “another principle of unity…is to speak well of each other” (“Our Hearts Knit as One,” 71). Trying to see others as God sees them is one of the choices we can make. Michelle D. Craig, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, testifies, “Jesus Christ loves us and can give us eyes to see—even when it’s hard” (“Eyes to See,” Ensign, Nov. 2020, 17). The most important setting to train our eyes to see others differently is in our homes and family relationships.
The April 12-18 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021, 69: suggests: “To teach children what it means to ‘be one,’ you could help them count the members of your family and talk about why each person is important to your family.” When we try to develop the ability to see others with grateful eyes, the Holy Ghost blesses us to discover that differences can be a source of vast enrichment and growth.
Living and Loving Differences
In concluding His mortal ministry, Jesus gave His disciples, “A new commandment… That ye love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34). To love one another as Christ loved the world is quite a challenge. This kind of love is a love of the highest order—'the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47).
We need to develop that kind of love to be able to become like Christ. When Jesus will come again, scriptures testify that “we shall be like him, for we shall see Him as He is” (Moroni 7:48; 1 John 3:2). Through the teachings of His gospel, we will be of one mind and one Spirit: like the Father and the Son. We will have become a people of Zion where, “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:19).
In many relationships and circumstances in life, I have discovered that what we have in common is far more important than our differences. The oneness we share that knits us together is a commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am grateful for my membership in the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Through my interactions with my brothers and sisters in the gospel, I have grown, learned, and changed. I am still striving to be more loving, for I know that in our loving interactions with each other, we truly draw closer to our Savior who is still pleading for us and tells us, to “be one” (John 17:21; emphasis added).