The Gospel Doctrine lesson 33 manual objective is “To inspire class members to seek the blessings that come from being unified in Christ, following the Spirit, and being morally clean.”
To let ourselves be challenged by Paul’s words about contention and unity, that we may more fully consider what it would mean to seek a Zion unity, built upon Christ.
A friend recently told me that his favorite articles are the ones that are hard to read, because they challenge him. I felt that way, reading the passages for this lesson.
In the first part, Paul calls the saints to unity, and without saying it, to Zion. He invites them to “speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” reminiscent of Moses 7:18’s, “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there were no poor among them.” He had been told that there were “contentions among [them],” and that some were saying, “I am of Paul; and I of Appolos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:11-12).
If Paul were alive today, could someone tell him that there are contentions among us? I think so, when I think about the Mormonism that I’ve witnessed and experienced in person and online in the last week, month, and years. There are dividing lines drawn up around a number of issues, with the Gospel Topic Essays, seer stones, Ordain Women, and marriage equality being just a few. But there are not just dividing lines. There have been calls for brothers and sisters to leave the church, and some who, in part because they don’t feel welcome, have actually left. Other individuals in and out of the pews feel hurt, because they have been.
All of that can leave us feeling, if not saying, “I am of my favorite Mormon historian; and I of my favorite recent excommunicant; and I of my favorite apostle (cough, cough, Uchtdorf); and I of my favorite blogger; and I of my favorite movement,” and perhaps only at the end, if at all, “and I of Christ.”
Consequently, what Paul asked of the saints then, may still be asked of us now: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul (aka: everyone/thing mentioned above) crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13).
I remember Jesus’s Intercessory Prayer in John 17, where he affirmed that He and the Father are one, and prayed that we may be one, too. I remember what we all remember every Sunday, which is Christ’s body and blood, before and after his crucifixion. I remember the words spoken during my baptism, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” (D&C 20:73). So this is where I admit that while I know the answers to those questions, I don’t know the answer to others. I don’t know if we literally have to say the same things as one another, or if Zion allows for charitable disagreement.
I believe in Paul’s “body of Christ.” “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ,” and, “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12:12, 21). I believe the 11th General Relief Society President, Barbara Winder, when she taught, “We can have unity in diversity and diversity in unity.”
So for now, I am just letting myself be challenged by Paul’s words on contention, and considering how I may be more fully one, that I may be more fully “of Christ.”
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
All Here Together, Bianca Morrison Dillard
Sometimes we say flippant comments like, “I don’t how anyone could do this or think this.” And I feel like that’s because we probably haven’t asked that person. Because when we ask, we can go, “Oh, yeah!” If we listen to other people’s stories, we can say, “Yeah, I still don’t agree with you, necessarily, but I get where you are coming from.” I think that’s so valuable because people do things for good reasons. I feel like it’s made me engage in my local community more.
Flunking Sainthood, Jana Riess
But one of the things that Mormons do well is community. I’ve thought about why our community is, frankly, superior to a lot of religious communities I’ve observed. That sounds chauvinistic but I firmly believe that one of the strokes of genius in the organization of our church is that we have this old-fashioned community model where we attend church based on geography and no other factor. When left to their own devices, people will tend to go to church where they’re comfortable spiritually, politically, and socio-economically. But our wards are a mish-mash of people of every economic class and need, of every political extreme….I was forced to live in that community fully, to be completely invested. I found the people that I had so wrongly judged had so much to teach me.
A Champion for Diversity, Sui Lang Panoke
Even though I’m a big champion of diversity, we all understand that it ultimately doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, what your political affiliation is, what country you come from. We are all daughters and sons of Heavenly Father and we all warrant the same divine love. We all have access to the same blessings.