Unity Amidst Diversity: Lessons from Elder Joni L. Koch

Today’s inspiration is drawn from Elder Joni L. Koch’s enlightening discourse during October 2017. In his talk, Elder Koch beautifully illustrates the importance of unity within the Church and how it extends beyond our collective gatherings.

The Power of a Shared Passion

Imagine a moment in time when you felt an instant connection with someone you didn’t even know. A moment when differences in background, social status, or physical conditions ceased to matter. Elder Koch recounts one such moment from his life—a moment that teaches us profound lessons about unity.

In June 1994, as Elder Koch was rushing home to watch Brazil’s national soccer team play in the World Cup, he encountered a man in a wheelchair decorated with the Brazilian flag. This stranger was headed in the opposite direction, presumably on his way home to watch the same game.

In that fleeting moment when their eyes met, they shared an unspoken bond. Their paths diverged, and they were essentially strangers, yet their mutual passion for soccer and love for their country made them feel like kindred spirits. Despite the differences that society often emphasizes, they were one in that instance. And as fate would have it, Brazil emerged victorious in the World Cup that year, a shared triumph that added to the strength of their unspoken connection.

Unity: The Lord's Expectation

In the Church, unity is a principle that carries immense importance. The Lord Himself emphasized this expectation in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (Doctrine and Covenants 38:27)

When we gather as a congregation in our meetinghouses, we come together as diverse individuals. We bring with us our unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. Yet, in those sacred moments, we are called to leave our differences at the door. As one body, we sing hymns, partake of the sacrament, and unite in saying “amen” to talks, lessons, and prayers, signifying our agreement with the shared spiritual experience.

These collective actions foster a strong sense of oneness within our congregations. But the true test of our unity lies in how we conduct ourselves when we are apart from our fellow Church members.

The Power of Our Words

It’s only natural that, over time, we will talk about one another. The conversations we engage in when discussing our fellow Church members can either strengthen our unity or erode the bonds of love, trust, and goodwill.

Elder Koch reminds us of comments that subtly undermine unity, such as: “Yes, he’s a good bishop; oh, but you should have seen him when he was a young man!” A more constructive approach would be to acknowledge growth and maturity: “The bishop is so good, and he has grown so much in maturity and wisdom over the years.”

Similarly, when discussing leaders or members, it’s crucial to avoid permanent labels and choose understanding: “The Relief Society president has been less flexible lately; maybe she’s going through some difficult times. Let’s help her and sustain her!”

Our words should never portray anyone, especially within our Church circle, as a finished product. Instead, our language should reflect our faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement. It should convey the belief that, through Him, we can always change for the better.

Unity Over Petty Differences

Sometimes, we find ourselves criticizing others within the Church over matters that are, in the grand scheme, trivial. Elder Koch highlights the story of Simonds Ryder, who became disillusioned over the misspelling of his name in a revelation. His reaction to this small incident led to his questioning the prophet, persecuting Joseph Smith, and ultimately leaving the Church.

Similarly, we may experience correction from our ecclesiastical leaders, which can test our unity with them. Elder Koch recalls a personal story from his own family’s history when his father’s strong opinion was met with public rebuke. Despite the incident, his father chose to remain united with fellow Saints, the Church, and the Lord.

Choosing Unity

In a world where divisiveness often reigns, we have a choice—to be one with the members and leaders of the Church. Our unity should not be limited to our physical gatherings; it should extend to every aspect of our lives.

Elder Koch’s father’s decision to participate in a construction project for the Church, even after his opinion was rejected, serves as a powerful example. It demonstrates that choosing unity strengthens not only our connection with fellow Saints but also with the Lord.

Be a Unifying Force

As we reflect on the lessons shared by Elder Joni L. Koch, let us consider our own words and actions within and outside the Church. Are we contributing to unity and goodwill, or are we inadvertently sowing seeds of division? Are we supporting our leaders, even when we may disagree, or are we allowing differences to drive us apart?

In a world that desperately needs unity, let us strive to be unifying forces. Let our words and actions reflect our belief in Jesus Christ and His ability to change hearts and minds for the better. Link to the original: Click Here

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