I was in Beira, Mozambique one morning and watched with interest as people fished in the beautiful waters of the Indian Ocean. Men worked together, using dugout canoes and fishing nets to harvest sardines. With great effort they hauled their filled nets out of the water and into their canoes, and then made their way back to shore. Other people waded into the water and met the heavy canoes, pushing them onto the beach and wedging them into the sand. Women and children immediately filled their pales with sardines, processed the fish and spread them out on rocks to dry. A sense of purpose and a certain peacefulness accompanied their work.
I was inspired by the unified effort of men, women and children working together to obtain needed food and prepare the excess for market. Together they accomplished much more than what one person could do on their own. There was a sense of community. I assume many were working as families. I delighted in contemplating the relationships of trust and dependence these people likely develop from working together, no doubt resulting in cherished bonds of love. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [people] to dwell together in unity!” (Psalms 133:1)
Nowhere is there a greater opportunity to develop unity and love than in families. Unity in families begins with husbands and wives, and is most likely to occur when gospel principles are applied with concerted effort. Unity is achieved step by step and may take time.
President Thomas S. Monson and his wife Francis were married for nearly 65 years. They experienced a special unity. Shortly after she passed away President Monson stated “Her loss has been profound...She was the love of my life, my trusted confidant, and my closest friend. To say that I miss her does not begin to convey the depth of my feelings...We were sealed in the house of God by one having authority to bind on earth and in heaven. I know that we will be reunited one day and will never again be separated. This is the knowledge that sustains me (Thomas S. Monson, “I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee,” Ensign, Nov. 2013, 85).
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [husbands and wives] to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1).
Sister Cook and I shared a special experience with the Lono family from the Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo Kimbansake Stake. We happened to travel with them from Kinshasa to Johannesburg, South Africa prior to their sealing in the Johannesburg Temple. Each member of the family was dressed in their Sunday best and there was a spirit of excitement as they anticipated arriving at the temple.
The next day we witnessed this beautiful family all dressed in white, kneeling around the altar of the temple. We heard marvellous blessings pronounced upon them as they were united together as a family for eternity by one holding the sealing power of God. Pure joy emanated from their faces as they experienced the fulfilment of a dream they had anticipated for years.
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [families] to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1).
I witnessed another remarkable example of unity few months ago. I noticed in a report that there were signs of significant real growth in the Ntinda Branch in the Kampala Uganda Stake. Sacrament meeting attendance had grown from 40 to well over 100 in just over a year. Intrigued, I spoke with the branch president and members of the branch council, the stake president, the mission president, and the full time missionaries to discover what was contributing to their success in baptisms, retention, and activation.
The branch president related that he is young in the Church and therefore depends upon the Lord and his entire branch council when setting goals, making plans, and serving members of the branch. Each member of the council contributes and feels needed. The stake president and mission president are unified in missionary work and expressed appreciation for each other. One of the full time sister missionaries summed up the situation when she said with heartfelt emotion, “We are a family.”
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for [members] to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1)
There are things each of us can do to enjoy this type of unity in our relationship. By abiding by the laws governing unity, we can experience the blessings. We learn in D&C 132:5 “For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.”
I invite each of us to review the accompanying lists of principles related to unity, and prayerfully evaluate if there are things we can apply in our lives. Developing unity will likely require faith, humility and patience. We may need to change the way we do things and improve our interactions with others in order to increase unity.
If we commit to change and do our part, I know God can bless us and magnify our efforts. As we receive the additional strength we need to make changes in our own lives through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can become a catalyst for change in others. Our hearts can truly be “knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:21).
We will then be better prepared to be unified with God, for as He has said, “Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine” (D&C 38:27). I know that Heavenly Father is pleased when we dwell together in unity.
Unity Between Husbands and Wives
Husbands and wives are most likely to be unified if:
- Both are worthily keeping the commandments, including the law of chastity.
- Both are equal partners, committed to each other and to God, as described in The Family: A Proclamation to the World, and in Handbook 2, section 1.3.1.
- There is open communication and sharing of feelings.
- They listen to each other with a spirit of understanding. Elder David A. Bednar stated “Listening is not a skill, it is an attribute of God based on love” (Africa Southeast Area Review meeting, November 2013).
- Each is working to develop Christlike attributes.
- Principles as taught by Paul in Esphesians 4 are practiced in their relationship.
- They are working together to serve God and do His work (See Moses 1:39).
Unity in Families
In addition to the principles listed in other sections of this article, family unity will be enhanced when:
- Each family member is striving for family unity.
- There is equality, and each person feels important and valued by other family members (See 1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
- All participate in personal and family worship activities such as prayer, scripture study, and Sacrament meeting attendance.
- All participate in Family Home Evenings and family councils. We are counselled that “Parents should often plan times to have the entire family do things together...A family that enjoys activities together will feel greater love and harmony. Children will be more willing to listen to their parents and follow their advice when they feel close to them. Parents will be able to teach the gospel more effectively” (Family Guidebook, p 10-11; see also Handbook 2, section 1.4.2).
Unity in Branch, Ward, District and Stake Councils
Unity in counsels is most likely to occur when:
- The central purpose of the council is to receive inspiration to help others and further the Lord’s work. “Councils provide a means for leaders to come together in unity and faith to collectively seek the Lord’s will” (Handbook 2, section 2.4.4).
- Each member of the council comes prepared, spiritually and otherwise. “Let every man learn his duty, and to act in the office in which he is appointed, in all diligence” (D&C 107:99).
- The unit leader continually invites and receives input, and counsels with all participants. “Effective priesthood leaders preside in love and kindness...they counsel with others and try to come to a consensus through revelation” (Handbook 2, section 2.4.3).
- Both men and women speak honestly and all participants feel that their comments are valued.
- Spiritual confirmation is sought on decisions.
- Once a decision is made there is a spirit of unity and harmony.
(See Handbook 2, sections 2.4.3, 2.4.4, 2.4.5, sections 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.2.3 and sections 4.1, 4.4. and 4.6.1).