Thursday, October 22, 2015

Alma on unity among church members


I really like what is recorded about how Alma the elder taught about unity among the church when they still lived among King Noah’s people.

And he commanded them that there should be no contention one with another, but that they should look forward with one eye, having one faith and one baptism, having their hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another. (Mosiah 18:21)

Two bits of imagery stick out to me in these verses—the idea of hearts being knit together in love and looking forward with one eye—so I want to share some things I associate with both of those.

Hearts knit together in unity and love

I think of two different things here.  I think  of how a broken bone is knit together. It is put right, and it is held there and protected from outside collisions until it is strong.  Then it can stand up to forces put on it.  I think that gradual growth together is a beautiful analogue to how unity grows gradually.

I also think of yarn that is strung out and apart and it may get easily tangled until it is knit together. Perhaps sharp things would cut it when loose, but it has more strength and flexibility when knit into a fabric.  Even if there is a cut in one place in a knit, it doesn’t fall apart.  The yarn loop connects with other loops around it in different places and draws shape and strength from those touch-points.

Looking forward with one eye

I was very young when I discovered that there was a slight difference in how things looked depending on whether I looked with my right eye or with my left. I marveled that when I held a finger in front of me and looked at it with one eye closed and then with the other, the position of my finger seemed to shift slightly.  This fascinated me and when I got bored or distracted sometimes I would play with it.  It wasn’t until I took astronomy in high school that I learned a term for this phenomenon—parallax—and that it enabled telescopes to see deeply into space and establish distances. 

When I got older than that, I realized that there can also be spiritual parallax between individuals because of difference of perspective.  We may look at the same events and see things differently.

I think “looking forward with one eye” expresses the prophet’s hope that we can come to unity by adopting the Lord’s perspective.  Remembering the plan of salvation helps us see with a more eternal perspective, so that’s part of how the Lord sees things.  We learn to see with one eye when we teach and learn correct principles and pattern our lives after them.  I think we also learn to see with one eye when we learn how principles that seem to oppose actually mesh and interplay and balance each other—prophetic authority with personal revelation, foreordination with agency, justice with mercy, self-reliance with dependence on God and interdependence with others.

Do you have an additional thoughts or associations with these phrases that you can share?