After arriving in the promised land, the first generation of Jaredites needed to make some foundational decisions about their new civilization. One of those was their form of government. The people wanted to choose a king. Their spiritual leader, the brother of Jared, opposed this idea. “Surely this thing leadeth into captivity,” he warned (Ether 6:23). But the people prevailed, and one of Jared’s sons, Orihah, was anointed king.
It didn’t take long for the brother of Jared’s worries to become reality. Orihah’s son, Kib, was dethroned by one of his sons, and he “dwelt in captivity” for many years (Ether 7:4-7).
Another of Kib’s sons, Shule, restored the kingdom to his father and became the next king. But he was in turn dethroned by his son Noah. After significant conflict, including the death of Noah, Shule regained control of only half the kingdom.
And the country was divided; and there were two kingdoms, the kingdom of Shule, and the kingdom of Cohor, the son of Noah.Ether 7:20
That phrase—”the country was divided”—caught my attention this week. When the brother of Jared worried about captivity, surely that was his concern: divisiveness and animosity leading to conflict and sorrow among his descendants. Even though Shule was later able to unite the country, subsequent generations struggled to achieve unity and peace. In the end, it was a civil war which destroyed them. There was no external invasion, no natural disaster. All that was needed for their demise was their own enmity toward one another. (See Ether 14, 15).
I’ve been thinking today about how to overcome divisiveness and promote unity. Elder Quentin L. Cook recently challenged us to do this:
We live in a moment of particularly strong divisions. However, the millions who have accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ have committed themselves to achieving both righteousness and unity. We are all aware that we can do better, and that is our challenge in this day. We can be a force to lift and bless society as a whole.“Hearts Knit in Righteousness and Unity,” General Conference, October 2020
One way we can promote unity is by remembering what we have in common. Elder Cook pointed to the apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans as a template for unifying people from diverse backgrounds. Elder Cook said:
Our members and new converts often come from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. If we are to follow President Nelson’s admonition to gather scattered Israel, we will find we are as different as the Jews and Gentiles were in Paul’s time. Yet we can be united in our love of and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans establishes the principle that we follow the culture and doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the model for us even today.“Hearts Knit in Righteousness and Unity,” General Conference, October 2020
Another requirement for unity is mutual respect. Elder Cook reminded us: “Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity.”
Today, I will strive to reduce divisiveness and increase unity in my community, among my work colleagues, in my congregation, and in my family. I will focus on the fundamental truths which unite us, and I will treat others with respect, even when we disagree.