One challenge we face today is finding unity amongst diversity of our beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, goals, and desires. How can we seek for unifying ideas in such a time as this? The answer may lie within past experiences and words spoken by historical figures, lyricists, and everyday people.
What will happen if individuals continue to interact with hostility towards others? Martin Luther King Jr. described the end result of our interactions if we approach one another with hatred and anger when he stated,
Rather than focusing time and energy on hating others because of different beliefs and values, we can root out the hatred and anger by choosing instead to love others. Jesus Christ exemplified perfect love for all races, kindreds, tongues, and people. Why not choose to do love others as He did? It’s hard to love someone who may declare your views as wrong, senseless, ancient, sinful, or godless, but it’s even harder to love someone when you’re choosing to be intolerant of them as a human being. When faced with differing opinions or views, why not give a listening ear without choosing to criticize, hate, or retaliate? In an article published online in The Liahona, Lori Fuller Sosa brings awareness to the following idea:
“If we could just listen without trying to change someone’s mind, I think we’d be surprised what we might learn” (2019).
Imagine if we all followed this line of thinking. Would it bring more unity? Nearly 50 years ago, John Lennon once speculated the outcome of our world if we put our differences behind us and sought to live on earth, harmoniously.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one. Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger. A brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be live as one. Original Lyrics by John Lennon taken from Pass It On
Notice how Lennon erases the concept of greed and hunger. Is this what divides the nations? Money and power?
In 1976, Howard W. Hunter stated,
“It is the proposition that everyone has a price, that material things finally matter most, that ultimately you can buy anything in this world for money.”
It’s true, you can have anything in this world for money, but at what cost? Is a life not worth so a great a value? In Lennon’s lyrics, he shifted the focus from earthly possessions to a “brotherhood of man.” Placing pleasures and monetary value above human life will not unify us. It will divide us. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? …[W]hat shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36–37.)
Many powerful leaders have sought to eradicate the existence of the poor, the mentally ill, and the races that were not considered elite in their eyes. In God’s eyes, we are all His children. He created us equally. It is not Christ’s doctrine to divide us or to bring contention. This is not from Christ. Christ’s teachings seek to uplift, unify, edify, and inspire all to love.
As The Savior taught,
I know for myself the impact pure Christlike love can have on an individual. I hated religion and any person who preached their beliefs. I discovered that I believed, these religious people thought they were so much better than me. I was judging. The same thing I didn’t like about religion, I was still practicing.
I came to see that I was not loving. I was a very judgmental person. I carried so much hatred, yet it was a religious person who showed me pure Christlike love and did not judge me for my choices, my mistakes, or my beliefs. Charity, the pure love of Christ has the power to change hearts. This love has changed life.
In moving forward to seek unity in diversity, the following question posed nearly 200 years ago, may be relatable to today:
We all share differing perspectives, opinions, and beliefs but ultimately, the way we can seek unity in diversity is to love one another as Christ has loved us. This is my prayer for each of us in the world today. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Growing up, my mom would often say, “There’s no such thing as luck, There’s no such thing as coincidence,” and my dad would remind us that, “This life is a test.” I didn’t believe it was true, but sometimes I wondered. The image that first comes to mind my mind is a memory from when I was age 24. It was dark and very late, as I rode the bus home that night, exhausted from a long day of work and school. The fluorescent lights glared down, as I leaned against the window and stared at my reflection through the darkened glass. I was filled with a feeling of complete emptiness and loneliness, but for some reason, I began wondering about those phrases I thought were ridiculous. “Are there coincidences or not?” “Is this life really was a test?” “Is there really a God?”
I grew up in a home that taught the true doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and my mom sang songs to me when I was 4 years old about being a “Child of God,” and “Yes, I know Heav’nly Father Loves me” (Children’s songbook p. 2; 228). In this memory, I’m in my second home, it’s dark, and I can’t see anything. My mom is holding me and singing these two primary songs. In my second home as a child, I lived there until I was about age four. I remember after moving, my mom through me a party for my 5th birthday and invited all the neighbor kids I didn’t know, but that’s how my mom was. Even when I turned 16 she somehow got a hold of all my friends and neighbor friends and they all came to surprise me. That is part of the gospel of the Savior. I was living how I shouldn’t, and my mom did everything she could to show she loved me.
I hadn’t lived the true gospel of Jesus Christ since childhood. When I was younger, I would sneak into my mom’s room to make her bed or spend 2 hours doing dishes and hide when she came home. I’m not bragging to say “what a wonderful child was”, I’m only painting a picture of what the gospel did for me, even as a child. I wanted to show my mom love the best way I knew how, and my mom showed me that when you love someone, you serve them. As I grew older something changed.
Through my adolescent years, I wasn’t kind, and I didn’t love anyone but myself; In short, I broke nearly every commandment before middle school, and only continued that lifestyle through the majority of high school and college. Most of my friends didn’t go to church, and if they did, it was for their parents. So, I refused to go to church because it contradicted who I was (which, if you study the doctrine on this, we’re all children of God, and “refusing to go to church” because I felt like I didn’t belong is either the natural man at work or one of the adversary’s tools). If I was going to party then I most certainly wasn’t going to church on Sunday unlike many people I knew from school. Eventually I graduated high school, and I noticed the majority of my friends no longer went to church.
My church activity somewhat changed after a trip to a local correctional facility for underage drinking. I remember sitting in the cell singing, “Heavenly Father are you really there?” (Children’s Songbook p.12). I felt pathetic. Despite the warm summer night, the cell I was in was freezing, and I had goosebumps up and down my arms. It was a long night. I remember for breakfast they brought me boiled eggs, and possibly pancakes with syrup. All I ate were the eggs because I believed pancakes and syrup would make me fat (I had also been battling multiple eating disorders for several years). I was released sometime around 10am that morning. I spent less than 12 hours in the cell, and I never wanted to go back there again. All I remember, was my dad and uncle walking down a long hallway toward me as I walked toward them, and my dad embracing me.
I had to pay a hefty fine and was court-ordered to go through some kind of program. I went through the Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) at the age of 18, began seeing a psychologist, and tried going back to church. I remember wanting to change and going to church because I wanted to, not because someone was making me. But I remember the singles ward being a very uncomfortable experience. I felt surrounded by creeps. My first Sunday there, around winter 2009, I was wearing boots and some bald guy sat in front of me and began petting the boots I was wearing, commenting how soft they were while staring at me. Thankfully I was with my cousin, and we laugh about it to this day, but as an 18 year old, I was terrified. Regardless of my countless interesting experiences, I continued going to the singles ward.
After reconnecting with a another girl from high school at the singles ward, we began talking about moving out together, it was spring 2010. By the end of summer we moved out. We were going to church, and I was still trying to learn who I was. As I tried to return to church, it seemed more and more of my friends were leaving the church. Some described their first intimate moments with their boyfriends, their first time smoking weed, or the roommate drama they were experiencing. I had three wonderful roommates, but what I didn’t realize is one of them had a drank often and tried to hide it. We all went to church together, but I began seeing that same pattern in my student ward where the same people who were partying on the weekend were the ones going to church on Sunday. “Sunday Mormons” is what they were called or “Jack Mormons” at the time (I strongly dislike the latter term).
I think I lasted about 9 months without drinking. I didn’t realize I was still vulnerable to it, but I was mad… about something. I can’t even remember what it was. Perhaps it was the incident of me kneeling in the living room of my apartment, vocally praying for God’s help to make me a size “0,” but then a response along the lines of, “What if that’s not what I want for you,” came to my mind. I remember being enraged. I wanted desperately to model and be beautiful, so I thought, “Fine.”I’ll show you. If you’re not going to help me, I’ll do it on my own.” So I did. I was 20 years old. I was sick with an eating disorder. I had been suffering for over 7 years at that point. Sometimes I’d stay up until 3am binging and purging, or I’d wake up at 3am to go exercise in our gym. I remember protesting to the managers to keep the gym open 24 hrs (you could only get in if you had a FOB key between certain hours). Eventually, there must have been enough requests, because by the time I was experiencing a full fledged eating disorder, I was there every morning, religiously working out before I had work at 4:30am. I did the HCG diet and was consuming 500 calories or less per day. I was taking diet pills and doing everything I thought was right to be thin. I began listening to the same EDM again whenever I worked out. I began remembering old habits and soon was desiring old habits but I didn’t recognize what was happening. This mental battle that has existed for as long as I can remember.
I went out with someone from work, who I wasn’t even interested in. The only thing I liked was that his family did family history work. I knew he smoked weed, and I thought I knew where I was going, but without sleep, and without food, I was in no place to make decisions about dating.
My roommate and I met someone older who would buy us liquor, and once I started drinking again, I went to church less and less. I began seeing the person I went out with from work, the one I didn’t like because of his lifestyle. We dated off and on for over 5 years, and at one point we were living together. That may seem to have escalated quickly, but I can tell you, I didn’t become Alma the younger and the sons of Mosiah (before their conversion) overnight (see Mosiah 27: 8-10). I didn’t suddenly try to convince members of the Church, to reject their doctrines and beliefs, including members of my own family. It was gradual, and it started when I young, perhaps elementary school. My complete 180 may have started in 2nd grade, and ended when I was 21.
What happened in 2nd grade? What didn’t happen in 2nd grade? That was the year other students would tell me awful stories about my teacher like putting glue in a kids eyeball. Aside from teacher horror stories, everyone played kissing tag, and didn’t everyone get married? Everyone except me. Maybe the kissing and “getting married” didn’t bother me as much, but I’d have thoughts like, “Why does Jake want to marry Stacia and not me?” I remember sometimes having this lonely feeling, that was similar to sadness, but different. Looking back, I wonder if these feelings may have been a result of consistently comparing myself to others.
By fourth grade I remember the sadness being somewhat tangible, heavy, and overbearing (though I wouldn’t have had the words to describe it as such). I just remember feeling like my entire body was filled with sadness, like I was in physical pain. I cried and I remember praying one night, begging Heavenly Father to take me away. What was so awful in fourth grade? What changed? I had many friends and we were all “popular” together, but then fourth grade hit. A new girl moved in, and the boy I liked, liked the new girl. I guess I had to find a new “muse” which seems so odd at such a young age, but my best friend and I decided we were going to like these two brothers, and she was going to like one and I was going to like the other. Fourth grade was when Sam moved in. He was different, so everyone talked about him. I remember walking in from recess, and Sam was holding a chair up to his throat, threatening to kill himself. I don’t know if I understood suicide, but I wanted to be his friend.
5th grade came, and Sam moved away. More new kids moved in and things got worse. Students would tell me the teacher gossiped about me when I was gone. The one boy I liked, liked another girl, and my friends started leaving me out. I remember feeling like there was something wrong with me because it seemed that all of the boys liked all the other girls. Was I that ugly? I would get picked last in soccer often, and I just felt like an outcast. Sometimes I wonder if my insecurities stemmed from my exposure to pornography around 2nd grade and my inability to communicate what was going on inside my mind.
I didn’t tell anyone about it until many years later. To this day the images are still etched in my mind, and I remember the experience well. I was with my friends little sister, Jenna (name changed), and we came across a stack of magazines in their old shed. It was likely left there from the previous owners. We began flipping through it, out of curiosity. She was the one who stopped, but I wanted to keep looking. Eventually I went home and Jenna may have told her mom, and her mom may have told my mom, but all I remember was my mom walking in my bedroom, saying she talked to Jenna’s mom, and my mom may have asked if I wanted to talk about it, but we didn’t talk. I just remember silently sitting in the corner of my room, playing with my toy ponies. But afterward, I became obsessed with intimacy. I remember feeling different, like I had a big ugly secret I couldn’t talk about. I remember my friendships deteriorating, and I was being left out more and more at recess. I felt like I was alone.
I would watch movies like Princess Diaries, Miss congeniality, She’s All That, and soon, I became enthralled with how beautiful these girls looked after they had a makeover. There was an episode of Boy Meets World where Topanga gets a makeover, and the transformation was stunning. I had this idea in my head that if I looked beautiful, I would be happy because these girls seemed to be missing something, but everything came together once they were “updated.” I watched The Swan and Dr. 90210 because the women all looked happier and more beautiful after their transformations. In 6th grade I started connecting what you ate to your level of popularity. If you bought ice cream from the student store or candy or chips from the vending machine, you were cool. By 8th grade, I learned that the popular girls ate celery at lunch, or didn’t eat lunch at all. If they ate anything it was from the student store or the vending machine, not the cafeteria. After purchasing your food, you’d hang out in the “commons.” All the cool kids would sit and stare at everyone that walk past and laugh, joke, or sometimes make fun of others. They all looked happy and I just wanted to be happy. I thought that being popular and accepted by my peers would undoubtedly bring me happiness.
I did my first makeover during 6th grade (new clothes, new wardrobe, new hair (my best friend gave me highlights). I felt happy, but it was short-lived elation. As time progressed, I was exposed to anorexia, and something inside of me wanted apart of it. About 8th grade I saw this movie about girls who were getting all this attention from the guys. They snuck out, did drugs and drank alcohol. They obtained an array of piercings over their face, ears, and body, and they looked happy. I remember watching the thirteen year old girl do self-harm, but somehow all of the happiness outweighed those little moments of agony; I still wanted that lifestyle.
I started my first diet in 7th grade with a friend. I don’t recall eating breakfast or lunch. I’d come home and have a few Totino’s pizza rolls for a snack and maybe a Chimichanga for dinner. I remember at one point bragging that all I had eaten for the day was an orange when I was a sophmore in high school. I showed my best friend Ally (name changed) and her sister Kirsten (name changed) how flat my stomach looked, and they both reacted with astonishment and praise.
I cycled through anorexia and bulimia throughout junior high and high school. I’d have a slim fast shake for lunch and a salad when I got home. I had no idea what I was doing to my body. I just thought if I stopped eating, I’d be thin. I didn’t know my metabolism would slow down, I didn’t know my beautiful hair would turn to toddler wisps, I didn’t think I’d grow cilia all over my body and turn into a wilder-beast. I didn’t anticipate long nights of no sleep, or the mental havoc I would experience later, I had no idea how this was affecting my body, mind, and spirit. For over 13 years I filled my mind with thoughts of how disgusting my body was, and that I must be skinny an pretty.
I chose to surround myself with people who constantly bad talked their body. Whether media, friends or family. Some of my loved ones would make remarks about women in the family who needed to lose weight. One family member made the comment, “nobody wants a fat wife” as we were about to go on a hike. I was about 13 years old. Another family member would say, “she’s as big a a house” if we saw someone who was obese. I vaguely have a memory of seeing a construction worker, pointing to him, laughing and saying, “look at that fatso!” My mom snapped back a quick scolding and taught me that we never point and we never talk about anyone in that way. I was about 5 years old.
Do you know what anorexia does to your brain? Did you know Depression and anorexia are correlated? I was starving, cutting, drinking, and spinning out of control. Did I just need food and sleep, or was there something else going on? After 13 years, it wasn’t just food, it was many things. It was relationships, it was hobbies, it was sleep, but it was especially my relationship with Jesus Christ.
I can assure you, that from my experience, the 180 flip doesn’t happen overnight. These kinds of changes may be rooted in childhood or adolescent trauma. It may have been abuse, mistreatment, a broken home, the culture, the environment and choices made. I never once asked for, “help.” I never once asked an adult, “why?” I always turned inward. I always turned toward my peers, never my family, and I rarely turned to my Heavenly Father. I still struggle immensely, but I have learned that we are not meant to suffer alone. We are here to bear one another’s burdens, experience pain, trial, and affliction, so we can learn to turn to Christ and help others along the way. I know miracles still exist today, and I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. If these doctrines weren’t true, I wouldn’t be here today. There are no coincidences. If it wasn’t for the love of the Savior, the gift of the Holy Ghost, my family, and true friends, I wouldn’t have remembered who I was. I know I am a child of God. I have an Eternal Father who loves me. I know family is central to to the great plan of happiness. I know this life is test, to see if we will do all things God commands us, and I know that if we follow Jesus Christ, we will have everlasting happiness.
4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I add my testimony to the truth of this principle. I promise if you pray, with a sincere heart, asking in faith, Heavenly Father will bless you in the most beautiful unimaginable way. Write down what comes to your heart, this is the spirit. It will be hard to make changes, I know you may lose friends and relationships, but you will progress and experience complete joy, peace and happiness. I know of no fuller joy or peace than from the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
“James 1:5-6,” Liahona, January 2017. Retrieved from https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2017/01/youth/james-1-5-6?lang=eng
Love is quiet. Love is calm. When the heat and the fire cool, what will remain? In Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s devotional address, “Of Souls, Symbols, and Sacraments,” He quotes Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice” and Proverbs.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
A second, less poetic but more specific opinion is offered by the writer of Proverbs:
Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? . . .
Before my marriage, my sister-in-law gave me a book called “Is Kissing Sinful?” by Grant Von Harrison, and it changed by perspective about what type of physical affection I would allow in any future relationship. My husband and I had the opportunity to develop our friendship without letting lust drive or define our relationship. We grew into our love for each other before marriage and sacred relationship after marriage.
This changed everything. Knowing where the spirit will and will not reside is the difference of only a “few degrees” (see Elder Uchtdorf’s talk, “A Matter of a Few Degrees). I love my mother’s words, “It will surprise you who you marry,” and I was pleasantly surprised. I am so happy I have found a man of God, who loves the Lord and is always “trying to be” better. I’m grateful I married potential. I’m grateful for the gospel and for the knowledge I have of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I still have a long ways to go, but I have followed our Savior’s example of being baptized, I strive to keep the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and I know as I continuously strive to be better and keep all of God’s commandments, I will be blessed.