From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
Author: Brady, F. Neil
The LDS concept of unity focuses primarily on three doctrinal issues: the nature of the Godhead, relations among members of the Church, and the relation between a person and God, although it differs at some points from the tenets of traditional Christianity.
LDS scriptures usually emphasize the separate identities of the members of the Godhead, but sometimes describe them as one. This unity is understood to mean oneness of purpose and testimony-not identity of being. With respect to the Godhead, this means that although God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings, they are united in purpose. This precept was one of the first to be given to the Prophet Joseph Smith when, in 1820, he beheld both the Father and Son in his first vision (JS-H 1:14-20). In that vision, the Father appeared and bore witness of the Son. LDS scriptures emphasize that the oneness of the Godhead derives partly from the fact that each member of the Godhead bears witness of the others (3 Ne. 11:35-36;28:10-11; D&C 20:27-28). To the faithful in the New World, Christ taught the same doctrine that he had taught his disciples in the Old World-namely, that the members of the Godhead were one in purpose, glory, joy, and witness, and that this same oneness could be shared with his faithful followers (3 Ne. 19:29;28:10; cf. John 17:20-22). This LDS understanding is at variance with the traditional concept of a mystical union of the members of the Godhead.
For the members of the Church, "unity" refers to common aspirations, beliefs, and purposes, not to mystical or substantial union. In the Book of Mormon, for example, the Savior explained that to become "one," members must end disputations and contention (3 Ne. 11:22-28, 36). Latter-day Saints are taught that they must mitigate any condition that undermines unity among members, including significant economic and social distinctions (3 Ne. 6:10-16; 4 Ne. 1:24-35). Unity among members begins with the family (D&C 38:26-27). The concluding words of the Old Testament (Mal. 4:5-6) describe how the earth must prepare for the second coming of the Savior by binding the hearts of the children to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the children. In fulfillment of this prophecy and under divine direction, Latter-day Saints perform ordinances in the temples of God that seal parents and children together, not only for the living but also for all those who have ever lived on this earth. The goal is not limited to family unity but includes the unity of all believing and worthy human beings.
Jesus taught that unity among his followers witnesses to the world that he is the Christ (John 17:20-26). Paul exhorts all to become "fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19) and to "come in the unity of the faith" (Eph. 4:13). Zion refers to the community of believers who, through their unity in Christ, have become "of one heart and one mind" (Moses 7:18). Such unity of faith is achieved through individual obedience to the laws of God and through common dedication to the promotion of faithfulness among all human beings.
The unity of God and human beings refers to the eventual personal reassociation of worthy men and women with God. Entry into mortal life brings about a separation from God, while compliance with the gospel of Jesus Christ enables persons to overcome this separation and return to God through the at-one-ment mediated by Jesus Christ. Latter-day Saints believe that by progressing in knowledge and righteousness, human beings bring their lives into harmony with Christ's and that upon resurrection the body and soul will be inseparably reunited and the exalted person will dwell with God forever. [See also Common Consent; Equality.]
Talmage, James E. AF, pp. 40-41. Salt Lake City, 1949.
F. NEIL BRADY