President Nelson has reminded us that we are not “Mormons” but members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I want to call attention to a word in his counsel that has received too little attention: member. This simple term has become so familiar that we forget that it began as, and still is, a metaphor—a metaphor that bears deep and rich doctrinal significance.
Paul explains that to join the church is to be “baptized into one body”—the body of Christ ( 1 Cor. 12:13): “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” ( 1 Cor. 12:27). We are members of the church in the same way that our limbs are members of our bodies.
Paul’s metaphor of membership, developed at length in 1 Corinthians 12 (see also Romans 12:3), is a way of explaining both the diversity and unity that should characterize the church.
Diversity: The body of Christ, like our own bodies, consists of members with diverse functions: feet, hands, eyes, ears, etc. Hence, no member can say to another, “I have no need of thee” ( 1 Cor. 12: 21). Similarly, members who receive the Holy Ghost bring into the body “diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit” (see 1 Cor. 12:4).
Unity: At the same time, the body of Christ is not simply diverse parts but one whole. As Paul says, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all members . . . are one body” ( 1 Cor. 12:12). The church (or body of Christ) has “many members, yet but one body” ( 1 Cor. 12: 12, 20).
Thus, the metaphor of membership both celebrates our diversity as a church and calls us to become one in Christ, with all this means about overcoming the natural man.
As members of this university, we also strive for unity amid diversity. Our community consists of diverse members. We are among the most internationally diverse universities per capita in the world. We bring together people from many countries, languages, and socio-economic classes, as well as individuals with diverse abilities and experiences, weaknesses and strengths.
Yet we are united as one. We are united by a common commitment to core values, many of them captured in a shared code of honor. We are united even more deeply by shared covenants. Most of us embrace the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We are striving to become better disciples. We want to stay on the covenant path and are grateful for the counsel of living prophets who guide us.
I like to think of our unity amid diversity as symbolized by the Flag Circle. It features flags from almost seventy countries, each beautifully unique; each symbolizing nations with diverse cultures, customs, languages, histories, and so forth; and each enjoying an equal place of honor in the circle.
All this colorful diversity is unified by the symmetry of a circle. The display of colors and the countries and cultures they represent is ordered and harmonized by the flags’ position relative to a fixed center. As Paul might have said, they are many flags but one circle.
I like to think of the Savior and his gospel as the center of the Flag Circle as he must be of our campus community. He unites our diversity. As we center our lives on the Savior, we become one. He calls us to become like him in a way that does not destroy our diversity but orders it into a resplendent whole.
I also like the posters scattered around campus that also speak to our unity and diversity. They remind us of the commandments to love God and neighbor. They give visual form to counsel I have often shared with the President’s Council about the fundamental values and tone I want to foster among the members of our campus community.
This is a place where we take seriously God’s commandment to love our neighbor; a place where we learn to love others and where all people truly feel loved as children of God. Christ says that this is how others would know his disciples, if we love each other as he loved ( John 13:35). If we develop this love, the pure love of Christ, it will be well with us at the last day when he comes. (See Moro. 7:47)
But neighbor love, the Second Great Commandment, cannot be, must not be, divorced from the First Great Commandment. Christ explicitly places these two commandments in priority order. The First orders and helps us more perfectly practice the Second. This campus is a place where we also learn to love God. Here we strive to stay on the covenant path and encourage others in their quest to do so as well. Here we honor God’s servants who are trying to guide us.
I have discussed these two loves in campus devotionals and commencement talks. (See, for example, my talk “ The Order of Love.”) President Oaks also spoke powerfully about these twin divine imperatives in the last General Conference (See “ Two Great Commandments.”)
I am grateful that the tone and culture of this campus is one where we love each other and love God; where we help and encourage each other along the covenant path, knowing that none is perfect in our walk; where we live together in unity and love. This is what it means to be members of the body of Christ.