Be One

In a member devotional held in the Illinois area, President Dallin H. Oaks gave an address on covenants, being one, and changing our nature to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ (starting at 53:05). One of the important things that we must remember as a people is to take an address such as this as a whole and not in out of context snippets. I’ll explain a little what I mean by that later in this post. First, I want to summarize President Oaks remarks.


Through quoting our prophet, Russell M. Nelson, and his own experience in studying law, President Oaks does a wonderful job of describing what convenants are and how they are part of our lives. He also talks about the covenant path, which expresses the fundamental principle of staying on the way that leads to God.

President Oaks compares a covenant to a bilateral contract. “A bilateral contract is a binding agreement between two parties where both exchange promises to perform and fulfill one side of a bargain.” This means that when we enter into a covenant with God, we promise to perform and fulfill our part and He promises to do likewise. The difference is that God will not fail on His side of the covenant, whereas we may falter.

President Oaks notes that covenants occur throughout all the plan of salvation. They are an integral part of God’s plan of happiness and allow us to move along the path that leads to Him. In that regard, covenants are not restrictive but protect us. They elevate us beyond our own ability.

The covenant path starts at baptism. For a lot of Latter-day Saints this occurs at or near the age of eight. That is when I was baptized. The covenant of baptism creates a new relationship with God that brings you closer to Him. As we make covenants in the temple, our relationship with God strengthens. We learn more about Him and Jesus Christ. We progress on the path that leads to life eternal with Him.

Living with Others

President Oaks next discusses the need to be able to live with those who don’t share our beliefs and have not made the same covenants. This is very important as all are God’s children and deserve to be loved as equally as we love those of our faith. In my life, I have worked with, been neighbors to, and socialized with people of all different beliefs. One of the things I love is how good these people are. It doesn’t matter that they don’t hold to all of my standards. It doesn’t matter if they believe in the same religion I do. It doesn’t matter what their race, gender, orientation, or a host of other things are. We find ways to work together, be friends with each other and live after the manner of happiness.

My daughter Grace has Cerebral Palsy. She is in special education and is also a part of the Best Buddies program. Recently, a Best Buddies Friendship Ball was held. This was a chance for the various chapters of Best Buddies to get together and have a dance. The dance was for all the special education kids and their neurotypical buddies. These buddies work with these kids and help them navigate life. As I looked over the crowd of youth on the dance floor, I couldn’t help but be overcome by the fact that NONE of them cared about the disabilities they had. NONE of them cared about the racial differences. NONE of them cared about what gender or sexual orientation another had. They were there to have fun and celebrate who they are and strengthen relationships.

President Oaks stated that we must be alert to honor the good we see in others. All things that are good are inspired of God and we should acknowledge that. This means that we shouldn’t avoid contact with those who don’t share our beliefs. However, we also shouldn’t seem to condone behavior that violates the commandments of God. Our best behavior is to follow the guidance of the Spirit in our interactions.

We are all children of God. “What a powerful idea! No wonder God’s Only Begotten Son commanded us to love one another. If only we would do so!” Paraphrasing President Oaks: The scriptures teach us to develop not the pressures of the world, but the gospel ideals of love and obedience. This requires us to make changes in our behavior.

With this in mind, President Oaks turned to how we as members of the church should act. “In a democratic government we should seek ‘fairness for all.’ That is how we follow the teaching to be in the world but not of the world. So it was that, at the conclusion of His ministry, Jesus prayed to the Father, ‘Not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil’” (John 17:15). President Oaks then stated “Jesus did not pray that His followers would be diverse. He prayed that they would be one.”

Every Sunday we meet as members of the church to uplift and strengthen one another. This is how we “become one” in the gospel. Being one does not mean we have the same color of skin, it doesn’t mean we are at the same point on the covenant path. It doesn’t mean we all agree on everything. It does mean that we are all one in the gospel of Jesus Christ. That we are striving to bring about God’s “work and glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).

Changing Our Nature

The final section of President Oaks’s address discusses seeking unity. In this section he asks “Are we changing our nature or our behavior?”. When I heard that, I thought the answer obvious, we change our behavior. However, President Oaks quoted a story from Emeritus General Authority Seventy Ted Callister about a missionary who served under him as a mission president. The missionary was having issues with obedience and asked Elder Callister what Elder Callister wanted the missionary to do? Elder Callister looked at the missionary and said, it is not what I want you to do but “what is it you want to do?”. The missionary sat in silence a few moments and then stated “you want me to change my nature”.

The story changed my mind about what needs changing in my own life. I realize that changing my nature to be in line with God’s will is more powerful than just changing my behavior. Our behaviors only change when we change our nature. Otherwise, we will have internal battles that will lead to lower self-esteem. Our lives have to be in alignment, so our nature and behavior cannot be contradictory.


I probably wouldn’t have seen or listened to this address by President Oaks if it weren’t for posts on my Twitter feed that asked the question about “Jesus did not pray that His followers would be diverse. He prayed that they would be one.” One post stated that President Oaks was being racist, biased, homophobic, you name it because of that one statement. I believe if you listen to the whole address and as I have shown above, that would be taking this statement completely out of context. We live in a world of snippet capture where anything can be used as a point of contention. Context seems to have lost its meaning to certain individuals. As members of the church, it is more important today to not get caught up in snippet snatching and have a full understanding and context of what is being said.

Another Tweet asked what one thought he meant by that statement. I responded to this by stating the rule the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have with regards to decisions made for the church. The members of these quorums come from different backgrounds, races, and cultures. They have ideas that are not always going to be in agreement. They discuss these differences when making decisions. The one rule they have is that a unanimous yea or nay must be had before going forward.

Now, if these were just men making the decisions, then I would expect, as happens elsewhere, that a lot of decisions would never get made. They would get hung up because one or more dissenting votes would be cast. We see it in government today when a bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass.

Here is the difference however, the members of these quorums always seek the will of the Lord in these matters. They personally and together pray to receive His guidance and decision. The revelation they each receive is then used to come to a unanimous decision one way or the other. There are no holdouts. Each member receives the revelation and all are in alignment because the Spirit of the Lord gives them the same answer. Each member acknowledges the Lord’s will. Unanimity is achieved and the will of the Lord is implemented.


Being one doesn’t mean we won’t have differences. It doesn’t mean we won’t disagree. It does mean that we are unified in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It does mean that we are all striving to advance on the Covenant Path. That path is centered on Jesus Christ who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We strive to be one and to also live with, not apart from, those who don’t believe the same.

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