Column: Unified as children of God

The Christus statue in the conference center lobby in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo credit: Church Newsroom

Growing up, the words, “I am a child of God” sometimes seemed repetitive and empty. Now, however, as I ponder their message, I am in awe of their splendor and beauty. The very creator of the universe knows and loves us more than we could ever comprehend.

As imperfect beings, we often forget that we are children of a perfect God, but it is that knowledge that deeply binds us together more than anything else. When we lose sight of our divine heritage, it becomes increasingly more difficult to feel Christlike love for one another.

Recently, contrasting political beliefs and differing opinions have created a dangerous haze of contention. Because of this, I have seen families separate and relationships crumble.

I am grateful for living prophets and apostles today who remind us of our divine heritage and direct our eyes toward the heavens.

During the most recent general conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Church leaders called for increased unity and emphasized the importance of loving each person as a child of God.

In his conference address, “The Greatest Possession,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles commented on the contention and divisions existing today.

“Friends, in our present moment we find all manner of divisions and subdivisions, sets and subsets, digital tribes and political identities, with more than enough hostility to go around,” Elder Holland said.

To combat this contention, he pleaded with us to make God the center of our lives and allow His love to flourish in our hearts.

“When the love of God sets the tone for our own lives, for our relationship to each other and ultimately our feeling for all humankind, then old distinctions, limiting labels, and artificial divisions begin to pass away, and peace increases,” Elder Holland said.

Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles also spoke about the ongoing contention in his conference address, “The Peace of Christ Abolishes Enmity.” He discussed the doctrine of Christ and warned us to avoid acting out in anger or becoming judgmental.

“Jesus Christ explained that His doctrine was not ‘to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but (that His) doctrine (is) that such things should be done away,'” Elder Renlund said. “If I am quick to take offense or respond to differences of opinion by becoming angry or judgmental, I ‘fail’ the spiritual stress test. This failed test does not mean that I am hopeless. Rather it points out that I need to change.”

Elder Renlund explained that unity and change require effort. He emphasized the importance of loving God, seeing each person as a son or daughter of a loving Heavenly Father and valuing each other’s differences.

“Unity requires effort,” Elder Renlund said. “It develops when we cultivate the love of God in our hearts and we focus on our eternal destiny. We are united by our common primary identity as children of God and our commitment to the truths of the restored gospel. In turn our love of God and our discipleship of Jesus Christ generate genuine concern for others. We value the kaleidoscope of others’ characteristics, perspectives, and talents.”

Opening our hearts to the love of Christ and exemplifying our divine heritage is the first step toward a less contentious and more unified world.