“Thou shalt bless thy fellows, and thy children and servants, and theirs; and all who seek to learn the righteousness of God, and the peace of his Kingdom of thee, and all whom God has committed to thy care.” -Book of the Law of the Lord 4:2
In order for there to be unity, we must be conservative about our judgments, and allow others to come to know God on their own terms. It isn’t about their rightness, but rather us knowing our own place in determining their rightness before God. We all have sins, faults and errors in both doctrine and judgement, in which the Holy Spirit is working with us, by and by He will purify us in His own due time, and teach us line upon line, precept upon precept. Because of Ego, we are exceptionally good at seeing others’ faults, and imagining God’s judgment matching our own.
A Diverse Topic Above Others
Of all the doctrinal questions that cause contention, the propriety of polygamy is particularly divisive. Our ability to come to peace over this would be a good indicator of whether we are truly ready for Zion. There are branches of the restoration, as well as Christianity in general and other religions, that allow the practice of polygamy, and others that expressly forbid it. For some, especially with western sensibilities, they cannot understand a person having more than one spouse as being motivated by anything but lust. Yet lust and the desire for variety is easily satisfied by fornication.
Community of Christ was very opposed to the practice, but came to rethink their stance after expanding into areas that had been practicing it since time immemorial and did so with a sense of morality and decency. Exclusively looking at a matter through one’s own cultural filter is ethnocentrism and defining the nature of human relationships for others is a prime example of it. The gospel tells us to be humble, patient, and not overbearing, and there is evidence in scripture of there existing lower and higher laws that people live by. This change in position, not to promoting polygamy, but to accepting that there are more than one valid approach to human relationships and family structures, shows maturity and meekness.
I am not going to make a case for polygamy, only to say that there is enough evidence for us to reserve judgment on those who practice it, especially in order to obey the commandment to be one, and to love one another.
Man’s Ways Isn’t God’s Ways
The approach that most of us have taken is to insist that there is one right way, and that everyone needs to immediately conform. There is a lot of contention over who is right, because we all think we are. We are told not to contend with each other, even over points of doctrine, but we all seem to interpret this to mean that the “other people,” the ones who are wrong, are the ones contending, and we are merely standing strong for what is right. But the commandment is for us, if we are those who obey commandments, to not contend.
Perhaps this is why missionaries were commanded to preach nothing but repentance. God does not command us to inform each individual of everything they must repent of, but rather to preach the Spirit of Repentance and encourage constant humble seeking and re-evaluation of one’s life and relationship with God.If someone is not ready for a principle of the gospel, we may always back up to a simpler principle on which we agree and find unity there, leaving everyone’s spiritual progress and salvation into more capable hands than our own.
Forward in Unity
I do hope to show for the sake of unity that there is reason enough not to condemn people, as we can admit at least that it is possible for an honest person to justify practices that are supported by the Bible and historically Godly people. Remember that not everyone uses the same scriptures and not everyone interprets them the same.
The idea of unity is going to require patience, humility, and reserved judgement. It requires compromise, not in the values we live our lives by, but in what we assume about the values others live by. As Joseph Smith said, “If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser, you will enter Heaven. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition and I will break it down.”