Steve Donegan is a retired U.S. Army warrant officer. He joined the Army and made this prophetic statement during his initial training: The Army will either make me an alcoholic or a Christian. Luckily, he chose the latter and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during his third year of service. His Army career took him into many locations in Europe, to Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and around the United States. In each location he served as a teacher at many levels, counselor and/or secretary in many presidencies, and a student at the feet of many who knew/know more than him. His Eternal Companion, Kathleen, has given him three children on each side of the veil and the three on this side have provided nine grandchildren.
Unity: something we strive for but seems out of reach in many of the aspects of our lives.
The decision we must start with is: are we looking for oneness, unification, or accord?
Each one of these three can be described as “unity,” just at different levels. Let us look at the three and see different examples of each.
With oneness there is no need for unification or accord as each separate entity has the same mindset as the others. This is the unity expressed by Jesus as he stated that:
“I and my father are one” (John 10:30)
This simple, six-word sentence has caused great difficulty for some in figuring out the Godhead, though. Some see this statement as showing Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are one entity. People who follow such thinking have been called to have a “oneness religion.” We members of the Church of Jesus Christ testify the Godhead is made up of three distinct entities: Elohim, Jehovah, and the Holy Ghost.
A Story of Oneness
While at a restaurant one day I had an experience that illustrates this well. I was seated with a man and his fiancée who were attending a Bible college to become ministers for their church. During the conversation the subject of “oneness” came up. The man was adamant that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had it all wrong as the Godhead was one entity with three names.
The Holy Ghost thought this was a great time for teaching them—and me—about the Godhead. I was inspired to grab saltshakers from two other tables and add them to the one on ours. I then asked the man what he would get from any one of the shakers. “Salt,” was his answer. “How about the other two?” I asked. “Salt,” came the reply. So even though there are three distinctly different shakers on the table, you can get the same thing from each one? Is not this like asking Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and/or the Holy Ghost a question? Is not the reply going to be the same? (I will admit I do not think I convinced the man of my argument, but his fiancée seemed more than willing to come to my way of thinking. I wonder to this day if they stayed engaged.)
This happens when we take a disparate group of individuals and get them to join under one banner. This normally takes three things: a strong, charismatic leader, a manager who can manage, and a willing-to-be-led group.
Let me take a moment to provide you with my definitions of a leader and a manager. Of note, the “managers” in this explanation could be bishopric members or organization presidencies.
- A Leader: has the vision of where the organization is going and what it will look like when it gets there; a strategic thinker.
- A Manager: a person (there can be more than one in an organization) who takes on the daily tasks that will, ultimately, fulfill the vision of the leader; a tactical thinker. While one person can do both, in the Church we have presidencies and bishoprics so no one person is required to do both.
While oneness is the supreme eternal goal, unification should be the goal of every organization’s leadership (this includes parents.) It can take a lot of work to unify a group and therefore it takes a lot of time. But it is time well spent.
One way to create unification of a group is by creating a single sentence or phrase that is decided upon that will become the guiding mantra of the organization. This could be decided by the bishopric or an organization presidency. When written and decided upon well, this mantra will inform or guide every decision that is made within the organization.
With this decided upon, the organization leaders then gather to divide up the responsibilities needing accomplished to bring the vision to pass. They then take the vision and the list of what needs doing to the populace for initiation.
A Story of Unification
There is a story about when Harold B. Lee was president of the Church that illustrates the unification we are more likely to find as we go about our callings.
While meeting in the temple, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve discussed a matter of some importance to the Church. The newest member of the Twelve was late arriving. As he walked in, someone asked him how he felt about the subject being discussed. His answer was adamant and focused in on one direction – the exact opposite of what had already been discussed before he got there. When he was finished someone told the late comer that President Lee felt exactly the opposite. The late comer immediately voiced his support for President Lee’s opinion and came up with a list of why President Lee was right!
As a side note, humanity is a wonderful thing, and we should not lose sight of the humanity of others while we serve and lead.
This is a shortened way of saying, “We can agree to disagree.” In the categories of good, better, best, this is good, but there are better things to hope for.
If you can believe in the sentence/phrase you have selected for your vision, it is time to look at what Kurt Francom has been writing about in two recent newsletter messages: high love/high identity leadership. Get to know the individual(s) you feel are not totally committed to the vision and help them to see who they are and what their support for the vision means to the identities of others within the organization.
If you find yourself at this place in your leadership it might be well to remember the words of Elder Ulisses Soares from the October 2022 General Conference:
“Nurturing and presiding are opportunities, not exclusive limitations.”
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:19–20)
The keyword in that scripture for our purposes is “agree.” Brothers and sisters, we need to agree. And not just to be agreeable. We need to see our part in not wasting precious time on petty disagreements, but getting on to the best part: ensuring the earth and its inhabitants are ready for the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior!
Uniting Under a Common Banner
Unity: we cannot get our organizations (even families) ready for the Second Coming without it. But while it is essential, it is also a hard-fought way to prepare for anything. When we truly want the Savior to be in our midst and supporting our vision/calling, we need to unite under a banner. In any undertaking there will be valleys to cross and mountains to climb. Do not get discouraged! If the Savior was included in the creation of your sentence/phrase, he will be there as the journey continues. I so testify from many experiences in the Church and out of it.
Surprises as We Serve
In conclusion, there is one last thing I must share. It is a quote from General George S. Patton:
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
Gifts and talents were given to everyone before their sojourn on earth, use them. Be surprised at the identities you have at your fingertips. Let them become who they are: children of the Most High God.