Monday, October 6, 2008

Behind the Iron Curtain: Unity

Missionaries work in companionships, lovers become married couples, college students join fraternities, wolves travel in packs, ethnic groups create nations, people of like beliefs establish religions, city teenagers join gangs. People form groups. We can readily speculate on whether certain groups are deemed bad or good, but one thing can be made certain: people gather in unity. Unity is a powerful force and has been a major cause and/or backing for revolutions, movements, and wars.

It has many definitions. Unity is plurality—it is ‚more than one.‘ It is emphasis on the group rather than the individual. It is applied generally by individuals with common traits, interests, goals, or beliefs. In the eternal realm unity itself is eternal. It is a principle that even dates to the Old Testament during the time of Enoch: "And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." Both good and evil forces seek unity in their own sphere—only they promote unity in two opposite ways. Unity can bring either happiness or misery.

Why do people tend to conglomerate in groups? Unit is inherently human—it is instinct. Elder Henry B. Eyring stated simply: "All of us have felt something of both union and separation. Simetimes in families and perhaps in other settings we have glimpsed life when one person put the interests of another above his or her own, in love and with sacrifice. And all of us know something of the sadness and loneliness of being separate and alone. We don’t need to be told which we should choose. We know."

I can readily testify of my own personal need for acceptance. When I first attended Kindergarten I was terrified for a number of reasons. First, I faced the horrible separation from my mom. Then I was thrown into a entirely unfamiliar environment. It was a room with strangely bright colors, little chairs and pathetic red mats. Needless to say, I was alone. I remember that feeling of cold emptiness that accompanies a lonely soul. It was almost instinct for me to begin making friends with other kindergarteners. Suddenly, I had others that knew me and to some extent, respected me. Thus I felt the comfort which results from unity.

Working together for a common goal also builds friendship. It is so much easier to do something that is difficult when you have someone to do it with. Wilfriede Kiessling was a member of the church in the Dresden area just after the war. She had to travel two hours on Sunday to get to church in often horrible weather conditions. Fortunately, she had another good sister, Sister Schibblack, who would go with her to the Branch house. In an interview with Sister Norma Davis she related:

Today we tell one another how beautiful those times were. And they were beautiful. We stood there at the streetcar stop in the winter, freezing. Red tail lights—we had just missed the bus. Waiting. Half an hour. Freezing, freezing. And today we say how beautiful those times were.

N. Davis: Why do you say that?

Wilfriede: The common friendship and the spirit.

The honeybee is an excellent example of unity’s prevalence in nature. A good hive may have up to 50,000 bees. Every bee is necessary for the survival of the hive and each has a different job. Some work on the hive, others scout for nectar, while others work specifically with the queen to provide her eggs with the utmost care. If one bee were to go off on its own and selfishly search for its food it would not survive. Even during the winter all the bees stay in a large mass around the queen providing conserving their heat and energy. They then feed off of a large amount of honey they had stored all through the preceding seasons.

One of the greatest causes of unity is trial and tribulation. Coping with loneliness by finding friends in Kindergarten was an example of this process. History gives us thousands of examples of trial that led to unity. The revolutions of 1848 in Europe were all spawned after years of oppression and a lack of representation. People among the poorer and bourgeouis classes began to unite under as nationalities sought for political rights and more equal laws. These revolutions grew in France, Bohemia, Hungary, and even Austria.

The existence of the United States of America was caused by a people who united under political oppression. In the 1700's America was split between 13 colonies each constituting few common interests and many separate goals. As heavier economic burdens were placed upon the colonists by the British Parliament, the Americans sought for political representation. Unfortunately, it was never granted. This gave the colonies a common goal to unite under. It was inherently understood that they would be more powerful working together against Great Britain than working separately. Washington's small continental army was formed. A declaration of Independence was written and the Articles of Confederation were established America was victorious and subsequently founded a powerfully united federal government.

Trial was also by harnessed tyrants who sought to unite people in order to gain more power. Adolf Hitler used the heavy economic depression after World War I to aid his goal of uniting the German-speaking peoples under the Nationalist or "Nazi" party. People in the defeated central European countries such as Germany and Austria were heavily punished with war debts. The people were in a state of hopelessness, with loss of homes to bankruptcy and very little food. Hitler picked up their broken dreams and promised them jobs and security. Being already so psychologically depressed, the German citizens were quick to follow "Der Führer." Soon Germany became an economic and industrial powerhouse as people united for the goal of a stronger Germany. A propaganda poster from this time contained a statement by Hitler: "I now ask the German people to strengthen my faith and to give me through the strength of its will the strength I need to continue to fight courageously at any time for its honor and its freedom, and to be able to further its economic prosperity. I ask it particularly to support me in my struggle for true peace."

Hitler was very intelligent. Like a master would use a dog bone to attract his pet, Hitler used the bone of safety, strength, and "economic prosperity," to lure the German citizens to rally to his goals. He was very successful, but his tyrannical behavior and continuous deceit eventually led his powerful unification to destruction.

After Hitler's failed political escapade, millions of Germans were desensitized to a sense of unity. They had been deceived and thus any type of future nationalistic movement was seen as evil and tyrannical. Why then did so many German members of the church become so greatly unified under the one banner of the church after the war? Erich Dzierzon of Dresden provided an explanation: "...after the war was over and we had this so-called communist regime, we tried to do our duty with joy, and I had many interesting experiences. I would like to say that during these times when we were so hemmed in, restricted in our activities, the members of the Church really stuck together--not only our members but the other citizens of the country as well. The entire population followed the principle that in trial the people must stick together. We had this togetherness." Even after the bad taste of nationalism left in their mouths, trial still pushed people together.

It is interesting to see how Hitler‘s Germany and the members of the church in Germany both unified. They were both strong organizations and members of both parties received relief from hunger and pain. However, Hitler’s unification failed. After contrasting these two examples it is revealed that one group contained selfish individuals while the other group contained individuals who worked selflessly for the good of others and the whole. This is the basis for the success of a group goal. If any of the members of the group have selfish motives, the group will eventually destroy itself. Although he was claiming with the Nazi party to be doing the good of Germany as a whole, Hitler had his own agenda for the German people.

Another ancient individual had selfish motives for a group. Lucifer provided a nice solution when he told God that he would save all of his children from damnation. Isn’t that what God wanted? He loves all of his children and desperately wants them to be reunited with him. Unfortunately, this plan was concocted not out of love for God’s children, but rather a selfish quest for glory. Satan said: "Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor" (emphasis added). Fortunately, Satan’s plan was denied and the ultimate plan centralizing around a selfless Atonement was chosen.

What is it that makes unity really work? After Christ visited the inhabitants of the America there was a period of two hundred years of peace. The scripture from 4 Nephi explains this period and gives some reasons why they enjoyed such peace:

There were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. And it came to pass that the thirty and seventh year passed away also, and there still continued to be peace in the land. And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.

Clearly the people showed genuine love and respect for one another and thus they were able to live together in happiness. This paradisaical society failed when the people "began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain."

A unity built on selflessness will last forever. Sister Edith Schade Krause relates her experience of the Allied Dresden bombings near the end of World War II. Nearly the entire inner city was laid to waste and many members of the church in Dresden suffered from loss of homes and a lack of food. "It was a time of great testimony because the Lord helped us to help one another. Many refugees from the East were passing through Dresden, and we took up to as many as fifteen people into our small two-and-a-half-room apartment. Everything was shared, many things were sacrificed. Firm friendships were established which still exist today, beyond continents and oceans. We sat in the Church meetings and in the classrooms huddled in coats and blankets--very few brothers there--but we were thankful and full of hope because the Lord will not forsake his own, which includes all humanity."

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