There are basic universal truths in the gospel of Christ. These truths are there for the perfecting of the saints. The truths may be quantifiable or countable, but the ways in which we apply gospel truths has no limit. Their purpose is to bring all of our different experiences and perspectives and bind us together in purpose and in a unity of the faith. This unity binds us to the Lord and makes us one in purpose with our Father in Heaven, our Savior, and the Holy Ghost.
Reading Assignment: Ephesians
Additional reading: John 17:11; Mosiah 18:21–22; Doctrine and Covenants 27:15–18; 38:25–27; Bible Dictionary, “Dispensations,” 657–58.
Purpose of the cornerstone
In Ephesians 2:19 – 20 Paul tells the saints in Ephesus that in the past they were gentiles in the real sense of the word, having no connection to Christ. But now they are one with all the saints of God. What ties us all together is that we are built on apostles and prophets. But apostles and prophets are resting on the cornerstone of Christ. The cornerstone of a building is the first stone placed in the ground. From that stone, all other measurements and levels are taken for the rest of the building. If the cornerstone cracks the whole building is in danger of collapsing. If the cornerstone is placed out of level or crookedly, the rest of the building follows suit, with the flaws just becoming accentuated as the walls rise higher and higher and farther away from the cornerstone.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone;
With Christ as our cornerstone, our standard that determines all other measurements and actions, we are as safe as we possibly can be. We may have apostles and prophets to guide and direct us, but they are relying on the direction they receive from the great head of the Church, Christ himself. This is why Jesus accused the Pharisees of rejecting him. During his ministry, he told the Pharisees that they would fall because they had rejected Him, the cornerstone on which they should have been founded (Luke 20:17).
The point behind unity
Much is said in the scriptures about unity. The Savior said a lot about the Father and him being one, being united. He also prayed to the Father that the apostles and members of his Church might become unified, become one as He and the Father were one. Why the emphasis on unity?
There is safety in numbers, but that isn’t the only reason we should become unified. When we all come to the same understanding, have the same faith in the same things, and exercise that faith as a unit, there is actually greater power than if each person were to exercise their faith separately or have a slightly different understanding or goal in mind. The Lord knows and understands the potential power of a united body of saints. Satan also understands the power of unity in the Church.
For this reason, the potential power to do good, Satan seeks to separate us and keep us apart. He does this to nations, states, and neighborhoods. He also tries to do this in our homes and in our personal relationships. The more fractured he can keep us as people, the more power he has over us because the less power we have to do good and exercise faith in God. If you want a good measure of whether something comes from God or from Satan, ask yourself if this will bring people together and unify them or if it will cause division and separation. God always wants us unified. There is happiness and joy in unity.
The most important place to seek unity is within the family. First is unity between husband and wife. Second is unity between children and unity between parents and children. Paul spends a goodly number of verses talking about the importance of husbands treating their wives properly. He compares a husband’s duty to treat his wife well to the manner in which Jesus treats the church. Jesus gave His all for his followers, and a husband should be just as devoted to his wife. By the same token, wives should reverence and respect their husbands. Unity, after all, is a two-way street.
Putting on the new man
What does it mean to put on the new man? In Ephesians 4:21 – 32 Paul compares the people who are worldly in their behaviors to those who have accepted the covenants of the gospel and have been baptized. When we come up out of the waters of baptism we are supposed to walk in a newness of life. That means that our attitudes from our old life should remain in the figurative grave, and we should demonstrate new behaviors and new attitudes that may have been foreign to us before, but now become our way of life.
If the old man, the person before baptism, was a liar, the new man is honest and speaks only the truth. If the old man tore down others, the new man builds up and supports others. In verses 26 and 27 the New Testament reads:
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
Verse 26 was retranslated by Joseph Smith to read: “Can ye be angry, and not sin? Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Taking verses 26 and 27 into account, most of us have a lot to change in order to become a “new man.” How often do we allow ourselves to slip into complaining and blaming mode? When we talk of politics, local or national elections, we tend to become harsh with our criticism and launch into blaming and accusations.
When was the last time you heard our prophet talk about someone else, even someone very much disliked, in the manner most of us talk about people when it comes to politics? The Brethren are good examples of what it means to experience a newness of life. They may acknowledge there are problems, and can identify the problems, but there is never blame or anger, accusations or venom in their speech. They focus on righteous principles and pray for those people who are currently leading us, asking the Lord to bless them and soften their hearts so they can make good choices.
To put on the new man requires self-reflection and a willingness to admit personal guilt. This is not a comfortable process, but one which leads to peace and happiness. This is how we begin to become united with the Holy Spirit and with those around us.
All of the advice and counsel Paul gave to the Saints in Ephesus are applicable to us today. All of us need to work on relying more on the apostles and prophets, but most especially the cornerstone of our religion, the Savior. His atonement provides us with grace, the enabling power to change for the better. As we seek out our Savior and rely on the process of repentance and change, we will have the experience of becoming united with the Spirit and those around us in seeking out that which is good in all things. The is the process of reflection and how we put on the new man. These changes may come quickly in some instances or over a long period of time in other instances, but they will come. As they come our hearts will change and our desires will change for the better. Life will be better.