Elder Joni L. Koch: ‘Apart, but still one’

Cody M Bell
Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

In spite of our differences in the Church, “the Lord expects us to be one,” said Elder Joni L. Koch, a General Authority Seventy, during the Sunday afternoon session of general conference on Oct. 1.

“As we enter a meetinghouse to worship as a group, we should leave behind our differences including race, social status, political preferences, academic and professional achievements and instead concentrate on our common objectives,” said Elder Koch.

How Latter-day Saints act when they are apart from fellow Church members determines, solidifies or destroys unity, he said. It is inevitable and normal that people eventually talk about each other.

“Depending on what we choose to say about one another, our words will either ‘have our hearts knit together in unity,’ as Alma taught at the waters of Mormon, or they will erode the love, trust and goodwill that should exist among us.”

There are comments and labels that can destroy unity, he said. As an example he suggested a person might say, “Our Relief Society president is a lost cause, she is so stubborn!” But a more constructive way to say it might be, “The Relief Society president has been less flexible lately, maybe she’s going through some difficult times. Let’s help her and sustain her!”

Church members have no right to portray anybody, especially fellow saints, as “a badly finished product,” he said. “Rather, our words about our fellow beings should reflect our belief in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, and that in Him and through Him we can always change for the better.”

Sharing a personal story from his youth about the remodeling of the meetinghouse he and his family attended, Elder Koch said local and area leaders discussed how members would participate in the effort. His father expressed a strong opinion that the “work should be done by a contractor, not by amateurs.” His father was severely and publicly rebuked, but remained involved and joined with other members to help with the work.

Elder Koch said, “Just moments before [the Savior’s] excruciating experiences in Gethsemane, when Jesus was praying to the Father for His apostles and all the saints he said, ‘That they all may be one, as Thou Father art in Me, and I in thee’ (John 17:21).”

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