LDS Apostle Jeffrey Holland was invited to speak at Harvard Law School last month (20 March 2012) during the LDS Student Association’s annual Mormonism 101 series. His talk was about what Mormons believe. After telling his audience about Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the Mormon proclamation of complete Christian apostasy, Mr. Holland explained,
“It is commonplace to note that in the Christian world we see anything but a unity of the faith, or any Christian cohesiveness that could remotely be called ‘the building fitly framed together [Ephesians 2:22].’ There seems to be none that would reaffirm one Lord, one faith, and one baptism [Ephesians 4:5].
“So it was in Joseph Smith’s day. This young boy-prophet lamented that his region was ‘a scene of great confusion and bad feeling . . . priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that [any] good feelings . . . were entirely lost in a . . . war of words and tumult of opinions.’ That says so very much about post-New Testament Christianity. (Find this quote beginning at 7:15 in the video. This quote is transcribed directly from the video; please note that the text that appears on the Mormon Newsroom website is somewhat different.)
Mr. Holland’s critical and dismissive attitude toward “post-New Testament Christianity” aside, as the Christian church understands Paul’s teaching in Ephesians, this Mormon apostle has got it all wrong.
In Ephesians 4 Paul is talking about a particular kind of unity: a unity of the Spirit (v. 3). Pastor and theologian John Piper explains,
“[Paul] pleads with the church to walk [in a way] worthy of our calling [v.1]. Specifically, the way he wants to emphasize is that we be ‘diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’ (v.3). We walk unworthily of our calling in Christ if we disregard the unity of the body and don’t expend any effort to safeguard what Christ died to obtain. ‘Be diligent,’ Paul says, ‘Be eager, be earnest’ to keep the unity given by the Spirit of God and obtained with the blood of Christ (2:16).”
Pastor Piper points to verse 2 which reveals that one character quality Paul calls for in maintaining that spirit of unity is, among other things, humility.
“The humility that leads to unity is not uncertainty and doubt and vagueness and confusion [about truth]. It is the demeanor that says: I am not the center; truth is the center and I submit to the truth and go where it leads. I am not king; God is king. My will is not the law; God’s Word is the law. I don’t tell God how many faiths are acceptable to him; he tells me. I don’t define the foundation of the unity of the Spirit; God does.”
God defines the foundation for the unity of the Spirit through Paul in verses 4-6:
“Here he gives the objective ground in reality for the subjective experience of unity that we are to pursue. The unity of the Spirit that we should be so diligent for is based on a given, objective unity outside ourselves that we have nothing to do with creating or defining. It is there, and we are humbly to recognize it and submit to it and rejoice in it and live it out.
“’There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.’
“One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Father. This is the objective foundation of our diligent efforts to preserve the unity of the Spirit. It is not a fragile or ultimately vulnerable thing. It rests on the oneness of God, the oneness of faith, the oneness of baptism, and the oneness of the body. Those things are one, no matter what you or I do. They are fixed realities. Our task is to walk worthily of them.”
… “there is only one God (the Father of all who believe, Ephesians 2:12) and only one Lord (the Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 1:2f.), and only one Spirit (the Holy Spirit poured out from the Father by the Son, Acts 2:33) and only one faith (faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Ephesians 1:13, 15) and only one baptism (into Christ in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19f.), and only one body (the church of God gathered with Jesus as the head, Ephesians 4:15)—since there is only one God and one faith, we must take the news of this God and this faith to the nations. ‘There is no other name under heaven,’ Peter said, ‘given among men by which we must be said’ (Acts 4:12). Other religions and other lords will not save.”
This is exactly what we see in Christianity. Christians do share a unity of the faith and a unity of the Spirit. And, in fact, all Christians affirm “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
Christians from all denominations are united in the Spirit as one body of believers. In that unity we act together to take the amazing truth of one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father over all to those who do not yet know Him and are not yet joined with us in this astonishing, God-given unity of the Spirit.