In Fuchuu, Japan, I taught a young woman who had attended a Christian school and church for some years, but had become a bit turned off. She asked us why we were out trying to teach the gospel. I said (in Japanese), “Well, even if you go to heaven, if you go alone, it would be kind of sad, wouldn’t it?” I had no way of knowing, but that was exactly the right thing to say to her. She had started to notice how many of the people attending her church seemed to be going as a way of patting themselves on the back for being more righteous than someone else. She had noticed that they were not motivated by love, but by pride. That is not what Christianity is about, and she had had enough of it.
At the time, since I was a full-time missionary, I had had a lot of time to think about why we Latter-day Saints claim to represent the one true church, why it is important for people to hear and accept that claim, and why God wants one church. There are a lot of reasons perhaps, but the one that stood out for me was that God loves us all, and he doesn’t just want us to love him; he wants us to love one another. God’s goal is to reunite the human family, his family. The Church is not a place where we go to show we are orthodox or perfect. If we are, fine, but that is not the point. The Church is a place where we go to serve one another and help each other to find our way back to God. Equally, or even more importantly, it is a place where we learn from God, bit by bit, how to be united with each other in pure love.
God so loved the world that he sent his Only Begotten Son. Christ showed us the way to be true friends, even to the point of laying down his life for us. He is the Good Shepherd, who would leave the 99 and go after the one sheep. Are we willing to leave some sheep out of the fold? John 13-17 record Christ’s last sustained lesson delivered to his disciples before his trial and crucifixion. He starts by washing their feet. He gives them the “new commandment” that they be known as his disciples by their love for one another (John 13:34). He compares himself to a vine and his disciples to the branches (another symbol of unity). He ends with the intercessory prayer, whose central request seems to draw together the lessons of the previous four chapters (and indeed, of his whole ministry): “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou has given me, that they may be one, as we are . . . [and I pray also] for them also which shall believe on my through their word; That they all may be . . . made perfect in one . . . that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:11-26).
God intends that there be one church, and calls everyone to it, because he wants to unite his family in love.