No Division Among You: Creating Unity in a Diverse Church, ed. Richard Eyre (Deseret Book, 2023) is a beautiful book in its intentions and efforts. The book is a collection of 14 essays that discuss ways to view the need for unity while embracing diversity. Each essay is by a different author, bringing in diverse perspectives of members who identify across the spectrum—Black and White, homosexual and heterosexual, male and female. Each shared experiences and perspectives that help build frameworks for how to approach unity as a diverse church.
The book promises that “you will like and agree with some of them instantly, and you may be prone to dislike and disagree with others just as quickly” (p. xiv) which I found to be true. On the one hand, the essay by Maurine Proctor was more frustrating than helpful for me. It came across as someone who is entrenched in a siege mentality trying to say that members of the Church should love people with liberal agendas or who oppose the Church, even while she demonized those same people. She even went as far as decrying the practice of how “people who see things according to different ideologies are labeled with epithets by those on the other side,” yet on the next page, she uses epithet of “irreligious imperialism” to describe secular agendas that don’t align with the Church and compared the people who embrace those agendas to “Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction” (pp. 11–12). As someone who leans on the liberal side, I didn’t feel very welcomed into unity with the Church community by her essay. Still, that is a core point of both the essay and the book—finding ways to embrace those with whom we deeply disagree, even within the Church. As the introduction points out, when you disagree with the essays and judge the person who wrote them, you should also be “realizing as you do that those quick opinions you form illustrate the problem we are getting at” (p. xiv). I also suspect that many members of the Church will relate to her and her worldview.
On the other hand, I found that the remaining essays were touching and inspiring in their messages. Several used music metaphors—such as comparing ward choirs to the Church experience more broadly or the need for both dissonance and resolution to make music interesting—which I loved. I also appreciated Bill Turnbull’s discussion of achieving unity as a form of at-one-ment, which was similar to some of my favorite discussions in Latter-day Saint Perspectives on Atonement, though stated in a less sophisticated (but more accessible) way in this book.
The last essay by Ronell Hugh was the most powerful to me, as it was written from the perspective of a Black man about contrasting experiences in Germany, the United States, and England. He wades into deep territory of ways in which religion has been weaponized against the vulnerable in the past, such as justifications used for enslaving Africans. And through his essay, he states that “religion should never be weaponized and leveraged to forcefully separate us because we are different. Religion should be, and often is, a great unifier, bringing all of God’s children together to commune with our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Asides from the scripture for which the book is named (1 Corinthians 1:10), the scripture that comes up most frequently in the essays is the prayer of Jesus that “they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). That type of one-ness is a future I hope for and am working towards, even if it isn’t always easy to get along with those who see things very differently than I do in the here and now. But I suppose that is why I appreciated No Division Among You: Creating Unity in a Diverse Church and its contributions towards that same goal.