Friday, March 5, 2010

Homogeneity and Heterogeneity -- Mos. 7: 18

"And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them." (Mos. 7: 18)

Drona used to say that to be one is to overcome and surrender our differences, that only when we do so can all our collective energy be harnessed into a single shared goal, creating the strong beats out of Zion's one heart. We should be like the red blood that pumps through the body: of one type and purpose.

But Teancum Singh used to say that most difference ought not be surrendered, but connected, woven into the whole. For as God is one, all good things are one. Zion is built up when its members connect their own insights, heritages, and gifts to the gospel, creating the different synapses that form Zion's one ever-expanding mind.

And the debate between them dances across the face of our church to this day.


  1. i do like the idea of embracing all of the good differences...rather than surrender. it just seems to feel valued. ccc

  2. It seems to me that we already have a fairly strong model in the rest of God's creation, where monocultures cause problems and ecosystems are diverse, niche and, yes, at times fragile, but also often self-correcting and remarkably resilient.

  3. I definitely agree with both of you that variety is positive for numerous reasons.

    In the church, of course, we do need a little bit of homogeneity and heterogeneity. We would like to all be the same in keeping the commandments, believing (or at least be willing to accept) basic core doctrines, and conducting church in a way that is immediately recognizable to visitors from other wards as Mormon. So: I agree with part of what I have Drona say above. We ought to get on the same page with some things.

    But then there are other things, most things, where I think it's good to embrace variety, and that doing so actually expands the reach of the gospel.

    I think sometimes we get stuck in an old PR model of wanting to send out one message in a predetermined package: this is the image of Mormonism. I'd like to see the day (and I think we're on our way into it) when we realize that in our larger contemporary culture, one uniform message and messenger type creeps a lot of people out. It's actually better to allow a wide range of healthy Mormon experience to take place and reach out into the world. This is New Media PR which is not so much about image control, as it is about countless, uncontrollable theme, variation, and customization of message. Something more like Paul's interest in being a Jew to the Jews, a Greek to the Greek, etc.

    Of course, I'm probably only bringing this up because I think it's silly that BYU thinks we'll all be better representatives of the church clean-shaven...

  4. I think that the idea of unity = sameness is a misconception about the gift of agency. Yes, there is good and evil, and we ought to unitedly and unanimously choose the good--but there is also hot and cold, loud and quiet, sour and sweet, etc., and it would be silly to say that these opposites are also on the spectrum of good and evil.

    The multitude of oppositions we encounter in life and the divinely granted freedom to choose among them almost demands that we have many different tastes and preferences.

    Put another way, a person can be a doctor or a lifeguard or an engineer and still save lives. A person can be a poet or a musician or a sculptor and still make something beautiful.

  5. I think Teancum's reading, combined with the idea that the Lord gives us the answers to others trials (and the trials to others answers) gives new insight into what it means that there are no poor in Zion-- not only will economic inequity be done away, but all of our various shortcomings will be filled, not only by changes in who we are, but in the connections we make to others in the unity of Zion.



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