Receiving God’s Image in Our Countenances Does Not Destroy Individuality
by Ray DeGraw
I saw a very profound, short statement on the wall of a high school I was visiting a while ago. It said:
You were (created) as an original. Don’t become a copy.
First, I absolutely love this quote in and of itself. While I understand and accept the need for communal conformity to certain, minimal standards, at the most fundamental level, I am a child of God, created as a unique mortal being – and that uniqueness is important to me.
What struck me about this quote is that too many people see Zion as total uniformity / unanimity / homogeneity. They see “being united” as being indistinguishable from each other in any important way. They see becoming “perfect” as becoming exactly alike in every way. At least, that is how they appear to believe, based on how they act toward those who are different than they are.
My favorite General Conference talk of all time (as my children will attest, while rolling their eyes and exclaiming, “I told you so!“) is Elder Joseph Wirthlin’s “Concern for the One” – and the part that resonates the most within me is the analogy of the multiple instruments and harmonies that are necessary to create a beautiful orchestral sound. Elder Wirthlin states that God didn’t create the grand orchestra of humanity to value only the piccolos -which, interestingly, are one of the most piercing instruments ever created.
Everyone playing the same instrument all the time or even different instruments but the exact same notes at the exact same time, all the time – even when technically mistake-free and precise – is not fully beautiful music. At best, it is a beautiful melody. As someone who loves music, I can say passionately that, at worst, it can be soul-less.
All kinds of very different instruments playing intricate harmonies, counter-melodies and even varying rhythms in synch with each other and with passion and expression . . . striving to follow the direction of the same conductor . . . .
THAT is beautiful music.
I am reminded of the description of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 – where each and every part is said to be as important and critical as any other, largely because each part is fundamentally and importantly different than any other part.
Truly, there is a need for some kind of uniformity and communal standardization here in mortal sociality, but we were created by God as originals.
Truly, we can’t allow ourselves to become copies.
- What is unique about you that can contribute to the orchestra of your own local congregation?
- What challenges do you face accepting your own and others’ unique “sounds”?
- How do you view Zion?