No Contention in the Land
Those of you who have followed my blog over the years may have noticed that I am not nearly as political as I used to be. I haven’t exactly been living with my head in the sand, but I have taken a healthy step back from the political arena. While I enjoy learning about and discussing the issues, I do not enjoy the conflict, bitterness, and the war of words that inevitably comes when political subjects arise.
Historically I have been a peacemaker in my family though meekness does not come easily to me (though I am certainly not completely blameless in familial discord). The truth is I just don’t like contention. I feel that most things aren’t worth fighting over, most people don’t have all the facts, and that it’s ok for us to have different ideas and feelings. Given these facts, you can see why I haven’t been quite so involved this political season. It’s not that my opinions on the issues have changed, but I no longer feel that arguing about them will allow for progress or understanding.
In the Book of Mormon, the undisputed crowning event is Christ’s visit to the inhabitants of the ancient Americas. For nearly two hundred years following His visit, there was no contention in the land. None. Can you imagine what that must have been like? I can’t even go one day without hearing a handful of my children arguing about one thing or another, the idea of two generations passing away with no contention between anyone–children included–is almost unbelievable. Yet isn’t that what we all claim to strive for? Isn’t world peace the ultimate goal? So what was the secret? How did they keep the peace for so long?
4 Nephi 1:15 says it plainly:
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
The unbeliever will scoff at the simplicity of the idea, but another Book of Mormon scripture teaches us that “by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass.” During his visit Jesus told the Nephites:
For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
There is not any leeway given. No exceptions. This is the biggest reason why I have stepped away from the political battles during this election cycle. I am not ambivalent, but I do not want to stir up the hearts of my friends to anger. My job is to show compassion, love, mercy, and to do what I can to build the kingdom of God. Back and 1989, now President Nelson gave a talk entitled Canker of Contention. He says of 4 Nephi 1:15:
…Thus, love of God should be our aim. It is the first commandment—the foundation of faith. As we develop love of God and Christ, love of family and neighbor will naturally follow. Then will we eagerly emulate Jesus. He healed. He comforted. He taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:9; see also 3 Ne. 12:9.)
Through love of God, the pain caused by the fiery canker of contention will be extinguished from the soul. This healing begins with a personal vow: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” (“Let There Be Peace on Earth,” Sy Miller and Jill Jackson, © Jan-Lee Music, Beverly Hills, Calif., 1972.)
There is another distinction that we can make regarding the wording of this scripture. What does the phrase, “love of God” mean? The New Testament says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”
Elder Uchtdorf said that to love God is the first, great commandment and that it, coupled with the second commandment to love our neighbor should direct all we do on earth and in His name. He says:
…Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.
When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been blessed to go through some trials that required me to rely wholly on my Savior. When I came out on the other side of them, I understood in my heart what I had understood only intellectually before. The plain truth of charity was suddenly and dramatically confirmed through my experience. Moroni tells us that charity is the pure love of Christ, and I can tell you that the peace and love I felt towards God and my fellow men can be described as nothing more or less than the pure love of Christ. It is so much easier to feel peace and harmony with our fellow travelers in this mortal journey if we love each other. We aren’t commanded nor expected to agree on every issue. We aren’t required to tolerate evil. We are expected to defend truth and righteousness, we are not, however, ever asked to do so with a sharp tongue and condemnation.
Unfortunately we live in a generation that seems to have forgotten what civility looks like. Like most things, education on peacemaking, compassion, charity, love, and grace must begin in the home. And if any of you have siblings and/or children like mine, you will find your life ripe with opportunity to live and teach this valuable lesson. As a father to ten children (nine of which are daughters), Elder Nelson knows what contention in the home can look like. He counsels:
The home is the great laboratory of learning and love. Here parents help children overcome these natural tendencies to be selfish. In rearing our own family, Sister Nelson and I have been very grateful for this counsel from the Book of Mormon:
“Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, …
“But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.” (Mosiah 4:14–15.)
And I might add, please be patient while children learn those lessons.
I love that scripture in Mosiah. In our home, I have a habit of confiscating any and all possessions that seem to be the object of an argument. To many it may not seem fair, but I am well known to say “people are more important than things, and if anything is seen to be causing contention, it will disappear.” The big children, at least, have taken this rule to heart and avoid allowing things to come in between the relationship they have with one another. Not long ago one of my kids asked me why I always took their stuff away when they fought over them. I read them this scripture and said that I, as their mother, was commanded to feed them, keep them physically safe, teach them the commandments of God, and not allow them to fight with one another. Heavenly Father expected me to keep follow all of that counsel. I was not commanded to give them toys, to entertain them, or or even give them video games. While those things are fun, they take a back seat to the commandments of the Lord.
A few weeks ago I told you about the trouble I’ve been having with Jack and how difficult it was for me to follow the Lord’s advice to spend more time with him. I didn’t know how doing so would work, but I trusted my Father in Heaven because He is the only person who knows Jack better than I do, He knows the end from the beginning, He’s never steered me wrong before, and because I love Him and want to serve Him. Over the last month the change in Jack’s behavior has been amazing. Not only is he nicer to his siblings, but he also goes to sleep more easily at night, prays without insisting on help, and the number of his tantrums has been drastically reduced (though he’s still a picky eater).
Not only has Jack changed, but I’ve changed. My diligence in obeying God’s command has allowed me to see Jack in a new light. He’s no longer a five year old with issues that need to be dealt with, but he is a sensitive and most beloved son, with eternal potential and goodness. I’m so grateful that the Lord showed me the best way to connect with him and teach him. I know that through Christ, I can help Jack turn his weakness into a strength. I have little doubt that if I am diligent in continuing with this counsel, Jack will become a great peacemaker in his own right.