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Reminder: Blessed are the Peacemakers

Some of the comments on my last post frustrated me. How can so many people not get it? Despite my efforts to call for love, acceptance, and for people to tear down the culture of judgment that continues to infect our world, especially the Christian world, and more especially the Mormon world, several people used my post as an opportunity to preach their right to judge others, most often veiling it in different terms (disagreeing with someone is not judging them) or extending the definition well beyond its boundaries (the right “to judge” what is best for myself or what is the best way to take care of my family).

On the other hand, I admit that I found some entertainment in watching how many hoops those commenters jumped through, how much they tap-danced around in order to feel justified in their judgments of others. Clearly, many of these people came looking for a fight, baiting me with judgments and misinterpretations awful enough to make me wonder whether those individuals simply sought a knee-jerk reaction. I typically do not react that way. In fact, I try hard to avoid heated confrontations because nothing good comes out of them.

There is a scripture that Mormon’s love to quote from the Book of Mormon: “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” (3 Nephi 11:29). The problem I find in the Mormon Church, as a life-long attendee, is that few people liken this scripture unto themselves. Few Mormons genuinely practice avoiding contention. Now, I speak strictly from the Mormon point-of-view, but as it is also a Christian point-of-view, I imagine that most Christians would agree with this doctrine of Christ, “that such things should be done away” (3 Nephi 11:30). The problem, then, not just in Mormon culture, but that I find in Christian culture in general is the blatant lack of peacemakers. Christians are some of the most contentious people I know, and I am, at times, no exception.

The Christian world is awash with examples of contention. All one needs to do is read a newspaper, watch the news (especially cable news), or browse news websites on the lookout for religious stories, or skim social media. Christians don’t like people to tell them what to do, and they sure as hell don’t like it when someone tells them they are doing something wrong, especially as it relates to their religious ideology or what Jesus would do.

If you are Mormon, and you have spent any time on social media or the Bloggernacle (Mormon blogosphere) in the past several weeks (even the past several months), you have experienced contention first hand. It has surfaced in varying degrees and covered varying topics, most having to do with the Mormon Church’s excommunication of Ordain Women (OW) founder Kate Kelly and, more recently, Kirk Caudle’s resignation from the Mormon Church. Here’s the problem, in my experience, nothing invites contention more than someone who feels the need to quote that scripture to someone else, especially when the problem is often a simple, fundamental difference of opinion. But how dare I suggest that Mormon’s, members of “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30) can have a difference of opinion regarding Mormon Church doctrine and policy.

There is another scripture that the entire Christian world is more familiar with: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9 KJV). This is a loaded statement for any Christian, but it possibly holds more condemnation for a Mormon failing to practice this important Christ-like attribute.

Salvation comes through Jesus. When we accept Jesus, repent and follow him, the scriptures teach us that we become his sons and daughters (see especially Mosiah 27:25). Therefore, when a man or woman refuses to make peace, can he or she say, truthfully, “I have accepted Jesus into my life”? Not according to this basic principle taught by Jesus, himself.

Now, I realize the extreme nature of that statement. I have, no doubt, overshot the mark, but I do it to get your attention. I am no worse than anyone else in my ability to ignore the scriptures that counsel us to avoid contention and to be peacemakers. Both sides of the most recent issues in Mormonism have shared time contending more than warmly with the other side and blatantly ignoring any opportunity to sue for peace. However, since Kate Kelly’s excommunication, some people on both sides have polarized their positions to an alarming degree. I am still progressive, and I will still fight what I believe is the good fight on behalf of the equality OW fights for, for example, but my hope is that we can all continue on without actually fighting. When has anyone ever accepted an opinion that someone else tried to force on her or him?

Of course, I can “preach” all I want, and hardly anyone will listen. I expect contentious comments to this article. I expect harsh judgments because, as I just said, no Christian likes to be told what to do. No Christian likes to be told that she or he is following Christ incorrectly, and no one likes to have an opinion forced on her or him. While my words might reach someone, I will leave it up to someone else, President Uchtdorf, who said it best:

“Stop it!

“It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, ‘Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.’”

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Comments

  1. Thank you. I needed this reminder today. I recently was made aware that a member of my family has sent information, (that is partially accurate, but one sided and ignores the fact that the complaints were found to be baseless) and asked to have it placed as part of my permanent church record. I have been prayerfully trying to figure out how to respond, when the malice this person has is based upon my unwillingness to hide something that the person findings inappropriate to acknowledge.

    I understood the person’s position before the knowledge became public, but it was not my decision to make it public, and I have not challenged their right to believe badly of me, even though they have never actually communicated with me about what happened. I have done as much as I could to make peace, and now I have to decide whether I will fight back. (I am forced into a decision since I have been informed that my ability to have a temple recommend may depend on the fact that a family member and I have an ongoing dispute. The irony of course is that the person who has insisted on continuing the contention is in no such danger.) However, I don’t desire contention, and I prefer to let people grow without having to face humiliation. It is indeed a difficult place to be, and I hope that prayer will bring profitable answers.

  2. When I was reading your posts about judging others I immediately though about an insight I learned from a BYU Speech, “On the Measurements, We Make in Life,” by C. Shane Reese. I quoted the section of his talk below. In a nut shell, he teaches that if we put the commandment not to judge in its proper context, the Savior is teaching us that if you are going to judge, you better learn to judge yourself first. I have come to learn that the more I reflect on my own weakness I am far more forgiving and less judgmental others. I do believe the Lord expects us to judge righteously, and one of the elements in doing so is learning to see our selves as we really are, which can be very difficult. anyway, below is the quote from his talk. He says it much better then I do.

    “Measuring ourselves requires fairness and honesty. As we move beyond measuring ourselves to measuring others, we must exercise caution, because measuring others requires the additional virtue of patience. Indeed, the folly associated with making poor measurements of others gives rise to the concluding section of the Savior’s Sermon on the Mount—the doctrinal foundation for discipleship in the kingdom. Matthew’s recollection of the Savior’s injunction on proper measurement of others is contained in chapter 7 of his record. The Savior said:

    Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

    Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

    Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. [Matthew 7:1–5]

    “My interpretation, however, is that verse 1 is a strong reminder that we are not to judge until we’ve mastered the prerequisites to do so. The next four verses are the Savior’s teachings on how to make assessments of others more appropriately. In verse 2 we are taught that the quality of our measurements will dictate how we are measured. In other words, if we are harsh or unfair in our assessments of others, that same amount of harshness or unfairness will be meted (or measured) to us in return.

    “Verses 3 through 5 remind us about the importance of making assessments of ourselves before we make assessments of others. Fundamentally, the ability to make proper measurements of others requires us to first measure ourselves, remove the beam of unresolved sin through the miracle of repentance, and then, with the guidance of the Holy Ghost, make measurements. These measurements of others require a gift of the Spirit called discernment. The spiritual gift of discernment is one that we all have in varying degrees and one that can be increased as much as our Father in Heaven will allow if we but seek it out.

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