Blessed are the peacemakers

I gave a talk August 13, 2006 on "Blessed Are the Peacemakers." However, I prepared more information than I had time to present so this write up covers more information than my talk, but maybe not in as much detail. Also I have included some backup scriptures.

My theme is Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

When I first started researching this topic it seemed like being a peacemaker was a fairly narrow subject. However the more research I did, the more I realized how broad this topic really is. Being a Peacemaker is a big part of what it means to be a Christian. Christ taught us that we need to forgive others, that we need to be loving and patient with each others. We are to live the golden rule. We are to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. If we do all these things we will truly become Christians.

Jesus gave the Beatitudes as part of the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught the people how to go beyond the 10 Commandments and the law of Moses to a higher law. In the Sermon on the mount, Jesus taught what it is to be a Christian. As a higher law, being a true Christian is also harder than living the law of Moses. It is a lot easier not to kill than to love your enemies.

The ancient Prophets saw Christ's mission in vision. One of the names that Isaiah gives for the Messiah is "The Prince of Peace" For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6. This powerful scripture is one that Handel included in his oratorio Messiah.

When we look out at the world we see the need for peace everywhere. There is strife and conflict at every level, between nations, within our own nation and communities and unfortunately too often even in our own homes. Virtually everyone wants peace, but unfortunately too many insist on having it on their own terms. As long as there are different people involved there will be differences of opinion. The challenge is to not let these differences of opinion grow into strife and conflict.

Often conflicts start small but are allowed to grow into something much bigger. If we feel that someone has treated us unkindly, the natural response is treat the other person unkindly in return. Then they will also retaliate in kind and the bad feelings will continue to grow. Often the original offense was not even intended, yet still the situation can grow to make enemies of former friends. Someone must turn the other check and refuse to retaliate to break the cycle.

The ultimate bad example of this situation is the Middle East. For thousands of years there has been a constant cycle of violence and revenge. The security situation today is so bad, that it is nearly impossible for a modern disciples of Christ to retrace the footsteps of the Prince of Peace.

In contrast consider the situation of the Mormon pioneers. They suffered many serious offenses and were driven from their homes in Kirtland, Missouri and Nauvoo. However, instead of seeking revenge they just moved on. It is not only the Mormon side that wanted to move on and forget the whole thing but others as well. There is a lady that works at the Family History Center who has an ancestor that was in the Missouri mob. She is not a member of the LDS Church, but is one of the most faithful works at the FHC. We have a number of non-members that serve faithfully at the FHC. Her ancestor who was in the mob was a young man at the time and just got caught up in what everyone else was doing. In later life he had regrets for being involved. We recently ordered a film for her with births and deaths information for Jackson County Missouri to help her do her genealogy. That is a wonderful outcome to have descendants of the mob working at the FHC and using the Church facilities to further their genealogical research.

Why can't the Middle East be more like the Mormon experience, since it is clearly the better way. I think the biggest difference is the idea of revenge. The Jewish tradition is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The Muslims have incorporated the idea of revenge into their culture, except they have renamed it as honor. It becomes the duty of the family members to honor the name of the family by taking revenge. They "honor" their ancestors by perpetuating violence.

Even closer to home we justify aggressive behavior by renaming it to something that sound nicer. Saying like "they are just getting what's due them," "they deserved it," "getting even" all are getting revenge. The idea of being assertive about our rights can easily degenerate into an excuse for being rude and overbearing. Even having to have the last word is a form of revenge.

We need to overcome the natural tendency to get even and to always have the last word. We need to overcome the natural man and become more Christlike.

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19).

An object lesson that illustrates how easy it is to let your own rights and need overshadow those of others can be done with a couple of quarters. For this object lesson you will need a partner. You and your partner stand facing each other and each holding up one of the quarters. Who's quarter is bigger? Of course all quarters are the same size, but they don't look the same size. Your quarter is almost big enough to cover your partner's face, while his quarter is only about as big as his eye. As you move further apart or as you bring your quarter closer to you face it's size grows until it can completely block your partner from view. In order to see your partner you have to push your quarter to the side a bit and peer around it. The quarter represents our rights and needs. It is only natural that our own needs appear larger than the those of other people. The further we are emotionally from an other person or the more we become fixated on our own needs, the smaller other people's needs appear to us. We have to make a conscious effort to see past our own needs to see the needs of others.

Elder Russell M. Nelson (Ensign, Nov 2002, p. 39.) tells us "Peace can prevail only when that natural inclination to fight is superseded by self-determination to live on a loftier level. Coming unto Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace."

Of course there are times when we have to fight, but that should be the exception not the rule. Even Jesus used force to remove the money changers from the temple. However Jesus didn't go around brow beating the people into repentance (even though they needed repentance), but instead invited the people to repent in love. He also showed his compassion by spending endless hours healing the people. If we aren't careful we can make enforcing our will the rule and turning the other cheek the exception. In D&C 82:1 we are told "Verily, verily, I say unto you, my servants, that inasmuch as you have forgiven one another your trespasses, even so I, the Lord, forgive you."

There are also many times when we can't find peace through no fault of our own. In these cases all we can do is turn to Christ and let His healing atonement bring us peace. Robert E. Wells of the Seventy, in a talk entitled "Peace," (Ensign, May 1991, p. 85) said:

As I was preparing for this occasion a man phoned. His priesthood leader had requested earlier that I accept his call. Desperately he pleaded, "We need to see someone. We just have to find some peace in our lives." There are probably as many different sources of personal strife and lack of peace as there are people. The roots might be in one's own life or in the life of a loved one. The causes can be sin, failure to live the commandments of God, selfishness, pride, lack of love, lack of commitment, lack of willingness to make sacrifices for others, or even just being an innocent victim. No matter what the reason, the solution to achieve peace is always the same: Turn to Christ; follow his example; repent of all transgressions. His command to the storm-tossed sea, "Peace, be still" (Mark 4:39), can also apply to his calming influence in our lives as we experience the buffetings of life's storms.

I really like the story of Jesus calming the sea. I didn't inherit any musical talent, but the rest of my family are musical. I remember some of them singing Master the Tempest is Raging as a special number in Sacrament Meeting. They even sang it in other wards. Whenever I hear the story, I can hear the music in my mind.

Mark 4:35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.
36. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

After teaching the people all day Jesus was very tired and now had the opportunity to get some much needed rest. The disciples didn't need Jesus's help to sail across the sea of Galilee. They were experienced men of the sea having spent their lives as fishermen. I am sure they had been on the sea in a storm before, but this storm was different. It was more intense than anything they had ever seen before. They had exhausted all their skills as seamen, and still it wasn't enough. They needed Jesus to save them.

I think this story fits very well with the conditions we find ourselves in. We think we are in control of our lives, but then a challenge comes up that makes us realize that we are about to sink. We can then reach out and plead with our Lord as did His disciple's of old "carest thou not that we perish?" and he is there to calm the seas for us.

Mark 4:39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

It would be nice if the Lord would always remove the sources of stress in our lives, but more often He helps us through our trials by giving us inner peace. He sends the Holy Ghost to comfort us. Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving them but He would send the Comforter or the Holy Ghost to be with them. Then He said: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14:27)

I bare my testimony that as we reach out to the "Prince of Peace" he will help us find peace. He will give us the understand to change the things that can be changed in our lives and the inner peace to endure the trials that must be endured.

Backup Scriptures

Matthew 7:1-2

Mark 11:25-26

Proverbs 29:8

Matthew 5:38-44

Matthew 18:21-22

Matthew 22:35-40

Mark 9:50

Isaiah 52:7