Day 75: Peace on earth

3 Nephi 26:17-21

When I read the Christmas story from Luke 2, I prefer to use the translation of verse 14 that makes a slight change in verbiage from “peace on earth, good will toward men” to “on earth peace to men of good will” (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition). The more I study the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the more I am convinced that lasting peace on earth can only be achieved when every person lives the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is exemplified in The Book of Mormon.

Consider what happened in the Americas following Christ’s ministry among the Nephites and Lamanites. The apostles Jesus ordained traveled around, teaching the people, baptizing them and giving the Gift of the Holy Ghost (v. 17). The Church of Christ was organized (v. 21). The apostles and baptized members of the Church “did do all things even as Jesus had commanded them” (v. 20). The people taught and ministered to each other (v. 19). As a result of the spread of the Gospel, the rise of the Church, the people keeping the commandments and ministering to each other, “they had all things common among them, every man dealing justly, one with another” (v. 19).

This sounds like peace to me! People living in harmony, sharing generously with each other, loving each other, being just to each other. Jesus teaches people to love, to give freely, to be kind, to think the best of others, to work on personal imperfections and be generous with the imperfections of others, to care for the needs of others, to be just and merciful, to tell the truth, to have good will. If everyone lived this way all the time, we would have peace on earth.

So, rather than wish for peace on earth this Christmas, I’m going to try a little harder to live after the manner of peace and teach my children to do the same.

Day 46: Balm for Every Wound

Alma 31:5

Alma 31 needs a little more attention before I treat some later chapters. Verse five has stuck with me the last few days and I finally realized why. Verse five reads in part:

And now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else….

The preaching of the word led people to do good and had a powerful effect on them. In other words, learning the Gospel of Jesus Christ more consistently resulted in righteous behavior than any other event or practice. Reading between the lines, the teaching and learning of the Gospel impacted not just individual behavior but its effects extended to the community as well.

So often in our modern society when something goes wrong, we blame ineffective laws and law makers, schools and curriculums, government and law enforcement. What if there was something we were completely missing, something that could actually solve all of society’s man-made problems, inequalities, tragedies, and more? Alma knew that the Gospel of Jesus Christ would have a more powerful effect on the behavior of the Zoramites and the peace of the Nephite nation than anything else he or the chief judge could throw at their problems. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer.

What national headlines have troubled you this year? There are plenty to choose from. How about gun violence? The number of shootings in public locations seems to have increased dramatically this year. Whatever the specific motivation for the gunman’s behavior, a knowledge of and appreciation for the sanctity of human life, a deep-seated commitment to personal worth and potential, and a covenant relationship with God to keep His commandments could have kept that gunman from ever walking down the path toward murder. What about corruption at the highest levels of business administration? Jesus Christ teaches us to value the needs of others above our own needs or wants, to humble ourselves and control our desires, to give freely rather than be greedy. What about bullying or the macro version community disagreements running along cultural divides? Jesus Christ teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (remember that even mortal enemies are our neighbors), to do good to all people (even the ones who “despitefully use you,” see Matthew 5:44, NT), to serve others and forgive freely (see Mark 11:25, NT; D&C 64:10). The effects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are real and can have tremendous influence for good.

Now, natural disasters are going to happen and people have their agency; someone who knows the Gospel can still make a choice to go against its teachings. Until Christ returns to the earth and Satan is bound, tragedies and abuse and war and social unrest and crime are just going to be part of life. But the Gospel also provides the balm for every spiritual/mental/emotional wound: Peace and healing through Jesus Christ.

 

Day 35: Don’t Be Afraid to Stand Out

Alma 5:57

I used to take pride in being a chameleon. I could walk into rooms without anyone noticing I was there, I could blend in with locals when I traveled out of the country. I kept my head down and tried not to stand out; I felt really safe.

As Alma preached to the people in Zarahemla while setting the Church in order, he admonished the members of the Church, “be ye separate.” In both the Old and New Testaments, the people of God are described as a “peculiar people” (cf. Deuteronomy 14:2 and 26:18, OT; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 2:9, NT). Modern prophets have continued citing this phrase to describe members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think about this sometimes and how God intends for His people to stand out so that others see something different about us and wonder what they might be missing in their own lives.

Backtrack to my mission when one of my companions jaywalked everywhere we went. Late for the tram? Jaywalk to catch it just in time. Need to go to an appointment across this busy road but the nearest crosswalk is minutes away? Jaywalk. When I asked her about this habit, she said, “everyone here does it.” One thing I had learned as a missionary, we were not supposed to do and be like everyone else. We needed to stand out instead and use the crosswalks if for no other reason than nobody else did.

Alma’s admonition to “be ye separate” does not mean to hole away in bunkers until the Second Coming (think of my “chameleon” attitude), completely removing ourselves from society. We are supposed to separate ourselves from sin. We are meant to participate in our communities. But we should be noticeably different in how we present and carry ourselves, how we interact with others (in Christ-like ways), and in our level of honesty and integrity. Standing out can be so uncomfortable but it is becoming increasingly important to do so.

Day 34: Take Back Your Life

Alma 2:4

I wanted to give you a little food for thought today. I was reading about Amlici in Alma 2 and came across this note in verse 4: “for it was his intent to destroy the church of God.” On the surface, Amlici wanted to be king and was willing to do anything to overturn the new system of government to get what we wanted. But with the piercing insight common to prophets, Alma pinpoints (or Mormon summarizes from Alma’s writings) that Amlici’s secret objective was to destroy the Church.

I couldn’t help but reflect on our modern society. There are a lot of forces at work in our society today that I don’t think come from God. Though these “forces” may not realize it nor acknowledge it, their end result is to bring people into bondage and destroy God’s work. Bondage takes many forms but its core effect is to limit our agency. Agency is a precious gift from God, one that is essential to our salvation because we have to choose salvation and work for it to actually achieve it. Satan wants to limit our agency in any way possible to prevent us from qualifying for and achieving eternal life.

I’ve been giving more thought lately to these societal forces and examining what effect they have on me. Some of these forces are universally acknowledged to have a terrible effect on people (like drugs), and some have varying effects on people. For me, I have noticed that media (all forms) impact me deeply. I have to regulate myself and be extremely picky about what I watch, listen to, and read. Two years ago I eliminated all live television programming from my life. I was in bondage to the television schedule. My viewing habits impacted how I treated my children and they ate up time I wanted to spend on church and personal projects. Not to mention how I obsessed over the content for days and my thoughts became absorbed by my media consumption.

I invite you examine the “hidden” forces in your life that are limiting your agency, prayerfully consider what you can do to free yourself, and take action. No matter how scary those changes may seem at the outset, you will be so much happier once you eliminate those influences from your life and free yourself.