Peace

February 20, 2011 | 20 comments
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aaaPleiades_largeSometimes unintentional mistakes lead to interesting lines of thought. A few weeks ago I misheard a speaker in an LDS meeting. The speaker was quoting John 14:27, and either because of the speaker’s mispronunciation or my imperfect hearing, I heard the word “live” instead of the word “leave.” This lead me to think about what it means to live in peace.

As I heard it at the time, John 14:27 began:

Peace I live with you, my peace I give unto you…

Christ makes this statement as part of the sermon he gives the Apostles at the last supper—so he says “leave” because he knows that he is about to leave them. When he comes to stay, surely he will say something that implies that he will live in peace with us instead.

For us, I think, the difference between “leave” and “live” is crucial. As good as it is to “leave” peace with others, how much more important is it to “live” peace with them? While “leave” implies a single act—something that happens just once, “live” implies an ongoing process. Where we can “leave” in peace by simply agreeing to disagree, “live” requires learning how to create peace through resolving and working through differences. Leaving with problems and disputes resolved is vital, but more important still is living with others in a way that doesn’t cause disputes in the first place and in a way that resolves differences when they are still discussions and not yet arguments. Perhaps when stated this way it seems obvious, yet still somehow this idea is lost among most people—even among faithful Latter-day Saints.

“His peace I live with you” isn’t just about the quality of “peace.” It is also about who it is we mean when we say “you” and what it means to “live” with others. It is relatively easy to live in peace if we limit who we live with. A hermit may easily live a life void of conflict, but he can never learn the true meaning of His peace. Working excessively may eliminate conflict with a spouse or friend, but it can never allow you to learn to live in peace. Living in a neighborhood where everyone is like we are may eliminate conflict or give a feeling of security, but this is clearly not true peace. Restricting immigration to protect your culture may make it easier to reach consensus in a country, but is that really His peace? Doesn’t His peace even require that we do everything we safely can to discover how to live in peace with those we now label as terrorists?

For too many of us, peace means hiding from conflict instead of resolving it. It means avoiding news we consider “negative” and books that are “troubling” because they don’t give us peace. Those who do so forget that Christ calmly and courteously confronted even those who were determined to take his life.

Others of us, when faced with conflict, are determined to win at all cost, entering into arguments that become vicious and vile. When the debate becomes more about winning than persuading, we forget that we should disagree without being disagreeable.

In all of this real peace, His peace, comes not from avoiding others or excluding those who are different than we are, or who disagree with us, but from welcoming others and learning the hard lessons about how to live, really live, in peace with them.

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20 Responses to Peace

  1. Jax on February 20, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I really liked the thought “my peace I ‘live’ with you.” Very different indead from the way John 14:27 is written. You lost me though at the sentence, “living in a neighborhood where everyone is like we are…”

    Why is that not ‘true’ peace? If that were true I suppose I should mourn those poor North American habitants who all witnessed Christ’s coming and thereafter had similar behaviors and no conflicts for several generations; should I believe that they didn’t experience ‘true’ peace?

    Is not the goal of missionary work to bring everyone into agreement and make them like us? Have we lost true peace when we accomplish that goal?

  2. Course Correction on February 20, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    “For too many of us, peace means hiding from conflict instead of resolving it. It means avoiding news we consider “negative” and books that are “troubling” because they don’t give us peace.”

    Great lines. Apathy is not peace.

  3. Cameron Nielsen on February 20, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Dane, this post is awesome. Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that too often we seek to avoid conflict instead of resolving it, in so many ways (where we choose to live, having conversations and emotional and spiritual intimacy with spouses, etc).

  4. Don on February 21, 2011 at 8:45 am

    For all too many of us, peace is narrowly viewed as something achieved through use of our military, although we haven’t done all that well during most of my lifetime. Just before we invaded Iraq, an apostle of the Lord (Elder Nelson) gave a conference talk on peace, but all I heard the next Sunday at church was, “He didn’t say we couldn’t invade Iraq.” It is worth remembering, I think, that Paul essentially defeated the Roman Empire with no army, no navy, no weapon of any kind, only his love of Christ. My own view is that we should take Jesus’ words more seriously: “Blessed are the peacemakers….”

  5. Kent Larsen on February 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Jax (1) wrote:

    Why is that not ‘true’ peace? If that were true I suppose I should mourn those poor North American habitants who all witnessed Christ’s coming and thereafter had similar behaviors and no conflicts for several generations; should I believe that they didn’t experience ‘true’ peace?

    Is not the goal of missionary work to bring everyone into agreement and make them like us? Have we lost true peace when we accomplish that goal?

    It is the goal of missionary work to bring everyone into agreement (at least about the gospel of Christ — I’m not sure if the rest is possible)

    I think the difference in what I’m saying and what you are saying, Jax, is that I don’t mean differences in understanding the truth, but rather other differences — everything from trivial things like preferences for house color, lawn design and upkeep and security, to more substantial issues like class, income level and race, and to differences of opinion, like religion, political party affiliation, etc.

  6. Krissie Ireland on February 22, 2011 at 8:37 am

    “In all of this real peace, His peace, comes not from avoiding others or excluding those who are different than we are, or who disagree with us, but from welcoming others and learning the hard lessons about how to live, really live, in peace with them.”

    Bravo!

    But… In the church, now and in the past, there seems to be an awful lot of exclusion. How can the churches leaders and members help to heal those wounds? (I think the thoughts expressed in this article are an excellent start).

    After visiting family in a predominantly LDS area it did seem a bit “Stepford Wives.” Peaceful, yes – but there didn’t seem to be anything to disturb that peace. It was like an ‘un-tested’ peace, the peace of conformity – it made me question if that was actually ‘peace’ at all…

  7. Jax on February 22, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Krissie

    Why would you question if it was ‘actually peace at all’? Your description sounds like the definition of peace – nothing to disturb.

    Again, I think the idea behind missionary work is to make neighborhoods where everyone is like we are. It sounds like several of you think that Zion wouldn’t have “true” peace because there wasn’t any confict there to overcome. Is a Zion not peaceful because people see eye to eye and don’t fight over the color of their homes? I would suggest the opposite in most “stepford wives” neighborhoods – that they have probably dealt with the conflicts, have overcome them through thoughfulness and understanding, and are now reaping the benefits of ‘true’ peace in their communities.

  8. Kent Larsen on February 22, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Jax (7), I think you misunderstand the “stepford wives” reference. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stepford_Wives) explains it this way:

    The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical thriller novel by Ira Levin. The story concerns Joanna Eberhart, a photographer and young mother who begins to suspect that the frighteningly submissive housewives in her new idyllic Connecticut neighborhood may be robots created by their husbands. The novel has been viewed by some as a satire on stereotypical American housewives, as well as a study on feminism.

    I wish I had confidence that any neighborhood like what you describe, where neighbors have completely “dealt with the conflicts” instead of finding a way to ignore them, actually existed.

    You also said “Is a Zion not peaceful because people see eye to eye and don’t fight over the color of their homes?”

    Well, it depends. How did they arrive at seeing eye to eye? Was it through coercion? Is there lingering resentment that isn’t spoken because of how they arrived at “peace”?

    I’m NOT suggesting that such a place can’t exist, just that I’ve never seen anywhere that came close.

  9. Krissie Ireland on February 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you Kent Larsen! (8)

    To Jax – Unity does not imply peace…

    “Is a Zion not peaceful because people see eye to eye and don’t fight over the color of their homes?”

    It’s funny you mention people not fighting over the colour of their homes. I asked Mom why all the houses in the neighbourhood were white – I thought it a little strange that not even one person had opted for something different – there are so many colours in the rainbow! She explained that they had all been given a choice of colour. “So why did everyone choose white,” I asked. Well, it turns out the choices were white, cream, bluish-white, rose white, etc etc. I didn’t think it was much of a choice at all – different shades of white! I guess that’s one way to make people feel they have a choice – and keep the peace…

  10. Krissie Ireland on February 22, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Oh and Jax. My comment wasn’t intended to be controversial or contentious in any way. I’m sorry it caused offence, I apologise…

  11. Jax on February 22, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Kent, I understood the stepford wives comment and am familiar with the novel. Unless you think she meant to say she was in communities where the wives were actually robots I think my assumption that she meant communities where things seemed ‘too good’ was accurate.

    I think there are many places very close to that scenario – very few of them in the U.S. though. Our materialistic culture doesn’t breed peace because people tend to see others as opponents – not as equals.

    Do you not have friends or associates of some kind with whom you have no disagreements? not on politics, or doctrines, or anything else? I have some. What if you and your friends moved into houses next to each other? and when you found another of the same mind you invited them as well. Would it not create “true” peace? Your original claim was that such a scenario where “everyone was like” would eliminate conflict and give a sense of security, but that it wouldn’t be a true peace?

    My question is WHY NOT? why is that peace not as ‘true’ as the peace that comes after overcoming some issues? This is what I hear from you, “people living in peace don’t have peace because they don’t have anything disturbing their peace.”

    Krissie, some people just don’t fight over house color. They have peace because they don’t care – it doesn’t disturb them that the neighbors house is a different shade of white, or teal, or bright orange. They have peace anyway.

    It was a funny scenario you raise though about that not being real peace. It brought to mind the white we wear in the temple. We have different designs on our robes and dresses (women have greater variety of course) but only one option for color. Does that mean they don’t have ‘true’ peace? They ostensibly have similar desires, goals, beliefs, etc. Is their peace not ‘true’ because they don’t have disturbances or enough color choices?

    Personally I think being surrounded by people with whom you agree completely is truly peaceful.

  12. Kent Larsen on February 23, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Jax, its not that the peace achieved is somehow not “true” — its that 1) what you describe requires a lot less effort, and therefore means you learn less about how to be like Christ and 2) it encourages those living in that peace to stay there and not get along with those who aren’t living with them.

    Like it or not, we do need to get along with those who are not like us.

  13. Krissie Ireland on February 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    Yes, wearing white in the Temple – it still doesn’t mean there is peace there. Being unified in outward appearance doesn’t mean there is peace, it just doesn’t. Peace is about tolerance not about all being the same.

    Stepford Wives? – there is a number of things that could be said about it. What is most ‘chilling’ I guess is the picture perfect image – that hid a whole lot of darkness. There was an illusion of perfection or peace. There are people in the church who present to the world the image they feel they should – they hide their true desires, their true wants – they hide who they really are out of fear. So how do we know if someone completely agrees with us? If people are frightened to just be themselves? The church is very image driven, I think that is beyond doubt. Just because the outward image is the same or similar tells us there is conformity or unity in dress standards, but, it still doesn’t mean there is peace. People can conform out of fear, after all.

    And my original question was about exclusion and the history of exclusion in the church. We haven’t created peace by excluding people – there are wounds that need to be healed. How do we heal those wounds? If we don’t surely there can never be true peace…

    To summarise, I believe that real peace is achieved through people of diverse intellect, preferences, ideals etc learning to be tolerant of one another through love – peace is not achieved by conformity, although there may be the illusion of it. To further support this view I would have you consider the condition of man on this earth when Christ returns. We are taught that every knee will bend, head bow and tongue confess that he is ‘The Christ.’ He will reign on the earth and usher in a 1000 year period of peace. Will all those living on the earth during this period of time be Mormons? As I understand it, no. So we see that peace will be established in a world of great diversity. There’s never going to be a time when we are all the same – we’re not clones and we’re not the Borg (although I have come across a few missionaries who have taken “Resistance is Futile” as their motto…)

  14. Jax on February 23, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    Being unified in appearance doesn’t mean there is peace. I agree 100%, but in the temple, which is the most peaceful place I know, people ARE all unified in appearance.

    I personally hate all mormon communities – too many false smiles and too much chasing of worldly desires combined with an almost total lack of scriptural understanding or a desire to fulfill their covenants. The church is image driven – in the LDS culture wealth equals righteous. Even the image of wealth equals righteous. That’s why they ignored the prophet and remain in terrible debt. The pride of their image wouldn’t let them obey. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a true peace though – granted it is only a worldly style of peace.

    In the history of the church we have never had peace by excluding people, you are right. We have invited everyone, no matter how different they are to come join with us and to change (repent) and become like us. Not to become american, or “western”, but to become saints. But even that never created peace for us. We only ever found peace, and will forever only find it, when we separated ourselves from them completely and entirely. Peace was only ever achieved to any great degree when saints separate themselves from non-saints (FYI not sure what word to use there: pagan, heretics, non-believers? – are any of those satisfactory?)

    Enoch had to separte his people (they definitely found “true” peace), Abraham had to flee and wander, Israel had to flee Egypt and was told to have peace they had to live completely separate by killing anyone else in their given lands, Nephi only had peace by abandoning his brothers, and the LDS only found peace by fleeing the U.S. entirely.

    Why does real peace only come with diversity? if people without diversity learn “to be tolerant of one another through love” why isn’t their peace just as legitimate?

    If we all use the same person to model ourselves after (the Savior) shouldn’t we all turn out the same in the end? If we all act like Hime, wouldn’t we all act the same? Have the same values? Maybe I got too confused when the Lord says we should be of one heart and one mind? (Moses 7:18) because that sounds very uniform to me.

    And exactly HOW diverse do you think we must be? what does a groups makeup need to be to have peace? both blacks and whites? if there are no asians do they fail? what if they don’t have any african aborigines – are they missing some ingredient to real peace? What about income? Does a neighborhood have to have a hobo, a salesman, and a ceo to have peace? What about backgrounds? I suppose to have peace at least one in every group that has been divorced, been raped, been addicted to crack, won the lottery, been a POW, been sold in the sex trade, and been a playboy bunny. and of course no group could achieve peace unless it overcame the differences caused by the presence of a tax cheat, a pedophile, and a mobster? If it didn’t have to overcome those, then “true” peace couldn’e exist, right?

  15. Jax on February 23, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I shouldn’t say I hate All mormon communities, I haven’t been to them all. And I’ve been in some that are pleasant, but just not for me. That was too broad a generality.

  16. Kent Larsen on February 23, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    Jax, we live in an imperfect world. In an imperfect world, sometimes the best action is to remove yourself temporarily from a bad situation. I don’t think that means that it is impossible to find peace in diversity, or that finding peace in diversity shouldn’t be our goal. It merely means that the conditions at the time make it too difficult or perhaps impossible.

    You then said:

    If we all use the same person to model ourselves after (the Savior) shouldn’t we all turn out the same in the end? If we all act like Hime, wouldn’t we all act the same?

    No, I don’t believe so. Do you really think that if the Savior’s favorite color is red, we will all have to have that same favorite color? Or that if the Savior’s standard greeting is “Peace be with you” we can’t say “Hello” instead? That’s kind of what it sounds like you are saying.

    How diverse must we be? Diverse enough to accommodate the righteous actions of others, and probably at least some unrighteous ones (at least while we are still imperfect).

  17. Krissie Ireland on February 24, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Here’s another place where you and I differ, Jax – for me, the Temple isn’t the most peaceful place I know. I guess my home is – I feel very blessed in that regard. I don’t have to go somewhere ‘special’ to find ‘peace’, I’m right where it’s at. Saying that I fully appreciate that others don’t feel the same as me. I know people who describe the Temple as an ‘escape.’ Some other people I know, and obviously yourself, just love being there. I’d rather be at home… Is it going to disturb anyone’s peace because I think differently? I would hope not.

    The one thing I would say about the white Temple clothing though is that I don’t think it does totally unify our appearance. I know of people who have spent A LOT of money on Temple clothing, even going to the extent of importing it or specifically visiting another country to buy it. It’s expensive and it shows. I don’t own Temple clothing and the last time I visited the Temple the dress I ended up wearing was just hideous, it was awful! And maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned about appearance but frankly, I was embarrassed. I didn’t feel at peace either. So unified in or by appearance? Well, not really.

    “In the LDS culture wealth equals righteous. Even the image of wealth equals righteous.” (14)

    On this we find agreement. I think there’s a lot of ‘looking down noses’ at others in the LDS church, in the whole of society anyway, but yes, I’d say it’s particularly bad in the church.

    “Non-saints, non-believers, pagan, heretics” (14) I just say, ‘people of other faiths’ usually. I think even the term ‘non-member’ is a tad weird. But then in American culture there are words like ‘non-american’ for which we have no english equivalent – there is no such word as ‘non-english’. My mother-in-law frequently uses the word ‘handicapped’ which makes me cringe. Here we tend to say, ‘disabled’ or ‘differently-abled’. We live in a diverse world, and that’s a good thing…

    When I think about diversity I often think of Christians all over the world and how they express their faith – it’s extraordinary! All these people love God and express their love in countless beautiful ways. Figure into that people of other faiths who express their faith and love for deity, people, the world, etc etc in diverse ways. To me, it’s beautiful – at least the ones that don’t involve any kind of ritual sacrifice etc.

    I don’t think expecting others to “become like us” is the way to peace. They have to change and become a Saint? There are always going to be wonderful, good, loving, people who love God and humankind but who don’t want to be ‘Mormon’ or a ‘Saint’. Does that mean that those people are less loved by God than Mormons? I don’t think so. People of other denominations receive answer to prayer, witness miracles, are blessed in numerous ways etc, etc.

    This correspondence/conversation has everything to do with peace. The fact that we can all express our differing views and debate this issue in a respectful, civilised, loving way is a testament to peace. Maybe we’ll learn something from one another, maybe our views won’t change at all. It doesn’t mean that we couldn’t be at peace living next door to each other, does it? The Saviour told us to love God and everybody else. We don’t all need to be identikit clones to do that…

  18. judith millward on February 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    I enjoyed the article. It brought to my mind the struggle I’ve had to find peace, personal peace, in a situation with family members who havn’t yet been willing to attempt reconcialition. Personal peace is only possible through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, and requires much personal effort and repentance.

  19. Kent Larsen on February 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Judith, I’m sure it can be a very difficult struggle. I hope you can find peace.

    One thing I should have covered better in the post is that true peace requires effort on the part of everyone involved. This is, I think, one of the reasons that the Lord has so often pulled his people out of the world, as Jax observes. The Lord knows that many times those involved not only won’t achieve peace, but may even harm each other.

    Peace takes effort from everyone. You can’t achieve it alone.

  20. Krissie Ireland on February 24, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    I really have loved this article and all the comments…

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