Matthew 5 contains much of the “Sermon on the Mount” given by Jesus Christ. He gives several statements that are known to us as the Beatitudes. They are attitudes that we must develop in order to be blessed. The statement that I desire to discuss today is found in verse 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
We do not know exactly what the Savior meant by the word peacemaker. We know that the word was seldom used in the time of Christ and that it usually referred to “Roman Emperors who had brought peace” when it was used. We are fairly certain that Christ did not want His followers to become pacifists because there are times when people must go to war in order to bring lasting peace. An example of a “just war” is World War II when the nations of the world united against Germany, Italy, and Japan in order to have peace and maintain liberty.
The best way to know more about the teachings of the Savior is to turn to His prophets and apostles. Elder Russell M. Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke on the topic of “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” in the October 2002 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder Nelson spoke of the “perilous times” in which we live when “Virtually all parts of the world are plagued by acts of terror previously unknown. Confusion comes to many who pray for peace but fearfully face this foe of terror.”
These difficult times were prophesied in the scriptures. Therefore, we can both the cause of and cure for the sickness of human hatred” in the scriptures. King Benjamin tells us: “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” (Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Mosiah 3:19). Elder Nelson continues with the following statement.
Peace can prevail only when that natural inclination to fight is superseded by self-determination to live on a loftier level.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” is the pathway to peace on earth and goodwill among men. He made a promise to us: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
Jesus taught people how to live with one another. He declared the two great commandments: first, to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” and the second, to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Then He added, “Love your enemies, [and] bless them that curse you.”
He taught the Golden Rule: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” This principle is found in nearly every major religion. Others such as Confucius and Aristotle have also taught it. After all, the gospel did not begin with the birth of the Babe in Bethlehem. It is everlasting. It was proclaimed in the beginning to Adam and Eve. Portions of the gospel have been preserved in many cultures. Even heathen mythologies have been enriched by fragments of truth from earlier dispensation.
Wherever it is found and however it is expressed, the Golden Rule encompasses the moral code of the kingdom of God. It forbids interference by one with the rights of another. It is equally binding upon nations, associations, and individuals. With compassion and forbearance, it replaces the retaliatory reactions of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” If we were to stay on that old and unproductive path, we would be but blind and toothless.
Elder Nelson says that the “concept of treating others as one would like to be treated is easy to understand. And it acknowledges the precious nature of each of God’s sons and daughters.” He reminds us that the scriptures also ask “parents to teach children not to `fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin.’ Instead, we `teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.’” Elder Nelson connects the two great laws.
The commandments to love God and neighbor are interrelated. We cannot fully love God without loving our neighbor. We cannot fully love our neighbor without loving God. Men really are brothers because God really is our Father.
The two great commandments are connected. We cannot truly love the Father unless we love His children, and we cannot truly love His children unless we love Him. After explaining this connection, Elder Nelson explains the problems when nations go to war.
Nevertheless, scriptures are studded with stories of contention and combat. They strongly condemn wars of aggression but sustain obligations of citizens to defend their families and their freedoms. Because “we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law,” members of this Church will be called into military serve of many nations. “We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.”
During the Second World War, when members of the Church were forced to fight on opposing sides, the First Presidency affirmed that “the state is responsible for the civil control of its citizens or subjects, for their political welfare, and for the carrying forward of political policies, domestic and foreign…. But the Church itself, as such, has no responsibility for these policies, [other] than urging its members fully to render … loyalty to their country.”
There is much unrest in our nation and the world. Even with all the contention, terror, wars and rumors of wars, Elder Nelson declares that we can have peace in the world.
Because of the long history of hostility upon the earth, many feel that peace is beyond hope. I disagree. Peace is possible. We can learn to love our fellow human beings throughout the world. Whether they be Jewish, Islamic, or fellow Christians, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or other, we can live together with mutual admiration and respect, without forsaking our religious convictions. Things we have in common are greater than our differences. Peace is a prime priority that pleads for our pursuit….
Resolution of present political problems will require much patience and negotiation. The process would be enhanced greatly if pursued prayerfully.
This is where you and I come into the picture. We can pray for peace and work within our circles of influence to bring peace. As we pray for our leaders, our national and local defenders, our neighbors, and our families, we will be instrumental in helping them to bring peace into the world. The best place to start the peace process is within our own selves. When we find inner peace, we will be much more capable of becoming peacemakers among other people.