My Come, Follow Me lesson for this week took me to Doctrine and Covenants 98-101. In the 1830s, some members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had moved to Independence, Missouri. Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord had revealed that Independence was “the center place” of Zion (see Doctrine and Covenants 57:3). They understood that they were making great sacrifices to build the city of Zion in preparation for the Second Coming of the Savior. It was an exciting and glorious time for the Saints.
The neighbors of the Saints were not so thrilled with what they were hearing. They took issue with the claim that God had given their land to the Saints. They were also uncomfortable with the consequences – political, economic, and social – of hundreds and thousands of people from a strange new religion moving into their area.
The concerns and fears of the original settlers in Missouri soon turned to threats, and then the threats turned into persecution and violence. A mob destroyed the Church of Jesus Christ’s printing office in July 1833. That November, mobs forced the Saints to abandon their homes in Jackson County, Missouri.
There were two places where members of the Church of Jesus Christ gathered. One was Kirtland, Ohio, and the other was Jackson County, Missouri. The Prophet Joseph Smith was in Kirtland – more than 800 miles away – when the Saints were expelled from Jackson County. Even though messengers left Missouri immediately, the news of the expulsion did not reach the Prophet for weeks.
Before the messengers from Missouri reached Kirtland with the news, the Lord revealed to Doctrine and Covenants 98:3 to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He revealed principles of peace and encouragement to comfort the Saints. These principles can help us in difficult times – when we face persecution or our righteous desires go unfulfilled. These principles remind us that our daily afflictions – our tests, trials, and tribulations – will eventually “work together for [our] good” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:3).
One of the principles taught in this revelation is that the Lord wants us to seek peace in His way (Doctrine and Covenants 98:23-48). In verse 16, the Lord revealed that the Saints should “renounce war and proclaim peace.” He gave detailed instructions to the Saints telling them when war is justified and helping them to understand how they should respond to the violent persecution taking place in Jackson County, Missouri.
The principles taught in the revelation recorded as Doctrine and Covenants 98 have been reemphasized by modern prophets and apostles. President Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught the following about how we can “proclaim peace” as individuals:
As a Church, we must “renounce war and proclaim peace” [Doctrine and Covenants 98:16]. As individuals, we should “follow after the things which make for peace” [Romans 14:19]. We should be personal peacemakers. We should live
peacefully -- as couples, families, and neighbors. We should live by the Golden Rule…. We should … expand our circle of love to embrace the whole human family (“Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2002, 41).
As individuals, we can “renounce war” in our personal relationships, and “proclaim peace” to all. However, there are times when war is necessary. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught the importance of proclaiming peace, but he also pointed out that there are times when war is justified:
In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace…. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility….
It is clear [from examples in the scriptures] that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.
When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression (“War and Peace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 80).
As a parent, I am grateful that my children love each other. They are close enough in their relationships that their children are being reared almost like siblings. I feel certain that Heavenly Father feels the same when His children are living in peace with each other. You and I can find peace by turning to Jesus Christ and keeping His commandments. We can each have peace in our individuals lives and in our homes even though the world around us is full of chaos, hate, and war.
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