Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

What Is the Difference Between Conflict and Contention?

            Progressives are known for their attempt to change the meaning of words. The first hijacked words of which I was aware was gay (originally meant happy) and rainbow (the beautiful bow in the clouds after a rainstorm). Now they have additional meanings.

Having said that, I now look at some words differently. Take for instance the words argument, tension, and conflict. I previously understood that those three words described negative situations. However, I am learning that this is not always the case because the words can mean something entirely different.

In my advanced writing and research class, I learned that argument means the reasons for a statement or thesis. In my marriage preparation class, I learned that there is tension in the midst of sexual intimacy. I read something today stating that the creation of the earth and everything on it involved division or conflict. However, one word continues to mean exactly what I have always thought: contention.

From a podcast discussion between Morgan Jones and David Pulsipher, I learned about conflict and contention. The discussion was based on a statement made by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf earlier this year at BYU Education Week: “Conflict is inevitable. Contention is a choice.” Jones and Pulsipher discussed how many people think that the two words define the same thing. Then Pulsipher, author of the new book Proclaim Peace, “reinforced Elder Uchtdorf’s words explaining that ‘some of the most beautiful parts of our world are created through conflict’ but that contention should be avoided.” The discussion continued to define the difference between the meanings of the two words. 

Jones: One thing that I thought would be good to kind of set the stage initially for this conversation – Elder Uchtdorf recently said that “Conflict is inevitable, but contention is a choice.” And so, I wondered, what would you say is the difference between contention and conflict?

Pulsipher: I think it’s a beautiful expression of something we explore deeply throughout the book because I think as Latter-day Saints, we’re often afraid of conflict. We think conflict is bad. And we read the Savior’s admonition to the people in 3 Nephi 11 that, “Contention is not [of] me, but is of the devil.” And we substitute the word contention with the word conflict. And conflict and contention are not the same things.

If we think about the creation of this world, we realize that the process of creation is a process of division: dividing the light from the darkness, dividing the water from the land, creating multiple varieties of plants and animals, and male and female. And all of these differences and divisions that are a part of the creative process are then put in tension with one another. And it’s the tension between them, the tension between day and night that creates sunsets and sunrises. The tension between water and land creates mountains and canyons and seascapes.

Some of the most beautiful parts of our world are created through conflict, if you will, through the conflict between water hitting against the rocks and the seashore. And so conflict creates beauty. Conflict, when we do it the right way, will take us through a process in which we are co-creators with God. So we shouldn’t be afraid of conflict.

Contention, on the other hand, is engaging in those differences in a way in which we don’t respect or love the other. So when it comes to human conflict, we can engage in all sorts of disagreements and differences, and out of those disagreements and differences create beautiful arrangements in our families, in our workplaces, amongst our friends in our communities.

But when we lose that sense of love and respect for the people who are different than us – whether that’s political or cultural, or religious, or just different personalities – and engage in conflict with anger, with seeing other people as objects and not as people, then very quickly, that is what we call contention. And that not of Christ. The Creator, who uses conflict to create, is not creating with that kind of spirit. So that spirit of contention is what we have to avoid. But we don’t have to avoid conflict, in fact, we shouldn’t avoid conflict. We should engage in our conflicts, engage in them with that love and openness to one another.

            My thoughts went immediately to the conditions in America and particularly the federal government. As I have written in previous posts, the Constitution of the United States was written to find a balance in government – not too far left and not too far right. According to

W. Cleon Skousen in his book titled The Five Thousand Year Leap – 28 Great Ideas That Changed the World, “people’s law” is in the middle of the spectrum between “rulers’ law” (100% law or tyranny) and “no law” (0% law or anarchy) (p. 22).

            Skousen pictured the American eagle as having three heads: judicial, legislative, and executive. The head on the left (facing left) – judicial – and the head on the right (facing right) – executive – have only one eye each. However, the middle head – legislative – is facing forward and has two eyes – the House and the Senate (p. 23). He then gave the following explanation.

The central head was the law-making or legislative function with two eyes – the House and the Senate – and these must both see eye-to-eye on any piece of legislation before it can become law. A second head is the administrative or Executive Department with all authority centered in a single, strong President, operating within a clearly defined framework of limited power. The third head is the judiciary, which was assigned the task of acting as guardian of the Constitution and the interpretation of its principles as originally designed by the Founders.

The genius of this three-headed eagle was not only the separation of powers but the fact that all three heads operated through a single neck. By this means the Founders carefully integrated these three departments so that each one was coordinated with the others and could not perform independently of them. It was an ingeniously structured pattern of political power which might be described as “coordination without consolidation.” (p. 23)

            The federal government is supposed to turn on the same “neck,” and the three departments are supposed to support each other. In addition, the American eagle also has two wings as explained by Skousen.

Wing #1 of the eagle might be referred to as the problem-solving wing or the wing of compassion. Those who function through this dimension of the system are sensitive to the unfulfilled needs of the people. They dream of elaborate plans to solve these problems.

Wing #2 has the responsibility of conserving the nation’s resources and the people’s freedom. Its function is to analyze the programs of wing #1 with two questions. First, can we afford it? Secondly, what will it do to the rights and individual freedom of the people?

Now, if both of these wings fulfill their assigned function, the America eagle will fly straighter and higher than any civilization in the history of the world. But if either of these wings goes to sleep on the job, the American eagle will drift toward anarchy or tyranny. For example, if wing #1 becomes infatuated with the idea of solving all the problems of the nation regardless of the cost, and wing #2 fails to bring its power into play to sober the problem-solvers with a more realistic approach, the eagles will spin off toward the left, which is tyranny.

On the other hand, if wing #1 fails to see the problems which need solving and wing #2 becomes inflexible in its course of not solving problems simply to save money, or not disturb the status quo, then the machinery of government loses its credibility and the eagle drifts over toward the right where the people decide to take matters into their own hands. This can eventually disintegrate into anarchy. (p. 24)

As Skousen explained the American eagle, there is supposed to be conflict between the three heads and between the two “eyes” in Congress. The problem is that the necessary conflict in the federal government has become contention.

            The situation in the United States at the present time is an executive department that is trying to do the job of the legislative branch – passing laws by executive orders. The judicial department is attempting to keep order by slapping down the executive orders as unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the two wings – the problem-solving/compassionate/liberal wing and the wing conserving resources and freedom – are not working together. The liberal wing wants to solve all the problems imaginable for the people without a care as to the cost. The conservative wing is trying to convince the liberal wing that the expenses are too high.

            Remember the words of Elder Uchtdorf, “Conflict is inevitable. Contention is a choice.” Then consider the words of the Savior Jesus Christ, who said, ““Contention is not of me, but is of the devil” (3 Nephi 11:29, Book of Mormon). If there is contention in the federal government – and I believe that there is, then Satan is influencing what is happening. He gains control of governments through secret combinations, which corrupt the government.

The only way to get rid of the contention is to get rid of the corruption, and this involves destroying the power of the secret combinations who control the government. Since we do not know who is in the secret combinations and the Department of Justice does not appear to be interested in ending the corruption in the government, it is obvious that America is in danger.

In the words of Skousen, the wings of the American eagle are not fulfilling their assigned functions and causing America to drift to the side rather than soaring high. I believe that America is drifting to the left toward total anarchy when there is no law. This condition will prepare fertile ground for a tyrant to enter the picture and bring Americans into tyranny. It has happened in other countries, and it can happen in America. The only way to prevent it is to right the American eagle and end the contention in the nation. At this point, I believe that only God can save America. Please join me in praying for America.

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