The Gospel of Peace


The Gospel of Peace

At this Christmas season, the whole Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the “Prince of Peace.” We all rejoice at the angel’s announcement of that birth:

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Shepherds on the Hillside at Bethlehem

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. …

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”1

A good illustration of the way Christians honor the Savior are the words Charles Dickens wrote for his own children:

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Charles Dickens

“My dear children, I am very anxious that you should know something about the History of Jesus Christ. For everyone ought to know about Him. No one ever lived, who was so good, so kind, so gentle, and so sorry for all people who did wrong.”

That was Dickens’s introduction. Here is his conclusion:

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Charles Dickens

“Remember!—It is Christianity to do good always—even to those who do evil to us. It is Christianity to love our neighbour as ourself, and to do to all men as we would have them Do to us. It is Christianity to be gentle, merciful, and forgiving, and to keep those qualities quiet in our own hearts, and never make a boast of them, or of our prayers or of our love of God, but always to shew that we love Him by humbly trying to do right in everything. If we do this, and remember the life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and try to act up to them, we may confidently hope that God will forgive us our sins and mistakes, and enable us to live and die in Peace.”2

As Dickens wrote, the “life and lessons of Our Lord Jesus Christ” lead us to peace. The Apostle Paul called our Savior’s teachings the “gospel of peace.”3

The word peace has many different meanings in the scriptures. When Jesus said, “Peace be unto you,” He apparently described the kind of peace the Prophet Isaiah declared: “And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.”4 The Savior fulfilled that prophecy. He explained: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.”5

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"Peace I Leave with You" (John 14:27)

In His final instructions, the Lord Jesus Christ told his Apostles, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”6

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Jesus Christ Visits the Americas

Soon after that, in His visit to the righteous in the new world, the Savior quoted these words of Isaiah: “And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children.”7

What our Savior taught about peace in our lives as individuals also applies to peace in a family, peace in a nation, and peace in the world.

The Savior and his Apostles had no program for world peace other than individual righteousness. They mounted no opposition to the rule of Rome or to the regime of its local tyrants. They preached individual righteousness and taught that the children of God should love their enemies8 and “live peaceably with all men.”9

War and conflict are the result of wickedness; peace is the product of righteousness. The blessings of the gospel are universal, and so is the formula for peace: keep the commandments of God.

President Howard W. Hunter taught this:

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Howard W. Hunter

“The peace for which the world longs is a time of suspended hostilities; but men do not realize that peace is a state of existence that comes to man only upon the terms and conditions set by God, and in no other way. …

“… If we look to man and the ways of the world, we will find turmoil and confusion. If we will but turn to God, we will find peace for the restless soul. …

“This peace shelters us from the worldly turmoil.”10

In modern revelation we read: “But learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.”11

Peace is our Savior’s promise, and peace is our goal. This promised peace is the sense of well-being and serenity that comes from keeping His commandments. President Spencer W. Kimball said:

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Spencer W. Kimball

“Peace is the fruit of righteousness. It cannot be bought with money, and cannot be traded nor bartered. It must be earned.”12 We sing, “Sweet is the peace the gospel brings,”13 and in another great hymn we join in singing this melodic prayer:

“Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me.”14

We cannot have peace among nations without achieving general righteousness among the people who comprise them. In the troubled years of World War II Elder John A. Widtsoe taught this:

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John A. Widstoe

“The only way to build a peaceful community is to build men and women who are lovers and makers of peace. Each individual, by that doctrine of Christ and His Church, holds in his own hands the peace of the world.

“That makes me responsible for the peace of the world, and makes you individually responsible for the peace of the world. The responsibility cannot be shifted to someone else.”15

About thirty years later, another general leader, Eldred G. Smith, taught that same truth:

“If each person would have peace within his soul, then there would be peace in the family. If there is peace in each family, then there is peace in the nation. If there is peace in the nations, there is peace in the world.

“Let us not just sing, ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me,’ but let us mean it. Make it my goal—your goal.”16

One of my favorite Christmas stories was published in the Deseret News over 30 years ago. It tells of an 11-year-old girl and what she learned through her anguish about not receiving a desired gift and her peace at learning the meaning of what we celebrate by gifts at Christmastime. I share this especially for the children and youth among us.

An 11-year-old girl was grieving because she had not received the new doll she wanted for so long.

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Childhood

Trying to give comfort, her mother said, “You’re outgrowing things like that.” Had she really outgrown Christmas? her daughter wondered. Her father explained:

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Childhood

“My dear, dear little girl. There’s so much pain, and joy, in growing up. No, child, you haven’t outgrown Christmas. Something far more important is happening to you. You are growing up to realize that many things have deeper and more significant meanings than as a child you were able to understand. … You have heard it said that we give gifts on Christmas because the shepherds and wise men brought gifts to the Christ Child, but let me tell you of the real first Christmas gift.”

Her father then testified of the great love our Heavenly Father had for His eldest Son, “who had been loyal to Him through much trouble and rebelling and who had even helped Him create the world on which we live.” He told her how our Heavenly Father had given us that Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be our Savior.

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Childhood

He read from the Book of Mormon how this Son “shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay. … And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death; for behold, blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people. And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth” (Mosiah 3:5, 7–8).

Closing the book, he explained:

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Childhood

“Even though our Father in Heaven knew these things were in store for His beloved Son, He, in His infinite love and wisdom, gave Him to the world. And the second part of this wondrous gift is that Christ, the Son, knowing, too, all this, gave Himself willingly that we might have eternal life.”

Years later, the woman who grew from this little girl wrote these words:

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Childhood

“That was the first Christmas night I could remember that I didn’t go to sleep with my Christmas doll on my pillow. I had something better. Within my heart was a new and thrilling peace. I had found a gift that could not be worn out or lost, a gift that I could never grow out of, but one that, with God’s help, I must grow into. … And I prayed … that someday I would have real children, and then I would know the rest of the Gift of Love.”17

I close with President Russell M. Nelson’s teaching at last year’s First Presidency Christmas Devotional: “Jesus Christ is God’s transcendent gift—the gift of the Father to all of His children.”18

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”19

I pray that eternal truth will permeate all we do at this Christmas season, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Notes

  1. Luke 2:11, 13–14.

  2. Charles Dickens, The Life of Our Lord (1934), 11, 127.

  3. See Ephesians 6:15; Romans 10:15.

  4. Isaiah 32:17.

  5. John 16:33.

  6. John 14:27.

  7. 3 Nephi 22:13.

  8. See Matthew 5:44.

  9. Romans 12:18.

  10. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter (2015), 51, 56.

  11. Doctrine and Covenants 59:23.

  12. Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball (2011), 157.

  13. “Sweet Is the Peace the Gospel Brings,” Hymns, no. 14.

  14. Copyright-protected Lyrics for “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” by Jill Jackson and Sy Miller. © 1955, 1983 by Jan-Lee Music, ASCAP, International copyright secured. All rights reserved.

  15. John A. Widtsoe, “The Nature of Peace,” in Conference Report, Oct. 1943, 113.

  16. Eldred G. Smith, “Peace,” Ensign, Jul. 1972, 118.

  17. Janice Jensen Barton, “The Christmas I Remember Best,” Deseret News, Dec. 24, 1959, front page.

  18. Russell M. Nelson, “Four Gifts from the Savior,” Ensign, Dec. 2019, 15.

  19. John 3:16.