“The Price of Peace,” Ensign, Oct. 1983, 3
I have chosen the subject the price of peace because of the world’s overwhelming concern for peace—and our clear failure to obtain it. Sadly, in our search for peace, we seem as Paul so aptly said, “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim. 3:7.) We also seem as Isaiah said, in “a dream of a night vision … as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty.” (Isa. 29:7.)
When I was in the military service during the First World War, we were told that we were “making the world safe for democracy”; we were fighting a war to end all wars. When my eldest son was in the military during the Second World War, he was told that he was preserving the cause of liberty and freedom. The same rationale has continued for the past several decades.
Why is it that our generation, with all its vaunted learning, has failed so miserably in its pursuit of peace? The only answer I can give you is that we are not willing to pay the price for it. My purpose here is to point out that price.
Peace has been variously defined, but perhaps we might think of it as “harmony within one’s self, and with God and man.” This conception includes all elements in the dictionary definition.
The condition opposite to peace and harmony, say the lexicographers, is characterized by conflict, contention, disputation, strife, and war.
Let us consider these two descriptions of peace and its antithesis in light of scripture. Let me first note, however, that I lay my case upon the scriptures, believing, as I do, that they contain the revealed word of God and that God, knowing all things, has spoken ultimate truth. Now to the scripture:
“The works of the flesh,” says the Apostle Paul, include “adultery, … lasciviousness, idolatry, … hatred, variance, … wrath, strife, … envyings, murders, drunkenness, … and such like.” (Gal. 5:19–21.) Note how closely these works of the flesh resemble conflict, contention, disputations, strife, and war—the antithesis of peace and harmony.
“But the fruit of the Spirit,” continues Paul, “is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” (Gal. 5:22–23) the very elements of the peace we seek.
From these descriptions, is it not clear that what we have to do to get peace is obtain the fruit of the Spirit? Or to put it another way, since Lucifer “is the father of contention” (3 Ne. 11:29), the antithesis of peace, the price of peace is victory over Satan.
I know that there are some in the world who deny the existence of a personal satan. This denial is false, being sponsored by the father of lies himself, but there is nothing new about it. The anti-Christs, at his bidding, have denied the existence of Satan from ancient times. The fact is, however, that Lucifer is a personage of spirit, just the same as Jesus and you and I were personages of spirit before we were born. In the spirit world, he was a personage of great ability. Isaiah refers to him as a son of the morning. “O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground,” he laments. (Isa. 14:12.)
Yet Lucifer rejected the Father’s plan for the salvation of the human race and sought to substitute his own plan. Not prevailing, he, with one third of the hosts of heaven, was “cast down, and … became Satan … the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will,” that is, those who will “not hearken unto my voice.” (Moses 4:3–4.)
One of Satan’s dupes, by the name of Korihor, having been stricken dumb because he repeatedly denied the existence of God, “put forth his hand and wrote, … I know that I am dumb, for I cannot speak; and I know that nothing save it were the power of God could bring this upon me; yea, and I always knew that there was a God.
“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success; insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” (Alma 30:52–53.)
You see, Korihor knew, right while he was denying their existence, that there was a Satan and that there was a God. Many of Korihor’s modern counterparts fulfill the prediction of Nephi, who, speaking of our times, said:
“At that day shall he [the devil] rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.
“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
“And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none—and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance.” (2 Ne. 28:20–22.)
Now, we may rest assured of this: if there is no devil, there is no God. But there is a God and there is a devil, and the bringing of peace requires the elimination of Satan’s influence. Where he is, peace can never be. Further, peaceful coexistence with him is impossible. He cannot be brought to cooperate in the maintenance of peace and harmony. He promotes nothing but the works of the flesh.
“Whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.” (Moro. 7:17.)
As a prelude to peace, then, the influence of Satan must be completely subjugated. Even in heaven there could be no peace with him after his rebellion. There, in the world of spirits, the Father and the Son could find no ground upon which they could cooperate with him. He had to be cast out—not compromised with, but cast out.
“No man,” said Jesus, “can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24.)
Earth life is a period of trial for every person of two mighty forces pulling in opposite directions. On the one hand is the power of Christ and His righteousness. On the other hand is Satan and his fellow travelers. Mankind, in the exercise of their God-given moral agency, must determine to travel in company with the one or the other. The reward for following the one is the fruit of the Spirit—peace. The reward for following the other is the works of the flesh—the antithesis of peace.
For six thousand years the campaign for the souls of men has been waged by Satan with unabated fury. The widespread debauchery, idolatry, contention, bloodshed, suffering, and sorrow under which the inhabitants of the earth have groaned through the centuries testify to the fact that Satan has always wielded a potent influence.
But while, as a general rule, the works of the flesh have flourished, there have been at least two periods of peace—and there will be another yet to come.
The Nephites, following the ministry of Jesus among them, abolished the works of the flesh and obtained the fruit of the Spirit. This is the way they did it: “The disciples of Jesus had formed a church of Christ … and as many as did come unto them, and did truly repent of their sins, were baptized in the name of Jesus; and they did also receive the Holy Ghost. And … in the thirty sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord.” Consequently, “there were no contentions and disputations among them … because of the love of God which did dwell in (their) hearts. … There were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; … (but) they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs of the kingdom of God … and every man did deal justly one with another. … And surely,” says the record, “there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” (See 4 Ne. 1:1–2, 15–17.)
This condition prevailed among them for almost two centuries. Then deserting the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Nephites turned to the works of the flesh, and “there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, … and they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.” There were also among them some “churches which professed to know the Christ, and yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel,”—a perfect prototype of our times. Now, these churches “did multiply exceedingly because of iniquity, and because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts.” (4 Ne. 1:24–28.) Thus yielding to Satan, this Nephite people, which through strict obedience to the gospel of Christ had enjoyed perfect peace for nearly two centuries, was, within another two centuries, utterly destroyed as a nation in a civil war.
Another people who achieved peace were the people of Enoch who lived before the flood. They came to peace in the same manner as did the Nephites, and they enjoyed the same felicity. But they did not thereafter yield to Satan and return to the works of the flesh, as did the Nephites. On the contrary, they continued in their righteousness and “the Lord came and dwelt with” them and he “called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness.” And they “built a city that was called the City of Holiness, even Zion,” which in the “process of time, was taken up into heaven,” where it now is. (Moses 7:16–21.)
Of all the descendants of Adam and Eve, these people of Enoch are the only ones, so far as I am informed, who have obtained lasting perfect peace.
As it was with the Nephites and the people of Enoch, so it has always been and always will be; for banishing Satan by living the gospel of Jesus Christ is the price of—and the only way to—peace. God, in His infinite solicitude for the welfare of His children, charted for them this way to peace in the beginning of the world, and He has re-charted it in every dispensation since. He has just as consistently sounded warnings of disasters which follow abandonment of that course. If a single person, yielding to Satan, is filled with the works of the flesh, he wars within himself. If two yield, they each war within themselves and fight with each other. If many people yield, a society flourishes with the harvest of great stress and contention. If the rulers of a country yield, there is world-wide contention, for as the prophet Isaiah says, “the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa. 57:20–21.)
As the works of the flesh have universal application, so likewise does the gospel of peace. If one man lives it, he has peace within himself. If two men live it, they each have peace within themselves and with each other. If the citizens live it, the nation has domestic peace. When there are enough nations enjoying the fruit of the Spirit to control world affairs, then, and only then, will the war-drums throb no longer, and the battle flags be furl’d in the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World. (See Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Locksley Hall.” The Complete Poetical Works of Tennyson, ed. W. J. Rolfe, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin Co., 1898, p. 93, lines 27–28.)
Now there are individuals who try to serve the Lord without offending the devil. They raise in the minds of many truth seekers the vexing question, is there not some middle ground upon which peace may be secured and maintained? Must the choice lie irrevocably between peace on the one hand, obtained by compliance with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and contention and war on the other hand?
In answer to this question, I feel safe in saying that if there is a middle ground it is as yet undiscovered; and that, too, notwithstanding the fact that the search for it has been long and tortuous. Ignorant of, or ignoring, and without any thought of paying the price of peace, men have tried many approaches. There was St. Pierre’s project in 1713; Bentham’s plan, 1780; Kant’s project, 1795; there were the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907; and the League of Nations following World War I, to name but a few. There have been pacts, treaties and alliances, ad infinitum, all without success.
Sometimes we put great well-meaning hope—even desperate hope—in the works and wisdom of man. I remember that just before the First World War broke out in August 1914 Dr. David Starr Jordan, then honorary chancellor of Stanford University, and an eminent advocate of peace, stated that the conditions of the world made any great war between the nations impossible, that there never could be and, therefore, never would be another great international war, that the world had passed beyond that stage of savagery.
Said Elder James E. Talmage who heard him speak, “He showed that the business interests were so closely knit that if a nation should be so rash as to declare war upon another, the bankers would veto the declaration because they had too much at stake; and that if the voice of the bankers was not heeded then the people would rise up and say, ‘There shall be no war.’ … Then by another splendid array of facts he showed the prospective cost of warfare in this day and proved to his own satisfaction that there was not wealth enough in the world to keep up a big war for more than a very few months. When he had closed his address, [Elder Talmage said] to him: ‘I wish I could believe you, doctor.’ ‘You do not believe me?’ ‘I do not.’ ‘And why?’ ‘Because you have left out some of the most important factors of your problem.’ ‘And what are they?’ ‘The words of the prophets; and in a matter that concerns the existence of nations I shall consider the words of the prophets in preference to the deductions of the academician, even though he be as distinguished as yourself, sir.’” (James E. Talmage, Liahona, vol. 5, pp. 677–79.)
The fact that within the thirty years following Dr. Jordan’s prediction the world passed through two World Wars and has since had three decades of wars and rumors of wars brings to mind the words of the Lord through the mouth of Isaiah: “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (Isa. 29:14.)
If we would have peace, brothers and sisters, we must make up our minds to pay the price of peace. Such is the word of God, and such is the verdict of six thousand years of human history.
Now, while I feel that the many people of the earth today are so infected with the works of the flesh that they do not recognize them as such, and, therefore, many people are not possessed of the moral courage to pay the price of peace, still we should not, Jonah-like, sulk under a vine if some of them should turn to apply the principles of the Prince of Peace and find its joyful rewards. On the contrary, we should rejoice, for to proclaim peace is the sole purpose of our life’s mission. We should find no pleasure in the fact that men’s strivings for peace have proved ineffectual. I wage no war against their efforts. Many of them are doing the best they can in the light they have. Nevertheless, I can see no justification for us, who have the clear light of the revealed gospel of Christ, to spend our lives stumbling around through the mists following the uncertain glimmer of a flickering candle lighted by the wisdom of men. Rather, we should devote our energies to spreading the true light, and leave the mists to those who do not see that light.
Yet, even as we try to teach the gospel of peace, we see that most people would prefer to focus on other aspects of the problem. Even so, we should not live a life of despair and gloom. We should enjoy life in the light of revealed truth. Keep ourselves advised as to what the Lord has said about the price of peace.
I am grateful that the days of my probation have come in this dispensation, in which the light of revealed truth shines in all its effulgent glory. I know of no other time in which I would have preferred to live. If in the providence of God, holocausts come, the earth will not disintegrate or be rendered uninhabitable, neither will all the peoples of the earth be destroyed. It will be part of the prophets’ road to the dawn of a glorious millennium of perfect peace. For this I know—and of it you may likewise be assured—in the end, righteousness will triumph; the powers of darkness will be put to flight; peace will come.
Let us as a people vow to apply in our individual lives, in our homes, in our businesses, in all our relationships with others and each other the principles of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. The fruit of its spirit brings and establishes peace. And each of us may have peace in ourselves if we are willing to pay the price.
Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:
1. Peace is “harmony within one’s self, and with God and man.” What we have to do to get peace is obtain the Spirit.
2. The price of peace is victory over Satan. Where he is, peace can never be. Further, peaceful coexistence with him is impossible.
3. Sometimes we put great, well-meaning hope—even desperate hope—in the works and wisdom of man. Nevertheless, we who have the clear light of the revealed gospel of Christ should not spend our lives following the uncertain glimmer of a flickering candle lighted by the wisdom of men. Rather, we should devote our energies to spreading the true light.
4. We can be assured that in the end, righteousness will triumph; the powers of darkness will be put to flight; peace will come.
1. Relate your personal feelings and experiences about the price of peace. Ask family members to share their feelings.
2. Are there scriptural verses or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?
3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop to the household head concerning peace?