“Book of Mormon Principles: Turning the Other Cheek,” Ensign, Sept. 2004, 32
Numerous passages in the Book of Mormon make it clear that the Lord requires us to forbear, forgive, and seek reconciliation when we are offended. Among them are these verses:
“And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. …
“… I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (3 Ne. 12:9, 39).
“If ye forgive not men their trespasses neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (3 Ne. 13:15).
What are the results of seeking revenge? How can we turn the other cheek while we are smarting from injustice and agitated by fiery emotions? Let’s look at several examples from the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon describes dire consequences that have resulted from responding aggressively to insults; it also describes blessings that have come when aggressive feelings have been restrained. Consider the contrast between the people of King Limhi and the people of Alma. These groups were of the same nation, living in the same era. A series of events led to both groups being ruled by harsh Lamanite taskmasters. In response to being smitten and laden with heavy burdens, King Limhi’s people reacted with force. They attacked their oppressors three times, and each time they were defeated and incurred dreadful loss of life. Their nation was plunged into grief and mourning. It was only when they humbled themselves and pleaded with the Lord that a way was found for them to escape their oppressors. (See Mosiah 21–22.)
Alma and his people were also persecuted and treated as beasts of burden, but unlike King Limhi’s people, they submitted meekly. They poured out their hearts to the Lord, and He comforted them and eased their burdens. When they had demonstrated their faith and humility, the Lord led them to freedom. These experiences caused all of Alma’s people, including their children, to rejoice and praise God for His mercy and deliverance. (See Mosiah 23–24.)
A dramatic example of the consequences of not turning the other cheek occurred among the Nephites during the decade that preceded the Savior’s Crucifixion and visit to the Americas. Following a successful struggle against the Gadianton robbers, peace was established, and “there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression” (3 Ne. 6:5). However, within three years, pride and contention crept in. “Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God” (3 Ne. 6:13). In the space of just four years, “the church began to be broken up,” the people were “carried about by the temptations of the devil whithersoever he desired,” they “did wilfully rebel against God,” they “set at defiance the law and the rights of their country,” and they caused “great contention in the land” (3 Ne. 6:14, 17, 18, 30; 3 Ne. 7:7). Five years after the commencement of this apostasy, at the time of the Savior’s Crucifixion, cataclysmic destruction visited these people (see 3 Ne. 8). It is sobering to think that returning “railing for railing” was an early step on the path that quickly led to this people’s spiritual and physical destruction.
Few of us will ever receive such a stinging, undeserved rebuke as the one that came to the Nephite governor Pahoran from General Moroni. It was a critical time. The Nephites were fighting an invasion on several fronts against superior numbers when some of them, the “king-men,” rose up in insurrection against Pahoran, forcing him to flee from his capital. Unaware of this, Moroni was angry when the vital supplies and reinforcements he expected Pahoran to send did not arrive. He wrote a blistering epistle to the embattled Pahoran, accusing him of “thoughtless stupor” (Alma 60:7), “idleness” (Alma 60:22), and indifference to the suffering and death of the Nephite soldiers.
The injustice of these accusations might have made it natural for Pahoran to reply in anger, which may well have resulted in the premature fall of the Nephite nation. However, his reply was a model of meekness and humility. He wrote, “And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart” (Alma 61:9). He then proposed the strategy that ended the insurrection and saved the Nephite nation.
What was true for these people is true for us. Soft answers do turn away wrath, and peacemakers are most certainly blessed. But when we are treated unfairly, many of us are assailed with thoughts of revenge. What will help us keep these thoughts under control? Even better, is there anything that would prevent anger and indignation from rising in our hearts?
When King Lamoni’s father asked, “What shall I do that I may … [have] this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast?” Aaron counseled him to repent and call on God in faith, believing that he would receive (see Alma 22:15–16). The king did so, and the Lord granted his earnest plea for a change in heart. If we will follow Aaron’s counsel and call on God in faith, we may also have our hearts freed from contentious and vengeful feelings. Answers will most likely come to us as quiet promptings from the Spirit.
As a young man I received an answer in such a way. At the time my acquaintances frequently targeted me for teasing. I doubt they really intended to offend me, but I felt embarrassed and alienated. As I pondered this, it occurred to me that if I understood why people said and did these things, I would not be hurt by them.
I prayed for a greater ability to understand others, and my desire was granted. This effort to understand others has continued to help me deal more effectively with anger and resentment. President Brigham Young said, “I have learned that the greatest difficulty that exists in the little bickerings and strifes of man with man, woman with woman … arises from the want of rightly understanding each other.”1 Seeking to understand the perspective of others will often help assuage feelings of anger.
Most of us will experience injustice or maltreatment in some form or other during our lifetime. But the Savior’s Atonement can redeem us not only from our own sins but also from the pain caused by the sins of other people. “And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Ne. 9:21). If we meekly and humbly strive to be peaceful and forgiving, the Holy Ghost will enter our hearts, melt the pain of insults and injuries, and quench our resentment and desire for revenge.