My dear brothers and sisters, as we experience sobering days of commotion, contention, and, for many, deep suffering, our hearts are filled with overwhelming gratitude for our Savior and the eternal blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We love Him and we trust Him, and we pray that we will forever follow Him.
The powerful impact of the internet is a blessing and a challenge, unique to our time.
In a world of social media and information superhighways, one person’s voice can be multiplied exponentially. That voice, whether true or false, whether fair or prejudicial, whether kind or cruel, moves instantly across the world.
Social media posts of thoughtfulness and goodness are often quietly under the radar, while words of contempt and anger are frequently thundering in our ears, whether with political philosophy, people in the news, or opinions on the pandemic. No one or no subject, including the Savior and His restored gospel, is immune from this social phenomenon of polarized voices.
The Sermon on the Mount is a message for all but was specifically given to the Savior’s disciples, those who had chosen to follow Him.
The Lord taught how to live, then and now, in a contemptuous world. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” He declared, “for they shall be called the children of God.”1
By the shield of our faith in Jesus Christ, we become peacemakers, quenching—meaning to calm, cool, or extinguish—all the fiery darts of the adversary.2
As we do our part, His promise is that we will be called the “children of God.” Every person on earth is the “offspring”3 of God, but to be called the “children of God” means much, much more. As we come unto Jesus Christ and make covenants with Him, we become “his seed” and “heirs of the kingdom,”4 “children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters.”5
How does a peacemaker calm and cool the fiery darts? Certainly not by shrinking before those who disparage us. Rather, we remain confident in our faith, sharing our beliefs with conviction but always void of anger or malice.6
Recently, after seeing a strongly worded opinion piece that was critical of the Church, Reverend Amos C. Brown, a national civil rights leader and pastor of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, responded:
“I respect the experience and perspective of the individual who wrote those words. Granted, I don’t see what he sees.”
“I count it one of my life’s greatest joys to know these leaders [of the Church], including President Russell M. Nelson. They are, in my estimation, the embodiment of the best leadership our country has to offer.”
He then added: “We can gripe about the way things were. We can refuse to acknowledge all the good going on now. … But these approaches will not heal our national divisions. … As Jesus taught, we don’t eradicate evil with more evil. We love generously and live mercifully, even toward those we think to be our enemies.”7
Reverend Brown is a peacemaker. He calmly and respectfully cooled the fiery darts. Peacemakers are not passive; they are persuasive in the Savior’s way.8
What gives us the inner strength to cool, calm, and quench the fiery darts aimed toward the truths we love? The strength comes from our faith in Jesus Christ and our faith in His words.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, … and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
“… For great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”9
Two important principles guide our desire to be peacemakers.
First, our Heavenly Father has given each individual his or her moral agency, with the ability to choose one’s own path.10 This agency is one of the greatest gifts of God.
Second, with this agency, our Heavenly Father allowed for “opposition in all things.”11 We “taste the bitter, that [we] may know to prize the good.”12 Opposition should not surprise us. We learn to distinguish good from evil.
We rejoice in the blessing of agency, understanding that there will be many who do not believe what we believe. In fact, few in the latter days will choose to make their faith in Jesus Christ central to all they think and do.13
Because of social media platforms, one voice of disbelief can appear to be a multitude of negative voices,14 but even if it is a multitude of voices, we choose the path of peacemakers.
Some view the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve as having worldly motives, like political, business, and cultural leaders.
However, we come very differently to our responsibilities. We are not elected or selected from applications. Without any specific professional preparation, we are called and ordained to bear testimony of the name of Jesus Christ throughout the world until our final breath. We endeavor to bless the sick, the lonely, the downhearted, and the poor and to strengthen the kingdom of God. We seek to know the Lord’s will and to proclaim it, especially to those who seek eternal life.15
Although our humble desire is for the Savior’s teachings to be honored by all, the words of the Lord through His prophets are often contrary to the thinking and trends of the world. It has always been so.16
The Savior said to His Apostles:
“If the world [hates] you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. …
“… All these things will they do … because they know not him that sent me.”17
We genuinely love and care for all our neighbors, whether or not they believe as we do. Jesus taught us in the parable of the Good Samaritan that those of different beliefs should sincerely reach out to help anyone in need, being peacemakers, pursuing good and noble causes.
In February, a headline in the Arizona Republic stated, “Bipartisan bill supported by Latter-day Saints would protect gay and transgender Arizonans.”18
We, as Latter-day Saints, are “pleased to be part of a coalition of faith, business, LGBTQ people and community leaders who have worked together in a spirit of trust and mutual respect.”19
President Russell M. Nelson once thoughtfully asked, “Cannot boundary lines exist without becoming battle lines?”20
We endeavor to be “peaceable followers of Christ.”21
Some of the attacks upon the Savior were so malicious that He said nothing. “And the chief priests and scribes … vehemently accused him … and mocked him,” but Jesus “answered [them] nothing.”22 There are times when being a peacemaker means that we resist the impulse to respond and instead, with dignity, remain quiet.23
It is heartbreaking for all of us when harsh or dismissive words about the Savior, His followers, and His Church are spoken or published by those who once stood with us, took the sacrament with us, and testified with us of the divine mission of Jesus Christ.24
This also happened during the Savior’s ministry.
Some of the disciples of Jesus who were with Him during His most majestic miracles determined to “[walk] no more with him.”25 Sadly, not all will remain firm in their love for the Savior and their determination to keep His commandments.26
Jesus taught us to withdraw from the circle of anger and contention. In one example, after the Pharisees confronted Jesus and counseled how they might destroy Him, the scriptures say that Jesus withdrew Himself from them,27 and miracles occurred as “great multitudes followed him, and he healed them all.”28
We too can move away from contention and bless the lives of others29 while not isolating ourselves in our own corner.
In Mbuji-Mayi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, initially some were critical of the Church, not understanding our beliefs or knowing our members.
Some time ago, Kathy and I attended a very special Church service in Mbuji-Mayi. The children were dressed immaculately, with bright eyes and big smiles. I had hoped to speak to them about their education but learned that many were not attending school. Our leaders, with very nominal humanitarian funds, found a way to help.30 Now, more than 400 students—girls and boys, members as well as those not of our faith—are welcomed and taught by 16 teachers who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ.
Fourteen-year-old Kalanga Muya said, “[Having little money,] I spent four years without attending school. … I am so grateful for what the Church has done. … I can now read, write, and speak French.”31 Speaking of this initiative, the mayor of Mbuji-Mayi said, “I am inspired by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because while [other] churches are being divided each one in his corner … [you are working] with [others] to help the community in need.”32
Each time I read John chapter 13, I am reminded of the Savior’s perfect example as a peacemaker. Jesus lovingly washed the feet of the Apostles. Then, we read, “he was troubled in spirit”33 as He thought about one He loved preparing to betray Him. I have tried to imagine the thoughts and feelings of the Savior as Judas left. Interestingly, at that sobering moment, Jesus spoke no more about His “troubling” feelings or about betrayal. Rather, He spoke to His Apostles about love, His words cascading through the centuries:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you. …
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”34
May we love Him and love one another. May we be peacemakers, that we may be called the “children of God,” I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.