Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 21

“Chapter 21: School Thy Feelings,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Thomas S. Monson (2020)

“Chapter 21,” Teachings: Thomas S. Monson

Chapter 21

School Thy Feelings

“No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry.”

From the Life of Thomas S. Monson

President Monson responded to the unkind or angry words of others with a quiet softness that usually calmed even the most tense situations. One experience that taught him the effect of a soft word instead of an angry one occurred on his first overnight camp as a Boy Scout. He related this incident to an interviewer, who reported it as follows:

“Tommy and his fellow Scouts were joined on the camp by their Scoutmaster, a fellow ward member named Carl who walked on an artificial leg. …

“As the Scouts bedded down for the night in their cabin, Tommy and the others watched Carl remove his artificial leg and place it next to his sleeping bag. During the night, one of the boys climbed from his sleeping bag, swiped Carl’s artificial leg, and hid it in his own bunk.

“When Carl awoke he discovered the leg was missing. But instead of raising his voice and demanding his property be immediately returned, Carl simply said he needed to step outside the cabin for a moment. The Scouts watched their leader hop on one leg out the door. ‘I think every boy felt ashamed,’ said President Monson.

“Carl soon returned and discovered his artificial leg resting where he had left it the night before. ‘I don’t know how I overlooked this the first time I looked,’ said Carl, ‘but I’m sure glad it’s here.’

“President Monson said Carl knew well he’d been the victim of a boy’s prank, but he chose to respond with softness. ‘We were all better boys for his not jumping on us.’”1

Christ healing a man

“One of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus … touched his ear, and healed him” (Luke 22:50–51).

Teachings of Thomas S. Monson


Anger doesn’t solve anything, but it can destroy everything.

Recently as I watched the news on television, I realized that many of the lead stories were similar in nature in that the tragedies reported all basically traced back to one emotion: anger. … I thought of the words of the Psalmist: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath” [Psalm 37:8]. …

… “Anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing, but it can destroy everything” [Lawrence Douglas Wilder, quoted in “Early Hardships Shaped Candidates,” Deseret News, Dec. 1, 1991, A2].2

Some time ago I read a tender story written by Louise Dickinson Rich. … She wrote:

“My grandmother had an enemy named Mrs. Wilcox. Grandma and Mrs. Wilcox moved, as brides, into next-door houses on the main street of the tiny town in which they were to live out their lives. I don’t know what started the war between them—and I don’t think that by the time I came along, over thirty years later, they themselves remembered what started it. This was no polite sparring match; this was total war. …

“When as children we visited my grandmother, part of the fun was making faces at Mrs. Wilcox’s grandchildren. One banner day we put a snake into the Wilcox rain barrel. My grandmother made token protests, but we sensed tacit sympathy.

“Don’t think for a minute that this was a one-sided campaign. Mrs. Wilcox had grandchildren, too. Grandma didn’t get off scot free. Never a windy washday went by that the clothesline didn’t mysteriously break, with the clothes falling in the dirt.

“I don’t know how Grandma could have borne her troubles so long if it hadn’t been for the household page of her daily Boston newspaper. This household page was a wonderful institution. Besides the usual cooking hints and cleaning advice, it had a department composed of letters from readers to each other. The idea was that if you had a problem—or even only some steam to blow off—you wrote a letter to the paper, signing some fancy name like Arbutus. That was Grandma’s pen name. Then some of the other ladies who had the same problem wrote back and told you what they had done about it. … Very often, the problem disposed of, you kept on for years writing to each other through the column of the paper, telling each other about your children and your canning and your new dining-room suite. That’s what happened to Grandma. She and a woman called Sea Gull corresponded for a quarter of a century. Sea Gull was Grandma’s true friend.

“When I was about sixteen, Mrs. Wilcox died. In a small town, no matter how much you have hated your next-door neighbor, it is only common decency to run over and see what practical service you can do the bereaved. Grandma, neat in a percale apron to show that she meant what she said about being put to work, crossed the lawn to the Wilcox house, where the Wilcox daughters set her to cleaning the already-immaculate front parlor for the funeral. And there on the parlor table in the place of honor was a huge scrapbook; and in the scrapbook, pasted neatly in parallel columns were Grandma’s letters to Sea Gull over the years and Sea Gull’s letters to her. Though neither woman had known it, Grandma’s worst enemy had been her [very] best friend. That was the only time I remember seeing my grandmother cry. I didn’t know then exactly what she was crying about, but I do now. She was crying for all the wasted years which could never be salvaged” [adapted from “Grandma and the Sea Gull,” Together, Nov. 1957, 13–14].3


We cannot feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry.

We’ve all felt anger. It can come when things don’t turn out the way we want. It might be a reaction to something which is said of us or to us. We may experience it when people don’t behave the way we want them to behave. Perhaps it comes when we have to wait for something longer than we expected. We might feel angry when others can’t see things from our perspective. There seem to be countless possible reasons for anger.

There are times when we can become upset at imagined hurts or perceived injustices. President Heber J. Grant, seventh President of the Church, told of a time as a young adult when he did some work for a man who then sent him a check for $500 with a letter apologizing for not being able to pay him more. Then President Grant did some work for another man—work which he said was 10 times more difficult, involving 10 times more labor and a great deal more time. This second man sent him a check for $150. Young Heber felt he had been treated most unfairly. He was at first insulted and then incensed.

He recounted the experience to an older friend, who asked, “Did that man intend to insult you?” President Grant replied, “No. He told my friends he had rewarded me handsomely.”

To this the older friend replied, “A man’s a fool who takes an insult that isn’t intended” [see Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1969), 288–89].

The Apostle Paul asks in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 26 of the Joseph Smith Translation: “Can ye be angry, and not sin? Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” I ask, is it possible to feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry? I know of no instance where such would be the case.

From 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, we read:

“There shall be no disputations among you. …

“For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.

“Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away” [3 Nephi 11:28–30].

To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.4


We can refrain from anger, be peacemakers, and show kindness and respect to others.

We are all susceptible to those feelings which, if left unchecked, can lead to anger. We experience displeasure or irritation or antagonism, and if we so choose, we lose our temper and become angry with others. Ironically, those others are often members of our own families—the people we really love the most.

Many years ago I read the following Associated Press dispatch which appeared in the newspaper: An elderly man disclosed at the funeral of his brother, with whom he had shared, from early manhood, a small, one-room cabin near Canisteo, New York, that following a quarrel, they had divided the room in half with a chalk line, and neither had crossed the line or spoken a word to the other since that day—62 years before. Just think of the consequence of that anger. What a tragedy!

May we make a conscious decision, each time such a decision must be made, to refrain from anger and to leave unsaid the harsh and hurtful things we may be tempted to say.

I love the words of the hymn written by Elder Charles W. Penrose, who served in the Quorum of the Twelve and in the First Presidency during the early years of the 20th century:

School thy feelings, O my brother;

Train thy warm, impulsive soul.

Do not its emotions smother,

But let wisdom’s voice control.

School thy feelings; there is power

In the cool, collected mind.

Passion shatters reason’s tower,

Makes the clearest vision blind.

[“School Thy Feelings,” Hymns, no. 336] …

… May we be worthy sons [and daughters] of our Heavenly Father. May we ever be exemplary in our homes and faithful in keeping all of the commandments, that we may harbor no animosity toward any man but rather be peacemakers, ever remembering the Savior’s admonition, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” [John 13:35].5

World peace, though a lofty goal, is but an outgrowth of the personal peace each individual seeks to attain. I refer not to the peace promoted by man, but peace as promised of God. I speak of peace in our homes, peace in our hearts, even peace in our lives. Peace after the way of man is perishable. Peace after the manner of God will prevail.6

I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.7


We can show mercy and freely forgive.

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., [said]: … “I often think that one of the most beautiful things in the Christ’s life [were] his words on the cross, when, suffering under the agony of a death that is said to have been the most painful that the ancients could devise, … after he had been unjustly, illegally, contrary to all the rules of mercy, condemned and then crucified, when he had been nailed to the cross and was about to give up his life, he said to his Father in heaven, as those who were within hearing testify: ‘… Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34)” [in Conference Report, Oct. 1955, 24].

In the Book of Mormon, Alma describes beautifully the foregoing with his words: “The plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also” [Alma 42:15].

From the springboard of such knowledge we ask ourselves, Why, then, do we see on every side, those instances where people decline to forgive one another and show forth the cleansing act of mercy and forgiveness? What blocks the way for such healing balm to cleanse human wounds? Is it stubbornness? Could it be pride? Maybe hatred has yet to melt and disappear. “Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals!” [from O Pioneers! Hallmark Hall of Fame video adaptation of the novel by Willa Cather (1991)]. …

The Prophet Joseph urged, “Be merciful and you shall find mercy. Seek to help save souls, not to destroy them: for verily you know, that ‘there is more joy in heaven, over one sinner that repents, than there is over ninety and nine just persons [who] need no repentance’” [Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 393; see Luke 15:7].8

Christ and two thieves on crosses

“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

I am acquainted with a family which came to America from Germany. The English language was difficult for them. They had but little by way of means, but each was blessed with the will to work and with a love of God.

Their third child was born, lived but two months, and then died. Father was a cabinetmaker and fashioned a beautiful casket for the body of his precious child. The day of the funeral was gloomy, thus reflecting the sadness they felt in their loss. As the family walked to the chapel, with Father carrying the tiny casket, a small number of friends had gathered. However, the chapel door was locked. The busy bishop had forgotten the funeral. Attempts to reach him were futile. Not knowing what to do, the father placed the casket under his arm and, with his family beside him, carried it home, walking in a drenching rain.

If the family were of a lesser character, they could have blamed the bishop and harbored ill feelings. When the bishop discovered the tragedy, he visited the family and apologized. With the hurt still evident in his expression, but with tears in his eyes, the father accepted the apology, and the two embraced in a spirit of understanding. [Nothing] was left to cause further feelings of anger. Love and acceptance prevailed. …

As Alexander Pope wrote, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” [An Essay on Criticism (1711), part 2, line 325].

Sometimes we can take offense so easily. On other occasions we are too stubborn to accept a sincere apology. Who will subordinate ego, pride, and hurt—then step forward with, “I am truly sorry! Let’s be as we once were: friends. Let’s not pass to future generations the grievances, the anger of our time.” Let’s remove any [grudges] that can do nothing but destroy.

Where do [hard feelings] originate? Some come from unresolved disputes. … Others find their beginnings in disappointments, jealousies, arguments, and imagined hurts. We must solve them—lay them to rest and not leave them to canker, fester, and ultimately destroy. …

Let me conclude with an account of two men who are heroes to me. Their acts of courage were not performed on a national scale, but rather in a peaceful valley known as Midway, Utah.

Long years ago, Roy Kohler and Grant Remund served together in Church capacities. They were the best of friends. They were tillers of the soil and dairymen. Then a misunderstanding arose which became somewhat of a rift between them.

Later, when Roy Kohler became grievously ill with cancer and had but a limited time to live, my wife, Frances, and I visited Roy and his wife, and I gave him a blessing. As we talked afterward, Brother Kohler said, “Let me tell you about one of the sweetest experiences I have had during my life.” He then recounted to me his misunderstanding with Grant Remund and the ensuing estrangement. His comment was, “We were sort of on the outs with each other.”

“Then,” continued Roy, “I had just put up our hay for the winter to come, when one night, as a result of spontaneous combustion, the hay caught fire, burning the hay, the barn, and everything in it right to the ground. I was devastated,” said Roy. “I didn’t know what in the world I would do. The night was dark, except for the dying embers of the fire. Then I saw coming toward me from the road, in the direction of Grant Remund’s place, the lights of tractors and heavy equipment. As the ‘rescue party’ turned in our drive and met me amidst my tears, Grant said, ‘Roy, you’ve got quite a mess to clean up. My boys and I are here. Let’s get to it.’” Together they plunged to the task at hand. Gone forever was the hidden wedge which had separated them for a short time. They worked throughout the night and into the next day, with many others in the community joining in.

Roy Kohler has passed away, and Grant Remund is getting older. Their sons have served together in the same ward bishopric. I truly treasure the friendship of these two wonderful families.

woman comforting another woman

“Be merciful and you shall find mercy.”

May we ever be exemplary in our homes and faithful in keeping all of the commandments, that we may harbor no [hard feelings] but rather remember the Savior’s admonition: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” [John 13:35].9

Suggestions for Study and Teaching


  • President Monson noted the prevalence of anger and emphasized how destructive it is (see section 1). How have you seen that “anger doesn’t solve anything”? How can we “cease from anger”? What can we learn from the story about “Arbutus” and “Sea Gull”?

  • Review the reasons we sometimes feel anger, as mentioned by President Monson (see section 2). How can we overcome the tendency to be angry in these situations? Why is it important to understand that we can choose not to be angry? How have you been able to reconcile with someone you felt angry toward? How can we reduce contention in our homes or in other relationships?

  • How can we become more effective peacemakers? (See section 3.) How can we develop greater love and respect for people who are different from us?

  • Review President Monson’s teachings about mercy and forgiveness (see section 4). How have you felt when someone has forgiven you? How have you felt when you have forgiven someone? How does refusing to forgive affect us? How can we develop hearts that are more quick to forgive? What can we learn about forgiveness from the stories in section 4?

Related Scriptures

Psalm 145:8; Proverbs 15:1; Ecclesiastes 7:9; Matthew 5:38–42; James 3:2–6; 5:9; Mosiah 4:13; Alma 24:17–19; 3 Nephi 12:9

Teaching Help

“When insights and impressions about a lesson come, find a way to record them so that you can remember them and refer to them later. … When you record spiritual impressions, you show the Lord that you value His direction, and He will bless you with more frequent revelation” (Teaching in the Savior’s Way [2016], 12).