It Starts in the Heart

“It Starts in the Heart,” New Era, Feb. 2005, 4

The Message:

It Starts in the Heart

From an April 1991 general conference address.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Our hearts are filled with compassion for families on all sides who have lost loved ones and for the innocent victims of war, especially the children. We pray now for a lasting peace when men “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: … neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4).

In the scriptures, peace means either freedom from conflict or war, or an inner calm and comfort born of the Spirit.

The value of peace in our hearts cannot be measured. When we are at peace, we can be free of worry and fear, knowing that with the Lord’s help, we can do all that is expected or required of us. Few, if any, blessings from God are more valuable to our spiritual health than the reward of peace within.

In modern-day revelation the Savior said, “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” (D&C 59:23).

Peace Can Be a Reality

Despite dismal conditions in the world and the personal challenges that come into every life, peace within can be a reality. We can be calm and serene regardless of the swirling turmoil all about us.

Attaining harmony within ourselves depends upon our relationship with our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and our willingness to emulate Him by living the principles He has given us. During the Passover feast, the Savior taught His disciples: “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” (John 14:27). Referring to the teachings He had given to His disciples, Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul gave us one key to finding the peace promised by the Lord. Paul taught, “To be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6).

President David O. McKay (1873–1970) said, “The peace of Christ does not come by seeking the superficial things of life.” This peace is “conditioned upon obedience to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”1

Earth life is a period of probation to provide an opportunity for choices. Two mighty forces are pulling in opposite directions. On the one hand is the power of Christ and His righteousness. On the other hand is Satan and the spirits who follow him. President Marion G. Romney said: “Mankind … 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. … The price of peace is victory over Satan.”2

We can know which one to follow because God has given everyone the Spirit of Christ to know good from evil and to protect themselves from sin (see Moro. 7:15–18). We sometimes refer to the Spirit of Christ as our conscience. If we follow its promptings, we can be free of sin and filled with peace. If we do not, but instead let our carnal appetites control us, we never will know true peace. If we damage or violate our conscience by ignoring it, we can lose that gift because we no longer are sensitive to it.

Times of Peace

Though we abhor war, peace nearly always has been more a dream than a reality. During most of the world’s history, strife, dissension, and conflict have flourished and displaced peace. The times when peace has reigned, it began in the hearts of righteous, obedient individuals and grew until it engulfed a society. We have at least two scriptural accounts of periods of absolute peace and a third that is yet to come.

The first of these periods of peace was among the people of Enoch, who lived before the great flood (see Moses 7:16–21). The second period of peace followed the ministry of the resurrected Jesus among the Nephites (see 4 Ne. 1).

A third period of perfect peace will come during the Millennium. “Satan shall be bound, that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men” (D&C 45:55). As they live the gospel of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of the people will banish Satan from their midst. We look forward to that day of universal peace and justice, when Christ will reign upon the earth.

These three instances show that peace, whether in a city, a nation, or other society, develops from peace that begins within the hearts of individuals as they live by the precepts of the gospel.

We see an example of individual peace amidst strife and contention in the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Near the end of his life, he was at the center of a whirlwind of turmoil and tribulation caused by devious associates, false accusations, and cunning plots against his life. Yet a few days before his death, he said, “I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men” (D&C 135:4). His inner peace sustained him through monumental adversities, even his own martyrdom.

How You Can Find Peace

Peace is more than a lofty ideal. It is a practical principle that, with conscious effort, can become a normal part of our lives as we deal with matters both large and small. One habit that prevents inner peace is procrastination. It clutters our minds with unfinished business and makes us uneasy until we finish a task and get it out of the way. This is true of going to the temple often, performing our home teaching and visiting teaching assignments, preparing lessons and talks, and doing other assignments.

Can anyone’s mind be at peace if he or she is morally unclean? How much mental anguish results from a little lying, cheating, or stealing even if they are never discovered? Do we have peace of mind if we knowingly violate traffic laws? Or do we watch nervously for the ever-present policeman? Do we have peace of mind if we are not honest with our employers and do not give fair value for the pay we receive?

If sin has deprived us of peace within, we can repent and seek forgiveness of our sins. The Lord said that He “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance; Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven” (D&C 1:31–32). President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) wrote: “The essence of the miracle of forgiveness is that it brings peace to the previously anxious, restless, frustrated, perhaps tormented soul. In a world of turmoil and contention this is indeed a priceless gift.”3

My brothers and sisters, we can be at peace if we “let virtue garnish [our] thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45). The power is in us as spirit children of our Heavenly Father. He and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, have provided the way for us to be at peace. We can enjoy it personally, within our families, in our communities, in our nations, and in our world if we will do the things that produce it. This peace leads to happiness.

I bear testimony that our Heavenly Father lives and that He knows and loves each one of us. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind, and yes, the Prince of Peace.

The Lord Jesus Christ, by Del Parson

Painting by Del Parson