This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This week covers the Saturday afternoon session from the October 1974 Conference.
I really liked Elder Theodore M. Burton's talk, "Blessed are the peacemakers" from this session. He starts with a reminder of our divine heritage and our purpose on the earth, and then says:
Can there be discord, hate, envy, and dissension in God’s presence? No! Such things make a hell and not a heaven. That is why we must learn to get rid of dissension, envy, hate, and discord in this life on earth. It is here we must learn how to turn our hearts to serve one another with love. Here we must learn how to live with one another in peace and harmony so that we can be prepared to live in the presence of that perfect God we claim to worship.I love the reminder that this earth life is practice for Godhood (a theme I keep noticing!). Elder Burton continues:
God, who knows all things from the beginning, knew that in the last days Satan would exert every effort to destroy the work of God. The closer we approach the second coming of Jesus Christ, the greater will be Satan’s efforts. He will try to influence men as never before to destroy one another by dissension, opposition, selfishness, wars, riots, and destructions. If he can get people to quarrel with one another, they will inevitably destroy themselves.
God, who knows all things, knew from the very beginning that this would happen. It is for this reason that God reserved you and the holy priesthood against that time, so that you can exert this divine power to hold Satan in check. God reserved some of his choicest sons and daughters for this present day and age. These special children were to be leaders who would recognize the negative, self-destructive efforts of Satan and thwart them by the righteous use of divinely authorized priesthood power. That is the reason we need peacemakers today as never before.I like a couple things about this passage. First, the clear implication that BOTH God's sons and daughters can use "divinely authorized priesthood power" to recognize and thwart the efforts of Satan. I assume he means specifically the power we are endowed with when we make covenants in the temple (which isn't always called priesthood power, but to echo Elder Oaks, "What other power can it be?"). And second, because the endowment is often an abstract concept to me, I love being shown some of the practical applications of that power. We can use it, very literally, to "hold Satan in check." To recognize evil, and overcome it! An amazing promise. Elder Burton goes on:
Since we live in a quarrelsome world, we face the dangers of that world. Unless we live very close to God and listen carefully to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, we will find dissension creeping into our own lives, into our homes, and into the Church. We must be alert at all times in our homes, in our daily work, in our private lives, and in our branches, wards, and stakes to see that this does not happen.
Whenever you get red in the face, whenever you raise your voice, whenever you get “hot under the collar,” or angry, rebellious, or negative in spirit, then know that the Spirit of God is leaving you and the spirit of Satan is beginning to take over. At times we may feel justified in arguing or fighting for truth by contentious words and actions. Do not be deceived. Satan would rather have you contend for evil if he could, but he rejoices when we contend with one another even when we think we are doing it in the cause of righteousness. He knows and recognizes the self-destructive nature of contention under any guise.This section reminds me of this series of articles on anger, which convinced me that all aspects of anger (even unexpressed ones) are sinful and can halt our progression. And that word "self-destructive" also stuck out to me, as a reminder that being angry truly does destroy chiefly the one who feels the anger. As Elder Burton says earlier, "If he can get people to quarrel with one another, they will inevitably destroy themselves"—just like refusing to forgive destroys the one who holds the grudge. The commandment to avoid contention is for our own benefit!
It's really hard not to feel angry when people belittle or misrepresent what I hold sacred. It's hard not to be angry with people who act superior or dismiss my views without even understanding them. And of course, it's hard not to be angry when life's little frustrations pile up and my children stretch my patience. Of course it's hard! BUT—I can do it. And more importantly, I MUST do it if I want to be like God. I love this reminder that along with giving us the difficult commandment to eliminate discord, anger, and dissension from our own hearts (regardless of what others do!), Heavenly Father has also given us the power to follow it. And that's through the endowment of priesthood power given to us, his children, in the temple. Keeping my covenants and exerting that divine power will allow me to have the Spirit of God, rather than the spirit of Satan, in my life.
Other posts in this series: