For Christmas this year, my dear friend gave me a necklace with a pendant on it that says “Peace.” Mormons don’t wear crosses, so for me this necklace functions for me as a reminder of Christ’s Atonement. The giver is a woman I greatly treasure, and heaven knows she has little enough peace of her own to go giving it away, but when peace can be bought (and sold!) at $19.95, who wouldn’t? I look at my cultures and it seems that often we think that peace is just that easily attained. I’m struggling with this issue myself. Here are some of my initial thoughts. I almost didn’t post them; they’re fairly private thoughts for such a public space. But perhaps some of you have had similar thoughts and can help me as I think.
Our trip to Coventry Cathedral prompted me to reflect on peace and our evening devotional this Sunday has brought that to the forefront of my mind again. In both places, an emphasis is placed on prayers for peace. I think prayer is an important and powerful thing. We see in the scriptures time and time again how effective intercession is. Prophets are able to change the Lord’s mind to soften His heart towards the people, or so it appears. In many of these situations (though not all), it appears as though the Lord was just waiting to be asked. So I do think it is good for us to pray for peace, and yet…
I cannot help but feel that we make some grand assumption in these prayers– that if we pray for peace, peace will just happen, through the Lord’s Grace. Do we not assume that by saying a prayer, by lighting candles, and by singing together, we are promoting the cause of peace? I don’t believe these are bad things to do, but I do question their ultimate efficacy.
Alma 31:5 informs us that “as the preaching of the word had a tendency to lead the people to do that which was just — yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them — therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.” And the Book of Mormon shows us examples of groups of people who are valiant in the cause of peace after their conversion to Christ. Yet historically missionary work for Christianity writ large (as opposed to a specific denominations’ proselytizing) has brought more problems for everyone involved. I can’t help but feel that we need to reach out coming from a Christ-centered point of view while recognizing that others may not be approaching us similarly. I think prayer is good, but prayer is not enough. I think missionary work is excellent, but I do not think it is enough. We cannot hope to be reconciled with our neighbors by hoping that they’ll get their act together and come to church with us. I think we need to do more.
D&C 9:7-8 records the Lord’s words to Oliver Cowdery: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” It is not enough just to ask. We must study in our minds how we can best promote the cause of peace in the world. For myself, I feel that more is required. I think that perhaps peace most easily begins with molding ourselves, or allowing ourselves to be molded, into peaceable people full of charity. Because this is a life-long process, I also think that while we are becoming this sort of person, we must also be actively engaged in work outside ourselves.
I understand that we live in a fallen world, or, more optimistically, a mortal world. I understand that, for now, there are some times when even war is necessary. I understand that regardless of the outcome in the here and now, we must still sue for peace whenever possible, ethically. I hear Christ’s gift in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you,” and while I am not afraid, my heart is troubled. How can such a thing be managed? I see that this is all a matter of faith. Eventually, Christ will return and cure all ills and make peace among the nations– but all of that is after Armageddon, yes? And isn’t it still incumbent upon me to do what I can now? If I see my fellow child of God in pain, sad, or hungry, or lonely, to tell that person to suck it up and turn to God is cruel. You can’t eat faith, and if I have more than enough food, you shouldn’t have to. Until Christ comes again, aren’t we His hands? What then can my hands do?
In an earlier post, I mentioned something about not knowing what I would’ve said if I’d had to answer my own question about my fears, but having thought since then, I decided that one of my biggest fears is not being able to make use of my gifts, or not being able to do something good with them. I fear ineffectiveness. Ultimately, we are all powerless without Christ, I know, I know, but since I do have Christ with me, then what? Reflecting on peace in the world and conflict between individuals, my fear is brought up before me. What is something I can do that will matter? I am willing to work hard. Surely there is more to do.