15 January 2022

Peace in Christ - the opposite of contention

Mowbray 16 Jan 2022

As I prepared this talk I reflected on a talk that I gave at this pulpit about 1983 when this was the Cape Town First Branch. It would have been an Easter talk. I shall try to improve on some mistaken context that I think that I may have presented then.

After what we now refer to as Easter, Peter went fishing and four disciples said that they would join him. They had just had some really unexpected things happen in their lives and I guess that they required a lot of time to digest these things.

  • Was Peter wondering what lay ahead
  • He was the senior apostle - and he had been called while fishing.
  • His Lord had been killed without becoming the Delivering Messiah that many expected Him to be. 
  • He had been resurrected and appeared to Mary, then to Peter and others of His disciples on at least two occasions.
  • The disciples were now left without the frequent mentoring contact that they had been having for three years. 
  • Peter might have been reflecting on his denying the Lord three times.
  • Peter might have reflected on his impetuous behaviour cutting off someone’s ear and what the Lord did and said about those who live by the sword dying by the sword. 
  • Might he have remembered his experience doing the impossible - walking on water?


There was doubtless a great jumble of thoughts, reflections, wondering, ponderings, treasuring up or keeping things in his heart just as Mary did so often, and as we would benefit from doing. When we do this, we will feel our hearts burn within us as did the disciples who had been taught by the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus. 

In the spirit of pondering and keeping things in our hearts, I would like to share some of my pondering of the scriptures in the hope that my thoughts might touch the heart of someone who needs to be touched. I shall use the subject of contention as the theme of my thoughts.

My parents read to us very often in Family Home Evening form 3 Nephi 11:29-30

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

30 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 ashould be done away.

I guess that they felt that we needed frequent reminders. Just maybe they sensed some contention in our home on occasions. The first Family Home Evening manual was produced for use in 1967 and we immediately started to use it as we had already been having Family Hour, family scripture reading and family prayer for several years as directed by the prophets of our day.

The thought comes to mind that peace in the Lord’s view is not simply the absence of contention or war but the opposite of it. So, let me share some thoughts about some stories from the scriptures and how the Lord might want me to respond in the face of contention and you can then ponder how you can react to contention that is really not infrequent in the world today.

There is contention about religion – even among members of the same religion. There is contention about sport – Stormers and Sharks, and so forth. What about politics, medicine, art, leisure, whatever cause can find disagreement is likely to become contentious in 2022. Someone will have much to say about some argument that will bring him or her some advantage or glory or likes or followers or subscribers

Arguments that are not wrong, but not necessarily right

I have spent a fair amount of time in the desert, forest, savanna, grassland and other landscapes of our beautiful land. Although I rarely have seen snakes, I am not ignorant of the threat of their venom to me should one strike. Now – imagine that you have just been bitten by a fiery flying serpent and I say to you that Moses has erected a fiery serpent of brass and that he promised on behalf of the Lord that anyone who gazes upon the serpent will be healed. Sounds too good to be true, right. I then mention that since there are hundreds of thousands of people in the camps of Israel and that there is only one brazen serpent and it happens to be about 11 km away, you think ‘Wait a bit. That will cause my heart to pump and to cause the venom to move throughout my body and that will kill me.’

The person is not wrong who says that activity will cause the venom to move throughout your body. Would you have the faith to believe me when I say that the act of faith in going to gaze upon the brazen serpent will be healing and you will not perish as those do who do not show that faith to follow the prophet.

My wife Sally was often called out of a sacrament meeting to go and attend to a patient who called for assistance. Anyone criticizing her for missing Church would not be wrong as we are commanded in the Ten Commandments

Remember the asabbath day, to keep it bholy.

aSix days shalt thou blabour, and do all thy work:

10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy astranger that is within thy gates:

and reminded in Doctrine and Covenants 59:12

12 But remember that on this, the aLord’s day, thou shalt offer thine boblations and thy sacraments unto the Most High, cconfessing thy sins unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.

Many of our brothers and sisters in medical, security, police, or other essential services are required to work on the Sabbath. This is not easy, but maybe they can take strength in remembering that the Sabbath is 24 hours and that they are not likely to be working all 24 hours and can hallow the remainder of the day. If they always have to miss the Sabbath they could set aside one day in seven to hallow as do the Latter-day Saints in Israel worship in sacrament meetings on Saturday and in Muslim nations they worship on Fridays.

I spent a lot of time on the banks and walking in the river bed of the Kuiseb River in the Namib. It is quite wide and the level of the river bed is somewhat below the level of the surrounding plains and dunes. This is small compared to the Red Sea. Imagine that you are standing cautiously listening to a man telling you that water can be very dangerous and taking hundreds of thousands of people down into the bed of the Red Sea is not advisable. After all, it is not going to be a paved freeway, and there will be difficulty climbing down to reach the bottom, rough terrain along the bottom, and difficulty climbing up out of the bed of the Red Sea. This man was not wrong, and his concerns are shown to be absolutely right when the sea through which you crossed on dry ground drowns the Egyptian armies that chased you down into the bottom of the sea, but were not saved by the power of the Lord who told His prophet to take you through that sea. You were blessed for following the prophet, despite the logic that said to not do so. Follow the prophet; he knows the way.

Imagine that you are the person who was dragged mercilessly through the streets of Jerusalem to be thrown at the feet of Jesus of Nazareth that you have doubtless heard to be a notable preacher of holy words. You were taken in the very act of adultery and are taken to Him and you hear your capturers saying to Him that the law of Moses says that you should be stoned – what does He say? How would you be feeling? Angry, betrayed, defensive, ashamed? Perhaps you think of the other person who was committing adultery with you that was not dragged mercilessly through the streets with you? These people were not wrong about the need to obey the command to not commit adultery.

How might your thoughts and feelings change as He quietly bends down and starts to draw in the sand? What is going on? What is going to happen to me? What is this all about? Then your opponents pressure Him to respond and He simply says that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. He then bends down and continues to write in the sand. What thoughts are going through your head now? Time passes and slowly one, then another, then another and more of your opponents withdraw in embarrassment or shame. What now?

Then Jesus speaks to you – He asks if none of those thine accusers has condemned you? You reply ‘No man, Lord’. What are you thinking now? Then He says those glorious words ‘Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.’ What resolve will you have compared to what you were intent on doing when you were first thrown at His feet?

Imagine that you are in the crowd when someone you know who has had an issue of blood for 12 years comes and touches the hem of Jesus’ garment. You are horrified because, according to the law, she is unclean and should not be anywhere in public! What thoughts go through your mind as you see this person healed immediately and then being told that her faith had made her whole, and then told ‘Go in peace’.

Brothers and sisters, I have a personal witness from the Lord, and I see myself standing in a place very much like this Mowbray chapel with the windows behind the Lord standing bearing His testimony saying in verses 30 to 32 of D&C 1 that ‘Brothers and sisters, this is

‘the only true and living dchurch upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well epleasedfspeaking unto the church collectively and not individually—

31 For I the Lord cannot look upon asin with the least degree of allowance;

32 Nevertheless, he that arepents and does the bcommandments of the Lord shall be cforgiven;’

The same Lord said in the sermon on the mount that

21 ¶ Not every one that asaith unto me, bLord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that cdoeth the dwill of my Father which is in eheaven.

22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not aprophesied in thy name? and in thy bname have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23 aAnd then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: bdepart from me, ye that work ciniquity.

This is also the same person who said after talking about the wonderful state of little children, in Mark 9:34-42  and Luke 9:49-50 that His disciples should not forbid them and went on to say that

there is no man which shall do a amiracle in my bname, that can lightly speak evil of me.

40 For he that is not against us is aon our part.

41 For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not alose his breward.

I have come to realise that when the Lord said to Joseph Smith in the grove of trees that he

‘must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”’

I have come to realise that the Lord was speaking of these churches collectively and not individually as some individuals among Christians, Jews, Muslims and others sincerely strive to draw close to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, although some use a different name for Him, and that they are doing great work in holding back the beguiling of Satan. I follow President Russell M Nelson in holding hands with many of other faiths as they serve God in the best way that they can. Our charge is to provide Temple ordinances for the many who have died without having had the knowledge of the gospel that we have, and without judging how they might or might not have had opportunities. If we fail to provide ordinances then we will be charged with burying the talent that we have.

I am grateful for the insight that I received in 1987 that, whatever condemnation may or may not have been leveled at people who had been denied the priesthood, that the condemnation would now be leveled at me if I did not let go of my prejudices. I had similar change of heart in South Africa as we had our changes in 1994 and realised that if I held on to prejudices that I would be held guilty before the Lord and not those to whom I might feel should be guilty of whatever – the charge to me is to forgive seventy times seven and love my enemies.

Brothers and sisters, we loved having our children as babes in our arms. But - we did not want them to remain babes in our arms forever - we had a greater vision for them. We have been studying this week about our first parents Adam and Eve partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the learning that accompanied that experience. I put it to you that each of us has, figuratively speaking, partaken of that fruit because we have knowledge of good and evil – and is that not why we are here in this sacrament meeting today? I know that our Heavenly parents did not wish for them, or us, to forever remain as babes in Their arms, kicking, screaming, needing our nappies changed, disturbing their sleep, needing to be fed, not knowing how to crawl, let alone walk or run. They desired us to grow and that requires us to have knowledge of good and evil, dying and being able to develop and demonstrate our faith in Him. I have a wonderful memory of Elder Boyd K Packer saying while dedicating the Carletonville chapel and other chapels, speaking to the civic authorities that were present, that before them were Latter-day Saints who would be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

I hope that the Lord will one day say that I demonstrated not only a wish to be with Him, but a determination to align myself with His will. This requires me to not only have an absence of contention in my heart, but the opposite of contention. I have a wonderful memory of Elder Boyd K Packer saying while dedicating the Carletonville chapel and other chapels when I was about 9 years old, speaking to the civic authorities that were present, that before them were Latter-day Saints who would be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I need to be, I really do try to be, part of the solution and not part of the problem. I hope that I am succeeding, at least in part.

I pray that each of us will strive to go our way and sin no more, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.