Blessed Are the Peacemakers

My remarks below are made as an observer in China, distant from the Ferguson scene and the tensions in the US, so I apologize if I am missing important parts of the story. But the call for peacemakers is one that will apply in every land and era. May there be more of them, and may we all take steps to promote peace.

I was frustrated to see the violent outbreak in Ferguson. Everyone seemed to know that there was going to be mob violence when the decision came out, regardless of what it was. So where was the National Guard? They were needed and wanted, bu they came a day late, after the rampage. Why do we send our troops all over the world to interfere with other nations in the name of security, even making preemptive strikes in nations where we have no legal authority to act, but don’t take obvious steps needed to protect our own nation from harm? If we really have to have a massive domestic spying infrastructure that can listen in on our conversations and read all our texts and emails, all massive violations of personal privacy done in the name of “protecting us,” why not use that information to reduce predictable mob violence aimed at burning and looting a town?

How sad to see that many of the victims of the riots were black Americans (although I detest the looting of anyone, regardless of race). Terribly, a church was burned in the rioting–the church where Michael Brown’s father was baptized. The black pastor is now a victim of the lawless anger that raged in Ferguson (though this may have come from white supremacists or outside anarchists who took advantage of the situation). If there is a fund we can donate to to rebuild his church, please let us know.

The Book of Mormon reminds us that stirring up people to anger is a classic tool of evil men seeking power. From King Noah to the dissenters and Gaddianton robbers in the midst of the Nephites, conspiring, power-hungry men according to that ancient text have long taken deliberate actions to stir up anger in order to manipulate people and gain power or wealth. Anger is not always just an accident or natural response, but sometimes is fanned and guided to achieve someone’s aims. Who benefits from the anger being fanned now? It’s worth a discussion at least.

Most importantly, in times like these, we need peacemakers, not instigators and provocateurs who stir up anger and rekindle old grievances.

I also had hoped that if the President was going to get involved, it would be in a way that vigorously urged peace and calmness. For me, the message he delivered fell short of that. While recognizing the need to respect the law, it implied that the accused officer may have acted out of racism, and reminded people of America’s legacy of racism. He told angry people that they were “understandably angry.” I don’t think that’s good peacemaking. I wish he had told people that if the grand jury found no reason to charge the officer, Americans had no reason to become angry about this case and that any violence was absolutely unjustified and definitely not understandable. Why not say this was an event between one cop and one apparent assailant in one town, not a national problem (“an issue for America”)? OK, easy to criticize–I would have probably said something really stupid unintentionally. No matter what he said, though, violence was going to happen. Wish better steps had been taken to deal with it, including sending out the National Guard promptly when requested by the mayor. Again, easy for me to criticize!

We should learn from Ferguson and from the mob violence in LDS history. The ugliness of mob violence is something Latter-day Saints should understand and abhor from our roots in Missouri and Illinois. Sadly, in the 1838 “Mormon War” in Missouri, the Mormons weren’t always the good guys and victims. In response to the mob actions they had faced, some Latter-day Saints returned an eye for an eye and then some by forming a mob or two of their own and burning down some homes. Ugly and terrible. War of any kind is that way. The line between self-defense and unjustified aggression can easily be blurred, and innocent victims may abound. One of the problems in the era was a terrible speech given by Sidney Rigdon stirring up Mormon anger toward their already angry neighbors. And then we had Sampson Avard secretly stirring up and organizing the “Danites” for his own power. This made the dangerous situation in Missouri far worse. We needed more effective peacemakers then and we need them today.

Pray for peace and seek for peacemakers.

The great thing about anger, from Satan’s perspective I suppose, is that it makes it so easy to manipulate a human being. What is the balance between righteous indignation and the anger in the hearts of men that comes from the Adversary? Sometimes people think their indignation is righteous when it’s just good old fashioned anger and hate, the kind that lets someone else use you for their gain. I’ve written enough for today, so I leave that as a question for your input. How do we tell the difference between the two? Please stay calm as you respond.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

10 thoughts on “Blessed Are the Peacemakers

  1. When we are duly wronged we must respond. Premed er the Masonic lodge that organized the Boston tea party. Look at the murder of Joseph smith who was a man guilty of Polyandry and marriage to a young teen. A very young teen. Imagine Joseph Smith coming to your door to take your 14 year old daughter on a date. Worst of all, look at the holocost of abortion we live in. We clearly are accepting of children being killed on a daily basis. Herod killing the children was small in comparison to the murders today.

  2. Jeff, thanks for stressing the difference between anger itself (which is often justified) and the uses to which anger is put.

    Rather than simply "seek for peacemakers," as you suggest, why not work more actively to produce peacemakers? One way to do that is through the academic study of peacemaking in what have come to be called "peace studies" programs (aka "conflict analysis," "conflict resolution," etc.). Maybe BYU should consider inaugurating such a program? (There's already a certificate program of this type at BYU-H, but not a full major.)

  3. How to tell the difference? That's a great question. I think we can examine our hearts, specifically whether there is charity for everyone involved or whether towards "they enemy" there is only anger and bad feeling. Also, if we're feeling a bit "high" on anger, that a good sign that it's gone past righteous indignation. Righteousness requires being temperate (2 Pet 1:6); in contrast, unrighteous anger embraces countless justifications to dispense with temperance.

  4. The first thing that came to my mind was a quote from Boyd K. Packer: "A study of the gospel will improve behavior faster than a study of behavior will improve behavior."

    Some situations are so complicated that the only way to know the difference is a close relationship with the Lord.

  5. "take your 14 year old daughter on a date"?

    Anonymous, making a statement like that is a quick way to show people that you have little or no understanding of the historical context of the story of early plural marriage.

    People didn't "date" back then. That is a modern concept, and poaching one or two soundbites from the story of Joseph Smith and twisting them into an unrecognizable form tells people more about you than about Joseph Smith.

  6. We can never be righteously angry about what happens to us. Christ, our perfect example, bore all things in meekness. He only demonstrated righteous anger on behalf of his Father and within His stewardship – defending His Father's house. We aren't justified in anger unless we have a constructive, Gospel-centered outlet for that anger – sitting, stewing, and hating aren't part of the Gospel program.

    So that is my two-prong test: Is it a wrong done to God, or just a wrong done to me? Is it within my stewardship to act?

  7. Throughout His ministry, Jesus made it pretty clear that He and the Father are One. It is not too far-fetched to assume He took the situation at the temple personally.

  8. The media has not reported on the Black firefighter that accused a Caucasion policeman of racism. The policeman was wearing a body camera and everything the firefighter said was a lie. All the Caucasion people should have rioted about the racism of the Black firefighter. The media is always silent when there is racism againt a Caucasian.

    Obama and Holder should have stayed neutral in the Ferguson shooting, Officer Nelson was telling the truth. The Brown kid paid for his illegal and stupid actions.
    I bet the majority of the rioters, if asked, would claim to be Christian. They certainly did not act like Christians, neither did the politicians, but they rarely act like Christians.

  9. "What is the [difference] between righteous indignation and the anger in the hearts of men that comes from the Adversary?"

    I'd say the difference lies in motive, knowledge and context. Any action judged on it own, devoid of consideration for these other things cannot be understood clearly. The very same action performed by two different people, or even by the same person under different circumstances could be understood very differently.

    The problem for us is that it is extremely difficult to judge motive and knowledge of others, and quite often even the context of the action (which is based, in part, on individual perception) is unclear.

    I think these are some of the reasons we are commanded not to judge others, and to leave final judgment to the Lord.

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