President Russell M. Nelson’s recent LDS General Conference talk, “Peacemakers Needed,” focuses on the strong need for Latter-day Saints, and basically everyone else, to more actively strive for peace in our interactions in the world at large, and especially with each other personally. Noting the hostility and name-calling and dismissiveness of others dominating public discourse (as well as too often our own family lives), he made a clear call for all of us to treat each other better. Yet, he and we all know that attaining the qualities of a peacemaker is not a simple thing. It requires a great deal of desire, inner reflection, and practicing if we are to meet each other in spirit and in the way we must if we are to ever heal our relationships–and, indeed, the world. His is a call for genuine transformation of our hearts.
But, do we know how to be peacemakers? It is one thing to set it forth as worthy work, but it is another to actually know how we might actually begin to embody the spirit of a peacemaker. That’s where this discussion begins.
With the wonderful Selina Miller Forsyth, this Latter-day Faith Podcast looks at several of the “skills” that peacemakers require. It primarily looks at things we all need to work on in general but notes as well the places where Latter-day Saints might have extra difficulty. One of these is learning to differentiate between “healthy conflict” and “contention.” The Book of Mormon phrase about the “spirit of contention” being of the devil (3 Nephi 11:19) is so well engrained in the LDS tradition that many of us are startled and react with fear whenever any sort of disagreement arises in church settings, and even within our own families. Often we don’t really know how to discern between important conversations that involve disagreement, putting forth different positions, passion, and intensity with “contention.”
Another skill of a peacemaker is “emotional regulation.” We must learn to be good with ourselves, centered in a sense of security and safety as well as confidence if we are to ever be able to practice genuine peacemaking that does not dismiss or demonize persons who bring something into our world that we don’t agree with or have been taught is wrong but that we haven’t really wrestled with ourselves. If we allow our emotions to flood our consciousness, blocking out everything but our current discomfort, it’s impossible to interact in healthy ways, impossible to be a peacemaker in such situations.
Peacemakers must also learn the skill of “listening.” So many of us simply do not know how to truly listen to each other, to put aside our own ego, our own agendas, and to actually encounter them and what they are saying in an interested, calm, centered way. What does “listening” actually mean? Are there ways we can learn to listen in the way peacemakers can?
This is a terrific conversation. It doesn’t come close to offering even a tenth of what there is to be said about each of these areas, and both Selina and LDF host, Dan, are well aware of that–yet it is a start. And it’s a conversation we invite you to join in! Let’s create more shows to share even more ideas about this really big but oh-so-personal topic, and especially how we might gain the skills to genuinely become persons of peace.
Selina Miller Forsyth, “The Covenant Path and the Spiritual Journey,” Latter-day Faith Podcast, October 22, 2022
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