Last Sunday’s lesson was a lesson of promises! Howard W. Hunter’s legacy includes a great fondness for the stories of the saviour; a desire to be closer to Him, to walk where He walked. What has struck me is that he also warns as you would expect someone with a prophetic duty to do so. He counsels and he admonishes. I wonder how deeply his words were felt in the early nineties- truly they hit home to me when I consider the state of the world around us. I studied with the RS-President-hat firmly on, and could feel that his words in this lesson were truly meant for my girls and me, today. He knew our room of women and he knew the strife that would plague each and every one of us in small ways or big ways. This lesson was for us.
JESUS CHRIST IS OUR SOURCE OF TRUE PEACE
President Hunter told the story of another miraculous act of Christ. I opted to take the time to read the story entirely in The words of he who bore that special witness of the Christ.
As Christ’s disciples had set out on one of their frequent journeys across the Sea of Galilee, the night was dark and the elements were strong and contrary. The waves were boisterous and the wind was bold, and these mortal, frail men were frightened. Unfortunately there was no one with them to calm and save them, for Jesus had been left alone upon the shore.
As always, he was watching over them. He loved them and cared for them. In their moment of greatest extremity they looked and saw in the darkness an image in a fluttering robe, walking toward them on the ridges of the sea. They cried out in terror at the sight, thinking that it was a phantom that walked upon the waves. And through the storm and darkness to them—as so often to us, when, amid the darknesses of life, the ocean seems so great and our little boats so small—there came the ultimate and reassuring voice of peace with this simple declaration, “It is I; be not afraid.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Christ’s answer to him was the same as to all of us: “Come.”
Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waves, and while his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind might toss his hair and the spray might drench his robes, but all was well. Only when with wavering faith he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink. Again, like most of us, he cried, “Lord, save me.” Nor did Jesus fail him. He stretched out his hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, [why] didst thou doubt?”
Then safely aboard their little craft, they saw the wind fall and the crash of the waves become a ripple. Soon they were at their haven, their safe port, where all would one day hope to be. The crew as well as his disciples were filled with deep amazement. Some of them addressed him by a title which I declare today: “Truly thou art the Son of God.”
I considered the call to “liken the scriptures to ourselves”- What are the violent storms and crashing waves in our lives today- both personally and when we consider the tumultuous state of the world around us? I thought of the battles I faced every day- the loudness of media and the darkness of “bad news”: natural disasters, man-made disasters, crime, poverty, sickness, sin. I thought of trying not to cry when a client called and told me a heartbreaking story. I thought of the storm inside me- wondering if I was measuring up, fitting everything I needed into each short day, feeling far away from my family, feeling anger and silly things, wondering how far my pay check could stretch… I thought of the struggles my girls went through- how their waves were most times higher than mine were, how the currents pulled and tugged more forcefully. All the darkness and uncertainty of the world often closes in on us and we feel like our boat is so tossed and damaged that we could sink at any moment.
“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” (Isa. 57:20–21.)
“So much in our world is calculated to destroy … personal peace ins and temptations of a thousand kinds. We pray that the lives of the Saints will be lived in harmony with the ideal set before us by Jesus of Nazareth.
“We pray that Satan’s efforts will be thwarted, that personal lives can be peaceful and calm, that families can be close and concerned with every member, that wards and stakes, branches and districts can form the great body of Christ, meeting every need, soothing every hurt, healing every wound until the whole world, as Nephi pleaded, will “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. … “My beloved brethren,” continued Nephi, “this is the way; and there is none other way.” (2 Nephi 31:20–21.)
I thought of the ways that the Saviour has proven that this really is the “only” way. He is called the Prince of Peace as His every word and action fulfils his role as an ambassador for peace. As a child he taught within temple walls the ways of His father. He calmed fear and pain with His healing touch, dispelled hateful crowds and comforted the weary. With his very presence the elements ceased to rebel. Evil spirits were dismissed at his word. Even in His hardest moments, He sent the spirit to minister and comfort others in His absence.
He used the Jewish form of salutation and benediction: “My peace I give unto you.” This salutation and bequest was not to be taken by them in the usual sense, for he said, “… not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Not empty wishes, not just polite ceremony, as the people of the world use the words as matters of custom; but as the author and Prince of peace, he gave it to them. He bestowed it upon them and said, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Within a few hours they would be subjected to trouble, but with his peace they could overcome fear and stand firm.His last statement to them before the closing prayer on that memorable evening was this: “… in the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33.)
Hunter identifies that God’s chief way of acting is by persuasion and patience and long-suffering, not by coercion and stark confrontation. He acts by gentle solicitation and by sweet enticement.
D&C 19: 23 Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.
WE CULTIVATE PEACE AS WE LIVE THE PRINCIPLES OF THE GOSPEL
When we try to help those who have offended us, when we pray for those who have unrighteously used us, our lives can be beautiful. We can have peace when we come into a unity with the Spirit and with each other as we serve the Lord and keep his commandments.
…We need to extend the hand of friendship. We need to be kinder, more gentle, more forgiving, and slower to anger.
It was at this point in my reading that I re-read and re-read, over and over simple words in those last two sentences. I wondered how long this counsel had been given, by prophets through all generations of time. They are words that Jesus spent His life teaching. Maybe Adam himself plead with his angry sons to be kinder, more gentle, more forgiving. It’s a simple theory, and I wonder what progress we’ve made as a race in thousands of years. Is it unattainable? Do we not, as a species, seek peace? Is it really so hard to come by?
Hunter makes a curious observation next,
It seems that two eternal truths must be accepted by all if we are to find peace in this world and eternal life in the world to come. (1) That Jesus is the Christ, the very eternal son of our Heavenly Father, who came to earth for the express purpose of redeeming mankind from sin and the grave, and that he lives to bring us back to the presence of the Father. (2) That Joseph Smith was his prophet, raised up in this latter-day to restore the truth which had been lost to mankind because of transgression. If all men would accept and live these two fundamental truths, peace would be brought to the world.
I thought of the implications of this bold suggestion. Hunter claims that Latter-day Saints, of all, offer a different kind of peace, centred on eternal principles and value. In (1), he observes that we understand Jesus Christ’s role as a saviour and redeemer: that through Him we can repent of mistakes and learn more about the everlasting God. God loves us so much, that He sent His son to die, and live, for us to redeem us. In (2), he suggests that we understand that God loves us so He revealed great truth and priesthood and restored other principles and tools that would aide us in returning to Him, here in latter-days.
Often we’ll say in Church that we’re different, we have something more, something added as a body of saints. Some mistake it for pompous elitism, some unfortunately perpetuate that misuse. What the difference is between the peace of the world and the “latter-day peace” is restored principles and ordinances of Christ’s gospel. Do we revere those gifts? Do we keep them sacred? Do we utilise them and strive to use them properly?
THE SAVIOUR CAN HELP US FIND PEACE REGARDLESS OF THE TURMOIL AROUND US
If we look to man and the ways of the world, we will find turmoil and confusion. If we will but turn to God, we will find peace for the restless soul.
In this world of confusion and rushing, temporal progress, we need to return to the simplicity of Christ. … We need to study the simple fundamentals of the truths taught by the Master and eliminate the controversial. Our faith in God needs to be real and not speculative. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ can be a dynamic, moving influence, and true acceptance gives us a meaningful, religious experience.
Trust and confidence in Christ and a ready reliance on His merits, mercy, and grace lead to hope, through His Atonement, in the Resurrection and eternal life. Such faith and hope invite into our lives the sweet peace of conscience for which we all yearn. The power of the Atonement makes repentance possible and quells the despair caused by sin; it also strengthens us to see, do, and become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. Truly, one of the great blessings of devoted discipleship is “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
– David A. Bednar, Oct 2015