Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.
And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men. (Moroni 7:3-4)
I apologize for missing my blogpost last week. I've been working behind the scenes on something else, which I will explain later in this post. But first, I want to dive into the scripture above.
It seems like Mormon spoke these words during the death throes of the Nephite civilization. I used to think that he and his son Moroni were the only faithful saints remaining in all the Nephite nation, but these verses indicate there were others. And these weren't just Sunday saints. They had obtained sufficient hope to enter into the rest of the Lord. If I understand correctly, that means they were close to sanctification. I believe this talk was designed to bring them the rest of the way, so "that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified as he is pure" (Moroni 7:48).
There are a couple of things that strike me at the moment. The first is how difficult it might have been to have a peaceable walk with the people of Mormon's day. They were given to wickedness and abominations (Mormon 2:18) and "continually [stirred up] to anger with each other" (Moroni 9:3; see also Mormon 2:14). Mormon would later lament "O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy" (Moroni 9:18). Walking peaceably in such a society sounds like it would be no easy thing.
The second thing that strikes me is the specific quality that Mormon chooses as indicative of their spiritual maturity and their preparation to enter into the rest of the Lord. It is not zeal in defence of the truth. It is not cleanliness in their personal lives. It is their peaceable walk with the children of men. It's about charity. In fact, he indicates that doing good (and I'm assuming that includes personal cleanliness and zealously defending truth) doesn't count as good if our motivations aren't right. He says, "a man being evil can not do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing" (Moroni 7:6).
All of this matters because we once again live in a day when it is exceedingly difficult to have a peaceable walk with the children of men. Our society has become polarized and we seem to increasingly see those who differ from us on a whole host of issues and even personal inborn characteristics as our enemies. By and large, we're retreating into tribes where we gather to prepare for pre-emptive strikes against our perceived enemies, who we think are intent on destroying us (as some, but certainly not yet the majority of them, may be). Even our language has become loaded so that we're giving and taking offence when none was intended.
At such a time as this, having a peaceable walk with the children of men means being willing to step into no man's land. That's a place where we risk being fired on by those with whom we identify as well as those with whom we would make peace.
But where else will Zion be built, if not in that no man's land? Can we become of one heart and one mind while we're aggressively defending ourselves from anticipated attack and looking for the worst in each other? Zion will be a bastion of peace while the war whirls on about her. Here's what is prophesied:
"And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety. And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another" (D&C 45:68-69).
I believe that Zion will be built by the peaceable; those who seek, as President Oakes recently invited, to "moderate and unify" on contested issues, rather than to radicalize and divide. That does not mean capitulating to the loudest protests. It does not mean abandoning our principles. I think it means seeing each other as people with valid perspectives instead of as enemies. It's hearing each other's perspectives, digging deep to understand, seeking counsel from heaven (both directly and through living prophets) and fully repenting of our own offences, regardless of who else is offending or what's the comparative grievousness of their sins as opposed to ours.
Getting there means finding the courage to step away from our separate, entrenched tribes and wading out into the no man's land to engage with each other.
In the hopes of creating safer space in no man's land, I have another blog at 4MutualRespect.com. I created that space some years ago with the hopes of providing a forum for deep listening across divides while holding fast to personal principles. But it's been hard to get other perspectives there. One close friend posts there with me, but we pretty much see eye to eye already.
That changed last week, when my friend's daughter, who identifies as a queer Mormon, expressed a willingness to publicly and lovingly engage there with her mom on some very painful and polarized issues in response to Elder Jeffrey Holland's August 23 speech to BYU faculty.
I missed blogging last week because we've been working out details and I've been prepping that forum for participation. (I issued the invitation and then I discovered that all my many graphics at that blog were wiped out when I recently deleted a google account I no longer use. They haven't all been restored, but we're working on it. You might notice that my posts there are right now attributed to "anonymous").
The content will be more challenging at 4MutualRespect.com than here, for us bloggers as well as for our readers. But some challenges are worth accepting, and I long to gain strength at a peaceable walk. I hope you'll consider joining us there.