Monday, September 1, 2008

Resolving conflict through examples from Christ

Here is some of the important parts from the talk I gave refered to in the previous post. It has some good experiences from the Life of Joseph Smith that are interesting.

I talked for a few moments on the power of words, this quote is the jist of it.
Like all gifts "which cometh from above," words are "sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit." (D&C 63:64)

Here are a few examples from the life of Joseph Smith on the words he used to resolve conflict. In the summer of 1830, just after the church was organized, Oliver Cowdery was one of Josephs most trusted friends. Joseph at this time was busy copying and arranging revelation for publication. Oliver was staying with the Whitmer family in Fayette, 80 miles to the north. One day Joseph received a letter from Oliver.
Joseph recorded: Oliver wrote to inform me that he had discovered an error in one of the commandments in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants: “And truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto a remission of their sins” (D&C 20:37). The above quotation, Oliver said, was erroneous, and added: “I command you in the name of God to erase those words that no priestcraft be amongst us!”
Joseph continued: I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him by what authority he took upon him to command me to alter or erase, to add to or diminish from, a revelation or commandment from Almighty God.
Realizing later that his letter had not really answered the doctrinal question and had made the interpersonal problem worse, Joseph traveled the 80 miles north to the Whitmer home to meet with Oliver and the Whitmers.
Joseph said: I found that the Whitmer family was in general of Oliver’s opinion concerning the words above quoted, and it was not without both labor and perseverance that I could prevail with any of them to reason calmly on the subject…Finally, with Christian Whitmer’s assistance, I succeeded in bringing, not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery to acknowledge that they had been in error, and that the sentence in dispute was in accordance with the rest of the commandment.
Joseph then reflected on what he learned from this experience saying: And thus was this error rooted out, which having its rise in presumption and rash judgment, was…particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us the necessity of humility and meekness before the Lord that He might teach us of His ways.

Joseph teaches two prophetic important lessons about conflict in this example:
The first is that conflicts arise “in presumption and rash judgment.”
The second point Joseph made adds power to the first. He concluded that “conflicts are particularly calculated (when once fairly understood) to teach each and all of us.” Three ideas stand out in this statement. First, conflicts are particularly calculated to teach us something. Second, we can’t learn from them until they are fairly understood or until we can see both sides. Third, in an illustration of his own humility, Joseph included himself as one who learned something important from the conflict.
Here is another example from the life of Joseph Smith to illustrate how the Lord deals with conflict.
Just a month after the conflict just given, to escape from persecution, Joseph and Emma moved the 80 miles north to the Whitmer home in Fayette. When they arrived Joseph was grieved to learn that Hiram Page, one of the eight witnesses to the Book of Mormon, had been receiving revelations through a “seer stone” that gave instruction on how the church should operate.
Newel Knight, who was with Joseph at the time, described the situation:
“Hiram Page had managed to get up some dissension of feeling among the brethren by giving revelations concerning the government of the church…,which he claimed to have received through the medium of a stone he possessed…Even Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmer family had given heed to them.”
Newel Knight writes further: “Joseph was perplexed and scarcely knew how to meet this new exigency. That night I occupied the same room that he did and the greater part of the night was spent in prayer and supplication.”
So rather than react defensively like he did with Oliver, Joseph followed the guidance of James and sought counsel from the Lord. He was soon granted an answer in the form of a revelation, which is now Section 28 of the Doctrine and Covenants. Of course this section is well known for being the section on who can and cannot receive revelation for the church.
It is interesting to see how the Lord deals with this conflict. The Lords speaks in first person directly to Oliver saying: “Behold, I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee that thou shalt be heard by all the church in whatsoever thou shalt teach them…” So the Lord gives a confirmation to Oliver that he is in good standing with the Lord. Then He gives Oliver a stipulation saying “thou shalt teach them by the Comforter, concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.”
In verses 2-6 the Lord makes it known that only the prophet can receive revelation for the church, and that Oliver was to be like Aaron, declaring the words which the Lords gives to the prophet. He also says to Oliver “if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak…by the way of the commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.” The Lord again outlines the limits of Oliver’s authority: “But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom; and thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church.” Then in verse 11 the Lord tells Oliver to take Hiram Page and “tell him that those things which he hath written from that stone are not of me.”
After being instructed and corrected in the Lords loving a reaffirming way both Oliver and Hiram recognized their error and continued in full fellowship in the church.
President Kimball said that “Our vision is completely obscured when we have no mirror to show us our own faults and we look only for the foibles of others.” Our conflicts can be that mirror that can teach us things about ourselves that are otherwise be difficult to discover. So if we permit them, our conflicts will show us where we are weak, defensive, prideful, or otherwise in need of repair, repair for which the Lord is our Mechanic.


Jason Pyles, Movie Critic said...


Just today, I was talking with my new elders' quorum president about the power of words. We discussed how Elder Maxwell was able to say memorable things with remarkable force, just by the way he put his thoughts together with words. Indeed, I'm sure his calling also lent power to his preaching.

Regarding humility, I've learned the hard way that humility is prerequisite in learning from or benefiting from any Gospel teaching. When it comes to trying to acquire the things of God, it is impossible without humility.

"...conflicts arise in presumption and rash judgment..." About two weeks ago, one of my cousins created a conflict between us via presumption and rash judgment. I wanted to respond immediately, because in this particular situation, I had good reason and he simply didn't understand the full story. But thankfully I waited. Later, it didn't seem like such a big deal anymore. Also, I learned that my cousine has been suffering from some serious emotional problems, and hasn't been himself. He had a story, too. But the point is, had I returned the same presumption and rash judgment, things could have been much worse, and we both would have regretted it. So yes, presumption and rash judgment should be avoided at all costs.

I often wonder about the beginning days of this dispensation. I frequently consider how easy it must have been, in all the excitement, to get caught up in it and start thinking I had authority and revelations, too. We hear these stories about good, latter-day Saints making some wild claims and we're perplexed, but the more I think about it, the easier I think it would have been at that point in time. After all, they didn't have an Ensign and all the other everyday reinforcers of church government back then. It was a grass-roots operation.

I love your blog, Eric. I hope you keep it going. I'm going to spread the word about it. Thanks for teaching us. It was very interesting.

Your pal,

Fichtner Family said...

You are great honey. Thank you for your insight.