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Teachings of Howard W. Hunter Lesson 2: "My Peace I Give unto You"

We deal with two definitions of peace in this life. The world’s definition of peace is the cessation or absence of hostility. The Lord’s definition of peace is a calm that surpasses all description. The Lord’s peace carries an assurance of being right with the Lord, it carries a clarity of mind and heart that allows us to think and feel clearly in any situation, no matter how chaotic. The Lord’s peace is sweet to the soul - it is a sense of safety in times of danger, solace in times of suffering, and allows a healing sleep during life’s most bitter storms.

There is no real comparison between the two forms of peace. The world’s peace is only the absence of what troubles us. God’s peace is what moves in and fills the undefined emptiness in our lives with meaning, purpose, and belonging.


Prince of peace

In Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah referred to Christ as the Prince of Peace. This is one of Christ’s greatest titles. But where does this peace come from? How do we get it? Can anyone get this peace or are there requirements that have to be met first? The answers to these questions begin with us needing to have a belief in God.

I state often that commandments are laws of happiness. Commandments pull us away from behaviors that cause us suffering and misery. They draw us closer to a state of compliance with the eternal laws that bring peace, and hence joy. The Lord knows that our souls, being eternal in nature,  are more comfortable with the laws that govern eternity. It is this very set of laws, known to us as the law of the gospel, that makes us feel like we have come home, like we belong. Living in compliance with these laws, as God lives, brings us peace because we are living life as we are supposed to be. We are in our comfort zone with God’s laws. These are the laws we have lived with for all eternity up to this point. Living any other set of laws causes distress and unhappiness because they are foreign to us and because, by definition, any other set of laws cannot create peace and happiness as a result of living by them.

Jesus Christ is the great teacher of the laws that God gave us that bring us peace. This makes him the Prince of Peace. As we learn to have internal peace we also learn patience and long-suffering. We learn to wait upon the Lord and His timing in all things. We don’t stress about having to have things happen on our own timescale.


How to cultivate peace

Consider, for example, this instruction from Christ to his disciples. He said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44.)
Think of what this admonition alone would do in your neighborhood and mine, in the communities in which you and your children live, in the nations which make up our great global family. I realize this doctrine poses a significant challenge, but surely it is a more agreeable challenge than the terrible tasks posed for us by the war and poverty and pain the world continues to face.

Humanity always works from the outside in. God always works from the inside out. The Lord recognizes that all control must be internal before external controls can be successful. We must have a desire to be obedient to laws before we will obey laws. As people become less and less religious in their private lives, the lawlessness increases in the country. They are losing the sense that there is a need to be obedient. People are becoming increasingly selfish, self-centered, and defiant. Those who are obedient to the laws of God tend to be just the opposite: compliant, selfless, and cooperative.

Peace in the world can be taken away by anyone who wants to be selfish or cause harm. But peace that comes from God, through Christ, is deep and abiding. Peace from God comes because we are working in a cooperative unity with the governing body of the universe. There is security, peace, and a certain gentility and refinement of character that accompanies that relationship.

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.

As we gain peace through obedience to God’s commandments, we learn to act as God acts, with persuasion, patience, and long-suffering. We become gentle people.

… Indifference to the Savior or failure to keep the commandments of God brings about insecurity, inner turmoil, and contention. These are the opposite of peace. Peace can come to an individual only by an unconditional surrender—surrender to him who is the Prince of peace, who has the power to confer peace.

“A life filled with unselfish service will also be filled with peace that surpasses understanding.” Why does President Hunter say that this peace we seek surpasses understanding? In large part it surpasses understanding only to those who have not experienced it before. Only those who have experienced the peace Christ can confer can understand the quiet power and blessings that come with that peace. Those who disobey God’s commandments do not have the capacity to understand such things, as they are gifts of the Spirit and are only bestowed on those who are obedient.

It is important to note here that since inner peace and tranquility is the object and design of the commandments of God, Satan’s approach is to do anything he can to destroy that peace and tranquility. President Hunter said, “So much in our world is calculated to destroy ... personal peace through sins and temptations of a thousand kinds.” There is no peace in disobedience. Only those who keep the commandments faithfully can be granted Christ’s peace.


Peace regardless of the turmoil

We are told that perfect love casts out fear. Fear is the destroyer of peace. Even in the midst of His greatest suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, Jesus had peace in His heart because He knew He was doing the will of His Father. He never feared for his life, feared what people might think about him, feared for his own safety, or feared he might fail. The peace in his heart carried him through all those trials with confidence in his relationship with God and the Spirit.

One may live in beautiful and peaceful surroundings but, because of inner dissension and discord, be in a state of constant turmoil. On the other hand, one may be in the midst of utter destruction and the bloodshed of war and yet have the serenity of unspeakable peace. 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. This was made clear by the words of the Savior: “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33); and in his bequest to the Twelve and to all mankind, he said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth. …” (John 14:27.)

Acquiring peace is not a complicated thing. We just need to live (and act on) the simple truths of the commandments of God.

The restored gospel of Jesus Christ can be a dynamic, moving influence, and true acceptance gives us a meaningful, religious experience. One of the great strengths of the Mormon religion is this translation of belief into daily thinking and conduct. This replaces turmoil and confusion with peace and tranquility.


The importance of focusing on Christ

It is easy to get distracted by lesser things in the gospel. We need to always remember that Jesus should be our focus. We emulate His life, live His teachings, and remember that He is our advocate with the Father and our Redeemer, the only one who can forgive us of our sins.

In the well-known story of Peter being called by Jesus to walk on water to prove his faith, Peter was indeed walking on the water. And even though he was still walking toward the Savior, once he took his eyes off Jesus he began to become distracted by the wind and the waves. This caused doubt to creep in and he found himself sinking. This powerful story reminds us that our focus on God must be singular and unpolluted with other distractions in life. Everything we do needs to be subjected to the priorities set by the commandments and by the requirements of our Father in Heaven. When we do this peace and faith become part and parcel of our daily lives. It is only when we get distracted that we will start to flounder under the cares of the world.


Final Thoughts

The peace of God is a gift that comes through the Spirit. Only those who are obedient to the commandments are granted His peace. Peace is the result of living in harmony with God’s laws. It enables us to learn other godly traits such as long-suffering and patience. The peace we receive from God also enables us to remain calm and composed even during the storms of life when all else around us is in turmoil and confusion. This helps us receive answers to our prayers.

The Holy Ghost needs us to become calm so we can hear His promptings and whisperings. This calm comes from living the commandments and praying for the gift of peace. The peace we seek is found in one place only and is given only by and through the Holy Ghost. The full enjoyment of this gift can be found only in those who have the gift of the Holy Ghost and live up to their privileges as Saints, acting as Christ would act for the welfare of others.

Read Howard W. Hunter's teachings at lds.org.


Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.