J. David Pulsipher: Making Peace with Book of Mormon Violence
Millions around the world have found peace within the pages of the Book of Mormon; beautiful teachings about the Prince of Peace and His atoning sacrifice calm our fears and instill hope. But the Book of Mormon also covers a great deal of contention and violence. Why were such graphic events included and what are we supposed to learn from all the accounts of war and conflict? In this week’s episode, we talk with J. David Pulsipher, PhD, who has spent the last decade exploring the answer to this question.
Some of the most beautiful parts of our world are created through conflict.
J. David Pulsipher and Patrick Q. Mason’s book: Proclaim Peace
President Oaks’s story: “Bible Stories and Personal Protection,” November 1992, general conference.
2:52- Ten Years in the Making
10:07- Contention Vs. Conflict
13:44- Standards for Engaging in Violence
22:46- The Mystery of God’s Love
30:51- Book of Mormon Examples
33:36- Assertive Love and Anti-Nephi-Lehies
39:47- Zion and Principles of Positive Peace
44:33- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:01
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Morgan Jones 0:58
Could there be creation through conflict? Is engaging in violence a choice? What are the dangers of contention? And if contention carries potentially grave consequences, how do we avoid it? These are questions that may seem particularly timely. But David Pulsipher and Patrick Mason started writing a book 10 years ago that explores what the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants teach us about these subjects. Their book Proclaimed Peace is finally out, and I'm not sure it could have come at a better time.
Morgan Jones 1:31
Jay David Pulsipher is a professor of history at Brigham Young University Idaho where he leads its program in peace and conflict transformation. He is also a practicing mediator as well as an author and editor.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones and I am so grateful to be with David Pulsipher today. David, welcome.
David Pulsipher 2:03
Thank you for the invitation. It's great to be here.
Morgan Jones 2:07
Well, I am so excited to kind of dig into a book that you recently wrote with Patrick Mason, who has been on our show previously. And the book is called Proclaim Peace and we're going to be talking all about peace today.
But I guess before we talk about peace, we have to talk a little bit about conflict. And certainly this is something that I think is so relevant in our world today. But also it's interesting, I've recently been rereading the Book of Mormon, and realizing how timely those parts of the Book of Mormon that talk about conflict and contention are in our world today when it feels like everything is kind of in tumult. So to start off with, how did this book–and specifically, I'm curious, how your writing it with Patrick–come to be?
David Pulsipher 3:01
Well, Patrick and I have kind of each come to peace and conflict studies kind of separately. He had more formal training and at the University of Notre Dame in their Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. I came to it in kind of more–in a more roundabout way through teaching at Ricks College and BYU-Idaho.
But we–I was very interested in non-violence in particular and the ways that that intersects with Latter-day Saint theology. Patrick came from it from a more traditional peace studies approach and we brought the two together, and accidentally, in many ways, just found each other. There aren't a lot of people doing work in this field and Latter-day Saints history and studies–although there's more of that happening in recent years.
But about 10 years ago, we were at a conference together in Claremont Graduate University, that was a conference on war and peace and Latter-day Saint perspectives. Back then, we said, "Mormon perspectives,”–changed that to the more appropriate term today. And out of that conference, we realized that there's no kind of sustained, systematic, comprehensive approach to peace from a Restoration perspective. There was a lot of really good work that had been done by other people largely in essay and article forms, but nothing that had really kind of dealt with the entire scope of it. So that's where we began.
We felt like it was important to lay out what we bring to the questions of conflict and peace as Latter-day Saints. and what does the Restoration–in particular our unique restoration scriptures–teach us about these topics?
It took us 10 years to get the book finally written and published. And it's been a wonderful journey. And along the way, I think we both learned a lot from each other in the process. And in many ways, it's a better book because it took so long, so that the ideas could kind of mature and our interpretations, approach, and really the principles of peace that were in restoration scripture could kind of come out over that time. It has been a lot of fun to write, but that's kind of where the book started from.
We originally were thinking of an academic audience, but as we gathered people together to read it and critique it for us, the kind of universal approach was, “No, this is not an academic book. This is a book for Latter-day Saints.” And so we revised it so it was much more appropriate for a general Latter-day Saint audience. And here we are.
Morgan Jones 5:56
Well, I think it's so cool that you started working on it 10 years ago because when I first started reading it, I thought, "Man, this is a very timely book." And so interesting how sometimes it's not even strategic, the timing of things, but makes you think it's not a coincidence.
David Pulsipher 6:17
That is so true. I wondered–as we were working on it, both Patrick and I have often wondered, "Will anybody even want to read this book?" And the last few years in particular, every time we tell people we're working on it, people say, "Oh." That's something that they immediately can see the relevance of it. When I first started telling people that I did like the history of peace, they'd say, "Oh, that must be a really short class." I'd say, "Well, it's more complex than you realize and deeply enriching to study." But now when I tell people that I teach a class called the history of peace, their first response is usually, "Oh, we really need that." So yeah, events of the last year, over the last 10 years, have really made it a much more relevant, immediately understood, and relevant book.
Morgan Jones 7:14
Well, one thing, like I said, in my recent rereading of the Book of Mormon–it's funny, right? The night before I was prepping the questions to send over to you, I made a comment to my boyfriend that it's so interesting to me how much contention is pointed out in the Book of Mormon. And, you know, ultimately is pointed out several times as being the downfall of groups of people. And how contention really is like the villain in the Book of Mormon. And so I wondered, why do you think it was so important for the people in the Book of Mormon to be aware of the danger of contention? And why is it so important for us today to be aware of the same thing?
David Pulsipher 8:01
I think that's a great question. Because when we look at the Book of Mormon, oftentimes people say, "Well, why is there so much conflict in here? Why is there so much war? Why are we spending so much time on these questions?" And if you look at the book in its totality, I mean, it begins with threats against Lehi and his family. We have Nephi's traumatic experience with Laban. The family breaks up into warfare and then that warfare is just in the background, if not in the foreground, throughout the rest of the book. And then it ends not with just one kind of total Holocaust, this entire destruction of one society is the violence just consumes this long-standing conflict, thousand-year conflict.
But we also end with a second story of total annihilation of a society through conflict and contention with the Jaredites. So the Book of Mormon ends with two groups destroying themselves through anger, contention, warfare. So the entire book is really, in many ways, a tragedy about what happens when we surrender ourselves to some of our baser impulses.
And in particular, that impulse to do violence to one another. And so I think Mormon as the principal author, and Moroni after him, are deliberately trying to point us to the potential consequences of our choices. And that violence has the power to destroy us if we're not careful. And you know, and when Moroni says, "We hope that you are more wise than we," I think he's not just talking about their ability to write or communicate the gospel. They're saying, "Look at the choices that our society has made and maybe you will be better and make better choices than we have."
Morgan Jones 10:05
Right? Absolutely. One thing that I thought would be good to kind of set the stage initially for this conversation–Elder Uchtdorf recently said that, "Conflict is inevitable, but contention is a choice." And so I wondered, what would you say is the difference between contention and conflict?
David Pulsipher 10:27
I think it's a beautiful expression of something we explore deeply throughout the book. Because I think as Latter-day Saints, we're often afraid of conflict. We think conflict is bad. And we read the Savior's admonition to the people in 3 Nephi 11 that, you know, "Contention is not me, but it's of the devil." And we substitute the word contention with the word conflict. And conflict and contention are not the same thing.
If we think about the creation of this world, we realize that the process of creation is a process of division: dividing the light from the darkness, dividing the water from the land, creating multiple varieties of plants and animals and male and female. And all of these differences and divisions that are a part of the creative process are then put in tension with one another. And it's the tension between them, the tension between day and night that creates sunsets and sunrises. The tension between water and land that creates mountains and canyons and seascapes.
Some of the most beautiful parts of our world are created through conflict, if you will, through the conflict between water hitting against the rocks and the seashore. And so conflict creates beauty. Conflict is–when we do it the right way, will take us through a process in which we are co-creators with God. So we shouldn't be afraid of conflict.
Contention, on the other hand, is engaging in those differences in a way in which we don't respect or love the other. So when it comes to human conflict, we can engage in all sorts of disagreement and differences, and out of those disagreements and differences create beautiful arrangements in our families, in our workplaces, amongst our friends in our communities.
But when we lose that sense of love and respect for the people who are different than us—whether that's political or cultural, or religious, or just different personalities—and engage in conflict with anger, with seeing other people as objects and not as people, then very quickly, that is what we call contention. And that is not of Christ. The Creator, who uses conflict to create, is not creating with that kind of spirit. So that spirit of contention is what we have to avoid. But we don't have to avoid conflict, in fact, we shouldn't avoid conflict. We should engage our conflicts, engage in them with that love and openness to one another.
Morgan Jones 13:32
I love the way that you describe that. I've never quite thought about, you know, opposites in that way or things that are in tension with one another. I think that that's really insightful.
So another thing that you talk a lot about in this book are kind of violence and non-violence. And you talk about, specifically, you offer several standards for choosing violence. And this is what the book says, "The four standards for choosing violence, disinclination, forbearance, divine consent and accountability constitute a code by which we might evaluate a decision to use direct violence, whether in personal defense or when our society contemplates war. Once the choice has been made, however, restoration scripture stipulates that justified violence should also adhere to additional criteria for actually engaging violence." Can you talk a bit about this and maybe outline a little bit what those four standards for choosing violence are?
David Pulsipher 14:40
For choosing violence or engaging in violence?
Morgan Jones 14:42
For engaging violence.
David Pulsipher 14:44
Yeah, okay. Yes. So in regard to this point, and these standards that we talk about in the book and clearly in the Book of Mormon we find righteous individuals from Nephi to Alma to the most famous example Captain Moroni, engaging in violence. And so there seems to be standards by which violence–which if we think about it in the kind of abstract, is one of the most sacred powers of God, the power to destroy.
And so there are–seem to be–standards by which that can be engaged in a justified way. And so here we're indebted to a principle that's come up through mainstream Christianity called, "The just war tradition," in which it sets forth standards by which you choose to go to war, and then standards by which you fight those wars in order for them to be considered just or justified.
So using that kind of basic example, we look at restoration scripture and say, "What does restoration scripture tell us about choosing violence and engaging violence?" And you already mentioned the ones about choosing a disinclination to violence and so on. But engaging in the violence, I think, is where the Restoration and the restoration scriptures really provide pretty remarkable and high standards.
And the first is a standard of restraint that we engage in only if we choose to go to violence. And that's something that we talked about frequently in the book is that violence is always a choice. It's never something we have to do. It's always something that we choose to do and may choose in a justified way under certain circumstances. But if we do, then we only use the amount of violence, we restrain ourselves, only the minimum violence to accomplish whatever objective might be there.
In addition to that restraint, which we see frequently with the Nephites when they're being their best, they aren't always being their best, but when they are being their best, we see that principle of restraint kind of looking for the first opportunity to cease the violence.
But the second thing, and I think this is one that we, our modern culture doesn't give us a lot of guidance in this direction but the scriptures do, and that is violence is something that is to be grieved. And so engaging in violence, when we choose that, should involve an enormous amount of grief. That violence is something we've felt we needed to choose for whatever reason. And again, you see the Nephites doing this. They were sorry to do it when they're their best selves. They are deeply, deeply, sorry to be having to do this.
And that's kind of leads us to the third standard that we talked about, which is steadfast connection. The idea that you never see the person with whom you are perhaps engaging with violence in any way other than a fellow son and daughter of God. You try as best you can to be connected to them. And in a way, you kind of go through that violence together. This is the way God, we see so clearly, when He sends the flood, when He sends the fire, when He sends the earthquake, He is still deeply connected to His children, and He is weeping, grieving, and experiencing it Himself. It's not as if it's something He's doing to some disconnected other. It is something that's happening to Himself because He is so deeply connected to us.
And then the final standard, which is again, I think one of the beautiful examples that God gives us, is that there's always afterwards. And this is section 120, or section 121 [of the Doctrine and Covenants] lays the standard out, "Afterwards, showing forth an increase of love." Not just the same love, but an increase of love. And of course, this is one of the reasons why lethal violence is so horrific and so and so consequential.
When God inflicts lethal violence, He's there on the other side to greet them and to increase that love here in this world. If we choose to send somebody to the next, we can't love them. They're no longer here with us. But we can love their family. We can love the people who are grieving over their loss. We can do everything we can here to bind up their wounds. So showing forth an increase of love afterwards becomes a kind of critical part of the standard. And those are things that, you know, that idea of grief and steadfast connection and increased love and even restraint is not something that you often see. For example, in our modern films, the action films and so on, there's almost kind of a joy, which is, I think, a huge distortion of truth when people are finding joy or celebrating violence in any way.
Morgan Jones 20:28
I think that is profound. And I, one of my favorite parts of your book is where you tell the story of President Oaks. And he had shared this in general conference years ago, where somebody tried to rob he and his wife, and he exercises that restraint. And the reason that he exercises it, I think, is that he recognized the grief that he would carry for the rest of his life if he were to engage in violence. And I think that's such a powerful example.
David, we read a lot about violence in the Book of Mormon. In the book, you write:
"If God is love, how can He be directly responsible for such cataclysmic and targeted destruction? Mass destruction may prove God's power and might, that He should be feared, but how is this a God whom we should love and trust? And what are the implications for us? Is retributive violence a sacred option for God's children? Such questions become all the more pressing when we consider not only scriptural moments when God inflicts violence directly, but also times when He enlist His children to carry it out. Nephi is commanded to slay Laban. Israel is commanded to destroy the Amalekites. In light of the power of nonviolent love, what are we to make of these commands? In sum, what are we supposed to learn from scriptures that narrate a God of love doing or directing violence against His children?"
And I thought these were such great questions and questions that I think probably most of us have had at some point in our reading of the Book of Mormon, whether it be at the very beginning when we see that conflict between that Nephi kind of an internal conflict about whether or not to slay Laban, or later in the scriptures as we read about the war chapters. So I wondered if we could kind of explore some of those questions together?
David Pulsipher 22:31
Absolutely. They're just some of the most challenging questions, I think, and all the scripture. Any that you want to tackle first?
Morgan Jones 22:41
I think the ones that stood out most to me, the one, "Mass destruction may prove God's power and might, that he should be feared, but how is this a God whom we should love and trust? And what are the implications for us?"
David Pulsipher 22:57
Yeah, that's a wonderful question. And I think, first of all, that's a kind of a two-part question there. And the first part of that is, what do we do with a God of love engaging in this? And I think part of it comes down to the mystery of God's love in the sense that God, you know, especially in the Book of Mormon, where God, the voice of Jesus Christ, right after He has ascended into heaven for His resurrection, as He is describing the cataclysms that had been brought, He personally says, "I have done this. I have, you know, burned the city of Zarahemla. I have, you know, buried this city and flooded this one and so on."
Every time the Savior says, "I'm doing this in part because of the blood of the Saints that it's crying out from the ground. There seems to be, in part, God's love for His children that is actually also at the heart here of what's going on and possibly referring to some of the horrific things that the Nephites and others have done prior to this moment.
But I think it's important for us to remember that God is the God of creation, but also the God of destruction. They're the two most important powers that He has. And God's capacity to know us in our hearts and to know when such violence may be appropriate is within His remarkable knowledge and capacity and within His love. So we can't entirely see the full story. That's why there's a certain mystery to it. We don't know the full and we don't have full access to His thinking and what's happening in these moments.
What we do know is that it will come with an increase of love afterwards and that ultimately God not only has the power to destroy life, but the power to give it again, in the power of the resurrection, right. So that's something that as humans we have no access to. We have no power to give life again. We have no power to greet or to meet these souls in the afterlife with an increase of love. And therefore, we have to be extraordinarily careful about drawing any conclusions from God's violence to license for us to engage in similar acts of, especially when that violence seems connected to some sort of justice and retribution.
Obviously, God, the Ascended God—and this is a distinction we make in the book—the Ascended God has a perspective that we just don't have, and the power that we just don't have. And when He, the Lord, explicitly tells us, "Vengeance is mine, and I will repay." It's not yours, this isn't for you to mimic.
What we are invited to follow and to try to do in our life is to follow the Condescended God, which is in the person of Jesus Christ, right. So Jesus Christ represents the Condescended God, the God living amongst us, who has come down from heaven. And in that example, throughout His entire life, ministry, and even death, going to the cross, we have an example of perfect non-violence. Never once do we find Christ using violence in a way that is retribution or vengeance.
In fact, you know, people will point to the temple and the driving out of the money changes from the temple as an example. But it just shows you how perfectly Christ embodies non-violence that we kind of grasp at these very remarkably few examples. And even those, when we look at them very carefully, are not what they initially appear. He's driving the animals out, he's not driving the humans out. Some paintings depicted as if he's whipping humans, but He's created a whip to drive the animals out of the temple, not His brothers and sisters, our brothers and sisters.
So in Christ, instead, we have example after example after example of love, forbearance, suffering and in absorbing violence rather than inflicting it. Telling His disciples to put away their swords. Healing the people who have come to take him from the garden. Forgiving people from the cross. And it's in that power of non-violence that happens just over and over and over again that we see the example that Christ then invites us to follow. "Be ye therefore even as I am," or what I have shown you. And so for us, we recognize that from the Ascended God from heaven, has a perspective that we can't understand. So when he engages in violence, we're going to trust it. It's in the best interest of His children. But the Condescended God is the one we're invited to follow and to take up our cross and take up the example of His love.
Morgan Jones 28:49
That is so good. And I had a thought while you were talking, you know, we talked about how engaging in violence there is a grief associated with that. And kind of just thinking about for Nephi, in the case where Nephi is commanded to slay Laban, is that a grief that he carried with him for the rest of his life? I don't know. But it's an interesting thing to think about.
You all write about the cycle of conflict. Can you explain to listeners what that is, and maybe an example from restoration scripture where we see that?
David Pulsipher 29:24
So we have a whole chapter that we call, "a theology of conflict," in which we lay out the idea that first of all, conflict isn't bad. And that it can't necessarily be bad. It can be quite, quite bad, quite destructive, but it can again, be quite creative and beautiful. So conflict in general tends to follow certain cycles. And I don't know that this is–it's just kind of one way of understanding it. It's not necessarily the only way to understand conflict.
But the cycle that we lay out in the book is the idea that we often draw boundaries, that's that process of division that happens in our lives. And then what happens in conflict is that people cross those boundaries. And then there's a resistance to that encroachment as people cross over the boundaries. And then that engages often in a cycle of resistance and counter resistance, and counter-counter resistance, and so on. And then ultimately, there's a yielding that occurs, either both sides kind of be, go back to their original places, the original boundaries, or are reinforced, or new boundaries are drawn and new processes move forward. And then the cycle begins anew.
And of course, it's easy to see these kinds of destructive examples in the Book of Mormon, one country invading another country with a counter, you know, with a resistance in the form of a battle and then ultimately a yielding as maybe the invading armies retreat. And we see that happen repeatedly throughout the Book of Mormon as territories are exchanged, and back and forth.
But one of my favorite examples of a positive example of this cycle, one that works to a much more creative and is the example of the sons of Mosiah, who have these boundaries between Lamanite and Nephi. And they basically say, "We're going to cross that boundary. We're going to–as princes of the king," who no doubt, had military training. They're going as kind of non-violent invaders of Lamanite territory.
And they go in there, not with the idea of conquering territory, or even to push back invaders. They're going in there to love their enemies, to serve their enemies, to work in the stables of their enemies. And in the process, they totally throw off their Lamanite brethren, and they refer to them as “Their brethren.”
You get this kind of counter resistance to their invasion, "Oh, what are you doing here? What are we to make of you?" And there's kind of back and forth that happens in this remarkable interview between Lamoni and Ammon and then later between Lamoni's father and Aaron. And then there's this yielding that occurs, and the yielding here is yielding their hearts to God. Yielding, giving up their sense of the boundaries that they have between themselves and the Nephites.
And suddenly their whole world is redrawn. The boundaries of their world are redrawn in remarkable ways, both in kind of within their souls and also between these peoples. And now, they go ultimately to live amongst the Nephites and they accept new ways of thinking about their past and thinking about themselves and their relationships and understanding and being brought into the circle, this community, this boundary that defines the community of God. And in that way, this kind of remarkable creative process happens. And through this conflict, it's kind of this provocative moment where the sons of Mosiah invade, if you will, Lamanite territory, but do it with a very different purpose and in a very different spirit.
And so it's ultimately the spirit with which we engage conflict that will make the difference—not necessarily the things that we do, but why and how we do that—and especially how we see the person or group that we're in conflict with.
Morgan Jones 33:36
I think that that example that you just gave of the sons of Mosiah is such a great example of alternatives to violence. And you talk a lot about this in the book, especially this idea of assertive love. Can you talk a little bit for those listening that haven't read the book yet what that phrase, "assertive love," means?
David Pulsipher 33:58
Well, I think sometimes when we're engaging in a destructive conflict, we use the destructive nature of the conflict to justify our own kind of destructive choices, our own violence against another person. And what our culture often teaches us is you really only have one choice, one or two choices, when somebody is attacking you, you know, whether that's physically or verbally or whatever it might be, you can either get into it and surrender, or flee from it. Or you can fight back, right? And when we say fight back, what we usually mean is if they're punching us, we punch back. If they're insulting us, we insult back. And we see so much of that in our modern discourse and, again, in our popular culture.
What assertive love is, is not—we use the word assertive because it's not just this kind of love that's kind of vague, and kind of waiting around and hoping that the other person responds. It's a love that’s, it's in many ways, almost confrontational. It goes out and meets the aggression, but it responds to that aggression with a defensive love.
And one of the best examples of this as the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, right? We focus a lot on how they bury their swords and refuse to use them. But I think what's much more important about the story is that they go out to meet them on the battlefield, they don't sit in their homes waiting to be slaughtered, they go out and confront them on the battlefield, they assert themselves. And in essence, say, "We meet your violence with our love."
And it's in that moment when they're attacked, every attacker thinks that they're doing, you know, they're justifying their attack in some way. By meeting that attack with love, they totally destroy whatever justification most of those attackers had in their minds for doing what they were doing. If they had fought back, then that justification would have stayed firmly planted in the heart of their attackers.
But when they're attacking people that are refusing to respond in kind, and are in fact, showing a remarkable love for them, it leaves them naked in their justifications. They realize how meaningless those justifications are. And ultimately, they're stung, as the scripture says, for what they're doing. And they throw down their weapons and they join their brethren. The power of assertive love, ultimately, has the power to stop aggression. And one of the things we miss sometimes in the stories, they ended up defending their families. They defended their families through love. The attack stops, and not only does it stop with those who are stung, but actually stops with even the hard-hearted Amalekites and Amulonites who give up and go back, they retreat. And it's, I think, one of the most remarkable moments in the Book of Mormon.
In fact, when I share this story with people from other faiths who are engaged in peace and conflict issues, from, you know, from Protestant perspectives, and so on, when they hear that story, they're like, "That is a beautiful story. You need to get that story out there.” So part of the book is trying to do that, and part of our audience is people outside the traditions and “Look what beautiful examples we've got in restoration scripture to show these kinds of principles.”
So I don't know if that answers your question, but that's what we mean by assertive love. It's love that stands up to violence. But it doesn't respond to violence with violence.
Morgan Jones 38:02
Right, I think yeah, you answered my question perfectly. I think it's interesting thinking back, when I was reading about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies this time around the Book of Mormon, I kept thinking, you know, I don't know that I would have the courage to respond the way that they did. And so it feels to me like this assertive love is almost like a muscle that we have to build so that our reaction is not to respond to violence with violence, but instead to respond in love. And I feel like that's something that for me, I was like, I need to work on that. So that my response wouldn't be, you know, just reacting with what's being thrown at me.
David Pulsipher 38:43
I think we're all that way. Just because we have written this book does not mean that we are any means perfect practitioners of what we're talking about because these are challenging. Gandhi referred to this kind of response as fearless, which is a step above courage. It takes courage to defend someone with a sword, to defend the powerless with a sword, it takes fearlessness to defend them with nothing but love. And so I think it is–most of us look at these and say, "That's just absolutely remarkable. I don't know that I could do that. I would hope I could eventually become the kind of person that would do that. But I'm not sure I have it in me.”
You know, I think all of us look at that and just stand in awe of, of the anti-Nephi-Lehies and others who are managed to do this, because it's just so beautiful. And ultimately, of course, the perfect example of it is the Savior Himself.
Morgan Jones 39:41
Right? Absolutely. Okay, David, we're winding down. I've got two more questions for you. One thing that I wanted to ask is with the Christmas season upon us, you know, I think we talk a lot about names of Christ and one of those is the Prince of Peace, and then thinking kind of about how that translates to us. And we talk about, you know, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." And in the book, you talk a lot about how Zion exemplifies the principles of positive peace. And so if we are trying to become a people of Zion like people, how does Zion exemplify principles of positive peace?
David Pulsipher 40:27
Well, that's a fantastic question. And maybe first to define the term, "positive peace," is a term that's used in peace studies to define a certain type of peace. Peace scholars generally talk about peace in two ways. What's called, "negative peace," which is the absence of direct conflict. It's that kind of peace that existed when the Nephites and Lamanites were not fighting one another. When it says there was peace in the land for five years, it means they're not at war. But it doesn't necessarily mean that they have really transformed that the underlying conflict.
"Positive peace," on the other hand, is not only the absence of direct violence, but it's also the presence of society, institutions, attitudes, cultural, a kind of culture, in which the greatest human flourishing can occur. It's where we have no longer have any war in our hearts for one another. It's where we have created arrangements, both economic, political, social arrangements that allow everyone to be made free. And so this is, I think, one of the most beautiful descriptions of both negative peace and positive peace comes in 4 Nephi, where it describes, you know, the land as saying, "There's no contention among them, but there's no disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another." That's more than just not hitting each other. That is positive peace. "And they had all things in common among them, wherefore, they were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free partakers of the heavenly gift." So positive peace is Zion.
I mean, anybody who's a Latter-day Saint who studies that is a guest to the concept of positive peace, they immediately recognize it. They're like, "Well, that's just Zion." Zion is the embodiment of what scholars call positive peace. It's a society where everybody has a chance, everyone has opportunity. Everyone loves one another, and sacrifices for one another, and shares with one another, and treats one another justly. And that's the society, ultimately, when Christ says, "Peace, I bring," you know, "I give to you." He's not only talking about kind of inner peace that we can achieve. And He's talking about ultimately, the ultimate expression of peace, which is an entire society, a kingdom of God, that will, you know, that we're working towards, where we're not just working for individual salvation.
Christ came and showed us the way to social salvation, to communal salvation, the way to live with one another, and to respect one another, and to bind and knit our hearts together in unity and love. And we see beautiful examples from Enoch's city to Alma's little utopia in the forest, you know, to 4 Nephi, we get these beautiful examples of Zion being achieved. And sometimes for just briefly, sometimes for hundreds of years. But that's the goal. Right? That's the–it's not just to, "I want to be in heaven." It's "I want to create Zion here, in this world. A place where Christ himself can return and reign."
Morgan Jones 44:12
That's beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing that.
David, you have been so helpful to me, personally. I think this has been, I'm right at the end of Alma right now. So this is very timely for me in my study of the Book of Mormon. But I want to thank you, first of all, for taking the time to be with me. And my last question for you is: what does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
David Pulsipher 44:40
Well, thank you. And, of course, I knew this question was coming. So I've been thinking about it all week. I think for me, one of the scriptures that in this respect has been one of my favorite scriptures for many years is from Omni chapter, well, verse 26. I could say chapter one, but there's only one chapter.
But I've long loved Amaleki, you know, one of the lesser-known prophets and the Book of Mormon, who says to us, "I would that you should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of His salvation and his power of His redemption. Yea, come unto him and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him" That concept of offering my whole soul to Christ has always been a deeply inspiring ideal towards which I have wanted to strive.
But I just recently have had kind of a new insight into that, and that is, I think I've spent so much of my time, I'm a good Latter-day Saint, I think, you know, doing something, giving something, doing that with all of my heart, might mind and strength. And recently, the Spirit has been encouraging me to look at the word, "receive," and to receive Christ into my heart.
And I'd been focused–I've focused so much on giving myself to Him, that I think I've missed some ways the real power and the challenge of receiving Him. And to receive someone, to receive–whether it's a spouse, or a sibling, or, you know, or a friend, to receive someone else into our heart, means to open our heart in such a way that we empty that heart of our own ego and our own cells, and we let go of our own desires, and we open ourselves to someone outside of ourselves.
So increasingly, I've come to see being all in means opening my heart and letting go of my will in such a way that I can receive Christ. And kind of the context that we've been talking about, I can receive the peace that He offers. Not just that personal peace, but ultimately, that broader societal peace that He wishes to work within me and within others.
And as I open my heart, fully, completely, to Him, and empty myself of myself to give room, then I am going to want to do the same thing for others, and open myself to all of His children, all of God's children, and together, that's where I think Zion begins is when we really open ourselves to one another, and open ourselves ultimately, to the Savior.
Morgan Jones 47:57
So well said, thank you so much. That reminded me of, I think it's in "Joy to the World" where it says, "Let earth receive her King." And, certainly, that's what we tried to do during the Christmas season. I think that's the reason like all of us are a little bit better than we are the rest of the year around this time of year, that we're focused on receiving Christ and offering peace to those around us. And if we could carry that into the rest of the year, we would be better people. And so I love the scripture that you shared. And that thought, and again, thank you so much for being with me.
David Pulsipher 48:34
Thank you. This has been a wonderful conversation I've really appreciated.
Morgan Jones 48:41
We are so grateful to David Pulsipher for joining us on today's episode. You can find Proclaimed Peace on deseretbook.com.
Now, big thanks to Derek Campbell of Mix at 6 Studios for his help with this in every episode of this podcast. And thank you all so much for listening. We'll look forward to being with you again next week.