Harmless, Part 2

There was an attempt in the 1830s to establish a ‘center place’ where people who believed in the Restoration would gather. The people expected they would build a New Jerusalem and would become Zion. It didn’t work out. Their failure was explained to them by the Lord: “Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore, by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God, therefore the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble. In the day of their peace they esteemed lightly my counsel, but in the day of their trouble, of necessity they feel after me.” T&C 101:2.

The place was “polluted” and therefore unfit for any sacred enterprise by God. Take a look at the list of things that polluted the place. Every one of these were internal defects of the soul. Their attitudes and outlooks created conflicts. The conflicts showed just how sick their society’s hearts were, and how utterly unfit they were to live in peace with one another. They proved it to one another, and the Lord explained why.

You cannot have a city of peace with people who threaten or harm one another or their neighbors. It isn’t just violence or robbery that defeats peace. It is what they hold inside themselves. It is their attitudes toward one another. Any of the internal resentments that defeated their attempt at Zion will defeat every attempt at Zion. People are not ‘harmless as a dove’ when they harbor ill-feelings toward one another.

Even if the believers of that day were not openly quarreling with each other, they created such resentments with their neighbors that it produced open conflict. A city of peace is so benign that even those who are not believing can sense peace from their presence. Their countenances bear witness of their inner selves.

The Lord has explained to us about us, “you have also scarred one another by your unkind treatment of each other, and you do not notice your misconduct toward others because you think yourself justified in this. You bear the scars on your countenances, from the soles of your feet to the head, and every heart is faint. Your visages have been so marred that your hardness, mistrust, suspicions, resentments, fear, jealousies, and anger toward your fellow man bear outward witness of your inner self; you cannot hide it.” T&C 157:49.

They could not hide it in the 1830s and we will be unable to hide it today. We all know of the unkind words we have spoken about one another. There are many youth who have lost confidence in the Restoration because of the evil speaking of one another. Your children see your example, hear your backbiting, and lose confidence in the religion you profess. They cannot be blamed.

Harmless: Envy

Envy is a little thing. A mere emotion. But that little sentiment harbored in our heart sends seismic disruption into society. Envy provokes resentment. Even if you do not act on the desire to bring down those you envy, holding it in your heart divides you from your neighbor. “Wrath is cruel, and anger is overwhelming; but who is able to stand before envy?” OC Proverbs 4:51.

Envy destroys peace and removes all charity from the envious. “Charity envies not.” NC I Cor. 1:52. Envy cripples us. It is a disease to be overcome.

It was envy that motivated the killing of Christ. As Pilate clearly observed when Christ was brought before him to be judged, “For he knew that for envy they had delivered him.” NC Matt. 12:21, see also Mark 7:21. This defect in our heart is shared with those who wanted the Lord killed. It originates in darkness and will destroy those who harbor it.

Alma the Younger explained how unprepared we are for the kingdom of Heaven when we are envious, “Behold, ye must prepare quickly; for the kingdom of Heaven is soon at hand, and such an one hath not eternal life. Behold, I say, is there one among you who is not stripped of envy? I say unto you that such an one is not prepared. And I would that he should prepare quickly, for the hour is close at hand; and he knoweth not when the time shall come, for such an one is not found guiltless.” NC Alma 3:5.

Harmless: Ambition

As the Lord suffered in Gethsemane, one of the terrible errors of mankind He confronted and overcame was the ambition of men, “He knew what it is like for men to satisfy their ambition by clothing their hypocrisy in religious garb.” T&C 161:23. Here ambition is linked to religious hypocrisy. Those do go together.

Consider how serious holding ambition in our heart is when it can defeat the rights of priesthood, “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true, but when we undertake to … gratify… our vain ambition, … behold, the Heavens withdraw themselves, the spirit of the Lord is grieved, and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” T&C 139:5, emphasis added.

Ambition provokes people to seek more than another. It makes us long to excel, to get control, to have authority. At its core ambition produces unease and discontent. Ambitious souls needlessly criticize and back-bite others to make themselves appear better than the object of their scorn. It prevents us from being at peace with one another.

A community plagued with any ambitious residents will never be at peace. It cannot be. The threat of harm lingers over it, and at last it will break out into the open and destroy any group where ambition is present, as surely as the failure in the 1830s.

Being ‘harmless as a dove’ is among the greatest of accomplishments. A community of such individuals can attain peace. A community of any other kind will not have peace.