Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as the Mormons, was a man of peace. Being a victim of prejudice and misunderstanding himself, he had sympathy for the outcast, the loner, and the forgotten. His was a voice of inclusiveness and love:
In 1844, Joseph Smith wrote:
“Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’ [Matthew 5:9.] Wherefore if the nation, a single State, community, or family ought to be grateful for anything, it is peace.”
“Peace, lovely child of heaven!—peace like light from the same great parent, gratifies, animates, and happifies the just and the unjust, and is the very essence of happiness below, and bliss above. … ”
“Animation, virtue, love, contentment, philanthropy, benevolence, compassion, humanity and friendship push life into bliss: and men, a little below the angels, exercising their powers, privileges, and knowledge according to the order, rules, and regulations of revelation, by Jesus Christ, dwell together in unity; and the sweet odor that is wafted by the breath of joy and satisfaction from their righteous communion is like the rich perfume from the consecrated oil that was poured upon the head of Aaron, or like the luscious fragrance that rises from the field of Arabian spices. Yea, more, the voice of the peacemaker—”
“It is like the music of the spheres—
It charms our souls and calms our fears;
It turns the world to Paradise,
And men to pearls of greater price.”
(“Chapter 29: Living with Others in Peace and Harmony,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, , 339–48.)
This statement reaffirms the importance of being peacemakers. Whichever circles we move in, or whomever we deal with, we need to be civil, friendly, and peaceful. Love is the basis of society and civilization.
Recently this message was reaffirmed by Thomas S. Monson, the sixteenth president of the Church:
“I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.” (Looking Back and Moving Forward)
I grew up in California, which is a melting-pot of cultures. I had friends from about every demographic: black, white, Asian, Mid-eastern, male, female, rich, poor, native-born, immigrant, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu—everything.
One wonders how we could unify so many people with different backgrounds. Part of it has to do with the American Outlook as codified in the Declaration of Independence and reaffirmed in the Bill of Rights:
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” (Declaration of Independence)
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.”(First Amendment)
Both of these create a philosophical and legal framework for tolerance and respect. Of course we all have our own ideas about religion, but it is understood that in America everyone has a right to believe as they wish.
But behind the legal framework of these founding American documents there is something deeper. It doesn’t come form the law, but from the heart. I think in America we have a sense of love for other people. This is not to say we are perfect (however you choose to define that word), but we do have to admit there is a “special something” in the air that has kept us stable since 1776.
This love for other people is a fundamental ingredient to my faith. Joseph Smith taught:
“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” (“Chapter 37: Charity, the Pure Love of Christ,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, , 327–38.)
I think that is the key. We can live in unity—despite differences—if we love one another.
So what is love? The Book of Mormon, which is book of scripture and is another testament of Jesus Christ, gives a supernal definition of love. The book was translated in 1830, and follows the wording of the King James Version of the Bible. So instead of the common word “love,” it sometimes uses an older word “charity.” The word charity means more than just almsgiving or organizations like the Salvation Army. The word is defined as “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47) and is also described as being “everlasting love” (Moroni 8:17), both meaning the kind of “super-delux love” that God has for us.
The Book of Mormon passage is as follows:
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (Moroni 7:45)
So charity, or love, is not just attraction or affection. It is an invigorating power that enlivens all aspects of our lives.
I have seen love build bridges and melt hearts. I recently moved, so I began attending a new congregation. Things were awkward at first. In my area there are a lot of move-ins and movie-outs, so skins are understandably thick. But here and there, as I have spoken in scripture study classes, or talked with people, and attended church-sponsored activities, I have come to be accepted in the ward.
I did have to work at it, yes. But I think this same thing can happen anywhere, and to anyone. If we work at loving others, it will surely come back to us. That is the key to living in unity—commonplace love.