Reacting to Violence, 3 Nephi 6

I wrote a few days ago in response to recent violence and I quoted from the Fourth Book of Nephi in the Book of Mormon about how the people at that time came together in a peaceful society for almost 200 years. This morning, with thoughts of recent events still in my mind, I was reading in the Book of Mormon in the Third Book of Nephi, about 10 years before the start of Fourth Nephi. At this time in the history of the people they had just come together in unity against a criminal band of robbers that threatened the whole nation. All different groups of people came together to stand against these robbers, and they turned to God for strength and protection. After defeating the robbers, and converting as many of them as would accept peace and the gospel of Jesus Christ, the people enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity in the land. It is written, “thus they did establish peace in all the land. And they began again to prosper and to wax great; and the twenty and sixth and seventh years passed away, and there was great order in the land; and they had formed their laws according to equity and justice. And now there was nothing in all the land to hinder the people from prospering continually, except they should fall into transgression.” (3 Nephi 6:3-5)

Yet, the record continues, “But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions. And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.” (3 Nephi 6:10, 12).

In just a few short years the people had gone from peace and equality to distinguishing themselves by ranks and their riches and their access to education. This was the cause of the breakdown of their society, and a few more years after this many of the people and the cities would be destroyed by God because of their wickedness.

The verse that really struck me, though, reads, “Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.” (3 Nephi 6:13)

I noticed that some did return railing for railing, or in other words, some reacted to violence with violence, but that is not the right way. Countering violence with violence just increases the amount of violence. No one has ever been convinced that they were wrong through violence. They may be beaten with violence and eventually acquiesce or surrender to greater strength and power, but they often become more resolved in their minds that they are right because they are being opposed. There can be no teaching through violence or anger. Behavior can be changed by violence. One can be beaten into submission, but that is not teaching, that is not being convinced or converted.

Throughout the Book of Mormon it is taught that the people cannot be converted to the Lord or convinced of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through force. Of the great prophet and missionary, Alma, it was said, “now, as the preaching of the word had a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it had had more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else, which had happened unto them—therefore Alma thought it was expedient that they should try the virtue of the word of God.”

And back in Third Nephi this was also the case.

“There began to be men inspired from heaven and sent forth, standing among the people in all the land, preaching and testifying boldly of the sins and iniquities of the people, and testifying unto them concerning the redemption which the Lord would make for his people, or in other words, the resurrection of Christ; and they did testify boldly of his death and sufferings.” (3 Nephi 6:20)

The only way to truly counter violence in the world is through teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Testifying boldly that there is a God in heaven and he is our Eternal Father and loves each and every one of us immensely. He has a plan for his children, he calls it a Plan of Happiness and a Plan of Salvation and of Redemption. Central to this plan is Jesus Christ who lived, was crucified, and rose again in a glorious resurrection. In the Garden of Gethsemane he suffered for the sins of all mankind and in some incomprehensible way he pays the price for our sins and offers us repentance and the opportunity to return to our Heavenly Father to live with him again.

I believe this. I have read the words of prophets and apostles called of God who have taught this and I have felt the confirming testimony of the Holy Spirit telling me that it is true. I do not know everything, there are aspects of God’s plan that I do not fully understand, but I have faith in those parts that I do understand, and I have faith in my Father and in Jesus Christ.

The only way I know to counter violence and hate and anger is with love and the virtue of the word of God. I cannot convince or convert anyone of myself, but I can invite them to learn of Jesus Christ and pray to God, the Father, so that they can feel the influence of the Holy Spirit testifying to them what they should do. This is how the world gets better. This is how individuals get better. This is how I get better, by learning of and following the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is our Father’s Plan of Happiness for everyone. I have to believe that anyone can change, that Jesus Christ can take men’s hearts and soften them and change them. I have to believe this because I need it for myself. And I believe that the same can happen for anyone willing to humble themselves and turn to God.

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