Two “scholars of peace” encouraged BYU students to follow the Savior’s example of peace in a tumultuous world on Thursday, Oct. 14.
Patrick Mason, Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, and David Pulsipher, lead faculty member of the BYU-Idaho peace and conflict transformation program, presented their new book, “Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict.”
“Proclaim Peace” explores what it means to follow Christ’s example in a world of violence and contention by focusing on restoration scripture.
“This book is an effort to lift up the Restoration’s distinctive principles that invite its followers and friends to renounce violence and proclaim Christ’s good news of love and peace to a world that desperately needs it,” reads its blurb.
Pulsipher explained that in the world today, many people are conflict-avoidant, especially in Latter-day Saint communities. He said the reason behind this is a scripture in 3 Nephi, where Christ states that “contention is not of me.”
“Contention is conflict with anger, it’s conflict done in such a way to destroy the relationship,” Pulsipher said. “Conflict, however…is at the very heart of the universe. It’s actually the way in which creation happens.”
Pulsipher also pointed out that many things people find beautiful are actually the results of tension. Some examples were beaches and canyons, the opposition of water and land, along with sunsets and sunrises, the opposition of day and night.
“Conflict is ultimately, or can be, creative. It does not necessarily have to be destructive,” Pulsipher said.
“Proclaim Peace” also emphasizes the power of love and persuasion and the impact it can have on the hearts of others. Because of divine nature, the only power that can maintain influence over people in the eternities has to be persuasion, Mason said. Violence, coercion and manipulation cannot hold power over people forever.
“In a world of violence, to preach love is the most dangerous thing you can do,” Mason said.
Pulsipher also explained that assertive love, loving one’s enemies and meeting them halfway, is the antidote to conflict. By choosing to react to violence and hatred with love, one takes the higher road.
“It seems like madness to confront evil and oppression with love. But this is ultimately the way to peace,” Pulsipher said.
Mason emphasized the importance of theology and how it can allow people to see there’s another kind of power outside of violence, a more powerful kind of power that makes no sense from a worldly point of view.
“The key to the kingdom of God is to love those who do not love you, who hate you, and whom you — by worldly standards — should also hate,” Mason said.
Mason emphasized individual and collective responsibility and called bringing peace to the world. “Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom that applies to your heart, and your society as well. He calls us to be peacemakers, to transform the societies in which we live.”
Mason and Pulsipher take great hope in President Russell M. Nelson’s vision that peace is possible.
“Crucially, nonviolence can’t be imposed on people, you have to choose it,” Mason said. “People have to make a choice, and it’s a strategic decision, that this is gonna be the weapon of love, the weapon of nonviolence in order to fight injustice.”