The more one contends with others the more he is taken captive by the spirit of contention. Everyone becomes subject to the spirit they submit to follow. Those who are prone to contention become more contentious as they listen to that spirit. Eventually they are overcome by that spirit, and it is a great work involving great effort to subdue and dismiss that spirit from the heart and mind of the victim.1 There are many who dispute the inspiration others have received. There are two concerns with the decision a good person makes to dispute with others: First, the Lord’s example is to refrain from disputing, as He did. When confronted, He would respond, but He did not go about picking a fight with others. He responded. The only exception was when He went up to Jerusalem to be slain. Then He went into the seat of Jewish power and authority to throw it down and provoke their decision to finally judge, reject, and crucify Him. He, and not they, controlled that timing. His provocation at that time was a deliberate act on His part because His “time had come,” and His sacrifice needed to be made. Second, the Lord has given the Doctrine of Christ in scripture. Just before the Doctrine of Christ, He says what His doctrine is not: Neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there hath hitherto been. For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the Devil, who is the father of contention; and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another, but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away (3 Nephi 5:8). And then He proceeds to declare His doctrine of Christ. The more contention and disputation there is with one another, the better the people become at contention. Rhetorical skills are polished. That spirit of contention can take possession, and when it does, one is hard-pressed to be a peacemaker with others. Christ said: And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 3:10–12). But peace should not be made at the cost of truth. Truth must be the only goal. Truth, however, belongs to God. Desires, appetites, and passions are prone to make people stray well beyond the bounds set by God. Therefore, when pride is gratified, one should question if truth is being advanced. When one’s ambition is served, he should question if he is in the Lord’s employ or his own. When someone insists upon control, one should question if he is like the Lord or, instead, like His adversary. When one uses any means for compelling others, one should wonder if he is mocking the God who makes the sun to shine and rain to fall on all His fallen children without compulsion. When one displays unrighteous dominion, he should question whether he is worthy of any dominion at all. Our tools must be limited to persuasion, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, and pure knowledge, with all of them marshaled “without compulsory means” to persuade others to accept the truth. And if we fail to make the persuasive case, then the problem is not others, the problem is that we’ve yet to figure out how to be sufficiently knowledgeable so as to bring them aboard.2See also MUTUAL AGREEMENT.
1 “That We Might Become One,” Jan. 14, 2018, 4, transcript of talk.
2 “That We Might Become One,” Jan. 14, 2018, 4, 6–7.