We believe that the Church of Christ is the Kingdom of Heaven here upon the earth today. We are also caused to believe that the Kingdom of Heaven must have divine order and purpose. That order is defined as an observance of the law of God, which brings orderly conduct among His people. His divine purpose is to bring about a state of peace and serenity.
We find that divine order and purpose is in the word of God. The commandments of Jesus Christ reflect that order and purpose. That which would cause disorder and confusion would tend to defeat the divine purposes of God by causing His people to stumble. When Jesus appeared to the people on this land after His resurrection, He gave admonition to correct any previous disorder and confusion. He admonished them to discontinue their disputations and contentions:
And there shall be no disputations among you, as there hath hitherto been; 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: 29-31)
It appears that Jesus was very emphatic when He spoke these words. Was He successful in His efforts to keep the people from being contentious? Let’s find out:
And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another;
And they had all things common among them, therefore they were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. (4 Nephi 1: 3, 4)
Jesus did have success, and the account that Mormon gave may be brief, but it is very encouraging to those of us who face a world of great wickedness. Read and reaffirm your convictions of this period of time that give us hope of Zion in our future:
And now behold it came to pass that the people of Nephi did wax strong, and did multiply exceeding fast, and became an exceeding fair and delightsome people.
And they were married, and given in marriage, and were blessed according to the multitude of the promises which the Lord had made unto them.
And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the Law of Moses, but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft, both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord.
And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land, but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus.
And it came to pass that the seventy and first year passed away, and also the seventy and second year; yea, and in fine, until the seventy and ninth year had passed away; yea, even an hundred years had passed away, and the disciples of Jesus, whom he had chosen, had all gone to the paradise of God, save it were the three who should tarry;
And there were other disciples ordained in their stead; and also many of that generation which had passed away.
And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.
And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness;
And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God:
There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God;
And how blessed were they, for the Lord did bless them in all their doings; yea, even they were blessed and prospered, until an hundred and ten years had passed away; and the first generation from Christ had passed away, and there was no contention in all the land. (4 Nephi 1: 11-21)
This is a true success story, or maybe we should say, a true event in history that shows the true effects of the power and influence of righteousness that is in the person of Jesus Christ. This peaceful state existed for 200 years, and then there began to be a revolt in the church which over time resulted in many churches and persecutions. Mormon lived during the time when the people were in continuous wars. His people, the Nephites, had great anger and were finally killed off because they would not repent and turn to the Lord. He wrote of that time, showing how much a people can quickly fall away into wickedness. His son, Moroni, completed Mormon’s work and was the final writer of the Book of Mormon.
Let’s go back to the word, “contention.” There is a scripture that speaks favorably of contending:
Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
The qualifying word here is, “earnestly”. Jude’s explanation is in the need to defend the faith (the doctrine) that was given of Jesus Christ. How do we earnestly contend for the faith without being contentious?
This has been discussed from time to time in the church, and I am convinced from the result of those discussions that there is a right way, or ways, to present our views on the gospel without being unnecessarily offensive, especially to those who may be new to our beliefs. We need to offer hope and encouragement to those who are just learning the gospel. If we are able to work with them little by little, they will realize their own imperfections and want to correct themselves. If they see in us a good example they will want to be like us. More importantly, they will see the good example that we see in Christ.
We as a people have different backgrounds, having come from different upbringings. The gospel of Christ has brought us together and has given us commonalities which make us close to each other. I believe that having all things common among us doesn’t just mean material things, but rather, common understandings. At our best we probably do have some differences which can cause problems from time to time, but we have the fullness of the gospel of Christ which gives us a common understanding of the law of God. By the guidance of the Holy Spirit we can have this common understanding if we seek for it.
If we act according to this common understanding, we as a body of people can feel assured that our judgment of matters will be correct if we all agree. However, the usual ways of man in the world seldom are guided in a unified manner. We have varied political issues that can be very disturbing to the minds of the more honest seeker of the truth. To us that have the scriptures, we find a more correct way. The scriptures tell us that we should do our business by the voice of the people:
Therefore choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.
Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right;
Therefore this shall ye observe, and make it your law to do your business by the voice of the people.
And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you;
Yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction, even as he has hitherto visited this land. (Mosiah 13: 34-38)
I believe in the voice of the people in doing our business, and we are free to express our concerns by this means; but, as it says, the voice of the people can be wrong. We must choose carefully when we take a stand on a subject:
Yea, well did Mosiah say, who was our last king, when he was about to deliver up the kingdom, having no one to confer it upon, causing that this people should be governed by their own voices;
Yea, well did he say, that if the time should come that the voice of this people should choose iniquity; that is, if the time should come that this people should fall into transgression, they would be ripe for destruction.
And now I say unto you, that well doth the Lord judge of your iniquities; well doth he cry unto this people, by the voice of his angels, Repent ye, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Yea, well doth he cry, by the voice of his angels, that I will come down among my people, with equity and justice in my hands. (Alma 8: 27-30)
The original intent of the lawmakers in this nation (USA) was to do their business by the voice of the people for the very reason that the majority would choose that which is right. I believe this was accomplished by the fact that the majority chose Christian ethics. Every important issue would be determined by the voice of the people. However, we have had to allow for qualified or educated people to make our laws, so we have chosen those who are more educated and able to write laws in congress. They are chosen to represent the majority of the people by our electoral system.
Through the years we have seen various types of corruptions enter our society and our government. At this point we are experiencing a ripening in iniquity of this nation and the nations of the world. We are living in the last days when many peoples will do as the Nephites did when they fell away into wickedness… But not all is lost. The Lord has promised that the stone that was cut out of the mountain without hands will be victorious in destroying the wicked kingdoms of the world. It may not look so now, but God has always chosen the weak things to confound the mighty. He has established His kingdom here on earth in these last days, and it shall never be destroyed. It shall surely accomplish what God has purposed.
Going back to Jesus’ words telling us that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, we are also admonished by Moroni to have faith, hope and charity or we cannot be saved in the Kingdom of God:
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ.
And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the unbelief of the children of men.
Wherefore, there must be faith; and if there must be faith, there must also be hope; and if there must be hope, there must also be charity; and except ye have charity, ye can in no wise be saved in the kingdom of God;
Neither can ye be saved in the kingdom of God, if ye have not faith; neither can ye if ye have no hope; and if ye have no hope, ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.
And Christ truly said unto our fathers, If ye have faith, ye can do all things which are expedient unto me. (Moroni 10: 13-17)