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Contention

by Celia Hokanson

Ranging from hostile words spoken at home to international conflicts, contention is so prevalent in the world that people tend to think of it as normal, inevitable, and perhaps even necessary. In the Book of Mormon, however, Jesus states, "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" (3 Ne. 11:29). Whether at home, at church, in business, or in the community, "such things should be done away" (3 Ne. 11:30). This is fundamental to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Latter-day Saints place great value on directing their energy in positive ways: "Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love" (Alma 38:12). Thus, scriptures admonish the faithful to "contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3; 1 Thes. 2:2), but not to the point of quarreling or arguing. Contention is especially detrimental at home (Mosiah 4:14) and over doctrine (1 Cor. 11:16; 3 Ne. 11:28).

Jesus taught not only that contention should cease, but anger too, along with derision, contempt, and scorn. Having such feelings place a person in danger of the judgments of the Church and of God (see Matt. 5:22; see also 3 Ne. 12:22, where the phrase "without a cause" is absent).

When people get into difficulties and disagreements with one another, the scriptures furnish wise counsel. If a person feels bad feelings, or discovers that someone has bad feelings against him or her, it is that person's responsibility to go "quickly" and be reconciled (3 Ne. 12:23-25). Implicit in this injunction is the recognition that "we are members one of another" (Eph. 4:25). A troubled relationship is shared by all persons involved and is not just the responsibility of the one who feels hurt or angry. The nature of the reconciliation depends upon the specifics of each situation. Rather than relying on human understanding or formulaic solutions, the Saints are taught to seek divine counsel and to trust the direction of the Lord, the reconciler of all (Prov. 3:5-6; D&C 112:10).

Standing in the way of most solutions to contention is pride: "Only by pride cometh contention" (Prov. 13:10). "The central feature of pride," declared Ezra Taft Benson, "is enmity—enmity toward God and…[toward] our fellowmen." Underlying the solution to contention must be the desire for harmony between people which can come only as a person "yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit…and becometh a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord" (Mosiah 3:19). Atonement and reconciliation with God allow and evoke forgiveness and reconciliation among people.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; Doctrines of the Gospel home page)

Bibliography

Ashton, Marvin J. "No Time for Contention." Ensign 8 (May 1978):7-9.

Benson, Ezra T. "Beware of Pride." Ensign 19 (May 1989):4-7.

Thornock, A. Lavar. "Contention—and How to Eliminate It." Ensign 10 (Aug. 1980):11-15.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Contention

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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