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Proclaim Peace — A Conversation with Patrick Mason and J. David Pulsipher
Proclaim Peace — A Conversation with Patrick Mason and J. David Pulsipher

Faith Matters



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For this episode, we spoke with Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher about their new book, Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict. The book was recently published by BYU’s Maxwell Institute.

Proclaim Peace begins with the premise that even though we live in a world that is plagued by violence, that peace really is possible. For Patrick and David, the Gospel of Jesus Christ lays out a unique theology which can help us become peacemakers in our communities and society at large. Their book also addresses really important questions that many people have about scriptural violence, and helps show that active and lasting peace really is a divine goal.

Returning to the podcast is Patrick, the Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture, and an associate professor of religious studies and history, at Utah State University.

Joining Faith Matters for the first time is David, a professor of history at Brigham Young University–Idaho where he teaches courses on citizenship, civil discourse, peace-building, and nonviolence.

We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.

Tim Chaves: Hey, everybody. This is Tim Chaves from Faith Matters. For this episode, we got to speak with Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher about their new book, Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict. The book was recently published by BYU’s Maxwell Institute. Proclaim Peace is, in our opinion, an incredibly important work that begins with the premise that even though we live in a world that is, in many ways, plagued by violence, that peace really is possible and that the gospel lays out a unique theology that can help us become peacemakers in our communities and in the world. It also addresses really important questions that many people have about scriptural violence. It helps show that active and lasting peace really is a divine goal.

If you’ve listened to Faith Matters for any length of time, we’re sure you’re familiar with Patrick. But for new listeners, Patrick Mason is the Leonard Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture and associate professor of Religious Studies and History at Utah State University. This is the first time we’ve been lucky enough to have David Pulsipher on the podcast. He is a professor of History at Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he teaches courses on citizenship, civil discourse, peace building, and nonviolence. A huge thanks to both David and Patrick for joining us for this really important conversation and for the work that they’ve done with this book. We hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.

Okay. David Pulsipher and Patrick Mason, thank you both so much for joining us on the podcast today.

Patrick Mason: Thanks for having us.

David Pulsipher: Thanks for the invitation.

Tim Chaves: Of course, of course. We’re really excited to talk with you. This is an incredibly important subject and I think an incredibly important book that you’ve both written that was recently released, Proclaim Peace, and there’s a lot behind that title and I think we’ll probably get into that. I thought, if it’s okay, we’d love to start out just hearing a little bit more about your backgrounds relative to this particular subject. David, I know that you actually have ended up in sort of a field of study directly related to peace and nonviolence. And Patrick, I know having gotten to know you over the past few years that this is something that is a very serious interest of yours personally and now, at least to some extent and possibly before, professionally. So maybe David, could we start with you and you could talk a little bit about that?

David Pulsipher: Sure. I’m actually the least qualified of the two of us in terms of formal training. Patrick was at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame, got a degree from them, and everything. So I’m introducing him, I guess, right now. But, I came at it in a more roundabout way.
My degree’s in American Studies which is American culture and it was really through teaching American history at what was first Ricks College and then BYU-Idaho that I started getting really interested in questions about how to engage conflict in ways that were not violent. I was fascinated with the Civil Rights Movement. I was fascinated with Martin Luther King’s proclamation that they were using the weapon of love and that phrase just kind of jumped out at me in the process of teaching the Civil Rights Movement. I started digging deeper into it and the deeper I got, the more clear it became to me that so much of what was happening in the methods particularly of nonviolent resistance mirrored so many things that I was reading in the scriptures. The Anti-Nephi-Lehies in particular, but also in so many other places.

So I really came at this primarily with an interest in nonviolence and then I met Patrick and he expanded to my worldview to think in much broader terms about peace studies generally. And so this has been kind of about a 20 year journey for me now and I’ve read my way into it and had wonderful mentors like Patrick who actually know what they’re talking about have helped me to see the world and even the restoration in a new light.

Tim Chaves: That’s awesome. Thank you. And Patrick?

Patrick Mason: Yeah. For me, it’s been about 25 years in the making. It, actually, in a lot of ways started with the class I took at BYU. Everybody has to take a history of civilization or world history class and I took one that was in the Honors section that was taught by Wilfred Griggs and Alan Keele, a couple of professors down there, and this is kind of a legendary course. It’s called The Pen and the Sword and basically the question… We go through world history and think, “Why is it that the humans always say that they want peace and end up in war?” And so we spend a whole year doing all kinds of readings in Greek philosophy and in scripture and reading plays and listening to music. It was just a phenomenal class. That’s where I was introduced, for instance, to [inaudible], I think one of the great heroes of the restoration who resisted the Nazis as a teenager. And so that was kind of my first introduction.

But then I went to Notre Dame, like David said, but actually to get my PhD in history. And it was the very last class I took as a doctoral student that I stumbled into this class that happened to have a bunch of both the professor and then a lot of the students in there were from Peace Studies. I didn’t know there was such a thing called Peace Studies and so these were students from all around the world, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, from so many different countries and they literally… many of them had put their bodies on the line in terms of fighting for peace and justice in their home countries.

And it was just an incredibly rich semester. And so I looked more into it and so I actually stepped away from my PhD program for a year, got the master’s degree in Peace Studies. My PhD professors thought I was nuts for doing it, but it was actually one of the most important and enriching things I’ve ever done. And so I’ve just had a kind of ongoing interest.

Actually, while I was a graduate student, I wrote this little article called The Possibilities of Mormon Peace Building that got published in Dialogue. It was one of the very first things I ever published. And that article, again, I wrote as a grad student. I think there’s lots of limitations to it, but just because there’s been so little written on this topic within the restoration tradition, that article kind of took on a life of its own. So then when I met David and we started talking about what would a bigger collaboration look like, and so this book has been 10 years in the making, literally.

Aubrey Chaves: Wow, wow. Before we get into specifics about the book, would you maybe just keep going Patrick and give us a little bit… Maybe just give us the thesis of the book.

Patrick Mason: Yeah. Well, for us, it’s a book of scriptural theology and so we really wanted to do a deep dive into the scriptures and we wanted to go into it with an open question of what does restoration scripture say about issues of conflict and violence and peace. Now both of us went into it as you’ve just heard with some of our own ideas, but we really wanted to see and try to draw out of the restoration tradition on what we could see and what we saw there and what we try to argue, I think pretty strongly in the book, is that nonviolence, the way of peace, the way of persuasion is not the exception, but is rather the default. It is at the very heart. It is the moral and ethical core of the restoration. And why is that? Because the restoration is the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

And so for us, actually, centering Jesus, centering the gospel, but then also reading carefully these texts, the Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants led us to believe that really the way of peace is at the core of what it means to be a Christian. It’s not an option. It’s not something that you can choose if you want to. It is at the very core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. I love that. It feels like maybe a great place to start then is the story of Nephi and Laban because I think probably that’s the most… One of the most problematic stories in restoration scripture and it’s probably the story that comes to mind when people think about peace and violence in the scriptures and Book of Mormon specifically.

So I think this is a great place to start because it was so interesting. I think I’ve read that story pretty myopically and it was mind blowing to step back and see bigger patterns in Nephi’s life and how that affected generations down the line. So David, do you want to take that? Will you talk about how you reconcile a God of peace and a commandment to slay Laban?

Tim Chaves: Well, David, would it be okay if I jump in really quickly and share a quick story from a mission about this specific issue? I just couldn’t read what you guys wrote about Nephi without thinking of this. As all missionaries hope for, we had found a person that was very interested, a woman, in reading what we actually had to say and reading the Book of Mormon and listening to the message that we had to share. We left a Book of Mormon with her and came back the next day and she had already read through about the first 10 chapters of First Nephi.

And she said, “This was great, but I got to this part where Nephi kills Laban and that’s not cool. And it says that the spirit told him to slay Laban and I just don’t believe that.” And my companion’s response… and I was like, “Oh, geez. I don’t know what to do with this.” My companion’s response was to open up the Bible to 1 Samuel 15 and say, “Hey, you don’t think that God likes killing people? Here it is in your very own Bible.” And this woman, oh my gosh, she could not have ushered us out the door fast enough and that was unfortunately the last we ever saw of her. And that was honestly the first time…

My previous experience with Nephi and the story of Laban had been animated church videos. And it was like, “Oh yeah, it’s a fun adventure story,” kind of thing and that moment, as a 19, 20 year old or whatever I was the first time I was reckoning with, wow, we should think deeply about whether or not this is okay, as Nephi did. It’s not just a fun story, as we sometimes childishly take it. But with that, David I’ll let you answer.

David Pulsipher: Thank you. I think that illustrates perfectly one of the challenges of the story. It happens very early in the text and so you’re confronted with this and what you’re going to do with it very, very early on, every reader has to decide how to interpret what’s happening here. And of course, as you said, we have, especially within the church, people kind of grow up with the story and are so familiar with it that we don’t think much about it. And it’s only when we encounter people from outside the faith who may find that troubling that suddenly we realize, “Wait a minute. There’s maybe much more going on here than we had appreciated before.”

We take the approach with Nephi that, of course Nephi’s a very complex person and I think a lot of really good scholarship has been done lately about the complexity of Nephi, his deep faith, and yet also his traumatic youth. He’s living in a world of violence. He is experiencing violence from his brothers. Violence is very present in Nephi’s life and you can kind of sense him wrestling with it. It’s a challenging story just in and of its own right. Nephi’s writing decades after the event has happened and I think still trying to process this kind of formative moment. We feel like we get a little help from God himself in the Doctrine and Covenants in section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which seems to be very clearly… The wording is set up in such a way, it mirrors the wording of Nephi’s language and then it very specifically discusses the fact that Nephi should have been or seems to have been aware of the principles that are discussed in section 98.

And so just to very briefly review what section 98 discusses, it sets up conflict and people smiting us and smiting our families and laying it out as it’s basically a choice. If we’re smitten once, we should forbear. Smitten twice, three times, on the fourth time, if we warn the individual, then the Lord says, “If they come again, then we are justified in using violence.” And a very interesting word, which we could unpack… Maybe that’s longer than we want to talk about right now. But immediately after that, it says, “But if that will spare him, that will be blessed.” And so we can be justified in our violence or blessed in sparing the enemy. And then the very next line after that is… I mean, after saying, “If you spare me, you’ll be blessed. Nevertheless… Thine enemy is in thine hands,” which is the language that the spirit uses with Nephi and, “You are justified. This is the law that I gave to my servant Nephi.”

So using that lens indicates that perhaps the story that Nephi’s relating years afterwards that he’s been processing for decades might be a little more complex than we initially… it initially appears. Perhaps Nephi is making a choice in this moment. That it’s not just the choice to kill Laban, but that’s certainly a justified choice. There’s a lot of interesting things happening in the story. Nephi doesn’t get the command to kill Laban until he’s already withdrawn the sword. He’s already looked at it. And at that moment, a sword that he clearly finds to be quite a remarkable object, the spirit, it says, “Slay Laban.”

There’s a number of ways of interpreting what happens next. Does the spirit tell him one option, but wants him to push back in the same way that Abraham and Moses and others have pushed back against certain commands of the Lord?Or is there another choice that was there that Nephi doesn’t remember because it’s been so long and the choice that he made was to slay Laban. There may have been nonviolent ways of incapacitating Laban and going forward in getting the plates.

Whatever happens in that moment, it’s certainly true that Nephi then takes two objects into the wilderness, along with a servant. He takes the Plates of Brass, the Word of God, and he takes the sword of Laban. Interestingly enough, in his narrative, he doesn’t tell us he takes the sword. We don’t even know he has the sword until the family has ruptured into two groups and Nephi says he takes the sword and makes copies of it. At that point, we realize Nephi’s not only taken the plates, but he’s also taken the sword with him.

And these two become, in our reading of Nephi, kind of options that Nephi kind of has between the Word and the sword throughout his life and with his relationship with his brothers and everything else. And that over time Nephi, in many ways, puts the sword away and embraces the Word in greater and greater measure. And that especially in Second Nephi, as he just immerses himself in the Word of God and the covenants of God and making sense of his life and the future that he knows is coming for his posterity through the Word and in particular, not just the Word written down, but the Word made flesh, the son of God, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.

So that’s kind of the way we deal with Nephi and Laban. It’s not an unproblematic interpretation, but as many people have pushed back against that, but we think it’s a very reasonable and faithful way of reading it, especially in light of section 98.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. So I love how you say… You talk about how the only way to have enduring influence is to build trust as opposed to violence, that violence will never give you enduring influence. So I’m wondering how you see that playing out in Nephi’s family in this case. He did choose violence.

Patrick Mason: Well, he chooses violence in this one instance with Laban, but one of the interesting things is that right afterwards with Zoram, for instance, he at first uses physical force. He actually uses deception at first, but then he uses physical force to restrain Zoram when Zoram’s going to go raise the alarm. This is the core truth that comes out of section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained except through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, kindness, love unfeigned. So Nephi, he’s in this really problematic dynamic. He’s just killed Laban. He literally put on his clothes. He’s speaking in his voice. We talk about taking on the countenance of Christ. He has taken on the countenance of Laban and he’s using deception and coercion to get what he wants. It kind of means that the ends justify the means.

But in that moment, it seems where he’s holding Zoram, he realizes, “I can’t do this forever. I can’t use coercion forever.” He has to let Zoram go. He has to appeal to him. He has to use persuasion. He has to speak in love and Zoram, even despite everything else that’s happened that night, he sort of senses something else in Nephi and he trusts him.

And then the same thing with his brothers. Throughout the whole rest of First Nephi, it’s kind of a ping pong back and forth with both sides actually using coercion, but then also their hearts melt and they seek forgiveness from one another. Nephi will preach, but sometimes he’ll do it in such an arrogant way that he puts off his brothers. At other times, he’s quite humble in his presentation and actually we see rifts beginning to heal.

So this is a complicated family. At the end of the day, things just fall apart. Just the kind of negative conflict takes over. But Nephi throughout, it seems like he’s learning this lesson and finally, by the end of his life, as he’s writing his memoirs, so to speak, as he’s writing on these plates decades later, we feel like he sees these patterns emerging. And even in sort of the last bit of narrative we get where… that Nephi Psalm where he just cries out, talks about his sins, talks about, “Why am I angry because of my enemy?” His only enemies were his brothers. There’s nobody else.

So he’s reflecting decades later on his role in the conflict and with the kind of maturity that he didn’t have as a teenager or however old he was with Laban. I think he can finally see, not that it’s entirely his fault, Laban and Lemuel are problematic figures, but Nephi was part of the conflict too and there was maybe more he could have done to resolve it peacefully.

So for us, just like these great stories from the Bible, these great kind of human stories, for us, the story of Nephi, because it’s only through his lens and because he’s such a powerful narrator, sometimes we forget or miss that the kind of more subtle dynamics of family conflict and human conflict and just what it means to grow and mature and to look back on your life and take accountability for your role in things.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah.

Tim Chaves: So if we look at the sort of Book of Mormon narrative arc more broadly, this is about as bloody a book as there is. It starts with violence, it ends with violence, and there’s a lot of violence in the middle. And there’s some great reprieves and you point this out in the book, but even the couple hundred years after the coming of Christ is squeezed into, I don’t remember how many verses you counted, but it’s very few. And yet, you make the argument that the restoration is a radically peaceful, actively peaceful tradition. How do those two facts, to the extent you agree with them, work together?

David Pulsipher: Well, as you pointed out, the book is filled with violence, but it also has lots of peace and one of the problems I think we have is that we sometimes read the book through our own cultural lenses and often… I teach a class called The History of Peace and when I tell people that, sometimes they say, “Well, that must be a really short class.” Because the way we tell history tends to be about wars and I think that conflict drives narratives and it drives history. And so in many ways, there’s just kind of a default that things that are going to interest both historians and readers are going to be the conflicts.

But if we look beyond the conflict and beyond the violence, we can actually see within it, there are patterns, these wonderfully subtle and woven patterns of alternative strategies. And yes, we sure wish that Mormon had given us a lot more in Fourth Nephi than he did. Fifteen verses is not nearly enough to understand how to build and maintain peace for hundreds of years. And yet, over and over again, through the text, we can see people righteously choosing to defend their families with [inaudible] bloodshed, but also stories that we sometimes forget are actually alternatives to that. People who flee with their families instead of going to war.

Many times where… There’s actually several times in the narrative where people go out and confront an invading army without weapons and transform the conflict in the process. And then of course, the central event of the entire book is Jesus Christ who comes and says, “Love your enemies.” He repeats exactly the message he gave to the people of Jerusalem and in ancient Israel. He does not in many ways vary much from the script. There are some really interesting and subtle differences in his teaching, but this core message is there: Love your enemies. Do good to them that hate you. And the people in the wake of that visit build the most successful, peaceful society that we have in all of the scriptures, except for the City of Enoch, and they maintain it for hundreds of years.

So the book constantly seems to be pointing us to what Moroni calls a more excellent way and what Paul also refers to as a more excellent way, which is the way of love, the way of approaching violence and conflict with a kind of confrontational compassion or assertive love that will transform the conflict in ways that responding to violence with violence will not and that tend to just spiral the conflict instead. So I think a lot of it has to do with the kind of ruts of reading, the way we kind of get into certain habits of understanding the story. And it’s a lot easier to illustrate a battle than it is to illustrate a nonviolent transformation and so it makes it into the animated versions a lot more too [inaudible].

Tim Chaves: Right, of course.

Patrick Mason: And I’ll just add very quickly that… So the Book of Mormon is subtle in a lot of ways, but it is not subtle in a lot of other ways. And the way that it’s not subtle on this theme is the way that it ends, with not one, but two civilizational Holocaust. The clear message of the book, from an overall narrative, is if you want to get into this dynamic, an eye for an eye dynamic… and this is exactly what we see with the Jaredites, it’s what we see in Book of Mormon, Mormon’s own book, the final battles between the Nephites and the Lamanites. They cannot forgive. They cannot let go of their grudges. They cannot let go of the spirit of vengeance.

And so, Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” But the Jaredites and the Nephites are in this downward spiral that they refuse to check. They know how because Jesus has come and told them how to do it, but they refuse how. The Jaredites have to look forward, but that’s what prophets are for. But the book ends with two stories of what happens when you don’t check the violence, when you don’t check this kind of contention, the spirit of anger that Jesus talks about.

So in some ways the Book of Mormon is not subtle at all about the futility of violence and the futility of the downward spiral of aggression, contention, and vengeance.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah, that’s a good point.

Tim Chaves: It does seem like, on occasion, we think of the scriptures as a whole as instruction manuals. Whatever’s in there is what we should emulate. And really, the Book of Mormon can be read as a tragedy more than it can be as an instruction manual, not in every way, of course.

David Pulsipher: Yeah. We talked about the difference between descriptive and prescriptive readings of scripture. Not everything in scripture is meant to be followed. Oftentimes, scripture is describing things just the way they are, describing the human condition, describing what evil people do, or the fruits of unrighteousness. And other times, it’s prescriptive in terms of telling us what to do.

And I think one of the most important things we can do as readers of scripture is to separate the descriptive from the prescriptive, and so clearly the teachings of Jesus are prescriptive. What happens at the end of the Book of Mormon with the Jaredites and the Nephites is descriptive in terms of what happens if you follow this path.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. I’m curious how comfortable you are with the idea that this story is being filtered through the lens of wounded people. I think we’re so comfortable explaining the Bible because we have this article of faith that says translation is everything, but then we get a little rigid with the Book of Mormon because we don’t really have this translation, translation, translation to explain problems. So are you comfortable with the idea that Nephi had a traumatic childhood and maybe this is his interpretation of what God said and could there be other influences there? Is that a place where there’s room to question something, anything smaller than the big theme of the Book of Mormon? What we have is the whole arc and is it even fruitful to dive into Nephi’s very specific revelation and trust that really God said to him that he needs to kill Laban? Are you comfortable with a little bit of wiggle room there? Could this just be wounded Nephi, pretty sure that what he felt was the spirit?

David Pulsipher: Well, you’re asking an interesting question. Can we read scripture with the assumption that these are human beings interpreting God’s will through their own mortal and limited experience? And I guess I would answer, is there any other way to read the scripture being transmitted to us by wonderful, noble, fascinating individuals, but who each are struggling with their own mortal experience and the challenges that they’ve faced?

And so to read the Book of Mormon through the lens that it’s written by a profit warrior, like Mormon, is going to help us in why he’s interested in certain things and to see at the end of the book. I think the book, both at the beginning and the end, invites us to read it as a tragedy. Nephi, over and over again, talks about the way he’s weeping for what he knows is coming because he’s seen it in a vision. He knows his own people are going to turn against the Prince of Peace. He knows they’re going to destroy themselves. And that just causes him extraordinary anguish. And I think in many ways, colors his interactions with his brothers. He knows in the end, his brothers’ descendants are going to be the ones who survive and his own descendants will not and he knows how horribly wrong everything’s going to go.

And then you get to the end of the book and Mormon is saying… As he speaks to those very descendants that Nephi saw were going to… of his brothers, he says, “You must lay down your weapons of war,” and this is a warrior who knows what he’s talking about. He’s seen the horror and the carnage that can occur in war and he is saying, “The answer is Christ. The answer is Jesus and his example. And lay down your weapons.” And this is something all of us are being invited to do in the text.

So I think the text explicitly invites us to read it as a tragedy and ultimately, the hope that comes through is that these wounded individuals are, every one of them, find hope, find peace, find purpose in turning to the savior. And ultimately, you see it happen almost one at a time. Nephi, you see Alma do it, every one of them kind of puts the sword away and turns to the Word, both in its written form and in its made flesh form. And I think that pattern just shows up over and over again.

Patrick Mason: And on your question of hermeneutics, Aubrey, in the book, we made a conscious decision pretty early on when we were doing this is that because we wanted this to be… We wanted to read alongside our Latter-day Saint community, that generally assumes that the narrators within scripture are trustworthy, not flawless, not infallible, but trustworthy.

So yeah, I think it’s absolutely an available and, in some ways, attractive hermeneutic to look at Nephi and say, “He’s writing decades later. His memory is complicated. His own desires, he’s putting in the voice of the spirit.” I think that’s certainly an available reading.

We took the approach of saying what happened? How do we make sense of it if the spirit really was speaking to him? So let’s read alongside Nephi as a trustworthy… not a flawless, but a trustworthy narrator. And we do the same thing with the account of divine violence in Third Nephi 9. So lots of other readers come up with lots of other, I think, very appealing and satisfying hermeneutics to try to make sense of some of these difficult texts.

Our strategy was to say… not to read it in a kind of fundamentalist way, but rather to say, what happens if we sort of read the story straight? The way that we think most Latter-day Saints do when they pick up the scriptures or when they’re talking about this in Gospel Doctrine. And is there a way to make sense of this without doing a lot of really fancy gymnastics around the text?

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense.

Tim Chaves: Thank you both so much for diving in on that. I don’t want to give our listeners the impression that this book is all about just violence in the scriptures because there’s so much more to it than that. And maybe a good place to start would be to talk about the differentiation you make between nonviolence and peace or proactive peace. Could you talk about that and what the overall goal of the book is to aim for? It’s framed very much in positive terms rather than negative terms.

Patrick Mason: Yeah. Well, it’s one of the challenges that peace scholars and peace activists have is that within the English language, we don’t have… Sometimes we’re just limited by the language that we have. So certainly peace is the opposite of violence, but then this word pacifism for instance carries such baggage within the culture now. So that’s actually a word that we don’t find very useful simply because of all the cultural baggage that it carries. We like the word nonviolence, except it’s negative. And some other languages get around this, but in English language, we’re stuck with what we have. But what we are attracted to and we use the concept of positive peace that peace scholars have come up with.

So negative peace is this sense of… Negative peace, the absence of conflict. And that’s not a bad thing, especially when the opposite is outright war, violence, abuse, other kinds of things. So that’s not a bad baseline to strive for. But really, what we’re looking for is peace with justice, peace with harmony, peace that allows for a human flourishing in its greatest sense. And so that’s what scholars call positive peace. It’s what the Hebrew Bible called Shalom. It’s what, in the restoration tradition, we call Zion.

And for us, one of the key insights of the restoration in a lot of ways this is absolutely channeling the Bible, the biblical view of peace, is that yes, peace is… There’s lots of different dimensions. You can have peace with God that comes through in right living and righteousness. You can have peace with other people through decency and kindness and mutuality and so forth. But there’s this other aspect of peace which is societal. It’s structural. It’s bringing equality into our relationships. It’s thinking about the structures and systems of our society. So it involves politics and economics and especially within Latter-day Saint culture for, I think, lots of complicated reasons, we’ve become, especially over the past hundred years, a lot more comfortable with just kind of an individual sense of religion, maybe a family as well. The religion is a matter of me doing the right thing and holding my family together. And that’s all true. That’s all great. That’s all very important.

Basically, salvation exists at the individual level. Exaltation exists at the family level. But Zion exists at the community level and we are called to build Zion in addition to seeking salvation and exaltation. And that can only be done if we have right relationships in our politics, in our economics, in the way that we interact with one another on a more structural level. So yeah, so it’s a much more expansive view of this and we’re much more comfortable speaking in this more positive vein and this kind of aspirational vein of what do the scriptures call us to.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. And in some ways it felt even more hope giving because you’re not saying that the only way to have peace is to be without conflict. I love what you say about that conflict can be destructive or creative, but conflict itself is not the problem. It’s just this way that we handle disagreements. Obviously, the destructive conflict that we keep talking about is violence, but maybe could you just talk about how conflict could ever be positive? How it could be creative?

David Pulsipher: Yeah. I think it’s really easy to get sucked into the negative side of conflict. And a lot of these studies people even get sucked into just analyzing conflict and we’ve shown that in our conversation today. We started with the negative, destructive forms of conflict. But yeah, one of the things that we talk about in the book is the way that… and I think it’s Latter-day Saints. We often mistake conflict for contention. We read Christ’s often quoted line to the Nephites, “Contention is not of me.” We substitute the word contention with conflict and so we think that all conflict, anytime we disagree with one another, anytime we are at deep differences with one another, something must be wrong and we’ve got to resolve that. But in fact, conflict is at the very heart of creation. It’s at the heart of all four versions of the creation story that we have.
When God creates the world, he divides. And that’s a very interesting word. Divides the light from the darkness, divides the day from the night, divides the land from the water. The creation involves fundamentally an act of division and that is not necessarily a bad thing in creating these opposites and then putting them into a sort of tension with one another. They provides the very dynamic by which creation occurs. It’s the tension and the conflict between land and water that creates our seashores. I live up near the Teton mountains and every time I look at them, it’s a remarkable, beautiful, sublime landscape created by the uplift of the earth and the erosion of water on that earth. And the same thing happens in the transition between day and night. So conflict can be an extraordinarily creative thing. It extends all the way to music. Just thinking about a violin, the way that involves fundamentally a tension, a conflict between the bow and the string, which creates the vibration, which brings the music.
So creation isn’t something to be avoided. It’s actually inevitable. It’s a part of the very fabric of the universe. It’s divinely instituted. It’s how we engage the conflict in our lives, because of course in our own lives, we will have all sorts of conflict. Anybody who has been involved in any kind of friendship, family, or marriage will know that conflict is inevitable. How we engage that conflict will determine whether it’s going to be creative and beautiful or whether it’s going to destroy us. Plenty of examples of destructive conflict as we’ve already covered in the scriptures, but lots of examples of beautiful conflict, tension between husbands and wife, between parents and children that go on to create richness and beauty, forgiveness and kindness, love in the world. And if conflict wasn’t there, love wouldn’t be very meaningful in many ways because we wouldn’t have to forgive. We wouldn’t have to work out differences and find creative solutions.

So that was probably one of our main points in the book is don’t avoid conflict. We’re really good at avoiding conflict as Latter-day Saints. We’re kind of classic conflict avoiders. Engage conflict, embrace conflict, but do it with love and that is the process by which it will become creative instead of destructive.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. Would one of you talk about turning the other cheek? This was one of my favorite parts because this is the scripture I always think of which is the op… To me, this was the opposite of destructive conflict is just being a doormat. When a conflict arises, you turn the other cheek and let the other person have their way. And I loved the way you talk what this really means and it was a way to affirm dignity and to stay engaged without becoming destructive.

Patrick Mason: Yeah. We love this too and we actually just completely steal this from Walter Wink who’s a Protestant theologian so actually the credit goes to him. But we’ve both spoken with a number of biblical scholars who affirm yeah, that he gets it right. So you’re exactly right. This phrase, turn the other cheek, has often been used as license for abusers. It’s what slaveholders told their slaves. It’s what abusive husbands tell their wives. And so it’s a beautiful teaching, but it’s been a problematic teaching in the way that it’s been applied.
So the way that Walter Wink reads it, he tries to recover what would it have meant to Jesus’s original listeners in that first century context in Palestine? So actually, if you read it carefully in Matthew 5, he talks about, “If somebody smites you on the right cheek, then turn the other one also.” So that right cheek really matters. He’s speaking to Jews so this is in Jewish context.

And so in that culture at that time, for Jews, the right hand was the clean hand, the left hand was the unclean hand. So if you did something with your left hand, it would be an unclean task. And if you just visualize it, it’s easier if you have people and you can stand up in front and you can act it out, but just visualize it. The normal way that you would hit somebody on the right cheek would be with your left fist. If you were just doing a jab, you would hit them with your left fist. But again, in Jewish culture, that would be unclean to use your left hand. So you would want to hit them, not that you’d want to hit them, but if you were going to hit them, you would use your right hand. The only way to hit the right cheek with the right hand is with the back hand. And who do you backhand? Well, it’s superiors who backhand inferiors. It’s masters who backhand servants or slaves. It’s, in that context, husbands who backhand wives. And so there’s a power relationship.

So when Jesus says, “If somebody hits you on the right cheek,” his listeners would automatically hear that as a power relationship, because probably they’ve been hit on the right cheek. They’ve probably been backhanded at some point. He’s talking to poor peasants. And so what he tells them and says, “If somebody does that, turn the other cheek. Okay, well now, you’ve got your left cheek facing that person. Now the right jab is available to them.” But in that culture, who do you jab? You only punch equals because you backhand inferiors. And so if you’re punching somebody with a jab, the implicit message is that we’re equal. We’re of the same status. And so what Jesus is… And so now the person is in a conundrum because you wouldn’t do a left hand backhand because that’s unclean. You wouldn’t right hand jab them because that would imply equality.

And so you’ve put them in a moral conundrum and what you’ve done, and what Jesus is telling people, is look, you may not be able to change the immediate circumstances of inequality, of injustice, of oppression that you find yourself in, but what can you do? You can assert your dignity. When they backhand you, you turn the other cheek and you dare them to treat you like an equal. You stand up and say, “I can’t turn the tables. I’m not going to fight back. I’m not going to fight back violently. But I’m also not just going to be a doormat. I’m going to assert my personhood, I’m going to assert my dignity, and I’m going to insist that you recognize my personhood and dignity as well.” The exact same dynamic is true in the next two examples too, of going the extra mile and the suing for a cloak and a coat in a court of law.

But I think this is such a brilliant understanding that Jesus was not giving license to abusers. Jesus was telling the oppressed of the world, the victims of violence, saying, “You may not be able to change your immediate context, but you can stand up creatively and positively and non-violently for your dignity as a person. And you turn the moral tables to show, to expose the violence, the brutality, the inequality in the system that the person opposite you is participating in.”

So it’s a brilliant way… Jesus is always… This reading was so enlightening to me because it helps me see that Jesus is responding to actual concrete needs. Now that becomes metaphoric. Turning the other cheek does become a metaphor, so the larger lesson is if you find yourself in that kind of relationship, if you find yourself abused, victimized, suppressed, find a creative, dignifying, nonviolent, and loving way to assert your dignity, to assert morality in that situation, and also not let your abusers off the hook. It is a kind of witness against their violence.

David Pulsipher: One of the things that I love most about this is that just a few verses later, he will… the hardest saying of all, to love your enemies, to hate them… So this is a way of asserting dignity, but it’s not in a kind of a one-upmanship. This is not an attempt to assert dominance. It’s back the other way. It’s done and Christ tells us in just a few lines later, the spirit in which it needs to be done, which needs to be recognizing the humanity of the oppressor. It says you’re to stand up for your own humanity, but you’re also going to recognize the humanity of the person that’s oppressing you and you’re inviting them to see your humanity, to see that you’re not going to be just a doormat. You’re not going to be abused and dominated, but you’re not also going to try to turn that table. You’re going to see their humanity and it’s an invitation for them to recognize it in you. Ultimately, to recognize that you’re both children of God and it’s remarkably loving and creative and in some ways, as Patrick pointed out, as this kind of subversive, lovingly subversive way of fighting the oppression that the ancient people have dealt with and then the kinds of aggressions that we face in our own lives.

Patrick Mason: Jesus will do the same thing in the garden when he tells Peter to put down the sword and then he heals ear of the high priest servant. He’ll do the same thing on the cross, when he looks down at the Roman soldier and says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” In asking for the Father’s forgiveness, he is prophetically condemning the action. Them putting him on the cross was sinful. It was wrong. It was evil. It needed forgiveness, but he calls out in his mercy to forgive them even for that most evil act. So there’s always a recognition of the humanity of the other, even while you assert your own dignity.

Tim Chaves: I love that. And I agree with what you said, Patrick, earlier that for many of us that live in relatively or very privileged situations, these become… these teachings of Jesus become almost purely metaphorical because we live mostly violence-free lives. You do address though, in the book, actual situations of interpersonal violence and this kind of gets into some very tragic news stories that we’ve heard in the past few years about Stand Your Ground laws and that type of thing. Any violence, I think there’s a modern sort of cultural ethos, at least in the United States, that any violence can be returned with equal or greater violence, fully justifiably. And in some cases that even the belief that violence will be inflicted upon you or great bodily harm or whatever it is can also be met with violence. And my reading of the book was that you challenge that idea a little bit in terms of actual interpersonal violence. Would you say that you do challenge that and if so, how do you address those actual types of situations?

Patrick Mason: Well, I think we want to invite people to reflect on the challenge that Jesus offers us. So we can’t. David and I can’t. Nobody can tell somebody that they must be nonviolent. You cannot impose it. It must be freely chosen either… and sometimes people choose the way of nonviolence tactically and strategically, and actually there’s some really good studies that show that actually nonviolence, it’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s actually more effective in both of the small scale and large scale than violence. So some people choose it for purely tactical reasons and that’s fine. Other people choose it for principled reasons whether religious or otherwise. We suggest that Jesus calls us to accept it in terms of being Christians.
So no, we can’t go around and tell people, “Look, you’ve been on the receiving end of violence either personally or socially and so you must be nonviolent. You must forgive in this moment. You must forbear.” No, we have no right to do that. But it’s also important to give people a range of options and to let them know what we’re trying to do here is to lay out a kind of theological argument for why nonviolence is the more excellent way, the way of Jesus is the more excellent way, but it must be freely chosen. And we can’t look with condemnation or judgment on those who can’t stand to forbear and forgive, that they’ve just been on the receiving end too much. So I think we have to approach this with grace towards other people and the complexity of their circumstances.

But also as Christians, this is the last thing I’ll say is that if we’re going to be Christians, I think we have to take seriously the example of Jesus and Jesus ended up on the cross. Now, actually he didn’t end up on the cross. He ended up resurrected and that’s the key for Christians is that we believe that there’s a moral calculus that goes beyond this world and this life. But in this life, Jesus ended up on the cross. He oriented his life to the cross. He knew that that was his destination. He knew that that’s where the conflict with the ruling political and religious authorities was going to take him. We think that was intentional and I think there’s a lot of things we can understand from the cross that we haven’t always learned.

But as Christians, I think we have to take that seriously. That ours is a God who suffers and is crucified. He will triumph at the end of time, but in this life, he was the suffering serving. That’s a very hard thing to wrap our minds around in terms of our discipleship and it can’t be imposed. I can’t tell people that suffering is the way to… that they must suffer just in the face of these things. But I also want to give people the tools to reflect on what does Jesus offer them in terms of this more excellent way.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. Yeah, David?

David Pulsipher: So I think one of the things that we need to be really clear about here is that as we’ve got deeper and deeper into restoration scripture, we are not making the argument that violent self defense in circumstances as outlined in section 98 of the Doctrine and Covenants is necessarily sinful. And I think it’s important to be clear that when prophets go to war in the Book of Mormon and when Nephi kills Laban, those are all justified and that’s the very important word that’s used in Doctrine and Covenants 98. They are justified. Now, justified’s an interesting word. It doesn’t mean that it’s holy. It means that it’s usually very, very, very wrong, but under certain circumstances, is not wrong.

Patrick Mason: But could be made right through God’s grace.

David Pulsipher: Through God’s grace, yeah, so that we can be forgiven for that violence in certain circumstances. What we are suggesting then is that too often in our culture, we stop there and we say, “Well, these things are justified so therefore, they are the correct response.” And what Jesus, through his life and example and through his explicit teachings, is constantly inviting us is to consider that they’re… As Latter-day Saints, we understand progression, we understand lesser and higher laws, and that the law of justified violence is justified in the scriptures. It is, in that sense, a righteous response, but that there is an even more excellent way and an even more holy way and a response that will not only transform us, but has the potential to transform our aggressors, the people that are doing harm to us in ways that violence does not.

So that this more excellent way is, not only the more way and it seems like an extraordinarily difficult choice, we’re recognizing the challenge of this choice, but also recognizing that the invitation to make that choice kind of permeates all of scripture and that, not only will it be the more moral choice, but it also, in the end, is the more effective choice. It’s the one that will transform the conflict or has the potential to transform the conflict. It’s not guaranteed, but it has that potential. So it’s not a choice between the evil violence, justified… evil self defense and holy love. It’s between justified self defense and an even higher response of assertive love.

Aubrey Chaves: I think what gets tricky though is when we’re… When we get into these Book of Mormon stories, the instances where it didn’t feel like self defense, like Nephi again and even in Third Nephi where it’s God inflicting this violence through natural disasters, what I worry about is how do you, for somebody like a Lafferty brother or somebody who just needs one exception to justify their violence, I want a bigger, firmer rule that is just like, “This is not okay,” and I feel like I’m missing that still. Where is that in the Book of Mormon? Is it not there? So what do you say to someone who’s pretty sure that in this instance, God is justifying violence? Because I think people probably always consider themselves an exception. It’s probably always like this very specific instance, “God is justifying my violence,” and they would agree usually there’s a better way.

Patrick Mason: Yeah, you put your finger on an exactly, Aubrey, that everybody feels like that their case is exceptional.

Aubrey Chaves: Even as a nation, even as a whole country.

Patrick Mason: Exactly. So they get to invoke the emergency clause. In normal times, we wouldn’t do this, but there’s an emergency clause. And so we think that restoration scripture and the Book of Mormon offer that hard and fast rule in terms of that more excellent way. And we read and we take on that divine violence in Third Nephi directly because I think we have to as readers of scripture. We can’t just skip the parts we don’t like. We can’t just skip the parts that are unpalatable to us. I think we have to wrestle with them.

So the way that we do it, and I’ll admit that some of our friends who are even more committed pacifists than we are don’t like what we do here and maybe other readers don’t as well, but here’s the distinction that we make because we think this is the distinction that the Book of Mormon and the scriptures make, is that in Third Nephi 27, Jesus says, “What manner of men ought ye to be? What manner of people ought ye to be? Even as I am.” So clearly, we are called to be like Jesus. We are the church of Jesus Christ. We’re the followers of Jesus. We call ourselves Christians and so Jesus, who we know from the Book of Mormon, is God condescended into flesh. So Jesus is the condescend of God. Jesus is the revelation of God in the flesh, what it means to be godly in the flesh. We are commanded to be like Jesus in his condescended state.
And so we see this divine violence exemplified in Third Nephi 9 as operating sort of on a different calculus and different calculation with the ascended God doing this and actually it’s Jesus doing it. That’s what’s so problematic. Sometimes we draw a distinction between the violent father and the nonviolent son. That’s actually problematic for all kinds of reasons. So actually the Book of Mormon just cuts to the chase and says, “No, it’s Jesus doing this.”
So we think about what did Jesus do when he was in the spirit world? What did Jesus do? Well, he went and preached to the spirits in prison and he was also annihilating cities, and doing all of this. And so it creates a huge theological conundrum for us. But the argument that we make is that God is… In God’s ascended, exalted state, God is the God of creation and the God of destruction. God is the God of life and of death. And God offers us, universally, the gift of resurrection.

One of the reasons why violence and especially murder is so wrong is because we can’t make it right. There is nothing we can do as mortals to make it right. It’s what makes it so serious. God can, however, and God clearly doesn’t take this lightly. God clearly… When God presents himself to the world, God does so as a God of life and of light and of healing and of resurrection, but God is also the God of death and destruction.

And we have to admit, we don’t always understand the calculus. I don’t understand why… It seems to me that the Nazis did worse things than the people of Zarahemla. Now, there was a lot of… And we didn’t see that kind of divine destruction that would’ve saved six million Jews or something like that.
So the calculus of divine intervention does remain mysterious, at least to me. But it seems that making this distinction between the ascended God and the condescended God and making very clear that as humans we are called to follow the condescended God, the Jesus in the flesh, who is perfectly nonviolent, then that doesn’t give an escape clause to the Laffertys or to others. And look, we’ll figure out what it means to be an exalted being when you become an exalted being. But for now, in this life, with the limitations that we have, the prohibition on killing is absolute and it’s grounded in the nature of God as revealed in the flesh.

Aubrey Chaves: Wow. Thank you.

Tim Chaves: David, do you have any thoughts on this?

David Pulsipher: I would just add that we also have a chapter on what does justified violence look like and when you start looking at the rules that God puts around even justified violence, as outlined in section 98 and other scriptures, there’s an extraordinary amount of guardrails on this and sometimes I think we’re a little too… As Latter-day Saints… I guess what I’m trying to clarify is that we do recognize that under certain circumstances, there is maybe justified… There are situations that might justify a violent response, that doesn’t require a violent response, but under certain circumstances, it might justify. And that under those circumstances, we are to, in many ways, look to the scriptures for what those are and one of the most important is that…
And one of the things that God does in his own violence is he never separates himself from the people that he’s doing violence to and that’s one of the things that as humans, we can’t do very well. In fact, it’s the separate… It’s when we feel separated from other people that we are capable of doing some really incredibly horrible things. So God is always fully present in the violence and mourns the violence and understands the full depth of it. That’s one reason why as human beings, if we really look at the rules around violence, we would probably never really choose it because it means being fully present and afterwards, showing forth an increase in love in the way that God does. All of these things we deal with in one of the chapters that if we were to be following those rules, violence would be so extraordinarily rare, if just nonexistent, because it’s so hard to meet all of the standards that’s required to employ violence in a godly way.

Patrick Mason: And this is where a lot of Catholics have come to. Even Pope Francis seems to be going in this direction. The Catholic church, they’ve been thinking about this a lot longer than we have and they’ve developed what’s called the Just War Tradition. And actually now, in this era of modern warfare, in this era of destructive technology, the ability to meet the criteria for a just war is almost impossible. And so a lot of Catholic ethicists and the Pope have suggested that actually that those criteria are still enforced, but it is impossible to meet them. And so functionally, what that means, what all that leaves us with is the way of peace and that leaves us with nonviolence. And so yeah, functionally, as Latter-day Saints, we’re probably in very similar waters.

Aubrey Chaves: Yeah. I love what you say about the nation state as a community of care, as opposed to an idol, and so I wonder if you could just talk about that for a minute too. Where is the line between loyalty to your nation and idolatry?

Patrick Mason: Yeah, one of the criticisms of religion oftentimes by the new atheists and others, I think this is a long standing critique, is just how violent it is and certainly religion’s been super, super violent. But actually, in the modern period, the greatest agent of violence in the world has been the secular nation state and it’s not even close. Now that doesn’t let religion off the hook, but it does mean that I think as Christians, we should think very seriously about what our relationship to the nation state is, that very good Christians have done horrific things in the name of the nation state.

So as Christians, the nation is not our highest loyalty. The flag is not our highest loyalty. And I know I’m going to get in trouble with people when I say this, but this is Christianity, that our highest loyalty is God, our highest loyalty is Christ. Our highest loyalty is one another. And so the most sacred things around us are each other. So it seems to me that… And the way we read restoration scripture is that it offers a couple of different ways that we can relate to the nation state. One is through subjection and that’s one option to us. Another one is through friendship.

So we like this idea of friendship to the nation state. So certainly the nation state can and does do a lot of good, but it can do a lot of evil too. But friends don’t let friends do drugs. Friends don’t let friends do horrible things. We call out our friends when we see them doing things that are wrong. And so if we are a friend to the nation that we want to participate in, we want our friends to be the best versions of themselves. We want to be part of that relationship. And so we should be active participants in the nation state, but we should do so in trying to make the nation state the best version of itself that it can be. And where the nation state is very useful is when it becomes a community of care.
What do I have in common with people in New Orleans who get hit by a hurricane? Virtually nothing. I didn’t know anybody who got hit by Hurricane Katrina or any number of other national disasters, but what the nation state does is it effectively and in terms of my imagination makes me think that I have something in common with them and so then I send money and relief and we do humanitarian things. That’s a good thing. That’s actually a Christian impulse. It’s not yet the true Christian ideal of seeing that in every child of God, but it’s a step in that direction.

So when the nation state inspires me to be a better Christian, then that’s a community that I should absolutely and wholly participate in. When it draws me away from my Christianity, when it inspires me to hate other people because they’re the enemy, either domestically or foreign, then I should be rather suspicious of what this is calling me to do and I should go back to my highest loyalties, which are to God, Jesus Christ, and to my sisters and brothers.

Aubrey Chaves: Wow. That’s a great way to put it.

Tim Chaves: Yeah, thank you. We’ve already taken so much of your time. As we wrap up here, I wonder if maybe you could each share a couple of ideas for… and especially for those of us that do have that privilege of living in relatively nonviolent communities, how can we be… You say in the book that it’s not enough to renounce violence. We have to actively proclaim and build peace. What are some practical ways that you’ve seen or that we could be peace builders in our own communities?

David Pulsipher: I think one of the things that we start with is we realize that even though we don’t live in a world that is filled with physical violence, we don’t have waring armies in our neighborhoods, most of your listeners, I’m assuming, don’t even have waring gangs in their neighborhoods, although some may… So that kind of violence is not something that we’re personally acquainted with, but we are acquainted with all sorts of other kinds of violence, emotional and verbal and cultural forms of violence in which any time we are inspired to hate other people or to be angry with our brother or our sister, we are participating in violence.

And so one of the things that we can do is to call out that kind of culture. We live in this culture of violence that celebrates violence and we watch it all the time in our cultural… in our movies, in our television shows, and we celebrate it and we cheer it on in countless ways. So one of the things I think is to call out that culture of violence in ways, but much more importantly, we have to provide the alternative.

It’s not enough to be against something. You have to be able to replace it with something better. And in our own families, we can begin by responding to anger with love. We can begin by treating every person justly. We can begin by creating cultures of equality and respect within our neighborhoods and our wards and our stakes and our communities. We can engage in political discourse in ways that recognizes the humanity of the other party or the opponents and celebrates their good ideas instead of always looking for the negative.

SO there’s all sorts of little ways in social media, in emails, in personal interactions in which we proclaim peace by loving our Father in heaven’s children and especially the ones that are the hardest to love. And when we can find it within ourselves to love the people that we think are being the most destructive to our society, then we’re sowing the seeds that will transform that destruction into something much more beautiful and creative.

Aubrey Chaves: Beautiful, thank you.

Patrick Mason: Yeah, so I’ll say two things. There’s so much. But one, I’d encourage people to start with social media. This is probably a lesson I need to learn myself sometimes. Social media’s a really easy place to foment negative cycles of conflict. But ask yourself, what would Jesus tweet? Think about, when you’re on social media, are you fostering light or darkness? Are you fostering light, or love, or hate? Are you bringing division or unity? Now that doesn’t mean that every tweet, every post needs to be rainbows and unicorns. Like we’ve talked about, it’s important to engage conflict and seek out injustice and to remedy it with righteousness and with love. But the tone and the spirit of too many of our social media interactions, among too many of our Latter-day Saint sisters and brothers, and again, I’m pointing the finger at myself at times, leaves a lot to be desired. And I think the leaders of our church have been consistent on this in terms of thinking about civility, moderation, and love, engaging the public sphere with these kinds of values.

So maybe we start there. But then, one of the great things about Latter-day Saints, these are communities and are wards and our wards are ready made vehicles for peace building. And now again, you may not live in an active war zone, a conflict zone or something like that, but I guarantee you that in your community, there is some form of injustice. There’s some form of inequality. There’s somebody, whether within the boundaries of your ward or nearby, there are just structural inequalities that exist within our communities that leads to unequal chances for lots of our sisters and brothers.

So look around. Talk to your mayor. Talk to your city council people. Say, “What are the needs in our community that can only be addressed by community?” It’s great if we’re individuals to do things, but we can scale things at a Relief Society level, at an Elders Quorum level, at a ward level in ways that we simply can’t do as individuals or even families. And so what does that mean? Does that mean a literacy project? Does that mean being serious about helping to resettle and integrate refugees in your community? Does it mean a prison ministry or working to reintegrate people who have been incarcerated?
So just think about peace holistically. Again, this isn’t just about direct violence. This is about creating Zion. This is about creating Shalom, a place of wholeness. And so where in your community do you find the lack of wholeness and what can you, as an individual, as a family, and as a board, do to build Zion right where you live?

Aubrey Chaves: Wow. Thank you so much. Those are such great ideas. That’s just awesome.

Tim Chaves: I really can’t thank both of you enough for writing this book and getting these super important ideas out here. It’s really inspiring to see how our faith and our religious tradition really do promote these ideas of active peace building. So thanks for helping get that message out there.

Patrick Mason: And thanks for having us on.

Tim Chaves: Okay. Thanks a ton for listening and we really hope you enjoyed this conversation with Patrick Mason and David Pulsipher. A huge thanks to both of them for coming on. And as always, if Faith Matters content is resonating with you and you get a chance, we’d love for you to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or whatever platform you listen on. It definitely helps get the word out about Faith Matters and we really appreciate the support. Thanks again for listening and as always, you can check out more at

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