I can still smell the gunpowder. I can feel the texture of the grip allowing for optimal hold while firing. I remember my vision focusing on the front site while my target, a silhouette of a man, lies blurred in the line of fire. I can taste the excitement of my shot improving with every pull of the trigger. Although it pains me to say it now, I looked forward to the day that I would potentially need to defend my life with this tool.
The concept of good vs. evil has been a part of our story since the beginning of time. It shapes how we see our problems, encounters, and relationships with people. It would often appear that proximity of a person, both geographical and class, often dictate placement on the spectrum of good and evil. We accept third party information about other cultures, countries, and lifestyles as factual and willingly draw up an opinion and, with great detachment to humanity, place them on the evil end of the spectrum. It is in this opinion that we find it easy to justify violence whether direct or by proxy.
Of course, this isn’t the flavor of violence I used to imagine as I trained and practiced self-defense. I pictured scenarios of executing justice on my attacker and achieving a hero status. In my mindful hate I found myself lacking peace. I knew that the natural man was going against my spiritual nature. It was in scripture that I found my reprove: .
Now, I speak unto you concerning your families—if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and crevile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded;
But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.
And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundred-fold.
And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold; And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out. (D&C 98:23-27)
And further I received my admonishing:
And then if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.
Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified. (D&C 98: 30-31)
My desire to defend may be counted as just. But, to spare my enemy is counted for righteousness.
It was in that moment that I realized that I wanted to be a righteous woman.
And leave the justice to God.
I can do as he commands and “bring these testimonies before the Lord” (D&C 98:44)
It is in our nature to self preserve ourselves and our family, but I asked myself:
Isn’t one of the reasons we are experiencing the Plan of Salvation to overcome the natural man?
Is it reflective of a disciple of Jesus Christ to justify violence so willingly, even eagerly?
This is where my journey began to a life of peace and envelopment in the pure love of Christ.
We often hear of the dangers of desensitization in our children and youth. We warn them that just as we learn gospel principals “line upon line” we may find the same patterns developing for temptations and transgression. This tactic of the adversary is prominent in developing a tolerance for violence and hate in our minds and hearts. Little by little we justify our thoughts and feelings towards others as we feel wronged. We forget the greatest commandment of all:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
This is the first and great commandment,.
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40)
So how do we resensitize ourselves for peace? I don’t have all the answers but I know what has brought me assurance in my desire to think like Jesus.
The first thing that acted as a seasoned guide on my quest was, no doubt, the Spirit. As I prayed for my footsteps to be guided in the direction towards discipleship, the Spirit gently affirmed that Jesus was always the answer.
The next phase of my resensitizing protocol is the most continuous practice that will always bring fruit. Surely the words of Christ, as promised, are the assured way to stay on the path of righteousness. The more I study the teachings, practices and gentleness of Jesus Christ, the more I know that choosing mercy is the right answer. His gospel is peace. Forgiveness is the antidote.
And again, verily I say unto you, if after thine enemy has come upon thee the first time, he repent and come unto thee praying thy forgiveness, thou shalt forgive him, and shalt hold it no more as a testimony against thine enemy—
And so on unto the second and third time; and as oft as thine enemy repenteth of the trespass wherewith he has trespassed against thee, thou shalt forgive him, until seventy times seven.
And if he trespass against thee and repent not the first time, nevertheless thou shalt forgive him. And if he trespass against thee the second time, and repent not, nevertheless thou shalt forgive him. (D&C 98:39-42)
The last practice towards peace is an ongoing, ever-improving process of self-transformation. This phase reminds me of something we often do here in Alaska. We find ourselves at a crossroads with two options on our literal paths. One option is a beaten down, used path that will take us to a destination. The other is a blanketed untouched path waiting to be created. The destination, most desirable but hardly reached, will require a labor of dragging tired legs through deep snow to create a new path. The work may be grueling, creating a fatigue of both mind and body, but the destination: a resting place. A bounty for the eyes and spirit. Peace.
To trudge a new path in our minds and hearts requires dragging our figurative legs through heavy temptation.
Temptation to seek justice,
to be unforgiving,
But as we learn to keep our feet planted in the words of the Savior, we will find a strength that will allow us to plow in gentleness. The strength that comes with meekness will bring us to the destination of charity where we will find the presence of the Redeemer in a way we could never find on the beaten path of justice. We will be found worthy of Him! And our eternity will be filled with a multitude of the little peace we were willing to offer.
Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. (D&C 98:14)
For when we choose to trudge in the challenge of peace, we never trudge alone.