With everything that we have going on that can influence us, how can we find personal peace? Elder Quentin L. Cook discusses five areas we can focus on in his talk “Personal Peace in Challenging Times“. Looking at the five areas can help each of us discover where to focus to find personal peace.
Love God, Live His Commandments, and Forgive Everyone
In this first area, I think the hardest one is to “Forgive Everyone”. We are told in Doctrine and Covenants 64:10 “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.” This is difficult because the actions of others at times hurt us and causes feelings of hatred and bitterness to remain. In my own life, I have experienced this issue. Through my teenage years, I was bullied. This led me to have a “chip on my shoulder” and a tendency to mistrust everyone. Even today, when I think about those times, there is a bitterness that comes to the front. It took me a long time to be able to forgive those who did this to me. It took even longer to remove the bitterness and inherent mistrust of others. However, after going through the process of forgiveness I have found peace and do not feel weighed down.
Every Sunday we partake of the Sacrament and hear these words in the prayers “that they may witness unto thee … that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them.” I believe that we show our love of God by living His commandments. This is our witness to Him that we do always remember Him. By loving Him and keeping His commandments we receive the Spirit and nothing else will bring us personal peace more than the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
Seek the Fruits of the Spirit
Paul, speaking to the Galatians, described the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice that one of the fruits is peace. Seeking these qualities leads one to have the Spirit. For me, I think longsuffering is the most difficult fruit I’m seeking. I think this is true for all parents. Watching children grow and mature and make decisions requires longsuffering. However, I don’t see longsuffering as a depressed emotion, but rather an exercise in patience and emotional control. When we see our children stumble, it’s hard to take a moment, center oneself and not try to correct them harshly. Longsuffering means we have to let some things play out and then come with love and understanding, willing to teach and explain.
Elder Cook states “To have peaceful relationships, the lesson is clear: we should be willing to compromise and eliminate strife with respect to matters that do not involve righteousness. … But on conduct relating to righteousness and imperatives, we need to remain firm and steadfast.”
I can relate to this in my own life. I’m a certified soccer referee and there are times when you can compromise and eliminate strife in a match. However, when it comes to fouls and making calls that others might not like, you have to be firm and steadfast in your decision. Otherwise, players will see you as someone they can influence to get things called their way. This happened the other night in a tight match. It was a one-goal game when I saw a foul that led to a penalty shot. The team I called the foul against was livid. They claimed that the opposing player fell over the ball. I had to remain firm and steadfast in what I witnessed. I awarded the penalty which allowed the other team to tie the score.
It is the same in our lives. We must remain firm and steadfast in relation to “righteousness and imperatives”. This does not mean we escalate tensions. It does mean that we don’t compromise our beliefs. We can “agree to disagree” without labeling the other person. We can maintain personal peace by holding to our beliefs.
Exercise Agency to Choose Righteousness
In a previous post, I discussed having empathy. Empathy is the willingness to see someone else’s point of view. It does not mean that you agree with the view, but that you gain an understanding of where someone else is coming from.
This can be especially hard when friends and/or loved ones walk away from the church. I have seen good people, friends, and family walk away for various reasons. After the initial shock has worn off, I have reviewed what I knew about why they might have walked away. Each time, I have been able to understand what may have led them to that choice. I might not agree with the choice, but having empathy has allowed me to understand their decision with better clarity.
This is just one example of using our agency to choose righteousness. It would not be choosing righteousness to judge my friends and family who have chosen to walk away. It is choosing righteousness to try and understand why and still love them. I hope they know that just because they have chosen to walk away, I am still their friend and will be there for them if needed.
Build Zion in Our Hearts and Home
Personally, to build Zion in my heart I need to control my thoughts. One of the ways I do this is to not let negative thoughts take up space in my head. When a negative thought enters my mind, I visually picture reaching into my head, plucking the thought out, and casting it away. Next, I state two positive thoughts to replace the space vacated by the negative thought.
One way to build Zion in our home is through Come Follow Me. I’ve detailed out our way of using it and other tools in A House Of Order. When we follow our “schedule” for Come Follow Me, it also leads us to nightly family prayer. We have found that when we have nightly family prayer, the Spirit is more present. He brings peace to our home as only the Spirit can.
Follow the Current Admonition of Our Prophet
The last area Elder Cook mentions is to follow the current admonition of our prophet. For me, two of his admonitions are most relevant today: repent daily and let God prevail.
In order to repent daily, there is a need to instantly recognize sin and feel remorse for having committed it. For me, this leads to prayer and discussion with God about the sin and what I can do better the next time. Sin is a weight on us, and daily repentance can lift that weight and bring us peace.
The second admonition is to let God prevail in my life. This is can be difficult for us. We have an agency that allows us to choose. We have a will that we want to follow. Letting God prevail is bringing ourselves into alignment with His will. It means using our agency to choose righteousness and those things that will help God “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
In my life, I have always worried about being “too good”: Meaning too righteous. The worry comes because I fear what other people will think of me. I wonder what they will say. I believe at times that I won’t be included because I would appear too good for an activity. Guess what? It isn’t that at all. Letting God prevail in my life would assuage those feelings. I would still be able to enjoy time with my friends in activities I like to do and new experiences that are made available.
Personal peace is something we should all be seeking. Heavenly Father wants us to feel peace. He wants us to be happy and not feel burdened. But like everything, we need to take action to have personal peace. Elder Cook identifies five areas we can focus on to achieve it. It is now up to each one of us to identify where we can be better and increase the personal peace we have.