The Spirit of Contention

In his opening remarks at the April 2022 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, President Russell M. Nelson stated “Contention violates everything the Savior stood for and taught.” This was in reference to the conflict in Ukraine, but I believe it was also a calling to see how we can reduce or even eliminate contention in our own lives.

What Is Contention?

One definition of contention is “heated disagreement”. For me, I believe that contention comes when a discussion turns into an argument where neither side will listen to the other. This is the classic, “I’m right and you’re wrong” scenario. This, I believe is what President Nelson is referring to in his statement above.

We see this type of contention everyday in places like news shows, social media, even in local restaurants and bars. We have grown into a society that loves to argue and doesn’t want to concede that the other side may have a point, or even be right. This is not what the Prince of Peace wants. He told the Nephites “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 11:29-30)

How Do We Avoid the Spirit of Contention?

Contention can arise in almost any situation. I shared some examples of where it is found above, but it can also be present:

  • In a marriage
  • As a parent
  • With a work colleague
  • In church settings

As the “peaceable followers of Christ“, we must avoid having the spirit of contention. This is not always easy. I have found the following to be helpful when in a situation where contention can become present:

  1. Take a deep breath – this helps me relax and retain control of my emotions
  2. Listen to the other person – this means not interrupting them as they speak and focusing in on what they are saying and not on how to respond
  3. Have empathy – empathy allows me to see where the person is coming from and to try and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes
  4. Know when to walk away – for me, it is better to walk away than to continue in a contentious situation

Be a Peacemaker

We can be peacemakers instead of contention creators. Being a peacemaker does NOT mean giving in. However, it does mean that we control our emotions and keep things civil. People disagree all the time, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an angry disagreement.

Elder Renlund related a story about his wife in the October 2021 General Conference.

My wife practiced law for over 20 years. As an attorney, she often worked with others who explicitly advocated opposing views. But she learned to disagree without being rude or angry. She might say to opposing counsel, “I can see we are not going to agree on this issue. I like you. I respect your opinion. I hope you can offer me the same courtesy.” Often this allowed for mutual respect and even friendship despite differences.

“The Peace of Christ Abolishes Enmity”, Elder Dale G. Renlund, October 2021 General Conference

That attitude is something I believe we all need to cultivate. It shows respect for another’s opinion without comprising our own. It is also kind and shows love to the one we have a disagreement with.

Elder Neal L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke on the followers of Jesus being peacemakers. He states “By the shield of our faith in Jesus Christ, we become peacemakers, quenching—meaning to calm, cool, or extinguish—all the fiery darts of the adversary. … How does a peacemaker calm and cool the fiery darts? Certainly not by shrinking before those who disparage us. Rather, we remain confident in our faith, sharing our beliefs with conviction but always void of anger or malice.”

Again we see that being a peacemaker means controlling our emotions and not acting in anger or with malice. We also see that we need not compromise our beliefs and convictions. In this way we can receive the peace that Christ gives us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27). This should be how we leave others with whom we disagree, with peace.


In an imperfect world contention will always have a chance to arise. Whether it is conflict between nations, or arguments between a parent and child, Satan loves to stir up our hearts to anger and contend with each other. Jesus Christ offers a better way. He has taught us that we are to love one another, even when we disagree. This love can help us not become angry when we disagree, but to have empathy. This love allows us to retain our convictions without driving the Spirit away. I challenge you to find ways in which you can reduce and even eliminate contention. Be a peacemaker.

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