Years ago, while on a surgical internship, President Russell M. Nelson assisted a surgeon in amputating a leg filled with infectious gangrene.
At one point during the tense operation, the surgeon erupted in anger at someone on the team and threw his scalpel, which landed in President Nelson’s forearm.
Fortunately, President Nelson did not become infected, but the experience left a lasting impression.
“In that very hour, I promised myself that whatever happened in my operating room, I would never lose control of my emotions. I also vowed that day never to throw anything in anger — whether it be scalpels or words,” President Nelson related in his Sunday morning address during April 2023 general conference.
Noting the venomous contention that infects civic dialogue and too many personal relationships today, President Nelson spoke of the need in the world for peacemakers and invited listeners to examine their discipleship within the context of the way they treat others.
“Today is Palm Sunday. We are preparing to commemorate the most important and transcendent event ever recorded on earth, which is the Atonement and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. One of the best ways we can honor the Savior is to become a peacemaker,” he said.
The need for peacemakers
Vulgarity, faultfinding and evil speaking of others are all too common today, President Nelson said. “I am greatly concerned that so many people seem to believe that it is completely acceptable to condemn, malign and vilify anyone who does not agree with them.”
Anger, hostility and contention never lead to inspired solutions, he said. Regrettably, contentious behavior is sometimes found among Latter-day Saints.
Some belittle spouses and children, use angry outbursts to control others, punish others with “the silent treatment” or bully others.
“My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be,” President Nelson declared. “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others — especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.”
True disciples are peacemakers
The Savior made clear to followers in both hemispheres: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9; see also 3 Nephi 12:9). He also said, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44; see also 3 Nephi 12:44).
Before His death, the Savior commanded His apostles, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
President Nelson said: “The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade and inspire — no matter how difficult the situation. True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.”
The Savior’s Atonement made it possible to overcome evil, including contention. “Those who foster contention are taking a page out of Satan’s playbook, whether they realize it or not. … We cannot support Satan with our verbal assaults and then think that we can still serve God.”
How individuals treat one another really matters, President Nelson said. “How we speak to and about others at home, at church, at work and online really matters. Today, I am asking us to interact with others in a higher, holier way.”
Telling listeners to “please listen carefully,” President Nelson pronounced, “‘If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy’ that we can say about another person — whether to his face or behind her back — that should be our standard of communication.”
Contention drives away the Spirit and is never the best way to resolve differences, he taught. “Contention is a choice. Peacemaking is a choice. You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to be a peacemaker, now and always.”
Latter-day Saints can change the world, “one person and one interaction at a time. How? By modeling how to manage honest differences of opinion with mutual respect and dignified dialogue,” President Nelson said.
Charity is the antidote
Differences of opinion are part of life. Every day, President Nelson said, he wants to hear ideas and honest feelings from those he works with — especially on sensitive issues.
His counselors, President Dallin H. Oaks and President Henry B. Eyring, are exemplary in the way they express themselves, even when they differ in opinion. “They do so with pure love for each other. … Because each is filled with charity, ‘the pure love of Christ,’ our deliberations can be guided by the Spirit of the Lord,” President Nelson explained.
Charity is the antidote to contention, he said. “Charity is the spiritual gift that helps us to cast off the natural man, who is selfish, defensive, prideful and jealous. Charity is the principal characteristic of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Charity defines a peacemaker.”
It requires humility to pray “with all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48) for the gift of charity, President Nelson said, but those blessed “with this supernal gift” are long-suffering and kind, are not easily provoked and do not think evil of others.
President Nelson said he is not talking about “peace at any price” but about treating others consistent with the covenant made when partaking of the sacrament — to always remember the Savior.
“In situations that are highly charged and filled with contention, I invite you to remember Jesus Christ. Pray to have the courage and wisdom to say or do what He would. As we follow the Prince of Peace, we will become His peacemakers,” he promised.
‘Look deeply into your heart’
President Nelson expressed his hope that individuals will look deeply into their own hearts to see if there are shards of pride or jealousy that prevent them from becoming a peacemaker.
“Now is the time to cease insisting that it is your way or no way. Now is the time to stop doing things that make others walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting you. … If your verbal arsenal is filled with insults and accusations, now is the time to put them away. You will arise as a spiritually strong man or woman of Christ,” President Nelson said.
The covenants of the temple endow individuals with God’s power and the ability to overcome Satan, the instigator of all contention. “Cast him out of your relationships…,” President Nelson declared. “Peacemakers thwart the adversary.”
The Prophet blessed listeners to “replace belligerence with beseeching, animosity with understanding and contention with peace. … [Christ] will help us to become His peacemakers.”
Christ is the answer
During the final address of April 2023 general conference, President Nelson testified that whatever the question or problem, “the answer is always found in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.”
He noted the observance of Easter the next week, which he called “the most important religious observance for followers of Jesus Christ.”
Because of Him, all can repent and be forgiven of sins. “Because of Him, each of us will be resurrected.”
In 3 Nephi 9, the Savior invites the Nephites to return to Him, to repent and be converted so He could heal them.
“Jesus Christ extends that same invitation to you today,” President Nelson said. “I plead with you to come unto Him so that He can heal you. He will heal you from sin as you repent. He will heal you from sadness and fear. He will heal you from the wounds of this world.”
President Nelson announced 15 new temple locations:
- Retalhuleu, Guatemala
- Iquitos, Peru
- Teresina, Brazil
- Natal, Brazil
- Tuguegarao City, Philippines
- Iloilo, Philippines
- Jakarta, Indonesia
- Hamburg, Germany
- Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada
- San Jose, California
- Bakersfield, California
- Springfield, Missouri
- Winchester, Virginia
- Charlotte, North Carolina
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
“Jesus Christ is the reason we build temples,” he said. “Each is His holy house. Making covenants and receiving essential ordinances in the temple, as well as seeking to draw closer to Him there, will bless your life in ways no other kind of worship can.”