In world full of upheaval due to the pandemic and the turmoil surrounding the recent election in the United States, Elder Patrick Kearon of the Presidency of the Seventy invited students at Ensign College to “avoid the poles” — the extremes — in public discourse and to become peacemakers.
During a devotional address broadcast to the college’s international student body on Dec. 1, the Church leader said the latest election cycle has been an example to many countries around the world of the damage that can be caused from polarization, tribalism or clannishness.
“If we think of the poles on the North Pole and the South Pole, we think of them as freezing and largely desolate places,” Elder Kearon said. The climate there is freezing and inhospitable to the vast majority. The same can be said for the poles of social and political opinion.
“Let’s move away from our poles, and come together and make peace,” he said.
One way for those who are leaning too far to one pole to move inwards is to read or strive to understand the point of view of those they disagree with, Elder Kearon said.
Reading or listening to the ideology or thoughts or concepts of others will give individuals a “greater diet of thought,” he said. “If we’ll do that, and do that with an open heart, we’ll be blessed to understand those we don’t agree with and become a force for peace.”
Individuals must also listen to one another with the intent of understanding, Elder Kearon said. “We need to listen to, we need to watch, we need to talk to those who don’t share our ideas.” As individuals do so, they will recognize, step by step, that those who disagree are children of God too, who want happy lives for themselves and their children and their grandchildren.
“You must be examples of this,” Elder Kearon told students. “You have the gospel as your foundation. You have been taught that we must be peacemakers, and this is a work for you to do.”
Elder Kearon also encouraged students to contribute to society whether it be on a school board, university government, city government, state government or even national government. The world needs good people to help run institutions, instead of disparaging those institutions, Elder Kearon said. “Let’s get involved rather than criticize.”
Speaking of the role of a peacemaker, Elder Kearon said President Russell M. Nelson has the ability to change the climate of a room through his calm, loving nature and sweet response to any question.
He then shared a short video titled, “Men’s Hearts Shall Fail Them,” where President Nelson relates an experience he had on an airplane when the engine on the wings caught fire. The airplane took a dive toward the earth. The woman across the aisle was hysterical but President Nelson said he was totally calm because he knew he was ready to meet his Maker.
The spiral dive of the plane, however, extinguished the flames and the plane made an emergency landing in a field.
In the video, President Nelson then reads from Luke 21 where it says the earth will be in distress, nations with perplexity, the seas and the waves roaring, and “men’s hearts failing them for fear.”
Men and women in the latter-days will be afraid, President Nelson says, their hearts failing because “they forget their identify and their purpose.”
Elder Kearon said he loves that video because of President Nelson’s optimism and his reminder of “who you really are.”
As individuals remember who they are and become a “de-polarizing voice,” they will be blessed, Elder Kearon promised. “Watch your rhetoric and be calm. Be considerate. Be thoughtful as you consider the ideas, the ideologies, the positions of others. Come close and understand them. You may never fully agree, and that’s OK, but be a voice for peace and get involved at suitable points in your life in the leadership of schools, universities, cities, counties, states, nations.”
In Doctrine and Covenants 111:11 it reads, “Be wise as serpents and yet without sin, and I will order all things for your good as fast as ye are able to receive them.”
Elder Kearon told listeners that “as you are as wise as you can be; as you are a peacemaker; as you are a family and community builder; as you avoid those dark, frozen poles” he or she may become without sin, and be able to acknowledge that He will order all things for his or her good, as fast as he or she is able to receive.
Sister Jennifer Kearon, who joined her husband at the devotional, provided a simple math lesson to listeners where she utilized the math operations of add, subtract, multiply and divide.
With all the noise and divergent voices clamoring for attention, Sister Kearon told listeners to “add a holy place” to their lives.
“Where do you go for stillness, for prayer, for connecting with God? And is it working?” she asked. “Whatever your living situation, you can add a holy place to it — a space where you find stillness in order to hear the voice of God, to ‘hear Him’ as our Prophet has counseled us to do, to commune and find guidance and direction for your life.”
Sister Kearon then invited students to think about the hours, or minutes, of their day left after sleep, class, homework, working and earning money to live. As they make a mental list of this “disposable time,” they can then “think about what needs to be subtracted from what you do during that disposable time.”
Subtract anything from disposable time that offends the Spirit, Sister Kearon said. “Whether that be actual activities or behaviors or habits, or whether it’s thoughts and attitudes and the language we sometimes use. If it offends the Spirit, subtract it. Let it go. Remove it from your life. And add more holy. Subtract what offends the Spirit and add more holy.”
God is a God of abundance who wants to “multiply our blessings,” Sister Kearon said. However, individuals must draw near to Him through a lifestyle of repentance and keeping His commandments.
Blessings are multiplied as individuals share joy, faith and peace with others. “All of this is multiplied yet again when we join forces with others whose goals are the same as our own. And on and on the multiplication of blessings goes,” Sister Kearon said.
In order to follow Christ’s commandment to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you” (3 Nephi 12:44), Sister Kearon told listeners they must divide themselves from pride, selfishness, prejudice, animosity towards groups that are different, and specifically from any form of racism.