Sunday, August 20, 2017

Conflict and the gospel

I spoke in the Methuen Ward today. I received "Captain Moroni being angry a lot even though he is the most righteous man on the planet" as my original topic, but proposed modifying it slightly to "conflict in the gospel." I found the topic very interesting academically and theologically, but worried about my ability to appropriately convey it through a Sacrament meeting talk. My preferred medium for this topic would be a Sunday School or Quorum lesson, but oh well.


Per my MO, I over-prepared in general and under-prepared my conclusion. One of my problems is that I know exactly what I will have already said at the beginning of my talk (which is nothing), but for the end of my talk I cannot know ahead of time what I had to cut and can no longer reference while concluding. I still think I can prepare the conclusion a bit better for next time.

I did not manage my time particularly well. Ironically, that meant I cut out most of my text about Moroni. Luckily, the previous speaker had already hit two of my most important points from that section of my talk. In fact, he gave a really good talk on Christ-like leadership, and the two talks worked really well together. At least in my head as I was listening to his words.

You can see my notes for the talk at this link, or I have also posted them below.

Talk text


Good morning sisters and brothers. My name is Nathan Cooprider and I come from the Billerica Ward. The Stake Presidency has asked that I speak here today. I’m going to explore a topic with you that’s pervasive in our theology but often overlooked or minimized: conflict. The contradictions around that topic make it fraught with difficulties to navigate, and I asked myself many times over the last few weeks what to talk about. The text went from nothing to way too much very quickly, so I’m excited to see what we cover during our short time here.


In the Disney movie Tangled there’s a scene early on when people are singing about their dreams. The Flynn Rider proclaims:
I have dreams, like you -- no, really!
Just much less touchy-feely
They mainly happen somewhere
warm and sunny
On an island that I own
Tanned and rested and alone
Surrounded by enormous piles of money
Sounds like an easy life, empty of conflict. One of the story arcs for that movie is Flynn realizing the emptiness of that plan, and I think we all learn to relate to that lesson.



My wife calls me a hero worshipper, and I think that’s a fair accusation. I do spend some time wondering what it means to be a hero. I think at some level, a hero is a resolver of conflict. In the gospel we might call that a peacemaker, but I want to be careful before we throw that label out too quickly. Conflict provides an opportunity for resistance and exercise, and I believe that some conflict comes as part of God’s plan for us.


  1. Introduction (above)
  2. Conflict a consequence of the fall
    1. Garden of Eden
      1. Genesis 3 17 . . . cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
      2. PvE - From the Lord as a result of the fall - work
      3. PvP - Introduced by Satan
    2. Opposition in all things. 2 Ne 2:11
      “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; . . .”
    3. Pride - enmity toward God and our fellowmen
      President Benson - “The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.”
    4. D&C 121
      “34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
      35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
      36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
      37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
      38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
      39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
      40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
      41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;”
  3. Related principles
    1. Fear
      1. President Uchtdorf - “First, let us address the problem with fear. After all, who among us has never been compelled by fear to eat better, wear a seat belt, exercise more, save money, or even repent of sin?
        It is true that fear can have a powerful influence over our actions and behavior. But that influence tends to be temporary and shallow. Fear rarely has the power to change our hearts, and it will never transform us into people who love what is right and who want to obey Heavenly Father.
        People who are fearful may say and do the right things, but they do not feel the right things. They often feel helpless and resentful, even angry. Over time these feelings lead to mistrust, defiance, even rebellion.”
      2. 1 John 4:18 - “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”
    2. Anger - Beatitudes higher law, do not be angry
      1. “Fear leads to anger”
      2. Matthew 5
        “21 ¶ Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
        22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. . . .
        25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
        26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”
    3. Contention - 3 Ne 11:39
      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.”
    4. Unity and being “one”
      1. Conflict with agency
      2. John 17:21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”
  4. History
    1. Wars
      1. Pre-mortal life - War in heaven
        1. Revelation 12:7-8And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.”
        2. Any time my FHE doesn’t devolve into total warfare then I consider it a win
      2. Old Testament - philistines, egyptians, babylonians, assyrians
      3. Book of Mormon - Type and shadow of our day
      4. Church history - Missouri, Nauvoo, and the Utah War
    2. Ancient apostles
      1. President Uchtdorf - “Among the Twelve whom Jesus called and ordained were two brothers, James and John. Do you remember the nickname He gave them?
        Sons of Thunder (Boanerges).
        You don’t get a nickname like that without an intriguing backstory. Unfortunately, the scriptures don’t provide much explanation about the nickname’s origin. However, we do get brief glimpses into the character of James and John. These were the same brothers who suggested calling down fire from heaven on a village in Samaria over not being invited into town.”
      2. Mark 10:35-45 - James and John ask to be on his sides in glory, other apostles get angry about the request.
        . . . 42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them.
        43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:
        44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.
        45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
    3. Church history
      1. Modern apostles
        Elder Scott told on multiple occasions - “when he attended his first meeting with the Twelve he was surprised at the forcefulness of the discussion. after he sat quietly for some time, another apostle passed him a note that read, ‘Welcome to the Quorum of the Twelve. We play hardball here.’ The moral of this anecdote is not that disagreement is good or desirable, but that disagreement is not necessarily contention.”
SunShine and Shade:
Complementary Differences and Creative tensions in a one-heart Community
David Pulsipher—Department of History, Geography, and Political Science
    1. Christ - Cleansing the temple
      1. John 2 - first clearing of the temple 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 16 And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. 17 And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.”
      2. Matthew 21 - second clearing of the temple
        “12 ¶ And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves,
        13 And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”
      3. “If someone asks ‘What would Jesus do?’ Remind them that turning over tables and breaking out whips is a possibility” - Internet meme


  1. Captain Moroni - Alma 48:17 - “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.”
    1. Seeking inspiration in dealing with Zarahemna - Alma 43:23 “But it came to pass, as soon as they had departed into the wilderness Moroni sent spies into the wilderness to watch their camp; and Moroni, also, knowing of the prophecies of Alma, sent certain men unto him, desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites.”
    2. Title of Liberty: a clear sense of purpose - Alma 46:12And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.”
    3. Contrast with Anti-Nephi-Lehis - Alma 24:15Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day, or at the day that we shall be brought to stand before him to be judged, that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby.”
    4. Preparations for the conflict - Alma 48:7-9
      7 Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.
      8 Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.
      9 And in their weakest fortifications he did place the greater number of men; and thus he did fortify and strengthen the land which was possessed by the Nephites.”
    5. Cleansing the inner vessel by dealing with kingmen - Alma 51
      14 And it came to pass that when Moroni saw this, and also saw that the Lamanites were coming into the borders of the land, he was exceedingly wroth because of the stubbornness of those people whom he had labored with so much diligence to preserve; yea, he was exceedingly wroth; his soul was filled with anger against them.
      15 And it came to pass that he sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land, desiring that he should read it, and give him (Moroni) power to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death.”
    6. Writing Pahoran
      1. Helaman’s concern - Alma 58
        “34 Now we do not know the cause that the government does not grant us more strength; neither do those men who came up unto us know why we have not received greater strength.
        35 Behold, we do not know but what ye are unsuccessful, and ye have drawn away the forces into that quarter of the land; if so, we do not desire to murmur.
        36 And if it is not so, behold, we fear that there is some faction in the government, that they do not send more men to our assistance; for we know that they are more numerous than that which they have sent.”
      2. Moroni’s request - Alma 59:3And it came to pass that he immediately sent an epistle to Pahoran, desiring that he should cause men to be gathered together to strengthen Helaman, or the armies of Helaman, insomuch that he might with ease maintain that part of the land which he had been so miraculously prospered in regaining.
      3. Moroni’s condemnation - Alma 60
        34 And now behold, I, Moroni, am constrained, according to the covenant which I have made to keep the commandments of my God; therefore I would that ye should adhere to the word of God, and send speedily unto me of your provisions and of your men, and also to Helaman.
        35 And behold, if ye will not do this I come unto you speedily; for behold, God will not suffer that we should perish with hunger; therefore he will give unto us of your food, even if it must be by the sword. Now see that ye fulfil the word of God.
        36 Behold, I am Moroni, your chief captain. I seek not for power, but to pull it down. I seek not for honor of the world, but for the glory of my God, and the freedom and welfare of my country. And thus I close mine epistle.
      4. Pahoran’s response - Alma 61:9And now, in your epistle you have censured me, but it mattereth not; I am not angry, but do rejoice in the greatness of your heart. I, Pahoran, do not seek for power, save only to retain my judgment-seat that I may preserve the rights and the liberty of my people. My soul standeth fast in that liberty in the which God hath made us free.”
  2. Conclusion
    1. Testimony

Extra notes/thoughts


“Discipline” as an excuse for abuse
“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”


Lesser judges judging the higher judges
Gadianton robbers and kingmen


Contradictions
Nephi killing Laban; Moses killing the wicked Israelites
Zeezrom and lawyers in Ammonihah - seeking contradictions


Blank check of authority vs. lack of trust


Elisha and the she-bears
Elijah and the priests of Baal


Self righteousness
Changing doctrine


Ishmael and Isaac


  • Application
    • Dealing with conflict
      • Think “win-win”
      • Collaborative problem solving
  • Early saints and fighting for land
    • Danites, Haun's Mill, Mountain meadow
    • Zion's camp
    • Brigham Young quote during the Utah war