Elder Cook- Personal Peace: The Reward of Righteousness- General Conference


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This week has been a stark example that we living in a chaotic world in which peace has been “taken from the earth.” Lest we forget that Satan still has immense power over the hearts of men, the Boston Marathon Bombing this week served as a stark reminder. I was strongly struck this week by the bombings because it hit so close to home. I used to work five minutes away from the finish line. When I saw pictures or Watertown, Cambridge and Boston under lock down, I was reminded of the time I spent there. Likewise, this week saw a fertilizer plant outside of Waco, Texas explode, (my fiances father lives in Waco though far enough away from the plant that he was completely safe) poisonous letters sent to the president and so many other tragic incidents.

Likewise, this has also been finals week and so there has been a lot of stress. For the past couple of days, I had been filled with anxiety about a mistake that I made which could have had very detrimental consequences. Marriage plans are also stressful though also very exciting. In short, there is a lot to be stressed and anxious about. That is why, I so strongly appreciated Elder Cook’s remarks about the peace that can come to each of us as a disciple of Jesus Christ even as chaos reigns in the world around us.

Elder Cook prefaces his remarks by saying that he will talk about the role of Jesus Christ in “helping each of us obtain lasting peace” For me, the concept of lasting peace is really a beautiful one. Since joining the Church of Christ, this is one thing that really changed for me. I am much more content with life in general and much more consistently so. I have far fewer ups and downs because of the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life.

Elder Cook talks about a couple of incidents that really touched him such as the Newtown school shooting, his meeting with members in war-torn Ivory Coast, and the events of September 11th. He recalls how quickly “feelings of peace and safety can be destroyed.” The truth is that life is far too fragile. In an instant, things can change it dramatically. If we live remembering how precious our life is, we will be able to more fully appreciate all of the blessings that we have.

He tells the story his son on 9-11. They lived three blocks from the World Trader Center, and as they realized the city was under attack they made their way to the stake center ( where the temple now is) at Lincoln Center. Elder Cook emphasizes that in these last days the stakes of zion will be a defense and “a refuse from the storm.” I really have found the truth of these sayings both temporally and spiritually.

A couple of years ago, when I was working in Boston doing door to door fundraising for a non-profit organization, I was very discouraged. It was a cold and rainy day and I felt completely alone. As I walked in Arlington, Ma, I realized that I was near the Boston Temple. As I walked along the road, I saw the familiar spire in the distanced and the sight of the temple helped me feel at peace and know that God was mindful of me. The temple was a beacon of safety and peace. Likewise, today, when burden filled as I came to sacrament meeting I instantly felt at peace.

Elder Cook emphasizes that there is a difference between person peace and world peace. When Christ was born, the heavenly hosts declared “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Yet, in the aftermath of those remarks, Herod slaughtered the innocent infants, John the Baptist was beheaded and even the Savior of the world himself as betrayed and crucified. Christ’s coming and his sacrifice did not take away human agency. Evil will still reign in this world for a time.

Christ emphasized that he did not come to bring world peace. Indeed, Christ declared

” 34 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. (Matthew 10)”

Since joining the church I have seen a lot of conflict. I have had family members upset at me, friends desert me, and a myriad of difficult decisions that never would have come my way had I not begun to believe in the savior. The path is not free of thorns. He that himself wore a crown of thorns did not promise that. Instead, he promised something much sublime. He promised to help transform us and fill our hearts with peace.

Indeed, President Joseph F. Smith emphasized that this inner transformation is essential and that we can never have world wide peace without it. “There never can come to the world that spirit of peace and love … until mankind will receive God’s truth and God’s message … , and acknowledge his power and authority which is divine.”

I used to be part of the anti-war movement when I was in Boston. I would go to anti-war rallies and attend prayers for world peace. I used to think that I was making a real difference in reducing conflict. Since then, however, I have realized that while praying for peace is valuable, peace will never come without an increase in faith in Jesus Christ. Without God and without purpose in life, peace will always be fleeting. When the doctrines of Christ are ignored, peace will always be the casualty.

Elder Cook reminded us that “We earnestly hope and pray for universal peace, but it is as individuals and families that we achieve the kind of peace that is the promised reward of righteousness. This peace is a promised gift of the Savior’s mission and atoning sacrifice.”

That peace is one that is rather inexplicable and hard to describe to those who have not felt it. It is deeper than temporary relief from stress or anxiety. Indeed, it is “an abiding deep happiness and spiritual commitment.” One day on my mission stands out as one of the starkest examples of this peace. That day, was the day we were supposed to call our parents for Mother’s day (one of two times in the year). My father had gotten mad at me and decided not to talk to me that day. I had set up a call with my sister instead, but because of time zone miscommunication she called me at 4 am and spent the time criticizing me for my bad choices in serving a mission. I got off the phone with her broken. I didn’t know what to do. As I sat there, I poured out my heart in prayer to God and was overwhelmed with a sense of peace. I opened up my scriptures randomly and found myself reading Psalm 27

4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.
6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.
9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.
10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

When I read that last verse, I was overwhelmed with emotion and the spirit. Even though my heart was full of anxiety and pain, I felt a deep peace. I knew that God was mindful of me and that everything would work out. I knew that as long as I longed for righteousness and to be with God, he would never ever forsake me.

President Heber J. Grant described the Savior’s peace this way: “His peace will ease our suffering, bind up our broken hearts, blot out our hates, engender in our breasts a love of fellow men that will suffuse our souls with calm and happiness.”

Indeed, it is amazing how quickly the savior can heal us and help fill us with love. It is incredible how quickly hatred, fear and prejudice melt away replaced with love and charity. Christ is quick to head our cries.

Elder Cook emphasizes that the victims of Newtown, and the members he met on the Ivory Coast were filled with the savior’s peace despite all that was happening around them. Indeed, they knew that “the Savior’s Atonement would overcome and compensate for all the unfairness of mortal life and bring us peace.”

Elder Cook then spoke about the sources of peace. He reiterated that true peace can never be found in worldly ways. It is not found through riches or amassing great amounts of power. It is not found through great stores of knowledge or through entertainment and technology. Those things can not lead to lasting happiness or peace. I found that this is so true. When I was an undergrad, I was studying in a great university, had good friends and a lot of opportunities, but I still felt I was missing something. I still felt restless and like I was searching for something so illusive and mysterious. It was only when I found Jesus Christ that I found a source of peace and contentment.

Ultimately, it is the atonement of the savior that brings us lasting peace and allows us to experience ‘peace of conscience’ which is essential to happiness and contentment. In other words, we need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to have faith followed by repentance, baptism and becoming lifelong disciples. The Holy Ghost transfoms us as we continue to participate in Christ’s Church and partake of sacred ordinances:

“The Church is a refuge where followers of Christ attain peace. Some young people in the world say they are spiritual but not religious. Feeling spiritual is a good first step. However, it is in the Church that we are fellowshipped, taught, and nourished by the good word of God. More importantly, it is priesthood authority in the Church that provides for sacred ordinances and covenants that bind families together and qualify each of us to return to God the Father and Jesus Christ in the celestial kingdom. These ordinances bring peace because they are covenants with the Lord.”

Elder Cook also spoke beautifully about the peace that comes from temples. The temple for me is the connective glue holding together all the peaces of my testimony. As in the Psalm which I quoted above, my one desire is to be worthy to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. I am excited to be sealed in the temple and for the joy and peace I feel whenever I go to the temple.

Elder Cook powerfully retold a story from the dedication of the Suva Fiji temple which occurred while the country was under martial law. The peace felt inside the temple is strongly contrasted with the tumult outside. We too live in a time of wars and rumors of war. War and conflict surround us. We need to have a refuse in the house of the Lord and have the savior in our own hearts in order to feel peace in these times.

Christ’s parting word’s to his disciples powerfully resonate

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”

I know that he is the source of peace, the rock and redeemer of Israel. I am so grateful for all that he does for me every single day. I bear my testimony that he lives and loves each one of us.

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