“My Peace I Give Unto You” (John 14:27)
Brigham Young University-Idaho
Education Week Devotional
June 24, 2004
Elder David A. Bednar
Good morning, brothers and sisters, and welcome to our BYU-Idaho Education Week. I earnestly invite the Holy Ghost to be with me and with you now as together we learn about the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.
Recently I stood in a circle with worthy priesthood brethren as one of our sons named and blessed his first child, a beautiful little girl. As we were about to begin the ordinance, I placed my hand on my son’s shoulder and I could sense and feel the powerful emotions he was experiencing. His voice choked with emotion as he began to speak. I looked at our son Mike; I looked at little Emily; and I tried to both savor and capture in my memory this cherished moment. As my heart swelled with gratitude and joy and as I was enveloped by an overpowering feeling of peace, the scriptural theme of our Education Week came into my mind: “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).
I am acquainted with a woman whose elderly mother was involved in a serious automobile accident. This loving mother suffered head injuries and severe trauma. Over the course of several days in the hospital, pneumonia set in and this noble matriarch slipped into a semi-comatose state. And at one point, the doctors advised the family that she would probably not live through the night.
The daughter stayed at the hospital with her mother that dark and fateful night—joined by an older brother who was less active in the Church. This sister and brother had an opportunity during those sleepless hours to visit about and discuss many things. At one point, the brother said to his sister: “I hope there is a God, and I hope all that Mom believes about Him is true. She has lived her entire life to that end.” The daughter recalls standing in that hospital room and having a calm, peaceful reassurance encircle her—a witness that, indeed, all that her mother believed about her God was true. That life goes on beyond mortality; that families can be together forever; that her mother’s God knew of her situation and would not forsake her.
How grateful the daughter was for what she felt and experienced that night in the hospital. Her mother did not pass away that night. Rather, she was permitted to live and bless that family with her association for another eight months. However, those were not easy months for this caring daughter and her devoted siblings. The mother the family had known before the accident never really came back to them, and the family was presented with difficult challenges and decisions. Repeatedly, the faithful daughter found herself drawing upon the experience in the hospital as a source of strength and comfort. Truly, this good woman came to understand what the Savior meant when He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you . . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
I have a friend who recalls a fateful day in early June when she was 12 years old. Her father had passed away earlier that morning after having suffered for a relatively short period of time with cancer. The mortician had taken away his body, and friends and family were beginning to call and stop by the house. She remembers thinking there was too much commotion and feeling confused, loose-ended, and very much afraid.
At some point, probably about mid-day, this little girl found herself sitting in the room where her father had died, his hospital bed now empty. She was sitting on the edge of the other bed in the room looking out the window across the front yard. The day was dreary. It had been raining for days—or so it seemed. Suddenly a ray of sunlight managed to cut through the clouds and glistened on the wet grass. At the same time, a ray of hope managed to find its way into the heart of a 12-year-old girl. She was filled with an assurance that all was well with her father. She knew he was alive! She knew that all was well with him. And she knew that all would be well with her and with her mother and with her brothers and sisters. This young woman felt the peace offered by the Savior when He said, “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.” The heart of this child was no longer troubled; she was no longer confused or afraid.
Contained in chapters 56-58 in the Book of Alma is one of the greatest war stories in the entire Book of Mormon. You will recall that Helaman had taken the command over 2,000 young Lamanites whose parents had sworn never to take up arms against their enemies. But their sons, who had not taken the oath, placed themselves under Helaman’s direction and helped the Nephites in their critical battles against the Lamanites. Because of their remarkable faith and ability, these young men were instrumental in helping to defend the rights of the Nephite people.
Verses 10-13 in chapter 58 are especially instructive about the role of prayer in the preparations of these young men for war—and about the specific type of spiritual help they received. In verse 10 we read:
Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people.
Now, please pay particular attention to verses 11 and 12 and the beginning of verse 13, and note the blessings the young warriors received in response to their prayers.
Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.
And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies, and to maintain our lands, and our possessions, and our wives, and our children, and the cause of our liberty.
And thus we did go forth with all our might against the Lamanites . . . . (emphasis added)
It is noteworthy that the earnest pleadings of these stripling warriors were answered with the blessings of assurance and peace to their souls—which assurance and peace produced courage and determination and the capacity to go forth into battle with all of their might. These faithful and stalwart young men undoubtedly were learning what the Savior meant when He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you . . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
One final introductory episode. A small six-year-old boy was participating in a ward activity, a water party. At one point during the afternoon, the little boy decided to lie down on the blacktop of the parking lot to dry off. A neighbor and fellow ward member accidentally ran over the boy, killing him almost instantly.
As the little boy’s mother knelt over his lifeless body, she found the following questions racing through her mind: “Oh, son, why would you lie down on the blacktop? Why did you not move when you heard the car start?” A thought then came into the mind of that sorrowing mother almost as quickly as the questions had come: “If he could answer me, he would say: ‘Mom, it does not even matter. It just does not matter.’”
In those initial moments after losing her son, this woman was blessed with the peace promised by the Savior—the assurance that, in the eternal scheme of things, the questions she had simply did not matter. Her son had been transferred into another phase of his eternal existence, and the process by which that transfer came to pass simply did not matter. This young mother was experiencing what the Savior meant when He said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you . . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
As Sister Bednar mentioned, the theme for our Education Week this year is found in John chapter 14, verse 27: “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.”
When I learned several months ago what the theme for Education Week was to be, I began a process of asking family and friends and acquaintances about peace. The stories and scriptures I have just shared with you came from that process of inquiry.
As I have thought about our theme and reflected upon these stories and many similar ones, I have been impressed by three recurring principles related to peace: (1) peace is centered in Christ, (2) faith and hope in the Savior invite the spiritual gift of peace into our lives—the peace that only the Prince of Peace can offer, and (3) the peace Christ gives passeth all understanding. I now want to briefly address each of these principles.
Principle #1 — Peace is centered in Christ.
The world searches to and fro for peace and often believes personal fulfillment is to be found in satisfying relationships, or in the advice so readily dispensed in the self-help section of a local bookstore, or in temporal possessions and security. Such approaches to finding peace wholly and totally miss the mark—which is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon teaches about two basic kinds of peace: civil and spiritual. Civil peace, which is the absence of physical and social conflict, was much desired and sought after by the righteous peoples described in the Book of Mormon. Of even greater value, however, is the spiritual peace or “peace of conscience” that is granted to faithful individuals by the Holy Ghost through application of the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Peace originates in Christ and comes from and because of Christ. And it is imperative that we remember, brothers and sisters, it is His peace which He gives unto us.
Please turn with me to Mosiah 4:1-3. In these verses we learn about the reaction of King Benjamin’s people to his supernal sermon about the Savior and His atonement. We also learn that true peace of conscience is centered in the Redeemer and flows from His infinite Atonement.
And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.
And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.
And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come, according to the words which King Benjamin had spoken unto them (emphasis added).
Please note the relationship between obtaining a remission of sins and experiencing joy, and between having our hearts purified and receiving peace of conscience. It is only the atoning blood of Christ that makes both of these sweet spiritual outcomes possible.
The truth that peace is centered in Christ is summarized in Doctrine and Covenants 19:23: Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me (emphasis added).
As we learn of Christ and listen to His words and walk in the meekness of His spirit, we can indeed receive the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give.
Principle #2 — Faith and hope in the Savior invite the spiritual gift of peace into our lives.
What causes a grandfather to be enveloped in an overpowering feeling of peace as he watches his son bless a firstborn child? How can a woman watching her mother struggle through serious injuries and an extensive period of recuperation receive ongoing strength and spiritual reassurance? How does a 12-year-old girl who is struggling to understand the death of her father come to know that all is well—with her father and with her mother and siblings? How could the stripling warriors march forward with a determination to conquer—even when tremendously outnumbered and facing a ferocious enemy? And how can a young mother feel a sense of reassurance even in the first moments following the death of her young son?
I believe the answers to these penetrating questions are found in Moroni 7:40-42. As we read these verses together, please notice the interrelationship between the principles of faith and hope.
And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that you can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope?
Now, verses 41 and 42 provide the answers to the challenging questions I just asked.
And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.
Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.
These verses outline a straightforward formula that invites the gift of peace into our lives. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ—that is total trust in Him, complete confidence in Him, and a ready reliance on His merits, mercy, and grace—leads to hope, a hope through the Atonement in the power of the resurrection and in eternal life that invites the sweet peace of conscience for which men and women have always yearned. The redeeming and cleansing power of the Savior’s Atonement helps us to dispel the despair caused by transgression and sin. And the enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement helps us to see and to do and to become good in ways that we could never recognize or accomplish with our limited mortal capacity. As we work and learn and progress and struggle, we are blessed to know that “. . . he who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23).
Principle #3 — The peace Christ gives passeth all understanding.
As I was preparing this message and discussing the topic of peace with family and friends, I was struck by how many times important and even dramatic life events were mentioned—events such as the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, the struggle with physical pain and limitation, or the pivotal nature of a family or career decision. It was particularly interesting that the experience of losing a loved one to death was mentioned most frequently. Now, we all recognize and know that receiving the spiritual gift of peace is not solely associated with life-changing and emotional events; we frequently are blessed with peace of conscience in small and simple and seemingly insignificant ways. Nevertheless, I wondered why my questions about peace elicited such consistent responses related to the most difficult and demanding episodes of life.
But the reasons are quite obvious. Peace is centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith and hope in the Savior invite the spiritual gift of peace into our lives. Our understanding of the plan of happiness and of the role of the infinite and eternal Atonement enables us to see somewhat beyond the boundaries and limitations of mortality. And when we are then confronted with the greatest challenges of our mortal existence, a loving Savior grants unto us a peace that extends beyond mortality and into eternity. It is a peace of conscience that cannot be comprehended in earthly or rational terms. As Paul explained to the Philippians:
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
As I stood in that circle of priesthood brethren and watched my son, I was given a brief glimpse of the family unit in eternity. The daughter who cared for her ailing mother was strengthened by the knowledge that her mother would be resurrected and have a perfected and glorified body and live eternally. The 12-year-old girl who lost her father received help from heaven to know that, truly, families can and will be together forever as we are true and faithful to our ordinances and covenants. The Sons of Helaman were strengthened to fight with a firmness and a conviction born of faith in Christ and in the eternal correctness of their cause. And the mother who lost her six-year-old son knew in her heart—in a way that could not necessarily be fully understood in her mind—that “. . . those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:46). When words cannot provide the solace we need or seek, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding of the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and analysis are insufficient, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, then comes the peace that only the Prince of Peace can give—truly, a peace that passeth all understanding.
Joshua Loth Liebman, in his book entitled Peace of Mind, eloquently summarizes the key theme I have attempted to convey this morning.
Once, as a young man full of exuberant fancy, I undertook to draw up a catalogue of the acknowledged “goods” of life. As other men sometimes tabulate lists of properties they own or would like to own, I set down my inventory of earthly desirables: health, love, beauty, talent, power, riches, and fame—together with several minor ingredients of what I considered man’s perfect portion.
When my inventory was completed I proudly showed it to a wise elder who had been the mentor and spiritual model of my youth. Perhaps I was trying to impress him with my precocious wisdom and the large universality of my interests. Anyway, I handed him the list. “This,” I told him confidently, “is the sum of mortal goods. Could a man possess them all, he would be as a god.”
At the corners of my friend’s old eyes, I saw wrinkles of amusement gathering in a patient net. “An excellent list,” he said, pondering it thoughtfully. “Well digested in content and set down in not-unreasonable order. But it appears, my young friend, that you have omitted the most important element of all. You have forgotten the one ingredient lacking which each possession becomes a hideous torment, and your list as a whole an intolerable burden.”
“And what,” I asked, peppering my voice with truculence, “is that missing ingredient?”
With a pencil stub he crossed out my entire schedule. Then, having demolished my adolescent dream structure at a single stroke, he wrote down three syllables: peace of mind.
“This is the gift that God reserves for His special protégés,” he said. “Talent and beauty He gives to many. Wealth is commonplace, fame not rare. But peace of mind—that is His final guerdon of approval, the fondest sign of His love. He bestows it charily. Most men are never blessed with it; others wait all their lives—yes, far into advanced age—for this gift to descend upon them.”
At that time I found it difficult wholly to believe the wisdom of my rabbinic friend. But a quarter of a century of personal experience and professional observation has served only to confirm his almost oracular utterance. I have come to understand that peace of mind is the characteristic mark of God Himself . . . . I know now that the sum of all other possessions does not necessarily add up to peace of mind: yet, on the other hand, I have seen this inner tranquility flourish without the material supports of property or even the buttress of physical health. Slowly, painfully, I have learned that peace of mind may transform a cottage into a spacious manor hall; the want of it can make a regal park an imprisoning nutshell (Joshua Loth Liebman, Peace of Mind, New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1946, pp. 3-5).
“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.”
Brothers and sisters, I know and witness that Jesus Christ lives and that He is the Redeemer and the Savior of all mankind. I testify that peace is centered in Christ. In a world that grows ever more tumultuous and troubled and unsettled, we can be blessed with peace of conscience and a clear sense of purpose and direction. I bear witness that the spiritual gifts of faith and hope in the Savior invite the companion gift of peace into our lives. And I further testify that the peace Christ gives to us is sweet and reassuring and passeth all understanding. May each of us strive to be worthy recipients of that supernal gift is my prayer, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.