Your Friday Firestorm #11

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. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

(3rd Nephi 11: 29-30)

Discuss.

Comments

  1. Where do you start? It seems that modern life is all about highlighting our differences and defending our positions. Now that the presidential campaign has almost extended itself to start as soon as the last election ends, it seems that the media and politicians spend all of their time defining our differences and stirring “up the hearts of men to contend with one another.” And most of us (myself DEFINITELY included) love to join in the process. The referenced scripture is evidence that the gospel of Jesus Christ contrasts that notion.

    I like the scripture in Doctrine and Covenants “And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand.” D&C 50:10. Isaiah has a similar passage.

    Whether we are talking about a dispute within our families, between neighbors or in the stage of international relations it seems this counsel is wise. We would do well to follow it.

    Bonus question – would you say blogging fits into “reasoning together” or “stirring up the spirit of contention”?

  2. A close reading suggests it is contending with anger that is the problem.

    I reserve the right to contend (smugly, sarcastically, and with my awesome, caustic, British contending-skillz) with all the idiots in the world who don’t agree with me. Just not angrily.

    This scripture has been used (wrongly) to lobotomise much of our discourse in the church.

  3. Don’t forget the verses on each side of this selected passage:

    And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.

    Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.

    So, there is more to avoiding disputation over the gospel than civility and goodwill alone. There is also the need to receive Christ’s doctrine in preference to our own divergent opinions. These verses in chapter 11 of 3rd Nephi might be summarized “Perform baptism the way I am telling you, not all the ways you have been arguing over.”

  4. I think lamonte makes a good point, and I agree with Ronan, and John’s comment is excellent.

  5. The context is that of identifying what is and what isnt essential, fundamental doctrine. Disputes over doctrine that divide the ecclesia or change what the fundamentals are are evil and not of the Lord. I read this verse as largely the same as the rejection of creeds in JS-H. Divisions within the body of the Church over doctrines are bad. The only divisions within the Church that are endorsed by the Lord are based upon individual behavior, not ideas.

  6. Extreme Dorito – As usual I have “missed the context” of the scripture but don’t you think this scripture – taken out of context – should apply to every aspect of our lives. And don’t you think the Lord intended that?

  7. Well, in general, yes, of course, but one would more easily build their case for such things contextually by referencing passages that talk about loving your neighbor and being charitable and forgiving and so on. This passage is addressing doctrinal disputes that cause divisions in the ecclesia, which must be done away.

    Look at the arguments on the Bloggernacle about Iron Rodders and Liahonas and Conservatives and Liberals and Orthodox and Heterodox and how people want to label themselves and others and jump to all sorts of conclusions based on that.

  8. Nick Literski says:

    This scripture has been used (wrongly) to lobotomise much of our discourse in the church.

    Amen, Ronan! From a purely cultural (not religious) standpoint, I’ve been both frustrated and amused at how this scripture comes into play. Almost invariably, it is raised in an accusatory fashion. It ends up being used by those who can’t support their position, in a way that essentially means “you disagree with me, therefore YOU are being contentious!”

  9. But, Nick, what if you are being contentious?

  10. Nick Literski says:

    E.D.,
    If I am being contentious (in the sense mentioned above, i.e. “contending with anger”), then it is my responsibility to remedy that by voicing my disagreement in a kind and respectful manner. I believe it is possible to be firm and forthright about one’s strongly-held position, without behaving in an offensive manner.

    What I refer to in #8 is really just a manipulative game, E.D., wherein a person uses the scripture in an attempt to avoid having their views questioned, or to silence another’s views. Oddly enough, it is generally used with a tone of anger and/or indignation. I don’t know about you, but I have yet to see a person lovingly, kindly suggest that a particular discussion is stooping to the level of “contending with anger.”

  11. Nick,

    It is entirely possible to be firm and forthright without being offensive. However, if one assumes one is never being contentious, even if people are pointing out that one is being offensive, and any use of the passage in question is “just a manipulative game” then is not that person in fact just being contentious?

    According to Jesus’ definition, being “firm and forthright about one’s strongly held position” is contentious in a doctrinal discussion, unless it is dealing very specifically with baptism by immersion by the proper authority in the appropriate manner explicitly detailed in that chapter. Anything else should not be a “strongly held position,” assuming a “strongly held position” means “something I am not willing to compromise on and will argue vehemently for.” Jesus very narrowly defines what is essential doctrine and kicks the door wide open on what is not.

  12. To be honest this is one of the reasons that I’m not sold on the value of these blogs. I’ve been coming more frequently the last couple of weeks but I still haven’t decided how much I like it.

    I just don’t see debate as a way of obtaining truth and I see that happening way too much. The most effective way to obtain truth that I have seen is through deep solemn ponderous thought on scriptural truths trying to seek inspiration. Yes speaking about these kinds of things with each other can aid in that. I have often seen some really profound comments by other people on here but often in these blogs someone comes in and yells something obnoxious which I think ruins the spirit.

    I’m not trying to say that what goes on here is all wrong I’m saying I’m not completely sold on it. Perhaps you can help me to see the light.

    From my experience going on the internet to seek for deeper truths is a lot like going to Home Depot to seek for info on how to build something. A lot of people act like they know what they are talking about but very few actually do.

    To me the standard for what kind of discussion will help in the finding of truth is contained in D&C 50:
    17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
    18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.
    19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
    20 If it be some other way it is not of God.
    21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
    22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
    23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.
    24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth clight, and continueth in God, receiveth more elight; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
    25 And again, verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you;

    This is why I haven’t decided whether I like going to blogs or not to discuss perhaps you can help me see the light.

  13. Thomas Parkin says:

    “A close reading suggests it is contending with anger that is the problem.”

    Only if anger is an essential element in the spirit of contention: which the scripture doesn’t make explicit. Because the devil stirs men’s hearts up to contend with anger doesn’t preclude the possibility that he stirs up men’s hearts to contend with snarkiness that doesn’t seem to contain anger, as well.

    I don’t see an absence of anger as the opposite of the spirit of contention. Rather, I think that opposite is humble and mutual searching with consideration of truth as the ultimate motivation. I think you can do that with wit, and even with some shrpness. But, if you don’t care about what is true more than you care about how your opinion comes out looking, how you look in the telling of it, and whateverelse, then I think you’re probably approaching discussions with the spirit on contention, anger or no.

    ~

  14. Nick Literski says:

    However, if one assumes one is never being contentious, even if people are pointing out that one is being offensive, and any use of the passage in question is “just a manipulative game” then is not that person in fact just being contentious?

    E.D., perhaps I didn’t communicate clearly. It was not my intention to say that “any use of the passage” was a manipulative game. Rather, I intended to say that it was very common for it to be used in such a way. I’ve seen a number of very, very angry people telling (yelling, even) those who disagreed with them that they were being “contentious.”

    While I’m not at all certain that it’s your intent, E.D., I’m getting this idea from your two posts that you believe (a) that I am “contentious,” and (b) that I assume I am never being “contentious.” If that’s what you’re thinking, let me assure you that (a) I can sometimes be very “contentious,” and (b) it would be ridiculous for me to assume that I never am “contentious.”

  15. Personally, I’m sold on these folks … and, hey, I can’t wait to receive their free website design tips.

  16. Nice topic, Steve. Definitely a bullseye heart issue.

    It is one of the biggies often brought to my attention as an outsider in Ammon, Idaho.

    Here is the equation that I face: passionate conviction contra to the ward group think = contention. As long as I don’t speak up, then that would be flowing more within the so-called paradigms of community spirit and the Holy Spirit.

    But let’s face, that is not true.

    My biggest concern is not be contentious with what the Holy Spirit desires . . . grieving Him.

    Sometimes I have wrongly opened mouth and inserted foot. The Spirit lets me know about when I should have kept my mouth shut and when I should apologize. When it was self-attention and promotion. Yet secondly, the Spirit has made me miserable over when I should have spoken up, where I was living in fear over being labelled contentious. Some religious circles are in the business of emasculating the male spirit. The sweet boy is the “spirit-filled boy that never stirs the pot”. May God protect my two sons from that!

    I respect a man with passion. And I will follow a man who will back down to no one in his conviction for God and the scripture.

  17. And by the way, anger is not necessarily a sin.

  18. Nick, I am discussing the meaning of the text and its practical application. I have no interest in your person. My point is the case where you identify the passage in question being “very common[ly]” used to end discussion is anecdotal evidence probably influenced by your own behavior, and would therefore be an isolated case as opposed to a normative pattern. Angry people start yelling because someone has pushed them to it, not walked away from them or defused the situation with a soft answer, so while they may be contentious, their accusation is probably accurate.

  19. Steve Evans says:

    Jeff, debate as a means of discovering truth is a tradition as old as recorded history. Dialogue, discussion and even argument are essential means of communication, negotiation and making decisions as a group. If you’re part of a community, participation is essential.

    Part of your comment is more worrisome to me (leaving aside the scripture, etc. which I view as a bit pedantic): “often in these blogs someone comes in and yells something obnoxious which I think ruins the spirit.”

    I’m reminded of Mark 7:20: “That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.” If all it takes for you to lose the Spirit is for someone to say something obnoxious, it’s a very tenuous Spirit indeed. Rather than rant and rave that others are not keeping up to standards, I would think a better approach would be to silently and consistently establish standards for yourself and change your world through example. As for whether blogs have anything to offer you, I reply: ask not what BCC can do for you, but what you can do for BCC.

  20. I respect a man with passion. And I will follow a man who will back down to no one in his conviction for God and the scripture.

    Todd (16), what if his convictions are wrong? There are plenty of charismatic leaders who were passionate in their convictions are were dead wrong. Surely you wouldnt follow them. Do you adhere to the notion that creedal statements are required for classification as a “Christian”?

  21. The root of the problem is that we don’t even have a vocabulary to use when we disagree, so anything less that 100% agreement is understood as contention. We know, because Elders Oaks and Ballard have said so, that often there is sharp disagreement in the consultations even among the apostles, and it is apparently OK. But try disagreeing sharply in Sunday school class.

    Which reminds me of the classic gem from the Sugar Beet. The website appears to be non-functional, so I’ll reproduce it here, with attribution, and with apologies to Steve for the long comment.

    Relief Society Sister Makes Declarative Statement
    By Amy Chamberlain
    HELPER, UT. In a bold move that has sparked discussion and anger in the Helper 2nd Ward, Sister Rosemary Watts made the following comment in Relief Society last Sunday: “There is absolutely no scriptural evidence to support your theory.” The statement was in response to teacher Kathleen Bailey’s comment that Bathsheba tempted David by purposefully bathing naked outside his window.
    Other Relief Society women said it was the phrasing, not the actual words, that caused the subsequent furor.
    “Rosemary didn’t preface her remark with something like “Maybe it’s just me” or “I don’t know if this is true or not,” explained Relief Society president Lacey Holding. “She just came right out and said it. Even a milder phrase like “I was just going to say” would have helped.”
    Holding’s first counselor, Lisa Fowler, says that Watts’s comment has “completely ruined” the spirit of peace and friendship among the sisters. “I don’t know if this will be a good quote for your story or not, but Relief Society is about love and sisterhood,” she says. “Self-effacement is what holds us together. It makes us feel like no one is smarter than anyone else, so that no one feels threatened.”
    The Relief Society secretary, Terrie Moore, cites Watts’s master’s degree in philosophy as the reason for her inability to “get along” with the group. “I guess I’m really stupid compared to Rosemary, but at least I don’ t make the teacher burst into tears halfway through a class discussion,” she said.
    “Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like authoritative statements are more of a priesthood thing to do,” said Moore.

  22. joshua madson says:

    I wonder if contentions here also refer to a problem Nephite/Lamanite society has had for centuries. In the BoM war and contention are frequently paired. Contentions are often the underlying cause of violence or the violence themselves in the BoM. It seems to me that this verse and later his reiteration of the sermon on the mount is getting at the heart of what leads to all their conflict and discord. I see Christ coming and pleading with them to pull their heads out of their rears and act more civil and humane. They, as much as all of us, needed a serious course correction.

    I see contention as something very different than discussion and truth seeking. Furthermore, was Christ contentious with the scribes and pharisees? He certainly disagreed with them and spoke forcefully.

  23. Thanks for the reply Steve. Let me clarify a few things. I’m really not asking BCC to change I’m asking myself if BCC is a good environment to continue my quest for more knowledge. I realize that asking everyone to change is not going to happen. Let me put it this way. Let’s say I was in an open room where people were coming in and out, and I start a spiritual discussion with some friends about what I think a General Authority said. Let’s say that people coming in and overhear this and every once in a while a person says something really rude about the General Authority. I wouldn’t yell at everyone coming in and out of the room and tell them to uphold my standards, basically I would just go to a more private room that would be more conducive to the spirit.

    As far as debate being a way to obtain truth being a part of recorded history. Yes that is the way the world tries to discover truth but I see no evidence for that being the Lord’s way, or the way that he teaches us to obtain truth. Debate can be used to get a deeper understanding of certain things but I don’t feel that this works with spiritual things.

  24. California Condor says:

    Chino Blanco,

    Your link to See the Light Ministries blew my mind. I’m speechless.

    Check out their photo gallery.

  25. As far whether I should be able to keep the spirit in a bad environment. You mention its very tenuous if someone says something obnoxious then I lose the spirit implying that I should be stronger than that.

    Let me put it this way:
    I think it is possible to keep the spirit under less then optimal environments but if given the choice and the opportunity I will seek a more optimal environment. I’m just asking myself the question if BCC or any other internet blog for that matter is an optimal environment or if there are other ways in which I can get more for my efforts. I’m open for ideas which is why I bring it up, and I don’t mean to be offensive to BCC so don’t take it that way.

  26. #20 – Scripture trumps all creeds. Any creed worth its ink on paper had better be scripture-derived.

    And sadly, I can hardly find any scripture in some/many charismatic leaders’ messages.

    You are right. I wouldn’t follow them.

  27. Jeff, the Lord doesn’t debate with us because He is not present with us all the time. Even so, He does indeed promise to reason with us, in Isaiah and in the D&C, which phrase suggests persuasion and convincing. In fact, the D&C uses deliberate logical argument:

    And now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit, unto the elders of his church, and let us reason together, that ye may understand; Let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face. Now, when a man reasoneth he is understood of man, because he reasoneth as a man; even so will I, the Lord, reason with you that you may understand.

    That’s D&C 50:10-12, which I believe would have been more appropriate to quote than the verses you chose.

    Now, if you don’t feel blogs work for you, fine; I’m not here to convince you. Everyone finds their own path, as it were. But I don’t agree with you that this means something is wrong with the format of blogging itself, or the way discussions are held in the bloggernacle.

  28. #24 – And I would strongly contend for this.

  29. California Condor says:

    Jeff,

    Being a blog reader is like being addicted to smoking crack cocaine. There is one difference, though: there is hope that crack cocaine addicts can quit their habit.

    So you might as well face the fact that you’re hooked and enjoy it. Feel the high.

  30. What I find interesting about these topics (such as Anger is bad, love thy enemy, etc) is that most literalist people completely flip flop. People that staunch in no caffeine at all, no R rated movies, no double piercings because that’s exactly what’s said and look down when someone interprets or doesn’t follow. When they are presented with scriptures of this nature will say, “Well, what he REALLY meant was…” or “Well, you have to read it like this…”

  31. I don’t mind persuasion and reasoning, but I guess what I’m trying to figure out is where the line is that it crosses into contention, and arguing. Perhaps its how I define debate which may be different from how you define it, but reasing and persuasion can cross over to debate and arguing which I see as counterproductive.

    I do agree with you that I have read some really good discussions on here so I haven’t written it off, and I do enjoy it. I just haven’t fully decided yet, as I’ve come across some really mean spirited things as well.

  32. Ronito, I agree; it’s a fun experiment in prooftexting and inconsistency in our approach to the scriptures.

  33. California Condor says:

    Jeff,

    This isn’t Sunday School. Don’t be afraid to shoot from the hip. If someone is wrong, nail them for it. It can be liberating.

  34. #21 was the opposite of ponderous, i.e., fun.

    #24, I grew up near Branson, MO … if you enjoyed that link, you’re invited to my next high school reunion.

    #25, of all the places I could be hanging out on a Friday night, I really, really feel OK about being at home and hanging out here with my betters, and you’re not going to change that … anyway, enjoy and be ponderous in moderation …

  35. British contending-skillz

    Judging by your spelling, these aren’t the skillz you honed gaffling hub caps in the hood, are they?

  36. Mark IV,

    It might just be me, but I think that story could be interpreted by some as, well, beautiful. But I could be wrong.

    Jeff, #23, I’m not sure that BCC is the place where people come in and shout rude things about GA’s. That’s the province of some other blogs out there.

    There’s a difference between reasoned discussion, dialog, and even argumentative confrontation and the type of contention that the BOM scripture represents. It’s difficult sometimes when we think we know an answer, and then get a pretty convincing argument presented to us, with evidence, that challenges that paradigm. The mature response is to listen, consider, study, and then respond. The emotional response is what begins to get us into trouble. However, we aren’t always able to separate the emotion from reason, especially in relation to our faith. That is where the contention can begin to creep in. I think contention implies some pride, some condesencion, and some intent to correct those “poor ignorant folks”.

    But then, I could be wrong.

  37. You guys to bring up some good points, and perhaps I bring these things up because I do want to be convinced, I just have a couple of concerns I’ve been thinking about recently.

    You are right California though I think it is very addictive and I’m not sure I have the time to handle another addiciton, I need to be working right now.

  38. kevinf, WRONG WRONG WRONG!!! Dumb-dumb.

  39. That’s a good way to see the difference I think Kevin.

  40. Yeah, I have to agree with Steve (38), kevinf, BCC is loaded with “poor ignorant folk”

  41. ED, more of us are ignorant than poor.

  42. Steve, those two arent mutually exclusive.

  43. Steve, I only meant to disabuse you of your totally misguided and ill-informed folk doctrines.

  44. LOL! Kevinf, I hope at the end of this I can retain the guided and informed folk doctrines…

  45. Mark IV (#21)

    Great “article.” It reminds me of undergrad at BYU when, in every class no matter the subject, someone at some point in the semester would suggest a non-traditional idea by beginning with a “I hope this does not make me sound like an apostate” disclaimer. It was several months into law school before I stopped saying “I could be wrong” before every statement in class.

  46. There should be a Bloggernacle version of the Thunderdome. We could select two contestants (Nick Literski and Extreme Doritos? Adam Greenwood and Steve Evans?), put them in the dome, and watch them rhetorically slug it out until only one emerges.

  47. Back to the topic at hand, I am thinking of the case of circumcision in the book of Acts where there is contention over whether or not to perform it (cf., ch. 10-15). In the BofM, in 3rd Nephi, Jesus explicitly states the performances of the Law of Moses are fulfilled in him and should no longer be practiced. He apparently didnt do that in the NT setting, hence the argument over circumcision and the splits within the eccelsia that were occurring over it. It appears to have been resolved by discussion and some debate, not by direct revelation (although part of the argument is the reception of the HG by Gentiles, so the revelatory evidence is indirect). The initial church-threatening contention is ended by a reasoned debate, which appeals to evidence of revelatory approval. Are there any more examples of church-splitting contention being resolved in such a manner?

  48. MikeInWeHo, we already had that. I won.

  49. I agree with the general tenor of what Steve has said here. I believe that the difference between reasoned discussion and even passionate debate is simply whether the dialogue proceeds based on respect and love or whether it proceeds from a wing-at-all-costs approach that demeans and shows no regard for the humanity of those involved. So many flame wars on the net are a great example of the contention that is contrary to the love command.

  50. Thomas Parkin says:

    Todd,

    I think there are things that one can know in a certain way, the underlying truth of the scriptures being one of them, and that it is right to contend for those things. Though contend doesn’t neccesarily mean going out and going to war over them – you know, going and protesting someone’s religion, being in their face, while they are trying to find some peace, that kind of thing. It means being true to and forthright with what you know from experience to be good in spite of the passions of other people.

    However, if one clings stubbornly to cherished interpretations and views that are partly wrong or fully wrong, all you’ve done is become a man who cannot learn. And one thig is certain, we are never exactly right, never understand fully, never find ourselves in a circumstance where we can’t benefit from more truth. This right here is, in my view, close to the essense of Mormonism – we beleive in learning: salvation, the purpose of life, it all has to do with learning, advancing, going from small degrees of understanding and being to greater degrees, without limit. What it expressly is not is having a revelation, a spiritual expereince, and then sitting put contending for that one thing forever. The man with one talent!!

    As an aside, I find this quote in my Franklin Cover Day Planner a couple weeks back (smirk): Gahndi overstates the point like this:

    “I never think of what I’ve said before. My aim is not to be consitent with my previous statements on a given question, but to be consistent with the truth as it may present itself to me. The result has been that I have _grown_ from truth to truth.”

    Jeff,

    I share some of your concerns. I think a lot of good things happen here – a lot of worthwhile things are said, questioned, explored. The question for me is: is the signal to noise ration strong enough to justify the amount of time spent. And that is partly a matter of waht you individually bring to it, and partly a matter of working out your own priorities and making sure things are in some semblence of order.

    ~

  51. Thomas Parkin says:

    To add:

    I don’t find the signal-to-noise ratio particularly good on the bloggernacle, but compared to internet discussion in general: this is the archetypal Senate of the Good and Truthful.

    ~

  52. Nick Literski says:

    #18 E.D.:
    So, it appears I was right. You are choosing to assume that because I have observed (not just been the receiver of) numerous individuals using the scripture passage in this way, I must have been behaving in a contentious manner. In essence, your argument is “Well, if someone became angry and accused you of being contentious, you must have been contentious!” Thank you for at least making yourself clear, albeit judgmental, accusatory, and quite unfounded.

  53. Nick, ED’s just trying to bait you. Try not to take the bait…

  54. I agree with everything everyone has said. :)

    Actually, if I think about the socratic method, a basic tool of my trade as a secular teacher, a lot of quality learning can happen in a dialectic, oppositional structure.

    I think a problem we have in mormon blogs and the church generally, is the playing of trump cards — either authoritative (calling someone an apostate) or otherwise (the sexist/racist label).

    The other problem is that we all see ourselves as teachers rather than learners.

  55. MikeInWeHo,

    SnarkerNacle hosted a Bloggernacle DeathMatch some time back and Adam and FMHLisa made it to the final round, with Adam being…um…cut down…shall we say. Steve, despite his assertions, was slain fairly early on in the competition.

    Nick,

    Yes, quite unfounded indeed. You are the epitome of grace and aplomb at all times, and under all circumstances are entirely above reproach. I cannot imagine you engaging in behavior that would elicit a negative response from people.

    Steve,

    Bait? Hook, like and sinker…the worm fell of the hook hours ago.

  56. Can one person ever be contentious alone? When challenged by someone with an agenda, is it contentious to pursue the topic?

    It seems to me that playing the contention card (as Nick describes) is in and of itself a contentious thing to do, in that it’s not loving, humble, desiring to learn, etc.

  57. #54 – Spot on, Norbert.

    I find this is something I need to remember constantly. As kevinf said, when emotion rules, things get dicey. I have trained myself over the years to overcome much of my natural inclination to argue in a way that attempts to win, but I still find myself doing so occasionally if I’m not careful. On the Bloggernacle, I have found that the faster I respond, the more likely I am to begin contending in a way that is described in the scripture above. I have said some pretty hard-edged things here and elsewhere, and sometimes I should not have done so, but generally I have tried to do so carefully and thoughtfully and slowly – to do so without the heat of emotion that stokes the fire of contention. I force myself to employ a deep breathing technique and to re-read and edit what I type when I am particularly passionate about an issue.

    OTOH, as has been stated previously, disagreement is *not* contention – and that is, IMO, the #1 misconstruing of the scripture in question within the Church. Also, sometimes we must contend if our core values and principles truly are being attacked. It is the discernment necessary to distinguish between honest and basic differences, unintentional attacks, intentional attacks, etc. that is difficult to have and maintain.

    Summary: If you or someone else or both are listening to, sharing honestly and learning from a conversation, there is no contention – regardless of whether or not you agree. If those conditions are not being met – if you essentially are talking past each other, then contention is present. I don’t always succeed, but I try to remove myself from that type of discussion as soon as I recognize that I (and/or the other participant) am not gaining anything new out of it.

  58. Hi, I’m hoping someone can answer my question. Where does the church stand on infants of members who die before they can receive a “name and a blessing.” I’m currently in a situation where it seems there’s a rush to do the blessing…

  59. Sarah, the brief answer is that receiving a name and a blessing is not essential for infants. They are saved in Christ. There should not be a rush to do the blessing, except to the extent the parents desire to share with their infant as much as they can as soon as possible.

  60. To follow-up on my earlier question, is there some non-doctorinal (cultural) or historial belief that babies who die before a blessing aren’t part of the eternal family, or that they won’t be listed on church records?

    Even if it’s not correct in the doctorine, why would family push for a quick “name and blessing” (not a father’s blessing) before an infant has a medical procedure?

  61. Sarah, I have no idea. Some mistaken notion held over from a Catholic upbringing? I really don’t know; the thought has never crossed my mind.

  62. Sarah, while it is true that children are not listed on church records typically until they receive a name and a blessing (as the computer program is set up to give them a record while recording the blessing) doctrinally, the name and blessing ceremony is not essential for any type of post life salvation, nor is the computer system which keeps track of members any sort of indicator in that way. In my opinion, the timing of the name and blessing of a child should really be at the discretion of the parents only. It is cultural to typically do this in conjunction with a fast sunday, but it is acceptable to do otherwise. A close friend of mine recently had an infant son who passed away shortly after he was born. Being prompted by the spirit, my dear friend gave his son a name and a blessing in the hospital room just after being born. It brought great comfort to my friend to be able to do this. My point is that the baby does not need to be taken from the hospital or put in any unsafe situation to perform this ordinance.

    If you are concerned about the child being on the records of the church without a name and blessing, I would talk to your ward clerk, as he can arrange that for you. Otherwise, I see no harm in the baby having a priesthood blessing prior to the procedure, so long as it does not delay the procedure.

  63. Sarah, from the old Church handbook:

    Stillborn Children (Children Who Die before Birth)

    Temple ordinances are not performed for stillborn children, but no loss of eternal blessings or family unity is implied. The family may record the name of a stillborn child on the family group record followed by the word stillborn in parentheses.

  64. Thanks, Matt, for that example and clarification. My concern also is that the procedure not be delayed.

  65. joshua madson says:

    I know this may be the wrong question but I see a common assumption about what contention means in this verse.

    I mean do we really believe that Jesus comes down in miraculous fashion only to tell the people, you know I think you bicker too much about things.

    I think there is something a bit larger here than flame wars on blogs. He’s talking about a spirit of contention, anger, maybe even mimetic desires and the things that lead to real conflict. A quick pull of the use of the word contention in the book of mormon seems to indicate something a little more relevant than debates over whether caffeine is ok or not or any other debate/argument.

  66. Yes, Joshua, I do think Jesus came down to tell us that.

    That basic message is taught *way* too many times throughout the Gospels and NT for me to believe it isn’t of serious import. James 3 couldn’t be clearer, and the Sermon on the Mount deals as much with bickering and contention on an a simple interpersonal level as with any other theme. Of course, there is far more to what He taught than is encapsulated in your question, but, again, how we treat each other is the foundation of whether or not we can be called Christian – at least in the way Jesus Himself and his early apostles defined it.

  67. Jesus came down for lots of reasons. But it’s clear that telling us to CUT IT OUT! is part of it.

  68. Eric Russell says:

    LOL. Everyone jumps to point out that not all disagreement is contention. Obviously. I think the number of those who actually believe thus are relatively few.

    The irony is that people who “contend with anger” are extremely common and that most of the time they think their anger is justified. Surely Christ’s words don’t apply to us when we’re right.

  69. joshua madson says:

    Steve,

    I agree, but cut what out?

    what does he mean by spirit of contention? and stir up hearts of men to anger, one with another?

  70. One thing that internet communication has done is to make vitriolic language less dangerous to the user than it used to be – freeing up people to be stirred up to anger, one with another.

    When you risk angering someone who is standing in front of you and might take physical action against you (or call their friends to do so), there is a degree of external constraint that is absent when such a physical threat is not visible and imminent. Trolling, especially, is less dangerous than it used to be when the words needed to be spoken, since there is no chance of the group mob mentality taking over and ending up in a life-threatening assault – especially with the availability of pseudonyms.

    Since it is much safer to “Stir up the hearts of men to anger, one with another” from the safety of a computer, exacerbated by anonymity, I believe we are more prone to “safe contention” now than perhaps ever before. Not being able to see the tears and anguish and rage and consternation caused by our words makes it more tempting to focus less on being sensitive in our communications.

    I see a polarization and insensitivity in so much of the current public communication that simply wasn’t there to that degree even less than 20 years ago. I think we, therefore, are obligated to pay more attention to that tendency and concentrate more explicitly on avoiding it. I know I have crossed that line more than I would have if someone was standing in front of me as I expressed myself.

  71. Joshua – he wants us to cut a lot of things out. I’m just glad, however that Steve didn’t say cut it off, because that would dovetail way too easily into circumcision. :(

  72. compared to internet discussion in general: this is the archetypal Senate of the Good and Truthful.

    Preach on, Brother Parkin.

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