John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, October 1943, pp. 112-116
My dear brethren: I hold it a great privilege to be allowed to bear witness of the truth of this work to the assembled priesthood leadership of the Church. I bear testimony to you that this is the work of God, established by Him through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
FORMULA FOR A TESTIMONY
This testimony I found in my early youth. It has remained with me as a certain knowledge all these years. I have discovered, as you have, I am quite, sure, the method by which such a testimony may be kept alive, blossoming, useful in human life. The formula is simple: Live the gospel every day, practice it, and study it regularly; do not let the affairs of the day that deal with the making of our temporal living crowd aside matters that pertain to the gospel. If we use this formula, our testimony will become increasingly certain, will grow, will expand in meaning and comprehension.
OBJECTIVE OF CHURCH TO BRING PEACE
During these days of Conference I have enjoyed, with all of you a feast of good things. During the days a thought has come into my mind repeatedly and has crowded out any preparation that I may have made for this occasion. It is an ancient theme, touched upon by several speakers at this conference. If the Lord will help me, I should like to discuss it with you briefly.
This is a Church of peace. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is a gospel of peace. The head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, was spoken of in Brother McKay's address, as the Prince of Peace. If we study the conditions of the Church, its principles, its practices, all that pertains to it, we shall find that they all converge upon one great objective—the establishment of peace upon earth and among the children of men. That is the objective which dates back to the beginning of mortal time.
This matter of peace appears and reappears in the scriptures. It was Brother Kirkham, yesterday, who quoted the Savior: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you" (John 14:27).
At this particular time in the world's history, we have much to say about peace. The devil for some time has been given ample dominion over his own (D&C 1:35); but we understand, that there never was a time when the hand of the Lord was wholly withdrawn from human affairs. Apparently the tide of battle is now being turned by the Lord toward victory for those who are battling for righteous principles.
Therefore, men are speaking about peace, and what is going to happen after the war. Books and articles are being published, there is a deluge of written material setting up propositions and proposals relative to the disposition of all mankind and all human affairs after the war is over.
I want to say to my brethren here today that these proposals begin at the wrong end, and that they will all fail. Peace upon earth is not to be established by Congress or Parliament, or by a group of international representatives. Peace is not a thing that can be taken on, then taken off again, as we do a piece of clothing. Peace is quite different from that. Peace cannot be legislated into existence. It is not the way to lasting peace upon earth. That, every man here understands.
Remember, the Savior Himself tried to point that out to us, for when he spoke to his disciples and said, "Peace I give unto you, peace I leave with you," He added, "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you" (John 14:27).
Peace comes from within; peace is myself, if I am a truly peaceful man. The very essence of me must be the spirit of peace. Individuals make up the community, and the nation—an old enough doctrine, which we often overlook—and the only way to build a peaceful community is to build men and women who are lovers and makers of peace. Each individual, by that doctrine of Christ and His Church, holds in his own hands the peace of the world.
That makes me responsible for the peace of the world, and makes you individually responsible for the peace of the world. The responsibility cannot be shifted to someone else. It cannot be placed upon the shoulders of Congress or Parliament, or any other organization of men with governing authority.
I wonder if the Lord did not have that in mind when he said: . . . "the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), or perhaps we should re-emphasize it and say: "The kingdom of God is within you."
PEACE COMES FROM WITHIN
I believe that our problems in this day and age are in some respects the most terrible in the whole history of the world, and the most difficult to understand. Yet we know that peace and all that pertains to it must come from within honest human hearts who have been drilled and tested in righteousness.
The question may be asked, Is it really possible for such individuals to be vanquished, shall we say, by peace? Is it possible for such individuals to be so multiplied in number, as to make of the earth a happy, peaceful dwelling place. The answer which we give to the world is that if a man but conform to, if he be in harmony with, eternal law, peace will be his. That is a simple formula which refers to body, mind, and spirit, and to our neighbors. If I obey the physical laws of the body, physical peace will be mine. If I obey the laws of mental health, I shall be mentally at peace. If I obey the spiritual laws which God has given, I shall likewise find peace, the highest peace. If I love my neighbors, even as I love myself and my God, and all men do the same, there will be complete social peace. Such obedience can be yielded; such harmony can be won. It has been done by men; it can be done again. Such harmony with law lies at the foundation of the problem of our searching and reaching out for peace in our troubled world.
There may be some here who have tried to pay a part of the tithing due the Lord. Has peace remained in their hearts? Ask ourselves! There may be those, like the soldier mentioned by Brother Lee this morning, who have been taught the Word of Wisdom, and have failed to keep it. There was not peace in the heart of our soldier brother when he lay wounded and in dire need of divine help. There is not peace in our hearts when we disobey the law. Conformity to the law alone brings peace.
But before we can obey we must know and understand the law. Thereby hangs a tale so long that it is impossible to discuss it in the few minutes at my disposal. Peace has been lost because the world has lost the knowledge of divine truth, or knowing it, has misunderstood it.
For example, God, who needs to be known first, has been made into an ethereal essence, filling space, which, as the Father of men, is incomprehensible to the human mind. It is folly to look for peace among men when the deeper realities of existence are not understood. Men are ill at ease who do not comprehend these truths correctly, and are prone to warfare. Only as the truths of existence are found and accepted will peace prevail on earth.
Men must also understand the plan of salvation, the meaning of life, to find peace in their own hearts, and to help establish peace on earth. I remember the hostile British officer who attempted to prevent my entrance into Great Britain because I was a "Mormon." In the ensuing conversation he said finally: "If I admit you, what will you do in Great Britain?"
I answered: "If you admit me, I shall, to the best of my ability teach the people of Great Britain how to win happiness in this life and the life hereafter. I shall tell them whence they came, why they are here upon this earth, and where they are going after death."
The uniformed man, a long-time servant of the empire, looked at me in astonishment. "Can you answer these questions? All my life I have sought answers to them. No one has been able to answer me. Please teach me."
He was not at peace; he was uneasy in his heart.
I remember the aged widow in southern Utah, a convert from England, who had left a cultured home to begin the pioneer toil of building an empire here in the western desert. She told of her struggles and sacrifices, of the pains of her days and years. When she had told the story, one to bring tears to my eyes, I said to her, "Sister, yours has been a hard life; you have sacrificed much. Let me ask you, if you were a girl again in England and could look down the coming years, would you do it again? Would you accept the gospel and face the life that you have here lived?"
The old lady, in her eighties, got up from her chair, looked me in the eye: "You ask me, would I do it again? For that which the gospel has given me, I would do it over again ten thousand times." She had found peace. Her heart was at ease.
There is no time to discuss further the method by which individual peace may be won, but it may be added that the seeker after peace must forget himself in the search. The art of placing the cause above oneself is of first importance if peace shall grow in our hearts. Whenever we place ourselves before the cause, we are, in the words of President John Taylor, in the hands of evil. The peace disappears.
THE MEANING OF "ZION"
Let me say one thing more. There is a statement in the D&C, which I have read with many a sober thought:
. . . every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety.
And there shall be gathered unto it out of every nation under heaven; and it shall be the only people that shall not be at war one with another (D&C 45:68-69).
"They shall flee to Zion for safety." That I believe does not mean a geographically limited place, but a place where the pure in heart (D&C 97:21) dwell, for they are Zion, and out of that Zion consisting of the pure in heart shall go forth the force and power that will bring peace to pass upon this unhappy earth.
We are Zion; we say we are; I know we are. We are under the tremendous commission so to live, so to establish peace in our own hearts as to make our companionship, wherever we are, a society to which the suffering, the uneasy, those without peace, in all the world, may flee for safety. Truly a tremendous obligation rests upon the Latter-day Saints.
Our patriarch spoke last night of this people being as a leaven. We know that to be true. We are as a leaven to all the world. That is why the "minority" of which he spoke does not count. Future, lasting peace is not a question of majority or minority, but of the power of the leaven. The leaven may be weak. Sometimes it needs to be strengthened. That is our problem, especially the task of leadership, to strengthen among our people the leaven of peace, the gospel of peace, so that out of our very presence, out of our hearts and faith, something radiates that will touch the hearts of all who are seekers after truth, who are lovers of peace. As such people gather to us, if we do our duty, they will be blessed and find that which they seek, and with us help establish upon earth the kingdom of peace, which is the kingdom of heaven.
At this moment I am looking into the faces of the leadership of the Church of Christ. We have had in this Conference a wonderful feast of good things. Seldom have I felt so spiritually fed. Shall we go back now to our homes and to our labors and take all the truths that we have received, and convert them into a message of peace wherever we go? Let us do so. Remember that
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matt. 5:9).
My message to you, and my plea with you is that each one of us, in behalf of himself, his flock, the world, will constitute himself a peacemaker, beginning with his own heart, to cleanse it, to make it fit for the abode of peace.
May God so help us and bless us, I pray, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.