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I’m slowly and carefully reading through the talks that were given in April 2024 at the most recent general conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This passage, from the remarks that were delivered at that conference by Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (“Covenant Confidence through Jesus Christ”), stood out to me against the background of the current strikingly toxic and hyper-partisan atmosphere of American political discourse:

The house of the Lord is where we can be transformed in higher and holier ways. So, when we walk out of the temple, transformed by our hope in the promises of the covenants, armed with power from on high, we take the temple with us into our homes and lives. I assure you that having the spirit of the Lord’s house in us changes us, completely.

Although I have no reason to believe that this Brazilian apostle, speaking to members of the Church who are scattered around the world, had politics particularly in mind (let alone specifically American electoral politics), I’m absolutely sure that the quality of our politics and political discussions — right now, I’m disinclined to dignify them with the word debates — would be vastly improved, completely changed, were we to follow Elder Soares’s counsel.

One of the recurring themes in the Book of Mormon is its condemnation of “contention.”  The two following passages will serve to represent the spirit of its teaching on this matter:

Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.  (Alma 1:22)

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.  (3 Nephi 11:29-30)

We should not forget that this dispensation — which is to say, the Restoration as a whole — began with the young Joseph Smith’s rejection of the “stir and division,” the “strife,” the “war of words and tumult of opinions,” the “great confusion and bad feeling” that surrounded him and that had divided his community and even his own family.  (See Joseph Smith –History 1.)

We see in the Book of Mormon what the ultimate societal result of tribalism and the loss of a cohesive sense of community can be.  The account given in 3 Nephi 7 opens as follows:

Now behold, I will show unto you that they did not establish a king over the land; but in this same year, yea, the thirtieth year, they did destroy upon the judgment-seat, yea, did murder the chief judge of the land.

And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.

And every tribe did appoint a chief or a leader over them; and thus they became tribes and leaders of tribes.

Now behold, there was no man among them save he had much family and many kindreds and friends; therefore their tribes became exceedingly great.

Now all this was done, and there were no wars as yet among them; and all this iniquity had come upon the people because they did yield themselves unto the power of Satan.

And the regulations of the government were destroyed, because of the secret combination of the friends and kindreds of those who murdered the prophets.

And they did cause a great contention in the land, insomuch that the more righteous part of the people had nearly all become wicked; yea, there were but few righteous men among them.

It is anything but an attractive picture, although it did serve as the overture to a visit of the resurrected Christ to the New World — after cataclysmic natural destruction.