13 November 2022

Compulsion Breeds Contention

I have gotten to a wondrous period in the Book of Mormon record in my slow reading. Christ had recently come to establish his gospel and his church and all the people have converted to discipleship to the Lord and the disciples he chose and ordained to lead his church are already about their assigned work. 

The condition that Mormon describes most during this blessed time is that there was "no contention" in the land. Christ had made the point often that there should be "no disputations" among the people on points of the Lord's doctrine and ordinances. The people seem to have taken this to heart and the conditions at the time was described as "continual peace".

Wouldn't all of us enjoy such a state?

Sadly, in our times, there are evil forces at work which breed many disputations and much contention, leaving no room for peace. If one word could describe this day, it would be "compulsion" to my eyes. This is easy enough to see in political arenas, as parties and factions tussle for dominance and winning the clout to push their chosen agendas forward.

No matter how noble an outcome seems, no goal is so pure and good that it justifies the use of compulsion to force its adoption. For instance, to force others to pay for fetal abortion is wrong. Also, to forcibly prevent protest through "taking a knee" or burning a revered flag is equally wrong. Dictating face-masks is as demonic as criminalizing drug use, each using force to compel compliance against a person's free will.

When people are compelled, even compelled to do good things, no one knows if that compulsed person is actually good at heart and in deed. Only when a person can act under their own power can we see their true selves. Public good can be forced through compulsion but private true good comes from individual liberty to act as each person chooses and one's personal choice to make good things happen.  Truth is even more apparent when the good things we do are in opposition to the standards of our day.  Forced public charity often produces the initially unintended yet politically useful results of resentment, division, entitlement, and hatred.  Private and un-compelled charity often breeds brotherhood and love.

Christ and his followers have always used persuasion to help people to change and reconcile themselves to God. The Holy Ghost, the very Spirit of God, is sent to make the words of truth persuasive to the hearts of all. 

Compulsion or the use of force is not a feature of the agenda of God. If we desire the condition of continual peace with the attending elements of no contention and no gospel disputations, we must know that there can be no compulsion to force these things. Continual peace comes from an internalized commitment to Christ and his gospel gained through persuasion and spiritual confirmation. God will force no one into heaven but he gives us what we need to move along the path toward exaltation and lasting peace.