Ask no man

No More Contention is the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding. Contention arises from the compulsion to have others agree with us. Seeking understanding in an environment of clarity and charity produces no more contention. As Joseph Smith said, "I will ask no man to believe as I do."

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Three broad categories

In a sense, contention is inevitable and unavoidable because every individual is unique, and no two people agree on everything.  Ideally, we...

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Being part of a community

RFK Jr.: "An individual, like every nation, has a darker side and a lighter side. The easiest thing a politician can do is appeal to our dark angels—to our greed, our anger, fear... That is the most potent instrument for manipulation. It's much harder to do what my dad was trying to do. Which is to get people to transcend their narrow self interest and find a hero inside themselves and say we are part of a community here, we are a part of something larger."

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Think again-faith again

We applaud a website called "think again-faith again" that offers suggestions about "What it takes to passionately disagree without being disagreeable."

The pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding can be enhanced with these intentions expressed on their website:

Six intentions for a fruitful conversation:

1. I will listen with respectful curiosity and offer the most generous interpretation of the intentions of others as I hope others will do for me.

2. I will avoid making grand sweeping judgements. Rather, I will connect what I hear and express to my life experience and beliefs. I will not speak on behalf of groups, institutions, or other individuals.

3. I will listen with resilience, “hanging in” when I hear something that is hard to hear and remembering that this conversation is about me understanding the other person, rather than persuade them.

4. I will share airtime fairly and refrain from interrupting others.

5. I will pass and let others pass if I or they do not want to comment.

6. I will honor the confidentiality of participants and conversations

The site hosts conversations and articles about how to achieve "no more contention."

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Thomas Jefferson on friendship

Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, April 22, 1800

I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. 

During the whole of the last war, which was trying enough, I never deserted a friend because he had taken an opposite side; & those of my own state who joined the British government can attest my unremitting zeal in saving their property, & can point out the laws in our statute book which I drew, & carried through in their favor. 

However I have seen during the late political paroxysm here numbers whom I had highly esteemed; draw off from me, in so much as to cross the street to avoid meeting me. The fever is abating and doubtless some of them will correct the momentary wanderings of their heart, & return again. 

If they do, they will meet the constancy of my esteem, & the same oblivion of this as of any other delirium which might happen to them. I am happy to find you as clear of political antipathies as I am...

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

WSJ - Disagreeing respectfully

An article in the Wall St. Journal offers some practical advice on how to disagree respectfully.


There are many tough talks we need to have right now, about everything from the Israel-Hamas war to how to care for Mom as she ages.

Too often, we’re avoiding those productive and necessary conversations. When we do have them, we end up yelling at each other. We can just look at the unrest on college campuses to see what happens when discourse melts down.

It’s time to master the art of disagreeing—having a productive conversation when we’re passionate about a topic but our opinions differ. Experts in conflict resolution have advice that can help: Plan ahead. Actively listen. Discuss how to move forward.


Conversations tend to become heated because we’re wired to have a fight-or-flight response when we feel threatened, especially during times of chronic stress, psychologists say.

 “Our brains treat having our ideas attacked in the same way as if our body was being attacked,” says David Supp-Montgomerie, an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Iowa, who directs the school’s Civic Dialogue Initiative.

What can we do?

It’s OK not to talk about a topic if you think the conversation won’t be productive. Sometimes that’s the best way to preserve the relationship.

But if you’re up for a tough discussion, here’s some advice.

Prepare yourself and start off right

Set a goal. Do you want to explain how you feel, understand the other person’s point of view, or solve a problem? “It’s important to understand why you want to have the conversation in the first place,” says Supp-Montgomerie. 


When you begin the discussion, acknowledge up front that you may not agree but you want to talk so you can better understand each other.

Explain that you’d like to start by hearing the other person’s point of view. (Be sincere!) This defuses tension and shows that you’re on the same team.

Choose your words carefully. Use “I” instead of “you.” (Think: “I feel unheard.” Not: “You’re not listening.”) The word “I” comes across as less judgmental.

And avoid the word “but.” It negates what the other person said. Try the phrase “yes, and…” instead. Like this: “Yes, I agree with you, and…”  

Actively listen—and ask questions

Stop waiting for someone to finish a sentence just so you can have your say. Don’t interrupt. Really listen.

Summarize what the person said and ask if you heard it correctly. For example: “I heard you say you’re upset because you think I haven’t been helping take care of Mom enough. Am I right?”

Then ask deeper questions that get at the person’s values, rather than opinions. Some good ones: “What led you to feel so strongly about this?” “Do you have personal experiences you can share?” “Will you tell me more?”

The goal is to find common ground, says Mylien Duong, a psychologist and senior director of research at the Constructive Dialogue Institute, a nonprofit that teaches people across the political spectrum how to talk to each other. “There are always points of agreement, even if it’s as simple as you both wanting the conversation to succeed.”


Discuss your next steps

Ask the other person how he or she wants to move forward. And remember, it’s OK to agree to disagree.

If you learned something, say so. That’s both validating and reassuring, says Elizabeth Esrey, a professional mediator, who has worked with families, gang members and with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after apartheid ended.

And thank the person for his or her willingness to talk.

“People are giving you the gift of their time even if they disagree with you,” Esrey says.

Mayer, of the NFLPA, has developed strategies for difficult conversations. He practices his message, cuts to the chase quickly and listens closely.

“The goal is not to ‘win’ the conversation, but to communicate important, if difficult, information in a way the other person can process and be heard themselves,” he says.


Sunday, May 12, 2024

BYU research on conflict resolution

Thoughtful article here that discusses aspects of clarity, charity and understanding as opposed to convincing, misattribution, and confusion.

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The article opens with a perfect anecdote about having lunch with one's adversaries.


BYU’s Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution—initially established to mediate conflicts between students and their landlords and now housed in the Law School, where it serves both campus and community mediation clients—is growing into a hub for faculty research and student education, a place to connect academic and spiritual thinking.

BYU Law dean David H. Moore (BA ’92, JD ’96) says that BYU has a key role to play “in a world that is rife with conflict”—from interpersonal disagreements to legal challenges to international strife. Here researchers “can combine academic study and the insights of the gospel of Jesus Christ to benefit the world in thinking about how we achieve peace.”

The good news is that, while disagreements are inevitable, we don’t just have to wing it, says Emily de Schweinitz Taylor (BA ’97, PhD ’24), former assistant director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution and author of two books on mediation. “Instead of just going on all your intuition and prior experience, there’s research on what actually works,” she says. 

Taylor, Moore, Witesman, and other campus experts offer research-based and gospel-backed approaches to engaging in conflict and finding ways to disagree better. 

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Struggle for struggle's sake

X post by Governor Cox of Utah:

Can’t stop thinking about this Francis Fukuyama paragraph from The End of History.

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Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland

Today I visited the Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I was struck by one of the messages, taken from the film (not the book) of the Lord of the Rings.

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High walls might keep fear in check, but they don't lead to no more contention. 

The Peace Walls were constructed in an effort to reduce tensions in the city between the Loyalist and Nationalist communities. They are a reminder of the city's past conflicts during "the troubles."

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Toward the back of this photo I took, you can see how high the walls are.

Fortunately, the conflicts that raged years ago in Belfast have been resolved. 

We can all hope that social and interpersonal contention can also be resolved everywhere in the world. 

Thursday, March 28, 2024

The main purpose of contention

The main purpose of contention is to make sure all the smart people don't end up on the same side.

Adapted from

The main purpose of fake news is to make sure all the smart people don’t end up on the same side.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

Einstein's rules


Happy Birthday to Albert Einstein!
Einstein's works revolved around three rules which apply to all science, problems, and times: • Out of clutter, find simplicity; • From discord make harmony; and • In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

Prof. Feynman

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Levels of awareness

 (Modified from a twitter post) and cross-posted at

The first step toward "no more contention" is clarity. That requires a high level of awareness, that, combined with charity and understanding, eliminates the underlying causes of contention.

Levels of Awareness Level 1 They believe what their preferred sources of information say and do not sample other sources. Not aware of counter arguments. Not aware their sources are mostly narrative with manipulated, incomplete facts. Level 2 Sample material from multiple sources but believe only the sources that confirm their own biases are accurate. Think the other side is all narrative, but at least familiar with all sides of issues. Level 3 Aware that ALL sources are narrative, at least in the sense of spin, missing context, conflating assumptions and inferences with facts, etc. Also known as Gell-Mann Amnesia*. But still believe the experts in various fields are usually correct. Level 4 Understand that NONE of our experts are reliable. Some might be right, but none can be trusted without verification. The distortion of money, reputation, pride, motivated reasoning, bias confirmation, and cognitive dissonance makes no expert credible.

Level 5

Apply the FAITH model to isolate and assess Facts, Assumptions, Inferences, Theories, and finally Hypotheses. The FAITH model reveals the origin of multiple working hypotheses by clarifying the intellectual ancestry of beliefs and narratives.


*Gell-Mann Amnesia: the phenomenon of experts reading articles within their fields of expertise and finding them to be error-ridden and full of misunderstanding, but seemingly forgetting those experiences when reading articles in the same publications written on topics outside of their fields of expertise, which they believe to be credible.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Jonathan Edwards on contention

By looking at word counts alone, we can see that the problem of contention is a focus of the Book of Mormon. 

The term "contention" appears with this frequency in the scriptures:

OT (6) NT (3) BM (34) DC (3) PGP (0)

The term "contend" appears with this frequency in the scriptures:

OT (13) NT (1) BM (44) DC (6) PGP (0)

We see that the Book of Mormon refers to contention far more frequently and in far more diverse contexts than the rest of the scriptures combined.

The phrase "no more contention" appears only in the Book of Mormon, and only once (Mosiah 1:1). Likewise, the nonbiblical phrase "spirit of contention" appears only once.

Jonathan Edwards used the term "contention" over 300 times and "contend" over 180 times.

Before looking at Edwards, let's see how Joseph Smith discussed contention:

If we get puffed up by thinking that we have much knowledge, and <​we are apt to​> get a contentious spirit, and knowledge is necessary to do away contention. The evil of being puffed up is not so great as the evil of contention. Knowledge does away darkness, suspense and doubt, for where Knowledge is there is no doubt nor suspense nor darkness. There is no pain so awful as the pain of suspense. This is the condemnation of the wicked; Their doubt and anxiety and suspense causes weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because he has greater knowledge, and hence he knows how to subject all other beings to him.

At first it may seem ironic that thinking we have much knowledge actually leads to contention, yet knowledge itself is "necessary to do away with contention." How does this work?

As Joseph explained, knowledge (presumably correct knowledge) eliminates darkness, suspense and doubt. Joseph seems to imply that suspense is a source of contention.

A reframe might be that it is insecurity that causes contention. People contend because their insecurity leads them to seek validation and assurance from others who confirm their biases. Contentious people cannot tolerate the idea that they might be wrong about something, so they fight about their beliefs. They have an urgent need to get others to agree with them, whether that means convincing, compelling, or censoring contradictory information and ideas. 


Jonathan Edwards wrote extensively about the causes and effects of contention. Some excerpts from Edwards:

2. Jonathan Edwards. Letters and Personal Writings (WJE... [page 69 | Paragraph | Sub2Sect | SubSect | Section]

to be a time of drought with us. A dark cloud seems to hang over the land in general, by our being pursued by one judgment after another, and, which is darkest of all, by our being left, at the same time, to such a degree, to the vile corruptions of our own hearts, and particularly spirit of contention , disorder, and tumult, in our capital town, and many other places. What seems to be for us to do, is to "wait upon God in our straits and difficulties," according to one of the sermons you kindly sent me, which seems to be very seasonable not only for the present circumstances of

3. Jonathan Edwards. Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733... [page 93 | Paragraph | Sub2Sect | SubSect | Section]

love one towards another amongst them; but when a people are cold and dead in matters of religion, a contrary spirit will prevail. There will be a spirit of malice and revenge, a spirit of envy; and hence will come evil-speaking and backbitings, emulations, wrath, [and] strife. The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. Fifth. When a people decline and grow cold in religion, there are but rare instances of a

4. Jonathan Edwards. Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733... [page 96 | Paragraph | SubSect | Section]

of conversation, how much more seldom that inquiry, "What shall {I do to be saved}?" than it used to be. How does all the talk seem to be about the world. What a decay of strictness; {what} immorality; {what} decay of family government! Is not there less of a spirit of love? Has not there been a spirit of contention amongst our rulers? Has not the country to a great degree left its first love? And how long have we been degenerating and waxing more lifeless and cold in the things of religion. And how many warnings has the country had; how many corrections? And how dead are we at this day! What

5. Jonathan Edwards. Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733... [page 110 | Paragraph | Sub2Sect | SubSect | Section]

and contention exceedingly hinders the success of ordinances and the flourishing of religion amongst a people. When a people are contending, religion evermore runs very low. Contention kills religion many ways. It greatly hinders it, as we have shown, in the hearts of those that exercise a spirit of contention; it drives away the Spirit of God and lets in the spirit of the devil. It hinders them in private. So it keeps the presence and blessing of God from accompanying public worship and ordinances. When such a society meet together, Christ won't be in the midst of 'em. He has no

6. Jonathan Edwards. Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733... [page 359 | Paragraph | SubSect | Section]

Application. I. This doctrine may give us occasion to conclude that very often when a people are in such circumstances, there is too much done at inveighing against instruments and too little at reflecting on themselves. As there is commonly among a people at such a time much of a spirit of contention , so it appears in finding fault very much one with another. All will own the calamitousness of the circumstances of the public, and there is much fault found with these and those; all find fault. Rulers themselves will find fault and be full of invectives one against another, all

7. Jonathan Edwards. Sermons and Discourses, 1730-1733... [page 365 | Paragraph | SubSect | Section]

If they are wise and seeing and politic men, they will improve their policy to establish and advance the good of the land, and not to advance themselves and supplant others. The securing of the public peace will be their first care. A spirit of true piety would prevent the prevailing of a spirit of contention which divides a kingdom against itself and therefore tends to its overthrow. The spirit of piety is a spirit of peace and love, a spirit that disposes men to look every one not at his own things but every one also at the things of others. Godliness will dispose every one in whatever

8. Jonathan Edwards. Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738... [page 29 | Paragraph | SubSect | Section]

Hill. Two months had passed and little had changed: "our mouths," he says in peaceable and Faithful amid Strife and Division, are still "filled with backbitings" and contention. "There had long prevailed in the town a spirit of contention between two parties, into which they had for many years been divided, by which was maintained a jealousy one of the other, and they were prepared to oppose one another in all public affairs" (Faithful Narrative, Works, 4, 146). 

[Note: "stirring up" is a nonbiblical BofM phrase (2x). See the NID.]

218. Jonathan Edwards. Sermons and Discourses, 1734-1738... [page 662 | Paragraph | Sub2Sect | SubSect | Section]

that cries out of, and condemns, contention in others, is one that at such times is peaceable and faithful in Israel. A person at such times may say a great deal about the evil of strife and contention, and what a pernicious tendency it has; and may see wherein others are to blame in stirring up contentionand may cry out of the measures they take, and may inveigh against them for taking such measures; [and] may, when they get together amongst those of the same party with themselves, insist much in their talk on this. They may with indignation tell over how those of t'other side act, or