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, 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

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The first verse of the Book of Mormon?

If Joseph had published the Book of Mormon in the order in which he translated it, the first verse would have been what is now known as Mosiah 1:1.

And now there was no more contention in all the land of Zarahemla, among all the people who belonged to king Benjamin, so that king Benjamin had continual peace all the remainder of his days.

(Mosiah 1:1)

Imagine this as the very first verse people read when they pick up the Book of Mormon.

This verse foreshadows the ultimate purpose of the Book of Mormon, to eliminate contention among all people everywhere by bringing people to Christ and educating and motivating them to enter covenants with God to have continual peace.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Elder Soares on X


I can assure you that the light of a new day shines brighter in our lives when we see and treat our fellow beings with respect and dignity and as true brothers and sisters in Christ.