When the Savior visited the people in the Americas shortly after His resurrection, one of the very first commandments He gave them was to avoid contention. After instructing his disciples on the mode of baptism, he said,
“And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
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 11:28-30.
Contention seems to stem from selfishness, one person exerting their will on another. Although it typically takes two to contend, I believe there is usually one party who is the instigator. To try to force one’s will on another is an act of pride.
“Only by pride cometh contention….” Proverbs 13:10.
The Book of Mormon is a thousand-year cycle of people struggling with ongoing pride and contention. For a few years, they prospered and were happy. Then followed pride and contention, which ultimately proved their final destruction. It happened to the Nephites and the Jaredites. The Lamanites degenerated into wickedness and murder because of their lust for conquest… pride. I believe that the Book of Mormon is as much a guide of what not to do – succumb to pride and contention - as it is a testament of Jesus Christ.
Arguments start from one person trying to push their views on another. The desire to ‘make’ another see our point of view can be attributed to pride. It is entirely possible to share our opinions and feelings without any pressure, and let others choose for themselves how they accept them. But when argument ensues, we are trying to control their choice. Why is our position superior? Could it be pride?
If the Savior of the world treated the issue of contention with the level of priority that he did – mentioning it before all other commandments or problems – how much priority should we give it in our lives?
This topic is of particular interest to me at this time. I just celebrated my first Christmas without my children. They had a good Christmas… I bought them nice presents… but it was without me. I missed them.
I believe it was this pride and contention that destroyed my marriage of 28 years. I tried to avoid that contention, but could not always escape it. Sometimes it was my own fault, and I think I have learned from those experiences. I offer this glimpse into a difficult part of my life in the hope that you will be able to avoid the same unhappiness in yours.