Making Peace: Personal Essays by Eugene EnglandMaking Peace
Personal Essays
Eugene England

on the cover:
Eugene England gives the Christian ethic a seductive appeal.  Drawing from experiences in Utah’s trout streams, visiting strife-torn Los Angeles, and living in American Samoa, England demonstrates surprising ways to bring about personal and national peace.

“Here are the many voices of Eugene England—scholar, believer, feminist, patriarch, peacemaker, and troubler.   Whether wading the mysteries of faith or pushing a stroller around pools of jacaranda, he comforts and disturbs.  This is a book worth embracing.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, co-author, All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir

“England’s disciplined inquiry, courage, and integrity transcend the superficial interpretations we define as ‘Christian criteria’ for human relationships.” —J. Bonner Ritchie, Professor of Organizational Behavior, Brigham Young University

about the author:  Eugene England‘s most recent books include Beyond Romanticism:  The Life and Poetry of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman and The Quality of Mercy:  Personal Essays on Mormon Experience.  He is Professor of English at Brigham Young University.

title page:
Making Peace: Personal Essays
Eugene England
Signature Books
Salt Lake City, 1995

copyright page:
Several of the essays in Making Peace, sometimes in a different version or with a different title, first appeared in the following publications: “Healing and Making Peace, in the World and the Church,” in Sunstone, Apr. 1992; “On Spectral Evidence, Scapegoating, and False Accusation” as “On Spectral Evidence” in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Spring 1993; “Perfection and Progression: Two Ways to Talk about God,” as “Perfection and Progression: Two Ways to Talk about God,” in Brigham Young University Studies, Summer 1989; “Making Peace at BYU, with the Help of Brigham Young,” as “Becoming Brigham Young’s University,” in On the Lord’s Errand: The Purposes and Possibilities of Brigham Young University (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1985); “Why Utah Mormons Should Become Democrats: Reflections on Partisan Politics” as “On Saving the Constitution, Or Why Some Utah Mormons Should Become Democrats,” in Sunstone, May 1988; “Why Nephi Killed Laban, Reflections on the Truth of the Book of Mormon” as “A Second Witness for the Logos: The Book of Mormon and Contemporary Literary Criticism,” in By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: F.A.R.M.S. and Deseret Book Co., 1990); “’No Respecter of Persons’: an Ethics of Diversity,” in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Winter 1994; and “Monte Cristo” in Wasatch Review International, June 1993. “The Prince of Peace” was given as an Easter sermon in 1993 and remains in that form.

Cover Design:  Scott Knudsen
Cover Illustration:  April Perry, Tree of Life/Tree of Death, oil with mixed media on board
Making Peace:  Personal Essays was printed on acid-free paper and was composed, printed, and bound in the United States.
© 1995 Signature Books.  All rights reserved.  Signature Books is a registered trademark of Signature Books, Inc.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Information
England, Eugene.
Making Peace : personal essays / Eugene England.
p. cm.
ISBN 1-56085-069-9
1.  Christian life—Mormon authors.
I. Title.

dedicaton page: In Memory of Howard W. Hunter, Peacemaker

01 – Healing and Making Peace, in the Church and the World
02 – On Spectral Evidence, Scapegoating, and False Accusation
03 – Perfection and Progression: Two Ways to Talk to God
04 – On Bringing Peace to BYU, with the Help of Brigham Young
05 – Why Utah Mormons Should Become Democrats: Reflections on Partisan Politics
06 – Jacaranda
07 – Why Nephi Killed Laban: Reflections on the Truth of the Book of Mormon
08 – “Thou Shalt Not Kill”: An Ethics on Non-violence
09 – “No Respector of Persons”: An Ethics of Diversity
10 – Monte Cristo
11 – The Prince of Peace


[p.ix]And blessed are they who shall work to bring forth my Zion at that day, … if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting
kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.

The passage above, from 1 Nephi 13:37, was quoted by Elder Boyd K. Packer in his March 8, 1995, sermon at the funeral of Latter-day Saint president Howard W. Hunter. Elder Packer commented on the vicissitudes, pain, and dangers that President Hunter had endured without complaint and with gentle grace and gratitude to all around him, to the very last seconds of his life.

Many have noted President Hunter’s endurance and gentleness, his graciousness and integrity, and many of us have seen how beautiful upon our mountains he was because he published peace. We have felt perhaps an unusual grief at the passing of this prophet because his ministry was so brief and the qualities he possessed seem so important right now. I grieve especially because he was a peacemaker, focussed in his often-expressed devotion to his Savior as the Prince of Peace, and I yearn for peace with special longing right now–peace both in the world and the church.

President Hunter began his ministry as a peacemaker. His first public comments after being ordained president of the church focused on what became his central theme, peace
through Christ-like living:

I would invite all members of the Church to live with ever-more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially the love and hope and
compassion he displayed.

I pray that we might treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness … . Our world cries out for more disciplined living of the commandments of God. But the way we are to encourage that, as the Lord told the prophet Joseph in the wintry depths of Liberty Jail, is “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”

To those who have transgressed or been offended, we say come back. To those who are hurt and struggling and afraid, we say let us stand with you and dry your tears … . Feast at the table laid before you in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and strive to follow the Good Shepherd who has provided it. Have hope, exert faith, receive—and give—charity, the pure love of Christ.

A few weeks later he made the remarkable promise that his other great theme, the temple, was also linked to peace:

May you let the meaning and beauty and peace of the temple come into your everyday life more directly in order that the millennial day may come, that promised time when “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more … [but shall] walk in the light of the Lord” (Isa. 2:4-5).

I pray fervently that the prediction and promise of our new prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, that the influence of President Hunter will continue strongly and will be fulfilled as we try to follow his teachings and example in making peace through the pure love of Christ.

My own faith in and understanding of peace have been energized by the discovery that what, in my youth, troubled me about my inherited religious thought and my own spiritual experience—the occasional paradoxes and contradictions—could also be exciting and satisfying. As I have struggled with the contrary principles of justice and mercy, I have found that the central element of my faith and experience, the atonement of Jesus Christ, did not make enduring sense nor produce continuing power for change in my life if I neglected [p.xi]either of those contraries. I found that my church service was sometimes exasperating, even bitter, because it brought into sharp conflict my idealism and my need to learn to love imperfect humans, including myself—and yet such service, like marriage, though it failed if I either withdrew from facing the daily struggles or sentimentalized them, could also produce profound joy as I learned how to love.

During a time of growing wonder at a universe of opposing forces and concepts that seemed to give existence its very tang and solidity, as well as its energy, I learned of Joseph Smith’s remarkable statement, “By proving contraries, truth is made manifest.” My heart and mind gave full assent. I remembered William Blake’s claim that “Without contraries is no progression,” and thought again of the teaching in the Book of Mormon about opposition “in all things.” Lehi’s unique effort to describe the foundations of being took on new power for me. I began to see all about me, in particle physics and organic evolution, in the history of literary movements and political struggles, in theological debate and the battle of the sexes, evidence that without the enlivening power of contraries “all things must be a compound in one … having no life” (2 Ne. 2:13). And I realized the added paradox that often our failure to accept this contrary, oppositional structure of all reality, physical and moral and spiritual, tended to produce much violence, to be a chief impediment to peace.

This book, then, is about ideas and ways of thinking that can help make peace. It is itself an effort to make peace. It brings together my most direct efforts, as a Christian, a literary critic, and a husband and father living in a violent yet marvelous century, to test and explore central contraries of my life. I begin with two essays about some of the most recent conflicts in both the world and the Latter-day Saint church. I have faith such conflicts can be resolved. Perhaps by resisting the temptation to judge others as evil based on “spectral evidence” and by applying the merciful, atoning love of Christ, we can experience the healing necessary to bring about peace.

The next three essays take up specific issues that we Mormons struggle with, ones that sometimes bring contention but actually, seen in new ways, could help produce peace: How can God be both perfect and progressing? How can church education both build and confirm or-[p.xii]thodox faith and morals and also liberate from ignorance and prejudice? And how can Mormons, increasingly inclined to be Republicans, effectively improve the politics of a pluralistic democracy and avoid the sloth and poverty of new ideas in one-party rule and especially the peace-destroying (and recently increasing) fallacy that political opponents and their ideas are not only wrong but evil?

After a kind of breather—a very personal narrative about my daughter (and jacaranda trees) that records an effort to make peace through understanding others—there are three essays about some ethical and theological questions related to peace-making: How are we to respond when God asks us to violate the same moral principles that he himself has taught us? What could God mean when he asks Abraham to sacrifice his only child, or when he asks Nephi to kill Laban? How can we resolve the conflict between valuing moral agency and protecting life that the issue of legalized abortion raises? How are we to keep fully the commandment not to kill, if we still, as a nation, condone war and capital punishment? How are we to understand distinctions we still make between races, sexes, religions, and ideologies in light of God’s love of diversity and constant reminder that he is “no respecter of persons”?

I end with a personal meditation about finding peace in the wilderness, in friendship, and in myself, and finally take a direct look at how Jesus, the Prince of Peace, provides, through his mercy, the ultimate strength and means to make peace.

Provo, Utah
October 1995