29 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.
30 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 11:29-30)
About 125 years before the birth of Jesus Christ, King Benjamin warned his people to beware of contention. He taught them that, if they were contentious, they were obeying the “evil spirit” (Mosiah 2:32).
When the Savior visited a group of people on the American continent following His death and resurrection, one of His first priorities was to teach the same principle. He clearly explained how they should be baptized, so that there would be “no disputations” among them (3 Nephi 11:21, 28). He emphasized the unity among the members of the Godhead: “The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one” (3 Nephi 11:27, 36). And in the passage above, He states the principle clearly: “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me.”
It is a fundamental principle of the gospel that our relationship with God is closely connected with the way we treat His children. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught: “To a great degree, our relationship to Christ will be determined–or at least affected–by our relationship to each other” (“The Ministry of Reconciliation,” General Conference, August 2018).
When we want to draw close to God, we would be wise to consider our closest relationships and repair any damage that we have done:
If ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee–
Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you (3 Nephi 12:23-24, Matthew 5:23-24).
Joseph Smith experienced this firsthand during the translation of the Book of Mormon. While he and his wife Emma were staying at the home of the Whitmer family in Fayette, New York, his associates noticed that the quality of his relationships dramatically affected his ability to receive revelation. As David Whitmer recalled:
One morning when [Joseph Smith] was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma, his wife, had done. Oliver and I went up stairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything. He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came up stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, “Chapter 9: Gifts of the Spirit“).
Today, I will remember that my relationship with God is connected with my relationships with other people. I will pay attention to those relationships and will strive to repair damage quickly. I will remember that the spirit of contention is not of God and that, when I am angry or contentious, I am not in harmony with His will.