As we’ve discussed the last couple of days:
- We feel sadness when something bad happens to us or to someone we love.
- We feel fear when we think something bad is likely to happen to us or to someone we love.
Anger is also triggered by a negative experience. But unlike sadness and fear, anger is directed at someone. We aren’t just angry in general; we’re angry with someone. And that means that we have made a judgment call about who is to blame for our misfortune.
Unfortunately, because we don’t always have all the facts, we may become angry with the wrong person or group of people. The people of King Limhi had an agreement with the Lamanites: They would pay a tribute to the Lamanite king, and the Lamanite armies would leave them alone (Mosiah 19:15). One day, the Lamanite army attacked their city. Limhi’s people fought back and captured the Lamanite king. After treating his wounds, they asked him why he had broken their agreement.
The king explained that some of their young women had been kidnapped. His people were enraged, and they somehow decided that the people of King Limhi were to blame. It was understandable for them to be furious when someone harmed their daughters, but their anger was directed at the wrong people. The people of King Limhi were innocent.
Anger can be sparked by inflammatory speech. Many times in the Book of Mormon, people are “stirred up” to anger:
- Laman stirred up his brother Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael to anger against his father, Lehi, and his brother Nephi (1 Nephi 16:38).
- King Noah was about to let the prophet Abinadi go, but his priests stirred him up to anger saying, “He has reviled the king” (Mosiah 17:12).
- In the city of Ammonihah, lawyers stirred up the people
- Many times, dissenters from the Nephites stirred up the Lamanites to anger against them, often leading to war (Alma 35:10-11, Alma 43:8, Alma 46:30, Alma 47:1, Helaman 4:3).
When Jesus Christ visited the American continent, He condemned anger, associating it with contention:
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 11:29).
President Thomas S. Monson taught that anger drives away the Spirit of the Lord:
I ask, is it possible to feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry? I know of no instance where such would be the case (“School Thy Feelings, O My Brother,” General Conference, October 2009).
Anger is also incompatible with love. Mormon wrote to his son Moroni that the Nephites and the Lamanites had become so angry with one another “they have lost their love, one towards another; and they thirst after blood and revenge continually” (Moroni 9:5).
Sometimes, it seems to us like someone is angry with us when they tell us things we don’t want to hear. It’s easy to project our negative feelings onto them and to believe that they are feeling irritated because we are. Lehi told Laman and Lemuel that Nephi’s “sharpness” in speaking with them was “the sharpness of the power of the word of God, which was in him; and that which ye call anger was the truth” (2 Nephi 1:26).
Nearly half of the references to anger in the Book of Mormon are in reference to God. Obviously, God’s anger is different from human anger. For one thing, He is capable of judging perfectly, while we are prone to judge unrighteously because of incomplete information. Also, His anger is always under control, and He is always prepared to turn it away when we repent and turn toward Him (2 Nephi 22:1, Helaman 13:11, 3 Nephi 22:8). In fact, even when we experience what feels like anger in the form of consequences for our poor decisions, He is always there with outstretched arm, waiting for us to accept His saving help:
Today, I will strive to avoid becoming angry. I will remember that anger leads to contention and drives away the Spirit of the Lord. I will also remember God loves me perfectly and that even when I experience negative things, His hand is always stretched out toward me.