The Hebrew word shalom (שָׁלוֹם) appears 237 times in the Old Testament. It is usually translated as “peace,” but it is sometimes rendered “safety,” “welfare,” “good health,” or “prosperity.”
For example, when the sons of Jacob made their second trip to Egypt seeking relief from a devastating famine, their brother Joseph (whom they didn’t recognize) tried to calm their fears by saying, “Peace [shalom] be to you.” Immediately afterward, “he asked them of their welfare [shalom],” followed by the question, “Is your father well [shalom]?” And they answered, “Thy servant our father is in good health [shalom]” (Genesis 43:23, 27-28).
The sense I get from all of these uses of the same word is that peace is closely linked with health and well-being. We feel peace when we are doing well or when we have an expectation that things will be better. Peace does not come from ignoring real problems or from pretending that things are okay when they are not.
The prophet Jeremiah, who was a contemporary of Lehi, the first prophet in the Book of Mormon, denounced priests who tried to comfort people by ignoring or minimizing the problems they faced:
No wonder the people of King Benjamin felt “peace of conscience” after their sins were forgiven (Mosiah 4:3). No wonder Alma found “peace to [his] soul” when he received a remission of his sins (Alma 38:8). Sin causes spiritual damage, which must be healed in order for us to be whole again. Alma said, “Wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10). And Isaiah said, “There is no peace…unto the wicked” (2 Nephi 20:22, Isaiah 48:22).
We all commit sins, and only the Savior can heal those sins. He can give us peace in a way that no one else can:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27).
Just as we can regain peace by being spiritually healed, we should be careful to avoid actions which would threaten our peace:
- Nephi asked, “Why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul?” (2 Nephi 4:27).
- Alma taught the members of the church “that they should let no pride nor haughtiness disturb their peace” (Mosiah 27:4).
And when we feel peace in our own hearts, we will want to also be at peace with other people. Mormon began a sermon by recognizing his listeners as “the peaceable followers of Christ.” He said he knew this because of their “peaceable walk with the children of men” (Moroni 7:3-4). The visible sign was their kindness toward other people, but the root cause was that they were spiritually settled.
Today, I will seek the peace that comes from the Savior. I will repent of my sins, and I will strive to avoid actions, words, and thoughts which would harm my peace. I will also remember that, when I am truly at peace, I am in a position to help others find peace as well.