A Great Division

At the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, everyone was talking about Jesus. Some people thought He must be the Messiah. Others said that the Messiah had to come from Bethlehem, not Galilee, so it couldn’t be Him. “So there was a division among the people because of him” (John 7:40-43).

Shortly after, He healed a man who had been born blind. Some of the Pharisees said He couldn’t be the Messiah because He broke the law by healing on the Sabbath. Others wondered whether a sinner could perform such miracles. “And there was a division among them” (John 9:16).

After Jesus told them that He would lay down His life and take it again, “there was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings.” Some people accused Him of having a devil, while others said, “These are not the words of him that hath a devil” (John 10:19-21).

When Jesus told His apostles that He hadn’t brought peace on the earth but rather division (Luke 12:51), He wasn’t talking about His objectives, but about the effect of His words. Teach a group of people who are in conflict, and no matter how peaceful your words, they will find some way to argue about them. The division wasn’t the purposes of Jesus’ words, but it was the predictable reaction to them from some of His listeners.

Sometimes a question is framed to provoke division. The men who brought the woman taken in adultery said, “Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:5). The very use of the word “but” assumes some conflict between the Savior and Moses.

Sometimes divisions happen because we are too focused on things that don’t matter, and we are ignoring the most important things which should unite us. When the Nephites saw incontrovertible evidence that Nephi had the power of God, they still found something to argue about:

There were some among the people, who said that Nephi was a prophet.

And there were others who said: Behold, he is a god, for except he was a god he could not know of all things….

And it came to pass that there arose a division among the people, insomuch that they divided hither and thither and went their ways, leaving Nephi alone, as he was standing in the midst of them.

Helaman 9:40-41, 10:1

A reasonable person might suggest that the group stop arguing and start listening to this man, regardless of whether he was a prophet or a god. But the urge to argue was apparently much stronger than their desire to listen.

When the Savior visited the Nephites and the Lamanites, He instructed them to stop arguing about His doctrine. “There shall be no disputations among you,” He said, “for…he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil” (3 Nephi 11:28-29). Shortly after, there was a disagreement about what to call the church Jesus had organized. “Why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?” He asked, before explaining that the church should be called in His name. (See 3 Nephi 27:3-7.)

After His visit, the people lived in peace for many years. But about 200 years later, the people “began to be divided into classes” and to persecute one another, and “there was a great division among the people,” which soon led to war (4 Nephi 1:26, 35).

Today, I will strive to heal divisions rather than exacerbate them. I will avoid questions which provoke division. I will also avoid following the current of the argument when it leads away from the most important issues.

2 thoughts on “A Great Division

Add yours

  1. Hello,
    It’s me Benedict again. Sorry for the confusion but I was asking for you to ordain me as the first priest of my personal religion/faith system, not as a priest of the LDS religion. Could you say a blessing for me here?


    1. Thanks for reaching out again, Benedict.
      I think you misunderstand what it means to be a priest. I applaud your desire to serve God in the best way you know how. In order to be a priest, however, you need to better understand how God has established the priesthood on the earth. In order to do that, I would encourage you to attend one of our services or meet with representatives of the church who can explain the process better and answer your questions. I do wish you the very best on your journey to learn more about God and serve him.


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