Channing Merrell | Scroll Photo (Channing Merrell)

Experiencing Devotional

At devotional March 8, David Pulsipher, a history, geography and political science professor, spoke about combating violence with love.

Pulsipher opened with the story of Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, encounter with a man who threatened him with a firearm.

Pulsipher described how instead of violence, Elder Oaks retaliated with love and kindness, resulting in his safety.

“The man he threatened to kill wasn’t scared,” Pulsipher said. “He wasn’t angry. He was acting like a loving father placing a warm hand on his shoulder and expressing genuine concerns for his safety.”

Pulsipher compared fire to violence and water to love and compared the different ways to handle a situation using love to extiguish the flames of hate.

“I have a 15-year-old brother, and he’s a punk, and we argue a lot, but usually, by giving him the silent treatment and not giving him any fire to work with, he dies down,” said Marie Smurthwaite, a freshman studying art.

Smurthwaite said she admired how he spoke about being like God and not like the world.

“Love is bold,” Pulsipher said. “Love is potent. We don’t often think of it in those terms, but love is capable of disarming violence.”

Smurthwaite said she could see the fire that we were trained to have as a response to violence.

“How often do we celebrate the violence we see in movies?” Pulsipher said. “Or enjoy the video game violence? When someone attacks us online or at work or at school or in our neighborhoods or in our homes is our instinct to strike back, or fantasize about striking back?”

Pulsipher talked about the phrase, turning the other cheek.

“Our savior offered a revolutionary alternative,” Pulsipher said. “Turning the other or left cheek. This doesn’t seem revolutionary to us because, again, we miss the cultural significance. It is impossible to use a right hand to backhand a left cheek. To strike a left cheek, an attacker must use an open palm or a closed fist. But in the ancient world, striking with a palm or fist was only for people of equal social standing.”

Smurthwaite said she had never known about the culture behind turning the other cheek but really liked the notion.

“Use what this man said,” Smurthwaite said. “And use it to end the violence around you.”

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