Peacemaking hasn’t always been my strong suit, especially in the political realm. Conversations about politics intimidated me. As a lifelong people pleaser, I constantly worried about saying the right thing and expressing unpopular opinions.

In direct contrast to my shy demeanor around others, I did not hesitate to speak my mind on how I felt about Republicans and conservative policy. They were bigoted, close-minded and infuriating to speak with. The conservatives I talked to did not dispel this myth. 

These conversations did not build my relationships, they strained them.

Things began to change when I met my husband. He established his opinions on various policies and social issues pretty early on in our relationship.

I won’t lie. I cried a lot of tears to my parents about it. Questions about our relationship’s survival flooded my mind. 

Even though my husband felt strongly about his political convictions, they never jaded his love for me. He never insulted me for the opinions I had and he always heard me out, even when we disagreed. 

He never accused me as a “baby killer” for being pro-choice. He never accused me of putting our democracy at risk because I voted for Biden. He never called me a sinner because I liked pineapple on pizza. 

The more we put love and respect at the center of our conversations, the more we realized we had in common both inside and outside of politics. We wanted to protect religious freedom. We prioritized family values. We loved playing Dungeons and Dragons. 

Even though the world would say we’d never make it, we got married in August 2019. 

Peacemakers needed

I came of age politically in a time of unprecedented partisanship and division. Even though I desperately wanted to help others experience the political unity I had with my husband, it seemed impossible. 

Even as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who’d spent most of her growing up years in Republican strongholds like Utah and Idaho, I saw this partisanship and political division play out. 

In April 2023, President Russell M. Nelson gave a talk titled Peacemakers Needed. It began laying the groundwork and outlining how we should carry ourselves in political discussions to reflect Christ’s love as His disciples. 

My patriarchal blessing focuses heavily on peacemaking, so I paid special attention to the prophet’s words. He expressed concern with the social acceptance of vilifying those with whom we disagree.

“The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire — no matter how difficult the situation,” President Nelson said. “True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers.”

President Nelson said that peacemakers should find peaceful, respectful ways to resolve complex issues and an enlightened way to work out disagreements. 

“If a friend on social media has strong political or social views that violate everything you believe in, an angry, cutting retort by you will not help,” President Nelson said. “Building bridges of understanding will require much more of you, but that is exactly what your friend needs … Contention drives away the Spirit — every time. Contention reinforces the false notion that confrontation is the way to resolve differences, but it never is.”

Over my 18 months as a political journalist, I attended a lot of local government meetings. I spoke with politicians on both sides of the aisle and committed myself to representing both equally. I still held my own opinions, but I kept them to myself. It wasn’t always easy. 

Applying peacemaker principles

People often claim Madison County as “the reddest county in America” due to its overwhelmingly conservative culture, heightened by the high population of members of the Church and its rurality.

After the legislative session wrapped up for 2023, local legislators held a town hall to meet with constituents and discuss their concerns. Idaho gained notoriety for The Children’s School and Library Protection Act (HB 314), which required public schools and community libraries to take reasonable steps in restricting children’s access to obscene or harmful materials. The bill arose out of accusations that librarians were exposing children to pornography. 

The bill passed both chambers of Congress before ultimately getting vetoed by Governor Brad Little.

Once the issue got brought up, it unlocked Pandora’s box. Attendants accused legislators of being pro-pornography even though each legislator voted in favor of the bill and in favor of overriding the veto. The legislators kept their cool, constantly reasserting and reassuring that they were aligned with their constituents. 

All the contention and misunderstanding by those in the audience left me drained, frustrated and discouraged. 

Temperatures continued to rise until one brave soul dared to change the subject. Shortly after, the Holy Ghost whispered something to me.

“You’re going to be in situations like this for the rest of your life,” he said. “You will need to be a peacemaker.”

The meaning of the prompting was clear: If I wanted to continue my journey into politics, I would need to apply the lessons from President Nelson’s talk. 

Being a peacemaker is not easy. It requires humbling ourselves, overcoming the natural man and listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in increasingly hostile environments. The Lord gave us the tools in order to become peacemakers. We just have to be willing to take the first step.