Steven Christenson, the BYU-Idaho Biology Department Chair, prepared and presented the devotional for this week entitled “Conquering Contention: A Matter of the Heart.”
An academic himself, Christenson opened his address by alluding to the early 20th century, characterized by the works of figures such as Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein. He then brought up the work of a lesser-known intellectual, Martin Buber, author of I and Thou.
Christenson said that in this book, Buber explains how we “walk through the world oscillating between one of two states of being. In one state we view others as people — individuals, different from, but equal to ourselves, with hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments, successes and failures.” This state of being is called “I-Thou.”
He then described the other state where “we view others as objects without feeling or free will. For example, we might see them as obstacles, irrelevancies, or objects of ridicule.” This is called “I-It.”
Christenson warned of the dangers of this mentality by referencing The Anatomy of Peace, written by the Arbinger Institute,
“Seeing an equal person as an inferior object is an act of violence. It hurts as much as a punch to the face. In fact, in many ways it hurts more. Bruises heal more quickly than emotional scars do,” Christenson said, quoting the book.
He calls the I-It state an “interpersonal state of war,” and “heart of war,” then provided a small allegory of a husband and wife who are arguing about cleaning the kitchen. According to Christenson, the couple’s dispute in the story lacked civility, marked by “justification, harboring injustices, name-calling, and exaggeration.”
Christenson then referenced 3 Nephi 11:29, which reads “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.”
He urged listeners to remember: “Satan is not only the father of contention but the original Heart of War.”
To remedy hearts of war, Christenson proposed a four step process.
“First, recognize your personal battlefields,” He said. “Second, humble your hearts, Third, seek understanding. And finally, act on the promptings received from increased understanding.”
Christenson affirmed that in doing so, students will be able to overcome contention, find greater peace, and create harmony in relationships, even despite the challenges currently posed by the world. He urged them to implement the process as soon as possible.
“We live in a time of great political, societal, and racial unrest. If there was ever a need for greater peace and the acknowledgment of our universal brotherhood and sisterhood it is now.”
Christenson closed the devotional by testifying of his Heavenly Father, who he bore witness “is no respecter of persons and loves us all with a love that is infinite and everlasting.”
The full devotional is available here.