The Nature of Peace, by Elder John A. Widtsoe

Given in General Conference during the middle of the United States’ engagement in World War II, Elder John A. Widtsoe gave this timely address on testimony and peace. Throughout history, the Lord has justified his children in certain times and places to engage in war, as he has always sought to reclaim and deliver his people away from their transgression and temporal reliance on the arm of flesh towards a more perfect way. What are the principles of Christ’s kingdom that we must understand, become, and live to begin to establish Zion in the latter-days — to finally “beat our swords into plowshares”? Elder Widtsoe speaks to these principles, as we must fight against the tactics and pressures or the world and of Satan’s kingdom to begin to push ourselves into the knowledge and a reliance of the powerful and delivering doctrines and principles of Christ’s kingdom. 

John A. Widtsoe, Conference Report, October 1943, pp. 112-116

My dear brethren: I hold it a great privilege to be allowed to bear witness of the truth of this work to the assembled priesthood leadership of the Church. I bear testimony to you that this is the work of God, established by Him through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith.


This testimony I found in my early youth. It has remained with me as a certain knowledge all these years. I have discovered, as you have, I am quite, sure, the method by which such a testimony may be kept alive, blossoming, useful in human life. The formula is simple: Live the gospel every day, practice it, and study it regularly; do not let the affairs of the day that deal with the making of our temporal living crowd aside matters that pertain to the gospel. If we use this formula, our testimony will become increasingly certain, will grow, will expand in meaning and comprehension.


During these days of Conference I have enjoyed, with all of you a feast of good things. During the days a thought has come into my mind repeatedly and has crowded out any preparation that I may have made for this occasion. It is an ancient theme, touched upon by several speakers at this conference. If the Lord will help me, I should like to discuss it with you briefly.

This is a Church of peace. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is a gospel of peace. The head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, was spoken of in Brother McKay’s address, as the Prince of Peace. If we study the conditions of the Church, its principles, its practices, all that pertains to it, we shall find that they all converge upon one great objective—the establishment of peace upon earth and among the children of men. That is the objective which dates back to the beginning of mortal time.

This matter of peace appears and reappears in the scriptures. It was Brother Kirkham, yesterday, who quoted the Savior: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27).

At this particular time in the world’s history, we have much to say about peace. The devil for some time has been given ample dominion over his own (D&C 1:35); but we understand, that there never was a time when the hand of the Lord was wholly withdrawn from human affairs. Apparently the tide of battle is now being turned by the Lord toward victory for those who are battling for righteous principles.

Therefore, men are speaking about peace, and what is going to happen after the war. Books and articles are being published, there is a deluge of written material setting up propositions and proposals relative to the disposition of all mankind and all human affairs after the war is over.

I want to say to my brethren here today that these proposals begin at the wrong end, and that they will all fail. Peace upon earth is not to be established by Congress or Parliament, or by a group of international representatives. Peace is not a thing that can be taken on, then taken off again, as we do a piece of clothing. Peace is quite different from that. Peace cannot be legislated into existence. It is not the way to lasting peace upon earth. That, every man here understands.


Image Theophilos Papadopoulos CC BY-NC-ND 2.0