—3 Nephi 11:29
Contention brings unhappiness into our homes and into our lives. Satan is the father of contention and all the misery that it brings. Our Father in Heaven wants us to fill our lives with love and eliminate contention.
Read the following true statement by a seventeen-year-old girl who left home:
“I have had all I can stand of the hassle back home. There is always fighting. I can never remember when it was different. Everyone in the house, including my parents, takes delight in bad mouthing each other.”
What was wrong in this family?
To help your family understand the great importance the Lord has placed on eliminating contention, have them read aloud the following scriptures: 3 Nephi 11:29–30, Doctrine and Covenants 136:23, Mosiah 4:14–15. Discuss why the Lord wants us to avoid contention and why Satan desires to have us contend one with another. Help family members to recognize how contending drives us away from the Spirit of the Lord.
To illustrate how we choose whether we are “of the Lord” or “of Satan,” divide a sheet of paper or a chalkboard into two columns and put of the Lord at the head of one column and of Satan at the head of the other. Have your family name some typical actions and responses to daily situations to see if such reactions are of the Lord or of Satan. Check the appropriate column as your family responds. Emphasize that Satan has power over us only when we allow it. Being contentious invites him in, but we have agency and can choose our behavior.
Discuss this statement: “Contention builds walls and barriers. Love opens doors.”
How does contention keep us from building a strong family?
Name some of the destructive results of contention, such as bitterness, sorrow, and unhappiness.
You may want to have your family repeat together: “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me” (3 Nephi 11:29) and resolve to be of the Lord. A family member could be assigned to make a wordstrip with this scripture on it and place it where the family can be reminded.
Help your family to recognize that there are many reasons for contention, but if we recognize what some of the most common problems are, we can work toward overcoming them.
Have family members take turns reading the following situations, then help them identify the basic reason for the contentions such as selfishness, conflict of scheduling, need to repent, need to listen.
Bart had asked for the car on Friday night. It was agreed that he could have it, but Jim said Bart had it for the last three Fridays and he should now have a turn.
Guests were coming, and Anna was asked to give up her bedroom for the duration of their visit. She refused because, she said, “I’ve just cleaned it and arranged it the way I wanted it.”
Jim had not been keeping the Word of Wisdom. He refused to come to family home evening because he felt guilty.
Jose was proud of his knowledge of the scriptures and loved to argue with ministers of other faiths about the gospel.
Name specific things that cause contention in your home. Identify the cause and discuss ways to avoid these problems.
Discuss “Only by pride cometh contention” (Proverbs 13:10).
Review the Lord’s counsel in 3 Nephi 11:29–30, Doctrine and Covenants 136:23, and Mosiah 4:14–15 and help family members resolve to avoid the destructive nature of contention. They might ask themselves, “Why do I participate?”
Tell of the boy who returned home after running away because his father’s parting remark that he loved him and wanted to be a better father kept ringing in his ears. Ask your family to discuss how this was a loving way to settle their problem.
Ask your family to consider ways that our Heavenly Father would have us settle our differences, such as the following (see 4 Nephi 1:2, 15):
One family stopped children who were quarreling and reminded them “there is a better way to settle this.” They were taught to work out their differences according to what Heavenly Father expected.
One mother found that when she stopped and listened with full attention her children’s frustrations were lessened.
One father listed the things he loved about his wife, and the little annoyances dwindled and disappeared.
One daughter answered softly even when she was addressed in an angry, contentious way.
The members of one family practiced controlling their tongues by adopting as their motto, “Think twice before you speak.”
One family prayed to have the love of God in their hearts and home.
Tell the following true experience of Elder Marvin J. Ashton:
When he visited one mission, the elders asked him how they could best respond to some anti-Mormon publications in their area. He answered: “We do nothing. We have no time for contention. We only have time to be about our Father’s business.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 9; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 7.)
Why is it important for us to live the gospel as we should and not argue or contend with nonmembers?
Help your family recognize that we offend people and drive them away when we do more than govern ourselves. We can express our beliefs without clenching our fists or raising our voices. Discuss this comment by Elder Ashton: “Ours is … to plow our own furrow, plant our own seeds, tend our crops, reap the harvest. This can best be accomplished not only by plowshares rather than by swords, but by appropriate commitment rather than contention.” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p. 12; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 9.)
Role-play situations where you may be misunderstood, accused, or misquoted by others. Help your family learn to respond quietly, accurately, and with love.
Matthew 5:25 (Agree with our adversary quickly.)
2 Corinthians 13:11 (Be perfect, of one mind.)
Doctrine and Covenants 10:63 (Satan causes contention.)
Doctrine and Covenants 121:41–44 (How to influence others.)
See “Contention” in the Topical Guide.
“Let Us Oft Speak Kind Words,” Hymns, no. 232.
“Should You Feel Inclined to Censure,” Hymns, no. 235.