5 Highlights for “Peacemakers Needed” by President Nelson

by | Apr 7, 2023

Christ in white robe with blue sash

5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions

See also Teaching Helps

Could President Nelson possibly outdo himself at General Conference? Why yes…yes, he obviously can. This may be one of our century’s most iconic general conference talks.

iconic: regarded as a representative symbol or worthy of veneration (great respect, esteem, acclaim, reverence).

I felt Christ’s presence and power in the prophet’s words.

If the Savior were to appear to me and give me an assignment – it would most likely be this talk. From the sound of it – this talk is the doorway to extraordinary happenings.

You can find his full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.

All blue quotes by President Nelson (unless otherwise noted).

Lesson Prep


Important Tip: There is more material here than any teacher could possibly use. Please don’t be tempted to march people through all of it. When teaching – less is more. People don’t absorb large volumes of material in a public setting. And they need to talk! I highly suggest you prioritize the quotes in any order you see fit. And then cover your 2-3 most important quotes first. You’ll know which quotes best fit your group.


Printable Files


Opening Quote

Before you start with any of these quotes…please read some counsel from President Nelson about this talk.

At this point you may be thinking that this message would really help someone you know. Perhaps you are hoping that it will help him or her to be nicer to you. I hope it will! But I also hope that you will look deeply into your heart to see if there are shards of pride or jealousy that prevent you from becoming a peacemaker.

Perhaps you can urge your group to direct their thoughts inward intentionally. I know it’s hard. It takes significantly more effort and courage to peel back our own layers and look deeper – than it does to expertly diagnose someone else.

Quote #1 (our own ranks)

I was relieved when President Nelson finally stood up after three sessions of not speaking. He is beyond inspiring, and I find his prophetic counsel among the most positive, energizing words I’ll hear anywhere. He’s 98 years old and I’m still in awe of him.

Don’t worry about keeping track of all the ideas; I made a list.

Vulgarity, faultfinding, and evil speaking of others are all too common. Too many pundits, politicians, entertainers, and other influencers throw insults constantly. I am greatly concerned that so many people seem to believe that it is completely acceptable to condemn, malign, and vilify anyone who does not agree with them. Many seem eager to damage another’s reputation with pathetic and pithy barbs!

Anger never persuades. Hostility builds no one. Contention never leads to inspired solutions. Regrettably, we sometimes see contentious behavior even within our own ranks. We hear of those who belittle their spouses and children, of those who use angry outbursts to control others, and of those who punish family members with the “silent treatment.” We hear of youth and children who bully and of employees who defame their colleagues.

My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others—especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.

Please note, throughout this talk, President Nelson does not mince words. He demonstrates a lot of love towards you and me – but he makes it crystal clear that any contention and negativity are following and honoring Satan.

Stark words, but true. And yes, I gulped too.

Team Loser-fer

  • vulgarity
  • fault-finding
  • evil-speaking
  • insults
  • condemn
  • malign
  • vilify
  • damage reputations
  • pathetic and pithy barbs
  • anger
  • hostility
  • contention
  • belittle
  • silent treatment
  • belittle
  • defame

Faithful followers of Jesus Christ

  • compassion

It’s a simple formula.

I now wear a black silicone band around my wrist that I snap anytime I do anything from Satan’s playbook. Sore wrist? Yes, but less and less. I am determined to become a true follower of Jesus Christ and this is the only door. No number of years as a member, no number of callings, or service projects can supersede President Nelson’s clear message. Church leadership experience or current leadership titles cannot mark one as a true follower of Christ – only peacemakers and compassionate people qualify.

3 Wherefore, I would speak unto you that are of the church, that are the peaceable followers of Christ, and that have obtained a sufficient hope by which ye can enter into the rest of the Lord, from this time henceforth until ye shall rest with him in heaven.
4 And now my brethren, I judge these things of you because of your peaceable walk with the children of men.
5 For I remember the word of God which saith by their works ye shall know them; for if their works be good, then they are good also.
(Moroni 7: 3-5)

Notice Mormon doesn’t speak to every member of the Church, but to the “peaceable followers” who walk peacefully among the children of men.

President Nelson shook me awake. I am an awakened Saint. Compassion and peacemaker it is.

Possible discussion questions: What did President Nelson say was the easiest way to identify a true follower of Christ? This is a tough and honest question, but by a show of hands – has anyone ever done something from the first list? By a show of hands, have you ever been angry or hostile? Without embarrassing anyone here or anyone we know – can you share a personal example of something you did from the first list? How did it make you feel? Is it sometimes tempting to justify ourselves? Have you ever had a moment of compassion instead of being negative? Does anyone mind sharing that moment?

Quote #2 (peacemakers)

painting of field of flowers and sunset with quote

I love this quote! I think it embodies the whole talk.

Before His death, the Savior commanded His Twelve Apostles to love one another as He had loved them. And then He added, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

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

This is one of the best definitions of being a “peacemaker” I have ever heard.

Peacemakers

  • build
  • lift
  • encourage
  • persuade
  • inspire

Making peace implies it isn’t already present – so if one is a peacemaker, one is intentionally boycotting Satan’s list from quote #1 – especially in difficult situations. Nonetheless, when anyone lifts or encourages during calmer times, they are fortifying and strengthening peace. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Being a peacemaker is 24/7.

Possible discussion questions: Why is making peace in difficult situations important? Why is it essential to strengthen peace during calmer conditions? Has anyone recently been a peacemaker with you? What happened, and how did it feel? Have you ever had a terrible day turned around by a simple kind word, hug, or smile? Would you include those simple acts as peacemaking?

Lesson Organization Notes

This next section is divided into three groups (A, B, and C). You can choose between traditional whole-group discussions like you did for Quotes #1 and #2, or small-group discussions.

Well-structured small-group discussions are an excellent way to effectively cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. If you have 12 or more people, please consider them. Even introverts enjoy small-group experiences when well-structured (more tips at the end of quote #3).

Quote #3 (new standard)

Instructions: If using whole-group discussion, read quotes A, B, and C together (either one person or three people).

If using small groups, divide the class into several groups of 3-5 people now. Let each group direct their own discussion. Tell them they can pick any or all of the three quotes together and discuss them as a group. Don’t worry about which ones they pick – what your class needs to talk about most will rise to the top. (More detailed instructions at the end of quote #3)

No matter which discussion style you choose, ensure everyone has a copy of the three quotes (and questions if using small groups). [Printable PDF download at the end of this article.]

Quote A

A – The Savior’s Atonement made it possible for us to overcome all evil—including contention. Make no mistake about it: contention is evil! Jesus Christ declared that those who have “the spirit of contention” are not of Him but are “of the devil, who is the father of contention, and [the devil] stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” Those who foster contention are taking a page out of Satan’s playbook, whether they realize it or not. “No man can serve two masters.” We cannot support Satan with our verbal assaults and then think that we can still serve God.

Question A: Notice how often President Nelson uses the word Satan, evil, devil, etc. (I counted 7). Is President Nelson trying to make a point? (Accept all reasonable answers, something like negativity of any kind has only one source. Satan.) Have you ever thought of your complaints, gossip, or irritated words as supporting Satan? Ouch, right?

Quote B

B – My dear brothers and sisters, how we treat each other really matters! How we speak to and about others at home, at church, at work, and online really matters. Today, I am asking us to interact with others in a higher, holier way. Please listen carefully. “If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” that we can say about another person—whether to his face or behind her back—that should be our standard of communication.

Question B: What is the prophet’s standard for all communication, and how would you describe it in your own words? What does the prophet mean by it “really matters”?

Let me share the flashback that came up for me as I read this quote. I was once a counselor in a Relief Society presidency. The other counselor kept a meticulous notebook of EVERY negative, gossipy thing sisters said to her during interviews or otherwise. And then she wanted to carefully comb through and discuss all the unflattering, trashy rumors during the presidency meeting. I attempted to counsel against this practice but was not successful. I often left presidency meeting with what felt like a coat of slime.

I love President Nelson’s new standard. It’s liberating and light-hearted. Hallelujah. All Presidency meetings are for spiritual and temporal planning on how to assist, lift and inspire others. If I ever find myself in a situation like that again, I will say something like, “Love you girls, you know I do – but I need to step out of the room until this particular conversation is over.” Maybe, I’ll have President Nelson’s quotes printed and ready to go in my purse.

I’m sure that will make me instantly popular.

This is an extreme example, shared on purpose. Maybe so we can all feel good about ourselves. However, in the spirit of introspection, I have to confess – I’ve been guilty of what President Nelson calls out at one time or another. And felt justified…”I need to vent to someone” – or “It’s true, isn’t it”? or “I’m just letting off steam; it’s healthy to let off steam somehow.” I’ve also been there for others who “needed to vent.”

Those justifications just got squashed flat. There are more important things at stake here.

Quote C

C – If you are serious about helping to gather Israel and about building relationships that will last throughout the eternities, now is the time to lay aside bitterness. Now is the time to cease insisting that it is your way or no way. Now is the time to stop doing things that make others walk on eggshells for fear of upsetting you. Now is the time to bury your weapons of war. If your verbal arsenal is filled with insults and accusations [and venting – however true]now is the time to put them away. You will arise as a spiritually strong man or woman of Christ.

Question C – Which phrase from this last paragraph especially stands out about actions you need to make or habits you need to change? Does anyone mind sharing? What is the blessing President Nelson promises us if we follow this counsel?

I firmly believe President Nelson just gave us the doorway to an increased number of higher, more powerful spiritual experiences. Personally, I’m going for this new standard – 100% or die trying. I may have to apply tape to my mouth or wear a rubber band and snap it…I don’t care what it is – but I’m determined to achieve this. Something tells me this is a golden key to many beautiful things. My soul felt the Spirit in big waves all during this talk.

Whole-group

Follow the outline above. Because there is so much material, I usually give everyone their copy to read. You only need to include the actual quotes, not the questions. If you can, pass out quote assignments earlier in the week or before Sacrament meeting. This allows people to absorb them before reading them aloud and upgrades the quality of the discussion!

Small-group

[See a PDF download at the end of this article.]

Do not read quotes A, B, or C as a class together. Let the individual groups handle that part. Have people split into smaller groups (3-5). Instruct them to skim the quotes independently, share their favorite parts, and discuss the questions together as a group. The questions and quotes can be addressed in any order and do not all have to be covered.

It takes about 5-10 minutes. You will likely have to stop the conversations, and that’s okay!

Essential preparation for introvert-friendly small groups: Give each person their own copy of the quotes and questions to look at. Also, walk around and listen to each group for a bit without directing their conversation. Validate and nod. Only jump in if they are highly challenged and no one is talking.

At the close of the discussion time, have each group elect a spokesperson to summarize their group’s ideas. Allow others to add comments as you go along. Expect about 15-20 minutes total for Quote #3.

Quote #4 (loftiest imagination)

Here President Nelson maps the method to defeat Loser-fer – to cast him out from our own life. It occurred to me this is how Zion happens (one heart and one mind).

The temple can help us in our quest. There we are endowed with God’s power, giving us the ability to overcome Satan, the instigator of all contention. Cast him out of your relationships! Note that we also rebuke the adversary every time we heal a misunderstanding or refuse to take offense. Instead, we can show the tender mercy that is characteristic of true disciples of Jesus Christ. Peacemakers thwart the adversary.

Let us as a people become a true light on the hill—a light that “cannot be hid.” Let us show that there is a peaceful, respectful way to resolve complex issues and an enlightened way to work out disagreements. As you demonstrate the charity that true followers of Jesus Christ manifest, the Lord will magnify your efforts beyond your loftiest imagination.

loftiest: giant, soaring, sky-high, majestic

Possible discussion questions: Who has felt the Spirit prompting them to do more? Who would like to share some of those promptings? Who has felt spiritual power come from President Nelson’s words? It’s challenging to show charity to difficult people or in awkward, difficult situations – but why is it important? How do you feel about the promise President Nelson made? (“As you demonstrate the charity that true followers of Jesus Christ manifest, the Lord will magnify your efforts beyond your loftiest imagination.“) How does the temple help?

Quote #5 (a prophet’s blessing)

In some ways, this is one of the most miraculous blessings ever. It makes me yearn with all my heart to have the attributes Russell M. Nelson describes. I will probably print this out and tape it to my forehead daily.

Possible engagement tool:

  • Tell your class they’re about to hear President Nelson’s blessing that he left on each of us. Extend an invitation to notice which part of the blessing stands out as they listen to this quote.

My dear brothers and sisters, the best is yet to come for those who spend their lives building up others. Today I invite you to examine your discipleship within the context of the way you treat others. I bless you to make any adjustments that may be needed so that your behavior is ennobling, respectful, and representative of a true follower of Jesus Christ.

I bless you to replace belligerence with beseeching, animosity with understanding, and contention with peace.

God lives! Jesus is the Christ. He stands at the head of this Church. We are His servants. He will help us to become His peacemakers. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

In a fallen world, surrounded by so much commotion and unhappiness – “the best is yet to come for those who spend their lives building up others.” What a promise!

A new standard of discipleship is “the way you treat others.”

We are blessed to >>make ANY adjustments that may be needed so that your behavior is

ennobling: to make someone better so that people admire him or her more.

respectful: when you behave respectfully, you’re doing something to show admiration for another person.

AND representative of a true follower.

(Such a timely doctrine full of strength and blessings!)

Possible discussion questions: Which part of the blessing stood out to you the most? What role do we play in realizing President Nelson’s blessings? How do you feel about President Nelson giving you a blessing? Can we be peacemakers when others have poorly behaved towards us? How can we accomplish that? Why is prayer an essential part of this process? (pray for charity)

Summary

Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about President Nelson’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.

Final Comment

Put the quotes in any order you prefer. Teach with confidence, and if you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.” Blessings to you as you prepare and teach this beautiful, prophetic sermon!


PDFs for Download – click the blue links to view online.


Resources: President Nelson adds footnotes and additional comments to his general conference talk after it is published. They are often an amazing study. Here are all of President Nelson’s footnotes and study helps for his latest talk together on one page.

  • The footnotes would make a great 2nd lesson later in the year if you feel your ward/branch could benefit.
  • Or possibly a 5th Sunday lesson.
  • It could be a take-home handout. Wait till the end of class to hand it out. You’re already covering A LOT of material, and this would be a reading distraction during the lesson/discussion.
  • How would I use this handout as a lesson? Let people skim and pick a footnote, read it out loud, and then make their comments. Allow additional comments as they naturally come up. Rinse and repeat.
  • For an even better footnote lesson and discussion, give the handout to people beforehand and ask them to pick ONE footnote to read and make a short comment about it. This will fill 50 minutes with little effort. Ensure people are glad they volunteered to read or comment by validating, thanking, echoing, etc.

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10 Comments

  1. Cari Celaya

    Shawnie, you save my life every month as I prepare to teach my RS sisters. Thanks for going to all this work–thinking through the talk and then teaching it back in a clear and concise way to the rest of us. You have a gift.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Life is so busy and there’s no manual for General Conference talks. It’s wonderful to hear the lesson templates help. Thank you for sharing this meaningful note! God bless you abundantly.

      Reply
  2. Amy Emrazian

    I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your insight. As a teacher, I have always sought out your thoughts when preparing my lessons and used the questions you share. Thank you for your inspiration. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. You are so appreciated.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Your thanks and gracious words are so appreciated. Many rich blessings as you prepare and share. Thank you for being here.

      Reply
  3. Ashley

    NEVER STOP! These are always so useful when I am preparing lessons. I look forward to reading your insights and including many of them in my lessons. You have a beautiful way with words and an incredible talent that feeds SO MANY. I want to be you when I grow up. 😉

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Your message is absolutely delightful – so much personality and vibrancy. I have so much respect for how you wrote your thank you. You are a person who sees people. You are a peacemaker at heart. Never stop your lovely qualities!

      Reply
  4. Belinda Nothnagel

    Thank you so very much for your inspiring conference highlights, they help us immensely. We are a tiny branch in Africa, with members from all backgrounds and cultures, and using these lesson helps unify us, and get us discussing how we can live the Gospel in all circumstances. Everyone looks forward to Relief Society Sunday.

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      Belinda, how amazing! I loved the small branches I’ve been in. Sometimes they can feel more like family than a big ward does. Bless your heart for sharing your experience – this is wonderful to hear. I would love to be there when you teach.

      Reply
  5. Marisa Graham

    You are amazing, thank you so much for the time and great effort you put into creating these conference highlights they are a tremendous help, inspiration and guide for our Relief Society discussions, I love using them and so can’t thank you enough xx

    Reply
    • Shawnie Cannon

      What a delightful, efficacious compliment. It impacted my heart and warmed the room so thank you!

      Reply

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