I have to hand it to President Monson. Talk about prophetic. You know, the longer I live, the greater respect I come to have for the prophet (and the apostles) for their willingness to speak out on important issues. The talk that I’m particularly grateful for right now is his talk “School Thy Feelings, O My Brother”, which he gave in the priesthood session. In this talk, he urged the priesthood to cultivate a proper spirit at all times by choosing to refrain from becoming angry.

I testify that this talk was both timely and needed. In the last little while I have witnessed or heard about at least four anger incidents just in the lives of members of the church, one incident of which I was involved in. Reading his talk made a big difference for me and helped me get back on track.

President Monson pointed out various causes of anger such as the following:
  • When things don’t turn out the way we want
  • Reaction to something said about us
  • Reaction to something said to us
  • When people don’t behave the way we want
  • When we have to wait for something longer than we expected (Hello, road rage on slow-moving highways!)
  • When others can’t see things from our perspective
  • When we feel we have been hurt or unjustly treated
Some other choice tidbits:
A man’s a fool who takes an insult that isn’t intended.
There are as many reasons for anger as there are people on the earth. (But there are also as many reasons to refrain from anger.)
The Apostle Paul asks in Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 26 of the Joseph Smith Translation: “Can ye be angry, and not sin? let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
I ask, is it possible to feel the Spirit of our Heavenly Father when we are angry? I know of no instance where such would be the case.

From 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon, we read:

“There shall be no disputations among you. . . . 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. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.”
It is my conviction that it doesn’t matter if you were right or wrong if you have the spirit of contention. You have to get rid of that spirit.
To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.
Anger, Satan’s tool, is destructive in so many ways.
May we ever be exemplary in our homes and faithful in keeping all of the commandments, that we may harbor no animosity toward any man but rather be peacemakers, ever remembering the Savior’s admonition, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” [emphasis added]
“School thy feelings, O my brother;
Train thy warm, impulsive soul.
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.”
As I read that bit of verse, one word that sticks out to me is “school”. We must “school” our feelings, not “smother” them. What is involved in schooling our feelings? I think it involves careful self-talk, figuring out what it is that we feel, giving it a label so that we know what it is, figuring out what exactly is causing it, analyzing what the extent of it is, thinking about how we’d like to react, thinking about whether that would change anything for the better, pinpointing any unreasonable feelings and talking ourselves out of them.

“Self, I know it feels like you are being insulted, but she didn’t mean it.”
“But what if she did?”
“Then do you want to give her the satisfaction of knowing she got to you? But, you don’t know what she intended, and you don’t have control over her. You only have control over yourself.”

When we school our feelings, we teach ourselves what to feel, how to feel it, and how to express it. We teach ourselves when it is time to walk away and cool down. We teach ourselves what tone of voice to use and what words and actions are totally off limits.

“Self, you will NOT raise your voice, and you will NOT call names. You also will NOT use profanity, no matter what happens.”

“Self, you are starting to hate her. You need to go pray for help to forgive her and pray to not be angry.”

“Self, you will NOT send that email today. You will wait 24 hours and then read through it again and edit it.”

Elder Kent D. Watson also gave a great talk on temperance in conference called “Being Temperate in All Things”. Elder Watson indirectly highlighted one particular area that temperance is needed when he describes the age Joseph Smith lived as he was seeking answers to his questions. About the community of converts to various religions, “All their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.” This shows us that temperance is needed in religious discussion. That word “contest” shows where the intemperance can come from. When opinion-sharing becomes a contest, temperance flies out the window and spiritual manipulation and abuse can creep in.

This suggests some other ways that we can acquire temperance. We can temper our perceptions so that we are not easily offended. One way that I have found that helps me temper my perceptions is by working hard to remember that the person I am talking to does not mean to be offensive or cause me pain. When I am talking to person who is part of an organization, I try to remember that the person has certain rules set by the organization that they have to follow which may dictate the way that they interact with me. If they can’t help me, keeping the above in mind helps me keep from feeling like they are trying to make my life hard just for fun. Instead, I try to find out what policies they may be working around in hopes that we can negotiate a way to both meet our goals.

Of course there are times when people do things just to try to push our buttons. At these times, temperance is important because it allows us to choose our actions, rather than reacting in a way that we may regret later. I found that one skill that laid a foundation for me to acquire temperance in this respect was that of controlling the volume of my voice. When I was a teen, there were times when I got upset with my parents and started arguing with them. I would get louder. My dad could keep his voice perfectly level and he would tell me, “Please lower your voice.” I had to. (And he was keeping his voice down, so I always felt like I had gotten out of hand.) Another thing that helped me become more temperate was when my mother would tell us not to call each other names. This meant we had to find other ways of communicating displeasure with someone. (And of course, I learned from watching my brother get his mouth washed out with soap that profanity wasn’t appropriate either.)

Elder Watson compared temperance to the qualities of tempered glass.
Tempered glass, like tempered steel, undergoes a well-controlled heating process which increases strength. Thus, when tempered glass is under stress, it will not easily break into jagged shards that can injure. Likewise, a temperate soul—one who is humble and full of love—is also a person of increased spiritual strength.
If our windshields were not made of tempered glass, any bit of highway gravel thrown up at them might shatter them into thousands of sharp pieces and hurt everyone in the car. However, because windshields are tempered, the small things that hit it during everyday driving seem to have no effect. At most we may see a small crack, which we can then repair.

In the same way, a tempered soul has the spiritual strength to deal with the thousand little stresses of everyday with self-control and poise and the act of dealing well with the small things increases strength to handle the big problems.

I testify that these words about temperance and schooling our feelings are needed TODAY. Following the words of the prophets will allow us to escape the wrath of God when it overtakes the wicked.
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