I was thinking about making peace the other day with someone for whom I have created a bit of anxiety over the years; justified for the most part, but not cool and not necessary at all. In light of everything that’s gone on in my life over the past twelve months, and this amazing change of heart I’ve been experiencing (when it starts you think you’ve changed, but it keeps getting more profound), I decided to extend the olive branch or, in words I like better, bury the hatchet.
Then I started thinking about the phrase and where it originated. Obviously it has roots in Native American lore. So I did a little research and found some anecdotal evidence that some time prior to the arrival of Columbus, the Iroquois leaders Deganawidah and Hiawatha had convinced the five major tribes to stop fighting and form a confederacy, and as a sign of peace or a treaty of peace, to bury their weapons of war beneath the roots of a white pine. This tradition was carried on through history with tribes and with settlers from the east and the phrase ‘bury the hatchet’ that we use today eventually sprang from this demonstration of peace for settling disputes and conflict.
And I thought about it a little more. Just because this is one of history’s earliest recorded events of burying the hatchet it certainly wasn’t the first. Then it dawned on me that burying the hatchet is a peace keeping maneuver I’ve been taught about all my life through the scriptures in my church.
Yeah, I’m a Mormon. Throw out the word Mormon and you get all sorts of responses. The name itself evokes a myriad of images in the mind depending on your exposure to Mormonism or what you’ve heard. Ideas of polygamy, secret ceremonies, no coffee, no alcohol, for some it means family, charity, doing unto others. To me Mormonism is a culture. It’s more than a religion. It’s a way of life. But it’s far from a kooky cult or some brainwashing society of patriarchal overlords. And the Mormons have the Book of Mormon.
Now, this blog post isn’t going to be an exposition on the origins of the Book of Mormon or why I believe it is a companion to the Bible and another testament of Jesus Christ (had to get that in there), I just want to refer to a section of the book where we can read about our Native American ancestors first burying the hatchet as a covenant of peacekeeping. I said I wouldn’t give an exposition on the history or origins of the Book of Mormon but it’s important in this context to at least understand the setting I’m about to discuss, so I’ll give a very brief synopsis of the contextual setting of the Book of Mormon story.
About 600 years BC a group of Israelites, around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem during the 8th or 9th year of the reign of king Zedekiah (Old Testament book of Jeremiah 37-39), fled Jerusalem and built boats that sailed to the western hemisphere. They took with them ancient records of scripture, the books of Moses, writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah and other ancient, Old Testament prophets up to that time written on plates of brass. During their travails they experienced many things, prosperity, divisions, wars, etc. and they kept records. These records were kept and handed down from the beginning by those who had left Jerusalem and guarded as sacred, recording the dealings of God with men and the patterns of righteousness and sin so that they could come forth in the latter days to demonstrate God’s goodness and mercy in preserving his people and showing his arm is outstretched all the daylong to any of His children who desire to come unto him.
So, without going into all the detail and getting into the history of Mormonism and the idea that God didn’t just reveal Himself to the people of Jerusalem and that Christ taught that there are other sheep which were not of the fold at Jerusalem, I’ll just leave it at that. The Book of Mormon is an ancient record of scripture about the dealings of the family of men on the western hemisphere during the same time the bible was being recorded in the so called old world.
So there’s this people in the Book of Mormon, a tribe who has been uber rebellious and has committed heinous crimes and murders on the more righteous people of the land, and by the teachings of the judges and prophets in the lands round about these areas they come to the knowledge of God and find common ground with their enemies. When this happens they have incredible remorse for their murders and for all the bloodshed and destruction they have brought upon the people of the land. So they decide to make a covenant of peace with God and with the people and bury their weapons of war; or as they are referred to in the Book of Mormon account, ‘their weapons of rebellion’.
So this tribe buries their weapons deep in the ground to show that they no longer desire to shed blood and they covenant that they will never again take up arms against their brothers. And when the enemy comes upon them to fight they bow down before them in prayer to God while the enemy fell upon them and began to destroy them. At first their enemies thought they were bowing down in submission for fear but soon realized that they were giving praises to God and freely giving their lives rather than to fight and destroy. They wouldn’t take up their arms in their defense because of the horrendous atrocities and bloodshed they had committed previously. And some were slaughtered, but this demonstration of humility softened the hearts of their enemies so that they stopped destroying them as they saw that these people would not rise up in battle.
And in perspective, as the lesson of the story teaches us, those who were lost by giving up their lives were received into the presence of God and saved by their repentance, by their sacrifice to not commit any more destruction and bloodshed and by their demonstration of peace and change of heart. This seems quite extreme but in retrospect it is a priceless lesson we can learn from; the sacrifice of these dedicated people who had a clear understanding of the purpose of life, that there is so much more beyond what we can see in this mortal coil. This people did not only sacrifice their lives for their own salvation, but their demonstration carries endlessly forward to those of us who have the perspective to learn from their great sacrifice to be grateful to God for His mercies, for the gift we have of being able to truly change and be made clean after being some of the vilest of sinners.
So to me bury the hatchet doesn’t just mean to put our differences behind us, it means to put our differences behind us and to move forward with a commitment or covenant of peacekeeping. To never again take up arms, whether they are physical arms, mere words, thoughts or intentions against our brothers and work every day to create peace and harmony through compassionate service. Compassionate service, meaning to serve without regard for reward, to do it for the good of those we are serving and for no other reason, to uplift our brothers and to make the world a better place.
Of course it is extreme to think that we shouldn’t defend our lives in the face of certain destruction, but these stories serve as lessons, taken in context as they are told, to our lives that we can incorporate into who we are and who we wish to become. Once we have committed certain atrocities and have found true change of heart and forgiveness, it is critical that we don’t go back in any way, shape or form to that old behavior. To bury the hatchet means to put our old lives away, to bury them in the ground and to take upon ourselves newness, a new life, to be born again and become beings of light and goodness.
That sounds like new age, fruit pie, mumbo-jumbo especially in this day and age of the hustle and bustle of me-me-me, gimme-gimme-gimme, now-now-now, but it’s what I really believe. And it all starts with Christ, who is love and salvation, and creation, re-creation into newness of life, healing, being reborn into something great, to achieve our full potential as children of God. There are too many misunderstandings about who Christ is and what He expects of us, too much fear, too much of the fire and brimstone and not enough of the compassion and love of what He truly is and what He wants for us, and why He created this whole mortal plan for us. But once we begin to understand real, pure truth, the essence of what is real; we begin to understand who we really are and what purpose we serve in this world; that we are all one in Him and that to be healed and to be whole is to be in harmony with what science calls ‘The Field’ and what spiritualists call the powers of the universe and what I call God, my Father in Heaven, and what He calls the family of man.
There is much we don’t understand, because it’s not time for us to get it all, but it’s time for us to search. And if we search we will find, and as we begin to understand and incorporate that knowledge into our beings, into who we are, to help the world move forward into greater consciousness, greater things will be unfolded to our minds until we can comprehend all things.
Knowledge may be power, but raw power can be destructive. It matters what we do with that knowledge, how we harness it and how we transfer it into constructive creation of life and healing for progress toward the good of all mankind, never to control and subject others to our will. As we keep our minds set on things greater than ourselves, we are able to act as conduits for others in achieving greatness within themselves.
We will make mistakes. Others will make mistakes. But if we can bury the hatchet then we can love one another, and that’s when we start living.