A Memorial to Peace

Bored in VernalMormon, pacifism, Peace, violence, war 76 Comments

Avatar-BiV“War, rather than any foreign state, is the supreme enemy of country and mankind. One day citizens will covet for this nation the prestige of being the first to escape the shackles of war.” (Jessie Wallace Hughan, Founder of the War Resisters League 1876-1955)

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which “commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country.”   At the risk of coming under the condemnation of Mormon bloggers everywhere, I wish to register my objection to the deplorable sentiments underlying this holiday.

We can all agree on the magnitude of the sacrifice offered by American soldiers. They answered the call of the leaders of their country to go to war. They did this with the knowledge that their own lives might be taken. I am not one who looks upon military volunteers as being either bloodthirsty warmongers or poverty-stricken and brainwashed victims. Their brand of courage is not ordinary, and will never be ordinary.

I must, however, denounce the commemoration of lives destroyed by militarism. Instead of celebrating lives given up for war, I would mourn the lives snuffed out and stolen by our country’s participation in martial combat. It seems to me that Memorial Day might more aptly commemorate the lives of America’s great Peacemakers — people such as Henry David Thoreau, Martin Luther King, Peace Pilgrim, Jeannette Rankin, A.J. Muste, Jane Addams, and a myriad of others.

The job of the peacemaker is to stop war, to purify the world, to get it saved from poverty and riches, to heal the sick, to comfort the sad, to wake up those who have not yet found God.” (Muriel Lester, Social Activist, Gandhian Pacifist, 1883-1968)

Throughout history, nations have consigned their young men (and now women) to kill one another for reasons honorable or absurd. Often war was declared as a response to evil or oppression; other times violence came as political or economic conflicts that should have been resolved without violence. When the causes are just and when they are not, lives lost to war are sacred and full of promise and potential. Those who ponder these things can only regret that wars are still waged and lives are still lost. I wish that on the day which has been set apart as a “Memorial”, we would not only remember the courageous souls who were sent by their governments to die on battlefields, but rather we would regret and repudiate the conditions that lead some people to believe that offering their lives in military service is the best or only hope for peace, protection or patriotism.

“Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others. The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that, from early infancy, the mind of the child is poisoned with blood-curdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood, he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend HIS country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition.” (Emma Goldman: Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty From the 1917 edition of Emma Goldman’s Anarchism and Other Essays)

Military indoctrination, by its nature, teaches the young that the enemy is unworthy of life.

Christian pacifists are often asked about Romans 13. [“Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.”] The Mormon counterpart seems to be our Article of Faith #12: [“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”] But I find my answer in Romans 12, which says to do good to your enemy and to overcome evil with good. In World War II, after all, there were many Catholics and Lutherans in Germany who used Romans 13 to justify fighting for the Nazis.

Many people know the simple spiritual law that evil can only be overcome by good. Pacifists not only know it, they also attempt to live it.” (Peace Pilgrim, Philosopher, Activist, Ethical Vegetarian, Vegan 1908-1981)

A Memorial Day song in a new tradition, Hymn for Anzac Day, was sung for the first time at Mornington Methodist Church in New Zealand on April 29, 2007. Anzac Day is New Zealand and Australia’s version of Memorial Day. Notice the third stanza, where the brave who do not answer the call of war are also honored:

Honour the dead, our country’s fighting brave,
honour our children left in foreign grave,
where poppies blow and sorrow seeds her flowers,
honour the crosses marked forever ours .

Weep for the places ravaged by our blood,
weep for the young bones buried in the mud,
weep for the powers of violence and greed,
weep for the deals done in the name of need.

Honour the brave whose conscience was their call,
answered no bugle, went against the wall,
suffered in prisons of contempt and shame,
branded as cowards in our country’s name.

Weep for the waste of all that might have been,
Weep for the cost that war has made obscene,
Weep for the homes that ache with human pain,
Weep that we ever sanction war again.

Honour the dream for which our nation bled,
Held now in trust to justify the dead,
Honour their vision on this solemn day,
Peace known in freedom, peace the only way.

(words by Shirley Murray, music by Colin Gibson)

I challenge supporters of the American military machine to demonstrate how war brings about peace. How does more killing honor the lives of those who have died? The world has been at war throughout recorded history, and never has war brought definitive peace to any generation. Violent resistance to violence always fails to bring about peace. Rather, it establishes a realignment of forces under principles of violence. War is rarely motivated by the high ideals that its supporters use to justify it.

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…. The chain reaction of evil — hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars — must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

In this day and age, with our weapons of mass destruction and our new and improved ways of torturing each other, war is insanity. It is destructiveness; it is immorality; it is total waste. Our goal today must be the end of war. Negotiation should be our commitment. Perhaps the best way to memorialize the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives in war is to strive for a mastery of peace — a better way of resolving conflict — a commitment to the transformational power of love.

Comments 76

  1. Okay, I am going to play devil’s advocate just to get the ball rolling.

    During WW11 the United States came under great condemnation because it took such an isolationist stance. It wasn’t until the bombing of Pearl Harbor that the US became fully involved in ending the Holocast.

    The other thing that I find astonishing to this day is this, how passive the Jewish people and the European leaders were in the process. Not just the Jewish People, but leaders all over the world at that time period had the mentality of Appeasement, for those who don’t know what that was, or entailed, its’ this, they let and gave Hitler little bits and pieces of land, and then when that didn’t work they, meaning the leaders of Europe, let Hitler take people. No one wanted to know what was really going on. It wasn’t until the Nazi’s and the SS came into their borders that anyone attempted to do anything and by then it was too late.

    I don’t want to come off as sounding like I am blaming the victim(Jews,) but many did not even offer up any kind of resistance. Just think how many more live could have been saved had they done so.

    Modern day politics is really no better. Even President Carter had the most difficult time during the Peace Process. After fifteen days of hard negotiating President Sadat became angry and walked out. This after many days of President Carter taking great time and effort in walking around Camp David trying to get to know both men involved in the conflict. When President Carter went to President Sadat, he told him flat out that if he walked out their personal friendship was over. Sadat came back to the table but then, because of a WORD that Begin did not like he threathned to pull out.

    While the original negotiations were eventually worked out the more minute details were the hardest to over come.

    I’m all for the peace process and pacifist of the world, we need more people like that, but peace unfortunately, does not come with out a price. That Price is War.

  2. If we all are to believe that war is the price of peace then we have lost humanity. We must continue to search and work for peace, however hard it might be to negotiate.

  3. In Mormon theology there is a picture of the redemption of those in hell requiring ministering angels from higher glories “preaching” to them. Sometimes we think that those who go for that task don’t have to really experience the agony to bring their brothers and sisters forth to believe in Christ.

    When Christ came to redeem mankind, he took on all of our pain. In whatever physical, spiritual, or metaphorical sense, making things right involved bearing the pain.

    The sins of mankind condemn each other to experience the pains of hells on earth in order to make them right. If I was better at graphics, I’d post a picture of Hiroshima alongside a picture of Aushwitz. I’d caption the first, “What happens if you fight.” I’d caption the second, “What happens if you don’t.”

    I do think we need a memorial to those who take upon themselves mankind’s sins in combat. But I think we need to remind ourselves that the memorials are never complete unless they remind us of the importance of freeing each other from the sinfulness that ultimately leads to war.

  4. I really like this quote by Elder Nelson:

    “Now, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what does the Lord expect of us? As a Church, we must “renounce war and proclaim peace.” As individuals, we should “follow after the things which make for peace.” We should be personal peacemakers. We should live peacefully—as couples, families, and neighbors. We should live by the Golden Rule. We have writings of the descendants of Judah as now merged with writings of the descendants of Ephraim. We should employ them and expand our circle of love to embrace the whole human family. We should bring divine love and revealed doctrines of restored religion to our neighbors and friends. We should serve them according to our abilities and opportunities. We should keep our principles on a high level and stand for the right. We should continue to gather scattered Israel from the four corners of the earth and offer the ordinances and covenants that seal families together forever. These blessings we are to bring to people of all nations.” (Russell M. Nelson, “‘Blessed Are the Peacemakers’,” Liahona, Nov 2002, 39–42)

  5. War is generally the ultimate theft.

    BTW, medical support services are always a net economic loss for a military. Any pacifist can resist most effectively by volunteering to be a medical corpsman.

    Just saying.

  6. BIV,

    Thank You! No worry for there a legion of us out there that see “eye to eye” with your post. One of my favorite Christian writer, Stanley Hauerwas wrote this important essay “Sacrificing the Sacrifice of War” that follows along with your post http://www.plowsharesproject.org/journal/php/article.php?issu_list_id=8&article_list_id=11

    Christ came to show that it is not the ends (cost/benefit analysis) that ever justify the means. He came to show the way—the only way and invited us to follow, ie, take upon ourselves the sins of this world and in so doing is the ONLY way to crush the serpent’s head once and for all. But that is the highest law. When we engage in cost benefit analysis such as “get them before they get us” we become the evil we deplore and learn nothing from the BOM or DC 98.

  7. One other point. The 12th Article of Faith IMO does NOT require that I submit my conscience to any government that requires me to take innocent life such as our last few wars of aggression.
    Here is a very short post (condensation of a chapter I have wrote on the 12th article of faith) wherein I argue that the 12th article of faith is qualified per DC 134 and does not and should never require sacrificing one’s conscience


    THe Catholic church during the 8th and 9th century developed two twin doctrines in order to compel unthinking patriotism of it’s adherents who were drafted into their Crusades. The first doctrine was “inerrancy” which means the Pope/church makes no error in judgment and the second, “war indulgence” which Pope Urban laid out stating that if one engages in war (even war of aggression against the evil moslem infidel) then one is not personally responsible for they are just following orders of their government and church.

    Unfortunately we have our own form of “inerrancy” and “war indulgence” and I it is demonstrable during Viet Nam and most recently in our latest criminal wars of aggression, ie, if you fight and serve country then you are free from sin and should be honored. Total BS unless you adopt catholic imperialism and subjugate your faith and conscience to the state.

  8. “In the face of the tragic condition among mankind, honest thinking men and women ask how is it possible to reconcile the teachings of Jesus with the participation of the Church in armed conflict.

    “War is basically selfish. Its roots feed in the soil of envy, hatred, desire for domination. Its fruit, therefore, is always bitter. They who cultivate and propagate it spread death and destruction, and are enemies of the human race.

    “War originates in the hearts of men who seek to despoil, to conquer, or to destroy other individuals or groups of individuals. Self exaltation is a motivating factor; force, the means of attainment. War is rebellious action against moral order.

    “The present war had its beginning in militarism, a false philosophy which believes that “war is a biological necessity for the purification and progress of nations.” It proclaims that Might determines Right, and that only the strongest nations should survive and rule. It says, “the grandeur of history lies in the perpetual conflict of nations, and it is simply foolish to desire the suppression of their rivalry.”

    “War impels you to hate your enemies.

    “The Prince of Peace says, Love your enemies.

    “War says, Curse them that curse you.

    “The Prince of Peace says, Pray for them that curse you.

    “War says, Injure and kill them that hate you.

    “The Risen Lord says, Do good to them that hate you ( Matt. 5:44).

    “Thus we see that war is incompatible with Christ’s teachings. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of peace. War is its antithesis, and produces hate. It is vain to attempt to reconcile war with true Christianity….

    “Notwithstanding all this, I still say that there are conditions when entrance into war is justifiable, and when a Christian nation may, without violation of principles, take up arms against an opposing force.

    “Such a condition, however, is not a real or fancied insult given by one nation to another. When this occurs proper reparation may be made by mutual understanding, apology, or by arbitration.

    “Neither is there justifiable cause found in a desire or even a need for territorial expansion. The taking of territory implies the subjugation of the weak by the strong — the application of the jungle law.

    “Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government, or even to impel others to a particular form of worship, however better the government or eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be.

    “There are, however, two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter — mind you, I say enter, not begin— a war: ( 1 ) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and, ( 2 ) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, viz., Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one.”

    – by David O McKay, 2nd Counselor in Presidency – General Conference Address – April 5, 1942

    It can be argued that Pearl Harbor was a false flag event.

  9. I can respect the position of both the Anti-Nephi-Lehies and there children, the Sons of Heleman. What I’m curious about is how they managed to stay on terms of respect with each other despite reaching very opposite conclusions about issues of life and death.

  10. Firetag,

    Good points and good question. The story of the “Stripling Warriors” is a little unfortunate in not telling the whole story in that it does not report the PTSD of those that fought. It is somewhat mythical and while I am not saying the story is not “true” but I suspect like most war stories narrow for a patriotic purpose in that it does not state the follow up which includes the emotional, physical and spiritual scars—including family relations and trust. The account does not follow the post war history in detail, but we have significant clues and information if we read carefully.
    First, we read that just a few years later the wars resumed. Peace did not seem to last but more importantly
    Second, the Ammonites just a few years later headed north? (Heleman 3:12). Why? All the warriors suffered wounds and some very grievous wounds. Were they suffering PTSD? Did the parents realize the death cycle of religious wars and tribalism and wanted to escape it? Were they becoming increasingly cynical and less trusting? We do not know, but here is another clue
    Third, when the missionaries visit these Ammonites that headed north just twenty three later, the missionary Nephi is totally rejected by the inhabitants of this land (Hel. 7:1-3). This is speculation from another author I read a few years ago but is plausible: “Could it be that the stripling warriors, after having been seduced into battle by a militaris- tic Nephite society, returned home jaded and eventually rejected Nephite society and the gospel embraced by their parents? And what are we to make of formerly militaristic parents who covenant to forsake violence but eventually send their children off to be sacrificed on the altar of war? Is this not a tragic example of faith faltering in the face of overwhelming cultural influences?”
    The BOM is “true” in that it is a history, but a tribalistic history that shows that this sort of patriotism/tribalism and sacrificing one’s principles on the altar of war—including sending children into the death cycle/war machine always ends the same—with an admonition to us to find another way….
    Fighting back–even bravely does not END the cycle–only anti-nephi lehite true conversion and sons of Mosiah acts and following Jesus even unto the cross will win in the end…the rest is just mythical and temporary at best

  11. Ron and BIV
    I apologize to you BIV ahead of time. I had to respond to Ron M statement specific intent of saying that it practices Catholic Imperialism by forcing people to believe the way the church believes.

    Do You really believe that the Catholic Church preaches Imperialism. Seriously, that is a stretch, especially given the intensity of the Mormon missionary efforts all around the globe. I don’t see nuns, priest, going out banging on peoples doors in an effort to convert. the Catholic church missionary effort is more laid back, focusing on the good they do for fellow man. I think your approach is pretty militant and myopic.

    It seems weird to me that you would reference something from 8 and 9th century that the Catholic church no longer believes in to make your point. I find that offensive especially as a convert. Many True Blue Believing Mormons take things that they read about another Religion such as Catholicism, and feel that they can make comparisons and say see here look at me, “This is why the Mormon faith is the one true faith because they don’t behave or believe in this way.” In other words if you expect people to Respect h Mormonism with all its quirks, ie. Joseph Smith and his plural wives, the wearing of garments, etc then You should not go back into the dark ages to make an argument for something that is totally your opinion and not what is practiced today.

    Indeed, The current Pope has made great strides in reaching out to people of all faiths without the intent of conversion, unlike the missionaries in our church where if they meet people that’s the specific intent. They don’t want to get to know them as people, They want to get to know them as ends to a means , which is baptism and that’s pretty Machiavillian.

  12. Dblock,

    I apologize for not clarifying. THe Catholic church has grown out of the “war indulgence” edict that was issued a thousand years ago. My point was that we have not. President Hinckley and others in our generation have specifically stated that if a war is unjust then the participants are not responsible for engaging in the acts of war whether their nation is engaging in a war of aggression or not—and that we must obey our nation/government a la 12th Article of Faith. I respect the Catholic church and their condemnation of our wars of aggression. I do not respect our faith’s position which is throw back to the doctrine that justified crusades a thousand years ago which is “they are evil and dangerous and we are righteous so let’s go get them first” pre-emptively.

  13. @ Ron

    Thank you for clarifying, I just did a bunch or reading on the subject, Here is a section of the statement from Vatican II, section V entitled,”The avoidance of war” Those who devote themselves to military service of their country should regard themselves as agents of security and freedom. As long as they fill those roles properly ther are making a geniune contribution to the establishment of peace.

  14. dblock,

    thank you for the statement. Two things I like about it: First, the title is “avoidance of war” and second it qualifies by stating filling “those roles PROPERLY.” Properly I would assume means taking into account our conscience and freedom to, for example, object to torture orders or to engage in immoral acts even if added–think My Lai massacre in Viet Nam. I also respect that the Catholic church has spoken against wars of aggression.

  15. Ron

    Thank you for being gracious in your response, I have to admit I may not have been so, but it just bugs me when I here people say things about other religions which just aren’t true and believe me I give the same amount of sass when some one says something just as stupid about being Mormon.

  16. Let me stipulate that war is bad and undesirable. Ask most any soldier who has fought in battle.

    But,if the human aptitude to define others as undesirable and to kill goes unopposed, then how are the Hitler’s of the world to be stopped? Genocide comes so easily. Humans like to domineer by force, by religion, by economics, and by politics. We all like to argue, “I am right, and you are wrong.” Aggression and oppression needs little provocation. Human history (and its evolution) has so demonstrated.

    Thus, I would argue that our life in the United States has been improved by the military. (I do not mean to imply that I think all U.S. wars have been necessary). I am no more willing to do without soldiers than I am to do without police.

    In this fallen world it seems that peace does not come without opposition.

    All said and done, I think the major religions of the world need to emphasize and reemphasize compassion toward all. Religious leaders need to interact in peace; then, they need to teach peace as a central principle. Peace needs to be taught and then practiced.

  17. BiV said: The world has been at war throughout recorded history, and never has war brought definitive peace to any generation.

    I have a question for you: If an armed criminal broke into your home to do harm to you and your family would you defend your family?

    If you answer yes, then you understand why some wars are necessary.

    If you answer no, then you have indirectly killed yourself and family.

    I’ll answer a question that you may bring up: Of course, not all wars are the equivalent to my example. Many, if not most wars could be avoided, but not all of them.

    I agree we need to renounce unjustifiable war. The Lord, through the Book of Mormon prophets, gives His followers clear counsel and commandments to allow us to determine justifiable from unjustifiable war.

    46 And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
    47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.

    (Book of Mormon | Alma 43:46 – 47)

    14 Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught anever to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.
    15 And this was their afaith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;
    16 And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.
    17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.

    (Book of Mormon | Alma 48:14 – 17)

  18. Here in Australia we have ANZAC Day (as BiV mentioned) that is equivalent to your Memorial Day. It is a day we remember those who have fallen in defence of our land, but also those that are affected by war. There are people that reverence this day and others that abhor it, feeling it condondes the reason for which these men and women gave their lives.

    I agree with BiV that those who respond to the call to join the military and place themselves in the frontline should be honoured and respected. They serve their countries and deserve that honour. But it isn’t often possible once that is done to choose the nature of one’s involvement in specific conflicts. And therein lies the problem. You go into the military with high ideals and a willingness to serve and protect our country and then must trust in the leaders of the land to spend your life with care and commit you to reasonable and just causes. And sometimes they don’t.

    I don’t want to get into the specifics of recent conflicts, but here in Oz, not too many people were happy about our presence and involvement in recent wars. It probably cost the last government power. We don’t take kindly to our leaders committing our brothers and sons or sisters and daughters to wars for no clear reason, no clearly identified threat. We expect them to search for every other solution first before they spill the blood of our people.

    Just because you hate a war does not mean you love your country less. But sometimes its seen that way. ‘Un-patriotic’. But a country is more than a place or an ideal. Its a people too. And we should only offer up their bodies to the brutality of war when we absolutely must. When there is no other way. It shouldn’t be the fisrt option, or the second option, or even the third option. It should be the last option.

    Consider the German President who quit today over the uproar his radio interview last week caused. In it he said he said for a country with Germany’s dependency on exports, military deployments could be “necessary . . . in order to defend our interests, for example free trade routes.” Surely there are other options.

  19. I’m glad to see this has not side-tracked into a discussion about Iraq, which I think is the benchmark in the breaking of American power, starting with the dot.com mis-step, flowing through the war in Iraq through the breakdown of financial markets. I am hopeful that we will transition through this, but fear that it may well mark the end of an era of growth and safety for America.

    A universal truth about war is that it is much, much too easy to overestimate how successful a war will be. WWI had both sides run out of ammunition because they both expected to win quickly. The Germans crushed the French in WWII because (contrary to current opinions about the French) the French kept attacking/counter-attacking the entire campaign and burned themselves up that way. Over and over again civilian governments sent their military(ies) to war expecting low cost, easy victories and self-justifying triumphs.

    As for the LDS, well, re-read what was actually said. Hinkley’s sermon has a good deal more nuance than some read into it when he gave it.

  20. “The Price of Freedom is Eternal Vigilance.” (Thomas Jefferson) I have very mixed emotions on this subject BIV. I consider myself an average history enthuses and I think the sentiments of some of our founding fathers are worth considering. Defending your right to choose your religion, livelihood, leaders, laws, and civil rights are more precious to me then the blood that runs through my veins. If I were asked to take up a weapon today and stop an enemy from taking any of these rights from us, I would do it. I can take that responsibility and still hate the thoughts of war, its atrocities, and the realization that even if I survive it, I will be scarred forever.

    I was a teenager when Vietnam was at its height. Many of my friend’s brothers ended up drafted and sent overseas. Some came back hopelessly changed for the worst; some didn’t come home at all. In the end, corruption and greed was our undoing in a war that leaders at the top never intended to win. Should we ever have gotten involved? Hindsight tells us no, but at the time, who were we to judge? Refusing to be part of the draft and serving in the military, besides being criminal, tore at the heart of our nation. This brings me to the point I want to make. There are times when war is the only answer to an aggressor bent on taking your freedom and enslaving your family. Voting for leaders with integrity and the moral fiber to decide when war is a must and when it should be avoided at all costs is our only hope.
    By your post BIV, I can’t tell if you’re just against war or everything that has anything to do with making war. Without an active military who trains men to kill, storm beaches, jump out of perfectly good aircraft, and march headlong into certain death makes our country become something less. If we learn anything from history it would be this, the best tool for avoiding war is to be completely prepared for it. “Peace through Strength” is our country’s current doctrine for avoiding conflict. While I personally question some of the current undertakings our leaders have chosen for our troops to participate in, I don’t think the alternative (no military) is better.

    This country’s weapons of mass destruction have ensured our freedom and kept us at peace for over 60 years now. It’s the insanity of their use that keeps the peace. Without that insanity Russia or China would have laid waste to this land many years ago. Is there a risk? Sure, but once the genie was out of the bottle, weapons of mass destruction development was and is the only way to keep us safe.

    Peace and brotherly love for all mankind are the noblest of virtues. I truly hope that I live to see the day when all of the world’s problems can be settled without violence. The best way to achieve this very worthy goal is to have a strong defense. Weakness or the impression of weakness emboldens our enemies and makes war a much greater possibility.

    As a father with a child currently serving, I have an even greater appreciation for our veterans and the sacrifice they are willing to make. For anyone who has served, you know that being in the military requires you to give up many of the freedoms you’re fighting for. A most selfless act worthy of our respect and appreciation for those that have literally given all especially on this day of remembrance…

  21. Stephen,

    I agree that President Hinckley’s address was more nuanced than some would or could recognize. that’s the problem for me. It was not a clear denunciation of what was on every level, imo, unjustifiable war of aggression. I have studied the death out of this topic and wrote extensively on it and I agree with my aged father who died in 2007 when in 2002 he being a WWII veteran (infantry Patton’s army) and life long gospel student sat on his couch with emotion and said “there is no doctrinal, scriptural or ethical basis for our invading Iraq..” So spoke my prophet that denounced war with clarity. If only we had more such prophets that could so easily read the times….

  22. Stephen M:

    I’m not sure about your analysis. Clearly, no war starts unless SOME party on one side expects to win, and that can hold true even if every other party on the “same” side loses. Hitler wanted to get the rush of killing Jews; maybe in his calculus the destruction of Germany was crazy vindication of his own superiority — too good even for the master race. He may well have regarded WW2 as a wonderful success.

    I’m also troubled by your analysis of French tactics. They kept throwing themselves into counterattacks because they had expected, by conventional wisdom gained from WW1, that defense held a monopoly over offense, and that any war would quickly stagnate along the front lines. When Hitler went through neutral countries to avoid the fixed defenses, France could never reestablish a defense line; the Brits would have been similarly overwhelmed without the English Channel between them and the panzers, as would the Russians without the vast distances of Eurasia to retreat into.

    The point I’m making is that perhaps the ultimate hubris is that wars are always choices between war and peace. Sometimes, even a small imbalance can topple whole systems into choices of war or massacre.

  23. Speaking of Prophets denouncing war, here is someone I considered a Prophetess—the only one. Democrat, black and a woman! How could one with such labels possibly be speaking the truth while voices within our faith remained silent and assenting…go figure. but here is the clip in the movie “War Made Easy.”


  24. Jared,

    you asked

    “I have a question for you: If an armed criminal broke into your home to do harm to you and your family would you defend your family?
    If you answer yes, then you understand why some wars are necessary.
    If you answer no, then you have indirectly killed yourself and family.”

    Im sorry but comparing war and what nation states are doing to the home invader is pretty lame. Not even close.

    And if you are going to be serious about using the BoM for your case, make sure you dont leave out the stuff like Mormon 3 where it says that if you go up against your “enemies” in their land then you have went against the savior’s teachings. And Mormon 7 might apply as well since he is asking us to learn from his people’s mistakes and lay down our weapons of war.

  25. #21 “my aged father ..in 2002 he being a WWII veteran…sat on his couch with emotion and said “there is no doctrinal, scriptural or ethical basis for our invading Iraq. ”

    Seems some of my American brethren saw the truth of Iraq; I stand corrected.

    For the servicemen, and women, who gave their lives over the years (from all sides) I think the poem they quote here every year during their local memorial day is appropriate:

    They shall not grow old,
    As we that are left grow old.
    Age shall not weary them,
    Nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun,
    And in the morning,
    We will remember them. (Laurence Binyon)

  26. #24 Yossarian–

    Using micro reasoning to test marco reasoning is reasonable. The science of statistics is based on this approach–excess polls and etc. Works pretty good in the real world.

    I consider the Book of Mormon is a creditable source.

  27. 17 Jared, “Then you have indirectly killed yourself and your family.”

    No. That is not so. If an armed person enters my home and kills my family, then HE kills my family, not me.

    BiV, the discussion of the need for war is a terrible and awesome subject that deserves every brain cell we use on it. Thanks for the discussion. I don’t expect any resolution (here or on any stage), but the discussion is valuable in and of itself.

  28. Gandhian and Kingian nonviolence works against residual injustices in English-speaking Protestant democracies. There are few or any examples of it working in any other context.

    Globally, violent deaths from warfare are probably at an all-time low. Why? Surely those who renounce war and proclaim peace can claim some of the credit. But it cannot be disputed that not everyone is impressed by their preaching. I’m not a Marxian — incentives aren’t everything, and I believe that basically conscientious people are capable of sublimating their naked self-interest, on occasion, to noble ideals. But as a general rule, those systems work best that rely least on conscience, and primarily on getting the incentives right. Some of the credit for the decline in aggressive warfare must surely go to those who helped make aggressive warfare unacceptably expensive. Including the Marines.

  29. “Globally, violent deaths from warfare are probably at an all-time low.”

    Yeah, when comparing to the 20th century I’m sure it is. But it is still much too high. And you have to remember to include civilian deaths (in Iraq is estimated to be well over a million, I haven’t looked at the figure in a long time). The US military doesn’t track these deaths, for obvious reasons. I don’t think they track the rapes, deaths, and other violence caused by US military occupation in other countries also. The biggest thing is that all this war and occupation (like Japan, Korea, Iraq, etc.) is the most anti-family thing the government does by separating mothers and fathers from their families for long periods.

    I think I agree mostly with David O McKay when it comes to war. At least what he said in conference that I quoted in #8. I think it’s a fairly balanced view, protect yourself, not others.

  30. “in Iraq is estimated to be well over a million”

    By people who are no great lovers of truth.

    “Yeah, when comparing to the 20th century I’m sure it is.”

    Even the 20th century, believe it or not, was milder than many previous centuries. We had two big Wars to End All Wars, and haven’t had a Great Power war since. That really is something novel.

    One of the tragedies of the modern world is our abandonment of history. Most people know precious little of it, and much of what they do know, isn’t so.

    “It can be argued that Pearl Harbor was a false flag event.”

    See above re: history and truth. The moral ambiguity with regard to the Pacific War had nothing to do with conspiracy theories about Roosevelt intentionally getting his own fleet sunk (surely a Japanese attack itself, even if the base had been ready and little damage sustained, would have been a sufficient casus belli, but rather with FDR’s China policy, his economic embargo of Japan, and the quasi-hypocrisy of the Western powers, having gotten religion and started getting out of the imperialism business, insisted that a newcomer like Japan not take its own turn elevating the natives for their betterment and its gain.

    But even given all this moral ambiguity (a constant in the real world), every one of America’s major 20th-century wars could fairly be described as responses in self-defense, or acts in defense of small nations attacked by stronger ones. (Even the 2003 Iraq campaign — its strategic wisdom aside — was essentially a continuation of the 1991 conflict, justified by the aggressor’s material breach of its cease-fire agreement.)

  31. Ron M, I’m not sure that’s a fair description of Catholic just-war thinking or the Crusades.

    The Crusades were certainly not sold as “wars of aggression” to convert the Moslem infidel. They were preached as a defensive campaign to resist a second wave of Islamic expansionism, kicked off by the rise of the Seljuk Turks, whose variant of Islam was far more belligerent and expansionist than that of the Arabs whose administration of the conquests of the first round of jihadist expansionism Rome had basically accepted living with.

    In other words, the Catholics had no problem with the infidel having conquered the Holy Land four centuries earlier; they let Catholic pilgrims visit the religious sites, and we never liked those bearded Greek Orthodox guys who used to run the place that much anyway. But now a new bunch is taking the doctrine of jihad literally again, and is banging on the gates of Constantinople, and maybe that’s getting too close to comfort.

    That’s not to defend every aspect of prior Catholic thinking. But even when wrong, it was typically far less “medieval”, and much more serious, than much of the commentary directed towards mocking it.

  32. One thing that needs to be considered, is that Clausewitz was right: War is the continuation of politics by other means. War lies at one end of a continuum that includes legislators, judges, policemen, and lawyers. The common thread is coercion. War is merely coercion that somebody resists.

    Note what’s not on that continuum: Private transactions freely negotiated.

    This all ties into our previous discussions about consensual government, the authority of the State, and liberty. You cannot give government unbridled license to coerce (in the name of the “public good” or otherwise), without effectively licensing war.

  33. Paul:

    In the CofChrist we used to refer to two types of sin, although I don’t hear sin discussed much today in any context. One type was the “sin of commission”; the other the “sin of omission”. Some people are “wired” to regard actions that bring harm as inherently more immoral than inactions that yield the same or greater harm, even if the harm is equally foreseeable in both cases. Others are wired to feel responsible for the harm, regardless of whether done actively or passively, once they understand the connection to their choices.

    Do the LDS have a similar concept of sins of commission/omission that would likewise apply to war/peace?

    In the human rights context, for example, this often relates to the “duty to protect” in places like Darfur.

  34. @Thomas,

    “By people who are no great lovers of truth.”

    Yeah, it’s hard to know who’s telling the truth. You kind of have to pick and choose and hope you choose right. That’s the only way I know how to do it. If you know a better way let me know. Even the ones I choose I know I should take it with a grain of salt. I know I shouldn’t trust the government since they do a good job (or you can say bad job) of lying.

    As for WWII and Pearl Harbor being a false flag event from what I have read it is becoming more accepted among historians that it was per this article:

  35. BIV,

    I think when the Savior said there will be wars and rumors of wars, what he meant is that there will be wars and rumors of wars. We can either sit idly by and watch the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, Hussein’s, and Pol Pot’s murder millions of innocent people; or, we can stand up in resistance. It is tantamount to watching a rape or other vicious crime, we can either stop it, watch it or just walk away. Of the three, I am certain the Savior would want us to step in and stop it.

  36. @Ken S,

    Per comment #8. David O McKay suggests we should stay out of it. You can’t force people to be friendly with one another unless you kill…hmmm, let them kill each other or let us go in and kill them. But seeing your point there are other ways to help the oppressed besides joining the war ourselves I’m sure (like financial support, etc).

    Either way it is immoral to steal money from people who don’t want to support a war and to force people to go to that war that don’t want to be part of it. Persuasion vs coercion. That’s what it comes down to, i.e., freedom.

  37. #36 Ken, good point. See Romans 13:1-4 —

    “Let every soul abe subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God [Note: The American Congregationalist preachers who supported independence from Britain read into this passage the distinction, first articulated by Augustine and eloquently expressed later by Thoreau and King, between legitimate and illegitimate “powers”]….But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

    When the job description includes restraining evil, by force if necessary (what else do you need a sword for?), the civil power is justified in using force. Of course the people entrusted with this discretion are responsible spiritually for their exercise of it.

    Jon, re: “picking and choosing,” a good rule of thumb is to (a) check for obvious biases, and (b) give increased scrutiny to outliers among competing claims. The one million figure from the Lancet study is an outlier, and I’ve seen credible questions raised about its authors’ objectivity.

  38. “Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.”

    Stealing some bases here, aren’t we, Miss Goldman?

    “Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots.” Well, it is.. Whether or not it should be is, I suppose, open for debate, but under the Westphalian international system, we’ve decided to recognize national boundaries, and let each sovereign exercise sovereignty up to those boundaries, and generally no further. I would add that the principle of subsidiarity — keeping the governed as close as possible to the levers of power that will be exercised over them — is generally a good thing. Increase the size of a polity too much, and the notion of government by consent becomes an increasingly empty fiction. In other words, as between a New England town meeting and the Habsburg Empire, the former is preferable.

    “Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot.”

    Says who? Stolen base number one. Patriotism =/ chauvinism. I love my family, not only for our fair-to-middlin’ inherent virtues, but also because it is mine,, warts, quirks, and all. It doesn’t follow that because I love my family and wouldn’t want to live in any other, that I therefore consider us “better, nobler, grander, and more intelligent.” (“Grander” is right out, I’m afraid.) I love my country, not only for her virtues (really, this country does have some), but also because it’s mine. “Breathes there the man with soul so dead” and all that.

    And a funny thing — being a patriot of my own country truly doesn’t make me inherently hostile to or dismissive of everyone else’s love of country. Who’s more likely to tear up hearing The Moldau or the Marseillaise — throwback reactionary nationalist me, or a self-conscious citizen of the world?

    “It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.”

    Good grief. This passes for logic, anywhere? How do you get from mere betterness (even if that’s assumed), to a duty to kill to “impose one’s superiority upon all the others,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean? Even Wilhelmine Germany — probably the closest real-world analogue to Miss Goldman’s strawman — wasn’t that bad.

    I would add that using Emma Goldman wasn’t particularly opposed to political violence, per se. She just preferred shooting class enemies to national enemies.

  39. FireTag — a counter-attack is not defense. A static “hold and repulse” or a “fighting withdrawal” or a number of other approaches are defenses. A counter-attack is an effort to turn the defense into the offense.

    The Germans actually inflicted more French casualties on the defense than they did the offense. Every time the French counter-attacked and forced the Germans onto the defensive, the Germans did much better. That it happened over and over and over again over a period of the assault until the British evacuated at Dunkirk …

    I don’t know if this expansion of my comment helps you understand what was going on. The analysis of the the twenty-five million Russian casualties is another story, one compounded by many self-inflicted wounds on both sides (and yes, I’m aware of the width of analysis of the casualty levels, the 10 million military, 15 million civilian one is probably the most accurate).

    The point I was trying to get to on overestimating the ease of winning is that it is a common mistake. Militaries are often extremely good at estimating tactical and grand tactical scale results. The civilian planners behind them are often extremely poor at levels beyond operational prediction. Consider that the head of the U.S. Military (well, Rummy) dismissed the analyst who gave him a budget for two billion dollars expense in Iraq. He rejected as obviously completely incompetent anyone who thought that U.S. expense post war would ever rise that high.

  40. Good grief. The crusades are now defensive wars pace Thomas and are options when faced with war and rumors of war are reduced to violence, indifference, or flight pace Ken. Surely you can conceive of resisting evil with something other than just violence or war.

    Christ did not say “resist not evil” but more properly translated to not resist evil with force and violence. Even against Hitler we know of the Scandinavian non-violence resistance that save far more lives than many of their neighbors violent resistance. It is a known fact that the biggest change and political revolutions of the past 20 years have been for the most part non-violent.

    here is a recent study showing that non violence is more effective than violence

  41. “I challenge supporters of the American military machine to demonstrate how war brings about peace. How does more killing honor the lives of those who have died? The world has been at war throughout recorded history, and never has war brought definitive peace to any generation. Violent resistance to violence always fails to bring about peace. Rather, it establishes a realignment of forces under principles of violence.”

    I challenge supporters of American government to demonstrate how law brings about peace. Never has law brought definitive lawfulness to any generation. Coercive resistance to lawlessness always fails to bring about peace. There will always be another drive-by, another Madoff, another rape, another mortgage fraud, no matter how many evildoers the civil power wields his sword against. Maybe all we can hope for is a “realignment of forces” with respect to whatever evildoers we can catch. But then “a realignment of forces” as between a rapist, and a guard responsible for keeping him in prison, is better than nothing.

    War, like law, isn’t meant to bring about peace. It’s meant to turn away specific, particularized assaults on it, and minimize — not eliminate — the damage done by aggressors. There’s a reason the Book of Common Prayer has it as “Give us peace in our time, O Lord.” As long as man remains man, and prior to the Last Day, that’s the absolute best we can hope for. That, and seeking peace as best we can, negotiating as long as we can, forgiving as much as we can, before taking the last resort of “defend[ing our] families even unto bloodshed.” (Alma 43:47.)

    “In World War II, after all, there were many Catholics and Lutherans in Germany who used Romans 13 to justify fighting for the Nazis.”

    Well, yes. And there are Christians who use other verses to justify rejecting the Mormon gospel, and Mormons who use still other verses to declare it “Mormon Doctrine” that papists are the Great and Abominable Church, or to tell the Cedar City militia to “do their duty.” We’re fallible; sometimes our fallibility allows us to be used as instruments of evil. I have to believe that those German Catholics and Lutherans who saw their Christian duty more clearly than their fellow countrymen, have some reward that the others, even if ultimately redeemed, are at least delayed in obtaining. On the other hand, the people who crushed the Nazis may also have acted according to Romans 13 in obtaining that objective good — and surely in many cases, without any more inherent personal virtue than the accident of birth in Kansas rather than Saxony. So is the problem Romans 13 itself (and therefore it should be discarded), or is it that its sound principle can be misapplied, and that therefore the sins imputed to a person who misapplies it are lack of prudence and moral courage?

  42. Thought you guys would enjoy (well, not enjoy) this article about a Mormon soldier caught as a scape goat in a difficult situation. The writer is anti-war but the pro-war people would appreciate the story too.


    “When will people realize that it is possible for any of us to be manipulated by domineering and power crazed individuals, who know how to motivate the masses in order to misuse them for their own ends. While they keep well out of the way, in safety, they have no hesitation in brutally sacrificing their people in the name of patriotism. Will mankind ever stand together against them or are those who died in the fighting dead forever and will the reasons they gave their lives be forgotten?” – Gunther K Koschorrek, a German soldier after WWII

    Written in “Blood Red Snow: The Memoirs of a German Soldier on the Eastern Front”, quote taken directly from “Dan Carlin’s Hard Core History” – Show 30 – Ghosts of the Ostfront IV at 19:54 Minutes

  43. You are right about the Germans inflicting more casualties on defense than offense; generally the offense needs some combination of local manpower (or other force multiplier) superiority of 3:1 as a rule of thumb to succeed in an attack. My point was that the French had to adopt such desperate measures once the front was breached.

    Back to your larger point: it is easy for anyone to underestimate the costs of victory. I agree with that; what I’m also trying to suggest is that neither side is monolithic, and there are many elements on each side capable of triggering the war through miscalculation or correct calculation of outcomes the rest of us would regard as evil.

    I also wanted to say that I agreed with your prediction in your earlier comment as follows:

    “I’m glad to see this has not side-tracked into a discussion about Iraq, which I think is the benchmark in the breaking of American power, starting with the dot.com mis-step, flowing through the war in Iraq through the breakdown of financial markets. I am hopeful that we will transition through this, but fear that it may well mark the end of an era of growth and safety for America.”

    Yes, we are about to lose the illusion that we are the nation in control of everything from earthquake relief to oil spills to events in Greek banks, Korea, Jerusalem, or Pakistan.

  44. Yossarian, you may have a point re: nonviolent revolution being more successful, recently, than violent insurgency. Arguably, repressive regimes have gotten sufficiently savvy and ruthless as to make the odds of taking them down head-on have dropped to the vanishing point. (Although it was fashionable for the Left, in the last eight years, to take the opposite position, viz., that the victory of the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan was inevitable.)

    It’s an interesting data point: At a certain time in world history, in the specific circumstance of internal dissent, nonviolent resistance may have a better chance than armed resistance. Still, though, you’re only succeeding about half the time — and you’re operating on a world stage whose large-scale contours have largely been settled by either hot or cold Great Power conflicts. Would those same dynamics operate if (say) fascism had had as long a run as communism did? It’s an interesting counterfactual. I can envision a world with far less consideration for human rights, less cooperation, less economic interconnectedness (which gives countries incentives against becoming unpopular through repression) — in short, the kind of world where Gandhis and Kings disappear into unmarked graves. (Plenty of them still do — we’ve never heard of their struggles.)

    In any event, the fact that it is occasionally possible for a campaign of nonviolent resistance to win, doesn’t mean it is always the right approach under other, dissimilar scenarios. It may be that it’s better to do whatever it takes to avoid falling under the power of a repressive regime in the first place.

    That’s the issue as a practical matter. As a religious matter, it’s simply hard for me to see scripture, particularly if you include the Mormon canon, as preaching anything close to strict pacifism.

  45. I have been reading this website on and off for two years now. BIV, first let me say that I admire so many of your posts, and enjoy reading them even if I disagree. I am breaking my lurker status because I think you are focussing on the wrong angle, or maybe I’m mis-reading your focus. It’s funny that I should come upon this only moments after posting about the origins of Memorial Day on my blog. I say “funny” because this is what I wrote last:

    Memorial Day is not a political statement. It is not about the celebrating or venerating of war; it is about remembering those people who might otherwise be forgotten.

  46. 8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the abook of life of the bLamb slain from the cfoundation of the world.
    9 If any man have an ear, let him hear.
    10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that akilleth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the bpatience and the faith of the csaints.

    The beast overcomes the saints in Revelation. Why? Perhaps only saints understand that to follow Christ is to bury deep the desire to retaliate or become the evil one loathes. Christ came not to engage in a cost/benefit analysis involving war/conflict/pre-emptive strikes or even self defense, but to show an entirely different way–a mystery to the jews and gentiles except for those who can “hear” and “see.”

    As to the BOM. I simply read it not as an endorsement of Nephi, the Nephite cultures or even a Nephite warrior who could shake hell with his anger to the point that he could murder conscientious objectors. THe BOM starts with a cost/benefit analysis using ironically the very words used by Caiphas, ie, it is better that we kill this one man then whole nation perish…and then with that very sword claim kingship, replicate the instrument of death, justify tribalism and create narratives that justify building up armament rather then using the same resources to build bridges of peace to what they considered the children of a lesser god….

    The “wisdom” of this world has proven inadequate as it will be those “defenders” of freedom who will bring about unwittingly the very thing they seek to avoid, ie,– armageddon.

  47. Jon,

    You misquoted President McKay, please re-read his comments, which are consistant with the Book of Mormon and the 98th section of the Doctrine and Covenants. This section outlines the rules for engagement. It defines when the Lord approves an act of War.

    Along these lines, when the scriptures say there was a war in Heaven, I think they mean there was a war in Heaven. A war that was more brutal than any war we have seen on earth. Beings did not loose thier life, they lost thier soul forever.

  48. Ken S,

    Fascinating about the war in heaven. I am researching/writing on “war” issues and would love to have the quotes/sources that show:

    1. That the war in heaven was “more brutal that any war we have seen on earth”

    2. That intelligences lost “their soul FOREVER” ie, that never to be redeemed FOREVER in the common use of the term

    thank you in advance

  49. Ron,

    Here are some scriptures to start with:

    Reve 12:4
    D&C 29: 36-39
    D&C 88: 22-36
    Alma chapters 40-42

    There are also numerous talks by GA’s on the plan of salvation.

    There is no scripture that states it is more brutal than any war here on earth, it is a logical conclusion that never being able to experience mortality is worse than leaving mortality. Those who leave mortality will receive a perfect body and those who never experience mortality will never get a body. To me this is worse than death.

  50. Post

    Although there was a war in heaven, and the scriptures often frame our mortal existence as a “war” — a conflict against principalities and powers — these wars are conducted without physical violence. In heaven, Michael and his archangels fought with “the word of their testimonies.”

    I did want to respond to a question that was asked me way up in #17. Jared asked: ” If an armed criminal broke into your home to do harm to you and your family would you defend your family?” I would defend my family by using every non-violent method at my disposal. There is power in persuasion, negotiation, and love. Just because you refrain from hurting someone doesn’t mean there are not other ways to try to stop the person. I love my family, but it is important to remember that every criminal is some mother’s child. Why is it more important to save my children than it is to save hers? If you really believe in a continued existence this question is seen very differently.

    I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “just war.” I am against physical and military violence, and I believe that if we put our energies and creative thought processes toward combatting evil by strong non-violent methods, we can stop the Hitlers and Pol Pots and the others. Pacifism doesn’t mean you just lie down and capitulate to evil.

  51. BIV:

    I realize there was no physical violence in the War in Heaven, which was chiefly due to the fact we did not have bodies. My point is that the consequences of that war are far more significant that any war we may face here on earth. As you know as a fellow Gospel Doctrine instructor, those that did not pass the first estate will never graduate to the second.

    I think you are putting too much emphasis on death. Elder Maxwell put it best; “the only tragedy we will experience in this life is sin”. This is so true and so appropriate for this conversation. Killing, or being killed, is not bad if it is done in the right circumstance. This is the theme of the Book of Mormon and the 98th section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

  52. A must read book by John Yoder is entitled “What would you do” (if a violent person threatened to harm a loved one” This 141 page book was first developed during a conference in Japan in 1968 by a group of pacifist, including Yoder during the height of the Viet Nam conflict. The book logically confronts this question and then gives several first hand accounts of those that chose when confronted with direct violence to them and their family and how the creatively and through inspiration avoided and prevented conflict. Most believe the choice is either A or B—kill or be killed or be violent to prevent violence. A Christian pacifist discovers that the choices are often also C through Z…the revelation comes when one opens up oneself that it is a lie we are taught that “there is no other way.”
    THe first six chapters confronts the false assumptions that this question is often based on; explore options and distinguishes that question from nation/state wars. The remainder of the book demonstrates examples in real life. What is fascinating is that not always but nearly always another’s direct violence is diffused through passive and creative resistance and that returning violence more often then not escalates into violence that would not have occurred if one had chose not to resist—countless examples in history and literature.

    I am with BIV on this topic. Before dismissing pacifism out of hand I would suggest reading this short book. There are 36 variants of pacifism from “nuclear pacifism” which is never to use nuclear weapons ever to strict pacifism and lots in between. It cannot be easily dismissed when Christ’s life was clearly pacifist from saving not resisting to save his own skin, to inviting us to follow him and “resist not evil” and even to not violently resisting those who were going to kill the adulteress. He stopped them but had he used force I posit he would have failed and escalated the violence. Such is the higher genius of pacifism even under direct and personal assault.

  53. Ken S,

    You are correct that we can put too much emphasis on death and that the question is whether our acts are righteous or not righteous. Precisely. That is why even self-defense is not the highest law. It is terrestrial, honorable and justifiable per DC 98 but there is also an invitation to live the highest law which is to not even “resist evil” and follow Christ’s example which is the highest law which law the early saints understood as they lived as the truly converted anti nephi lehites the HIGHEST LAW–our choice. Even DC 98 says at certain point one is justified but then extends invitation to live the highest law and not respond in kind even when justified and if so an even greater blessing generationally.
    Also, I notice that you keep referring to “forever” and “never” as if such terms means one will be permanently in the common use of the term judged or condemned. Are you suggesting that an intelligence can never progress from one level/kingdom to another? If so, how do you incorporate the mystery revealed in DC 19: 8-12?

  54. ken,

    sorry. go back and read also the first seven verses of DC 19. THe Lord is saying that “endless” does not mean it does not END, or rather it is simply an adjective/substitute for my name such as if I were to punish my child it would be Ron’s punishment to distinguish it from another’s punishment and since He is an “eternal” or “endless” being he is revealing in this passage that this is a play on words to scare us his children to obey….but the “time out” is not “endless” as we are led to believe but rather descriptive….nice parent technique to get His message across

  55. Ron #53: Yes. This sounds like a fascinating book, and it deals with precisely what I would like to address with my post. It is when violence is taken away as an option that we are forced to come up with other solutions to our problems. It is often difficult to arrive at peaceful solutions if we have violence in the arsenal, even as a final resort.

  56. @ Bored In Vernal and Ron M

    I just wanted to let you know that I reread my last reply to you and I wanted to clarify myself I didn’t want you to think that what you said was stupid. I was making the statement more that I did not like people making ignorant statements with regard to any religion.

    Bored in Vernal

    I need clarification, are you saying that a war with testimonies is less dangerous or oppressive than an actual war with weapons, or for that matter a fist fight?

    I might have to disagree with you on that point because one word can change the whole tone of a conversation even a testimony, For example, in Ron M reply he used the word Catholic Imperialism to make his point, It was a good thing that I called him on it and had him explain himself because a word such as Imperialism, or Imperialist, has such a negative conatation that one can react negatively depending on not only how, but what the author wanted the reader to infer/imply from its’ meaning

    In addition, In the peace talks that Jimmy Carter tried to broker, Begin almost walked out because of a single word.

    On a personal note, having been made fun of all my life, even as adult with a speech impediment and still being teased, I’d much rather have someone beat the crap out me, than call me names. the memory of a beating fades. the words do not. I have a quote from Dr Maya Angelo that I would like to use which would fit perfectly but I need to look it up

  57. @ Bored in Vernal

    Here is the Quote from Dr Maya Angelo Poet and I believe if I’m not mistaken I believe she has been honored with the noble peace prize.

    “People will forget what you have said, People will forget what you have done, but people will never forget how you made them feel

    I like this statement because it illustrates the point beautifully that a war of words can be just has hateful as a war with weapons, and people remember both of them equally.

  58. …are you saying that a war with testimonies is less dangerous or oppressive than an actual war with weapons, or for that matter a fist fight?
    To the contrary. Rather, I am stating my objection to the use of physical violence and weapons to force other nations to comply with our ideologies. I am of the opinion that words, testimonies, persuasion, negotiation, etc. can be extremely powerful forces of good (as well as evil).

  59. #51 BiV: “I love my family, but it is important to remember that every criminal is some mother’s child. Why is it more important to save my children than it is to save hers?”

    Because your children are more worthy of continued life than their potential murderer is. And if the criminal’s mother wouldn’t shoot her own son if that were the only way to keep him from killing your child, she’s morally bankrupt and needs serious repentance.

    I see in this type of pacifism a kind of creeping antinomianism, whose end is to destroy the whole foundation of the Gospel. Without recognizing the fallenness of human nature, and the reality of sin, there is no need for redemption, except as some kind of magic spell to resurrect the dead. And in my understanding, the concept of intent is essential to moral law — especially in light of the LDS doctrine of moral agency. The moral law does not simplistically classify certain acts as always good or always evil. Context and intent matters. Accidentally running over a child who dashes out into the street after a ball is morally different from cutting his throat. Likewise, there is a moral difference between murder, and killing a man set on murder.

    I may be influenced in my thinking on these matters by my profession, which, boiled to its essence, is the practice of violence (although decently veiled). In the final analysis, the law relies on force: A judge decides who’s right, and issues a decision; if the decision is ignored, the state enforces it, by force if necessary. You refer to “negotiation” as preferable to war. Of course. Similarly, the vast majority of my cases are resolved through negotiation. But negotiation only works because it’s seen as an alternative to something worse — trial, in the litigation context, or armed conflict, in the context of international relations where there is no superior sovereign able to adjudicate and enforce the rights of the parties.

    #57: “It is when violence is taken away as an option that we are forced to come up with other solutions to our problems.”

    But violence is never “taken away as an option.” It is only taken away as an option for those vanishingly few people who take it away from themselves.

    You refer to “solutions to our problems.” That, I suppose, is one of the handicaps of the conservative mind: I believe that no problem is ever “solved.” The whole language of “problems” and “solutions” dates back to the beginning of technocratic liberalism, which takes the position that what ails us is not the burden of fallen human nature, but rather simply discrete “problems,” each of which has a neat mathematical-like “solution” waiting to be discovered by the best and brightest. That’s the thinking that gives rise to people saying “A country that could land a man on the moon, could end [some age-old generator of human misery],” — as if any problem in which messy, irrational, unpredictable human beings are involved could be compared to a simple matter of physics and chemistry. No. You minimize the damage from human fallenness — sometimes to insignificance, other times just to a survivable level. That goes from poverty to drug abuse to rape to war. I don’t think we’ve done nearly enough to minimize the evil of war — but we have, objectively, greatly reduced its damage. I think we have a decent formula: Cultivate love of peace — first in ourselves; with luck, the example inspires others, and make war prohibitively expensive for aggressors. Strict pacifism diminishes the second half of that equation. Historically, that leads to more war, not less.

    For me, that’s the bottom line. Unless I have reason to believe that by adoption of strict pacifism by some people (never all, as long as there are sociopaths) will result in less overall evil in the world than the traditional framework of measured self-defense, I can’t support it.

  60. One other item: I think Mormon pacifists read an awful lot out of the story of the People of Ammon — a special case of people who adopted strict personal pacifism as penance for having engaged previously in mass murder. (Alma 24:10.)

    In an essay in his book Making Peace, Eugene England wrote (if I recall correctly) that the only time lasting peace was ever achieved in the Book of Mormon was when the People of Ammon accepted being slain rather than fight. With all respect due to a great Mormon thinker, this is a classic example of ideology leading to untruth. It is simply, objectively true that the People of Ammon’s sacrifice did not lead to lasting peace. Within only a few years after the first two massacres of that people, the Lamanites came at them again. (Alma 27:2.) At that point, the People of Ammon accepted the military protection of the Nephites in return for a subsidy. (Alma 27:24.) Is there really that much of a moral difference between fighting in your own defense, or (in effect) hiring mercenaries to do your fighting for you?

    The bottom line is that it is simply not true that the sacrifice of the People of Ammon had any more success in obtaining “lasting peace” than the various Nephite victories did. To the contrary, it appears that longer intervals of peace occurred after convincing military victories than the People of Ammon’s pacifist example.

  61. Thomas, I guess you could look at me, then, as a person who has adopted strict personal pacifism as a code for living inspired by some of the violence which I’ve seen and abhorred around me. I remain convinced that whatever slim potential exists for peace among human beings will be found among those who are willing to see the value of each individual, no matter how depraved, and to make great sacrifices to eschew violence in any form. I don’t agree with the Nephites’ fighting for the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, and I don’t agree with the mothers who sent their stripling warriors off to battle, and I don’t agree with any of the fighting in the Book of Mormon. It seems fairly obvious that warfare in the BoM is not there for the purpose of defending its virtues.

  62. #58 Dblock
    I sincerely appreciate your input, passion and intelligence. We/I often overstate things in these forums to make points but fortunately good friends like yourself help break off the rough edges and overstatements. I appreciate and welcome any challenges or corrections.

    #62 Thomas,
    The people of Ammon are worthy of serious consideration and it is interesting how we see/interpret them and their behavior. That may tell us something about us more then them. Not having time right now I would like to plant this thought: When Christ came he immediately went to the CORE of his doctrine and he mentions one group of people as a type to illustrate HIS doctrine and that is the converted Lamanites. See 3 Nephi 9:20. He does not speak of their being so evil they needed to shed extra blood (blood atonement) but in fact illustrates IMO that it was not about blood for blood but the fruits of true conversion reflected in them. Then consider who Christ cites as His prophets in particular: Isaiah and Samuel the Lamanite. Samuel like Isaiah condemning the “chosen” ones who think they are chosen and the rules of true conversion do not apply to them but only the really evil people have to take up the cross and go the distance as the anti-nephi lehites did. I don’t think so. That is how I see it…..more later on comparing Samuel’s words with Christs and how the people of Ammon were the type that I believe Christ was endorsing and not Nephite culture—the culture we have that reflexively sees them as NEEDING to blood atone…but not us…interesting

  63. BiV, it’s not at all obvious to me that the Book of Mormon paints all warfare with a broad brush. There is war, and then there is war. I mean, this is a book that sets up the quintessential warrior (and executioner of political dissenters!), Captain Moroni, as someone who, if everyone were like him, “the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever.” (Alma 48:17.) Maybe Mormon was “speaking as a man” with that one.

    I remain convinced that the potential for peace — lasting, universal peace — among human beings is not just slim, but nonexistent, while the world lasts. You can’t immanentize the eschaton.

    I mean this as kindly as possible (which will probably not help), but it is a much different thing to adopt a code of strict personal pacifism in Vernal, Utah, where the odds of it carrying serious costs are minimal. In effect, you are like the Anti-Nephi Lehies living in Jershon, subsidizing the armies of their protectors: You pay the taxes that support the police, the courts, and the military. (Unless you’re pulling a Thoreau, and are blogging from your prison cell after refusing to pay taxes.)

    Let me share one of my handful of run-ins with violence. When I was 14, walking back from a remote Los Angeles-area driving range, I was attacked more or less at random by a gang. In retrospect, it was probably just as well that I didn’t fight back — these guys were probably around 20, likely armed, and I could’ve been more seriously hurt. However, I have to say that my reflex would have been to fight back, if I hadn’t been knocked down by the first sucker-punch and concussed myself on the asphalt. Probably just as well.

    We called the police — I’d memorized their license number — but when I tried to repeat it, it had slipped from my memory, along with whether Christmas had come yet or not and what grade in school I was in. So the perps never got caught; most likely, they went on to do the same thing or worse again and again. Now, if I were a strict pacifist, I would have had to refrain from calling the police, and seeking to have those men forcibly arrested and punished. That just strikes me as morally and practically absurd.

    Another point: I have a cousin in the Navy, who flew combat helicopter missions in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I have a friend in the Army, and other acquaintances in the military. I know lots of lawyers, judges, policemen, and other people involved in the veiled violence of the legal system. They don’t seem to be morally tarred by their participation in lawful violence. In fact, in many cases, I find them morally superior to quite a few of the belligerently “pacifist” people with “War Is Not The Answer” bumper stickers in the Mother’s Market parking lot. (Speaking of tribalism, I’ve noticed that few warriors hate a foreign tribe with anywhere near the intensity some self-ordained Citizens of the World hate my tribe.)

  64. Ron #56,

    I still don’t see anything about progression from one kingdom to another. In fact, I see just the opposite. I think when he uses the term endless, I think he means endless.

  65. Thomas: I know I have not a hope in the world of convincing you to see things the way I do. But I’d just like to correct one more misconception I see in your comment #66. As I stated in my comments above, pacifism is not simply a cowardly milquetoast rolling over to evil. Why would you think that pacifism in your example above would necessitate that you refrain from calling the police and bringing your attackers to justice???? This is not pacifism. I believe in punishment for crime, incarceration and the legal system. In the situation of being mugged, I would attempt to resist in any of several ways short of physical violence or the use of weapons. I would run, negotiate, call for help, threaten, etc. If beaten, I would be in favor of fines, incarceration, loss of privileges, or a host of other punishments. This would be multiplied on the world scale.

    I regret that I have given the impression that I am against police, the legal system, and even the military. Although I would like to envision some creative ways of being a peacekeeping force in the world. What would it look like if we sent Americans over to other countries to be a force for good? What if, instead of riding in armored vehicles and toting guns, they carried textbooks and computers, set up schools, gave out lollipops? What could education and goodwill do that violence and bloodshed has not?

    I have often been called idealistic, and that’s fine, but my “Bored in Vernal” is merely a moniker. I have lived in many places throughout the U.S. and several countries. Just FYI.

  66. #64, 3 Nephi 9:20 references certain unspecified Lamanite converts. It doesn’t specify the People of Ammon.

    I’m interested by your suggestion that it was “Nephite culture” that saw the People of Ammon as needing to “blood atone” for their murders. But Alma 24:10 has the People of Ammon themselves undertaking that condition for their own repentance.

    The Book of Mormon must be seriously “wrested” to make it into a pacifist tract.

    A thought: Like the early Christians, the early Mormons expected an imminent parousia. Christian moral reasoning shifted a bit when it became clear that the Second Coming wasn’t to be expected within a few years. (I know I’m not supposed to say “The Lord delayeth his coming,” so I’ll have to find another word to describe the two-thousand-years-and-counting “deferral” of the Last Day.) What may have been appropriate, to a people that expected the imminent end of the world (such as Paul’s counsel against marriage, for instance, or strict pacifism) may be counterproductive in another context.

    Re: the 100 million deaths from warfare in the 20th century (mostly in the ugly first half, although Asian communists did their best to make the third quarter interesting), keep in mind that the 20th century had exponentially more people to work with than previous centuries, thanks to modern agriculture and technology. As a percentage of the global population, 100 million deaths is actually a pretty low figure compared to other centuries. For instance, in the 19th century, 20 million Chinese died in the one Taiping Rebellion alone. Add 12 million more Chinese in a rebellion by its western Muslim population starting in 1862, 6 million in the Napoleonic Wars, 600,000 in the American Civil War, and the “peaceful” 19th Century starts looking worse than the 20th on a percentage basis. Go back to the 17th Century, and you see a third of the population of Germany and Poland being annihilated. So no, on a percentage basis, not even the bloody 20th Century was unusually violent.

    A scholarly analysis: http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html. Quote: “On the scale of decades, comprehensive data again paint a shockingly happy picture: Global violence has fallen steadily since the middle of the twentieth century. According to the Human Security Brief 2006, the number of battle deaths in interstate wars has declined from more than 65,000 per year in the 1950s to less than 2,000 per year in this decade. In Western Europe and the Americas, the second half of the century saw a steep decline in the number of wars, military coups, and deadly ethnic riots.”

    Re: including democide in counting victims of war, I agree. In the modern age especially, “peace” under a tyrannical government is more dangerous to life than actual warfare.

  67. Biv, I didn’t suggest that I think pacifists are “cowardly milquetoasts.” I think true pacifism requires great courage, even though I believe it’s in a misguided cause. But I’m interested that you see no conflict between pacifism and law enforcement. Law enforcement is simply coercive force by a state with a monopoly on violence. Warfare is coercive force applied internationally, where no such monopoly on violence exists. The only real difference between a cop and a soldier is rate of fire.

    “If beaten, I would be in favor of fines, incarceration, loss of privileges, or a host of other punishments. This would be multiplied on the world scale.”

    What happens when the guy who beats you declines to submit to incarceration, or pay the fine? What happens when he’s not impressed by any of the “privileges” you’re handing out?

    “What would it look like if we sent Americans over to other countries to be a force for good? What if, instead of riding in armored vehicles and toting guns, they carried textbooks and computers, set up schools, gave out lollipops?”

    We do — often to great effect. (A good number of sub-Saharan Africa absolutely loves us, since they get their impressions of America firsthand and not through the lens of cheap Eurotrash propaganda.) Unfortunately, in the rougher global neighborhoods, some sick bastards tend to bomb the schools, shoot the schoolgirls, burn the books, and set off bombs among the crowds of kids gathered for lollipops.

  68. The reason peace alone doesn’t work is because it needs basic rules of law to enforce it. The most basic of law requires that you state in clear explicit language what is acceptable behavior in society. If these behaviors are displayed and broken then not only do individuals, but the mass of society has the right to ask for and seek justice.

    I personally would not feel badly if I attacked someone after being provoked,(i.e) if someone broke into my home, or attacked my out on the street while walking my dog. I’m sorry but if my basic right to walk any street in America is going be infringed upon by an individual who believes his rights are greater than mine, I’d say until help arrives, all bets are off I will put up a fight, or at least my dog will and I haven’t even trained him to do so.

  69. OP: “Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which “commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country.” At the risk of coming under the condemnation of Mormon bloggers everywhere, I wish to register my objection to the deplorable sentiments underlying this holiday.”

    Commemorating those “who have died in military service to their country” is “deplorable”?


    I am not a military man, but I am almost speechless at this idea. Almost, but not quite.

    Whom else do you think it’s “deplorable” to honor? The mother who died in childbirth, perhaps? The father killed while driving to work?

    Let me ask the question from the other direction: Whom do you think it’s appropriate to honor? Anyone? You mention “peacemakers”, but the Book of Mormon makes it clear that perhaps its greatest warrior, Moroni (the first), was a great man of peace who abhorred war. Given how soon after the great Nephite/Lamanite war Moroni died, at about age 46 or so, it’s entirely likely he died of wounds received in battle. That is, Moroni was very likely a war casualty.

    So here is a man who had done as much for the peaceful existence of the Nephites as perhaps any other single person, a man who literally gave up his life to help his people. Yet you would have us believe that it would have been deplorable for the Nephites to honor him.

    Even if we agree (which we all probably do) that war is an awful state of affairs, to be avoided whenever reasonably possible, why would you take that to the point of proclaiming that a day honoring those who have died fighting for our country is “deplorable”? Your answer seems to be “Because war is yucky”, but that’s non sequitur. Even if we dislike war, that says nothing about honoring those who have lost their lives in (at least what was said to be) their nation’s defense.

  70. here’s something to think about on Memorial day: You can think about the 18 year old kid that I had to fly on 3 missions to take all his body parts to Baghdad, (the last one they gave me a 5X5 box that I held between my knees the whole flight so it wouldnt fly out) You can think about the half full body bags we had to caro strap to the floor of the helicopter (because the doors were broke, had to fly with them open) that leaked in flight leaving blood streaks down the underside of the helicopter, you can think about the painstaking effort it took to make sure that when we took the half full body bag out I was carrying the end where the head should have been first. If it’s not too much trouble you can think about those guys on Memorial day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *