Nuclear Disarmament Meets Mormon Patriotism

Bored in Vernal Government, jehovahs witnesses, LDS, Mormon, news, pacifism, Peace, politics, religion, war 64 Comments

Avatar-BiVLately more and more Church members have begun to wonder why the Church is so supportive of the United States military. We’ve experienced a long tradition of this, beginning with the Mormon Battalion in 1846. When the U.S. Army requested 500 men to join the service in the conflict with Mexico, Brigham Young responded positively despite the fact that our people were in the middle of a forced exodus from the country. This story is proudly retold in our Church lessons and manuals, making it a seminal moment in the formation of our military philosophy. Isolation in the West kept members physically separated from the conflict of the Civil War. But by the time of World War I, Mormons had become involved in the military machine.

Shortly before the Second World War, the United States instituted the draft system. With the deemphasis on the doctrine of gathering to Utah, and the advent of World War II, the Church had to face some tough issues. For the first time we were confronted with the problem of having significant numbers of faithful Latter-day Saints on both sides of a military conflict. In the April Conference of 1942, an official statement was made by the First Presidency that although the gospel of Christ is a gospel of love, every citizen has an obligation to come to the defense of their country when a call to arms is made.

“The state is responsible for the civil control of its citizens or subjects, for their political welfare, and for the carrying forward of political policies, domestic and foreign, of the body politic. For these policies, their success or failure, the state is alone responsible, and it must carry their burdens. All these matters involve and directly affect Church members because they are part of the body politic, and members must give allegiance to their sovereign and render it loyal service when called thereto. But the Church itself, as such, has no responsibility for these policies, as to which it has no means of doing more than urging its members fully to render that loyalty to their country and to free institutions which the loftiest patriotism calls for.” (First Presidency Message, Conference Report, April 1942, pp. 88-97)

This statement is included in full on the Church’s website as representative of our public policy. Perhaps the preeminence in the Book of Mormon on war in the defense of one’s freedom influenced the decision to support government in waging war.  Other Christian religions, notably the Jehovah’s Witnesses, encountered the same quandary and formulated quite different policies. At the time of World War I, it was recommended that Witnesses serve in the army only if compelled, and then to request positions in a non-combative role such as medical service.  However, by the time of the Second World War, they refused to assist the war effort in any way, to salute the flag, and even to vote.

Since the 1942 CR statement was made, there has been a general reluctance to speak against any military action taken by countries wherein dwell large numbers of Latter-day Saints, especially the United States.  During the Vietnam War, Mormons were urged not to be conscientious objectors, but to enter the military and serve their country.  Church statements at the time emphasized the propriety of war in defense of our families, religion and country.  In the several wars which have ensued, LDS members in the military are urged to see themselves as defending not just their own nation but also the freedom of religion that it ensures for the Church.  I don’t know if it is just my personal experience, but I rarely hear talks or prayers in the Church urging peaceful solutions to national conflict.  Instead I hear prayers from the ward level to temple prayer circles where the Lord is asked to bless our members who are serving in the military.  There is a subtle acceptance of military action inherent in these types of prayers which grates on me.

I think it will be very interesting if Mormon rhetoric concerning participation in military efforts will begin to soften now that the President of the United States is more committed to exploring greater options toward pacifism than past administrations have done.  Lately President Obama has been involved in a global nonproliferation regime concerning nuclear weaponry.  As part of his vision for a world without nuclear weapons, he drafted a proposal which was unanimously accepted at a U.N. Security Council meeting on September 24.

This is a complicated issue, which may involve even more conflict, given that Iran may resist the resolution.  However, I have great hopes for the way this is heading.  I also see many younger Latter-day Saints who are committed to the issue of pacifism.  Since military service is currently voluntary, young men and women do not feel undue pressure from the Church to serve their country in this manner, as they have in the past.  Thus, an LDS generation is growing up with more of an opportunity to formulate their own responses to a call to military service amid a political climate which is more conducive to pacifism than ever before.

Will we soon see the cessation of hawkish patriotism in Sunday School lessons and Church talks and prayers?  Will more LDS leaders arise in the traditon of J. Reuben Clark, who affirmed: “Moral force is far more potent than physical force in international relations. I believe that America should again turn to the promotion of peaceful adjustment of international disputes?”  Or will civil and religious duties continue to be cited as justification for participation in military conflict?

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Comments 64

  1. “This is a complicated issue, which may involve even more conflict, given that Iran may resist the resolution. However, I have great hopes for the way this is heading.”

    I’m assuming you wrote this post before Iran, China, and India’s latest shenanigans. The only resolutions that will pass the Security Council are toothless ones, because they don’t cost members money. But who knows? Maybe in the long run, toothless resolutions will have an effect.

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    Adam–the latest from Iran (this morning) is that they will “never give up its legitimate rights on use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes,” but they are insisting that they are not building weapons and they urge all nations to continue to disarm. We don’t have specifics on the talks a few hours ago with James Steinberg in Beijing, but the fact that talks are continuing indicates a possible resumption of negotiations on disarmament in China and North Korea. So, my hopes are still high at the moment.

  3. “Or will civil and religious duties continued to be cited as justification in military conflict..”

    Probably. This is a topic that I have invested a great deal of time examining and writing about since 2002—during buildup to Iraq invasion. It is unfortunate that we have traded Christianity for nationalism. The 12th Article of Faith has become in part an excuse for outright murder–as Tolstoy aptly described it, ie, doing collectively what we could never do in Christian conscience individually. Here is a brief excerpt from one chapter of the book that my son and I are writing on this topic. I have watched the church’s DVD and statements and we have issued a “war indulgence” as effectively as Pope John VIII and Pope Urban II, ie, the blood is not on your hands if the war is unjust because you were just doing your “duty” to the state. Right.

    HERE IS THE EXCERPT AS TO WAR INDULGENCE POPE STYLE CIRCA “THE CRUSADES”–

    “When individuals chose, despite changing church doctrine, to remain conscientious objectors to state sponsored wars and crusades, the concomitant doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility was also becoming increasingly entrenched. The inerrancy and infallibility of the Pope allowed among others things a central authority that could decide for all Christians whether a war was justifiable without requiring them to give any thought to choosing for themselves. Moreover, to take any path other then a Pope endorsed policy was subject to recriminations and even condemnation. With this official and then increasing acceptance of inerrancy came the final coup de grace—“Indulgences for Fighting the Heathen, 878” issued by inerrant Pope John VIII:

    “Those who have recently died in war fighting in the defense of the church of God and for the preservation of the Christian religion and of the state, or those who may in the future fall in the same cause, may obtain indulgence of their sins. We confidently reply that those who out of love of the Christian religion, shall die in battle fighting bravely against pagans or unbelievers, shall receive eternal life.”

    The Christian soldier now was not only forgiven his sins, but he was promised paradise for his state service in slaying unbelievers. In 1095 Pope Urban II at the Council of Claremont inspired the first Crusade to free the Holy Lands from pagans:

    “All who die in battle against the pagan, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant through the power of God with which I am invested.”

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  5. Bored in Vernal:

    Thank you for bringing up this topic. Here is a post in the Mormon Worker where I address the issue head on as to the 12th Article of Faith–for what it is worth:

    http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/the-12th-article-of-faith-not-to-be-used-as-an-excuse-for-murder/#more-408

    The short of it is that the 12th Article of Faith is to be qualified by “natural law” and not “positive law”, ie, we do not abdicate our conscience but in fact, IMO, have a duty of civil disobedience if the state requires us to violate either our inalienable rights or the rights of others—including the murder of innocent lives for our ends….

  6. Will we soon see the cessation of hawkish patriotism in Sunday School lessons and Church talks and prayers?

    Seeing how much President Hinckley supported the war in Iraq in April 2003, I’d say the church and its American members will continue being highly militant.

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    Dan: Sadly, that is my prediction, too. However, since in the past Mormons have couched our militarism in the rhetoric of supporting our country, what would we do if the President of the US began to promote peaceful solutions to world problems?

  8. The Church’s stance on war and pacifism is an unfortunate one, and I do wonder how much of it in recent history comes back to Pres. Benson while he was an Apostle. He publicly denounced any Democrat for not taking a strong enough stance against Communism. Given that this is when the arms race was at its zenith, is it any wonder that our church has continued in its pro-war stance?

    I should also probably note that the vast majority of Mormons are Republicans, and therefore don’t really think anything Pres. Obama does is legitimate anyway.

  9. I have read the 1942 Conference report as well as several of the ‘related topics’ at the bottom of the 1942 report and feel that most here have a very slanted [negative] viewpoint as to the actual position of the LDS Church concerning ‘War’.

  10. BiV,

    The militarism within Mormonism is directly tied to conservative ideology, and not out of loyalty to the president of the United States. I can’t tell you how many militaristic Mormon commentators I’ve seen deride Obama. Because Obama does exactly as they perceive a liberal pacifist to do, they will scorn him, deride him, and wait passively until their heroic Republican warrior comes back to power. Note carefully that the rhetoric of First Presidency messages about war from the 1940s about WWII and the 1960s about Vietnam, are generally unfavorable toward those wars. Then you get a war run by a Republican—two wars really—2001 and 2003, both of which are fairly strongly supported by the First Presidency of the church. I am making an accusation with this, but I believe that if Al Gore had been in charge in 2001-2004, the First Presidency would not have been as supportive and would not have given that much benefit of the doubt that they gave a hardcore conservative president. Church leaders have been thoroughly ingrained these past 70 years to be highly distrustful of liberal ideology because of its closeness to socialism and eventually communism. They really distrust liberals. For them, they feel safer within the conservative ideology, and as such they feel more trust of conservative leaders, instinctively rather than based on the facts. Because truly, if you paid close attention between 1998-2002, there was no evidence strong enough to conclude that Iraq was an imminent threat to anyone—the rationale used by President Hinckley to support Bush’s war.

    I think that if American policy were to lead in the direction of making peace with the world, the militaristic Mormons would decry that as a move toward the one government anti-Christ totalitarian movement they believe Revelations predicts. In discussing with numerous supporters of militarism these days, the impression I get is that they can’t see the “end of the world” as transforming peacefully into the Millennium Period. They see Revelations talk about world war. Heck, one part of Revelations says one third of the population gets killed. In today’s world numbers, that’s about 2 billion people! To put in perspective, in World War II there were probably about 100 million people killed. So these militant Mormons are under the impression that violence is an inevitability, thus we should be supportive of the violence. But there is no indication from scripture that the Latter Day Saints are supposed to participate in this violence. In fact, there are verses where it speaks of Zion being a place of safety and comfort from the violence of the world outside. How can Zionists participate in the violence around them and at the same time provide a place of safety and comfort from the violence? It is impossible.

    Personally, I really don’t care how the world will end. I will try and be kind and Christ-like to all (of course I slip every now and then and get somewhat mean to conservative commentators) 🙂

  11. Bored:

    I think your description of the history of the Church’s attitude towards war and conflict in modern times needs a bit more research.

    — World War II: we have Elder George F. Richards (of the Twelve) telling of a dream in which he felt love and forgiveness towards Hitler, then said:

    I think the Lord gave me that dream. Why should I dream of this man, one of the greatest enemies of mankind, and one of the wickedest, but that the Lord should teach me that I must love my enemies, and I must love the wicked as well as the good?

    — Vietnam War: Having reached draft age during this war, I can tell you that while the LDS membership in general seemed to be pretty solidly behind it, the Church leadership was far more temperate. President Harold B. Lee — as President of the Church, speaking in General Conference — raised the question (among others) of where the Church stood with relation to the Vietnam War:

    Time will permit but a few observations with reference to some of these startling challenges to our present generation.

    In the midst of the early persecutions of this church, the Saints sought earnestly from the Lord as to how they were to meet the threats of their enemies.

    The answer came: “Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children.” (D&C 98:16.)

    — The Cold War: Pres. Spencer W. Kimball spoke out very strongly against the arms race and the militarization of our culture in his epistle “The False Gods We Worship”, published in the June 1976 Ensign in advance of America’s Bicentennial:

    We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel — ships, planes, missiles, fortifications — and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

    It was President Kimball who pretty much single-handedly killed the proposed MX nuclear missile system in Nevada and Utah by having the First Presidency issue a statement against its deployment.

    That said, as a student of history in general and military history in particular, I’m a firm believer in a strong defense — which is not the same as a strong supporter of nuclear weapons. Having actually grown up and lived through the Cold War, I thought that the doctrine of mutually assured (nuclear) destruction was insane — but as others have pointed out to me, no nuclear weapons have been used in over 64 years, so maybe it was the right doctrine after all.

    I agree with you that “hawkish militarism” has no place in church, but I see nothing wrong or promotional about prayers asking for protection for those who serve in the military. My father served for nearly 30 years in the Navy, from World War II all the way through Vietnam; my son Jon served in Iraq; my nephew Darren is serving in Afghanistan. It saddens me that you would see something wrong in prayers for the safety of such. ..bruce..

  12. “Lately more and more Church members have begun to wonder why the Church is so supportive of the United States military.”
    Oh? Some vague number of people are thinking vague questions about an unsupported presupposed conclusion?

    ” Instead I hear prayers from the ward level to temple prayer circles where the Lord is asked to bless our members who are serving in the military. There is a subtle acceptance of military action inherent in these types of prayers which grates on me.”

    The public and temple prayers in support of military personnel have been going on for what seems like forever. I know for a fact they happened during the wars in Iraq I (R), Bosnia/Kosovo/etc (D), Afghanistan/Iraq2 (R), and continuing with Afghanistan (D).

    I’m not sure why expressing the desire for the safe return of our children and siblings would “grate on” you.
    Maybe what you see as a referendum on the causes and methods of military action and political expedience is really just an expression of hopeful pleading. Maybe you’re projecting.

    In my opinion, I have seen that “people who beat their swords into plow-shares end up plowing for people who kept their swords.” This is the nature of the lone and dreary world. It is the hope for a better world that we strive for by faith.

  13. bf webster,

    THANK YOU. There is even more. Sxark mentions 1942 Statement but weigh that with December 14, 1945 Statement by First Presidency DENOUNCING the DRAFT and the military in general. All the above is real nice BUT the reality is that in my generation we still pledged allegiance to the very murderous and criminal Viet Nam conflict and we still did not object to Iraq invasion which IMO was a clear denunciation of our Christian principles/values. And we are one of the few faiths that did NOT support NRCAT (National Religious Council Against Torture). So what good is it to have the BOM and all our teachings and the Holy Ghost when confronted with a real live war choice and we choose the plan that involves ruling this earth with blood and horror?
    The BOM was to be learned from and not mimicked. Yet we mimic in deed (despite the warnings you cited above) the worse of Nephite culture and we call it Mormonism..

  14. Ok, first, I think some who have posted here need to consider whether their comments fall under ‘supporting our church leaders’ and if they don’t then perhaps some should consider wether they need to be holding a temple recommend at this time. Furthermore, if anyone believes that everyone in the world is just going to happily give up their nuclear weapons and skip on their way, then you’ve truly lost touch with reality. There are an AWFUL lot of people in this world who HATE us (Americans)for our freedoms. They don’t like that we are free to say some of the idiotic things that are said, or that we are free to worship the way that we see fit. I think that those who are anti military need to think long and hard about the fact that you OWE these freedoms- the same freedoms that allow you even have an opinion contrary to the one that some public official has told you to have- to those men and women who serve our country, and yes, sometimes that means going to war. Noone LIKES war, but some people are realistic enough to know that if we don’t continue to fight for our freedoms, someone WILL come in and take them away. If we give up all of our nuclear weapons, some other country will know that we cannot protect and defend ourselves and they will attack us possibly with nuclear weapons of their own that they have hidden from the powers that be.

  15. #14 – Mandi, are you currently IN the military, because your comment is a bit militant. Get it? MILITary – MILITant?

    Seriously, I can’t think of many things more offensive than one member of the church deigning to suggest that another member is unworthy to hold a temple recommend. That’s beyond unseemly, and I felt that way when I was a temple recommend holding member. You obviously feel very strongly about this issue, but you may want to re-read your comment. While you pay homage to the right to hold contrary opinions and diverse beliefs, it seems like maybe you aren’t quite so fond of that principle in practice.

    By the way, BIV, great new picture.

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    Thanks BrJones!

    Mandi, we don’t do temple recommend interviews here at MM. And supporting our church leaders always gets a bit complicated when we have issues such as this, upon which Apostles and even Prophets may disagree.

    In response to your comment: “some people are realistic enough to know that if we don’t continue to fight for our freedoms, someone WILL come in and take them away,” I would just like to ask you your opinion on 2 Nephi 1:7.

  17. Mandi,

    #14,

    There are an AWFUL lot of people in this world who HATE us (Americans)for our freedoms.

    Who hates us for our freedom? Remember, you’ve gotta offer evidence of someone saying specifically that they hate America because of its ability to allow people to act and speak fairly freely. Not for any other reason. Not for our foreign policy. Not for our actions, but that abstract belief. Can you name anyone who fits that criteria? Any enemy? Those dastardly terrorists run by Osama Bin Laden certainly don’t. That’s not what drives them. Who else is out there that “hates” us? The Iranians don’t hate us. They mourned with us on 9/11. They’re also not monolithic, with some of them disliking America (not for the principle of freedom, but rather for our actions in 1953), and some of them really liking us. Who else hates us? The Saudis? Nah, they’re controlling us too much to hate us. The Iraqis? Now there’s a group that has sufficient justification to hate us. But again, their reasoning has nothing to do with the concept of freedom. Rather, they hate us for killing their brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and children in Iraq. They are pissed! But that has nothing to do with our concept of freedom. Who else is left? The Chinese? Nah, they don’t hate us. Like the Saudis, they control us too much to hate us, or fear us. They hold the financial cards these days. Truly probably the only example that may be close to fitting this criteria is North Korea, who truly hate us because of our freedom.

    I think that those who are anti military need to think long and hard about the fact that you OWE these freedoms

    I owe my freedom to God.

    Noone LIKES war, but some people are realistic enough to know that if we don’t continue to fight for our freedoms, someone WILL come in and take them away.

    Actually, it’s the opposite. The more we fight, the less free we are, because we become dependent on fighting to hold on to something that keeps slipping away. We are far more free when we are at peace with our enemies than when we are at war with them.

  18. BrJones,
    If you will read back over my comment, you will note that I did not infer that I do not believe that anyone should not have a temple recommend, I simply stated that perhaps some should consider whether THEY think they should have a recommend, as this is something that is between an indivudual, their bishop/stake president, and the Lord. There is a big difference. Thankfully, I do not have the responsibility of judging who is and is not worthy to enter the temple of the Lord. I was merely pointing out that not sustaining our church leaders is one of the things that will prevent us from being worthy. As to your other comment, no I am not in the military, however, my father served our country for 23 years and my family made great sacrifices so that he could go out and protect those who neither appreciated it, nor would pray for his safe return(as was pointed out above-btw, to say that it is wrong to pray for our soldiers is mind boggling! Whether you support the war itself is irrelevant. It is just plain hateful for someone to say that it grates on them for prayers to be offered for someone’s well being.) My brother also served our great nation for 6 years. So yes, I suppose I do feel strongly about it. I believe that not supporting the men and women of the armed forces is unamerican. And finally, you are greatly mistaken about me not being fond of people expressing their opinions. It is one of many great things about this nation. I have noticed that when liberals express their opinions, they are doing just that, but when conservative express their opinions, we are accused of not wanting others to share theirs. So to be clear, it is my OPINION that we live in a great nation, one that was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of our forefathers, one that they HAD to FIGHT for. If this country never participated in any kind of war, we would never have the option of having this discusion, because we would all be members of the Church of England and we would not have the option of speaking our mind about whether or not we liked it’s teachings. That is why this country was founded, and that is why I feel that it is so important for us squelch the terrorist threats that are working right now as I type this to find a way to bring down this great land that I love. If you think that is militant, then I guess I’ll just be militant because that is the opinion that I hold near and dear to my heart.

  19. Mandi,

    #18,

    I was merely pointing out that not sustaining our church leaders is one of the things that will prevent us from being worthy.

    I sustain Ezra Taft Benson as a prophet, but I will vehemently disagree with his politics. The two are separate things.

    If this country never participated in any kind of war, we would never have the option of having this discusion, because we would all be members of the Church of England and we would not have the option of speaking our mind about whether or not we liked it’s teachings.

    Little you know about England, particularly when it comes to freedom of religion.

    That is why this country was founded, and that is why I feel that it is so important for us squelch the terrorist threats that are working right now as I type this to find a way to bring down this great land that I love.

    But terrorists don’t threaten our freedom. They are simply incapable of threatening our freedom, thus why they resort to terrorism. They are weak, and have little to no influence over us. Now, how we react to their actions does indeed have an effect upon our freedoms. If the response is to curtail freedoms, to spy on Americans, to employ torture, well, then you lost some freedom. But those decisions are not done by terrorists. They are done by American politicians. Maybe they’re the real terrorists.

  20. #14,

    Thank you Dan for your reply to #14. “They hate us”? Why do they hate us? It is remarkable how little hate there is or should be considering our last forty years of foreign imperialism. I think a more apt word would be our outright murder of innocent civilians—tens of thousands in Iraq and millions in Viet Nam. Check out the Pentagon Papers, check out the transcripts where Nixon and Kissinger are deciding whether to use nukes on North Vietnam (Nixon’s idea) or the lesser approach of blowing up dams that resulted in 200,000 North Vietnamese peasants being drowned—to send a message. Then read “Generation Kill” account in Iraq and get an idea as to what “fighting for freedom” looks like. There is really no other word for Viet Nam and Iraq than outright government sanctioned murder.

    So Mandy, let’s turn the tables and talk about “freedom.” Let’s trade places with Iran. Suppose that Iran invaded and occupied Canada and then invaded and occupied Mexico (like we did Afghanistan and Iraq–both sides of Iran). Then Iran’s president tells us that we are part of the “axis of evil” and repeatedly warns us that they are about to bomb us because we have or are developing nuclear weapons (Bush and the neocons). And suppose that someone like McCain in our country sings “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” and others call daily for us to take action like Bolton did and the Iranians see that as evidence that we intend to attack them—even though we are occupied on two fronts and we are a much smaller and less powerful nation. Now you tell me. Would the bombing of our cities and killing our civilians by Iran be justified in their pursuit of FREEDOM based on some of the ill advised words of our militant and bellicose politicians or even our president? Tell me exactly where we find PRE-EMPTIVE WARS OF AGGRESSION ENDORSED IN THE BOM?. And yet we talk of “Freedom” fighting. To buy into that rhetoric is evidence of a deeper pathology then just immoral irrationality.

    I am far less concerned about words rather then deeds. Iran has not invaded another country in centuries but we have regularly initiated wars of aggression and make up false intelligence to do so– and then we call it fighting for “freedom.” American “exceptionalism” is beyond idiotic—it is criminal cognitive dissonance.

    Finally and thankfully no one has ever asked me in any of my temple recommend interviews going back as far as Viet Nam as to whether I support any church leaders personal opinion as to the justice of any war. And I will bet you my current temple recommend they never will.

  21. I hope we do not forget Elder Nelson’s great talk, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers” given while the Bush Administration was getting ready to invade Iraq and beating the war drums. http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-315-13,00.html In fact, a number of newspapers interpreted the talk to indicate that the LDS Church opposed going to war with Iraq, and the Church issued a statement to defuse that supposition. http://newsroom.lds.org/ldsnewsroom/eng/commentary/message-of-peace-misinterpreted (My guess is that Elder Nelson opposed going to war, but others of the Brethren did not oppose or in fact favored going to war.)

    The following passage particularly hit home to me, at the time when the Bush surrogates were on the television shows stating that there was no likely alternative to invasion:

    “Because of the long history of hostility upon the earth, many feel that peace is beyond hope. I disagree. Peace is possible. We can learn to love our fellow human beings throughout the world. Whether they be Jewish, Islamic, or fellow Christians, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or other, we can live together with mutual admiration and respect, without forsaking our religious convictions. Things we have in common are greater than are our differences. Peace is a prime priority that pleads for our pursuit. Old Testament prophets held out hope and so should we. The Psalmist said, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”28 “He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth.”29”

  22. Well, Folks, I think we will have to agree to disagree. I can see that I’ve stumbled into a group of EXTREME liberals, and I’m sure I won’t be able to change your mind, and you certainly won’t be able to change mine, so we part ways here (for the purposes of this discussion). I could refute many of the comments above, but I won’t waste my time as I know it will fall on deaf ears. Good luck and God Bless America, and God bless the men and women of our armed forces- I for one will be praying for them, as I believe 98% of the active members of the church are.

  23. Hold on, Mandi. I am nowhere near a hard core liberal, and it may surprise you how similar my views are to your own. I do agree, though, that there might not be much point in fighting this fight in this forum. My only issue with your original post was its strident tone and what I interpreted as a judgment on others’ temple worthiness, which you have clarified.

    Whatever one’s politics, though, I think anyone who would degrade or demean the sacrifices of those who HAVE fought, or the willingness to give their lives of those who ARE fighting, is utterly inexcusable. I trust even those on this site with strong anti-war leanings can see the distinction.

  24. #23.
    What is a liberal or conservative when it comes to issues of wars of aggression? I believe that to attack another nation, occupy it and engage in nation building is NOT a conservative value. True conservatives as Ron Paul expressed believe that our invasion into a country that has not attacked us is not conservatism but neoCONism.
    Do I support the troops. Heck yes. I assisted and encouraged one young Marine to declare his conscientious objection to the Iraq war–successfully I might add. I only wish like the Seventh Day Adventist or JWs or Amish we would have had “watchmen” in Israel that would have placed their Christianity over nationalism. Had we done so then maybe many in our faith would have also objected to this war and been spared this evil and personal harm.
    I pray for and wish no one harm–the military nor innocent screaming parents searching for their children in the rubble from our aerial bombing. My prayer are not only for Team A. Is that being “liberal” –if so then my concern is liberal for all victims of our wars of aggression whether our military or those whose lives we destroy.

  25. #23,

    I agree that opposing a war or violence is not the equivalent of degrading those in the military who are often also IMO victims of these many avoidable war. However, the problem with building cairns or war memorials is that the altar often demands more blood to be sacrificed. In other words, the mantra then becomes we must honor the sacrifice of the dead by heaping on the altar more victims—we all heard this during Viet Nam (Johnson in private tapes KNEW it was futile and wrong policy when only 4,000 of the eventual 55,000 soldiers were killed in Viet Nam but for the sake of the sacrifice so far he HAD to continue) and for that matter any war–“we must honor the dead by continuing the madness”… Rene Girard exposed this anthropological instinct that we must cover the dead with a sort of sacred worship in order to not only cover their deeds but also our national guilt—
    I believe the greatest honor to those who have sacrificed is finding the will and integrity to end the “shedding of blood” and not the perpetuation of it..

  26. The best way to honor our soldiers is to get them out of a battlefield as quickly as possible. End wars as quickly as possible. That’s how you honor your soldiers. Don’t let them get stuck in quagmires, civil wars, and long-lasting counterinsurgencies. That’s how you degrade your soldiers. The best way to protect and honor your soldiers is to ensure they only meet in battle for the briefest of moments.

  27. #28 sure thing Dan, that’s why we make things like thermobaric hellfires killer UAVs and use “shake and bake” but when we do use that stuff one things for sure you’re gonna be B****ing about it.

  28. Post
    Author

    Dan #26–Wow.
    I consider myself politically liberal, but those who follow Mormon Matters are all over the spectrum.
    I’m glad that Mandi weighed in here, because she represents the viewpoint of most of the members I know.

  29. cephalopod,

    The use of thermobaric hellfires and other things like that don’t end wars quicker. It does make your enemy more pissed at you, and thus keeps your soldiers longer in the field. Bad idea. Bad plan.

  30. #29. All the war memorials of every nation including ours–that their offering not be in vain we must go and do likewise—“there is no other way” for freedom. This is touching on the sacred—sacred violence and cannot be tackled in a post without misunderstanding and perhaps hurt feelings. I would suggest writings of Rene Girard and of course Tolstoy’s “Peaceable Kingdom” or Yoder’s “What would you do if..” It is another way of approaching what has become untouchable and even invested with sacredness to the point that the underlying causes are ignored.

  31. I think that Bored in Vernal has been misunderstood a bit. Lets quote what was actually said:

    ” I don’t know if it is just my personal experience, but I rarely hear talks or prayers in the Church urging peaceful solutions to national conflict. Instead I hear prayers from the ward level to temple prayer circles where the Lord is asked to bless our members who are serving in the military. There is a subtle acceptance of military action inherent in these types of prayers which grates on me.”

    What I get from this is that Bored would rather hear prayers that ask for a peaceful solution rather than one that just benefits our side. I don’t think she is saying we should not pray for our troops at all. I agree with this outlook.

    I also agree with Ron M., the simplistic view that “they hate us because of our freedoms” is extremely naive. When you don’t identify the true motivations of your enemies, then you are doomed to failure. I think that was one of the major downfalls of the Bush administration. They made everything black and white. I hate to tell you, nothing in this world is black and white, sorry.

    As for my temple recommend, I’ll have to ask my Bishop if my peace-loving-anti-war attitude should keep me out of the temple…

  32. Kills more of the enemy without sacrificing your own troops, simple as that… So i’m assuming in your worst case scenario of a war happening you would opt for using weapons like thermobaric hellfires if it means saving American lives?

  33. Obviously there are many definitions, but I’m not sure I consider Ron Paul the authoratative “true conservative,” at least by american political standards.

  34. cephalopod,

    Saving lives is not of the utmost importance. Adhering to our principles and values, now that is what is the overriding priority. You talk so ignorantly about the use of weapons as if you’ve never actually given thought to what you say. As Mandi said earlier though, there’s no point in arguing with you cephalopod. You proved on my blog you’re merely a troll. No point feeding you.

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    Author

    “…in all ages when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the “arm of flesh” and in “gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know” (Dan. 5:23)—that is, in idols. This I find to be a dominant theme in the Old Testament. Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.” ~SWK

  36. Actually, cephalopod, many (pardon my language) liberals/democrats care about all lives rather than just American lives. I know that’s hard for a conservative to understand.

  37. Bored in Vernal,

    Thank you for your thoughtful post. In fairness, you are asking about a shift in emphasis I assume from rhetoric of war to messages of peace. Elder Nelson gave a wonderful address in fall of 2002 entitled “Blessed are the Peacemakers.” What was of interest is that CNN picked it up and said that the LDS church was against our invasion of Iraq. The public affairs could not run out fast enough to say that his message of peace did NOT APPLY to the upcoming Iraq conflict–heaven forbid we take his words of Christ’s words literally to the point of actual application. But consider his words –especially the last two paragraphs which I am pasting here: :

    “These prophecies of hope could materialize if leaders and citizens of nations would apply the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ours could then be an age of unparalleled peace and progress. Barbarism of the past would be buried. War with its horrors would be relegated to the realm of maudlin memory. Aims of nations would be mutually supportive. Peacemakers could lead in the art of arbitration, give relief to the needy, and bring hope to those who fear. Of such patriots, future generations would shout praises, and our Eternal God would pass judgments of glory.
    The hope of the world is the Prince of Peace—our Creator, Savior, Jehovah, and Judge. He offers us the good life, the abundant life, and eternal life. Peaceful—even prosperous—living can come to those who abide His precepts36 and follow His pathway to peace. This I declare to all the world.

    Church Members
    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.”37 As individuals, we should “follow after the things which make for peace.”38 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.39 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.”

  38. Ian Cook, that is a very unfair statement. Please don’t paint an entire group of people with such a wide brush. I’m sure you wouldn’t appreciate a comment like “conservatives don’t believe in spitting on soldiers who have risked their lives on behalf of their country, although liberals wouldn’t understand that.”

  39. Bored in Vernal,

    So since Elder Nelson’s “Blessed are the Peacemakers” I do not recall for the last seven years any other conference addresses extolling the virtue and necessity of pursuing Peace lest we have the press think we are NOT supportive of our government and it’s state of perpetual war. However, I think the point you are making is NOW that Pres. Obama is the chief executive and is making overtures of peace and reconciliation and even disarmament, then being concerned first and foremost as to being good citizens and supportive of our government’s foreign policies THEN will we shift our public allegiance to our new Chief foreign policy maker by finding public expressions of support for Obama’s peace efforts even as we expressed our trust and confidence in our past administration’s war efforts???

  40. “you are asking about a shift in emphasis I assume from rhetoric of war to messages of peace.”

    Not rhetoric of peace? Ron M., your comments are very one-sided and bordering on propaganda. Not saying you’re wrong, but it’s probably not as black and white as you make it seem. Can’t we just acknowledge that there are some people who genuinely believe in making the world a better place and want world peace, but who believe that it can be acheived through military strength? Again, I’m not arguing such a position is correct, but your comments basically boil down to: Military Supporter = Evil Baby Killer Who Hates Fellow Man; Pacifist = Virtuous Lover of Peace and All Mankind. Surely you know it’s not that simple.

  41. I apologize brjones, I should have said “many” conservatives like I said “many” liberals. I was specifically speaking of celaphod who appeared to be trying to argue that killing fewer Americans in battle was better regardless of how many enemies were killed. I know that’s simplistic, but I have heard many a conservative declare that we should just nuke Iraq etc. and get it over with. It may just be the fact that I currently live in the heartland of Missouri that I am surrounded by what it appears to be cold hearted Republicans.

  42. brjones,

    I see your point and no it never is that simple as you point out. I have wrestled with this issue for years (although doing so does not mean I am any more correct—maybe more entrenched) and have come to believe that Christianity or the words of Christ truly are radical and yet paradoxically the only pragmatic way out. I think it is honorable and just to engage in “just wars” and also to engage in self-defense–real self defense and not the make believe stuff. However, the radicalism of breaking through the cycles of death is to change the whole paradigm proactively—true pacifism is not passive but extremely pro-active. For example instead of spending a trillion and counting in Iraq what if we spent 500 billion in flooding that country and others with unthinkable charity–medical, educational tools, food, etc. etc. We would destroy their narratives and destroy them from within. Destroy your enemies by destroying their narratives. Destroy Iran from within and not bomb them into the arms of their nut job leader and mullahs. There are other ways, but we have to have the will to pursue them. As Wendell Berry said it best, “All wars are a failure of imagination.” I am not a pure pacifist (there are 36 variants) but there are creative ways to prevent war if we have the will and desire for it…IMO

  43. Looks like we need to focus a bit more on pacifism within the Bloggernacle before worrying about how to apply it throughout the Church at large. 🙂 C’mon, folks, lighten up a bit. ..bruce..

  44. Thanks Ian. For what it’s worth, I don’t think your characterization is entirely unfair, as a general rule. I just wanted to make sure we acknowledge that there are lots of sub-groups within these factions.

  45. Even before making comment #9, I felt a steamroller of misconceptions of how the LDS Church feels about ‘War’.

    bfwebster #11 – was right on target, as well as Mandi in #14 and #18.

    Dan and RonM – You both appear to be frothing at the mouth with your anti-war stance to such a degree that you fail to see [by reading LDS official statements mentioned in #9], that the LDS Church is not in favor of war for the reasons, you both have indicated here.

    Personally, I’m a Vietnam veteran [USMC 1968] and I support the U.S. in all it’s wars and conflicts since WW 11. I am diametrically opposed to both of you. Perhaps that may be due to a different type of involvement I’ve had with the U.S. over the years. I know that I have good evidence to back up my position. But so what. We all could argue and debate over this thing and that one until we have 500+ comments here.

    Let us deal with the preamble of this post. As stated in #9 – [and there’s alot of reading to do there], the LDS Church is more peacefull than many have indicated. I was really surprised when the Church turned down ‘the offer’ to place missles in the middle of Utah in the mid-seventies, as brought up by bfwebster in #11. But they did it and were successfull.

    Although, I support our involvement with Iraq and the Middle East – for I believe, that after 9/11, that the U.S. believes it is the master of it’s own destiny and all of this involvement comes under ‘The war on Terror’, nonetheless, I felt the need to be closer to the LDS Church instead of being involved with the war. Some of you may be aware that this type of war can be fought on many fronts and can and will take up alot of time. Time that could be spent working in the Church. The Church that will survive any conflict. For all governments will fall before the second coming.

  46. It would be interesting to compare feelings of members throughout the world on this subject. I suspect US Mormon uber-hawkish views are not shared by most Mormons in other countries.

  47. Eh Viola:

    This is J. Reuben Clark of the First Presidency speaking in general conference just after World War II:

    “As the crowning savagery of the war, we Americans wiped out hundreds of thousands of civilian population with the atom bomb in Japan, few if any of the ordinary civilians being any more responsible for the war than were we …. Military men are now saying that the atom bomb was a mistake. It was more than that; it was a world tragedy …. And the worst of this atomic bomb tragedy is not that not only did the people of the United States not rise up in protest against this savagery, not only did it not shock us to read of this wholesale destruction of men, women, and children, and cripples, but that it actually drew from the nation at large a general approval of this fiendish butchery.”

  48. Ron,

    That’s because J. Reuben Clark really did not like Democrats, quipping upon hearing of FDR’s death, that God finally did what American voters could not do: get FDR out of office. He was a firm believer in the Skousen conspiracy of Democrats being secret communists bent on destroying America. Add to all of that a Democrat launching TWO nuclear bombs on civilian targets. Boy, that’s just too much for him to take.

  49. #1 Iraq vet here and i’ll believe the LDS church is really committed to pacifism when it spends as much on that cause as they did on prop. 8. Really what I think it boils down to is the LDS church believes wars such as this are furthuring their eternal cause and are more than happy to let some of their own but mostly others die for the cause. As to your stuff about the mormon church being “so supportive of the united states military” I went the 2nd time with 40 something guys from Utah and like 3 or 4 were mormon. In my opinion the support youre talking about is mostly talk.

    #2 You can sit in the peanut gallery and try and tell me I should die instead of the enemies the elected civilian leadership of the United States has designated and you can say your freedom here in the united states to practice religion, pacifism, politics without batting an eye unlike many other countries in the world comes directly from God to you without the blood of any American fighting men and you can say you don’t agree with the politics of any of our wars and you can say I don’t want to fight anymore but knowing in the back of your mind you need somebody to be willing to do it and you can look down on this low class white guy from Tennessee as just a gentile doing your dirty work and i’ll never tell anyone what they should think of me or not but if you want to complain about a simple memorial remembering the blood my brothers shed in military service for this country then you can meet me at the Ogden VFW hall tell me that and count how many teeth you have left afterwards.

    “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

  50. What do the scriptures say about war? Be grateful that we don’t live in the day when the prophet stands on the battlefield with the position of his hands determining the outcome. Many BYU scholars have stated that the reason the BOM has so many military stories complete with strategic battle plans, is to guide us in our day as to when and when not to use military force. The pretence for invading Iraq was that weapons of mass destruction warranted the invasion. While I’m no friend of Sadam, I do wonder if the US violated the BOM premise that one does not attack until one is actually attacked. The situation currently in Iran could provide the cascade of events to the plains of Armageddon. With a weak president in office, Israel may launch its own military attack on Iran. All nations may unite against Israel, including the US. To those of you who “just want to get along” were obviously asleep during the “war in heaven.” “Conflict” between good and evil is the nature of mortality so we shouldn’t expect to see it go away.

  51. South Bend Cougar,

    Um, exactly what kind of weaponry did we use in the “war in heaven?” Did you hold a sword? Did I have an axe? Did Jesus ride a nucular (purposefully misspelled) bomb waving his hat singing “yippie kayay mother sataners!”

  52. I think you probably just wrote boring poorly written childish political commentary that everyone mostly ignored while every one else was fighting Dan.

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