Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The War: "Where does the Church stand in all of this?"

With so much conflict in the world today, and legitimate arguments supporting the war and calling for its end, what position should a good member of the Church take on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan? While anyone who has read my blog knows how I feel about this, I won't presume to say there is one right answer for everyone. We all must follow the Spirit, the counsel of our Church leaders, the scriptures, and the dictates of our conscience. That said, President Hinckley spoke on this topic in the April 2003 General Conference (Gordon B. Hinckley, "War and Peace," Ensign, May 2003, 78). Here is a substantial quote from his talk:
The question arises, "Where does the Church stand in all of this?"

First, let it be understood that we have no quarrel with the Muslim people or with those of any other faith. We recognize and teach that all the people of the earth are of the family of God. And as He is our Father, so are we brothers and sisters with family obligations one to another.

But as citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally. Those in the armed services are under obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military service, they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded.

One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law" (A of F 1:12).

But modern revelation states that we are to "renounce war and proclaim peace" (D&C 98:16).

In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.

When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.

"And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God" (Alma 43:45–46).

The Lord counseled them, "Defend your families even unto bloodshed" (Alma 43:47).

And Moroni "rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

"And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren" (Alma 46:12–13).

It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.

When all is said and done, we of this Church are people of peace. We are followers of our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the Prince of Peace. But even He said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10:34).

This places us in the position of those who long for peace, who teach peace, who work for peace, but who also are citizens of nations and are subject to the laws of our governments. Furthermore, we are a freedom-loving people, committed to the defense of liberty wherever it is in jeopardy. I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression.
I believe that one thing all members of the Church can unitedly do is pray for peace and pray that our leaders will be lead by the Spirit of Truth.


shiningcity said...

I had forgotten this talk by the Prophet. Thanks for quoting from it. We are certainly blessed to have a living Prophet!

Paradox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paradox said...

Other than the obvious Christmas and Easter, the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I love my country, our democratic principles, our history, and even our stupidity; because all the while, something greater has always come of us; especially in times of peril.

Pray for peace. What wonderful council! And it applies not only for our Brothers and Sisters who are serving in the military. We must also remember to pray for peace here at home for all of our Brothers and Sisters, especially those who might be misunderstood for what was never their fault.

I made a post recently about two Muslim sisters in my high school in order to probe my own feelings about Muslims in light of world events. I live in a southern suburb, and it would be easy to fall into the bigotry that characterizes some of this community, I'm sad to say. But as long as we're willing to combat such ignorance, we will live up the American legacy that has so often revealed the American good intentions.

Here's the link to my post if you'd like to check it out:

I hope it means something to you and your readers, because it definitely means something to me.

rjrj said...

"I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do." So how does God feel about Nazi death camp guards? Does a uniform totally negate free agency and personal responsibility?