1945 message from the First Presidency on the draft, warfare, overbearing government and much more

STATEMENT BY THE FIRST PRESIDENCY REGARDING UNIVERSAL COMPULSORY MILITARY TRAINING

We print below a letter dated December 14, 1945, addressed by the First Presidency of the Church to each member of the Utah Congressional Delegation-Senators Thomas and Murdock and Congressmen Granger and Robinson. Word has now been received by the First Presidency from both Senators and both Congressmen expressing their approval of and belief in the sentiments, reasons, and conclusions set forth in the letter. The letter follows:

“Press reports have for some months indicated that a determined effort is in the making to establish in this country a compulsory universal military training designed to draw into military training and service the entire youth of the nation. We had hoped that mature reflection might lead the proponents of such a policy to abandon it. We have felt and still feel that such a policy would carry with it the gravest dangers to our Republic.

“It now appears that the proponents of the policy have persuaded the Administration to adopt it, in what on its face is a modified form. We deeply regret this, because we dislike to find ourselves under the necessity of opposing any policy so sponsored. However, we are so persuaded of the rightfulness of our position, and we regard the policy so threatening to the true purposes for which this Government was set up, as set forth in the great Preamble to the Constitution, that we are constrained respectfully to invite your attention to the following considerations:

“1. By taking our sons at the most impressionable age of their adolescence and putting them into army camps under rigorous military discipline, we shall seriously endanger their initiative thereby impairing one of the essential elements of American citizenship. While on its face the suggested plan might not seem to visualize the army camp training, yet there seems little doubt that our military leaders contemplate such a period, with similar recurring periods after the boys are placed in the reserves.

“2. By taking our boys from their homes, we shall deprive them of parental guidance and control at this important period of their youth, and there is no substitute for the care and love of a mother for a young son.

“3. We shall take them out of school and suffer their minds to be directed in other channels, so that very many of them after leaving the army, will never return to finish their schooling, thus over a few years materially reducing the literacy of the whole nation.

“4. We shall give opportunity to teach our sons not only the way to kill but also, in too many cases, the desire to kill, thereby increasing lawlessness and disorder to the consequent upsetting of the stability of our national society. God said at Sinai, “Thou shalt not kill.”

“5. We shall take them from the refining, ennobling, character-building atmosphere of the home, and place them under a drastic discipline in an environment that is hostile to most of the finer and nobler things of home and of life.

“6. We shall make our sons the victims of systematized allurements to gamble, to drink, to smoke, to swear, to associate with lewd women, to be selfish, idle, irresponsible save under restraint of force, to be common, coarse, and vulgar, all contrary to and destructive of the American home.

“7. We shall deprive our sons of any adequate religious training and activity during their training years, for the religious element of army life is both inadequate and ineffective.

“8. We shall put them where they may be indoctrinated with a wholly un-American view of the aims and purposes of their individual lives, and of the life of the whole people and nation, which are founded on the ways of peace, whereas they will be taught to believe in the ways of war.

“9. We shall take them away from all participation in the means and measures of production to the economic loss of the whole nation.

“10. We shall lay them open to wholly erroneous ideas of their duties to themselves, to their family, and to society in the matter of independence, self-sufficiency, individual initiative, and what we have come to call American manhood.

“11. We shall subject them to encouragement in a belief that they can always live off the labors of others through the government or otherwise.

“12. We shall make possible their building into a military caste which from all human experience bodes ill for that equality and unity which must always characterize the citizenry of a republic.

“13. By creating an immense standing army, we shall create to our liberties and free institutions a threat foreseen and condemned by the founders of the Republic, and by the people of this country from that time till now. Great standing armies have always been the tools of ambitious dictators to the destruction of freedom.

“14. By the creation of a great war machine, we shall invite and tempt the waging of war against foreign countries, upon little or no provocation; for the possession of great military power always breeds thirst for domination, for empire, and for a rule by might not right.

“15. By building a huge armed establishment, we shall belie our protestations of peace and peaceful intent and force other nations to a like course of militarism, so placing upon the peoples of the earth crushing burdens of taxation that with their present tax load will hardly be bearable, and that will gravely threaten our social, economic, and governmental systems.

“16. We shall make of the whole earth one great military camp whose separate armies, headed by war-minded officers, will never rest till they are at one another’s throats in what will be the most terrible contest the world has ever seen.

“17. All the advantages for the protection of the country offered by a standing army may be obtained by the National Guard system which has proved so effective in the past and which is unattended by the evils of entire mobilization.

“Responsive to the ancient wisdom, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,’ obedient to the divine message that heralded the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, ‘. . . on earth peace, good will toward men,’ and knowing that our Constitution and the Government set up under it were inspired of God and should be preserved to the blessing not only of our own citizenry but, as an example, to the blessing of all the world, we have the honor respectfully to urge that you do your utmost to defeat any plan designed to bring about the compulsory military service of our citizenry. Should it be urged that our complete armament is necessary for our safety, it may be confidently replied that a proper foreign policy, implemented by an effective diplomacy, can avert the dangers that are feared. What this country needs and what the world needs, is a will for peace, not war. God will help our efforts to bring this about.

“Respectfully submitted, GEO. ALBERT SMITH, J. REUBEN CLARK, JR., DAVID O. MCKAY, First Presidency.”

source: James R. Clark, compiler, The Messages of the First Presidency, volume 6

H/T to: Shaun Knapp

This entry was posted in General by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B has had three main careers. Some of them have overlapped. After attending Stanford University (class of 1985), he worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. In 1995, he took up his favorite and third career as father. Soon thereafter, Heavenly Father hit him over the head with a two-by-four (wielded by the Holy Ghost) and he woke up from a long sleep. Since then, he's been learning a lot about the Gospel. He still has a lot to learn. Geoff's held several Church callings: young men's president, high priest group leader, member of the bishopric, stake director of public affairs, media specialist for church public affairs, high councilman. He tries his best in his callings but usually falls short. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

18 thoughts on “1945 message from the First Presidency on the draft, warfare, overbearing government and much more

  1. It calls to mind a pattern that many of the General Authorities such as Gordon B. Hinckley and Bruce R. McConkie were part of: live at home with parents while attending the University of Utah, leaving the parental home only when marriage came.

  2. The interesting thing is that that pattern changed in the 1960s and 1970s as increasing prosperity caused kids to move out earlier. Now, with the last decade of near-stagnation, we have impoverished and indebted a whole new generation of young people, and they are moving back in with their parents and grandparents, so the pattern you mention is returning.

  3. Ah, that wonderful letter. During “Militar[istic] Week” at BYU in the 1972-73 school year, we had that letter along with some other antiwar materials on an “alternative” table (we sadly didn’t have any big guns to impress the boys, like the Army or Marines did), when Hartman Rector, Jr., and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral somebody or other, walked by. Elder Rector was not impressed, and told us in no uncertain terms that we shouldn’t have that letter out there without consent from someone like him and he certainly wasn’t going to give it.

    I’d never been yelled at by a General Authority before. One of the highlights of my life at BYU.

  4. Mark B, there is some wonderful stuff from the First Presidency in the 1930s and 1940s speaking out against war and militarism in no uncertain terms. I think those comments were suppressed during the Cold War in ways that you mention. Is that why President Kimball reminded us “we are a war-like people?”

    I do not think the Church should return to commenting on so many political events. We are a world-wide church now. But I think any intelligent latter-day Saint should be aware of these comments, if not for the simple reason of pondering and praying with greater knowledge.

    I was absolutely terrified by the draft in the 1970s, and I was very happy when it ended. I still remember the day with horror when I registered for the Selective Service. These thoughts on the draft echo my own thoughts.

  5. Being the mother of sons (small ones right now, but sons!) having them register for the draft scares me to bits.

    I am especially impressed by point #7 “7. We shall deprive our sons of any adequate religious training and activity during their training years, for the religious element of army life is both inadequate and ineffective.

    There is no better training for a young man or woman in my mind than a mission. Compulsory military service would interfear with missionary service I’m sure — and that would be a sad thing. My dad was a young man during the Vietnam War and there were very strict guidelines on missionary service and the draft. In our very Mormon town of Mesa, AZ, each ward was only allowed to have 2 missionaries out at a time. The year my dad was supposed to go things worked such that he and all the other boys that wanted to go on missions ended up going, but it was still a hugh concern.

    And now that the military is becoming victim to political correctness the previously inadequate religous services will be even further damaged.

  6. I think there are some positive benefits of mandatory military service or at least an ongoing draft versus an all voluntary force. If every mother’s son (and/or daughter) might be called up to go to war then I think as a nation we would be less likely to start needless wars. I submit that if there was a mandatory military service requirement with no deferments, we would have never invaded Iraq. Just for full disclosure, I served 24 years in the Army and deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq. The tolls we have put on our young service members by having them deployed 4-5 times has yet to be fully realized.

    But I guess that is OK so long as it is someone else’s son or daughter.

  7. Strictly speaking, given the date of this letter, this seems to be a statement in opposition to peacetime universal military service, not opposition to a wartime draft per se.

  8. Yes, Mark D. But “war” in 1946 must have meant, in their minds, the one that we had just won, the one where the nation’s very existence is threatened, rather than the imperialistic wars of recent years, fought by a professional army (they all chose to join, and intended for some period of their lives to make war their profession), which look a whole lot like the wars fought by the British Army in support of its empire in the 19th century.

  9. But “war” in 1946 must have meant, in their minds, the one that we had just won, the one where the nation’s very existence is threatened, rather than the imperialistic wars of recent years, fought by a professional army (they all chose to join, and intended for some period of their lives to make war their profession), which look a whole lot like the wars fought by the British Army in support of its empire in the 19th century.

    I don’t know what the implications are either way, but I don’t think we can say this conclusively. In 1946 it may have been possible to think that major wars were ended and future combat would be America’s traditional Marines in the Caribbean stuff.

  10. “And now that the military is becoming victim to political correctness the previously inadequate religous services will be even further damaged.”

    That’s a fantastic point, and emblematic of a larger one: although the military is typically understood as a conservative institution, it’s very structure and existence is fundamentally statist and anti-conservative, even if its members are not. Of course, it’s a necessary evil, but conservatives have often in recent times emphasized the “necessary” while ignoring the “evil”. Any institution so completely under government control is bound to be used for statist ends sooner or later. That’s why, although my family has a long and proud history of military service, I have not served and likely will not serve. My father served at at time when the military was a bulwark against totalitarianism, but I don’t like where I see it heading.

  11. Press reports have for some months indicated that a determined effort is in the making to establish in this country a compulsory universal military training designed to draw into military training and service the entire youth of the nation

    That is not referring to a wartime draft, that is in reference to a proposal for universal military service, peacetime or otherwise. This is the sort of thing they were talking about, from the Harvard Crimson, November 1950:

    The Conant proposal would draft all men at eighteen or when they complete high school. There would be no deferments. Even men normally classified as 4-F, but able to handle clerical work and the like, would be taken into the Army for a two year training period.

    http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1950/11/13/conant-educators-offer-universal-military-service/

  12. This statement reflected the conservative views of J. Reuben Clark who was perhaps the most powerful counselor ever to serve in the First Presidency. It was used by anti-Vietnam War activists in the 1960s. The majority of church members ignored it. If it does nothing else, it demonstrates that in the end we are all cafeteria Mormons.

  13. Don, I agree with you, at least your point about J. Reuben Clark. Fascinating man, and probably the most unusual Counselor in the First Presidency we’ve ever had (excepting John C. Bennett ;).

    He flirted with atheism briefly in the late teens/ early 20s. Was basically inactive for two decades and he wasn’t even a high priest when called to be Pres. Grant’s second counselor. Was counselor for a couple of years before he was ordained an apostle. Just downright fascinating story.

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