On Friday March 30, this billboard will appear next to I-15 in Orem. The billboard urges people to go to a web site www.warlikepeople.com, where they can read prophetic statements like this, written in the middle of World War II, by the First Presidency:
“Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace . . . ” (D&C 98:16) Thus the Church is and must be against war. The Church itself cannot wage war, unless and until the Lord shall issue new commands. It cannot regard war as a righteous means of settling international disputes; these should and could be settled—the nations agreeing—by peaceful negotiation and adjustment.
My question is very simple: is there any thing wrong with LDS people getting together and putting up such a billboard?
Note: I am not asking whether you agree with the sentiment. I am not asking whether you think the promoters of this billboard are annoying and way too political. I am asking: is there anything wrong with this?
Hopefully we can all agree that it should be legal to put up such a billboard. The issue is: it is immoral or wrong in any way?
I am friends with a number of people, whose opinions I respect greatly, who say promoting such a billboard is wrong. Their basic opinion is: it is unseemly to use prophetic words to promote a political agenda. The people behind this billboard are opposed to Mitt Romney’s foreign policy and support Ron Paul’s candidacy. The position of people opposed to the billboard is that its supporters are wrongly using prophetic words to support a specific ideology.
I can see a small bit of truth in the complaints. Would Spencer W. Kimball want his words on a billboard? I can see the argument that he would prefer his words not be expressed in this way.
The position of the people who made the billboard is clear: they want to provoke Latter-day Saints to take another look at our foreign policy. They believe Latter-day Saints of today, who overwhelmingly supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, are too quick to accept aggressive war. There is a difference between complete pacifism, which the backers of the billboard to NOT accept, and opposition to non-defensive wars. The promoters of the billboard support defensive wars (the United States should fight back if attacked) but oppose wars in foreign lands like our adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya are our possible action in Syria and Iran.
I am having a tough time completely understanding the opposition to this billboard among my LDS friends. One commenter I know pointed out that we are encouraged to be engaged in political issues. It is also true that we should apply the Book of Mormon to our thoughts today. So, it is OK to study these things. It is OK to share our thoughts with our friends. It is OK to express these thoughts on a blog. But all of the sudden it is NOT OK to express such thoughts on a billboard, using your own money?
I am open to the idea that putting such a message on a billboard could be wrong, but I remain unconvinced.
Things to think about: would it be wrong to put up a billboard quoting the Brethren on gay marriage? Would it be wrong to put up a billboard reminding people to read the Book of Mormon? How about a bumper sticker: would it be wrong to put a bumper stick on your car that says, “We are a Warlike People?” Or more simply: “Renounce war and proclaim peace?”
At the end of the day, people opposed to this billboard mostly strike me as people opposed to the message of the billboard. What they really want to do is point out that they disagree with the anti-war sentiment expressed there. In addition, they do not like the hyper-political nature of the billboard’s proponents. But I could be wrong. Is there a good case to be made that this billboard is inappropriate?
Warming to commenters: alternative viewpoints are welcome and encouraged (that is the purpose of this post). However, personal attacks will be swiftly deleted. Make your argument calmly.