A friend of mine, fed up with the constant, gradual abandonment of freedom by American society and the encroachment of the Federal government on basic human rights, asked, “At what point is violent resistance to government ” Many people have commented something to the extent of, “Past that point already,” or “Getting there soon,” or “Can’t wait for this to happen.” It seems that many people are itching to get into a physical fight against our government in the name of preserving liberty.
I believe that armed resistance will eventually happen, and I believe that we would do best to steer clear of it. Based historical precedence, I suspect that in the event of armed resistance, the Lord’s spokesmen (the prophets and apostles) will ask us to decline to participate.
As I’ve read the Book of Mormon, I’ve noticed that many, many times, righteous people have found themselves oppressed by a tyrannical regime. Limhi’s people by the Lamanites, Alma the Elder’s people by Amulon, etc., are examples of this. But whenever any group tries to throw off their oppressors by force of arms (for example, Limhi’s people), they inevitably fail. Each and every time an oppressed people are delivered in the Book of Mormon, it was God who delivered them—often by miraculous intervention, and almost always without requiring the oppressed to raise arms against the oppressors. Moses and Egypt is another example.
There are certainly examples of wars in which righteous people repelled foreign invaders—but I can’t find an example where a rebellion against an oppressive government was successful or done righteously in the Book of Mormon.
We often look to the Founding Fathers and the revolutionary war as a template for righteous rebellion against tyranny. I have no doubt that God fought their battles. But when you dig into the history of the revolutionary war, the “tyranny” they were overthrowing was actually the gentlest government to probably have ever existed. Many of the accusations against the King in the Declaration of Independence are fabricated or exaggerated. There isn’t much evidence that the revolution made Americans much freer. More independent, yes, but not a whole lot freer.
I’m not convinced that we should necessarily follow their footsteps. I believe that a revolutionary war today would resemble the French revolution much more than an American revolution. There wouldn’t be the same reasoned, measured response that there was back then. Our population isn’t as schooled in basic matters of respect, chivalry, and restraint.
I’m not saying that the revolutionaries weren’t justified in fighting. I think that God fought the revolutionaries’ battles for purposes of his own, to create an America that would be fertile for the Restoration. I’m just saying that it isn’t the *only* template by which we can evaluate and plan a response to tyranny. The Book of Mormon presents multiple examples of populations who has to simply endure, obey, pray, and wait for divine deliverance. I suspect—and I feel like I have good reason to—that this is the template that our modern prophets and apostles will ask us to follow.
If the federal government were to try and collect people’s firearms and abolish the 2nd amendment, the nation will likely erupt into violence (it’s virtually unavoidable). I know plenty of people who would eagerly fight back against such an action. When that happens, I suspect that the church leadership will release a well-worded statement that says something like, “While we maintain the importance of liberty and recognize that many have concerns about the actions of their government, the church is officially neutral on the issue of gun control. However, we do not support or condone violence as a means to political ends, and we believe in honoring the laws of our nation, whether we agree with them or not. Members of the church who do not comply with federal law and who advocate for violence or political insurrection are not considered members of the church in good standing.”
If and when they do, there will be many in the church—libertarian minded individuals—who will balk at being asked by prophets to willingly lay down their arms and their freedoms for the time being. They will cry out that the church has apostatized from its love of freedom and the doctrines of agency. I think there will be some splintering and a lot of disappointments. They will be unwilling to see and acknowledge the scriptural precedents for *other* templates for responding to tyranny, like Alma the Elder’s against Amulon, or Moses and Egypt. They will be unwilling to wait upon the Lord, and insist instead on relying on the arms of the flesh to fight their battles. And like Limhi’s people, their families will likely find themselves widows and fatherless.
I think we need to prepare now for all contingencies. We need to school our hearts to prepare for submission—humiliating though it may be—if such is asked of us by the Lord’s spokesmen. We need to be constantly vigilant against the encroaches of tyranny, but we need to simultaneously be willing to douse the fires of rebellion in our hearts if we are instructed to set aside our arms (and perhaps even deliver them up to our enemies) and wait upon the Lord. We need to be willing to incline our hearts towards peace (rather than war) should that be the path we are asked to follow.
So this is my invitation to my friends and colleagues: do not be too quick to support or engender a spirit of violent rebellion against the government. You may be absolutely right that the government is in the wrong. But we need to be cautious against cultivating in our hearts the spirit of war and rebellion—even if such rebellion might be justified by all the principles we adhere to. I know that this is entirely a hypothetical scenario, but we have to be prepared and decide ahead of time where our loyalties lie, should such a scenario occur. Otherwise, we risk getting caught up in the heat of the moment and potentially missing or ignoring the gentle promptings of the Spirit or the meek pleadings of church leadership, should such promptings and pleadings contradict the initial inclinations of our righteous indignation.