Latter-day Saints should rally for peace

The United States came very close to war with Iran this week. Such a war would result in hundreds of thousands of God’s children — and potentially millions — killed.

Scoffers will claim that it would not have been a war. They are wrong.

The United States sent a drone, intended for spying, into or near Iranian air space. Iran responded by shooting it down. U.S. military leaders planned a retaliatory strike. This would have been an act of war. Retaliation could have led to further retaliation with an escalation into a full-blown conflict similar to the Iraq invasion.

To understand the feelings of Iranians, who are also God’s children, let’s imagine that China or Russia sent an unmanned spy drone into or near American airspace. I would hope the U.S. military, which is charged with protecting the United States, would shoot it down. Then if China or Russia responded by bombing targets in the United States, wouldn’t that have been an act of war? Was it an act of war when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor (at a time, by the way, when Hawaii was not yet a state)?

What do modern-day prophets say about war?

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.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)
We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.) We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chr. 20), and when Elisha’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kgs. 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:17.)

(Spencer W. Kimball, “The False Gods We Worship.”)

Our job as Latter-day Saints is to prepare the world for the Second Coming. We are followers of the Prince of Peace. We should always and at all times proclaim peace and avoid war unless and until we are attacked and are forced to defend ourselves, our homes and our families. But until then, we should never be a “warlike people.”

Must I remind readers that the U.S. Constitution clearly says that the U.S. Congress is responsible for declaring war? The last time that happened was at the beginning of World War II. Since then, the United States has been involved in many military actions that are clearly unconstitutional. Most latter-day Saints rightly defend the First Amendment and Second Amendment at a time when the left wants to destroy American rights to free speech and the right to bear arms. But we should not pick and choose what portions of the Constitution we like and dislike: the Constitution says Congress must declare war, not the president and not his military advisers.

Must I also remind readers that the United States has a $23 trillion debt and a yearly deficit approaching $1 trillion? A war with Iran would be a massive undertaking, much bigger than the war in Iraq, which cost the United States at least $2 trillion and perhaps $3 trillion. Where exactly are we supposed to get the money to fight Iran when we are already $1 trillion in debt on a yearly basis? There is only one way: money printing, which creates inflation and hurts the poor and the middle class most of all.

The Book of Mormon is an anti-war book. It describes two great conflicts that destroyed entire civilizations. It is a warning to our time. The warning is: avoid wars, but especially avoid wars of choice. The only righteous wars in the Book of Mormon are defensive wars in which leaders sued for peace again and again and reluctantly were forced to take up arms to defend themselves. There are no examples in the Book of Mormon of righteous armies marching hundreds or thousands of miles away from home to attack another people. This would be an offense to God.

How can we possibly be justified sending our troops to the other side of the world to fight a people who are not attacking the United States? Latter-day Saints should speak out for peace at all times and in all places.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

26 thoughts on “Latter-day Saints should rally for peace

  1. I’m not, in general, a fan of Bruce R. McConkie’s book, ‘Mormon Doctrine,’ but his entry on “WAR” has one of the best opening statements of any Latter-day Saint writing on the subject:

    “War is probably the most satanic and evil state of affairs that can or does exist on earth. It is organized and systematic murder, with rapine, robbery, sex immorality and every other evil as a natural attendant. War is of the devil; it is born of lust. If all men were righteous, there would be no war; and there will be none during the millennium and in the eternal kingdom of God.”

  2. America is addicted to Fear. We fear something and insist the government declares war on it (poverty, drugs, illiteracy, terrorists) and we plunge headlong into battle.
    Hundreds of thousands of civilians have died in Iraq and Afghanistan by American bombs during our war there. No doubt the same would happen in Iran also.
    War in the Middle East, whether fought by us, the Soviet union or Brits, is fruitless. We are wasting lives and treasure.

  3. Well said, however you are preaching to the choir. If Iran doesn’t want drones spying on them they need to stop doing things that require being spied upon.

  4. China and Russia send aircraft and surface vessels to the edge of our territorial waters/airspace all the time. Not just to the continental US, AK and HI, but all territories and foreign-hosted bases. And we do the same to them.

    As I understand it, _all_ fishing vessels of China, Russia, North Korea, and maybe some others, do double duty as spy ships.

    The Iranians are crafty. It would have been easy to observe/estimate “winds aloft” and shoot down the drone at 10 miles altitude in international waters with the reasonable expectation that the wreckage would drift over to their territorial waters
    as it descended though the Jet Stream and lower altitude prevailing winds which can be pretty fast.

    Or, … they could have picked up wreckage in international waters, and just _said_ they found it in their waters or on their land.

    Or, … they could have used GPS spoofing (it’s a real thing, and has been demonstrated with off the shelf technology) to intentionally make the drone (and any other aircraft in the near vicinity) _think_ it was in international waters. (Hopefully, a $180 million aircraft has backup non-GPS navigation. But this could also have been a “double-fake”, to allow our enemies to think our aircraft are susceptible to GPS-spoofing.)

    “Si vis pacem para bellum” is another Book of Mormon teaching.

  5. 1. Not all military actions are wars.

    2. For better or worse, the President is the Commander in Chief and doesn’t need Congresses approval to order a military strike–not matter the size.

    3. Saying the BOM is anti-war is ludicrous. The Lord had declared when it’s appropriate to go to war in D&C 98. When they were righteous the Nephites followed this counsel and prevailed.

  6. Gerald, I do not doubt for a minute that US and coalition bombs are responsible for some deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. But I recall that in Iraq, fanatic Sunni Muslims (Al Qaida in Iraq, then ISIS) were responsible for massacre after massacre of innocent Shia men, women, and children on markets, at mosques and on highways filled with people going to pilgrimages. Remember the news after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 to about 2008-10?Hezbollah, on the other hand, are Shia Muslims and they are terrorists too. I am just saying, Muslims slaughtering Muslims is just as bad as when the Catholics and Protestants were doing it in Europe 400-500 years ago.
    In Afghanistan, the Taliban are the people throwing acid on young girls’ faces for attending school and in one case attempting to poison the water that goes to a girls’ school. Let’s not forget that.

    We should mourn with those that mourn whether the victims and families are in Paris, Brussels, London, New York, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Beirut, Baghdad, Kabul, Bosnia, Rwanda… yes, war is horrible and we should avoid it at all costs. But we can count our blessings. The Nazi regime was brought to an end, as well as the Khmer Rouge, the Soviet Union… In God’s time.

    Some day Kim Jong Un and all his associates will pay for their atrocities, I hope. We need to pray for the oppressed.

  7. No one should want war … especially not Christians. But as much as the Book of Mormon is indeed an anti-war book it also shows how war is sometimes necessary to defend freedom.

    If the drone entered Iranian air space Iran had the clear right to shoot it down. If it remained in international air space however shooting it down would have been an aggressive act or even an act of war.

    So was the drone in international air space? I have no idea. We only know what the U.S. administration said (it was) and what the Iranian government said (it was not).

    I also fully agree with the narrative of the article that the U.S. should not send troops to countries which do not pose a direct thread the the U.S. And yes, unfortunately congress has disregarded the constitution for decades when it comes to war. The president has the power to start a war but has to seek congressional approval (declaration of war) within a time frame given by the constitution. Both congress and presidents have been ignoring this provision of the Constitution for decades. What a shame!

    But Iran not threatening us? Really? Iran is one or even the biggest sponsor of international terrorism. It has vowed to annihilate the U.S. and its strongest ally Israel. So yes, Iran poses a substantial thread to the U.S. But that does not mean we are allowed to disregard our constitution.

  8. James:
    The BoM is anti-war to the extent that it clearly shows what let to wars (disregard of God’s commandments) and how it ultimately destroyed both people. But I do agree with you that the BoM also shows that there are righteous wars (to defend freeedom, faith, family and so on).

    The president has the power to order a military strike but has to get confirmation from congress after it or have to cease military actions if congress does not approve.

  9. Laurent:
    You wrote: “…war is horrible and we should avoid it at all costs.”

    No, not at ALL costs. Certainly not.

  10. I agree with you Seb. Not at all costs. Bad word choice, since I made the opposite point in saying that defeating Japan and Germany was necessary and only military force could have done it. I should have said “if at all possible”.

  11. The main difficulty in your USA comparison is the USA isn’t setting off mines in international waters, which happen to be one of the most important “highways” for the entire world.

    So it makes perfect sense that the USA would hover a drone outside their territory. That’s the whole idea for the international border buffer standard.

    We don’t get to add border creep and claim that you’re too close to our buffer. That’s what the buffer is for. If you want to argue that the buffer needs to be extended, do so; but don’t argue it’s understandable what they did.

    Russian flies nuclear bombers close to our airspace border and we don’t shoot them down.

    If any nation wants to shoot down a US military asset in international water or airspace, they risk war, not us.

    The other side of this argument is that as much as we need to be in favor of peace, even to the point of turning the other cheek, we also have to understand that we have brothers and sisters who have given themselves over to the devil and will with certainty enslave and destroy as many as they can get control over.

    Do you think for a minute that the world is safer if foreign nations start blowing up civilian ships and US military assets with no retaliation?

    That being said, I am strongly opposed to the sanctions and any efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We would be much better to trade with them, work with them, and treat their country like China or Pakistan* or India than what we are currently doing. The same goes for North Korea.

    Yes, all those nations are seriously screwed up, but they will not ever improve if we antagonize them for another 100 years. They will change they ways overtime when they become dependent on buying and selling goods and services to us.

    *terrorism certainly gives Pakistan a bad name, but the point is they have nuclear weapons, and are a strong trading partner that promotes positive ties in many “liberal” areas of the country. I know this personally, as I have frequent interactions there.

  12. I suggest that the Book of Mormon is quite clear on when a war is justified. It is only justified when the enemy invades your land and threatens your loved ones. When the Nephites tried to invade to eradicate the Gadianton robbers, they were unsuccessful, showing that they lacked God’s approval in spite of the ostensibly righteous goal.

    Regardless of where the drone was, the Iranians do not threaten those living in the U.S. Thank you for this post.

  13. “I’m not, in general, a fan of Bruce R. McConkie’s book”

    I’m not in general a fan of people who aren’t fans for Elder McConkie, his sermons, or his writings. No need to out yourself to the woke crowd next time.

    Take a queue from Jesus and note how many times he threw past prophets under the bus by saying how he wasn’t a fan of them before quoting them. Hint, I can’t find it. He could have contradicted a lot of past books of scripture. That he didn’t is an example.

    I’m a fan of that example.

  14. [lib-con:] “I’m not in general a fan of people who aren’t fans for Elder McConkie, his sermons, or his writings.”

    That’s certainly your right. Please note, however, that I expressed my reservations for that particular book, not for Elder McConkie himself nor for all he wrote and said.

    [lib-con:] “No need to out yourself to the woke crowd next time.”

    I do not identify with anything or anyone that is considered “woke.” There’s no need to jump to conclusions about my personal beliefs, lib-con.

    [lib-con:] “Take a queue [sic] from Jesus and note how many times he threw past prophets under the bus by saying how he wasn’t a fan of them before quoting them. Hint, I can’t find it. He could have contradicted a lot of past books of scripture. That he didn’t is an example.”

    Firstly, the word you’re looking for is “cue.”

    Secondly, Bruce R. McConkie wasn’t a “prophet” when he wrote and published Mormon Doctrine in 1958 or when published its second edition in 1966—he was a member of the Seventy.

    Thirdly, it is not “throwing him under the bus” to state that Mormon Doctrine is possibly the most mis-titled book in Latter-day Saint history. It contains many revealed truths, of course, but these are interpreted by and padded with many of Elder McConkie’s opinions, some of which were right, most of which were at least debatable, and some of which were flat wrong. (The dramatic revisions between the first and second editions demonstrate this adequately, I believe.)

    Fourthly, did Deseret Book “throw Elder McConkie under the bus” when they decided to stop publishing Mormon Doctrine in 2010? Retiring his book from publication seems to indicate that the Church-owned publisher no longer found it needful to promulgate his views found in that book. Perhaps there was a good reason behind that decision.

  15. DD:
    If you point out how the BoM views war in your opinion you should certainly not forget other scriptures and of course modern day prophets. What did they and do they say about this issue?

    Or take a look back at WWII. You could argue it was an error to get the U.S. involved in the war. Germany had never invaded nor had it actively tried to invade the U.S. Even Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was technically not on U.S. soil.

    So was it – in your opinion – justified (I do not ask about whether it was politically a good decision) to intervene in Europe and defeat the Nazis?

    I’m pointing this out in order to show how difficult it can be to decide whether or not a war or an aggression is justified. Even more difficult it becomes if you would ask whether or not a war is spiritually justified (i.e. justified in the eyes of Heavenly Father).

    So do you have to wait until a foreign soldier sets foot on your land? Or until a foreign weapon enters your country’s airspace?

    Sorry, but I feel your answer in your previous post sounds great but is way to easy and naive.

    And no, I do not claim in any way to have the right or even perfect anwer. I do not.

  16. I am reminded of October General Conference 2001 when President Hinckley addressed the topic of war is it was beginning to wage in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. I recall vividly that both pro-war and anti-war Church members and others used his words to support their respective positions!

    “Now we are at war. Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be. Political alliances are being forged. We do not know how long this conflict will last. We do not know what it will cost in lives and treasure. We do not know the manner in which it will be carried out…

    Those of us who are American citizens stand solidly with the president of our nation. The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions. This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim. I am pleased that food is being dropped to the hungry people of a targeted nation. We value our Muslim neighbors across the world and hope that those who live by the tenets of their faith will not suffer…

    The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction. In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society. We see the same thing in the present situation…

    We are people of peace. We are followers of the Christ who was and is the Prince of Peace. But there are times when we must stand up for right and decency, for freedom and civilization, just as Moroni rallied his people in his day to the defense of their wives, their children, and the cause of liberty.”

    The full talk is here:
    https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2001/10/the-times-in-which-we-live?lang=eng

    I am of the opinion that we are to do all within our power to avoid war. However, there are brazen forces in the world today that seek to violently upend established nations and governments. As a last resort, these forces must be confronted and defeated.

    Those of us in the United States are in an unique position. Many of our allies rely on our military might as a force of legitimacy and safety that allows them to function in the face of more totalitarian regimes who would block or harm them. To what extent do we abandon these allies, or tell them to provide for their own security in whatever corner of the globe they operate?

  17. So many prophets and apostles have spoken on the subject of war that one can find justification for just about any personal beliefs on the matter. Here are two quotes that I think bear some consideration, however:

    Writing after the start of World War I, President Joseph F. Smith declared:
    “One thing is certain, the doctrine of peace by armed force, held so long and tenaciously by czars, kings and emperors, is a failure, and should without question forever be abandoned. It has been wrong from the beginning. That we get what we prepare for is literally true in this case. For years it has been held that peace comes only by preparation for war; the present conflict should prove that peace comes only by preparing for peace, through training the people in righteousness and justice, and selecting rulers who respect the righteous will of the people.” (http://archive.org/stream/improvementera17011unse#page/1074)

    At the opening of Second World War, the First Presidency issued a “Message On World Peace,” which included the following:
    “The divine law on the taking of human life was proclaimed at Sinai and in the Garden. This law, we declare, is equally binding upon men and upon nations. It embraces war.
    “We further declare that God is grieved by war and that He will hold subject to the eternal punishments of His will those who wage it unrighteously.
    “We affirm that all international controversies may be settled by pacific means if nations will but deal unselfishly and righteously one with another. We appeal to the leaders of all nations and to the people themselves thus to mend and adjust their differences, lest the vials of God’s wrath be poured out upon the earth, for He has said He will visit his wrath upon the wicked without measure.…
    “We condemn all war’s foul brood—avarice, greed, misery, want, disease, cruelty, hate, inhumanity, savagery, death.
    “We earnestly implore all members of the Church to love their brethren and sisters, and all peoples whoever and wherever they are; to banish hate from their lives, to fill their hearts with charity, patience, long-suffering, and forgiveness.” (http://archive.org/stream/improvementera4211unse#page/n33)

  18. Seb,

    Have I missed our modern prophets saying that the country needs to go to war? Citations please.

    What are the scriptures that command us to invade other countries? Please give me the more complete picture. I think the Book of Mormon is extremely consistent and a good guide on this topic. I only gave one example, but there are others.

    I think the discussion of whether the World Wars were justified is a long and complicated one. To give a short version, we only declared war on Japan after they bombed Pearl Harbor. We declared war on Germany and Italy after they declared war on us. Iran shot down an unmanned aircraft that was near or within their airspace. There is no parallel.

    So, is it naive to think we have been involved in too many wars? I am very glad that the president eased up on this one. Maybe we will still get sucked into a war with Iran, but there’s still the possibility that we can stay out of it.

  19. DD:
    I absolutely agree with you that the U.S. has been involved in far to many wars. I don’t see the role of the U.S. as a kind of world police force. But this is my political opinion and has nothing to to with my faith.

    The scriptures are not like an oracle which can be used to decide whether a military action is right or wrong in the eyes of Heavenly Father. And we shouldn’t use scriptures like that. Some fractions of the Muslim world use the Quoran like that … and it always ends in a catastrophe.

    Shooting down an aircraft in international air space could be considered an act of war. I don’t say it should be considered as such. But it easily could.

    What you cautiously managed to not answer is when – in your opinion – war would be justified. Do we need an foreign hostile soldier crossing our border? Or does it take an foreign weapon entering our air space? Or what else?

    Iran does not send one of their soldiers to our borders. It does not fire a missile towards our air space. But it is the biggest financial and logistical sponsor of international terrorism – worldwide. It constantly threatens to annihilate our closest ally Israel and basically anybody who does not describe to their version of Islam.

    Could all these actions be considered acts of war?

    What I’m trying to say here is merely that scriptures are not like an oracle. They – together with modern day prophets – teach us important principles. But it is our job to apply these principles in our lives.

    Back to the original topic: As Christian we should always strive for peace. We should be peace makers. But peace and its cousin freedom come with a price tag. Pacifists can only exist because there are others who are willing to defend their right to be pacifists.

    So I certainly do not want any war, let alone one because of a stupid drone. That is why the president decided to not use the military to retaliate. A very wise decision in my opinion that saved a lot of lives.

    I – and everybody else as well – have a political opinion about whether or not a certain war or military action is right or wrong. My brother or sister next to me might have a different opinion. And that’s OK and that’s good. But I would never ever say something to the degree of: “God wants this war” or “God says this war is unjust”.

    May I add something here to give some perspective: I live in Germany (I’m not an American but a German citizen). My country was ravished by two world wars. 90 % of the city I was born in had been destroyed in WWII by allied bombings (British and American). Tens of thousands of completely innocent people died. My grandparents and my young mother (4 years old at that time) were almost killed and only survived because they had a bomb shelter nearby where they sought refuge during the raids. So that I’m alive today is almost a miracle.

    Nobody in my family – including myself – ever thought of those bomb raids anything else as being totally justified. We all knew that this evil government that Germany had at that time needed to be stopped. No one of my ancestors did anything evil. No one was even a supporter of the Nazis at the time. But as this absolutely evil government enslaved our country something needed to be done. As a German citizen whose ancestors were nearly killed during WWII I consider the actions that the allied forces took to root out the Nazi government as totally justified.

    You don’t have to agree. But that is my opinion.

  20. The Church of Jesus Christ, while generally peaceful, does not so entirely ascribe to pacifism that war is to be avoided at all costs.

    No President of the United States has ever been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore it doesn’t much matter what the President does, with respect to wars, as far as setting a precedent for Church belief and practice.

    Members of the Church of Jesus Christ, while a minority in the United States, enjoy more than per capita influence in the halls of government. However the small size of our minority makes our opinion mostly irrelevant when it comes to Presidential deliberations.

    M* is a relatively obscure blog, so I doubt anyone thinks positions voiced at M* represent the official position of the Church of Jesus Christ.

    Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ participate in US federal governance and the military. Those of us therefore in the best position to have an informed opinion are barred by federal ethics rules from openly voicing those opinions.

    Just to say that opinions expressed in comments are eternal and searchable, but that they don’t have much sway and will likely be under-informed.

  21. Just to be clear, I do not think the Church believes in pacifism, and I also don’t think the BoM endorses pacifism. I personally am not a pacifist, and I practice martial arts four to five times a week to learn self defense.

    I believe the Church’s general moral structure is that proportionate violence is justified in self defense. As the OP states, prophets have made it clear that the Lord will help defend the righteous, but we are also expected to defense ourselves in certain situations.

    Regarding the United States’ adventures in the Middle East, I find the entire enterprise (except a short invasion of Afghanistan in 2001-2002) against the morality endorsed by modern-day prophets, the Book of Mormon and other scriptures. There is simply no case of righteous people traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to attack possible future enemies and then claiming it is “self defense.” What righteous people do is 1)concentrate on the Lord and following Him 2)prepare to fend off enemies who may invade and 3)sue for peace repeatedly with these enemies and 4)fight as a last resort and 5)show mercy once the enemy is vanquished. This not what we are doing in the Middle East today. Instead we are creating new enemies through an aggressive, immoral foreign policy.

    It should go without saying, but I will nevertheless point out that this comment in no way is intended to insult the many good men and women, including latter-day Saints, who serve in the armed forces and are simply following orders. The Church has stated many times that serving your country is an honorable thing to do. The people at fault for our immoral foreign policy are the arms dealers and the politicians they pay off to promote aggressive foreign wars.

  22. “What are the scriptures that command us to invade other countries?”

    There seem to be many scriptures in the Old Testament suggesting that the Israelites’ invasion of Canaan had divine approval. Of course, there is the question of the extent to which that should serve as an example for the proper behavior of a secular nation, like the United States. But I think there is that same question when it comes to the Book of Mormon accounts of war.

  23. I would like to point out President Kimball’s statement that we are easily distracted from preparing ourselves and the world for the Second Coming. I choose not to be distracted. I choose to spit in the eye of Satan by preparing temple names, an equal number if I can for each person killed in a terrorist attack, an act of kindness to a stranger for each evil I witness, either in person or on the news. Laugh at Satan by overcoming his work with your own good works. Pick something, temple work, genealogy, missionary work, charity or whatever you enjoy and become good enough at it to make a difference. Stop seeing yourself as powerless. We are not fighting our Iranian brothers and sisters. We are fighting Satan, who hates the people on both sides of any conflict. He is the enemy of all mortals. Follow the example of Christ.

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