On Torture

imageToday someone wrote that Mormons don’t abhore torture, that they are taught it is more important to obey than to avoid immoral or evil acts. This apparently comes up because Mormons tend to vote for Republicans, and it was the Republican presidency of George Bush under which torture was used as one method of obtaining information regarding the activities of Al Qaeda. Also, there are those who have worked for the CIA and otherwise supported certain of these activities who happened to be Mormons. These critics appear not to have heard the same sermons I have heard, or read the same scriptures. These critics appear not to have learned the same history I learned.

If we Mormons don’t talk about the evil of torture on a constant basis, it may because we have ourselves been historically subjected to torture, assuming that’s what one would consider rape and shootings, burnings and lootings. For Mormons to get overly upset about torture might just ignite anger about those wrongs that have been done to us.

Joseph, of all those of “us” who was tortured in modern times, was the one most likely to invite the torturer home for dinner, to given the torturer his own coat and shirt, to mourn for and forgive the one who had betrayed him.

There are those who have been guilty of heinous evil, unmitigated by any putative benefit.

Yet by far, the most prevalent violence committed by individuals is violence against loved ones, often members of one’s own family. And it is for that reason that abuse of family is so often decried from Mormon pulpits. As stated in 1995 in The Family: A Proclamation to the World:

WE WARN that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.

Today we talk of state-sanctioned torture ostensibly conducted in pursuit of national security. There are various opinions, almost all of which are held with fierce passion regarding their rightness.

But when those headlines are forgotten and even now, let us worry not so much about the beams in the eyes of others, but whatever might be in our own eye, whatever evil attempts to canker our own lives, the heedless abuse we bestow on those closest to us.

And if we are personally placed in a position where we must make a decision regarding the way our fellows are treated, may we have the courage to do that which God inspires us to do. Then shall He, who knows our hearts and the pain of all, reward us in that day when we know as we are known.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

40 thoughts on “On Torture

  1. It is my sad experience that many of the people most likely to decry torture on a national scale for political reasons are also most likely to spew abuse at other people over the internet. These people definitely see the motes in others’ eyes while not noticing the beams in their own eyes.

    (And let’s be clear that I personally believe the latest report on the CIA’s use of torture is a damning indictment).

  2. We had a family over for dinner a while back and got talking to the parent who is in the military about their career path. Their career was basically dead, and it was because they refused to go along with certain behaviors they felt were not appropriate. This wasn’t exactly the CIA torture stuff, but other things that might be considered in the same vein.

    I suspect that in a future judgement, God will honor that individual for their willingness to buck a culture that, like General Lucas famously did in Missouri, was issuing morally corrupt orders.

    As it is ultimately God’s history that will be definitive, we should fear Him more than we fear man.

    When it comes to matters where I am privy neither to God’s view nor the fulness of man’s view, I am content to withhold judgement, as commanded in D&C 64.

  3. There are videos available on the internet that show how a majority of college students went along with an authority figure’s instructions to ramp up assumed electro shocking of a human subject up to a fatal dose. Matthew 25:40 says “As ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.” In the scripture it is referring to positive acts, but surely it can be applied as well to negative actions. I believe it is the Gospel basis of ethical behavior ranging from basic civility to rescuing others at risk of our own safety or security as in the choices of the person Meg cited.

  4. Pat,

    There were serious problems with the Milgram experiment (which, incidentally, did not simulate fatal shocks — merely very painful ones.) You should take some care citing it as the final word on human malleability.

    I don’t deny that humans sometimes are too obedient to authority, but it’s not my observation that our culture’s biggest problem, by and large, is too much obedience to authority.

  5. Quote….”And if we are personally placed in a position where we must make a decision regarding the way our fellows are treated, may we have the courage to do that which God inspires us to do…..” Unquote.

    In or under certain [or any] situation, there is no need to wait for [a] GOD to inspire us or any one to do that which is right. I believe that by the time and age we live in. we should know it better by now. And may I add that I come from a country where, in a recent past, torture was an usual practice even for political causes. Any type of torture for any given reason…is wrong. Period. No need of any GOD to ever tell me so….I know it.

  6. Regarding doctrinal foundations for opinions by Mormons regarding torture, Alma 14 is instructive to me. I base this on the classic “what if” scenario put forward as the tipping point in that critical decision. The philosophical question goes like this, “If you could get information to save a million ‘innocent’ lives by torture would you do it?”
    Because of Alma 14, I can answer, “No.” The innocent are in God’s hands. As I have no more time for comment or elaboration I will leave it at that.

  7. I didn’t mean to cite the experiment as definitive. Perhaps I should have referred to my own experiences where I witnessed both children and adults going along with cruel comments or physical punishment without objections, sometimes even participating at the invitation of the authority figure.
    My earliest memory of this took place when I was in first grade and was subjected to very public humiliation by a kindergarten teacher who invited the children in her classroom to laugh at me. I still remember the searing pain of that encounter. I hope that those who know me will say I have chosen to be kind.
    It is easy to get caught up in justifications and comparisons, ie. those tortured by the CIA are of the same kind as those who cut off heads and blow up buildings. As we sow we reap.

  8. Hi Enrique,

    Certainly one needn’t believe in a God to make right decisions.

    My statement that you quoted was referring to ambiguous situations where any of the available options is “wrong” under normal circumstances. For those who do believe in a higher power, it can be useful to reach out to that power for guidance. However lacking such a belief, one must still make a decision, as even not making a decision is a decision in itself.

  9. I wonder how many of the people horrified that Bybee wrote a legal memo saying torture doesn’t violate existing law, were perfectly copacetic with the Supreme Court justices who said that it’s perfectly acceptable to slice, dice, and vacuum a child out of the womb for the heinous crime of existing–and/or voted for Barack Obama even though he supported legislation allowing the survivors of such procedures to be left on a table in a clinic and, literally, neglected to death.

  10. I believe that cruelty, however clinical or sanctioned by current law is wrong. There are some acts, such as isolating dangerous prisoners or causing pain to cure (such as manipulating a broken limb before setting it or giving shots) that may seem cruel and some would draw an analogy with bullying or torture for the sake of gaining information or changing attitudes, but where cruelty becomes a norm, we lose humanity.

  11. JimD, you’ve made an important distinction. I know that Bybee wrote a memo concluding that torture does not violate international law. I do not know that Bybee believes torture is morally acceptable.

    I do not know Bybee, so I cannot be sure he understands the difference, but I think it very likely he does. His critics, by and large, seem not to.

    On the Milgram experiment: I never trust Wikipedia, but I do find it a useful source of links to more reliable sources. The article there summarizes the criticisms and provides such links. FWIW, I was aware of the problems before I read the Wikipedia article, but my memory is better at filing away tidbits than at indexing and citing them.

  12. Meg said,

    “Today someone wrote that Mormons don’t abhor torture, that they are taught it is more important to obey than to avoid immoral or evil acts.”

    He comments reject this notion. I reject accusation as well, and agree that their is ample evidence to contrary.

    To add to the idea that Alma 14 teaches us that even in the face of horrific treatment we can view the world through the lens of the eternal perspective of a sufficiently graceful God, I would like to add the statement attributed to Jesus by Matthew, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man…”

    Another often taught principle is the fear God more than man, “fear not what man can do.”

    I take this to mean that I cannot be defiled by any external force, but only by what I do. And from Alma I learn that the soul of man, the edifying choice of those cast into the fire, is more important than mortal life–either mine or others, or even many others. And that the future of this world is in God’s capable hands

    So the choice of the would-be Mormon torturer in my previous scenario is, “Do I defile myself, and risk my eternal soul for some political system, even a good one, by subjecting this person to torture, or do I let all those people die? Is the fate of all those people and my country really on my shoulders or the shoulders of POTUS?” The answer in our doctrine is obvious.

    The hubris of our politicians is that they really seem to think that that weight, the future of all of us is theirs to direct and determine. Rather their duty is only to keep sacred the space in which we retain the privilege and power to decide, and that they make only choices for themselves not for me. I would rather die than have a family member of mine subject another to torture in order to “save my life.” No one can “save my life” but Christ as I view my “life” as an eternal soul.

    While watching Jack Bauer make yet another decision about torture or let the nuclear bomb go off, I turned to my family and said, “I hope you all know, I would let you die.” A Mormon’s doctrine.

  13. Joel says: “While watching Jack Bauer make yet another decision about torture or let the nuclear bomb go off, I turned to my family and said, “I hope you all know, I would let you die.” A Mormon’s doctrine.”

    Yes, LDS doctrine is completely and utterly anti-torture, because we respect the autonomy and agency of the individual. Torture is compulsion, and even if someone endangers us without that compulsion, we are not to limit their freedom to choose. This is not the same as humane imprisonment, which justly punishes people for breaking laws.

    Torture says: “the State is more important than the individual.” Or Spock: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Spock’s philosophy is also anti-LDS. In LDS doctrine, God gives agency to the few to wreck havoc on the many, which produces trials of course, but such is the nature of life, the very purpose of existence. Yes, Jesus, the one, suffered for the many. But he did it of his own free will, which makes all the difference.

    I believe any Mormon who participates in torture, no matter how noble the cause, is acting contrary to his religion.

  14. ” I would rather die than have a family member of mine subject another to torture in order to “save my life.” No one can “save my life” but Christ as I view my “life” as an eternal soul.”

    I was actually thinking the same thing the other day. I was watching a political thriller and the hero had to torture somebody horribly to “save the life” of a loved one. And the thought came to me: “saving a life of a person who is going to a better place and at the same time losing your soul.”

    If people really considered this issue, very few thrillers would ever be made again.

  15. For those who have no idea what Alma 14 is, it’s a story about non-believers corralling the local Christians and burning them to death. The Christian missionaries are forced to watch the immolation of their converts, and many have speculated that the family of one of the missionaries was burned to death in that fire. Despite the horrible death, Alma explains that these martyrs are received into heaven, but that their murderers will have these deaths stand as proofs against them in the final judgment.

    For folks like Enrique, who don’t believe in a god or a final judgment, this is of little comfort. However those who don’t choose to believe in a god or an afterlife have the interesting dilemma of asking people to act against their self-interest merely because it is the right thing to do, with no appeal to a greater authority who will ensure that all wrongs are known.

  16. I find it impossible to imagine any possible scenario in which we go to the Savior in prayer, asking if it just might be OK to torture someone in a certain particular circumstance, and getting a “yes” answer.

    On the other hand, if you’re a non-Mormon Christian who believes in a God who sends people to burn forever in a Lake of Fire for unrepented sins, does that make you more likely to agree with torture in mortality because you’ve already accepted the principle of it in eternity?

  17. Intellectual honesty requires me to recognize the potential source(s) of the thought Meg introduced. I’ll mention two though there may be more. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi slays Laban. Not torture as Nephi cuts off Laban’s head while he lies in drunken stupor, but rather commanded execution (murder to some), i.e., doctrinally accepted action in contravention of accepted morality–thou shalt not kill. Saul is commanded to kill everyone of Amalek; men, women, children, infants, cattle, sheep, etc., Saul keeps some cattle for “sacrifice” and let’s King Agag live. Samuel calls Saul out on his disobedience, rails on him for the bleating of the sheep in his ears, and unceremoniously whacks off Agag’s head. Further, doctrine appears to allow killing in a defense of family and liberty.

    I have only one moral escape for this dilemma. Neither were selfishly motivated. I know, I know, Jack Bauer (t.v. character if you’re not following me yet) is really unselfish too. In Saul’s case, anything even smacking of selfish gain was prohibited–God demanded destruction of a people but wanted his people to derive no benefit from plunder. They were to be His tool only. Nephi as well, did not go back to try to get family riches stolen by Laban, he was only permitted to obtain the brass plates. Again, a tool.

    Now, a Mormon could choose to think that old testament stories are fables and all allegorical in nature, or inaccurately passed down, but Nephi is harder. I only say that if they aren’t allegorical or mythological then we need to rethink what this says about the God we worship. And Nephi remains, as by our claim only two inscribers lie between him and us–Mormon and Joseph.

    So I can’t categorically deny that our doctrine might allow for extraordinary action in seeming contravention of the moral code of our mortality. Still, I can think of no justification for torture. Ironic, torture no, killing yes.

  18. Punishment is, or should be, distinct from torture. Somehow I keep remembering Count Rugen in ‘The Princess Bride’ who epitomizes the ‘scientific’ torturer. Whether it is aborted babies left to die in trashcans or efforts to gain information by denying breath, the harm in the long run accrues to those who are deliberately or casually cruel.

  19. “Still, I can think of no justification for torture. Ironic, torture no, killing yes.”

    I hesitate to say anything that might be interpreted as showing that I am peachy-keen on torture of contemporary terrorists, because I am not. But I have to say this:

    “It is better that one man should be [tortured] than that a whole nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief” seems to me to be as reasonable, or not, as the original.

    If you want to argue that God gave Nephi a commandment to kill Laban, and he didn’t give any of our contemporaries a commandment to torture terrorists, I won’t argue with you.

    But I will ask a little charity for Bybee, whose thoughts as he prepared a memo arguing that there is no prohibition in international law on torture of terrorists I do not know, and on his leaders up through the First Presidency, who believed the Lord was willing he should serve as a bishop.

    Yes. I have myself argued, recently, that being called as a bishop is no proof of saintliness, and I do not reverse my position. But I do think it ought to be reason to pause for a moment and reflect a bit before warming up the hot oil and sharpening the pitchforks.

  20. It would be helpful if we had a universally-accepted definition of torture.

    For the 10 December 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the United Nations defined torture as:

    any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

    For example, my brother was triple-tasered and then confined to a mental ward for a month all because someone became alarmed by something he had written on Facebook and reported it to “officials.” For what it’s worth, the “officials” determined there was no real threat, but suspected that perhaps there might be some mental illness involved. Rather than send a medical professional (with armed police in tow) to determine the mental state of my brother, the police showed up, demanded my brother come with them (without producing any sort of warrant) and when he politely refused to accompany them, they tasered him at the base of his spine simultaneously with three weapons, even though he was barefoot, had nothing on his torso, was not physically provoking them, and was complying with their requests (turn around, raise your arms) other than the request that he leave his home and surrender himself into custody. For what it’s worth, he did not have a firearm on him, nor was their a firearm in the room. He does live in a western state where possession of firearms is extremely common, so he did happen to have one in the house.

    The interesting thing that has been pointed out by others is that there are acts that one very well might imagine God would consider to be torture, but we don’t think of as “torture” because it is part of a world that we accept. So I would say that there are any number of people who have determined that it is OK to torture in certain circumstances.

  21. “Any type of torture for any given reason…is wrong. Period.”

    Enrique, how can you make such a blanket statement, especially when torture doesn’t seem to have a well-agreed upon definition. Is spanking a child torture? I would say it is, even if a mild form, and I’m not convinced that it is always “wrong. Period.” And even if you do, I think reasonable, moral people can disagree on that point.

    Is killing another human always wrong? Yet, in war it comes to that. Is lying to another human always wrong? Yet, to infiltrate a criminal gang, an undercover “good guy” does just that. The only way to justify either action, killing or lying, is to reference the evil the other guy’s doing. A necessary evil to prevent or stop a greater evil. The end is justifying the means.

    It’s self-consistent to say one should neither kill nor lie nor torture under any circumstance, but I don’t think it’s easy to claim the moral high ground to do so. Is it moral to allow one’s friends, compatriots or family members to be destroyed by others if you have a means to protect them? Is it moral to allow criminals to prey on the weak when you have the ability to take down their network by subterfuge? Examples can be found from the BOM to support either position, whether it’s Anti-Nephi-Lehis allowing themselves to be slaughtered rather than fight back or the servant of Helaman infiltrating the Gadianton robbers and committing an extra-judicial killing of Kishkumen.

    What if you were a cop on the scene when the terrorists took over the school in Osettia holding hundreds of kids hostage and you managed to capture one of the terrorists. Furthermore, let’s say you were 90% sure that torturing the guy would give you information that would lead to protecting those children. What’s your moral obligation, especially in hindsight knowing how many of those children the terrorists killed? What is your moral obligation to protect the human rights of the terrorist who is complicit in killing those children?

    I realize that wasn’t the situation the CIA was in, and my object isn’t to defend torture. My object is to point out that making categorical statements and applying them to other people’s behavior without trying to see their point of view is tantamount to exercising unrighteous judgment. That what bothers me so much about that post castigating the two Mormons involved. I grieve for those men. I also grieve for Alyssa Peterson.

  22. Little is known about Alyssa Peterson’s situation, other than that her suicide note and all details regarding what torture techniques were used or what torture techniques she objected to have been either destroyed or at the least redacted from any record available to the public.

    However it appears that her refusal to participate in further torture was courageous. Her death hints that much was going wrong, beyond those things that we can responsibly speculate upon.

  23. A person committing suicide is rarely in a rational frame of mind. And a combat theater is an enormously stressful place to be under almost any circumstances. I would be reluctant to draw any conclusions at all from Peterson’s suicide note.

  24. I merely mention it in those terms because Alyssa has been transformed into a symbol. It may be that she was merely stressed and overwhelmed. Or there could have been something someone wished to hide. The fact that so much about her death was destroyed just seems suspicious.

  25. This is not the kind of news we would like to be reading..
    Almost a mormon bishop….

    “The report concludes, “The manner in which the United States treats detainees reflects the values of the nation…. Rather than constrain the defense of the nation, compliance with these legal norms shows America’s true mettle and the strength of its convictions. Torture and barbarity must be rejected even in the face of great adversity.”

    Such talk and a paucity of demonstrable successes seem to have prompted the CIA to cancel Mitchell and Jessen’s contract. They still had the $81 million that has to amaze everybody on all sides of the issue.

    Jessen was named a Mormon bishop, but the appointment was met with vocal protests. He retains the comfort of his grand new home.

    Mitchell has been reported saying that he grew up poor in Florida. He must take particular delight in his own luxurious abode.

    Neither man could be reached for comment, but you have to figure they are faring far better than any other waterboarders over the centuries.

    And, since they are indemnified, not even the courts can take away those two splendid houses that torture built.”

  26. Makes me wonder what the position of the church [as a body, not individually] will be in the case of mr Bruce Jesser. How thin is the line between torture and almost a crime. Should I steal a bank, I become a criminal but still a private affair which concern a private issue in my own life, who knows….I can even make a living out of it and pay my tithing. Is the church in position to judge my behavior as a member, should I be suspended or even excommunicate. Can the church do so…..?
    Let me even add the fact that I didn`t even steal the bank or participated in the act, but helped in the planning and got caught. Smoked but did not inhale….
    Like I wrote….a thin line….

  27. Surely the Daily Beast isn’t actually suggesting the Mormon Church should have confiscated Jessen’s property? Yet the juxtaposition of words seems to slam the Mormon Church for the fact that Jessen retains his home.

    Jessen was only a bishop for a week – an almost unimaginably short time. From reading other articles, it appears that Jessen determined the breaking news and spin on his role would be harmful to his ability to minister, and he and the Church agreed to him resigning his calling as Bishop. I say this merely because Mormons, who know how such things work, might be imagining that he was not unanimously sustained, with vocal calls from congregants. However as it appears no one in the congregation knew Jessen’s role or how the Democrats and media would spin it when he was sustained, the actual sustaining itself was apparently normal.

    Since its founding, the Mormon Church has kept its doors open to all who wish to attend. For example, this policy is the reason a young man who had raped a local Bishop’s daughter was not barred from attending local services. The Bishop’s daughter attended a different congregation, making any attempt on the part of the young man to see her on Sunday an obvious violation of the restraining order I have to imagine was in place. Likewise, if the Mormon Church were to punish Jessen for his role in the torture, the Church’s policy is to not make such discipline or the reasons for it public. When the public learns of discipline, it is because those disciplined have themselves published the matter, with the possible exception of cases where individuals have become such a danger that some brief public statement is required (as when Dr. Bennett attacked Joseph Smith and the Church in 1842).

    The articles reminded me of the SERE program. I take the online training as a gov’t civilian as a pre-requisite for foreign travel, which helps prepare one for the possibility of being kidnapped and tortured. But military individuals take a live training course that actually subjects them to torture, to viscerally prepare them for possible torture and to have a chance to withstand that torture.

    So even though torture is obviously not a desired activity, regular citizens may not be aware that torture is a risk that all who work in support of the US government accept as a possible outcome of their duties when they travel overseas.

    Back to my point, however, on a personal level, the most pain we will likely endure or inflict will statistically almost certainly be in the context of individuals we “love.”

  28. Meg wrote…. “For folks like Enrique, who don’t believe in a god or a final judgment, this is of little comfort.”

    Meg…I am a member of the church and a faithfull one may I say and because of it I feel that we, with god given intelligence should be able to determine right away that which is right and that which is wrong…I do not need Heavenly Father to tell me that which I already should know and know it well….
    If I am able to avoid any given crime here on earth and not let it happen or let it happen with the sole idea that the criminal will be eventually punished in the afterlife and the victim conforted…. is not my idea of a noble life.
    I believe in a final jugdment but I also believe we should be fully involved here and now, in this life, in defending those causes the will improve the life of those around us….

  29. Hi Meg!

    A rethorical….
    But then in my case and in most cases…it is the opposite with the bank.
    With bank services cost with my bank account,
    Get the idea…?

  30. Martin wore….Enrique, how can you make such a blanket statement, especially when torture doesn’t seem to have a well-agreed upon definition. Is spanking a child torture? I would say it is, even if a mild form, and I’m not convinced that it is always “wrong. Period.” And even if you do, I think reasonable, moral people can disagree on that point.

    I think we are all old enough here to know and define torture as practiced in this case by the CIA and spanking a child. I don`t usually punish my kids [got three by the way, two girls 6 and 7 and a boy of 13] with water boarding or any thing like it. No even if attractive, we cannot walk in the gray-shaded roads here and I can even admit it that in certain situations like a conventional war or a war against terrorism, certain measures could be apply but still….NO.

    No…even if it will save lives…but then…where and when do we draw a line…

    Even if we are actually diminishing the condition of a human being in the name of avoiding a crime…is it right? Let me put it this way….back in the 60/70, how many countries were saved here in South America from falling in the hands of communism [which I despise] by installing hard right wing military dictators with the implied cost later…..?
    Not sure if the medicine then was better than the disease….

  31. Hi Enrique,

    Good to have the clarification that you are writing from a Mormon paradigm.

    There are a large number of things that should be already decided. I don’t, for example, need to ask if God wants me to feed my family. Similarly, as you suggest, we shouldn’t need to ask whether or not God wants us to torture folks, as a rule.

    However, as I mentioned with respect to SERE, we ask people to submit to torture so that they can be better prepared if they are kidnapped and tortured by an enemy. This is where Jessen originally got involved in the torture business. When decisions were made regarding obtaining information from a group that had demonstrated a willingness to die in the process of delivering lethal attacks, Jessen’s expertise in preparing volunteers to withstand torture was called upon.

    It is situations like this that in fact demand that we constantly inquire of God regarding what we do. Given Jessen’s existing expertise, it seemed natural and patriotic to perform similar tasking in support of the new situation. And perhaps this was a matter he took to God, and perhaps he got some kind of answer. Or perhaps he did as so many of us do, and simply made decisions that seemed reasonable at the time, as they were pretty similar to work that was clearly not ethically problematic.

    One more example. My brother was in a foreign country on his mission decades ago. He and his companion happened upon a building on fire. There were obviously people trapped, crying out. Both my brother and his companion rushed towards the building, intending to assist. But as they came close to the door of the burning building, they both independently felt the spirit tell them not to enter the building. It was a difficult thing, to watch those people burn, intellectually thinking it was possible to save them, but having this strong spiritual message that they should not make the attempt.

    I would that we be so in tune with the spirit that we can hear and heed such promptings, whether the spirit is telling us to act or not act.

  32. While I’m personally against water boarding and several other “enhanced interrogation techniques”, I think we have to have a discussion on what the term “torture” means. We also need to discuss the difference between legal and moral.
    I do not think we should be incarcerating the CIA for doing the job they were told to do, after several reviews by different groups and a presidential okay gave them the green light. Under Bush, these actions were legal. Under Obama, they are now illegal. I feel they were probably not moral under any circumstances.
    Tobacco use is legal. Tobacco use is not moral. We understand this. We do not imprison people for smoking. We do apply sin taxes for them to be able to have such a vice.
    The Bill of Rights protects us from “cruel and unusual punishment”. In Revolutionary days, this meant drawing and quartering. I’m not convinced that our Founding Fathers would have felt the same of sleep deprivation, as it is on a entirely different level than tying a man between 4 horses and having them tear limbs off as they gallop off in different directions.
    So, sleep deprivation probably should be legal. And in the severe case of reacting to 3000 Americans dying in a single day due to terrorism, perhaps the desire to prevent another large disaster was justifiable at the time.
    That the report that came out was given only by Democrats and did not review all sides of the issue, shows this was a media circus, and not an attempt to fix a problem. This is sad, because it mocks all those who died in this war on terrorism.
    Things are done for a reason. Yes, torture is a terrible thing. So is war. So are terrorist acts. We do not stoop to beheading our enemies. I’m glad we do not, as it would not be moral. But perhaps we need to have a more honest and less emotional discussion on what we can do to obtain information from terrorists and others, when our nation is under great duress.

  33. Of course, another tack might have been to sick the Mormons on them. Subject them to lessons on God, green jello, kindness, and Mormon Tabernacle Choir. While there are certainly some who would consider that torture indeed, it would not have met the United Nations’ standard for torture.

    Not that I’d actually want my religion to be so uniquely tied to something of this nature, but it’s an interesting thought. I mention the Mormon thing because it is one of the only religious traditions that would honestly consider these individuals to be of eternal worth and therefore worthy of good treatment from a deeply-held conviction.

  34. Is tobacco use really not moral? I’m not so sure that’s true. Or am I assuming that “not moral” means “immoral” which is not the intended meaning? I can imagine there is a large list of things that are immoral which we might not even consider to be the case. Some will say that eating a hamburger at your local fast food chain isn’t moral because of the high costs to the environment of the mass-production of beef. Is a reliance on fossil fuels moral? Is the denial of healthcare to those unable to afford it immoral? As Isaiah has said, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”. How many of us do that without being aware of doing it?

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