You asked me a few weeks ago what kind of “crap” I had been reading that led me to the political beliefs that I had shared with you. I was unprepared to say much specifically at that time. However, after thinking about it more, I realized that I really need to share the specifics with you so that you at least have the opportunity to understand the things that I now understand.
Frankly, I have simple been reading the Book of Mormon! You mentioned that the Book of Mormon justifies war, but I take a very different message from its inspired pages. The first mention of war is in 2 Nephi 5:14:
And I, Nephi, did take the sword of Laban, and after the manner of it did make many swords, lest by any means the people who were now called Lamanites should come upon us and destroy us; for I knew their hatred towards me and my children and those who were called my people.
Note that these swords were made solely for defensive purposes.
In the Book of Omni, Abinadom mentions that he “saw much war and contention between my people”….” and I, with my own sword, have taken the lives of many of the Lamanites in the defence of my brethren”.
Zeniff, in Mosiah, Chapter 9, engaged in internal warfare with his own people, because the leader of his expedition, “being an austere and a blood-thirsty man commanded that I should be slain” sought to attack the Lamanite people, even though they had not yet presented a threat. A generation later, the people of King Noah engaged in defensive warfare, supported by the hand of the Lord, until they began boasting of their own strength, at which time they were defeated and brought into bondage to the people of King Laman.
Alma Chapter 2 tells the story of Amlici who, in only the 5th year of the reign of the judges, sought to be king among the Nephites. The voice of the people “came against Amlici, that he was not made king over the people” (Alma 2:7). In verse 10, we read that he made himself king anyway over his supporters and, “commanded them that they should take up arms against their brethren; and this he did that he might subject them to him.” This then led to a horrible three-staged battle in which the Amlicites were joined by the Lamanites, who just happened to be attacking the Nephites at the same time. Verse 18 reads, “Nevertheless the Lord did strengthen the hand of the Nephites, that they slew the Amlicites with great slaughter, that they began to flee before them.” Each subsequent stage of the battle ended the same way – as long as the Nephites were strengthened by the hand of the Lord, because they were not the aggressors.
War next takes center stage in Alma, chapter 16, when the Lamanites attack the city of Ammoniah – the same people who had burned the wives and children of the believers while forcing Alma and Amulek to look on. The result was similar, in that the Nephites pursued the Lamanites, who were fleeing with their captives, following the Lord’s revelation to Alma in order to cut them off and rescue the captives unharmed.
The mission of the sons of Mosiah among the Lamanites climaxes with the inspiring story of the converted Lamanites burying their weapons of war, never to take them up again. Their abhorrence of their former sins was so great that they preferred to submit themselves to the deadly swords of the Lamanites rather than risk further staining their swords with the blood of their brethren. https://scottstover.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/the-people-of-ammon/
The story of the Zoramites, who prayed on the Rameumptom, opens the door to the next war, which is described in Alma, Chapter 43. Here, again, the pattern of the Nephites being strengthened by the Lord, and then showing mercy once they had gained power over the opposing army, is confirmed. In this story, Moroni, even in his anger at the arrogance and stubbornness of Zarahemnah, still offers to allow the Lamanite army to leave in peace under the condition that they would surrender their arms and take an oath to never again come against the Nephites.
The “War Chapters”, (Alma 46-62) which describe the long war between the the Nephite nation and the armies of Amalackiah and his successors, chronicle in great detail Moroni strengthening the defenses of the Nephite cities, defending them against the attacks of the Lamanite armies, and re-taking the cities that the Lamanites had taken through their aggression. At no time in this 14 year war did Moroni’s armies attack Lamanite cities, or venture into pre-emptive wars of aggression and or influence. The lesson to be learned is perhaps best understood by focusing on Alma 48: 14-16:
Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.
And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;
And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.
The wars against the Gadianton Robbers offer perhaps the most profound example of how the Lord condones and strengthens the hand of his people when, and only when, they are engaged in defensive wars against their aggressors. This familiar story details how Giddianhi sent Lachoneus a letter threatening to destroy the Nephites unless they surrender and join them. 3 Nephi 3:20-21 describes what happened next:
Now, the people said unto Gidgiddoni: “Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.
The Lord did, indeed, deliver them from the hands of the Gadianton Robbers in a story that is allegorical in how it describes what happens to those to attempt to live their lives at the expense of others….once the “workers” withdraw their support, those who “rob” for their existence have no sustenance, and they ironically end up being the ones who starve.
The capstone, of course, of the war message in the Book of Mormon is that of the Nephites and Lamanites in the dark days of Mormon and Moroni. Once the Nephites became as evil as the Lamanites, and began boasting of their own strength and engaging in back and forth wars of aggression, Mormon refused to be their commander and the Lord’s protective hand was clearly lifted.
Mormon 3:10-16 says:
And they did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land.
And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination.
Behold, I had led them, notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them; nevertheless, it was without faith, because of the hardness of their hearts.
And thrice have I delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and they have repented not of their sins.
And when they had sworn by all that had been forbidden them by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, that they would go up unto their enemies to battle, and avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren, behold the voice of the Lord came unto me, saying:
Vengeance is mine, and I will repay; and because this people repented not after I had delivered them, behold, they shall be cut off from the face of the earth.
And it came to pass that I utterly refused to go up against mine enemies; and I did even as the Lord had commanded me; and I did stand as an idle witness to manifest unto the world the things which I saw and heard, according to the manifestations of the Spirit which had testified of things to come.
It was only when the Nephites were completely on their heels, reeling defensively from attack after attack, that this great patriot, Mormon, returned to lead his beloved people in their final death march.
In addition to the Book of Mormon’s clear message about wars, we cannot ignore the stunning warning from Ether 8:18-24:
And it came to pass that they formed a secret combination, even as they of old; which combination is most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God;
For the Lord worketh not in secret combinations, neither doth he will that man should shed blood, but in all things hath forbidden it, from the beginning of man.
And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites.
And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.
And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.
Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain – and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.
Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.
These secret combinations utilize wars and rumors of wars (fear) to induce people to surrender their liberty and freedom – their sacred agency – in the interest of security. They also use wars as a method of concentrating wealth in the hands of the many. When governments engage in war, they spend money on armaments. The few who are engaged in such businesses reap fantastic profits from the government, which is financed by the taxes taken from the poor and middle class. The 99% become more impoverished by either taxes or smothering debt, and it is overwhelmingly the poor and middle class whose sons go to die. (Paraphrased from “War is a Racket” by Gen. Smedley Butler) These combinations are among us today, just as prophesied by Moroni, and we must identify them, recognize them and fight against them. If we do not, it is clearly, according to prophecy, to our condemnation.
I have read from the Bible. Isaiah 9:10, speaking of the reaction of the Jews (Judah) to the first invasion of the Assyrians, which ultimately resulted in the scattering of the ten lost tribes, but during which Judah itself was spared by the Lord’s intervention against the armies of Sennacherib, says:
The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.
So, having been rescued by the hand of the Lord, after years of turning away from him, the reaction of the Jews to all this destruction and this near miss (think 9/11) was to build their defenses even stronger. Rather than turning to the Lord and seeking His protection, they turned to their own strength, shaking their fist, in effect, at the world and at God. (Concept from The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn) This is what is happening in our own country today, and this is what our reaction was to 9/11. I, for one, refuse to continue to be part of it.
I have read the words of our modern-day prophets. President Kimball’s President’s message in the June, 1976 Ensign said:
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. 14:14; D&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.)
Enoch, too, was a man of great faith who would not be distracted from his duties by the enemy: “And so great was the faith of Enoch, that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch.” (Moses 7:13.)
What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies.
We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.” (D&C 64:24.)
Of course, this is only one example among many where our prophets have spoken against war. On the other hand, President Hinkley, in his October, 2001 conference address, says:
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. I ask particularly that our own people do not become a party in any way to the persecution of the innocent. Rather, let us be friendly and helpful, protective and supportive. It is the terrorist organizations that must be ferreted out and brought down.
Yet, we attack Iraq and millions die –the vast majority of them innocents. We rightfully mourn the loss of our troops, but the civilian deaths in Iraq number in the millions. Who mourns for them? Do we believe for one minute that Dear President Hinkley was condoning this? When we first attacked Iraq, my biggest fear was that I knew that tens of thousands would die, but my day-to-day life would hardly be affected at all. I would be insulated from all the suffering inflicted in the name of national security so that I can maintain my relatively luxuriant life-style.
Now, we attack with drones in supposedly strategic strikes, and innocent children are killed or horribly mutilated. I simply do not believe that President Hinkley could stand un-moved in the face of such destruction – such evil. And let us not forget Satan’s defiant promise to “……buy up armies and navies……”. This is his work and, for those of us who have eyes to see, his signature is all over it. So, where do we draw the line? At what point are we playing into his hand; at what point do we find ourselves actually contributing to his ancient plan? My thought is that, just as we consistently engage in heroic efforts, and importune the Lord’s help, in our determination to maintain life because we do not want to take upon ourselves the decision of life and death (don’t get me started on abortion), we must exercise the same caution on the subject of war. War is condoned ONLY as a defensive measure, and should NEVER be used as an aggressive tool to spread influence or power. Once we have crossed that line, we can no longer insure that we are not falling into the pit that Satan has cunningly dug for us. We have most definitely crossed that line. I offer as an indication of just how far we’ve fallen: in the South Carolina presidential debate, Congressman Ron Paul suggested that we as a nation should employ the Golden Rule in our foreign policy. The crowd, notably populated by self-professed evangelical Christians, with one voice, booed Dr. Paul’s suggestion. THEY BOOED HIM! – for suggesting that we invoke Christ’s teachings! I am reminded of King Benjamin’s speech, where his subjects declared with one voice their conversion, except this incident in South Carolina exhibits a horribly ironic twist; their voice was a voice of condemnation – not Dr. Paul’s, but their own.
Finally, I offer the Lord’s seminal counsel from the Sermon on the Mount:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, 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; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust;
I will be the first to admit that following such a path is supremely difficult, and I’m certainly not so self-assured as to suggest that I do or even can follow it all the time. But we must try. We must recognize the contradictions between modern rhetoric – the philosophies of men – and the message clearly given in the scriptures. We must put our trust in the Lord. We must learn, as individuals and as a country not to rely on the arm of flesh, but to rely instead upon the Lord himself, upon His promises. Only in doing this can we ever hope to truly know Him and to return to live in His presence.
So, my dear friend, this is the “crap” I’ve been reading, and this is why I am so adamant that our political leaders today, including Mitt Romney – regardless of how good a man he is – are leading us rapidly down the path of destruction, even damnation. By trusting in the arm of flesh, and by eschewing God’s commandments, we reject his protective hand and expose ourselves to the worst that Satan has to offer. Secret combinations, as prophesied so clearly in the Book of Mormon, are inexorably extending their control over every aspect of our lives, and if we do not awaken to a sense of our awful situation, the work of destruction will most surely come upon us.