What We Didn’t Discuss

The gospel doctrine lesson on Alma 43-52 proposed four principles of war as waged by the righteous:

1. Fight only for righteous reasons, such as self-defense (Alma 43:8-10, 29-30, 45-47; 48:14)
2. Have no hate toward your enemies; seek their best interests as well as your own (Alma 43:53-54; 44:1-2, 6)
3. Live righteously and trust in God (Alma 44:3-4; 48:15, 19-20)
4. Follow righteous and wise leaders (Alma 43:16-19; 48:11-13, 17-19; see also D&C 98:10)

In Sunday School, we read through most of the references, talked generally about the principles, applied them vaguely to peace in our country and world, and then applied them more specifically to “conflict” in our personal lives.

What we didn’t discuss was how those principles of war would apply in the United States’s current war on terror or, in fact, any other particular war. For example, what should be done in Georgia? Perhaps you could help me with that.

Principle 1—Fight in self-defense. Do you buy into the argument that we are “defending” ourselves by taking the war offensively to another country? Self defense as a modern war concept seems much more complicated to me than it was when someone holding a sword came attacking my village. That was rather clear-cut and obvious; fight back, and it’s self defense. (Unless you’re an Anti-Nephi-Lehi who took an oath—then you don’t ever fight back.) Once there is an attack on home soil, is action self defense? Or is it self defense only so long as the battle remains at home, literally defending the home?

Principle 2 applies to motivations, which I can certainly detect for myself. I’m wondering how to discern whether those with decision-making power “have no hate” toward and are “seeking the best interest” of the “enemy.” It’s not like they’ll tell me straight up if their secret motivation is hate, except for perhaps Hitler and few of that ilk. And even if they do tell me their motivation, do I believe them? (Probably not. See #4.)

Principle 3. Can do this. Should do it better.

Principle 4 is a great idea, and I’d like to do it. Anyone found some “righteous” and “wise” national leaders lately? Someone to follow wholeheartedly? Someone along the lines of Captain Moroni? Helaman? Even Pahoran? (Probably not, since BIGresearch reports that 2.6% of Americans think members of Congress are trustworthy; 2.2% for Senators; 14.2% for the President). As someone in Sunday School facetiously suggested, “It seems like the choice is between not good and worse.” You can label who is who.

Full disclosure: I am the wife of someone currently serving in local public office. Obviously I believe some leaders have admirable motivations and are righteous and wise, even loveable. What interests me about politics is when people who are striving to be righteous and wise choose opposite sides of an issue and make it a moral stand, thus vilifying anyone who disagrees. Yes, my husband has been called “demonic” and worse. Once the rhetoric of righteousness is invoked, rational debate often disintegrates into proving one’s morality. Discourse hinges on misleading rhetoric about the appearance of morality, rather than on logic and real character. I have my doubts about whether the average citizen has enough time and information to make a good choice. (But I still think a democratic republic is better than the alternatives at this point in time). So how do we sift through the war rhetoric and decide whether the righteous Nephite principles of war apply to contemporary situations?

It’s enough to make me bury my political head in the sand and consecrate all my time and efforts to the gospel; I feel more certain that I’m doing some good there. Except then I’ll get caught in the moral (political) debates in California.

50 comments for “What We Didn’t Discuss

  1. Frank McIntyre
    August 20, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I just realized who your husband is. That’s a fun crowd.

    Our SS class had a quote from Heber J Grant or David O McKay about righteous war allowing for the defense of those who cannot defend themselves. Or something like that.

  2. August 20, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    I think another interesting nuance about Georgia is how a country creates a situation where it is forced itself to provide self-defense. Reports state that the Georgians where committing attrocities in South Ossetia and therefore the Russians moved in to provide “self-defense” to ethnic Russians there. However, the question is did Russia purposefully create an atmosphere that forced the Georgians to attack and thereby claim self-defense for its ethnic brothers? Russian “peacekeepers” were already there on sovergeign Georgian land.

    I suppose the same argument can be made for WWII. Did the US force Japan’s hand to act when we cut off vital oil supplies to Japan pre-Pearl Harbor? I’ve always had the opinion that there was more than meets the eye for that “righteous” war but ultimately determine that it was still the right thing, perhaps not as noble as a Spielberg picture would make it.

  3. Raymond Takashi Swenson
    August 20, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Defense against modern nation states does involve fighting in the aggressor’s homeland. That is why Germany was bombed and invaded, and why Japan was bombed into surrender.

    Defense against jihadists means not giving them a sanctuary.

    On a personal level, if someone down the street from you was making repeated attacks on your property and family, he would not have a sanctuary in his home; police would have a warrant for his arrest and forcibly enter and arrest him.

    The ancient common law of self defense includes the right to defend other people, not only your immediate family but also your neighbors and community, against attacks. The United Nations was created during World War II as an instrument for other nations to act in the defense of a nation under attack. NATO is based on the principle that an attack on one NATO member nation is legally an attack on all of them, and all are justified in acting in their common defense. The nations of Eastern Europe are doing all they can to join NATO, because they know that Russia is Russia, even if it is not communist.

    America obviously failed Principle 2 when it put 100,000 Japanese Americans, most of them native-born citizens, into concentration camps during World War II, based solely on racial hatred. The FBI had already identified the native Japanese they thought were most likely to have sympathies with Imperial Japan. History has shown that not a single one of the Japanese immigrants or native born Japanese Americans was an agent for Japan. That is in contrast to German Americans, who actually included a few Nazi agents, but whose people were not put in concentration camps for three years (which would have included Eisenhower and Nimitz). There had been real anti-German animosity during World War I, leading some Germans to change their names (including what is now the House of Windsor).

    Despite the 9/11 attacks, Americans have been remarkably tolerant of Muslims and Arabs in America, even though some of them have in fact been bin Laden sympathizers.

    If poor George W. Bush were half as articulate as Prime Minister Tony Blair, Americans would be much more united in supporting the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not forget that Saddam Hussein was purposely acting like he was hiding a “weapons of mass destruction” program so he could intimidate his old enemies in Iran. President Clinton fired a thousand cruise missiles at Iraq to punish Hussein for kicking out the UN weapons inspectors, which certainly does not look like the action of someone who has nothing to hide. Now we know that Saddam did not want the inspectors learning that he had no significant weapons production programs (though he DID have stockpiles of chemical weapons, left over form his war with Iran and his attacks on the Kurds). When US forces were driving toward Baghdad, Bush’s critics were NOT claiming that Hussein had no WMDs, but rather they prophesied that Hussein would use them against American troops, and we would see tens of thousands of our people dead.

    What happened when Hussein was defeated? Muammar Khaddafi immediately confessed to a nuclear weapons program, and surrendered all of the materials to the US, without a shot fired. Khaddafi had killed Americans before, in the attack on the jumbo jet that fell on Lockerbee, Scotland, and on Americans at Mediterranean cities. He had harbored terrorists. Bush’s demonstrated willingness to attack nations harboring WMDs was enough to convince Libya to give up its nuclear weapons program. We also recently heard that Iran’s nuclear weapons program put the brakes on when Iraq was invaded. I have no doubt that many Iranians would just as soon be rid of their rulers and live in harmony with the US, but the people who run that country and its resources have declared their intent to obliterate Israel and have invested billions in creating a Manhattan Project scale program. The US was also able to shut down the nuclear weapon development program that Pakistan was running for other countries. The risk of a nuclear bomb going off in New York or Miami or Los Angeles was measurably reduced. We should be happy for the surprise that Hussein’s weapons were not there, as well as for the fact that we prevented other weapons from being created.

    Since you raised the question about leadership, I think there are pretty good reasons to believe that, on a whole range of issues, the inexperienced nominee of one major party is unwise about the nature of the threat against America, and unwise in his stated determination to slash military budgets that are already at a fraction of what they were at the height of the Cold War.

    Over a hundred military bases have been shut down in the US and overseas. The people and the weapons that used to be in them are largely gone. The Hanford nuclear site has a large pit where the nuclear reactors from Navy submarines are being placed out in view of Russian satellites, as we continue to disassemble the nuclear missile fleet. But the world is still a dangerous place, and the United States, with its international, multi-ethnic population, its religious diversity, and its solid democratic government, is a much better custodian of military power than Russia or China or various Islamic Republics.

  4. mpb
    August 20, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    I hate to get all meta on you, but I had the same thoughts around each one of these principles during our lesson. I was absolutely dying, wanting to bring them all up, but in no way did I feel comfortable doing so. The rest of the class just nodded along in agreement. Maybe there were people like me who thought I was nodding along in agreement.

    The principles are all very nice thoughts and I’m thankful for them…the application, in the USA or anywhere, is where it gets dicey. I’m curious–when is it appropriate to try and introduce challenging ideas like these in Sunday School? I was anxious to hear how my fellow ward members would respond, but too concerned about how I would come off bringing any of these up.

  5. Kylie Turley
    August 20, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    #1 Frank—you’re right. I looked up the quote: “There are . . . two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter–mind you, I say enter, not begin–a war: (1) An attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and, (2) Loyalty to his country. Possibly there is a third, [namely] Defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one.” (David O. McKay, Conf Report, Apr 1942).

    The interesting dynamic, given this quote and even the basic principles, is that righteous people will be justifiably fighting in wars against each other. Of course we know that it has happened before and will doubtless happen again. But it does make me wonder if there are other political situations where both sides can justifiably be righteous/in the right.

  6. Velska
    August 20, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    You should put up a thread titled “The Scriptural Injunctions We Ignore” and let us all air our pet peeves… ;)

  7. Julie M. Smith
    August 20, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    My husband and I had a long conversation about this lesson, focused on the quote from [then-elder] McKay: “to enter–mind you, I say enter, not begin–a war.”

    Was he saying we could _never_ begin a war? But what about a “new front” in the war on terror? Would he phrase it differently now in this era of missiles and WMD and globalization? I’m not sure on any of these questions.

    I think this is a terrifyingly difficult conversation to have in SS–so easy to get (inappropriately) political. Ours almost did . . .

  8. James
    August 20, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I was thinking the exact same things during our gospel doctrine meeting. Here’s my thoughts on the subject. (They are my opinions and not meant to be anything but just opinions. Other’s opinions will decidedly vary from mine. And that’s fine. I am just trying to avoid the political rhetoric and argumentation that is far too common today.)

    Principle 1: It is my opinion that the Iraq war is about as far away from a “righteous” war as it is possible to get. I’d equate it with the Vietnam and Korean wars for similar reasons. While there are and were many other factors at play and many other points you can argue against, all three were wars of choice. All three were – at the core – wars that were not *directly* related to self defense. There were other mitigating reasons for those wars that I personally consider were not righteous in any use of that term. The closest “righteous” war recently would be WWII. And even then I’d use the word “righteous” with very large caveats. To put it plainly, wars aren’t righteous at all. It is an extreme rarity that they could be considered righteous and we really don’t have the authority to say one does and another doesn’t. It is up to God to decide that and to give us that knowledge if we ask for it.

    Principle 2: After 9/11, I’m sorry to admit, I hated the Middle-Eastern people along with everyone else in America. Fortunately I got over that quickly once I began to see that the radical factions that caused that terrible attack are loud, but small. It is not wise to hate an entire race for the actions of some of that race’s people.

    Principle 3: Yeah. I should do better as well.

    Principle 4: I’d agree that there’s no politician I’ve seen comes close to a Captain Moroni or Helaman. But my personal opinion is that Obama does come closer that most. Yes, he’s definitely not perfect and has some problems. And I don’t agree with a few of his policies. But if I look purely for a “wise leader,” he stands out. For example, in a speech this week he said:

    “These are the judgments I’ve made and the policies that we have to debate, because we do have differences in this election. But one of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can’t disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America’s national interest. Now, it’s time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.”

    Basically (among other things) he wants to end the bitter partisanship between red and blue that I abhor. I have not heard any other politician say he or she will try to do this.

    “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
    Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
    A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
    Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
    Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.”
    3 Nephi 14: 16-20 (This is not a religious endorsement of Obama – I am only addressing his character with this scripture.)

    But as I said above, this is just my opinion. Your mileage will vary.

  9. Adam Greenwood
    August 20, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    I spent Gospel Doctrine in the church kitchen feeding my Ann apricots we’d canned. Another brother was there and we talked about supply problems in his trailer business. No doctrinal quandaries were raised.

  10. Frank McIntyre
    August 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Adam, I must say that that sounds inappropriately political.

  11. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    One of the most interesting lessons to be found in these early chapters of the War Chapters of Alma is that the Nephites did NOT begin the conflict. They did NOT preempt the Lamanites’ preparations when clearly the Lamanites were preparing to come to war with the Nephites. The Nephites prepared and waited for the Lamanites to come to them. They let the Lamanites strike first. It is a brilliant defense, because it gives you the moral upper hand. And war is about more than just killing your enemy.

    What we didn’t discuss was how those principles of war would apply in the United States’s current war on terror or, in fact, any other particular war

    To adhere to the principles found in these chapters of Alma, the United States should have gone solely after the enemy that attacked her. That enemy is al-Qaeda. That enemy was located in Afghanistan. That enemy was NOT located in Iraq. As Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with those who attacked us on 9/11, any attack on Iraq violates the principles of these chapters of Alma, and thusly any Mormon who claims to adhere to the principles of the Book of Mormon but supported us going into Iraq stands on flimsy grounds.

    For example, what should be done in Georgia? Perhaps you could help me with that.

    Georgia is a brash country that picked a fight with a bigger country. We should do nothing to help them out except to make apologies to the Russians for picking a fight with them. David O. McKay’s remarks do not justify the United States getting involved in Georgia at Georgia’s defense.

    Overall America fails to follow the principles outlined in these chapters of Alma.

  12. Kylie Turley
    August 20, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    #4 mpb–you posted as I was writing. I wanted to bring specifics up in SS but was afraid for the same reasons. Like the McKay quote (#5) makes evident, righteous people can be on both sides of a war, and obviously on both sides of a political discussion. But people can get so wound up about politics. If one side is “right,” then the other side must be immoral, wrong, demonic, etc. I don’t think everyone can be right all the time but I think we should be able to “disagree without being disagreeable.” It seemed to me that this issue would have pushed too many people to be disagreeable. SS is not the place for disagreeable-ness, so I avoided it.

  13. Frank McIntyre
    August 20, 2008 at 1:12 pm


    “Basically (among other things) he wants to end the bitter partisanship between red and blue that I abhor. I have not heard any other politician say he or she will try to do this.”

    GWB campaigned on the same thing. I don’t think it worked out.

  14. Kylie Turley
    August 20, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    #9 Adam, I hope you were feeding children in there, so they could be reverent.

  15. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 1:16 pm



    If poor George W. Bush were half as articulate as Prime Minister Tony Blair, Americans would be much more united in supporting the military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    No we wouldn’t. A lie is still a lie no matter how well you dress it. Blair is just as badly discredited in the world as Bush is. It doesn’t matter if he was more articulate. He was still wrong.

    President Clinton fired a thousand cruise missiles at Iraq to punish Hussein for kicking out the UN weapons inspectors, which certainly does not look like the action of someone who has nothing to hide.

    Actually, President Clinton fired those cruise missiles in anger because Saddam Hussein had caught UN inspectors red handed spying for the Americans. President Clinton then ordered UN inspectors out of the country. It was not Saddam Hussein who kicked them out, but the Americans who ordered them out.

    What happened when Hussein was defeated? Muammar Khaddafi immediately confessed to a nuclear weapons program, and surrendered all of the materials to the US, without a shot fired.

    Actually that was coincidental and related to lucrative business deals that Khaddafi agreed to.

  16. Other James
    August 20, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    Someone used my usual alias. :( With respect to the self defense argument, weapons are sufficiently powerful that as long as the enemy who plans to invade you has the will to win, waiting until they are on your territory means that you have already been defeated. For national militaries to succeed in their mission of defending their nations, they have very little choice but to strike at the enemy before they get to the outskirts of the city or the borders of the nation. A few years ago while researching a paper on information warfare (http://ssrn.com/abstract=607443) I learned that there is a strong legal precedent in international law for a preemptive strike on a hostile force. The doctrine of the ‘Caroline Test’, which incidentally dealt with a strike on what we might now call a terrorist organization, allows defensive strikes into another nation. Personally, I’m satisfied that those tests have been met.

  17. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 1:27 pm

    Other James,

    The doctrine of preemption is a good, and justified doctrine to practice as a nation-state in modern times. But Iraq doesn’t fit that bill. That was a PREVENTIVE war, not a PREEMPTIVE war. The former is aggressive and the latter is defensive.

  18. Howard
    August 20, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    You might want to consider D&C 98:28-48 as well.

  19. Adam Greenwood
    August 20, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Ann is a child, yes. Her eating style is not reverent. She believes she must hoot and grunt between spoonfuls.

  20. James
    August 20, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    “GWB campaigned on the same thing. I don’t think it worked out.”

    :-) Do you mean the “I’m a uniter, not a divider” speech? Nope, that didn’t work out at all, did it.? :-)

    But I’d respectfully counter that Obama is consistent in his message while GWB was decidedly not. Also, one of the main reasons for the horrible divisions between people in America is because of the extreme politicization of our culture. It is no longer possible to have a true disagreement. It is instead: “you are either for us or against us.” Thus we get the false accusations that paint liberals as anti-American and unpatriotic and republicans as the devil incarnate.

    Obama has not politicized his campaign in the way GWB had or McCain has. Using the quote I copied above once again you will notice that Obama did not politicize his response to McCain’s false attack. Instead he rose above it and called McCain out for his spurious “under-the-belt” attack. And that’s not the only time he’s reacted this way. I’m personally impressed. It’s not many times you see a politician “rising above” anything. It’s usually knuckle dragging mud slinging and power hungry money grabbing.

  21. James
    August 20, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Other James:

    Sorry about that.

  22. Frank McIntyre
    August 20, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    James, You are the one you’ve been waiting for.

  23. Julie M. Smith
    August 20, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Am I remembering correctly that Elder Clark was opposed to US involvement in WWII? If that’s right, then we see that faithful Saints can be all over the map on the morality of a war.

  24. Other James
    August 20, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    Dan – we are going to have to agree to disagree on the preemptive v. preventive issue since one of the words used to define preemptive is ‘preventive.’

  25. Adam Greenwood
    August 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Using the quote I copied above once again you will notice that Obama did not politicize his response to McCain’s false attack. Instead he rose above it and called McCain out for his spurious “under-the-belt” attack.

    . . .

  26. Jrf
    August 20, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Julie – yes, Pres. Clark was not in favor of U.S. involvement in WW 2. He was somewhat enamored of National Socialism as a political philosophy at that time in his life.

  27. Mark IV
    August 20, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    The distinctions about preemptive or aggressive wars which people try to read out of the Book of Mormon are almost meaningless. For example, we had this lesson last week in Sunday school at my ward, deep in the heart of The Old Confederacy.

  28. Mark B.
    August 20, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    I’m afraid we’ll have pretty ineffective soldiers if they follow Principle 2: Have no hate toward your enemies; seek their best interests as well as your own (Alma 43:53-54; 44:1-2, 6)

    Since when is making that other poor dumb b*****d die for his country in his best interest? And, frankly, when the 2000 Sons of Helaman were fighting and slaying a horde of Lamanites, were they really seeking those Lamanites’ best interests?

    I don’t want to fight the Korean War here on this thread, but for whom does James think the Korean War was a “war of choice”? The South Koreans? Or just their allies?

  29. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Other James,

    whether or not the usage of the word “preventive” is found in the doctrine of preemption is irrelevant. In International Theory there are two doctrines: doctrine of preemption and the doctrine of prevention. Not that Wikipedia has all the answers, but I feel their description accurately describes the differences between the two:

    Preemptive war (or a preemptive strike) is waged in an attempt to repel or defeat a perceived inevitable offensive or invasion, or to gain a strategic advantage in an impending (allegedly unavoidable) war. Preemptive war is often confused with the term preventive war. While the latter is generally considered to violate international law, and to fall short of the requirements of a just war, preemptive wars are more often argued to be justified or justifiable.

  30. James
    August 20, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    Mark B.:

    Good question. And I see your point. In the larger scheme of history, the Korean was was not necessarily a “war of choice.” There were many reasonable reasons for entering that war as there were for not entering it.

    But I was attempting to talk about the three wars (Korea, Vietnam and Iraq) as being similar in nature only in the narrow view that they are and were not “righteous” wars. It’s my personal opinion that war in unfounded in all but the most extreme conditions. It should be used only when all other avenues to avoid it has failed. You may argue that this is exactly what happened in Korea. I’d disagree. I find it very upsetting that America (and most every other industrialized nation of any significant power) has been at war almost constantly for the last decade. Humans as a rule rush far too quickly to the sword. And so with that outlook, almost all wars are a “war of choice.”

  31. Last Lemming
    August 20, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Mark B. makes a good point about principle #2. It only makes sense if “enemy” is interpreted collectively instead of individually. Clearly, no enemy soldier who dies for his wrong-headed cause has had his best interests served. But his death might still work toward the best interests of his countrymen. It’s impossible to know, of course, but I think a strong argument can be made that Germans and Japanese collectively are better off (by any economic or spiritual criteria) now having lost WWII than they would have been had they won. That was almost certainly not true of Germans after WWI, however–hence WWII.

  32. gst
    August 20, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    #11: “And war is about more than just killing your enemy.”

    War is about a lot of things, I guess. But mainly that one thing.

  33. gst
    August 20, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    #15: “Actually, President Clinton fired those cruise missiles in anger because Saddam Hussein had caught UN inspectors red handed spying for the Americans.”

    Are you Tariq Aziz or something?

  34. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 3:59 pm


    I would appreciate that you not insult me or my intelligence.


  35. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 4:11 pm


    That first link is to show how our “liberal” media obfuscated what really happened. Now here are reports from 1999 that quite strongly allege that UN inspectors were spying for the Americans.


  36. Steve Evans
    August 20, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    “I would appreciate that you not insult me or my intelligence.”

    That’s an interesting bifurcation. I suppose you are referring to a supercomputer named I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E.?

  37. gst
    August 20, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    If anyone thinks I was unfair in accusing Dan of sounding like Tariq Aziz, I encourage you to go read this old interview of him by Jim Lehrer and see if Aziz says anything with which Dan wouldn’t agree.

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/july-dec97/aziz_11-13.html .

    Dan, I wasn’t insulting your intelligence.  I was insulting you for siding with Saddam Hussein over your own country. 

  38. Sonny
    August 20, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    It was not Saddam Hussein who kicked them out, but the Americans who ordered them out.

    Yes, but inspectors are of not much use when they are not allowed by Saddam to enter any facilities.

  39. Danno Ferrin
    August 20, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Why did the Nephites go to war in the war that started the war chapters?

    Alma 43:9-10

    In fact, it is even a commandment to go to war in those situations. So self defense is a standing commandment to go to war.

    Alma 43:47

    Any analysis of any of our wars should really be taken in context of those in my opinion. These current actions IMHO meet this test (particularly the freedom to practice religion test), but such a conclusion is ultimately for each individual to come to (and each may legitimately and spiritually find them selves on opposite sides). However, what I found interesting is that these discount the ‘peace at all costs’ philosophies that permeate a lot of the hard line war protesters, placing it in the same category of sin as warmongering it would seem.

  40. Howard
    August 20, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    “So self defense is a standing commandment to go to war.”

    D&C 98
    32 Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles.
    33 And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.
    34 And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue;
    35 And if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord;
    36 Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people.

  41. MattG
    August 20, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    I often hear members compare Al Qaida to the Gadianton robbers and use that as justification for proactive (pre-emptive?) action in the middle east. It’s interesting to compare what transpired between the Nephites and Gadiantons and what we’re facing now. In 3 Nephi 3 the Nephites wanted to hunt down the Gadianton robbers (after the Nephites had gathered together in one body), but their leader (Gidgiddoni) forbade it until they were attacked:

    20 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.
    21 But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would bdeliver 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.

    Then in the next chapter after they prepared for war and were attacked by the Gadianton robbers, the Nephites went to battle and prevailed, but then pursued:

    13 And it came to pass that Gidgiddoni commanded that his armies should pursue them as far as the borders of the wilderness, and that they should not spare any that should fall into their hands by the way; and thus they did pursue them and did slay them, to the borders of the wilderness, even until they had fulfilled the commandment of Gidgiddoni.

    I’m not sure what conclusions to draw here, I just find it interesting, because as LDS, we could justify any and all pre-emptive military actions from 9/11 onward by using the above example.

  42. Danno Ferrin
    August 20, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    The second scripture contains the command “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. ” So for self defense: i.e. the Canadians have started fire-bombing Boise and are marching east to Salem Oregon, if you have a gun in Salem load up and march.

    But remember, Self Defense is only one reason in the David O. McKay quote. Now the Canadians have invaded Greenland and are preparing to move on to Iceland, and are installing puppet regimes to swap the names of the islands, that’s not so cut and dried.

    The D&C quote, however, pertains to the proclamation and threat of war, the Self Defense principal applies to the actuality of war. So of they proclaim war and we try to broker peace, it fails three times (or 12 times if it is a series of UN security council resolution), then we can take it to the Lord and get a particular approval.

    So the two are talking about two different kinds of warfare: the kind where the goal is to get them out of my land and to stop looting my farm, and then the kind where we bring the battle to our enemies. It’s generally the bringing the battle to the enemies part where the unjust wars happen.

  43. Howard
    August 20, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Gidgiddoni’s armies pursuing them as far as the borders of the wilderness might be likened to “hot pursuit” because in 3 Nephi 4:15 we read; And it came to pass that the armies of the Nephites did return again to their place of security.

    It would be a major stretch to argue this example justifies any and all pre-emptive military actions from 9/11 onward.

  44. Howard
    August 20, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    D&C 98:16 Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace…

  45. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 7:47 pm


    Dan, I wasn’t insulting your intelligence. I was insulting you for siding with Saddam Hussein over your own country.

    It truly is sad when my country lies and a two-bit dictator tells the truth, isn’t it?

  46. gst
    August 20, 2008 at 8:21 pm

    He was some man, your truth-teller. What ever happened to him? Probably just too honest for a successful career in statesmanship, and that’s a shame.

  47. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 8:48 pm


    well in this world today truth doesn’t matter. Raw power does. Our leaders here in America can lie with impunity. Saddam was a bad guy. We didn’t need to lie in order to defeat him, but some people rushed to action when action wasn’t needed.

  48. Sonny
    August 20, 2008 at 9:30 pm


    I guess Bush is not the only one who lied.

    “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.”
    Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27,2002

  49. Dan
    August 20, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    Indeed Sonny. Don’t forget Ms. Clinton and Mr. Clinton. Don’t worry, Democrats in Congress are definitely not blameless. They had the power to say “no” and they failed, badly.

  50. JWL
    August 21, 2008 at 2:41 am

    Look at the date on that David O. McKay quote — 1942. I think general principles are very hard to apply to situations of lethal conflict. They can be so readily tailored to any situation (e.g. the foregoing comments). Rather than trying to draw abstract, and therefore inevitably fluid, ‘just war’ principles from the Alma ‘war’ chapters, I suggest that Mormon is trying to convey what our general attitude should be toward war and other kinds of deep conflict — revulsion, hesitancy, avoidance, restraint, and regret.

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