There are 10 thoughts on “A Vital Resource for Understanding LDS Perspectives on War”.

  1. “Is belief in the morality of preemptive war really to be considered necessary for belief in the restored gospel?”
    This question troubles me, because no position on either side of this debate should be considered necessary for belief in the restored gospel.

    • I cannot see any way that the restored gospel would *require* belief in the morality of preemptive war. In fact, if anything, it would make such belief harder. If the prospective enemy had not actually attacked, it is difficult to say that he has been guilty of the first or second offense etc.
      This is of particular concern at present with the Iranian situation. It appears that Iran is about to acquire nuclear weapons and is very likely to use them against Israel, the U.S. or both. Has that country committed enough offenses to justify preemptive attack? That is a good question. In my opinion, it has, with its support of terrorism, providing weapons to our enemies etc. However maybe we could also make a case that credible threats backed by creation of nuclear weapons are offenses enough to justify preemptive attack. That is a question certainly open to discussion.

      • There is no question from Israel’s point of view that a preemptive strike on Iran is justified. Iran has never attacked Israel directly but has been financing and supporting those who do. Iran constantly states publicly that they are going to destroy Israel. Israel must prevent them from having the capability to do so.

  2. Morgan,
    I’ve enjoyed many of your blog posts and articles over the past year or two, even if I sometimes disagree with your analysis. I’d be interested in reading Duane’s book to see how he makes his case.
    While I agree that the case that violence is *never* justified is pretty weak, I also wonder if Duane’s and your take on just-war theory errs too far on the other side. Something I’ve been wondering since reading your review is if there were *any* US wars that couldn’t be justified using Duane’s or your criteria.
    I guess this just reminds me too much of gospel doctrine discussions about other “gospel exceptions”. For instance, while the general principle is that we should attend church on Sunday, there really are some cases like emergency room doctors, where somebody is justified in working on Sundays. And I’ve had many friends that have been in that situation who really went the second mile to keep the Sabbath day as holy as possible in spite of having a job that has to be done and that requires occasional work on Sunday. But on the other hand, I’ve seen far too many people (especially on my mission) who’ve taken those exceptions and stretched them to the point where almost anyone can claim an exception, when in reality the right answer for them should’ve been applying some faith and living the general principle even though it required some sacrifice on their part. I agree that you don’t want to go all Pharisee on the general rule and ignore the reality of exceptions, but if you over-focus on exceptions, you can cut yourself off from the blessings of living the general rule when it’s difficult.
    Bringing it back to the case of just-war rationalization, it may very well be the case you can make a plausible sounding argument justifying almost any war the US has fought. But I wonder if in many if not most of those cases, the US would’ve been better off taking an attitude of “I could be justified in making war, but I’m going to live a higher law” approach.
    ~Jon Goff

  3. I don’t quite understand why arguing for this particular interpretation of “just war” is seen as an apologetic exercise. Is belief in the morality of preemptive war really to be considered necessary for belief in the restored gospel?
    President Hinckley’s favorable remarks regarding the action in Iraq were given in the light of what was then believed about that situation. The Bush administration claimed that Iraq had been infiltrated by Al Qaeda, and in light of that claim the invasion of Iraq didn’t seem strictly preemptive as it was viewed as retaliating against a prior aggressor. But with that claim now discredited, the fundamentally preemptive nature of the Iraq invasion is revealed, and the moral justification for the war that many people—perhaps including President Hinckley—relied on crumbled. Thus I feel no obligation to support preemptive war, and indeed the scriptures seem to argue strongly against this.
    Though politically untenable, perhaps it would be best for the United States to wait until the third offense before responding militarily. Such a policy would have spared us a spurious war resulting from the manufactured Gulf of Tonkin crisis. It would have kept us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The costs of military retaliation are very high; a policy of restraint would reserve military response for the most egregious belligerents.

  4. My own view is that on rare occasions war is the lesser of available evils, though an evil it remains. Of course before going to war, we should be very careful that it is indeed the lesser of those available evils. Too often, those in power go to war when they need not do so, sometimes even to divert attention from their own failings or to enhance their power.
    I believe that the right to defend ourselves in war is an extension of our individual right to self-defense. The Declaration of Independence says, “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed.” To me that means that we delegate some of our rights to government. However, “We can delegate only the powers and rights we ourselves possess. We have a right to defend ourselves; let’s delegate at least part of that right to the police and the military… There are, however, rights we do not have and therefore cannot delegate to government or to any other entity.” (From my book, “Freedom or Serfdom?”, p127)
    Applying that to war, we have no individual right to initiate unjust violence, therefore we cannot delegate to government any right to conduct unjust war. However, if war is indeed the lesser of available evils at the time, we can delegate to government the power to conduct such a war.

  5. Interesting analysis of conflict between opposing factions. There’s another dynamic though. It involves the buried arcane doctrine of blood atonement. Within that doctrine it is clear that some acts of sin and transgression are not redeemed without the blood of the transgressor being shed.
    We presently live in a society and time when whole groups of people denigrate their Creator and openly transgress His laws. What can the atonement of Christ do for them when they want no part of it and are so willing to even slaughter the unborn in the womb?
    Well D&C 19 is clear on this point. If one refuses the atonement, then they will have to suffer to some degree for refusing the atonement. In addition, God can instigate wars to inflict a just punishment upon whole groups of people for their unrepentant, unredeemed behavior – thus shedding their blood as an act of atonement for their reduced level of salvation within the eternal worlds.
    The Lord makes this clear in the book of Isaiah. Does not the Lord speak of causing a great slaughter in Bozrah because of the level of wickedness of those people? This is the other dynamic that needs to be included. That our Creator uses Lucifer to stir up the children of men to participate in and cause wars. Because in so doing it helps to save those that are ignorant of shedding of blood and sacrifice and all of its ramifications. Of course this doesn’t address every reason for war and conflict and not all conflict serves that purpose.
    Very thought provoking review indeed. Thanks for posting.

  6. Additional vital resources for understanding LDS perspectives on war:
    Exodus 20:13, “Thou shalt not kill.”
    2 Thessalonians 3:16, “Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means.”
    Hebrews 12:14, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”
    Hebrews 13:20, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work.”
    James 3:18, “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
    1 Peter 3:10, “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.”
    2 Nephi 19:6, “And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
    Mosiah 4:13, “Ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably.”
    Mosiah 12:21, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace.”
    Mosiah 29:10, “And now let us be wise and look forward to these things, and do that which will make for the peace of this people.”
    Alma 24:19 “They buried the weapons of war, for peace.”
    3 Nephi 12:9, “And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
    D&C 27:16, “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you.”
    D&C 39:6, “And this is my gospel – repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.”
    D&C 45:66, “And it shall be called the New Jerusalem, a land of peace.”
    D&C 59:23, “He who doeth the works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world.”
    D&C 88, “The Prophet designated it as the ‘olive leaf’ […] plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us.”
    D&C 88:125, “Above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.”
    D&C 98:16, “Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace.”
    D&C 105:38, “And again I say unto you, sue for peace, not only to the people that have smitten you, but also to all people; and lift up an ensign of peace, and make a proclamation of peace unto the ends of the earth; and make proposals for peace unto those who have smitten you, according to the voice of the Spirit which is in you, and all things shall work together for your good.”
    Joseph Smith, “It will not be by sword or gun that this kingdom will roll on.”
    Russell M. Nelson, “Peace Is Possible. Because of the long history of hostility upon the earth, many feel that peace is beyond hope. I disagree. Peace is possible. We can learn to love our fellow human beings throughout the world. Whether they be Jewish, Islamic, or fellow Christians, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or other, we can live together with mutual admiration and respect, without forsaking our religious convictions. Things we have in common are greater than are our differences. Peace is a prime priority that pleads for our pursuit.”

  7. Thank you Mr. Deane, for this topic. I’m wondering if this book talks about Jesus’ injunctions in his sermon on the mount against doing harm to one’s enemy.
    To put it succinctly, when are we supposed to live the command to turn the other cheek and when do we have the right to defend ourselves?

    • Yes, as I said in my review: “The second and third chapters [of the third section] expound on fundamental LDS texts regarding war including the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7)….” He directly addressed your question there. If I have time I’ll transcribe some of it for you.

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