And the dragon fought, and his angels

May 13, 2004 | 7 comments

Rod Dreher’s tribute to the Chaplain Corp has got online. He praises them for two reasons: First, for providing troops the assurance that, come what may, God will be there with them; if they don’t come back alive, that the sacrifice will have been worth it; and that there’s something better waiting for them on the other side. Second, for helping soldiers coping with stress and loneliness stay morally straight.

I am well aware of the need for this second. Theodore Dalrymple learned about the depravity of mankind from his work as a welfare and prison doctor, and from himself. I learned it from myself, too, and from my time in the Army. America’s now learning it from the Army also, via Abu Ghraib. The truth is that great hazards of war have always been as much spiritual as physical. The Nephite chronicler relates that the wars of Alma were marked by “murders, and contentions, and dissensions, and all manner of iniquity among the Nephites”; “many were softened because of their afflictions” but “many had become hardened.” Our saints who’ve served in modern wars often mention the loneliness that seeking virtue brought them. I believe it. I would have experienced the same or worse if I hadn’t gone through all my active-duty with several good brothers and priesthood holders (Holzhouser, Giulani, this is for you). There’s a lot of the lowest common-denominator in the military, a lot of home ties cut and habits broken.

Most of our saints who are soldiering don’t have that little band around them that I did. They go in hazard of their soul and I am in awe when I think they did it for love of country and in fear that some of them won’t make it. I and many have prayed for the success of our troops. Let us pray rather for the success of their virtue, for their own sakes, and for the sake of their cause, which can never make sure of divine favor but can too easily ensure divine wrath. Stay true, brothers. Repent oft.

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7 Responses to And the dragon fought, and his angels

  1. Greg on May 13, 2004 at 8:48 pm

    My brother, an LDS ex-Marine who served with Fox Company, 2nd Bn., 23rd Marines in Iraq once told me that military service was a make-or-break experience for church members. Fortunately for him the experience solidified his already strong faith.

  2. ronin on May 13, 2004 at 9:02 pm

    I am a convert to our Church – I was converted, and baptised by an elder, who had just finished serving 6 years as an enlisted 18Bravo soldier. After returning from his mission, he graduated college, and rejoined the Army, as an Officer, and si currently deployed in Iraq – I pray for him daily.

  3. lyle on May 13, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    thanks for the post adam. i hope someday that God & the Church will allow me to become an LDS Chaplain. In the meantime, I suspect that I will be an odd duck in my New Jersey Army Natl Guard unit when we hit Iraq. I’ve been thinking it might be useful to pray 5 times a day, just as the locals do. When in Iraq…[unless it happens to be torture...]

  4. Adam Greenwood on May 13, 2004 at 10:50 pm

    Some of the best members I know are LDS Marines, or long-service soldiers. I knew a command sergeant major who’d been involved at least part-time since Vietnam, and he was a man without peer.

    Returned missionaries find the task easier. I would certainly encourage my sons to serve but I’d rather they serve a mission first to cement their loyalty to Christ.

    Are you being deployed then? I thought the deadline was the 28th of April, and we having heard from you thereafter I assumed you hadn’t been sent.

  5. lyle on May 14, 2004 at 12:52 am

    The Military changed its mind; and still hasn’t cut orders. But we’ve been told to plan & prepare to ship out sometime in early to mid-June.

  6. Nicole Soh on May 14, 2004 at 4:21 pm

    I have the privilege of living in a ward where we have two LDS chaplains. One, our Bishop, just returned from a year in Iraq. The other served in Afghanistan with my husband for a year in 2002-3. I can’t begin to tell you how comforting it is to know that the Church is so aware of the needs of our LDS soldiers. The chaplains brought to SLC every year for a special meeting with the Brethren.

    While our Bishop was deployed we had an “acting Bishop” who is a Colonel in the Army Reserve. He was activated and sent here (to Fort Bragg) from SLC where he had served as a temple worker. Our ward really benefited from his leadership. One thing he said to us as he was leaving (after his six month assignment ended 26 months later) was how he feels like there is a higher purpose to some of this. He shared with us how his brother had served a mission in Korea in the early 60s. Prior to the Korean War there had been no contact between the Church and the Koreans. But less than a decade later, there were branches all over the country. While I don’t know how much the presence of soldiers in Korea had to do with the gospel’s growth there, I do know that there are probably more copies of the Book of Mormon (some in Arabic!) floating around Iraq right now than any of us ever imagined would be there, if we ever thought of it three years ago.

  7. Ethesis on May 15, 2004 at 7:54 pm

    My general way of evaluating chaplins was whether or not they avoided hardship tours. Those that the answer was yes when you asked them tended to be the kind that had the men stand at attention and answer “yes sir, no sir” when one of the enlisted men came to them for help. They also whined a lot about not getting promoted.

    Those that took the tours tended to get promoted and to be men I could respect.

    Nothing like three chaplins in Germany and none in Korea (as it was in the 70s when Germany was a highly coveted assignment, Korea one to avoid).


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