Three Statements on War

June 23, 2004 | 3 comments
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My previous post on LDS Ethics and torture generated not only a good deal of discussion on the particular topic, but on the related question of military service and just war. Since there appears to be quite a lot of pent-up interest in this topic, I am going to give it its own thread. To get the ball rolling, I provide three statements by Presidents of the Church during the latter Twentieth and early Twenty-First Century:

Gordon B. Hinkley (?War and Peace,? Ensign, May 2003):

One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, ?We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law? (A of F 1:12).

But modern revelation states that we are to ?renounce war and proclaim peace? (D&C 98:16).

In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.

When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that ?the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for ? power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.
?And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God? (Alma 43:45-46).

The Lord counseled them, ?Defend your families even unto bloodshed? (Alma 43:47).

And Moroni ?rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it?In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children?and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.

?And he fastened on his headplate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren? (Alma 46:12-13).

It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.

David O. McKay (Gospel Ideals, pp. 285-87):

We see that war is incompatible with Christ’s teachings. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the gospel of peace. War is its antithesis and produces hate. It is vain to attempt to reconcile war with true Christianity. . .

Notwithstanding all this, I still say that there are conditions when entrance into war is justifiable, and when a Christian nation may, without violation of principles, take up arms against an opposing force.

Such a condition, however, is not a real or fancied insult given by one nation to another. When this occurs, proper reparation may be made by mutual understanding, apology, or by arbitration.

Neither is there justifiable cause found in a desire or even a need for territorial expansion. The taking of territory implies the subjugation of the weak by the strong?the application of the jungle law.

Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government, or even to impel others to a particular form of worship, however better the government or eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be.

There are, however, 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, viz., defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one.

Spencer W. Kimball (?The False Gods We Worship,? Ensign, June 1976):

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) . . .

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.

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I believe these statements are largely coherent as a whole, even taking into account President Kimball’s clear preference to renounce war and focus on righteous behavior, allowing the Lord to protect us from armed conflicts.

But I confess that I find the U.S. invasion of Iraq difficult to reconcile with any and all of these statements. The United States in that instance did not appear to be defending homes, religion or liberties from invasion, as in the case of the ancient Nephites cited by President Hinkley – indeed, the United States was the invader in that instance. While President Hinkley seems to believe that the invasion of Iraq falls under this example, I am at a loss to see the analogy. He is also careful to state that this is his personal view of the facts, rather than part of his general statement of doctrine.

President McKay specifically prohibits the use of war to effect “regime change,â€? one of the stated goals of the invasion by the U.S. While he does allow for war to protect liberty and agency, his statement taken as a whole seems again, like the Nephite example, to contemplate resistance to outside invasion or internal revolution. His also specifically prohibits launching a first strike or preemptory attack, as it seems to me the United States did in that instance. Neither does the invasion appear to fit within President McKay’s provisional category of coming to the aid of a weaker nation, as the United States did during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Others doubtless have different views. Discuss among yourselves.

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3 Responses to Three Statements on War

  1. Restoring Lost Comments on November 25, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    [Restoring Comments Inadvertently Lost in the WP transfer] :

    Interesting that President McKay’s statement implies that if the United States and coalition partners had pushed on to Baghdad during the Kuwait war, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein might have been justified, whereas by concluding a surrender and coming back several years later, it may not have been.
    Comment by: obi-wan at June 23, 2004 05:41 PM

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    Thanks, Dan, for compiling these for us. I think you have pointed out the big question: not is war ever justified, but is this war justified.
    Comment by: Kingsley at June 23, 2004 05:45 PM

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    BTW, sorry for the longish intro, but I wanted to let the prophets do most of the talking.
    Comment by: Dan Burk at June 23, 2004 05:49 PM

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    For what it’s worth, several LDS friends of mine–including Rob Fergus, who has commented extensively in the ethics thread which Dan started–discussed President Hinckley’s remarks about the Iraq War at the time at great length via a private e-mail list we’re on. As that discussion wore down, I put down on my blog some of my thoughts regarding Mormonism and war, and the Iraq war in particular. You can read them here. I don’t necessarily repent of anything I wrote in that post, at least insofar as principles go–I still believe that Mormon doctrine is arguably compatible with that long line of Christian thought which defends, under certain circumstances, interventionary violence. However, I have also come to believe that my support of this particular intervention–that is, the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq–was both unwise and irresponsible, and arguably immoral. (Since I’m self-promoting, you can find my moderate mea culpas here and here.) I wonder if President Hinckley–especially given the great emphasis he placed elsewhere in his original comments on how our leaders have presumably access to “intelligence” that we do not–has any similar second thoughts on the matter.
    Comment by: Russell Arben Fox at June 23, 2004 05:52 PM

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    I think that if we were justified in going to Baghdad in 1991, but concluded a treaty instead, then we are probably justified in reopening the war if the treaty is violated. I would think the current war would be justified to the extent it fits that model (fairly closely, in my mind).
    I’m not sure about this, but it might also be that invading a country to liberate its people from an oppressive regime is a species of invading a country because it has attacked a weaker country.
    Comment by: Adam Greenwood at June 23, 2004 06:04 PM

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    Adam, I’ll comment on your comment tomorrow – for the main part I agree with you on the liberation of a people from an oppressive regime. The problem I have is with the circumstances of this war in Iraq. But I’ll write more tomorrow, bed-time in Europe again… ;) 1991 was justified in any case!
    Comment by: Julien at June 23, 2004 06:11 PM

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    Adam — Can you be specific as to how you reconcile invasion of a country to overthrow a repressive regime, as a species of aiding a weaker country, with President McKay’s other statement that war is not justified to enforce a new order of government, no matter how much better that government would be? I can’t, which is why it seems to me that the aiding another country proviso — about which, you note, he is somewhat dubious — must be limited to aiding it from outside invasion, e.g., WWII or the Kuwait war.
    Comment by: Dan Burk at June 23, 2004 06:17 PM

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    Dan,
    What of the condition that allows one to enter a war in which there is “an attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency?” Couldn’t that be applied to the case of the Iraqis?
    Comment by: Davis Bell at June 23, 2004 06:21 PM

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    What I find interesting in these statements and the distinctions (particularlly in President McKay’s remarks) is the moral role that they seem to contemplate for nation states. For example, it seems that behavior that is directed against one’s own nation may justify war even though it may not justify war when directed against another nation. What I find interesting is that the nation state is the relevant unit of moral analysis. Thus violence is justified if other individuals are threatened, but only when the threat comes in the form of an attack by a foreign nation state and when the other person is a citizen of one’s own country. Likewise, war may be justified when the citizens of another country are threatened by the government of another nation state but not when threatened by the government of their own nation state. In other words, it seems to be the nature of agression by and against nation states that matters rather than the nature of agression by or against actual individuals.
    Comment by: Nate Oman at June 23, 2004 06:25 PM

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    “What of the condition that allows one to enter a war in which there is ‘an attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency?’ Couldn’t that be applied to the case of the Iraqis?”
    Davis — In order to do so, you have to ignore the “no governmental overthrow” injunction. This is why I think he had in mind the Nazis in France, the Soviets in Afghanistan, and similar despotic expansions.
    Also note again his restriction to entering, and not starting, a conflict.
    Comment by: Dan Burk at June 23, 2004 06:37 PM

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    Someone help me out here: we cannot “reconcile war with true Christianity” (that is, make them compatible nor bring ourselves to accept) but somehow war is justified (that is, proved right or compatible and blame free)? Which is it?
    Comment by: jeremobi at June 23, 2004 06:37 PM

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    To extend Nate’s remarks & be extreme on Davis’ (surprise, surprise) unanswered querry:
    None of these statements addresses what to do when it is your own Nation-State/dictatoriship, etc. that is doing the agency violating.
    Pres. McKay said: “(1) an attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency.”
    Apply that to the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan…and frankly any other country in the world (N. Korea, Congo…my poor Sudanese friends who are suffering Genocide as we all sit back & comfortably enjoy creature comforts & discuss whether it is _justified_ to save their _lives_ “&” _liberties):
    1. Dictator _begins_ (using Pres. McKay’s terminology) war by revoking the lives & liberty of her [see footnote below] own people.
    2. Either/and _Oppressed people_ or _liberty loving people elsewhere_ “enter” (In. Pres. McKay speak) war.
    Ergo: The Coalition didn’t invade Iraq. Saddam invaded Iraq. The Coalition re-entered Iraq to free its people from an ‘alien’ (in the sense that Saddam alienated himself by violating his covenant to protect the lives & liberty of his ‘former’ people).
    fn1: [Don't you just love it when feminism bites itself in the head? sorry, couldn't resist pointing out the absurdity of 'gendered' language cries of angst]
    Comment by: lyle at June 23, 2004 06:41 PM

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    Dan: My apologies for the aside. You did answer the question while I was typing my comment.
    However, my comment presents you with a new challenge.
    Also: please explain why Pres. McKay’s “injunction” trumps my construction of Iraq as a non-governmental overthrow measure.
    Finally: If you succeed in the above, please explain how/why Pres. McKay’s “injunction” is entitled to greater weight or authority than any other Prophet/Apostle’s comment [see excellent dichotomy by Davis re: so-called _liberal_ & _conservative_ interpretations of prophetic statements. It seems like it can be ignored as fasciley as Elder Packer's statements on Funerals, etc.
    Comment by: lyle at June 23, 2004 06:46 PM

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    Please note that in this comment I am talking about principles in the abstract or in hypothetical cases, not their application to current real-world situations.
    > President McKay specifically prohibits the use
    > of war to effect “regime change,� one of the
    > stated goals of the invasion by the U.S.
    Well, he actually used the words "enforce a new order of government." And what is a revolution but an attempt to enforce a new order of government? So it would be just as accurate to say that President McKay specifically prohibits the use of war for revolution.
    If revolution can be justified due to "an attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency," then "regime change" can be justified as well.
    Essentially, "regime change" and "revolution" are doing the same thing: changing the government of a nation; the main difference is that in a (justified) revolution, people are fighting for their own freedom, and in a (justified) regime change, people are fighting for the freedom of others.
    Let us imagine a country, Leonza, which has a horribly oppressive despotic system of government.
    Situation A1: A majority of Leonzans rise up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Leo, a Leonzan citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to join the revolution to free his people.
    Situation A2: A majority of Leonzans rise up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Sam, a U.S. citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to go fight in Leonza to help free the Leonzans.
    Situation B1: A substantial minority of Leonzans rise up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Leo, a Leonzan citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to join the revolution to free his people.
    Situation B2: A substantial minority of Leonzans rise up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Sam, a U.S. citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to go fight in Leonza to help free the Leonzans.
    Situation C1: One Leonzan rises up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Leo, a Leonzan citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to join the revolution to free his people.
    Situation C2: One Leonzan rise up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Sam, a U.S. citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to go fight in Leonza to help free the Leonzans.
    Situation D1: No Leonzan has yet risen up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Leo, a Leonzan citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to start the revolution to free his people.
    Situation D2: No Leonzan has yet risen up in revolution against the oppressive government. Brother Sam, a U.S. citizen, is wondering whether it is acceptable for him to go fight in Leonza to help free the Leonzans.
    Now, the only difference between 1 and 2 of each scenario is the nationality of the person fighting against the oppressive government. Do you believe it is moral for Leo but immoral for Sam to fight to free the Leonzans?
    The only difference between A and B is that in A a majority of the people are fighting in the revolution. Is it moral to fight in situation A but immoral to fight in situation B? If your answer is yes, consider that revolutions cannot instantly start with a majority of people fighting. Is it immoral to join the revolution before a majority have started fighting for it, but moral to do so afterwards? If so, if the majority of Leonzans are moral, they cannot morally have a revolution, but if a majority are immoral, they can morally have a revolution.
    There is a similar problem if you believe B is justified but C is not. At what number of revolutionaries does the revolution switch from being immoral to being moral? Does morality really come from the number of people involved in the revolution? Shouldn't it be the justness of the cause, rather than the numbers, that decides whether the morality?
    The difference between C and D is one that In C, someone else has started the revolution, whereas in D no one has yet started the revolution. President McKay seems to distinguish between these cases, saying that C can be moral but that D cannot.
    Yet, if it is immoral to start the revolution, how can it be moral to join it? Can moral people only free themselves from tyranny if they can find an immoral man to start the revolution?
    The only way I can see to avoid such a twisted moral result is by saying that starting a justified revolution is not really starting a war: the oppressive government began the war through its oppression. In fact, we often think of it in these terms: if someone takes action against being oppressed, we say that they are "fighting back," implying that the oppressor is the real instigator of the fight.
    Comment by: Eric James Stone at June 23, 2004 07:04 PM

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    Uh-oh. So, according to Lyle, the Russians would be justified in invading the U.S. to help remove our un-elected President?
    Comment by: Dr. Tarr at June 23, 2004 07:06 PM

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    Lyle -- Welcome to the thread. We've been expecting you.
    Perhaps you're right that we shouldn't put so much weight on President McKay's prohibition on overthrowing governments. I much prefer President Kimball's instruction that we should shut down the military and let the Lord protect us. I'll go with undue emphasis on that one instead. :)
    Comment by: Dan Burk at June 23, 2004 07:06 PM

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    Dan: Thanks for the welcome mat :) I'm with you on Pres. Kimball's statement...even if it took a hard throw to that _mat_ to get me there :).
    Maybe if the LDS people as a whole refused to enlist in the Military (in the U.S. at least), and we depended wholly upon the Lord...we would live in a benevolent Soviet or Talibanic dictatorship & the Lord would bless us & his Kingdom would continue to grow & be built. We should have faith in the Standard of Truth (? can't remember the name...you know, the statement by JS re: the Kingdom can't be stopped) alone, right?
    i.e. I'm not sure that his statement can be lived by the Saints...short of a Zion government such as Adam discusses in the other thread here at T&S.
    However, I really would enjoy seeing you take on my argument re: the Iraqi liberation as _entering_ instead of _beginning_ a war. I think that Eric does a good job of elucidating a similar argument.
    Comment by: lyle at June 23, 2004 07:16 PM

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    Dan,
    You're correct regarding entering vs. starting; Iraq in that sense is not justified. Indeed, if I read Pres. McKay correctly, there is no such thing as a justification for *starting* a war.
    For the sake of argument, though, let's assume someone else, say the those warmongering French, started the current Iraq war. I think the US would be justified in entering on the "someone's agency is being curtailed" clause, even though the net result would be an overthrow of the government. Why?
    I read Pres. McKay's statement, "Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government, or even to impel others to a particular form of worship, however better the government or eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be," as proscribing entering a war because the form of government of a country doesn't square with another country's political views, i.e. the US joins in a war against Iraq because we disagree believe liberal market-oriented democracry to be superior and more to our liking than Baathist totalitarianism.
    However, if we join in the war b/c the agency of the Iraqi people is being trampled upon, I think we're justified, as that, and not changing the system of government, was our primary aim.
    Comment by: Davis Bell at June 23, 2004 07:20 PM

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    Eric James Stone -- While I agree with you that President McKay's prohibition against governmental overthrow includes revolution, I do not believe that it is limited to that situation. As I have indicated above, it seems to me that it must also include imposition of a new government order from the outside.
    Consequently, I don't think he would condone either Leo or Sam's participation in government overthrow.
    The Church in general has been very careful to avoid any perception that they condone insurrection. It has rather consistently instructed members living under repressive regimes to comply and be model citizens. No one was more aware of that than David O. McKay, whose presidency spanned much of the Cold War. So while I admire your method, I don't think I buy your premises.
    Comment by: Dan Burk at June 23, 2004 07:25 PM

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    When I started writing my comment, the only comment was "fix".
    Comment by: Eric James Stone at June 23, 2004 07:29 PM

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    Davis/Dan:
    If I concede the enter vs. begin ground; let's look at Pres. McKay's statement from the "enter" paradigm, but...under a different light.
    "Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government."
    I think a great argument can be made that this statement only applies to "legitimate" forms for government.
    1. The D&C says that government is for the good of man (or something similar, right?). So, a "government" which does not _secure the liberties & lives_ of the people is thus illegitimate from the git(mo)-go; i.e. 'tis okay to invade in order to preserve agency (his other condition).
    2. "new order of government" might also just refer to regime change; i.e. who is running the country, a new political party, one that would allow "true religion," etc. Hence, if "new order of government" just means that war in order to change which "Plan of Salvation acceptable" government is in power (i.e. a Republican vs. Democratic vs. torry vs. conservative vs. christian democratic, etc.)...then this doesn't apply to the current Iraqi liberation either.
    3. We can always privilege Pres. Benson, under the Latter-in-Time doctrine, as making Communism & Dictatorships an illegitimate form of government.
    Comment by: lyle at June 23, 2004 07:33 PM

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    Lyle,
    Take a look at McKay again. Don't stop reading halfway through the sentence. "Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government, or even to impel others to a particular form of worship, however better the government or eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be."
    I think that pretty much rules out your points. And yes, you can play little definitional games all day -- what if they mean "government that I like" for "government," or "state of affairs that I don't like" for "existing war"? They aren't particularly convincing, as you must know. I can say that the sky is green, if I'm allowed to define green to mean blue.
    Comment by: Kaimi at June 23, 2004 07:40 PM

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    Dan: Counterfactual time. So...if neither Leo nor Sam in the hypo above can get involved in Revolution (& I'm not sure that Pres. McKay was condemning resurrection/resurrection myself):
    did God _raise up_ the Founding Fathers simply to write the Constitution...and he didn't support or inspire the Revolutionary war? Seems improbable to me...
    alt: maybe there really is something to Prophet's being leaders _only_ or _mostly_ for their times only? i.e. somewhat limiting the relevance of BoM prophets to our day? I ask this because as you note, Pres. McKay & the LDS Church/Kingdom of God had to navigate the Cold War. Perhaps his counsel was good for then...to protect the saints living behind the Iron Curtain/help get a Temple built in E. Germany....but is no longer relevant, or less relevant today?
    Comment by: lyle at June 23, 2004 07:41 PM

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    Kaimi:
    1. One mans little definitional game is anothers attempt to fathom the original intent of anothers statement [which is implausible, no?] :). I think that “new order of government” is slightly more “grey” than blue, or green, but each sky-watcher can differ?
    2. I’m not reading through half-way. While you have a good point, my statements still stand.
    “however better the government” assumes that:
    1. dictatorship is entitled to be considered a form of “government”. I think the D&C indicates that it does _not_ so qualify. Of course, one can argue that Helmet Hubner’s insurrection vs. Nazi Germany’s so-called “government” was thus worth of excommunicating him…
    “eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be” assumes that:
    1. liberty and/or life are a “religion”. if you want to consider _libery_ & _life_ as a religion, and one that is being enforced upon Iraq…ok. However, at least with _life_, that isn’t very convincing. Life seems more like a pre-condition…not a “true principle”; and
    2. a “religion” is being _enforced_. I don’t see any imposition of religion in Iraq, or the hypos that I’ve presented. So…this part of his statement isn’t a disqualifier either.
    :)
    [arent' you glad that we don't have a FARMS review of books or Brian Leiter style of discussion here? Point for point is better than point for point plus insult! :) ]
    Comment by: lyle at June 23, 2004 07:55 PM

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    off to sleep, yet one parting thought:
    Will ye condemn me for:
    1. Traveling to Darfur in the so-called ‘state’ of the Sudan & fighting with the people there against the Government of Sudan’s Genocide upon them?
    2. Sending money to Darfur to help them fight vs. Genocide?
    3. Asking the UN or the US to intervene there?
    4. Praying that God raise up “Founding Fathers” for them (don’t forget S. Sudan, The Kurds, & everywhere else that is in need) who will fight a righteous rebellion & restore life & liberty & the blessings of worshipping liberty’s God to each people?
    [all hypothetical of course, ok...excpept for #4 & #3 and maybe #2...i'll have to check into the legalities...& #1 is foreclosed by my still looming potential deployment to Iraq].
    Comment by: lyle at June 23, 2004 08:05 PM

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    Slightly tangential, but I was interested in a list of righteous responses to war in the Book of Mormon, compiled in a JBMS article entitled (of all things) “Nephite Feminism Revisited”:
    1. active defense
    2. enduring captivity and finding nonviolent resolution
    3. migration to avoid conflict
    4. pacifism to the point of death
    5. economic support of combatants
    6. preaching to and converstion of insurgents
    (that pretty much covers the gamut, doesn’t it?)
    This list made a lightbulb go off for me. It made me think that saying “The BoM support” or doesn’t support, or the prophets support, or don’t support, etc., is a little oversimplified. The reality is that different situations demand different responses. (I know the above is defensive and it can be debated whether Iraq was offensive (in many senses of the term!) or defensive, but I think that larger point stands.)
    Anyway, what I am getting at is that I don’t know if we could ever condense from scripture or the prophets a single position towards war, but rather we might need to study each situation individually.
    Comment by: Julie in Austin at June 23, 2004 08:14 PM

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    Dan, I obviously misunderstood your phrase “resistance to outside invasion or internal revolution.” I read it with “resistance to outside invasion” and “internal revolution” being parallel concepts, rather than as the equivalent of “resistance to either outside invasion or internal revolution.” So I thought you accepted revolution against oppresion as justifiable.
    Still, I think you are misunderstanding David O. McKay’s statement.
    Now, a literal reading of what he said is that war is justified in order to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency (or at least to attempt to do so.) Seriously — read that sentence carefully, and you’ll see nothing that requires the entry in such a war to be on the side of the oppressed.
    Obviously it is not meant to be taken that way, but I’m trying to make the point that a too-literal reading of the statement creates problems.
    Now let’s look at what is said about war for the purpose of changing governments: “Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government … however better the government … may be.”
    Is that an absolute prohibition on changing a government by war, or is it a prohibition on waging war with the primary purpose of changing a government?
    In other words, if the primary purpose of a war is to counter “an attempt to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency,” and a necessary side effect of the war is changing the government, does that mean the war is justified by that purpose, or unjustified because of the effect?
    It certainly seems President McKay is talking about the purposes of going to war, and that it is the purpose that matters in determining whether one is justified in entering a war.
    Such an interpretation certainly fits better with President Hinckley’s statement that “there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”
    Comment by: Eric James Stone at June 23, 2004 08:19 PM

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    Julie: Amen. The Book of Mormon does not hand out free passes either to pacifists or Soldier of Fortune subscribers.
    Comment by: Kingsley at June 23, 2004 08:21 PM

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    I agree that the BoM provides a far more complex document than we (or our critics) tend to portray.
    With regards to Iraq, it seems though that some are starting from the wrong point. Two years ago at this time when we were debating war the issue was whether Iraq was a clear and present danger. Iraq had consistently been shooting at our planes flying under the end of hostilities treaty at the end of the first gulf war. We’d been attacked and there was evidence that it appeared Iraq may be a threat.
    Now in hindsight we all recognize that the evidence wasn’t that strong. And I think one can justly criticize Bush in terms of the evidence he presented and for not seeking more evidence. But in terms of what was presented, it seems like the war was justified.
    The problem is less one of justification than one of knowledge. All the debates about justification for war seem to assume good knowledge. However how are we to act when we don’t have good knowledge? That seems a rather significant issue, given the flaws in our intelligence (and perhaps the incompetence of those acting on the limited intelligence). I just don’t see the comments thus far addressing this.
    Comment by: Clark Goble at June 23, 2004 10:17 PM

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    Man, a guy can’t even go home for a few hours to be with his family before another huge thread related to BOM warfare breaks out!
    Obviously, I agree with Kingsley that Soldiers of Fortune subscribers don’t get a free pass with the BOM. However, since Christ opposed war…and Pres. McKay said war is incompatible with the gospel…any discussion to try and justify it is looking beyond the gospel for a temporal solution to (admitedly dire) mortal problems. I’ll let others go outside of the gospel to justify war. Meanwhile, Christ, Pres. Kimball, Pres. Mckay said it all.
    Why are we spending time trying to justify war when we are told plainly that we can’t reconcile it with the gospel?
    I think we get hung up with the term justification. There MAY be ways to justify war, but that doesn’t make it right. Just like we can be forgiven for making mistakes, we can be forgiven if we enter some wars–those that are justifiable. But isn’t staying out, so we don’t have to repent, so we can actually obey the gospel, a better option?
    Let the wicked destroy the wicked. For all those in the world suffering because of evil political regimes, surely we can do much more to help them than leave the gospel behind and take up arms.
    The real question is…how can we proclaim peace. That’s the commandment. Renounce war, proclaim peace. Meanwhile, our best minds seem trapped into weedling out justifications for things we are told to leave alone.
    So…how can we answer Lyle’s observation of massive suffering and violence without embracing warfare?
    Comment by: Rob at June 23, 2004 11:17 PM

    *****

    Rob ~ “Why are we spending time trying to justify war when we are told plainly that we can’t reconcile it with the gospel?”
    Perhaps because Prez Hinkley said “there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”?
    Comment by: Jason at June 24, 2004 02:44 AM

    *****

    My opinion on justification of war and the case of Iraq:
    I think it is justified to go to war, when another country is being invaded and deprived of their free agency. So the war against Iraq in 1991 was justified. I believe it may also be justified to enter into war against and oppressive regime, that itself deprives its citizens of their free agency (i.e, something needs to be done about Sudan, lyle is way right on that one). The thing that has not yet been discussed here, is the fact that war should ALWAYS be the very last resort when all else fails. I feel like diplomatic or other possibilities against Saddam have not fully been exploited. The UN sanctions definitely failed, causing the people to get poorer and poorer, while it didn’t hinder Saddam from building his power. The US did the right thing on bringing back up the Iraq issue. Diplomatic actions started again, i.e. the WMD inspections. However the fact that Bush wanted war before diplomatic means were fully exploited, it made the impression (which I feel has been proven right, for example by the fact that there is so little of a plan for stability in Iraq), that Bush wanted WAR no matter what, and not a change of regime brought about by other means. I’m not saying diplomatic means would have been the ultimate answer and would have caused Saddam to comply, but after their full exploitation without success, an international UN-led coalition would have been put up and the going about of the war would have been planned differently, while at the same time not seeming like an invasion to the Iraqi people and thus have been supported by the oppressed population – we see how little that is the case right now. Part of that reason is why I criticize Bush, sen. for not having done the job in 1991. He argued that it would have been impossible to get a new UN mandate for the overthrow of the Saddam regime, but I don’t buy that, at least not for the non-Arab coalition partners of the Kuwait war. It may have been, that Bush sen. had more of an idea of what dirty job he would have to get himself into than Bush jun. did before invading Iraq. War may be justified for the liberation of a people, but only as the very very last means, and not when we want it (that’s when Pres McKay’s quote comes in).
    Second thing, I cannot buy that Church Presidencies have ever told people in oppressive regimes to not insurrect and let the government do with them what they want, while at the same time proclaiming peace and justice. War is justified as a last resort against a nation’s oppressive regime by a coalition of nations (I still believe in the UN, even if a lot of reform and changes are needed there, and it has failed on occasion in the past), and insurrection is justified by a people against its oppressive regime as a last resort for liberty and freedom as well.
    To wrap it up: I think war in Iraq would have been justified under the circumstances of having used every diplomatic and pressure means possible, this was not the case in Iraq, and that makes me believe (and I feel proven right) that the invasion of Iraq had not the liberation of the Iraqi PEOPLE in mind, but the installation of a government that would defend US interests in the Arab world, which would make it fit with Pres McKay’s statement of a war that is not justified for the import of governments we prefer, no matter how much better they may seem.
    Comment by: Julien at June 24, 2004 02:54 AM

    *****

    “The thing that has not yet been discussed here, is the fact that war should ALWAYS be the very last resort when all else fails.” … I mean to say the “IDEA that war should…”, not proclaim it as fact… ;)
    Comment by: Julien at June 24, 2004 03:16 AM

    *****

    While Christ opposes war we must not forget that he is simultaneously the Lord of hosts. (A military motif) Further he commanded many people to go to war in the OT. I notice when I bring that up, many simply say that the OT accounts are not to be trusted and Israel was mainly attributing to God what they had decided to do themselves. While I’m open to questions of accuracy in the OT, that seems a lot of discounting without evidence…
    Comment by: Clark Goble at June 24, 2004 03:36 AM

    *****

    While “there are times and circumstances when nations are justified” in going to war, I think that if warfare is not compatible with Christianity, then the open question might still be even if a nation is justified, does that mean its citizens our bound to go? In the case of the USA, with a volunteer army, why would a Christian volunteer to do something that is “irreconcilable” with Christianity?
    Clark–the problems with the OT may not come out in Gospel Doctrine, but there is more than scant evidence for regarding much of it as unhistoric.
    Comment by: Rob at June 24, 2004 05:16 PM

    *****

    Rob: Does that go for the (e.g.) FBI & police as well? Any trade where violence is part of the job? X is savagely beating his wife–as a “Christian” do I not intervene, & rely on law enforcement (ideally pagan) to do the dirty work for me? In the D&C Christ says he redeemed American soil through the shedding of blood–what does this mean? Did he raise up wise men to pen the Constitution, but leave the job of actually implementing it (which meant war) to other, fallen souls?
    Comment by: Kingsley at June 24, 2004 05:38 PM

    *****

    Kingsley–I think there is (or should be) a big difference between police work and warfare. While abuses are bound to happen in police situations, the scale of the operations is more likely to limit the atrocities and morally questionable activities that take place in a larger conflict–such as warfare. Most police actions take place without the use of lethal force, and when lethal force is used, it is usually done so in more clearly defined and agreed upon conditions than occurs in warfare. But a good question…why might we see warfare differently from police activity?
    As for redeeming American soil through the shedding of blood…I haven’t had time to meditate on this one yet. But a good question. BTW, who’s blood was he talking about? His own through the atonement? Red coats? Farmers? Militia Men? Washington’s Army? Hessians?
    Someone with more history background than myself might be able to chip in here, but there were atrocities on all sides of the Revolutionary conflict as well, and the danger we have now is that since the U.S. won the war, we interpret it all as justified and maybe even God-sanctioned. I think we need to be careful about our easy acceptance of justifications we gave for the wars we won…when our reasons for warfare then may have been as morally ambiguous as for those conflicts where we didn’t do so well.
    In the case of the Revolutionary War, I’ve heard that the war itself was really a disaster, as independence was almost assured through diplomatic and other means. Sorry I don’t have more on that, I’ll have to dig into it later.
    Comment by: Rob at June 24, 2004 06:09 PM

    *****

    Rob: Thanks for your fresh interpretation on the Revolutionary War. I’ve brought this up before, and it has remained unanswered:
    If God “raised the FFs up”…that was for what purpose? To write the CON only? And then they went apostate & started the _unnecessary_ revolutionary war? The one where they had tried negotiation for over a decade & where things were getting worse…not better? Let’s get clear which alternative worlds we are discussing here…
    :)
    Comment by: lyle at June 24, 2004 06:17 PM

    *****

    “While abuses are bound to happen in police situations, the scale of the operations is more likely to limit the atrocities and morally questionable activities that take place in a larger conflict–such as warfare.”
    It seems like you’re saying warfare is more objectionable because it occurs on a huge scale & is therefore more open to abuses etc. But a soldier (like a policeman or woman) can refuse to participate in abuses, yes? If soldier work is seen as police work (law enforcement) on a grand scale, then it doesn’t follow that one is more unchristian than the other, only that one is more open to unchristian behavior than the other. In that case, I don’t see why Christians should refuse to do the dirty work of law enforcement on whatever scale.
    Comment by: Kingsley at June 24, 2004 06:24 PM

    *****

    Courtesy of the Gentile SLC paper,
    Come here a Prophet Speak:
    http://www.sltrib.com/2004/Jun/06242004/utah/178472.asp
    “When I think of the word ‘freedom’ that is embodied in this award, I think of those men and the great service they are rendering,” Hinckley said.
    Earlier this month, when Bush presented the pope with the award during a Vatican visit, the pontiff said that he was troubled by the war and eager to restore sovereignty to Iraq and security to its people.
    “He may be troubled by the war in Iraq,” Hinckley said Wednesday of the pope, “but he cannot discount the bravery of the men and women who at the behest of their commander-in-chief are there in the cause of freedom.”
    —————
    Well…that ends one debate (at least among some of us). However, if the next Prophet goes back to something like what Pres. McKay said…then I’ll be the one on the other side of the schtik. Til then…let freedom ring in the hearts of Christian Soldiers Marching Onward towards liberty
    Comment by: lyle at June 24, 2004 07:40 PM

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    I see neither which debate that ends nor how. Has anyone questioned the bravery of U.S. service people? No. That they are following the command of the President? No. That their stated purpose is–among others–the freedom of Iraq? Again, no.
    Comment by: Jim F. at June 24, 2004 07:51 PM

    *****

    Your right Jim…not necessarily, unless you believe that the Prophet was endorsing the _fact_ that Pres. Bush sent our troops to _liberate_ Iraq. Which some folks don’t seem to believe, no matter who says so. I admit this is a strong reading of his statement…but more plausible than leftist reasons for the Iraqi liberation I’ve heard to date.
    :)
    Comment by: lyle at June 24, 2004 08:19 PM

    *****

    OK…this is not how I think Pres. Hinckley meant it, but…couldn’t his statement be seen as a kind of subtle rebuke of the war in Iraq? Something on the lines of “thanks for the medal, though I’m nervous about the kind of freedom it represents if that so-called freedom involves sending our brave young people off to invade other countries with repressive military force.”
    Actually, I think Gordon B. Hinckley is a pretty conservative political guy. Lots of 90+ year old guys from Utah are. As a private citizen, he can have whatever political ideas he wants. Did he thank Pres. Bush and give his war efforts a blessing “in the name of the Lord”? If not, we’re still going to debate this one til the ends of time.
    If Pres. Hinckley eats his scrambled eggs slathered in molassas, would anyone do that too, presuming that the guy on earth closest to the Lord must really know how to eat eggs? Why should we take his personal political views as anything more than a similar preference?
    (BTW, I’m not _just_ trying to be cute, I think this is the real question, one with probably no real answer to be generalized to everyone–and if Pres. Hinckley told me personally or in conference that the Lord had told him that I had to eat eggs with molassas, and the Holy Ghost confirmed that to me, then I would be happy to do so.)
    Obviously, I take Pres. Hinckley’s personal views very seriously. However, until he gives me additional reason to believe that his personal views are more than that, I’m not bound to agree. I’ve had to change my mind about things before, and may have to again, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to protest what I see as the wicked punishing the wicked (rather than a troop of righteous Christian soldiers–whatever that oxymoron means).
    Comment by: Rob at June 25, 2004 06:03 PM

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    Rob: I don’t know what it means…I just know that we sing it, that the song was approved for inclusion by the 15 and that the D&C says that such is a prayer to the Lord.
    The article & Pres. Hinckley’s comments, in context, are explicitly _in opposite_ to your twisting suggestion. The Pope had doubts…it is much easier to read as Pres. Hinckley condeming, gently, the Pope’s reluctance.
    Comment by: lyle at June 25, 2004 06:37 PM

    *****

    Gee, Rob, so President Packer, & Elder Maxwell, & the 2000 Stripling Warriors, & Lyle himself for that matter, are all prime examples of “the wicked punishing the wicked,” living oxymorons? How exceedingly Christian of you (judge not lest ye be judged, & all that). The American G.I.s who broke open the Nazi prisons? Wicked. George Washington & his troops at Valley Forge? Wicked. Those who the Lord commanded to “defend your families even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47)? Wicked, wicked, wicked. In fact, all of the countless millions who have, at one tragic time or another, endeavored to “defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion” are (you guessed it) wicked! I’m seeing shades of Dana Carvey’s Church Lady here.
    Comment by: Kingsley at June 25, 2004 08:12 PM

    *****

    Well, thank you all for your very interesting comments that I have discovered with high interest. Maybe you can help me with the following question I have after reading all of them.
    Considering the US Constitution that officially does not give directly to the US President authority to go to war, but to the US Congress, I am quite trouble when I read from Resolution 141 (the resolution that the Congress did vote to authorize the President to use military force in Iraq). In fact the Congress did note authorize the President to use military force for regime change, but as the text says for slightly different reasons (sorry for the copy-paste, but this will make my point clearer):
    SEC. 3. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
    (a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to–
    (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
    (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
    (b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION- In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that–
    (1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
    (2) acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.
    (c) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
    (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
    (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this joint resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
    ————-
    Now, was it not morally wrong (and for experts in Laws: was the President authorized) to change the reason to start/enter the war?
    Comment by: Philippe at June 26, 2004 06:51 PM

    *****

    I just noticed another statement that adds a little to the mix:
    From the Heber J. Grant manual — aka this year’s manual; aka the manual that our prophet (with the aid of the curriculum department) has deemed we should be using this year to address issues we face; (and aka a manual that Kristine thinks has a few problems) — we read the following (page 162):
    -”God is greived by war”
    -”All international contoversies may be settled by paceful means”
    -”God is not pleased either with war, or with the wickedness that always heralds it . . . To all the nations, we say adjust you differences by peaceful means. This is the Lord’s way.”
    I wonder what the collective response of members will be when classes everywhere make it to lesson 17 . . .
    Comment by: Kaimi at June 27, 2004 10:56 PM

    *****

    Kaimi: Good question. IMO, the overriding response will be to quote Pres. Hinckley and recognize that the current prophet trumps dead prophets.
    “He who lives by living revelation, dies by living revelation” to cut-apart the Scalia ipse dixit qutoe Nate loves so…
    Comment by: lyle at June 27, 2004 11:09 PM

    *****

    “All international contoversies may be settled by peaceful means.”
    Yes. This is true. The Iraq conflict could have been settled by peaceful means. All that was needed was for Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq before the deadline.
    World War II could have been settled by peaceful means. All that was needed was for the Allies to surrender to the Axis (or vice versa.)
    I’m afraid this statement falls into the category of “literally true but not very useful.”
    If Side A of a controversy is committed to the idea that it will not resort to violence no matter what, and Side B knows that and is willing to use violence if necessary, Side B will get whatever it wants.
    That’s why passive resistance works only against those who are restrained by morality.
    A little thought experiment:
    Assume that tomorrow, all the Jews in Israel declared that they would no longer use violence against anyone, no matter what, and that they did not want anyone to use violence on their behalf nor retaliate in any way for anything that happened.
    Out of about 5.4 million Jews in Israel, how many would be left alive after a year?
    Comment by: Eric James Stone at June 27, 2004 11:44 PM

    *****

    I am quite fascinated to see the number of participants on this list, who otherwise tout the necessity of strict adherence to the advice of apostles and prophets, except when confronted with a teaching from a prophet that contradicts their pet justifications for warfare, in which case they are quick to proclaim, “Oh, well, he’s a dead prophet — no need to listen to his teachings!”
    Talk about prooftexting . . .
    Comment by: diogenes at June 28, 2004 03:07 AM

    *****

    Following a link on http://www.asoftanswer.com led me to this page: http://lds.org/pa/display/0,17884,4649-1,00.html
    It’s the “Military Relations” page on the official church website.
    Some of the things you’ll find there:
    1. Information about the “Pre-Military Service Church Orientation,” which includes videos about “Basic Training,” “Serving in the Military” and “Life in the Limitary.” (I haven’t watched the videos. Maybe they are filled with anti-war quotes from the General Authorities?)
    2. An anouncement about the Principles of the Gospel book now being available as part of the military scripture set. Did you know the Church had a military scripture set?
    3. Information on how to join the U.S. military as a chaplain.
    Comment by: Eric James Stone at June 28, 2004 05:03 PM

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    Lyle–the modern prophet just published the teachings of Heber J. Grant for us. Just because he may think that U.S. soldiers are fighting in Iraq for freedom, doesn’t mean that it is right. Islamic fundamentalists are fighting for (among other things) the freedom from the immoral imagery and behavior of Western society. Some are fighting for freedom from military occupation. Just because someone is fighting for freedom, doesn’t make it right.
    However, maybe we can find common ground on the basis for desires for freedom. Can we allow Muslim countries the right to their true freedom? What if they elect fundamentalists to lead them? Will we allow that? We haven’t allowed that in the past. The U.S. has a long history of opposing democratically elected leaders of other countries.
    Freedom is a noble objective. Lets work for it with noble means. Lets sink our military budget into humanitarian aid and infrastructure development rather than weapons of mass destruction.
    Comment by: Rob at June 28, 2004 05:20 PM

    *****

    Just because the Church recognizes that some of its members will choose to serve in the military, and Church leaders have decided to provide Church resources to them, doesn’t mean that Christ sanctions warfare.
    The Church also serves criminals in prison. I’m not trying to equate soldiers with criminals–I’m just saying that the Church reaches out to all kinds of people. That’s their job.
    Comment by: Rob at June 28, 2004 06:12 PM

  2. UNAVAILIBLE on February 11, 2005 at 10:27 pm

    I thought this was with the church! You may say “Oh great another mormon trying to get me to join the church!” You have been tempted my satan to say these words. I am doing a talk on free agency. Yes you have the free agency to say these things but they are all lies. I do not know why I took the time to skim through here, but I hope you know that in the ending, your sins will not be cleaned. Your plan is to make the mormons mad. We know that what we say is true. You can try your best to make us mad, but we know that is what you want. I am not mad at these things you have said, I am proud of myself to be part of The Church Of Jesus Christ And Latter-Day Saints. I feel sorry for you that you waste your time saying there things. You have no idea of what the experiences I have had that have told me that my church is true. We are sons and daughters of the lord and we will not let people like you get in our way saying all kinds of lies. People like you have no lif and that makes me feel sad for you, but proud for me. I hope you realize what the true chuch is. I know what the true church is The Church Of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints! I know that from Joseph Smith to Gordon.B.Hinckley they are all true prophets, and I love them very much! I hope you realize pretty soon before you waste all your life say lies! I just laugh at you people feeling warm and proud of me! Just telling you my true opinion. Hope you realize.

  3. sarah on March 2, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    rrriiight. this is all very interesting. thanx..i think.,… XD

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