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 â€œconflictâ€ in our personal lives.
What we didnâ€™t discuss was how those principles of war would apply in the United Statesâ€™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 1â€”Fight in self-defense. Do you buy into the argument that we are â€œdefendingâ€ 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 itâ€™s self defense. (Unless youâ€™re an Anti-Nephi-Lehi who took an oathâ€”then you donâ€™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. Iâ€™m wondering how to discern whether those with decision-making power â€œhave no hateâ€ toward and are â€œseeking the best interestâ€ of the â€œenemy.â€ Itâ€™s not like theyâ€™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 Iâ€™d like to do it. Anyone found some â€œrighteousâ€ and â€œwiseâ€ 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, â€œIt seems like the choice is between not good and worse.â€ 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 â€œdemonicâ€ and worse. Once the rhetoric of righteousness is invoked, rational debate often disintegrates into proving oneâ€™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?
Itâ€™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 Iâ€™m doing some good there. Except then Iâ€™ll get caught in the moral (political) debates in California.