Your Friday Firestorm #4

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.

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

(3 Nephi 3: 20-21)

Discuss.

Alternatively, discuss this.

Comments

  1. Peter LLC says:

    Boy: Don’t call the cops.
    Call taker: I won’t.

    Source: Clarksville, Tenn., Police Department

    Now, is that any way to build a relationship of trust?

  2. Hat tip on the BoM to our favorite banned commenter. You know who you are.

  3. Headlines will read, “Al-Qaida Defeats America”

  4. Thomas Parkin says:

    This idea that Iraq is “their own lands” to the people we are and have been fighting isn’t obvious to me. Has the free world ceded control of just Iraq, or maybe the entire Middle East, to terrorist and / or former reptilian dictatorships already, at the expence of the victims past and future of said oppressors who also might have some say about whose land it is? In other words, you’re going to have to be more clear about who is ‘us’ and who ‘them’ to apply the metaphor of ‘their own lands.’

    “Headlines will read, “Al-Qaida Defeats America””

    That may be true – but if it is, it will be because we live in a decadent society, with all it’s accompanying nihilism, and navel-gazing defeatism, not because we are trying to keep two countries from being overrun and ruled by one of most noxious ideologies ever witnessed.

    Firestorm enough for me. I’m out of this one.

    ~

  5. Thomas, I guess part of the question is whether or not this scripture is even applicable.

  6. Thomas Parkin says:

    Aye, Steve.

    I vote: not applicable.

    But I’ll bet everyone doesn’t agree. I put my money on 173 posts. *wink*

    ~

  7. LDS HQ note: Make sure this Elder is never called to be a Bishop. HUGE liability to the Church if criminal confesses sin and asks him not to call PD. Kirton and McConkie is busy enough as is!

  8. For context on the prank.

  9. Thomas, I guess you’re not one for likening the scriptures, eh? Heh heh.

  10. I’m pretty sure that homicide is one of those exceptions where you are required to call the police.

  11. Latter-day Guy says:

    THREE YEARS?!?! Isn’t that a bit much? I mean, yeah, slap him on the wrist, spend a few nights in the slammer, but he didn’t actually shoot anyone. I think that is exactly the thing I would have found entertaining at his age… (in the interests of full disclosure I did laugh when I read it–some of us just have sick senses of humor).

    And, oh, I’m with Brother Parkin.

  12. Julie M. Smith says:

    I don’t have time to find it right now, but there was an excellent article (BYU Studies? FARMS papers? JBMS?) about the 8 or so different approaches to threat taken in the BoM–everything from heading to the hills, to what you quote above, to warfare. So we can’t simplistically say, “well they responded this way in the BoM” because they didn’t always respond the same way.

  13. On prank phone call, article says: “He faces up to three years in custody.” Doesnt mean he is going to get three years. Who knows what this kids priors are.

    As for the BofM quote, the spiritual principle is that if you go on the offensive, you are in the wrong. D&C 98 endorses that view explicitly as well.

  14. Julie, there’s a classic old Nibley paper, and I think Stephen Ricks has written on the topic, but I couldn’t be bothered to find anything more precise. Plus I figured someone more eminently knowledgeable would find it.

  15. I don’t think that the robbers in question were previed in the ways of suicide bombings, and you’d generally see them coming. Not Applicable.

  16. Regardless of the multiple methods of self-defense in the BoM, I don’t remember one that included invading and destabilizing an irrelevant nation after being attacked by a group completely unrelated to it.

    Steve, I do think that the idea of “taking the fight to them” (regardless of whether “they” had anything to do with the attack that supposedly provoked the preemptive strike) should be analyzed in light of the scripture you bring up.

  17. There are many scriptures from the Book of Mormon that are not applicable to modern times. Take for example Captain Moroni’s “banner of liberty” and cries for defending his people. They were at threat from subjugation by a more powerful enemy, the Lamanites, who were led by former Nephites.

    Not applicable.

    Does that stop people from attempting to use that scripture to justify their actions today? Of course not.

  18. [fyi - sometimes comments get caught in the spam filter.]

  19. Thanks Steve. :)

  20. Steve,

    These Iraq type threads lead nowhere my man.

  21. Steve Evans says:

    Bbell, who said anything about Iraq?

  22. I believe in the non-violent type of protest of King, Ghandi, and Mandela. I think they work in the Christian ideal of loving your enemies, blessing them that curse you. When we respond hate for hate, violence for violence all we get is escalation. When we can live the higher law, we wrench the souls of the aggressors and rescue their humanity when they repent. I think the BOM at times exemplifies this principle well. At other times it may not. I believe preemptive war may be a winning strategy for power, but what good is that if we lose our souls and dehumanize, hate, and abhor our fellow human beings. Call me a fanciful idealist, but I happen to think its only Christian.

  23. “Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconciling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Revealed Truth”

    Highly recommended. Discusses this scripture and several others about what is a proper response to threats and attacks: preemption, retalition, etc.

  24. #22
    I think those types of conflict resolution only work against Christian first world nations who can be shamed into doing the right thing eventually.

    Try a Ghandi MLK type action in say Iran or Syria and you will get a bullet in your head and your family will disappear along with possibly your entire village/tribe.

    Also Mandela started out as a terrorist and later adopted better more Christian tactics that worked against his Dutch Reformed enemies.

  25. bbell,
    Too often in wartime we demonize the enemy. You have a point, you may have to give your life in the cause of nonviolence. But it is folly to say such a sacrifice is meaningless. MLK ultimately did this, as did the savior himself. That kind of devotion is extremely, extremely hard, very difficult. However, the People of Ammon turned the hearts of the Lamanites. Christian missionaries saved an uber-violent tribe in “the end of the spear” (great movie by our evangelical friends). Violent regimes are ultimately toppled because of their violence. Ghandi put it this way.

    ” When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall – think of it, always.”

    I cannot believe that only Christian first worlders are the ones who desire peace or have conscience. Are we or are we not all born with the Light of Christ?

  26. To agree with Doc, not only did the people of Ammon convert their enemies, but many of them died doing it.

    Would those who died have believed that their approach was ‘working’?

    -after the first person died?

    -after the first 10 people died?

    -after the first 100 people died?

    -after hundreds had continued to be killed by a blood-thirsty enemy?

    Doc is not arguing for a cheep and easy solution, just the Christian one.

  27. There are universal lessons to take from the BofM and Bible, but there also are lessons that apply strictly to similar situations.

    Pacifism is a wonderful ideal, and it can work mighty miracles, but we can’t forget that it was made possible in the BofM specifically because there were other non-pacifists who were willing to fight to protect the pacifists – and that the justification for the pacifism was NOT universal disdain for war but rather that formerly terrible sinners feared resorting to their former depravity. (Now that is a long sentence, even for me.)

    Terrorists have attacked us in our land, but we can’t engage them fully in our land. If we focus on defense and only fighting in our own land, we lose – particularly if they obtain nuclear weapons, but even if they don’t, since they can sacrifice a few to kill many. The Nazis never attacked the US on its own land, but I can’t argue with the morality of engaging them in their lands. Iraq is something I would prefer to avoid discussing in this forum, since every discussion I have encountered on the web about it quickly degenerated into a bash – and I hate those.

    Having said that, preemptive war concerns me greatly. If we can prove there are WMD that are pointed at us by people who say they want to use them against us, my concerns disappear quite quickly. In that scenario, all of the pacifists can stay in their own lands and let me support the elimination of the weapons – and those who point them, if necessary.

  28. Is Alma 14:8-11 applicable today?

    8 And they brought their wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.
    9 And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek, and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.
    10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.
    11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

    It seems to indicate that the overriding priority of this life is not actually the protection of life, but the following of God’s commandments even if it comes at the cost of life.

  29. Steve Evans says:

    Ray: “Pacifism is a wonderful ideal, and it can work mighty miracles, but we can’t forget that it was made possible in the BofM specifically because there were other non-pacifists…”

    Not so, Ray. There is every evidence in the Book of Mormon that the Anti-Nephi-Lehies would have been pacifists upon conversion regardless of whether there were other non-pacifists. If you’re trying to say that the only thing keeping the pacifists alive were the non-pacifists, I don’t think that is necessarily supported by the text, either. In terms of the motivations behind their pacifism, it’s true that they were personally motivated by their individual pasts as a warlike people. How would any of us be any different in becoming pacifists today?

  30. And then their sons went out and fought under Helaman with Divine protection. Then Teancum went out and killed in cold blood with a pre-emptive assasination. But first Nephi killed in cold blood.

    I think its hard to read the BOM and come up with one conclusion about War. You tend to highlight those that support your personal convictions and ignore those that stand in opposition.

    Truly its a mixed bag of tactics and philosophies regarding war.

  31. BTW, has anyone considered the implications of “in the center of our land” as it relates to weapons that can be used from a distance? How about redefining the discussion and addressing fighting an enemy wherever they are able to fight us? I can’t imagine a narrow interpretation of the passage seeming to say, “Let them fly over us and drop bombs or shoot missiles from a distance, but we must stay where we are and just try to shoot their planes and missiles out of the air.”

  32. Steve, I’m not saying they wouldn’t have become pacifists. I’m saying that it was a better solution for them to remain alive and protected in their pacifism than being slaughtered for it. One of the most moving accounts in all of recorded scripture is that of their sons, and that account would not have been recorded without the protection of the non-pacifists.

    Frankly, it is absolutely impossible for me to read the BofM and reach a “pacifism is the only Christian solution” conclusion. That dog don’t hunt. I can read it, however, and reach the conclusion that there is a valid place for pacifism – and that it can have a powerful effect, particularly on those who have enough of a conscience to be touched by it. However, if the Light of Christ has been extinguished, pacifism leads to nothing but the death of the pacifist.

    Doc, as much as I respect your position, the Spirit of God does cease to strive with man eventually – and I think the BofM teaches that very clearly.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    Ray, what’s more moving — the account of their sons fighting for their faith, or the account of their people laying down and dying for their faith rather than harm their brethren?

  34. Steve,

    There is hope for this thread. Censor out the Iraq posts. Also run a post based on lesson #14 in the manual for upcoming Sunday about materialism. Huge lessons to be learned there.

  35. Steve Evans says:

    bbell, I’ll take it under advisement.

  36. One more thing: Doc, I also admire anyone who is willing to die for their beliefs – even those whose willingness is based on abominations. If you think about it, suicide bombers often view their “sacrifice” as a sign of their religious and spiritual sincerity. I know that is a harsh example, but I can’t label pacifism are “always” the Christian thing to do – especially when Jesus Himself took whips and drove the money changers from the temple. He didn’t kill them, but he wasn’t acting as a pacifist in any Ghandi / MLK endorsed way.

    By that same standard, Jehovah certainly wasn’t a pacifist – by any stretch of the imagination. I really do admire pacifists, and I believer there are many lessons to learn from pacifism, but I think labeling it as the truest expression of Christianity simply is wrong.

  37. #33 – Steve, both.

  38. Steve Evans says:

    Steve — what’s more moving?
    Ray — both!

  39. Steve, “one of the most moving” is just that – “one of the most moving”. Adding another “one of the most moving” is perfectly fine. Don’t make me go all English teacher on you!

  40. a random John says:

    Dan,

    There are many scriptures from the Book of Mormon that are not applicable to modern times.

    I thought the whole point of the BoM was that it was for our times. It certainly wasn’t written for the poeple of its time.

  41. Eric Russell says:

    Well, we may go to hell for protecting innocent Iraqis, but at least we’re being true Christians when it comes to Darfur. Surely God will praise us for responding non-violently to the murder of hundreds of thousands.

  42. Jesus himself asked for his killers forgiveness, sufferred and gave his life for us, showing us greater love than any other way could. I found the most wonderful program on just this subject on Speaking of Faith here:

    http://speakingoffaith.publicradio.org/programs/scienceandhope/index.shtml

    The best part of what he was saying is that at their heart, all religions get this.

    I believe in the truest sense this is at least part of how the atonement works. That noble part of us is changed by Christ’s love, giving, reaching out, allowing himself to be pained by us, to suffer because of us. We are then moved to repentance by godly sorrow. We then need to learn to forgive, to sacrifice, to become more godly ourselves. In doing so we overcome that nasty obstacle called fear. It is this fear that allows us to demonize our enemies, that galvanizes nations into proclaiming war throughout the centuries.

    Now I know we live in a world that just isn’t going to work this way, at least not overnight. We have an electorate that isn’t going to find their way to this place any time soon. It is a difficulty road, but ultimately I have to believe it is the better road.

    I also think we might just be surprised what happens when we really do forgive our enemies, engage in civil discussion with them and try to really understand their point of view. A religious “nut-job” is impossible to do this with, and sure, the extremists aren’t going to want to hear it. But it seems to me building good will with the Middle East would quickly dry up the fuel that feeds Islamic terrorism.

  43. Latter-day Guy says:

    E. Russell,

    How deliciously inflammatory!

  44. Doc, As I said, I respect your position greatly, and I agree with you completely in theory. I just don’t see it taught in the scriptures as “true and ultimate Christianity”.

    Having said that, I have had my life threatened for my religious beliefs. I have faced death for them. I have faced the need to forgive the person who threatened me. I have seen examples of great sacrifice and humility in enduring persecution and rejection for a belief in Christ – and I have read the journals of my and my wife’s ancestors describing the atrocities they endured from Christians for nothing other than being a different type of Christian. I know your statements are not based on that type of bigotry – that they truly are based on love and inspiring dedication, but I get a little frustrated when anyone claims to be a better Christian than someone else based on a particular interpretation of that means in practice.

    I hope I was able to say that in a way that is not offensive. I don’t mean to imply at all that I am a better Christian than you – or that your are not as good a Christian as I – just because we disagree on how pervasive pacifism can be in our modern world. A bad analogy, perhaps, but you might be a modern Anti-Nephi-Lehite, while I might be a modern child of that group. I’m fine with that, since I honor each.

  45. Eric (#41): Whoa. Can you explain please?

  46. Amen to #43!

  47. Joshua Madson says:

    First: If this account of Gidgiddoni is not relevant than I sure hope everyone who uses other accounts in the Book of Mormon to justify engaging in war will find them not relevant. Then again, if the accounts in the Book of Mormon are not relevant than all those prophets and especially Mormon and Moroni wasted their time compiling it.

    BBell – the point of non-resistance pacifist models is not whether they succeed. Sometimes you will die or be crucified. We engage in non-resistance because we are Christians and he has shown us a better way.

    As to your comment on the BoM being a mixed bag. Well that’s only the case if we exalt the opinions and attitudes of individuals in the BoM to a level equal to or superior to Christ. Surely, there is clarity as to what he teaches when he arrives. Nephi says that the doctrine of Christ is that when he comes, he will teach us all things we should do. Either we accept his peace making, enemy loving, higher law or we don’t. It does not matter whether it is realist or works, but whether we will be his disciples in all things.

    Ray –

    You state that if we don’t attack “them” in other lands we lose. What do we lose? I value my life much less than what we will lose in our desire for vengeance and “winning.” Part of our beliefs is that the state of the soul is more important than physical death.

    And it is not impossible to read pacifism into the BoM. It is only impossible if we take men and their beliefs in the BoM as our rule and not the Son of Man as our teacher and moral compass. It simply a matter of priority. If I give equal weight to the teachings of Christ and the actions of Nephites then I agree, but I refuse to put the saviors teachings and life on equal footing with Nephites who are just as fallen and just as in need of repentance and the atonement as us.

    And I’m very tired of the argument that Jehovah is no pacifist therefore we can be violent. Vengeance is his, always his. Unto us, we are commanded to turn the other cheek, bless them that curse us, love our enemies, renounce war and proclaim peace, cease to contend, and raise the banner of peace to all. To do otherwise is to make a mockery of the atonement in my opinion.

  48. Joshua Madsen:

    Those who find this particular passage “inapplicable” are not finding it inapplicable in all situations, just the one we are currently in. In other words, this scripture does not stand for the proposition that we may never fight a foreign war, but must always gather our armies and wait for attack in the center of our lands. That does not mean that Mormon and Moroni wasted their time providing it to us, just that we have to be wise in “likening the scriptures unto us.”

  49. Joshua,

    As I said to Doc, I have no problem with pacifism as an amazing expression of faith, and I admire Ghandi and MLK immensely, but I have a HUGE problem with saying that Jesus taught pacifism as the only expression of discipleship.

    The Sermon on the Mount is one of my favorite sections in all recorded scripture. I have taught it over and over as the fundamental blueprint of how to become perfect, which I believe it purports to be. I understand its admonitions about not reviling and praying for abusers. I get that – not perfectly, but better than I think you believe I do.

    However, I also see Jesus expressing righteous indignation by lashing people with a whip – an act of explicit violence. I see BofM prophets praying for guidance and being instructed how to fight in order to protect their liberty. I read of wars that are NOT fought for vengeance but in self defense – where those who had killed others were allowed to return to their lands simply by promising to not do it again.

    Are you saying that these prophets were misguided and acting in an “un-Christian” way – because they simply didn’t understand the higher way? Was it morally inferior for the sons of the Anti-Nephi-Lehites to fight a battle their parents wouldn’t? Are you advocating the disbanding of military forces, even if those forces are deployed ONLY in self-defense, for all Christian nations? Are you saying that Europe was to blame for the Nazi concentration camps because they were too weak to continue to pacify an aggressor who would have stopped his aggression if only Churchill hadn’t been so misguided?

    On a personal level, was the purpose of the War in Heaven merely to provide a body and agency in this life – without any injunction to protect those gifts from attack by those who would take them from us? In that light, is it morally superior to watch a woman being raped, tortured and killed (having the gift of her body violated and destroyed) or peoples enslaved (having their agency violated and destroyed) and not interfere and fight for them? Does the higher law of universal pacifism only apply to killing – or does it apply to ALL acts of violence?

    If you answer for pacifism in all of these instances, then, on this issue, we are going to have to agree to disagree. You might be correct, but I just can’t take that position as my own.

  50. Joshua Madson says:

    MCQ,

    What do you propose it stands for? That if we happen to find our selves living some 2000 years plus ago in a meso-american type setting the scripture applies? How would you apply this acripture?

  51. Ray,
    I wouldn’t call Europe responsible for concentration camps regardless of anything they did or didn’t do, but here is some food for thought. The conditions in Germany that brought Hitler to power were largely the result of economic ruin brought on by the treaty ending WWI. It was designed specifically to punish the enemy and it worked. Contrast that with what happened at the end of WWII with our treatment of Japan and Germany. By refusing to call the enemy irredeemable a remarkable transformation occurred. There is very much to be learned from this.

  52. Joshua and Doc, Let me add that if we each are entrenched in our beliefs on this issue, and if it is apparent that our arguments are not going to convince the other – then I will not participate in a “verbal fight” over it. I am a pacifist in that regard, at least.

  53. It is also a twisting of my words to call self defense “immoral”. I am just suggesting that there may often be a better way than what we allow ourselves to see.

  54. Thanks, Joshua, for that example. I agree with it completely, but it only addresses the actions AFTER the war ended – not the validity of the war itself. Perhaps it is indicative of the motivations of the victors in each war – but that might bolster my belief that there are battles worth fighting, even at the expense of life.

  55. #53 – Yes, after re-reading what you wrote that was a stretch. I will rephrase it to ask if those examples are “less moral”.

  56. “I am just suggesting that there may often be a better way than what we allow ourselves to see.”

    AMEN, and AMEN!

  57. Joshua Madson says:

    Ray,
    I have seen a strong argument that Jesus lashed the animals and not any individual according to the Greek. He certainly went like a lamb to the slaughter, uttering no reproach.

    As to BoM prophets, I would state they were “misguided and acting in an “un-Christian” way” unless God commanded them. And yes, I think there is a higher law they did not follow. I find 1 Nephi 12 interesting in that the Angel remarks that over the course of Nephite history the people were always wicked except for when Christ came and a few generations later when they were pacifist.

    Yes, I do think not fighting is morally superior to engaging in war, and if governments want to have military forces that is their prerogative. I don’t believe there is anything Christian about nations. In fact, I find them incompatible with Christianity in many aspects. One day they will no longer be along with all of the evil they bring and the false divisions among God’s children. I feel that Christians should not be part of that in any way. For the first couple centuries after Christ, Christians refused to engage in violence, join the military, and were pacifists. (See Cadoux’s excellent book on Early Christian attitudes to war). Were these early Christians so off? Did they not get the message?

    Hitler and his followers are of course responsible for their sins, but Europe and their desire for a pound of flesh after WWI certainly made things worse. I always find these questions of how pacifists would respond to certain acts odd if we remember that such things would be very different if we acted like Christians in the first place.

    On my own personal level, I draw the line at violence. This certainly does not prevent me from intervening. I particularly Yoder’s book “What would you do?” which shows very real alternatives to violence in these situations. I would intervene when someone is enslaved, raped, tortured, etc. every time. Non-violence does not mean no action merely no violent actions. Part of being non-violent and a pacifist (peacemaker) is to change the world and intervene even at the cost of life.

    I guess we agree to disagree. I feel compelled by my understanding of Christ to be a pacifist, maybe that will change in time, but I hope not.

  58. Again, thanks, Joshua, for that thoughtful response. It is fascinating to me that we appear to be so similar in practical life (I really am VERY non-aggressive in my inter-personal relations of all kinds.), and that we agree about so many of these things, but that our ultimate conclusions are different. I haven’t been in a physical fight since I was a very young man; I ALWAYS advocate for communication and diplomacy as the foundation of all conflict resolution; I try very hard to engage in conversations like this with an open mind – honestly trying to find things that will enlighten me and alter my perspective toward a more full and complete understanding; etc.

    As I consider more what you just wrote, however, perhaps I see where you and I agree completely. 1) Too often we resort to our natural inclinations to settle disputes – focusing on winning instead of mutual compromise and acceptable resolution. 2) The best indication of our true motivation is how we treat those with whom we are in conflict. Do we try to understand and help them, or do we focus on beating them and punishing them? 3) You answered about the BofM prophets that they were misguided “unless God commanded them”. I can accept the belief that violence is never the first or best option unless God commands it, as long as it leaves open the chance that violent response can be taken quickly if someone who is in tune with the Spirit feels prompted to take violent action. (like the example of witnessing a rape)

  59. Joshua Madson says:

    Ray,

    I would agree with #1 and #2. I would add that finding other ways short of violence takes alot of work, creativity and effort. Effort I feel is worth it if human life is at stake.

    As to #3, I guess I am less confident in my own ability to know God’s will in moments like that. While I feel what God commands is always justified. Im not sure how I would react to a command to slay Laban or sacrifice Isaac. I might just say do it yourself. Now, I know that says a little extreme but I’m not sure I really would.

  60. Ironically, Joshua, your answer to #3 (I might . . . I’m not sure . . .) answers my initial concern perfectly. I also am not totally confident in my ability to know God’s will, so I understand you wanting to err on the side of principled pacifism over principled protection. I can respect that fully.

    Thanks very much for your willingness to discuss this modestly and without rancor. I appreciate that every bit as much as the insight.

  61. Joshua Madson:

    I might just say do it yourself.

    Yeah, I’d say that’s a little extreme, when you’re talking to God.

    What do you propose it stands for? That if we happen to find our selves living some 2000 years plus ago in a meso-american type setting the scripture applies? How would you apply this acripture?

    This seems like an odd question coming from you, after what you said above. You already told us that some of the scriptures are, according to you, just examples of wickedness, and that you are not obligated to follow a direct command from God, yet you apparently interpret this scripture as a binding order to never invade under any circumstances. Am I the only one seeing a glaring inconsistency here?

  62. Joshua Madson says:

    MCQ,

    well, we’re not obligated to follow anything, we have choice. Having said that I think we should always follow God. I just want to be sure its him doing the commanding and even then it might be hard. That was my point. Im not very anxious to kill in God’s name, neither was Nephi. Sorry, thats just the way I feel. My rule of thumb would be absent some divine injunction Im not going to kill, apparently this is the same one Moroni advocates. Go to war only if God commands.

    You wouldn’t agree that scriptures are both examples of righteous and wickedness? Which ones are which may be harder to determine. I simply take Christ’s teachings in both the Old and New world as my guide. Im much more reticent to take Nephite practices as a guide. Im just not sure they are always righteous or good. If they were they wouldn’t be attacked according to the promise. I see the BoM as less of an endorsement of their wars as a warning to not be like them.

    Im just curious how you see this applying or not applying?

  63. Eric Russell says:

    Hey, this is a firestorm after all. Just doing my best.

    Let me ask a different question. People seem to find an easy distinction between war and civil law enforcement, but the lines feel blurry to me.

    What if a burglar breaks into my neighbor’s home and I hear gunshots. I think most would agree that it’s a good thing to call the police. Indeed, doing nothing might just be a crime (the Good Samaritan law?). In any case, only the most delirious pacifists are going to naysay the action.

    But what if I’ve got a friend in Fallujah and the same thing is happening to him. Who you gonna call? To the extent that local police and Iraqi Security Forces can do something, should they not? Is it wrong for an Iraqi man to call the police when a crime occurs?

    What if those local security forces were still in training, but they did have some foreign friends wearing digital camouflage who are willing to lend a hand and go with them. Is it unchristian of these men to respond?

    You know, it’s really easy – especially for the privileged living in non-threatening situations – to wave their hand and say “war is bad.” But when it’s people in your own neighborhood getting shot, it changes. Doesn’t it?

  64. Joshua Madson says:

    MCQ,

    and as to this scripture I think it is a decent guideline if I’m trying to follow the Nephite “Just Law” theory, but I’m not. Im trying to follow the sermon on the mount and Christ’s teachings as I see them.

  65. Pacifism only works when the threat of an uprising still looms. Having no military or a limited militray only works if another country is looking out for you. Bringing Christ into your heart doesn’t mean losing your brain. Even the presidents of the church have body guards who I hope would use whatever means necessary to protect him.

  66. Joshua Madson:

    My take on this scripture is that it’s an injunction to follow the prophet. The people wanted to march out and take on the Gadianton band, but Gidgidoni knew better. Because such actions are always wrong? No. That’s clearly not true, because we have valid scriptural examples that demonstrate that God sometimes allows and even commands such actions. The answer is that the prophet (yes, that’s what Gidgiddoni is) knew the will of the Lord and told them what it was and they were obligated to follow that counsel or be destroyed.

  67. I was going to stay out of this after my last comment, because I wanted to end it on a positive note, but . . .

    I did have a HUGE problem, Joshua, with the “I might just say do it yourself.” I ignored it, because I didn’t want to state in an open forum like this the logical conclusion. I hoped it would die a natural death, because I sincerely hoped it was an emotional response that you didn’t really mean. I’ll simply say, “Amen,” to MCQ’s first response in #61. “I might just say do it yourself,” is a FAR cry from “It might be hard.”

    Now I am done.

  68. I say we give Jared a medal for putting his responsibility to report a possible murder above his responsibility to keep a general moral guideline – for understanding that lying need not equal bearing false witness.

  69. Joshua Madson says:

    Ray,

    yes it was more emotional and no I wouldn’t say that to God. I was merely expressing my displeasure and difficulty with following such an injunction. I really really don’t like the idea of killing.

  70. Joshua Madson says:

    KlyeM

    Maybe into your heart, but following his life and footsteps might mean giving up your life.

  71. FWIW, I have faced dying for my convictions and living in accordance with my convictions. Without meaning to devalue the former in any way, I found it was MUCH easier for me personally to accept the former than it has been since then to fulfill the latter.

    I have thought periodically about the greater love involved in laying down one’s life for his friends. I honor the depth of love that would prompt someone to die for her friends, but it takes just as much love, IMHO, to “lay down” your life for those friends when it does not require death. To set your life aside and focus solely on helping others is an amazing expression of love – and the core, I believe, of the concept of consecration.

    Sorry for that threadjack. Perhaps it can be the topic of a future thread at some point.

  72. Joshua A. says:

    My two cents on the subject:
    1) There always has been and will always exist evil. This is necessary, for the ability to choose good would not exist without it.
    2) Because evil will always exist, there will always be conflict between good and evil (presuming that good wants to continue to exist).
    3) There is no such thing as a moral or immoral state (as in country). There is only the sum total of moral and immoral decisions made by the individuals in that country and the impact of those decisions.
    4) Those who are not willing to kill in order to defend their lives and freedom had better thank their lucky stars that such mean individuals do exist. Those converted Lamanites would have been in quite a fix had they not been able to retreat to the protection of Nephite arms, huh?
    5) While I’m sure Lachoneus was a pretty spiritual guy, it sounds like he might just have had a bit of military sense, too. So the Nephite armies head up to the nether parts of the wilderness–what then? They’ve exposed themselves, their enemy is more mobile than they are, better acquainted with the terrain, and overall better suited just for that type of conflict. Moreover, the further they go into the wilderness, the more vulnerable their supply lines become, as well as the families they’ve left behind. On the other hand, waiting the Gadiantons out, uncomfortable though it certainly was, allowed the Nephite armies to dictate the terms of the battle. Lachoneous was probably sweating bullets until he received the threat of attack, at which point he likely let out a huge sigh of relief. So while there definitely might be a spiritual lesson here about losing the grace of God when going on the offensive, there’s also some pretty sound military thought (on which I could expound further, but I feel the onset of carpal tunnel).
    6) Finally, whoever said that Nelson Mandela was a peaceful resister…Back to Kristine’s library for you!

  73. Joshua A’s 5th point probably is the best commentary on the verses in question – much better than mine. The actual verses say the people requested he pray for permission but that he refused to do so. That’s interesting all by itself.

  74. Um, it was Gidgiddoni, not Lachoneus, who made this particular call, and I see no evidence that it was based on military strategy. I think he meant what he said. The Lord told him.

    Now, you could argue that the Lord told him this because the other idea was stupid, and the Lord refuses to protect us from the consequences of our own stupidity. That would be a good argument. Arguing that Gidgiddoni was a good military leader, but a liar? Not so good.

    So while there definitely might be a spiritual lesson here about losing the grace of God when going on the offensive

    No. That’s not what it says. If that was the case, then the Lord would not ever allow anyone to go on the offensive. He’s the same yesterday, today and forever, remember?

    Remember the story of the battle of Jericho? Does that story mean that the Lord always wants us to march around the walls and blow trumpets? No. That would be silly.

    And the story of Naaman? It does not mean that the cure for leprosy is always to wash seven times in the river Jordan.

  75. Thomas Parkin says:

    “It does not mean that the cure for leprosy is always to wash seven times in the river Jordan.”

    This worked for me, MCQ.

    ~

  76. Of course, Thomas. You and Naaman always did have a lot in common. The necessity of object lessons being just one of them.

  77. MCQ, It doesn’t say explicitly that he prayed about the decision. When I read these verses and the ones from the footnote, I think it is just as likely that he didn’t pray about it at all but said, “The Lord forbid” – meaning the Lord has forbidden this type of offensive in this situation. Knowing the Lord had forbidden it very clearly in their recent past, it could have freed him to make a smart and calculated military move instead of a stupid and emotional one – and there’s no denying it was a smart military move.

    Of course, he might have prayed about it, but I think it’s reading it too narrowly to assert that he HAD to have prayed about it. Generally, the BofM is pretty clear when someone prays about something. “He cried unto the Lord” is a common theme. That isn’t said here, so I think a different meaning is at least reasonable. Personally, I like the “why bother Him when He’s already told us not to do that” interpretation – probably just because it fits my own philosophy better.

    I have heard lots of people say, “God forbid . . .” and mean exactly what I just outlined – not that they personally had prayed about it, but that God had forbidden it in the past and that was that.

  78. Joshua A. says:

    Or maybe he/they “studied it out in their minds” (and on their drawing boards) or some weird stuff like that and then received confirmation from the Spirit. Come on, MCQ. Surely you’re more sophisticated than to think that they just prayed and waited for an angel to come down and tell them what to do.
    Incidentally, though, I do agree with you that this is NOT a general lesson about not engaging in offensive operations. Nonetheless, as that has been a major theme of this thread I though it important to address this.

  79. Joshua A.,
    I am the one who suggested Mandela was a peaceful resister. The fact that he started a terrorist just proves my point. Who are we to say someone is “evil” and beyond redemption. This “terrorist” was released, refuted violence and led a peaceful resistance to apartheid. Then, when the balance of power suddenly and unexpectedly switched he initiated the truth and reconciliation commission. The accounts from this are absolutely fascinating. People actually learned to feel compassion for those who had done inhuman things because of the scar that inhumanity had left on their souls. It really showed me the true meaning of loving our enemies.

  80. ps. and the true power of loving our enemies, in contrast the current administration horrific policy towards Hamas in Palestine.

  81. Joshua A. says:

    Fair enough. He did become a pretty peaceful fellow after cooling his heels in a South African prison for thirty years. Of course, by that time he had the most to gain by not returning to his violent ways. As far as Hamas, you’re out of your depth and don’t seem to know what you’re talking about. While I also disagree with the current administration’s policies vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict, I don’t see anything horrific about them (maybe unwise and uninformed, but not horrific). “Loving” Hamas will likely only bring about more dead infidels.

  82. Joshua Madson says:

    MCQ,

    you stated:

    That’s clearly not true, because we have valid scriptural examples that demonstrate that God sometimes allows and even commands such actions.

    Where exactly in the BoM did God command offensive action?

    Furthermore, I’m fine if God commands it, I don’t like it, but he commands it. Certainly that has not happened or is not happening in any nation today.

    Is there any applicability of BoM war principles, or of the higher law Christ taught in modern nations and/or in our personal lives?

    I am very interested in how people see Christ’s life, teaching (ie Sermon on the Mount) and his choice to die rather than call upon angels or resist. If he simply needed to die it could have been of old age, disease or a myriad of ways, but he chose to resist the evils of the day with non-violent means and even allow them to kill him. Is there any lesson to be learned from this, are we supposed to follow him or not? Was he not a realist and we really don’t need to follow him?

  83. Joshua A, just when I want to agree with you I read “Or maybe he/they “studied it out in their minds” (and on their drawing boards) or some weird stuff like that and then received confirmation from the Spirit.” Weird stuff like that? Isn’t that exactly what you have tried to do in regard to pacifism? Isn’t that exactly what you are saying those who disagree with you should do? AARGH!!

  84. Who said he prayed? Not me. I just said the Lord told him. That seems clear from his statement. He knew the will of the Lord, however that happened.

    Joshua Madson:

    I never said it was in the BoM. I said we have scriptural examples of it. If you can’t think of any, try the OT.

    If he simply needed to die it could have been of old age, disease or a myriad of ways, but he chose to resist the evils of the day with non-violent means and even allow them to kill him. Is there any lesson to be learned from this, are we supposed to follow him or not? Was he not a realist and we really don’t need to follow him?

    No. Christ could not die of old age or disease. He did not actually die from being killed. He was immortal. He chose to lay down his life, and he chose to take it up again. He was not “resisting the evils of his day.” He was making himself a willing sacrifice for sin. No one else could have done this. We cannot do it. We cannot follow him in this. There is only one atonement.

  85. Or maybe he/they “studied it out in their minds” (and on their drawing boards) or some weird stuff like that and then received confirmation from the Spirit. Come on, MCQ. Surely you’re more sophisticated than to think that they just prayed and waited for an angel to come down and tell them what to do.

    He said, “The Lord forbid.” I didn’t say there was an angel, I just said he knew the will of the Lord, however that happened. Clearly, however, this was not a group effort. It was Gidgiddoni revealing the Lord’s will to the people.

  86. AARGH!!

    ?

    Settle down Ray. Back slowly away from the computer. It’s going to be OK.

  87. Joshua Madson says:

    MCQ,

    WE can’t atone, yes. But, we can follow his life and example even unto death as Peter and many others did.

    Why not of old age or disease? Why not just lay down his life without the public execution? I believe the manner in which he died and approached the powers of his day was an example. He absolutely was resisting the powers of his day and of sin. He constantly denounced their wicked practices, spoke up for the down trodden, and taught a better way. He didn’t go hide like the Essenes, nor did he become like the Zealots and try to overthrow with force, but he fought their evils with non-resistant righteousness.

    What was the purpose of his life if not to teach us how to live and how to be his disciples? If Christ is Lord then the manner in which he lived and died should be some example to us.

  88. Sorry, MCQ. I haven’t taken my old man blood pressure pill yet today. I’ll go do that right now.

  89. I agree with your last paragraph, JM, but I also believe in continuing revelation and the role of prophets to reveal the will of the Lord for the people of their time. I don’t read universal / communal pacifism as what they advocate – and I don’t feel comfortable with claiming to understand a “higher law” for all that the prophets either don’t understand or simply aren’t allowed to teach to even their most sincere followers.

  90. Why not of old age or disease? Why not just lay down his life without the public execution?

    Well, there were all those prophecies that had to be fulfilled, and all those sacrifices. Old age and disease are not possible. Get over it.

  91. Joshua Madson says:

    Ray,

    One revelation we do have is D&C 98 telling us to renounce war and proclaim peace. Secondly, it indicates that God gave a law to all his prophets and the law was to turn the other cheek not once, nor twice, but three times and lift the “standard of peace” then if attacked you are “justified” in responding but “if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.”

    Sounds like a higher law to me, and it is called “righteousness” which in my mind is more than just “justification.” We can be justified in behavior and still it is not righteous.

    MCQ,

    Are you saying Jesus had to die on the cross to fulfill prophecy? Surely there is more going on than this. I mean he gave the prophecies about himself, why choose a public execution? He could have died going down with a fight? Why like a lamb to the slaughter?

    I’ll accept old age and disease are not possible, but why? What am I to get over? That I see something more in the manner of his death than prophecy fulfilling? Why did all of the early Christians associate Christ with pacifism and non-violence?

  92. If a nuclear weapon lands on your town, your children and your children’s children won’t be around to be rewarded. :-)

    My last comment on this topic, and this time I mean it: I choose to accept what our current prophet says on this topic. Again, I am a non-violent person in almost every situation. So are you, Joshua M. I allow for those who are not to be “justified” in that stance; so do you. I’m not trying to “convert” you to my position, but merely trying to defend it; I’m not sure about how you are approaching this. I really have been trying to learn look for common ground; I haven’t gotten that sense from you. This probably is over-the-top, but I think my and MCQ’s positions have been more defensive, while yours have been more offensive (with that contextual meaning only). FWIW, I feel like I have been the model verbal pacifist in this conversation. Of course, that would be my perspective. :-)

  93. Ray,

    yes you have been.

    Perhaps my comments have been agressive. a sit down conversation would be easier as opposed to blogging which I find more difficult.

    I just feel we are a little too quick to become anti-enemy today with which I feel u would agree. regardless of where we draw the line. I’m sure we agree war and violence should be avoided

  94. Are you saying Jesus had to die on the cross to fulfill prophecy? Surely there is more going on than this. I mean he gave the prophecies about himself, why choose a public execution? He could have died going down with a fight? Why like a lamb to the slaughter?

    Why ask why? Who knows? My understanding is that he was to fulfill the ends of the law, which required a willing sacrifice, not an old west shootout or a sword fight or a disease or old age. I don’t think he chose. I think this sacrifice was required, this way.

    To say that Christ is all about non-violence is overly simplistic. Obviously, as Jehovah, the God of the OT, he commanded all kinds of violence and perpetrated some himself: The pillar of salt, the ark steadyer, the priests of Baal. Also, don’t forget Laban.

    Obviously, there is a time and place for violence in God’s plan. Non-violence is not even close to being the over-arching principle of that plan. I don’t think the “early christians” (not sure who you mean here–the twelve?) would disagree with that. I think they knew the principles of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism,… non-violence? Not there.

  95. So, let’s take the US’ behavior in WW2. I think most would generally agree that the US was justified in fighting the Japanese on the islands that the Japanese had occupied.

    But when it came to campaigns against the mainland itself–even if you don’t count the A-bomb–would they have been “justified” under LDS doctrine?

    What about the European theater? Even if you grant that air raids against military targets on German soil were justified, was a ground invasion of Germany justified? Or should the Allies have just pushed the Germans back to their 1939 borders and then set up a DMZ around Germany?

  96. Clarification: that should be “Japanese mainland”.

  97. Joshua Madson says:

    MCQ,

    Why ask why?

    Because understanding the why may tell us something about how we should act.

    As I mentioned earlier Jehovah can have vengeance if he will. I think Christ’s life was about non-violence and his teachings in a large part were about non-violence. Thats just how I read and understand it. We can agree to disagree on that.

    And by early Christians I mean that it is pretty well understood that for at least two centuries Christians would not engage in violence, refused to serve in the military and many who converted while in the Roman legions would give up there lives rather than kill. The early Christians were obsessed with the idea of non-violence and felt it was part of the gospel. There are very good sources on this. I think Cadoux’s “The Early Christian Attitude Towards War” is a good one.

    Now I’ll concede that perhaps they are wrong and perhaps I am wrong about my views as well. Maybe times change, etc. But they certainly felt that non-violence was part of Christianity and I find it very interesting if not compelling that they understood Christ that way. There are many other traditions and faiths that read the scriptures this way. I would highly recommend “The politics of Jesus” by Yoder to anyone willing to read it. It profoundly affected my thinking. I was once much more militant in my views. I guess if I had to err on the side of being wrong, Id rather be wrong about being non-violent than be wrong about violence. I frankly do not trust myself in the matters of life and death.

  98. I frankly do not trust myself in the matters of life and death.

    We finally found something we can agree on! I don’t trust you either.

  99. joshua madson says:

    MCQ,

    really cute, a bit rude.

    but I wouldn’t expect anyone to trust me nor any other man thats why we have to rely on divine guidance in these matters.

  100. No, no, just kidding, Joshua, no rudeness intended. It was just too tempting a shot not to take it.

    we have to rely on divine guidance in these matters

    I agree completely.

  101. R.W. Rasband says:

    The robber bands of those days couldn’t get hold of nuclear weapons

  102. Prank caller incident: “I won’t…” [click] “…but my supervisor sure will!” I am sure that call-taker Jared in Provo, Utah did nothing wrong and told no lie. Re-read the script but accent the word ‘I’ in the last sentence and it makes more sense.

    War in Iraq: What a travesty. It becomes painfully obvious that the primary motivation for the takeover of Iraq was to secure petroleum resources and other nation-building/empire building activites. It was great to see an evil dictator go, but instituting a free and democratic government is something that had to come from the people; free governments are not imposed by bloody force from outside forces.

  103. Mark N. says:

    The robber bands of those days couldn’t get hold of nuclear weapons

    Not that it makes any difference at all in the whole grand scheme of the Plan of Salvation.

    As stated by Tolkien’s Gandalf in the movie “The Return of the King”, in explaining that while certain things are not in our control, we always have control of one thing: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”. What are the “principles of righteousness” as stated by Joseph Smith? We’re specifically told that they do not involve any attempt to “cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness”, that when we do any of those things, we are most likely going to find ourselves in the position of persecuting the saints and fighting against God through the attempt to dominate others unrighteously. Are others justified in attempting to dominate us unrighteously? Of course not, but that is not for us to decide. We can decide, however, as to what our response will be.

    If you can find any justification for violence in any of the following, I guess you’re good to go:

    persuasion
    long-suffering
    gentleness
    meekness
    love unfeigned
    kindness
    reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost
    showing forth afterwards an increase of love
    charity towards all men
    letting virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly

    I was considering the words to “The Star Spangled Banner” today:

    ‘Then conquer we must, when our cause is just,
    And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”‘

    What many of have failed to consider, I fear, is that it is entirely possible that the might and power of the United States has sometimes been used for unjust causes, in which case the attempt to conquer is most definitely not a “must”.

  104. Eric Russell says:

    I guess I am indeed GTG, Mark, as I find justification for violence in kindness. If Joe is beating up Bob, it is not very kind to Bob to not stop Joe. Indeed, it is very unkind.

    Your reasoning here, as is often the case when we think about this, forgets the third party. Our obligation to others involves more than the two of us, for there is always a third other to whom our responsibility lies continually.

  105. Cstanford says:

    I hope everyone can forgive me jumping into this late.

    I was glad to see this being discussed, since I think 3 Nephi 3 is very applicable to the war on terror, though not exactly to the specific invasion of Iraq. I see the Lamanites under Zerahemna and Amalickiah as closer to nation-states with clearly defined boundaries and the new Gadianton robbers as very much like a terrorist organization: I read “their own lands” as the places where they hide out rather than their native country – in fact, they had all left their native countries to take up their life of banditry! Fighting roaming bands who can hole up anywhere is a lot different than fighting against a geographically-defined state. If nothing else, Gidgiddoni’s response to his people seems to show a practical understanding of the futility of trying to stamp out guerrillas or terrorists outside of one’s own sphere of control. Moroni and Gidgiddoni were working with different circumstances and their examples shouldn’t be confused. But I also think the principle against pre-emptive war taught in the Book of Mormon is universal.

    #95: Moroni refused to invade the Lamanite lands, even though he could have guessed that Amalickiah would plan the mass destruction of the Nephites (with the most advanced weaponry of the day – not nuclear, but the intent was still extermination and enslavement). However, he did threaten Ammoron with invasion of the Lamanite lands after the Lamanites had started the war (Alma 54:12). I see this as pretty well applicable to WWII – still, Moroni never really followed thru with that threat. The People of Ammon did, however, extend very generous gifts of land to the Lamanite POWs – reference #51.

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