“good will toward men”

On December 14, 1914 Joseph F. Smith, Prophet and President wrote a Christmas epistle to the Saints. On this holiday in the U.S., in which we remember combatants and specifically their armistice, his words remain puissant:

While rejoicing over the birth of the Incomparable One, the light of our gladness is overshadowed with the war clouds that have darkened the skies of Europe, and our songs and salutations of joy and good will are rendered sadly discordant by the thunders of artillery and the groans of the wounded and dying, echoing from afar, but harrowing to our souls as the awful tidings come sounding o’er the sea. Nations rising against nations, brothers against brothers, “Christians” against “Christians,” each invoking the aid of the God of love in their gory strife and claiming fellowship with the Prince of peace! What an awful spectacle is thus presented before the angelic host, a band of whom sang the immortal song of “good will toward men” at the birth of the babe of Bethlehem!

He further stated:

The horrors of these conflicts are made still more dreadful by the sufferings of the widows and orphans and the sorrows of the relatives and friends of the soldiers in the trenches and at the battle’s front; also by the destruction of famed triumphs of art, of grand structures of bygone centuries and of modern marvels of skill and science and culture, now lying in ruins. The waste of wealth and splendor thus effected, and the enormous debts entailed cannot be recovered but by ages of toil and riches untold. The cries for relief that salute our ears and sadden our souls are receiving responses worthy of the season and the needs of the times. They should not be mere spurts of charity, but be continued as necessity requires. At the same time it must not be forgotten that there are hosts of needy on our own shores and within our reach, who are fit objects for our benevolence, and He whom we now delight to honor reminded us that “the poor ye have always with you,” and left them as a legacy to His true disciples.

Comments

  1. NoCoolName_Tom says:

    Not to quibble too much about President Smith’s word choice (because I agree completely with what he’s describing), but “peace on earth, good will towards men” is better translated as “peace on earth towards men of good will”. As humanity’s good will erodes, we often see a lack of peace on earth. President Smith seems to understand that with this plea for good will.

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    In case anyone needs an explanation of what NoCoolName_Tom is talking about, see here.

    If you get a chance to see the movie Joyeux Noel, do. It’s about the soldiers in the trenches during WWI who started singing Christmas carols to each other; very affecting.

  3. Renounce war and proclaim peace, latter-day saints!

  4. His comments remind me of Mark Twain’s The War Prayer (in a good way, i.e. Smith clearly avoids the hypocrisy that Twain is decrying).

  5. Does this mean that Gordan B. Hinckely is wrong on the Iraq war? Can a prophet be wrong at a general conference? I think so.

    On the other hand I can hear a feminist lds woman getting angry over the fact that “good wll toward men” seems a little sexist.

  6. Does this mean that Gordan B. Hinckely is wrong on the Iraq war? Can a prophet be wrong at a general conference? I think so.

    On the other hand I can hear a feminist lds woman getting angry over the fact that “good will toward men” seems a little sexist I mean we might need to change that scripture to “good will toward humankind.” While we are at it, we should start addressing Heavenly Mother. That would be strange to pray to Heavenly Mother. But maybe she too answers prayers? jk

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