Immersed in fire

This weekend, I witnessed the baptism of my friends’ daughter. It was beautiful. I laid my hands on her head and listened to her father extend the Holy Ghost and bless her. I felt the power of God and hope. After, while people enjoyed the sundry baked goods, I spoke with the girl’s grandfather. He is a professional historian of the Church and is currently working on a history of the Tabernacle.

I was enthralled by all the fun details that he casually dispensed. He spoke of the shortage of metal, and how the saints would forage for the army’s detritus to fashion into washers. He mentioned that when the army left for the Civil War, they left their cannon balls. The Saints smelted them into nails. I repeated the litany of peace in my mind — that the Lord shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

I also remembered a couple excerpts from Brigham Young’s office journal (Book D):

The President remarked that whenever any nation had commenced making arms and ammunition, it has always been with a view to the death of their fellow men and when was there a time when these implements of death were not used; and in a few years these murderous feelings will strengthen to such an extent that the work of death will commence. (August 23, 1860, pg. 128)

Then the next day:

President [Young] remarked if we look into the history of the Nations of the Earth we shall always find that Every nation that invented new kinds of Instruments of war, and whetted up their old ones always used them to the destruction of their fellow man. (August 24, 1860, pg. 129)

Perhaps the greatest blessing our society enjoys is that President Young’s words have not been proven prophetic in regards to our most destructive weapons. All nuclear devices are not created equally. In 1961 the USSR detonated an hydrogen bomb. Over 50 million tons of TNT. The blast was so hot that it caused 3rd degree burns over 60 miles away.

This weekend, North Korea decided to show the world its own capacity for destruction. I pray that Brigham Young can be wrong again. It is a popular conception in some circles of the Church that the flood was necessary for the World to be baptized, but I don’t believe it. I also don’t believe in its baptism by fire. This weekend, I participated in the baptism by fire. There is no evil in the ordinances of the Lord.


  1. Steve Evans says:

    Amen Stapley. I believe in the renewal of the Earth and its return to paradisiacal glory as per our Articles of Faith, but I don’t think that Kim Jong-Il is an instrument of the Lord in that respect. The Savior’s atonement and the power of the Creator is sufficient to purify the Earth and our souls without a nuclear holocaust.

  2. Well, sort of prophetic. There’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And Bikini Atoll, and the Downwinders in southern Utah.

    But I agree with your general sentiment.

  3. Amen and amen Stapers.

  4. I had never read these quotes before, J. I’m very glad you posted them. They remind me of something I recently read by William Carlos Williams:

    “Say to them: Man has survived hitherto because he was too ignorant to know how to realize his wishes. Now that he can realize them, he must either change or perish.” (From “The Orchestra”)

  5. MikeInWeHo says:

    We’re the country that invests more in weapons R&D, by far, than the rest of the world combined. Can’t think of a major weapons advance in the last half century that didn’t come from the U.S. Little Kim and his bomb don’t scare the world nearly has much as George W and his pals. It’s all so sad, and I’m really no pacifist.

    Did anyone here read the lead review in the NYT Review of Books yesterday? This string brings to mind Cormac Mccarthy’s new book, The Road.

  6. I don’t disagree about the Military R&D Mike, but the US has proven itself fairly resilient against the temptation to use nuclear force. In a very twisted way, MAD worked. I’m pessimistic that it would with N. Korea.

    Thanks, all.

  7. the US has proven itself fairly resilient against the temptation to use nuclear force.

    Of course, J, as Jeremy points out, the only country that has ever used nuclear weapons was the US. That’s not meant so much as a jab at America per se — as Churchill would certainly have done the same thing had he had the means — but it does remind us that we are not exempt from raining down blood and horror.

    Anyway, I love your image of the real purifying fire of God. Stirring stuff.

    And yes, N. Korea’s nukes may be the biggest threat to the world that no-one cares about.

  8. I agree, Ronan.

  9. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 6 The MAD doctrine takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to Kim Jong-Il, that’s for sure.

  10. Jonathan — Thank you for this post. I love the idea of weapons like canon balls, facing their own refiner’s fire and being forged into something that was new and productive. Something that would eventually serve a creative, instead of destructive purpose.

  11. Atoms for Peace. =)

  12. Atoms for Peace

    Ah, yes. Eisenhower’s nuclear weapon marketing campaign–get the unwashed masses to feel warm and fuzzy about messing with the atom, create incentives for the have nots to stay that way through promises of technological transfer and quietly develop the world’s most destructive arsenal ever. And all in the name of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy. Woot!

  13. Wouldn’t it be nice if only the Russians and Chinese had nuclear weapons?

  14. The U.S. spends nearly half of the world’s military money these days, but the good news is that, even with Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re spending a smaller portion of GDP now (4%), then we were twenty years ago (6%). In Eisenhower and Kennedy’s time it was 9%. China is only spending 4% currently.

    Other good news is that it looks like North Korea and Pakistan are faking it. Even if they weren’t, a dozen plutonium bombs are not that big a deal. This isn’t Cold War II.

    Mike, credit goes to the Russians for the rocket propelled grenade.

  15. Thomas Parkin says:

    “This string brings to mind Cormac Mccarthy’s new book, The Road.”

    I love Cormac McCarthy. The Road is utterly devastating. Much to say about it – but mostly … how ever much I loved this book, was stunned by this book, I can never ever read it again.

    I actually finsihed it while in the air en route to General Conference. I’m sure my fellow passengers thought I was on my way to a funeral. I sobbed uncontrollably at the final few pages.


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