War and Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives

The people at Claremont Graduate University continue to outdo themselves. On March 18-19, 2011, the Howard W. Hunter chair for Mormon Studies is sponsoring this conference.

“War and Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives”

Claremont Graduate University

March 18-19, 2011

Under the sponsorship of

The LDS Council on Mormon Studies

and the

Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

at the University of Notre Dame

The program will address the critical issues of war and peace from a variety of Mormon perspectives. Elder Lance Wickman, former member of the First Quorum of Seventy and a Vietnam veteran, will deliver the keynote address on Friday evening, March 18.

Complimentary dinners and lunches will be provided for those who register by March 11.

Register by emailing information to:  ldswarandpeace@gmail.com. Please include your name, email address, institution or place of residence, and whether you want dinner, lunch, or both.

For directions and updated information go to http://claremontmormonstudies.org/war-and-peace

Program Schedule

(Subject to change)

Friday, March 18

Albrecht Auditorium, Claremont Graduate University, 945 Dartmouth Ave, Claremont, CA

1:00 – 1:15 Welcome

CGU representative
Richard Bushman

1:15 – 2:30 Session 1 – The Book of Mormon, I

F. R. Rick Duran, “Pax Sanctorum: From the Plates, a Pacifist Manifesto”
Joshua Madson, “A Nonviolent Reading of the Book of Mormon”
Robert Rees, “Children of Light: How the Nephites Sustained Two Centuries of Peace”

2:45 – 4:00 Session 2 – The Book of Mormon, II

Morgan Deane, “The Narrow Strip of Wilderness in the Modern Age: Strategic Lessons from the Book of Mormon”
Graham St. John Stott, “Reading Gaza in the Book of Mormon”
J. David Pulsipher, “The Ammonite Conundrum”

4:00 – 4:30 Plenary discussion of Sessions 1 & 2

4:45 – 6:00 Session 3 – Doctrine & Covenants 98

Ron Madson, “Section 98: The Immutable ‘Rejected’ Covenant”
Gordon Thomasson, “‘Renounce War and Proclaim Peace’: Reflections on Mormon Attempts at Peacemaking”
Kerry Kartchner, “The Lord’s Promise to Fight Our Battles: A Commentary on D&C 98:33-37”

Friday Evening

Hampton Room, Scripps College, 1030 Columbia Ave, Claremont, CA

6:30 – 7:30 Dinner

8:00 – 9:00 Keynote speaker – Elder Lance B. Wickman, Emeritus General Authority and decorated Army veteran

Saturday, March 19

Balch Auditorium, Scripps College, 1030 Columbia Ave, Claremont, CA

9:00 – 10:15 Session 4 – Historical Perspectives

Jennifer Lindell, “Fall from Grace: Mormon Millennialism, Native Americans, and Violence”
Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Zion as a Refuge from the Wars of Nations: Cultural Resource or Impediment?”
Robert Hellebrand, “General Conference Addresses during Times of War”

10:30 – 11:15 Session 5 – In Defense of Peace

A panel discussion led by Eric Jensen and Kerry Kartchner

11:30 – 12:45 Session 6 – Prominent Voices

D. Michael Quinn, “Pacifist Counselor in the First Presidency: J. Reuben Clark, 1933-61”
Boyd Petersen, “‘The Work of Death’: Hugh Nibley and War”
Loyd Ericson, “Eugene England’s Theology of Peace”

1:00 – 2:45 Lunch

View and discuss film Trouble in Zion

3:00 – 4:15 Session 7 – News from the Front

Chaplain Kathryn Stucki, “The Physical, Mental and Spiritual Impact of Serving in the Military and in War on Modern Day Mormons”
Eric Eliason, “Latter-day Saint Views on Current Conflicts: An LDS Chaplain’s Perspective”
Major Jonathan Petty

4:30 – 5:45 Session 8 – International Perspectives

Jesse Fulcher, “Nonviolent Responses and Mormon Attitudes: Reasons and Realities”
Ethan Yorgason, “Negotiating War and Peace in Korea: A Comparison of U.S. Military and Korean Latter-day Saints”
Chad Ford, “From This Place: International Worldviews of War and Peace at BYU Hawaii”

5:45 – 6:30 Closing plenary discussion, with introductory comments by Kerry Kartchner, Richard Bushman, and Patrick Mason


  1. Mark Brown says:

    This conference is being held on the same weekend as the monthly meeting of the Miller-Eccles study group, so Mormon studies junkies can make it a two-fer.

  2. The whole month of March is lousy with Mormon Studies goodness. Go look: http://mormonconferences.org/calendar.html

  3. Mark Brown says:

    Had I but world enough and time……

  4. Eric Russell says:

    “from a variety of Mormon perspectives”

    LOL. I get that ‘perspectives’ refers to the approach, but still. This reminds me of that Sunstone session on feminism last year where fmhLisa represented the orthodox perspective.

  5. Eric, I dunno. I see a GA who is a decorated veteran, a military chaplain, and a major. And while the group composed of England, Nibley, and J. Reuben Clark does tend towards pacifism, they are also the three Mormons who have had the most to say about war and peace. Can you suggest other latter-day saints who have written or spoken on this topic who might offer a different view?

  6. Based on the post which is all I have to go from I would guess that the perspectives offered (with perhaps Elder Wickam being an exception) would be outside the mainstream of both American LDS theology and political thought. Just sayin.

    I suspect that Elder Wickam will sound very very different from the academic voices.

  7. What is the “mainstream of both American LDS theology” as it pertains to issues of “War and Peace?” How would the “mainstream” define our war doctrine?

  8. bbell: as one who knows personally several of the conference’s participants (including some academic voices), I can assure you that you are dead wrong.

  9. Ben,
    bbell is “dead wrong” about what? That Elder Wickam will “sound very different from the academic voices” or that the participants are “outside the mainstream of both American LDS theology and political thought” or both? Being a participant myself I am curious. And again, what exactly is, in your opinion, “mainstream American LDS theology” as it pertains to war and peace doctrine?

  10. Ron: Given the way bbell frames his comment and the general tone of most of his comments, I imagine his posits the “mainstream” to be a traditional conservative approach to war, with some notion of a “just war” or general guidelines for being militarily aggressive; simplistically, it could be strong support for moves like the Iraq war, though of course there is wide divergence amongst this position. He likely assumes that Elder Wickman falls into this camp, though I do not know upon what evidence beyond Wickman’s military background would justify the assumption—it may well be true, but I have no idea how to tell. On the other side, as is common in bbell’s comments, you would have the “academic voices,” who are likely to be liberal, unorthodox, and in this case, likely pacifist. Heaven forbid there be a conceived conservative scholar! Thus, Elder Wickman will be the good guy, and the “academic voices” will be the sheltered, defiant, liberal villains.

    My “dead wrong” analysis is largely directed at this whole dichotomy, especially because I know several academics participants who would even take what bbell would likely define as a “mainstream” position on theology and political thought. (I also think that, especially in this case, “mainstream” mostly identifies whatever background the specific individual is coming from and what moral values s/he holds to be correct–there is far too much diversity to single out a true “mainstream” position.)

    Now to get back to my ivory tower before I get too sullied dealing with mainstream commoners!

  11. Wait, Chad Ford?

  12. Ben,
    Thank you for the clarification. I wonder if there has been an survey done as to the “mainstream” LDS beliefs as to war doctrines, ie, when to use force or not–or if ever. Although labeling oneself is tricky. I have been labeled a pacifist, but that label can be fairly broad. One of my favorite authors, John Yoder, has identified I believe 29 types of pacifism. One one end of the spectrum are conditional pacifists such as “Nuclear pacifist” who do not reject conventional warfare but will never support the use of nuclear weapons–ever. Then on the other end are the absolute or pure pacifists which we saw practiced among the Christians for the first two centuries after Christ. They took His words and example literally even unto death.

    As to Elder Wickam’s thoughts–that is why we will be there to listen and discuss. I have only seen him speak about this issue on the church DVD “Let Not your Heart be Troubled.”

    I would hope the conference would be recorded and all the various thoughts/counterpoints heard and then anyone interested enough to read/listen can draw their own conclusions

  13. “anyone interested enough to read/listen can draw their own conclusions”

    What’s great is when you get smart enough to draw your own conclusions (and post them as blog comments) _before_ you read or listen!

  14. Ron:

    I’d love to be there to listen, but unfortunately have other things scheduled that weekend. I’d likewise love to hear what Wickam says about it.

    As for me, the vast majority of “mainstream” LDS people I know and have known are Republican’s through and through. They listen to Rush, Hannity, Beck and whoever else is on, but especially those three. And in any conversation I’ve had with them, they’ve all loved Bush for the most part, while loathing Obama. They have all, for the most part, supported, condoned and been OK with both the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    My experience is anecdotal, but I have yet to have a conversation in person with a member who hasn’t been pro-war in some way or another (i.e. “we had to go into Iraq and now that we’re there, we can’t leave until the ‘job is done'”). The Bush administration did an excellent job selling the war in Iraq, even if it meant fabricating and misrepresenting (or worse) stories (i.e. Jessica Lynch, Pat Tillman) to show a pro-war, pro-America point of view.

    Ron: A couple of questions: (a) do you have a book or two that discusses the pacifism of the 1st and 2nd century after Christ? That’d be an interesting read. And, (b) will yours and Joshua’s pieces be available either through your website or your blog either before or after the event?

  15. “Somebody,” I sure meet a lot of Republicans hardly happy with Bush. Many still defend the war based on the information at the time. (I don’t anymore, although in terms of the information portrayed to the public I certainly don’t think my logic at the time was bad)

  16. Ron Madson says:

    #13 Kristine—Touche! I have been way too guilty of blogging before reading/thinking/listening

    #14 Somebody. Perhaps the best (albeit long) book on this topic is Cadoux’s “The Early Christian Attitude to War (1919). There are a lot of essays you can get summarizing his work/early christianity. I am not sure if they are going to record the lectures and/or publish the papers submitted. However, I,and I assume Josh, will put these on our blogs/website. A condensed version of my paper “DC 98: The Immutable ‘Rejected’ Covenant” has been submitted for the next written copy of Mormon Worker.

    What is fascinating to me personally is not just the pacifism of the early Christians who refused to become the evil they deplored, even unto martyrdom, but how abruptly after Constantine militarism was embraced by the christians to the point that the council of in the Council at Arles 43 Bishops met and resolved that any holdouts to military service should be excommunicated.

    Then it was not a large step to the final step–pre-emptive wars endorsed by the church during the middle ages. The following is a small excerpt from a chapter I have written on this topic. The history of the transition from pacifist to Christian crusaders is hauntingly parallel to our time IMO:

    “When individuals chose despite changing doctrine to remain conscientious objectors to state sponsored wars and crusades, the concomitant doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility was also becoming increasingly entrenched. The inerrancy and infallibility of the Pope allowed among others things a central authority that could decide for all Christians whether a war was justifiable without requiring them to give any thought to choosing for themselves. Moreover, to take any path other then a Pope indorsed policy was subject to recriminations and even condemnation. With this official and then increasing acceptance of inerrancy came the final coup de grace—“Indulgences for Fighting the Heathen, 878” issued by inerrant Pope John VIII:

    “Those who have recently died in war fighting in the defense of the church of God and for the preservation of the Christian religion and of the state, or those who may in the future fall in the same cause, may obtain indulgence of their sins. We confidently reply that those who out of love of the Christian religion, shall die in battle fighting bravely against pagans or unbelievers, shall receive eternal life.”

    The Christian soldier now was not only forgiven his sins, but he was promised paradise for his state service in slaying unbelievers. In 1095 Pope Urban II at the Council of Claremont inspired the first Crusade to free the Holy Lands from pagans:

    “All who die in battle against the pagan, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant through the power of God with which I am invested.”

    Now the Christian disciple had a fourth model from which to choose—initiate a war upon the soil of another in the name of Christ. This pre-emptive war doctrine required the combining of a liberal interpretation of the just war doctrine (for the most good) with ecclesiastical blessings on the participants that offered blanket indulgence and remission of sins for their deeds in warfare made irresistible with promises of salvation in the life to come for their sacrifices. The Christian merely had to deed their conscience over to the State who would decide what is “just” and their souls over to the Church who would in turn sprinkle Holy Water on the whole endeavor.”

    So watch the DVD “Let Not your Heart be Troubled” and tell me if there are any similar pronouncements? That is a question I will have for Elder Wickam.

  17. Ron Madson says:

    #15 Clark,
    Are you saying that if the information that was portrayed to the public pre-Iraq war was correct, i.e, that Saddam had WMDs then the logic of Bush/Cheney doctrine that one can and should engage in pre-emptive war–get them before they get you is acceptable? What doctrine in our faith supports that?

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