How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace.
Armistice Day, celebrated in the United States as Veteran’s Day, is a natural time to reflect on war and peace. The horrors of the First World War led those who lived through it to swear there would never be another such. Of course it didn’t work out that way, as we know.
This month I have been studying peace as part of my personal scripture study and reflecting on it more broadly. The scriptures are full of warfare and atrocities, but the Book of Mormon also takes a clear stance on offensive wars.
The people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi promised that
“They would not take up arms, yea, they had entered into a covenant and they would not break it – therefore, if they should fall into the hands of the Lamanites they would be destroyed.” (Alma 43:11)
Pahoran, in his letter to Moroni, averred that
“We would not shed the blood of the Lamanites if they would stay in their own land. We would not shed the blood of our brethren if they would not rise up in rebellion and take the sword against us. We would subject ourselves to the yoke of bondage if it were requisite with the justice of God, or if he should command us so to do.” (Alma 61:11)
The Savior taught the people of the Americas the same truths he taught in Israel:
“And behold, it is written, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; But I say unto you, that ye shall not resist evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (3 Nephi 12:39)
Modern day prophets and apostles also teach of peace, but it is generally within the context of inner calm:
Despite dismal conditions in the world and the personal challenges that come into every life, peace within can be a reality. We can be calm and serene regardless of the swirling turmoil all about us. Attaining harmony within ourselves depends upon our relationship with our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and our willingness to emulate him by living the principles he has given us.” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Peace Within” April 1991)
President Hinckley took a stand on behalf of the church in regards to the conflicts in the Middle East:
“As Citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders. They have access to greater political and military intelligence than do the people generally.” He acknowledged the right to express dissent, and then added, “We all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.” Citing Captain Moroni, he concluded “It is clear from these and other writings that there are times when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat and oppression.” (Gordon B. Hinckley “War and Peace” April 2003)
I feel a deep sense of unease about justifying war, which it seems the Savior taught against. What obligation do you have personally to publish peace? Does that obligation go beyond being peaceful within your own family and ward? Did the Savior expect the same of nations that He did of individuals?
These questions have been swirling in my mind, particularly in light of the more recent debates over drone strikes and their terrible consequences for innocent civilians. The recent story of a grandmother slain for inscrutable reasons, and the insouciant attitude of our own government to me raises grave questions about my complicity through inaction in programs that are in violation of my faith.