Publish Peace


The cemetery at Verdun

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.


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6 Responses

  1. EFH says:

    I loved, loved this post. What a beautiful message. I have been thinking about this since I read “The War Prayer” by Mark Twain 12 years ago – I think you will enjoy reading it too. Thanks for the thoughts and putting the quotes and scriptures together.

  2. Emily U says:

    My complicity through inaction is something I think about a lot. I wish I had something useful to say about it, but I don’t.

  3. April says:

    I love your willingness to ask the hard questions. Thanks for sharing your studies with us.

  4. Melody says:

    This is a lovely post. I felt more peaceful just reading the scriptures. Very good questions too. Writing and sharing this post is an example of a contribution beyond your family and ward. Thank you for this.

    I have to say that I answered those questions for myself with a concept attributed to Mother Teresa: (I saw this on the internet, so the source is questionable, but it embodies how I have always contributed to the cause of pacifism and world peace) “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

    Whether or not Mother Teresa actually said this, for me, personally, while I raised my kids, I recognized the limits of my energy for big issues like world peace. I also recognized that the principles I taught my children via play, conversations, and by my own example would be carried with them into their respective worlds as adults. We had many discussions as they grew older about war and its atrocities. We still have those conversations as a family sometimes when we’re together.

    Being a peace-loving woman is what I have to offer. And I believe, in all sincerity, that this one thing will have a far-reaching impact on the world. This one thing actually stretches beyond my family and ward. Does that make sense? I raised peace-loving kids who are peace-loving adults. I expect they will also raise peace-loving children. And so it goes (hopefully) in an ever-expanding circle outward.

  5. Em says:

    Thank you all for your kind and helpful comments.

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