“As a new religion it is too bad you don’t have a theory of …

July 1, 2010
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.. war” a friend of mine said. ” Once your theology develops, it should be interesting to see what kind of nuanced debates you have.”

“Well,” I said, “we actually do have some doctrine and theology on the subject.”

Then why haven’t I seen more discussion of it?  Or is it pretty simple, direct and pro-war or pro-pacifism. Is there a reason that there haven’t been  many Mormons in the public eye?  What does the doctrine say?

Ah yes, what does the LDS doctrine, practice and scripture say or imply?

General Mormon seems pretty clear.  He resigned rather than lead a war that had any element of preemptive strike or retribution in it — anything that went beyond reclaiming up to the current borders.  The Anti-Nephi-Lehi seem to justify radical pacifism, though the story does not require it, given what their children did.

The Doctrine and Covenants provides a nice gloss to both stories.  If you are not guilty of the first or second offense you have different rights than those who do, but it seems to strongly condemn offensive wars.

All of it is tied together with a doctrine that encourages obedience to governments and lays the blame or the sin of unjust wars on leaders and commanders.

Maybe we are closer to Kipling than anything else:

The earth is full of anger,
The seas are dark with wrath,
The Nations in their harness
Go up against our path:
Ere yet we loose the legions –
Ere yet we draw the blade,
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, aid!

High lust and froward bearing,
Proud heart, rebellious brow –
Deaf ear and soul uncaring,
We seek Thy mercy now!
The sinner that forswore Thee,
The fool that passed Thee by,
Our times are known before Thee –
Lord, grant us strength to die!

For those who kneel beside us
At altars not Thine own,
Who lack the lights that guide us,
Lord, let their faith atone.
If wrong we did to call them,
By honour bound they came;
Let not Thy Wrath befall them,
But deal to us the blame.

From panic, pride, and terror,
Revenge that knows no rein,
Light haste and lawless error,
Protect us yet again.
Cloak Thou our undeserving,
Make firm the shuddering breath,
In silence and unswerving
To taste Thy lesser death!

Ah, Mary pierced with sorrow,
Remember, reach and save
The soul that comes to-morrow
Before the God that gave!
Since each was born of woman,
For each at utter need –
True comrade and true foeman –
Madonna, intercede!

E’en now their vanguard gathers,
E’en now we face the fray –
As Thou didst help our fathers,
Help Thou our host to-day!
Fulfilled of signs and wonders,
In life, in death made clear –
Jehovah of the Thunders,
Lord God of Battles, hear!

What do you think our doctrine and our practice really happen to be?

69 Responses to “As a new religion it is too bad you don’t have a theory of …

  1. Jared L.
    July 1, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    President Hinckley spoke at length about “War and Peace” in April 2003 Conference. http://bit.ly/cZLQ7s

  2. Thomas
    July 1, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Another good Kipling verse, sadly omitted from #80 in the LDS hymnal:

    For heathen hope that puts her trust
    In reeking tube and iron shard –
    All valiant dust that builds on dust,
    And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard –
    For frantic boast and foolish word,
    Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!

  3. C
    July 1, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Elder Nelson said: “Now, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what does the Lord expect of us? As a Church, we must “renounce war and proclaim peace.” As individuals, we should “follow after the things which make for peace.” We should be personal peacemakers. We should live peacefully—as couples, families, and neighbors. We should live by the Golden Rule. We have writings of the descendants of Judah as now merged with writings of the descendants of Ephraim. We should employ them and expand our circle of love to embrace the whole human family. We should bring divine love and revealed doctrines of restored religion to our neighbors and friends. We should serve them according to our abilities and opportunities. We should keep our principles on a high level and stand for the right. We should continue to gather scattered Israel from the four corners of the earth and offer the ordinances and covenants that seal families together forever. These blessings we are to bring to people of all nations (“Blessed Are the Peacemakers”, Oct. 2002 Ensign).

    I wish we as a Church followed this core doctrine. Glenn Beck and his followers might rethink their beliefs.

  4. Thomas
    July 1, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    When Glenn Beck gets to the level of Keith Olbermann or Ed Schultz, or the liberals who’ve been calling me a Nazi, racist, etc. basically since I got out of diapers, we’ll talk. Until then — physician, heal thyself.

  5. Dan
    July 1, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    compare Hinckley’s War and Peace with Kimball’s False Gods We Worship. Very interesting indeed.

  6. July 1, 2010 at 6:48 pm

    Stephen,

    Thank you for opening this topic. Our failure IMO to follow the words of Christ and our own scriptures/doctrine as it applies to our nation’s present wars of aggression is the single most issue that has caused me to look at our church through a new lens. What good is restored truth/ priesthood, etc. if we are the last ones to figure out and remedy racial discrimination on a wholesale basis OR in this case be the last ones to recognize that our wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan or grossly immoral and have no foundation in the words of Christ?

    Also, I recognize as you pointed out that we assume that our doctrine tells us to be obedient to governments no matter how hideous and immoral their acts and that it is “on their head” and not ours, but I do not buy it for one minute. DC 134 clarifies that our obedience is conditional and that if our government violates our conscience then we have a duty to civilly disobey. Real christians would consider no less.

    here is one of my many essays on this topic. It has been a real source of disaffection with my church for several years now. I sat with my father (serial BOM and scripture reader) who was WWII veteran (Patton’s infantry) in 2001 and early 2002 and with great emotion he told me that he saw no scriptural or theological basis of any sort that would justify our invading Iraq. He was sure that the brethren would teach us the words of Christ and see how unjust our wars of aggression would be. One of the few times my father was wrong. My father was the only prophet in the land for me personally. I have since concluded that real prophets rarely occupy the chief seats but most often (Samuel, Jeremiah, Amos, Lehi, John Baptist to name a few) come from the wilderness or outcast priests. I think the pattern remains the same. I wish it were not so but there it is…

  7. Ron M
    July 1, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Whoops,
    here is the essay I was referring to in the long post above http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/the-12th-article-of-faith-not-to-be-used-as-an-

    I would suggest we not use 12th article of faith as excuse for allegiance to government over conscience…

  8. Thomas
    July 1, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    Here’s the problem, I suppose: Unlike the rather melodramatic Book of Mormon (that’s not a criticism, by the way — it’s just simply true that the Book of Mormon doesn’t “do” moral ambiguity — possibly intentionally, intended as a counterweight to a future age that would use moral ambiguity as an excuse to do away with morality), in the real world, the line between “immoral war of aggression” and “justifiable self-defense” is hard to draw.

    I tend to think that if a country’s leadership allows its territory to be used as a base for attacks on foreigners, those foreigners have an inherent right of self-defense. But then that opens up a whole other inquiry: What does that justifiable self-defense consist of, and how far can it justly go?

    This is why Mormon theology (which may be a contradiction in terms — Mormon doctrine is extremely fluid on many matters) probably should not be expected to have an official “doctrine of war,” similar to the Catholic Catechism. We have scriptural texts, we have historical examples, and we have commentaries by various leaders — but looking at them as a whole, it’s hard to see in them any useful consensus about war, other than a general preference for defensive war and a condemnation of aggression.

  9. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    July 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    well, the link in #1 pretty much skirts the issue the link in #5 apparently implies that calling on God for 12 legions of angels is a good national defense strategy the link in #7 makes a decent case though.

  10. July 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    We sometimes are prone to glorify the great empires of the past, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Roman and Byzantine Empires, and in more recent times, the vast British Empire. But there is a darker side to every one of them. There is a grim and tragic overlay of brutal conquest, of subjugation, of repression, and an astronomical cost in life and treasure.

    That is the Hinckley talk I remember and the one that inspired this post.

    And again.

    But 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. Those in the armed services are under obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military service, they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded.

    One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12).

    But modern revelation states that we are to “renounce war and proclaim peace”

    Further

    Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will.

    The conclusion still moves me:

    And, above all, we can cultivate in our own hearts, and proclaim to the world, the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through His atoning sacrifice we are certain life will continue beyond the veil of death. We can teach that gospel which will lead to the exaltation of the obedient.

    Even when the armaments of war ring out in deathly serenade and darkness and hatred reign in the hearts of some, there stands immovable, reassuring, comforting, and with great outreaching love the quiet figure of the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. We can proclaim with Paul:

    “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

    “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).

    This life is but a chapter in the eternal plan of our Father. It is full of conflict and seeming incongruities. Some die young. Some live to old age. We cannot explain it. But we accept it with the certain knowledge that through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord we shall all go on living, and this with the comforting assurance of His immeasurable love.

    He has said, “Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me” (D&C 19:23).

    And there, my brothers and sisters, we rest our faith. Regardless of the circumstances, we have the comfort and peace of Christ our Savior, our Redeemer, the living Son of the living God. I so testify in His holy name, even the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

    I often wondered how many people actually heard, saw, felt and understood just how nuanced the talk was.

    I keep waiting for a deeper conversation on what he said, though I appreciate the cite to Kimball. I usually think of it in different terms, but it does state:

    What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies.

    We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon” (D&C 64:24).

  11. Dan
    July 1, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    Stephen,

    Yes, Hinckley’s talk was nuanced, but he made clear where his personal allegiances lied. He began by indicating the war in Iraq was a mere extension of the war in Afghanistan (the neo-conservative position). He made clear that he saw no difference in our foreign policy toward Afghanistan and that of Iraq, when they were clearly two different beasts all together. He stated very clearly that he believed in trusting political leaders, because he (president Hinckley) assumed political and military leaders would 1) have better intelligence on the matter, and 2) not misuse that intelligence for nefarious actions. He made clear that he saw the war in Iraq as obvious example of our constant war that began in the premortal life, the “good vs evil” “freedom vs slavery” crap; the same thing as Captain Moroni defending liberty against great odds (an ironic position to take, seeing that the United States was by far the stronger force willfully imposing itself upon a far weaker enemy). The Nephites NEVER attacked their enemies, never brought the war to the Lamanites’ lands. No matter how often the Lamanites attacked. The Nephites defended. They never started the war. To use Captain Moroni as justification for an aggressive war tells me you haven’t read the Book of Mormon well.

  12. Ron M
    July 1, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    #11 Dan—Ditto…

    There is nothing nuanced about Elder Holland’s recent endorsement via satellite to the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq that they are fighting what he called a “just war”–as if “just war” was our standard (heck even that would be an improvement). We are also one of the few christian faiths that have not explicitly condemned any forms of torture (see National Religious Council Against Torture).
    Misreading or rather not even reading DC 98 and/or the clear lessons of the BOM and then applying those clear doctrines to the present conflict is, to borrow Elder Holland’s word, “pathetic”–no rather spiritually immoral…
    The “terrorists” were called by President Hinckley “Gadiantons.” Possibly those terrorists were “Medes” as described by Isaiah but the Gadiation type is another intellectually lazy misreading of the BOM—Gadiantons? How about those within our government that deliberately mislead this nation for their ends (Cheney, Rumsfeld should have been tried for war crimes as a good start–See Suskinds “One Percent Doctrine and “Way of the World” as a primer).
    Misreading or not knowing our basic doctrine and applying it with clarity to the criminal wars of aggression has consequences. Just ask Allysa Peterson’s family and the tens of thousands of lives we have destroyed out of what I would call criminal spiritual neglect to first know (I hope our leaders in our faith were just clueless on this issue and not kowtowing to the govt.again to remain accepted) and then have the courage to denounce such wars.
    Just my opinion. But what do I know? I should trust my government to know better. Right….I thought we learned from Viet Nam–but again we always seem to be behind the learning curve on such things? Why is that?

  13. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    July 1, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    but then again, if you Mormons believe in continuing revelation, that supersedes and sometimes invalidates past revelation… well this Hinckley guy seems to be the most recent commentary on the situation I’ve seen. So…. what’s up with that?

  14. Ron M
    July 1, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    #13. Yes continuing revelation, but we also have essentially the “heart beat rule” , ie, the living prophets words are controlling until he is a “dead prophet” and then no longer binding. President Hinckley is dead to this world and so are his words–and especially what he called his opinion only on this subject. To tell me otherwise is to invite us to accept all the words of past prophets? So in essence all words of our prophets (if we do not try to integrate all the words of all of them) are dead on arrival–or they have term limits. That is one approach. I personally believe we have or should have the “words of Christ” trump everything else for they will “tell you all things that you should do” and therefore, find His actual words and not even leaders and presidents words/opinions as to what they think is correct—unless they declare what they are saying are the very words of Christ communicated to them.

  15. el oso
    July 1, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Dan,
    Unfortunately you seem to be selectively reading the scriptures. There is plenty of offensive war sanctioned in the OT during the reign of Joshua to the kings. Also, Moroni waged limited offensive war to clear the Lamanites out of their positions in the wilderness near Nephite lands.
    Now, I do not know if this limited offensive war is the best scriptural comparison to Iraq, but there is some justification for aggressive war even in the Book of Mormon. Also, the beginnings of the war in Iraq seem to meet Pres. Kimball’s justification criteria.

  16. Ron M
    July 1, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    #15.
    Joshua and the Kings in the OT were brutal murderers who took the Lord’s name in vain and said “God told us to kill every man, woman and child in Jericho” for example except for the nice prostitutes that gave our men intel and comfort. Total nonsense. IT is the historical narratives/ oral traditions and nationalism that the prophets later condemned for which it would get you exiled, thrown in the ditch or as Isaiah learned sawn in half.
    Moroni is not Christ. The BOM is lesson as to HOW NOT TO HANDLE ONE”S ENEMIES (except when Christ was here)–otherwise, the ending is apocalypse. The BOM starts off with a murder that Nephi sought to rationalize, he then takes the sword as symbol of power, replicates it and in the end those swords lead to extinction. Captain Moroni is a vast improvement over our present approach to war in our faith, but he is not Christ and he chose the lesser law—honorable but does not solve the problem but only delays it—loving one’s enemies unto death as Christ taught us is the end the ONLY WAY that breaks the cycle. But we really do not believe that do we?

  17. July 2, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Dan, go back and read the entire talk again. It is much more nuanced than you think. I’ve been involved in a number of discussions of the talk, and the quotes I excerpted from it capture much of it, and the way many people heard it.

    Myself, I vote against those who endorse taking the battle to the enemy. I see the war as one of the things that allowed the banking crisis to develop and as an event that may very well cost two to three trillion dollars and that probably is the end of American hegemony.

    We will long look back at the war (and the related spending and mistakes — such as Rumsfeld sacking an analyst who had a two billion dollar budget for a portion of the post invasion costs with the comment that the entire operation would not net a cost of two billion dollars) as a terrible event.

    Allysa Peterson’s case has had a good deal of positive recognition by church leaders. Makes me wonder if Sunstone will have a session on her. It is sad that they still will not allow her family her final words.

  18. Ray
    July 2, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Does it matter what our prophets and apostles or even the scriptures say? I remember when we launched the preemptive war against Iraq and how many members of my ward thought it was a wonderful thing — as long as their sons or daughtes didn’t have to go. When someone pointed out Elder Nelson’s talk, the response was, “He didn’t say we couldn’t invade Iraq.” They say the first casualty of war is truth. Maybe the second is listening to the Lord.

  19. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 7:32 am

    #17 Stephen..the Allysa Peterson case my son has wrote about and commented on in 2008 Sunstone presentation that he and I did together in 2008 re: war doctrine. Here is his essay that was published with National Religious Council Against Torture: http://www.themormonworker.org/articles/issue3/dont_torture_in_my_name.php

    But isn’t her blood on all of our hands to extent we did not raise our objection and denounce this war? I personally was involved in persuading two young men to not enlist (one was going to delay mission after serving). Another I put him in touch with someone who assists those enlisted to drop out of the military on CO status.

    #18. Ray–I appreciate your thoughts. In the end it is up to us to have personal revelation on this topic. THere is no substitute. It was the church’s PR department that issued a statement that Elder Nelson’s talk do not apply or should not be read to apply to Iraq invasion–lest we actually use DC 98 in the real world as we should have in summer of 1838 (Danites invading towns) and then in our generation.

    Good point by Stephen about bankrupting our nation. If we are going to find our place in scriptures I would suggest starting with what Isaiah calls the “hypocritical nation.” We are reaping what we have sown…and it continues today.

    Finally, the OP discusses a “theory” or guidance/direction as to war theory in our faith. We have in our canons, and some talks but still when in the actual conflicts the voices that lead us have IMO leaned heavily towards supporting the government right or wrong and from Viet Nam (my generation) they have been simply wrong. President Hinckley’s address was nuanced but IMO his conclusion was not–support your government for we are the good guys and fighting for freedom..I gave up listening to churchmen and war rhetoric since 1970, but I can’t help wonder what would have happened if Pres. Hinckley had explicitly denounced this war of aggression into Iraq? Would Allysa Peterson, young and just off her mission, have not signed up? Not assisted. I don’t know, we will never know, but she represents legions of those that trust the words of our leaders even when it is only the opinions of old men living in the 50s and raised on tribalism/nationalism. tragic.

  20. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 7:45 am

    THe only prophet(ess) in the land whose voice I heard in 2001 was a black, women, democrat, liberal–go figure. Barbara Lee got it right but she was alone

  21. Dan
    July 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

    el oso,

    Also, Moroni waged limited offensive war to clear the Lamanites out of their positions in the wilderness near Nephite lands.

    can you share those particular verses so we can see whether the Lamanites had already attacked the Nephites?

  22. Dan
    July 2, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Stephen,

    Dan, go back and read the entire talk again. It is much more nuanced than you think. I’ve been involved in a number of discussions of the talk, and the quotes I excerpted from it capture much of it, and the way many people heard it.

    You think that I have not pored over his talk since 2003? I know it practically by heart. The key to his talk is its relation to his other talk in October 2001, in which he fully endorses the endless war against our modern Gadiantons. That connection moves any attempt by him to nuance his support of the war in Iraq. What’s worse, President Hinckley never revisited publicly the war so we will never know if he did admit to being wrong about the war.

  23. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Dan, unfortunately, our church leaders did endorse and still endorse our wars of aggression. I was at Mormon Studies this spring at BYU and with the exception of Alan Keele, who was ripped into for his denunciation of our support for these wars by the moderator, the rest of the seminar/speakers had continued to drink the kool-aid. And, the LDS military man from West Point proudly showed us Elder HOlland’s recent quote direct to the LDS troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (this spring) telling them they were involved in a just war and fighting for freedom. The beat goes on. Just check out the DVD for servicemen prepared by Elder Packer. In that Elder Robert Oaks with Elder Packer even go so far as to tell us that we are fighting for freedom and just cause even as we did in Viet Nam—oh geez.
    We do have a war doctrine and IMO it is the following: “We support our government right or wrong unless God tells us otherwise.” That is a default position.
    During the crusades the Roman Catholic church needed three doctrines to justify their wars of aggression. First, they taught the Pope was “inerrant.” Then they issued (Pope Urban II) that if you engage in wars for your nation you are free from sin–it is on their head; and finally we have the penal substitution doctrine that Christ’s blood has already covered all sins you have committed and will commit in your war atrocities so your sword is already bathed in the blood of Christ…so go forth and slay the heathens. Tell me practically how that is different from our war approach as a people now?

  24. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Another point as to “nuanced” positions. You don’t get the Medal of Freedom award from President Bush in June of 2004 for being nuanced. Also, why would the Bush Administration chose BYU for Cheney to give an graduation speech a few years ago? It wasn’t because our support was generally nuanced. I had the honor of being part of the protest initiated by BYU student Ashley Sanders.
    I take no pleasure in my criticism and protest but for me this is personal in that this is not simply about having two earring, drinking coffee and looking lovingly into self-reflecting mirrors as to our personal righteousness as a people—this affects and destroys real people in real time—including tens of thousands of innocent civilians who have done nothing more then happen to live in another nation.

  25. Clark
    July 2, 2010 at 11:58 am

    RE#23 “We do have a war doctrine and IMO it is the following: ‘We support our government right or wrong unless God tells us otherwise.’

    This policy is yet another of the bitter fruits of polygamy. At the turn of the last Century, Mormon’s loyalty to the U.S. was highly questioned by population at large, given how they’d spent the last 40 years flaunting the laws of the land. So… When WWI broke out, J.F. Smith and the other apostles encouraged church leaders everywhere to show their patriotism by getting the young men to enlist. (As a young man, Hugh B. Brown spent several years doing this as his official church calling.) It apparently didn’t matter that the war was not one of self defense (for the US or Canada) but the tactic worked.

    The “right or wrong” aspect of the policy became cemented into place during WWII, when the 1st Presidency sought to assure German Saints being drafted into Hitler’s armies. So here we are, 100 years later. Looking back at Mormons and war, it seems that in every case (including the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War) the Mormon position has been based more in pragmatism than anything else.

  26. Clark
    July 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    One reason our religion’s view of war is “nuanced” is because each situation is different. Even the Prince of Peace once declared “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” (Matt 10:34)

    To paraphrase Joseph Smith, the different approaches proposed by the Old and New Testaments, as well as the BoM and D&C destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the scriptures.

  27. Thomas
    July 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Can someone please explain to me why Afghanistan, as opposed to Iraq (we’ll set that aside for now) was a “war of aggression”?

    And as an initial note: If you give me any of that crap about “9-11 was an inside job,” or “Afghanistan is all about building an oil pipeline to the Caspian,” you’re just not a serious enough person to even deal with here.

    “It apparently didn’t matter that the war was not one of self defense (for the US or Canada)”

    U-boats sinking your ships doesn’t count as aggression?

    My abiding impression of most pacifists is that they are not so much for peace, as for the other side. “Anybody but my country, right or wrong.”

  28. Hawkgrrrl
    July 2, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Wars not being “of self-defense” is tricky in the modern world, and even before then. I agree we shouldn’t go all Minority Report and quash enemies who aren’t yet aware they pose a threat, but I also don’t think we need to wait for a nuclear strike or a direct attack on our soil before we can consider it self-defense. If the war is clearly (there’s the rub) in US interests, then it may be justified. We just have to be diligent in assessing the credibility of the threat to the U.S. and to some extent to our allies.

  29. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Fair question Thomas as to why attacking Afghanistan was a war of aggression, but before downloading more than what anyone would care to have here are a few questions:

    1. Who attacked us in the 9/11 assault?

    2. Was it a nation that attacked us?

    3. Was this a police action or a nation to nation war?

    4. Have you read accounts as to proposals made by even the Taliban to assist us in hunting down Osama if we provided them with our proof? Have you read for example, Three Cups of Tea re: Greg Mortensen to give you some insight as to how most Afghanis were on our side and in fact wanted to help? that is until we started killing civilians

    5. Have you read McChyrstals comments recently where he said “I don’t know that we have killed anyone that was a threat to us” or something to that effect? I will find the quote.

    6. How many Al Queada were there in Afghanistan when we attacked? How many now? 100? 200? If we had 200 in our nation, let’s say nut jobs like McVeigh attack Russia and then the Russians started invading and bombing us to get at them, what would you say? And I am assuming that our nation first said we would help but it fell on deaf ears and the predator bombs started falling?

  30. Thomas
    July 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    When I think “war of aggression,” I think armed robbery writ large: “Nice country you have there. I’ll take it.” And that simply has no relation whatsoever to either Afghanistan or Iraq, unless you think that we’re interested in making either place the 51st state.

    Fighting your enemies only on your own home territory may make sense when you’re living in an age where the height of military technology is swords and “cimeters,” and your enemy can only harm you if he’s at most a hundred yards away. Now acts of war can be committed on the far side of the world, and directly cause the killing of thousands of your fellow citizens.

    I have no problem whatsoever treating all anti-American terrorists, and anyone who helps or harbors them, as the constructive equivalent of a hostile alliance, such that all of them — the direct participants in a particular attack, as well as those who haven’t yet been successful — are liable to countermeasures in self-defense. The distinction between “police actions” and “nation to nation wars” is a modern distinction, a relic of the Westphalian international system which is increasingly inapposite to an age where there is no effective sovereign, as traditionally understood, in much of the world, or where non-state actors, thanks to technology, can wield power it used to take a nation-state to have.

    Thus, whether the Taliban really would have handed over OBL upon presentation of sufficient “proof” of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks (I find your trust of those throat-slitters touching, in a way, but pardon me for being skeptical) is beside the point: There was absolutely no doubt that al-Qaeda was an anti-American terrorist, openly declaring itself at war with the United States. That was enough. The Taliban either came clean immediately (like Pakistan, kinda sorta), or they were part of the enemy alliance and were fair game. They chose — poorly.

  31. July 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Ah, I would agree that Afghanistan was different from Iraq. The invasion of the Soviet Union at Archangel was different from the Korean war.

    On the other hand as to “U-boats sinking your ships” the whole point was that the U-boats were sinking shipping that had military ordinance. Some very interesting things in the entire WWI story.

    Ron M, I’m off to read your essay, but if you were there at the Cheney protest, you probably met my daughter Heather.

  32. Thomas
    July 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    “the whole point was that the U-boats were sinking shipping that had military ordinance. Some very interesting things in the entire WWI story.”

    Not quite true. The U.S. entered the war upon Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. It wasn’t just ships carrying military ordnance that were attacked; it was all shipping bound for the British Isles.

  33. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Thomas,

    I find your reference to Taliban as “throat slitters” an echo from the BOM when the Lamanites are characterized as “idolatrous, filthy, indolent, living off raw meat and trying to destroy us (Nephites) all the time” etc. etc. The “others” are always demonized collectively while our brutality is excused. It took the Sons of Mosiah and others who actually believed in Christ and were born again to deconstruct their national myths about another people. I would recommend reading “Three Cups of Tea” and maybe “Generation Kill” and read the stories and discover the humanity of our enemies.
    I have read about our attack in Fallujah, our troops in Generation Kill and our torture programs, predator drones enough to know that we have became what we deplore. It is by the “wicked that the wicked are destroyed.” What about Viet Nam and the tapes where Nixon and Kissinger are debating whether to go nuclear or just blow up dams and drown 200,000 civilians to send a message to North Vietnam. They go with the drownings. Then there is Hiroshima and Nagasaki. etc. etc. I am sure the Nephites saw themselves as the good guys all the way down to their extinction and we are invited to “be more wise” but we are not. we are tribal, self-deluded animals every whit as much as those we condemn–no I would say we are worse for we exact revenge and far more blood then what we have suffered–not making our response even just on a telestial level.

    So throat slitters? What about General McChyrstal? What would you say to this statement which I am attaching?

    Money quote (Speaking to McChrystal’s admission of killing a high number of innocents.

    Now, what would the authorities say if you or I shot “an amazing number of people who have never proven to be a threat?” Why, they would call us murderers — even mass murderers. Yet this is precisely what “the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan” has just declared, on videotape. …

    Again, just think of it, let it sink in, attend to the word of the commander: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.” Again:“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.” Again: “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”

    Again: what do you call it when innocent, unarmed, defenseless people who “have never proven to be a threat” are gunned down in cold blood? What do you call such an act?

    But such acts are not to be punished — because they are an accepted part of the process of the military domination of foreign lands. Wanton murder of the innocent? No problem, no scandal, a one-day story. “Insubordination” toward a few imperial satraps whose hands are steeped in blood? Shock, horror, wall-to-wall coverage.

  34. Thomas
    July 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I’m happy to take my chances with whatever sinfulness may be involved with calling the Taliban “throat slitters.”

    Sometimes you can be so open-minded that your brain falls out.

    Money quote (Speaking to McChrystal’s admission of killing a high number of innocents.

    Now, what would the authorities say if you or I shot “an amazing number of people who have never proven to be a threat?” Why, they would call us murderers — even mass murderers. Yet this is precisely what “the senior American and NATO commander in Afghanistan” has just declared, on videotape. …

    They would only call us “murderers” if they abandoned the meaning of “murder,” which requires wrongful intent. Homicide is not murder. If American forces intentionally shot large numbers of innocents, knowing they were innocent, then yes, they would be murderers. But they didn’t, so they’re not.

    Those who would deceive, are always quick to distort language. Happy Fourth of July, pal.

  35. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Poe’s law in effect. here is my “Defense of Blackwater, Gangs and Neocons” short editorial. This is the war doctrine we in our faith endorsed when we deferred to our government—the One Percent Doctrine

    http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2008/12/13/in-defense-of-blackwater-gangs-neocons/

  36. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 7:13 pm

    #28 Hawkgrrl,

    Are you suggesting that if we find that someone is a credible threat, let’s say Iran, then we are justified and pre-emptively attacking on the basis of self-defense? Where is the theological, scriptural, moral basis in the words of Christ for that position? One can call it practical, wise, and common sense (I wouldn’t) but can one call it Christian?
    This is the basis for the Bush Doctrine or the One Percent Rule, ie, if there is even verifiable one percent chance that someone will harm us in a catastrophic way then we can attack first pre-emptively? If not one percent, what percent of chance is enough? Who decides? And is Iran justified in subjectively determining the threat from us or Israel and strike first?
    Policies based on fear and pre-emption is what the Apocalypse is all about IMO.
    The apocalypse is not divine will but human inevitability, and I am convinced that it will be the religious fundamentalist (Christian and Islamic) that will make sure it happens…”here is the patience of the saints, he that taketh up the sword shall perish by the sword”
    To pre-emptively kill another out of fear for one’s or one’s nation’s well-being is IMO denunciation of our Christianity

  37. Thomas
    July 2, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    By the way, Ron, that description of the Lamanites is Enos’s. If you want to stack your ability to make righteous judgements up against his, have at it. That condemnation of the “other” is often unrighteously tribalistic, does not mean it always is.

    I think Enos had the Lamanites’ number perfectly: They were bloodthirsty savages. As it happened, the later Nephites fell into some of the more uniquely civilized vices, with the result that they ironically became as savage as the genuine article. The same thing happened last century, when some of the best civilized intellects undertook to rationalize backsliding into the Dark Ages, “made more sinister…by the lights of perverted science.” (Some of those advocates for barbarism — those whose ideology never had a world war decided against it — are still advocating, though often under different names.) It always starts this way: The healthy recognition of our own faults, leads to the fallacy that we, being flawed, are estopped from remarking on the far worse evils of others; soon enough, we lose the capacity to tell real evil from a pale shadow of it. We strain at an Israel and swallow a China or an Iran.

  38. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Enjoy the sparring, but I suspect that we both come from a different world of readings, personal experience and even approach to the BOM. Enos like President Hinckley are both probably wonderful, nice, clean living spiritual men–but they both have been bred on a narrative. I read the BOM I suspect differently. In fact I am confident we do.
    I suspect we have not read the same accounts of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Hamas is criminal but so is Israel—more so in my opinion, but I am sure you would disagree. I side with the Israeli Peace advocates that are calling on Israel to quit oppressing and murdering the Palestinians in an assortment of ways.

    Anyway, the opening post is about our “war doctrine” or war model? What is yours? Where is the scriptural basis? Is it Mormon 7:4 which I endorse? Is it the opposite default position where we fight unless commanded otherwise? Is it DC 98, and if so how does that apply now? Is it just war?

    We could exchange dozens of atrocities by both sides of each conflict and I am not defending Hamas, terrorists, Iran–none that you might call your enemies. I am saying that we are as they are when we engage in the same acts and damnit we have big time and the evidence is there overwhelming is we are willing to look at it. We are as they are and we are as clueless as they are if we can’t see it

  39. Ron M
    July 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Israel?

    What would I do if I were Prime Minister? Here is the doctrine we are invited to follow IMO—without all the bloody details of all the atrocities back and forth…as well as twisted history on both sides. I would suggest this is or should be our doctrine/model:

    http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/what-would-you-do-if-you-were-the-israeli-pm/

  40. July 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    The U.S. entered the war upon Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. Yes, but the key incident had to do with military ordinance. A staged provocation.

  41. Dan
    July 3, 2010 at 4:58 am

    Thomas,

    That condemnation of the “other” is often unrighteously tribalistic, does not mean it always is.

    The examples from the Book of Mormon are very tribalistic. Think about the description that Enos gives of the Lamanites, and then compare with how the Lamanites have been blessed by God in not only outbreeding the Nephites, but constantly being ahead of the Nephites in living off the land and in domination. Is Enos really describing the Lamanites dispassionately, or doesn’t he really just go into a tribalistic attack against the “other?”

    Compare, for instance, when you get individuals who are NOT tribalistic: Ammon and his brethren. They don’t see the Lamanites in this tribalistic way even though the rest of the Nephites around them ridicule them for how they see the Lamanites. When Ammon and his brethren go to the Lamanites, they find a rather peaceful uneducated group of people who simply live a daily life. Was that an aberration? Or was that actually the norm among the Lamanites? Sure, they had an inherent hatred of the Nephites due to their fathers’ teachings, but were they really what the Nephites described them as? I don’t think so.

  42. SUNNofaB.C.Rich
    July 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    #39 that’s ridiculous.

  43. Ron M
    July 5, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    #42. Yes it is totally ridiculous. I agree. Applied Christianity–real Christianity as Jesus exemplified is radical and ridiculous. So for thousands of years of Israel’s history they have done it their way and still the conflict remains. Why is that?

  44. July 5, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    I should note that my brother derailed his military career in his approach to torture, which he feels should never be an option. His thoughts are much deeper and more nuanced than mine.

  45. Ron M
    July 5, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Stephen,

    Your daughter protesting Cheney and your brother protesting torture. This is what I call IMO accepting the cross of the world…thank you for this post and I confess that this is a very personal topic for me and I have a tendency to download a lot when it comes up….but I wonder when we will take seriously the words of Christ we have been given on this topic and apply them in real time? The words are radical and demanding to apply, but easy on the mind and conscience in that the mental gymnastics ends IMO. thanks

  46. army
    July 6, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Sorry guys, but the 9/11 attack was not the real reason for the Afghan war.

    If you hadn’t already noticed, the USA had considerable interest in the area in the 1980s, when they were fighting the Soviets.

    In more recent times, the USA was discussing invading Afghanistan, along with several other countries in Berlin a FULL NINE months before the September 11 attacks.

  47. Thomas
    July 6, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Stephen, if you’re thinking about the Lusitania sinking (1915), that wasn’t the event that got America into the war (1917).

    Ron M, re: Mormon 7:4, (1) it is directed to the Lamanites, not generally; and (2) see Alma 43:47 (“And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed”). So the command in Mormon 7:4 to “take [weapons] not again, save it be that God shall command you” contemplates taking arms in self-defense, because God has already commanded it..

    “Is Enos really describing the Lamanites dispassionately, or doesn’t he really just go into a tribalistic attack against the “other?””

    If Enos’s description of the Lamanites is an unrighteous lie, then why not any other statement in the Book of Mormon? So much for “the most correct book.”

    “I suspect we have not read the same accounts of the Israel/Palestinian conflict.”

    I’m fairly confident that we have. We may differ in the credence we give particular accounts, because you have a leftist narrative, and I don’t. Also, I have a hang-up about the concept of intent, which is doubtless the fault of my education. It leads me to distinguish between intentional killing and unintentional, and to decline to call the latter “murder.”

    Liberals have worshipped at the shrine of the noble savage going all the way back through Rousseau to Tacitus. Israel is perceived as the more Westernized, pro-American party in the Israel-Arab conflict; therefore, it must be wrong, full stop.

  48. July 6, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Thomas:

    Ah! The perfect word. It isn’t just the liberals who worshipped the noble savage. It’s the romantics. The doomed lovers who think that their sought lovers will surely requite their love if only they just try harder. No matter how many suicide bombers or predator strikes occur, our romanticism will yet triumph.

    Loving your enemies can only be redemptive for the relationship if you don’t see it through indelibly-rosy glasses. The threads about John and Cary and about “Who Will Be the Next Victim”, about disasterous personal relationships, ought to make that point clearly apart from political contexts.

  49. Thomas
    July 6, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    “It isn’t just the liberals who worshipped the noble savage. It’s the romantics.”

    There is, to be sure, a fair amount of overlap between those tribes…;)

  50. Dan
    July 7, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Thomas,

    If Enos’s description of the Lamanites is an unrighteous lie, then why not any other statement in the Book of Mormon? So much for “the most correct book.”

    Those are two wholly different things. The Book of Mormon can still be the “most correct book” and have one of its political/religious leader be a bigot. After all, we ourselves had a bigoted/racist prophet. Surely Enos could be one too. Both Joseph Smith and Mormon had no reason to add any editor’s note indicating that Enos’ description of the Lamanites was tribalistic and not accurate of how the Lamanites actually were. Enos’s description is not a lie. It’s how he really feels. It’s tribalistic however. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I really don’t care that Enos is tribalistic and that his description of the Lamanites is strongly biased. It’s how it happened to be. I’m glad some of the later Nephites (like Ammon and his brethren) decided to see the Lamanites in a better light. This does not take away from who Enos was much like Brigham Young’s overt racism doesn’t diminish who he was.

  51. Dan
    July 7, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Thomas,

    Liberals have worshipped at the shrine of the noble savage going all the way back through Rousseau to Tacitus.

    Hmmm, then why don’t we love American conservatives? Oh yeah, they’re not noble. ;)

  52. Thomas
    July 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Dan, we’ll have to disagree. I think you have to “wrest” the Book of Mormon rather severely to take the interpretation that the description by its authors — including the righteous ones — of the Lamanites, at various points in their history, as murderous savages, was inaccurate. The message I take from the Book of Mormon’s warnings to the Nephites is not so much that the savage Lamanites weren’t genuinely bad dudes (because of the “traditions of their fathers”), but rather that the Nephites, during their wicked periods, ought not to boast of their avoiding the particular savage sins of the Lamanites, because they were committing their whole own catalog of “civilized” sins.

    I don’t see a distinction between Enos’s conception of the Lamanites, and Ammon’s. Enos, after all, despite describing the Lamanites as bloodthirsty savages, prayed for them, and sought to restore them to the truth (as Ammon later did, with greater success among some of them, many of whom were promptly massacred by the Lamanite majority who stayed savage.)

    I do not believe that it is necessary, in seeking to correct the wrongs of my own culture, to downplay the evil found in other societies. That America had Jim Crow, did not estop it from confronting Nazism. This should be obvious — and yet the American New Left’s knee-jerk response to critiques, from within America, of tyranny abroad is invariably “But we have so many flaws ourselves!” And therefore – what?

    blockquoteBoth Joseph Smith and Mormon had no reason to add any editor’s note indicating that Enos’ description of the Lamanites was tribalistic and not accurate of how the Lamanites actually were.

    If the publisher of the Federalist Papers can add an editor’s note cautioning about politically incorrect language in those eighteenth-century works, then God could by george have added an editor’s note making it clear that we’re not supposed to take the Book of Mormon at its word about the Lamanites’ habits.

    It is simply, objectively true that primitive peoples have far higher rates of violence and other distinctly “savage” types of wickedness, than civilized tribes. Of course the civilized tribes have their own problems — dishonesty, inequality (in hardscrabble primitive societies, everybody’s equally miserable, which is supposedly more righteous than a society where, whereas nobody starves, some people are richer than others), and so forth. This is why Tacitus compared the honest and brave (if hairy) German barbarians, to the supposedly deceitful and indolent Romans.

  53. Thomas
    July 7, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    #51 — I’m glad you used that phrase “American conservatives.” Because one thing American liberals can never quite get through their heads, is the fact that what American conservatives want to conserve — the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment — is fundamentally different from what European conservatives, of the de Maistre stripe, aimed to conserve. European conservatism aimed to conserve fundamentally authoritarian and provincial ideals — monarchy, Papal authority, tradition, and blood-and-soil nationalism. There is some of that in the paleoconservative wing of American conservatism, but that wing has been more or less in eclipse since at least the 1940s. The mainstream of American conservatism is informed far more by classical liberalism — personal and economic liberty, constitutionally limited government, the rule of law, and so forth. We’re all about 1776 and 1787.

    American leftists, on the other hand, are all about 1848 and the 1870s. Their intellectual pedigree goes back, ultimately, to European leftists (and their Hegel-besotted American admirers), who were reacting against the (illiberal) conservatism of Europe. The “progressive” creed, going back to Croly and Wilson (and I was saying this long before Glenn Beck joined the party), is that the principles of the American founding, and the Constitution as it is written, are outmoded in a modern industrial society, and so need to be replaced with a new, group- and state-oriented social compact (That we are now in a post-modern society, where technology is re-opening opportunities for individual initiative, doesn’t phase the “forward to the 19-teens” crowd at all.)

    This is one reason American conservatives and American leftists so often talk past each other.

  54. Dan
    July 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Thomas,

    You missed my jibe at American conservatives, apparently. You said that liberals worship the “noble savage.” I quipped then why liberals don’t worship American conservatives… because they’re not noble. :)

    As for Enos, once again, we’re agreeing on the fact that Enos “cared” for the Lamanites, and wasn’t that different from Ammon. The difference is that Enos thought himself better and described himself the better of the two (tribalistic) and Ammon saw the Lamanites as his equals (non-tribalistic).

    (as Ammon later did, with greater success among some of them, many of whom were promptly massacred by the Lamanite majority who stayed savage.)

    It should be noted that that savageness was fueled by aberrant Nephites. Noble savages indeed.

    If the publisher of the Federalist Papers can add an editor’s note cautioning about politically incorrect language in those eighteenth-century works, then God could by george have added an editor’s note making it clear that we’re not supposed to take the Book of Mormon at its word about the Lamanites’ habits.

    What is and what should have been… two different things. Talk to God about why he didn’t tell Mormon and Joseph Smith to add an editor’s note. But yeah, we’re really not going to get a clear picture from Enos’s description of the Lamanites. It’s a tribalistic description. Verse 20 is the verse in question. Read it here and tell me if you don’t immediately think of the stereotypical American Indian:

    20 And I bear record that the people of Nephi did seek diligently to restore the Lamanites unto the true faith in God. But our labors were vain; their hatred was fixed, and they were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven; and their skill was in the bow, and in the cimeter, and the ax. And many of them did eat nothing save it was raw meat; and they were continually seeking to destroy us.

    What would Enos say of the Native Americans of the Great Plains, I wonder…I think he would describe them exactly as this. Nothing wrong with feeding on beasts of prey. Nothing wrong with dwelling in tents (hell, Enos’s own forbearers dwelt in freaking tents for crying out loud!). Nothing wrong with eating raw meat, nor with skills in the bow, cimeter, or ax. Describing those conditions as he does is tribalistic, Thomas. And filthiness? Very tribalistic word. Used quite often by modern racists. I don’t know why you have a problem with this. I don’t. I don’t expect Book of Mormon prophets or writers to be learned enough in social science or anthropology to accurately describe things from a non-slanted point of view. I expect that from them. They didn’t know better.

  55. Thomas
    July 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    “What would Enos say of the Native Americans of the Great Plains, I wonder…I think he would describe them exactly as this.”

    And he would have been substantially accurate in his description.

    I don’t give a flying rip whether unflattering descriptions of savage tribes are “tribalistic” or “used quite often by modern racists.” I care about whether they are true. And the inconvenient truth is that many Native American customs were objectively quite nasty indeed. Sometimes — as at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee — the whites gave as good as they got, to their dishonor. (They were civilized; where much is given, much is required, and just because the Indians are raping, kidnapping and scalping their way across the frontier — which they indisputably did, no matter how much political correctness would like to ignroe it — doesn’t justify a civilized man in reverting to barbarism.) But the ugly truth is that for-real genocide was and is the standard way of war for primitive peoples, including the Indians. The distinction between combatants and civilians (i.e., it’s OK to intentionally kill the former, but not the latter) is a modern innovation, which Europeans themselves were only a couple of centuries removed from. I doubt my sixteenth-great grandfather Soule, or my wife’s Hampton ancestors (all massacred by Indians) would have disagreed with Enos’s characterization. Trust me, when it came to their anti-immigrant methods, the Indians were no pansies.

    Read it here and tell me if you don’t immediately think of the stereotypical American Indian…”

    That sounds to me like an argument for the Book of Mormon being a nineteenth-century document, drawing on then-contemporary imagery about American Indians, as opposed to a record by ancient American authors. Which I believe is a perfectly acceptable way to view the Book of Mormon, but something that follows from that is, that if its descriptions of the Indians are cultural artifacts and not the divine word, then the “pacifist” passages may well be too — and I am free to pick and choose among those words, just as you are free to reject Enos’s take on the Lamanites.

    Re the “gibe” — yes, I got it, ho ho ho. Except that only one of us is trying to say savages aren’t really savage.

  56. Dan
    July 7, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Thomas,

    I don’t give a flying rip whether unflattering descriptions of savage tribes are “tribalistic” or “used quite often by modern racists.” I care about whether they are true.

    True, or factual? You may believe something to be true, but that doesn’t make it factually true. And that’s my point. I have no problem with Enos being tribalistic. It’s the environment in which he lived. Describing today’s Native Americans as filthy, idolatrous, living on raw meat, living in tents, skilled with bows—the whole point of that kind of description, accurate or not, is the denigration of the other for not doing things as you do, or as your people do. It’s tribalistic. It’s ethno-nationalism. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not necessarily a fair description of the Lamanites, as I’m sure a learned Lamanite might have strong exceptions to describing his people that way, much as Americans have strong exceptions to others describing us the wrong way, or in a derogatory way.

    I doubt my sixteenth-great grandfather Soule, or my wife’s Hampton ancestors (all massacred by Indians) would have disagreed with Enos’s characterization. Trust me, when it came to their anti-immigrant methods, the Indians were no pansies.

    yeah, their view was totally dispassionate. No anger to color their perception. None at all. /sarcasm

    Which I believe is a perfectly acceptable way to view the Book of Mormon, but something that follows from that is, that if its descriptions of the Indians are cultural artifacts and not the divine word, then the “pacifist” passages may well be too — and I am free to pick and choose among those words, just as you are free to reject Enos’s take on the Lamanites.

    I don’t get why you think I may argue that the Book of Mormon is not divine in nature. I honestly don’t get that. The BoM certainly has 19th century properties, but that’s because a 19th century prophet translated the book. It’s a beautiful mixture of an ancient prophet and a modern prophet. Enos’s description of the Lamanites, in my view, is tribalistic, much as your description of the Native Americans is tribalistic. Don’t think tribalism is necessarily bad, because I get the feeling your defense here is possibly because you feel offended at being called tribalistic. There’s nothing wrong with tribalism. Patriotism is an aspect of tribalism. Nationalism is an aspect of tribalism.

    RE the jibe, no, one of us is arguing that there are noble savages and ignoble savages. :)

  57. Dan
    July 7, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Let me just make this a bit clearer. Mormons (and many other Christians) used to think blacks were cursed with Cain’s curse. Was that true? What did blacks think of that? And of course, what was actual reality? When it comes to the Lamanites, we will never have their side of the story. Our version will forever be biased because our only record comes from the Nephites.

  58. Thomas
    July 7, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    “True, or factual? You may believe something to be true, but that doesn’t make it factually true.”

    Your Jedi mind tricks — I mean, dime-store postmodernism — will not work on me.

    The best evidence available to me convinces me that Thomas Jefferson’s description of the traditional Indian way of warfare (“undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions”) was not too far off. It would only be slightly less offensive, to deny that Indian massacres occurred, as it would be to deny that the Nazis massacred Jews. The evidence is that compelling.

    yeah, their view was totally dispassionate. No anger to color their perception. None at all. /sarcasm

    Savage is as savage does. My and my wife’s ancestors had the opportunity to be personal (if short-lived) witnesses to particular instances of Indians behaving like savages. Whether anger is coloring one’s perception is somewhat academic, when your perception is “hey, there’s a big bare-chested painted guy hitting me with a tomahawk.” Any inaccuracy introduced by personal bias is in the nature of a rounding error.

    I’m not offended at being called “tribalistic.” It’s true. “Breathes there the man with soul so dead,” etc. I’m more concerned with the implication that because something is classified as “tribalistic,” it’s therefore inherently. You’ll recall that this particular discussion started with me referring to al-Qaeda as a savage bunch of throat-slitters. This is a case where my primitive tribalistic appraisal of the Other happens to be bang-on accurate — in point of fact, rather more accurate than the self-consciously non-tribal, who are temperamentally incapable of calling a savage a savage, especially when said savage can be located within some oppressed group, in which case he’s a “freedom fighter.”

    Mormons (and many other Christians) used to think blacks were cursed with Cain’s curse. Was that true?

    Nope. Wasn’t canonized in Scripture, either. Scripture’s supposed to be more reliable than run-of-the-mill McConkie/Fielding Smith folklore; otherwise, what’s the point of treating Scripture with any more respect than we treat secular history or philosophy?

  59. Thomas
    July 7, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I should add that the only difference between savage cultures and civilized cultures is generally time. The early American colonists who objected to the Indians’ “uncivilized” tendency not to distinguish between civilians and soldiers when making war, were only a few generations removed from their ancestors who didn’t recognize that distinction, either. My medieval European ancestors’ torture techniques — morality being one of the areas, like medicine, where Western civilization tended to lag in advancing out of barbarism — were second to nothing the Indians, in all their ingenuity, could devise.

    In short, there is nothing inherently “Indian” or “European” about savagery or civilization. The Europeans just hit critical mass first, which led them down a different flowchart, which led them to beat the Indians by a few centuries to the point where hey, maybe killing your enemies man, woman and child is just a wee bit more extreme than it needs to be. And even then, they tended to backslide (especially when facing enemies who still played by the old rules), or when “progress” seemed to stall out, leading way too many of the best civilized intellectuals to romanticize a more virile, just or authentic primitive past. (See, e.g., the Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, both of whom enjoyed the support of some of the most prominent Continental public intellectuals; see also the inexplicable support for political Islam by some leftist intellectuals.)

    The bottom line is that civilization is a good thing. Work on refining away civilization’s own particular brands of wickedness (sexual immorality and economic corruption being two biggies), but for God’s sake don’t turn a blind eye to genuine barbarism; it’s too easy to fall back into it if you disable yourself from recognizing it.

  60. Dan
    July 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    ah yes, because lofting a bullet from yards away that tears flesh apart is not savage. Nor is dropping bombs from 30,000 feet. Not savage. Or hell, nuclear weapons on civilian targets. Not savage. Please, Thomas, don’t give me none of that “we’ve grown out of our savage ways” crap.

    yeah, not savage…

  61. Thomas
    July 7, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    Dan, by your logic, we should have punished Adlai Stevenson (who once accidentally shot a classmate to death) or Laura Bush, the same way we punish someone who commits cold-blooded murder. Because intent doesn’t matter.

    And no, shooting or bombing someone who is seeking to kill others, is not savage. Killing an innocent for the sheer Old Testament pagan joy of it, or as a political statement, is savage.

    You are declaring that there is no difference between “just war” — a war fought to avoid a greater evil than the war entails, with no more force than is necessary to accomplish its object — and old-school, no-holds-barred, kill-everyone warfare. Be careful where you go with that logic. If the choice is between strict pacifism and pagan war, with none of those “crap” efforts to walk a middle way, mitigating the horror of war as much as possible — which extreme do you think will most likely come to pass?

    As awful as the 20th century was in sheer numbers of dead, if the century’s wars had been fought out like the wars of savage tribes, there would have been billions dead, not millions. (See http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/pinker07/pinker07_index.html.)

    I get this over and over from leftists: “If the Palestianians only had tanks and F-16s, they wouldn’t have to send suicide bombers into Sbarro or bar mitzvahs.” It’s not the “how,” it’s the “who.” If you are intentionally trying to kill noncombatants, you’re a savage. And yes, the city-busting of World War II crossed the line back into barbarism; the only remotely mitigating factor was that the Allies’ enemies had set the Dark Age stage.

    Yes, we have largely grown out of our savage ways. Thank God.

  62. Dan
    July 8, 2010 at 4:25 am

    No Thomas, we have not. The war in Iraq was an aggressive war by the United States, thus any of our actions there were illegal, thus any killings we did there were not sanctioned, and thus it was all savage murder, the innocent and the guilty alike. A just war is a defensive war, not an aggressive war. I know the difference. I chose a video that showed the war in Iraq: a savage war of aggression where a mighty force takes on a vastly weaker opponent, because, as one esteemed foreign policy expert put it: because we could.

    Just embrace your savage ways, Thomas. You’re no different than the savage Indian before you. You’ve not outgrown anything. You’re fine with dropping nuclear bombs on civilian targets. You’re fine with carpet bombing a whole nation: Vietnam. Embrace the savage nature of your civilization, Thomas. It’s who you are.

  63. Thomas
    July 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Make excuses for real savages if you must, Dan.

    I must say, if I thought the United State were remotely like you say you think it is, I would not satisfy myself with tapping out flaccid little blog comments. There is something unseemly about collecting civilization’s benefits, and pretending civilization is no better than savagery. If the United States is doing the functional equivalent of what the Nazis did in 1939, then you have no excuse not to be out on the barricades.

    Also, there is something fundamentally unserious about resting your attitude towards a complicated conflict apparently on a Rolling Stone poser’s carefully-framed observations that American troops in Iraq (a) listen to heavy metal music; and (b) talk tough.

  64. Dan
    July 8, 2010 at 11:33 am

    you think I’m making excuses for anyone? You think criticizing America’s savagery excuses anyone else’s savagery? Those terrorists hiding in Pakistani caves don’t represent me and don’t speak for me. The American military and American political leaders do. My prophet speaks for me. If they say wrong things, I am within my rights to criticize wrongful thinking, because they represent me, as an American. It is you, Thomas, who are making excuses for American savagery. Embrace it, dude. Americans are savage.

    There is something unseemly about collecting civilization’s benefits, and pretending civilization is no better than savagery

    That’s because our civilization IS savage.

    If the United States is doing the functional equivalent of what the Nazis did in 1939, then you have no excuse not to be out on the barricades.

    Who compared America to Nazis? I certainly didn’t. Many nations have started aggressive wars, not just Nazi Germany. It might be wise for you to consider other comparable examples.

    Also, there is something fundamentally unserious about resting your attitude towards a complicated conflict apparently on a Rolling Stone poser’s carefully-framed observations that American troops in Iraq (a) listen to heavy metal music; and (b) talk tough.

    This is a PG rated blog (though maybe PG-13 at times). I really didn’t want to link to highly graphic video of American soldiers tearing up Iraqi bodies with their guns from helicopters above and then cheering over that death. That’s pretty freaking savage, if you ask me. Not even the Lamanites were as savage as today’s American soldiers.

  65. Clark
    July 8, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Hmm.. Godwin’s Law is proven correct once again… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

  66. July 8, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Dan:

    …”Not even the Lamanites were as savage as today’s American soldiers.”

    Well, that provides moral clarity to your ultimate position.

  67. Thomas
    July 8, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Those terrorists hiding in Pakistani caves don’t represent me and don’t speak for me.

    And yet you self-righteously accuse people of “tribalism” who correctly call those guys the undisputed cutthroats they are. Again — why do you feel compelled to make excuses for those people?

    Many nations have started aggressive wars, not just Nazi Germany. It might be wise for you to consider other comparable examples

    Why would it be “wise”? 1939 Germany is recent history’s Exhibit A for aggressive war. Why should we use a more obscure example — say, Iraq’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait, the collective-security response to which the 2003 war was a continuation of? You think the United States is engaged in aggressive war in Iraq. Is it functionally different from Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939? If not, why not, and if so, why is it not accurate to state that you believe that the United States is doing exactly what Germany did in ’39?

    Not even the Lamanites were as savage as today’s American soldiers.

    Compare:

    And now I write somewhat concerning the sufferings of this people. For according to the knowledge which I have received from Amoron, behold, the Lamanites have many prisoners, which they took from the tower of Sherrizah; and there were men, women, and children. And the husbands and fathers of those women and children they have slain; and they feed the women upon the flesh of their husbands, and the children upon the flesh of their fathers; and no water, save a little, do they give unto them.

    This is indeed a PG-rated blog, so my short Anglo-Saxon opinion of your cheap slander goes unsaid.

  68. Dan
    July 8, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Thomas,

    I can’t say it any clearer. I make excuses for no one.

    The reason you don’t use Germany is because you can so easily fall prey then to Goodwin’s Law, as was nicely put by Clark. However, if you want America to be compared to Nazi Germany, by all means, go for it. It’s not my comparison.

    As for the rest, I will end the pissing contest now as to the savagery of America vs that of the Lamanites. Not because I don’t have more examples, but because it’s not a worthwhile venture.

  69. Thomas
    July 8, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    “…but because it’s not a worthwhile venture.”

    I could not possibly agree more.

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