Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What Is The Age Of Accountability For A Latter-Day Saint Serviceman?


All those in favor of clarification, please make manifest; all those opposed, by the same sign.

I seem to have engendered some controversy in my entry here of November 12th regarding what I meant when I warned potential military recruits that God would hold them accountable for every last person they killed, regardless of whether they were wearing a government issued uniform at the time or not.

A handful of readers accused me of judging all soldiers to be murderers and condemning them all to hell.

Which I did not do. They might want to read that piece again. And it's companion piece.

It may also be helpful to review what I meant by my use of the word “Accountable”. But first let me remind those readers that my words were given as a warning to any young person today who might have been contemplating signing up with a branch of the military in hopes of jumping into the fray over in Afghanistan or Iraq. My warning was that the military as presently constituted could not be trusted to respect the moral imperatives of Christ or of His followers.

The qualifier was "as presently constituted”. Surely anyone with eyes to see or ears to hear is aware that for at least the past six years our government has made a serious departure from its founding principles. Leaders of both major parties have shifted their focus from a Constitutional Republic to a global empire. I don’t see how any young follower of Christ would want to consciously participate in that palpable derailment.

So I maintain my position that anyone foolish enough to ignore reality when the truth of the fraud perpetrated on his country is so readily available will most likely find himself without excuse at the bar of judgment.

Nevertheless, there are certainly those prior to this time who, whether through misguided patriotic fervor or merely a desire to obtain a free college education, have found themselves at the butt end of a rifle and forced to kill someone he was taught was his mortal enemy.

Is not such a person still accountable? That is, is he never to be required to face up to his actions and “account” for whether what he did was right or wrong, avoidable or not avoidable, accidental or deliberate?

I would suggest that even an American engaged in our long ago secession from England, a war that was unquestionably justified as defensive, would still be held to account for his actions, if only to himself. Because to “account” for one’s actions means to be answerable for them. Accountability means facing up to yourself. It does not necessarily imply guilt. It means to explain, to justify, to take stock of the thing from every angle.

All of us will have the opportunity -and I do mean opportunity- to face up to the things we did here on earth. Were our actions defensible? Were they avoidable? Did we have a choice? Could we have known better? Did we have the opportunity to educate ourselves into knowing better?

We Latter-day Saints declare an eight year old child capable of knowing right from wrong, but many in the church would hold our soldiers somehow excused from introspection.


The Mechanics of Accountability

I don’t claim to understand precisely the process God uses in bringing us to account, or if he even involves himself in it. It would appear from many of the accounts I've read of near death experiences that perhaps God leaves this confrontation to the individuals involved.

Some who have experienced death and returned report coming face to face with the very people they had killed in war on earth, and being forced to account for the harm they had done, whether justly or unjustly.

Invariably they recall it to be a remarkably cathartic experience which afforded an opportunity for reconciliation in an atmosphere of perfect love.

As a teenager I read a science fiction novella by Damon Knight entitled Rule Golden wherein suddenly everyone on earth at the same time immediately experienced the consequences of their actions. If you punched someone hard in the face, you would instantly feel as if someone had punched you hard in the face. If you stabbed someone in the stomach, you yourself would double up in excruciating pain and even possibly bleed to death on the spot. That story illustrated immediate accountability, which of course rarely occurs during our lifetime.

I’ve seen countless videos on YouTube featuring veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who have faced accountability already in this life. They acknowledge they had been duped and had caused needless harm to people they later learned were no threat to America.

It seems to me that facing accountability like that during this lifetime may be the better way to go. Although painful to endure in the short term, one can get through the anguish and then move on, finding peace and knowing the joy God wants us to experience while here.

I have followed these links for hours at a time and been brought to tears by the stories of these good men. But it is the beginning of a future life of joy for them, so their accountability is certainly worth it. You can see some of these confessions and admissions by clicking here, here, here, and here.

And Please. Don't embarrass yourself by writing in insisting that God honors the modern soldier until you've watched at least some of these honorable testimonies. There are thousands of them out there, and they are heartbreaking.


Becoming Accountable

Although we don’t know the particulars, my personal feeling is that accountability is reached by not only confronting one’s self, but also by confronting those we have sinned against.

By way of illustration, I’ve spun a little tale about a soldier brought to the reality of his actions. It’s a bit derivative of Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet In Heaven, but it expresses my feelings and presents our theology in a way that I might have failed to convey previously. Here it is:

The time is some sixty years in the future.

After a long and happy life, an old man, a former sergeant in the marine corps, finally died and went to heaven.

To his surprise and delight, he found his body completely restored to the way it had been when he was in his twenties, fit and strong. And he was wearing, of all things, his dress blue uniform, the one from his days in the corps. It was sharply creased and starched with a perfection he had never seen before. He had never before given those shoes a spit-shine that glistened the way they did now. As he looked down at the hard-earned bars and medals pinned to his chest, he felt again that glow he once knew when he proudly wore that uniform those many years ago.

To the soldier’s further surprise, he wasn’t immediately met by the Lord or even greeted by any long lost relatives as he had expected.

In fact, the first person he came across was a girl with straight black hair and pure brown eyes sitting alone in a large, palatial room. She was on the floor on what looked to be a large round pillow or cushion of some kind. It appeared to the soldier that she sat with her legs tucked under her, as they weren’t visible beneath the long white robe that settled around her and draped over the sides of the cushion.

When the soldier came near, the girl smiled a friendly greeting. The soldier sensed there was something familiar about her, and suddenly it came to him.

“Hey, I know you! I remember you from the pre-existence!”

“That’s right,” she replied., “You and I were friends back then. We fought together during the war in heaven.”

“Yeah, now I remember! How’s it going?”

The girl smiled, just a little. “Did you have a nice life?” she asked.

“Amazing life. 87 years! Wonderful wife, five kids, so many grandkids and great-grandkids I couldn’t remember who belonged to who. Take it all around, I’d have to say it was a great time.”

He looked at the girl, this old friend of his. “How about you?”

“Me?” She shook her head. “I never married. I do kind of wish I could have known what it was like, though, waking up in the morning next to a loving husband, stuff like that. I don’t mind admitting I would have liked to have known what it felt like to make love. Wish I knew what it was like to have a baby, too.” She shrugged. “But I missed all that”.

“Gee, that’s too bad. What happened?”

“I died.”

“You died? How?”

“Iraq.”

“You were in Iraq? I was in Iraq! When were you deployed?”

“I wasn’t deployed. I lived there with my family. They all died too.”

“Oh, I get it, you were an Iraqi! I helped liberate you guys!”

“She smiled sweetly. “Can’t tell you how much we appreciated that.”

“No sweat. Just glad I could be a part of the mission. So, how old are you, anyway?”

“I was fifteen when I died.”

“Gee, that’s tough. Anything I can do?”

“Well, you could apologize.”

“Apologize? For what?”

“You killed me.”

She said it so simply and in such a matter-of-fact way that it took him aback.

“Get outta here! I never killed any girl! I can promise you I’d remember that.”

“Well, you did. You killed my whole family. You and your friends opened fire on our car.”

“I would remember that,” he shook his head. “Wait a minute, were you in that car at the checkpoint in Baghdad that tried to plow past us?”

“We weren’t trying to plow past you,” she explained quietly. “It was noisy and chaotic at that checkpoint. My father couldn’t understand what you people wanted. He got flustered and thought he was putting his foot on the brake when he accidentally hit the accelerator instead. The car lurched forward for an instant. Just an instant, but that was all it took. You guys panicked and tore the car apart with your automatic gunfire”.

“Yeah, I remember. A guy, his wife, and a couple of kids in the backseat. A real mess. I felt terrible about that.”

“Me too.”

“Well anyway, it was an accident. Those things happen in war. Your family was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

“My family was in the right place. Baghdad was where we lived. We drove down that street all the time before you came and put your roadblocks up. You were the ones who didn’t belong there. You were the one in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She spoke calmly, without any anger in her voice. Still, something about her words made the soldier feel uneasy.

“Geez, back off a little, will ya? Sometimes stuff like that can’t be helped. It’s called collateral damage.”

“I never heard God saying he justifies collateral damage.”

“Look, I’m sorry you got in the way, okay?”

The girl smiled politely and changed the subject. “I see they let you bring your medals. What’s that, a Purple Heart?”

“Yeah, weird, huh? I guess some things you can take with you.”

“A Purple Heart. That’s what they give soldiers when they’ve been injured in the line of duty, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I lost a foot when an I.E.D. went off while I was on patrol.”

“I feel for you. That was a long life you lived with only one foot.”

“Well, I got by. They gave me a Prosthetic.”

“I lost both my legs in that accident you caused”, the girl said simply. "You and your friends just kept shooting through the car door until my legs were sheared off at the hips”

“I said I was sorry.”

“You said you were sorry I got in the way”, she reminded him gently, “I see you have your missing foot back now, though.”

“Yeah. I feel great!” He was hoping to change the subject. “Everything’s completely restored and back the way it was. Like they say, ‘every hair of the head’, and all that.”

The girl reached down and pulled her gown up part way, to show him her own resurrected legs, he thought. But he was surprised. Where her legs should have been there was... well, there was nothing.

“I still haven’t got my own legs back,” she said a bit wistfully, “I’ll get them eventually, but I had to wait until you got here first.”

“What are you talking about? That makes no sense. Why would you have to wait for me?”

“Because you deserve the chance to account for your actions during the war. I’m here to assist you so that you can be at peace.”

The soldier was beginning to feel annoyed. “I am at peace!” he insisted, almost angrily. “Whatever it was that happened to you, also happened to a lot of other people. That’s just war. It shouldn’t matter now. What about the atonement? The blood of Christ? What about forgiveness?”

“Relax, you’re going to be fine. God forgave you decades ago. The atonement of Christ has complete application. And you’re right, what happened to me happened to a lot of people. My death was not unique."

“So what are you pushing my buttons for?”

“Because in addition to the forgiveness you automatically receive through Christ, you deserve the chance to obtain forgiveness from me personally.”

“Really.” He shifted his weight awkwardly. “Okay, fine. What do I need to do?”

“Well, during your time on earth you didn’t fully accept responsibility for your part in the war. I’m here to help you claim accountability.”

“What are you talking about? I hated that war! I got out of the marine corps just as soon as I could. And I hated being in Iraq; that place was a garbage dump and a hell hole.”

“That ‘hell hole’ was my home. And it wasn’t a garbage dump until your people bombed our water and sewage systems and turned it into one.”

“Geez, why do you keep going on about something I can’t do anything about? That was a lifetime ago.”

“Not for me.”

“What do you want from me?”

“I want you to understand. You’ve read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, haven’t you?”

“I’ve seen the movies.”

“Those ghosts didn’t appear to Scrooge just to torment him, they were there to teach him. Do you believe in eternal progression?”

“Yes.”

“So tell me, how do we progress?”

“Through learning, right?”

“Then let me help you learn about consequences. Do you want to see my purple heart?”

The girl pulled down the center of her robe a little, exposing a huge hole in the middle of her chest. The soldier could see right through her body and out her back. The sight of it caught him up short.

“There’s no heart there!”

“That’s right. You shot my heart clean out of me. I still don’t know where it went, but wherever it is, I’m sure it’s purple like yours,” she smiled.

“I don’t know why you’re doing this.”

“Then pay attention, please. You deserve to face something that you avoided facing during your life on earth. This hole in my chest was put there by you. You did this to me. It was caused by a fifty caliber bullet that you fired from your gun from atop your armored vehicle.”

Her words were making him uncomfortable, but she didn’t appear to be angry at all. There was absolutely no malice in her words; she was simply and calmly relating the truth. “Because of something you did to me, I experienced none of the sweetness of a full life as you did.”

She may not have been angry, but she was getting him upset. “I don’t have to take this from you!” he found himself shouting, “Where’s Jesus? Where’s Jesus Christ? I should have been met here by my Lord and Savior!”

“You will meet him shortly, and it will be the most sweet embrace. He loves you more than you have ever loved yourself.”

“Then what’s the hold up?” He tried to calm himself down.

“You first get to admit what you were afraid to admit to during your entire time on earth -something many people told you that you didn’t have to worry about. You get to acknowledge that right or wrong, you took innocent people off the earth before their time. No matter how it was rationalized - your fault, my fault, nobody’s fault- your actions resulted in the taking of human life. That is the truth, and it can’t be forgotten, dismissed, or wished away.”

“What are you getting at, that I did it on purpose? I didn’t start that stinking war. I was only in Iraq because it was my duty.”

“Your duty?”

“Yes, duty. I made sacrifices. I was a soldier in the service of my country.

“Sacrifice," she mused, “Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that you forced me to make a sacrifice? But never mind that. Tell me, did they pay you to be a Marine?”

“Of course.”

“Then what did you sacrifice?”

“My time. Six years of my life.”

“But you got paid for all that time, didn’t you?”

“I said I did.”

“And you also got paid for your service? And you had a lifetime of benefits, didn't you?”

“Why are you even asking me this?”

“So essentially you had a job.”

“It’s not that simple. The job I had was dangerous.”

“It certainly was dangerous to me”.

“What I did was not just any stupid little job! I wore the uniform of a United States Marine!”

“So you had a job and you got to wear a costume. Good for you.”

“Gee whiz, are you ever going to let up?”

“Just trying to help you see reality. This is heaven. We don’t deal in illusion here. I’ll tell you what you were. You were an unwitting pawn of a governmental entity that had lost sight of its true mission.”

“Then why blame me? Doesn’t the fault lie with those who sent me to war?”

“They are being held to answer, don’t worry about that. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. Now, do you remember the Marine Corps Code of Conduct?”

“I know it by heart.”

“Then recite article six for me, please.”

“Easy. ‘I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.’”

“ ‘Responsible for my actions,’” the girl repeated, “Do you really feel that you were responsible for your actions?”

“To the extent I could be, yes. I had no choice about where I was ordered to fight.”

“But you didn’t object to the fighting. You swore dedication to the principles which made your country free, did you not?”

“That’s what it says.”

“Where would you say those principles are embodied?”

“In the Constitution, I suppose.”

“And in fact, didn’t you also swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution? Did you not take that oath seriously?”

“I took it very seriously.”

“What does the Constitution say about war?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Not sure? Why not?”

“Look, I didn’t memorize the Constitution, okay?”

“Have you ever even read it?”

“I might have once or twice.”

“Remember, you’re in heaven now. No fudging.”

“Okay, so I never read the entire Constitution.”

“Did you ever read any of it?”

“So I never read any of it. So sue me.”

“I don’t wish to sue you, but I would like to understand how you can defend a document when you don’t even know what’s in it.”

“I’m sure the president read it and knew what he was doing when he ordered America into war.”

“Well that’s just it. Under your Constitution, the president does not have authority to order America into war. He can only direct the war after the people have made known to congress their desire for war, and the congress has officially declared war. The decision is not the president’s to make.

“ Well, none of that really matters. The reality is, somebody else sent me to Iraq and I had to go to war whether I agreed with it or not.”

“That’s why I’ve met you here today. Throughout your long life you never held yourself accountable for being where you were that day.”

“What day?”

“The day you took my life.”

“I had no say in the matter!”

“Did you not swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic?”

“I did.”

“Do you agree that the founders of your country placed that limitation on the president because they didn’t want any one person in government acting like a king, deciding to send the nation to war at whim?”

“I guess so.”

“And wouldn’t you say that when the president defies the Constitution and behaves like a king, that he has become a domestic enemy?”

“That’s putting it pretty harshly.”

Well, let me put it this way: did you not have an obligation, under your oath of office and under the Marine Corps Code, to defend the Constitution from usurpation?”

“I guess you could look at it that way.”

“Then why didn’t you?”

“Because I didn’t know that was in the Constitution.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“I told you, I hadn’t read it.”

“Then why did you swear to defend it?”

“Alright! I should have read it, and I should have objected to unconstitutional orders. Is that what you want me to say?”

“See? Now you’re beginning to take accountability.”

“Good. Are we done here?”

“Not quite. You’ve admitted you were lax in your duty to your country, now let’s see how accountable you were to God. You were, what on earth they called a “Mormon,” am I right?”

“That’s right.”

“A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”

“All my life”

“The true church.”

“‘The only true church on the face of the earth.’”

“And what makes that church unique is its claim to latter-day revelation, am I right?”

“Yes it does. I can bear you my testimony right now if you want.”

“I have no doubt as to your sincerity. What I want to know is why, during your time on earth, did you take so lightly those revelations?”

“I didn’t take anything lightly! I was active in the church all my life; I was a temple goer, Gospel Doctrine teacher, Elder’s Quorum President -I was even in the bishopric and stake presidencies. I’m sure you’ll find my name in the Book of Life, so why don’t you just look it up and let’s get this over with. I was completely obedient to my priesthood leaders.”

“I’m not interested in your obedience to your leaders. I’m concerned with your fealty to God.”

“Okay, test me. I followed all of the commandments.”

“Did you take seriously the Lord’s charge in Doctrine and Covenants chapter 98?”

“Jog my memory.”

“I’ll just quote a portion of verse 33: ‘This is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.’ A few verses down the Lord makes clear that this law applies to your day, and particularly to America.”

“Well, how do you know God didn’t command the president to send us to war against Iraq?”

“Well, first of all, God doesn’t reveal his will to rulers, he reveals it to prophets. And second, do you think the same God who, in verse 7, declared that anything more or less than the Constitution is evil, would then command the president to violate his oath and usurp the warmaking powers from Congress?”

“I guess it depends on the urgency of the situation.”

“Then let’s suppose God actually had commanded your country to go to war against mine. Wouldn’t you have heard about this new commandment?”

“Not if the command was classified.”

“So you were willing to violate your oath of office and your duty to God without even knowing whether or not the Lord had ordered war in accordance with D&C 98:33?

“Look, I didn’t know about that scripture, okay?”

“I thought you said you followed all of God’s commandments.”

“That one must have gotten past me.”

“Let’s move on. You lived 87 years on the earth. You must have read the Book of Mormon many times during your lifetime.”

“Many times. I love the Book of Mormon.”

“How many times did you actually read it all the way through?”

“Many times.”

“How many?

“I don’t know, maybe two or three times.”

“This is heaven, remember.”

“Okay, okay! I’m sure we read it in seminary. I know we studied it every four years in Sunday school.”

“You studied parts of it in Sunday school. Those Sunday school lessons were abridged. They skipped entire sections that would have been important for you as a soldier to know about. Some of those tedious war chapters, for instance.

“There were a lot of wars in the Book of Mormon, that’s for sure.”

“What do you think was the reason the prophet Mormon saw fit to include all those chapters on war?”

“I don’t know. Filler?”

“Have you ever heard the statement that the Book of Mormon is both a witness and a warning?”

“Sure I have.”

“So what is the witness?’

“It witnesses of Jesus Christ.”

“And what do you think is the warning?”

“I get the feeling you’re going to tell me it’s something about war.”

“War and deception in the last days, yes. Mormon wanted you to understand that there are sometimes legitimate reasons for going to war, and at those times the people have a sacred duty to take up arms and defend their lands and freedoms even unto the shedding of blood.”

“That’s what I’m saying! That’s why we were in Iraq and Afghanistan; we were defending America from the terrorists!”

“The Book of Mormon also demonstrates that people can be deceived into believing they are under threat when they really are not. They can even be tricked into retaliating against the wrong enemy. God used the Book of Mormon to warn you that corrupt leaders would come among your people willing to exploit their fears, and to convince you that you were engaged in a great battle for righteousness. In reality, the opposite was true.”

“Well, I didn’t know about any of that.”

“I know you didn’t. And that’s a shame because Mormon’s son Moroni was adamant in his warnings that the record his father passed to him was of the utmost importance to the people in your day, and to your country in particular. He foresaw the danger Americans would put themselves in by making war in defiance of God’s commandments. Saddest of all, he prophesied that many members of your church, those same people who would receive the record, would reject the warnings. Your own actions have assisted in bringing some of those prophecies to pass.”

“You’re killing me here. Okay, maybe I wasn’t being fully accountable. Listen, I'll admit something. In the beginning I did have some doubts about what we were doing in Iraq. But then everybody back home just kept telling us that our sacrifices were noble and necessary. We got care packages from school children and letters from strangers thanking us for being their heroes. They had us believing the whole country depended upon us for its very survival.”

“Flattery is one of the most effective tools of the Evil One, isn’t it?”

“Well, I sure I bought into all of it. I tried to think of myself as a simple soldier just doing my duty, but all that encouragement was pretty heady stuff. It got me believing I was engaged in some great battle between good and evil.”

“Those citizens who allowed the Evil One to use them in cheering you on will be held individually accountable for their part, but you yourself are accountable for not seeing through it.

“You know, I have to admit that I think I may be almost ready to accept that accountability.”

“That makes me very happy. Do you remember what the war in heaven was about?”

“Of course, that’s where you and I met. I always figured that the war I was fighting on earth was a continuation of the war in heaven; you know, fighting for freedom and all. We just couldn’t get over the fact that you people didn’t appreciate that we were there to help you get your freedom back. I lost a foot from a bomb set by some of the very people I was there to liberate.”

“And still you didn’t take the hint. Did you not learn anything from our victory in the war in heaven? The issue was self-determination. Nations as well as individuals deserve to be left to themselves to sort out their problems. We did not ask for your help. You imposed your will on us, just as Lucifer tried to impose his will on all the denizens of heaven.”

“You’re wrong about that. We liberated you from a dictator."

“And who asked you to do so? Your leaders were successful in convincing you that first we were an imminent threat to you. Then you were told that we needed rescuing from our own government. Then you were told we couldn’t manage without your help. Then you were told that you were needed against the terrorists. It was always some new excuse so you wouldn’t leave. Your government always had a reason to deny us our free agency. You helped me fight a war of liberty in heaven, then went to earth and became my oppressor.”

He didn’t know how to respond to that. “But our intentions were noble.”

“What’s that proverb about the road to hell? Why didn’t you turn your noble intentions on yourselves? Your country had its own problems. When America was hit with floods and fires, your people learned to their dismay that most of your National Guard were stuck in my country and unavailable. God commands all nations to respect the sovereignty of each other. You should have been home where you were needed.”

“Well, some of us in the church hoped that by fighting to free the middle east, we could open up the area some day for the spreading of the gospel.”

“And who would listen to you then?”

“Everybody. We’d flood the area with missionaries.”

“Did you ever know anyone who served a mission in Germany?” She asked.

“Yeah, I heard that lots of guys would spend their whole two years there and never get one baptism.”

“And that was half a century after the United States defeated those people for a second time. How is the missionary work going in Vietnam and Cambodia? How about Thailand? Laos? You can’t spread the gospel of the Prince of Peace using a flamethrower. If you wanted to convert us, why did you think sending your armies in first was the way to do it? We weren’t infidels, you know. Before the Americans came to Iraq there were two million Christians openly living there unmolested by Saddam Hussein’s government, and free of persecution. There was mutual respect between the Christians and their Muslim neighbors. Within four years of your occupation we were all displaced or dead. It was a most unproductive method of proselyting.”

“Well, the war might have been wrong, but I know God was with me while I was in Iraq.”

“God did not abandon you, but that didn’t mean he approved what you were doing. All that praying you did, and not once did you ask the right questions or listen for answers. God wanted you to simply live your religion. He stood at the door and knocked, but his knocking was drowned out by the sound of your machine gun fire.”

The soldier could not think of anything more to say to the girl. He was suddenly overcome by sadness and regret. He had been standing the entire time; now his newfound strength went out of him and he simply sank to his knees before her.

“I’m sorry”, he cried, “I really am! I’m sorry I deprived you of a full life. I should not have been in your home, and I’m sorry. You tell me I have the Lord’s forgiveness, but I’m asking you now for yours. Please. I take accountability for what I did to you and your family. I am accountable for it. Can you ever forgive me?”

The girl grasped her robe near the neck and folded it closed as she slowly raised herself up. The soldier looked up in astonishment to see that she was now standing on two perfect, beautiful legs where a moment before there had been nothing.

A look of peace crossed her face. She closed her eyes in a moment of sweet contentment as she brought her right hand up and held it against her breast. It was as if she hadn’t felt the sensation of a heartbeat in a long, long time, and now it was there again. The girl looked down at the now sobbing soldier and smiled tenderly. She gently touched her hand to his head. Finally she spoke.

“I forgave you before you got here.”


_

39 comments:

S.Faux said...

Alan:

You and I both agree that peace is better than war, but then we depart significantly. I continue to believe that some things are worth fighting for. Some things must be defended.

My reply to you would be contained in this post: Thanking Those Who Bring Faith to the Fight.

I appreciate your passion for peace, but a strong arm is sometimes needed to defend that peace. If bombs were being dropped on our houses of worship, then I would expect the government(s) to go into an active defense.

Actually, the only peace is found in the atonement. Thanks for your thoughts.

jaygunther said...

I agree that some things need to be defended. What are we defending by sending people to Iraq and Afghanistan? And if it is about defense, then shouldn't congress be willing to declare war against these countries?

Naismith said...

Also, one thing we can all do RIGHT NOW, is that when we pray, please consider praying for all those involved in a conflict, not just our servicepeople.

anon said...

Honestly, I think your little "story" is horrible and offensive to our armed forces. They are not joinging to "join the fray", you make it sound a frat party. They join because they want to defend our country's freedoms, and thats how they think it needs to be done. I don't understand why you would even argue this out, its so hurtful to so many people. I just wonder how many people are feeling like crap now because of your post. Is it worth it? Bloggers like you need to realize that discussing the "gospel" is only beneficial when its not pointing the finger and throwing judgement at others, or hurting people's feelings. Its not up for discussion when its someone's LIFE. How do you think this would make a soldier's wife feel?????

Rock Waterman said...

Anon,

How do you think the death of an Iraqi or Afghan soldier would make their wives feel?

Cap'n Moroni said...

Hey Rock, they're slamming you over at Mormon Insights.

Follow the link at S.Faux's comment above.

TruthSeeker said...

Alan/Rock,
I find your blog to be from a very sincere heart and a humble spirit. I feel that your blog is being quite misunderstood by some. I have been touched quite often, by what you write. I believe that it takes a lot of courage to do what you do. Having followed S. Faux's link- I really feel that he just doesn't "Get" you. I feel that you are doing your best to get people to "THINK". Whether it may be "confrontational" or "controversial", I feel the Spirit of Truth here.

As a seeker of truth, which I feel that we all as Mormons should be striving to do, I am sometimes uncomfortable with what you write. When I ponder what you write though and compare it to scripture, the Constitution, and most of all from the words of Christ Himself- I feel that you are a just man, doing your best. You are not afraid to go against those who desire to make Christ's doctrines fit the beliefs they are already certain of.

The reason I am using such strong words here, is because of the many Veterans I know personally.
In my opinion there are 2 kinds of Soldiers. The ones who never had to kill anyone, and those who have.
Those who have killed, have been irrevocably changed, and not for the better. They are haunted and tormented by what they did all of their lives. They almost always wished they had not chosen to put themselves in the position where they felt trapped into making a life-changing and life-ending decision.

Anonymous said...

Man what a great piece, to bad a few mommnetors missed it. This nation has wrap itself in the red white and blue and then trampled to death hundreds of thousands if not millions. the war of northern agrssion, indiand wars, etc., and to that adding in the christian death merchants, of all flavors and ta-da you produce ignore people who believe they are doing Gos will. It's not God bless America but America bless God
see my face book comments on link for http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqXMVf63B24

Cap'n Moroni said...

Anon,

I am VERY surprised at your reaction to the story. What you call "horrible", I find very moving and filled with truth. Maybe you can't handle the truth.

Did you bother to follow the links to watch the soldier's testimonies? What did you do while you you were listening to the Army Ranger, sit there and laugh at his stutter? That's the only thing I can imagine someone as cold hearted as you doing, because someone coming away from Rock's story with the reaction you did could not have been moved to tears like the rest of us when a soldier spoke so bluntly. You must be a sad example of humanity.

I'm glad I am separated from you through time and space. I don't think I could stomach being in the presence of such an ice queen as yourself.

Dave P. said...

Never forget, it's the guilty that take the truth to be hard. Nephi included that statement on the small plates, the ones he reserved for the most powerful and sacred of revelations and records.

jaygunther said...

anon,

I asked before and I'll ask again. What freedoms are they over there fighting for? What freedoms of mine are being threatened by the Iraqi's or the Afghani's? The way I see it, more of my freedoms are being threatened by our own leaders than by any foreign nation. So tell me, please, how are they defending my freedoms?

Personally, I think that if anything, us being over there is doing nothing more than stirring up more anti-American sentiment from the Muslim world. With our troops over there, I feel less safe, not more safe.

Jay

Alan Rock Waterman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rock Waterman said...

I just stumbled upon this excellent post on Connor's Blog and only wonder why I can't write this well.

It's entitled "How I Support The Troops:


http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/how-i-support-the-troops

Rock Waterman said...

It's unfortunate that some people shut their eyes and cover their ears when faced with hard evidence that they may be advocating positions contrary to God's will and destructive to the Saints.

As evidence of what a powerful effect Connor's piece (linked above) can have on a person bogged down by his own fixed beliefs, the following may be of interest.

After reading "How I Support The Troops" at the blog "Connor's Conundrums", I left a brief comment on S.Faux's blog, "Mormon Insights" linking to Connor's article and simply asking him if he found anything therein he disagreed with.

Readers may recall Brother Faux was the first to leave a comment in this section above, inviting my readers to go to his blog and read his dissenting essay. I did so and left what I believed to be a polite critique of his understanding of the early Mormon history of taking up arms.

Since S.Faux claims to support the military, today I felt we might finally reach some area of agreement on that topic if he looked at Connor's piece and told me what he thought.

Upon checking back,however,I found that he had deleted my query and replaced it with a curt statement that the debate was over. Subsequently, he has disabled comments on his blog.

That's a strange reaction from someone who is convinced he's in the right.

Connie believes that Faux deleted the link I left to "How I Support The Troops" out of fear that his readers -including many in the military- may click on it and come to the conclusion that "Supporting the Troops" might actually consist of something different than the religion of death Faux frequently advocates on his site.

In light of what I've read, I think Connie may be right.

Like I said, Connor's argument for the proper support of our brethren is powerful. Too powerful, perhaps, for those who hide from the light.

Again, you can find it here:

http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/

You can read the dialogue between S.Faux and me at Mormon Insights here:

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=6879358639471220898&postID=936188246731516185

I've been having trouble getting links to highlight here lately, so you may have to cut and paste.

-Rock

Gaybob Spongebath said...

I read S.Faux's lame responses to you. He is a Chickenhawk and a Chickenshit.

Dave P. said...

It's simply a form of pride, is all. I once gave a lesson on anger in my elder's quorom and made sure to point out that anger is a result of pride, and one portion of humility is being able to accept the fact that we aren't always right. Look at how many friendships, marriages, and families have dissolved over the silliest things simply because no one was willing to accept the fact that they made a mistake.

It isn't coincidence that one of President Hinckley's final Conference talks was on the subject of avoiding anger and President Monson spoke on the same this past Conference.

And I hate to tell you this, Gaybob Spongebath, but to degrade yourself to the level of namecalling a fellow child of God only puts yourself on his same level. Though his opinion is different, that doesn't change the fact that he is a human being like you and me.

Rock Waterman said...

Now, now, Gaybob. No need to be a potty mouth.

Brother Faux is on his perfect path, just like the rest of us. We're all here on earth to learn. He just deserves to do a little less worshiping at the feet of Mars, the god of war, and a bit more steeping in the gospel of Christ. He'll come around to the truth eventually. We all do.

Dave, your comments about pride are spot on, as always. Pride is what took me most of my adult years to come to the truth, and as everyone who has been filled with pride, I would have denied I had any. Arrogance, hubris, the refusal to acknowledge that I could be mistaken -it all boils down to pride.

I appreciated your reference above to Nephi regarding truth being especially hard for the guilty. I suspect the anger demonstrated by "anon" above is evidence of some great and emotional difficulty he/she is working through, and we ought to cut anon some slack and make room. We all deserve some time to work things through.

The truth is not only hard to take sometimes, but it often takes time to come around to it. I have hope for everybody. Look how far I've come from my hippie bashing days.

TruthSeeker said...

I really find this blog to be a refreshing look at how we each come to and then choose to honor "our truth". Having the humility to be willing to look at something we feel strongly about can be a most difficult thing to do. I really respect you Rock, and most of the people who comment here.

It seems to me that those who may find the truth "hard" to hear- but then are willing to look deeply into their hearts and are actually humble enough to be persuaded that what they have been taught and believed in- perhaps most of their lives- to be false or even an outright lie, takes great courage.

Anon.- perhaps you are a wife or a parent of a soldier, and my heart goes out to you. How painful to come to the hard realization of the truth that is contained here. May you be blessed and genuinely comforted, by the Holy Spirit.

S.faux- I genuinely feel sorry for you. You would rather believe and even try to stop the light of truth, not only in your life- but in others lives, from coming forth. To disable comments and delete this good man's comment- a man who has allowed you to speak your uncensored truth on his blog is in my heart purely a coward. I do my best never to judge ANYONE- but your words and actions speak more loudly, Sir. I have not felt to call many to repentance in my life...but I stand here and call you to humble yourself and repent. I mean no offense...but the Agents of the dark, work through well meaning souls such as you, all the time! This scares me, more than anything else that I have learned here. Humbly ask God- if you don't choose to hear it from me.

I am a minor player here. Open your heart and ask God if I am wrong. I will not be offended by what you or anyone else has to say to me. The truth of what we have done to an innocent people over a LIE astounds and haunts me. THERE WERE NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!!!These people are RIGHTFULLY defending their homes and Homeland! We are NOT the "Leader of the Free World"! Who gave us the right!? When did we become such an arrogant and prideful Nation?! How hard is this to understand? We as a nation owe the Iraqi people our most sincere apologies! Did you not watch the links/videos featured in this blog- especially the young soldier who was ORDERED to kill women and children begging for their very lives! I pray for yours and all the other souls who assuage their own guilt over A LIE! I weep for you and everyone who has chosen the path that you have chosen. And...so must our Heavenly Father.

Be brave and open your eyes- please, before it is too late for us all.

Dave P. said...

"When did we become such an arrogant and prideful Nation?!"

The answer to that is simple. It's because we won the "good war" and defeated the "epitome of evil" known as the Third Reich. Since then, our "great" leaders have used the "We must stop the spread of evil Communism!" American Pride has basically convinced people that we're the good guys, always will be, and can do no wrong.

Isaac Stanfield said...

I think what needs to be considered is the source of the wars that we deal with today. Ether 8:22 (I'm sure you've all read it numerous times) tells us "And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed…"

If you doubt that the government that currently runs things is a participant in these secret combinations, Joseph Fielding Smith has an answer for you: "Satan has control now. No matter where you look, he is in control, even in our own land. He is guiding the governments as far as the Lord will permit him. That is why there is so much strife, turmoil, confusion all over the earth. One master mind is governing the nations. It is not the President of the United States... it is not the king or government of England or any other land; it is Satan himself."

It seems like an easy choice to me—leave the destruction to the Gadianton robbers who have their hands on the controls. Let them be accountable for it. Read the scriptures, understand the warnings, and refuse to participate in or support the destruction of others, because what we give to them will be given back to us soon enough.

Dave P. said...

And one thing that people need to realize is that members of the church are just as susceptible to falling in with these modern-day Gadiantons while still professing to be active members.

Look at Mitt Romney and Harry Reid.

152 said...

First of all, I would like to thank you for once again writing on a subject that encourages thought and discussion. I’ll have to admit, until reading your last three blog posts yesterday this was a subject I really hadn’t spent much time contemplating. Whether or not we should BE at war, sure, but whether or not a faithful Mormon should join a military engaged in questionable wars? I guess it was off my radar.

I do agree with you on the issue of accountability. We will all be held accountable for every choice we make in this life. Whether commanded, persuaded, or arbitrary we have free will. This is the single greatest gift that was afforded us, and all of us fought millennia ago to keep it, many of our spiritual brethren lost their souls being on the wrong side of that battle. So to say that a soldier HAS to follow orders blindly, well we follow a more powerful leader than the free-world’s commander and chief.

1. Beyond that fact I think the issue has been greatly oversimplified by many on both sides of opinion from the responses I have read on the blog. You, Rock, not being exempt. You have relied heavily on D+C 98:33 and its surrounding verses for your thesis, which I believe most of us reading cherish as scripture. I also believe in the Old Testament is scripture, and is “translated correctly” much more than most of us would like to admit. There are numerous examples of aggressor wars perpetrated by the Lord’s chosen under His command. Retaking of the land of Canaan being a prime example where God commanded the Israelites to drive out the “Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite.” You could look at all of these as individual wars, I would. And the Old Testament, even more so than the Book of Mormon, outlines hundreds of other wars, some condoned by God, some condemned.

2. It should be noted that they lived in a different government in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon. In the Old Testament they went through a number of different governments, but almost always the prophets were given a voice and in many ways their varying governments were largely theocracy. The Book of Mormon governments were even more theocratic often placing prophets in the position of ruler.

Our government is a much different one. As a nation we are largely non-believers in modern prophets and revelation. Unfortunately President Obama does not have a direct line bat phone to President Monson. So the wars we engage in – whether good OR bad – are always uninspired. So its not really possible to gauge ourselves on the commandment that we should not enter any war unless commanded by God, when God doesn’t command our Commander-in-Chief.

The responsibility and accountability for the many wars and many deaths that occur in honor of the stars and stripes is not only upon the shoulders of the elected officials, but just as much upon us who elect them. Every time a shot is fired down the barrel of a M4 Carbine at an innocent bystander, it is you and I, rulers of the democratic republic, pulling the trigger. It is easy to blame the congressmen and presidents and almost as easy to blame the military men that carry out these wars, however we collectively will stand accused. Every time we pay taxes to a government war machine, every time we vote for a corrupt official, every time we purchase stock in a mutual fund that has one percent of its holdings in Northrop Grumman we are supporting the wars. Your warning of accountability was well inspired, I’m just saying it fell short.

3. Let us also consider Psalms 82:3-4. Do we not as Christians have an obligation to protect those who have no protection from their own government? When we see suffering in the Sudan, Darfur, Rwanda and other genocides, are we to sit idly by and watch as people are murdered, raped, and enslaved? Or do we, the blessed people who have been given culture, wealth, and bigger guns have the responsibility to defend the defensless?

152 said...

Following this, did not many of us truly believe that we were doing good releasing the people of Iraq from the heinous rule of Saddam Hussein? Are we not taking the Taliban out of power in Afghanistan? And to those who have commented that our presence in WWI and WWII might not have been necessary, necessary or not, shouldn’t we take part in shutting down an aggressor threatening to oppress a whole continent while enslaving and murdering millions of Jews.

4. John Stuart Mills was quoted in responses twice. I believe that the main facet of Millsian philosophy was summed up in his belief of the “greatest common good for the greatest number of people”. This philosophy could easily be used to justify the dropping of the A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to justify our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan, or our probable involvement in Iran and North Korea.

5. Wartime killing is USUALLY not murder for the soldier, since murder by scriptural definition usually denotes premeditation or a desire to kill (2 Nephi 9:35, in correlation with many others). In addition to that, I feel that often we put an emphasis on the value of life as if life in itself is a virtue. I don’t believe that God necessarily puts the same value on life. He was perfectly fine drowning perhaps millions of people in the flood, He drowned many more Egyptians in the Red Sea, He sent his destroying angel to kill thousands on the Day of Passover, He allowed his prophet Elijah to kill hundreds of priests of Baal, He (to my understanding) would have condemned Jephtae for not sacrificing his daughter, I could go on for hours. So is the sin of murder the ending of life? Or the fact that we are playing God and deciding who should live and who should die? We all know that our life is a small blip on the eternity of existence, our main purpose in coming to earth was to receive a body, living was a secondary consideration. It seems to me that the greatest sins are those where we take Gods power upon ourselves unrighteously – murder and adultery/fornication. So basically, I don’t believe that killing is equal to murder. There are different circumstances and consequences for all nature of killing.

152 said...

My thoughts here obviously don’t have a common thread, they weren’t meant to. They are a number of thoughts that occurred to me while reading the posts and the comments, and while I reflected on the ideas. The point is that war is a muddled business, and often we don’t receive information that we need until years later in order to make a good decision. Obviously we never found WMD in Iraq, but we the people had good reason to believe we would based on the information that we were receiving from our elected leaders. Our soldiers went to battle under good faith that the information they were receiving was correct and full. Hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes we have to make decisions blind amid conflicting world views and even conflicting scripture. The spirit is the only sure guide, but sometimes the spirit is quiet, especially among the noise of the world.

I’m sure that soldiers will make a full accounting for all the men, women and children killed even while in the line of duty, just as they will have to account for the time they got a refill at a fast food restaurant that has posted “no refills”. However I doubt if their intentions were good that it will be unto their damnation. The proverb “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” was quoted, however this proverb is not scripture. The more apt scripture is 2 Nephi 25:23 “for it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.” Let the Grace of God be upon all of us – sinners. Each of us whether elected official, military, or citizen of the United States of America are all killers in some form, and you are very correct, we all have the obligation to study out our involvement in the many heated battles that we are engaged in, we have a moral obligation to support ethical men running for office, and we all have need to repent for the sins of our country. At the same time, let us remember that sometimes we do great good in the world as well. For a heathen nation unguided by the oracles of God, I think we do pretty well. And in comparison of other world-conquering nations (Babylon, Assyria, Greece/Macedon, Rome, France of Napoleon, Germany of Hitler, etc. etc.) I think we do a great job of also giving with the other hand to those who are impoverished, disaster-stricken, and otherwise in need of help.

jaygunther said...

152, I want to make sure I understand what you are saying here. We are responsible to defend the defenseless, to protect those who have no protection from the government, to stop genocide, etc. Is that correct? That would be a justifiable reason to go to war?

In America, we kill hundreds of thousands of babies every year. So, if you logic holds water, you would have no problem with another country coming here, bombing us, destroying our infrastructure, killings thousands of our citizens, and overthrowing our government and installing their own. All, of course, to protect the unborn against a government who affords them no protection. I just want to be sure that I understand that you'd be fine with that.

Jay

152 said...

Jay, lets not be foolish.

I am completely against abortion, it saddens me deeply every time the subject comes up.

At the same time I would not be "fine" with another country coming and bombing us.

I see the logical connection you are trying to make, but I don't see the point you are trying to prove other than that you can find a paradox in my comments. Good job. You're very smart.

jaygunther said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jaygunther said...

I'm not looking for a paradox. It appears to me that you're saying it's okay for us to do it, but it's not okay for another country to do it to us. Am I correct? Is God an American?

152 said...

Well David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails would agree that he is.

But no, if you read my three posts (really one post, but too long for Blogspot to accept as one) you would realize that my whole point was that if you take the scriptures as a whole along with the words of the modern day prophets that war is much more complicated than Good/Bad. I tried to point out many conflicting scriptures and viewpoints to show why neither side is correct or incorrect. It is a hard subject to reconcile and very easy to be completely pro-war or completely anti-war.
If you were to ask me if I am in support of us going to Iraq eight years ago I would be unable to answer. If I were to go back in time knowing what I now know, I'd say no, its a terrible idea. Tens of thousands will be killed for almost no reason, no WMDs will be found, and our country will be put further into needless debt (literally starving tens/hundreds of thousands of our own people) much further than any single "Financial Crisis/Government Bailout" ever could. But thats with hindsight. At the time our prophet didn't condemn or condone the war. Our talking heads were telling us that there definitely WERE WMDs, and that this country with the WMDs was intrinsically tied to Al-Qaeda which had just attacked us and probably would again. So can I condemn a soldier for doing what at the time could easily be called defense? No, I wouldn't be so audacious. But I can easily understand why one might.

So again, in summary, war is a muddled business. I don't believe either side to be right or wrong. When John Milton wrote Areopagitica he said that the world is not black and white good and bad, but it is not a mixture of greys either. But that our world is black and white deeply intertwined. There is some good and some bad that has happened in every war our country has taken part.

Ken said...

The Church produces garments specifically for military personel. I guess according to you no servicemen should be worthy of wearing garments?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

You guessed wrong, Ken.

You appear to have taken from my words the mistaken conclusion that there are no circumstances in which our country would require defending. In such a circumstance it would seem to me entirely appropriate that a serviceman willing to wear temple garments should be permitted to do so.

ParaTed2k said...

I'll both agree with you and disagree here. I agree that we will all be held accountable for our actions. Being a member of the US (or any other) military doesn't excuse us from anything, nor does it provide us with exceptions or exemptions.

The first presidency has already taught us how soldiers in war will be held accountable for our actions... even if war. If we kill as a matter of the realities of war then that will be how we are judged. However, if we are enjoying the killing and violence, then we will be judged for that too.

But that is not just for servicemembers. I am a retired Army NCO. I never directly killed anyone in my entire military career. However, I also spent 10 years in EMS. In EMS I did kill people. No, not out of malice, malpractice or anything like that. I killed people because I used medicines and protocols that caused the death of patients. We look on the list of side effects of medicine without really thinking about them. We shrug them off as "acceptable risks".

I know a lot of pacifists who dole out medicine pretty regularly. They are anti military and shudder at the words "acceptable losses" when people in uniform say it. However, they have no problem whatsoever when people in Medical uniforms say it.

Now, I don't mean this to sound like an anti medical thing. It's not. I'm just pointing out that the military isn't the only group of people who kill and mame to further what we consider "The greater good".

Am I going to find past patients in the next life? Are they going to describe to me the horrors I put them through as they died excructiating deaths in my ambulance? I don't know. According to your theory, probably.

So for that part, I agree with you. Since we will be judged according to what is in our hearts, then the soldier who enjoys the killing, the medical person who gets off on having the lives of people in their hands, or the Mormon who takes it on themselves to warn perspective recruits beyond the teachings and doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We will all be judged according to our actions, and the purposes of our hearts.

I'd suggest you research the official policy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where soldiers in war are concerned. The doctrine is clear and available. However, you are free to speculate according to your own thoughts and feelings on the subject. Just make sure you make it clear that it is your opinion and not official doctrine.

It did make for interesting reading though.

Rock Waterman said...

ParaTed2K, you not only seem to presume I would have a theory on something outside the topic at hand, but that you also know what that theory probably would be.

Sorry. I'm afraid accidental death by medical practitioner is outside my ken here. Not sure how that could be extrapolated from what I have presented.

As far as your suggestion that I "research the official policy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints where soldiers in war are concerned", I'm going to assume you have not yet read my following two essays.

I have now written five pieces on this subject. I don't know how much more official policy I need to present. I could recommend a couple of commentaries by Hugh Nibley on the subject of pre-emptive wars, but for now I'm feeling pretty played out and would prefer to move on to other topics.

ParaTed2k said...

I was just pointing out that, while your example of the girl works for soldiers, it also works for other professions too. Medical kills more Americans every year than guns. I'm not talking about accidents or malpractice (as I stated before). I am talking about deaths from properly prescribed and administered meds, staff infections contracted at medical facilities, and the "oops" factor of medications that were pronounced "safe and effective", then later we learned that they were niether.

As I said before, this isn't against the medical field, it is just sad facts. But if you are going to warn young would be recruits that they can't expect to be exonerated for their actions simply because they put on the uniform, make sure it's an equal opportunity warning. The person who died because I gave them the medicine I was supposed to give them is no different than the girl in your example.

No, I havent' read all your blog, nor do I feel any responsibility to read it. However, apparently you have done the research I suggested... so my all I'm left with is wondering why you think the Apostes and Prophets are wrong for saying it.

Does it bother you that maybe medical people are just as accountable as military people?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Your point is an interesting one, ParaTed, but I would submit that there is a fundamental difference between those killed in war and those killed by the medical profession. (The knowing inclusion of "slow death" ingredients of Thimerosol and Squalene in injectibles like the H1N1 vaccine are another topic entirely.)

It seems to me that medical professionals like yourself are trained to save lives, while soldiers are trained to take lives. (Never mind the propaganda that they are "taking lives in order to save lives" when the only lives saved -their own- are those that wouldn't need saving if they weren't where they shouldn't be in the first place.)

Ultimately, I have no idea how we will be accountable for the harm we commit. My story of the Marine and the Iraqi girl was fictional and speculative, of course. Its purpose primarily was as a literary framing device within which to make some of the legal and doctrinal points I wished to share.

I was inspired in part by the near-death experience of Dannion Brinkley in his book "Saved By The Light" in which he related reliving in excruciating detail the actual feelings and emotions that had gone through the mind of the enemy soldier he had killed in war. He describes feeling the precise fear and horror of that stranger's dying thoughts as if they were his own. "What of my wife? What will happen to my children?" The experience changed him forever.

My own feeling on the subject -and this is pure speculation on my part and not dependent on any doctrine I am aware of- is this: I hope we will have the opportunity to meet any "stranger" we have harmed on earth and experience the holy bonds of brotherhood as we mutually forgive and receive forgiveness from one another for those harms committed unintentionally.

Therefore, if you were inadvertently "responsible" for someone's death as a result of some medical procedure, or I caused someone's death through an automobile accident, "accountability" might be as simple as having the opportunity to meet an old friend and talk it out. After all, we were all acquainted with one another before this life, and we will reunite as friends in the next.

Or so is my assumption and my hope. I read into your words an implication that the medical practitioner and the soldier both enter into their respective occupations believing they are doing good.

Which takes me back to my original lesson. The young man propagandized "at the hands of evil and designing men" to enter the armed services is not actually going to be doing any good, either for himself, his God, or his country. Nothing good can come of traveling to sovereign countries and killing the people who live there. It is clearly against God's law. So my advice to the young: Don't fall for it. You are being lied to.

At any rate, this appears to be a subject that intrigues you, and I'd be willing to let you bend my ear if you want. So if you'd like to email me at RockWaterman@gmail.com, I'll send you my phone number and we can talk it out.

I still don't know what you mean when you say
you are wondering why I think the Apostles and Prophets are wrong. I thought I was clear in expressing my agreement with them.

Anonymous said...

"Waking up" to what is real and what is not real can be a very painful experience. Often those who wake up find that they are depressed when they first wake up.

I'm writing this almost 2 1/2 years after all these discussions to thank the blogger for this insightful fictional (but maybe not so unrealistic) account of a conversation between two people in the spirit world.

It is very touching.

I have to remind myself that I used to believe much the same way many other Mormons still believe. It may have been decades ago, and I may have spent several decades feeling terribly alone, but I believed that way once. False ideas are SO hard to overcome.

Growth and obtaining knowledge can be very painful. I have tremendous respect for the Anti Nephi Lehites.

Thank you for writing this.

LDSDPer

Anonymous said...

My son died when he was only 8 months old. While it was an accident I feel responsible. At times I tentatively cling to the sentiments of others that "It was just his time" and "God needed him more" or even "If he still had a mission to complete God would never have let it happen or he would have saved him..." But one fact remains. Weather or not it was all "part of the plan" I did played a part in his death and Knowing your actions lead to the DEATH of another is an incredible and unimaginable burden.

Reading the story of the girl and the soldier had a very profound and unexpected effect on me. Becoming accountable is about healing YOU and I realized I KNOW that is true! I guess I didn't realized I had a testimony of it.

Being accountable is NOT as much about assigning guilt or making amends because in many cases only God can assign guilt and only the atonement can make amends. It is about seeing and facing yourself. It is only when we can accurately see and accept the truth within ourselves that we can hope to contain more truth. Denial and excuses will only infect whatever truth we manage to internalize if we are not real with ourselves. It is so easy to blame others, or God, yet doing so seems to just cause a bone weary sadness to color your whole life and also cause you to become a re-active victim rather then the Heroes of action and service we are destined to be.

I have instinctually felt the need to face what happened and account for my part in it. Others have said I'm too hard on myself. But you know, I'm the one who has to live with this not them. I can testify that facing my actions head on was terrifying and painful but ultimately liberating. Before the atonement can heal and make you whole you MUST account for your actions regardless of intentions. Ask for forgiveness for the damage your actions caused others. When you do a real,almost palpable peace restores you. Doing this has let me live, truly LIVE my life with joy.

The gospel is true. The Atonement is real. Live it Fearlessly.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thank you for that very moving story. Forgiveness is indeed for the living, and you found that once you came face to face with the pain and accepted responsibility for your part, you were liberated from the guilt. That is why it is so important for us all to face up to our responsibility in the death of another, even if that death was accidental, or in the part of soldiers in our current wars, due to them being deceived into believing they were involved in something noble.

I appreciate your response to my little story. As far as I can recall, you are the only reader who found it helpful, and in the years since I wrote it I've begun to think maybe it was too hokey.

I'm not good at fiction, so I supposed the point I was trying to get at might have been missed. Thank you for saying it touched you. That meant a lot.

Now that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been underway for too long, people are beginning to wake up to the fact that they have had nothing to do with defending America. Sadly, many soldiers have committed suicide over the guilt they feel for their part, but God still loves them and knows they were deceived. For those who are able to ADMIT they were deceived, forgiveness is instantaneous. God still loves them and wants to make them whole.

Anonymous said...

Rock, I am an exmormon atheist and I am currently employed by the US Navy. This topic has really hit close to home because I have felt for several years that our military is not being used in an appropriate manner, bordering on evil at times.

Thank you for your insight and in-depth analysis of this topic. I continue to read through your website, and although I will never return to the LDS church, I applaud you for your convictions and your continued effort to live a Christ-like life.

Far too many Christians, let alone Mormons, have this idea that being a Republican is all they have to do to be like Jesus. You, on the other hand, actually are trying to be more like him.

As I said, I'm an exmormon atheist, but I think I would get along with you quite well.

Posting as anonymous due to my military status.