Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When Mormons Take The Lord's Name In Vain -Part 2

(For part 1 of "When Mormons Take The Lord's name In Vain", click here.)

Have you ever been engaged in a theological discussion with a fellow Mormon and felt as if the two of you were talking two different religions?

Well, me neither really, until I started these discussions on the LDS view of war.

I thought we were all on the same page here, but no Amish farmer was ever shunned by his brethren like I have been by some of my Mormon amigos.

Though most agree with what I've written here, I have received a few apoplectic responses from a handful of agitated members of the church who are absolutely livid at my assertion that God is not too keen on his children killing each other off, or that he doesn't much care for such goings-on among those who claim to have taken upon themselves His name.

An amazing amount of energy is expended by some good church members in an attempt to sanitize that which cannot be washed clean: wanton killing in the name of God.

Regardless of how necessary and justified one may think of our nation’s wars, it's inappropriate to set aside holidays in which we lustily celebrate the carnage and hold up the perpetrators as heroes.

I’ve discussed elsewhere how I grew up with the bizarre conviction that the goals of the United States government were always in sync with the will of God. After all, America was His Favored Nation. I was foolish enough to think that Vox Populi, Vox Dei was a christian concept rather than the heresy that it is. To me, the American military machine represented the mighty arm of God against the heathen nations of the world.

Then I discovered one day that there was nothing in the revealed word of God that could possibly be construed to validate those beliefs. In fact, everything God did reveal forcefully contradicted what I had once held dear. So I adjusted my beliefs to be more in line with God's will.

I always thought the purpose of the gospel was to help us grow and change, to expand our knowledge outward rather than to remain stagnant in our fixed beliefs. When presented with evidence proving we have been in error, the proper response is to engage in a process of self-correction, is it not?

Instead, some have attempted to persuade me to revert to my parochial errors and rejoin them in ignorance.

Sorry, no can do. As Oliver Wendell Holmes has said, "The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size."

Military Friendliness

One reader who disagreed with what I've shared on this blog invited me to his own Mormon-themed blog which turned out to be a veritable shrine to the American armed forces. As he puts it, “This site is military friendly.”

I should say so. It looks like a tribute site to the priests of Baal. This blogger explains that he is pro military because he comes from a military family. Well, so do I.

I was once acquainted with a wonderfully earthy latter-day saint woman who, it turns out, had once been a former prostitute, or as she put it to me bluntly, she was a whore. Her mother was a whore, her sister was a whore, and her father was a pimp. She came from a whoring and pimping family. But when she accepted the gospel -and this is important now, so pay attention- she turned away from pimping and whoring. She doesn’t wave the flag twice a year in celebration of her former lifestyle.

She is no longer pro-whore.

The Mormon keeper of that pro-military blog writes that “some things are worth fighting for” with which I heartily agree. But he appears incapable of differentiating between national defense, which is justified of God, and empire building, which is prohibited. To bolster his argument of the divine nature inherent in military might, he has put forth examples of historical incidents where early Mormons took up arms in their defense. Although some of those incidents were justified, he included in his list Zion’s Camp and the Missouri-Mormon Wars.

I would not have used those examples.

Maybe Apostles Should Ride In The Back

Zion's camp was a response to some Missourians having driven Mormon settlers off their lands. Joseph Smith called some 200 men into a militia for the purpose of protecting those settlers and getting them back into their homes.

However, to Joseph's alarm many in the party believed that when they arrived they should take Missouri by force and drive all the Missourians out. Many began to murmur against Joseph, so finally God struck the camp with cholera. Several died, and the mission was a failure.

Lesson learned, hopefully. At least by those left alive.

Similarly, the Missouri-Mormon Wars of 1838 do not demonstrate God's approval of aggressive warfare. Organized by Sampson Avard and kept secret from the prophet, a clandestine army of Mormon men set out on a mission of retaliation for wrongs committed against the Saints . This secret band conducted their first raid near the tiny town of Gallatin, near Adam-Ondi-Ahman.

The trouble was, they didn’t discriminate in who they retaliated against. Just as the Missouri Mobs arbitrarily burned out Mormon farms and houses, so did the Mormons burn out innocent Missouri homesteaders who had not always been the same ones who had attacked the Mormons.

These arbitrary attacks culminated in tragedy at the battle of Crooked River, When sixty Mormon men attacked a force of armed Missourians. Apostle David W. Patten drew his sword and led the charge. He was immediately shot from his horse, hit the ground, and died on the spot.

John D. Lee reported that the Mormons were horrified to discover that an apostle of God could be felled by an enemy bullet the same as any man. Lee said until then they had thought that one of them could chase a thousand gentiles and put them to flight.

This was a serious wake-up call.

Had this unauthorized group made known their plans to the prophet Joseph, he might have dissuaded them from their folly by reminding them of the Lord’s instructions in D&C 98 given five years previous. Had they followed the teachings of Christ, this tragedy would not have befallen the saints, and they wouldn’t be staring in astonishment at the ashen face of the first dead apostle of The Restoration.

As the Lord reminds us, He is bound when we keep His commandments, but when we keep not His commandments, we have no promise.

God Won't Always Have Your Back

The thing to bear in mind here is that these men were some of the most faithful members of the early church; they were the most valiant -the absolute cream of the crop. Their mistake was carrying with them the notion that because they were members of the one true church, God would protect them no matter what.

As I’ve noted previously, no matter how righteous a nation may be, no matter how blessed in lands and resources, no matter how right and just you think your cause is, God will not tolerate anyone taking his name in vain. That just really seems to irk Him.

Christianity, War, And Boyd K. Packer

My reason for writing today is to keep a promise I made in November to a reader identified as "DiligentlySeek", whose opinions run contrary to my own. DiligentlySeek sent me an email attachment that he had trouble opening into the comment section under my piece “Should A Mormon Join The Military?”, so he asked me to post it for him and comment on it. You may find it of interest also.

DiligentlySeek’s words are written in bold type below, and my responses are interjected in regular font:

Dear Rock,
I hope you will read the following carefully. I haven’t had time to do research for talks given by church leader on the issues you’ve raised. But I think it is shameful to tell our LDS soldiers that they are murderers in the eyes of the Lord for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some other wars.”

You misconstrue my words, DiligentlySeek. I have never told any LDS soldiers that they are murderers in the eyes of the Lord; I have no way of knowing that. But given the many testimonies and confessions we have received from their fellow soldiers, it would not surprise me to learn that the souls of some of our brothers have been irreparably stained. We do know that Jay Bybee has much to answer for.

It’s clear from the citations I shared previously that there will be some sort of accounting in the next life. I don’t presume to know much about that process, but I did speculate a bit about it here. My words are speculative, but the Lord is clear that some sort of accountability will be required of every man who takes up arms in violation of his commandments.

Dr. Laurence Vance, author of Christianity And War, is not a church member. His statement shouldn’t be included in your post to LDS.

This is an odd position you espouse. I quoted Dr. Vance because his words were consistent with LDS doctrine, and because he is the pre-eminent authority on the history of Christianity and War. Dr Vance is the author of numerous books on New Testament Greek and Hebrew.

More importantly, Vance is a highly recognized expert on the early Christian church, the very church that you and I claim to belong to in its present incarnation. So it would seem to me that anyone with scholarly insight as to how the first century Christians viewed the subject of war might serve to validate our own doctrines as revealed through Joseph Smith.

Christianity and War and Other Essays Against the Warfare StateDo you seriously contend that something written for a Mormon audience is somehow tainted if supported by source material from the sectarian world?

Next to me is a copy of Warfare In The Book Of Mormon, written and compiled by Mormons. The authors rely heavily on research from non-Mormon sources to bolster their positions.

When James Talmage compiled his monumental Jesus The Christ, he borrowed liberally from Frederick Farrar’s masterpiece The Life Of Christ. Should Talmage have ignored the weighty scholarship that came before?

This inclination I see in some people to dismiss anything that isn’t currently stocked through Deseret Book may be what is stunting the intellectual growth of our membership and giving ammunition to those who consider Mormons to be a passel of ignorant yahoos.

You appear to want to dismiss Boyd K Packer’s General Conference address, and yet bring Dr. Vance into it. That is an odd approach for an active Latter day Saint to take. I assume you are an active member of the church.

You refer to a reader who suggested that if I read Packer's talk I might be dissuaded from my position. I am indeed familiar with this talk, but see nothing therein to suggest that that God has reversed himself.

If you are accusing me of being dismissive of Boyd K. Packer, you are correct, as you will see below.

The following two quotes make the point that the Lord is against war: “The church is and must be against war, for war is of Satan and this church is the church of Christ...” (Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol 6, pg 170.)

“The divine law on the taking of human life... embraces war.” (Statements of the LDS First Presidency, pg 481.)

The key word in the following quote from the First Presidency is “unrighteously”. War can be waged righteously, or unrighteously. “God will hold subject to the eternal punishments of His will those who wage [war] unrighteously.” (Ibid, pg 481.)

I agree with all of the above.

Because there is opposition in all things we can never read a scripture in isolation, or the words of the apostles and prophets. If we do we will have incomplete information, incomplete doctrine, and err in our judgment.

The following statement addresses when war is justified:
“Wars should be avoided whenever possible; however, men have the right to protect themselves from those who unjustly try to take away their freedom and property. (Principles of the Gospel, 1976.)

Again, I agree. All these quotes you list above were provided by me in the blog entry you claim to disagree with. You have cut and pasted them here precisely as I entered them, but to what end I can’t imagine. You appear to be making my case for me.

The quote below was from me, also. DiligentlySeek my friend, I’m getting confused as to what point you’re trying to make.

And this statement makes it clear who is responsible for war. Those who created the contention that cause war: “Since those who battle for a righteous cause will not be held responsible for bloodshed, the responsibility rests upon those leaders who create contention and cause wars.” (Statements of the LDS First Presidency, pg 480.)

So I ask you, DiligentlySeek: What leaders of which country created the contention and caused the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
(Hint: it rhymes with “Shma-merica”.)

You seem to be ignoring the key words here, “those who battle for a righteous cause." According to the scriptures, the only righteous justification for war is for the protection of one’s own lands and freedoms. I agree that those citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan who are attempting to repel the invaders from their lands are indeed battling for a righteous cause. But where does that leave the poor American soldier? What “righteous cause” is he fighting for? Both sides can’t be on the side of righteousness. It has to be one or the other.

It’s time to face the alarming truth: the American soldier is being played for a sucker by politicians in Washington and many of the folks at home, including you government-worshiping hucksters. You aren't putting yourselves between him and the bullets, and God is required by His word to withhold his protection. So what possible reason would any compassionate latter-day saint have to want to keep even one of God's children out there and in harm's way?

My essay, “Should A Mormon Join The Military?” was a warning aimed at any young LDS men and women who may be currently contemplating joining the military as it is presently constituted, for in so doing they will most certainly be forced to violate their own moral code and act in defiance of the tenets of their religion.

We warn our young people when dating to avoid situations where they might find themselves in danger of losing their chastity. Why don’t we also warn them against getting into situations where they could find themselves in danger of losing their souls?

In my opinion, military recruitment centers should be off limits to all latter-day saint youth.

When two principles of the gospel come into conflict, the higher principle prevails. The apostles and prophets have the responsibility to make the determination which is the higher law.

Boyd K. Packer, in General Conference, during the Viet Nam war said the following:

"But the Church memberships are citizens or subjects of sovereignties over which the Church has no control.

Let me just interject a clarification here. The paragraph above and virtually everything you quote from Packer’s talk below derives from a talk given by Boyd K. Packer in 1968, but the words were not his own. All of these statements are excerpts he was quoting from a talk given by the First Presidency of the church in April conference 1942. Furthermore, Packer was quoting wildly out of context, juxtaposing one statement next to some opinions of his own, to the end that it was possible that a listener could take from that talk an impression contrary to that intended by the original authors.

Further, almost none of the quotes that Packer uses here can correctly be applied to justify our government’s incursions into Iraq or Afghanistan -or even Viet Nam- as the talk delivered in 1942 presupposes the Constitutional mandate ordered by Congress the previous year.

The First Presidency of the church whose words these were consisted of the Prophet Heber J. Grant and his counselors, J. Reuben Clark and David O. McKay. President Grant was in frail health, so the statement was read from the pulpit by Elder Clark. It appears from their separate writings that one or all of these men had been suspicious of the subversive machinations of the Roosevelt administration to maneuver America into the war, and the position toward the war they convey here is a cautious one.

This talk, delivered a mere four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, was an attempt to restrain the membership of the church from being caught up in the current mania for war. The talk attempted to persuade the young men of the church to keep their focus on serving missions rather than enlisting in the war, but in the end the leadership’s hope that the membership would step back and take a deep breath was no match for the national frenzy for killing Japs.

The statement you highlighted above describing church memberships as citizens and subjects of sovereignties “over which the Church has no control” referred to members of the church who resided in Europe, particularly German and Italian latter-day saints. Now that America had entered the war, these members faced a very real threat that they could be pressed into service by their governments to fight against Americans. They would understandably have some concerns about the possibility that they may be forced to fight -and possibly even kill- fellow latter-day saints.

The Lord himself has told us to `befriend that law which is the constitutional law of the land': . . .

A reminder to all members to make sure that when they go to war, they are going under a constitutional mandate, and not over a whim.

". . . When, therefore, constitutional law, obedient to these principles,

Again, war must be declared “obedient to these principles”, that is, the principles of the constitution as it was established through God “by the hands of wise men”. I shouldn’t have to mention that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan do not qualify as obedient to these principles.

...calls the manhood of the Church into the armed service of any country to which they owe allegiance, their highest civic duty requires that they meet that call. If, harkening to that call and obeying those in command over them, they shall take the lives of those who fight against them, that will not make of them murderers, nor subject them to the penalty that God has prescribed for those who kill. . . ."

Again, the context of the original makes it clear that the Prophet was making assurances to those European Saints under Nazi and Fascist control. The First Presidency recognized that many of the saints in those European countries had no choice but to obey “those in command over them”, and hastened to reassure these saints that they would not be considered murderers for engaging in a war not of their making.

Surely no individual will be excused for any wanton act of brutality, wickedness, or destruction. Nevertheless, this statement confirms: "...He will not hold the innocent instrumentalities of the war, our brethren in arms, responsible for the conflict. This is a major crisis in the world-life of man. God is at the helm." CR 1968

“The innocent instrumentalities of the war, our brethren in arms” was a direct reference to our hapless fellow latter-day saints in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy during World War II. Packer’s use of the quote at the time of the Viet Nam war incorrectly conveys the impression that “brethren in arms” refers to an American’s fellow soldiers, when it actually refers to our latter-day saint "brothers" who may be forced to bear arms against us.

Do you think the apostles and prophets would have allowed this statement to be made in General Conference, at a time of when our country was at war, if they didn’t support it?

Why not? A conference talk is not usually a revelation from God, except in the minds of the less intelligent among us.

Brigham Young used to call people up to the stand extemporaneously at conference all the time, never knowing what they might say. Conference talks didn’t begin to be vetted for content and approved in advance until quite recently. Besides, Packer was not a member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles at the time he delivered this address, nor was he even a member of the Seventy or any other recognized body of general authorities.

Only the First Presidency of the church is authorized to speak for the corporation, so Packer’s own comments would not have been binding on the membership anyhow. At the time he presented his convoluted talk, Boyd Packer's job was as an Assistant to the Twelve.

I don’t know what that title even means. It doesn’t appear to have existed in Christ’s ancient church (it isn’t listed on the roll call in Ephesians 4:11). Neither does the office seem to have been a part of the Restoration. At any rate, no assistant to any church office has ever been declared spokesman for the Almighty. The tendency some members have toward bestowing demi-god grandee status onto every church bureaucrat in a dark blue suit is something I find a little disconcerting.

Packer’s misapplication in 1968 of inspired counsel that had been directed at a particular people and meant for a specific time left the unfortunate impression with many contemporary members -myself included- that the church had put its stamp of approval on the unconstitutional conflict then going on in Viet Nam. Was Brother Packer being deliberately disingenuous? Well, it wouldn’t be the last time.

Those men and women who have obeyed the laws of their respective governments, and have not been wantonly brutal, wicked, or destructive are innocent in the eyes of the Lord, according the church leaders.

DiligentlySeek, you are stating your conclusion here based on a false assumption. Again, this reference to the “innocent” defined an unwilling enemy populace forced into conscription as "innocent instrumentalities" of ambitious dictators. This mantle cannot be fitted onto Mormons who voluntarily take part in unconstitutional foreign occupations.

For an accurate glimpse into how opposed the church leadership was to America's participation in the approaching world war, take a look at this excerpt from a letter the First Presidency sent to the Secretary of the treasury in October of 1941:

“… we do thoroughly believe in building up our home defenses to the maximum extent necessary, but we do not believe that aggression should be carried on in the name and under the false cloak of defense.”

“We therefore look with sorrowing eyes at the present use to which a great part of the funds being raised by taxes and by borrowing is being put … We believe that our real threat comes from within and not from without, and it comes from the underlying spirit common to Naziism, Fascism, and Communism, namely, the spirit which would array class against class, which would set up a socialistic state of some sort, which would rob the people of the liberties which we possess under the Constitution, and would set up such a reign of terror as exists now in many parts of Europe …”

Read that again, and think carefully about how those words could apply today.

Lastly, in Mormon 3:11 the warrior prophet Mormon says: And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination. Mormon’s soldiers were wantonly brutal, wicked, and destructive, but more than that they sought revenge and “went up” (Mormon 3:14, 4:4) to fight the Lamanites, something the Lord had forbidden them to do.

Then later, he writes: AND it came to pass that I did go forth among the Nephites, and did repent of the oath which I had made that I would no more assist them; and they gave me command again of their armies, for they looked upon me as though I could deliver them from their afflictions. Mormon 5:1 The Lord’s warrior-prophet returned to lead the unrighteous Nephites. Do you suppose that the Lord held Mormon accountable for murder for leading unrighteous soldiers? Likewise, most soldiers who are fighting to defend freedom do so with noble intent, and as Mormon, are innocent in the eyes of the Lord.

I was scratching my head in bewilderment trying to understand what you were getting at here, when I finally figured it out: You don’t have the slightest grasp of Mormon’s agonizing dilemma, do you?

Mormon didn’t repent for having quit as the leader of the Nephite armies when they went on the offensive; he was right to do that. What he regretted was having been so upset with them that he swore an irreversible oath which would have prevented him from ever assisting them when they needed to be defended.

At that day when the Nephites had gleefully determined to take the fight into the Lamanite lands, Mormon was so appalled at this horror that he resigned on the spot. Everybody knew God forbade anything of the sort. You could drive the enemy out of your lands, but you absolutely weren’t allowed to conduct military incursions inside the other guy’s borders. Mormon rightly would have nothing to do with it, so he turned in his sword and walked away.

But Mormon didn’t just quit. He was so furious that he swore an oath before God and everybody that he would never, ever assist these wicked people again.

Fast forward a bit, and the Nephites are feeling the inevitable effects of that long ago raid into Lamanite territory. The Lamanites had retaliated against the Nephites again and again, and now because of that one display of hubris, the last remnant of a once great nation was on the verge of being snuffed out forever.

The few remaining Nephites no longer harbored dreams of victory, they just wanted to survive. All they wanted now was to defend themselves the best they could. Mormon knew it was a lost cause, but he was also the one they put all their hopes in.

But Mormon had a problem. In his fury he had sworn an oath before God, and no matter how much he may have wanted to help his people, that sticky business about the oath got in the way and prevented him from stepping up to the plate. He absolutely, positively could not violate that oath. To renege on a sacred oath meant taking the name of the Lord in vain. He would be damning himself for all eternity.

People today can’t begin to understand how seriously folks took their oaths in the ancient world. Remember the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s? Their oath to never lift a weapon even in their own defense was about to result in their imminent slaughter, and they knew it. They were going to die, and there was nothing they could do but shrug. A sacred oath could not be nullified. Fortunately for the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s, their teenage kids stepped up and did their fighting for them.

Ultimately, Mormon went before the Lord and humbly repented of his oath, which must have been a very difficult thing to have to do.

You seem to have concluded that Mormon had regretted turning his back on his troops when they were breaking God’s law, and that he overlooked his people's wickedness and came back to lead them into battle once more.

Nope. Mormon wasn’t sorry he had quit, he was just sorry he took an oath about quitting. Because in his anger he hadn’t foreseen that one day he might wish to be found standing tall among his kinsmen the day the mighty Nephite civilization finally passed into oblivion.

Are there exceptions to this? Yes, I’m certain there are. I’ve seen soldiers who were blood thirsty and cruel in their conduct.

Me too. Here's just one.

I respectively call upon you to cease preaching the false doctrine that all soldiers who fight in wars like Iraq and Afghanistan are guilty of murder. Leave judgment to the Lord.

Again, I’ve never preached that “all soldiers who fight in wars like Iraq and Afghanistan are guilty of murder”. But many, many are. It has nothing to do with unrighteous judgment when the soldiers have confessed publicly.

The videos I linked to above are only four of hundreds of confessions available to you with the click of a mouse. For you to imply by your name that you diligently seek while keeping yourself deliberately ignorant is a shame upon you.

Some day you must open your eyes.



Isaac Stanfield said...

I find it a little annoying that so many people readily turn to the "any country to which they owe allegiance" excuse, as if allegiance to a temporary state nullifies one's agency, the use of which is the whole purpose of life—pre-mortal, mortal, and post-mortal.

The twelfth article of faith gets abused in this situation. Yes, we are subject to kings and presidents. If I break into your house and put a gun to your head you are subject to me because I have the gun. But you probably don't honor me or sustain me in that. Article twelve does mention obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. The law, if a person took the time to look, is defined in the Doctrine and Covenants as the constitution. The law is not a man in the White House, and it isn't a military force. If we obeyed every man-made law, we would soon find ourselves breaking some to keep others. The saints in Missouri would have been obliged to exterminate themselves as instructed by Governor Boggs' order. That doesn't make sense. What does make sense is learning about the law we have been given by God and sustaining it through our actions and influence, all while being subject to the predatory machinations of the Gadianton robbers who currently rule every nation on this planet.

That was longer than I intended, but I really don't think there's any excuse for people who should know better to willingly give up their agency, or encourage others to do so, in the name of some sort of nationalist fervor.

Thanks for another good piece Rock. I hope the brick-by-brick explanation helps people understand your point of view, but I'm not holding my breath.

Rock Waterman said...

Isaac, I do believe you and I could be very good friends.

Gaybob Spongebath said...

Hot Diggity-Dog! This two-part contribution forever demolishes all of the lies and misinformation floating around the church on the subject of war!

This stuff is REQUIRED READING for any Mormons who think they already know it all!

And you can quote me on that.

Dave P. said...

Another great example of a sacred oath is Nephite's oath to Zoram that he wouldn't harm him. Zoram knew the full weight of the oath so much that he was no longer afraid. I can't help but wonder how often Nephi had to defend Zoram from his brothers because of that same oath.

One of my current areas of pondering relates to the misuse of the twelfth article of faith but more along the lines of the D&C verse wherein God tells us that we're justified in obeying Constitutional laws. I've wondered for a long time, does that also mean we're justified in not obeying unconstitutional laws? I have valid arguments for either answer. On the yes side, there are the numerous examples of the early saints being wrongfully imprisoned and Alexander Doniphan's refusal to have Joseph Smith executed. On the no justification side, we have Alma and Amulek's witness of the believers being burned alive and the spirit constraining them from acting because the Lord was receiving them and their murders would stand as a testimony against those who killed them.

We also can't forget that we're charged with protecting that which we have stewardship over. I keep warning my brother that if a home invader came after his wife or children, and he wasn't equipped to defend his family, he would be just as accountable for not protecting that which was his while the invader would similarly be held accountable for his own actions.

Dave P. said...

Oh, one more thing. My response to the accusation that Dr. Vance couldn't be cited because he's not LDS: Does that also discredit anyone, including the numerous presidents of the church, who have quoted and cited C.S. Lewis?

I recall a First Presidency message by President Hinckley a few years ago wherein he stated that members of the church don't have a monopoly on spiritual inspiration and knowledge.

Rock Waterman said...

Yes, the GAs quote gentiles all the time. It was a very curious objection.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Appreciate those links, 152.

Boys and young men under the age of 24 -prior to the mature development of the prefrontal cortex- are particularly vulnerable to the manipulation of marketers promising an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves, to engage in some heroic crusade.

The recruiting ad touting the Navy as "A Global Force For Good" I recently saw in movie theaters preceding the start of the film was a textbook example of the government pandering to adolescent desires.

It consisted of quick cuts of heroic soldiers using high-tech equipment over a Soviet-sounding martial soundtrack. We found it Despicable. (Current versions have replaced the Russian Army music with something with more of an Aaron Copeland feel, so at least THAT was an improvement.)

Lou Dobbs expressed concern for it here:

Alan Rock Waterman said...

That link again:


Anonymous said...

I loved every word of your epistle. I traveled yesterday for twelve hours from Santa Fe to Orange County with my youngest son. We actually talked about this. Mr. BKP absolutely deserves to be racked over the coals on this subject, as well as a meridian of others. His niece & family attend my ward, Nazi Mormons everyone.

I found the Strangites decades ago looking for a real prophet. They couldn't help, but I did like their honesty in doctrine, a home for the One Mighty & Strong to return... want to take on a new calling, Rock Waterman? By the way, I predict a major story from 47 S. Temple in 2010... maybe on H8? How about you?

Rock Waterman said...

My ignorance is showing. I don't know what H8 is. I still have trouble with these internet abbreviations. Good heavens, man speak ingslush!

Cliffs Blogger Profile said...

Wow Rock, YOU ROCK!

I have one question. Do you stay in the church because

A. you believe it is your only chance for salvation?

B. Family?

C. You think you have a better chance of changing the world by staying?

Gentile from Utah

Ken said...


I guess you have some greater light and truth than the apostles and the prophet huh?

I think I will take my councel from them thank you.

Ken said...

A good friend of mine who was a devout vegetarian could not see how the Church could ever sanction eating meat and was even convinced that Christ was a vegetarian. He used a lot of the same arguments you do about "thou shalt not kill". He ended up leaving the Church over it. I guarantee this is the same road you are on.

Isaac Stanfield said...

Ken, I don't think you should be guaranteeing anything about which road anyone is on who isn't part of your stewardship. Y'know? But maybe you just meant it as a friendly reminder to not be "fringy." So as long as we're assuming things, I'll assume that you think that whatever the majority of church members believe is probably right, and I don't think that should be assumed to be the case.

But enough assuming. I don't think people like me or Brother Waterman would be "in trouble" if we stated an unpopular opinion right to the face of the prophet. I think, if he had the time, he'd engage in a discussion about it and maybe even give a few opinions of his own. No disfellowshipping, no excommunications, no finger wagging. That's what I think.

So what do you think about the latest reports of "western" soldiers dragging Afghan children out of their homes and executing them? More media lies, or just righteous indignation by our conquering heroes?Or what about those heroic prdator drones that fire bomb weddings and funerals? Heart warming, soul stirring, tear jerking patriotism or just death from above? I'm curious.

Cliffs Blogger Profile said...

Ken, Be polite please.

Brother Rock has created a very deep and coherent survey of LDS doctrine as it relates to war, killing and law. It is the most thoughtful, thorough AND ACCURATE I have ever seen on the subject.

To respond by saying "
I think I will take my councel [sic] from them thank you." is frankly an abomination of the intellect. Such response begs the question that his council is not the same as yours.

Such disrespect for the earnest and honest contemplations of any member is inexcusable on its face.

Bad Ken. Off to Church with you! (I suggest stopping by a Catholic one on your way for quickest absolution)

Ken said...

When I said Rock is "on the same road" I don't mean he is gauranteed to leave the Church. What I meant is he is on the same dangerous road of being into a cause so deeply that they either inject it into thier religious beliefs, which individually is thier right, but then try to apply it to others or even the leadership of the Church. It is a dangerous road that has led many people away from thier own respective churches.

I agree I should be more polite. These posts kind of got my goat and I reacted too emotionally. I will keep it more civil for now on.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Cliff: I stay in the church because I'm attracted to the theology.

Cliffs Blogger Profile said...

Good enough!

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Ken, I'm somewhat puzzled by your accusation, "I guess you have some greater light and truth than the apostles and the prophet huh?"

It doesn't take more than a cursory reading of my entries here to notice that I featured numerous quotations of the First Presidency, and that I agreed with what they said. The First Presidency is usually made up of the prophet and two senior apostles. I won't fault you for preferring to take your counsel from them instead of from me.

By the way, like your friend, I was a vegetarian for about a year and a half before I fell off the wagon when invited to dinner one fateful night at Outback Steakhouse. During my time as a strict vegetarian I neither was "into the cause so deeply" that I interjected it into my religion, nor did I "try to apply it to others or even the leadership of the Church." I was simply trying to lose weight and become healthier.

I was aware, of course, of the Lord's counsel that meat should be eaten sparingly, and I also knew of Lorenzo Snow's disapproval of those who ate pork, but I never felt the need to impose my will on others. Neither is that my motivation here.

I do appreciate being called to repentance, as I'm always keen for self-correction. But what you consider my being on a
"dangerous road of being into a cause so deeply", is just me sharing what I learned as an outgrowth of my own process of repentance.

Much of what I share here are my discoveries that some of the dogmas I once championed were never really positions that originated in God's revealed word. Perhaps I go into too much detail about how I was wrong and where I was wrong, but the upshot of it all was that I WAS wrong. I repent of having carried those false beliefs.

Since you were offended by the things I have said here, I'm wondering if you would care to point out those areas of doctrine where I was off point?

ParaTed2k said...

If you are going to knowingly put out controversial blog articles, quit acting like a victim if people respond in equally controversial ways.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm not sure I catch your meaning here, ParaTed. I've gone back over what I've written here and can't find a suggestion that I see myself as victimized. If you would elucidate further, I'd be happy to respond.

Also, which blog articles did you consider controversial, and why?

Anonymous said...

ParaTed2k, (and Ken- although I was impressed that you are a humble man at least, did you even bother to check the doctrine and go to every link?)
I really don't like name calling. I have never seen Rock act like anything more than a gentleman. You on the other hand are not.

You and about 1000 other people and reasons have taken this TBM, after a Temple Marriage and much service in the Mormon church- to prayerfully and sadly-but peacefully, walk away from the church of 5 generations of my family, very recently.

Go ahead and tell me that my testimony was never strong in the first place or any of about 100 insults you could pitch at me.

I am done.

I used to defend those fellow saints in the church, that used character assassination as a tool to stop HONEST people like Rock. "Either you are for us or you are against us", just doesn't wash with me anymore. "Faithful history" is nothing more than propagating a "Faith" promoting, dishonest history. which is to say that if it isn't super "positive"- it is okay to lie- through omission, etc.

I am so completely weary of the judgmental attitude and character assassination that Mormons throw at someone they don't agree with. Believe me, I used to be just like you. I did it too. I NEVER saw anyone act like a victim here- but you.

This is a doctrinally sound blog.

I still find much truth in the doctrine and the Book of Mormon from the early days. But... the modern church appears to me to be as corrupt to me as the U.S. government has become. Pharisees like you- Ted and Ken, are the symptoms. The "Spirit" has been literally squeezed right out of this church.

I feel like I am gonna wretch if I have to hear or read someone like you even one more time.

isaac stanfield said...

Regarding your comment from December 30—I'll take that as a compliment, and I propose to make it official. As such, you are cordially invited to attend the baptism of son #3, Samuel, on January 23 at the Richland, Washington stake center chapel, at 5:30. But I understand if you can't make it.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Isaac, Time was I could have made it to that baptism, as we once lived in Ritzville, Washington just up the street from you.

Congrats to your son, just the same.

That was an excellent explication of the 12th Article of Faith, by the way. For many years I had a hard time figuring that thing out, because it seemed to imply obedience to all civil authority. And then one day, I put the second part together about obeying and sustaining the LAW. Well said. Wish somebody had put it that way to me years ago.

isaac stanfield said...

Ritzville huh? I look forward to stopping there on the way back from Spokane, but we never get to stay long enough. It's one of those places I've always wanted to explore a little but never had the chance to. Maybe I'm romanticizing the unknown.

The 12th Article is tough, and almost no one fails to play that card to stop me in my heretical "anarchist" tracks, even though the footnotes have been evident for years, but separating the two parts of the statement really gets people's attention. I can't take credit for it though. I got a hold of it in a discussion with Kim Haws (maybe you know him by some rural Eastern Washington connection. It is a smallish place after all), who is an inspiring anti-authoritarian, independent minded, LDS fellow.

Dave P. said...

If you want to know how powerful the word AND can be, just learn a little about binary algebra. Both sides of the equation with an AND operation between them must hold true or the whole thing falls apart.

Isaac Stanfield said...

That is an interesting point. So if I believe x is true and y is true, then if x turns out to be false then y must also be false? Or is it more that x has to be true for y to be true? Help me out here.

Dave P. said...

Both x and y have to be true. If either one or both are false, the whole thing is false. Using 0 for false and 1 for true, here's how it breaks down. Using & for the AND operator:

x y &
0 0 0
0 1 0
1 0 0
1 1 1

Truthseeker said...

Sorry guys, you have really lost me. lol :-D

isaac stanfield said...

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

If I don't obey the law, I am not sustaining it. I have to do both. D&C 134:5 (which is footnoted in AF #12) says we are bound to uphold our respective governments "while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments." So if I obey a law that doesn't fit the above description, I'm also sustaining that law. That may be why we have been encouraged in church to participate in the political process—not because voting is such fun, but because if we don't support honest men in that respect we have to deal with the consequences(D&C 98).

I don't know if that made any sense or not.

Dave P. said...

I also didn't state my premise very well as I couldn't remember the exact wording of the 12th Article exactly, but if you replace one comma with the word "and," then my boolean algebra comparison makes a little more sense.

"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates AND in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." [Emphasis added]

Come to think of it, my D&C professor once told me of the accidental insertion of a comma in Section 89 back in around the late 50s edition that never got corrected.

Verse 13 is used by members of the church who argue that we shouldn't eat meat at all and reads currently as, "And it is pleasing unto me that [flesh of beasts and fowls of the air] should not be used, only in times of winter, or of cold, or famine."

Remove the comma after "used" and the verse takes on a whole new meaning. If that isn't enough, just point them back to Section 49:18-19. Even though that same professor says that the inspiration ends at the dividing line between the verses and footnotes, they're still a good way to seek out clarification on verses that are poorly worded or have grammatical errors (and there are a LOT).

Truthseeker said...

Thank you for the clarification! As math (and numbers) are the universal language, I really do see your point.

It is always so amazing to me how we ALL express ourselves, sometimes differently, and yet we can still be on the same page.

Anonymous said...


Dave P. said...

I just realized something based on a question I'd been thinking about lately. I recently read that Cindy Sheehan had been arrested after her latest march in D.C. - http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=121463&sectionid=3510203

My D&C professor, who I respect greatly but I know isn't perfect, once used her as an example of someone described in D&C 121:18-20 (apostates who would gain worldly fame by attacking the Lord's anointed but eventually those who helped raise them up to fame would turn against them), thus implying in his opinion that then-president George W. Bush was considered among the Lord's anointed and speaking out against him (or the wars he started) was a means of bringing these promised cursings upon said speaker.

While reading the article and thinking back on that, it hit me that the Lord's anointed may become government officials, but government officials don't automatically become the Lord's anointed since (around here, supposedly anyway) they are elected by the people. After all, look at how many Gadianton operatives became the Chief Judge of the Nephite republic in the Book of Mormon. I'd love to hear what Helaman or the two Nephis during that era would have to say to those who call our government "leaders" as having been chosen by God today. After all, Hitler was elected with 98% of the vote back in his day.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Just more evidence that too many Mormons equate love of country with love of party government. Odd, isn't it, that so many Republicans are up in arms over the terrible direction Obama is taking us, but were silent while George Bush first put all these usurpations into motion.

Tribalism is killing this country. Today Alex Jones, on his radio show,predicted that the current health care takeover will catapult Republicans back into office on the promise that they will repeal the bill, but of course they won't.

He's correct, of course. They'll tweak it here or there, but the dictatorial takeover of America will continue forward. Republican leadership is just as much an enemy of America as is the Democratic.

Good point about Hitler, who was democratically elected. Today I heard Obama's speech congratulating the congress for their recent great achievement, which was greeted by huge applause.

I was reminded of the scene in one of the later Star Wars films when the government chamber cheered at the appointment of the Chancellor being given full authority. The Princess (wow, I can't remember her name at the moment -guess I'm not much of a geek anymore) said, "So this is how liberty dies, accompanied by cheers."

Dave P. said...

As badly as George Lucas trashed the Star Wars franchise with the prequel trilogy, he did make a good point with the story of how Palpatine came to power. He said he just followed real-world examples that occurred throughout history.

It was Padme Amidala who said that line, by the way.

Dave P. said...

Oh and we can't forget that it was the disgust that Thomas B. Marsh had for those Saints who were involved in the Missouri-Mormon wars that caused him to voluntarily leave the church (and not the apparent myth of the milk strippings), even though he named Joseph Smith as the leader behind the Mormon assault in his affidavit.

I'd imagine that if the Lord had given Section 101 in 1838 instead of 1833, He would have had quite a few choice works for why the Saints were being driven from their homes rather than chastening them for "backbiting and gossip."

Dave P. said...

Two more points that I just thought of:
* The Lord may anoint certain people to government positions, but that doesn't mean they could get away with running amok and doing anything they wanted: Look at Saul and David.
* Second, the Lord may anoint a group of people as His covenant people, but that also doesn't mean they can run amok and still have His support. Look at the Pharisees who were so convinced that they were always doing God's work that they crucified their God. Not only that, but (and you'll hear this from me a LOT) also look at the right-wing's infallible support for what the nation of Israel does in modern times.

Job got it right when he said, "As the Lord giveth, the Lord hath taken away."

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I'm with you on the baffling and completely unbiblical blind allegiance so many Americans have toward the state of Israel, a nation founded by atheist Jews -and terrorists, to boot.

Zionism is not the same as Judaism, and a "state" is not the same as a nation, but try and tell that to the True Believers. But then we most of these same people won't tolerate criticism of American government either, accusing the critic of hating America.

I always thought it interesting that Scofield's evil bible appeared at roughly the same time as the Book of Mormon.

Padme Amidala. For some reason I had completely forgotten that name. And Ironically, as I was writing the comment above, my wife was in the bedroom watching "The Phantom Menace" for her first time, so I could have gone in there and asked her if I had known.

It was only recently that I learned the full story about Thomas Marsh myself, and how we had been fed a line about the milk strippings. If our leaders had only been honest about the history of the church from the beginning and not tried to turn everything into a faith promoting story or a historical warning, it would have been better overall, I think. I know too many former members who feel their trust has been betrayed.

Incidentally, I'm in that camp that is convinced that Joseph did not know about the Danites; that Sampson Avard demanded an oath of secrecy to keep Joseph in plausible deniability.

Dave P. said...

Even Bruce R. McConkie said that the current situation in Israel is a political gathering and not a spiritual one. What I tell die-hard supporters of Israel is that the Bible is talking about the House of Israel, not the nation.

Dave P. said...

A lot of double posts today, but I forgot to mention that I pray your wife survived watching The Phantom Menace. Her soul will never be the same again.

Tom said...

I know I'm joining this discussion way late, and perhaps too late to elicit some discussion from some of those who posted herein, but thought I might as well try.

A lot has been made, in some of the above comments, about the 12th Article of Faith, as well as a brief comment about D&C 134. In looking at the Articles of Faith in context, as well as D&C 134, I have a couple of different thoughts.

First, D&C 134. I must admit I haven't studied this particular section with too much interest, but it is interesting that it is simply titled a "declaration." I'm also of the understanding that Joseph Smith was not present when this particular section/declaration was read to the saints and accepted as doctrine. Though true, it has obviously remained in the D&C since 1835.

Second, the Articles of Faith. I find it extremely interesting (and telling) that the AoF were not voted in as scripture until immediately preceding the issuance of the Manifesto. Woodruff gets the members to accept the AoF as scripture (especially #12 in this context), then lays out the Manifesto where he expressly states that "he" was forced to act for the "temporal salvation" of the church. Perhaps it is merely coincidental that the AoF took on scriptural power the very same day as the Manifesto, but it seems rather unlikely. Rather, in my view, it seems as though it was done purposefully as a way to bind some (most?) members who otherwise would have voiced objections. Indeed, many did voice objections and call for written proof the the revelation which would have been required to submit that Manifesto, though it was to no avail.

Today, AoF #12 certainly gives more than enough "ammunition" (pun intended) for members to practice blind obedience to any and all laws, without thinking for a minute what the D&C says about the Constitution...or a myriad of other scriptures on agency or to whom we should be obedient.

Of all the quotes on the subject, I enjoy what John Taylor had to say:

"It is said in the Doctrine and Covenants, that he that keepeth the laws of God, hath no need to break the laws of the land [58:21]. It is further explained in section 98, what is meant in relation to this. That all laws which are constitutional must be obeyed, as follows (reads D&C 98:4–7).

That is taking this nation as an example, all laws that are proper and correct, and all obligations entered into which are not violative of the constitution should be kept inviolate. But if they are violative of the constitution, then the compact between the rulers and the ruled is broken and the obligation ceases to be binding." (JD 26:350)

Lastly, thanks for the overall message brought on by these two posts on taking the name of God in vain. It's all too easy to see how hoodwinked so many people are in supporting the warring of our government (I, too, sadly have been part of that crowd in years past, though I'm trying to repent of those missteps). It only worsens through the false duality presented to the populace on having two parties who supposedly represent all views...views which apparently include perpetual war in far off lands and which are widely accepted by voters nationwide. Of all the issues over which people are up in arms, war is the last thin on their mind these days. It seems as though everyone accepts this perpetual war on a nameless, faceless "enemy" thanks mostly to the fear-mongering that happens throughout the main stream media and "approved" sources.

How sad indeed.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bro. Rock,

I just read these two-part essay of yours about war and authentic LDS faith. These are gems. I wish you would write more. Of course, I still look forward to your coming work on Hinckley's "War and Peace" talk last 2003.

In the light of the economic crisis, and how war contributes to the bankrupting of the country and the destruction families, you should continue to write on this subject. It is never irrelevant, no matter how church leaders or members try to ignore or consign it to their memory holes.

On the subject of Zionism, I believe the most authentic voice on the issue doesn't come from Christians or Mormons who interpret Jewish scriptures as they please, but from the Jews themselves who see their own history in the light of their own sacred writings. You'll find them here:

True Torah Jews Against Zionism

If it were not for these Jews, I would have thought every Jew was a Zionist.


andrew said...

this reminds me of a lesson a mission companion/district leader taught once to our district. the subject was, in my words, the american covenant. it basically outlined how the lord has attached a covenant to the new world, and thus the inhabitants of that land, and revealed to each new steward what the stipulations are for living in it. it's amazing that we can simply open up the book of mormon, and the doctrine and covenants, and see the nations that have risen and falling because of their breaking of the covenant. and we are obviously next

the real question now is who, in modern times, has violated the covenant, or who was the first to violate it: the church, or the government(s)?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

The churches, including ours, are certainly guilty of not calling the government on it's violations of the sacred covenant.

Can you imagine any of our recent prophets standing up to corruption the way Abinadi did?

That's the real role of a prophet, to call the leaders to account.

Dave P. said...

Spencer W. Kimball once asked a question about why the church wasn't being persecuted and then answered his own question in that the church had been infiltrated to the highest ranks by wolves in sheep's clothing.

So you won't see the church officials standing up to the corruption because they're a part of it. Abinadi prophesied that his account would be a "type and shadow of things to come" in this day. What does that mean? The Lord will call someone to call the church leaders to repentance and they will be cleansed and/or destroyed if they don't listen- oh, wait, he's already called that person and they had 40 years to repent, but didn't listen. Now the cleansing the church is moving forward.

Anonymous said...

I...I don't know. I'm not taking a stand here, but a few scriptures came to mind that I think could apply to both sides:
"Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1
"The spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, for he stirreth the hearts of men to contend, with anger, one with another." (And I don't mean war) 3 Nephi 11:29.

I guess I'll also say that both sides seem to believe that they know what God is thinking, and I'm not sure I'd ever be so bold as to make such a claim.

Anonymous said...

I'm anonymous, and I'm female, and I've been questioning war for decades--(which means I'm not young)--

I found this 'pure mormonism' via DailyPaul. I'm a confirmed, campaign working Ron Paul Mormon.

I just want to thank you, two years after the last post . . .--
for writing this. I spent years looking for things online that would prove that I wasn't the only Mormon who didn't want to 'drop out' who severely question(ed/s) the mainstream cultural Mormon's approach to wars/government.

This is very affirming to me. Thank you.

See you on DailyPaul--when you decide to visit. I love that mixed-religions/plenty of atheists/agnostics site.

I had thought of a lot of these things, but I hadn't gone to the trouble to document it all, and I appreciate the work you've done.

I thought I was done, but I'm not. As a female Mormon (whose male spouse is as pro-peace as I am), I am dismayed at how many women in the church are so pro-war. :( THEY seem to be the ones who are so hateful, and that really frightens me.

Oh, and has anyone mentioned poor Elder Nelson who had the courage to give the 'renounce war, proclaim peace' talk that was so shamefully hushed up along the Wasatch front? I loved him for that talk, but it seemed that pro-Bush Utah really poked holes in him for it. It's really nice, now and again, when someone does speak up and say the right thing, though sadly it seems rare.

Now I've said enough--

(I don't live in the west, but I saw the internet news about some of those things; Utah is a very foreign place to some of us, more foreign than places that do seem to scare some members--*wink*)--

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Oh, I'm on the Daily Paul every day. I don't comment much, but I read everything and watch every new video. the DailyPaul.com is an addiction.

You are not alone; there are still many, many members of the church who have read the scriptures and understand that the current war mania displayed by some of our members is an aberration. Since you don't live in Utah, you may not be aware of the Spencer W. Kimball Billboard that recently went up in hopes of awakening the still sleeping among us. It displays a link to this page:


Also there is an ongoing discussion of our responsibilities as members of the Lord's church regarding war on the Facebook group "LDS Warfare Discussion." Come join us:


Anonymous said...

that billboard thrills me--(*says the DPer*)

Every day my husband e-mails me from work and says, "you've got more stuff for me to read?"--


Keep writing.

John Peterson said...

Rock, it looks like a piece of spam made it through your filter.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

And it takes you directly to an ad for the iCloud. Dang spam. Can't even rely on it to take you where it says it will.

John Peterson said...

Although a lot of changes were made to the headings to the 2013 edition of the scriptures, I only found one which was made to the text which modified its meaning:

"We believe that every man should be honored in his station, rulers and magistrates as such, being placed for the protection of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty; and that to the laws all men owe respect and deference, as without them peace and harmony would be supplanted by anarchy and terror;..."
(D&C 134:6)

Did you notice which word was changed? Probably not and probably many young institute students won't either. The word "owe" used to be "show". Doesn't that change the tone just a little bit? It's pretty crafty too since the words sound so similar that even if someone is reading along in an older version they probably wouldn't notice the word change. Bravo!

John Peterson said...

I seem to have spoken too soon. The word "owe" was the original word used here as can be seen in this 1835 fascimile:


Alan Rock Waterman said...

Either way, I wonder why the word "show" was ever substituted.

At any rate, we don't "owe" obedience to laws that are unjust or unconstitutional. Joseph Smith appears to have known this, but today it is not uncommon for members of the Church to think we have to obey every statute, regulation, and ordinance imposed upon us by an unrighteous State. That, of course, is the road to slavery.

jls said...


I wonder if you or David P. could point me in the right direction for the truth behind Thomas Marsh leaving the church?

It's disturbing how many of these stories we were indoctrinated with in primary and sunday school, in order to promote faith or teach a lesson, were simply made up or were twisted in order to make a point or support an object lesson.

Thanks for a great blog that's helped open my eyes and encourage me to question and inquire and not just take things at face value. It's a skill I wish I would have learned many years ago. I suppose it's better late than never.

-- Jared

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Jared, I know of no better explanation of the whole affair than that given by John Hamer. Be sure and follow the links for the full story.