Mormonism and Patriotism

July 3, 2009    By: Matt W. @ 7:42 am   Category: Mormon Culture/Practices

One thing I have never really understood in my short little life as a Latter-day Saint (trying to be!) is the intersection between patriotism and mormonism within the church. Does it just go back to the Utah’s long hard road to statehood? Did it come before or after the nigh-canonization of the U.S. Constitution, or is that an out-growth of the hyper-patriotism? Is it because the Gospel was restored in the US, and so the US law was the only set up where the government could prosper, or is that just after-the-fact justification for our love of country? I suspect it does relate to the Book of Mormon’s praise of this land as a “Land of Promise”, but wasn’t that Mexico/Peru/Patagonia/Panama/Wherever? (Are their other limited geography spots?) Maybe it’s because we believe in being subject to Kings/Rulers/Magistrates, and honoring and sustaining the law, but I don’t see this translating over to other nations as much.

Anyway, what do you think? Why are we so danged Patriotic?

(Happy 4th of July, don’t blow your fingers off)

163 Comments »

  1. Thats a very good question. Based on a blog post I recently wrote, I suggested that its the strong emphasis on families that make us good citizens and soldiers. The sames qualities that make one a good child or parent, such as loyalty, obediance, diligence, repsect for authority, etc, also carry over in our relationship to the state. So you could say that “Uncle Sam” gets as much respect and loyalty as our parents do.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — July 3, 2009 @ 8:24 am

  2. Originally I think it was a defensive move to prove to the U.S. that Mormons were not a threat to the stability of the country, so they put on an extra heaping dose of patriotism.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — July 3, 2009 @ 8:39 am

  3. Mormons are patriotic?

    Or do you mean American Mormons?

    Comment by Kim Siever — July 3, 2009 @ 8:53 am

  4. Define “patriotic” please.

    Comment by John — July 3, 2009 @ 10:57 am

  5. We’re not heavily patriotic, we’re heavily Republican and Republicans feel the need to wear their supposed patriotism on their sleeves.

    Comment by gimper — July 3, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

  6. I was just reading some old issues of the Deseret News early 1850s for another purpose entirely, but came across a reporter’s story on the Mormon 4th of July celebration. It was quite interesting and showed they surely had strong feelings of loyalty to the constitution, while not so much to some the politicians from earlier years. W. W. Phelps must have had 15 toasts for various items, some to do with the US, others the Mormons. So I suspect your point about constitution was an important one. Perhaps the others in some measure as well.

    -WVS

    Comment by WVS — July 3, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

  7. I like the Ezra Taft Benson view of the patriotism Mormonism intersect. After two years as Church President and during a general conference talk, he placed extra emphasis on both instances of the first-person singular pronoun “I” in this sentence:

    “I established the Constitution of this land,” said the Lord, “by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose” (D&C 101:80).

    So it looks to me like it goes back to at least December 16, 1833, the date of Section 101.

    Comment by R. Gary — July 3, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  8. Just a thought in answer to John. David McCollough defines/differentiates between different kinds of “patriotism” while talking about the importance of history:

    “History is-or should be-the bedrock of patriotism, not the chest-pounding kind of patriotism but the real thing, love of country.” (David McCullough: Why History?
    http://latterdayspence.blogspot.com/2009/05/david-mccullough-why-history.html)

    We see a lot of “showy” patriotism, but the real thing is “love of country”, the kind that makes people willing to sacrifice and give all.

    But enough about “defining patriotism”. I’m still intrigued by the original post/question. What exactly is it that links Mormonism and Patriotism?

    Just an initial side thought, I don’t think it can be explained easily or simplistically. I think it’s a great question, but I sense that it’s a tad complex and involves a number of factors (including several historical and doctrinal factors). But I’m much more interested in hearing other peoples thoughts on this than attempting to answer the question myself. An intriguing thought/conversation…

    Comment by Clean Cut — July 3, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

  9. R. Gary: I think you are on to something there. Our scriptures are so connected to the US Constitution, It’s likely that our missionary success is higher the more a country embraces American Culture. I am betting it is that scripturalization of patriotism that has gotten us through all the times the LDS movement was at odds with american sensibilities.

    Comment by matt w. — July 3, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

  10. Any of this contemporary stuff is completely beside the point. The Old Testament is filled with the idea of a chosen people. The New Testament broadens that conception, but teaches subjection to rulers nonetheless.

    Paul teaches in Romans that the “powers that be are ordained of God”. Similar sentiment in Titus: “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates”. The Book of Mormon itself is full of the stuff. Moroni and the Title of Liberty comes to mind.

    That aside, I don’t know why anyone would want members of the church not to be patriotic relative to the nation in which they live. Is the world going to be better off if more people cheat on their taxes, or engage in other forms of anti-social behavior?

    Comment by Mark D. — July 3, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

  11. It is because we brainwash (ok, teach) our children to be obedient to religious authority. This “obey authority” naturally extends to other spheres, namely political.

    Comment by ed42 — July 3, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  12. I doubt there is an even vaguely conservative Judeo-Christian denomination in the country that doesn’t promote patriotism, citizenship, civic involvement, and most controversially the concept of a “just war” under some conditions or other.

    Traditionally, this applies to just about every Western country on the planet, and most Eastern ones. It is pretty hard to think of a country that wouldn’t cheer on its own athletes at the Olympics, for example, whether its government was generally respected or not.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 3, 2009 @ 7:07 pm

  13. My experience, having lived outside of the US for about 5 years, including England, Australia, and Mexico, is that American Mormons are very patriotic–and Americans in general have that stereotype–whereas Mormons outside of the US are not nearly as much. I think most non-US Mormons don’t see why Americans are that way (someone tell me if I’m off here) and probably find it a bit scary given the imperialist nature of the mighty US government. Patriotism easily evolves into blind and naive nationalism, and that is a frightening idea, especially when America is the world’s superpower.

    I think the true patriot would have to be aligned with the idea of life, liberty, and property, and not solely with a country, flag, or whatever. When a country is a shining example of upholding the idea of life, liberty, and property it is in the right and should be applauded (this is rarely the case, and certainly cannot be true of America today). The patriot in this instance can properly be fond of his country. However, this is the all too easy case. The more difficult case involves being a patriot to the idea of liberty when the country does not uphold it. It is then that the true patriot must speak out against his country–or else what is patriotism but jingoism by another name?

    This is the same problem Republicans and Democrats have–party over, and at the expense of, principle. Patriotism is in many ways an all too slippery slope if we lose sight of principle.

    Comment by chris — July 3, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

  14. I grew up outside of the good old USA. Americans are definitely more patriotic than my home country. People from other countries, usually European countries, sometimes see this as a sign of arrogance, but they are wrong. Mormon or non-Mormon, America is the best country and its denizens have a lot to be patriotic about. Americans also have a lot to celebrate.

    - Who fought valiantly to secure her liberty?
    - Who whipped the Kaiser in Germany during WWI?
    - Who effectively ended tyranny during WWII?
    - Whose Constitution is an ensign to the nations?
    - Where was the gospel restored?
    - Who gives billions in foreign aid?

    I could go on. Countries often confuse America patriotism with arrogance. Our current president seems to suffer from a touch of this confusion. Instead of “apologizing” to the world, he should have reminded other countries that America has always been there to bail out their sorry butts whenever they screwed up.

    These days it seems like every country likes to hate America until they are invaded or need our financial assistance.

    Comment by Dave C. — July 3, 2009 @ 10:12 pm

  15. A couple of replies brought this ee cummings poem to mind:

    “next to of course god america i
    love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
    say can you see by the dawn’s early my
    country ’tis of centuries come and go
    and are no more what of it we should worry
    in every language even deafanddumb
    thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
    by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
    why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
    iful than these heroic happy dead
    who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
    they did not stop to think they died instead
    then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

    he spoke. and drank rapidly a glass of water

    Comment by Phouchg — July 3, 2009 @ 11:08 pm

  16. “Who gives billions in foreign aid?”

    While the U.S. gives lots in foreign aid, it is far from the most generous in doing so.

    “I could go on. Countries often confuse America patriotism with arrogance. Our current president seems to suffer from a touch of this confusion. Instead of “apologizing” to the world, he should have reminded other countries that America has always been there to bail out their sorry butts whenever they screwed up.

    These days it seems like every country likes to hate America until they are invaded or need our financial assistance.”

    Dave C, thanks for not only reminding us that many do not like us, but also showing us why they might have good reason for doing so.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 4, 2009 @ 7:42 am

  17. Chris H,

    While the U.S. gives lots in foreign aid, it is far from the most generous in doing so.

    Just curious, what metric do you have in mind? I know America gets beat up a lot for not giving as much as other countries but without taking into account the donations of individual Americans (apart from their government). I’m sure you know more about this than I do so I thought I’d ask.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 4, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  18. Jacob, I have some data, but I will have to look it up when I get to the office on Monday. The issue of private vs. public aid is an interesting one, particularly when it comes to development.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 4, 2009 @ 10:47 am

  19. There are lots of ways that the United States can help other countries but barring unusual circumstances financial aid probably does more harm than good.

    That doesn’t mean that other forms of foreign aid doesn’t come at a financial cost of course, but rather that direct financial aid usually aids and abets what is wrong with a foreign country rather than what is right. And where it doesn’t do that, it often enfeebles local initiative, delays hard choices, and helps preserve the status quo.

    The things we can do are maintain effective embassies and consulates, promote free exchange of ideas, admit and award scholarships to university students who come to the United States, promote free trade under reasonable constraints, provide technical advice, help defend peaceful countries against foreign aggression, and so on.

    We do all of those things to one degree or another, and we could certainly do more. Those are the means whereby the United States, by far, is the most influential (and respected) country on the planet, usually for good, if occasionally for ill.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 4, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

  20. Chris,

    If you are an expert in foreign aid amounts relative to other nations, let’s see the stats, dude.

    “thanks for not only reminding us that many do not like us” – You are welcome.

    “but also showing us why they might have good reason for doing so” – You are welcome.

    I can’t quite pinpoint the motivation behind your sarcasm. If you are implying that a non-American should not point out these issues to Americans, then there’s the arrogance people talk about.

    Comment by Dave C. — July 4, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

  21. By some measures (percentage of national income) and restricted to some forms of aid (development aid, for example), there are several countries that contribute more than the United States.

    In absolute terms, however, the United States dominates virtually every category – even those of dubious effectiveness. Here is a decent article on the subject:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_bartlett/bartlett200501031119.asp

    It is easy to find others defending the alternative point of view. For example, this one:

    http://www.globalissues.org/article/35/us-and-foreign-aid-assistance

    Comment by Mark D. — July 4, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  22. David C: Not a foreign aid expert. Just a political philosopher who finds America-is-so-great-rhetoric vomit worthy.

    Mark: Thanks for the links Mark. While we give the most in absolute terms, we are also the biggest and the richest. I think the stats in the National Review Bartlett article are very interesting. Sure we do much good, I am not knocking that. I am just not sure if it is worthy of patriotic chest-thumping and that was more my earlier point.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 4, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  23. For my more thoughful response to the larger issue of patriotism seem my FPR post:

    http://www.faithpromotingrumor.com/2009/07/cosmopolitanism-an-alternative-to-patriotism/

    Comment by Chris H. — July 4, 2009 @ 4:01 pm

  24. Just a political philosopher who finds America-is-so-great-rhetoric vomit worthy.

    “Vomit worthy”? Really? I mean, aren’t there worse things in life than overbearing American patriotism? It’s the Fourth of July, for crying out loud. Give up the condescending hyperbole for just the holiday please.

    It’s interesting it takes an outsider/foreigner to appreciate the country’s good works and see the bigger picture, and American “philosophers” like Chris seem mired in the politics of the last eight years.

    Comment by Wade M. — July 4, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

  25. I think the problem with the America-is-so-great rhetoric is what it can lead to. It takes a certain humility which is opposite to over bearing american patriotism in order to repent.

    America may have great things about it but it also has many things for which to be ashamed and repent. In short, I think we are patriotic as mormons because for all our attestations of Christianity and fulness of the gospel we still engage in tribalistic, us versus them, thinking. This type of thinking pervades every thing we do including the very manor in which we read our history and the scriptures. This is why we take “land of promise” and equate it to our national government while conveniently ignoring both the numerous other nations which probably fit the geography better as well as the curse which accompanies said promise. This is why we take prophecies and relate them to a very specific American context and assume prophecy is not just a statement on the future but an endorsement of our actions. The 12th article faith then becomes simply a way to cover our sins and our tribalism. A war indulgence much like those given in the medieval times. Be of good cheer because so long as the 12th article of faith is around you get a pass no matter how vile your nations commands may be.

    If our past has taught us anything, its to not make waves. So in lieu of extermination orders, vengeance oaths, and a tenuous relationship with the USA we have went all in to prove we aint so strange. You can trust us mormons. We are good patriots willing to spill blood for our nation. So on the 24th with a certain irony, we celebrate the expulsion of mormons from the USA by raising flags. When the nation goes to war, Utah polls nearly always as the most hawkish, most eager to shed support violence abroad. It often goes so far as to become a form of idolatry and blasphemy like when our former president proclaimed America “the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness overcomes it not.”

    George Orwell once wrote

    All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side … The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them

    This is why I have to agree with Chris H. that its vomit worthy.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 5, 2009 @ 1:15 am

  26. And for Wade M.’s sake I waited til the 5th to post.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 5, 2009 @ 1:16 am

  27. Not only are utahns the most hawkish, they sometime are the most chicken-hawkish.

    I don’t know if this view is pervasive, but there seems to be support for military action EXCEPT they don’t want their sons in the military. It is perfectly fine for those black and puerto rican soliders to die, but not our pure white delightsome Mormmon boys. I was in a discussion several years ago with an LDS guy who was gung-ho on the invasion of Iraq, but also said that he discouraged his own son from joining the Marines. The military was a “morally hazardous” place for a good Mormon boy, and a mission was much better suited for a 19 year old.

    Comment by Phouchg — July 5, 2009 @ 7:56 am

  28. That is a completely unjustified characterization based on the thinnest of anecdotal evidence. Participation statistics are hard to come by, unfortunately, although I have been told that Utah had the highest World War II military participation rate of any state.

    In terms of statistics I can verify, Utah deaths in World War II were 10% higher than the U.S. average, relative to population. In the Vietnam War, they were 20% higher.

    In World War II, Army/Army Air Force deaths alone were suffered at a rate of 266 per 100,000 population in Utah, and 241 per 100,000 in the U.S. at large. In the Vietnam War, military deaths were suffered at a rate of 34 per 100,000 population in Utah vs. 28 per 100,000 in the U.S. at large.

    All else being equal, that implies a closely corresponding difference in military participation rates. And as someone who has spent a significant portion of his life attending an overseas LDS serviceman’s branch, I think the insult to them and to the LDS denomination at large is outrageous.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 5, 2009 @ 9:31 am

  29. Back to the original topic and thinking about that link between Mormonism and Patriotism, I was reading another LDS blog post on liberty and a couple more scriptures stood out. Captain Moroni is a model for us who “did joy in the liberty and the freedom of his country, and his brethren from bondage and slavery” (Alma 48:11). While we surly have a different country, we take joy in the very same principles!

    Another scripture that was quoted was Ether 8:25, and how it’s Satan who “seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries.” (Ether 8:25) whereas God desires freedom and joy for us. The Book of Mormon teaches us to value liberty and freedom, which makes for a great fit with the USA or any other country which values these principles too.

    Comment by Clean Cut — July 5, 2009 @ 10:02 am

  30. Phouchg, I’m with Mark D. If you want to broadly brand the LDS people as racists please take it elsewhere.

    Clean Cut, I think that is a very good point. I think some of my love for the USA is due to it as a symbol and example of political/religious freedom.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 5, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

  31. Dave C: Mormon or non-Mormon, America is the best country

    Are you blind to the obvious fact that superlative assertions like this are astonishingly oafish and rude to our friends and neighbors who aren’t Americans? What good comes from making such comparative comments? Our readers here come from all kinds of countries. The U.S.A. is a wonderful country and I am thrilled to be a citizen of it. But I can be happy to be American without saying America is better than all other countries (which is what claiming it is the “best” does). Such comparisons are not only arrogant, they reveal a disturbing level of social retardedness on your part.

    It seems to me that being a good Mormon also entails being a good neighbor and being a good neighbor requires more humility and much better manners than your comment displays.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 5, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

  32. phouchg: they sometime are the most chicken-hawkish.

    I gotta agree with Mark and Jacob in objecting to this silly comment of yours. The “sometimes” in this sentence may technically be correct but it also means that your slam on Utah could apply equally to “some people” in all 49 other states.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 5, 2009 @ 3:31 pm

  33. All, I’ve really enjoyed all your thoughts here. It has helped me really think about the American nationalism(patriotism) inherent in Mormonism. I think Scriptures like R Gary and Clean Cut sight do have a lot to do with our patriotism, but In looking into it more, maybe it is just a protestant thing, and my background in Catholicism is really the differentiating factor.

    Comment by matt w. — July 5, 2009 @ 5:31 pm

  34. Mark D (28): Do you have a site where you got those numbers, or would you mind emailing me your sources? Due to some recent blog posts concerning Latter Day Saint military service I am very interested in your numbers. Thanks.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — July 5, 2009 @ 6:22 pm

  35. July 4th – America born
    July 6th – matt w. born
    D&C 134 is kinda cool, too.

    Happy bd Matt.

    Comment by mondo cool — July 5, 2009 @ 9:12 pm

  36. Morgan D.,

    I found Army/AAF WWII casualty figures by state in Army Battle Casualties and Nonbattle Deaths in World War II: Final Report, 7 December 1941 – 31 December 1946, p. 118. There are versions online. There is a comparable report out there for Navy/Marine casualties.

    I found Vietnam War casualty information by state on the National Archives and Records Administration website. Google “Statistical information about casualties of the Vietnam War”.

    Or just check out this site:

    World War II, Korea, and Vietnam Casualties
    http://www.history.army.mil/documents/misc/stcas.htm

    To obtain deaths per 100,000 population I divided by the corresponding 1940 and 1970 census figures I obtained from Wikipedia. Other sources are readily available.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 5, 2009 @ 9:42 pm

  37. Unfortunately, that last link isn’t as useful as it looks because it doesn’t include totals, and all three wars are U.S. Army casualties only.

    NARA has Utah Vietnam War Casualties as 366 of 58,193 U.S. military casualties. The 1970 United States Census has Utah’s population as 1,059,000 of 203,302,031.

    Army Battle and Nonbattle Casualties of World War II has Utah casualties as 1,463 of 318,274 U.S. Army/AAF deaths. The 1940 United States Census has Utah’s population as 550,310 of 132,164,569.

    State Summary of War Casualties [Utah], U.S. Navy 1946 has Utah Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard WWII deaths at 374. According to Wikipedia that was out of a total of 89,042. Adding Merchant Marine casualties (which I don’t have a Utah number for) of 9,521 gives 416,837 U.S. military deaths in World War II. That is notably less than the ~620,000 military deaths during the U.S. Civil War.

    Of course it should be remembered that many millions of soldiers and others from other countries died during World War II, 10.7 million military deaths from the Soviet Union alone.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 5, 2009 @ 10:22 pm

  38. I grew up outside of the good old USA.

    I have no doubt you are living proof of the American dream, but your Canadian birth certificate is hardly evidence of objectivity or special insights.

    Anyway, since you asked:

    - Who fought valiantly to secure her liberty?

    Citizens of British America plus outsiders like the French.

    - Who whipped the Kaiser in Germany during WWI?

    The combined might of the Russian Empire, the UK, France, Canada, Australia, Italy, Japan, Portugal and the US.

    - Who effectively ended tyranny during WWII?

    Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Greece, Holland, Luxembourg, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Yugoslavia and, by the end of the war, just about everybody except Germany and Japan.

    - Whose Constitution is an ensign to the nations?

    The United States, of course, but as you’ve noted yourself, that doesn’t mean much: “We can no longer call ourselves an ensign to the nations… I predict that America will lose her standing as an ensign to the nations.”

    - Where was the gospel restored?

    In a country hostile not only to Smith’s claims, but his person as well.

    - Who gives billions in foreign aid?

    Latin American immigrants, mostly.

    Comment by Peter LLC — July 6, 2009 @ 4:59 am

  39. Interesting political post by Orson Scott Card: No nation is devoid of error. Doesn’t directly answer the question “Why are we so danged patriotic?” but does discuss his opinions on the limits of patriotism.

    Comment by A. Davis — July 6, 2009 @ 5:53 am

  40. Peter,

    You are right that my Canadian citizenship gives me no special privilege in these matters: My knowledge does.

    You are correct that other countries helped out in the war efforts, but the point that you are missing is that America’s contribution was paramount in all those war efforts.

    Here is a history lesson for you: Without America the world would be a very screwed up place.

    Your comment that latin American immigrants mostly give billions of dollars in aid is laughable.

    Comment by Dave C. — July 6, 2009 @ 9:32 am

  41. Geoff,

    RE: “Such comparisons are not only arrogant, they reveal a disturbing level of social retardedness on your part.”

    Are you blind to the obvious fact that ad hominem attacks like this just demonstrate that you have run out of rational arguments to buttress you point of view?

    I see no arrogance at all in Americans believing that their country is the best. Canadians do it. Canadians think that their country is better than the USA. There is nothing wrong with expressing this sort of pride in one’s history and heritage. This sort of thing is akin to the attitude of sports teams.

    Americans have a distinguished heritage. This heritage should not lead to arrogance, but it justifies Americans having a high degree of patriotism for what this country has accomplished.

    Isn’t this interesting, folks? A Canadian telling fault finding Americans that they have a lot to be patriotic about.

    Comment by Dave C. — July 6, 2009 @ 9:44 am

  42. Geoff et al.,

    Perhaps we have misunderstood each other on this issue. I am saying that Americans should feel a sense of patriotism given the great good that America has done for the world, notwithstanding her many mistakes. Patriotism that prompts Americans to remember their past accomplishments and purpose, which is to be an ensign to the nations, is good.

    Here is what Orson Pratt said about America. If you do not agree with his sentiments, then perhaps you have forgotten America’s divine purpose.

    “We are met, fellow-citizens, to celebrate one of the most important events that ever embellished the pages of political history–an event of which every American heart is proud to boast, in whatever land or country he perchance may roam–I mean the bold, manly, and daring act of our fathers in the Declaration of the Independence and Sovereignty of these United States,–an act worthy to be engraven in letters of living light upon the tablets of our memory…” (taken from Greg’s believeallthings site).

    Comment by Dave C. — July 6, 2009 @ 10:11 am

  43. Dave C.: Are you blind to the obvious fact that ad hominem attacks like this just demonstrate that you have run out of rational arguments to buttress you point of view?

    Actually, I don’t have a problem with people liking their own country better than other countries. I certainly like America better than other countries. But stating personal preferences is different than claiming America is somehow objectively better than all other countries. Just like me stating a personal preference for my own children is not the same as claiming my children are objectively better than your children (and all other children). Do you see how the former is not offensive and the latter is arrogant and rude? How you word things like this is a major part of the difference between a socially graceful person and an oaf.

    So my comment #31 was mostly a frank observation about how bad your manners were in #14.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 6, 2009 @ 10:47 am

  44. Geoff,

    Bad manners in #14? Maybe if you are overly pro-socialist Obama it may be construed that way. Other than that, I think it is a good comment.

    Comment by Dave C. — July 6, 2009 @ 1:12 pm

  45. Dave C: if you are overly pro-socialist Obama

    Har! Ummm… I’m not Obama if you aren’t sure… (And I have no idea what socialism has to do with your bad manners)

    Look Dave, if you are willing to agree that my children are objectively better than your children I’ll be willing to agree with you that #14 was a “good comment”.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 6, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  46. Geoff, I love that you are now Miss Manners! I love this blog!

    Comment by Kent (MC) — July 6, 2009 @ 1:57 pm

  47. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    Comment by Kent (MC) — July 6, 2009 @ 2:02 pm

  48. I have figured out why I responded as I did to Dave C’s comment #14. I am a socialist (really). Though I am not sure what Obama has to do with any of this. Anyways, thanks for clearing things up for me Dave.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 6, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

  49. I think it is becoming obvious that Miss Manners agrees with most people (except those “overly pro-socialist Obamas”) that my kids are objectively superior to Dave C’s kids. I’m glad we have that cleared up. (And of course we can all agree that it is not rude to say such a thing)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 6, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

  50. Geoff,

    I am not sure how anyone can establish the absolute truth about which country (or child) is better than another. Perhaps you’ve heard from people who argue that the USA is objectively better than other nations. I agree that this sort of behavior shows arrogance. I would hope that Americans view their country as the “best” in the way a sports team views itself as the best or a child says “My dad is the best.”

    Kent,

    How is the children’s book in the Plan of Salvation coming along? Is it going to be illustrated? Have you decided on which publisher to send it to? I am curious to know your publication plans. I may be able to give you some helpful information with this – I went through the publication process a couple of years ago.

    Comment by Dave C. — July 6, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

  51. Sounds like we are in agreement after all Dave C.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 6, 2009 @ 7:02 pm

  52. I wrote a post on the problems of what passes for patriotism in our nation, and within the US Mormon culture (or at least Utah Mormon culture) in my post “Reflections on Patriotism.” I didn’t comment on the origins of Mormon patriotism, but I think can largely be attributed to the LDS embrace of the concept of American exceptionalism, growing from, as has been noted, the concepts that the Americas are the Promised Land and the US as being raised up by the Lord as an incubator for the Restoration. Additionally, I think the development within the LDS Church of strong deference to authority also plays a role.

    On a side note, A few comments here seem to have tied military service with patriotism. In that light, I think it worth recalling the words of President Kimball in 1976.

    We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)

    Comment by Derek — July 7, 2009 @ 8:49 am

  53. Nice quote Derek. That address by President Kimball is marvelous.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 9:36 am

  54. As to the origins of the connection between Mormonism and American patriotism, I think the posts invoking scripture are right, and that it goes deeper. I actually just posted on this: http://mormonmidrashim.blogspot.com/2009/07/salvational-history.html

    The short version is that every religion has a Heilsgeschichte, a sense of what history is sacred and essential. Most Christians skip more or less from Jesus to the anticipated Second Coming, but Mormonism saw itself as essential to history, and created a new Heilsgeschichte around that, one which included elevated roles for the land of the Restoration and especially the protections (nominally, at least) for religious freedom.

    Comment by Goldberg — July 7, 2009 @ 10:24 am

  55. While I love Pres Kimball and think the sentiment above has something to it, I think it is a bit over-the-top in its rhetoric. It is easy to talk about how terrible war is, but to say that all the people trained in the art of war are actually following Satan’s counterfeit of patriotism is just wrong, in my opinion. I haven’t read the whole talk, does someone have the link handy? Does he advocate a full blown pacifism?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 7, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  56. here

    Comment by Matt W. — July 7, 2009 @ 11:53 am

  57. The original sermon can be read in full here.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 11:56 am

  58. Yea, that is a good talk–and from the current Ensign when I was born. I think I agree with the general sentiment, but have a fairly different view of the world than Pres Kimball seems to convey in the talk. Can a secular nation like the USA really count on the Lord’s protection in lieu of having a military? Were the promises in 2 Ne. 1:7, Ex. 14:14, and D&C 98:37 directed at the USA? Or is he suggesting we should be conscientious objectors and refuse to serve in the military? I can’t really tell what he wants us to do differently as a practical matter.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 7, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

  59. In my opinion the one paragraph treatment of such a weighty subject by President Kimball was amazingly shallow. I think he is half right in almost every respect, but I don’t think virtually any of the other presidents of the church would dream of being so one-dimensional about the issue.

    The part he is implicitly wrong about amounts to saying, the Book of Mormon is wrong, Joseph Smith was wrong, Brigham Young was wrong, D&C 134 is wrong, D&C 101 is wrong, the Nauvoo Legion was wrong, all the other presidents of the Church were wrong, and we should all be content to be subject to whatever two bit dictator that comes our way. I bet he got a lot of feedback (internal and otherwise) on that one.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

  60. Here is D&C 101 on the subject:

    Therefore, it is not right that any man should be in bondage one to another. And for this purpose have I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood. (D&C 101:79-80)

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 7:48 pm

  61. President Kimball must not understand the Gospel as well as Mark D.

    Maybe he never read the Book of Mormon or the Doctrine and Covenants.

    He is not universally attacking war. He is attacking the blood-thirstiness of so many during the Cold War.

    What about that one jerk who talked about turning the other cheek. What a fool.

    BTW, Section 134 is the political musings of Oliver Cowdery and according the the Institute manual is not really scripture.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  62. I do not believe that President Kimball was trying to claim we should be absolute pacifists, and to try to paint it as such misses the point. What he was trying to warn us about, imo, was the seduction of militarism. Humans are, by nature, a tribal people, and physical violence is the easy route of conflict resolution–certainly easier than empathy, charity, compassion, and honest compromise. He was warning us about the perils of the simplistic notion that merely being willing to take up a gun and firing it is the peak of patriotism and virtue, when there are higher ways to serve your country. I doubt he would question that there are times when one must use physical force in defense of our homes, families, and freedoms, but reliance on force of arms (the arm of flesh) will often corrupt a nation. As a practical matter, I would suggest that rather than give in to jingoism, we are to look beyond the hype about our enemies, consider the true roots of the conflicts we might face, and push our nation to seek other methods of resolution when possible.

    Comment by Derek — July 7, 2009 @ 8:16 pm

  63. Sounds like President Kimball was reading a lot of Nibley at the time.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

  64. My apologies, btw, for not providing the link to the entire address.

    Comment by Derek — July 7, 2009 @ 8:26 pm

  65. re: 59

    Mark, President Kimball is not in any way implying that the BofM is wrong. After all, the BofM gives us several examples in which the Nephites lose the protection of God when they go on the offensive to seek out and find enemies, or when they rely on their technological advantage.

    Comment by Derek — July 7, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

  66. Chris H., If you are so sure that D&C 134 is not really scripture, why don’t you circulate a petition for its de-canonization? I am sure there are a lot of other things we could include.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 8:32 pm

  67. Here is the introduction to Section 134:

    A declaration of belief regarding governments and laws in general, adopted by unanimous vote at a general assembly of the Church held at Kirtland, Ohio, August 17, 1835. HC 2: 247–249. The occasion was a meeting of Church leaders, brought together to consider the proposed contents of the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. At that time this declaration was given the following preamble: “That our belief with regard to earthly governments and laws in general may not be misinterpreted nor misunderstood, we have thought proper to present at the close of this volume our opinion concerning the same.”

    I guess Joseph Smith forget to vote against it.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

  68. From the Doctrine and Covenants Institute Manual:

    This declaration of belief has been included
    in editions of the Doctrine and Covenants since
    its proposal in 1835. When it was read and voted
    on, “the Prophet Joseph Smith and his second
    counselor, Frederick G. Williams, were in Canada
    on a missionary journey, and the Prophet did not
    return to Kirtland until Sunday, August 23rd, one
    week after the Assembly had been held. Since
    the Assembly had voted to have [the articles on
    government and marriage] published in the Doctrine
    and Covenants, the Prophet accepted the decision
    and permitted this to be done.

    “It should be noted that in the minutes, and also
    in the introduction to this article on government, the brethren were careful to state that this declarationwas accepted as the belief, or ‘opinion’ of the officers of the Church, and not as a revelation, and therefore does not hold the same place in the doctrines of the Church as do the revelations.”

    So, Joseph Smith did not forget to vote against it. HE JUST WAS NOT THERE.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 8:47 pm

  69. Wow… That was a deeply uncharitable reading of President Kimball in #59 Mark. I know you are a conservative but good grief dude.

    See Derek’s #62 for a much more charitable an plausible interpretation of President Kimball’s intent.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

  70. Prior to the manual selection above, it offers this historical context:

    A general assembly of The Church of Jesus Christ
    of Latter-day Saints was held at Kirtland, Ohio, on
    17 August 1835 to formally accept the collection of
    revelations to be published as the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants. After the priesthood
    quorums and then the congregation unanimously
    accepted the revelations, “Elder William W. Phelps
    arose and read an article prepared by Oliver
    Cowdery, on marriage. This was on vote ordered
    to be published also in the volume with the
    revelations. Then President Oliver Cowdery arose
    and read an article, ‘Of Governments and Laws in
    General,’ and this likewise was ordered by vote to
    be published with the book of revelations. Neither
    of these articles was a revelation to the Church.”
    (Smith, Church History and Modern Revelation, 2:30.)

    The article on government was included in that
    edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as a statement of belief and as a rebuttal to accusations against the Saints. “The reason for the article on ‘Government and Laws in General,’ is explained in the fact that the Latter-day Saints had been accused by their bitter
    enemies, both in Missouri and in other places, as
    being opposed to law and order. They had been
    portrayed as setting up laws in conflict with the laws of the country.”

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 8:56 pm

  71. Chris H.,

    Do you really think Joseph Smith was so ineffective that a complete section of the scriptures would go into the Doctrine and Covenants without his approval?

    Although Joseph Smith and Frederick G. Williams were on a mission to Michigan when the above meeting was held, the Prophet approved of section 134 and declared the statement to be “the belief of the Church” on principles of law and government.

    [Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), p. 296.]

    Whatever the origin of D&C 134, not it remains canonized scripture. President Kimball’s paragraph has not been so favored. I doubt a proposal to do so could get a single vote among the Quorum of the Twelve and First Presidency. I doubt it would get President Kimball’s vote, even then.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:01 pm

  72. Umm, I am not proposing any such thing. I am just asking you to put things in their proper context. However, that would not suit your political ends.

    Not sure if you are in much of a position to be speaking on behalf of President Kimball.

    I am not saying that Joseph was ineffective, but things were obviously quite chaotic in that day. Cowdery’s ardent commitment to private property is one of the reasons he later parted ways with Joseph Smith.

    Of course, you understand the gospel and scriptures better that Spencer W. Kimball. So, who am I to disagree with you?

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  73. Geoff J, My point is that at at best he was sloppy. If we want to engage in hagiography we can just pretend he didn’t mean what he said.

    “we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism…”

    I agree that no amount of training in the art of war makes a man a patriot. But dying for his country certainly does.

    “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:09 pm

  74. “If we want to engage in hagiography we can just pretend he didn’t mean what he said.”

    Or we could just pretend that you do not understand what he said.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:14 pm

  75. Chris H, No need to be impertinent. Your position on many issues implies you hold your belief with regard to the same to be superior to that of virtually every modern leader of the Church. And of how many around here can we say otherwise?

    It is just in this case I have canon and tradition on my side, and you have a passing sentence in a General Conference talk that you have yet to even endorse in any but “he didn’t mean what he said” terms.

    [Admin note: See Mark's retraction of this comment in #86]

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:15 pm

  76. Mark: I agree that no amount of training in the art of war makes a man a patriot. But dying for his country certainly does.

    Then you agree with what President Kimball actually said. He never said anything about dying for one’s country so it appears to me that you are the one putting words in his mouth.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 9:16 pm

  77. “Your position on many issues implies you hold your belief with regard to the same to be superior to that of virtually every modern leader of the Church.”

    Give me an example? I might disagree sometimes, but I have never claimed to understand the gospel or the scriptures better than the Brethren.

    Your interpretation of the canon and the tradition are on your side (amazing how it works out that way). Plenty would disagree with that interpretation.

    You have given me plenty to be “impertinent” about.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

  78. Geoff J, the problem with what President Kimball said in that paragraph is that it is an inflammatory, abbreviated treatment of a weighty subject.

    The general point he seems to be trying to make is committing resources to national defense is Satanic, and so is considering any soldier a patriot before he has placed his life on the line.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  79. Chris H, If the canon is on your side, argue the canon. If tradition is on your side, argue the tradition. Disparaging personal remarks are not going to get us anywhere.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

  80. Mark: it is an inflammatory, abbreviated treatment of a weighty subject

    Inflammatory? I don’t think so. My guess is you are just bent about it because you don’t like prophets saying things that aren’t necessarily in line with your politics. (Don’t worry — we are all that same way on that count.)

    The general point he seems to be trying to make is committing resources to national defense is Satanic

    BZZZT. Wrong answer. That might be your exegesis of the address but that interpretation is far from obvious to me.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 9:28 pm

  81. Mark,

    I am done dealing with you. Your earlier reputation is well deserved.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:44 pm

  82. Geoff J, I would be glad to hear an actual analysis how what he said has an entirely different tenor than what I suggest.

    (1) We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord.
    (2) When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance.
    (3) When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God;
    (4) we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot,
    (5) thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism,
    (6) [We are] perverting the Savior’s teaching: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

    The first four are descriptive propositions. Not two much to complain about there. The whole paragraph turns on the word “thus”, and “in the manner of”, i.e. the truth of the propositions (1)-(4) implies that “in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism” we are “perverting the Savior’s teaching” to love our enemies.

    According to President Kimball, which of propositions (1)-(4) do not imply perverting the Savior’s injunction to love our enemies in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism. Or are all four just rhetorical flourishes that would leave President Kimball’s conclusion without a predicate?

    Furthermore, do any of predicates (1)-(4) imply a Satanic counterfeit of true patriotism, and disobedience to the commandment to love our enemies?

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

  83. Chris H., I am sorry you feel that way.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 9:55 pm

  84. Mark,

    The sermon is entitled “The False Gods We Worship”. The discussion of war within the overall sermon focuses on how people — even the saints — are wont to rely on “the arm of flesh” alone in times of trouble rather than remembering and turning to God. The overall message I gather is that solely relying on the arm of flesh is contrary to what God wants people to do. That is why President Kimball correctly calls all the training and arming ourselves and convincing ourselves to truly hate our enemies “Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism”.

    I certainly don’t read strong pacifism in his comments at all so if that is what you are attacking here you are attacking a straw man in my opinion. He is teaching us to not be so bloodthirsty. If you think that message is contrary to all the other prophets you are sorely mistaken.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

  85. Geoff J, President Kimball doesn’t say anything about “convincing ourselves to hate our enemies”. And I agree, he may very well not have been an outright pacifist.

    However, if this paragraph were all we had to rely on, it would be hard to conclude otherwise. It reads like a pacifist manifesto. There is no balance, no other side to the story present here.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

  86. [Admin: I retract my personal remarks in #75 and ask that they be replaced with a comment to that effect.]

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

  87. Guys,

    I think if we temper President Kimball’s talk with everything else we’re taught on the subject from authoritative sources we’ll soon discover that he was being incredibly rhetorical. He’s not outlining some kind of general moral code so much as he is giving us a picture of where society is relative to the gospel — by contrast. Do we really believe he was condemning all those general authorities who fought in WWII?

    Comment by Jack — July 7, 2009 @ 10:14 pm

  88. But that paragraph isn’t the entire sermon Mark so we don’t have to rely on it in isolation. I assume you read the whole sermon, right? The overarching message is that we allow far too many things to replace God in our lives. So in that context the basic idea of forgetting God in times of trouble and relying on ourselves and our weapons is not the kind of patriotism God condones. It is clear that President Kimball is saying our weapons become idols for us and our military training become idols. In addition, he condemns the habit of becoming anti-enemy (which I interpret to mean hating our enemies) and reminds us Jesus’ unequivocal teachings about our enemies.

    It reads like a pacifist manifesto. There is no balance, no other side to the story present here.

    Oh boo hoo. What is lacking is a more charitable and contextualized reading of that passage by you.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

  89. I appreciate Mark’s willingness to take back his comment in #75, but they give context to the later comments.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 7, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

  90. Geoff J, In light of scripture and tradition, I certainly agree that we should apply a charitable interpretation of President Kimball’s remarks to our attitude about the dangers of militarism.

    However, there are two other relevant issues, of some considerable interest. One is how pacifist was Spencer W. Kimball in real life? Are there other remarks where he explains his attitude towards national defenses and military service in greater detail?

    The other issue is the one Jacob J raised. Under what conditions if any can a modern industrialized nation, let alone any nation, dispense with its military defenses and rely on divine intervention (a la the walls of Jericho) as a reliable alternative?

    And if we are to have any defenses at all, what religious principles should guide us in the determination of what level that should be? On what theological basis do we conclude that the defenses we had in 1976 were beyond the pale?

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 10:56 pm

  91. Well let us know what your research turns up on those questions Mark. I know there are some good biographies of President Kimball — you could start there.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 7, 2009 @ 11:04 pm

  92. Thanks Derek and Jack for trying to answer my questions in #58. It seems like both offers involve backing off somewhat from what Pres. Kimball actually said, which seems to confirm my reaction that the rhetoric is a bit over-the-top, even if the general sentiment is sound.

    Chris H, it really does sound like he was reading Nibley at the time.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 7, 2009 @ 11:30 pm

  93. It is worth mentioning that Eugene England has used this very passage in defense of the proposition that the ethic of a “just war” is less than Christian, that we should trust God to fight all our battles, and that the only defensible position is the pacifist one. See, for example:

    https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/pdf/079-09-12.pdf

    That is not to knock England’s considerable eloquence in favor of this very proposition, or to disagree with the general position against the wisdom of the invasion of Iraq.

    However, I might justly wonder if many others are reading this passage of President Kimball’s in exactly the same manner as I claim it is more than susceptible to being read. Eugene England seems to read it exactly as I have outlined.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 7, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  94. 40:

    Your comment that latin American immigrants mostly give billions of dollars in aid is laughable.

    Remittances by Latin American (and other) immigrants are a well-known phenomena. See here for example:

    The [Inter-American Development Bank] projects that migrants will send home about $67.5 billion in 2008, an increase of about 1.5 percent compared with the $66.5 billion sent home last year.

    Comment by Peter LLC — July 8, 2009 @ 3:52 am

  95. To place the above figures in some context:

    In 2007, net [Official Development Aid] by the United States was USD 21.8 billion, representing a fall of 9.9 % in real terms. Its ODA/GNI ratio fell to 0.16%. This fall was mostly due to debt relief, which was high in 2006, and a reduction in ODA to Iraq.

    Comment by Peter LLC — July 8, 2009 @ 4:09 am

  96. No, I’m not suggesting that President Kimball’s rhetoric was over the top, nor am I backing off of it. When one interprets it rationally, in the context of the wider body of statements within the Church and in the scriptures on war, that is the most logical interpretation.

    We have consistently seen over the last several decades an insistence that we need overwhelming military resources in order to keep us safe (something we are reminded of again with the recent visit of Obama to Russia and Russia’s complaints over the US expansion of missiles in foreign nations). We have seen a persistent demonization of our “enemies” (be they communist or extremist Muslim) as evil incarnate in need of eradication rather than children of God. And we have seen a persistent call for aggression rather than empathy and understanding. Those who make those calls are called patriots. Seems exactly the sort of thing President Kimball was warning against.

    Comment by Derek — July 8, 2009 @ 7:03 am

  97. Derek,

    The “over-the-top” label was mine, I never suggested it was yours. What you call reading it “in the context of the wider body of statements within the Church” I call backing off what he actually said in that talk. Since you brought up our insistence that we need a military to keep us safe, do you want to answer the questions in #58 more directly? Can the USA (a secular nation as defined by the constitution) sit back without a military and rely on promises made in the BofM and OT assuming that the Lord will fight our battles? If not, as I contend, then why did Pres. Kimball say we should?

    Peter LLC,

    Give me a break, dude. Sending money back to your family can hardly be considered “aid” in the context of the debate going on here. Do we count all the money Americans spend on their families as “aid”? I am not 100% positive, but the stat in #95 looks like it almost definitely makes the mistake I mentioned in #17 in counting official US aid without counting the billions of dollars of aid made by individual Americans to various charities. In the stats I have seen, the individual contributions in America make up a larger percentage of the total aid coming from our country whereas this is often not the case in other countries.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  98. Peter LLC,

    I am talking about foreign aid, and you are talking about remittances – different things, my friend.

    Comment by Dave C. — July 8, 2009 @ 9:26 am

  99. Derek,

    By the way, you are starting to venture into the over-the-top rhetoric on your own here:

    We have seen a persistent demonization of our “enemies” (be they communist or extremist Muslim) as evil incarnate in need of eradication rather than children of God.

    I defy you to demonstrate a persistent call for the eradication of communists during the cold war. Eradication? Seriously? If “extremist Muslim” means those who are hell-bent on killing innocent people and oppressing whole nations, then you are closer, but in this case “extremist Muslim” really refers to an ideology rather than a specific set of people. I am okay with eradicating certain ideologies (white supremacy along with certain strains of extremist Muslim ideology) but that is not a call for the eradication of a certain group of people.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 9:28 am

  100. Jacob,

    As I read the statement it seems to me that President Kimball says only one thing: The hating our enemies is a counterfeit form of patriotism.

    You ask other questions in #58 that I see no reason to reply “yes” to based on the sermon or on common sense.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  101. Geoff,

    In case it is not clear to someone reading, I am fully on board with his point that we should not hate our enemies. Your claim that he says only one thing in his statement is not correct, however. Here is a partial quote from which my questions spring:

    When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance.

    ….We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many).

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

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

    You are absolutely right that he is saying we should love our enemies and try to bring them the gospel and make them into our friends. We agree on that. But, he is also saying that

    1) the military is a false god because we rely on it instead of on God for protection
    2) the Lord has promised us as inhabitants of the Americas that he will protect us and fight our battles
    3) instead of relying on the military we should exercise a particle of faith in these promises and stop relying on our military

    I think 1) *can* be true depending on our attitude toward the military. Good warning here from Pres. Kimball. I find 2) to be dubious at best. I find 3) to be a non-sequitor due to my rejection of 2).

    Where am I going wrong?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  102. I disagree Jacob. I think he is saying:

    1) the military can become a false god if we rely on it exclusively instead of on God for protection
    2) the Lord has promised us as inhabitants of the Americas that he will protect us and help fight our battles
    3) instead of relying on the military exclusively we should exercise a particle of faith in these promises and stop relying on our military exclusively

    I think he means those things because I know he was fully aware of the long scriptural history of God condoning and encouraging his people using military force for protection. Plus he was fully aware of the scriptural history of God helping the armies of the Nephites and others. In light of those scriptures, I think my reading is far more plausible than a strong pacifist reading of his intent here.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  103. Geoff,

    I disagree Jacob. I think he is saying:

    To be more precise, if I read you correctly you don’t disagree with me about what he said but about what he meant. That is, we agree, he didn’t say “help fight our battles” but you are arguing that this is what he meant and what we should understand him to mean based on our knowledge of the tradition in which he is speaking. Do I have your position right? If so, then this is what I meant in #92. Once we start inserting the word “help” based on our understanding of what he “was fully aware of” at the time we are backing off or softening his rhetoric to get the point we think he was trying to make. (Which is fine with me, but let’s call it what it is.) Of course, if someone disagrees with our reading (e.g. England in #93), we are on somewhat tenuous ground since it is hard to prove he meant “help” if our evidence is essentially mind-reading. Some people really are pacifists. I am nervous to assume that he is not a pacifist without some evidence simply on the strength of the fact that I believe pacifism to be untenable.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 10:34 am

  104. Right, my comment is about what he meant. But your 1-3 in comment #101 was also about what he meant, not what he said. (What he said is in the blockquote — your 1-3 is a rephrasing based on what you think he meant). So I was simply riffing off of your comment.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  105. Give me a break, dude. Sending money back to your family can hardly be considered “aid” in the context of the debate going on here.

    Dude, like, the context of the debate is this: US ODA as a percentage of GNI is stingy compared to other countries. Assistance from the US to other countries only looks generous when private aid is counted.

    I find it odd that a person who believes the OECD is “making a mistake” by not counting charitable donations would take me to task for noting that immigrants are responsible for making the bulk of voluntary transfers of resources from one country to another.

    I am talking about foreign aid, and you are talking about remittances – different things, my friend.

    My friend, your distinction does your argument no good. If you want to stick to the official stuff, then crowing about the “billions in foreign aid” as you do in #14 when other, much smaller, countries give a larger percentage of GNI makes you look foolish.

    Comment by Peter LLC — July 8, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  106. My 1-3 were a rephrasing of what he said, not what he meant. The only reason I rephrased what he said was so I could assign numbers to the things he said for ease in referring to them.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 11:13 am

  107. Peter,

    Find it odd all you like, the two things are totally different. When people talk about how great America is for the foreign aid we provide (regardless of whether this is vomit inducing) they don’t mean voluntary transfers of resources from a family in one country to the same family in another country. Remittances are important economically and interesting for a number of reasons, but they are entirely irrelevant to the question of whether the USA is generous in helping out poorer and less fortunate countries based on our good will toward men. By contrast, the voluntary donations of millions of average citizens to help out other countries in times of disaster are very relevant to that question. Which is why I brought it up. I never said the OECD is making a mistake, I suggested that your use of their statistics was mistaken in the context of the current debate.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 11:24 am

  108. My 1-3 were a rephrasing of what he said, not what he meant.

    Not so. You rephrased what he said through an interpretive lens just like I did so your rephrasing inherently included assumptions about what he meant just like mine did.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  109. Jacob J,

    I suggested that your use of their statistics was mistaken in the context of the current debate.

    Then your suggestion was an oblique one indeed, because what you actually said was: “the stat in #95 looks like it almost definitely makes the mistake I mentioned in #17.”

    At any rate, I am familiar with the distinction between OECD categories of aid and, inter alia, remittances. The point I am making is actually a similar one to yours, that official aid doesn’t capture what is really going on. As far as I can tell, the difference in our position is that you believe that remittances “are entirely irrelevant to the question of whether the USA is generous in helping out poorer and less fortunate countries based on our good will toward men” while I believe it is relevant.

    But as one red-blooded capitalist to another: what would you prefer? A system comprised of an inefficient government with a bloated administration parcelling out money to corrupt governments with little to no oversight or a group hardworking yoemen sending money directly to where it can be best utilized?

    Comment by Peter LLC — July 8, 2009 @ 11:35 am

  110. Mark D #72

    you wrote:

    “we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism…”

    I agree that no amount of training in the art of war makes a man a patriot. But dying for his country certainly does.

    “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

    I think it bears consideration that what defines a soldier is not simply a willingness to die for ones country or to lay down ones life. It is the taking of life or the willingness to kill others that defines one of the most important aspects of military training.

    To compare individuals whose purpose is to kill the other guy first and take life with the understanding that they might die in the process to Jesus who refused to take life even that of his enemies and forgave them on the cross seems to miss the mark.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 8, 2009 @ 1:28 pm

  111. Mark D. you also asked whether any of these four principles you listed imply a Satanic counterfeit of true patriotism and disobedience to the commandment to love our enemies?

    (1) We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord.
    (2) When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance.
    (3) When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God;
    (4) we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot,

    It appears to me that Kimball is correct in his assertion that the command to “love our enemies” is contrary to propositions 1-4. I would be interested to see how you can reconcile the demand for enemy love, turning the other cheek, and peaceableness from Jesus with those 4 propositions. You may think Kimball is wrong or argue that Jesus is wrong or we misinterpret him but good luck with that.

    Being warlike towards an enemy is incompatible with loving an enemy. Buying up armies is contrary to loving one’s enemies. And I think anti-enemy is pretty clearly contrary to loving one’s enemies as well as training in the art of war which would be used against the enemies we should be loving.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 8, 2009 @ 2:03 pm

  112. Geoff,

    This is getting a bit pedantic so I am not sure if it is worth pursuing, but my restatements did not rely on my interpretation of what Pres Kimball meant. For example, my 1) was:

    1) the military is a false god because we rely on it instead of on God for protection

    which comes directly from:

    we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance

    I replaced “steel-ships, planes, missiles, fortifications” with “the military” (yes, interpretive, but uncontestably so). I replaced “depend on them” with “rely on it” (again, synonym replacement using a word (rely) which he uses himself later on).

    This kind of rewording is markedly different than your number one which was:

    1) the military can become a false god if we rely on it exclusively instead of on God for protection (emphasis in original)

    Notice that in the statements of Pres. Kimball quoted above, he doesn’t insert the conditional you added. He says “we commit,” “we depend,” “we forget,” “we must leave off,” etc. which are all direct statements without a conditional. You inserted a conditional which makes yours interpretive in a different and more significant way than mine were interpretive. Same thing with your insertion of the word “help.” Please point to the words in his talk from which you got the word help. I think I can point to specific words in the talk as antecedents for all of my rephrases. At any rate, that was my intention.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  113. Peter,

    Your last paragraph makes me wonder if we are talking past one another. I am with you in preferring the yoemen, absolutely. If I have missed the point of your original #94 and #95 then I apologize.

    Then your suggestion was an oblique one indeed, because what you actually said was: “the stat in #95 looks like it almost definitely makes the mistake I mentioned in #17.”

    The mistake I cited in #17 was in “beat[ing] up [the US] for not giving as much as other countries but without taking into account the donations of individual Americans.” I never suggested the OECD was making such a mistake because I don’t have any reason to believe they were using their stats to beat up on the US. I did have the sense that this was your point, but again, I am nervous that I have misunderstood you.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  114. J. Madsen #111,

    It appears to me that Kimball is correct in his assertion that the command to “love our enemies” is contrary to propositions 1-4.

    Number 1) is just an assertion that we are warlike people. If that’s true then it is not reconcilable with the command to love our enemies. Agreed (although we must check the evidence to see if we really are a warlike people). Number 2) says that when we are attacked we prepare militarily to respond. This is 100% reconcilable with loving our neighbors. Number 3) is a false dichotomy since being against those who attack you (antienemy) does not preclude one from being “pro kingdom of God.” If we assume that war is a necessary evil then number 4 seems like it is obviously the correct thing to do and in no way detracts from loving our neighbors.

    Let’s just get your position out on the table here. Are you an advocate of pacifism or do you agree that war is a necessary evil?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

  115. No worries, J. Madsen, if someone ever comes to asault you and your family, rape your wife and kill your children, we’ll be sure to just pull out some popcorn and watch. We wouldn’t want to be unloving or anything.

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 8, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  116. Jacob,

    The sermon is in English — why would you bother restating his point in English if not to provide a little exegesis of his meaning and intent?

    When he says:

    we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance

    Why should I accept that he really means:

    the military is a false god because we rely on it instead of on God for protection

    These two sentences imply different things — especially when you replace the specific “gods of stone and steel” with the much broader “military”.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  117. re: 97

    Since you brought up our insistence that we need a military to keep us safe, do you want to answer the questions in #58 more directly?

    Certainly.

    can a secular nation like the USA really count on the Lord’s protection in lieu of having a military?

    Not directly, no. But the Christian citizens of that secular nation (who believe in the Prince of Peace who asked us to love, forgive, and turn the other cheek), and especially the LDS citizens (who believe in the warnings and promises of the BofM), should not be so quick to call for military action, promoting instead other methods of conflict resolution.

    Were the promises in 2 Ne. 1:7, Ex. 14:14, and D&C 98:37 directed at the USA?

    Those promises are given to those who take the name of Christ upon them. I think it would be safe to assume that those promises would apply to any nation in which a significant number of His children lived. Given that LDS doctrine suggests the USA was established as a cradle and home for the restored Gospel, I think we can safely assume that those promises would apply to the US. If the nation is acting in accordance with moral principles–it operates under the principles of liberty and democracy, seeks to deal justly with others, does not become consumed with materialism, and does not exercise unrighteous in abusing its power to take advantage of less powerful nations and populations for its own benefit–the Lord will protect it.

    Or is he suggesting we should be conscientious objectors and refuse to serve in the military?

    Not as an absolute principle, no. But he seems to be validating this as an option. We followers of Christ should be actively advocating peace, compassion, and understanding. Kimball’s words seem to imply that we should be evaluating our nation’s actions critically, and if our nation is engaging in morally unjustified military action, then I think we would be justified in conscientious objection.

    re: 99

    There were plenty of people encouraging the US to continue across central Europe after the defeat of the Nazis to end the Communist threat. Many advocated dramatic escalation in Korea and Vietnam. Plenty of people have called for harsher and more extreme action against Muslim extremists–not the ideology, but the people. After 9/11, lots of people howled for blood. This is, I believe, what Kimball was talking about. We shouldn’t be caught up in being anti-enemy or believing that bombs will solve our problems. Especially when it comes to such things as Muslim Extremism, a more Christian and ultimately more practical method of dealing with the threat would be to examine the roots of the animosity towards the West and the US which is so strong in the Middle East (roots which the US and other Western powers sowed with their abuse of those populations) and seek to undue that animosity with compassion and love rather than bullets. But no, the patriotic thing to do is to reflexively respond with the military; to go over and “put a boot in their ass,” to quote the song so popular at the Stadium of Fire a few years back.

    And no, I’m not an absolute pacifist. I’d have no problem with using violence, lethal if necessary, to stop a terrorist attempting to crash a plane into a building. But I cannot support the use of widespread lethal violence to conquer a few nations in the Middle East in retaliation.

    Comment by Derek — July 8, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  118. BTW, I don’t see how there is any conflict with D&C 134. The section speaks to the protection of property or person against violence. Very few of the wars in which our nation has engaged have been in protection of the property and person of its citizens. Most are actually ideological wars and wars of imperialism. Nothing in the scriptures defends such wars, and I suspect it is such wars about which President Kimball is concerned. Virtually anytime a nation becomes enamored with its military power it begins to exercise that power in unrighteous dominion–always with the pretense of national security, of course.

    Comment by Derek — July 8, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

  119. Geoff,

    You’ve cooked up a nice diversion, but I honestly hope you can see the difference between the level of interpretation in our two lists.

    why would you bother restating his point in English if not to provide a little exegesis of his meaning and intent?

    See #106 where I answered this.

    especially when you replace the specific “gods of stone and steel” with the much broader “military”.

    Let me be sure I’m reading you right. Are you seriously suggesting that his reference to “gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—” was not a reference to the military? What is the significant distinction between these? Do you really see this as being similarly interpretive as your insertion of conditionals and changing Kimball’s phrase:

    he will fight our battles for us

    to

    he will help fight our battles for us

    My paraphrase is just as loose as yours?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 4:54 pm

  120. Derek #117

    Good comment, thanks for the response.

    Not directly, no.

    So we still need a military then, it seems, which means we are justified in expending vast resources to building our ships, planes, and missiles. Having a crappy military generally means that more people die and suffer on both sides.

    we should not be so quick to call for military action, promoting instead other methods of conflict resolution.

    I think this is a great point. It is the sort of sentiment I can get from the address and fully agree with, even if I think it is softer than some of what he said in the address.

    If the nation is acting in accordance with moral principles…the Lord will protect it.

    Based on your previous answer I take it you don’t mean we go without a military and trust God for protection, but rather, that if we follow moral principles as you enumerated that the Lord will bless us to be victorious when we are forced into battle and will help us to solve things without going to battle at all when that is possible. If I am right in that, then I agree with you. This suggestion seems reasonable.

    In your response to #99 you toned down the “eradication” rhetoric and I thought your point was cogent and much more persuasive.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 8, 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  121. J. Madson, As it happens I don’t think killing people who are trying to kill you is incompatible with the command to love one’s enemies. I agree that at a minimum the classical just war ethic (Jus ad bellum) and laws of war (Jus in bello) must be applied to avoid perverting that injunction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_War

    Comment by Mark D. — July 8, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

  122. Jacob: The only reason I rephrased what he said was so I could assign numbers to the things he said for ease in referring to them.

    Well I just think your rephrasing mostly revealed your interpretive biases.

    My paraphrase is just as loose as yours?

    I think that paraphrasing usually reveals interpretive biases and this case was no exception. My paraphrase (I was just riffing on yours) revealed my interpretive bias as well. I also think the interpretation of President Kimball’s intent described in my paraphrase is more defensible than the strong pacifism interpretation your paraphrases were clearly leaning toward.

    Your overall point seems to be that the actual words of the sermon sound a lot like an endorsement of a rather extreme pacifism. I think they wisely and intentionally avoid being pinned down to that interpretation. Strong pacifists are probably disappointed by that fact but I think it is the case.

    (I suppose you and I should both be happy about that since neither of us are hardcore pacifists)

    Comment by Geoff J — July 8, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  123. Jacob J #114

    I fail to see how militarily responding is compatible with loving your enemies. Are you suggesting that preparation in itself is compatible. Certainly in our preparation we are engaged in thoughts that are anti-enemy. In all seriousness, how do you love you enemies while engaging or preparing to engage in violence. #3 may not be false if being pro kingdom of God entails loving your enemies which is precisely what I believe. I believe the kingdom of God Jesus describes so frequently is shown in his sermons and his actions (in short, this is what the world would look like if God ran the show). Again I fail to see how this is compatible with enemy love. As to 4, you may be right if we assume war is a necessary evil. I see no reason to follow you in that assumption. Evil, I agree. But necessary? Perhaps inevitable for a fallen humanity.

    As to my position I prefer avoiding labels since labels like pacifism allow us to assume alot about the other person’s views. Such as pacifism equates with passivity. I reject violence for resolving conflicts on a national level. I philosophically reject it for personal conflicts as well although I see a vast difference between waging wars and defending one’s family. Having said that, I believe we should be actively engaged against evil, just non-violently. So no I dont think war (speaking as to the types of wars we are familiar with, guns, weapons, death, murder, etc) is necessary. only evil in my view. To a certain extent war is just an honorific term for murder.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 8, 2009 @ 11:51 pm

  124. Eric #115

    I thought we were talking about patriotism and national conflicts and wars. Greatly different from someone breaking into your home to harm your family. Loving your enemies does not mean being passive. Perhaps you should consider it means avoiding violence and placing the enemies life and value as a person on a much higher level than we generally do. I wouldnt deny someone their right to defend their family even if I think violence should be an absolute last resort and we should have much more imagination and creativity in solving conflicts (See What would yo do? By John Howard Yoder).

    But again, war and national conflicts are rarely fought if ever for defense. They are fought for what I believe Geoff J calls the Devils GPA

    Comment by J. Madson — July 8, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  125. Jacob J.

    you wrote that

    So we still need a military then, it seems, which means we are justified in expending vast resources to building our ships, planes, and missiles. Having a crappy military generally means that more people die and suffer on both sides.

    I agree that a crappy military means more people die and suffer on both sides. Fortunately for us we have the best military in the world guaranteeing that more people die and suffer mainly on the other side. Seriously we are embarrassingly good at killing other people. I am curious as to why a military is necessary though? Why do you feel it is necessary?

    Mark D.

    Im glad when anyone accepts at least just war principles although I tend to think they are rarely if ever followed. A quick survey of our own national conflicts would show that we have violated these principles in nearly every conflict whether ad bellum or in bellum (proportionately seems to be a huge problem for us after all the point of the military is to kill the other guy first and destroy things)

    I would be interested to hear how killing people who are trying to kill you is compatible with the command to love one’s enemies. If anything it sounds like we are watering down the command so much that it will eventually mean nothing but become a trite platitude we say but dont mean. Its particularly interesting to me that the word exthros (enemies) used in greek refers frequently to “national enemies”

    Comment by J. Madson — July 9, 2009 @ 12:25 am

  126. J. Madsen,

    The military is necessary because there are people willing to use violence to take my stuff and hurt my family. It’s the same reason locks are necessary. In a world where no one will use violence to stop the people trying to take my stuff and hurt my family, I will quickly find myself living in oppression and misery.

    I hate to say it, but God is running the show, so what you see right now is what you would get if he ran the show. Some day, he promises to make this world into a more wonderful place. He said that in order to do this he would need to commit a massive genocide in which he burns all of the wicked people on earth into stubble. Even I can make the world a great place with no war if you let me do that.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 9, 2009 @ 9:33 am

  127. They are fought for what I believe Geoff J calls the Devils GPA

    Niiice. Several brownie points to you for bringing up the Devil’s GPA J Madson.

    Now having said that, your comment #123 seems to be pushing for strong pacifism but even our scriptures indicate that extreme pacifism is suicidal (see the anti-nephi-lehis). Clearly God is not against all military force based on scriptures. So that leaves us asking how we can love our neighbors and yet still protect ourselves and families against their attacks. It seems clear to me that a combination of being prepared (militarily in this case) and trusting in God is the best course. I come to that conclusion from the histories I read in the BofM as much as anything else. (This is why I think President Kimball was not preaching any strong pacifism).

    I would be interested to hear how killing people who are trying to kill you is compatible with the command to love one’s enemies.

    We can hope our neighbors will find internal peace and joy and not attack us while still being prepared for any attacks. That is one way to love our neighbors and prepare for war. And if they do attack and are killed in the process it does not mean we wish any harm to their souls. One can defend oneself and still say “forgive them Father for they know not what they do”.

    I don’t think that anyone disagrees killing is the very last resort though.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2009 @ 10:16 am

  128. “I wouldnt deny someone their right to defend their family”

    Wait, wait, wait. I thought we had clearly established that Jesus said to “love your enemies.” Did he not? Am I mistaken on that one?

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 9, 2009 @ 11:12 am

  129. Eric,

    Love your neighbor does not prevent you from defending yourself. It should prevent you from attacking your weaker neighbor for gain and advantage.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 9, 2009 @ 11:18 am

  130. Chris, according to J. Madson, loving your enemy does indeed prevent you from defending yourself against him: “Being warlike towards an enemy is incompatible with loving an enemy. Buying up armies is contrary to loving one’s enemies.”

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 9, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  131. Being warlike and defending yourself are not the same thing. Having adequate weapons to provide for a defense is one thing. Stocking up weapons is traditionally viewed as threatening and not defensive.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 9, 2009 @ 12:43 pm

  132. Chris, if someone is attacking you (or someone else), being warlike and defending yourself (or them) are indeed the same thing.

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 9, 2009 @ 12:49 pm

  133. Your ability to simplify the complex is impressive.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 9, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

  134. Chris, I don’t think we’re talking about the same thing. I’m just saying that there are situations where I could fire a round into my enemy’s head and not fail to love him as I should. That’s it.

    Comment by Eric Russell — July 9, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  135. Chris,

    Stocking up weapons is traditionally viewed as threatening and not defensive.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “traditionally” but don’t you agree that a big pile of weapons acts as a deterrent?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 9, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

  136. No, it just encourages others to do the same. Example: the cold war nuclear arms race (something of concern to Pres. Kimball). Instead of “traditionally,” I should have used “typically.” I do not care much for tradition. I am talking about foreign/international relations and not conflicts between individuals, which is what Eric seems to be talking about.

    Comment by Chris H. — July 9, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  137. Chris,

    I’m pretty sure Jacob meant having effective weapons acts as a deterrent against another country trying to invade your country. I think common sense dictates they serve that purpose. Likewise, individuals who obviously can defend themselves have a natural deterrent against those who might consider attacking them. This straight forward principle works from playgrounds, to homes, to nations. It may lead to arms races as you mentioned but I think there is no denying deterrence is one of the results.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2009 @ 5:20 pm

  138. eric,

    In case I wasnt clear, I was making a distinction between war and defending your family from an intruder. One can believe its their duty to defend their family even with violent means and still reject all war. Now if we want to talk about what to do on an individual basis (ie defending your family) thats fine but again I thought we were discussing national wars not the guy breaking into my home.

    But lets press this further to show how unlike the two are since when I defend my family against the intruder I am unlikely to harm innocent bystanders much less invade his home and kill his family. This is of course what happens in war. Civilian deaths in modern war have been increasing and we are now hitting 50% marks. More often than not, the united states is the one invading someone else’s home and land. Even if we agree with Geoff’s assessment that the BoM supports a form of just war it is insistent on defense in your own lands.

    Furthermore, as Chris pointed out, having a gun in my own home might deter a criminal from entering but stockpiling weapons as a nation tends to increase international tensions.

    Ghandi, Thomas Merton, Tolstoy all understood the distinction. Ghandi thought people could legitimately defend their immediate family and self while completely rejecting war, collective violence, and national violence. I am fond of Tolstoy’s reply to William Jennings Bryan when he offered the classic “what if…” (fill in your scenario, someone breaks in and….) with:

    In all my seventy five years I have never met the fantastic hypothetical brigand who would murder or outrage a child before my eyes and whereas in war millions of brigands kill with complete license.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 9, 2009 @ 10:34 pm

  139. Geoff J #127

    I think we have to acknowledge that in both pacifist models and just war models, innocents will die. The Anti-Nephi-Lehis certainly demonstrate that but they also converted their enemies. If we see the gospel as a question of relationships and performing at-one-ment both with respect to God, his son, and amongst humanity then we may want to consider that what the anti-nephi-lehis did was a greater act of at-one-ment than all the other war narratives in the BoM. In this regard, they, like Christ, chose to sacrifice themselves rather than others.

    I think in the scriptures God gives us levels of righteousness in how to react to violence (D&C 98 is a perfect example). Sure , we may be justified in using violence at times but is it the highest level of righteousness? I would suggest the scriptures argue no.

    But leaving that aside, here is my problem with asserting we can prepare for war and still love our neighbors. Defending your self or family is not the same as war. I know we tend to conflate the two but I just dont see it. War is always called defense and our military departments of course have names like the defense department but what they do in reality is attack others. We claim that we fight them “there” so we dont have to fight “here” but arent we really just invading other nations and going on offensive wars?

    Comment by J. Madson — July 9, 2009 @ 10:42 pm

  140. J Madson (#138),

    Are you against all war or just against wars on foreign soil? All of your examples assume our armies are invading other countries — is that the only kind of war you are against? I can’t really tell. Would you be all for war if someone tried to invade the US?

    Comment by Geoff J — July 9, 2009 @ 10:45 pm

  141. If someone tried to invade the United States then I would think we, as a nation, would be “justified” in defending ourselves against the invaders. Once we began attacking the “enemies” nation, homeland, etc than I think we have gone too far. Unfortunately, nearly all of our nations wars have involved invading and attacking other nations.

    I do however think that it is a higher form of righteousness to reject all war, even defensive war. There are a number of nations who have done this in history and then fought against their occupiers through non-violence. I know thats a tough one for people to do and frankly I think thats why D&C 98 allows defensive wars while at the same time suggesting there is another way albeit much more difficult for us to try.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 9, 2009 @ 11:45 pm

  142. I do however think that it is a higher form of righteousness to reject all war, even defensive war.

    Interesting assertion. So does this mean that if God had his druthers he would prefer to see his people (or any righteous group) willingly submit to any old tyrant who decides to invade and subjugate them? Do you think that God grudgingly helped nations like the Nephites in their wars?

    I am not attacking you here I just am trying to figure out how you reconcile these issues.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 10, 2009 @ 9:24 am

  143. Once we began attacking the “enemies” nation, homeland, etc than I think we have gone too far.

    So to further clarify: after the planes flew away from Pearl Harbor was the rest of our involvement in WWII unjustified due to the fact that we were no longer defending our homeland (none of the battles involved driving back an invader from our soil) but off attacking soldiers in other countries?

    Comment by Jacob J — July 10, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  144. Geoff

    good question. I think God helps us where we are at. Trust me, I think the Nephites concepts of when to go to war were much better than our current approach to conflict. Having said that, even if we accept the Nephite version of just war and that God is on their side you still have some reconciling to do.

    When I look at the BoM I see it on the macro as a tragedy. It is the story of the destruction of one civilization, the birth of a new one which quickly falls into mimetic rivalries (lamanite/nephite) and culminates in the destruction of the Nephites. Mormon 7 gives us some inkling as to the message Mormon hoped we would get out of his portion of the plates (recognize you are a covenant people, repent, accept Jesus, and no more war unless God himself commands). 1 Nephi 12 also seems to indicate that only when the people lived those principles (4 Nephi) were they ever called “righteous”. So how do I reconcile things?

    Well again, I think just as the mosaic law was a step on the ladder so do I think the Nephite approach to war was a positive step although not the fulfillment. Nephi makes it pretty clear in his two books that when Christ comes we should follow the words he speaks as law. I think those words demand a renunciation of all violence. I think that there is a clear progression in the scriptures away from human sacrifice to animal sacrifice and eventually to the sacrifice of one’s heart and self. In that progression, I believe we are asked to stop sacrificing the other entirely whether that be animal or human. I also believe that there is a very strong argument for non-violence being made in the person and words of Jesus of Nazareth. One of the main reasons that I enjoy the atonement discussions on this blog is that they generally denounce silly ideas like penal substitution which I believe paint God as a petty violent deity. They also prevent us from seeing the at-one-ment as a grand program that we are all asked to participate in. It is the business of relationships that seems to matter to God and I find the relationship with our enemies intimately tied to the at-one-ment. The non-violence I advocate comes from a belief that we are meant to transform the enemy relationship into one of unity and oneness just as Christ did on the cross. To an extent, I believe that the highest form of taking up our cross is to deny the urge to retaliate with force even if its means death. This is of course part of how the atonement transforms our relationship with God by revealing that he is not the angry unforgiving God but a forgiving, merciful, even willing to be unjustly killed deity all in the name of love, mercy, and creating a new relationship and bringing us back in at-one-ment.

    If we look at modern scripture, D&C 98 seems to suggest the very thing I am arguing when it says that after an enemy has attacked multiple times, and sought peace you can defend yourselves and are justified but, and i believe this but, if you then turn the other cheek you are now called righteous and the Lord will defend you. I dont think this is God helping your army or it makes the rest of the section illogical.

    So should we submit to a tyrant? No, I think we should actively fight against tyranny but do it non-violently.

    Comment by J. Madson — July 10, 2009 @ 12:44 pm

  145. Jacob J,

    It is always funny that people advocating non-violence or pacifism are asked how to resolve a situation that if they were listened to in the first place would not have occurred. I think a very sound historical argument can be made that our relations with Japan could have been very different before this attack and it would have never occurred (see Human Smoke or Pat Buchanan’s newest book and yes I know Buchanan wrote it but its still a sound argument)

    Having said all that, I think alot of our involvement in WWII was unjustified. It is pretty universally acknowledged that the extremely aggressive and unchristian like resolution of WWI precipitated WWII. Even the problem of the Holocaust could have been very different if Europe and the US were not so anti-semitic. If you look at the history before the war and early on there were many opportunities to take people as refuges but we refused as did other nations due to racist reasons. Trujillo, a mad man in his own right, was one of the only leaders to accept refuge jews while the US and other nations did not.

    But where did attacking Japan after Pearl Harbor get us. At some level we have to acknowledge that it was done for revenge and not defense. So we engaged in numerous battles with the Japanese Army imitating each other in violent mimesis as our cruelty and violence increased, costing both sides numerous lives, until we eventually culminated it in the denial of basic civil rights here on US soil and the mass murder of hundred of thousands of civilians in Japanese soil through both the fire bombings and ultimately Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So yeah, I think we went too far and it all began with “no longer defending our homeland (none of the battles involved driving back an invader from our soil) but off attacking soldiers in other countries”

    Comment by J. Madson — July 10, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

  146. re: 120

    So we still need a military then, it seems, which means we are justified in expending vast resources to building our ships, planes, and missiles. Having a crappy military generally means that more people die and suffer on both sides.

    Not necessarily. Having what you might call a “crappy” military (or what others might call minimal, or less robust, or adequate) is often perfectly fine. On the other hand, when a nation pursues what you might call a “world class” or “robust” military, that nation is inevitably seduced into using that military power for selfish purposes, vastly multiplying the number of people suffering and dying on both sides.

    You may think I toned down the “eradication” rhetoric, but I think that eradication is a pretty accurate term for what the warhawks have wanted in terms of the various communist regimes, extremist Muslims, and various other “evils” over the pasta several decades.

    re: 125

    I agree that a crappy military means more people die and suffer on both sides. Fortunately for us we have the best military in the world guaranteeing that more people die and suffer mainly on the other side.

    You forget to mention that many of the people who suffer and die at the hands of our military are not those targeted by our enemy. For all our prowess and boasting about surgical military capabilities, “collateral damage” still abounds.

    re: 126
    The military is necessary because there are people willing to use violence to take my stuff and hurt my family.

    Perhaps there would be fewer people willing to use violence hurt your family and somehow take your stuff if our nation, in its patriotic fervor, were less willing to use violence to bully the rest of the world into bowing to our demands and those of our economic interests.

    re: 143

    after the planes flew away from Pearl Harbor was the rest of our involvement in WWII unjustified due to the fact that we were no longer defending our homeland (none of the battles involved driving back an invader from our soil) but off attacking soldiers in other countries?

    Perfect example. Perhaps if our nation hadn’t been so enthusiastically trying to use economic embargoes to choke the island nation of Japan out of it’s imperial intentions (imperial intentions in which we were happily engaged; apparently empires are only for largely Caucasian nations), Japanese planes wouldn’t have flown over the Pearl Harbor to begin with.

    Comment by Derek — July 10, 2009 @ 4:25 pm

  147. J Madson,

    I was just curious to see if you were saying that using military in defense of a country is never approved by God. It sounds like you aren’t saying that. I agree with you that preventing violence is significantly better than cleaning up after violence. I suspect God agrees with that principle too.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 11, 2009 @ 1:15 am

  148. J. Madson,

    No, I think we should actively fight against tyranny but do it non-violently.

    Your parter in non-violence followed your comment with one that said:

    Perhaps if our nation hadn’t been so enthusiastically trying to use economic embargoes to choke the island nation of Japan out of it’s imperial intentions …Japanese planes wouldn’t have flown over the Pearl Harbor to begin with.

    Aren’t economic embargoes the exact kind of non-violent actions you are advocating? I’m curious to get your reaction to Derek’s comment. If our non-violent “fighting” of tyranny can lead to us being violently attacked (certainly this is a likely outcome), then doesn’t that make the Pearl Harbor example apropos? I get from your response that you think we went to far by fighting and winning the war, but the only alternative I’m hearing is to fight in non-violent ways and if we’re attacked violently, respond with non-violent countermeasures. In my opinion that strategy would quickly lead to a world without political and religious freedom.

    Comment by Jacob J — July 11, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  149. Dictatorship is the only way the human race can evolve. What is the problem with a bit of tyranny? People simply need to be told what to do. Hitler was a brave and bold man.

    Comment by dan kureczko — July 11, 2009 @ 1:01 pm

  150. Non-violence aside, breaking critical trade relations overnight with a major power is not a very safe thing to do. Imagine the U.S. without any domestic oil supplies and an incipient foreign embargo. Ethics aside, I don’t think there is any question that we would take military action to break it.

    Prior to the war with Japan we were in the position of supplying a commodity that Japan absolutely could not do without – not in any reasonable time frame in any case. Once in such a position, we could not have any other expectation upon the withdrawal of those supplies than a war of some kind. The only other option for Japan would be to capitulate – not the sort of thing proud sovereign nations do without a fight, and generally for good reason.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 11, 2009 @ 2:07 pm

  151. Dan Kurezco,

    You’ll notice I replaced your latest pseudonym with your real name. If you were trying to be funny in #149 you may want to clarify that.

    Also, please either use your real name or a single pseudonym in future comments here at the Thang. Constantly changing screen names is bad form in this sort of forum.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 11, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  152. J Madson or Derek,

    I ask this sincerely: if for some reason (whether economic or ideological) England started attacking the United States not only state side, but around the world (embassies, commercial planes, cargo ships, travelers etc.) what would you advise we do?

    Comment by Riley — July 11, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  153. I should point out the rank revisionsim regarding our foreign policy towards Japan. Our embargo was not from a hypocritical desire to deny another nation an Empire because they were the wrong color. Rather it was a moral choice not the feed the Japenese army of rape and rapine. The Japanese were not “forced” into attacking us, the embargo would have stopped if they ceased their facsist quest for a dominantion of others through raping hundreds of thousands of Chinese and exploiting countless others in East Asia.

    After studying Japanese history I am convinced that the Meiji era foreign policy contained the seeds of its own destruction. As they constantly expanded (almost war in Korea in the 1870s, the Sino Japanese War in 1894-5, the Russo Japanese War 1895, Seizing German possesions in 1914 etc) they faced new and bigger enemies (or pissed off old enemies) which required more expansion and more draconian control of conquered territories to be secure.

    Thus, I hardly believe that America suddenly caused an uneccesary war with an embargo in the 1940s. The seeds of that war, IMO, were planted as far back as 1873 with the establishment of an unstable expansionist foreign policy. (Just as you could argue that WWII in Europe stemmed from the establishment of a unified Germany in 1871)

    Comment by Morgan Deane — July 12, 2009 @ 8:46 am

  154. No worries geoff. Im glad you have a sense of humour. I dont know what it takes to get a reaction these days. This is a great forum, and i wont be polluting it with poor jokes or wind ups any more.

    Comment by dan kureczko — July 12, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  155. re: 152

    When a nation is under attack, it has the right to repel the attack.

    At all times, a nation has an obligation to interact ethically and morally with other nations and peoples. When nations interact in unethical and immoral ways with other nations and peoples, as the West generally and the US specifically so often did in the last one-hundred-plus years, it must expect that it will foster anger and hatred among those nations and peoples. In that case, it is not justified in perpetuating the cycle of violence out of jingoism, nor will such a course ultimately generate any practical results: hatred and violence will only foster further hatred and violence.

    re: 153

    And what, Morgan, of the rape of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific world by the Western powers, including the US? What about the rape of the Phillipines (300,000 thousand butchered and many tortured in “liberating” the Filipinos) and the nation of Cuba (made a US protectorate and plundered by US corporate interests).

    Ironic, isn’t it, that while we were so opposed to Japanese empire, we continued to aid France in its brutal attempts to maintain it’s empire in Vietnam even after the war in which we stopped Japanese imperial aggression. No, there wasn’t anything racist about that…

    Oh yes, the Japanese foreign policy decades earlier helped lay the foundation for the war. The Japanese policies fertilized the ground. But the seeds were planted by the Western imperial powers, who had inspired Japan to become an imperial power.

    “Revisionism.” The word used by the victor when his sanitized account of history is challenged. That’s what is rank.

    Comment by Derek — July 13, 2009 @ 5:29 pm

  156. The Japanese were not “forced” into attacking us, the embargo would have stopped if they ceased their facsist quest for a dominantion of others through raping hundreds of thousands of Chinese and exploiting countless others in East Asia

    Morgan D., I agree with you, and I didn’t say they were. What I said is that one cannot impose a trade embargo that deprives a country of supplies it needs to survive and not expect a war in return. A blockade is an act of war. A trade embargo of sufficient seriousness is indistinguishable from a blockade.

    On our part, we waited far too long to impose such an embargo. Perhaps if we imposed one in 1910, when the Japanese annexed Korea, or in 1931, when the Japanese invaded Manchuria, they might have backed down. To expect them to give up their empire half a century in the making without a fight is unrealistic, however moral it may have been for them to do so.

    I would say, by the way, that one of the primary causes of Japan’s militancy was the virtual wholesale absorption of contemporary German culture in the Meiji era. Germany was at the time of course on the up ramp to the very same attempt at regional domination, and the contributions their leading philosophers made to such an attempt don’t appear to be exactly incidental.

    As an example – Korea was virtually run by the Japanese from 1905 to 1945. The Japanese tried to extinguish the Korean language and eliminate knowledge of its history. But more to the point, the Japanese adopted the German legal system, which survives to this day in Korea – I assume in Japan as well.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 13, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  157. 300,000 thousand butchered and many tortured in “liberating” the Filipinos

    I don’t agree with what the U.S. did in this case, but that is completely incorrect. No one pretended to “liberate” the Philippines (from whom? the Philippinos?). The U.S. purchased the Philippines from Spain in much the same manner as the Louisiana Purchase from France nearly a century prior, if while applying considerably more pressure (i.e. it was during Spanish-American war negotiations).

    The Philippine-American War was not an invasion of the Philippines by the Americans, it was a war for Philippine independence, directly comparable to the American Revolutionary War.

    If we had not purchased the Phillippines from Spain, the Phillipines would still have needed to fight a war for independence – it would have just been with Spain or with Germany, instead of the United States.

    ~34,000 Philippinos lost their lives as a direct consequence of the war. We bear a hefty share of the responsibility for those deaths. The number that died due to a cholera epidemic near war’s end is pure speculation. Some say 200,000. In any case, it is dubious to hold the United States responsible for that, let alone refer to such deaths as “butchering”.

    Now of course, in these enlightened times we would recognize that the right thing to do would be to purchase the Philippines from Spain (for the same sum) and then grant Philippine independence, and (on their invitation) garrison soldiers there to prevent it from being taken over by the Germans. Perhaps they might even have been able to pay us back.

    Comment by Mark D. — July 13, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

  158. Two wrongs don’t make a right Derek. The campaign in the Phillipines does not obligate the United States into supplying a fascist war machine (even if we accept your exageratted acount of American brutality and ignore the robust non Imperialist school of American scholars). From your reasoning Derek it seems imperialism anywhere in the world not only caused by justified Japanese actions.

    Neither is close to the truth. Every time the Japanese were organized under a new government they aggresively expanded as a way to justify their rule and place Japan instead of China as the Middle Kingdom. There are eery parrallels from the 8th and 16th centuries (and the 11th and 13th if you count invasions from the other way) that argue strongly against a Western cause for Japanese expansion.

    156:

    Your explanation is more acceptable Mark D. And I agreed with your more often than not in the previous debate over military service on this thread.

    Sorry for the thread jack, Matt. Did any answer really sastisfy you concerning LDS patriotism?

    Comment by Morgan Deane — July 13, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

  159. re: 157

    The US occupation grew out of the Spanish-American war, in which the US claimed to be “liberating” the Spanish colonies. We see from what the US did to the former Spanish colonies (Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines formally made colonies, Cuba and others made into US “Protectorates”) what foreign liberation typically means; something important in the context of a discussion of patriotism and militarism.

    There are wide ranges of estimates regarding the death tole during the US war and occupation (how magnanimous to assume that “We [the US] bear a hefty share of the responsibility for those deaths,” considering that the US is was the invading power…). Given that the devastation of the war played a large role in the malnutrition and disease which flourished during the occupation, I’d say the US is very much culpable for those deaths, estimates for which I’ve seen ranging from under 200,000 to possibly as high as a million.

    re: 158

    You are right, Morgan. Two wrongs don’t make a right, which means that the immoral actions of one nation does not justify immoral use of force by the US.

    I’m not suggesting the imperial efforts of the West justified Japanese actions. I’m saying those efforts rationalized Japanese actions, and in many ways inspired them. The bottom line is that the US was also engaged in imperialism, and so it is hypocritical of the US to then condemn Japanese imperialism and use it as a pretext for very aggressive embargoes.

    Comment by Derek — July 14, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  160. Derek #155,

    I understand your concerns, but I’m more interested in what you would recommend (and therefore see as moral/ethical) as a response to the hypothetical I proposed. Specifically, what would you classify as “repel[ling]” in that specific scenario.

    I really am curious as to what thoughts you have on this.

    Comment by Riley — July 14, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

  161. Riley, I cannot answer without a more specific scenario. The one sentence hypothetical situation you gave doesn’t begin to give the information necessary. That would be like summarizing the terrorist situation as Al Qaeda suddenly attacking the US on 9/11, without giving the relative contextual information about the rise of Al Qaeda, the nature of US interaction with the Muslim communities in the Middle East for the last several decades, the economic situation of the Middle East, etc.

    Comment by Derek — July 17, 2009 @ 10:44 am

  162. Derek,

    Um… I have no idea what else to add to it so I’m confused. Is there always a cause or provocation in your mind? I know that almost everyone thinks they have a reason to do anything. But that’s not what I’m interested in the chain of causation.

    I’m really not trying to be argumentative, I am just interested in how you would recommend we defend ourselves.

    So let’s say the British citizens elect their own George Bush and Dick Cheney and they decide they want our resources and that’s reason enough to start attacking us. So as part of the effort they start attacking anything American – embassies, travelers, airlines, etc.

    In your view, what would be a appropriate response or defense?

    Comment by Riley — July 18, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  163. Nowadays patriotism has become modern movement. Lots of people who pretend to be patriots , dont event know whats all about.
    You cant become patriot ! You should be born as one!

    xx

    Comment by Rencontres — July 20, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

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