Prophets Against War
For America has a destiny – a destiny to conquer the world – not by force of arms, not by purchase and favor, for these conquests wash away, but by high purpose, by unselfish effort, by uplifting achievement, by a course of Christian living; a conquest that shall leave every nation free to move out to its own destiny; a conquest that shall bring, through the workings of our own example, the blessings of freedom and liberty to every people, without restraint or imposition or compulsion from us; a conquest that shall weld the whole earth together in one great brotherhood in a reign of mutual patience, forbearance, and charity, in a reign of peace to which we shall lead all others by the persuasion of our own righteous example.
I … stand upon this principle, that the truth is in the gospel of Jesus Christ, that the power of redemption, the power of peace, the power for good will, love, charity and forgiveness, and the power for fellowship with God, abides in the gospel of Jesus Christ and in obedience to it on the part of the people. I therefore admit, and not only admit but claim, that there is nothing greater on earth, nor in heaven, than the truth of God’s gospel which he has devised and restored for the salvation and the redemption of the world. And it is through that that peace will come to the children of men, and it will not come to the world in any other way.
Nearly 10 decades have passed now since my birth, and for the better part of that time, there has been war among mankind in one part of the earth or another. No one can ever estimate the terrible suffering incident to these wars across the globe. Lives numbered in the millions have been lost. The terrible wounds of war have left bodies maimed and minds destroyed. Families have been left without fathers and mothers. Young people who have been recruited to fight have, in many instances, died while those yet alive have had woven into the very fabric of their natures elements of hatred which will never leave them. The treasure of nations has been wasted and will never be recovered.
The devastation of war seems so unnecessary and such a terrible waste of human life and national resources. We ask, will this terrible, destructive way of handling disagreements among the sons and daughters of God ever end?
“Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace . . . ” (D&C 98:16) Thus the Church is and must be against war. The Church itself cannot wage war, unless and until the Lord shall issue new commands. It cannot regard war as a righteous means of settling international disputes; these should and could be settled—the nations agreeing—by peaceful negotiation and adjustment.
First Presidency, 1942 (six months later):
We renew the statement made in our message of the last April conference, that obedient to the direct command of the Lord given to us more than a hundred years ago (directing us to “renounce war and proclaim peace” — D&C 98:16) the Church is and must be against war, for war is of Satan and this Church is the Church of Christ, who taught peace and righteousness and brotherhood of man.
As those chosen and ordained to stand at the head of the Savior’s Church, as followers of the lowly Jesus trying to live His gospel and to obey His commandments, we must call upon the leaders of nations to abandon the fiendishly inspired slaughter of the manhood of the world now carrying on and further planned….
We renew our declaration that international disputes can and should be settled by peaceful means. This is the way of the Lord.
We call upon the statesmen of the world to assume their rightful control of the affairs of nations and to bring this war to an end, honorable and just to all. Animated and led by the spirit of Christ, they can do it. The weeping mothers, the distraught and impoverished wives, the fatherless children of the world, demand that this be done. In this way only will enduring peace come; it will never be imposed by armed force. Hate-driven militarists and leaders, with murder in their hearts, will, if they go through to the end, bring merely another peace that will be but the beginning of another war.
We call upon the Saints the world over to pray to God constantly in faith, nothing doubting, that He will bring His purposes speedily to pass and restore peace again to the earth to bless His children.
The wars in which this nation has been involved during this, the most bloody century of all time have resulted from the greed, the avarice, the arrogance, the conceit, and egotism of men in power who sought to enslave and exercise dominion over others. Their very attitude has been totally incompatible with recognition of the Almighty to whom each of us is accountable.
We must proclaim peace; do all in our power to appease the wrath of our enemies; make any sacrifice that honorable people can to avert war. . . .
Not only ought we to extend the offering of peace the first time to a nation that proclaims war against us, but again the second time; and if that should be rejected, again the third time; and if it be rejected the third time, then: `. . . they should bring these testimonies before the Lord.’ (D&C 98:35.)
Go to the Lord and say, `Here are our testimonies. We have offered peace the first time; we have offered it twice; we have offered it three times; but our offerings are rejected, and this nation is determined to have war with us. Now we bring these testimonies before thee, Lord. . . .’
We as a people should use our influence for this purpose. Our prayers should ascend to God; our petitions should ascend to the government of our nation to do everything that honorable people can to avert war. . . .
To us as Latter-day Saints these principles are of the utmost importance. I do not want to see our young men get filled with the spirit of war and be eager for the conflict. God forbid that such a spirit should prevail in our land, or that we should contribute in any manner to the propagation of a spirit of that kind! But one may say, `Is it not our duty to defend our country and our flag? Is it not our duty to maintain the institutions which the Lord has given to us?’ Certainly it is. And it is no part of cowardice to take the plan that the Lord has pointed out. No man need be afraid that the Lord or any just man will look upon him as a coward.
Nothing is more unrighteous, more unholy, more un-Godly than man-declared mass slaughter of his fellowman for an unrighteous cause… The law declared at Sinai was “Thou shalt not kill,” and in the Garden of Gethsemane: “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” With these divine commands deep-embodied in our spiritual consciousness, we can look with no degree of allowance upon the sin of unholy war, and a war to make conquest or to keep conquest already made is such a war.
The planners of war rarely face the suffering that the people do. It’s when whole families and entire cities face suffering that we see the real horror. We ought to be grateful for peace every day of our lives, but we ought to be vigilant to prevent the types of warfare, the aggressive behavior, the dominance of one military force over another that we have witnessed in the past.
It is not our business to fight our enemies. There is no man or woman on the face of the earth, but is our brother or our sister. They are the children of God and we are here to bear and forbear with them in their interest and for the glory of God. It is not our business to destroy life. It is not our business to make war upon our enemies. They should let us alone. I would not say that I could govern and control my passions if a man were to try to take my life. That is another thing altogether. But it is not our business to fight them. They are our brethren and sisters and God have mercy upon them. That should be our prayer.
The only way to build a peaceful community is to build men and women who are lovers and makers of peace. Each individual, by that doctrine of Christ and His Church, holds in his own hands the peace of the world.
That makes me responsible for the peace of the world, and makes you individually responsible for the peace of the world. The responsibility cannot be shifted to someone else. It cannot be placed upon the shoulders of Congress or Parliament, or any other organization of men with governing authority.