Peace Within

An excerpt from an article by H. Dean Garrett.

The authors and abridgers of the Book of Mormon saw our day and were inspired to include in the book events from their history that would best serve us. Mormon told us, for instance, that he wrote of things that he saw and heard, “according to the manifestations of the Spirit which had testified of things to come.” (Morm. 3:16.) Moroni wrote that the Lord had shown him our day and that he was writing to us “as if [we were] present, and yet [we were] not” (Morm. 8:34–35.)….

The Book of Mormon indicates that among its cultures some wars were fought for better causes than others. Mormon addressed the issue of when a person should go to war and whether anything worthwhile can come from war….

The motivations for going to war determined the different approaches the two sides took. While the Lamanites gathered themselves together in anger, the Nephites gathered themselves together with deliberate resolve, preparing themselves under Moroni’s leadership with breastplates, shields for their arms and heads, and thick clothing (See Alma 43:18–19.)….

These verses suggest that a war in defense against an aggressor is acceptable to the Lord. The Lord does not justify war waged in order to gain power or to gain control. Neither is it to be waged in anger. President David O. McKay pointed out that “there are conditions when entrance into war is justifiable, and when a Christian nation may, without violation of principles, take up arms against an opposing force.

“Such a condition, however, is not a real or fancied insult given by one nation to another. When this occurs proper reparation may be made by mutual understanding, apology, or by arbitration.

“Neither is there justifiable cause found in a desire or even a need for territorial expansion. The taking of territory implies the subjugation of the weak by the strong—the application of the jungle law.

“Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government, or even to impel others to a particular form of worship, however better the government or eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1942, p. 72.)….

The disciples of old could go to battle only when the Lord commanded them. They were to lift a standard of peace to an enemy three times before bringing their case to the Lord, after which he would justify them in going to war. This law was not a law of first attack. It demanded that a righteous people do all they could to proclaim and preserve peace….

As Latter-day Saints, our duty is to proclaim peace. The First Presidency, under President Spencer W. Kimball’s direction, stated: “We are dismayed by the growing tensions among the nations, and the unrestricted building of arsenals of war, including huge and threatening nuclear weaponry. Nuclear war, when unleashed on a scale for which the nations are preparing, spares no living thing within the perimeter of its initial destructive force, and sears and maims and kills wherever its pervasive cloud reaches.

“While recognizing the need for strength to repel any aggressor, we are enjoined by the word of God to ’renounce war and proclaim peace.’ We call upon the heads of nations to sit down and reason together in good faith to resolve their differences. If men of good will can bring themselves to do so, they may save the world from a holocaust, the depth and breadth of which can scarcely be imagined. We are confident that when there is enough of a desire for peace and a will to bring it about, it is not beyond the possibility of attainment.” (Church News, Dec. 20, 1980, p. 3.)

The duty of all Latter-day Saints is to seek peace and to live righteously so that their peaceful influence can be felt. As we do so, it may be that, as often happened in the Book of Mormon, a small minority of disciples, through faith, righteous example, and effort, can be a significant influence on a larger body of people among whom they live, wherever that may be.

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