The Lord’s Standard for War & Why It Matters
War is a dangerous thing that has become almost common place in the world we live. The Lord has told us that as “the times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled there “shall be heard of wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion.” (D&C 45:25-26) The scriptures are filled with records of wars, including types and shadows of what will occur in our day. With so much war taking place around us, we must learn to wade through the propaganda and understand when war is sanctioned and permitted by the Lord, and when it is not; then, we must remain true to that understanding if we wish to receive His blessings and trust.
What is the Lord’s Standard?
In the Nephite record, we read in the commencement of the war chapters that they “were not fighting for monarchy nor power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all.” They felt this was their duty they owed to God “for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.” (Alma 43:45-47)
Later we read that “the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.” They believed that “by so doing God would prosper them in the land. . . yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger. . . And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them.” (Alma 48:14-16)
We find here from the handbook for the latter-days that a defensive war is the only kind authorized by the Lord. This is affirmed in our statement of belief: “that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency.” (D&C 134:11) As stated above, even this is only after two offenses of violence have been taken against you.
The only exception to this rule I am aware of is when the Lord’s people are reclaiming lands of inheritance promised to them by God as in the case of the ancient Israelites in the past or the Native Americans in the end-time; or lands of their own that had been previously lost in war, as in the case of the Nephites during their war with the Lamanites.
A simple test as to whether or not a war is truly defensive is where it is being fought. In a war against the Gadianton robbers, the people petitioned their prophet and chief judge, “let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.” Gidgiddoni wisely responded to them: “The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.” (3 Nephi 3:20-21) Therefore, when a nation’s military is fighting in its own lands the war is defensive, but as soon as the battle moves to the lands of others, an offensive role has been taken.
What about defending others?
In his address on United States foreign policy, then Elder Ezra Taft Benson observed:
“There is one and only one legitimate goal of United States foreign policy. It is a narrow goal, a nationalistic goal: the preservation of our national independence. Nothing in the Constitution grants that the President shall have the privilege of offering himself as a world leader. Nothing in the Constitution nor in logic grants to the President of the United States or to Congress the power to influence the political life of other countries, to “uplift” their cultures, to bolster their economies, to feed their peoples or even to defend them against their enemies.”
Why does it matter?
In an address Hugh Nibley said was given the “instant deep freeze” by the Latter-day Saints, President Spencer W. Kimball observed:
“We are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord. 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 anti-enemy 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.)
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).” (The False Gods We Worship)
Unrighteous war is clearly a form of idolatry, and a blatant denial of the Lord and His ability to protect, preserve, and deliver us. It constitutes a rejection of Him and HIs promise to fight our battles (D&C 98:37; 105:14) Think of how many lives have been lost in war that could have been prevented.
The Lord has revealed that the rights and privileges of freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution “belong to all mankind” (D&C 98:5) and “should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.” (D&C 101:77) These basic rights are described in D&C 134:2 as the “free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.”
Elder H. Verlan Andersen similarly outlined the four major elements of freedom “without which the exercise of freedom is impossible. They are:
1. Life and some degree of physical and mental health and strength.
2. Liberty of action or the absence of restraint and coercion.
3. Knowledge of those laws which must be obeyed to achieve one’s goals.
4. The right and control of property.” (The Book of Mormon and the Constitution)
When we go to war and it is not sanctioned by the Lord, we are depriving others of those basic God-given rights. How dare we usurp such authority, and exercise such unrighteous dominion. The same is true even if we are not fighting in the war. If we are supporting it or voting for individuals who call for war or declare war (especially when this is done unconstitutionally), we are giving our consent and therefore signifying to the Lord what we would do if we were in their shoes. Surely this is one reason why “many are called, but few are chosen.” (D&C 121:40)
Let us remember that when we seek to “gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121:37)
As the glorification of war becomes even more entrenched in our culture, we can choose not to participate, because I promise you this: there are no war-like people in Zion.
Suggestions for application:
Stop praying for military troops in foreign lands as these are not wars the Lord sanctions.
Refuse to honor or praise counterfeit patriotism.
Do not partake of media and entertainment that glorifies violence or war in any way.
Be actively involved in your civic responsibilities “befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land.”
Never vote for anyone who violates God’s standards for war.
Honestly reflect on the wars your country hs been involved in. Were they in line with the Lord’s standard? What was the last war you know of that was actually in line with the information shared above?