Certainly he who taught that to inherit eternal life we must “love thy neighbor as thyself” would be deeply concerned with the destruction of life so rampant in the world today. Since we live in a time of “wars and rumors of wars," it is of supreme importance that we gain gospel insight into the just causes for supporting war.
Much of the Book of Mormon is devoted to war, which was a continual plague in ancient America. When were the followers of Christ justified in taking part in this destruction of life? Alma 43:47 states “And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites (i.e. the followers of Christ) contending with the Lamanites (i.e. those who were attacking the Nephites), to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion." In Alma 48:14 we read “Now 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.” Thus, defense of rights was the only moral justification for war and the aggressive use of force was against the will of God. As followers of the “Prince of Peace," we are still bound by these principles today.
This being said, should America continue the war in Iraq, attack Iran before they supposedly develop a nuclear weapon, and continue the ill-defined war on Terrorism? I submit to you that the answer is emphatically “NO."
First of all, the war against Iraq is not defensive. For those who believe that the September 11th atrocities were an unprovoked attack by Muslim extremists, there is no proof that the prior Iraqi regime had anything to do with these attacks. Furthermore, the Iraqi government never directly attacked the United States of America. This is a preemptive war, which is the shedding of blood of those who have not given an offense, and is not justifiable before the Lord.
However, even if we suppose that the war in Iraq was defensive, the Iraqi government which “attacked” us no longer rules the country. Since the so-called offender has been eliminated, it follows that we are no longer defending ourselves against an enemy who gave the initial offense. The most benign reason for our continued waging of war in Iraq is to build a democratic government and bring stability to this region. This is not a moral basis for our continued bloodshed of the people in this region. If the French government had kept a military presence in the American states after the Revolutionary War, the patriots would have attacked them too.
The Book of Mormon provides us with the example of Captain Moroni, who was the great military leader of the Nephites during much of their warfare. After he had defeated a Lamanite army and the attacking king had been killed (effectively destroying the Lamanite government and bringing “instability” to the Lamanite people), Moroni did not lead an army down to the Lamanite lands to ensure the establishment of a democratic government which would be friendly to the Nephites. We are specifically told that immediately afterward he put his efforts toward preparing the Nephite lands against any future attacks (Alma 62:42). Allowing the defeated aggressors to sort out their own governmental affairs was clearly his policy. After Captain Moroni had repelled a prior attack, we read “And the armies of the Nephites, or of Moroni, returned and came to their houses and their lands” (Alma 44:22). We have no moral basis for remaining in Iraq to assist in the creation and stabilization of the new Iraqi government. We need to immediately cease the American slaughter of Iraqis and all others who have not attacked our own families, lands, rights, and religion.
The Book of Mormon also provides us with another clear admonition not to be the aggressors of war in 3 Nephi chapter 3. Just prior to this time, the Nephites very own government leaders had conspired together to violate the God-given rights of the individuals in the land (sounds familiar). The people eventually rose up and threw the oppressors, or Gadianton robbers as they were called, out of their land. The Gadianton robbers then proceeded to attack them from the outside “and did slay so many people, and did lay waste so many cities, and did spread so much death and carnage throughout the land” that the people decided to join together “to take up arms against them” (3 Nephi 2:11).
Initially the Nephites were able to ward off the attacks of the Gadianton robbers. However, after the Gadiantons had gained more strength, they sent a letter to the leader of the Nephites demanding surrender or the robbers would “let fall the sword upon you even until ye shall become extinct” (3 Nephi 3:8). At this point, the Nephites demanded of their leader, who we are told had the spirit of revelation, “Pray unto the Lord, and 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” (3 Nephi 3:20). In today’s language, they wanted “to fight the terrorists over there so they would not come over here." What was his answer? “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 3:21).
The Nephites, who were repeatedly attacked by the Gadiantons in the past and were directly and credibly threatened with aggression once again, were not justified by the Lord in going into the terrorists’ lands to attack. With this being understood, on what principled basis are we justified in preemptively attacking Iran or any other country that has not attacked us in the past nor threatened to make us extinct if we did not completely submit to them?
We have been warned, in the Book of Mormon as well as by modern-day church leaders, that the destruction of our society will be due to the corruption of our own government from within and not from a foreign enemy. James Madison gave us this same warning – “If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."
Fortunately during this election we have a good and honest man who would strictly follow the Constitution as President. As a congressman, Ron Paul has used the Constitution as his iron rod for 10 terms. As a presidential candidate, he has repeatedly stood by the Constitution in its entirety, even when those in the "great and spacious building" have continually mocked him for doing so. He is also the only candidate from both major parties who “renounce(s) war and proclaim(s) peace” (D&C 98:16). It is my hope that the LDS people will put their full support behind Ron Paul and valiantly defend their agency.
Jeremy Ashton [send him mail] is homeschooling father of two in Richmond, Virginia and a dedicated Ron Paulian.