What does the Church teach about war and peace?

Our nation is currently at war in Iraq and Pakistan. We may soon be engaged in a broader war, possibly including Iran, Syria and even North Korea. Many saints believe these wars are justifiable because we are spreading freedom and democracy in the world. Still others doubt the motives of our national leaders and believe we should go to war only in defense of our own nation against foreign invasion. But what does the Savior’s Church teach? Do Church teachings settle the matter?

In the doctrinal reference True to the Faith, which is published by the Church for our youth, young adults and new converts, we read:

The Lord has said that in the last days there will be wars and rumors of wars, and the whole earth shall be in commotion, and men’’s hearts shall fail them (D&C 45:26).As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are a people of peace. We follow the Savior, who is the Prince of Peace. We look forward to His millennial reign, when wars will end and peace will be restored to the earth (see Isaiah 2:4). However, we recognize that in this world, government leaders sometimes send military troops to war to defend their nations and ideals.

Latter-day Saints in the military do not need to feel torn between their country and their God. In the Church, we believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law (Articles of Faith 1:12). Military service shows dedication to this principle.

If Latter-day Saints are called upon to go into battle, they can look to the example of Captain Moroni, the great military leader in the Book of Mormon. Although he was a mighty warrior, he “did not delight in bloodshed” (Alma 48:11). He was “firm in the faith of Christ, and his only reason for fighting was to defend his people, his rights, and his country, and his religion” (Alma 48:13). If Latter-day Saints must go to war, they should go in a spirit of truth and righteousness, with a desire to do good. They should go with love in their hearts for all God’’s children, including those on the opposing side. Then, if they are required to shed another’s blood, their action will not be counted as a sin.

And we can read what the Church teaches about peace in this same valuable reference.

Notice that the Church leaves it up to each of us to determine whether or not we should be for or against the war in Iraq. Clearly we should serve faithfully in battle if our national leaders call upon us to do so. And we should honor those who serve our nation in this way. But whether we should seek national leaders who engage our nation in foreign wars is left to each of us to freely judge. It is my hope that we will be prayerful and seek divine inspiration when making that decision.

For myself, I am opposed to US participation in foreign wars unless we have been invaded by an enemy. Unless it is certain that Iraq was involved in the attack on 9-11, or it can be proven that Saddam Hussein was complicit with Osama bin Laden in that attack, I am opposed to US military involvement in the Middle East. To the best of my knowledge, there were no weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was not involved in the 9-11 attack upon the World Trade Center. Saddam Hussein was no threat to the US or to his neighbors. And he did not want to go to war with us. Therefore, we should have waited for provocation before attacking him. It seems to me that we were the aggressors, and that we are not fighting in defense of our homes and families. But that is just my personal opinion. As I understand the teachings of the Church on war and peace, we are left to decide for ourselves, using whatever access to personal inspiration we have available.

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