What Do Prophets Teach About the Iraq War?

President Boyd K. Packer gave a talk in our most recent General Conference called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ – —Plain and Precious Things. In it he told of how he used the Book of Mormon to understand whether or not it was OK for him to serve in the Second World War:

“I mention another plain and precious insight that did not come with the first reading in the Book of Mormon. When I was 18 years old, I was inducted into the military. While I had no reason to wonder about it before, I became very concerned if it was right for me to go to war. In time, I found my answer in the Book of Mormon:they [the Nephites] 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, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.

‘And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their 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.

‘And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion’ (Alma 43:45-–47).

Knowing this, I could serve willingly and with honor.”

Yesterday while reading blogs, I ran across some disgruntled saint who was complaining about President Packer’s most recent conference talk because he felt that the talk was telling us to oppose the war in Iraq. I didn’t recall any such thing in his talk, so I went back and reread it this morning. Is he talking about Iraq? He doesn’t mention the Iraq War by name. He is talking about general principles for conducting a righteous war as explained in the Book of Mormon.

How do those principles apply to the current war? Are we fighting to defend our homes, wives, children, and freedom of religion? Were we guilty of the first or second offense? Was the only alternative to war being slain by the Iraqis? Is this war purely defensive?

I don’t speak for the Church or anyone but myself, but I think that the war in Iraq is an immoral war. In my opinion, it isn’t justifiable according to the principles outlined by the Lord in the Book of Mormon. I believe that the Lord will judge this nation for attacking Iraq and slaying tens of thousands of innocent civilians, not to mention the thousands of wounded and slain of our own military people. They are God’s children too. And their lives should not be wasted in fighting unnecessary and immoral wars. We might need them to defend our nation here at home if present trends continue. Can anyone state with certainty that we won’t?

So what do prophets teach us about the Iraq War? Well, they haven’t come out for or against it by name, but they have given us appropriate true principles so that we can govern ourselves. Are we keeping those true principles? I hope so, but I doubt it.

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6 Responses to What Do Prophets Teach About the Iraq War?

  1. Dexterb says:

    Glad to be able to post a comment on this site. I’ve read some really interesting comments.

    Was it immoral for Nephi to kill Laban? That action did not involve self-defense. Neither was Amalickiah’s death by the hand of Teancum an act of self-defense. Both were pre-emptive strikes for self-preservation. Nephi’s action was approved by the Lord, Teancum’s action–well, the scripture is silent on that point.

    Therefore, the blanket statement that ‘killing is immoral’ is inaccurate.

    For the record, regardless of the media spin, the war in Iraq has nothing to do with retaliation for 9-11. Review the official statements, not the media’s. And the war has everything to do with defeating terrorism.

    In reading section 98, I think the application is different. To me, the Lord counseled his church to suffer the persecutions to a greater end. And what happened–they were forced out of Missouri and eventually migrated west. This is not something a nation can do when attacked by terrorists. Better to follow Moroni’s lead, fortify and strengthen and also Teancum’s lead to eliminate the source of the problem–go after the enemy, even sneak into his tent and stab him to the heart.

    Now, is America a wicked nation? Certainly it has its share of wicked individuals, some in high places who need to repent. Conversely I am not disposed to believe we are only saved by the prayers of the righteous, at least not yet. No, the majority of Americans are honest and decent.

    Finally, we are not the bad guys. Most Americans are uninformed or worse, misinformed, about who is bad. For so many years Americans have gullibly swallowed the bias and lies of those able to feed it, and generations have grown up with a diluted vision of our true goodness and virtue. For one example, check out http://www.opinionjournal.com/editorial/feature.html?id=110008318

  2. Killing is immoral except in self-defense. That is just as true for nations as it is for individuals. And Iraq was no threat to us, had not attacked us, and didn’t want war with us. Further, they had no connection to the attack on 9-11, so invading Iraq could not be justified on the basis of defending ourselves against terrorism. For the Lord’s Law of War read the 98th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants and ask the Lord in prayer how it applies to the Iraq War. I’m sure you will get an answer because the Lord answers prayers. America is at war in Iraq because we have become a wicked nation and we need to repent. We are the bad guys. All the talk about freedom and democracy is hypocritical. If we really believed all that stuff, we would run our country here a lot differently than we do.

  3. Dexterb says:

    What is your rationale for calling the war in Iraq “immoral” ?

  4. SRA says:

    Thank you for this blog. It is really nice to read academic material with the slant that maybe the gospel is TRUE and the Church is CORRECT. Your stuff is a breath of fresh air to one such as myself. And by the way, I think the war is immoral too. ~~

  5. Actually, I think of myself as an Iron Rodder in my attitude towards the Church and Liahona-like in my attitude towards the national government. True, I have been a registered Republican all of my life, but the only Republican presidential candidate I ever voted for was Ronald Reagan; and he was too liberal for my tastes. If the Church were to come out and suggest that I strongly support the Bush administration, it would surely test my faith. I think that Bush is a disgrace to the label, “conservative.”

    Fortunately, the Church hasn’t required that I support Bush in his foreign policy. And I take comfort in the belief that my anti-war opinions are strongly grounded in the Book of Mormon.

    I actually am hardcore and pro-military when it comes to national defense. I just don’t think national defense comes into play unless some foreign power invades us as happened in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. I’m not even sure that we did the right thing to provoke Japan into attacking us at Pearl Harbor. We may have been wiser to stay out of World War Two.

    I supported the War in Vietnam, and learned afterwards that I had made a big mistake. When it comes to making war, I just don’t trust our national leaders. Too many of them are more interested in their own power than in the welfare of the American people.

  6. Well put John. Its good to see an Iron Rodder break from the stereotype which we Liahonas so often place them in, namely Iron Rodder = Hardcore, Pro-Military Repulican. Now I don’t really know your political leanings (I do assume you to be Republican), but I would argue that you statement breaks from the stereotype in a more fundamental way.

    Iron Rodders are called such out of their zeal in clinging to the word of the institution. Thus they are often seen as being uncritical lovers of the institution who tend to label all others as love-less critics. Most Liahona’s, however, tend to see themselves in a “lovers quarrel” of sorts with the institution: they are critical of it to a certain degree because they love it.

    It would almost seem that you are being rather Liahona-ish toward the secular institution in your post.

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