"War and the Gospel: Perspectives from

Latter-day Saint National Security Practitioners"

Mark Henshaw, Valerie M. Hudson, Eric Jensen, Kerry M. Kartchner, John Mark Mattox

SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 2 (Summer 2009)


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* Authors listed in alphabetical order. Views expressed here do not represent the stance of the federal government or of the authors' affiliated institutions, or of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I. Introduction

            In common with peoples of all religious traditions, Latter-day Saints confront a large array of perplexing questions on how to deal with war.  For example, they, like other people of faith, embrace peace on earth as a good to be sought and promoted with all earnestness.  At the same time, they recognize war as one of the most enduring—albeit unfortunate—institutions of the present human existence.  They acknowledge the difficulties which attend attempts encountered in the quest for peace amid the continual threat of war.

            At the same time, Latter-day Saint encounters with questions on peace and war involve a number of unique considerations.  First, Latter-day Saints understand the scriptural canon represented by the Old and New Testaments of The Bible to represent a contiguous Christian revelation spanning from the days of Adam to the days of Jesus and His Apostles.  Thus, they understand those wars of the Old Testament that were divinely appointed to be part of the same divine, salvific plan which includes the hopeful angelic song of peace on earth, goodwill toward men found in the New Testament. [1]   Second, Latter-day Saints understand their faith to be a modern, revelatory restoration of ancient Christianity and not merely a denominational manifestation of the predominant Christian tradition which arose in post-Biblical times.  Thus, while there is much of interest to Latter-day Saints in the pacifist and just war traditions which developed in tandem with the predominant Christian tradition, Latter-day Saint discourse on war and peace is not a product, per se, of those traditions.  Third, Latter-day Saints believe in an open canon of scripture, which allows not only for extra-biblical scripture but also for the receipt of new (and potentially supercessional) revelation by divinely appointed prophets of the modern age.  Thus, as new revelations always take doctrinal priority over former revelations, divine instructions regarding the proper response to war may differ from generation to generation without pain of contradiction.

            In the United States national security establishment can be found a disproportionate number of Latter-day Saints.  These individuals must integrate both doctrine and practice as they face the challenges of their chosen profession.  In this essay, we outline what might be considered mainstream views among these Latter-day Saint national security professionals, to the end of enriching and deepening Latter-day Saint discussion of appropriate state use of force by making these views more explicit.  Against this backdrop, as one explores discourse on war among Latter-day Saints who find praxis on the subject as national security professionals, several points of reference typically emerge:

  • Many such professionals feel that the tenets of their religion give them special reason to be good and supportive citizens.  One aspect concerns the Church’s emphasis on being “subject” to one’s government, and on being good citizens that uphold the law and honor those in positions of governmental authority. [2] Church members are also continually reminded, by those whom they accept as modern prophets, to be politically active—meaning at a minimum to vote and to educate oneself about the societal issues of the day.  Military service is considered an honorable career choice for Latter-day Saints.  Indeed, ROTC has always been welcome on the campus of Brigham Young University, even during the turbulent 1960s, and patriotism is still considered a virtue. [3]
  • The great heroes of The Book of Mormon combine public service, military service, and spiritual service in what is considered an exemplary fashion in Latter-day Saint culture.  One 2nd century B.C. monarch, King Benjamin, was a great military general as well as the head of state and a Christian prophet. Captain Moroni, a hero for most young Latter-day Saint boys, consulted with Christian prophets to ascertain, by revelation, the tactical movements of his enemies.  Several of the greatest generals of ancient America, such as Mormon (from whom The Book of Mormon takes its name) were also prophets.  Accordingly, for Latter-day Saint national security professionals there is no necessary conflict between being a person of faith and one who must at times engage in war.  Indeed, there appears to be an association:  men and women of God fight to preserve and secure what is good and innocent against the forces of evil, and this is a godly act.  Moreover, a number of the Church’s contemporary presiding officers have served in the militaries of their respective nations, some having attained general officer rank.
  • American Latter-day Saints, particularly, find in The Book of Mormon a teleology concerning the United States and its place in world history.  The Book of Mormon contains many prophecies concerning the land of America, including its foreordination as a land of freedom and its unique role in preparing the earth for its great eschatological destiny. However, the good therefrom is not limited to Americans:  Latter-day Saints believe that the constitutional principles upon which the United States was founded are part of the common heritage of humankind ordained by God. [4]
  • This apparent “Americo-centricity” notwithstanding, it is not uncommon to find Latter-day Saint national security professionals whose sense of citizenship is more cosmopolitan than parochial.  Because of the Church’s expansive missionary program, Latter-day Saint young people have extraordinary opportunities to live abroad, learn a second language, and to experience other cultures at the grassroots level for extended periods in ways not usually available to their non-Latter-day Saint peers.  Chalmers Johnson, the noted expert on Asia, once remarked, “Whenever I see a six-foot tall blond kid named Christiansen come through my door speaking flawless Japanese, I know he’s LDS.” [5] Over 76 languages are taught at Brigham Young University, the most of any university in the nation. [6]   Over two-thirds of BYU students speak a second language and have lived abroad for more than a year.  Indeed, Latter-day Saints are enjoined by scripture to acquire knowledge of “things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of nations…and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms.” [7]   This does not mean, of course, that some individual Latter-day Saints are not ethnocentric and insensitive to other cultures.  While one would hope that familiarity with other cultures would breed love and respect, admittedly exceptions exist.  However, the types of knowledge and experience necessary to overcome these faults are goods that the Latter-day Saint community imparts liberally to its young people.  Thus, patriotism in the Latter-day Saint community aspires to be a patriotism of those who are not unfamiliar with and who are respectful of the peoples of the wider world.

            It would, of course, be a gross mischaracterization to suggest that there is a monolithic Latter-day Saint view on war. [8]   However, this essay represents an attempt to describe the context in which Latter-day Saint discourse on war is understood by many contemporary Latter-day Saint national security practitioners.  Because the present authors have spent their professional lives operating within the context of United States national security, their views will unavoidably bear the hallmarks of their perspective.  Nevertheless, the authors believe that, even within conceptual territory thus circumscribed, substantive and illuminating discussion is facilitated by an acknowledgement of the starting point from which many Latter-day Saint national security professionals begin.

II. Some Unique Aspects of Latter-day Saint Theology Pertinent to National Security

The Historical Context

            From its founding in 1830 and throughout the 19th century, Latter-day Saints were subjected to regular, and often violent, persecution.  The Church’s founder, Joseph Smith, Jr., was intensely persecuted until the Church relocated from New York, where it was organized, to Ohio where mounting persecution resulted in its eventual removal to Missouri.  While in Missouri, Latter-day Saints became the targets of an October 27, 1838 executive order by Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, stating that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State” [9]—an order that was not rescinded until 1976.   Some 20,000 Latter-day Saints who survived the Missouri experience trekked across the width of Missouri in the dead of winter to Illinois.  During this period, the Latter-day Saints responded violently only when they felt they were either under attack [10] or felt they were under imminent threat. [11]  Indeed, numerous historical examples can be cited in which Latter-day Saints sought for peaceful redress of grievances through lawfully appointed channels.  The most prominent occurred in October, 1839 when Joseph Smith, Jr. traveled to Washington DC and personally petitioned President Martin Van Buren, but reportedly was told by the President, “your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you.  If I take up for you I shall lose the vote of the Missouri.” [12]

            After the murder of Joseph Smith, Jr. on June 27, 1844, the Latter-day Saints were evicted from Nauvoo, Illinois [13] (and from the territorial United States) as officials in the federal government plotted a second “extermination” attempt. [14]  After a 1300-mile exodus by foot, wagon, and handcart, they found refuge in the area of the Great Basin (presently the site of Salt Lake City, Utah) and established over 300 settlements extending throughout the intermountain west from Canada to Mexico.  However, even in this comparatively isolated region, they were subjected to invasion and occupation by the U.S. Army.

            Although the Latter-day Saints were willing, for the most part, patiently to endure injustice while waiting for formal justice to run its long and bureaucratic course, their pacifistic stance did not preclude their taking up arms to defend the United States’ security interests.  At the very time thousands of exiled Latter-day Saints were crossing the Great Plains and undertaking the largest refugee exodus in American history, some 500 of their number enlisted at the request of the US Government to form the “Mormon Battalion” to support the nation from which they had been exiled in its war against Mexico.  (The Mormon Battalion’s 2000-mile march from Kansas to the California coast continues to hold the record for the longest infantry march in U.S. Army history.)

              The latter half of the 19th century witnessed Latter-day Saints being deprived of some of their most basic civil and human rights, primarily as the result of their civil disobedience over the issue of polygamy.  Again, however, the Latter-day Saints responded violently only in those cases in which they either were under actual attack or believed that they were under imminent threat. [15]  In the intervening years, institutionalized persecution against the Latter-day Saints in the United States has all but disappeared, and early Latter-day Saint civil disobedience was replaced at the turn of the twentieth century by a strong emphasis on obeying all laws of the land as patriotic citizens.  Indeed, large numbers of Latter-day Saints around the world have answered their respective nations’ calls to arms in support of national security objectives.

The Theological Context

            Latter-day Saint national security practitioners’ views on war and peace are informed not only by their Church’s unique history but also to its equally unique theology.  Latter-day Saints believe that the present human existence is merely a stage (albeit a vitally important one) in their eternal careers.  Each person is an eternal being [16], made in the image of God [17] and animated by a spirit [18] that is the literal offspring of God [19], the eternal Heavenly Father of each member of the human race.  Prior to living upon this earth, all humankind dwelt as spirits in the presence of God, who ordained that an earth be created for His spirit offspring.  There, without memory of their prior existence, they could be tested to assess the character of the life that each would lead and the fitness of each for divine blessings.  After death, each would receive an eternal reward predicated upon the degree to which he or she conformed to divinely ordained laws of morality and virtue made known to them while living on the earth. [20]  Jesus Christ, the firstborn of God’s spirit offspring, championed his Father’s plan, while Lucifer, another of God’s spirit offspring, contested it and sought to usurp God’s authority. [21]  What ensued has been termed by Latter-day Saints a war—not of arms, but a very real war nonetheless—in which Lucifer and those spirits who allied themselves with him—a “third part” of all God’s spirit children—were banished from heaven and cast down upon the earth [22] (where those who had not rebelled against God would shortly be born), to entice humans to evil.

            The Pearl of Great Price, a selection of revelations given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., provides two accounts of this primordial war—one revealed to the Old Testament prophet Moses [23], and another revealed to the Old Testament prophet Abraham. [24]  These accounts clearly document two important Latter-day Saint doctrines relevant to all subsequent discourse on war and peace.  First, they acknowledge humans to be endowed by God with personal agency whereby they are empowered to make their own choices, even if those choices entail negative consequences for them or for others influenced by them or affected by their choices. [25] Second, they set the stage for the continuation, in the mortal condition, of the primordial war.  Just as with the war in heaven, humans find themselves in the position of having to align on the side of good, as best they are able to discern the good.  Latter-day Saint doctrine does not portray death—whether occasioned by war or by other causes—as the great calamity of human existence.  Rather, the great calamity is sin—the willful choice to act contrary to the dictates of the divine Father’s plan, articulated by Him for the salvation of humankind in the primordial age of His spirit offspring’s existence.

            The Book of Mormon is an important touchstone for placing Latter-day Saint views on war in proper perspective.  Interwoven throughout The Book of Mormon is the account of wars between two rival nations, the Nephites and the Lamanites, the latter of which eventually destroys the former.  The narrative account of their wars makes abundantly clear that while defensive action is almost always permitted [26], preventive action may not be. [27]  The intent for which violent action is undertaken always figures prominently in any justificatory calculus. [28]  Indeed, the pacifism of one Book of Mormon group is extolled because it is appropriate to the circumstances [29], whereas the battlefield heroism of another is equally extolled—again, for its appropriateness under the circumstances. [30] Mormon provides a lengthy account of a large group of converted Christians who, feeling so convicted with guilt because of numerous murders they had committed in war prior to their conversion, forswore all violence, preferring to “suffer even unto death rather than commit sin" [31], and even going so far as to bury their weapons in the earth as a testimony before God and their fellowman of their pacifistic determination—one which cost many of them their lives.  In stark contrast stand the children of these pacifists.  They had not committed themselves to a life of pacifism and took up arms to defend their parents. Of them, Mormon recounts, "these children entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites, yea, to protect the land unto the laying down of their lives; yea, even they covenanted that they never would give up their liberty, but they would fight in all cases to protect the Nephites and themselves from bondage." [32]

           Thus, The Book of Mormon takes the view that the evil of war resides not in violent action itself but in the motive—in the heart—of the perpetrator.  Hence, both pacifistic and militant actions can be justified if the motive for action is justifiable and one’s heart is filled with love even for one’s enemy.  Defense of the nation-state is generally justified, but the most compelling justification for war always is found in defense of moral principle and the security of the institutions most likely to nurture and preserve moral principle:  family and church. [33]  The Nephites were taught that it was their sacred duty to defend their families—by the shedding of blood if necessary. [34]  With respect to the church, Book of Mormon prophets justify violent action in defense of the right of one’s own free religious expression but never for the purpose of suppressing the religious expression of another. [35]  All in all, Book of Mormon prophets view war as a calamity to be strictly avoided, unless no other righteous course is possible.  During His post-resurrection visitation to the Book of Mormon peoples, Jesus Christ condemns “contention” in any form as “of the devil,” clearly alluding to the primordial war which gave birth to contention in the heavenly realms. [36]

            The Doctrine and Covenants, another collection of revelations given primarily to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., repeatedly enjoins peacemaking and the love of one’s neighbor as second only in importance to the love of God.  Furthermore, in The Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord commands his people to “renounce war and proclaim peace.” [37]  Inasmuch as many of the revelations found in The Doctrine and Covenants were given during the time of the Latter-day Saints’ greatest persecutions, it is not surprising that they provide specific revelatory insights concerning how God expects His people to respond to violent action perpetrated against them.  One such revelation, given in 1833, enjoins Latter-day Saints to seek peaceful remedies to all grievances—from personal to international—and to extend unqualified and complete forgiveness whenever sincerely sought by an enemy.  Moreover, it requires that they bear with patience a first, second, and even third perpetration of injustice against them.  Upon the perpetration of a fourth injustice, they are given divine permission to retaliate, with the understanding that if they forebear, they will be the beneficiaries of unspeakable divine favors both in time and in eternity. [38] However, even at this late stage, if the enemy were sincerely to repent and make proper satisfaction, forgiveness is required and retaliation strictly prohibited.  A subsequent revelation enjoins Latter-day Saints subjected to mob violence to seek redress through constitutionally established means:  first, through the judiciary; then, through appeal to the chief executive of the state; and next, through appeal to the President of the United States—a commandment with which Joseph Smith, Jr. complied in his 1839 visit to Martin Van Buren.  After exhausting all legal recourse, the Latter-day Saints—rather than being given permission to take the law into their own hands with respect to violent action—were to rest secure in the promise that God would take up their cause and afford both protection and vengeance as He deemed best and reward the Latter-day Saints for their patience and faith. [39]

            Several of Joseph Smith Jr.’s successors in the presidency of the Church have articulated the position of the Church with respect to war.  For example, as Joseph Fielding Smith, later the tenth President of the Church, observed the unfolding events of World War II, he stated:

Satan has control now.  No matter where you look, he is in control, even in our own land.  He is guiding the governments as far as the Lord will permit him.  That is why there is so much strife, turmoil, and confusion all over the earth.  One mastermind is governing the nations.  It is not the president of the United States; it is not Hitler; it is not Mussolini; it is not the king or government of England or any other land; it is Satan himself. [40]

           This grim observation served as a reminder to members of the Church that the war engulfing the world at the time was, properly understood, a mere continuation of the primordial conflict in heaven:  Satan can be expected to use violence in an effort to compel humans in their actions, true to his same behavior exhibited before the foundations of the world were laid; and war will be the constant companion of humans until it is abolished by the millennial coming of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

            In an official statement issued in 1942, the Presidency of the Church proclaimed:

The Church itself cannot wage war, unless and until the Lord shall issue new commands. It cannot regard war as a righteous means of settling international disputes. . . But the Church membership are [sic] citizens or subjects of sovereignties over which the Church has no control. [41]

           The Presidency of the Church acknowledged that, given the Church’s international character, Church members unavoidably found themselves praying to the same God but from the vantage point of opposing camps.  Nevertheless, righteous members of the Church who answered the call to arms—as indeed they should in response to their highest civic duty—and who conducted themselves as honorably as they could were absolved from responsibility for the shedding of blood.  That responsibility necessarily would reside with those duly empowered to engage the nations in war. [42]   Indeed, the Church has since provided the following guidance to its members:

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 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. [43]

            That, of course, does not mean that the Church has ever welcomed the prospect of war.  Indeed, after World War II, the Presidency of the Church forcefully argued against universal conscription in peacetime, decrying the universal training of young men in the arts of war. [44]  J. Reuben Clark, a member of the Church’s First Presidency, issued a stinging rebuke of national policies which either encouraged war or blurred the distinctions between combatants and noncombatants. [45]  At the same time, neither President Clark nor the First Presidency collectively ever advocated civil disobedience in the form of draft dodging or general conscientious objection when called upon by duly constituted authority (though they did not deny the right of any Latter-day Saint to claim conscientious objector status on the basis of personal beliefs, not membership in the Church.)  For example, over the course of many years, Church authorities consistently counseled Latter-day Saints living behind the Iron Curtain to be good citizens of the countries in which they lived.  This exhortation came in spite of the concurrent and scathing denunciations by some Church leaders of the political system then in place behind the Iron Curtain.  One prominent example comes from the public pronouncements of Ezra Taft Benson, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under Dwight D. Eisenhower and later 13th President of the Church, who consistently denounced communism [46] as a political ideology but famously implored those under its rule to behave as good Christians without urging them in the slightest to civil disobedience. [47]

           The Church’s ninth President, David O. McKay, articulated conditions—reminiscent of those found in the traditional Western theory of just war—which he acknowledged as necessary, if not sufficient, grounds for entering, but not for beginning, a war.  Among these were the defense of the principle of personal agency for oneself and one’s countrymen, and possibly the defense of another’s country from external oppression. [48]   He conceded that “In the present stage of morality and spirituality in the world, I do not believe it is possible to eliminate the causes of war.” [49]   “But,” he urged, “even though the causes of war may exist and continue to exist so long as evil continues its eternal struggle with good, it still is possible to prevent war.” [50]   President David O. McKay thus maintained that that linkage between the causes of war and war itself was merely a contingent one and not a necessary one:  War is inevitable only if one surrenders oneself to unbridled passion in preference to self-mastery—the conscious choice of good over evil and the fundamental rule of Christian ethics.  By the same token, he taught “We love peace, but not peace at any price.  There is a peace more destructive of the manhood of living man than war is destructive of the body.  ‘Chains are worse than bayonets’.” [51]

           A recent statement by the Church’s fifteenth President, Gordon B. Hinckley, incidental to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, sheds further light upon the role of soldiers in the lawful discharge of their military duties:

I believe that God will not hold men and women in uniform responsible as agents of their government in carrying forward that which they are legally obligated to do. It may even be that He will hold us responsible if we try to impede or hedge up the way of those who are involved in a contest with forces of evil and repression. [52]

Individual Right of Conscience

            The institutional Church, which now has a presence in almost every nation of the world, may not enjoy the luxury of being able to take sides in specific cases of war.  That fact, however, does not preclude individual Church members from supporting or opposing causes in accordance with the dictates of conscience.  “[T]he Spirit of Christ is given to every man,” The Book of Mormon teaches, “that he may know good from evil.” [53]  Thus, since not every casus belli labeled as “just” is truly embodies a just cause, one is under no obligation to advocate a cause that he or she considers unjust.  When, for example, Latter-day Saint youth, Helmuth Hübener [54], was excommunicated by local Church leaders in Third Reich Germany for his active opposition to the Nazi regime and subsequently put to death by Nazi authorities, the Presidency of the Church posthumously reinstated Huebner’s membership in 1946 and thus vindicated actions which the Nazis considered treasonable. 

            There will always be divergent views, even among individual Latter-day Saints, on what vital issues are at stake and which can best, or only, be resolved by resort to war. However, given the nature of the present existence in which humans are able only, in the words of the Apostle Paul, to “see through a glass darkly,” [55] it is their faith that well intended actions which prefer mercy to justice (but which do not deny justice when it fairly asserts its claim) will be mercifully assessed in the day of judgment, when all shall see “face to face,” [56] and “know even as [they] also are known” [57] by the omniscient Judge of all.

III.   Some Latter-day Saint National Security Professional Perspectives on Specific Issues

            A number of perennial issues have engaged Latter-day Saint national security professionals.  Among these are matters related to the theory of just war, preemptive war, nuclear weapons and deterrence, and the relationship between violence across levels of analysis.

Just War Issues

           With 13 million members in more than 150 countries, many wars and military actions have had Latter-day Saints fighting in the armies of both sides.  Taking official positions on the “justness” of any such war would be a politically complex exercise and would certainly complicate what the Church considers to be its primary mission:  preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all people everywhere. [58]  Wars, death, and politics are all temporary, but spiritual salvation is eternal and therefore a higher priority than issuing public judgements on the morality of most military actions.  Furthermore, the preaching of the Gospel has a strong tendency to dampen violence at all levels of discussion, whether interpersonal or international.  The Church is thus sincerely engaged in the peace-building process, even though it is not a governmental body.

             Latter-day Saint views on the reasons for which wars can righteously be fought can be found explicitly in the scriptural canon.  Just causes listed in The Book of Mormon include preservation of religious freedom, personal liberties, peace, and family as being some reasons justifying bloodshed. [59]  (Church presidents have articulated similar lists. [60])  Also implicit in The Book of Mormon is the jus ad bellum principle of “comparative justice,” i.e., the idea that although both sides might claim just cause to fight, only the side with the more just cause can possibly have true justification to fight—and even then only as a last resort.  However, neither principle can prevent the introduction, by one or another side in a conflict, of false justifications.  For example, in The Book of Mormon, an organized crime element called the “Gadianton Robbers”—essentially non-state terrorists—sought to justify its attempted overthrow, mostly by assassination, of the Nephite government on false claims of righting a past injustice. [61]  The Book of Mormon also documents some vitriolic correspondence that Captain Moroni received from his Lamanite counterpart, Ammoron, discussing the cause of an ongoing war: 

[Y]our fathers did wrong their brethren, insomuch that they did rob them of their right to the government when it rightly belonged unto them. And now behold, if ye will lay down your arms, and subject yourselves to be governed by those to whom the government doth rightly belong, then will I cause that my people shall lay down their weapons and shall be at war no more. [62]

           The claim was fallacious; the Lamanites had no legitimate right to control the Nephite government and Ammoron knew it.  “Moroni…knew that Ammoron knew that it was not a just cause that had caused him to wage a war.” [63] Ammoron--at that moment the Lamanite leader--was a Nephite traitor who came to power because his brother Amalackiah murdered the Lamanite king. Seizing the Lamanite throne through assassination tends to undercut one's moral authority to issue proclamations as to who rightly should control the Nephite government, and pretty much guts the jus ad bellum validity of Ammaron's claim.   

            Thus, implicit in Latter-day Saint theology is the idea that supposed causes for war require careful scrutiny.  Latter-day Saint national security practitioners often find themselves in the position of having to consider how to cope with the injustices which inevitably mingle with just causes for fighting a war.

            Latter-day Saints adhere to the principle that the belligerents should have a right intention—that is to say, one which intends the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil. However, because of the subjective nature of this jus ad bellum principle, its empirical assessment is as problematic for Latter-day Saints as it is for other groups.  A telling exchange between Captain Moroni and Ammoron demonstrates the difficulty:

Captain Moroni:  “Yea, I would tell you these things [i.e., concerning the illegitimacy of Ammoron’s cause] if ye were capable of hearkening unto them; yea, I would tell you concerning that awful hell that awaits to receive such murderers as thou and thy brother have been except ye repent and withdraw your murderous purposes, and return with your armies to your own lands.” [64]

Ammoron:  “[I]f it so be that there is a devil and a hell, behold will he not send you there to dwell with my brother whom ye have murdered, whom ye have hinted that he hath gone to such a place?” [65]

            Latter-day Saints can be shown to have encountered the same philosophical difficulties that attend just war theory with respect to justifying civil wars or rebellions against regularly constituted authority as other groups have encountered.  One the one hand, civil war and revolution are specifically denounced in an 1834 Church declaration: 

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly. [66]

           On the other hand, they recognize cases in which rebellion was not only justifiable, it was divinely inspired.  A case in point is the American Revolution which, according to The Book of Mormon, was ordained by God. [67]  Another case is seen in Captain Moroni’s threat at a crucial juncture to overthrow the Nephite government when its perceived neglect of the army during wartime threatened his ability to preserve the Nephite nation against a Lamanite invasion. [68]

           The Book of Mormon chronicles some eighty-five armed conflicts, ranging in scale from small skirmishes to civilization-ending multi-year campaigns. [69]  Moreover, a number of key figures in the book are professional soldiers—many of them paragons of virtue.  Captain Moroni and later Mormon, are pre-eminent among these.  Captain Moroni, as commanding general of the Nephite armies, oversaw an extended defensive military campaign spanning fourteen years. While the strategies and tactics that Mormon depicts in his account of that particular war are themselves interesting, they clearly are of secondary importance in comparison to Mormon’s description of Captain Moroni as an extraordinarily righteous man of impeccable integrity, character, and religious devotion. Mormon opines: "If all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." [70]

           Indeed, Mormon—a prophet and exceptionally righteous man in his own right—held Captain Moroni in such high esteem that, although they were separated in time by four centuries, Mormon named his own son after the famed soldier.  Such soldierly examples lead Latter-day Saints to conclude that those fighting in wars to uphold righteous principles can, indeed, enjoy divine approval and that service as a soldier need not be understood necessarily to conflict with one’s duty to God.

            Although Church doctrine enjoins members to support their respective governments and perform military duties when required, this does not absolve members from moral responsibility for the rectitude of their wartime conduct.  The appropriate mood in which to go to war is apparently one of mourning, not exultation or hatred.  Moroni mourned that he would be the means of sending so many of his brethren, unprepared, to the next stage of existence. [71]  Furthermore, members acting as soldiers are expected to obey God’s commandments to the best of their ability even under the most hostile conditions.  As a practical example, Latter-day Saint national security professionals would find themselves generally hard pressed to justify, on theological grounds, individual deviations from the norms of civilized wartime conduct enshrined in the international laws of warfare and the Geneva Conventions.  That does not mean, however, that conflicts between law and conscience cannot or do not exist.  Again, Captain Moroni stands as the pre-eminent Book of Mormon example.  At one point in a protracted war, he is faced with the decision of whether to provide food for enemy prisoners of war or for his own forces, and negotiates an imbalanced prisoner exchange. [72]  The Prophet Mormon—himself the commanding general of the Nephite armies during the war that results in his nation’s collapse—stands as another example of one faced with a moral dilemma in the light of jus in bello principles.  At one point, he finds himself confronted with the choice of whether to resign his post as commander or to remain in charge of an army that has become so morally corrupt—his commands to the contrary notwithstanding—that it has resorted to almost totally depraved behavior, including the systematic rape, torture, and cannibalistic consumption of enemy prisoners of war. [73]  Mormon first resigns his post, but then eventually, but mournfully, picks up the sword again when it becomes clear that the war is going so badly that his nation’s existence is threatened. [74]  Although these men fight as professional soldiers and wrestle with complex military, social, and political issues, they never forget that they are first and foremost disciples of Jesus Christ, and it is Christian principles that ultimately govern their conduct.  Latter-day Saint national security professionals wrestle with the same kinds of issues while at the same time striving to maintain their most fundamental spiritual commitments.

Preemptive War

            A national security issue that has received much attention during the first decade of the 21st century is the idea of “preemptive war.” One year after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, President George W. Bush issued a new National Security Strategy, which states:

We will disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations by: direct and continuous action using all the elements of national and international power . . . [and by] defending the United States, the American people, and our interests at home and abroad by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders. While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country . . . we recognize that our best defense is a good offense. [75]

           It is this issue where significant disagreements among Latter-day Saint national security professionals can be observed.  For some, preemptive war marks the beginning of a slippery slope toward a condition warned against by Spencer W. Kimball, 12th President of the Church.  In 1976, he warned that humankind—Latter-day Saints included—were a “warlike people.” [76]  His warning recalls the declining years of Nephite civilization, during Mormon’s generalship. After defeating the Lamanites in two major battles, the Nephites determined to go to battle against the Lamanites, rather than continuing to defend themselves.  After this decision to switch to the offensive, Mormon “did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people.” [77]  The Nephites persisted in their aggressive desires and as they attacked the Lamanites, were badly beaten and began to be completely destroyed as a people. In explanation for this destruction, Mormon states

And it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have no power over them. But, behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished; for it is the wicked that stir up the hearts of the children of men unto bloodshed. [78]

            However, not all Latter-day Saint national security professionals see the same dangers in preemptive war doctrine.  Some of these professionals note that the scriptures demonstrate that there are times when even offensive, or at least preemptive, action is appropriate; and, for this view, they see a scriptural precedent.  A first-century B.C. Book of Mormon figure named Amalickiah tried to overthrow the government of the Nephites and become a totalitarian king. He was prevented from doing so, but then determined to take those who followed him and ally themselves with the opposing nation of the Lamanites.  In this case, though Amalickiah had not committed or even planned an attack, Captain Moroni knew that if allowed to reach the Lamanites, Amalickiah “would stir up the Lamanites to anger against them, and cause them to come to battle against them.” [79] Accordingly, Moroni acted preemptively and attacked Amalickiah as he tried to escape to the Lamanites.

            The differences between these two approaches may be to some degree definitional, depending on whether one views preemption as defensive or offensive in nature. However, both views understand the same scriptural passages to support their view of the appropriate national security approach.

            Less than a month after the September 11, 2001, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley stated,

Those of us who are American citizens stand solidly with the president of our nation. The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions. This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim.  I am pleased that food is being dropped to the hungry people of a targeted nation.  We value our Muslim neighbors across the world and hope that those who live by the tenets of their faith will not suffer.  I ask particularly that our own people do not become a party in any way to the persecution of the innocent. Rather, let us be friendly and helpful, protective and supportive. It is the terrorist organizations that must be ferreted out and brought down.  We of this Church know something of such groups.  The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction.  In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society.  We see the same thing in the present situation.  We are people of peace.  We are followers of the Christ who was and is the Prince of Peace.  But there are times when we must stand up for right and decency, for freedom and civilization, just as Moroni rallied his people in his day to the defense of their wives, their children, and the cause of liberty (see Alma 48:10). [80]

           Two years later, after the invasion of Iraq, Gordon B. Hinckley again spoke on the subject of war and specifically the war in Iraq which has recently begun. He said,

It is clear from [The Book of Mormon] and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression. [81]

           While the response to the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001 and the war in central Asia may well constitute “times and circumstances” where the obligation described by Gordon B. Hinckley exists, Spencer W. Kimball’s warning seems also to apply to the post-9-11 world.  Given the present instabilities which typify the international community, it is likely that there will continue to be differing views on this question, both within and among many nations, all of which are home to Latter-day Saints.

Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence

           The role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security and arms control policy is another issue of debate among Latter-day Saint national security professionals.  Fewer national security topics evoke more emotional response than issues related to nuclear weapons.  Perhaps this is because nuclear weapons are widely seen as a threat to the very existence of life on earth, and therefore no other issue poses such enormous stakes as nuclear weapons.  Nor is any other issue so critical to underwriting U.S. national security posture, and that of its friends and allies, than nuclear deterrence and extended deterrence; yet no other weapon system, and its associated targeting strategy, so challenges the basic precepts of just war in general, and the Church’s doctrinal emphasis on defense and restraint in particular.

           The Church rarely takes official positions with respect to specific national security issues. A notable exception to this general practice, however, involves nuclear weapons. In 1981, the Church officially opposed a plan, originated under the Carter Administration, to base the MX missile system in the Utah-Nevada desert. [82]  Although the future of the basing plan was already in question when the Reagan Administration entered office earlier that year, the ultimate failure of the Utah-Nevada basing proposal is widely attributed to the Church’s opposition. [83]  In 2006, the Church opposed the selection of Utah as a repository for nuclear waste, calling upon the federal government “to harness the technological and creative power of the country” to develop alternative disposal options. [84]  However, apart from these statements on pressing parochial issues impacting directly on the territory of Utah, the Church has refrained from issuing any official statement on the morality of nuclear deterrence or nuclear weapons and declined to join either the U.S. Catholic Bishops or various groups of Protestant activists in the debates of the 1980s in their pronouncements on the morality of the nuclear freeze or other nuclear arms control proposals. This has not prevented some individual members of the Church hierarchy from issuing personal views on nuclear issues.  For example, in the aftermath of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, J. Reuben Clark, took a highly critical stance with respect to Truman’s decision to drop the bomb, which he called the “crowning savagery of the war.” [85]

           The Latter-day Saint national security community encompasses a small, but eloquent group of scholars who adhere to the absolute pacifist school of thought, just as does the overall Christian community, especially with respect to the morality or immorality of nuclear weapons and policies of nuclear deterrence. [86]  For these passionate observers, the unthinkably destructive scale of nuclear weapons can never be fully reconciled with the precepts of just war.  The destruction anticipated in a nuclear strike would exceed any measure of proportionality, and the scope of destruction could never be so controlled or limited as to avoid vast fatalities among non-combatants, thus failing just war’s discrimination criterion.  This view is founded upon widely popular assumptions regarding the impossibility of limited nuclear use, and a presumed inability to tailor or control the effects of nuclear weapons so as to limit collateral damage.

           Nevertheless, dozens, if not hundreds, of members of the Church work in the nation’s nuclear weapons complex as physicists, engineers, support staff, management, or as technical and political advisors, and many more work in the field of nuclear energy production.  Still others serve in the military with positions of responsibility for nuclear weapons employment, security, or policy planning, or as civilian contractors supporting the country’s nuclear weapons infrastructure.  Richard G. Scott, one of the Church’s current Twelve Apostles—the second highest leadership body in the Church—spent a career involved in the development of the Navy’s first nuclear submarine fleet. [87]  Another prominent Church member was former “chief electronics scientist for the nation’s nuclear missile work,” and subsequently Administrator of NASA. [88]  Each of these members of the Church has had to face the challenge of personally reconciling their faith with their responsibilities for the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.  For some, the following five assertions have helped resolve this challenge. [89]

           First, nuclear weapons have kept the United States safe and secure, and thus have contributed to sustaining the United States as a base for spreading the Gospel.  Strategic deterrence, based on a robust nuclear arsenal, has been a key component underwriting U.S. national security, as well as U.S. extended deterrence guarantees to its friends and allies. Nuclear deterrence arguably has kept the nation from being subject to large-scale attack throughout the post-World War II era, and has served as an umbrella to ensure the security of many other countries allied with the United States.  The preservation of the nation’s territorial integrity and the survival and prosperity of its core institutions have justified the maintenance of a strong nuclear deterrent.  For many, the fact that this deterrent has served a defensive posture also helps reconcile support for nuclear weapons with a personal devotion to gospel principles.  Gary Stradling, a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, is a prime example of a Church member who has worked through the personal challenge of reconciling his professional responsibilities with his private religious devotion. According to Stradling,

An essential part of our defensive capability . . . is the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. . . . The U.S. nuclear arsenal, designed to deter the Cold War threat of a massive, annihilating attack of the entire Soviet nuclear arsenal, has a powerful capacity to destroy nearly any target in the world.  This awesome capability for destruction has held large-scale conventional war at bay for sixty years now.

Stradling is convinced that the U.S. nuclear arsenal has “saved tens to hundreds of millions of lives that might otherwise have been lost in the upward spiral of conventional war.” [90]

           Second, the development of a robust nuclear deterrence posture is justified by the threat posed to U.S. national security by the nuclear postures of other nations.  According to this view, recently articulated by President Obama [91], as long as other nations with potentially adversarial intentions toward the United States, or its friends and allies, maintain or seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction, the United States will need a credible nuclear deterrent of its own.  At present, only Russia retains a nuclear capability sufficient to threaten the existence of the United States as a modern nation, but China continues to expand its nuclear arsenal and the range of its delivery systems, while both Iran and North Korea continue to pursue nuclear weapon programs, as the international community struggles with uncertain diplomatic efforts to resolve these challenges.  To many Latter-day Saint national security professionals, such circumstances therefore require maintaining a nuclear posture for the defense of the United States and its allies.

           Third, while a current debate has arisen with regard to whether advanced conventional weapons can eventually replace roles and missions currently reserved for nuclear weapons, it remains clear that only nuclear weapons enable a nation to hold at risk the full spectrum of essential targets for deterrence purposes.  These include, for example, hard and deeply buried targets (such as command and control bunkers), facilities that are heavily defended against conventional means of attack, and storage facilities for chemical and biological agents whose attack by conventional means would only result in dispersing lethal agents to surrounding areas, and that can only be fully and confidently destroyed by nuclear strikes.  In addition, nuclear weapons carry with them an element of psychological threat that conventional weapons alone cannot convey.

           Fourth, while pacifists may disagree, U.S. nuclear strategy in general has evolved toward greater compatibility with principles of traditional just war theory. [92]  These precepts require that war be initiated by the proper authority and with the proper cause, and that the conduct of the war be circumscribed by proportionality and discrimination in targeting combatants and avoiding noncombatants.  It is the conduct of just war that poses the greatest challenges for reconciling the use of nuclear weapons, because early Cold War targeting strategies were deliberately expansive, prospectively involving the launch of hundreds or even thousands of high-yield nuclear weapons against targets that could not easily be distinguished from civilian countervalue assets.  But over the course of the past several decades, U.S. targeting strategies have become much more discriminate and the weapons much more accurate, while earnest efforts have been undertaken to reduce collateral damage through the development and fielding of “cleaner” weapons and incorporating increasingly limited strike options into U.S. nuclear war plans.  The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced that following the completion of the latest round of reductions in the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, the number of U.S. nuclear weapons will be at its lowest levels since the 1950s, with new negotiations over a second round of START promising to push that level even lower. [93]

           Fifth, the United States has acted responsibly in managing its nuclear stewardship. The United States has engaged in a series of arms control obligations that have helped contain and reduce nuclear arms competitions, and has always honored its nuclear treaty commitments. Furthermore, it has expended considerable resources securing the safety and reliability of its nuclear weapons, thus demonstrating responsible accountability for its nuclear arsenal.  This has helped some Latter-day Saint national security professionals more easily justify support for U.S. nuclear weapon policies.

           Several factors are leading to a decline in the relevance of nuclear weapons to U.S. national security.  These include steady reductions in the size and composition of deployed U.S. nuclear forces, a deterioration in the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure, new threats and an altered threat environment that seem less amenable to nuclear deterrence, growing confidence that conventional supremacy can substitute for nuclear deterrence, and less political support for modernizing or even refurbishing deployed U.S. nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, nuclear weapons will be a key component of U.S. national security strategy for the foreseeable future, and thus will continue to draw general support from those Latter-day Saint national security practitioners who have reconciled their existence with deeply felt gospel principles concerning security and war and a morally sustainable defense.

The Relationship Between Violence Across Levels of Analysis. 

            One Latter-day Saint national security scholar, Stan Taylor, has eloquently argued that Latter-day Saint theology asserts that the causes of war lie in the human heart. [94]  Taylor and Evans note that, in The Book of Mormon, the causes of war are spelled out very plainly; they are not Waltzian Second or Third Levels causes, but old-fashioned First level causes: 

And we see that these promises have been verified to the people of Nephi; for it has been their quarrelings and their contentions, yea, their murderings, and their plunderings, their idolatry, their whoredoms, and their abominations, which were among themselves, which brought upon them their wars and their destructions. [95]

           This linkage between sin at a lower level of analysis and problems at the national and international levels of analysis finds echo in Latter-day Saint theology, including the Proclamation on the Family, whose ending reads, “Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

           One example of this connection can be found in a recent article, co-authored by five scholars, three of whom are Latter-day Saints.  In this study, the authors investigated whether the security of women in a society and the security of the nation-state were linked.  That is, if women in a society are very insecure, at significant risk to be victims of domestic violence, rape, murder, honor killings, and so forth, is there any effect at the national level?  The study examined 141 nations, examining how physically secure women were, as well as how peaceful the nations were, how compliant with international law, and what these nations’ relations with neighboring states were.  Though only a correlative study, this analysis showed that the physical security of women was highly predictive of state indicators of peacefulness, and that the physical security of women was a better predictor than variables such as level of democracy, wealth, or presence of particular religions. [96]  While Latter-day Saint national security scholars and professionals have only just begun to scratch the surface of this topic, they feel they have good doctrinal reason to believe that societies whose homes, schools, and workplaces are not a place of safety for the vulnerable are unlikely to be secure themselves.  The fabric of security is woven from the myriad of small threads that comprise the social interactions of the society, and if the threads are red with violence, the garment will be red, as well.

IV. Conclusions

General Operating Premises of Latter-day Saint National Security Practitioners

            In sum, the following generalizations suggest themselves as building blocks as a typology for understanding the views commonly found among  Latter-day Saint national security practitioners of this era:

  • Latter-day Saint theology does not constitute a rigid framework which insists on either an idealist or realist approach to war in the scheme of human existence.
  • Instead, it acknowledges the decision to resort to war as a possible expression of God-given personal agency, with both political leaders and individual subjects and citizens bearing responsibility for their responses to that decision.
  • It recognizes Satan as the tireless proponent of war and Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace and that, when humankind submits to the teachings of Jesus Christ, all war will cease.
  • In the meantime, however, it holds that humans may expect to be confronted with the decision of whether to participate in war or of whether to forego armed resistance—both courses of action entailing the possibility of suffering or death.
  • It holds that motive and the feelings of one’s heart toward one’s enemies are paramount in assessing the praiseworthy or blameworthy character of human action.
  • It is not (and by its revelatory nature cannot be) understood as an outgrowth of any of the western philosophical traditions respecting warfare (i.e., holy war, just war, or pacifism), even though there exist points of intersection between it and these philosophical traditions.  For example, it recognizes that, in specific instances anciently, God commanded “holy” war.  It holds, in common with the just war tradition, that not all wars are just but that some wars can be.  It shares the pacifist aspiration that war, as a human institution, will end.
  • Accordingly, these philosophical traditions may illuminate, but cannot circumscribe, Latter-day Saint discourse vis-à-vis war.  Indeed, Latter-day Saint theology allows that certain circumstances exist in which one could, with propriety, either engage in war or eschew all violence with equal justification.
  • At the same time, it regards one’s answering his or her country’s call to arms as recognition of one’s highest civic duty.  Membership in the Church, therefore, cannot constitute adequate justification for conscientious objection, though individual Latter-day Saints may, on personal grounds, attest to being conscientious objectors.
  • It regards violence at all levels in society as intertwined, acknowledging that violence within the home and between subnational groups may well be linked to war and conflict at the nation-state level.  Furthermore, this linkage means that actions take to decrease violence within society may have a salutatory effect on violence between societies.
  • Finally, it allows for a wide range of expression of political opinion with respect to security issues and with respect to the more practical matters of security policy implementation.

Looking Ahead

            The perennial issues in national security continue to be debated in universities, government conference rooms, corporate board rooms and the local diner.  As the world security community transforms from the traditional state-on-state conflicts of the last few centuries to conflicts pitting states against global non-state entities such as terrorist and criminal enterprises, the discussions will only continue and intensify.

            This leaves the Latter-day Saint community of national security professionals in all nations in a state of perpetual reflection upon eternal principles that can be applied to future situations as they arise.  As Elder Robert S. Wood has put it, “The Author and Finisher of the Faith posed a problem rather than specified a solution when he directed us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and counseled his followers to be in but not of the world . . . The reconciliation of moral obligation and civic duty persists as a central issue for Christians generally and for Latter-day Saints particularly.” [97]  Latter-day Saints believe that it is appropriate to consider principles that have been taught by prophets and practiced under divine direction, as these might pertain within the context of existing national policies and procedures.  Ancient and modern revelation has provided a number of principles that a loving Heavenly Father seems to expect His children on earth to apply in the face of Satanic contention.  These include principles such as defense of essential Gospel principles like liberty, or of essential Gospel institutions like family and church.  Still, faithful Latter-day Saint members of the national security community may take very divergent views on how to apply those principles to specific cases.

            Fortunately, there is room for differing views among the Church membership on these matters. In 2003, while discussing the war in Iraq in a general conference of the entire Church membership, Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, stated, “In a democracy, we can renounce war and proclaim peace.  There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically.  That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do it legally.” [98] After speaking approvingly of the “contest with the forces of evil,” he then continued, “[T]here is much that we can do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side of the other.” [99]

            Undergirding Gordon B. Hinckley’s remarks on the acceptance of divergent views within the Church is the recognition that the Church spans the entire world now and that the Church cannot take a parochial or American-centric view of national security issues.  In October 2001, immediately after the attacks of September 11th, again when speaking to the entire Church in Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “We are now a global organization. We have members in more than 150 nations . . . Members of the Church in this and other nations are now involved with many others in a great international undertaking.” [100]  The Church is not only clearly a global Church, with approximately half of the Church’s membership of 13 million persons located outside of the United States at the time of this writing, but members of the Church are national security professionals in many nations and members of their militaries. They have been hired to serve the bidding of their respective nations.  It may be that future international conflict will bring members of the Church directly into conflict with each other, as has occurred in prior conflicts. Members of the Church can still be faithful members though they face each other across the lines of diplomacy or battle.  “War is thus not a relationship between men, but a relationship between states, in which private individuals are only enemies accidentally, neither as men nor as citizens, but as soldiers. . . . Each state can only have as enemies other states, not men.” [101]  As the Church continues to grow and spread its reach farther across the globe, it will need to continue to espouse a global view of war and peace, one in which members can differ in factual application so long as they conform to established Church doctrine and principles.

            One of the most important meta-issues apparent in the above discussion of Latter-day Saint thought is the question of how scripture is to be applied in messy contemporary circumstances. Latter-day Saints are enjoined to “liken the scriptures” to their own situations [102], treating the scriptures as one of the most important sources of advice available to humankind. Their faith expects them to “study” things before asking for divine confirmation of rationally obtained conclusions [103], with an important part of that study being the scriptures.  Yet they are also warned against “wresting” the scriptures for selfish purposes, for such leads to destruction. [104]  Moreover, they are warned that the answers they receive as private individuals may not be binding on others, for only those with the appropriate divine appointment can make more general pronouncements. [105]


            Members of the Church will continue to look to the scriptures, the Latter-day prophets, and divine inspiration as they reflect upon what standards and principles should guide in national security affairs.  As demonstrated by ancient and modern scripture, it is sometimes difficult to determine from ancient events how eternal principles should be applied to contemporary national security affairs.  However, we have identified some principles within Latter-day Saint theology that form a recognizable framework used by Latter-day Saint national security professionals in approaching the important national security issues of any time period.  Foundational to this framework is the understanding that while peace is preferable to war and Latter-day Saints are enjoined to work for peace, war is part of the backdrop of the present estate of humankind.  As a consequence, Latter-day Saints understand that humankind must use its agency in such a way as to safeguard those principles and institutions—family, religion, home, and liberty—that are not only worth defending, but also worth the shedding of blood to preserve for themselves and for the posterity of the whole human family.  At the same time, Latter-day Saints must not only proclaim peace, but build it with energy and effort and heart, as well.


[1] Luke 2:14. [Back to manuscript]

[2] Doctrine and Covenants 134; Articles of Faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 12. [Back to manuscript]

[3]  In a 1991 interview, President Thomas S. Monson of the First Presidency of the Church noted, “Our church has always taught members to obey the nation. . . In times of war or stress, we have no hesitancy in following the flag.  You won’t find any more patriotic group.” (“Mormons ‘follow the flag,’ says President Monson,” The Herald Magazine, March 12, 1991, p. 4.)  [Back to manuscript]

[4] Doctrine and Covenants 98:5. [Back to manuscript]

[5] Comment made to Valerie M. Hudson in Provo, Utah, in 1990. [Back to manuscript]

[6] During the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, BYU suspended classes for one week to allow students to act as volunteers, including providing translation support for foreign visitors. Although statistics on the number of volunteers were not kept, The Salt Lake Olympic Committee reported that the supply of volunteer translators far outweighed the demand. [Back to manuscript]

[7] Doctrine and Covenants 88:79. [Back to manuscript]

[8] A symposium held at Brigham Young University in 1993 was the first organized effort to survey the views of LDS national security perspectives on these issues. The proceedings were published in Valerie M. Hudson, and Kerry M. Kartchner, eds., Moral Perspectives on U.S. Security Policy: Views from the LDS Community, (Provo, Utah: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 1995).  A second symposium was held in Washington, D.C., in 2003, and the proceedings published in Kerry M. Kartchner, and Valerie M. Hudson, eds., Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace, (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, April 2004).  Also relevant are earlier efforts at such articulation, including, for example, Ray C. Hillam and David M. Andrews (1985) “Mormons and Foreign Policy,” BYU Studies 25(1) Winter: 1-16, http://byustudies.byu.edu/shop/pdfSRC/25.1HillamAndrews.pdf . [Back to manuscript]

[9] Executive Order issued 27 October 1838 by Lilburn W. Boggs, Governor of Missouri and Commander-in-Chief of state militia forces. Internet. Available online at http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/resources/findingaids/miscMormonRecords.asp?rec=eo, accessed 14 August 2007. [Back to manuscript]

[10] Ibid. The most notable example of anti-Mormon persecution occurred three days later when, on October 30, a militia unit of 240 men from Livingston County, Missouri attacked the Mormon settlement at Haun’s Mill in Caldwell County. Eighteen Mormons were killed, including Sardius Smith, a 10-year old boy who was shot in the forehead at point-blank range. [Back to manuscript]

[11] Prominent examples in Latter-day Saint historical literature include the “Battle of Crooked River” and the “Haun’s Mill Massacre” (see Sherrie Johnson, “Persecutions in Missouri,” Liahona, June 1997,  10). [Back to manuscript]

[12]  Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:30, especially footnote 17. [Back to manuscript]

[13] The Latter-day Saints founded Nauvoo in May 1839 after their forced eviction from Missouri. At its peak in early 1845, Nauvoo’s population of 12,000 rivaled Chicago’s, which had only a few thousand more inhabitants. By the summer of 1846, the departure of the Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo largely deserted. [Back to manuscript]

[14] History of the Church (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) 7:543-544. [Back to manuscript]

[15] The “Mountain Meadows Massacre” may or may not constitute an exception to this generalization (see Richard E. Turley, Jr., “The Mountain Meadows Massacre,” Ensign, September, 2007, 14-21). [Back to manuscript]

[16] Doctrine and Covenants 93:29, 33. [Back to manuscript]

[17] Genesis 1:27; Pearl of Great Price, Moses 2:26. [Back to manuscript]

[18] Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 5:8. [Back to manuscript]

[19] Acts 17:28, 29. [Back to manuscript]

[20] Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:24-26. [Back to manuscript]

[21] Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:1-4. [Back to manuscript]

[22] Doctrine and Covenants 29:36; Revelation 12:1-9. [Back to manuscript]

[23] Pearl of Great Price, Moses 4:1-4. [Back to manuscript]

[24] Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 3:27, 28. [Back to manuscript]

[25] Pearl of Great Price, Moses 7:32; Doctrine and Covenants 101:78. [Back to manuscript]

[26] The Book of Mormon, Alma 43: 19, 23, 26, 30, 47; 48: 13-14, 16; 51: 13, 15, 25. [Back to manuscript]

[27] The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 3:21. [Back to manuscript]

[28] The Book of Mormon, Alma 56:46, 47. [Back to manuscript]

[29] The Book of Mormon, Alma 27. [Back to manuscript]

[30] The Book of Mormon, Alma 53:10-18. [Back to manuscript]

[31] The Book of Mormon, Alma 24:19. [Back to manuscript]

[32] The Book of Mormon, Alma 53:16, 17. [Back to manuscript]

[33] The Book of Mormon, Alma 46:12-14. [Back to manuscript]

[34] The Book of Mormon, Alma 44:5. [Back to manuscript]

[35] The Book of Mormon, Alma 30:7-11. This idea is reaffirmed in the Church’s 11th Article of Faith: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” [Back to manuscript]

[36] The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 11:29. [Back to manuscript]

[37] Doctrine and Covenants 98:16. [Back to manuscript]

[38] Doctrine and Covenants 98:23-48. [Back to manuscript]

[39] Doctrine and Covenants 101:81-90. [Back to manuscript]

[40] Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft) 3:315. [Back to manuscript]

[41] “Message of the First Presidency,” delivered in The Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah, 6 April 1942. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981): 24. [Back to manuscript]

[42] “Message of the First Presidency,” 6 April 1942. [Back to manuscript]

[43] True to the Faith, s.v. “War,” available at http://www.lds.org; “Gospel Library,” “Gospel Topics,” “War,” Internet, accessed 31 October 2007. [Back to manuscript]

[44] “Letter of the First Presidency Concerning Military Training,” The Improvement Era, February 1946, 76-77. [Back to manuscript]

[45] J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “Demand for a Proper Respect of Human Life,” The Improvement Era, November 1946, 688-689, 740. [Back to manuscript]

[46] See, for example, Ezra Taft Benson, “A Witness and a Warning,” Ensign, Nov 1979, 31. [Back to manuscript]

[47] See U.S. News & World Report, Oct. 26, 1959, p. 76. [Back to manuscript]

[48] David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, ed. Llewelyn R. McKay (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1967): 76-77. [Back to manuscript]

[49] Ibid., 82. [Back to manuscript]

[50] Ibid. [Back to manuscript]

[51] David O. McKay, “Righteousness, Key to Peace,” The Improvement Era, June, 1955, p. 395. [Back to manuscript]

[52] Gordon B. Hinckley, “War and Peace,” Ensign, May, 2003, 78 ff, italics added. [Back to manuscript]

[53] The Book of Mormon, Moroni 7:16. [Back to manuscript]

[54] See Rudi Wobbe and Jerry Borrowman, Three Against Hitler (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2007). [Back to manuscript]

[55] 1 Corinthians 13:12. [Back to manuscript]

[56] Ibid. [Back to manuscript]

[57] Ibid. [Back to manuscript]

[58] A notable exception occurred in 1861 when Brigham Young, second President of the Church, and Governor of the Utah Territory, sent a letter to President Abraham Lincoln affirming Utah’s support for the Union cause in the Civil War. Because Brigham Young was Church President at the time and Utah’s population was almost 100% Latter-day Saint, the political stances of the two entities were effectively one and the same. [Back to manuscript]

[59] The Book of Mormon, Alma 46:12; see the entire chapter for a description of how Captain Moroni enshrines these principles on his “Title of Liberty,” which he uses to bolster public support for the war. [Back to manuscript]

[60] Conference Report, April 1942 (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1942). [Back to manuscript]

[61] See, for example, The Book of Mormon, Alma 54: 16–24 (particular emphasis on verses 17–18 and 24); and The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 3: 1–11 (particular emphasis on verse 10). [Back to manuscript]

[62] The Book of Mormon, Alma 54: 17–18. [Back to manuscript]

[63] The Book of Mormon, Alma 55:1. [Back to manuscript]

[64] The Book of Mormon, Alma 54:7. [Back to manuscript]

[65] The Book of Mormon, Alma 54:22. [Back to manuscript]

[66]  Doctrine and Covenants 134:5. [Back to manuscript]

[67] The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:16–19; Doctrine and Covenants 101:76–80. [Back to manuscript]

[68] The Book of Mormon, Alma 60; see Chapter 61 for the Nephite Head-of-State’s response. [Back to manuscript]

[69] William J. Hamblin and Stephen D. Ricks, eds., Warfare in the Book of Mormon, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Books, 1990). [Back to manuscript]

[70] The Book of Mormon, Alma 48:17. [Back to manuscript]

[71] The Book of Mormon, Alma 48:23. [Back to manuscript]

[72] The Book of Mormon, Alma 54:1-3. [Back to manuscript]

[73] The Book of Mormon, Moroni 9. [Back to manuscript]

[74] Despite Mormon’s best efforts, he admits to his son in a letter that his fellow Nephites have become so wicked that God will no longer support them in the efforts at self-preservation. The war ends with the Nephites’ extermination. Mormon survives the final battle long enough to lament the destruction of his civilization, but is soon hunted down by the Lamanites and killed. His death is recorded by his son Moroni–not to be confused with the earlier Captain Moroni–who also is a professional soldier serving under his father and who survives the final battle as well. He becomes the last surviving Nephite and is The Book of Mormon’s final contributor. See The Book of Mormon, Mormon 6, Moroni 9. [Back to manuscript]

[75] President George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, Sept 2002, available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.pdf. [Back to manuscript]

[76] Spencer W. Kimball, “First Presidency Message: The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976. [Back to manuscript]

[77] The Book of Mormon, Mormon 3:11. [Back to manuscript]

[78] The Book of Mormon, Mormon 4:4-5. [Back to manuscript]

[79] The Book of Mormon, Alma 46:30. [Back to manuscript]

[80] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, November 2001. [Back to manuscript]

[81] Gordon B. Hinckley, “War and Peace,” Ensign, May 2003. [Back to manuscript]

[82] “First Presidency Statement on Basing of MX Missile,” Ensign, June 1981, 76. [Back to manuscript]

[83] The events surrounding this statement are eloquently described in Steven A. Hildreth, “The First Presidency Statement on MX in Perspective,” BYU Studies, 22:2 (Spring 1982): 215-226. [Back to manuscript]

[84] “Church Urges Alternatives for Nuclear Waste,” Official Church Statement, dated 4 May 2006. [Back to manuscript]

[85] Frank W. Fox, J. Reuben Clark: The Public Years (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1980): 589. Originally published in J. Reuben Clark, Jr., “Demand for the Proper Respect for Human Life,” Improvement Era, November 1946, p. 689. [Back to manuscript]

[86] This minority school of thought is eloquently expressed in three seminal articles: Edwin B. Firmage, “Allegiance and Stewardship: Holy War, Just War, and the Mormon Tradition in the Nuclear Age,” Dialogue 16, 1 (Spring 1983): 47-61; Eugene England, “A Case for Mormon Christian Pacifism,” in Valerie M. Hudson and Kerry M. Kartchner, eds. Moral Perspectives on U.S. Security Policy: Views from the LDS Community (Provo, Utah: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 1995), pp. 96-103; and, Richard Sherlock, “Rooted in Christian Hope: The Case for Pacifism.” Dialogue 37, 1 (Spring 2004): 95-108. [Back to manuscript]

[87] “News of the Church: Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve,” Ensign, November 1988. [Back to manuscript]

[88] Dale Van Atta, “James C. Fletcher: Knowledge Lights the Way,” Ensign, April 1984. [Back to manuscript]

[89] Not all successfully resolve the nuclear weapons dilemma. Some have concluded that the teachings of the Church, including authoritative interpretations of scripture and a comprehensive reading of official statements, leads to the conclusion that “nuclear weapons and deterrence are not morally sustainable.” See Steven A. Hildreth, “An LDS Moral Perspective on Security Policy,” in Valerie M. Hudson and Kerry M. Kartchner, eds., Moral Perspectives on U.S. Security Policy: Views from the LDS Community, (Provo: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, Brigham Young University, 1995), p. 121. [Back to manuscript]

[90] Gary Stradling, “Mass Destruction – Historical and LDS Perspectives,” in Kerry M. Kartchner and Valerie M. Hudson, eds., Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconciling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Revealed Truth, (Provo: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 2004), p. 102. [Back to manuscript]

[91] See “Remarks by President Barack Obama,” 5 April 2009, Hradcany Square, Prague, Czech Republic. Available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered/, accessed 21 June 2009. [Back to manuscript]

[92] For a more detailed exposition of how nuclear weapons policies relate to Just War doctrine, see Kerry M. Kartchner, “Nuclear Weapons and a Moral Defense,” in Kerry M. Kartchner and Valerie M. Hudson, eds., Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconciling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Revealed Truth, (Provo: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, 2004), pp. 153-69. [Back to manuscript]

[93] U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Public Affairs, "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Strategy Delivered to Congress," July 24, 2007. Available at http://www.energy.gov/print/5275.htm, Internet, accessed 28 October 2007. [Back to manuscript]

[94] Stan A. Taylor and Jeremy O. Evans (2004) “From Whence Come Wars and Fighting Among You? An Integration of Secular and Sacred,” in Kerry M. Kartchner and Valerie M. Hudson (eds.) Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconciling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Revealed Truth, Provo, Utah: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, Brigham Young University, pp. 43-56. [Back to manuscript]

[95] Alma 50:21. [Back to manuscript]

[96] Valerie M. Hudson., Mary Caprioli, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Rose McDermott, Chad F. Emmett (2008/2009) “The Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women and the Security of States,” International Security, Vol. 33, No. 3 , pp.  7-45. [Back to manuscript]

[97] Robert S. Wood, “Rendering Unto Caesar: Moral Responsibility and Civic Duty in a World of States,” in Valerie M. Hudson and Kerry M. Kartchner (eds.) Moral Perspectives on U.S. Security Policy: Views from the LDS Community, Provo, Utah: David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies of Brigham Young University, 54-76, pp. 76, 54. [Back to manuscript]

[98] Gordon B. Hinckley, “War and Peace,” Ensign, May 2003. [Back to manuscript]

[99] Gordon B. Hinckley, “War and Peace,” Ensign, May 2003. [Back to manuscript]

[100] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live, “Ensign, October 2001. [Back to manuscript]

[101] Daphne Richemond, Symposium on Reexamining the Law of War: Transnational Terrorist Organizations and the Use of Force, 56 Catholic University Law Review 1001, 1005 (Spring, 2007) quoting Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Du Contrat Social 110-11 (Ronald Grimsley ed., 1972) (1762) (translation by Daphne Richemond). [Back to manuscript]

[102] The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 19:23. [Back to manuscript]

[103] Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-8. [Back to manuscript]

[104] The Book of Mormon, Alma 41:1. [Back to manuscript]

[105] Doctrine and Covenants 28:2, 7. [Back to manuscript]


Full Citation for This Article: Henshaw, Mark, Valerie M. Hudson, Eric Jensen, Kerry M. Kartchner, John Mark Mattox (2009) "War and the Gospel: Perspectives from Latter-day Saint National Security Practitioners ," SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 2 (Summer), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleHenshawNatSec.html, accessed [give access date].

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COMMENTS: 1 Comment

1) Raymond Takashi Swenson, Lt. Colonel, USAF (Retired), Attorney-at-Law, 4 August 2009

I would like to thank the authors of the article for their broad and insightful analysis of the issues that concern Latter-day Saints like myself who have been deeply involved in issues of national security.

I served 20 years in the Air Force, starting out at the NORAD Space Defense Center writing computer software to track spy satellites, and then, after a military scholarship for law studies, at Andrews Air Force Base, home of Air Force One, in Tokyo, back to Washington for graduate studies with an internship at the Pentagon, and then assignments at Strategic Air Command and at the regional environmental law office for the western U.S. In law school, I had several classes from Ed Firmage, who was prominent in the effort to stop the MX missile basing in Utah and Nevada.

During five years at SAC, just before the end of the Cold War, I was involved in environmental studies and litigation over deployment and training for nuclear weapon systems like the B-52, B-1 and B-2 bombers, the placement of MX missiles into Wyoming missile silos, and the analysis of proposals to deploy a single warhead, truck-towed Midgetman nuclear missile, and to place the MX ICBM onto rail cars that would, at a high DEFCON, hit the road to avoid Soviet targeting.

Since retiring from military service 16 years ago, I have worked on cleaning up after the legacy of the cold war, first in helping communities convert closed military bases into civilian developments, and then in cleaning up the radioactive and chemical waste left in nuclear production and research facilities in Idaho and Washington State.

As an attorney specializing in environmental law, I have worked for decades on issues arising from the “collateral damage” caused by the simple existence of military weapons, especially nuclear ones.

I would first like to clear up a couple of points where I think the authors strayed in their otherwise perceptive analysis. They juxtaposed the opposition of President Kimball to the MX ICBM “racetrack” deployment in Utah and Nevada with the statement “In 2006, the Church opposed the selection of Utah as a repository for nuclear waste, calling upon the federal government “to harness the technological and creative power of the country” to develop alternative disposal options.” That juxtaposition is unfortunate, because it perpetuates confusion between nuclear weapons and the waste from nuclear power reactors, which are related only to the extent that chemical explosives and gasoline both derive from manipulation of combustible elements. The proposed spent nuclear fuel above ground storage facility on the Goshute Reservation was properly opposed, in my view, for a number of reasons (including lack of objective oversight by the responsible local government—the tribe), but it had nothing to do with nuclear weapons or the waste from nuclear weapons production. It would have been handling waste from the generation of electricity in places like South Carolina and Massachusetts.

The recently announced shutdown of the Yucca Mountain deep repository means that there is no long term option for handling that waste stream, a problem that other nations like France seem to find ridiculously easy to address. The plutonium-contaminated waste from real weapons production, at facilities like Hanford (here in eastern Washington), Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the now fully demolished and restored Rocky Flats processing plant outside Boulder, Colorado, is being placed a half mile underground in a Permian-era, 225 million-year-old layer of salt outside Carlsbad, New Mexico. The notion that Governor Huntsman was promoting, that spent nuclear fuel could be reprocessed and reused as fuel at factories built alongside each nuclear power plant, was a pipe dream showing a lack of comprehension of the waste management issues and the political difficulties in siting a hazardous nuclear material processing plant in the populated areas around most power plants, where the electricity is needed. Hopefully America can move toward a more educated discussion of ways to solve the problem, without dragging in the specter of impossible nuclear explosions and fears of being injured by inert materials that are far less hazardous than the trucks and trains carrying gasoline, sulfuric acid, ammonia, and ordinary explosives past our driveways.

The essay also states that “dozens, if not hundreds, of members of the Church work in the nation’s nuclear weapons complex as physicists, engineers, support staff, management, or as technical and political advisors, and many more work in the field of nuclear energy production.” As one of the Mormons employed for over a decade with companies contracted to the US Department of Energy, I suggest the number is more in the several thousands. Several of the largest DOE facilities are in the West, including: the Nevada Test Site, north of Las Vegas; the Idaho National Laboratory, 40 miles west of Idaho Falls; Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories, and the Stanford Linear Accelerator in the Bay Area; Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories, and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, all in New Mexico; the former Rocky Flats site in Colorado (now shut down and cleaned up); and the Hanford Nuclear Site in eastern Washington, adjacent to Richland. These are employers of thousands of people in areas with large LDS populations, and I have known Mormons who have worked at all of them.

For example, official buses transport several thousand workers to the 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory facility from Rexburg in the north to Pocatello in the South, an area with a 50 % LDS population. Several times more people are employed at the 580-square-mile Hanford site, including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, drawing on a Tri-Cities population that is 15% LDS, and home of the Columbia River Temple. I know several people in my own ward here in Richland, Washington, who are in my own company, and that does not count the five other major contractors and the Department of Energy itself, plus those who are retired from working there. Virtually all of the residents of my neighborhood outside Idaho Falls worked at “The Site”, including a dozen of my own ward members. Just in the legal offices of the contractor companies, half the lawyers were LDS. The DOE site companies employ national level salaries that are much higher than average in most of their regions, so they attract educated Mormons who want to stay in the Mormon culture area of the West, within a day or two drive to family in Utah. Indeed, Mormons bounce back and forth between the western DOE sites, as I did. My former supervisor in Idaho Falls made the round trip between there and Hanford twice. Occasionally job opportunities move Mormons to DOE sites further east, like Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

This is just within the Department of Energy “Complex”, as they call it. Again, your mention of nuclear energy production is problematic in a discussion of LDS views towards war in general and nuclear weapons in particular. Nuclear power generation in the US has nothing to do with weapons production. Indeed, reactors for that purpose were shut down decades ago, during the Carter Administration. My company is in the process of tearing two of them down right now. The Idaho National Lab’s primary mission was nuclear power research, and it is home to the first electrical generating nuclear power plant in the world (EBR-1 is open for tours for those visiting eastern Idaho during the summer). Unfortunately, it also was used for disposal of waste from weapon production, a lot of it from Rocky Flats. It is also home to a Navy nuclear power research facility.

Which brings up another point. Earlier in your essay you mentioned significant LDS participation in military service, which I can confirm from my own experience, at least in the Air Force. But this also means that there are “hundreds, if not thousands” of LDS serving in positions dealing with nuclear weapons, including missile launch officers, and the civilians who work on Minuteman ICBMs and B-2 bombers at Hill Air Force Base, one of Utah’s largest employers. The Utah Air National Guard operates refueling planes which are trained to refuel nuclear bombers. Several wards around Omaha were predominately people assigned to Strategic Air Command.

So without touching on the main themes of the essay, I wanted to clear up some points about the scope of the issues and the number of LDS who are likely to be directly concerned with them in their work. I hope to address some of those points in a later comment, drawing on my background as the son of a native Japanese whose home was destroyed by US bombing.