Memorial Day: Mormons and the Military

Joseph Smith, the first prophet of modern times, wrote thirteen “Articles of Faith” explaining the basic beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church) to an inquiring journalist.  The twelfth article of faith says the following:

We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.

A silhouette of a soldier and an American flag.Therefore, Mormons serve in the military.  On Memorial Day in the United States Mormons remember and honor their friends, family, and ancestors who have served America.

What Does the Book of Mormon Say About War?

The Book of Mormon is the spiritual and historical record (albeit abridged by the ancient warrior-prophet Mormon) of a fallen people, Israelites who lived in the Americas from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D.  The record includes a lot about the wars among the various groups that divided the people.  When reading it, one gets an important message regarding freedom — it’s worth fighting for.  God justified their wars only when they were defending their families, faith, and liberty.  God would not condone any sort of aggressive war on their part.

And it came to pass that [Moroni] rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole.   And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren, so long as there should a band of dChristians remain to possess the land—

For thus were all the true believers of Christ, who belonged to the church of God, called by those who did not belong to the church.  And those who did belong to the church were faithful; yea, all those who were true believers in Christ took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ, or Christians as they were called, because of their belief in Christ who should come.  And therefore, at this time, Moroni prayed that the cause of the Christians, and the freedom of the land might be favored (Alma 46:12-16¾about 72 B.C.).

What Does the Doctrine and Covenants Say About War?

The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of modern revelations to modern prophets.  There is actually a section on war that closely parallels the principles in the Law of Moses and information on citizenship.

And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.  And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;  And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free.  Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn  (D&C 98:4-9).

And then, if he shall come upon you or your children, or your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation, I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands;  And then if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.

Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified.  Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles.

And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.  And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue;  And if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord;

Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people.   And I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children’s battles, and their children’s children’s, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation.   Behold, this is an ensample unto all people, saith the Lord your God, for justification before me (D&C 98:29-38).

The Lord means for us to be free.  Liberty is a God-given right that governments are expected by God to protect.  Heavenly Father is willing to be involved in our quest for liberty and the protection of the same.  One read of the Book of Mormon proves this principle.  The Book of Mormon is the revelatory writing of prophets who lived in the ancient Americas, and the ancient warrior-prophet Mormon, under the direction of God, abridged and combined what was most pertinent for us in our day.  Those prophets saw us in vision.  They saw our struggles for liberty and safety and sent us warnings and truths to help us.  The Book of Mormon is the record of a fallen people, who lost both liberty and safety.  We need not follow them in their error.  If we hearken to the counsel of God, we won’t.

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