Friday, April 23, 2010

"... for it shall be sweet unto them."

I received another inquiry (in the form of a comment on this post) about the subject of self-defense, citing various scriptures from the Book of Mormon as proof I have a flawed view.  This is the comment:
"I have thought it would be so nice and easy to just let them kill me and go to the spirit world scot free as it were! Clasped in the arms of Jesus again! No blood on MY hands...
But then I read in the Book of Mormon, the commandment of Jesus:

"And again, the Lord has said that: "Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed." " Alma 43:47
Very clear. So I do not think I am obedient to Him if I refuse to take up arms. How do you reconcile this, Denver?

There is a further warning from this marvelous Book for our day that is apropos:
Alma 48:24: "they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by ... barbarous cruelty"

You see, I cannot ignore the high probability that I will need to defend my wife and children from "massacre by barbarous cruelty" in the Last Days.

I plead with you NOT to suffer to just lay down your life and watch as you see them massacred."
I debated over whether to let the subject die or to respond.  I decided I'd give the following reply:
The Book of Mormon history of an escalating arms race between the smaller Nephite people, against the greater Lamanite people, teaches us many things.  First, technology can level the playing field.  The Nephite technological adaptations kept them safe from Lamanite aggression.  Second, an arms race continues after each encounter.  The Nephites began using armor. The Lamanites adopted the use of armor.  Later wars included this technical advance on both sides of the battlefield. The result was still more innovation by the Nephites, with controlled fortifications, limited points of entry, and kill-zones with cross fire from towers aimed at the aggressive Lamanites.  All of this reads like the modern Military-Industrial Complex (to use Pres. Eisenhower's term).  It ended badly, however.
Ultimately, it was not the force of arms that brought about peace. It was conversion of the Lamanites, and the Divine power in judgment to destroy the wicked.  Conversion allowed some Lamanites to survive the destruction.  But the hand of the Lord was what ended the widespread wickedness, killing and disorder.
The conversion of the Lamanites was greatly accelerated when the group converted by Ammon determined to lay down their arms, even at the cost of their lives.  Over a thousand of them were killed before the killing stopped.  When it stopped, however, more were converted than had been killed.
When the Lord visited them and they experienced a two century long hiatus from warfare, their Zion did not have arms, killing or war.  When they divided again, they set in motion a return to the earlier cycles, ultimately ending in the complete destruction of the Nephites.  They left a record.  Their advice cannot be divided from their history.  Their history was filled with violence.  It ended in the genocide of the "good guys."  The end of the record is referred to by Mormon all throughout his abridgment of the records.  We should not miss the end of his story as we read the unfolding story.
Death is not the end.  John the Baptist was arrested and beheaded.  He suffered no loss.  He returned to minister to Joseph and Oliver and bestowed upon us a lost priesthood.  Peter and James were martyrs.  They suffered no loss either.  Stephen was stoned to death, and had the heavens open to him and a visit with the Father before his death.  He died forgiving those who stoned him, as he was at that moment filled with grace and charity toward others.  Stephen suffered no loss.  Joseph Smith was killed by a mob.  He suffered no loss.  He moved to his inheritance.  Isaiah was put inside a hollow log and sawed in two.  He suffered no loss.
Killing is not as easy as the theoretically-macho may think.  It changes a person. My father landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944.  On the morning of June 7, 1944 he was the only one of his company who was able to continue fighting.  He was there at the liberation of Paris.  He fought in the Battle of the Bulge.  He killed men.  It affected him.  He could hardly speak about it.  What few comments he made were separated by years in between.  A sentence here, a comment there.  Even when asked directly, he wouldn't offer more than a paragraph.  It wasn't a memory he could either forget or bring himself to discuss openly.  It is a great and terrible thing to kill another. 
Using popular culture to illustrate the point, there is a younger partner of Clint Eastwood's character in Unforgiven.  He talked about how much he wanted to kill someone.  After he had finally killed a man, he said to Eastwood's character,  "I'm not like you."  Meaning that he couldn't reconcile himself to having taken a man's life.  That is only a movie and Hollywood and perhaps overwrought.  But it nevertheless touches upon something absolutely true - killing is irrevocable.  There is no repair for having taken another's life. Those who do carry that to the grave.
You can toss about quotes from anyone you please.  But when you cause another's life to end you have done something irrevocable.  You have crossed a line which, even with all your prayers and regrets, you cannot reclaim. 
Given the choice between killing and being killed, I think a perfectly rational person can decide they would rather be killed than kill.  And I think the Lord could respect a decision of that kind, as well.  Death can be sweet for those who are prepared.  (D&C 42: 46.)


  1. I will attempt to express or describe a new picture that has been emerging, and as I have ruminated over this for almost a week now, things are becoming clearer. A bit of History: I was directed 2 years ago to step up our "physical" preparation and to gather many things that I had not thought of before. As I was finishing all I felt I needed, my husband then started getting directon to further that preparation and his list one morning included some guns and ammunition. We had never owned more than guns passed from fathers for hunting purposes. We wondered at this and felt strongly that it was to protect our family along with what we had purchased to sustain us and others through hard times. That is the level we were on THEN.

    After we had done all we were asked to do, and given a way to accomplish it I might add; we then were directed to start preparing on a greater level "spiritually" than we had done before.

    Several months ago my husband was given a dream that was very vivid, (not one that vanishes easily.) I use caution in sharing this, because it was given for our growth and learning, but feel it might be helpful to others in the way it was for us.

    In the dream we were on our front lawn watching a "dog fight" of sorts with some airplanes in the valley, as we live on the bench. Suddenly the airplanes started in our direction, but still shooting bullets. As they came closer, my husband realized they were going to hit us and we were directly in their path with no time to run and hide! He was told to put up his hands and create a "shield" to protect us. As he did so, the planes flew over us spewing bullets that he felt the vibration of as they hit the "shield". We have reflected on this MANY times and felt it was to instruct us on how to use the priesthood for protection should the need arise.

    Now, several months later, as we have learned similar truths of the Lord's protecting hand, we then were very touched by Pres.Packers address on "The Power of the Priesthood" We downloaded it that day and listened to it at least 5+ times with family during discussion on this very point.,5232,23-1-1207-2,00.html

    I reflected again this week back to Pres. Packer and then the dream and was reminded of it when reading Denver's post on this topic seveal days ago. A new picture has started to emerge.

    I can now see different pieces of the picture, and it is becoming clearer as I have studied what Denver has posted on this topic. It is interesting the feelings that I started to feel of the "new" possibilities!! I could see how our study of Zion and the feeling of being there to participate grew and intensified the more we studied, but the gaps between how I felt about "Zion" and the circumstances we are stuck in, for the moment, seemed so immense and could not be spanned. I am now starting to see how we could get from one to another.

    I can see the way the Lord is showing to us, piece by piece, a new way if we choose to accept His outstretched hand and protection, to let our Faith and the Priesthood be our "shield" and that He will fight our battles, for "They" (God, Faith, Priesthood) can be stronger than bullets, as demonstrated in the dream we were given. We have the choice, as always, but I needed to have my eyes see a new picture, to see the posibilities, for we did not see them before.

    As I see now, our "physical" preparation = the level of protection we were prepared for then and where we were at that time. Now our "spiritual" preparation = the level of protection which that preparation now allows and would qualify us for if we so choose. I am eternally grateful for the light which has been shed by this blog and the new picture that is being painted by the Master for me, one stroke at a time.

  2. Thank you for your response, Denver. Even though we evidently disagree about some things, we can carry on a reasonable discussion and I appreciate that. Some, I find, will not address highly-charged issues such as this.

    A careful reading of the Bk of Alma may show that the conversion of the people of Ammon LED to the attacks on them and the Nephites by Amalackiah and the Lamanites, that is, these conversions precipitated the terrible wars.

    To me, this is a crucial distinction which you may wish to think about:

    1. Pre-emptive, aggressive war which is forbidden by the Lord;
    2. Defending one's family, religion and country which is commanded by the Lord.

    (See especially Alma chapters 43 and 48 )

    The effects on one's psyche which you emphasize are considerable but depend (I believe) to a large extent on whether one is involved in aggressive or defensive war. We see this in the war chapters in Alma, Mormon and Moroni, with all of these prophet-leaders willing to defend themselves with weapons in defensive war while refusing to participate in aggressive war.
    "And it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites [into their lands] that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have had no power over them." Mormon 4:4

    How did they cope after witnessing the inhumane torture on both sides as well as then killing their aggressive enemies? Mormon answers:
    "My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his [atonement] and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever." Moroni 9:25

    -- Emeritus Professor Steven E. Jones

  3. Spencer W. Kimball said:

    "We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we become antienemy instead of pro-kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching:

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

    “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:44–45.)

    We forget that if we are righteous the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7)—or he will fight our battles for us (Ex. 14:14; D&C 98:37, to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53.) We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chr. 20), and when Elisha’s life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them” (2 Kgs. 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, “And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” (2 Kgs. 6:17.)

    Enoch, too, was a man of great faith who would not be distracted from his duties by the enemy: “And so great was the faith of Enoch, that he led the people of God, and their enemies came to battle against them; and he spake the word of the Lord, and the earth trembled, and the mountains fled, even according to his command; and the rivers of water were turned out of their course; and the roar of the lions was heard out of the wilderness; and all nations feared greatly, so powerful was the word of Enoch.” (Moses 7:13.)

    What are we to fear when the Lord is with us? Can we not take the Lord at his word and exercise a particle of faith in him? Our assignment is affirmative: to forsake the things of the world as ends in themselves; to leave off idolatry and press forward in faith; to carry the gospel to our enemies, that they might no longer be our enemies.

    We must leave off the worship of modern-day idols and a reliance on the “arm of flesh,” for the Lord has said to all the world in our day, “I will not spare any that remain in Babylon.” (D&C 64:24.). Spencer W. Kimball, The False Gods we Worship.

  4. Denver I have commented on this subject with my comments not being published. That is fine, but, it seems you keep side stepping the main issue here. The issue is not the difference between justification and sanctification. The issue for some of us is you saying "Since the wicked are responsible for killing the wicked, you join them when you decide to take up arms." Christ says you will be justified in protecting yourself and Christ cannot justify evil. So, protecting yourself or your loved ones is not evil as you have said. You cannot admit that you are wrong on this point so you keep skirting around it like the good lawyer that you are.

    You are a good, even a great man Denver. You have helped many people understand the gospel and continue on their own paths of learning and enlightenment. I love your writings and will continue to read them.


    It is a concern to me that you would say something so opposite of what the scriptures tell us and then stand by what you said no matter what. It is a concern when you portray people who take up arms as evil, as people that want to close themselves off from the world or people that will not be qualified for Zion or ever be sanctified. This is not the case and it is not what any scripture or prophet or even Christ himself has ever or will ever say.

  5. I have read all of the various posts and comments that have to do with the topic of defending ourselves vs. laying down our lives and/or possibly being protected by the Lord. It has been very enlightening for me, and I would like to summarize what I have gathered from what everyone has written.

    1) A person can be justified in defending themselves and their family, and "being justified" is no small thing. If the Lord justifies you, you are justified. If you are justified, you are not evil.

    2) The Lord seems to command people to do things and also deals with people in a manner that is consistent with the level of faith and sanctification which they are at. Thus we have the variance between how He dealt with Elijah, Enoch, and the brothers Nephi & Lehi (sons of Helaman), and their people on the one hand, and how He dealt with Nephites at the time of Alma and Captain Moroni, and Brigham Young and the early Saints on the other hand.

    I think the comment above by GarMel is a fabulous example of this. They were earlier commanded to store guns and ammo, and they are more recently being shown how to defend themselves with non-violent power. They are the same people, but are people in progress receiving more updated direction from the Lord as they progress to higher levels of faith.

    So, what we have here, all in all, is that we should seek to progress with all our hearts so that we can increase the level of how the Lord can deal with us. Some at the highest levels of faith are protected (Enoch, Elijah,... ), or protected some of the time (Abinadai, Jesus, Peter, Joseph Smith -- all of these men were protected at times, and then later allowed to be killed). Some are just allowed to be killed (Stephen in the NT).

    We ought to note, and no one has noted it yet, that although the Nephites were always seeking to defend themselves and were at times of righteousness helped by the "strength of the Lord" (which tells me they were "justified" at those times), they still had tens of thousands of Nephites killed -- sometimes so many that they were not numbered, women and children killed, women and children carried off, etc. Self-defense is no sure protection.

    The critical key for us is to be in the Spirit and following the Spirit at all times. My goal is to be at a level of faith and righteousness that the Lord would even consider telling me to hold up my hands instead of point a rifle. He's not going to tell me to do it if my faith is so weak that I'll get my hands shot off. If my faith is that weak, He might tell me use a gun, or it might be my time to go, or both.

    Again, the important thing is to seek and work and strive with all our hearts to advance as much as we can in this life before it's our time to go, and all along the way, follow the Spirit to the best of our abilities.

    I said this in my earliest comment on this subject a week and a half ago -- we're uncomfortable when we can't find a "rule" to live by that fits all situations. We want a rule: "Is it OK to defend myself or not?" We don't get to have a rule, folks. Welcome to the living Gospel of the living Christ. This is exactly why so many of us as Mormons are in trouble. We have to have a rule rather than being willing to rely upon the Lord and His guidance. I bet Denver could write a wonderful post about the "rules Mormons live by" rather than living by the Spirit of the Lord. Is not Sacrament Meeting vs. Moroni 6 a perfect example of this?

  6. I'd like to hear more on the defending of others than just 'kill or be killed' talk. Sure, we could lay down our lives with little problem... some might even welcome the end. But what about those we are supposed to protect? What about my children? Do I just tell them... "Sorry kids, I'm outta' here. You scrap with the devils as you can."

    I also had a dream once. I was travelling on foot with a child or children following me (I have 5 right now). A man was following us at some distance and I knew he was a bad man... he had evil intentions. As he finally approached, with all the humility in the world and began to ask if we had just a small drink of water to share, I raised my rifle and shot him directly in the stomach without a word or a blink. And there was no regret. We just moved on with our journey. I've wondered if Nephi didn't have a similar experience, knowing he had accomplished the will of God.

    What if my husband decides to take the 'high road' and runs out and gets killed right off the bat? Do I say, "Thank you, honey, for leaving us this way?"

    Sure, if I'm alone, I'll die no problemo. But let my kids die because I don't want to kill some devil? I have a harder time swallowing that.

  7. GarMel,

    I had a similar dream to your husband's. In it, I was being bombarded by an aerial assault -- some sort of cosmic attack (like a comet or meteorite shower or something). When it got close to me, I saw that I was being protected, as if by an invisible shield.

    It seems that as with most things, we are given a choice. The "easy" way can be the mentality of getting prepared using physical means, by my own hand. The more more difficult, yet more rewarding path is to have the faith to let the Lord fight my battles. What does that mean? I don't know yet, but I'm seeking to understand. Since I'm unsure about it, I need to continuously seek to find out how the Priesthood will protect me and my family in the coming days. I pray I'll have the faith to follow God's will, because I have, in essence, buried my weapons and am at the mercy of the Lord.


  8. Along the lines of what Kisi said about being guided by the Spirit 'real-time' about "whither to go" and whether to fight, we have our marvelous Book of Mormon for a guide:

    Alma 48:
    7 Now it came to pass that while Amalickiah had thus been obtaining power by fraud and deceit, Moroni, on the other hand, had been preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord their God.
    8 Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about,
    14 Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.
    15 And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land… yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger;
    16 And also, that God would make it known unto them whither they should go to defend themselves against their enemies, and by so doing, the Lord would deliver them; and this was the faith of Moroni, and his heart did glory in it; not in the shedding of blood but in doing good, in preserving his people, yea, in keeping the commandments of God, yea, and resisting iniquity.
    17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, 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.
    18 Behold, he was a man like unto Ammon, the son of Mosiah, yea, and even the other sons of Mosiah, yea, and also Alma and his sons, for they were all men of God.
    19 Now behold, Helaman and his brethren were no less serviceable unto the people than was Moroni; for they did preach the word of God, and they did baptize unto repentance all men whosoever would hearken unto their words.
    20 And thus they went forth, and the people did humble themselves because of their words, insomuch that they were highly favored of the Lord…
    23 Now, they were sorry to take up arms against the Lamanites, because they did not delight in the shedding of blood; yea, and this was not all—they were sorry to be the means of sending so many of their brethren out of this world into an eternal world, unprepared to meet their God.
    24 Nevertheless, they could not suffer to lay down their lives, that their wives and their children should be massacred by the barbarous cruelty of those who were once their brethren…

  9. The Ammonites, thought they did not fight, were still reaping the benefits of those who were in their behalf.

  10. I just read your latest post, "Awake and Arise." You mentioned President Packer's talk, which I reread. Of significance to me and this conversation was when he said:

    "Now, fathers, I would remind you of the sacred nature of your calling. You have the power of the priesthood directly from the Lord to protect your home. There will be times when all that stands as a SHIELD between your family and the adversary’s mischief will be that power. You will receive direction from the Lord by way of the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    ...I bear witness of the power of the priesthood given to the Church to protect us and guide us. And because we have that, we have no fear of the future. Fear is the opposite of faith. We move forward, certain that the Lord will watch over us, particularly in the family."

    Thank you for the reminder that like in Gideon's day, the Lord is again recruiting. And we must awaken and stand in our own place and access the POWER of the Priesthood, which will be that shield from the attack of the enemy.



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