Saturday, August 23, 2008

Renouncing War and Proclaiming Peace

Sometimes the spirit of Freedom and Liberty burns so deeply within my soul that I do things I probably shouldn’t do.

Last Sunday, in Sunday School, I “renounced war and proclaimed peace” to my Sunday school class. In the process, it seems I offended some of the class members, including the Bishop. I’ll need to explain some of the details, but the summary is that by Sunday evening I was on “Sunday School Probation” (i.e., I would be taking a break from teaching for a while) and by Tuesday I was released.

In class, I listed on the board the questions I mentioned in my last post. I then referenced Book of Mormon passages and writings from Latter-day prophets that related to each section. The passages from the Book of Mormon we read lead to the conclusion that offensive war is waged for power and gain while defensive war is for freedom and liberty. As to our current condition as Latter-day Saints, the following statement from President Kimball probably still stands (he wrote this in the June 1976 Ensign):

In spite of our delight in defining ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord.

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)…

I listed on the board some of the numbers related to the current conflict (number of dead and wounded, number displaced, cost in dollars) and then I made the offer in class that if there was anyone who is for the current war, to come by my house, I’ll fix us a couple bowls of sherbet (I’m watching what I eat) and we’ll discuss war.

This was too much for the Bishop and he stated that I had “gone too far.” I said, “OK” and brought the class to a close.

By Tuesday evening I was released from teaching Sunday School.

Just a couple of observations…

I spent a considerable amount of time wondering where I went wrong (because I did go wrong). On Tuesday morning I figured it out. I knew I was teaching about a sensitive subject. It was important that what I taught had the second witness of the bishop or bishopric member. I did not work with them in advance to secure that witness. The bishop’s disagreement with what I was teaching took the Spirit from the room.

While explaining my release, the counselor in the Sunday School showed me a portion from the Church’s handbook of instructions that states that controversial subjects should not be part of Sunday School. Frankly, I don’t know what to do with this. Does this mean that I could not reference Sister Beck’s last conference talk – it was controversial? Would I have to ignore the Book of Mormon’s warnings about Secret Combinations? That’s certainly controversial. I could go on and on. The Book of Mormon tells us about two societies that were completely destroyed and why. Am I supposed to pretend that the book does NOT apply to us? Or that, somehow, we as members of the Church are living as we should – when Mormon is quite clear that we are NOT? How can I bring up our errors without being controversial? Am I supposed to sugarcoat the Book of Mormon when teaching it? Sorry, I have to stand in front of Mormon someday and explain what I did with his book.

I do believe that these topics can be taught in a non-controversial way. It requires thought, preparation, and most of all, cooperation with the congregational leaders. I believe that establishing an environment of learning, respect, and understanding in the classroom is essential. I made too many mistakes in my zeal. The bishop was appropriate in his actions.

I am left to mourn that I can “renounce war and proclaim peace” to my gentile friends but cannot do so to my brothers and sisters in the gospel. At some point, God will no longer be able to ignore the blood of the millions of people we have murdered. When that time comes, we as a people will cry to him for help, and he will be slow to hear our cries for our punishment will be just. My God have mercy on us.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

On War

Toward the end of last year I was asked to teach Sunday School. Not sure why.

The course of study this year is the Book of Mormon (the schedule is Old Testament, New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants). The lesson for this coming week is Alma 43 - Alma 52. It's all about war.

Last week, I tried something a bit "risky" in an attempt to motivate the class to read the assignment and ask some questions. I put together a petition. It went something like this:

Whereas as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we have been commanded to "Renounce War and Proclaim Peace" and

Whereas as we believe the United States Constitution is a divinely inspired document and was established by wise men whom God raised up for that very purpose, and

Whereas the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan is being waged without congressional approval as required by the Constitution,

We, the undersigned members of the of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do call for the immediate cessation of hostilities and the removal of all troops from the aforementioned countries.

I then asked, "What would be your reaction if I were to send this around for you to sign?" Before I even had an opportunity to call on him, a member of the stake presidency said, "You can't do that. This is a political issue and the Church doesn't get involved in political discussions."

I didn't respond to the comment (I might address it this coming week). I asked for a few more comments. They included: "I wouldn't sign it" and "We need to support the troops" and "It would make me uncomfortable."

I'm not sure I'd be comfortable either with sending it around. In the weeks leading up to the class I really pondered on what to say after reading the petition: Do I send it around? Do I leave it up at the front of the class afterward for people to sign? Do I ask, "What if I were to send it around?"
And, I don't necessarily disagree with the member who said, "You can't do that." I didn't feel like I should do it either.

I then said, "Well, interesting comments. The reason why I read this is because the issue is relevant for the discussion coming next week. We're going to read about war in the Book of Mormon. I believe the Book of Mormon was composed by a prophet, Mormon, who saw our day. He wrote it for us. For some reason, he included significant sections on war. While you're preparing for the lesson next week, please ask the following questions of the text:

Under what conditions is a country justified in waging an offensive war?

...a defensive war?

Under what conditions do you cease hostilities?

How do you treat prisoners of war?

What is the role of the church during war?

Who fights in wars (righteous vs. wicked, righteous vs. righteous, wicked vs. wicked)?"

I think people were a bit nervous with the whole petition thing. But the questions at the end were a good recovery.

Now, I have the lesson tomorrow.

I think sticking with those questions, and others like them, will be a good guide. I've found a lot of good statements by LDS Church leaders that will inform the discussion.

So, you should know however (and you'll see this confirmed if you continue reading my blog) that I'm very much against the current war. I believe it is wrong for us to be involved and the blood of the innocent people we've murdered is on our hands and we will have to pay the price sometime.

I have an opportunity in Sunday School tomorrow to "Renounce War and Proclaim Peace" to the members of my congregation. I hope I can do so in an appropriate way.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Kentucky Republican Party Politics

I believe that the president should defend and uphold the constitution. I believe the current (W) and previous (during my lifetime at least) presidents have not done so. Maybe in a future post I’ll list the repeated injuries and usurpations. For now, let it just be noted that the only candidate from the major two parties that seems to understand, and is willing to support and defend, the Constitution is Ron Paul.

So, I switched my party affiliation from Libertarian to Republican so I could at least cast one vote this year for someone who supports the Constitution. I also decided to see if there was anything else I could do.

Earlier this spring, I attended the Republican mass meeting for my county. 35 other people did as well. Since Oldham county has 47 delegates to the state convention, we voted all of us delegates (that was kind of fun). We also passed a bunch of silly resolutions (John McCain is a great guy, the state senators and congressmen are great guys, and the like). This was my first time at a mass meeting so I raised my hand and asked if I could submit a resolution. I quickly wrote one calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. My resolution was defeated 33 to 3. Yes, it went down, but it did help me identify the two other Ron Paul candidates in the room.

I was not able to attend the regional meeting in April – we were on vacation.

The Republican state convention was yesterday in Bowling Green. I attended. It was a joke. I thought I might have an opportunity to express some of my concerns to a larger audience. No chance. The first item of business was to seat the delegates. The second order of business was to pass the agenda. Passing the agenda ensured there would be no discussion. It was amazing. The agenda only had 5 minutes allocated to the resolutions and 5 minutes to the delegates to the national convention. For each of these two items, someone proposed that they be accepted as proposed, someone seconded, and it was voted and passed. No discussion was allowed.

We “passed” some awful stuff. Not the least of which is a resolution that could be construed to be in support of laws that would make it a crime not to have identification proving your citizenship on your person at all times. I know these are just recommendations that will be passed to the national convention and be subsumed by what the party wants – but I hoped that a discussion would be allowed to perhaps inform, at least, the people sitting in the convention hall.

The chaos at the convention was troubling. There was a sizeable group (probably a 10th or more) of the seated delegates that wanted to have a discussion and challenge the agenda. They were put down completely. The microphones were removed from the convention floor (the one that worked anyway…) the sergeant at arms was ordered to remove them, their concerns were not addressed. I was surprised.

Other observations…
  • A state senator spoke – and left as soon as he finished speaking. He had NO interest in being part of the proceedings. Same with one of the congressional candidates. The other senator didn’t show (but had a good excuse)
  • Creating and passing the agenda is the key to ensuring you have control of the meeting. You allocate a small time to anything that might be challenged and you can effectively stall long enough to be sure nothing happens.
  • The state had NO interest in hearing anything from the party floor.
  • Of 2,500 potential delegates, only just over 500 showed.

OK – so what did my full day, $40 in gas and $20 in convention fee tell me?

You MUST get people who want to change things involved at the county level. You take the county meetings, you can take the state. I was thinking, for example, that if all the Ron Paul supporters had showed to the county meetings (or pick whatever group cares to make a difference), we could have had complete control of the floor (made it so only Ron Paul delegates were the ones seated at the convention). There, we could have passed our own resolutions and determined who would be the delegates to the national convention. I think, that there are many other states where we could have made a difference.

So, what does this mean? Or as a friend of mine elegantly asked, “So what?” It’s a fair question.

What if we could have controlled a significant minority of the county organizations in the country?

  • We’re stuck with McCain (I believe).
  • We could make a stink at the televised national convention.
  • We could own what happens in the party for the next four years at the local level.

Great experience. I’ve learned a lot. I think, as we watch our freedoms erode these next four years (McCain or Obama - there may be a difference in degree, not in principle), we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. My little token effort doesn’t absolve me from being an accessory to the crimes this country is committing.