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.

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