Sometimes the spirit of Freedom and
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.