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.)