Violence and the Violent

There has been an abundant outpouring of vitriol by those who disagree with my view about “the battle is the Lord’s” (an earlier post).  The comment moderator has asked me about them, because she’s reluctant to put some of them up.  They claim the view I hold is either Satanic or else I have been deceived by the Devil.  They insist I have a duty to kill people rather than refrain from doing so when there is a threat of violence directed at me or my family.  They claim Brigham Young and Joseph Smith both require me to begin killing enemies under appropriate circumstances, rather than submitting to being killed.

From time to time someone writes something which they later regret and they send another message asking for the comment to either not be put up or to be deleted if it had already been posted.  I reminded her of that and suggested that she wait a few days and see if people decide to withdraw them before making any decision.  Ultimately I leave it to her to decide.

I did want to add a comment about the use of violence.  First, I trust the inspiration of a non-violent man, constrained against his will, when he determines the Lord requires him to act far more than I would trust the judgment of someone prone to violence when they suggest the need to kill, take violent action or attack.  Throughout history all those who have made claims their violence was excused claimed they were “defending” themselves.  There is a chapter on this subject in Eighteen Verses, which covers the topic a bit more than I am inclined to do again here.

I would comment about the Mountain Meadows Massacre and its sad legacy.  The recent publication by the Assistant Church Historian as co-author of yet another new treatment of the unfortunate moment when Brigham Young’s clamor for “defending” the Saints got out of hand.  The book is called Massacre at Mountain Meadows. The book reiterated how mistaken and regrettable that moment was in LDS history.  It is the great example pointed to by anti-Mormon sources as proof that Mormons are capable of all the depredations of Historic Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Puritanical excesses that killed those who offended them.  The church has issued an official apology, and President Hinckley visited the site and dedicated a monument as an act of Latter-day Saint contrition and regret.

That single moment in church history is something which all our prayers cannot take back.  We cannot restore those lives which were taken.  We cannot explain we are really Christ’s disciples to the descendants of that party of victims.  They continue to hold resentments which have festered for generations and still call out condemnation for our act of violence and murder.

If we had suffered then, as we had in Missouri and Illinois we would have been better.  If given the opportunity to suffer again for our faith, we would be better remembered by history if we learn the lesson of Mountain Meadows.  We are ennobled by our sacrifices.  We are detested for our revenge and violence.  In General Conference a few sessions back, President Faust gave a talk titled The Healing Power of Forgiveness.  Unfortunately, his great example came from the Amish, whose young daughters were killed by a murderer, whom they forgave.  It was not taken from our own conduct.  I would commend that talk as a more recent and more reasoned statement on violence and the violent than the comments of Brigham Young who Latter-day Saint historians now admit had some role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Not because he approved it, he did not.  Indeed, he sent a message to let the entrapped party go.  But his message arrived too late.  The violent attack had already taken place.  The violence having been rationalized, at least in part, by Brigham Young’s own militant comments in the preceding years.

I am not trying to persuade anyone.  Go ahead and resolve this issue for yourself.  I am only setting out my own view.  Take it for what you think it is worth.  If you think it is “of the Devil” or “Satanic” then of course you ought to reject my view.  But I have considered the quotes of Brigham Young before reaching my view, and find them in a context which even I believe he grew to regret.

4 thoughts on “Violence and the Violent

  1. To add my two cents, I think it is more common of man to fantasize about the need for violence then it is necessary to use it.

    I have had occasion to discuss aggression, anger, and violence a great deal with men. I am a marriage and family therapist and have run anger management groups for many years. On more than a few occasions I have had a barrage of hypothetical situations from my group members goading me to justify the use of anger and violence.

    With such a group it is necessary to stretch their minds to consider every other way to act, so I never rescinded the principle of love in our discussion as the value and principle from which to act. Which rarely or if ever requires one to physically harm another.

    The act of aggression or violence in man is usually in outward response to an inward insecurity and therefore an inappropriate one. For LOVE makes one strong even in the face of mortal danger, aggression does not make one strong, violence does not make one strong or powerful. Love requires much more courage than violence ever has and ever will. For we have to dare to love and understand what appears unlovable. Most profoundly that which lies beneath our own skin and in the reflection we most often see. Aggression most commonly is an act against what we hate most in ourselves. Thus, the commandment to “love our neighbor as OURSELVES.”

    In reflection of your this article and the other which you wrote to which this is an appendage “the battle is the Lord’s” I particularly enjoyed Doug’s response, where he cites the Spirit encouraging him there will be another way with faith and the Priesthood. I also was struck by your response to one justifying violence, “As to your comment, I agree one would be “justified.” There is, of course, a difference between being “justified” and being “sanctified.” I do not seek merely to be justified in defending myself, but to offer sacrifice that I might be sanctified.”

    So keenly insightful, something I have grown accustom to with reading your blog.

    For me I don’t want a gun. I have faced what Doug has in preparing for the last days; it seems essential to have a gun. For a Captain Moroni case may arise, but I think I am inclined to error on the side of the people of Ammon and would rather praise the Lord for the conversion of others and act in no violent way. Of course the Lord was testing the people of Ammon in their commitment and pledge to him.

    I shutter on some level at the thought of either and I reflected endlessly on the paradox of Nephi’s call to kill Laban and his requirement to wield that sword in the defense of his family and people. And also the caliber of man Captain Moroni was as well. Both of them being blessed, both acting ways that lead to the death and harm of others.

    I don’t wish to face either. But my two cents is I will do either of which the Lord requires and only hope and pray in such a moment, as we all MUST, that I have the scruples to pray, ask, and feel the guidance of the Spirit and act accordingly, whether in sacrifice or in justice as extension of His holy arm. Either way love will beat in my heart for those who act in violence or aggression toward me.

  2. 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.

    Please excuse the frankness of my language of today.

  3. Comment by “Steve”
    Edited by the CM to remove first paragraph which contained personal information

    My only concern, as I commented before, was your statement that you become one of the evil ones when you defend yourself. The Lord or any of his servants has ever said this in scripture to my knowledge. In fact the Lord and many of his Prophets say quite the opposite. Defending yourself neither disqualifies you from Zion or breaks any of the covenants we can make with the Lord. In fact, defending yourself and family is a God given right.

    I will not disagree with you that taking the example of Christ and never killing your fellow man for any reason even if you yourself or family die is automatic sanctification. But, imho, doing so is not automatic disqualification from sanctification as you suggest. If we follow the spirit in all things to the best of our understanding that is the best we can do.

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