Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mormons & Iraq

Let me begin by stating that I do not speak for the LDS Church. This essay is simply the fruit of my attempts to reconcile current events with what my religion teaches. However, there are many who share my faith but will not share the opinions I express. The LDS Church has not made a public statement regarding the “righteousness” of the Iraq War. So it falls to the members of the Church to use reason and faith to come to their own conclusions.

I am not one that believes that war is never justified. I believe the words of the prophets both modern and ancient are clear on the matter, and so I will not address that point here.

That leaves the question of when is war justified, and does the war in Iraq meet those qualifications?

I will use as the basis for this essay a talk given by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the April 2003 General Conference of the Church. I encourage all to read it. This talk was given shortly after the war started. President Hinckley began by quoting Revelation 12:7-9 about the War in Heaven. He called it a “terrible conflict for the minds and loyalties of God’s children.” He says that most of the world’s conflicts have been fought for essentially the same reasons.

Later, President Hinckley says, “the question arises, where does the Church stand in all of this?”

The following paragraph is in my opinion incredibly important.

“In a democracy we can renounce war and proclaim peace. There is opportunity for dissent. Many have been speaking out and doing so emphatically. That is their privilege. That is their right, so long as they do so legally. However, we all must also be mindful of another overriding responsibility, which I may add, governs my personal feelings and dictates my personal loyalties in the present situation.”

And what is the “overriding responsibility” of which he speaks?

He answers this question in part by remembering a particularly devastating war between the Lamanites and the Nephites recorded in Alma. The Nephites were fighting for “a better cause”, their “homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, for their rites of worship and their church.”

He goes on to say that, “It is clear from these and other writings that there are times and circumstances when nations are justified, in fact have an obligation, to fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”

Through much thought I have come to the conclusion that liberty is a God-given right, but there are those that seek to oppress and have succeeded in stealing the liberty of millions of people, and it is our duty and obligation to “fight for family, for liberty, and against tyranny, threat, and oppression.”

This fight does not have to be by the sword, but often it does. Oppressors do not relinquish their ill-gotten power willingly. Saddam Hussein was one of those. Here was a man who mercilessly killed hundreds of thousands of people, if not more. He used biological and chemical weapons without remorse. When asked during his trial if he had ordered the massacre of a village’s entire population of men and boys, he said it was his right and privilege as president. He paid thousands of dollars to suicide bombers. He spent the better part of two decades procuring nuclear weapons capabilities with the intent to use them on anyone that stood in his way of world power. He stole the lives and liberty of countless people. It was, and is, our moral obligation to fight and defeat him and all those like him who seek for tyranny.

Gay Marriage and Procreation

There was an interesting letter to the editor in the Times-News yesterday about Idaho's upcoming vote on gay marriage. Even more interesting are the comments that follow at the bottom of the page. They mostly amount to a "gay is evil" vs. "Idahoans are anti-gay, hillbilly trailer trash" debate. However, one comment (the latest comment as of this post) stuck out,

"The arguments for limiting marriage to a man and a woman here all seem based, ultimately, on procreation. However, if marriage is only for the purpose of procreation why are women who have gone through menopause allowed to marry? Why are men who have had a vasectomy allowed to marry? Why aren't men and women tested for fertility before being granted a marriage liscense???"

That's a really good question. I have written about gay marriage here, here and here, but I have not answered the commenter's question. In the comments of my last post about gay marriage I alluded to this question and my intention to address it, but I have yet to do so. There is an answer, and hopefully I'll have time to write about it soon.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Liberty: A World Beyond Terror

A shortened version of this essay was published in the Times-News Saturday, September 23, 2006

On Tuesday, September 19 President Bush addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City. It was billed as a speech directed at Iran's desire for nuclear power, but it turned out to be much more.

President Bush declared, "At the start of the 21st century, it is clear that the world is engaged in a great ideological struggle, between extremists who use terror as a weapon to create fear, and moderate people who work for peace."

He envisioned a world "beyond terror", a world truly governed by the principles espoused in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which says, "equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom and justice and peace in the world."

President Bush sees a world beyond terror only attainable if the world works together for the liberty of its inhabitants. While directing comments to the people of Iran, he said, "you deserve an opportunity to determine your own future, an economy that rewards your intelligence and your talents, and a society that allows you to fulfill your tremendous potential."

He then warned that the greatest obstacle to achieving this goal is Iranian leadership bent on "using your nation's resources to fund terrorism, fuel extremism, and pursue nuclear weapons."

Is there any doubt that he is right? The greatest threat to terrorism and extremism is liberty and democracy. As our president notes, the past 60 years have seen the European continent emerge from a world war and the evils of communism to become "whole, free, and at peace." Asia also has made great strides in progressing freedom in many of its nations.

Now liberty is making inroads in the Middle East. Afghanistan and Iraq have democratically elected governments and have seen dramatic increases in liberty. Many other Middle Eastern nations are taking steps to ensure and broaden the freedom and liberty of their citizens.

Naturally, as liberty advances, extremists and terrorists feel threatened. Extremists use terror as a weapon to steal the liberty of the citizenry. Moderate, freedom-loving people must stand up against the extremists and win this ideological war. The world must ensure that those who are choosing liberty and freedom are not denied.