President J. Reuben Clark, Jr
Friday Morning Session, October 1939
My brothers and sisters, I am happy to be with you again in a Semi-Annual Conference. I am happy to hear the Singing Mothers with Sister Sackett leading them.
We miss this morning a man of great Spirituality, of great influence among the people, Brother Melvin J. Ballard. May the Lord sanctify his labors to the upbuilding of his cause. Because what I shall say this morning will deal somewhat with technical matters, where the language is of importance, I have submitted what I shall say to writing, so that I may not speak incautiously.
I speak today as an American citizen who believes as he believes in Deity, that God inspired the framing of our Constitution and the setting up of our form of government thereunder,an American citizen who believes that the preservation of this government under our Constitution as it now stands is necessary that liberty and free political and religious institutions may not disappear from the earth.
A Nation With Christian Standards
This is a Christian nation. Before the Revolution it was so in accord with law; since the Revolution it has remained so in fact. We, the people of the United States, guarantee full religious freedom to all within our jurisdiction, whether they be non-Christian or Pagan. But the nation itself is a Christian nation. Our standards and principles are Christian. Other creeds we protect, that all may be free. These facts must never be lost sight of.
For us of the Church this fact cannot be challenged, for the Lord has declared in modern revelation:
Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. who hath been manifested by the things which we have written. (Ether 2:12)
The penalty of disobedience to these principles has been declared to be that the people shall "be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them," and that "The fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity." (Ether 2:8, 9.)
These principles have been repeatedly declared.
Thus we of America can stand for no cause which would dethrone Christianity here and put in its place any other creed, whether non-Christian or Pagan; nor can we as Christians support a cause designed to set up non-Christian or Pagan states elsewhere in the world. Our duty, divinely imposed, is clear on this.
Declaration Of Belief
Furthermore, for more than a hundred years this Church has declared this principle of government, which is based upon divine commands and the revelations of God's will, namely:
We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society. We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property and the protection of life. (D. and C. 134:1-2).
Thus we can stand for no cause and can support no state fostering a cause that would seek to compel the consciences of men, that would set up the state as deity, that would destroy private property, that bulwark of a peaceful, stable ordered society, indeed of civilization itself, that would make men slaves of the state to the destruction of all safety, due protection of life and limb, and all individual liberty, that would blot out the Christian home.
All these things are fundamental to this people and to this nation. Again I warn that there are amongst us evil influences plotting and conspiring to destroy all that we hold sacred in our Church and in the nation. If we shall fall asleep to these dangers, we shall some day awaken to find ourselves their slavish victims. We people here in the valleys are a mere handfula microscopic minorityand yet if we shall, with completely united hearts and hands, put on an armor of righteousness and do battle for righteousness, we shall be the means under God's care and guidance of helping finally to serve and save the world.
Nothing is more unrighteous, more unholy, more un-Godly, than man-declared mass slaughter of his fellow man for an unrighteous cause. It has brought down the wrath of the Almighty in all times. God will visit His vengeance upon all who bring it. The law declared at Sinai was "Thou shalt not kill," and in the Garden of Gethsemane: "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword." With these divine commands deep-embodied in our spiritual consciousness, we can look with no degree of allowance upon the sin of unholy war, and a war to make conquest or to keep conquest already made is such a war.
At almost every opportunity since I was called to a place in the First Presidency I have expressed grave apprehensions as to the course which the whole world, including our own nation, was following. Two and a half years ago (April Conference, 1937), I drew particular attention to the prospect of war and gave the best view I had as to the eventualities which then seemed likely to follow that war. I dwelt particularly upon the aftermath of chaos which it seemed reasonably certain might come if the war dragged along over weary years.
Last October I called attention to the intensive propaganda to which we were subjectedthe most intense peace-time propaganda of all timeand warned that at best it colored truth and at worst it falsified it.
I should like by reference to include in what is said now all that I have said in the past on the same matters.
Warning Against False Impressions
War has now broken out. Most of the sanctities that were used by the one side or the other to hallow the World War are again coming forth to hallow this one. Many were false then; they are false now. We should not be disturbed, misled, or blinded by any of them. Look at each of them squarely; most of them will wilt under your gaze. There are always deceit, lying, subterfuge, treachery, and savagery, in war, on both sides. There was in the World War. It is not always the other power that commits atrocities.
War And Its Causes
I shall speak plainly today, for where the issue is war with its horrors or peace with its blessings, it is best that blunt speech be used. What I shall say will be directed primarily to the international situation.
Throwing aside all the arguments, excuses, protestations, pretensions, and propaganda under which the real causes of the present conflict have been deeply buried, and stripping off right down to the bare bones all the falsehoods that have hidden the actual situation, it seems clear that the issues of the present conflict, reduced to their lowest terms, are these:
Germany said to Poland, Give me what you took from me at the end of the World War. Poland, backed by Britain and France, said No. Germany made war on Poland. Treaty-bound thereto, Britain and France declared war on Germany.
However, under similar demands in the near past Germany has possessed herself not only of what she first demanded, but of large areas in addition. Apparently mistrusting the word of the German leaders, Britain and France seemed fearful further demands would be made. They may have had in mind the hundreds of thousands of square miles of territory and the millions of people they took by conquest from Germany at the end of the World War; they may also have recollected French conquests in northern Africa and British conquests from the Boers in South Africa. And perhaps we might remember that the ground on which we stand was taken from Mexico in 1848, by force of arms.
Perhaps in the present world condition, a renewed partition of Poland seemed as likely a tragedy as could be found to arouse the sentiment of the world against those who should divide that historically unhappy country.
Obviously, as a matter of logic, if conquest can give a good title to territory, then conquest is a legitimate means of getting good title to territory. This is the unholy rule of force, the unholy rule that "might makes right."
This is the rule that has lain behind every great empire that has ever been built during the whole history of the world; it lies behind every great empire that exists today. There is nothing new in the doctrine, neither in the practice.
Under such a rule, war is and must always be the instrument of the growth of empire. Under such a rule nations rise and fall, as might advances or wanes. Under such a rule, safety in empire comes only to the power which is dominant in arms and resources.
But such a, rule of force, of "might makes right," is Satan-born. It is not of God.
Obviously no great empire of conquest can sleep quietly and comfortably of nights if the have-nots swagger forth in search of more territory and are willing to fight for it.
Both in its declarations and in its joinders the present war in Europe has for its sole underlying purpose the secure establishment of the power or powers that, by sheer supremacy in arms, shall dominate Europe, and perhaps the world. This is not a righteous cause of war, and unrighteous war is unholy.
This is the very issue that, twenty years ago, we alleged we sent our young America to Europe to settle. It was our fighting there which gave to the Principal Allied and Associated Powers their victory. We got nothing out of the conflict but the ill-will of everyoneof our foes because they were our foes, and of each of our allies because of our unbounded generosity; and our naive, unsophisticated, unselfishness at Versailles. But we did not then settle the issue. It has risen again. We would not settle it now by joining in this conflict. This is one of those questions which can be settled only by the parties themselves by themselves.
A Natural Choice
There are in the Church tens of thousands of faithful members, and in the nation millions of loyal citizens, whose choice would be, because of their German ancestry, that Germany should become the dominant power of Europe, and following that, perhaps of the world. For them German art, literature, science, musicperhaps the greatest the world has producedis part of the warp and woof of their lives and of the lives of their ancestors. All the tender threads of memory and tradition lead them back to the homeland. The German people are and have been a great and good people.
There are perhaps more tens of thousands of faithful members in the Church, and more millions of loyal citizens in the nation who, because of our British ancestry, would prefer that Great Britain should retain the dominance she has held for generations. As much mine as of any Britisher today, are Chaucer and Shakespeare, are Littleton, Coke, and Bacon, are Magna Charta and the great principles of liberty and of local self-government which we of America have made so much and peculiarly our own. These are the heritages which we have from the motherland, and in the joint enjoyment of which, as co-heirs with us, we make all races, creeds, and nationalities coming to our shores. Britain has been and is one of the greatest nations and people of all time.
As the first love Germany, so we love Britain. But each group of us must see and understand the view and feelings of the other.
America's Position In European Affairs
Who shall dominate Europe is a question that has been in our international situation from the beginning of our national life. It is not our concern.
The fathers of our Country warned us against the allurements and the dangers involved in such a questiona question which is relatively no nearer to us now than it was in their day. The question is of no more importance to us now than it has been for a hundred and fifty years. The dominant power could always make war on us if it wished. A hundred and fifty years ago we were one of the weakest of the weak, and the hazards to us of such a war were great; now we are one of the strongest of the strong, and the hazards of our losing a defensive conflict almost nil. Do not let fear of what might happen in such a defensive war cloud in any way your judgment. We are relatively better able to defend ourselves today against aggression by a foreign foe than we have ever been before in our whole history.
Washington in his Farewell Address declared we should have "as little political connection as possible" with Europe; that Europe had a "set of primary interests" with which we had "none or a very remote relation," wherefore, "Europe must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign concern"; "Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?"
Jefferson said: "Our first and fundamental maxim should be never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe; our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs."
We should follow these admonitions. There is neither reason nor excuse for our entry into this European war. Its issues have for us no vital interest. Wise statesmanship will keep us from that war.
We may expect that every means, both fair and foul, which can be devised by hating, desperate men, fighting for their lives, will be used to drag us into this war. We must not accept anything at its face value; we must question every statement, carefully examine every incident. Such is war.
Rarely indeed are mere violations of neutrality legitimate cause for war. Always there is conflict between neutrals and belligerents, the neutrals trying to preserve their peace-time trade and commerce, and each belligerent trying to prevent all intercourse with the other belligerent. Seizure and search of vessels, confiscation of cargoes, are the normal incidents of war. After the war is over, the belligerent is called upon to pay for the infractions of neutral rights, but war is not resorted to even to compel these payments.
One thing more, an armed vessel, whether it be a merchant-man or a regular battleship, is considered to be a vessel of war and subject to all the hazards of war. Neutrals using such vessels either for travel or for cargo purposes use them subject to all the dangers incident to the navigation of vessels of war on the high seas, and neither they nor their government can legitimately complain of the eventualities which may overtake them.
America The Great Neutral
America, multi-raced and multi-nationed, is by tradition, by geography, by citizenry, by natural sympathy, and by material interest, the great neutral nation of the earth. God has so designed it. Drawn from all races, creeds, and nations, our sympathies run to every oppressed people. Our feelings engaged on opposite sides of great differences, will in their natural course, if held in due and proper restraint, neutralize the one the other. Directed in right channels, this great body of feeling for the one side or the other will ripen into sympathy and love for all our misguided and misled fellowmen who suffer in any cause, and this sympathy and love will run out to all humanity in its woe, thus weakly shadowing the infinite compassion of the Master.
One of the great tragedies of the war now starting is that every people now engaged in it have been led into it without their fully knowing just where they were bound. The people themselves are largely innocent of this slaughter. God will not forgive betrayal of his children by those who rule over them.
A Great Part To Play
As the great neutral of the earth, America may play a far greater part in this war, it is our duty to play a far greater part, than merely impartially to carry out our neutral obligations under international law towards those who come to our shores for trade and commerce or otherwise. It is our solemn duty to play a better part than we can do by participating in the butchery.
America has today the only great national moral force and influence for peace left in the world. We have lost much of what we once hadwe lost it when we permitted the looting at the Versailles peace table; we have since then lost much of what then remained by our diplomacy in the conflict between the rival war lords of the Far East and by our scolding protests to Europeprotests largely motivated by matters of their purely domestic policy which were not of our legal and proper concern, matters which we have never in our own American affairs permitted any other nation even to question.
Freedom In Domestic Policy
We of this Church are qualified expert witnesses on this question. Twice driven from our homes, plundered, robbed, murdered, our leaders slain, no foreign power, and no race, creed, or group raised their voices even to whisper in protest against our treatment. Nor was this silence broken, when, nearly a half century later, the Federal Government itself confiscated our property, which we only partially recovered. We never dreamed of asking foreign governments to intervene in our behalf. Our patriotic loyalty to the country of our birth, our native land, would not allow this.
Furthermore, when the North was arrayed against the South in a struggle of life and death, when property on both sides was ruthlessly destroyed, and thousands upon thousands of lives were lost, we refused even to listen to representations by alien powers, designed to put an end to the conflict. Nor have we ever tolerated complaints from foreign governments about certain miscarriages of justice heretofore all too frequent in certain areas of this country.
All of these matters were between usthe people concernedand our own government. We lived or we died, we prospered or suffered, as determined between us and our government. The Family of Nations cannot exist on any other principle than their freedom in all matters of domestic policy, nor can individual States; and the existence of States for the due ordering of all society is of far more importance than the temporary suffering of any group, large or small, within a State. Every State, member of the Family of Nations, must be its own master as to its own nationals. We have always claimed this right unqualified for ourselves.
Our plain duty to humanity and to the cause of peace, our duty to our Creator, require that we preserve the moral force and influence we now have, that we regain what we have lost, and that then we increase to the highest possible point this greatest of all instrumentalities for world peace. If we become parties to this world war, on whatever side, to determine the present issues of the war, we shall lose all this moral power and influence, and sink with the world to the level where just our brute might shall be the sole and only measure of our strength. This would be an appalling prostitution of our heritage.
Remembering the fact that the warring peoples have been led almost blindly into this war by their governments, two things it would seem we might now do that would at once build up our moral power and influence for peace.
The Protection Of The Weak
First, we might well insist, as the President has already urged, that all the belligerents give up and abandon the plans of their general staffs, so to wage this war as actually to exterminate peoples. We should require under penalty of the closure of our ports to the offender, that the principle obtaining prior to the World War should be observed, namely that the civilian population, the women and children, the sick, the aged, and the infirm, of the warring nations shall, so far as possible, be protected; that indiscriminate bombing and the bombing of unfortified places shall not be engaged in; that actual hostilities shall be waged only against and between the armed forces of the belligerents. Should any belligerent not have access to our ports and be therefore not subject to the penalty, nevertheless the observance of the principle by his foe at our behest will give us the moral power to secure this foe's observance.
Second, having in mind our position as the great world neutral, and remembering that the peoples of these warring nations have been led into this conflict largely unwittingly, and therefore are largely blameless, we should announce our unalterable opposition to any plan to starve these innocent peoples involved in this conflictthe women, the children, the sick, the aged, and the infirmand declare that when actual and bonafide mass starvation shall come to any of them, no matter who they are, we shall do all that we properly may do to see that they are furnished with food. On the present outlook one cannot be sure which side will finally need this sort of relief. And if in such an effort we should come to the last extremity, one can think of few more righteous causes for war itself than such a high service to victimized, suffering humanity.
We shall, if we act wisely on the full information we can obtain, be able to forestall any deceit or subterfuge on any account or on any ground by any belligerent because of a false or simulated or self-inflicted starvation.
If we shall rebuild our lost moral power and influence by measures such as these which will demonstrate our love for humanity, our justice, our fair-mindedness, our determination to do works of righteousness as God shall make them known to us, we shall then be where at a fitting and promising time we can offer mediation between the two belligerents, and bringing our moral power and influence into action we shall have a fair chance to bring an end to the criminal slaughter of our fellowmen and to give birth to a peace that shall be lasting, because just and fair to every people. Surely this is infinitely more honorable, will have in it infinitely more of humanity, will be infinitely nearer to the Master's way, than sending our young sons overseas to be murdered.
America, the great neutral, will thus become the Peacemaker of the world, which is her manifest destiny if she live the law of peace. Believing as we do that America is Zion, we shall then see the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah of old "for out of Zion shall go forth the law," a law of justice, mercy, and righteousness, adopted by the nations of their own free will.
Plagues Which Follow War
One more thought and I have finished. Remembering that throughout all history, dread diseases have followed the devastation of war, when peoples are exhausted and mal-nurtured, remembering what happened at the end of the World War with the flu, reason tells us that if this war drags through years, we must be prepared for a visitation of plagues that will almost surely take a greater human toll than the war itself. These plagues will strike armies not only, but the people back home as well. They will reach America. How much science can do, we have yet to learn. It tardily coped at all with the flu. We have but one sure means toward safety from such plaguesa life lived in accordance with the revelations of the Lord. Careful eating, temperance, chastity, the non-use of things forbidden, sobriety, industry, proper rest and sleep, non-exposure, and in general right living in all things, give us the right to ask the Lord that the destroying angel shall pass us by. He who breaks down his body and his resistance todisease by riotous and wicked living may hardly hope to escape affliction and suffering. It may be that we shall see a time, if this war shall drag into the years, that "except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened." (Matthew 24:22.)
May God bless and preserve this nation, set up in accordance with his plan and will; may he keep us from the horrors and ravages of war. May he help us all so to live that we may with clear consciences always seek his blessings, I ask, in the name of the Savior, Amen.