March 24, 2011 by Ron Madson
Here is my lecture at Claremont. My thesis is that we have once again in our generation (as was done in Missouri in 1838) rejected the Covenant of Peace revelation found in Section 98. I also argue that like the saints in the primitive church, there came a time when we, like them, pledged our allegiance to our nation and in so doing, our nation’s “enemies” became our enemies. They deeded their allegiance to the Roman Empire and we have to the American empire. In my opinion my lecture ties directly into the questions posed to Elder Wickham later that night:
and here is the q & a follow up questions
That evening Elder Wickham gave the keynote speech. He is an emeritus general authority who while serving as a General Authority was the church’s General Counsel. He is officially emeritus but has retained his position as the church’s general counsel. He asked that his remarks and the follow up questions not be recorded. In my opinion two highly pertinent questions were asked and one person pushed back as to the responses to the two questions. Frankly, I could not tell whether Elder Wickham was speaking on behalf of the church or just expressing his personal opinion in that even though he indicated at times he was speaking personally, at times the statements came across in tone as declarative statements as to our church position/doctrine as to our approach to our nation’s wars–past and present. Having said that, one question I know was asked was the one I posed in that I had it written down: ”Elder Wickham in 1095 at the Council of Claremont (amazing coincident that it was held at “Claremont”) Pope Urban II, in an effort to justify the current crusades issued a edict that Christians of their faith were under duty to support their nation in their wars AND that if the soldier engaged in such wars that they (the soldier) were free from sin (War Indulgence). My question is whether in our mormon faith today we have adopted the same approach to war?” The answer was from Elder Wickham: ”Yes.” Then another conference attendee asked essentially: ”Do we have any doctrine or teachings, like the Anabaptist/Quaker tradition, that can be used to inform or even influence our decision as to whether to “renounce” any particular type of war?” The answer was essentially that we are not like those faith traditions—we are different and do not follow those traditions. We have a different mission. Okay. The push back was from an attendee that took exception to the suggestion that those that are conscientious objectors are NOT following the law, ie, constitutional law. The attendee emphatically countered that such statement is not true in that CO status is not only legal but constitutional. The take away for me is that, at least in Elder Wickham’s opinion, the duty to support our nation’s wars overrides any doctrine that we might have. And that those that do their duty in supporting any of their nation’s wars (no matter whether they are “just” or not) are not morally responsible in doing their duty to their nation. Of course, Elder Wickham said that we should pursue peace and we desire it–whatever that means as a practical matter I have no clue in that the formula of DC 98 seems to be irrelevant to the policy he stated. My paper and lecture takes the position that if we abdicate that decision to our government then our doctrine is by definition whatever our sovereign defines it to be. In the case of current hostilities (Iraq and Afghanistan) it is therefore the Bush doctrine articulated in September of 2002 that states that “We” our nation have the right to engage in pre-emptive strikes against any other nation that we believe might harm us in the future to “prevent” their attacking us. In my opinion the “Constantine Shift” occurred in our faith when we became a state and remains today. And that Elder Wickham’s position is the position as stated so clearly by President Hinckley in his speech “War and Peace” in April 2003 and is the predominant view in our faith. There it is. Elder Wickham did give accounts of great heroic acts in war that he witnessed and goodness in the crucible of conflict. More on that in the final summary given by Richard Bushman that I will address in another post.
Comments? Thoughts? Did anyone that was there interpret the “take away” from Elder Wickham’s words differently?