The New Mormon History
D. Michael Quinn, editor
Sheaves, Bucklers, and the State: Mormon Leaders Respond to the Dilemmas of War
Ronald W. Walker
[p. 267] The question of how the Latter-day Saint church should respond to armed conflict has long troubled Mormons. Can they refuse to bear arms because of their religion? Could there be grounds for a military crusade? In addition to juxtaposing pacifism and military participation, warfare also poses the question of allegiance. Do Saints owe their primary loyalty to conscience, church, or nation? These issues are difficult, for Mormon scripture and heritage speak ambiguously of both pacificism and war—of “sheaves” as well as “bucklers.” Mormon leaders have answered the dilemmas of war differently at different times, weighing in the process, shifting LDS attitudes toward millennialism and Americanism.1
The earliest testing grounds for the Saints’ attitudes toward violence and war were their conflicts with non-Mormon neighbors. Mormonism had scarcely commenced when in January 1831 Joseph Smith warned his almost 200 New York followers of the threat of persecution. But rather than urging resistance, his revelation counseled them to “escape the power of the enemy” by moving west.2
Northern Ohio and western Missouri became the twin centers of the Mormon gathering. The former was such a scene of conflict that at times members “had to lie every night for a long time [p. 268] upon our arms to keep off mobs.”3 At first the Saints responded to the Missouri turmoil pacifically. “So tenacious were they for the precepts of the gospel,” a participant later wrote, that “the Mormons had not so much as lifted a finger, even in their own defence.”4 Indeed during these dark moments, six leading elders “offered themselves a ransom for the church, willing to be scourged or die, if that would appease … [the Missourians’] anger.”5 Such abnegation reflected not only inferior numbers but a theology admonishing church members to forgive their tormentors at least three times before resisting. Even then should a Saint “spare” his oppressor, he would be rewarded for his righteousness.6
But as Missouri hostilities continued, Mormon reaction hardened. When faced with almost certain expulsion from Jackson County, the Saints “found that they would be justified by the law of both God [and] man, in defending themselves, their families and houses.”7 Their ineffectual defense and consequent eviction occasioned yet a more militant response. In the belief that Missouri governor Daniel Dunklin would reinstate the expatriates on their lands but would not provide a standing defense, Joseph Smith, who had remained in Ohio, organized the paramilitary “Zion’s Camp.” The heavily armed company eventually swelled to more than 200 men as it marched from Ohio to Missouri, personally led by the Mormon prophet.8
The marching of a private army across the American wilderness aroused both fear and misunderstanding. Missourians viewed the group as an instrument of retribution, while some church leaders complained of “the transformation of God’s kingdom into a warrior band.”9 Lending weight to these feelings, Mormon rhetoric was often bellicose. The authorizing revelation for Zion’s Camp spoke of the need to redeem Jackson County by “power” and suggested the possibility of sacrificing life for the cause. Moreover, the Saints’ loose and excited speech gave the impression that Zion would be forcibly delivered.10
From the beginning of the crisis, the Mormon prophet believed that the persecutions of his followers resulted partly from their own misconduct and consequently a revelation urged them to reform their behavior, forego retribution, and pursue lawful redress. Before proposing Zion’s Camp, Smith sought to defuse the controversy by interposing either state or federal troops between Mormons [p. 269] and their rivals.11 As the party marched to Missouri, the “Camp” lifted a white banner with “PEACE” inscribed in red lettering and the group displayed an unusual frontier reverence for animal life. Smith cautiously confirmed to the Missouri governor their defensive purposes.12 When Dunklin reversed his position and refused to place the Mormons on their lands, Smith, who was outmanned and without government sanction, disbanded his group. An accompanying revelation decried the immediate use of force and urged the Saints to “sue for peace” even “to the people that have smitten you.”13
By 1838 Mormons could hardly suppress their outrage. Continuing violence weighed heavily on LDS leaders living in Missouri. Sidney Rigdon, Smith’s assistant and spokesman, vowed the Saints would never be aggressors, but his promise was overwhelmed by his other unrestrained words: “We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever; for from this hour, we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled upon with impunity. The man or set of men who comes on us to disturb us, it shall be between us and them a war of extermination, for we will follow them, till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.”14 Like a roaring fireball, Rigdon’s printed and widely circulated oration ignited a final wave of fury. By mid-October the embattled Smith sanctioned an aggressive defense, while some of his followers organized themselves into secret bands that replied to Missouri mobocracy in kind.15 Later the Mormon leader denied any personal role in the conflict.16 Before the final confrontation he was captured, and the Saints in his absence agreed to leave the state rather than fight.
The Missouri turmoil toughened Mormon attitudes. The pacifism of earlier days lost its appeal. Instead Mormons resolved in the future to deal with their enemies from a position of strength and consequently at Nauvoo, Illinois (and later in Utah), formed the “Nauvoo Legion.” This army of several thousand well-trained soldiers was seen as a necessary “mantle of protection” while living in the “western wilds” so far removed from stable government. And in the martial atmosphere of the times, military titles became fashionable for both church and civic leaders, while military auxiliaries organized [p. 270] and drilled the city’s youth.17 Smith, who had rejoined his followers, noted another purpose for the conscripts: the legion “will enable us to show our attachment to the state and nation … whenever the public service requires our aid, thus proving ourselves obedient to the paramount laws of the land, and ready at all times to sustain and execute them.”18 Despite their persecutions, Mormons awaited their nation’s call to arms.
The Nauvoo Legion, with its curious blend of religion, patriotism, and military display, was poorly conceived to allay the confusion surrounding the new faith. No more reassuring was the legion’s manpower, numbering more than a quarter of the entire United States Army in 1845. Excessive and seemingly threatening, it made Smith appear to be a Mohammed bent on religious crusade.19 The result was predictable. As in Missouri, Mormon force summoned counterforce. Smith was assassinated, and mobs again sought to expel the Saints from their homes.
The Saints remained self-controlled. “We would fight our way clear,” an LDS editorial noted the legion’s military superiority. But “we will suffer wrong rather than do wrong… . The gospel whispers peace.”20 Only after most church members had begun their westward hegira did a small remnant of Mormons and their allies unsuccessfully defend their community. The Nauvoo Legion hardly proved the Damoclean sword which its detractors thought.
The Mormon or Utah War of 1857-58 embroiled the Saints in yet another civil conflict. Responding to rumors of Mormon defiance to national authority, U.S. president James Buchanan dispatched an American army to Utah. The Saints had left Illinois with their loyalties badly fractured, upset not so much with America as with Americans. Consequently though they aggressively pursued statehood for Utah, their sense of grievance led them to tangle repeatedly with federal territorial appointees, who in the LDS view violated their right of self-government. Like their seventeenth-century New England ancestors, Mormons presented the paradox of a patriotic but restless citizenry.21
For the persecution-conscious Mormons, the national army seemed the crowning proof of American perfidy. Instead of investigating the territorial officers’ colored reports of LDS disloyalty, Buchanan dispatched several thousand soldiers without announcement or explanation. Furthermore church leaders heard talk that [p. 271] General Harney, the expedition’s initial leader, hoped for a sanguinary adventure. According to his biographer, Harney “had fully determined, on arriving at Salt Lake City, to capture Brigham Young and the twelve apostles, and execute them in a summary fashion.”22 Young, who had succeeded Smith, did not conceal his outrage. “I swore in Nauvoo, when my enemies were looking me in the face, that I would send them to hell across lots, if they meddled with me,” he stormed,” and I ask no more odds of all hell today.”23
Even before receiving firm news of the army’s approach, Young began defensive preparations, including, by virtue of his authority as territorial governor, the reactivation of the Nauvoo Legion. Later Mormons fortified their eastern passes, marshaled public opinion for war, and sought alliance with the Great Basin Indians.24 Yet as government troops approached, Young appeared ambivalent and less than resolute. “Are you going to contend against the United States?” he asked his congregation. “No. But when they come here to take our lives solely for our religion, be ye also ready.”25
In truth Mormon speech and actions were sometimes inconsistent. On the one hand, church leaders initially used force to harass the invaders. Small companies of the legion were ordered to impede the advancing American army with all means short of bloodshed. “Annoy them in every possible way,” read the legion’s orders. “Use every exertion to stampede their animals and set fire to their trains. Burn the whole country before them, and on their flanks.”26 During these tense months in late 1857, Mormons probably would have defended their communities had the Utah expedition attempted to test their defenses. This wartime atmosphere in turn helped produce the tragedy at Mountain Meadows. Feeling threatened and giving way to a mass hysteria not uncommon during war, members of the southern Utah militia and Indian allies killed almost 100 emigrants passing through the territory.27
On the other hand, as Mormon and American troops approached open battle in the spring of 1858, Young consciously weighed policies and principles and resolved a peaceful course. Doubtless the settlers from their mountain bastions could inflict heavy losses upon eastern soldiers. Yet the cost of such a campaign would be great and even then an ultimate American victory was likely. To such practicality Young added pacifism. “It is better to lose property,” he asserted, “than the lives of men, women, and children.”28 [p. 272] Thereupon church members abandoned their homes and recommenced their hegira, this time to an undetermined location to the south. But the situation ended less dramatically. Satisfied that reports of Mormon disloyalty were largely fictitious, Buchanan’s newly arrived territorial governor promised to isolate the army from LDS communities if the Mormons would return to their homes. They agreed, and the so-called war ended without battle casualties.29
Although the Utah War was the last armed confrontation between Saints and their fellow American citizens, Mormons would encounter difficulties with Great Basin Indians for at least another decade. These tribes offered only spasmodic resistance to well-organized churchmen. Despite some initial attacks, Mormon leaders generally tried to pacify their Indian neighbors. “Never retaliate a[n Indian] wrong,” Young counseled. “Independent of the question of exercising humanity towards a degraded and ignorant race of people,” he declared, it was “manifestly more economical and less expensive to feed and clothe them, than to fight them.”30 To be sure Mormons erected defensive fortifications and occasionally launched punitive expeditions against marauding tribes. Worse, some rank-and-file members treated Indians with cold, frontier brutality. Yet as non-Mormon military observers conceded, Young and his closest associates generally urged conciliation and used force as a last resort.31
The Mexican War of 1846-48 provided the first test of Mormon attitudes and conduct during a national war. Its timing could not have been more unfortunate. The expatriates had just begun their western exodus, and their distress-filled camps were dispersed across the length of Iowa. Not surprisingly when American army officers solicited 500 Mormon volunteers to march on Mexican California, most were unenthusiastic. As one diarist wrote, the call for a battalion “needed considerable explaining for everyone was about as much prejudiced [against it] as I was at first.”32
However, Brigham Young reacted differently. Earlier he had sought federal aid for emigration, and while he had hoped to receive a government contract for the construction of a series of forts en route to Oregon, a Mormon-American army appeared equally to serve his purposes. The proposal would transport 500 Mormons at government expense to the proximity of their new homeland, while the troops’ pay could help to finance the migration of the remainder of the destitute church. By providing volunteers the Mormons could [p. 273] allay prejudice with a demonstration of their patriotism, possibly become the dominant American settlement in California, and secure federal approval—so vitally required—of their temporary settlement on midwestern Indian lands.33
“This is the first time the government has stretched forth its arm to our assistance,” enthused Young, “and we received their proffers with joy and thankfulness.” When some of his followers hesitated to enroll, he reminded them of their Americanism. “Suppose we were admitted into the union as a state and the government did not call on us, we would feel ourselves neglected.” Besides, Young reminded, it was the state governments of Missouri and Illinois and not the national government that had inflicted their past distress. After Young’s endorsement, the U.S. Army officer who managed the induction found the Mormons to be “entirely patriotic.”34
If church members were somewhat divided in their attitudes toward the battalion, the church press reflected a similar ambivalence about the war in general. At times the press boasted that American arms and institutions were ordained to a high and glorious role. The English Millennial Star, reflecting the American sentiments of its editorial writers, declared, “The long reign of intolerance that has darkened the dominions of Mexico must receive a fatal blow from American arms, and the more tolerant genius of American institutions.”35
But more often patriotism and Americanism had a detached and tepid quality. Certainly war was not license for unbridled conduct. As the battalion began its 2,000-mile march that secured California without battle, Apostle Parley Pratt counseled LDS conscripts neither to “Misuse their enemies” nor “spoil their property.” The Mexicans, in fact, were “fellow human beings to whom the gospel is yet to be preached.”36
More than Christian brotherhood and missionary zeal shaped Mormon attitudes. Their persecutions had alienated the Saints from fellow Americans and as a result made their support of the war half-hearted. The Millennial Star often sounded like a Whiggish anti-war newspaper. “In their blindness and lust of dominion” and “under the banner—might makes right,” one editorial declared, Americans “grasp at the wide extended dominions of Mexico.”37
Mormon scorn of American conduct also reflected their millenarianism. They viewed the Mexican War as divine judgment [p. 274] and as the beginning of the promised terror announcing the millennial era. “God will use the American arms to break down papal domination” in Mexico, Orson Hyde, another church leader, warned, “then [he will] do as seemeth him good.”38 What Hyde hinted at, other editorials made clear. The Saints “are conscious that they are leaving cities and nations which are destined to be shaken by the insupportable blasts of adversity,” declared the Star. “The wicked shall slay the wicked, and the spirit of God shall be taken from all rebellious flesh.”39
To be sure the Mormon position during the Mexican War was confusing. The church leaders’ pursuit of self-interest and their dedication to civil authority and Americanism were not always reconcilable with their dark, millennial forecasts. The result was the idealization of abstract American principles and institutions. At the same time Mormons took a jaundiced view of Americans. The latter would be required by Providence to pay a heavy price for their rejection of the prophets and the persecution of God’s people.
While Mormon conduct during the Mexican conflict established a precedent of military service, the Civil War proved a partial exception. At best the Saints provided only token support to the Union cause. Outwardly Utahns conformed to legal requirements. Although their territorial status exempted them from wartime conscription, Mormons complied with the national government’s request in 1862 to guard briefly communication lines between forts Bridger and Laramie. Moreover, they paid Washington’s war tax of $26,982 and repeatedly rejected southern entreaties which reportedly promised confederate statehood on the Saints’ terms.40 Yet Mormon behavior was more circumspect than enthusiastic, embracing the letter rather than the spirit of the union cause.
The respect of church leaders for American government by no means had vanished. “We are tried and firm supporters of the Constitution and every constitutional right,” Young declared in April 1862. He regarded secessionists as “fanatics” who “were determined to ruin if they could not rule.”41 To attest to their loyalty, Utahns in 1861-62 made a third plea for statehood, which if successful presumably would have committed them to an active military role in the war. “We show our loyalty by trying to get in [the Union] while others are trying to get out,” Utah’s territorial delegate to congress asserted, “notwithstanding our grievances, which are far greater than [p. 275] those of any of the Seceding States.”42
But Mormon support for the war was never strong. Young viewed abolitionists as “black-hearted Republicans,” who had “set the whole national fabric on fire.”43 Subsequent federal policy in Utah deepened his outrage. Although wanting to conciliate Mormons at least for the duration of the conflict, President Abraham Lincoln successively appointed two inept and irritating governors.44 And no situation during the Civil War ranked the Saints more than the presence of California Volunteers in Utah. Ostensibly charged with preventing the disruption of territorial communications by Indian raiders, the troops stationed themselves on the western slopes of the Wasatch Range. There with their artillery easily commanding Salt Lake City, they built a permanent camp.
While these specific events alienated Mormons, the larger explanation for their Civil War discontent lay in their resurgent millennialism. The first events of the conflict seemed to confirm their long-held scenario of the end. During the South Carolina nullification controversy thirty years before, Joseph Smith had forecast that the millennial wars would start with a rebellion in South Carolina and would in turn involve the northern and southern states. The latter, he predicted, would call on Great Britain as well as other nations for support and thus would begin a chain of events leading to universal war. Fort Sumter and its aftermath seemed to fulfill these projections almost to the letter.45
Smith’s prophecies firmly cast millennialism on the Mormon consciousness, influencing churchmen in at least three major ways. First, with the “last days” close at hand, Mormons disengaged themselves from institutions and events–including the struggle between the states. The United States government was seen as twenty-five years past its zenith and rapidly declining in its corruption to a sure demise.46 Why spend blood and treasure in a lost cause?
Second, the Saints began to plan for a post-millennial era. “We shall make preparations for future events,” Heber C. Kimball, Young’s counselor, declared. “The South will secede from the North, and the North will secede from us, and God will make this people free as fast as we are able to bear it.”47 Church leaders could now discern the divine purpose in their forced migrations. While the world trembled on the edge of Armageddon, the Saints dwelled peacefully in their mountain valleys.48 Preserving their strength by [p. 276] avoiding any wartime engagements, they could at the proper time step forth, as their prophetic tradition held, to preserve American political institutions for a new world order. Perhaps, as Kimball predicted, Young might yet occupy the U.S. presidential chair.49
Third, as a reaction to these impulses there emerged in Mormon thinking a decidedly pacifist strain. During the Civil War years, Young often spoke of the desirability of peace. “A large share of the ingenuity of the world is taxed to invent weapons of war,” he declaimed. “What a set of fools!”50 Personally the church president was attracted neither to fighting nor to military display. “If we could have our choice, it would be to continually walk in the path of peace,” he said during the height of the hostilities, “and had we the power, we would direct the feet of all men to walk in the same path.” Nor did Young condemn the behavior of those who fled west to escape the war. “I think they are probably as good a class of men as has ever passed through this country,” he commented. “I have no fault to find with them.”51
As the war progressed Mormon millennialism and alienation varied in inverse degree to the strength of the union’s arms. Accordingly, as Appomattox approached, the tone of the church-owned Deseret News became more pro-northern. Yet when Lee surrendered the newspaper treated the event with silence. Young had predicted that the Civil War would bring “years and years” of turmoil, though there would be “seasons that the fire will appear to be extinguished.”52 Apparently Mormon leaders believed Appomattox to be one of these insignificant delays in the holocaust. Or perhaps they began to sense the imprecision of their millennial calculations.
If the Civil War marked the high tide of Mormon alienation, reaction to the Spanish-American conflict expressed the Saints’ growing conciliation with American society. During the early 1890s the church discarded plural marriage, political solidarity, and centralized economics, which previously had inhibited its entrance into the American mainstream. In return Congress rewarded Utah with statehood in 1896. Finally free from irritating disputes with the American government, the Mormon community for the first time could express its patriotism freely, and during the Spanish War it did so enthusiastically, compensating for past insinuations of disloyalty.53
Like their fellow Americans, Mormons were filled with the excitement of the hour. The Deseret News painted Cuban conditions [p. 277] as barbarous and medieval, a reflection of the “stolid, sullen, animal nature” of the Spanish race. By the first week of April 1898, the church newspaper had reduced the issues down to whether Spain would lose Cuba with or without compensation. Should the latter happen, it promised that Mormons would not be inactive. “If our glorious Union shall become involved in war,” an editorial declared, “she will never number, in all her armies a truer, a braver, or better soldier than the Mormon recruit.”54
Most Saints were unaware of their own nation’s aggressiveness in the dispute, which presumably could have been amicably resolved. Mormons with the majority of their fellow citizens including most clergy believed that peace lay in Spanish and not American conciliation. When President William McKinley finally led the United States into war, it was because most Americans, including a majority of Latter-day Saints, preferred hostilities to any delay or compromise in solving the Cuban imbroglio.55
During the early months of 1898, even though public opinion in Utah and elsewhere outraced national policy, the church consistently supported McKinley’s slower pace. The Deseret News described itself as aloof from “the sensation-monger influence,” though its rhetoric often belayed the claim, and hoped that “peaceable means” might yet be brought to bear.56 Furthermore some of the sermons of the church’s general conference in April 1893 urged peace. The influential George Q. Cannon, first counselor to President Wilford Woodruff, cited Joseph Smith’s pacifistic revelation: “We must proclaim peace; do all in our power to appease the wrath of our enemies; make any sacrifice that honorable people can to avert war.”57
The church leader who most withstood the popular clamor was Brigham Young, Jr. In a tabernacle discourse only days after Congress accepted the war resolution, the apostle urged a response patterned after his father’s Civil War policy. The American government should be sustained, Young held, and if national defense required, he himself would bear arms. But such a case seemed unnecessary. Rather he urged Mormons to remain home and donate their wages to the war effort. Behind his public phrases lay his private opposition to the war. “Let the wicked slay the wicked,” he wrote confidentially in his diary. The war is an “unrighteous cause.”58 Young was restating the Saints’ lingering tradition of a peaceful Zion sequestered from the world and its corollary, a limited loyalty to civil [p. 278] authority. But Americanism had become the watchword. The Mormon first presidency voiced its strong displeasure to Young and moved quickly to disassociate itself from his position.59
Soon any hesitation about the war disappeared from church rhetoric. “It is gratifying to know that in the issues involved our country is wholly right,” declared the Improvement Era, while the Young Woman’s Journal obliquely found the Spanish to be “wicked, reckless men.” In turn the First Presidency issued a statement which affirmed the absolute loyalty of the Mormon people.60 To prove its words the church leadership telegraphed local leaders to encourage troop enlistment, while the directors of the church-related ZCMI department store apparently offered half pay to volunteering employees for the duration of the war.61 With the names of prominent LDS families among its enlistments, Utah became one of the first states to fill its initial quota of 500 volunteers. Troops left Utah amid enthusiastic cheers and, in at least some cases, after receiving protective blessings administered in the Salt Lake Temple.62
The sweeping success of American arms converted the Deseret News into a powerful exponent of expansionism. The idea of an American empire, at once spiritual, economic, and territorial, secularized one of the most cherished LDS images. The little stone in Daniel’s vision no longer was seen to represent Mormonism’s mission. Instead it came to symbolize the new American empire which had “struck the image of the Old World imperialism on its feet of iron and clay and shattered it to the four winds.”63 The obligations of the nation’s expanded sovereignty seemed awesome: “Then for reclamation, reformation, purification and the infusing of new and healthier blood into the shrunken arteries of the captive colonies! What a mighty, burdensome, long-enduring and withal upright, philanthropic, Christian-like labor this will be! It is the bringing of order out of chaos; the dragging from the dark recesses of ignorance and superstition millions of human beings and placing them within the benevolent power of human progress.”64 In addition the newspaper explicitly proclaimed prevailing Anglo-Saxon racism and envisioned a grand British-American civilizing influence. Clearly Mormons were ready to shoulder the white man’s burden.65
LDS flirtation with imperialism quickly passed. Yet the fact that Mormons even expressed such ideas was nonetheless important. Like the larger reaction of the church to the Spanish-American War, [p. 279] it indicated Mormonism’s cultural direction. The Saints during the war had blended religious and national symbols, displayed their patriotism for public effect, and vigorously reflected the American mood. They had become a part of pluralistic America.
The outbreak of World War I did not surprise Mormons. While their newspapers and magazines sometimes reflected the belief of many western intellectuals that warfare was obsolete, far more often Mormons adhered to their millennial heritage that the Civil War had muted but by no means subdued. Each of Brigham Young’s four successors reaffirmed the approaching apocalypse, with President Wilford Woodruff warning in 1894 of calamities which within two decades would bring “mighty changes among the nations of the earth.”66 Twenty years and four days later, Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated at Sarajevo.
At the war’s beginning the Saints’ millennial assessment found an expression in President Woodrow Wilson’s strict neutrality. LDS president Joseph F. Smith believed that the conflagration at last fulfilled the Mormon prophecy of an entire world at war except for Zion—for he defined Zion as not just the western valleys of the Saints but the entire western hemisphere.67 “As a nation we certainly have just cause to be thankful for [the] peace that prevails in our midst, and it is to be hoped that nothing will occur to disrupt it,” he wrote in November 1914. Believing the war to be “without adequate cause” and “the supreme crime of all history,” he was content that events should run their course while Zion-America remained at peace.68
Smith remained resolute in his views even as Wilson began to move the nation toward intervention. The Mormon president was, as a friend described him, “a man of peace,” but his reluctance for war was also reinforced by his strong Republican partisanship.69 “Consistency is a Jewel,” he wrote derisively of the Democrats’ 1916 presidential campaign slogan, “Wilson Has Kept Us Out Of War.”70 Reflecting Smith’s views, church periodicals continued to call for peace at the same time Wilson was formally requesting a congressional war declaration. And when America joined the western allies, Smith rendered at best proper and unemotional support: “Worldly ambition, pride, and the love of power, determination on the part of rulers to prevail over their competitors in the national games of life, wickedness at heart, desire for power, for worldly greatness, have led the nations of the earth to quarrel with each other and have brought [p. 280] them to war and self-destruction. I presume there is not a nation in the world today that is not tainted with this evil more or less. It may be possible perhaps, to trace the cause of the evil, or the greatest part of it, to some particular nation of the earth; but I do not know.” Smith urged Mormons to bear American arms and hoped that somehow the allied armies might increase worldwide liberty and righteousness. But he had no illusions of the allies’ purity. God “is working with men who never prayed, men who never have known God, nor Jesus Christ… . God is dealing with nations of infidels.”71
Most Mormons, however, were far less restrained, and as the war continued Smith himself became an earnest advocate of the American cause. “Whether the United States is rightfully at war does not for the present concern any American,” declared the Deseret News several days after the congressional declaration of war. “His country is at war, and unless he is ready to give it every ounce of efficient support he can command, his place is not among Americans.”72 Charles W. Penrose, Smith’s counselor, conceded that while non-resistance “under certain circumstances” was justified, the present crisis was not one of them. “Jesus was no milksop,” he declared.73 While generally phrasing their support in terms of citizenship and the flag, church leaders did not doubt the justice of the cause. For instance Smith came to believe the contest pitted freedom against despotism and toward the end of the war joined other leading American churchmen in petitioning for the unconditional surrender of the “autocratic and military leaders” of the central powers.74 What was at first a dubious exercise had become a crusade.
Mormons fervently joined the cause. Perhaps due to Smith’s original hesitation, the church did not participate in the first Liberty Bond drive. Thereafter its fund raising was strenuous. “Those who have money and do not support the Government will find that there will be other ways to make them do their duty,” pointedly wrote Heber J. Grant, president of the twelve apostles and chief fund-raiser for the Mormon community. With church tithes and organization committed to the activity, Utah repeatedly oversubscribed the government’s financial requests.75 By September 1918 the state had over 18,000 men under arms, almost half of them volunteers. Rural districts responded with enlistments more promptly than urban areas—a non-Mormon official explaining the difference by the high incidence of church members outside of Utah’s cities.76 President [p. 281] Smith offered $3,500 in wartime agricultural prizes, while LDS magazines preached economy and patriotism.77 “For the prompt and effective part our own people have played [in the war],” the First Presidency proudly wrote upon the war’s conclusion, “they … deserve the highest commendation.”78
Mormon enthusiasm was a microcosm of the nation. World War I united Americans, including the Saints, like no other national war. Moreover Mormon millennial perceptions made them, like other religious fundamentalists, particularly susceptible to Wilsonian rhetoric. For leaders such as B. H. Roberts, the conflict promised to be “the war to end all wars” after which “there shall come world peace, and the earth shall rest.”79 Likewise Wilson’s views on democracy deeply touched Mormons. Below the surface of President Smith’s wartime remarks flowed the current of vox populi, vox Dei: worldwide democracy would manifest God’s will by bringing peace, improving the world’s social order, enhancing LDS proselyting and perhaps ushering in the millennial era.80 If Mormons deviated from wartime sentiment, they “out-Wilsoned” Wilson by making religious overtones of his speech explicit.
Certainly their language and emotions seemed inflamed for even wartime passions. “As yet we have no knowledge of human flesh being fed to [German] prisoners,” the Relief Society Magazine declared, “but we know that disease germs have been injected into their blood, and it has been said that women have been nailed to doors within churches, after the brutes into whose hands they have fallen have accomplished their wicked purposes.” Even Apostle James E. Talmage in the spirit of the times could not resist commenting on the ironic fate of former LDS missionaries to Germany. In the past they had gone with only their testimonies and scriptures as defense; now they go “with Browning guns as their instruments of persuasion.”81
Such expressions violated President Smith’s call for dispassion during the war, but they also understandably offended German-American Mormons. The war for the first time pitted Mormon against Mormon, and the Saints in Germany obediently responded to church counsel by sustaining their government and defending their fatherland.82 But the psychological situation of Utah’s German-Americans was more taxing. With nativism surging around them and torn by conflicting national and cultural traditions, they reacted erratically. Some gathered in secret meetings and hardly concealed [p. 282] their alienation from both Mormonism and Americanism. Their suspicious, wartime behavior led to a few of them being arrested and detained, as Utah followed a pattern occurring elsewhere in the United States. “It is a very critical time for our nationals as well as [for the] German saints,” a contemporary diarist aptly recorded, “and great wisdom and understanding is necessary to successfully meet the present needs.”83
Mormon German-Americans were not the only members dissatisfied with church policy. Discontent was sufficiently widespread that the First Presidency took note. “Some of our people, some that are very pacific[,] become critical as to our war policy,” acknowledged Charles W. Penrose, Smith’s counselor. While conceding that war was generally wrong, Penrose insisted that “when the Lord commands or inspires his servants to counsel the sons and daughters of Israel to lend their aid in the work of righteous warfare, that is different.”84 While the church press had treated pacifism and conscientious objection respectfully prior to the American war declaration, it later strongly warned Mormons against the slightest deviation in allegiance. “There is small patience today with one whose loyalty comes under the least question,” admitted the Deseret News, advising any Mormon with reservations to keep “his acts above suspicion and his mouth shut.”85
The Mormons’ surging emotions and high expectations did not diminish overnight. To many general authorities, including the newly sustained church president, Heber J. Grant, Wilson’s proposed League of Nations promised that the wartime crusade might bear a lasting and universal peace.86 Likewise the movements of the 1920s to outlaw war and encourage disarmament rekindled a few similar hopes.87 But the rise of the fascist powers mocked the Saints’ peaceful hopes. As a result the crusade of 1917-18 would become for many a source of deep disillusionment.
As World War II approached, Mormons displayed a pacifist tendency unequaled in their tradition since the Civil War. Yet they were more likely to denounce the evils of war than recommend an unequivocal pacifism. And Mormons in the 1930s still felt a sense of estrangement—not because of their lack of integration into the American community, as formerly, but rather the opposite. They now shared with most other Americans, especially conservative religionists, the sense of betrayal occasioned by the undelivered hopes of [p. 283] World War I.88 The interwar years had transformed President Heber J. Grant from an energetic wartime fund-raiser into a thorough-going skeptic over the purposes of war. His counselors, David O. McKay and especially J. Reuben Clark, whose Quaker ancestry and personal orientation strongly compelled him toward pacifism, voiced similar views.89 Thus Mormonism during the 1930s joined that generation’s crusade—the crusade for isolationism.
The First World War seemed replete with “lessons,” and LDS authorities actively proclaimed them: American and European vital interests were incompatible; war was a perversion of patriotism; economic profiteering lay at the root of warfare; true neutrality was non-judgmental; another conflagration would end civilization or occasion a cataclysmic economic depression.90 “Never again for the United States,” resolved the Deseret News.91 The prevailing disillusionment led British Mission president Hugh B. Brown to embrace warmly the Munich appeasement. “While some may accuse us of truckling to tricksters and forsaking the weak,” he wrote, “still we thank God that we had stout-hearted men at the helm who knew what the value the world was getting for the price they had to pay.”92
When war finally commenced in 1939, Mormon churchmen remained aloof. “Each side [of the conflict] claims to believe it is in the right,” the First Presidency wrote with clear skepticism. Privately it considered the hostilities to be “merely a breaking out again of the old spirit of hatred and envy that has afflicted Europe for a period of a thousand years at least.” Indeed a year after the fall of France, church leaders not only believed that the United States was militarily secure but, if first counselor Clark’s statements were representative, that the European democracies conspired to have America finance the war for empire.93 There was even a hint that in case of an American war declaration Mormons might exercise the right of conscientious objection. Rather than fighting, leaders believed that America could best proclaim its mission by peaceful, moral example.94
Church policy was more than an outcropping of submerged pacifism or an expression of World War I disillusionment. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal deeply alienated the Mormon presidency. “Our nation cannot be preserved if the present governmental policies shall continue,” the presidency wrote.95 President Grant privately believed that Roosevelt was neither an “honest man” nor wise in his policies. “It is one of the regrets of my life that [p. 284] I cannot take the stu[m]p against the … new deal,” he wrote only eight days before Pearl Harbor. Grant in fact feared that Roosevelt was seeking war to assume dictatorial power.96 Following the Japanese attack Grant privately accused the American president of “destroying the nation to the best of his ability by trying to get us in [to the] war when there was no need for it.” Throughout the remainder of the conflict, Grant continued to suspect Roosevelt’s motives and to believe as late as January 1945 that proper policy could have avoided the American declaration of war.97 Only the fear of politically dividing the church restrained his public expression.
The church’s wartime pronouncements reflected Grant’s private misgivings. “Both sides [of the conflict] cannot be wholly right; perhaps neither is without wrong,” began Mormonism’s most far-reaching statement on war, issued on April 1942: “The Church is and must be against war. The Church itself can not wage war, unless and until the Lord shall issue new commands. It cannot regard war as a righteous means of settling international disputes; these should and could be settled—the nations agreeing—by peaceful negotiations and adjustment.” While remonstrating against war, the statement did not endorse pacifism. When “constitutional law … calls the manhood of the Church into the armed service of any country to which they owe allegiance,” the presidency continued, “their highest civic duty requires that they heed that call.” Thus leaders renewed their allegiance to military service while objecting to war. Grant, who believed the message to be “wonderful,” tried to honor Clark, the actual author of the text, by allowing him to affix his signature to the document. However, Clark declined to do so.98
By April 1942 already 6 percent of the total church population served in the American forces or in defense-related industries, and by the conflict’s end 5,714 LDS men had been killed, wounded, or were missing in action. The church itself purchased over $17,000,000 in government bonds, while President Grant personally donated to war charities and urged his grandchildren to bear arms.99 As the war progressed second counselor David O. McKay and other general authorities characterized it as a moral struggle to preserve liberty. The Axis leaders were seen as “cruel, ambitious warlords” and Hitler, though unnamed, as “the world’s chief gangster.” But the response of Grant and Clark was more guarded. Neither publicly defended the war’s issues, while the First Presidency itself gave at best [p. 285] muted support. Its warmest expression called for an allied victory, though “noble men” and “more Christ-like nations” were required for a permanent peace.100
While dispassionately removed from the excessive moralizing of World War I, the official Mormon response raised serious questions. By refusing any moral pronouncements, the First Presidency opened itself to the charge of subjugating principle to obedience, especially in view of the war’s fascist and anti-Semitic challenges. In the United States the effect was eased by the statements of other general authorities who exceeded the narrow and cautious official declarations of the presidency. However, in Germany where Mormonism in 1939 had over 15,000 adherents, church policy passively confirmed the Third Reich. Although isolated cases of Mormon resistance to Nazism did occur, including one teenager, Helmuth Huebner, who was beheaded for distributing anti-government propaganda, most members loyally if at times fearfully supported the regime. Perhaps 600 German Saints gave their lives for it.101
The Mormon presidency answered the question of the war’s responsibility by fixing moral guilt on government rulers—presumably in this case both axis and allied. Their “lust for unrighteous power and dominion over their fellow men” might instigate war, the presidency held, but in the process political leaders “put into motion eternal forces [of justice which] they do not comprehend and cannot control.” God himself would overrule and determine justice, the presidency seemed to be saying, relieving citizens of the need to disobey an unjust sovereign. The roots of such teaching extended to the First World War when Mormons had differentiated between the acts of the German regime and its citizenry.102 This explanation satisfied the majority of German and American Saints, but a few Mormon-Americans refused to fight and gained conscientious objector status.103
Following Japanese surrender, the Mormon presidency immediately reasserted its anti-militarism. Its letter to Utah’s congressional delegation denounced peacetime conscription as carrying the “gravest dangers to our Republic.” Such a program, the churchmen declared, foreshadowed a further decline in American moral values and posed a threat to democracy and to peace.104 Nor had the First Presidency’s perspective concerning the Second World War changed. “The recent spread of barbarism and violence over Europe and the [p. 286] Orient is still shocking the sensibilities of humanity,” it proclaimed a year after the war’s end. Clark in turn denounced the American use of the atom bomb as “the crowning savagery of the war” and as “fiendish butchery.”105 In the eyes of LDS leaders, the war had ended as it had begun—pursuing folly and barbarism.
The “official” Mormon response to the war had parallels elsewhere. Its theoretical pacifism, cooling internationalism, and limited verbal support for the issues of the conflict closely corresponded with the wartime patterns of other American religious groups. And like them these ideas were particularly apparent at Mormonism’s highest hierarchical levels.106 But if the Mormon leadership’s response typified religious America, paradoxically it also served the growing international interests of the church. By renouncing war and rendering to each competing Caesar his military due, the religious movement departed from the narrow nationalism of its birth.
The dispassionate but supportive pronouncements of World War II became canon for subsequent responses. During the early stages of the Cold War, Mormons responded to their country’s call with a unanimity which precluded debate. The Korean War transpired in virtual ecclesiastical silence, although Clark did offer an obiter dictum on its technical illegality.107 Even during the Vietnam struggle when some church members again questioned their military obligation, the Mormon pulpit only occasionally and obliquely discussed the war. “Though all the issues of the conflict are anything but clear,” characteristically declared one apostle, Boyd K. Packer, “the matter of citizenship responsibility is perfectly clear.” As with other scripturally-oriented but non-activist clergy, Mormon leaders urged compliance to “the highest civic duty” of armed service.108
While consistent with past precedents, the church’s reaction to the Cold War masked an altered perspective. The Mormon war position of 1942 had been born during a period when many were alienated from government, but it meshed with the leadership’s growing trust in the American administration’s war policies. By 1970 this distrust of Washington had all but disappeared. “It is not possible for an individual citizen to have the information that is available to the President and the Congress,” wrote the First Presidency’s office, “and without all of the facts he is not in a position to judge [the correctness of the war].” Indeed the First Presidency expressed its [p. 287] “complete confidence” in the national government and in its ability to pursue the Vietnam conflict to an honorable conclusion.109 Clearly the affirmative climate of the Eisenhower years, the specter of communism, the social unrest of the 1960s, as well as the long-standing Americanism of the Saints had turned the Mormon leaders to the state.
Only a minority of members disagreed with the official policy. “I cannot allow myself to take refuge by shifting moral responsibility to the laws of my country or the orders of my leaders,” declared one young war protester. “I must have higher loyalties than man’s laws and governments—to principles, to conscience, to God.”110 In response to such dissent, the First Presidency acknowledged that a member might become a conscientious objector—but by virtue of personal conscience and not because of church doctrine or membership.111 Thus as in previous moments of wartime tension, the conflict between Mormon pacifism and Mormon civil obedience again surfaced.
Mormon reaction to war has drawn on an uneven heritage. Like other Christians, Latter-day Saints mix pastoral and martial images. God’s church is a little flock, the earth a white field ready for harvest, and converts “sheaves” which have responded to the “waters of life.” Yet shields and bucklers, rods and swords, conquerors and armies also characterize LDS canon.112 The example of Mormonism’s founding prophet seems as ambivalent. “Renounce war and proclaim peace,” Joseph Smith recorded in a formal revelation. Moreover Smith advised against the unnecessary taking of animal life, even the life of predators.113 Yet he bore the title of lieutenant-general, commanded over 2,500 troups, took sword exercises, possessed an “armor-bearer,” exuded the expansionist spirit of Manifest Destiny and dedicated the Nauvoo Temple while dressed in full military regalia.114
Mormon scriptures somewhat clarify the LDS position. While detailing approvingly the pacifism of 1,000 converts who chose death rather than armed resistance, the Book of Mormon obviously sanctions as one of its central themes the defense of family and self, rights and property, and nation and religion—but only upon divine permission.115 There is another stipulation: defenders should use forbearance; a first strike defense policy is equated with defeat.116
In addition to their idea of a restrained and religiously [p. 288] sanctioned defense, Mormons have another belief that has affected their reaction to war. They strongly support “the powers that be”—in war as well as in peace. “Let no man break the laws of the land,” one revelation counseled. “He that keepeth the laws of God hath no need to break the laws of the land.”117 The need to sustain civil authority by arms has been heightened by the reverence Mormonism gives to the land of its birth. More than a homeland, America is a promised land, possessed of a holy history and sacred future. God ordained the Constitution. Thus by deifying its past and future and declaring its government divinely instituted, Mormons view the defense of the United States as a holy venture.118
Mixing peaceful and militant symbols and calling for both civil obedience and peaceful restraint to war, the ambiguous Mormon heritage has left room for considerable variation. However, there have emerged several discernible patterns. A strain of “qualified” pacifism has continued throughout the church’s experience, best seen in the Saints’ own turmoils but by no means absent during national war. Tentative and conditional, more often vocal than substantial, it has surfaced most strongly when members experience a sense of alienation as during the Civil War and post-World War I eras. In peacetime church periodicals have reflected such sentiment by praising conciliation, arms limitation, disarmament proposals, and for non-Mormons, conscientious objection and pacifism. These expressions have largely disappeared during actual wartime conditions—either discarded or privately kept. But below “official” church levels, anti-war sentiment has often been present even during wartime conditions. Such small, disparate, and estranged groups as “other-world” millennialists, Utah’s German-Americans of the First World War, or the social activists of the 1960s have given Mormon “pacifism” a continuing voice.
However, a categorical pacifism has never been a dominant Mormon response. With the exceptions of early Missouri settlers and subsequent but infrequent dissenters to the church’s rule, few Saints have totally opposed warfare—even those who have objected to specific national wars. Indeed as the religious movement has matured, church leaders have increasingly seen military service as a religious obligation and state support as a virtue. The Nauvoo Legion in Illinois and the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, whatever their other justifying motives, were also expressions of the church’s [p. 289] civil loyalty. While the Saints’ qualified allegiance during the Civil War proved an aberration, the Spanish-American War began the formal routinization of Mormon military service. By World War II the First Presidency’s stated allegiance had become so dominant that it denied wartime accountability for rank and file and ceded to national states both immediate and ultimate responsibility for war-making. Thereafter as during the southeast Asia conflict, Mormon confidence in the purposes and integrity of government has grown.
This trend toward state support has modified the church’s theocratic outlook. As the secular state became dominant, the prospect of the Mormon theocracy receded and with that dimming, Mormon civil loyalties became more firmly attached to the American government. The process paralleled New England’s transfer of civil allegiance following the gradual decline of the Congregational establishment during the mid-nineteenth century.119 Moreover the Second World War terminated the theocratic ideal that Mormon leaders should declare by revelatory counsel the justness and appropriateness of armed resistance. Nationalism and the growing internationalization of the church required not only international military compliance during the war but demanded that such compliance be automatic and dispassionately neutral.
Wars also altered the hopeful anticipations of Mormon millennialism. The emotion, which powerfully impelled early Mormonism, peaked during the Civil War and doubtless contributed to the Saints’ limited war activity. The prospect of the American Republic’s imminent fall weakened normal responsibilities. In turn the First World War produced a less potent and secularized millenarianism. But while both conflicts fanned millennial fires, neither ushered in the kingdom. Consequently Mormons increasingly sensed that warfare was a statement of its time—a demonstration of evil—rather than an immediate herald for the promised day. Ironically while wars originally strongly stirred millennial spirits, by the mid-twentieth century, their unfulfilled hopes cooled the impulse.
The Saints’ altered theocratic and millennial viewpoints indicate a changed perspective toward the American mainstream. Early Mormonism appeared both to contemporaries and to later historians to be “outside” and perhaps hostile to the dominant tendencies of Jacksonian America.120 The movement’s reaction to warfare, however, paralleled its gradual conciliation with prevailing Americanism. [p. 290] The wartime opinions of Mormon leaders increasingly matched those of other conservative churchmen, while church membership at large expressed sentiments indistinguishable from the nation of their citizenship—whether American, German, or English.121 Mormonism retained its deep antipathy for the humanistic and secular trends of the modern era. But by sustaining government and by placing aside such notions as theocracy and polygamy, the church by the latter half of the twentieth century has emerged as a conservative voice very much from within the conventional fold of society.
While for many the Mormon affinity for the state carries deep moral implications, church leaders appear untroubled. Only rarely have they raised the issue of conscience; nor have they generally justified wartime policy by citing their strongest moral argument—the danger that civil disobedience might lead to anarchy. Obviously their vision has centered on the practical questions of protecting and expanding the church’s mission. More than expediency their policy is premised in the Christian assurance of divine power and rewards. An omnipotent and eternal deity, transforming the events of war to conform with his will, eventually will judge both wicked and righteous—if in yet another sphere. Our duty is to obey our government, whatever its virtue. Clearly emphasizing personal purity instead of social responsibility and affixing culpability for war upon government leaders, the formula focuses on a combatant’s purposes of heart and resulting conduct rather than the wartime issues of the moment.
The Mormon moral position is symptomatic of the church’s larger reaction to war. Competing patterns of Christian pacifism and military service, church and state allegiance, Americanism and internationalism, as well as the millennial tension between an ideal and an actual world have produced a variety of responses. Yet LDS leaders themselves have followed a generally consistent path. Scripturally conservative and “other-worldly” in stressing personal salvation, they have usually pursued restraint in their own conflicts while supporting the bearing of arms in national wars. Their policy parallels the historic approach toward war of pietistic Christianity. Not only has the religious movement subordinated social consequence to individual purity, but perhaps as a partial result, it has also become susceptible to and even supportive of contemporary nationalism. The dilemmas of war have brought Mormon leaders to yield to the unrelenting [p. 291] demands of modern society while reposing ultimate faith in an eternal reckoning.
1. During the last decade scholars have begun to examine Mormon attitudes concerning war. See D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Church and the Spanish-American War: An End to Selective Pacifism,” Pacific Historical Review 43 (Aug. 1974): 342-66; Robert Jeffrey St, “Mormonism and War: An Interpretative Analysis of Selected Mormon Thought Regarding Seven American Wars,” M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1974; and for a miscellaneous collection of articles and documents, Gordon C. Thomasson, ed., War, Conscription, Conscience and Mormonism, 2d ed. (Santa Barbara, CA: Mormon Heritage, 1972).
3. Joseph Smith to Edward Partridge, 30 Mar. 1834, in Max H. Parkin, “Kirtland: A Stronghold for the Kingdom,” in The Restoration Movement: Essays in Mormon History, eds. F. Mark McKiernan, Alma R. Blair, and Paul M. Edwards (Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1973), 82.
4. John Corrill, Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints…(St. Louis: Printed for the Author, 1839), 19; “Interview with Alexander W. Doniphan,” Kansas City Journal, 24 June 1881, in Saints’ Herald, 1 Aug. 1881; Warren A. Jennings, “Zion is Fled: The Expulsion of the Mormons from Jackson County, Missouri,” Ph.D. diss., University of Florida, 1962.
8. Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery, “Dear Brethren,” Kirtland, Ohio, 10 May 1834, broadside, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives); and “Letter of the First Presidency to the Scattered Saints,” 9 Jan. 1834, Journal History, LDS archives. Peter Crawley and Richard L. Anderson, “The Political and Social Realities of Zion’s Camp,” Brigham Young University Studies 14 (Summer 1974): 406-20, places the Missouri expedition in its historical context.
[p. 292] 10. D&C 103, esp. vv. 15, 27-28. For the high emotionalism of the time see, “J. M. Henderson to the Independence, Missouri, Postmaster,” Chagrin, Ohio, 29 Apr. 1834, first published in Missouri Intelligencer, 7 June 1834, and subsequently quoted in H. C. Smith, Journal of History 7 (Oct. 1915): 486-87.
12. Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Introduction and Notes by B. H. Roberts, 2d ed. rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1948), 2:71-72; hereafter cited as HC. James H. Hunt, Mormonism: Embracing the Origins, Rise and Progress of the Sect (St. Louis: Unstick and Davies, 1844), 146-47; and “Saints to Dunklin,” 24 Apr. 1834, in Journal History.
15. HC 3:162. For an account of the climatic events in Missouri, including the Mormon secret bands and Smith’s possible knowledge of their activities, see Leland H. Gentry, A History of the Latter-day Saints in Northern Missouri from 1836 to 1839 (Provo, UT: Department of Seminaries and Institutes of Religion, 1965), 213-44.
17. “Remarks on Chartered Rights,” T&S 4 (15 Dec. 1842): 42; “Minutes of the Nauvoo Legion,” undated, LDS archives; Robert Bruce Flanders, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965), 112, 326; Joseph Smith III, Journal of History 3 (Apr. 1910): 132; and Hawkeye and Iowa Patriot, 18 Mar. 1841, in Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839-1846,” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1967, 142. The latter states the Nauvoo City Charter passed legislation conscripting all men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five into the legion. Apparently the enactment was enforced by public opinion and not legal penalties.
18. HC 4:269. According to Smith another reason for the legion was to provide the means of fulfilling the Mormon militia responsibility without having to serve with those unsympathetic to their faith, ibid. 5:489-90 and T&S 2 (15 May 1841): 416.
19. The legion did not originate the image of Mormonism as Islamic militarism but certainly revived it. Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict,” 138-44, reviews the adverse public reaction to the Mormon army.
[p. 293] 21. By residing outside a state boundary but within American territory, Mormons were without the constitutional assurance of self-government. As perhaps the single exception to the rule, Utah repeatedly was denied the promise of speedy statehood as proposed by the Northwest Ordinance of 1784. Not only did this delay cause tension, but so did the men appointed to fill territorial offices. As in colonial America these “foreign” appointed officials were at times unsympathetic to local needs.
26. Quoted in Edward W. Tullidge, The History of Salt Lake City and Its Founders (Salt Lake City: By the Author, 1886), 172. President Young later claimed that the legions’ scorched-earth policy was instituted without his consent; see “Brigham Young Ms.,” 4 Oct. 1859, LDS archives. The reverse side of the legion’s orders frequently bore the phrase, “Shed no blood,” Deseret News, 23 May 1877.
28. Brigham Young, JD 7:46. Young’s declaration was similar to Smith’s “Fishing River Revelation,” cited earlier. On both eventual force was not ruled out, conditioned on the sanctification of the Saints.
29. The Mormon Fabian tactics, however, had destroyed 74 wagons containing perhaps 300,000 pounds of foodstuffs as well as capturing 1,400 head of cattle. Furniss, The Mormon Conflict, 116, 144; B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 4:283-85.
31. Howard A. Christy, “Open Hand and Mailed Fist: Mormon-Indian Relations in Utah, 1847-52,” and “The Walker War: Defense and Conciliation as Strategy,” Utah Historical Quarterly 46 (Summer 1978): 216-35, and 47 (Fall 1979): 395-420; Howard Stansbury, Expedition to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah … (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, & Co., 1852), 148-49; and J. W. Gunnison, The Mormons, or Latter-day Saints … (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, & Co., 1852), 146.
33. Times and Seasons 6 (20 Jan. 1845): 1,096; Brigham Young, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, comp. Elden Jay Watson (Salt Lake City: [p. 294] By the author, 1971), 221-24; and Journal History, 14 Aug. 1846, 3.
37. The unsigned editorial probably was written by Orson Spencer, a New Englander by birth and education, Millennial Star 9 (1 Mar. 1847): 73. Indeed Mormon representatives in Washington artfully displayed the church’s ambivalence toward the American government, threatening to seek British or Mexican succor if American aid was not forthcoming, see W. Ray Luce, “The Mormon Battalion: A Historical Accident?” Utah Historical Quarterly 42 (Winter 1942): 32, 38n.
40. E. B. Long, The Saints and the Union: Utah Territory during the Civil War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981); Gustive O. Larson, “Utah and the Civil War,” Utah Historical Quarterly 33 (Winter 1965): 59-61; Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon Sons, 1893), 2:93; and “Interview with Brigham Young, Jr.,” Philadelphia Morning Post, 1 Nov. 1869, in Stanley P. Hirshon, The Lion of the Lord: A Biography of Brigham Young (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969), 257-58.
42. William H. Hooper to George Q. Cannon, 16 Dec. 1860, Millennial Star 23 (12 Jan. 1861): 30. There was an element of game playing to these statehood petitions based, as we shall see, upon Mormon millennial calculations. Prior to Utah’s third bid for entry into the union, Young confidentially wrote: “We are very thankful that Congress has not admitted us into the Union as a State. However, we shall continue to tease them on that point so long as they pretend to legislate for the past Union… .” Young to Hooper, 7 Feb. 1861, Brigham Young Papers, Coe Collection, Yale University, in Klaus J. Hansen, Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1967), 166.
44. Gustive O. Larson, Outline History of Territorial Utah (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1972), 206-16, and Larson, “Utah and the Civil War,” 61, 72-73. Lincoln regarded the Morrill act as impolitic and made no attempt to enforce it.
45. This important revelation, found in D&C 87, did much to shape LDS perceptions of war. Widely circulated in the early preaching of church leaders, at first it was withheld from publication; see Brigham Young, JD 8:58. [p. 295] Later it was printed in England in 1851 in the Pearl of Great Price, compiled by Franklin D. Richards (Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1851), 25, and in the United States in The Seer (Washington, D.C.), Apr. 1854, 241. Smith received a confirming revelation, 12 July 1843, which while not printed during his lifetime is now found in D&C 130:12-13. For additional early references to it, see Jedediah M. Grant’s statement, Journal History, 2 Apr. 1854, 2; Andrew Jenson, Historical Record, 25 June 1846; New York Times, 31 July 1858.
55. Walter LaFeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Cornell Paperbacks, 1966), 379-406. The sentiment and role of the American clergy in the crisis has been warmly debated, although recent opinion has downplayed its agressiveness, Winthrop Hudson, “Protestant Clergy Debate the Nation’s Vocation, 1898-1899.” Church History 43 (Mar. 1973): 110-18.
57. Conference Reports of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, April 1898 (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 86; hereafter cited as CR. The discourses of Brigham Young, Jr., B. H. Roberts, Wilford Woodruff, John Henry Smith, and Francis M. Lyman also discussed the issue; ibid., 26-58.
59. To counter the influence of Young’s sermon, a strongly stated editorial was prepared at President Woodruff’s request and placed in the 25 April 1898 edition of the Deseret News. For activity behind the scenes, Journal History, 25 and 26 Apr. 1898, 2-3. Several local church authorities were favorable to Young’s speech, including President Angus Cannon of the Salt Lake Stake. Cannon believed the discourse to be “dictated by the Holy Ghost” but “unwise”; Brigham Young, Jr., Diary, 29 Apr. 1898. See also Young’s entries, 24-26 Apr. 1898.
62. Noble Warrum, Utah Since Statehood, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919), 1:434-35. Brigham Young had at least eight descendants serve, including two who had graduated from West Point; Kenneth C. Kerr, “The Young as Soldiers,” Young Woman’s Journal 13 (July 1902): 313-14. For Woodruff’s priesthood blessings, see Journal History, 3 May 1898, 2, and 28 May 1898, quoting the Brigham City Bugler.
63. Deseret News, 30 June 1898. The church newspaper phrased its support for expansionism in terms of civilization, humanitarianism, and even American economic betterment–denying its position favored “conquest, landgrabbing and military glory.” The difference apparently lay in intent; see Deseret News, 9, 10, and 28 June, 7 and 14 July, and 6 and 30 Aug. 1898.
65. Deseret News, 1 and 4 Aug. 1898. Even the anti-imperialists reflected the ethnocentrism of the time; Christopher Lasch, “The Anti-Imperialists, the Philippines, and the Inequality of Man,” Journal of Southern History 24 (Aug. 1958): 319-31.
66. Journal History, Oct. 1914, 1, 2, 12-13. For a sampling of the attitudes of other church presidents: John Taylor, JD 19:305; Juvenile Instructor 76 (Apr. 1941): 168-69; Instructor 99 (Feb. 1914): 92-94. The Mormon periodicals’ repeated doom-saying prior to World War I is found in Millennial Star 32 (16 Aug. 1870): 520-22; 47 (6 Apr. 1885): 218-19; 58 (25 June 1896): 408-09; 76 (26 Mar. 1914): 200; Deseret News, 9 June 1894 and 26 July 1900; and Improvement Era 14 (Feb. 1911): 350-52.
67. Joseph Smith to Isaac Russell, 11 Jan. 1916, First Presidency Letterbooks, LDS archives. Joseph Smith, Jr., had given a similar definition, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, ed. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1970), 362.68.
68. Joseph F. Smith to Hyrum M. Smith, 7 Nov. 1914; Joseph F. Smith to J. M. Studebaker, 11 May 1915; and Joseph F. Smith to Arthur J. Brown, 22 Aug. 1914, First Presidency Letterbooks. The last quotations are [p. 297] taken from an editorial of the Salt Lake Herald, 11 Aug. 1914, in which Smith expressed strong approval.
71. Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. James R. Clark (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1971), 5:71. For church opposition to the American entry into the war as late as April 1917, see Instructor 52 (Apr. 1917): 190.
72. Deseret News, 9 Apr. 1917. Those who held contrary sentiment were invited to “surrender or migrate.” Three days earlier the newspaper strongly repudiated its editorial policy of twenty years—and indeed the long-standing belief of President Smith—by belatedly embracing military preparedness; ibid., 6 Apr. 1917.
75. Heber J. Grant to Loyal Americans of Utah, 15 Feb. 1918, George Albert Smith Papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church 4:467-68, lists the financial contributions of the church and its members.
77. Instructor 52 (May 1917): 240. The Relief Society Magazine 5 (1918): 90-92, 161-63, 216-17, 280-82, 592-96, instructed church ladies in wartime economy and even included a lesson on “War and the Art of War Among Book of Mormon Peoples.” As a further indication of Mormon support, general authority B. H. Roberts, despite his sixty years, volunteered as a military chaplain.
79. CR, Oct. 1916, 143, and Deseret News, 12 Sept. 1914. Smith’s two counselors wrote: “It surely appears that important events are rapidly moving on towards `the great consummation'”; Lund and Penrose to Smith, 21 Oct. 1917, LDS archives. For other examples of millennial sentiment, see James E. Talmage, “The Federation of the World, A Thousand Years of Peace,” Improvement Era 20 (Oct. 1917): 1,097; Fred L. W. Bennett, “The Ethics of War,” ibid. (Mar. 1917): 425; Charlotte Stewart, “The Everyday Ways of Peace,” Young Woman’s Journal 26 (May 1915): 324; Relief Society Magazine 4 (July 1917): 408.
82. Gilbert W. Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany: A History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany Between 1840 and 1970 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970), 58-60. During the war perhaps seventy-five German LDS soldiers lost their lives. If growth statistics are indicative, German Saints felt little tension between their nationalism and church allegiance, even after the entry of the United States into the war. LDS membership in Germany during the war years rose from 7,500 to 8,000 and rapidly increased in the immediate years thereafter.
84. CR, Oct. 1917, 20-21. As an example of such dissent, Bishop Heber Bennion, who formerly presided over the Taylorsville Ward, refused to concede that church membership obliged war support. The non-Mormon world was corrupt, he argued, and the Saints should leave it to its fate. Another bishop wrote that many Mormons “believe this war is an unrighteous war from both sides, and that the United States going into it, is only a furtherance of an unrighteous cause.” Heber Bennion to George A. Smith, 14 Mar. 1918, George Albert Smith Papers, University of Utah, and James Martin to Heber J. Grant, 28 May 1917, Heber J. Grant Papers.
85. Deseret News, 11 Dec. 1917. For similar comments, see Instructor 52 (Oct. 1917): 521, 530. Even following the American entry into the war, Mormon editorials occasionally treated conscientious objectors kindly—but with no mention of Mormon conscientious objectors, ibid., 10 Feb. 1916; Millennial Star 78 (23 Mar. 1916): 184-87; Deseret News, 16 June 1917 and 11 Dec. 1917; and Relief Society Magazine 4 (Oct. 1917): 553-65.
86. Publicly Grant phrased his support cautiously: “The position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that the standard works of the Church are not opposed to the league of nations”; Improvement Era 23 (Dec. 1919): 109. Church leaders were not united in supporting the league, see James B. Allen, “J. Reuben Clark, Jr., On American Sovereignty and International Organization,” Brigham Young University Studies 13 (Spring 1973): 347-48.
88. Norman Furniss, The Fundamentalist Controversy, 1918-1931 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1954) treats the bitter harvest of World War I on America’s conservative religious establishment. For examples of Mormon sentiment, see Deseret News, 28 Jan. 1938, and Millennial Star 98 (5 Nov. and 17 Dec. 1936): 712-13 and 808-809.
[p. 299] 89. Clark once proclaimed, “My ancestry is Quaker, and I am coming to believe that there is heredity, in ideas, and concepts, as well as in our physical being. So I loathe war, and all that goes with,” Improvement Era 55 (Aug. 1952): 568.
92. Millennial Star 100 (6 Oct. 1938): 633. During the interwar period, Brown strongly condemned war as “sheer madness” and “stupidity”; ibid. 99 (4 Nov. 1937 and 16 Dec. 1937): 710-11, 716, 802-804. Brown, a former professional soldier and future general authority, strongly championed the allied cause after the actual outbreak of hostilities.
93. CR, Oct. 1940, 7; First Presidency to William C. FitzGibbon, 11 Oct. 1941, LDS archives. The unpublished, eighteen-page FitzGibbon letter remains one of the more important Mormon statements on war. For Clark’s repeated predictions of the European conspiracy, Deseret News, 7 June 1934 and 24 June 1937; CR, Apr. 1937, 23, and Apr. 1941, 20.
94. General authority Richard L. Evans made the suggestion of possible LDS conscientious objection, though he also cited the Mormon tradition of upholding civil authority and military service; CR, Apr. 1941, 52. Also see First Presidency to William C. FitzGibbon, 11 Oct. 1941.
96. Grant’s growing mistrust of Roosevelt became explicit in December 1942. “Perhaps I do the President an injustice and I would not want to be quoted, but I sometimes think he [Roosevelt] is laying his plans in getting into the war to become a dictator”; Heber J. Grant to Silas S. Smith, 12 Dec. 1942, Heber J. Grant Letterbooks. Also see Heber J. Grant to George N. Peek, 29 Nov. 1941; Heber J. Grant to John W. O’Leary, 4 Nov. 1941; Heber J. Grant to Florence Pearson, 20 Jan. 1942; and Heber J. Grant to Eric Ryberg, 31 Jan. 1944, Heber J. Grant Letterbooks.
97. Heber J. Grant to Richard L. Evans, 8 Dec. 1941; Heber J. Grant to Edith [Young], 2 May 1942; Heber J. Grant to Katherine Ivins, 22 May 1942; Heber J. Grant to Silas S. Smith, 12 Dec. 1942, Heber J. Grant Letterbooks.
98. CR, Apr. 1942, 88-97. The text was subsequently reprinted in pamphlet form and distributed widely throughout the church. For Clark’s authorship of the message, Heber J. Grant to his granddaughter Joy, 4 Oct. 1942, Heber J. Grant Letterbooks.
99. Improvement Era 45 (May 1974): 274; Harold B. Lee and Mark E. Peterson to the First Presidency, 30 Sept. 1947, George Albert Smith Papers; Heber J. Grant to J. Parley White, 14 Apr. 1942; Heber J. Grant to Tom [Judd], 7 Oct. 1942; and Heber J. Grant to Hugo B. Anderson, 18 Nov. [p. 300] 1942, Heber J. Grant Letterbooks.
101. Scharffs, Mormonism in Germany, 91-116; Joseph M. Dixon, “Mormons in the Third Reich: 1933-1945,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 7 (Spring 1972): 70-78. The executed Helmuth Huebner had three accomplices who were imprisoned.
106. F. R. Flournoy, “Protestant Churches and the War,” South Atlantic Quarterly 42 (Apr. 1943): 113-45; Roland H. Bainton, Christian Attitudes Toward War and Peace: A Historical Survey and Critical Re-evaluation (New York: Abingdon Press, 1960), 14.
107. J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Stand Fast By Our Constitution (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1962), 129. The church’s general conferences were virtually devoid of any comment concerning the Korean War, though the Deseret News strongly denounced international communism and other church periodicals discussed the broad issue of Christianity and the war. See William E. Berrett, “Spirituality and Armed Conflict,” Improvement Era 55 (Apr. 1952) 242, 271-73.
108. Boyd K. Packer, Improvement Era 71 (June 1968): 48-61. For other general authority comment, see ibid., 69 (Dec. 1966): 1,121-23; 71 (June 1968): 48-50, 79-81. The attitudes of other churches during the war is detailed by H. C. Quinley, “Protestant Clergy and the War in Vietnam,” Public Opinion Quarterly 34 (Spring 1970): 43-52.
110. Eugene England, “The Tragedy of Vietnam and the Responsibility of Mormons,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 2 (Winter 1967): 74. Also Knud S. Larsen, “A Voice Against the War,” ibid. (Autumn 1967): 163-66 and essays in Thomasson, War, Conscription, Conscience and [p. 301] Mormonism.
117. D&C 134, esp. vv. 1-5. This statement apparently was written by Smith’s associate, Oliver Cowdery, and at first was appended to the Doctrine and Covenants. Twentieth-century editions, however, have included it without distinction in Smith’s revelations. Also see ibid., 58:21 and 98:4.
119. For an examination of the Congregational transfer of loyalty, James Fulton Maclear, “The True American Union of Church and State: The Reconstruction of the Theocratic Tradition,” Church History 28 (Mar. 1959): 41-62.
120. Robert Flanders restates this familiar refrain in Mormon historiography within an important new context, “To Transform History: Early Mormon Culture and the Concept of Time and Space,” ibid., 40 (Mar. 1971): 108-17.
121. Church members clearly were not immune to the pervasive patriotism common during war. Like the church’s press in America, both the German Der Stern and the British Millennial Star united religion and nationalism during their country’s wars. For example, during the Crimean War, 1854-56, the Star found Britain and France to be “on the side of right” and confidently predicted victory—partially because of national virtue and religiosity.