Monday, December 27, 2010

Peace on Earth

I heard an earnest and sincere appeal in a sacrament meeting invocation for "peace on earth" yesterday.  This time of year we hear it more often than any other because we are reminded of "glad tidings of great joy" and "peace on earth, goodwill to men."

Joseph Smith
It seems I can never pass a Christmas Day, however, without being reminded and thinking deeply on the content of what I call "The Christmas Day Revelation" of December 25, 1832.  (See Section 87, The Doctrine and Covenants).  Ironically, on the day we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace (even though it was really April 6th), it is designated as a "revelation and prophecy on war," given through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

It is only eight short verses, but they are packed with implications stretching down through the hallways of time since that day into our lives today.

Benjamin Franklin
The establishment of a federal government in the United States of America intentionally bypassed the question of slavery.  Many, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were seeking abolition of slavery when they met with others to write the Constitution.  Of the four, Franklin was the most adamant about it.  (It's well known that Washington and Jefferson as "Southerners" were slave owners, but neither liked or advocated the practice).  Franklin and the others later relented "in order to form a more perfect union."  To get agreement on "most" provisions they set aside the slavery question for a later day.  They knew they had to get agreement, and soon, to a basic framework that would work to replace the wholly inadequate "Articles of Confederation."  Washington fretted about it from the moment the Revolutionary War ended.  So the abolition of slavery, the major sticking point, was delayed and deferred.

By the fall and winter of 1832, political discourse in the United States was dominated by something known as the "Nullification Crisis."  There remained tensions among the various states who had framed the Constitution.  The Southern tier of states felt threatened by the North.  The locus of the controversy was South Carolina.  There was a protective tariff enacted by Congress in 1828, known angrily in the South as the "Tariff of Abominations."  Like their former masters in England had done, this tariff with enough votes in the Northern states to pass it, imposed heavy duties on foreign manufactured goods coming into America.  That obviously favored and protected the economy of the industrial North, but it worked against the agrarian South and its slave economy. 

In addition to the economic problems, the South was becoming increasingly aware of a growing antislavery movement in the North.  In order to protect itself from these threats, South Carolina passed something called an "Ordinance of Nullification."

Recently in Virginia, using many of the logical arguments involving the misinterpretation of the Commerce Clause in the Constitution, a federal judge declared the "individual mandate" embedded in the health care legislation that passed last year to be unconstitutional.  Similar arguments are being made today in Arizona and Texas about border control.  Not unlike the current debate and the court actions aimed at blunting the Obamacare legislation today, this 1832 ordinance was based on states rights philosophy which claimed the following:
  • Sovereignty resided in the states.
  • The states had created the federal government.
  • The states could decide if a law was constitutional.
  • If it was not, the federal law could be declared null and void in that state.

So, on November 24, 1832, a special convention in South Carolina declared the Tariff of 1828 null and void. This explosive situation nearly caused a war in 1832. (You can read about it here: William W. Freehling, Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836 [New York: Harper and Row, 1966]).

So it was out of this background of events from which sprang Joseph Smith's Prophecy on War.  It's a fair question how much Joseph Smith really knew about the details of the political controversy.  On the day the revelation was given (again, it was Christmas Day, 1832), we get this glimpse from the History of the Church:
"Appearances of troubles among the nations became more visible this season than they had previously been since the Church began her journey out of the wilderness. The ravages of the cholera were frightful in almost all the large cities on the globe. The plague broke out in India, while the United States, amid all her pomp and greatness, was threatened with immediate dissolution. The people of South Carolina, in convention assembled (in November), passed ordinances, declaring their state a free and independent nation; and appointed Thursday, the 31st day of January, 1833, as a day of humiliation and prayer, to implore almighty God to vouchsafe His blessings, and restore liberty and happiness within their borders. President Jackson issued his proclamation against this rebellion, called out a force sufficient to quell it, and implored the blessings of God to assist the nation to extricate itself from the horrors of the approaching and solemn crisis."  (HC 1:301).

Eleven years later, Joseph Smith was still interested in this subject. In Section 130 of The Doctrine and Covenants he wrote:  "I prophesy, in the name of the Lord God, that the commencement of the difficulties which will cause much bloodshed previous to the coming of the Son of Man will begin in South Carolina. It will probably arise through the slave question. This a voice declared to me, while I was praying earnestly on the subject, December 25th, 1832."  (D&C 130:12-13).
It's obvious the Prophet was aware of political events, and he knew slavery was emerging as an outgrowth of the nullification issue over the tariff.  So he did what he always did -- he studied it out in his own mind and "prayed earnestly" about it. 

There is a definition of "prophet" in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, defining a prophet as, (a) a person who speaks by divine inspiration, and (b) a predictor.  Joseph Smith is cited as the example with this prophecy.

So here's what happened:  He made this prophecy 28 years, 3 months and 17 days before the event happened.

His first prediction was that war would occur between the states. Of course, this war did take place and is called The Civil War.  Between 1861 and 1865 a bitter war raged in the United States. It remains the bloodiest and most costly war in terms of lives in our American history.  (The best single-volume source is perhaps J. G. Randall and David Herbert Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction [Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Health and Company, 1969]).

Joseph Smith prophesied that South Carolina would take the initiative. On April 12, 1861, the Confederate forces laid siege to Fort Sumter.  This fort, filled with garrisoned United States troops, was located in the harbor off Charleston, South Carolina.  South Carolina definitely forced the issue.

He further prophesied this war would bring death to many (click the link above).  The Prophet foretold and accurately described the nature of the antagonists in this conflict. He specifically stated the North would fight the South.  This part of the prophecy is especially interesting because West also opposed East in the 1830s.  It could have gone another way, but Joseph Smith declared it would be a war of North against South.

The precision is interesting because Joseph Smith said the Southern states would call upon Great Britain and other nations for aid.  Once war broke out the South did send commissioners to various European nations to seek diplomatic recognition and military aid.  The South sent representatives to Great Britain, France, Holland and Belgium. The 1832 prophecy of Joseph Smith was fulfilled precisely.

Mohandas Gandhi

Nelson Mandela
Joseph Smith's prophecy on war was not limited to the American Civil War. It also included wars in other nations. In fact, the prophecy declared that "war will be poured out upon all nations." Subsequent events have proven he was accurate.  The distinctive reference to "slaves shall rise up against their masters" has been fulfilled again and again since then, the overthrow of dictators ever since being in the first rank of those prophecies.  Mohandas Gandhi in his struggle through civil disobedience for independence in India, or the Nelson Mandela saga in the abolition of apartheid in South Africa immediately come to mind as two examples.  Liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein is another more recent example (with a big assist from America, of course).

Orson Pratt
Leaders of the Church were fully aware of Joseph Smith's prophecy concerning the Civil War as early as the 1830s. Orson Pratt recalled:  "When I was a boy, I traveled extensively in the United States and the Canadas, preaching this restored gospel.  I had a manuscript copy of the Revelation [on war], which I carried in my pocket, and I was in the habit of reading it to the people among whom I traveled and preached."  (JD, 18:224).

Section 87 also provides other doctrinal insights.  It discusses the Lamanites, or the American Indians. These people are referred to in this revelation as "the remnants."  The revelation tells us that the Indians would become angry and "vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation" (v. 5).  (See Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 4:334-35; and The Millennial Messiah, 242, 248).

* * *

Revelation and prophecy on war, given through Joseph Smith, December 25, 1832. History of the Church 1:301-2.

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the wars that will shortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of South Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
2 And the time will come that war will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
3 For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then war shall be poured out upon all nations.
4 And it shall come to pass, after many days, slaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.
5 And it shall come to pass also that the remnants who are left of the land will marshal themselves, and shall become exceedingly angry, and shall vex the Gentiles with a sore vexation.
6 And thus, with the sword and by bloodshed the inhabitants of the earth shall mourn; and with famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven, and the fierce and vivid lightning also, shall the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God, until the consumption decreed hath made a full end of all nations;
7 That the cry of the saints, and of the blood of the saints, shall cease to come up into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, from the earth, to be avenged of their enemies.
8 Wherefore, stand ye in holy places, and be not moved, until the day of the Lord come; for behold, it cometh quickly, saith the Lord. Amen.

* * *

The concluding verse is perhaps our key to understanding.  While we yearn for peace on earth, there will be no peace until He comes again.  The Middle East combatants will not suddenly sit down one day soon and devise a "two-state" solution for the border conflicts extant in Israel.  Afghanistan and Iran will not one day suddenly devise a truce with terrorist factions determined to overthrow freedom in every country on earth.  Tin pot dictators like Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro will not suddenly reverse course, in fact they are showing renewed signs of strengthening their grip on their respective countries.  The former Soviet Union today shows greater belligerence than ever before with little sign of continuing its once-defined course toward greater individual freedom.  China, while peaceful today, has an unruly step-child in North Korea.  Wars and their persistent rumors will continue.  Threats mounted by "progressives" from within America's borders to eliminate Constitutionally-defined freedoms continue to foment.

The antidote in the revelation for all of this is "stand in holy places and be not moved."  Holy places can be defined in many ways:  the stakes of Zion, dedicated buildings like chapels, temples, etc., homes, and wherever a "holy person" resides.  There may be no peace on earth in 2010, but there can be peace in our hearts, knowing we are true to the covenants we have made, true to the God of heaven, and true to His leaders whom He has sent among us.

As a bishop, I once heard a young man declare to me in defiance, "No one has the right to judge my heart, and especially NOT YOU!!"  Many who are not at peace in their hearts find it difficult to submit to constituted priesthood leaders and to accept them as the Lord's servants.  They believe they know better than the humble "sent servants" God has put in the judgment seats in modern Israel.  To submit to their inspired callings is to find the peace we seek because it aligns with His mind and will.  Increasingly, we will only find the peace in this world we seek when we put ourselves in alignment with His servants.  I have written extensively about this in the past. 

We have been promised peace, not world peace, but only on this wise, as found in John 14:27:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth,
give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.


  1. A Holiday Thought...

    Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

    Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

    So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

    Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

    Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

    ~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~


    Anyone can break this cycle of violence! Everyone has the power to choose compassion! Please visit these websites to align your core values with life affirming choices: &

    "Any great change must expect opposition because it shakes the very foundation of privilege."
    Lucretia Coffin Mott, 1793-1880, minister, women's rights leader, abolitionist, peace activist, humanitarian

  2. Thanks for sharing -- what we can do, we must. Viewing the video reminded me once again how simple the whole plan of salvation might have been absent that pesky principle of agency. Much as we would like to sometimes, we cannot force our will upon others, only through patience, long-suffering and love unfeigned. Choices, agency and consequences make up the fabric of our lives. Sometimes the poor choices of others affect us dramatically, particularly when those choices lead to war in all its hues and shapes. This poster suggests a vegan diet to begin reshaping the poor choices of others on the planet. It may not stop wars immediately or indefinitely, but the peaceful individual values suggested are certainly noteworthy. It all begins with one individual deciding to make a beginning toward a better tomorrow.