When President Obama took to the podium to speak on the recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu concerning the situation with Iran, I tuned in to see what the President would do in this pivotal situation. I was shocked when he began speaking about “basic truths” that continue a foreign and military policy that is unconstitutional, unjust, and very dangerous. We clearly haven’t learned from our mistakes. This is a situation that the Nephites can shed much light on because they made the same mistakes, at times, that the U.S. is now.  Even with the imminent withdrawal of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drums of war continue to beat even louder with Iran entering the sights of American military might.

The president laid out the position of his administration in his speech on March 4th 2012:

“Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand: No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction. (Applause.) And so, I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and all of Israel’s leaders.

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But, it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States. (Applause.)

Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

And that is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people, and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is what we have done.”

These are all good reasons for doing whatever the United States and its allies can to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. I have no beef with this as long as it is through diplomacy. You see, according to many prophets in the Book of Mormon, Old Testament and even in D&C 98, military action against an enemy is a line that should be crossed only under very specific rules of engagement.

In 1942 the war drums were beating all around the world. In response David O. McKay stated in a conference report the following:

“There are conditions when entrance into war is justifiable, and when a Christian nation may, without violation of principles, take up arms against an opposing force. Such a condition, however, is not a real or fancied insult given by one nation to another. When this occurs proper reparation may be made by mutual understanding, apology, or by arbitration. Neither is there justifiable cause found in a desire or even a need for territorial expansion. The taking of territory implies the subjugation of the weak by the strong—the application of the jungle law. Nor is war justified in an attempt to enforce a new order of government, or even to impel others to a particular form of worship, however better the government or eternally true the principles of the enforced religion may be.”

I find it particularly interesting that he states war is not justified “in an attempt to enforce a new order of government…” This begs the question was Iraq justified? If there wasn’t an imminent threat to our nation (WMD), and we have no right to impose our version of democracy on Iraqis, then what was the justification? At best it was the threat of a possible future imminent threat that triggered the longest war in U.S. history.

Even with that debate closed in favor of Iraq being unjustified, a similar situation is evolving between the United States and Iran. What justification do we, or Israel, have for attacking Iran? Is a military attack on Iran’s nuclear sites a defensive move or an offensive move? Let’s continue with President Obama’s speech before we dive into the Nephite wars to find out. President Obama continues:

“…The United States and Israel both ascess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon”…

OK, so Iran is not yet an imminent threat, just the threat of an imminent threat…..possibly….someday…..but ,we don’t know when or how, if ever. The president continues:

“…I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.  (Applause.)  That includes all elements of American power:  A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency. ” (Applause.)(emphasis added)

(Full remarks at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/03/04/remarks-president-aipac-policy-conference-0)

This is a clear plan for marching to war with Iran. He understates it as a “military effort,” which I don’t think means handing out Hershey bars to civilians. He is threatening a missile strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if they don’t comply with our demands. That action would be followed by a declaration of war from Iran, the closing of the straight of Hormuz and then a real conflict as the two Navys clash. All this would skyrocket gas prices and cripple the world economy. So military action, war, must be justified. But is it?

Now that we’ve laid out the situation let’s turn to the wars of the Nephites, and the conflicts of the Saints as found in the Doctrine and Covenants to gain some insights on how we should approach this situation and see where the line is that justifies an attack.

The Nephites, an ancient American nation who established the first (known) democracy in the new world in 92 B.C. with the first reign of the Judges elected by the people, had many wars and debated the justification for military action time and time again. Dozens of chapters are devoted to their American wars, but let’s just look at a couple of examples.

In the book of Alma (chapter 43 verse 46) the Lord provides the Nephites (and us) with a clear justification for military action:

“Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.”

In short, defend yourselves. That is justified. But, when it comes to an offensive campaign against their enemies, the Nephites had different rules of engagement. In the Book of  Mormon, chapter 3, the leader of the Nephite army, Mormon, who had led his people through countless conflicts with their enemies, resigned because the Nephites had shifted from a defensive position to an offensive:

10 And they (the Nephites) did swear by the heavens, and also by the throne of God, that they would go up to battle against their enemies, and would cut them off from the face of the land.

11 And it came to pass that I, Mormon, did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abomination.

In this instance the offensive campaign was a wicked abomination. Why? As the war continues we gain more insight to this position:

14 Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives.

15 And this was their faith, that by so doing God would prosper them in the land, or in other words, if they were faithful in keeping the commandments of God that he would prosper them in the land; yea, warn them to flee, or to prepare for war, according to their danger.

Alma 48:14 (14–16)

This couldn’t be clearer in my opinion. Do not attack — defend, keep the commandments of the Lord and He will warn us of imminent danger. The current foreign policy of the United States is that of pre-emptive attack. It began with President Bush and now Obama is marching down the same road. We as a people and government have cut God out of the equation. We’re putting our trust in politicians to warn us of imminent threats and not in God. Look where that got us in Iraq. The politicians were wrong. No weapons of mass destruction poised to harm Americans or our allies. It is a choice of putting our trust in God or in government.  Even though all our currency is inscribed with the motto, “In God we trust” do we really? Our founders did and left us that testimony but it seems entirely lost from the government of the United States today.  Nowhere in President Obama’s speech does he reference the guiding hand of providence as our founding fathers so often did throughout their wars.

The argument that we need to attack to defend Israel is false because Israel has the same promise from the Lord:

Isa. 31:5

As birds flying, so will the Lord of hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.

The Old Testament laid out these basic rules of engagement, the Book of Mormon refines and clarifies them and then with further light and knowledge more is revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith as he and the early Saints grapple with how to respond to attacks from their enemies.

This further clarification on the rules of engagement is found in Doctrine and Covenants revelation 98 or known as chapter 98. Here are some of the excerpts:

D&C 98

14 Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.

15 For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me.

16 Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace

–23 Now, I speak unto you concerning your families—if men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded;

24 But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.

25 And again, if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundred fold.

26 And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold;

This is an expansion of the “turn the other cheek” teaching by Christ as found in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:38–42

38 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, An aeyefor an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not aevil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right bcheek, cturn to him the other also.

 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.

 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

 42 aGive to him that asketh thee, and from him that would bborrow of thee turn not thou away.

Continuing in D&C 98 the Lord reiterates the defensive position:

…..if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified.

32 Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles.

33 And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.

34 And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue;

35 And if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord;

36 Then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people.

In short, we need permission from the Lord to declare war on any other nation. Some might argue that the secular affairs of politics and our nation do not fall under the same guidance that a priesthood leader does. This is not so. The President of the United States is ordained by the constitution to the office he holds. His religious affiliation is not a determining factor to this appointment which is taken by an oath. That oath is to uphold the covenants and laws God has given this land as found in the Constitution. A document the Lord reaffirms in the beginning of D&C chapter 98:

4 And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them.

5 And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me.

6 Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land;

The constitution states that congress must approve a declaration of war but the current foreign policy of the United States is: attack potential enemies under the presumption of imminent threat by an executive order from the President. Such has been the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and now Iran. This policy is contrary to the laws of God and the constitution he inspired, and it is a very dangerous path to tread.

The scriptures from the Old Testament, the New Testament of Christ, the Book of Mormon, the prophet of the restoration Joseph Smith and even the prophet of the Lord in 1942 all warn that the only justification for attacking an enemy is in defense of our nation. If we go on the offensive, the Lord will not be with us and American lives will be lost.

President Obama began his arguments on March 4th:

“Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand”……

The basic truth we all must understand is this: the best defense is a righteous people worthy of the Lord’s protection and leaders that are guided by providence. Without this divine blessing, we are vulnerable, but with this divine blessing, neither the United States or Israel can be touched. But, if we are an aggressor, and go on the offensive, we lose this blessing.

So what can we do about it all? As I see it, there are three things.

First, live the commandments, do what you ought to do, be worthy of the liberty God will uphold in our lives if we keep his commandments.

Second, urge others to do the same. Your example will be very effective at this.

Thirdly, support politicians that advocate a defensive only military policy. With a little research it should be apparent who is willing to stay the hand of American military might and who is an aggressor. When you find this kind of candidate  —  donate, volunteer, and tell your friends to look into it!  A vote for a candidate like this is a vote for upholding the values the Lord has outlined for us.

If we don’t take responsibility for our country’s decisions, we have no place to complain when it chooses poorly, and the consequences will be entirely justified.

I believe that this democracy was founded by providential guidance, will continue to receive that guidance, be supported, defended and protected, if we are worthy of it. Let’s get worthy of it and do what we can to stay worthy. Our country needs leaders that understand the rules of engagement and citizens that hold them accountable to these basic truths.

Image: Xavier AllardCC BY 2.0