The question of a military draft is ironic. Essentially, what is considered is whether it is O.K. to infringe upon someone’s liberty at the present (forcing them into the military against their will) to defend the future of his own liberty.
Let me be clear: when a free nation faces a direct threat to their liberty, I am all in favor of using as much encouragement and persuasion as possible to get every able person to defend the land. However, what I oppose is forcing innocent citizens to join through the threat of taking their property, imprisonment, or death.
From a practical perspective, having a military built on a voluntary basis ultimately keeps the government in check. If the government declares a war that a large majority of the people disagrees with, there won’t be enough military support to actually go to war, thus allowing the government to be directed by the voice of the people. If there truly is a threat to life, liberty, and property, the government should be able to convince the majority of the people to support a war.
The only reasonable argument, in favor of a draft, is that when a free nation is at war and faces seemingly eminent destruction unless it has a big enough military, it can implement compulsory military service. However, I believe this is a flawed argument.
A Practical Example
Here’s practical example of why forcing someone to put his life at risk for eminent destruction violates liberty. Let’s say my young child suddenly jumps into the street in front of a car while I’m nearby on the sidewalk. He’s too far away for me to push out of the way, and therefore he faces eminent destruction unless the car crashes into two adult bodies to stop it in time. I can’t grab an adult next to me and risk his life by shoving him with me in front of the car. This violates my neighbor’s God-given rights to life and liberty. If the other adult agreed and willingly jumped with me, it would be O.K., but I can’t violate the rights of an innocent man in order to save another.
Captain Moroni Did NOT Implement a Draft
An argument I’ve heard, from those in favor of a draft, is that they believe Captain Moroni implemented a draft, based on Alma 51, when the Lamanites where coming to battle against the Nephites:
“[Moroni] sent a petition, with the voice of the people, unto the governor of the land, desiring he should read it, and give him (Moroni) power to compel those dissenters to defend their country or to put them to death… And it came to pass that it was granted according to the voice of the people [Alma 51:15–16].”
However, Moroni did not implement a draft; a draft is forcing innocent men to fight. Moroni only compelled criminals to fight; for verse 15 says “compel those dissenters” which refers to the king-men [Alma 51:15–16]. The king-men had recently attempted to deprive the Nephites of their free government and right of religion [Alma 51:4–8]. One becomes guilty of a crime upon attempting to violate the right of another, which gives us the right to use force against them. To highlight this principle, if someone holds a gun to my head, I can use force even before they actually shoot, because they have attempted to deprive me of my liberty or life. Another example is that Satan was forced out of heaven, not because he ever actually deprived us of agency, but only because he attempted to deprive us of agency [Moses 4:3]. Therefore, the king-men were criminals for attempting to deprive the people of their liberty. Force can be used to limit criminals of their liberty until the threat of their criminal actions is gone and they have restored what has been lost. Therefore, the king-men were forced to fight as an opportunity for them to prove to the people they would now defend liberty and no longer be a threat to it. We never read of Moroni compelling the free-men, or any other innocent person, to fight. He only used persuasion and encouragement with them.
Another scripture passage where some falsely claim Captain Moroni implemented a draft is Alma 46:30–35. This is where Captain Moroni captures the followers of Amalichiah and forces them to “enter a covenant to support the cause of freedom, that they might maintain a free government” or “be put to death”. However, as in the previous example, these were criminals he was compelling to fight. In Alma 46:4–5 we learn they were attempting to overthrow a free government and establish corrupt kings and rulers. Once again, we don’t see him compelling the innocent, but only the criminals.
Alma 60:16 reinforces both of the above examples- that Moroni was justified in forcing these criminals to fight; for “these king-men, who caused so much bloodshed among ourselves” were not “true to the cause of our freedom.”
First Presidency Statement against Compulsory Military Service
The First Presidency of the Church put out a statement in which they opposed compulsory military service, and gave several reasons why (thanks to Conner Boyack for digging this up): http://www.connorboyack.com/blog/churchs-opposition-to-draft-in-1945
Why I Believe a Draft Contradicts the Foundation of the Atonement
In my opinion, a military draft contradicts a fundamental principle of the atonement. In the pre-mortal, Lucifer became the devil because he “sought to destroy the agency of man” [Moses 4:3]. All of Heavenly Father’s children now faced eminent destruction and enslavement for eternity if Christ would not perform an atonement to save us from the devil [2 Nephi 9:7–9]. Heavenly Father couldn’t force Christ to atone, because it would violate agency, a fundamental principle of the plan of salvation. Christ had to willingly volunteer. It would be complete hypocrisy for God to violate Christ’s agency to save us from Lucifer, who had become the devil, on the basis that he wanted to deprive both Christ and us of agency. On earth, if we face eminent destruction of a free nation, the worst that can happen is we’ll die and go to the next life where we will be free again; or we’ll be slaves until we die and go to the next life where we will be free again. Although deprivation of liberty through a corrupt government during mortal life would be cause for great suffering, it is merely a temporary condition from an eternal perspective.
If Heavenly Father can’t be justified in implementing a draft to save the entire human race from becoming slaves to the devil for the rest of eternity, how can mortals today, without direct revelation from God, ever justify a draft to save a single nation from becoming slaves for a snippet of time (mortal life) in the eternal scheme of things?
I will forever be grateful that Christ volunteered to save me from eminent, eternal destruction: “Father, thy will be done“ [Moses 4:1]. Likewise, I am grateful for those who willingly took up arms to establish this great nation, and those who willingly defend our liberty today.