Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as “Mormons” by friends of other faiths) delight to honor those who have served in the armed forces. In America we celebrate Memorial Day, which is a day dedicated to remember those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Some ask if we as Latter-day Saints celebrate Memorial Day, and the answer is of course a resounding yes!
In modern revelation we read this verse of scripture, “renounce war and proclaim peace” (Doctrine and Covenants 98:16). This is the ideal. But President Gordon B. Hinckley (late prophet of the LDS church) spoke that Mormons also believe:
As citizens we are all under the direction of our respective national leaders… Those in the armed services are under obligation to their respective governments to execute the will of the sovereign. When they joined the military service, they entered into a contract by which they are presently bound and to which they have dutifully responded.
One of our Articles of Faith, which represent an expression of our doctrine, states, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law” (A of F 1:12). (“War and Peace,” Ensign, May 2003).
Obviously we do not want war. We can proclaim peace; after all, we follow the Prince of Peace, even the Lord Jesus Christ. But we obey, honor, and sustain the law of the respective countries that we live in; this means that we do participate in war.
In the Book of Mormon (a sacred book of scripture that testifies of Jesus Christ) we learn of two groups of people (the Nephites and the Lamanites) who are at war—off and on—for hundreds of years. President Hinckley continued saying:
When war raged between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the record states that “the Nephites were inspired by a better cause, for they were not fighting for … power but they were fighting for their homes and their liberties, their wives and their children, and their all, yea, for their rites of worship and their church.
And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God (Alma 43:45–46).
The Lord counseled them, “Defend your families even unto bloodshed” (Alma 43:47). (“War and Peace,” Ensign, May 2003).
Clearly it is necessary to participate in war at certain times and for certain causes. We, as Mormons, are so grateful that there are those who are willing to take up arms to defend and sustain our families and our liberties, and to stand against tyranny, threat, and oppression.
With Memorial Day coming up, I am reminded of my forebears who were willing to give everything, even their lives, so that we can live as to have those blessings that they defended—I am so grateful for them. And I am humbled to think that there were (and are) courageous men and women who attain the attribute of selflessness—as Christ so masterfully taught during His earthly ministry—by serving in the military.
It is my hope that this Memorial Day, and each year after, we may more reverently respect and honor those who have given their lives in the pursuit of happiness for their friends, family, and those whom they never even met.
Modern Day Apostles and Prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) who have served in the armed forces:
Thomas S. Monson (President and Prophet of the Mormon church)
Henry B. Eyring (First Counselor in the First Presidency)
Dieter F. Uchtdorf (Second Counselor in the First Presidency)
Boyd K. Packer (President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles)
L. Tom Perry (apostle)
Russell M. Nelson (apostle)
Dallin H. Oaks (apostle)
M. Russell Ballard (apostle)
Robert D. Hales (apostle)
D. Todd Christofferson (apostle)