Centerville Citizen and a First Presidency Message

In a day when some think that Utah is “for war,” it is worth recalling with the Centerville Citizen the words of the First Presidency during WWII—a war which was unquestionably a just war (at least in the Atlantic Theatre). How much more should we take to heart their words during this current explosion of U.S. military adventurism?

26 Responses to “Centerville Citizen and a First Presidency Message”

  1. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I have read that statement before. Sad that we need a reminder that exhausting all other means is part of being a disciple. Note that the First Presidency called upon all nations to bring an end to the war, not just the U.S. In that context, I can totally imagine (and support) issuing a similar statement for the Iraq War. This isn’t some hippie b.s., it’s our leaders calling for leaders to be real leaders.

    I do have a disagreement with your use of the words of a high school student to illustrate your point. I don’t know how old this girl is, but it’s safe to assume somewhere between 14 and 18. There are high school kids who are very interested in the world, but it doesn’t seem right to expect them to have a fully developed sense of current events. If you talked to 16-year-old Derek or 15-year-old Aaron, I suspect we’d both be a little embarrassed about the immature way we saw things before.

  2. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I just noticed my three uses of “leaders” in one sentence and am now doubled over in laughter. Disregard that if you can.

  3. WP Says:

    I understand JRC also said after the Hiroshima nuclear attack that the US one day would receive similar treatment because of our doing this to a civilian population. We had lost the moral high ground. I am researching the quote. Our children’s children would reap the whirlwinds of atomic fallout he said something to that effect.

    The other very strong anti war and weaponry First Presidency was that of Spencer W. Kimball in opposing the MX missile system and his Bicentennial Address in ’76 wherein he called us a ‘warlike people’. I also liked his quote about ‘training a man in the art of war and calling him a patriot’.

    Thanks for the post Derek.

  4. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Aaron, you are right. “High School Derek” wore a flag pin representing his support for the contemporary first Gulf War, and would might even have gone so far as to foolishly identified himself and his society as “pro-war.” And that is my point; not that the student referred to is stupid, but that the dominant ideology in our culture convinces many of the less reflective that we are somehow pro-war. We as a culture obviously need to hearken more to the words of our spiritual leaders and the Prince of Peace.

    Yes, while the declaration applies to all leaders, for us as U.S. citizens, we should be focused on those leaders who represent us (and who are the biggest culprits in creating war among the free world).

    Great further quotes, WP.

  5. lamonte Says:

    I believe a little research will show that the LDS Church leadership has always promoted the peaceful approach to world issues, following the teachings of Jesus. I lived in Utah during the MX Missle debate and the church caqme out with strong language denouncing nuclear proliferation. Paragraphs such as,

    “First, by way of general observation we repeat our warnings against the terrifying arms race in which the nations of the earth are presently engaged. We deplore in particular the building of vast arsenals of nuclear weaponry. We are advised that there is already enough such weaponry to destroy in large measure our civilization, with consequent suffering and misery of incalculable extent.”

    …were only a small part of the statement. I was amuzed and angered by the attempts of the conservative community to ignore these strong passages and continue support of that boondoggle project.

    The full text can be found here

  6. mfranti Says:

    lamonte? nine-moons lamonte?

  7. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I have some further thoughts on this post. I would be interested to know what wars since the birth of our nation you feel have been justified. There are several scriptural instances and a number of statements by the Brethren that make it clear that war is a terrible tragedy, but living under tyranny is much worse.

    What brought me to that question was your mention of your wearing a flag suggesting support for the first Gulf War back in high school, as if that were a bad thing or something you wouldn’t do today. I was in sixth grade in January 1991 when President Bush Sr. went to war against Saddam, but it seems to me that it was a very different situation. Saddam was much more of a threat, and Congress almost unanimously approved the action, as did the U.N. What I think you’re getting at is that wearing a flag and being jingoistic is not a good way to support your country. But I think people realize more than you give them credit for that war is not a fun experience, and the use of such symbols as you wore is meant to say, “our prayers are with you; come back safely,” and not necessarily an expression of bloodlust, and often, we don’t take time to appreciate our country in times of peace, so we awkwardly do so when there is trouble. Most recently, and I know you and I have differences on how much 9/11 actually “changed” things, but at the very least it made people appreciate their blessings for a while. Thoughts?

  8. Jennifer Says:

    Aaron – you have a great question here. I think the most important phrase you wrote is “war is a terrible tragedy, but living under tyranny is much worse.”
    There are grave humanitarian crises/genocides/tyrants that have been largely ignored by the US over the past 100 yrs. because intervening would not “protect US interests” (maybe that’s code for “business investments/opportunities?”) If we really cared about the welfare of other people and ousting their tyrants, our history of wars might look a bit different than it does today. IMHO.

  9. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I won’t argue with that. I’ve said more than once that it is a tragedy that with all of our hand-wringing about Darfur, no one sees fit to do anything about it. Having said that, I won’t be so cynical to say that it always comes down to business investments. We have certainly had corruption, but we have also done some great and unprecedented things to build nations when it had very little payoff (at least immediately) for ourselves. Vietnam was an unpopular war that didn’t put any gold in our pockets, but was prosecuted by the “true believers” who were extremely concerned (and not without good reason) about the spread of communism. Of course our own interests are always going to be a part of the equation. But you can’t take down every murderous dictator in the world. So I’d be interested in hearing your opinion on what the formula should be.

  10. Jennifer Says:

    True enough, it’s not always about business & investments. But the “gold in our pockets” is not often visible to the average citizen either.
    I doubt there is a formula that could explain how to mix dictator/interests/military intervention. I think that the nations’ leaders have a large duty to the citizens and to other nations to be careful, which clearly they haven’t been recently. Military action should be the last solution, not the first or second or third.

  11. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I doubt there’s a perfect formula either. It’s not an exact science. But since I have you, I’d like to hear your opinion too. It is a very hard line to walk. I am basically in support of throwing off the chains of evil dictators (like the situation in Burma), but we have to be careful about overzealousness. Where do you feel we’ve erred, and what do you think we’ve done right? Where should we have stepped in and didn’t?

  12. Edward Lalone Says:

    I wrote a post over at and am posting a link:

    I think this may answer some questions about when war is justified. I feel that this is outlined in the scriptures and have studied this before forming my opinion on the Iraq War. I wasn’t aware of this statement by Church leaders prior to it being posted but I am not shocked that they would have said this since it is consistent with the teachings of the scriptures and is the word of the Lord.

  13. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Aaron, I claim to have scrutinized every military action (or covert “intelligence” operation) our nation has undertaken in detail. But I have studied a fair amount of our history, and based on my studies I believe that there have been a total of twice in which our nation was justified in the use of military force: The Civil War (both because succession is illegal, and because ending slavery in our nation was a just cause) and the European theatre in WWII (Hitler is one of the few times when the stereotype of world conquering madman has been true, posed a threat to the entire planet, and was poised to commit multiple genocides–Russian, Slavic, and likely African as well as Jewish). You’re right, the threat of tyranny is one worth taking up arms against. But we are deluded if we believe that any of our foes against which we’ve taken up arms (Hitler excepted) threatened the U.S. with tyranny. On the contrary, we’ve often supported tyrants with our military.

    Yes, I do consider it a bad thing that I was a front-runner for jingoism during the time of the First Gulf War. I don’t consider it all that different. Yes, it was given the support of the U.N, so it was not illegal. But that does not make it moral. We were not defending a democratic society, but were rather defending one corrupt monarch/plutocracy from an autocracy. The motivation was, like now, increasing our geopolitical influence in the region (consider how many military bases we had in the region before the war vs after) and promote our economic interests. And the advocates of the war were just as willing to fabricate justifications as was our current administration. No, that really isn’t very different from what is happening now, and was hardly worth supporting.

    (I had a friend at the time, one of Iranian descent, who was very much opposed to the war, and with whom I had a series of great discussions on the topic. I wonder what he’d think if he knew he had one–over a decade late)

    I think you’re really rationalizing, Aaron. Is Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” an expression of concern for the well-being of the troops? Did the Stadium of Fire crowd roar for Keith’s performance out of appreciation for the blessings of our nation? Please.

    No, neither this girl now nor I in my youth were motivated by bloodlust per se. But the primary reasons for the jingoism during unnecessary wars are on naked display in Keith’s song: competition, pride, and an acceptance of war as a legitimate means by which nations should settle disputes (ie, militarism). Those are not noble motivations.

    Did 9/11 make people think about their blessings? Maybe. I also heard a lot of people talking about “getting those bastards” and the like.

    There have been very few foreign policy decisions we’ve made without the expectation of a huge payoff for our economic interests. Take a gander at the conditions of the Marshall Plan, and note how much U.S. corporations profited from those conditions. U.S. economic interests were very much in mind.

    Vietnam didn’t put any money in U.S. coffers because we didn’t win and get the chance to make them an economic satelite. But have no fear, many elements of the military-industrial complex made piles of money off the death of hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Did the U.S. militarists have “good reason” to fear the consequences of a communist Vietnam? Hardly. The domino theory was a sham to keep a credulous public on board with U.S. militarism.

  14. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Interesting. You didn’t mention the Revolution, but I assume you are talking about wars that happened since there has been a real country, correct?

    Yes, we’ve supported tyrants with our military, most often to get rid of other tyrants. And that includes our uneasy alliance with Stalin during WWII. International politics is a messy deal. No one comes out smelling like a rose.

    I think it’s a mistake to give Hitler the special pedestal we put him on among tyrants. The timing of his rise to power combined with other conditions, and the terrible results, are what give him that place. It’s funny what we use to try to measure evil. Given the opportunity, who knows what some others are capable of? And I don’t believe that the U.S. necessarily needs to be in danger to enter into action. I describe myself as libertarian, but I hate tyranny, and I think there are times when it is appropriate to come to the assistance of those who are trying to throw it off. The Gulf War may have qualified, whatever ulterior motives some in high places may have had.

    Yes, there was absolutely a reason to fear the spread of communism. It was not all McCarthyism and paranoia. I was very young when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, but that is just one example off the top of my head which comes because I recently saw “Charlie Wilson’s War” (yes, I saw an R-rated movie). I don’t know how you can just dismiss it so easily.

    Lastly, and most troubling to me, is the comments about “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue”. It could be my “country boy” blood, but I admit to liking that song. Is it prideful, jingoistic, and hell-raising? Sure, but it’s also catchy and does a great job of firing people up, and I see nothing wrong with a little of that. It seems you really look down on the kind of people that I grew up with (i.e. rednecks). I’ve always found myself a little torn between liberal and conservative, because from my adolescence on, I found myself questioning a lot of the things going on in my small Utah town, and never felt like I quite fit in, but I also see amazing beauty in the rural life and people. I love the simplicity, and see a huge amount of good in the heartland, and values that should be conserved. I think you’re making a mistake in throwing those people all in the same basket and assuming that when they cheer for Toby it’s because they want as many Muslims to die as possible. When I hear that song, yes, it does actually make me a little misty for the blessings we enjoy. I can’t answer for anyone else. But knowing that you grew up in somewhat of a similar way, I’d like to ask you to consider the beauties of it too, and ask if you can’t appreciate some of it, and see what’s actually there instead of the caricatures.

  15. Derek Staffanson Says:

    You are correct; the Revolutionary War was not included because the nation of the United States of America did not exist at the time, and therefore did not fight that war.

    Pray tell, what tyrant did Pinochet help rid us of? Or Mobutu? No, the “lesser evil” strategy is most often simply a lie we tell ourselves to rationalize our profits at the expense of the innocent. Believe the lie if you wish.

    While Hitler is not unique in history, he is in rarefied air–despite the hyperbole of conniving politicians and activists who would elevate every foreign leader that doesn’t kow-tow to the U.S. to Hitlerian proportions.

    The reason I can dismiss the Communist threat so easily is because I’ve studied history. Individual Communist nations engaged in power grabs–just as the U.S. has done. But the Communist powers were no more plotting for global domination than the U.S.

    I’m afraid we differ on the pro-war attitude of the conservative crowd. I see the words of the Savior and see quite a problem with promoting jingoism, pride, and hell-raising. Firing people up and inspiring those feelings is nothing related to righteous and moral appreciation for the blessings of our nation. There is no beauty in the supposed values in Keith’s song; and far too often, those “values” are those we are instilling in our citizens–as evidenced by the girl referred to (and my own youthful stupidity).

    Before you talk about caricature, remember: Keith himself sang about putting a boot in the ass of the terrorists. It is no caricature to talk about the ugliness of the song.

    I have no problem with rural life or “the heartland” (however you wish to define it). What I have a problem with is small-mindedness, pride, ethnocentrism, jingoism, violence, ignorance, and hatemongering. While they may be common among the conservative “heartland,” they are in no way innate to rural life, nor a necessary feature of that heartland, and are certainly not compatible with the message of our Savior.

    I’ve more to say on the subject, but I’m saving a much more detailed exploration of the subject in a later post on war in general.

  16. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I said most often to get rid of other tyrants. I can hold my own and usually better than that when it comes to history, and I am more than aware that it’s not as pleasant as we’d like to believe.

    Putting a boot in the ass of the terrorists would have been completely appropriate. Unfortunately we extended that into some questionable territory.

    I think we’re talking about two different things when we talk about the people of the heartland. I’m not talking about support for the war. It seems that with the unpredictable events that have taken place and the direction we went after 9/11, many on the left forget what actually happened. The “small-mindedness, pride, ethnocentrism, jingoism, violence, ignorance, and hatemongering” is an apt description for the Taliban. There are disturbing elements in our culture, and particularly on the far right. But to hear you tell it, one would get the impression that you feel we invented those things, and the fact is that they’re not unique to America nor to the right. But your continual focus on what you think is wrong is really draining, and it’s why I’ve described you (and liberalism) as being negative. The truth is, I’ve been around countrified folks all my life, and for the most part they are some of the most decent, kindly people I have met, and generally way more down to earth and easy to talk to than latte-sipping liberals (which I know is another caricature, but I’m joking). I don’t believe a true liberal would just dismiss them as being small-minded bigots, which is what you often suggest. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but you seem to have a grudge against the way you were brought up, and it might be worthwhile to take a look and see if you need to make some peace with it.

    I look forward to the next post. And I’d love to meet you sometime. You always provide a stimulating, challenging blog and I’d love to get our families together sometime.

  17. jennifer Says:

    I have met plenty of “countrified” folks too – in fact I’m related to many! But I would probably not be classed that way myself (I’ve lived too many different places, attended too much college, read too many National Geographic magazines as a young child, etc) They are often decent, hardworking, generous, and sincere people. I like that! I wouldn’t call them bigots, but many of them do have limited perspectives/experiences about the broader nation and world. Big-hearted more than broad-minded. Not all, but many. It’s not necessarily bad, IMO, but different. I like hearing about different perspectives, religions, philosophies, countries, traditions, languages, etc. etc. I find them all fascinating. Does that mean I will abandon my own family’s history/religion/culture/patriotism??? Au contraire, it helps me to understand and appreciate those things more.
    Yes, those negative terms you listed do describe the Taliban, but they also describe some people here. The Taliban has no corner on that market. I’ve seen some LDS who are similarly dogmatic, unfortunately. Ditto Baptists, polygamists, Jews, JWs, Catholics, pick-a-group. Let’s be honest. Fear, egocentrism & ethnocentrism are alive and well in many sub-groups.
    Derek, I can’t confess that I was ever a pro-war flag waver, even as a child. (Ok this is part true and part fancy, but be patient for a sec). My liberal views began way back, for I was born in the Summer of Love (that part is true) – I had parents, aunts and uncles oppose the Vietnam fiasco. (also true – in fact, I recently learned that one particular aunt and uncle traveled around to participate in anti-war rallies and eventually had their own FBI file for their trouble – we kind of laugh about it now) I began to publicize my liberal views when I was very young – I was 3, actually (again, true story) Our ward had a primary program and I was on the front row, waving the “PEACE” sign to the whole congregation with a huge smile. My parents were mortified, and everyone laughed hysterically (this was in 1970, mind you) Later for the Ist Gulf War, I felt pretty sad and discouraged about that, and was dismayed that so many people saw nothing wrong with getting militarily involved there.
    So I figure that I cannot be anything but a peace-loving flower child at heart. (admittedly more fancy than fact) Shrug. It’s a thankless job sometimes, but that’s okay. I admit that I like Kucinich’s idea for a cabinet Secretary of Peace/Dept. of Peace (truth be told, I like a lot of his ideas) I agree that the war money could be better spent. It’s just who I am. My husband studied poli sci (focus middle east politics) and has similar progressive views…
    Peace, love & groovy hippie flowers – – – –

  18. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I always like your commentary Jennifer. But it reveals part of the problem. You say you’ve “attended too much college and read too many National Geographic magazines” to qualify. I’m sure in your case you don’t mean to insult anyone, but the world is getting smaller in the ways you talk about, and I’ve seen people make the same mistake you are thousands of times. Statistically, rural folks are more likely to attend college than their urban counterparts, and many are very engaged in politics and the reading of National Geographic. As I tried to clarify, I’m not talking about support for the war, since I myself was not for it.

    It’s interesting to hear all the praise for Kucinich. I actually feel he adds a lot to the debate, and is always very entertaining, and seems to have some strong convictions. On the other hand, his record as mayor of Cleveland was terrible, so I’m not sure I’d actually want him as president.

  19. jennifer Says:

    Sorry if the generalization seemed insulting. That was not my intent. I only am describing people I know, the way I observe them in many places over many years. If the general statistics show other trends, then so be it. I did, however, not say that all “country” people were that way, but many. And no one would accuse me of being a rural sort of person myself.

  20. Aaron Orgill Says:

    You’re so cute. I knew you didn’t mean anything by it. But there are many who are just terribly dismissive of country people and consider them ignorant yokels, which some are, but for the most part the stereotypes aren’t true (just as I’ve found that most lefties aren’t really pot-smoking communists).

  21. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Aaron, I find it fascinating that you are trying to introduce the red herring of a purported regional bias into this argument. I’ve never said anything at all about rural life. I have been very critical of suburban communities, which are entirely different from rural ones.

    I’ve been critical of all sorts of wrongful attitudes and perspectives, regardless of from which region or community they spawn. If you think that those attitudes, such as are typified in “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” are endemic to certain regions or lifestyles, that isn’t my fault.

    Funny, I seem to recall the Savior talking about turning cheeks, not boots in asses. The fact that members of our Church would accept such a concept is why we need to repeat the words about peace from our Savior and his prophets; maybe if we continue to be reminded of our duty to pursue peace, we’ll finally reject the violent ways of the natural man.

    Ah, Aaron, you’ve hit a key point. Yes, those words do describe the Taliban, a conservative Muslim entity. The conservatism of our society is much more mild, but it is still the same species. This is why I reject conservatism. Just because ours is more mild doesn’t make it good. Pointing to someone else and saying “yeah, but they are worse!” is really a rather juvenile way of shirking our responsibility for our own communities and nation.

    Great story from your youth, Jennifer! Way to stand for real morality!

  22. Aaron Orgill Says:

    The regional bias exists. I’m not introducing anything. Over a period of several months, you have shown your disdain for “the religious right,” and anything that even approaches conventional thought.

    Our conservatism is not in the same ballpark as the Taliban, it’s not the same league, it’s not even the same sport. I won’t try to talk down to you, because I’m sure you’re aware of how they treat women and gays over there, the human rights abuses, etc. To say our conservatism is light years ahead of theirs isn’t to accept everything as it is. Any thinking person would have to conclude that a truly perfect civilization (in our gospel ideals, God’s civilization) is light years ahead of us. And you’re right, it doesn’t even make it “good”. But flipping everything on its ear and throwing things out the door that have served mankind well for generations isn’t necessarily good either. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the terms “conservative” and “liberal”. To me, they are both positive terms. We conserve what is precious to us, much of which was handed down by God himself, and at the same time try to keep our minds open to and actively searching for things that will better ourselves, our neighbors, and planet. Do you not see a need for both?

  23. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Another perfect example of what I’m talking about. Think about this rationally, Aaron: Do you think I would dislike Davis County (which is suburban, not rural; if you don’t think there is a difference, ask my wife–who grew up in a small Wyoming farming town) if it were overwhelmingly liberal? No, of course not. I would be rather fond of Davis County if it were politically, culturally, and economically liberal. Therefore, it is absurd to claim I have a regional bias. I have a bias (or disdain, if you like) against conservativism, irrespective of the region or community type in which that conservatism is rooted.

    And while here in the Western U.S, rural communities are frequently associated with conservativism, it would be a mistake to believe that conservatism is somehow innately linked to rural life; just ask Wisconsin, or the rural communities of New England.

    And no, I don’t see value in conservatism (which, as I’ve noted before, conservativism has little to do with conserving anything meaningful). What a silly question; would I call myself a liberal Mormon if I did?

    My thoughts on “liberal,” and “conservative?” Aaron, most every post I make is to show how the liberal perspective more closely aligns with true Gospel values than the conservative paradigm. Just read.

  24. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Okay, I’m worn out, but fine. I disagree with much of what you’re saying, but I’ll have further opportunity to elaborate later. Also, I never called Davis County rural. Box Elder County, where I grew up, teeters on the edge of rural and suburban, although it’s becoming less country than it used to be. My roots are very much country and I have only been in Davis since leaving college about three and a half years ago. Sorry if I seemed to be combining the two.

  25. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Then I’m even more mystified as to why you would claim I am biased against rural country, because while I’ve been very critical of the selfish, materialistic perspectives of Davis County (and Utah county), I’ve never said anything about Box Elder. Baffling.

  26. Aaron Orgill Says:

    You haven’t explicitly said anything about Box Elder County, but often make little barbs about people you consider to be much less intelligent than yourself, and it’s a pattern I have seen repeatedly with many liberals, not just you.

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