Twenty-eight years ago, I was introduced to Heavenly Father’s Church, through the auspices of ”Uncle Sam.” One thing that those drill sergeants shoved into our heads were the General Orders:
- I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.
- I will obey my special orders and perform all of my duties in a military manner.
- I will report violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions to the commander of the relief.
Events of the past few years have me re-reading the Book of Mormon, as Mormon implies that he is writing it for our benefit, because we’re going through the same thing [Mormon 8:35-36].
In California, the Church seems willing to make a “last stand” on the issue of homosexual marriage–which is part of a concerted effort to make the behaviour seem normal, rather than the sin that it is. Sadly, it appears that this is a fight that the Church will lose–if not at the polls, then in the courts, ratified at the polls when people elect those who appoint the anti-Mormon and anti-Evangelical judges.
I know good Latter-day Saints who asked me, “Don’t the Brethren see that they will lose this fight?” I know other people–in and out of the Church–who are offended that the Church is actually making such a stand.
To the latter group, I would say that the Church has every right to assert its stand whenever the state acts in areas of morality. It may seem weird that a Church that once practised polygamy is spearheading a move that would seemingly undercut its own moral position, but, since we don’t practise it any more, my guess is that the Brethren are understandibly willing to give up something it no longer values (It’s not that a 21st century anti-polygamy law will make the 19th century Brethren retroactively criminals!) in an effort to stop the loss of something they value much more, and plan to for a long time to come. To me, this is not unlike the USA and the UK allying themselves with the USSR during World War II against the Axis, because, at the moments, those temporary allies were less of a threat than those they were fighting.
It is mostly to those that wonder if the Brethren lost their minds that I address this post.
Yes, the Brethren know what they’re doing, and yes, I believe that the Brethren know that–at least on human terms–they will lose. But, while I think they do hope to win, winning isn’t why they’re in this fight. And I think Mormon and Moroni’s story illustrates why.
I found the juxtaposition of the Church’s backing of Proposition 8 and Mormon’s description of the Nephites’ last days very significant, in light of the last phrase of the first General Order (That phrase is the fifth General Order for the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard.). Here are Mormon and Moroni, part of a decided minority of the righteous in a sea of unrighteous Nephites, who went to battle at Cumorah–KNOWING that they were going to lose–and probably get killed–horrifyingly. Yet, with the exception when Mormon refused to command the Nephites for their insubordination [Mormon 3:11], there they were, willing to fight until the end.
I note that that General Order doesn’t say, “… not quit my post, unless I’m going to lose,” or words to that effect. MIlitary personnel are to be at their posts, even as they are being overrun. I remember the words of the Code of Conduct: “I will never surrender…. If in command I will never surrender my men….” Mormon and Moroni lived that code. They fought because SOMEBODY had to resist growing immorality. They knew–and lived–the meaning of the words, “I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” So did their righteous friends who DID give their lives in defense of their kin–and God’s standards. THAT is what is important to God.
Almost 144 years ago, in the Battle of Stone’s River (Murphreesboro), Union forces came under blistering attack by the Confederates. One unit, the Indiana 73rd Infantry, was sent on a flanking maneuver to face a rebel force three times their size. The Union field commander, General Rosecrans, didn’t care, frankly, whether the Indiana 73rd won their position, or got slaughtered to the last man. The fact that they were there enabled him to smash the rebel advance, then continue the offencive toward Chattanooga.
As an aside, the Indiana 73rd won its position–and held it–in spite of losing half their numbers. For this they earned a Presidential Unit Citation. One of the wounded was my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Samuelson. Fortunately for me, he survived the war, recovered (though it took him three years) from his wounds, married and had children.
Similarly, with Mormon and Moroni–and with us, today, God requires our presence where we face overwhelming opposition. Though He wants us to fight to win, our personal victory at that point is insignificant, because our presence at where He places us makes it easier for God to win a smashing victory in the war. God is utterly uninterested in whether we can beat legions of men or devils; He could do that by Himself with a flick of His Finger. What He is interested in is whose side we are on. If we answer that the right way, He will redeem us, though we personally are overwhelmed.