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Political Tuesday: LDS Political Thought: Lesson 7 (1948-49)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 17, 2012

Lesson 7 – International Strife and the Quest for Peace

Elder G. Homer Durham

For Tuesday, May 25, 1949

Objective: To appreciate the part some Latter-day Saints have taken in recent political activities and the obligation resting on Latter-day Saints to teach their children the doctrines of free agency and liberty in harmony with Latter-day Saint knowledge.

Free agency permits men to do good or evil; to construct prosperous, peaceful communities, or to war with each other. If “courtesy” and spiritual forbearance are essential to traffic safety (as suggested in lesson one), what spiritual development and “courtesy” must men with atomic bombs develop?

The Millennial Hope

For generations men have longed for the day when “the lamb and the lion shall lie down together without any ire,” when swords shall become plowshares and spears be turned into pruning hooks. Notwithstanding, some of the world’s bloodiest wars have been the wars of religion. But at the same time the world’s religions have helped keep alive mankind’s vision of peace on earth. The ideal of the kingdom of God in the Christian religion particularly, has rendered this service. A foundation principle of Mormonism, and one of its interesting contributions to political doctrines, is that it is now within the reach of men – and their obligation – to “bring forth and establish the kingdom of God.” This religious ideal, we have seen, has been fortified with practical devices. President John Taylor, nearly a century ago, November 24, 1855, wrote:

Although the present distracted state of the world might seem to forbid the expectation of an immediate amalgamation, yet the rapid increase of means of communication, the sure and decided commingling of interests, a universal exchange of sentiment, an increasing desire among mankind to shake off the shackles of despotism and enjoy the liberty of speech and conscience – all conspire to show that such a combination of circumstances must eventually result in some kind of universal government – moral, religious, and political (The Gospel Kingdom, page 303).

A few years later, January 17, 1858, the same leader stated:

The germs of this peace are with us, the intelligence concerning these matters has begun to be developed (Ibid., page 305).

Section 65 of the Doctrine and Covenants, speaking of the restoration of the “keys of the kingdom” to man on the earth, declares:

Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth, that the kingdom of heaven may come …

And the Tenth Article of Faith states simply that we believe “the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”

Practical Idealism

If the peoples of the world understood each other better, their geography, living habits, governmental systems, and social customs, the technological revolution referred to by President John Taylor might well “result in some kind of universal government.” But the world, as also noted by Joseph Smith and many Latter-day Saint leaders, since 1830, is “split up and divided into different objects … and watching each other as so many thieves” (The Gospel Kingdom, page 299). Instead of understanding, misunderstanding is too often promoted as each nation controls its own press, schools, films, radio, and other mass media. In rather sharp contrast, the Latter-day Saints, since the day in 1830 when Samuel H. Smith strapped some copies of the Book of Mormon on his back, have, by means of the missionary system, systematically exploited the possibilities of international understanding. Particularly has this been true among the countries of Northwestern Europe, Australia, South Africa, Mexico, certain Pacific isles, and, more recently, Argentina and Brazil. A continuous stream of missionaries has gone forth, and until about 1925, a continuous flood of immigrants poured into the latter-day Saint communities. As a result, Stephen Duggan, for many years director of the Institute of International Education, said that Salt Lake City was the center of international understanding.

Latter-day Saint missionaries have, by themselves, negotiated no remarkable international agreements, but the contribution, even at the diplomatic level, has by no means been insignificant. On the authority of Elder Don Corbett, a major in the United States Army, it was a former Latter-day Saint missionary to Germany, Dr. David White, who translated the surrender terms imposed by General Dwight D. Eisenhower on General von Rundstedt and the German High Command, May 1945; and who, moreover, by his skill, corrected several details in the German-allied correspondence which were of major importance. A Utah-born diplomat from a famous missionary family, Cavendish W. Cannon, was one of the expert consultants present at the Truman-Stalin-Churchill-Attlee meeting which produced the Potsdam Agreement of July 1945. A former missionary, Colonel Floyd W. Goates, was actively in charge of certain Japanese educational activities in the reconstruction of Japan. A young missionary, Thomas W. Thorsen, was a detachment commander in the Untied States military government set-up in Europe, and produced an eighteen-volume memorandum on Norway’s economy which rated him a decoration by the Norwegian government. Dr. Dale D. Clark of Farmington, a former missionary to Germany, was active throughout the war in the planning section of the SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) and later saw active responsibility in the reconstruction of Austria and Germany. And the recent examples could be multiplied – such as the work of Dr. Llewellyn R. McKay, Paul W. Hodson, Stanley D. Rees, and Eldon J. Facer – all former missionaries to Germany, in the Strategic Bombing Survey of 1945.

Even more interesting and subtle, have been the contributions of such Latter-day Saint missionary products as Reed Smoot, Elbert D. Thomas, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Edgar B. Brossard and others. Dr. John Mabry Matthews, in his volume on American Foreign Relations, states without hesitation that the now-famous “good neighbor policy” stems from the work of J. Reuben Clark, Jr., as Undersecretary of State, citing in particular President Clark’s official report, Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine (1928), as an important basis therefor.

Dr. Hubert Herring has told many a lecture audience that the real shift toward improved American relations with Latin-America dates from the ambassadorships of Dwight W. Morrow and J. Reuben Clark to Mexico. Too often overlooked in the current interest in nations to the south is the fact, also, that as an official American representative, President Clark many years ago, as General Counsel for the United States before the American-British Claims Commission, assisted in solving some of the oldest and touchiest problems between the United States, England, and Canada, involving fishing rights in the North Atlantic and other long-standing controversies.

The influence of Reed Smoot in the international financial arrangements of the twenties and the Hoover moratorium policies, is a story yet to be told. The unique oriental missionary experience of Senator Elbert D. Thomas was put to many uses before, during, and after World War II – not to mention his many European conferences as an official American delegate. After World War II, when America was being asked for loans and credits to promote European recovery, it was interesting to observe that one of three American representatives negotiating the original post-war British loan was at one time a Latter-day Saint missionary to Scotland, Marriner S. Eccles, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. And one of the American delegates to the Geneva Conference of 1947 designed to establish an International Trade Organization was Dr. Edgar B. Brossard, former missionary to France, and at that time, chairman of the United States Tariff Commission.

All of these persons, together with hundreds of others unnamed, may or may not have been conscious of the root doctrines of American Latter-day Saint political theory as they discharged their official duties. But none will gainsay the fact that the day-by-day living experiences they had as missionaries with the common people of Northwestern Europe, or that were their traditions as members of communities and families into which such experience constantly was being kneaded, could not help but contribute to a deeper understanding of the essential problems of international life.

If the present rate of missionary work continues (it could exceed it!) by 1970 – a date comparable with the period between World War I and II – it is possible that, in addition to those of the past, there can be 75,000 additional men and women who will have experienced active Latter-day Saint missionary work. In 1970 they will be the vigorous citizens and community leaders who will face the world. Their contribution, with other men and women of good will the world over, including those whose lives they may touch, may well tip the balances for peace or for war. Moreover, many members of this young “army” will have been “ambassadors” of the United States and of constitutional government, and of a way of life that teaches liberty, tolerance, generosity, and forbearance.

The cumulative effects on world opinion and American diplomacy – if this work is well done – are not to be overlooked. Most of the Western Hemisphere, save for the Northeast, was largely “conquered” by Spanish priests – missionaries – in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Much of Asia and Africa became provinces of the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in which the work of the “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts” and other British missionary societies were by no means inconsequential. Yet, no one need fear the Latter-day Saint missionary abroad! He asks nothing save from those who voluntarily would like to be immersed in water, and who thereafter remain free men, “believing in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates.” And he pays his own way, which nowadays helps the dollar balances so nervously sought after by foreign governments!

Opportunity of Latter-day Saint Mothers

What can a Latter-day Saint mother do? She can study and understand the gospel, including its application to the problems involved in socialism, communism, and international relations. She can teach the meaning of liberty and free agency to her children. She can make of her family, with the father’s help, a model of constitutional government. She can help conduct the “foreign relations” of that family with other families, Latter-day Saint and non-Latter-day Saint, so as to produce a happier community. She can teach her children the principles of good government by teaching them individually to pray, and by insisting on family prayers. She can help educate her sons (“the glory of God is intelligence!”) and send them on missions. She can point out that liberty is earned; that it has obligations. The family hearth may become the center of a continuous school, not only in constitutional government and sound political theory, but for all problems of society, by reminding one and all that life is what we make it; that the kingdom of God men seek in outward environment, is within each one of us, as Jesus taught.

Questions for Discussion

1. If the great “millennial hope” of world government should be realized, and you were called upon to help frame it, what principles should be included therein?

2. Recall the influence of missionary movements in world affairs of the past, and have the class discuss them. For example, Paul of Tarsus and his companions; St. Augustine’s traditional mission to Britain; various modern British mission movements (such as the establishment of Dartmouth College in early America; Livingston in Africa, etc.); Marquette and Joliet, the Spanish fathers, in the expansion of Europe in the Americas.

3. What may be the unique opportunities of missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

4. Need any modern government fear the presence of missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Need any person?

5. What can a Latter-day Saint mother do to promote the cause of good government? Peace and safety in society? Economic well-being?


1 Comment »

  1. I sometimes wonder whether we realize the full benefit of sending our young people out into the world to experience both foreign and domestic cultures different from their native ones when serving missions. I think my own mission to a foreign country opened my eyes to different ways of seeing the world and the pros and cons of different styles of government. I hope I don’t lose those insights (and we don’t lose similar insights as a people) when wrapped up to varying degrees in nationalistic zeal and cultural insularity. It’s interesting to hear that at least someone in the institutional church appreciated the potential of missions to create an international culture more than half a century ago.

    Comment by Capozaino — July 17, 2012 @ 10:06 am

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