The World War II-era military conscription in the United States ended in 1947 (the Selective Service System and Selective Training and Service Act were still in effect until 1948, but Congress did not authorize an actual draft in 1947); huge numbers of men called into the service before that date were still in the armed forces or in the reserves. The Selective Service Act of 1948 renewed the requirement for men of military age to register for possible service, and in 1950 conscription returned to meet the emergency of the Korean War.
In other words, there were a great many men in military service in those years, which inevitably included a great many LDS men.
The LDS Servicemen’s Committee, a General Authority-led committee, prepared a very small booklet, small enough to fit into a vest pocket, to alert LDS servicemen to a number of issues affecting their religious lives in service. The text of that 1949 booklet appears below.
Greetings, L.D.S. SERVICEMAN!
We salute you and wish you well as you begin your duties under the Stars and Stripes.
Your service with Uncle Sam will provide you with many great opportunities. We hope you live up to them. If you do, happiness will come to you, and credit and honor will be reflected upon your loved ones and the glorious flag which flies over you.
As you don the uniform of your country, we wish to call to your attention some of the important things which will make for happiness in your new life.
You are an American. The very uniform you will wear is a symbol of freedom, honor and nobility. Live up to the full meaning of that symbol. being free Americans, each one of us has certain inalienable rights. Among other things they allow us to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. That right is important to you now, as you enter the service. We hope you will always remember that you are a Latter-day Saint. The Army wishes you to remember it; so do the Navy, Air Corps and Coast Guard. It is to their interest that you be a good member of your Church. The top military officials of this country desire that the religious interests of every man be preserved and increased, and that every man in the service be loyal to his own Church and his own faith.
The Military and Religion
The commanding officers in our new military program are determined that proper emphasis be given to the moral and religious life of each man. They want it made clear that no one need give up his religion because he enters the service. On the contrary, they expect every man to assert his position as a member of his own Church and hold to it. The military will cooperate with men who do that.
Your Church and Your Rights
Members of each Church have certain definite rights under the rules of our military service. It is expected that each man will exercise them, and he will be protected in doing so by the regulations of the service in which he is enrolled. Claim these rights, and use them. What are they?
Church membership is part of the official record of each man as kept by the military officials. Generally the men in service are classified as to whether they are Jews, Protestants or Catholics, and such information is written into the formal records of the government. Attempts have been made to include members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Protestant category. But we are not Protestants. Protestants are members of those churches which make up the main body of non-Jewish and non-Catholic denominations. We are a separate body, not to be listed with any of them. therefore, when you are asked about this, specify that you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, and if an attempt is made to have you listed as a Protestant, do not permit it. In case of emergency especially, the proper designation of the name of your Church will be of vital importance. Therefore when you register with the record keepers of the military service, list yourself as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Each man in the service is furnished with a “dog tag.” It also carries the religious affiliation of the man for whom it is made out. For Jews, a small letter “J” is punched into the tag; for Protestants, a small letter “P” and for Catholics, a “C”. You can readily see that if the letter “P” is put on your dog tag, your real religious affiliation is lost. Ask to have “L.D.S.” put on your dog tags. In most instances, this request will be granted. Some local officers may deny it, but ask for it. Even though you happen to be denied this privilege, be sure to give the officer in charge of records the full name of your Church and the name and address of the presiding officer in the ward or branch nearest your training center.
Getting Leave for Church Attendance
Regulations in all branches of the service provide for men to be granted leave for the purpose of attending Church Services. Keep this in mind. In case your assignment may require Sunday duty, make a request each Sunday for leave during that part of the day when your Church services are held, so that you can attend regularly. If any difficulty arises on this point, talk with the Chaplain about it, even though he may not be a member of our Church. He will help you.
Communion and Sacrament
It is desired that all Latter-day Saint men attend meetings of our own Church so that they may partake of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. At times you may be invited to partake of the communion or sacrament of other Churches. We do not advise that you do this. The sacrament to the Latter-day Saint has a particular meaning; it must be administered by priests or elders of our own church, since the ordinance requires the authority of the restored priesthood, and therefore we advise our men to partake of it only in our own meetings where it is administered according to our own doctrines and teachings.
If you have been through the temple, you may find yourself in a quandary as to what you should do about your personal attire. We suggest that when this problem arises you write to your bishop at hoe. He has been given instruction from the First Presidency of the Church on this subject, and will be able to give you direct assistance.
If You Are Ill
If you are injured or sick, do not hesitate to call for the elders of the Church to come and administer to you. L.D.S. Chaplains, L.D.S. Group Leaders and other men holding the Melchizedek priesthood are in the service. Make your wants known, and permission will be given for such administrations. If you are in the hospital, your request made to nurse or supervising officer will be honored.
Church Record Cards
Church Record Cards on each L.D.S. man in service are being sent to chaplains and group leaders in camps where you are located. In case you are transferred, notify the chaplain or group leader so that the card may be forwarded to your new address.
The Church Can Help You
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is vitally interested in all its members no matter where they are. It is particularly interested in YOU now that you are in the service. It has an organization set up by which to assist every boy no matter in what branch of the service he may be. A carefully developed program has been provided to help make life more pleasant and profitable for you. Here is the way it works: In the leading military installations of our country, we endeavor to have full time L.D.S. Chaplains duly appointed by the government of the United States with the endorsement of the Church. These men conduct religious services in the camps where they are located, assist with recreational functions, are able to give advice as needed by men in service, and stand ready to assist in times of need.
In addition to these Chaplains, L.D.S. Group Leaders are appointed among our men of Church experience. They conduct meetings for members of our Church in camps and on board ship where there are no full time L.D.S. Chaplains; they give much of the same kind of service to individual boys, as do our chaplains. Yet it should be noted that they are appointees of the Church, not of the government and are themselves servicemen, chosen from the ranks. Each is set apart by an ordained officer of the Church, and he carries with him a certificate of his church appointment.
Traveling Coordinators appointed by the Church visit the various camps and installations as civilian Church officials, assigned to give aid to our men as far as they are able.
Chaplains, Group Leaders and coordinators work in conjunction with bishops and other Church officials at home, in seeking to serve you.
How to Find Chaplains and Group Leaders
As soon as you arrive in camp, look up your L.D.S. Chaplain. The probability is that there will be one in the very camp in which you receive your training. An inquiry at the Post Chaplain’s office will give you information concerning his location. In case there is no L.D.S. Chaplain there, ask the Chaplain’s office for information to help you locate our L.D.S. Group Leaders. The Post Chaplain’s office will have their names on file and will be glad to direct you to them.
Attend L.D.S. Meetings
Chaplains and Group Leaders will welcome you at the meetings they conduct in the camp or on board ship. These meetings will be advertised on bulletin boards and in other prominent places. Look for these announcements. Post Chaplains will also have information concerning them. Do not hesitate to ask.
Friends from Home
At these meetings you will see friends from home. As a Latter-day Saint you will desire to meet other Latter-day Saints, and such an opportunity is afforded through attendance at our meetings. There you can form companionship from your own Church, among men with the same standards as your own. You will enjoy your military service better in the company of such friends. Find them in our meetings.
The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper will be administered in the services conducted on Sabbath Days by our Chaplains and Group Leaders. As a member of the Church you will desire to participate in this sacred and soul building experience. It will help you to stay close to God, and will be a strength to you all week long.
Church Books for L.D.S. Men
The First Presidency is sending as gifts to all L.D.S. men entering the service, a special edition of the Book of Mormon invest pocket size, together with another small book entitled The Principles of the gospel. These books proved of great value and comfort to our men in the recent World War. They will be of similar help to you. If you have not received your copies, write to the L.D.S. Servicemen’s Committee, 47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City, giving your full name, home ward and stake, and your present military address. When you get them, read them, and be uplifted.
The Church has published a Servicemen’s edition of the official Church directory, which is for free distribution. Song folders, tracts, etc., may also be had for the asking. Priesthood quorums in the Church are making a project of sending copies of the Improvement Era and the Church News Section of the Deseret News to their own members in the Service as a means of keeping them informed on the news and progress of the Church.
Writing Letters Home
Keep in touch with the Church at home. Write your bishop from time to time, and tell him where you are and how you are getting along. Report to him concerning the meetings you attend, tell him of your day to day experience. Mail him your tithing. Show him you are being true to the faith. Your fellow quorum members will also welcome word from you. Write to the priesthood quorum to which you belong. If you do not know the name and address of the quorum president, write in care of your bishop, who will gladly place the letters in the hands of the quorum officers. Keep up your standing in your quorum. You can do so by correspondence.
Tracts Will Be Sent You
Among the activities being undertaken by priesthood quorums back home is the distribution of tracts concerning our religion. Two kinds of tracts will be sent to boys in service as a means of assisting them. Missionary tracts will come to you. Many boys in service are asked questions about their religion by others not of our faith. These tracts will help you to answer those questions, so read them, and be prepared. In case your companions desire to read your literature, let them take these tracts. Your priesthood quorum will also send you tracts having to do with the Word of Wisdom. These too will be of interest to both members and non-members of the Church, for many non-members have heard a little about the Word of Wisdom, and will want to know more, especially as they observe your own clean method of living.
You Represent the Church
Whether you realize it or not, you represent the Church in the eyes of non-members who, as fellow servicemen, will watch how you live. Be a credit to your Church. Your life may become a guiding light to some non-member boy. On the other hand, it may be a detriment to him if you are careless. Live above reproach. Hold to your standards. Let your life teach faith and personal purity. In the eyes of the other fellow you are a product of Mormonism. What you are all will determine in the mind of that other fellow, what all Mormons are, including your father, your mother, your brothers and sisters, your neighbors among whom you were reared, your whole Church and your home communities. Don’t let your life give a false impression. Be a wholesome representative of that which has produced you.
Doing What the Rest Do
Some fellows in service think, in order to be popular, that they must be as worldly as other men, no matter what sins they indulge in. That is a great mistake. Experience has shown, both in military and civilian activity, that non-members EXPECT us to live up to our standards. They are disappointed in us when we fail to do so. Even the vilest of the vile respects a clean man who stands up for his principles. And he regards as just a weakling like himself, a man who falls to the temptations of the world. Don’t be a weakling. No one respects a spineless person who doesn’t know his own mind, or who can’t resist temptation when it comes. Be a man. Be clean. Stand by your standards. Don’t let a little kidding from other servicemen fool you and make you think you have to sin to be a “good fellow.” Even the kidders hope you’ll be strong – even stronger than they are themselves.
Temptations Do Come
No matter where you may go, temptation will confront you. It may be an appeal to break the Word of Wisdom, to lose your virtue, or commit other sins of a grievous nature. Remember that the cigaret is a vicious enemy of every man. It will undermine your faith, and make you an easier prey for worse temptations which follow. Often a sinful career begins with a cigaret, followed by a drink of liquor, then loss of virtue. Do not throw yourself open to anything like that. Shun the cigaret as you would a plague, because that smoke will invite you to sin further and will weaken your resistance to temptation. And shun that liquor! It will rob you of your balance, it will take away your common sense, and it will destroy your power to say NO. Many are the boys who have lost that which is dearer than life because they lost their sense of balance due to liquor. They will pay for the rest of their lives for sins they committed while intoxicated. There is only one way to avoid getting drunk, and that is to avoid drink. If you never take a first drink, you will never take a second, or a third, or a fourth. Do not take a chance. Leave liquor and cigarets alone.
What Virtue Means
To a Latter-day Saint, virtue is more important than life itself. from the very beginning of time the Lord has forbidden his people to commit sex sin. Adultery is next to murder in the category of crime. Would you think of murdering a man in cold blood? Of course not. You must shun adultery as you would shun murder itself. In the eyes of God you would be better dead – clean, than alive – unclean. There is not a father or a mother in the entire Church who would not rather see you in your grave, virtuous and sweet and pure, than to have you live an adulterous life. Many times, prostitutes invite the trade of military men, and often military men surrender to them. To accept of their wares is to accept of the bitterness of hell itself. There are also some men who may seek to entice you to commit sex sin. Whether tempted by man or woman, be strong, be clean, resist evil, shun those who would seduce you. Protect your virtue even as you would protect your life.
The Wage of Sin Is Death
Nearly two thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul declared that the wage of sin is death. Every sin has a price tag on it. No one can escape the bill collector. If we sin, we pay, and sometimes the price is not paid out even after years of remorse. When ever you are tempted to descend beneath your accustomed high standards of life, stop and ask yourself, “What will it cost me? Is what I am about to do worth the priceI must pay?” Each one of us must remember the law of the harvest. It is inexorable through all nature, and it operates relentlessly in the realm of personal conduct.”As you sow, so shall you reap.” There is no escape from that. The temporary gratification of an appetite, however exciting at the moment, is no proper criterion of value. Effects and consequences outlast the event and take their toll.
Old Fashioned Virtues
You may be told that some of the disciplines and prohibitions you have learned at home are old fashioned and out of date, and that to continue to observe them is evidence of immaturity. You may be scoffingly called a “baby” if you do not come down to the practices of some of those with whom you associate. You may hear the whispered echo of the seductive age-old lie, “No one will ever know” coupled with the disarming question, “What difference will it make?” Do not allow yourself to be deceived by those who may tell you that all desires and appetites must be gratified, or that self-denial will deprive you of worthwhile experiences. Remember that there is only one standard of life – the same for man as for woman. Remember also that sometime you hope to marry. You would not marry a harlot, now would you? Then do not expect your girl to marry an adulterer. You must be as clean as you expect your wife to be. And think of the possibility of your becoming a parent. Would you bring upon your own son or daughter the heritage of harlotry?
Choose Clean Friends
In the service as elsewhere, it is for every man to choose his own friends. And as in every other place, you will find good and bad men in the service. You have been taught to live a clean life. So have others in your camp. Search out those clean men for your friends. One of the chief reasons you will desire to attend your own L.D.S. meetings is that there you will meet other men who have had the same training you have had, and who regard virtue and purity as highly as you do.
One of the best weapons with which to fight evil is daily prayer. It will keep you in touch with God, your unseen but All Powerful Friend and Companion. A young man of real character will neither be afraid nor ashamed to pray where ever he may be. He will not impose his religious beliefs upon others, nor will he flaunt his sacred practices before the eyes of his friends. But neither will he neglect them for fear of other men. If you go to the Lord in prayer at the beginning of each day, and try to remember throughout the day that you are to report to him at night, you will enjoy a sweet companionship from which will flow sufficient strength and wisdom for any situation.
We Believe in You
Many are the prayers that will be uttered in your behalf. Your loved ones will speak your name to Him each day. You will be remembered in your ward and quorum meetings, among your schoolmates and companions. The General Authorities, Stake Presidencies and Ward Bishoprics will be anxiously concerned for your welfare. We all have confidence in your quality, your integrity, fidelity, purity, loyalty and purpose. We are proud to have you represent us in the service.
A Ready Safeguard
Maintenance of your contact with the Church will be your most valuable asset while in the service. Your attendance at L.D.S. meetings will give you strength to live your religion. It will bring you into the presence of clean, strong men, who will make you strong. Your contact with your bishop and quorum members at home will have a similar effect. If you are near some organized branch or ward of the Church, attach yourself to it, for it will widen your opportunity to associate with your people and strengthen your faith and help to keep you as clean and wholesome as your mother would like you to be.
Write to Your Folks at Home
Most boys remember their families at home and write to them regularly. In the last war there were some who did not remember. Mothers were frantic because they did not hear regularly from their sons, and lost many nights’ sleep as a result of it. Do not allow your parents to worry over you unnecessarily. Keep in touch with them. Make them happy with your letters. Lift a load of anxiety from their minds by keeping in touch with them, and telling them of your daily activities. They will virtually LIVE this period of service with you, act by act and hour by hour. Make it easy for them to do so by writing them interesting letters often.
The Lord Bless You
It is the earnest prayer of all our hearts that God will be with you and bless you throughout the period of your service; that he will give you health and strength, enduring faith, devotion to his cause, a believing heart and a willingness to serve him. The Lord is your best friend. Never forget him. Be high class – be a real Latter-day Saint.
Faithfully your brethren,
GENERAL L.D.S. SERVICEMEN’S COMMITTEE
Harold B. Lee
Mark E. Petersen
Bruce R. McConkie
Hugh B. Brown