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Mollie Higginson: Who Is Responsible for the War? (1918)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 30, 2013

Who Is Responsible for the War?

For nearly four years this terrible world war has been raging. The question is frequently asked: Who is responsible for the war? Some say that it is entirely the work of man. Others tell us that, inasmuch as God is all-powerful and does not bring it to an end, He is therefore responsible for it. In considering the question, t here are two important facts to be taken into account – the omnipotence of God and the free agency of man – concerning which a great deal of misapprehension exists in the world.

By the light of modern revelation, which the world rejects, we learn that the great God who controls the universe was once a man, subject to temptation and death, even as we are to-day. He lived He conquered. First, He learned that great lesson so essential to progress – self-conquest – then he learned to guide and control others. From one stage to another he passed until finally He became a God possessed of infinite knowledge and power, for be it known that it is knowledge that elevates to the rank of Godhood.

Now God has reached the heights. He has obtained knowledge, He understands the laws by which worlds are made and controlled; He understands how to people those worlds, how to make them fruitful and pleasant for man to dwell upon. By reason of His superior knowledge, He became the Father of our spirits, and for a long time we lived with Him in heaven. Then He made this world and sent our first parents, Adam and Eve, to be the father and mother of the race. When he placed them here He made known to them His will. He said to them in substance: “Now, you see that tree in the middle of this garden; I do not want you to touch the fruit on it. It is not good for you, and should you eat it, it would cause you suffering and death.”

Then Satan came along. Satan, you know, once lived in heaven with God. Shakespeare tells us he was ambitious and his ambition caused his expulsion from heaven. Milton, the blind poet, tells the same story. The Bible corroborates it and modern revelation gives added light and tell us that the reason of the quarrel and ultimate war in heaven was Satan’s endeavor to deprive the spirit of man of free agency.

Being cast out of heaven, Satan became the enemy of God and sought to frustrate all His plans. So he made his way to the Garden of Eden, and, by making himself agreeable to Eve, finally persuaded her to partake of the fruit of the tree the Lord had said was not good for her. Adam also partook of the fruit and the result was that sorrow pain and death entered the world. Now the question arises, Who was responsible?

Here you have three persons:

God – who by reason of His superior power or knowledge knew what would result from a certain line of action.

Satan – who possessed greater knowledge than man.

Man – with the power to choose his own line of action.

God said “Don’t”; the devil said “Do”; and man exercised his free agency. Was God to blame for the pain and sorrow which followed? He showed man the two ways, one right, the other wrong. From all that has been revealed, He appears to have said in substance: “Now, I am going to leave you free to choose; you have your free agency. For me to compel you to follow a certain course would be to make of you a slave, and that I will never do; you have my promise. I will tell you the way to go, but you are free to choose your own path; but, if you choose the path I forbid you will suffer; and if I do not avert the wrongdoing, because of your free agency, I may not avert the evil consequences, for the earth is to be run on natural principles.”

So man took his own course and the path he chose brought sin and sorrow into the world. Every time the law of God is broken punishment inevitably follows. It must be so.

So with this terrible war. It is not the will of the Lord, it is not a calamity of His devising. He did not plan it. He did not order it; and though He has it in His power, as God of the universe, to crush the world and all it contains in a moment; though He could step forth and say to the war-stricken nations, “Peace! this shall not continue,” yet to do so would be to destroy man’s free agency and make of him a mere slave. Before we left the realms above, God promised us that we should have our free agency to the end; nay, more– we fought for it, and by that promise and that victory gained in heaven our God is bound. If He stepped in now and ended this war, by His superior power, He would have to go back on His word. Therefore man by his own selfishness and evil living is responsible for the condition of the world to-day, and man, by repentance and right living, will have to make atonement.

Then where does God come in, it may be asked, and of what avail is His wisdom and power? Well, He has given us this promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”; and again, “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. “This terrible war is making people think as they never thought before. In the hour of trial people turn to their God, and God draws near to them in accordance with His promise and they come to a better understanding of Him. Pride and wrong melt from their hearts and they become humble and like unto little children. Satan loses his hold upon them and they turn from him to their God. So it will be in this dreadful war. Men are growing weary of the carnage and bloodshed, they are beginning to seek their God. He is waiting oh, so anxiously, and the moment they turn their faces to Him He stretches out His hands to ward them and fills their souls with peace, and this is how hatred and war will at length be banished from the earth.

Men’s souls will begin to cry for peace, and so great will be this desire, it will become a great, mighty, conquering prayer that will crush out the hatred and the battle lust, and the sound of guns will be heard no more, nor the moans of the wounded and the dying. Peace will come like a beautiful angel and fold its mantle over the gory battlefields and man will look back on the terrible carnage and bitter sorrow and marvel that he was so blind as not to see that he himself was responsible for it all.



8 Comments »

  1. If she’d just waited a few years, she could have saved all the trouble of writing this essay, and answered the question with a few words: “The Germans. Because the wise men at Versailles said so.”

    But, seriously, I think I understand what she’s saying but prefer Lincoln’s thoughts on the subject:

    The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?

    Comment by Mark B. — September 30, 2013 @ 8:26 am

  2. Who is responsible for this article?

    “for the earth is to be run on natural principles”

    Fine. But why do we have such diversity on what that means? I guess it’s back to agency again.

    Yet, some believe it’s perfectly natural to let poor people starve and rich people get richer – social darwinism and all – each man prospering according to his own genius. And it’s perfectly natural to seek selfish interests – the whole premise of philosophical “capitalism” not to mention War. But the natural man is an enemy to God. I guess that’s the part we’re supposed to figure out?

    And God became God by learning “to guide and control others” (emphasis added) but then he exercised his own agency not to do so? Is that it?

    Comment by Grant — September 30, 2013 @ 8:39 am

  3. I guess I mean with my first question, “Who is Mollie Higginson.”

    And I’m with Mark on Lincoln

    Comment by Grant — September 30, 2013 @ 8:41 am

  4. “Who is Mollie Higginson”

    Yeah, who is she?? Don’t you keep meaning to tell us about her, Ardis? (Or did you already, and I missed it?)

    “And I’m with Mark on Lincoln”

    Well, of course, if you compare anyone to Lincoln he or she is likely to come up short.

    Comment by Amy T — September 30, 2013 @ 9:02 am

  5. Yeah, I keep meaning to write about her but keep needing to draw from my stock of her posts before I’ve introduced her.

    Basically, she’s a young English woman who joined the Church near the turn of the last century, and moved to Utah; she served as an Eastern States missionary. Her story isn’t that extraordinary except in the sense that everybody has a story. What makes her a little different is that she loved to write, and somehow her articles were accepted and published regularly in the Star, the Liahona, and a couple of other places.

    Had she lived today, I have no doubt that she would have been a blogger. Her stuff seems more like blogging than anything else I’ve seen from any past generation. Much of it is pedestrian, but some of it is, I think, very, very good. So I’m just kind of sharing Keepa with her, letting her blog here as if she’d been born a hundred years later than she was.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 30, 2013 @ 9:24 am

  6. Does Amy’s comment mean that we have to add a “Lincoln corollary” to Godwin’s Law, with a special anathema reserved for those who manage to put both a Lincoln and a Nazi comparison into the same argument?

    Comment by Mark B. — September 30, 2013 @ 9:44 am

  7. This also seems to be a departure from the “fortunate fall” version of the Garden of Eden story that we seem to promote now. By choosing transgression, Adam and Eve didn’t so much bring sorrow and tribulation into the world, but exited the Garden and entered the world so that progression could continue.

    Comment by kevinf — September 30, 2013 @ 10:14 am

  8. Mark brings to mind the old claymation TV series, Celebrity Death Match. Was there ever a Lincoln vs. Hitler matchup?

    Comment by kevinf — September 30, 2013 @ 10:15 am

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