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The Church’s Resolution on Disarmament, 1921

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 20, 2014

On Sunday afternoon, October 9, 1921, “in general conference assembled,” the following resolution was adopted by the Latter-day Saints:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brought forth and established by the power of God and dedicated to the mission of preparing the way for the glorious coming of the son of God to reign in the earth, in truth and righteousness and peace, beholds with deep interest every authoritative movement taken by the nations in the interest of world peace.

It is believed that the conference called in Washington to consider the limitation of armaments and questions concerning the Pacific and nations of the far east may, under the favor of Heaven, promote this great objective.

To the end that it may do so, the Latter-day Saints, in general conference now assembled, approve the appointment of a Sabbath day before the 11th of November, 1921, on which in all the wards and stakes of Zion, and in all branches of the Church in the United Stats and in the missions throughout the world, the members of the Church, shall be called together in their usual places of worship to engage in special, and solemn prayer for Divine guidance of the international conference on the limitation of armaments, that the cause of peace may be thereby enhanced, and an amelioration of the burdens of mankind secured.

Be political – but be civil. Do you think the Church should or should not make such expressions? Was it OK in 1921, but not today? Is it enough to pray for the success of “authoritative movements,” or should we do more? Is it OK to call for reducing armaments in far away places only, or should it apply to our own nations … to our police forces?



9 Comments »

  1. A couple of points:

    1. This was a conference among erstwhile allies–all were on the winning side of WWI, and the Soviets were excluded. It was a attempt to hold an alliance together (successful for 14 years), not to reconcile enemies. As such, it would not be as controversial as praying for the success of Arab-Israeli talks or Iranian nuclear disarmament talks would be today.

    2. Characterizing the arms reductions as “far away places only” strikes me as unfair. The U.S. was party to all of the agreements reached at the conference and our naval capabilities were constrained as a result. It may have seemed far away, but we had major interests in the western Pacific (particularly the Philippines). According to the Wikipedia article on the conference, “[t]he agreements forced the US to scrap 15 old battleships and 2 new ones, along with 13 ships under construction.” That was significant hit, both militarily and economically.

    Comment by Last Lemming — August 20, 2014 @ 9:56 am

  2. I can’t see it as a bad thing to ever pray for our political leaders to make wise decisions.

    I can’t see it as a bad thing to ever pray that our leaders will be able to promote peace. The only debate is over the best way to achieve that. I think that’s adequately covered by my previous paragraph.

    As for the 1921 conference: It did, in fact, reduce tensions for a few years. It also likely prevented an unnecessary and destructive arms race in the 1920s. That makes it arguably a noble effort, even if the situation was fundamentally altered in 1931 with the Japanese seizure of Manchuria.

    Comment by Kent G. Budge — August 20, 2014 @ 10:02 am

  3. This is beautiful! It is perfectly in line that we should pray for our leaders that they will be guided by and heed the Spirit. I’m especially encouraged that we collectively pray for the ’cause of peace’. Whenever our thoughts can be turned to peace as opposed to war and armaments is a general ‘good.’ I don’t think this statement imposes a preferred outcome of the meeting.

    Regarding your specific questions:
    Do you think the Church should or should not make such expressions? Again, if we are encouraged to pray for Divine guidance without telling God what outcome we, in our limited wisdom, expect, it is exactly what the Church is about. When we can be described as on the side of peace, I’m personally encouraged.

    Was it OK in 1921, but not today? Isn’t it always appropriate to pray for Divine guidance?

    Is it enough to pray for the success of “authoritative movements,” or should we do more? I don’t think this statement calls for ‘the success’ of the authoritative movement, but we certainly should be aware and interested in them. Our Church is all about doing. So, yes, if we are informed and guided by the Spirit, we should be anxiously engaged in good causes.

    Is it OK to call for reducing armaments in far away places only, or should it apply to our own nations … to our police forces? IMHO it applies to everyone. Special accommodations lead to bullying. Collective agreements hold us all accountable.

    Thanks for posting this. A related post about millennialism at Wheat&Tares is a good read.

    Comment by charlene — August 20, 2014 @ 10:24 am

  4. I wish that the church would take on the need to pray, and work, for peace in our own lives, in our communities, states, nation and planet. It seems like we should be praying for peace in Missouri, for peaceful policies that promote responsible gun ownership and laws that encourage peaceful relationships.

    I think we should be using our prayers and actions to encourage political leaders to be focused on finding peaceful solutions, both as campaigners and as elected officials. We should pray that they will work towards policies that promote peace, and that don’t use fear mongering. We should be vocal constituents who explain our dedication to supporting laws and policies that aim at police forces that focus on police work as officers of the peace and not an occupying city/county/state military.

    I worry that I hear prayers in church that do not focus on blessing the world, except in the context of missionary work. I worry about comments that make dividing lines of “Us” vs. “Them” when many of “Them” are members of the church, in the USA and abroad. I worry when a talk ostensibly about being pacemakers, ends up glorifying war and Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, with some victim blaming for rape victims who don’t carry guns and/or don’t kill their attackers.

    Does “making peace” really mean having more weapons and being willing to kill others to get “peace” for you and your group? I think that the call for peace, and the current, concrete applications of peacemaking should be included in every General Conference.

    My $.02

    Comment by Juliathepoet — August 20, 2014 @ 11:36 am

  5. “Do you think the Church should or should not make such expressions?” Yes! It was OK in 1921, and OK today.

    “Is it enough to pray for the success of “authoritative movements,” or should we do more?” We shouldn’t just pray, but also spend time promoting them in our publications and over the pulpit. (And with our pocketbooks.)

    “Is it OK to call for reducing armaments in far away places only, or should it apply to our own nations … to our police forces?” Oooh, now that’s a tough one. this seems to be two questions. The first one is relatively easy for me: no, we shouldn’t just call for reduction of arms in other countries. As for disarming the police, well, that’s a whole different question. Sorry, not taking it up today.

    By the way, for some reason I don’t find the Church’s support in 1921 for disarmament and (gasp) peace to be all that earth-shaking. They were expressing a well-founded and well-shared opinion. Peace was in the air!

    Comment by David Y. — August 21, 2014 @ 12:03 am

  6. “Does “making peace” really mean having more weapons and being willing to kill others to get “peace” for you and your group?”

    Sometimes. Sometimes not.

    It would be nice if the world were simpler. Or I think so, sometimes. But God seems to be fine with the world sometimes being perplexing to us.

    Comment by Kent G. Budge — August 21, 2014 @ 8:16 am

  7. Yay, disarmament! (That is authentic and inspiring).

    I remember the Christmas messages during President Kimball’s time when there would be a general call for peace with pretty clear reference to cold war atomic stockpiles.

    And I was anti-MX before it was cool. Or that is, there were the couple of dozen or so of us in Provo meeting in protest with no clear hope of stopping the crazy thing until the 1st Presidency issued a statement that killed it practically overnight. (-one of the several occasions in which my minority political views have proved correct in the long run.)

    Comment by Grant — August 21, 2014 @ 8:32 am

  8. So, I guess my point it, yeah, keep calling for peace and disarmament! I am one who believes we have to help create a millennium of peace – not just sit around on our pride until the Lord destroys all those on our list of who we think are the evil ones.

    Comment by Grant — August 21, 2014 @ 8:35 am

  9. I wish we did more of this, tbh. I was once taken to task by a Bishopric member for wearing a CND badge on my jacket (not my dress, but my outer wear which was hung up in the hangers) and told I would struggle to get a recommend with opinions like that. This was in the mid 80’s. (Said person is now openly advocating SSM, ironically). During the Falklands War (1982), the Church in the UK held a national day of fasting for peace (not victory, but peace). I’ve no idea if they did the same in Argentina.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — August 22, 2014 @ 2:44 am

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