The Awesome Task of Peace
by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
of the First Presidency
Address Delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle September 4, 1945,
at a Community Service of all Faiths and Peoples,
Gathered in Thanksgiving for the Return of Peace,
and Conducted by President George Albert Smith
At the close of this great gathering there is no need for extended remarks. I join in every word of thanks that has been uttered because hostilities have ceased, in every prayer for peace, and in every invocation for the comfort of God to come to those who mourn, to those who suffer from disease, to those who are wounded, maimed, and crippled. May God be good to them. I make my own every word of gratitude to those who have by their service, their hardship, their suffering, and their sacrifice, made us the victors instead of the vanquished. May God sanctify all this to the blessing of all mankind.
For me this hour of triumph is the most solemn in all our natural records, perhaps indeed the most fateful in all profane history, not alone from the magnitude of the victory, but from what we and our allies have undertaken to do. Nations take new places, ourselves among them. I wish to say something about this.
In the dispensation of Providence we come to a new era. We may not ignore or shun the part and place we have taken therein, won by the force of our arms.
We must come to this new service both with courage and humility, and with full understanding; we must not be in ignorance about what we ought to do nor what we have in mind doing.
We have fully subjugated, enslaved as nations, two mighty peoples; we are to determine how much of liberty we shall permit the individuals thereof to enjoy.
While we are familiar with the concepts and aspirations, the intellectual life, the cultural achievement of one people, for they are cast in our mold, however much they may, at the moment, be malformed; yet on the other hand, the like elements of character of the other nation are in large part a sealed book to us.
We are to assume, for better or worse, the responsibility for the economic, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual welfare of a hundred odd millions of people, whose every existence indeed lies in our hands. Behind each of these peoples lie ages of traditions and conventions that are part of themselves. Some seem to contemplate that we shall coerce the minds and spirits of these peoples. But God himself does not do that. We must come to them with the law of the brotherhood of men, and with mercy, justice, and the love of peace. For peace will not come to the earth while a hundred odd millions of people seethe with hate and vengeance in their hearts. They must be led, not driven, to peace.
Yet we come to our task of self-assumed duties while hate yet smoulders in our hearts, with some amongst us trying to fan it into flame. We are not without a spirit of conquest, nor has the feeling of retaliation yet left us.
Hate even to loathing, and revenge, and dire fear, fill the hearts of our enemies. They will dream and plan and conspire to visit upon us even as we have visited upon them. We shall seek to change their dreams; we shall punish those who plan and conspire. This is the rule of conquest.
God will not, cannot come where hate meets hate, and revenge meets revenge. Where these things dwell, righteousness cannot abide, and where righteousness is not, the powers of evil command.
Yet we must build for peace. We want no more war. All humanity calls for this. God has commanded it, for from the first he has said, “love your neighbors as yourselves.” We are all his children – the good, the bad, the fair skin and the dark. He has given to no man authority to deal with his fellow man otherwise.
This is an awesome task. Surely we must come to our work in soberness, with prayers in our hearts and on our lips, that we may, in all this, work out his will. We may not forget that we are far from being the perfect lawmakers, even for ourselves.
If peace does not come, but war, then ours will be the fault, ours and our allies.
But the hour of victory leaves with us a problem far greater than even these. We end the war with the use of the most destructive weapon the mind of man has yet conceived. It can literally destroy nations, apparently with a degree of horror and misery and suffering heretofore unknown. Humankind, the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, the fish in the sea, – all can be wiped out and it may be the earth itself made lifeless. We have learned how to unleash an elemental force of the universe.
Some assume that we shall keep this secret to ourselves, – we of America and our favorites, we who invented it, for it did not come from Germany, nor Japan – and that, since we alone shall have the secret, we alone may use it, as shall seem to us just and proper. But the useful purposes to which this new power may be put seem so great that sooner or later this terror-striking secret will become the common property of the world. Then it can be turned against us.
Thus, we of America appear to have loosed upon the world that which can be the greatest curse that ever afflicted men, or the greatest temporal blessing that ever came to humanity. Let us send to our Father in heaven, our daily prayers, as fervent and faith-filled as the human heart can feel and the human mind form, that God will so direct his children in the use of this great discovery that good not evil will ever flow after it. I pray this with all the power I possess. But my heart is heavy with foreboding, because the nations (ourselves among them) are proposing to arm on a scale never before equaled in the history of the world and armed nations have always been fighting nations. I fear Armageddon is not yet fought, and, if fought with this weapon, we shall pray the Lord to fulfil his promise:
“And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matt. 24:22.)
Great will be our blessings if we meet our duties and responsibilities, great our penalties if we fail.
May God endow us with knowledge and understanding; help us and our allies to see our task aright; give us understanding of men and nations; bestow upon us justice, tempered with mercy; enlighten us that we see the things that matter as against those that do not; give us discernment of men and nations; put pride and arrogance, self-righteousness and intolerance, hate and revenge, from our hearts, and plant in lieu thereof, brotherly love and kindness, that we may lead these subject peoples into the ways of peace and righteousness, they forsaking force and the rule of might; give us, above all else, wisdom to govern in accordance with the eternal principles of the everlasting gospel, for in no other way and by no other process will peace come permanently to men. God will hold us strictly responsible for this stewardship which we have seized at the point of the sword.
And now again, we mourn with those who have lost loved ones in this terrible conflict. Again we pray: May the Lord comfort and console them and fortify them with the knowledge that God doeth all things well and rewards every one who yields his life to high duty and his country’s call; may war not again curse the earth; may all the peoples of the earth put hate out of their hearts and lives, that real peace may enter and pervade their souls, the peace which the Lord gives to those who live righteously; may we all know that all men are God’s children, that he cares for and loves them, and watches over and protects every one that doeth righteousness. May the Lord hasten the day that all men may come to know the Redeemer of the world, that they may live in obedience to the commandments of God. And lastly at this time, we pray for wisdom and guidance that we and they we now rule, shall come to a oneness of purpose that shall bring peace, permanent peace to all men. O God, give us peace, we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.