Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pictures from Decisive Battles in Chinese History

My book, Decisive Battles in Chinese History from Westholme Press is scheduled to come out in October. I've been going through edits and checking the maps for the book.  Here are a few of the pictures I hope to use. My guiding principle was to take pictures associated with the text that are evocative on their own, but also show something that you don't expect from Chinese history.  I do have one picture of a Terra Cotta Warrior (that restored the original color), but I generally tried to stay away from stereotypical Chinese images.

Song Heavy Cavalry (960-1279). Because heavy cavalry is focused on the plains of Northern China, I estimate this is sometimes between 960 and 1126. 

Japanese soldiers in Shanghai fighting under the Coke billboard. 1937.

The Human Bridge, 20th century painter Gu Fuan. 

Artist representation of a tower ship opposing a much smaller ship from the Ming Dynasty, Battle of Lake Poyang 1363. 

View of an American Marine facing south on the lower Yangtze. (If you look very closely you can see the American flag on the mast on the front of the boat.) American soldiers protected US civilians and trade in the region throughout much of the first half of the 20th century. 

12th century ink drawing of the 3rd century Battle of Red Cliffs. 

Peach Blossom Study water color painting by a 15th century Ming painter. My book includes an amazing story about the Peace Blossoms in Spring. 

What picture do you like the most, and what pictures would you like to see in a book on Chinese military history?

Thanks for reading and I'll get you a link and information about a launch party as they become available.

[I work as a freelance author. If you found value in this work please consider donating using one of the paypal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The 21st Century Book of Mormon

[This is a rough draft of a book proposal I have in mind. There is a 21st century series edited by one of my friends, I've also seen a think tank that a has a similar series. I thought the Book of Mormon could use the same treatment. What do you think? Is the idea unique enough to warrant its own book? What topics unique to the 21st century would you like to see discussed? What do you think overall of the proposal?]

The Book of Mormon is listed as the 4th most influential book in American history. It is revered by millions as a book of sacred scripture, and was a guiding book for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate, as well as numerous Senators and public officials. Yet despite its contribution to shaping American history and the worldview of America’s leaders, an academic study of the book still remains in its infancy.

Over one third of the book is devoted to warfare, yet there are only a handful of texts are exclusively devoted to a study of warfare.  Sadly, just a few of those books maintain high academic standards. Warfare in the Book of Mormon, is a collection of essays from a conference held almost 30 years ago.  War and Peace in our Times: Mormon Perspectives, includes a good deal of research, but also branches out to other disciplines and approaches that move away from the Book of Mormon. Some aspects of study, such as placing the historical practice of warfare within a specific time and place, wait further research what are considered likely Book of Mormon locations in Mesoamerica.  And any research is hampered by the intense disputes about the book’s historicity. 

The Book of Mormon is a complex text that deserves to be taken seriously by policy makers and generals. This book proposes a series of essays that uses the Book of Mormon to discuss and analyze key issues such as preemptive war, peace strategies, ethno religious insurgency, partisan strife, grand strategy, refugee policy, income inequality, and social justice. The end result should make vast strides in understanding the text and making judicious application during a turbulent period. 

Preliminary Table of Contents:

 Preemptive war- Morgan Deane (M.A. military history, study at Kings College London, author Bleached Bones and Wicked Serpents: Ancient Warfare in the Book of Mormon
Peace strategies- Joshua Madsen (author Non Violent Reading of the BoM) / Patrick Mason
Ethno Religious Insurgency- David Spencer (PhD., National Security Specialist on Latin American Insurgency, author of Moroni’s Command: Dynamics of Warfare in the Book of Mormon.)
 Income Inequality- Michael Austin (author, Rereading Job)

Social Justice- Grant Hardy (PhD, author of Understanding the Book of Mormon.

[Thanks for reading. I work as a freelance writer, if you found value in this work please consider making a donation using one of the pay pal buttons at the bottom of the page.] 

Monday, June 12, 2017

LDS Stance on War

[I had the pleasure of appearing on the Interpreter Radio Broadcast several weeks ago. I was on 1340 AM in the Salt Lake Area discussing the LDS stance on War.  I will try to provide the link so you can listen to it.  Meanwhile, these are my prepared notes for the broadcast. As you can tell, they don't have perfect format, but I think you'll find this fairly comprehensive.] 

Early church history was a combination of spiritual rhetoric and practical application.  Section 32 prophesied the American Civil War which would start a series of wars culminating in the Second Coming. Section 98 calls for Latter Day Saints to renounce war and proclaim peace. 

They practical aspects include Zion’s camp and the Mormon War in 1837, both of which featured use of the militia. Nauvoo Legion was rather prominent, Joseph Smith a Lt. General.  Though in that age being part of a militia was part of being a respectable leading citizen and wasn’t necessarily a sign of militarism.  The relations with Native Americans in Utah territory shifted from religious to practical and often violent. (Zion as a Refuge, Mark McGee, Mormon Perspectives on War).  They were called selectively pacifistic by historians like Micheal Quinn, geographic position combined with theology allowed them to remain somewhat aloof from secular military conflicts.

Civil War seen as a judgement of God upon the US, especially the action in Missouri which was particularly brutal. They raised a cavalry regiment to help protect the mail (and gain the lucrative contract associated with it.)

Key turning point was the Spanish American War in 1898.  Brigham Young Jr. said there are other ways to show patriotism than throwing away sons for foreign wars. Church leaders such as George Q. Cannon and Wilford Woodruff emphasized the need to avoid a fracture with the US. They were the baby (newest) state and had a long fight with the federal government. Long term, this showed the integration of the church into good patriotic citizens. They raised several more units than the government asked.  Bloggers like Gina Colvin don’t like this but the church often matched positions with American foreign policy.

In 1941 Clark wrote a rejected draft of a first presidency letter that rejected war, it was not the "Masters Way but the jungle laws of the beast.” (Quinn, Pacifist Prophet, in Mormon Perspectives on War.) In 1942 the first president issued a statement regarding war. Latter Day Saints should have peace in their hearts, they are subject to their countries and should serve patriotically. If they kill in the course of war it would not make them murderers.  The church, probably under the urging of the “pacifist apostle” J Reuben Clark later clarified that conscientious objectors were allowed to defer. 

Since that time the church has generally held the position that they should renounce war and proclaim peace, they should love their enemies and pray for peace, but under scriptures such as those describing Captain Moroni they are allowed to fight for liberty and family. President Hinckley exemplified this approach during the Iraq War using the same examples. Follow the Prince of Peace, but identify with Moroni’s Title of Liberty and other just items as validation for war.

There are significant minority voices in the church though. J Reuben Clark fought for the protection of conscientious objectors, strongly denounced war, and even called America’s firebombing of Dresden and use of atomic weapons as the “crowning savagery of war.” Ironically, in all 82 boxes of his personal records there is not one condemnation of Nazi war crimes except his criticism of the Nuremburg Trials. Many Latter Day Saints of the time were appalled at his conduct. They called his words the most seditious they had ever heard, and called him The Butchers’ Apostle.  His opinions were largely subsumed by official First President statements above and he is largely a cause celeb among anti war members but has not affected doctrine to any significant degree. Russell Nelson also sounded clear anti war messages.  He made news during the height of the build up to the Iraq War for his statements that seemed to condemn it. The church quickly contextualized his statements in the context of the renouncing war but supporting Just Causes displayed by Hinckley and the 1942 statement. 

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Friday, May 26, 2017

A special post about Memorial Day and Freedom

[I write about three articles a week for Opslens magazine. I wrote this one for the upcoming holiday and re-post it there in full because I think its worth reading.] 

The three day weekend seems to be the new American tradition and I and my daughter have very special plans. Unfortunately, the tradition seems to be accompanied by a new one that calls for lots of social media shaming. In various encounters I’ve seen individuals attacked for wishing a “happy” holiday, which doesn’t properly honor or comfort the fallen. (Its never affects me directly, as a Marine veteran from a double gold star family I’ve got enough street cred to avoid that crap.) While the desire to remember veterans on Memorial Day is good, public shaming on social media is a very shallow way to do it and misses a very important point about freedom.

As I’ve discussed, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the continued efforts in the War on Terror increasingly fall on small number of people and families. Unlike the immediate aftermath of the mass draft in World War II and Vietnam, according to sources less than one percent of Americans currently serve in the military.  This relatively heavy burden on a relatively small population means that many Americans want to honor service men and women, but don’t know how. This disconnect often forces people beyond praise into un critical hero worship. Combined with a culture that often involves hi tech lynchings, venting rants, and skewed realities based on social media, this sometimes lead to people policing and shaming others for their apparent disrespect for the military. 

A true respect and value for the military would mean a person researches and works hard to ensure service men and women are properly trained, equipped, and deployed across the world. This true respect requires a good deal of reading, research and thought, but very little social media use.  Facebook posts shaming others for barbecuing on Memorial Day is a shallow and frankly pathetic attempt to honor the troops. It’s like trying to fight terrorism by putting a French flag filter on your Instagram profile, or trying to save kidnapped women by tweeting a hast tag. More important than how somebody honors the troops, is having an appreciation of the fundamental freedom for which the military fights.  America is so amazing that it even grants the freedom to its citizens to burn its flag. That freedom also includes not honoring veterans on Memorial Day Weekend.  That is not particularly grateful behavior, but true freedom doesn’t force people into honoring it or the soldiers that sacrificed for it.    


With the holiday weekend arriving, I would remind those tempted to shame others on social media for not showing sufficient respect, that barbecuing and enjoying the holiday with family is a perfectly acceptable way to use the freedom that so many fought for.  So feel free to celebrate the holiday weekend however you would like. Personally, I enjoy the free hot dogs and soda at the local furniture store.  I hope your celebration includes remembering the fallen servicemen and women, but I hope even more that you take the time to appreciate the freedom they fought for by spending time with your family in peace.  

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