Friday, November 30, 2012

George Orwell on Pacifism

Greetings. I've been busy getting settled here in Las Vegas. I'm still working on my book, but I came across an interesting passage. I find it extremely interesting because I recently made the same comment. I am pro war to the extent that I am anti genocide, mass rape, and homicidal dictator. But others, like some LDS leaders from the past, were anti war to the extent they were pro Nazi.

George Orwell said during WWII:
In so far as it hampers the British war effort, British pacifism is on the side of the Nazis and German pacifism, if it exists, is on the side of Britain and the USSR. Since pacifists have more freedom of action in countries where traces of democracy survive, pacifism can act more effectively against democracy than for it. Objectively the pacifist is pro Nazi.

A year later he said:
Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me.'
Jonah Goldberg, The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas (New York: Penguin Group, 2012) 183.

So I love it when I arrive independently to a conclusion similar to that of great minds. It is also nice to have some reinforcements. It seems so simple and easy for so many people to say that violence never solves anything. But then I have to defend how I'm not rabidly pro war, but still think it is just and necessary. Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What are you doing?

I know I haven't posted in quite awhile. I have very specific reasons for doing so. But I value the time you take to read this blog so I want to provide a brief update.

Home: I'm buying a house. I should close in early November. The logistics on the front and back end are rather daunting and it tends to absorb much of my free thinking.

New Blog: I'm working on a new personal blog. This blog has changed my academic fortune a great deal. I'm hoping a personal blog will do the same for my social life. It should be titled- Adventures in Babe Getting: A slightly outrageous chronicle of a single dad dating in the Mormon world.

New Posts: I have several posts on which I'm working. One of them examines the rhetoric of the pacifist J Reuben Clark. Mainly I show how his contradictory positions, demotion within the church, and tacit support for Nazi and Communist dictators make him a far less reliable source than many think.

I've argued before that anti war advocates cherry pick quotes that support their position. I thought I would list a few in return. These both derive from my reading the rest of the volume: Mormon Perspectives of War. But both of these quotes follow the same theme that I've discussed many times before, and I don't want to become the anti-libertarian blog so I want to cover some other topics before I return for more rebuttal posts.

I have a post that discuses Zeniff's words in Mosiah chapter 9. I want to see if his commander was really so bloodthirsty, and what the text meant by "austere." I'm also wondering what Zeniff means by the good among the Lamanites, especially when he calls them cunning and lazy just a few verses later. I have many questions from the text and haven't been able to organize them just yet.

Books: I am still trying to get my book published. The publishers are taking so long to get back to me, and I'm so frustrated having a manuscript on hand for over a year that I'm ready to self publish it.

I also have another idea in the very early stages. I've met about a half dozen military historians that have books that are published or the in the process of doing so. I thought a volume that took the best of each author would do many valuable things. It would promote the exchange of ideas among military historians, foster a sense of community and increase our readership. It wouldn't bring a big increase to our workloads since most of us can contribute a chapter from a published work, or a chapter that is waiting to be published. I think the new "FARMS" journal, The Interpreter, would be a good place for this project. This seems like the kind of project the old FARMS would love to pursue. But this is the first time I've shared the idea out loud. I would love to hear your thoughts about below.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Duplicitous Anti War Critic

A short time ago I wrote about the duplicticty of the anti war critic. I argued that when the prophet agrees with their political views the critics mistakenly attach too much weight to that statement. Then they use those words as a cudgel with which to beat their opponents. When a prophet does not agree with them, they use various qualifiers to negate their words. These include things such as speaking as a man, speaking under the cultural influence of the day, or simply giving their non binding opinion. While this sounds disrespectful towards a prophet, the last reason is actually the correct one as outlined by the church. So critics proof text their favorite quotes which agree with their political leanings, and then apply an inappropriate amount of weight to them. They take their cherry picked arguments and beat their opponents over the head with them. And they cast aside their words when they don't.

With this summary you should be able to gather why I disagree with large parts of this interview here. Boyack sponsored a billboard called war like people. This is a classic example of cherry picking non binding quotes to support a political agenda.

But in the interview Boyack also makes it clear in answering question 9, and in comment 7, that he uses prophet's words that support his viewpoints, and ignores those that don't. This is a classic example of the duplicity of the anti war critic. (I would add that he ignores the upstream sources for doctrine in the scriptures and especially The Book of Mormon.) Church doctrine resides in the scriptures, and official proclamations. Statements outside of that are well considered opinions and not binding on the church, especially political opponents.

I don't begrudge Boyack a book or two. Even Snooki wrote a book so its not the end of civilization. But Boyack wants the freedom to ignore church council based on "circumstantial" statements, but then sees the need to cherry pick quotes in his warlike site, and in his foreign policy views and books, so he can then castigate those with whome he disagrees.

While Boyack is simply the most current example, this happens all the time. So I will summarize my feelings on the matter below:

1. I feel it is inappropriate to prooftext a prophet's words to support your political position. Anti mormons use Brigham Young quotes to say all sorts of things that don't represent Mormon doctrine. Yet anti war quotes get a different treatment from some people. Randi Bott used words from past prophets and was soundly censored by the church. President Kimball said:"Please avoid, even by implication, involving the Church in political issues. It is so easy, if we are not careful, to project our personal preferences as the position of the Church on an issue.”

2. It is even more inappropriate to question the spirituality of those that disagree with your prooftexted position. (I call people wrong all the time, but I've never called anybody names or personally attacked them. Although Geoff B. at the Millennial Star is sure tempting me.)

3. The problem is compounded because the church has clearly specified where doctrine comes from; it is not from a smattering of talks from past pacifist prophets.

4. The prophets have, at the very least, contradictory positions on warfare. So what ends up occurring is something I call "prophet bashing", where people take their various prooftexted positions and proceed to beat each other the head with them. (I borrow the term from "bible bashing" that occurs so frequently on a mission.) So you have people who take the GAs that agree with them, like Clark from the 30s and 40s, while explaining away those that don't, such as Hinckley from 2003, and vice versa. I feel this is not a behavior that loving Latter Day Saints should use against their brothers and sisters in the gospel. Again, it is extremely inappropriate to declare a position buttressed by your reading of non doctrinal texts to browbeat and label your opponents as unrighteous.

5. Since the standard works proclaim doctrine and isolated talks do not, I focus on the former. It is a major reason why I have a website devoted to the study of the warfare in The Book of Mormon.

Thanks for reading. Some of you may wonder why I spend so much time rebutting radical libertarians. Most of whom you have probably never heard from and it might seem like I have an ax to grind against them. As a historian I understand how difficult it is to combat mistaken historical ideas that become popular knowledge. The Church is especially prone to this because of the respect and reverence we have for the prophet's words. So it is extremely easy for loud people active around the web to assert what the prophets have supposedly said to support their positions.

It is one thing to cherry pick prophets to support your political position, but their analysis of history is even more wrong.(See here and here for two examples.) And then, instead of simply being doubly wrong, they viciously attack the historical knowledge and spirituality of people who might disagree with them. So I'm insulted in every possible way by these people on a regular basis and feel obligated to set the record straight. Since military history is my wheelhouse, it is also like shooting fish in a barrel.

Friday, August 24, 2012

War and Peace in Our Time

I received the date for the release of my essay in the upcoming volume, War and Peace in Our Times: Mormon Perspectives. From the website:

Edited by Patrick Q. Mason, J. David Pulsipher, and Richard L. Bushman

These essays reveal how the scriptures, prophetic teachings, history, culture, rituals, and traditions of Mormonism have been, are, and can be used as warrants for a wide range of activities and attitudes—from radical pacifism to legitimation of the United States’ use of preemptive force against its enemies. As a relatively young religion that for much of its early history was simply struggling for survival, Mormonism has not yet fully grappled with some of the pressing questions of war and peace, with all of the attendant theological, social, and political ramifications. Given the LDS Church’s relative stability and measure of prominence and influence in the early twenty-first century, the time is ripe to examine the historical, spiritual, and cultural resources within the tradition that provide a foundation for constructive dialogue about how individual Latter-day Saints and the institutional Church orient themselves in a world of violence. While recognizing the important contributions of previous scholars who had offered analysis and reflection on the topic, these essays offer a more sustained and collaborative examination of Mormon perspectives on war and peace, drawing on both historical-social scientific research as well as more normative (theological and ethical) arguments.

"This provocative and thoughtful book is sure both to infuriate and to delight. It brings together reflections and advocacy pieces by an eclectic and serious group of scholars, national security professionals, and peace activists, united by a common passion to discern within Latter-day Saint scriptures and history patterns of thought concerning the causes of war and the conditions of peace. The contributions range from expansive definitions of national defense to philosophic pacifism and from subtle arguments to crusading manifestos. The essays demonstrate that exegesis of distinctly Latter-day Saint scriptures can yield a wealth of disputation, the equal of any rabbinical quarrel or Jesuitical casuistry. This volume provides a fitting springboard for robust and lively debates within the Mormon scholarly and lay community on how to think about the pressing issues of war and peace." - Robert S. Wood, Dean Emeritus, Center for Naval Warfare Studies, Chester W. Nimitz Chair Emeritus, U.S. Naval War College

"This is an extraordinary collection of essays on a topic of extraordinary importance. The editors have deliberately included thoughtful LDS voices on war and peace from a variety of perspectives—from peace activists and veterans to historians and national security professionals. The result is a book that will frustrate easy answers and partisan positions. The Book of Mormon includes both military heroes and a devastating critique of militarism; J. Reuben Clark was indeed a pacifist, but for problematic reasons; Hugh Nibley’s strong aversion to war came directly from his personal experiences on the battlefield, while other Mormons have been able to reconcile their commitment to “renounce war and proclaim peace” with their service in uniform. When is state-sanctioned violence necessary or appropriate? Does war ultimately do more harm than good? Are the alternatives reasonable or realistic? Whatever your current opinion on the topic, this book will challenge you to reflect more deeply and thoroughly on what it means to be a disciple of Christ, the Prince of Peace, in an era of massive military budgets, lethal technologies, and widespread war."
- Grant Hardy

I'm honored that my essay seemed to inspire the line about "[legitimizing] the use of preemptive force" found in the first sentence of the book blurb. Although I don't think it is the polar opposite of radical pacifism. If anything, my position articulated the belief of the majority position in the church which supported the war. I hope you buy a copy and enjoy the read.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Amalickiah: God Made Me King

I found a great article by Ben Spackman which details the possible origins of Amalickiah. Spackman, in making his case, details some of the behaviors of Near Eastern usurpers and suggests several intriguing items. He points out that Amalickiah could be a throne name designed to grant him additional legitimacy. He also hints at the idea that since his brother assumed the throne after his death that they killed the sons of the previous Lamanite King. Spackman pointed out that this article still needs some work, but he certainly presents some intriguing ideas.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Drinking the Blood of your Enemy

I'm listening to the FAIR Conference online. (I'm buying a house in the near future and need to conserve money. Plus, listening to a conference while you sit on your couch and surf facebook is the best way to go!) John Sorenson spoke this morning about his upcoming book. It is said to be roughly 800 pages of parallels and evidence which support the authenticity of The Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican text. He shared some of that evidence which included a practice of generals fighting until "they drank the blood of their opponent." We see almost the exact phrase in Alma 49:27. His book isn't expected until early next year, but I look forward to seeing his source and the exact material behind it. I am already planning on using it for an upcoming paper on the warrior ethos in The Book of Mormon. If you have some free time I highly recommend the conference to you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Die With Your Boots On

Like many across America I've been saddened by the recent news in Colorado. In particular I've been touched by the many people that died protecting their loved ones. But something bugged me about it as well. I don't take away any respect for those brave people who died protecting those closest to them. I don't think there is anything more that a women can ask than to be willingly protected without hesitation in a moment of crisis with their man's life.  But I am angry that they were turned into such passive helpless victims, who didn't have to die.

  The first tragedy is that evil like this exists and mental health professionals or law enforcement officials were not able to catch him before he went this far. (Breaking news as I write this post suggests that a University of Colorado psychiatrist received a notebook detailing the plans but it got lost in the mail room. How tragic!) But there is something more than that. It finally struck me when I listened to a song by Iron Maiden called: Die with your boots on. Dying while trying to protect your girlfriend or child is honorable. I can't help but think how many of them would have rather died while protecting their loved ones by facing their attacker with a gun of their own.

We don't know what could have happened because citizens were denied their second amendment rights. The theater was a "safe zone" which forbid guns. That simply made the theater goers easier targets for their shooter. Armed and trained citizens acting in the moment of attack, are much more likely to save lives than armed and trained citizens arriving minutes later. There could have been a gun owner within five feet of the attacker, or fifty feet away. That gun owner could have had a clear shot, or never had one. For example, one witness described how he ducked down and actually felt the spent rounds land on him as the attacker shot other people. So this person, literally, had a point blank shot at the attacker as he was distracted...if he was armed.

Some people argue that this man was too armored, and had too big of an advantage for one defensive shooter to have an effect. But every concealed permit I know of requires training. A trained person could hit the head, and even an untrained shooter could hit if they were close enough to feel the spent shells fall on them. Barring that there is a chance of hitting an unprotected limb. If the defender did hit armor, bullets bouncing off of it would draw the attention of the shooter. Depending on the calibre of the weapon, it would also knock him down, or even bruise a rib. The ensuing firefight, even if one sided between a handgun and an armored man with an assault rifle, would draw his attention and allow others to escape.

Plus, there is a psychology advantage in disrupting the attacker. Most mass shooters are cowards who enjoy the power and pleasure brought by shooting helpless, surprised people and hearing their screams. They have a preplanned scenario of helpless victims running from him as he shoots fish in a barrel. A disruption of that mental narrative by fighting back, especially with another gun, would have shaken the gunmen. Since most of these crazy gunmen are not trained marksmen, while people with their concealed permits are, combined with their defying the preplanned scenario in the attackers' head, would have given the defender a good chance of striking the attacker first. And saved lives. Keep in mind that there were several military personal in the audience, so there is an even greater chance that their marksmanship would have been superior to the attackers. And they would have been trained in how to operate in tear gassed environments.

I have personal experience with the theory that calls for a counterattack against a mass shooter. My stepfather was personally involved in a mass shooting. Unlike the the Fort Hood shooting, only one person died. A group of unarmed special forces, including my step father, charged the attacker immediately after he started firing. They chased him down through the forest in a one sided firefight and captured him. They saved at least a dozen lives, and I have grown up without my step father because of it. But I am proud of my step father for dying with his boots on. Even unarmed, they subdued the attacker and saved lives.

The lesson we should learn, is that citizens are far safer when they are allowed to exercise their second amendment rights. They don't have to act like special forces. But they already showed their willingness to act with bravery and heroism, they could have been much more effective in those efforts if they were armed. There were many heroes in this tragedy who could have gone on to lead full and productive lives. But instead they were reduced to being human shields for their loved ones. They could have had a much better chance of subduing the attacker and saving the lives of their loved ones, but also their own lives, and prevented the deaths of other victims, if they were allowed to arm themselves. In short, these heroes were denied a chance to die with their boots on.

Here is the video:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Laban's Sword

Over at Jeff Lindsey's blog he has a great new post about Laban's sword. If you are a long time reader you've probably noticed I don't discuss swords or address that debate often. Frankly, I find the argument about swords is as boring as it is elementary. I specialize in military history, I have several degrees, I have several research languages and numerous publications, I don't feel the need to spend my time in the trenches fighting arguments that are thirty years old. To extend the comparison, I hope to be more like the strategic bomber pilot above the trenches. I have the ability to go far deeper than most scholars, and using my rare combination of specialities I aim to produce new and exciting scholarship to the point that anti Mormons can't engage it.  In short, I want to move the debate forward and change the battlefield the same way that airplanes changed modern warfare.  So even though I've dismissed the importance of swords there are many of my readers that might find it interesting. So please read it!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Moroni's Preemptive War

Dan Campbell is a community organizer that writes about The Book of Mormon. His post about Amalickiah’s leadership had numerous problems. The major problems include improperly applied modern connotations, abused sources, improperly defined pivotal terms, insulting his readers, and ignoring Moroni’s pre-emptive strike against Amalickiah.

One of Campbell’s major critiques is Amalickiah’s use of propaganda. Campbell writes:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of." These are the opening lines of Edward Bernays famous book Propaganda published in 1928. Bernays was part of the first official American state propaganda apparatus, The Committee on Public Information. This group played a crucial role in convincing the peace loving people of America to go to war in Europe in 1917 (WWI). The closing lines of the book are these: "Propaganda will never die out. Intelligent men must realize that propaganda is the modern instrument by which they can fight for productive ends and help to bring order out of chaos." What we must understand is that whether we feel it plausible or not, men in power are, and have been, and ever will be studying how to and attempting to manipulate the masses to achieve their corrupt goals or in other words their “order out of chaos.” (highlighting mine)
The problem with this is within his very quote. Propaganda is a modern term. It takes advantage of technology only available in the modern age. This included the use of radio, widespread newspapers, leaflets, (eventually television), and the structure of a totalitarian state to ensure the censorship of contrary information and dissemination of the party line. It also presumed a literate society that can read pamphlets and tracts mass produced by printing press. The pre-modern society in The Book of Mormon did not contain these elements. Theirs was an oral society with a small elite that could read and write. Central control was largely absent as seen by the inability of the Lamanite King to muster all of his forces. Written records were rare and relatively difficult to produce. There is a reason why the 1453 invention of the printing press was world altering. So of course the father of propaganda called this a uniquely modern phenomenon. Unfortunately Campbell copied his (apparently) favorite author without realizing how unworkable it is as a model for understanding The Book of Mormon.

I suspect the writer used this model because of his natural bias and radical libertarian, borderline conspiracy theories. This also led him to abuse sources. We all have bias but he seemed intent on attacking what he views as contemporary pro war propaganda. He did so by quoting a modern writer writing about the use of modern mediums in a modern society as seen above. He then advanced his conspiracy theories with an uncited quote from Ezra Benson. Even verified, he puts too much weight on the quote. Next, he admittedly “imagines” what Amalickiah says. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like GeorgeW. Bush’s rationale for his foreign policy. One of my publications comments that King Men who opposed Moroni may have called him warmongering fascist. But I qualify my statement and used a generic term. Here he admittedly imagined that Amalickiah used the same words as Bush. On top of using little facts to support his assertions of modern day propaganda, and preemptively defending against the charge of conspiracy, he does what many radical LDS libertarians do and condemned his opponents to Hell. (Alma 54:11)

Even worse than his unsupported assertions, Campbell’s definitions of military terms were extremely poor.  Terrorism is probably the most debated term in contemporary thought. Yet the author summarily defines it “in a nutshell”, as an “act against a non-military target, an assassination, or some other equivalent high-profile crime intended to provoke a massive public reaction.” Terrorism does seek to provoke a reaction, but that reaction is usually terror and not increased government control like he implied. Better definitions also include violent acts that seek to provoke terror. The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” But there is also a debate concerning if and how the various definitions might apply to state or liberation forces. While in this case Campbell implied that the threat of terrorism was an excuse for the state to expand its power.

Despite getting the definition wrong, he insulted those that disagreed with his analysis. “If you are unaware of the implications or the history of either of those terms, thank the public school system and being your research. (i.e. google).” As with many radical libertarians, he cannot simply stick to his argument but must insult the intelligence of his readers and pretend that he knows so much more than his opponents. But then he got those terms wrong and used very unscholarly terms such as “in a nutshell.” Maybe I haven’t arrived as a scholar on my way to getting a PhD in Chinese military history, but I don’t know any historians that would equate research with a google search.[1]

Most importantly, the author failed to cite the preemptive action of Moroni against Amalickiah. As I write in the upcoming volume on War and Peace in our Times: Mormon Perspectives:

[Moroni] adopted active and, dare I say, preemptive measures to protect their nation. Mormon records the first instance of this in Alma 43. As he prepared an ambush for Lamanite forces, Moroni “thought it no sin that he should defend them by stratagem” (v. 30). Moreover, Moroni preemptively “cut off” Amalickiah, based on the assumption that preventing his escape through military action would prevent a future war (46:30). As with the first instance, this action is presented without editorial dissent, and it is instead given as part of Moroni’s stellar resume. In the same chapter that described a period in their history that was “never happier,” Moroni “cut off” the Lamanites living in the east and west wildernesses (Alma 50:11). This occurs during a time of supposed peace, but it could also be described as a lull or “cold war” between the First and Second Amalickiahite War. In either case, while there were no active hostilities between the two nations, Moroni is lauded for his preemptive actions, ambushes, and active defense.

Thus, there is ample evidence that Moroni would have supported and led a preemptive war, because he did so before. Moroni was prevented from “cutting off” Amalickiah because the latter likely sacrificed the bulk of his army to save himself. (Alma 46:32-33) This does support the idea of Amalickiah as a scheming leader. But citing Moroni’s incomplete preemptive war undermined Campbell’s case. I make a preliminary argument which supports preemptive war here.

In conclusion, I don’t know why libertarians feel the need to pontificate on subjects about which they don’t know, and castigate fellow members of the church they have never met. Campbell valiantly attempted to apply Amalickiah’s actions to the modern day. But he improperly applied modern ideas to ancient scriptures, abused sources, provided poor definitions of pivotal terms, insulted his readers, and ignored Moroni’s pre-emptive strike against Amalickiah. Opponents of military intervention need to better use The Book of Mormon through strict application of terms and a more thorough understanding of military history.

1. It is possible that the author was facetiously referencing what his dumb opponents would use, and not what he uses. But based on his previous mistakes I think that is giving him too much credit.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Blow to FARMers

I came across some very sad news here. It is sad to see politics rear its ugly head. I thought Daniel Peterson deserved better. My blog and research into The Book of Mormon builds upon the foundation started by FARMS. Hamblin is right, I have looked other places to publish my research. This seems to be a trend that FARMS now encourages.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Philosophies of Man, Mangled With Scripture

Connor Boyack is a web programmer and pugnacious advocate for his political views. Unfortunately he is a horrible military historian. His post “Preventive War in the Book of Mormon” is riddled with imprecise terms, wrenched quotes, and an inappropriate understanding of the prophet’s words and scriptures.[1]

He defined preventative war as seeking to “fight the enemy on your own terms,” as an extension of the belief that the best defense is a good offense. Boyack contended that this is supported through an extensive network of spies in an effort to prevent a future attack.

Boyack’s definition is rather poor. In the first place many nations can shape their defense so they can “fight the enemy on your own terms”. The Northern Song Dynasty faced repeated invasions from their nomadic neighbors and instituted a system of forts, walls, trenches, and ditches that negated the potency of an invasion. He also failed to identify specific military action that meets these criteria. Boyack and other radical libertarians most often cite the Iraq War as the worst example of preventative war. Since the Iraq War had ample justification he seems to be tilting at windmills. He also failed to specify the difference between possible and imminent attacks, and preventative versus pre-emptive attacks. His definitions are so vague it seems as though he can twist those descriptions to fit any war he doesn’t like or support.

His definition meets further resistance when he tried to use Eisenhower to support his case. Eisenhower’s New Look military relied upon “nukes and spooks” to keep the military budget low. His two most famous cases of these are the CIA inspired coup in Iran and his threats to use nuclear weapons against the Chinese in the 1954 and 58 Taiwan Crisis. Thus Boyack supported his attack on preventive war with an out of context quote from an individual which used tactics included in the definition of it. In short, the man who prepared planes for a nuclear first strike is used to oppose first strikes. The man who leaned heavily on the CIA is used to condemn the use of spies. This speaks to the ignorance of Boyack and his tendency to dogmatically assert quotes which sound as though they agree with his political leaning. Moreover, with all due respect to Eisenhower, he never served during a time of rogue states seeking weapons of mass destruction with extensive ties and support for terrorists, and thus his opinion on how to deal with them is not reliable.

Boyack also prophet bashed with an unverified letter from the WWII era First Presidency.[2] Assuming it is even real, he incorrectly weighed their words. I’ve discussed in other places, how official and binding church doctrine is found in the standard works and statements signed by the top 15 leaders of the church, and not in the isolated words of the individual leaders. The reason for this becomes apparent as Boyack cites Hinckley to support his cherry picked verses from The Book of Mormon but failed to describe how Hinckley endorsed the Iraq War. (Of course, Boyack twists his words into saying something else, which only proves my point about the duplicity of the anti war critic.) Again, Boyack selectively quoted an individual who would likely contradict his arguments.

Finally, Boyack turned to verses in The Book of Mormon. Conveniently he side stepped the war chapters. But he failed to account for Moroni’s, preventative expulsion of Lamanite settlers from the East wilderness.[3] For the remainder of the verses cited by Boyack, I will reply with quotes from my upcoming chapter in War and Peace in Our Times: Mormon Perspectives.

The thoughtful reader may recall several supposedly clear-cut verses that forbid “preemptive war.” The eleventh chapter of Mosiah, for example, describes how the soldiers of King Noah boasted and delighted in bloodshed. Yet there is no clear condemnation of all warfare, only of lusting after blood and boasting in one’s own strength. In Third Nephi, Gidgiddoni says the Lord forbade them from going into their opponents lands. Yet even in that same campaign, Gidgiddoni maneuvered his army to cut off the robbers. His “offensive defensive” operations suggest, at least, a more flexible approach than an overly simplistic notion that offensive war is inherently “bad”.

Mormon 3:15 is also cited as forbidding preemptive war. But the real sin recorded by Mormon was not the offensive tactics but rather the blood lust and vengeance that dictated Nephite strategy. The seemingly unequivocal anti-war sentiment expressed in Mormon 4:4 does not record any saying of the Lord, but can just as easily represent a strategic description. If this is a command against offensive action it is also contradicted by the other writings of Mormon. This is most clearly seen in a reevaluation of Alma 48:14. The traditional application of the verse is interpreted as a prohibition against offensive warfare. But a slightly different reading suggests the Nephites are commanded to never “give an offense” except “against an enemy” and “to preserve their lives.”(Alma 48:14)
Independent of one’s position on preventative war, (you can see my position here), Boyack failed to define his terms properly, wrenched quotes out of context from people who did or said things which specifically contradicted Boyack’s position, incorrectly asserted the primacy of unsupported quotes, failed to understand the meaning of supposedly supportive verses, left out at least one verse which directly contradicts his case, and tried to disqualify the very clear verses that justify armed actions. Simply being wrong is one thing. I witness stupid screeds every day. But Boyack and many fanatic Ron Paul supporters then follow up with laments about the ignorance of others, and their need to go back to school. They have many philosophies, but even mangling them with scripture won’t make them correct or a viable foreign policy.

Update 7/24/12: This is an abortive post that I didn't think rated its own entry.  Since all the trolls liked this post I will simply post it here: The title to my post, The Household of God, comes from  the Book of Ephesians. It exemplifies the basic respect that I feel every Latter Day Saint should have for another. It also represents the respect a person should have for their opponents. I've previously discussed what bugs me about certain political groups. For radical libertarians their opponents are not only wrong, but also wicked and evil. As though he is trying to prove me correct, Connor Boyack labelled his opponents Gadianton Robbers.

There are many problems with the government, and I think wrong and dangerous ideas exist. But Boyack's post typically casts a wide net filled with vague parrallels, undefined terms, dogmatic use of past LDS leaders, lousy analysis of the scriptures, and rabid denunciations of his political opponents.  I certainly wouldn't label people with whom I disagree as Gadianites.  I wish radical libertarians would spend a little more time in the library and a little less time hurling insults in their online echo chambers.    

1. You can also find it here.
2. See the first comment from Boyack's original post.
3. Alma 50:6-11.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Book Review: The Aeneid of Virgil

The Aeneid of Virgil
Patricia Johnston trans.
Oklahoma University Press
24.95 paperback

Particia Johnston’s translation of The Aeneid seeks to recapture the majesty and beauty of Virgil’s epic poem. She sought to replace the Shakespearean meter with that used by ancient poets. And she used plain language in her prose. In every case she succeeded.

No translation can properly convey all of the beauty from the original but this does a good job. In addition to the beauty of the prose, the author included a substantial introduction covering the other works of Virgil, his cultural milieu, and an explanation of dactylic hexameter. The text included footnotes for obscure terms and a glossary of names at the end.

The poem itself infused the founding of Rome with Greek mythology. The hero Aeneas, escapes the fall of Troy. He travelled with his band to Carthage and eventually Rome. Outside of the Roman attempt to borrow and build upon Greek culture, the Roman writer infused the work with their values. This includes service to the state. In many instances an individual’s passion made them commit foolish acts. In response they were supposed to do their duty. Aeneas left his love at Carthage to fulfill his destiny at Rome. In contrast, Dido abandoned her commitment to her people and passionately killed herself. In the chaos during the sacking of Troy, Aeneas wanted to satisfy his lust for vengeance. Yet the intervention of a god opened his eyes to the hiding place of his family and reminded him of his duty.

This also extended to a concept called “Heroic Fury”. This is the tendency of individual warriors to seek glory at the expense of their duty and larger picture. Priam, the ruler of Troy, witnessed his son’s death, and despite his advanced age, donned his army and attempted to fight his son’s killer. Priam then died an ingloriously. The Latin hero, Turnus, infiltrated the settlement of Aeneas. But instead of opening the gates for his comrades which would have ensured victory, he pursued individual glory.

The poem is not only a classic of Western literature, but has personal value. We all face our journey in life. As educated individuals with the ability to read we have the chance to drink deeply from the collected wisdom and ideas of past ages. This helps us rebuild after the fall of our Troy’s and helps us appreciate and understand the emotions which drive us and conflict with our duty. I can heartily recommend Patricia Johnston’s translation of the Aenied.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Book Review: Book of Mormon Evidences

The Little Book of Book of Mormon Evidences
John Hilton III
Deseret Book
90 pages

[Cross posted at the Association for Mormon Letters]

          John Hilton III has a solid record of publishing a variety of books that appeal to a wide audience. He builds upon his experience as a teacher at EFY and other places to present evidence which would support and reinforce a member’s testimony (6,8). Within the medium he chose, and with his intended audience in mind, John Hilton succeeded.

          The book earns the name “little,” with seven chapters and a short introduction and conclusion. It contained almost the same dimensions as the old white handbook used by missionaries. The chapters briefly explain wordprint studies, the lasting testimony of the witnesses, the timeline of the translation, Hebraisms, chiasmus, and various cultural, historical, or linguistic “aha” moments. Each chapter includes a short personal story or example to entice the reader and then explains the detail for a lay audience.

          For example, the first chapter described how federal officials captured the Unabomber using word print studies. He then says:

My grandfather first got into wordprint studies when he joined a group of scientists, several of whom were not Latter Day Saints, to do a test on the Book of Mormon. Because some people argued that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery wrote it, the researchers wanted to compare their word prints with those of the Book of Mormon. If their wordprints were different from the wordprints of the Book of Mormon, that difference would show they did not write it.
          This approach illustrated both the positives and negatives of the book. Most members of the church who don’t study FARMS or read academic journals would appreciate his nonthreatening and simple approach. It only took this author about 30 minutes to read the entire book, and each chapter includes several easy to find resources for further reading. Those friendly to the church and familiar with the research may find the simplistic approach annoying or trite and certainly not worth their time. Critics of the church may not appreciate the rather simplistic repetition of their arguments. Neither side will find new arguments in the book. This writer found his research rather light, and in some cases, such as citing fairwiki or Jeff Lindsey’s website, weak.

          Yet these criticisms are rather minor if you recall the intent of the book. Additional material would likely transform the “little book” into simply “the book”. This would increase its price and make it less useful as an introductory text. Moreover, the extensive research and numerous citations would transform the book into one less likely to attract newcomers. And an EFY speaker and faithfully adherent to the truth claims of the Church of Jesus Christ is unlikely to expound upon critics’ arguments but only present enough to frame the reason for his evidence. This book is a good addition to a Latter Day Saints library as a very short primer designed for members of the church unfamiliar with apologetic arguments.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Expanding Your Warfare Library

I'm pleased to announce, or re announce, several books dedicated to a military study of The Book of Mormon. If you like this blog you should enjoy these books:

Warfare in The Book of Mormon:

This is a classic text from over 20 years ago. As with many collected volumes from FARMS, it is a who's who of writers from the Mormon community. The articles by Brent Merrill on Nephite captains and Hugh Nibley's Clausewitz piece inspired two of my chapters. This is available for free at the Maxwell institute, which certainly beats the 40.00-300.00 dollar prices on Amazon.

Wars and Rumors of War: Understanding Mormon's Metaphor:

Written by Brian Steed, a former military officer, this book is actually an abridged version of a much longer tome. I had the honor of an advance review of the book. He admits that much of his material is educated guessing, but his guesses are the result of more thought than many that I've seen. The book is 24.95 for the paperback version and I haven't seen any critical feedback or indications of the traction it has received in the wider community.

The Nephite Art of War:

This is by John Kammeyer. Again, I had the honor of an advanced copy of the book. (Having the only blog on the subject certainly delivers special benefits.) The book has a great discussion of political science and Old World connections. It is 5.99 on Ebook.

All the Arts of War: Ancient Warfare and Modern Lessons from The Book of Mormon:

I hope you save room in your library for my book. I was saving this for another post but I'm in discussion with a publisher and recommend edits for my manuscript should arrive any day. (I would name the publisher but I haven't signed an agreement and don't know the protocol.) The table of contents, so far, largely remains the same. And I haven't reached the cover art or price phase. I generally write in a terse style and wanted my book to be affordable, that is, less than 20.00 dollars and hopefully in the 15.00 dollar range. I wrote a short enough book to reach that goal, but I don't know a great deal about publishing so I will likely defer to the editors. If you enjoy book reviews and have a faithful following I hope you would consider reviewing this book for your blog or other outlet.

Now every parent thinks their child is the cutest. With that disclaimer in mind every historian has to justify the reason for his or her research. Thus, I think my book offers several advantages. Since I've read the other three I know that mine offers unique topics. I discuss a pertinent political topic in pre-emptive war. I have a strong background in Chinese military history and military theory which are reflected in the book.

I am also the only academically trained military historian. (Both authors have several degrees but they are in other fields.) This increases the methodological control of my comparisons. It helps me identify gaps in the field and how my book fills them.  It reinforces the need to have a superior grasp of pertinent secondary literature in Book of Mormon studies. A short time ago I discussed the concept of an insurgent medium. The two most recent books are self published and mine is going through a publisher. It doesn't mean that self published books are junk, but I think an editor and a respected press make a critical difference in increasing quality of my book and the traction it will receive in the academic and wider community.

Stay tuned for more updates and thanks for reading.

Update 4/28: I went to Deseret Book today and found Defenders of the Faith. The book is from an Iraq War Veteran. He is not a military historian and focuses a bit more on the personal and devotional aspects of the scriptures. It is 17.99 and from Cedar Fort Books. After reading it I still believe I have the advantages I described above.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: Genghis Khan's Greatest General

Genghis Khan’s Greatest General: Subotai the Valiant
Oklahoma University Press, 2006.
By Richard Gabriel
19.95 paperback, ISBN: 978086137346

Richard Gabriel’s new book, Genghis Khan’s Greatest General: Subotai the Valiant, seeks to provide the first book length biography of this figure from military history, and argued that Subotai was one of the greatest generals in military history.(xi) Gabriel succeeded much more with the first goal than the second.

The book contained eight chapters. The first two chapters explained the background surrounding Subotai’s and the Mongol’s rise to a world power and their military organization and tactics. This contained many of the book’s most positive and negative points. It relied upon several primary sources such as The Secret History of the Mongols, and The Story of the Mongols Whom we call the Tartars. It is excellent to see the author use primary sources but as far this reader can tell,[1] these are the only two which he used. The first two chapters do present an approachable introductory history of the Mongol nation and a good military description of their organization and tactics. This recommended the book towards enthusiasts and undergraduates. The relatively brisk pace underscored this as well.

Chapters three through six described the campaigns of the Mongols in Northern China, Iran, the Caucasus, Russian steppe, and Eastern Europe. Gabriel’s campaign history only lightly covered China. It showed unfamiliarity with the primary and some recent secondary sources that illuminate this period. Sinologists, in particular, follow the history of the Southern Song Dynasty and not the short lived Jin Dynasty in the north. But Gabriel followed the latter as the “Chinese” dynasty in this period. Peter Lorge produced an excellent volume that explained the complicated political and military history of this period.[2] Until Subotai’s campaign in Eastern Europe the campaign narrative often lost site of the general. The lack of emphasis reflected the relative paucity of primary material; yet much of the author’s campaign history lacked inferences, analysis, or even mentions of Subotai and his actions but instead became a general history of Mongol campaigns.

His concluding chapters contained the legacy of the Mongols in military theory and a summary of lessons learned. These sections represented the most vivid example of the chicken nugget approach. This used modern Army nomenclature, Napoleonic terms, German words, and modern terms interchangeably throughout the book. Some people may enjoy the liberal sprinkling of terms from a variety of eras, I find it distracting. Many of the terms are not precisely interchangeable with the activities of Subotai or carried unneeded connotations or associations. So the chicken nugget method seemed analytically imprecise at best. The last section formed a concentrated list of examples of military strategy. None of them are explicated in a great deal. So the list remained intriguing but this reader wished the campaigned narratives would have highlighted and called attention to these lessons learned throughout the book instead of concentrating them at the end.

The book also faltered on a methodological point. Ancient historians to modern scholars to history websites debate the role of a “great general.”  So Gabriel’s attempts to prove that Subotai was a great general faltered without strict criteria defining “great.” It seemed Gabriel used “great” to mean battlefield victory and the logistical ability to move armies and conduct campaigns. Clausewitz defined it with a combination of physical strength, courage, and mental ability. Ancient historians dictated based on the extent of their conquests and cultural legacy. Modern enthusiasts based it largely upon popularity. With all these methods of grading it is difficult to say if Gabriel supported his thesis.

Taking away those exceptions, the book still contained many strengths. The narrative is short. After reading many long winded narratives this reader appreciated that a great deal. Considering how the student of Mongol history is left with few assessable texts this is also important. The secondary sources are solid and easily referenced at the end. The maps of the Mongol campaigns helped out a great deal. This is the only book length narrative on this important Mongol general and presented an easy to follow narrative of his campaigns. Despite the above flaws the book achieves its goal of in presenting Subotai to the general reader. The thesis statement is not completely supported due to the author’s failure to provide strict methodological controls, but still displayed the impressive victories of Subotai the valiant.

1. The author does not include an extensive bibliography but simply a “further reading” section.
2. Peter Lorge, War Politics and Society in Early Modern China: 900-1795 (New York: Routledge Press, 2005).

Thursday, March 29, 2012

More From War Critics

Not long ago I wrote about anti war activists and their use of prophet's talks. I commented that many members of the church take an unfounded view of the prophet's talk by applying too much weight to them. They then use his words as a cudgel with which to beat his opponents. They claim that all righteous Latter Day Saints agree with them. Here at the Millennial Star you see an example of that. In particular I would look at comments 45, 53, 54, and 58.

In particular I am bothered by those who take prophet's words to judge my spirituality. As I've shown several times, these anti war statements are not binding doctrine. In fact, these statements are often contradictory. So left with contradictory and nonbinding statements it is the Latter Day Saint's duty to thoughtfully consider the best course. These zealots hijack the prophets words to do the thinking for me. Then they attack me when I question their tactics. Some of the comments even suggest that the only way I can disagree would be if I were confused or wicked.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fed With the Flesh of Their Husbands

The following is an abstract for a potential paper. I proposed this for the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities conference. Southern Virgina University, my alma mater, hosted it this year. So I looked forward to presenting there. But my abstract did not make the cut.

Now it goes into a weird limbo stage. I have many projects on which I'm currently working, which is the subject of a future post. Yet I thought my readers might appreciate a peak into this topic. Most likely this will end up being a chapter in a follow up book on warfare in The Book of Mormon.

Fed with the Flesh of Their Husbands:
The High Spiritual Costs of Waging Economic War

The Roman politician Cicero once called money the “sinews of war”. Due to the high cost of waging war many entities have attempted to lessen this cost through the use of particular tactics and strategy. One of the most well known cost effective strategies is the “Chevauchee”, performed by medieval English leaders whose armies devastated much of France during the 100 years war.(1337-1453AD) A Chevauchee describes a march through the countryside typified by burning, pillage, rape, and murder. This allows a nation to supply its army at the cost of the opposing nation even as the attacker’s rapacious tactics undermine the legitimacy of the defending ruler and his ability to wage war. While this practice is interesting to study and certainly allows the attacking nation to wage war on a limited budget, it often disregards an important moral dimension to warfare. The Book of Mormon also relates devastating conflicts and details practices that match and sometimes exceed the devastation of a Chevauchee. As both the Nephites and Jaredites resort to these tactics in the denouement of their nations this paper will argue that the decision to wage war “on the cheap” through pillaging is both a cause and reflection of their decaying spiritual condition. And it tentatively applies these principles in a modern context.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for more updates on my current projects and ideas.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What I really do...and gansta nicknames

I don't have a great deal of time to add any posts. But sadly I occasionally make it to facebook. I'm actually getting rather annoyed seeing these pictures but I did find a rather funny one. As I said there, I wouldn't mind a few more students like the bottom center. Since this is a joke thread I thought I would include some gansta nicknames I've been considering for ancient and modern prophets:

Parley P. Pratt is...Triple P.

Brigham Young is...B Yo. That might be too close to "B.O." but I'm a white guy from Utah so you'll have to work with me.

Wilford Woodruff is...Wow wow. You can hardly pronounce all those "w"s without stuttering.

Amalickiah is...Micky Long Dagger. The Irish have gangs too.

Mormon is...Mo shizzle. His long name would be Mo shizzle in this hizzle my dizzle.

B.H. Roberts is...RoBo Huh! (That is the edited version.)

Ammoron is...A to the m m run. The long version would be A to the m m run on dun to the stun gun Yeah Ba-By!

Teancum is...T Czzz. That one might end up like the "one"ders where nobody knows how to pronounce it.

Joseph F. Smith is...The Beard.

Orson Pratt is...O Po.

Aha is...generic warrior number 4.

Morgan Deane is...D Mo, Panther Cantrell if you go by my porn name, Jailhouse Baby Dupree if you go by my blues name, and Morhonda Codeine if you go by my Jedi name.

Do you have any to add? I would love to see them below.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism

Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism
Edited with Contributions by Gregory K. Armstrong, Matthew J. Grow, and Dennis J. Siler

Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism seeks to use the events and accomplishments of Pratt as a “window” into early Mormonism and American religious and cultural history.(11) This edited volume from Gregory Armstrong, Matthew Grow, and Dennis Siler joins the recent biography by Teryl Givens and Matthew Grow and succeeds in its goal.

The essays are good quality. Several of them, such as Jan Shipp’s introductory article, and the last article by Robert Grow represent preliminary remarks or a narrative more than an academic article. But each represents an important part of Pratt’s life and reveals his impact on Mormonism. R. Steven Pratt examines the family life of Parley Pratt and his plural marriages. The article was somewhat long in details and short in analysis. Several others examine his writings and death and place it in a tradition of extra legal violence and contested narratives. And Richard Turley’s article had a very specific rebuttal of Pratt’s influence on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Some of the articles drift more into fan mail category as they seem more laudatory than exploratory. But Pratt did make a big impact on Mormon history and as a polygamist he had many children with several contributing to the volume. Some other articles are somewhat dense for the non specialist. David Grua’s article on martyrdom and Turley’s rebuttal offer a great deal of jargon or detail that may make it hard for a non specialist audience to follow. Thus the book contains a good mix of articles that work together to illuminate his life and make his achievements a window in early Mormonism.

Historians studying American religious history, biographers of Pratt, and lay members of the LDS church will appreciate and enjoy this entry in Mormon history.