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19th-century Latter-day Saints at war examined in new BYU publication

In a new book published by the Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, scholars examine the involvement of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 19th-century wars.

Edited by Robert C. Freeman, "Nineteenth-Century Saints at War" starts where other books on the topic end, with insights on the experiences of men and women who participated in the American wars of that century.

A statement by Church President David O. McKay offers perspective on when war is justified: "There are two conditions which may justify a truly Christian man to enter — enter, not begin — a war: (1) an attempt by others to dominate and to deprive another of his free agency, and (2) loyalty to his own country. Possibly there is a third, viz., defense of a weak nation that is being unjustly crushed by a strong, ruthless one."

Latter-day Saints were required to choose war or peaceable solutions at least four times during this period in history, according to Freeman. The first came in 1846, just after the Saints had begun their westward exodus from Nauvoo, Ill.

The "Utah War" or "Mormon War" was entered in an act of self-preservation in 1857, and the Civil War was the first formal conflict in which a Latter-day Saint died in battle.

In 1898 concern arose over an international conflict, since, if there was war, the Church's missionary effort could be stalled. With mixed feelings, President Wilford Woodruff "allied the Church with the United States of America" at the April 1898 General Conference of the Church, said Freeman.

The authors highlight the various responses of individual Latter-day Saints and the Church itself to the national conflicts that engulfed America during a turbulent century.

For more information, contact Robert C. Freeman, (801) 422-2484, robert_freeman@byu.edu.

Writer: Kaylene Vest

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Photo by Jaren S. Wilkey/BYU Photo

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