At this point in the book of Alma, chapters 43–62, Mormon alerted the reader that he would “return to an account of the wars” (Alma 43:3). Some people wonder why the Book of Mormon contains so much about war. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) stated that “from the Book of Mormon we learn how disciples of Christ live in times of war” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).
Since Mormon saw our day and knew we would live in a time of “wars and rumors of wars” (D&C 45:26; see also Revelation 9), he included how to live righteously during these times. Many Latter-day Saints have been and will be involved in military conflicts. Look for the gospel principles Mormon included in these war chapters. Mormon revealed the tremendous suffering caused by conflict and also explained why war may be necessary in the defense of life and liberty. Both Mormon and modern prophets have described circumstances when war is justified (see commentary for Alma 43:45–47 on page 250 and for Alma 51:13 on page 255).
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) related the heavenly sorrow that accompanies such events, even when wars are justified: “I think our Father in Heaven must have wept as He has looked down upon His children through the centuries as they have squandered their divine birthright in ruthlessly destroying one another” (in Conference Report, Apr. 2003, 82; or Ensign, May 2003, 79). The Nephites and Captain Moroni showed the proper attitude toward war and bloodshed (see commentary for Alma 43:54; 44:1–2; 48:11, 22–23 on page 251).
At the time of World War II, the First Presidency issued the following statement, clarifying the Church’s position on war:
“Members must give allegiance to their sovereign and render it loyal service when called thereto. [This includes military service.] But the Church, itself, as such, has no responsibility for these policies, as to which it has no means of doing more than urging its members fully to render that loyalty to their country and to free institutions which the loftiest patriotism calls for.
“… There is an obligation running from every citizen or subject to the state. This obligation is voiced in that Article of Faith which declares:
“‘We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.’ …
“Obedient to these principles, the members of the Church have always felt under obligation to come to the defense of their country when a call to arms was made. …
“Thus the Church is and must be against war. … It cannot regard war as a righteous means of settling international disputes; these should and could be settled—the nations agreeing—by peaceful negotiation and adjustment.
“But the Church membership are citizens or subjects of sovereignties over which the Church has no control. …
“… When, therefore, constitutional law, obedient to these principles, calls the manhood of the Church into the armed service of any country to which they owe allegiance, their highest civic duty requires that they meet that call. If, harkening to that call, and obeying those in command over them, they shall take the lives of those who fight against them, that will not make of them murderers” (Heber J. Grant, J. Reuben Clark Jr., and David O. McKay, in Conference Report, Apr. 1942, 92–94; also cited in Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, Apr. 1968, 34–35).