Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We Are As The Army of Helaman

We have been born, as Nephi of old,

to goodly parents who love the Lord.

We have been taught, and we understand,

that we must do as the Lord Commands.

Chorus:We are as the army of Helaman.

We have been taught in our youth.

And we will be the Lord's missionaries

to bring the world His truth.

That used to be my favorite song when I was in primary. I loved it. LOVED it. I actually still really do like the melody.

But these days, any reference to the word "army" makes my stomach turn. Even (especially?) when it's paired with something related to the gospel - a gospel that ideally would have nothing to do with violence.

My distaste for the word 'army' is connected with the hard time I'm having with the war in Iraq. It makes me sick when I think about it, the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives lost. It makes me sick that the U.S. went so thoughtlessly into this situation. I don't deny that we had the right to depose Sadam. After all, Sadam had renegged on his agreement to let arms inspectors in. But just because we had the right to do it doesn't mean we should have done it. W's own father understood that. Why couldn't W have?

I'm actually not in the same exact place as so many of my politically progressive friends, who have great moral clarity about advocating a quick withdrawl from Iraq. I guess I don't know exactly where I am. My number one question is this: What will cause the least loss of human life? Will withdrawing our soldiers and letting the country slip into even greater factional violence result in fewer lost lives? Or will staying for a while, trying to help protect the new government and stem the tide of violence that is rising, while our men and women are slowly picked off and Iraqi's die by the dozen everyday - will that result in the fewest lost lives?

I don't know. But I'm sick over all the deaths and I'm sick over the fact that the U.S. has squandered it's moral capital in this ill-advised war.


Blogger Seymour Glass said...

yeah, the military imagery is often a bit troublesome. which is too bad because "Onward Christian Soldiers" has one of my favorite tenor parts in it.

but you might take comfort in Captain Moroni's philosophy (and no, I'm not talking about the title of liberty or any of that). Alma 60:36. he's militantly anti-government, anti-war (especially the offensive/pre-emptive kind.

4/18/2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger amelia said...

i used to love "onward christian soldiers" (partially because of that gorgeous tenor line). but last time i was in charge of music for sacrament meeting, i tried to schedule it one sunday and just couldn't. it was so blatantly wrong to sing it given our involvement in iraq. it was an almost visceral reaction. and it made me sad.

4/18/2007 3:20 PM  
Blogger AmyB said...

I'm really, really embarrassed to admit this, but I was in support of the war when it started. In my mind, Saddam Hussein was a Bad Man, so therefore he deserved to be taken out of power. I didn't even care too much about the lies about the WMDs because the ends justified the means. Growing up in Utah Valley, I had little exposure to more progressive views. I'm sick that I used to be like that. Since then, my worldview has changed dramatically. I'm so sad for all of the people in war-torn countries. The militantly themed hymns definitely ring hollow these days.

4/18/2007 5:58 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

I had mixed feelings about the war when it came out. If in fact Sadam did have nucs and was planning to launch them at us, I could understand why some poeple might think it a good idea to take him out. (though preemptive strikes are always disturbing on some level.) But since the information has turned out to be so flawed and since it has become so clear that our current administration did not have a viable plan or any basic understanding of the factions within the country, in hindsight it's just been an enormous mistake.

4/19/2007 10:19 AM  
Blogger john.white said...

*sigh* I remember being torn about the Iraq war too. Just having a nuclear weapon is a bad thing, but I was always most troubled by the idea that having a nuclear weapon was equated with having a nuclear weapon that could be fired from Iraq and hit a target in the United States (clearly wrong).

On the meta-issue, I'm a pacifist who loves military imagery (Camerone!)

4/19/2007 3:17 PM  
Blogger amelia said...

i think somehow i developed a mistrust of this administration before the war began. and i think it developed as a result of the rhetoric with which they developed the argument for invading iraq. i could hear all of the logical flaws and all of the appeals to emotion and very little that was substantial. and no matter how bad saddam was, i never could agree that this war was anything remotely like advisable. not that i feel any better now for having never supported the idea. it just drives me crazy that politicians use rhetoric and emotional manipulation to justify something of this nature. leaves me feeling kind of hollow.

4/19/2007 5:25 PM  
Blogger Mike Perdue said...

September 30, 2002

Weapons inspections are a farce and a waste of time. They are themselves dangerous to the stability and safety of the world and especially to freedom and democracy.

The real issue with Sadam is NOT if he had weapons of mass destruction, it is that he WANTS them, has used them, and will use them again. What makes him different from other tin horn dictators is that he has the oil reserves that give him the wealth to buy them or the technology to make them. Also, he has delusions of grandeur that make him a terrorist without par.

Assume that President Bush and PM Blair are completely wrong, that Sadam currently has NO weapons of mass destruction and the most powerful weapon he has is a shotgun, then what? The sanctions are lifted? Inspector’s leave? Then what will he do? He will sell oil, amass wealth and begin to buy and build these weapons to use on his neighbors and us, either directly or indirectly.

There is no dispute that he has started 2 wars for the sole purpose of gaining power.
There is no dispute that he tried to trick the UN inspectors in the past.
There is no dispute that he has used weapons of mass destruction.
There is no dispute that he would use them if he had them.
There is no dispute that he has had a biological weapons program
There is no dispute that he has had a nuclear weapons program
There is no dispute that he has had chemical weapons
There is no dispute that he has sponsored terrorism.
There is no dispute that he has ballistic missiles.
There is no dispute that he ignored the UN.
There is no dispute that he has murdered.
There is no dispute that he is a liar.

Now, with an UNDISPUTED record like that, does the world really want this man to continue to be in a position to amass wealth? And even if the “world” does, do we, the people of the United States want him to? It doesn’t matter if he was directly linked to 9-11 or not, he is of the same ilk, he has the same desires, and even greater resources.

Much has been made lately about how much our government knew before 9-11 and whether it could have been prevented. President Bush knows the intent and capability of Sadam and is trying to stop him. Let’s give him that support so we will not mourn more thousands who die at the hand of Sadam and his henchmen. Regime change is the only way to effectively stop this murderous madman from prevailing in his diabolical schemes.

To those who seek other alternatives, while I respect your desire for peace, your efforts are dangerous. This is not Vietnam, this is Hitler, only Sadam has more money that Hitler ever had. Freedom and peace have never been free. They are purchased by blood, sweat and sacrifice. They have been purchased by thousands of young men and women who understood what you do not.

Michael G. Perdue

6/07/2009 11:18 AM  
Blogger John (with an h) said...


6/16/2009 2:05 AM  
Anonymous Mary said...

Perhaps your anger should be directed towarads the ineffective policies with which our, and world, governments have sabotaged our military in Iraq and Afghanistan; their "political correctness" has needlessly prolonged our presence in those regions, when swift, agressive action could have repressed those extremist terrorist factions that are a very real threat to the Western world. That alone has lost more Iraqi and American lives than anything. We send our soldiers over there, and then don't allow them to defend themselves. That is a tragedy. As for the "war" and "army" references in Christian music, perhaps you do not understand the battle that is being waged here on earth between he forces of good and evil, nor perhaps the concept of symbolism in lyrics, writing and scripture. Soft words and pandering will not change the nature of this world. Songs of battle are meant to inspire us to stand up for what we believe, and fight for the right on all sides, as if we were soldiers. Try reading the words again, this time keeping in mind our purpose here on earth (to build up the Kingdom of God and prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior). Maybe that will help.

1/17/2010 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Caroline, the Iraq war is one of those things that we got into and now we have to "gracefully" extricate ourselves from a bad situation. I'm glad Saddam Hussein and his sons are gone. They were bad dudes.

Back to the army of Helaman and Christian soldiers... Since you are LDS, you know about the war in heaven. Lucifer was cast out of God's presence for rebellion. That war continues on earth today. And boy, is it a bitter war. I don't think it is coincidental that Mormon added that story of the stripling warriors into the Book of Mormon. I think he is trying to teach us that we need to teach our children to be obedient (as the stripling warriors were obedient) because if we don't, then they will end up as a casualty of the continued war in heaven. Each of us needs to be valiant in our testimony.

7/10/2010 5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a primary chorister, about to make up a poster for my kids. I was looking for the lyrics online when I stumbled upon the above. I'd like to thank you (and the last anonymous poster) for reminding me how unsavory the the rhetorical device of war imagery can be, and how easily misinterpreted.

I would be very sad if we had to lose this song all together. Even after your thoughtful post, I'm not sure I mind it as a metaphor...I kind of liked the paradoxical D&C passages about the army of the gospel of peace. And a force of loving service was a good way to demilitarize the overt violence of the Book of Mormon.

Then I read that last post and realized there are some people who are taking the metaphor seriously.

I think I'm still going to teach the kids, but just so that they understand what we mean by God's Army. I wish the last author had learned about this. Maybe we can all benefit from the words of the last prophet to actually encourage violence: ""Gentilism" breaks up the family of man, and divides them off into parties and nations, having contrary interests. "Mormonism," on the other hand, . . . by drawing them from all nations . . . unites the family of man. . . . There are good and bad . . . qualities in all nations. . . . All real Saints, when they receive the Gospel, will readily relinquish party spirit and national feeling, and count such things as the distinctive ornaments of Satan's kingdom." - Brigham Young, Millenial Star 16:210

1/02/2011 12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for leaving your thoughtful comment. I wrote this post a couple of years ago, and it was interesting to return to it.


1/02/2011 7:25 PM  

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