"From a theological basis, war is the antitheses of the teachings of God," declared President James E. Faust at the Dee Events Center at Weber State University Aug. 13.
President Faust, second counselor in the First Presidency, delivered the keynote address to several thousand people gathered to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.President Faust said his purpose in speaking was not to glorify or advocate in any way the waging of war to settle human conflicts. "War brings untold suffering and agony, not only to the participants, but also the countless and innocent victims which often include women and children," he said.
"War is essentially reverting to barbarism. We have evidence of that today in the Balkans. Said President Spencer W. Kimball, `Great cultures stagnate in war's shadows and cease to survive when continuous wars make people migrants, when fields are abandoned, livestock appropriated for non-producing soldiers, forests destroyed without replanting, and when farmers and builders become warriors, and businessmen shoulder arms and teachers mobilize. Men cannot plant, cultivate and harvest when in camps, nor build when on the run. Long and bloody wars mean sacked, burned, ruined cities, confiscatory taxes, degnerated peoples and decayed cultures.' "
President Faust said, in his opinion, the great effort in World War II was to save civilization. He said the inherent rights of freedom of choice – thought, action – are necessary for mankind to progress. "Men have fought and died over the centuries to maintain these," he said. "They are essential to liberty and justice. In World War II, Adolf Hitler was trying to dominate the world and rob it of these essentials of a civilized society."
President Faust said his father, who fought in World War I, used to tell his sons – three of whom were in World War II and one who fought in the Korean War – that the first world war was fought as the war to end all wars.
"He saw his sons go and come back from the other wars," President Faust remarked. "Since that time, there has been in some ways a lessening of respect for human life. There is also a developing disrespect for the sacred in our society. The constitutionality of public reference to Deity and prayer to God is in controversy. There seems to be developing a secular faith or religion with no moral absolutes."
President Faust quoted George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, each of whom recognized and appealed to the hand of the Lord in directing the affairs of the nation.
"Every American has been taught that
freedom of religion' is thefirst freedom' guaranteed by the Bill of Rights," President Faust said. "The First Amendment to the Constitution recognizes the `free exercise of religion' as the pre-eminent position among Constitutional rights as intended by the Founding Fathers. Most Americans, however, have seen these principles being eroded.
"The twin religious clauses of the Bill of Rights –
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof' - are the golden threads which in the past have permitted those who believe in God to publicly affirm that there is a higher power thatrules in the affairs of men.' These religious clauses have fostered the creative impulses and the vitality of religion in an open heterogeneous society.
"In my opinion, the establishment and free exercise clauses should be read together to harmonize the importance of religious liberty with freedom from government regulation. Rather, today in our nation the establishment clause is being used to restrict religious institutions from playing a role in civic issues, and the recent interpolations of the free exercise clause in my opinion denies to some individuals their religious liberty. It does not accord the equivalent to what the Constitutions accords to secularism which I have chosen to call the new secular religion."
President Faust said he wonders how this nation will preserve its enduring values.
"So, how do we preserve the essence of our humanity? How can we hope to avoid future wars? Perhaps this may not be possible, but try we must; and we must begin in our homes. Our children and our grandchildren must be taught moral responsibility. The moral teachings of all of our churches of every denomination must find an honored place in our society. The general decline in the moral fabric of the citizenry places a greater responsibility on homes and churches to teach values – marriage, morality, decency, family responsibility, respect for others, patriotism and honoring the sustaining of the law.
"With all other citizens, we also have the right to vote for men and women who reflect our own sense of values.
"We can help educate the coming generation about their rights but, more imporantly, about their duties. I pray this may happen."