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I have come across a chapter in the Book of Mormon that is very interesting. It details how the Nephites thought it would be better to bury their swords and never kill another person again. The Lamanites came against them for war, but the Nephites did nothing and about 1000 of them were killed. After that some of the Lamanites felt regret for killing them anyway and repented of their sins. They then joined the Nephites and buried their swords as well.

Alma 24:18 Sums up the Nephites' disposition:

And this they did, it being in their view a testimony to God, and also to men, that they never would use weapons again for the shedding of man’s blood; and this they did, vouching and covenanting with God, that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly with their hands.

With this story in mind, what is the LDS position on war, self-defense, and keeping weapons?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you read a bit further on, you see that this particular group of Nephites--known as the Ammonites after Ammon, who converted them to the Gospel--was exceptional. The Ammonites made this covenant to bury their weapons and never take them up again as part of their repentance for past sins before they accepted the gospel, and the rest of the Nephite nation was a lot more pragmatic on the subject of weapons, warfare, and self-defense.

The Ammonites were given land to settle on in an area that was well behind the border, where Nephite armies could protect them in the case of another war, and because the covenant that they had made kept them from contributing men to the army, they received additional taxes instead. And when the next war finally did break out several years later, and things were going very badly for the Nephites, it got to the point where many of the Ammonites were very seriously considering the possibility of taking up arms to defend themselves. They were urged not to by their spiritual leaders, though, and instead a few thousand of their sons, who had never made the oath to never take up arms due to being either too young or not alive yet when it happened, ended up enlisting instead, and nobody seemed to think that this constituted "breaking the rules" in some way.

Having said that, the law given to Latter-Day Saints in the Doctrine & Covenants regarding war is that it is justifiable to fight in self-defense, but more blessed to choose not to. It can be found in Section 98, verses 23-48. It's fairly long, so I won't quote the whole thing here, but the gist of it is:

  • It is always justified to fight back in self-defense, but if "ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded," particularly in the case of multiple offenses.
  • If a person attacks you, but then sincerely repents and seeks forgiveness, they are to be forgiven, always.
  • Neither a person nor a nation is justified in going out to battle against their enemy (offensively, not defensively) except on a direct command by the Lord, and if an enemy comes upon your nation to battle, you should offer peace first, and only go to war when it becomes clear that they are not looking for a peaceful resolution.
  • Even when you are in the process of making war upon them, if an enemy repents of their sins against you and seeks peace, you are to forgive them and accept their offer of peace.

As for the personal ownership of weapons, this is a highly contentious political issue in the United States and various other places in the world. As far as I know, the LDS church does not have any doctrine on the subject either way.

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This certainly isn't doctrine, but BYU-Idaho, an LDS church run school, has a fairly strict rule regarding weapons in their Apartment Living Standards. "Firearms, ammunitions, explosives, hunting bows, knives, swords, martial arts weapons, BB guns, pellet guns, paint-ball guns and any other devices capable of inflicting injury or damaging property are prohibited in on- or off-campus apartments. Facsimiles or likenesses of firearms or dangerous weapons are also prohibited." – Daniel Nov 20 '13 at 19:34
@DanielCook: That's interesting. I went there, and a bunch of guys in my dorm were very into paintballing. I don't remember if they kept their paintball guns in the dorms or not, but they'd go out and have matches just about every week. – Mason Wheeler Nov 20 '13 at 19:43
@DanielCook, that says close to nothing. It's likely an artifact of the typical prohibition of weapons on school property. I lived near a LDS ranch and went shooting there often. Plus the ranch used guns to kill the wild pigs (which were common nuisances). – Paul Draper Jul 22 '14 at 23:55

The church has always held that the constitution and the rights established therein are inspired by god including the right to bear arms. As for the BYU-Idaho comment, it is an institution of higher education they can establish what rules they deem necessary to keep their student body safe it was not a statement of the LDS beliefs. Other non-religious and religious institutions have similar rules regarding weapons.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE! We like to advise our new users to read our tour page and how we are different than other sites. Thanks and I hope you continue posting. – crownjewel82 Nov 28 '13 at 15:48
Do you have a reference for how the Church feels about the amendments to the constitution? That would help. – Shule Apr 1 at 20:00

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