The Huffington Post recently took a stab this morning at how Mormonism would influence his views on war and peace. I’ve seen it done worse. Ask a Mormon how Mormonism see war. If they gush on about Captain Moroni without mentioning the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, just smile. You’re talking to a Mormon who has embraced American nationalism. As Patrick Mason has argued, Mormonism offers “no consistent message” on matters of war and peace. The broader question, of course, is: how patriotic is Mormonism? On July 24th, 2011, the Latter-day Saints celebrated Pioneer Day with a tribute to veterans of the armed services. That Brigham Young had spoken (in typical Brigham Young fashion–with tremendous hyperbole) of cutting American soldiers’ throats only a block away shows how dramatic the Saints’ embrace of American nationalism has been.
When Joseph Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, politics were far from his mind. His settlement had been on the frontier. Politicians didn’t visit Joseph’s Manchester settlement much. Nor did its settlers care if they did.
Even still, Joseph’s movements had grand designs. In a little log cabin in Fayette, New York, Joseph promised a small number of newly-ordinaed Melchizedek priesthood holders that Mormonism would eventually become a world religion. Most of the men had received the right to vote only a few years prior. Joseph’s religious movement was to be a populist revolution against a world order gone awry.