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With the new legislation (track on GovTrack) popping out of the woodwork on “national service” (i.e. a draft), we tend to hear people scrutinizing our patriotism by our willingness to adopt such a policy. “Don’t you support defending your country?”, they say.
The draft is and always has been a bad idea. I recently came across the following letter from the First Presidency in 1945 which illustrates the negative points of conscription:
STATEMENT BY THE FIRST PRESIDENCY REGARDING UNIVERSAL COMPULSORY MILITARY TRAINING
We print below a letter dated December 14, 1945, addressed by the First Presidency of the Church to each member of the Utah Congressional Delegation-Senators Thomas and Murdock and Congressmen Granger and Robinson. Word has now been received by the First Presidency from both Senators and both Congressmen expressing their approval of and belief in the sentiments, reasons, and conclusions set forth in the letter. The letter follows:
“Press reports have for some months indicated that a determined effort is in the making to establish in this country a compulsory universal military training designed to draw into military training and service the entire youth of the nation. We had hoped that mature reflection might lead the proponents of such a policy to abandon it. We have felt and still feel that such a policy would carry with it the gravest dangers to our Republic.
“It now appears that the proponents of the policy have persuaded the Administration to adopt it, in what on its face is a modified form. We deeply regret this, because we dislike to find ourselves under the necessity of opposing any policy so sponsored. However, we are so persuaded of the rightfulness of our position, and we regard the policy so threatening to the true purposes for which this Government was set up, as set forth in the great Preamble to the Constitution, that we are constrained respectfully to invite your attention to the following considerations:
“1. By taking our sons at the most impressionable age of their adolescence and putting them into army camps under rigorous military discipline, we shall seriously endanger their initiative thereby impairing one of the essential elements of American citizenship. While on its face the suggested plan might not seem to visualize the army camp training, yet there seems little doubt that our military leaders contemplate such a period, with similar recurring periods after the boys are placed in the reserves.
“2. By taking our boys from their homes, we shall deprive them of parental guidance and control at this important period of their youth, and there is no substitute for the care and love of a mother for a young son.
“3. We shall take them out of school and suffer their minds to be directed in other channels, so that very many of them after leaving the army, will never return to finish their schooling, thus over a few years materially reducing the literacy of the whole nation.
“4. We shall give opportunity to teach our sons not only the way to kill but also, in too many cases, the desire to kill, thereby increasing lawlessness and disorder to the consequent upsetting of the stability of our national society. God said at Sinai, “Thou shalt not kill.”
“5. We shall take them from the refining, ennobling, character-building atmosphere of the home, and place them under a drastic discipline in an environment that is hostile to most of the finer and nobler things of home and of life.
“6. We shall make our sons the victims of systematized allurements to gamble, to drink, to smoke, to swear, to associate with lewd women, to be selfish, idle, irresponsible save under restraint of force, to be common, coarse, and vulgar, all contrary to and destructive of the American home.
“7. We shall deprive our sons of any adequate religious training and activity during their training years, for the religious element of army life is both inadequate and ineffective.
“8. We shall put them where they may be indoctrinated with a wholly un-American view of the aims and purposes of their individual lives, and of the life of the whole people and nation, which are founded on the ways of peace, whereas they will be taught to believe in the ways of war.
“9. We shall take them away from all participation in the means and measures of production to the economic loss of the whole nation.
“10. We shall lay them open to wholly erroneous ideas of their duties to themselves, to their family, and to society in the matter of independence, self-sufficiency, individual initiative, and what we have come to call American manhood.
“11. We shall subject them to encouragement in a belief that they can always live off the labors of others through the government or otherwise.
“12. We shall make possible their building into a military caste which from all human experience bodes ill for that equality and unity which must always characterize the citizenry of a republic.
“13. By creating an immense standing army, we shall create to our liberties and free institutions a threat foreseen and condemned by the founders of the Republic, and by the people of this country from that time till now. Great standing armies have always been the tools of ambitious dictators to the destruction of freedom.
“14. By the creation of a great war machine, we shall invite and tempt the waging of war against foreign countries, upon little or no provocation; for the possession of great military power always breeds thirst for domination, for empire, and for a rule by might not right.
“15. By building a huge armed establishment, we shall belie our protestations of peace and peaceful intent and force other nations to a like course of militarism, so placing upon the peoples of the earth crushing burdens of taxation that with their present tax load will hardly be bearable, and that will gravely threaten our social, economic, and governmental systems.
“16. We shall make of the whole earth one great military camp whose separate armies, headed by war-minded officers, will never rest till they are at one another’s throats in what will be the most terrible contest the world has ever seen.
“17. All the advantages for the protection of the country offered by a standing army may be obtained by the National Guard system which has proved so effective in the past and which is unattended by the evils of entire mobilization.
“Responsive to the ancient wisdom, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,’ obedient to the divine message that heralded the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world, ‘. . . on earth peace, good will toward men,’ and knowing that our Constitution and the Government set up under it were inspired of God and should be preserved to the blessing not only of our own citizenry but, as an example, to the blessing of all the world, we have the honor respectfully to urge that you do your utmost to defeat any plan designed to bring about the compulsory military service of our citizenry. Should it be urged that our complete armament is necessary for our safety, it may be confidently replied that a proper foreign policy, implemented by an effective diplomacy, can avert the dangers that are feared. What this country needs and what the world needs, is a will for peace, not war. God will help our efforts to bring this about.
“Respectfully submitted, GEO. ALBERT SMITH, J. REUBEN CLARK, JR., DAVID O. MCKAY, First Presidency.”
source: James R. Clark, compiler, The Messages of the First Presidency, volume 6