Mormon Conflictology: an Introduction
After a few posts, I think it has become necessary to have a page that explicitly brings all the different triangles together to give a quick overview of the propositions made by Latter-day Satyagraha. The starting point is Johan Galtung’s ABC Triangle or triangle of violence.
The direct violence (carnal), physical and/or verbal, is visible as behaviour. But human action does not come out of nowhere; there are roots. Two roots (the first sensual and the second devilish) are indicated: a culture of violence (heroic, patriotic, group-thinking etc.), and a structure that itself is violent by being too repressive and/or exploitative.. The popular misunderstanding that “violence is in human nature” is rejected. The potential for violence, like love, is in human nature; but circumstances condition the realization of that potential.
The big variations in violence are easily explained in terms of culture and structure: cultural and structural violence cause direct violence, using violent actors who revolt against the structures and using the culture to legitimize their use of violence as instruments. If the violence triangle was to be linked to the ways we treat ‘the other’ (Love your neighbor) – attitudes towards the other, behavior towards the other, conditions towards the other – the ABC triangle would look like this:
The point I am trying to make in The War in Heaven is that Lucifer, the father of all lies, is understood in Mormonism as the antithesis of peace. This coincides with Galtung’s definition of violence. Galtung thinks that the best way to understand peace is by defining its antithesis: violence. I know that in theological terms it would sound bizarre that the way for us to understand Jesus is for us to understand Satan. But let us put it this way, the best way to understand the plan of happiness (from a latter day satyagraha perspective) is for us to understand the plan of the adversary in making everyone as miserable as he himself is. The two plans are juxtaposed to each other and provide the contrast necessary sometimes in a religion where the main setting is the forces of evil fighting the forces of good.
Looking now at the Book of Mormon, we find King Benjamin’s triangle of sin. My understanding of sin comes from a liberation theological understanding, sin being our inhumanity towards others. King Benjamin explains that if we do not watch our thoughts, our words and our deeds, and so on, we might perish – both spiritually and physically.
So King Benjamin’s triangle of sin would look like the triangle below. Deeds are behavior, thoughts are attitudes, conditions are words. I find a lot of structural violence in language for example. Have you noticed that there is very little reference to women in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, that we spoke of mankind before we started talking of humankind. 50% of the world’s population is completely invisible in many languages, meaning that through our words we create and establish social structures indirectly. Therefore is structural violence also referred to as indirect violence.
In a Lost and Fallen People, I try to explain, from a latter day satyagraha point of view, Lucifer’s plan using the direct-cultural-structural violence triangle above. What is interesting in that article is the clarity between means employed and ends achieved by Satan in his fight against the plan of redemption. It is a work of destruction mainly and could be understood therefore as our destructive attitudes-behavior-conditions towards the other.
The effects have great and unfortunate consequences for the plan of redemption, as we (1) become alienated from each other, (2) as we shorten humanity’s probationary state and set it at risk and (3) perpetuate temporal and spiritual misery through unequal distribution of resources. If I were to sum up that exposé, it would look something like this:
Now having said the above, it is therefore important to show that the plan of happiness counters all three violences. Satan, the father of all lies, was cast out of heaven. There was no room for violence in heaven. It was important that (1) Jesus would come to the earth and overcome both sin (man’s inhumanity towards man) and death (the result of man’s inhumanity towards man), and (2) lead us to the promised land into a millennial reign of peace, where he would reign in justice and truth.
The next triangle is more familiar to Latter day Saints, as it represents the three-fold mission of the LDS church. It is a mission to counter the effects and also the means by which Satan is carrying out his strategy. In order to fight death, we are asked to preach the good news, the gospel of peace that is. As a restoration movement, we believe that we have a somewhat clearer understanding of God’s love for his children and the effect of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives. The good news are (1) the resurrection [body and spirit reunited], and (2) the remission of sins [an end to man's inhumanity towards man and the promise of a new beginning]. But unlike other churches, we do not stop there. We believe that God has bestowed the Church in the latter days with other keys, or duties, if you like. In addition to proclaiming the Gospel, we are also commissioned to perfect the saints and redeem the dead. The three-fold mission of the Church would look like this in a triangular shape:
Notice the linkages that can be made with the ABC triangle: proclaiming the gospel is related to behavior, perfecting the saints is related to attitudes, and redeeming the dead is related to conditions. Spreading the good news reminds us of Jesus having overcome death – the result of our inhumanity towards each other, perfecting the saints is an ongoing process aimed at making us more in the likeness of our Savior and internalize his attitudes towards others, and finally redeem the dead. There are both temporal and spirit(ual) prisons from which people needs rescuing: debt-slaves, sex-slaves, human trafficking, unjust policies in the pursuit of gain and power. There are countless unjust structures built into our societies that have kept children of God on both sides of the veil from repenting fully from their sins or from being delivered from the sphere in which they find themselves in.
Turning the hearts of the children to the covenants and the understanding of the sins made by the fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to their children in order for them to teach us through the veil how we may best overcome the consequences of their actions in our lives and in that sense redeem them from their own sins – undo in a way what has been done. Only then can the effects of mercy take full effect. Why else do we build structures of peace and holiness unto the Lord, if they are not a typology of something else – in the real world. This brings us to the three different interpretations of the divine will:
The main gist of this triangle can be found in What Shall We Do – Mormon Change Theories. The point I am trying to make is that for most christian churches, the response to God’s will depend on their interpretation of the Gospel as taught by Jesus. Some will put the emphasis on preaching the Gospel and convert all unto Christ – good idea, but should we force people to believe, as was the case up until recently? The conversionist worldview normally tends to argue that violence is inevitable in a world where the forces of evil are fighting the forces of good. Many Latter day Saints tend to be stuck at that corner of the triangle.
Then we have the liberationists, who believe that injustice must be fought at all costs, and that violence to fight oppression is justified from the perspective of a just war theory due to a previous/original structural violence. Some LDS members have a penchant towards a liberationist interpretation of the Gospel. What about the standard of liberty, they would say. What about the wars in the Book of Mormon in defense of freedom of religion and worship, our families, our wives, our children? God was on the side of those who were fighting for a just cause. God is seen at the side of those who challenge injustice and oppression. But again, it begs the question, what means should we employ in our struggle for justice? Those from the plan of destruction or those from the plan of creation.
Spiritualists are the nonviolent practitioners of any christian faith, who argue that the Spirit of Christ teaches no one to fight with outward weapons, neither for the Kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world. Spiritualists in the Mormon faith are like unto the anti-nephi-lehies, the people of Jesus in 3 Nephi ‘who did not smite again’, and the early Christians before and after the crucifiction, and also the early Mormons during the first few years of the restoration. A few LDS practice it today, and like other spiritualists they see the battle between good and evil as a spiritual battle, a spiritual jihad if you will, an inner struggle between the natural man (the enemy of God) and the divine within. Other latter day satyagrahis believe the battle has larger social ramifications and that the struggle is between nonviolence and violence. This leads us to the Nobody Can Be Saved Alone – The Zion Formula: Here my point is that mormon millennialism has an inbuilt formula as to countering the three violences in Galtung’s initial triangle. In the heart lies our attitudes, in the mind lies our conditions, and our righteousness is so because of our behavior. This follows the same logic as the ABC triangle. My reason for inverting the triangle is because Zion is fled, as the scripture say. If Zion were to be among us, it would look a bit like this:The angel Moroni is visible, in that he stand as a figure of the latter day gospel at work in the hearts and minds of God’s children. However, perfecting the saints and redeeming the dead happens within the walls of the temple and the attitudes we develop there and the conditions we create for ourselves, based on the covenants we make there, both justify and legitimize our behavior. If there are peaceful attitudes, then there are works of righteousness. If there are structures of fairness and justice, then there are works of righteousness. The Temples, in their very essence, are challenging the adversary’s plan to the core. There is a reason why the bells of hell start ringing, as Brigham Young once said, when the people of God builds a Temple unto Him.
The work carried out therein gives us the force and the power to carry the work without. The teaching we get there and the power with which we are endowed from on high, gives us the strength to carry on our work of saving on both sides of the veil and thereby establishing Zion on earth, as it is being established in heaven. Temple work is in that wider sense peace work in all three corners of the triangle. Who said that the people of God is not yet ready to live by the fullness of the Gospel? It is because we don’t necessary think of the social ramifications of our beliefs. What do we really mean?
Shall the youth of Zion falter in defending truth and right? While the enemy assaileth, shall we shrink or shun the fight? No! True to the faith that our parents have cherished, true to the truth for which martyrs have perished. To God’s command, soul (C+), heart (A+), and hand (B+), faithful and true we will ever stand. While we know the pow’rs of darkness seek to thwart the work of God, shall the children of the promise cease to grasp the iron rod? No! We will work out our salvation; we will cleave unto the truth; we will watch (C+) and pray (A+) and labor (B+) with the fervent zeal of youth. Yes! We will strive to be found worthy of the kingdom of our Lord, with the faithful ones redeemed, who have loved and kept his word. Yes!