The Nonviolence of Early Followers of Christ

The 6th nonviolent article of faith says:

We believe in the same nonviolence that existed in the Primitive Church: “And to those who inquire of us whence we come, or who is our founder, we reply that we are come, agreeably to the counsels of Jesus, to cut down our hostile and insolent swords into ploughshares, and to convert into pruning-hooks the spears formerly employed in war. For we no longer take up sword against nation, nor do we learn war any more, having become children of peace, for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader.” – Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD).

The Restoration implied that the Prophet Joseph Smith would restore the primitive church that was instituted during and after the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. It is therefore surprising that little research is done in the LDS church to uncover how the early saints lived, and what was characteristic of their beliefs. They heard it directly from the mouth of Jesus and their immediate interpretation of His Gospel was most probably the most correct application of his divine teachings – unspoiled by time and interpretation.

Below are selected writings of “early-day” saints (EDS) characteristic of their time and of their attitude to war, peace and even to capital punishment. You cannot convincingly tell me that the early Saints had perverted the Lord’s teachings by pursuing an ideal that had not been taught by Christ and that went contrary to the logic of their time.

May we heed their council as we seek to live as Jesus wanted us to live until his return:

jesus and the first saints

“For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained.”  – Clement of Alexandria (150-aprox 211 AD), The Instructor 1.12

“The catechumen or faithful who wants to become a soldier is to be rejected, for he has despised God.” – Hippolytus (170-236 AD), The Apostolic Tradition 16.11

“But how will a Christian war, nay, how will he serve even in peace without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed, still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier.” – Tertullian (160-225 AD), On Idolatry 19

“Shall it be held lawful to make an occupation of the sword, when the Lord proclaims that he who uses the sword shall perish by the sword? And shall the son of peace take part in the battle when it does not become him even to sue at law? And shall he apply the chain, and the prison, and the torture, and the punishment, who is not the avenger even of his own wrongs?” – Tertullian (160-225 AD), The Chaplet 11

“We cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly.” – Athenagoras of Athen (aprox 180 AD), A Plea for the Christians 35

“Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself, nor to accuse any one of a capital charge, because it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or rather by the sword, since it is the act of putting to death itself which is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to this precept of God, there ought to be no exception at all; but that it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred animal.” – Lactantius of Bithynia (aprox 240-317 AD), Divine Institutes 6.20