Mosiah chapter 29 starts with an interesting political message: the power to rule is held by the people. At the start of this chapter, the aging, outgoing king, King Mosiah II, asked the people what they wanted to do. They wanted an elected monarch: Aaron, the king’s son. Aaron refused. His brothers refused. And so Mosiah wrote a proclamation.
He was concerned that appointing someone else (the father-son tradition was well-established by this point) could cause turmoil, conflict, and even war. And so he was in a quandary. What to do? Mosiah expresses concern that should the kingdom be appointed to someone else, then perhaps Aaron, the original legitimate heir, would be upset and even provoke conflict to oppose the appointment. Mosiah says this “would cause wars and contentions among you, which would be the cause of shedding much blood and perverting the way of the Lord, yea, and destroy the souls of many people” (Mosiah 29:7).
In this verse, Mosiah links causation of wars and contentions with “perverting the way of the Lord” and “[destroying] the souls of many people.”
How do wars and contentions pervert the way of the Lord?
How do wars and contentions destroy the souls of many people?
Let’s tackle the first question: what is the “way of the Lord?” In this instance, we may suppose what is meant is the methods the Lord uses, as well as the revealed way (the Gospel of Jesus Christ) to return to His presence. Wars and contentions pervert the methods the Lord uses and distort the very Gospel itself.
What methods does the Lord use? The words of a hymn come to mind,
He’ll call, persuade, direct aright,
And bless with wisdom, love, and light,
In nameless ways be good and kind,
But never force the human mind.
The Lord will not rule by force. That is contrary to His nature.
Starting wars and contentions perverts these methods. Compulsion and coercion replace gentle persuasion. Force and brutality replace mercy and virtue. Hatred replaces love. This is indeed a perversion. Thus, the methods are perverted. Much more can be said, but this cursory discussion will suffice for now. On to the next idea, that wars pervert the Gospel.
Wars and contentions cannot be started without disobeying fundamental Gospel principles: Love thy neighbor. Turn the other cheek. Forgive. Repent. Be merciful. Be humble. Thou shalt not kill.
How can someone who starts a war be penitent? Be humble? A peacemaker? Be loving and genuinely concerned about their neighbor? War initiation is the opposite of these.
This disobedience tragically results in the destruction of souls. Latter-day revelation teaches that the soul consists of the body and the spirit. Clearly, war results in the destruction of the body. But this teaching clearly implies a spiritual destruction as well. Any conflict initiation is spiritually destructive, as contention is of the devil. The Lord’s doctrine is that such should be done away. It is significant to note that this depraved behavior results in the tragic destruction of “many souls.”