(This is double posted here and on another blog here.)
The audiobook Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is currently on my mp3 player. As I listened during a drive home, the following paragraph stood out as a simple, but sufficient primer on the non-aggression axiom.
(The context of this paragraph is Robinson has witnessed several instances of cannibalistic warriors arriving on the beaches of his island to slaughter and consume their captives. He is angered by their abhorrent practice of cannibalism and feels threatened by their presence on his island; consequently, he plans to attack and slaughter the lot of them. His plans cease when he realizes the evil he was about to commit.)
These considerations really put me to a pause, and to a kind of a full stop; and I began by little and little to be off my design, and to conclude I had taken wrong measures in my resolution to attack the savages; and that it was not my business to meddle with them, unless they first attacked me; and this it was my business, if possible, to prevent: but that, if I were discovered and attacked by them, I knew my duty. On the other hand, I argued with myself that this really was the way not to deliver myself, but entirely to ruin and destroy myself; for unless I was sure to kill every one that not only should be on shore at that time, but that should ever come on shore afterwards, if but one of them escaped to tell their country-people what had happened, they would come over again by thousands to revenge the death of their fellows, and I should only bring upon myself a certain destruction, which, at present, I had no manner of occasion for. Upon the whole, I concluded that I ought, neither in principle nor in policy, one way or other, to concern myself in this affair… Religion joined in with this prudential resolution; and I was convinced now, many ways, that I was perfectly out of my duty when I was laying all my bloody schemes for the destruction of innocent creatures—I mean innocent as to me. As to the crimes they were guilty of towards one another, I had nothing to do with them; they were national, and I ought to leave them to the justice of God, who is the Governor of nations, and knows how, by national punishments, to make a just retribution for national offences, and to bring public judgments upon those who offend in a public manner, by such ways as best please Him. This appeared so clear to me now, that nothing was a greater satisfaction to me than that I had not been suffered to do a thing which I now saw so much reason to believe would have been no less a sin than that of wilful murder if I had committed it; and I gave most humble thanks on my knees to God, that He had thus delivered me from blood-guiltiness; beseeching Him to grant me the protection of His providence, that I might not fall into the hands of the barbarians, or that I might not lay my hands upon them, unless I had a more clear call from Heaven to do it, in defence of my own life.
I love this paragraph, because it identifies the moral foundation to the non-aggression axiom, namely that if you take the offensive against someone who has not directly harmed you, then you not only forfeit God’s blessings of protection, but you also risk provoking blowback.
Today’s media influences popular opinion to embrace an ever-expanding definition of harm. The US seems to engage more and more countries like an over-eager kid rolling dice in a game of Risk.
I believe that The Book of Mormon was written for our times to guide us through the physical, emotional, and spiritual dangers of these latter days.
Ancient American prophets in The Book of Mormon understood the principle of non-aggression and defended it against the clamor of those they led – even in times of direct threat of real enemies!
This is extremely important. I will share two accounts from The Book of Mormon to illustrate this point further.
The first comes from Third Nephi, Chapter 3, verses 18-25. Gidgiddoni was the commander of all the armies, chosen for his righteousness. Read the conversation he had with his people:
Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.
And it came to pass in the seventeenth year, in the latter end of the year, the proclamation of Lachoneus had gone forth throughout all the face of the land, and they had taken their horses, and their chariots, and their cattle, and all their flocks, and their herds, and their grain, and all their substance, and did march forth by thousands and by tens of thousands, until they had all gone forth to the place which had been appointed that they should gather themselves together, to defend themselves against their enemies.
A fellow liberty loving blogger wrote a fantastic article about a similar circumstance. Captain Moroni was another prophet-commander who taught his people not to wage offensive war. Read about it here.
Finally, modern prophets have echoed this message. One recent account comes from the General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from October 2011. Elder Packer, a leader in the LDS Church spoke to the youth. He identified the reality that they are growing up in a world full of wars and rumors of wars and identifies certain steps they can take to prepare and protect themselves. His words are similar to Gidgiddoni and Moroni – repent and bolster your spiritual defenses.
The scriptures are replete with examples of the consequences of obedience or disobedience of prophetic counsel. I fear that we in the US are becoming too accepting of wars of aggression. Too often, we uphold the maxim that the best defense is a good offense, even if that offense is committed against individuals or groups who have not directly harmed us.
The Book of Mormon prophets faced hatred from enemies preparing to wage war against them, but those righteous men stood firm and refused to stoop to improper warfare. Instead, they maintained their faith in God and His promise to protect His people if they will trust and obey Him.
This promise, proven repeatedly, stands for us as well: obey and be blessed with freedom, prosperity, and protection from our enemies – or disobey and stand alone.
 Defoe, Daniel (2011-03-30). Robinson Crusoe (pp. 185-186). . Kindle Edition.