Demand for Proper Respect of Human Life

President J. Reuben Clarke, Jnr.
President J. Reuben Clarke

My brothers and sisters: In humility I ask for your help that what I may say today may be in that same sweet spirit which has been with us during this conference until the present time.

As the Savior and the apostles were on the shores of the Sea of Galilee on that early morning, Jesus asked Peter:

. . . lovest thou me more than these? . . . Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. . . . Feed my sheep (John 21:15-16).

And the only excuse and likewise the only reason that any of us have for standing before you in this conference is that we shall feed you.

Brother Widtsoe yesterday made allusion to a principle, spoke somewhat about it, to which I wish now to refer. He spoke of our duties and our obligations as those who held the truth. It is a very great blessing, not only, to have the truth, but it imposes likewise a great responsibility. We of this Church are possessors of the truth in so far as it has been revealed, the ultimate truth, and we are the possessors and custodians of the power of the Holy Priesthood.


We speak often, and properly, of the great blessings which we have, the blessings that are given to us by the Lord. But sometimes I wonder if our thought may not be mostly concerned with what we get instead of what we give. In that great sermon of Paul to the elders of Ephesus, he said Jesus had declared:

. . . It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

There is something very remarkable about what we have to give under the gospel plan. No matter how much we give of truth, of good example, of righteous living, our stores, our blessings increase, not decrease, by that which we give away. There are two or three miracles in the Bible that impress me in this connection. One was the barrel of meal which Elijah blessed after the good woman who owned it said that if she gave it to him it would take all she had. That barrel of meal, blessed by Elijah, did not thereafter fail (1 Kgs. 17:12-16). The more she took from it, the more she had to give. Elisha blessed that cruse of oil for the widow who was in dire debt and about to lose her sons as bondmen, so that she filled from that cruse not alone the utensils which she herself had, but those which, pursuant to the prophet’s orders, she went out and borrowed. All were filled that she could obtain (2 Kgs. 4:1-7). The Savior on the banks of the Sea of Galilee fed five thousand with five loaves and two little fishes, yet when they had finished they gathered up twelve baskets full of what was left (Matt. 14:16-21). So when on the plain he fed the four thousand, from seven loaves and a few little fishes (Matt. 15:32-38).

And so it is with God’s spiritual blessings to us. We have the truth; we possess the priesthood; both are given into our care. We are responsible for the use we make of them. We are expected to give out of our store all that we possibly can give away, and in proportion as we give unto others, we become thereby more and more enriched ourselves. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). I repeat, as possessors of truth, our mission is to minister therefrom to others. And the more of truth we give away, the more we shall have. The more we righteously use the priesthood, the greater its powers will grow in us.


As all of you were, I am sure, I, too, was much impressed yesterday by the talk which Brother Bower gave. As he proceeded, I thought perhaps it might be useful (and if I did not think it would, I would not proceed) if I were to trace out very briefly and imperfectly some of the principles governing the intercourse of nations in times of war. We have fallen just as far in our concepts there, as in the respects to which Brother Bower referred. Brother Romney this morning referred to one of the terrible incidents in the Old Testament history where the Lord, not man, commanded the imposition by Israel of a penalty of the extermination of a people. In the early history of the world, wars of extermination or enslavement were more or less the rule. However, when the Roman Empire became all powerful, it adopted more temperate rules; it had more humane feelings about war, its deceits, stratagems, and artifices. A certain honor was observed towards enemies, so much so, indeed, that it is said that on one occasion the Romans declined to recognize one of their generals in a victory he had won by using bribery. On another occasion they declined to take advantage of an offer made to them that by the use of poison they could accomplish the destruction of certain of their enemies.


However, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the world fell into the Dark Ages, and then apparently every excess that could be invented by man was practiced as nations went to war. Things became so bad that finally at about the period of the Reformation, men’s consciences became shocked at man’s inhumanity to man, and they began to try to see if something could not be done to bring more humanity into the conduct of war. Along in the late fifteen hundreds a very great Dutchman was born, Hugo Grotius, who, in the course of his life, prepared the first great work on international law. In the preface to that monumental work which has stood as the great classic from that time until this (and you cannot reach much farther back when you go into international law of the modern time, than Grotius), as I say, in his preface, he made this statement of the reasons why he wrote this treatise:

I saw prevailing throughout the Christian world a license in making war of which even barbarous nations would have been ashamed; recourse being had to arms for slight reasons or no reasons; and when arms were once taken up, all reverence for divine and human law was thrown away, just as if men were thenceforth authorized to commit all crimes without restraint.

Because of this condition Grotius wrote his work De Jure Belli et Pacis, which was the beginning of the bringing into war of something of humanity, if humanity may be properly spoken of in connection with war.

First, an effort was made to draw the distinction between combatants and non-combatants. War was to be waged between armies and not between civilian peoples. Statesmen and nations sought to relieve non-combatants from the woes, cruelties, and horrors of war. Old men, women, children, the decrepit and infirm were to be protected, not slaughtered. Many other humanizing elements came in, relating to prisoners of war and the treatment of wounded.


When our nation was formed, we contributed to the world some great principles, among the greatest being that of neutrality, the intent thereof being to confine the war conflagration in as narrow a space as possible with the purpose of providing that the peoples of the nations that were not fighting might conduct their intercourse as usual. The miseries and woes of war were not to be inflicted upon innocent, disinterested peoples. We came to the brink of war in the last years of the eighteenth century to maintain this principle as applied to ourselves. The effort was to make it impossible to have what we have now come to glorify as “global war” and “total war.” We then knew such a war was a curse.


Then came our own Civil War. Up until that time there never had been a written code of rules governing war between nations; and up until that time civil war was a war by traitors; those who were taken as prisoners of war were treated as traitors. But Francis Lieber, a political refugee from Germany, drew up for Lincoln what were known as “General Orders 100,” which went out to the Federal armies in the field, and thereafter governed the conduct of our armies in the Civil War. These rules went further than any practice of nations up until that time in international war. These rules forbade the bombardment, without notice, of places where there were civilian peoples. It provided for the protection of museums, of libraries, of scientific institutions. These were to be saved from the ravages and destruction of war. Undefended towns were not to be attacked. Civilians were to be spared. Old men, women, and children, the wounded, all were to receive the maximum possible protection. As time went on and as a result of that code, other codes were framed by various international conferences, notably The Hague conferences of 1899 and 1907. Furthermore, they provided certain inhibitions on the waging of war which I think you might be interested in hearing me name. They adopted a declaration prohibiting the dropping of projectiles from balloons; they provided that poison gases should not be used; that poison itself should not be used. They repeated the prohibitions that undefended towns should not be bombarded. Family honor was to be respected; pillage and rape and arson and the whole train of like crimes that we read so much about today were forbidden.


Then came World War I, and we began to sag back into barbarism. World War II followed. All distinctions between combatants and non-combatants disappeared. This was inevitably so, if they used the kind of weapons they employed. So we had destroyed in England many towns, some of those suffering most being Sheffield, Hull, Manchester, Coventry, and London. There were many towns in Germany equally destroyed, including Berlin, and particularly Dresden, and as to this last city, some of our people, Americans, are affirming that the bombardment of Dresden (where it is said we killed in two nights more than two hundred fifty thousand people, men, women and children, including wounded who had been collected there) was in violation of a tacit understanding that if Germany would leave Oxford and Cambridge alone, we would not touch Dresden. I do not know how true this report is; but we know the result.


Now do not forget that all of the nations had prepared before World War II to use aircraft; they had already used submarines in World War I; and we in this area know we were prepared to use poison gases. Then as the crowning savagery of the war, we Americans wiped out hundreds of thousands of civilian population with the atom bomb in Japan, few if any of the ordinary civilians being any more responsible for the war than were we, and perhaps most of them no more aiding Japan in the war than we were aiding America. Military men are now saying that the atom bomb was a mistake. It was more than that: it was a world tragedy. Thus we have lost all that we gained during the years from Grotius (1625) to 1912. And the worst of this atomic bomb tragedy is not that not only did the people of the United States not rise up in protest against this savagery, not only did it not shock us to read of this wholesale destruction of men, women, and children, and cripples, but that it actually drew from the nation at large a general approval of this fiendish butchery.

The other day there appeared in the New York Times, it may have appeared here, too, but I have it from the New York Times, an article which I shall read to you.

A new super-deadly poison, the most potent known to man, has been developed by the special projects division of the United States Chemical Warfare Service. [That is, it is officially developed.]

An innocent-looking crystalline toxin, the poison is so powerful that an inch-cube size of it, roughly an ounce, could kill every person living in the United States and Canada, silently and swiftly.

“If World War III comes, which we pray will never happen, it will be a war in which most people may die from silent, insidious, anti-human weapons that make no sound, give no warning, destroy no forts or ships or cities, but can wipe out human beings by the millions,” Dr. Gerald Wendt of New York City, editorial director of Science Illustrated magazine, declared in a General Electric Science Forum address.

Dr. Wendt said: “The United States has already spent $50,000,000 in research off it, a small sum compared with the cost of radar and the atomic bomb. Most startling are two facts: These killers are invisible, microscopic in size, capable of spreading to reach every living enemy”; [I wonder how we are going to direct these killers so that they will work only on the enemy.] “and they can be easily and cheaply prepared by any belligerent who has as much as a brewery and the skill to operate it.

“If any small nation is competent in biological warfare, a large nation, even with atomic bombs, may be helpless against it.”

There are other new biological weapons, Dr. Wendt asserted, that “operate through the slow agony of starvation. It is the attack on plants and animals.”


Thus we in America are now deliberately searching out and developing the most savage, murderous means of exterminating peoples that Satan can plant in our minds. We do it not only shamelessly, but with a boast. God will not forgive us for this.

If we are to avoid extermination, if the world is not to be wiped out, we must find some way to curb the fiendish ingenuity of men who have apparently no fear of God, man, or the devil, and who are willing to plot and plan and invent instrumentalities that will wipe out all the flesh of the earth. And, as one American citizen of one hundred thirty millions, as one in one billion population of the world, I protest with all of the energy I possess against this fiendish activity, and as an American citizen, I call upon our government and its agencies to see that these unholy experimentations are stopped, and that somehow we get into the minds of our war-minded general staff and its satellites, and into the general staffs of all the world, a proper respect for human life.

May God give us the strength to stand in these times of stress and trial and crisis. May he give us the wisdom and the inspiration to put hate out of our hearts, a hate that is consuming us. May he give us the power as a people so to bring our influence to bear that men, mankind, may be saved, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Original Source

Demand for Proper Respect of Human Life
President J. Reuben Clarke Jnr.
Of the First Presidency
J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Conference Report, October 1946, pp. 84-89
Accessed 30/5/2016