Friday, June 22, 2012

Mormon Succession Crisis Nauvoo 8 August 1844

When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a  lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I SHALL DIE INNOCENT, AND IT SHALL YET BE SAID OF ME—HE WAS MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD.” (D&C 135:4)
The prophet Joseph Smith had been slain. The Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ were left without an earthly leader to guide them. Joseph had left no set standard on who was to follow him in leading the Church.  This event was one of the refining fires of Mormonism. In the days following Joseph Smith's death many believed the church would fall apart and splinter. In fact, it all most did. The following is a document analysis of the primary sources describing what happened with LDS church leadership after Joseph Smith died. 
Several men stepped up to lead the Church, and each of them presented evidence that Joseph had told them to guide and lead the Church.[1] Two of the most well known for their arguments over who had the right to lead and govern the church were Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young. Sidney Rigdon claimed he would watch over the Church as its guardian and Brigham Young advocated that the keys of governing the Church lay in the hands of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Each said that Joseph had left the keys of the kingdom in their hands.
Speculation arises among historians as to what actually took place on 8 August 1844. There is no doubt that something happened. Early in the morning Sidney Rigdon addressed around five thousand saints, arguing that he was inspired of God and called to be a protector over the church since Joseph was gone. The Quorum of the Twelve had only recently returned from missions abroad, and Brigham Young took over leadership of the early morning meeting. Brigham dismissed the people assembled listening to Rigdon and told them to return in the afternoon. That afternoon something happened that changed the course of history.
Some on that day recorded in diaries and journals that the mantle of Joseph Smith passed to Brigham Young. Decade’s later people would testify, recollect and swear affidavits to the effect that as Brigham Young spoke, he looked, sounded like, and mimicked Joseph to the degree that some actually thought their dear prophet had returned from the grave.
Historians differ on this because there are no first hand contemporary accounts that record what actually happened that August afternoon. However there are testimonies and affidavits by the score that affirm decades later that a transfiguration did occur.
Contemporary primary documents regarding the mantle of Joseph Smith falling on Brigham Young are limited. The few journal entries from that day say nothing about Brigham Young appearing like Joseph Smith.[2] They only state that that Brigham was chosen or that the mantle of Joseph rested on Brigham. Four of the best of these that record the mantle falling on Brigham are from Wilford Woodruff, George Laub, Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young, and Emily Smith Hoyt.[3] These three documents are the most contemporary documents that speak of the common mantle experience as known by most Mormons. It should be noted that most of them were not written the day of or even within a few months of the event. 

Wilford Woodruff is known not only as a president of the Church, but also as an avid diarist.  The event as recorded by Wilford Woodruff seems to follow the others of the time in simply mentioning that there was no doubt that the mantle of Joseph Smith rested upon Brigham Young. Most of the records of the time seem to state the event similarly. This leads to the view that this account is historically accurate. The authenticity of the document should not be in question. The Millennial Star was a Mormon periodical for over a hundred years cataloging the growth of Mormonism. The Millennial Star fills in many holes that would exist without it.  The document is written within a year the document can be seen as a contemporary account of what transpired the previous August.[4]
Another account although somewhat reflective that still fits within the timeframe of contemporary for this study is the Journal of George Laub. This journal was written in 1845. George Laub is not noted within LDS history for his apostasy or his leadership. George Laub is demonstrative of the average Latter-day Saint. His journal helps to give the reader a fuller understanding of what was transpiring in the everyday life of early Mormons.  The reliability of the journal is not in doubt. The document differs from that of Woodruff’s letter in the millennial star because Laub actually mentions that when Brigham rose and spoke that he appeared as Joseph and that his voice sounded like Joseph’s. Being reflective to some degree the historicity of the document can be questioned.[5]  There are also some that think the document currently archived as Laub’s journal is a rewrite of an earlier journal.
Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith Young diary for the purpose of this study is also considered contemporary. Zina was married to Henry Jacobs, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Zina was the third relief society president of the Church. Zina had beautiful penmanship and her vocabulary identifies that she was educated to some degree.  Zina writes that the mantle passed to Brigham Young, saying that Brigham looked and sounded like Joseph. An important thing to note is that she said that all witnessed the transfiguration and that thousands of people would testify that it happened. This leads me to conclude that the Zina record of the event might be more reflective than contemporary even though it is said to have been recorded when the even happened. There is also the concern that when she wrote her journal she was married to Brigham and this might have influenced her recollection.[6]
Emily Smith Hoyt also records the events of the mantle passing to Joseph Smith but since they are written in 1851 are more reflective than contemporary but are still closer to the actual time of the event than many later accounts. Emily’s handwriting was easier to read than many others but there were places where what was written was difficult to make out. Emily says that when she heard Brigham speak that if she had not handled Joseph’s body with her own hands she would thought Joseph had risen from the grave to speak to the saints.[7]
Reflective primary accounts are far more numerous than the contemporary ones.  This work will only cover a few of those accounts.  The accounts that were examined are those of George Romney, Benjamin Franklin Johnson, Orson Hyde and George Q. Cannon. Reflective accounts in general should be given a certain degree of skepticism before they are regarded as accurate.[8] There are times when the event the person recalls is simply something they wish they would have experienced or an experience that is later embellished.[9]
Of interest are the later accounts of Wilford Woodruff. In two later accounts Woodruff mentions that Brigham Young looked and sounded like Joseph. Both of these later two reflective accounts differ from Woodruff’s journal and letter in the millennial star. They differ inasmuch as in the later two accounts, Woodruff mentions much more than that the mantle of Joseph simply fell on Brigham.[10] [11]The documents are authentic. The historicity of the documents however is questionable.[12].  Despite this the chances that Woodruff is being duplicitous are slight. Woodruff kept detailed journals for most of his life recording the things that happened, and it would be unlikely he would pervert his own history with fabricating another man’s deeds. Other than feeling that it was the right time to share his experience, there is no evidence to suggest why his later accounts expand what happened that day.
George Q. Cannon, a lad of seventeen at the time, later recalled that he heard the voice of Joseph Smith in Brigham Young and that the people assembled also saw Brigham appear to be like Joseph.  Cannon records a feeling of gloom felt by most of the people in the congregation before the manifestation took place. After the transfiguration the congregation knew who was to lead them and felt joy in their hearts. No evidence exists that he was trying to lead people astray, but as to the reliability of the account, there is the problem that the congregation did not choose Brigham then as the prophet or president of the Church. The congregation did sustain the quorum of the twelve however.[13]
Benjamin Franklin Johnson’s account is a testimony more than anything else. His handwriting was easy to read but his spelling of some words was not standardized which made it hard to figure out what he was writing. While this does not totally discredit the recollection by any means, there is the doubt that lingers that perhaps he is simply wishing that he had seen what others had. Or that the spiritual feeling he received concerning Brigham was something more than it was. Many of the Nauvoo Saints later recalled the transfiguration and Benjamin perhaps wanted to join in that happy group. [14][15]
Orson Hyde also bears witness years after the fact that he recalls the events in Nauvoo and that Brigham not only spoke and looked liked Joseph, but that he also mimicked his hand gestures and Joseph’s stature which was quite different than that of Brigham. There are no perceivable doubts as to the authenticity of the document from which Hyde’s comment’s were taken. The reliability of Hyde’s remarks like others, who followed Brigham, can only be questioned as supporting the person he choose to follow.[16]
There are many other reflective accounts that bare similarities to each other. This large number of witnesses cannot be rejected out of hand. In a court of law the testimony of witnesses no matter how long after the fact, bears weight. In a court of law having three or four witnesses who bare similar testimony years after the fact would be noteworthy, but to have over a hundred recorded witnesses’ bear the same testimony of what happened simply cannot be ignored.[17] While the reflective accounts taken individually may be criticized, taken as a whole, they cannot be rejected. [18]
Secondary sources regarding the day of 8 August 1844 regard the event in one of two ways. One conclusion is that no miracle occurred because of the lack of contemporary primary accounts recording it. The second conclusion is that the event was too sacred and many people did not feel free to talk or write about it until much later. This second view also notes the abundance of primary reflective accounts as witness that something did happen.
The most well articulated of the secondary accounts presented was that of Lynne Jorgensen. “The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Passes to Brother Brigham: A collective Spiritual Witness,” contained a plethora of sources describing what transpired on that day. Jorgensen provides the reader with over a hundred and twenty different accounts of what transpired on that day. He briefly summarizes a few of the accounts but lists all of the others in an appendix. This is an invaluable asset to anyone making a study of the transfiguration of Brigham Young. It allows the reader to judge for himself the accounts of those who testified to what happened. Jorgensen also provides in depth footnotes that allow the reader to further research the documents on their own.
Richard S. Van Wagoner took the position that Brigham merely mimicked Joseph and later forced people to testify that a miracle had occurred. Van Wagoner concludes that the transfiguration account as understood by most Latter-Day Saints is nothing more than the effects of the propaganda of the Church put out in the nineteenth century. Van Wagoner also cites that the censorship and changes made to early Church documents throws the question of reliability into the fray.[19] Van Wagoner concludes that Brigham simply beat Sidney Rigdon in a bid to control the Church. He also concludes that the later recollections of hundreds of people was nothing more than a fable that became a faith promoting rumor that eventually became the accepted truth.

            It is interesting to note that Jorgensen and Van Wagoner both use many of the same document come

away with different perceptions.[20] In concluding what did happen that day the ends of that meeting should

be noted. Brigham spoke that the Saints and the Church should be under the guidance of the quorum of the

twelve. The congregation in attendance almost unanimously affirmed that the Church should be led by the

quorum of the twelve. This is nothing short of a miracle since the general body of the Church had no idea

what Joseph had truly said regarding who was to lead following his death.



[1] There were eight possible answers concerning who was to guide the church: 1) A member of the First Presidency, 2) a secrete appointment by Joseph of who would succeed him, 3) the Associate President, 4) the Patriarch of the Church, 5) The Council of Fifty, 6) The Quorum of the Twelve, 7) by three priesthood councils, and 8) by a blood descendent of Joseph. These eight methods of succession were listed by D. Michael Quinn, “The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844,” Brigham Young University Studies 16 (Winter 1976) 187-233

[2] The diaries of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, and Wilford Woodruff all made entries in their diaries on 8 Aug 1844 made no reference to Brigham sounding like Joseph or looking like him. They did make notes though of the comments made by the speakers or the results of the voting. This at first was a cause of concern, but when taken in the light that many people do not record or talk about sacred events that transpire. The author sought to find and read these records but did not have time.

[3] The handwriting and vocabulary used in all of the primary accounts whether, reflective or contemporary, suggest that they were written in the time period, and are authentic in that respect.

[4] “On the second day after our arrival August 8th, 1844, we met in a special conference, all the quorums, authorities, and members of the Church that could assemble in Nauvoo. They were addressed by elder Brigham Young, the president of the quorum of the twelve. It was evident to the Saints that the mantle of Joseph had fallen upon him, the road that he pointed out could be seen so plainly, that none need err therein; the spirit of wisdom and counsel attended all his teachings, he struck upon a chord, with which all hearts beat in unison.” Wilford Woodruff, "To the Officers and Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the British Islands," Millennial Star 5 (February 1845): 138.

[5] “Now after the death of Br. Joseph & Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon having A mision appointed him by Joseph to Pittsburg before his death. Now after his death Sidney came in all the hast in him to Nauvoo from Pittsburg to claime the presidency of the church, him not knowing that Joseph Sent him out of the way to get rd of him. Now when he returned to Nauvoo he called all the people to gether to choos them a guardian, as he Expressed himself. Now, Said he, the Church is 14 years old and it was the duty of the church to choose a guardien & preached there for Two days on that subject of guardinism & the Lords way was not as man’s ways, But as the heavens are hier than the earth So are the Lords ways above mans ways, etc. Just about the time that the Vote was to be taken for him to be president & guardien, But as the Lord would have the Twelve to come home & I felt to praise God to See Bro Brigham Young walk upon the stand then. Positive Revelations of Rigdon’s ware only guess So, & he thinks So & hoap so, while the lord had told him how to proseed before according to his one [own] mouth & after wards ony Suposed them so. Now when President Young arose to address the congregation his Voice was the Voice of Bro. Joseph and his face appeared as Joseph’s face, & Should I not have seen his face but herd his Voice I Should have declared that it was Joseph.” George Laub, George Laub’s Journal, 1845-46, holograph, 90-91, microfilm, LDS Archives, Salt Lake City

[6] “I went to meeting in the afternoon, Thanks be to Him who reigns on high, the majority of the Twelve are here Brigham Young spoke and the Church voted that the 12 should act in the office of there calling next to Joseph or the three first presidents. Never can it be told in words what the saints suffered in those days of trial; but the sweet spirit—the comforter—did not forsake them; and when the twelve returned, the mantle of Joseph fell upon Brigham. When I approached the stand (on the occasion when Sidney Rigdon was striving for the guardianship of the Church), President Young was speaking. It was the voice of Joseph Smith—not that of Brigham Young. His very person was changed. The mantle was truly given to another. There was no doubting this in the minds of that vast assembly. All witnessed the transfiguration, and even to-day thousands bear testimony thereof. I closed my eyes. I could have exclaimed, I know that is Joseph Smith’s voice! Yet I knew he had gone. But the same spirit was with the people; the comforter remained.” Zina Diantha Huntington Young, Diaries 1844-1845, August 8, 1844, holograph, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City

[7] “We were summoned over the river again and went to hear what was wanted. Brigham Young then President of the twelve had returned home. The people were convened in the Old Bowry where Joseph had last spoken to the people. Sydney Rigdon made a speech and claimed to have authority to lead the Church others had similar claims. None appeared reasonable to me. The last one arose. It was the then, President of the twelve Brigham Young. He spoke to the people altogether in a different style from any of those, who had preceeded him. A crowd of witnessses arose after B. Y. had sat down and testified to the truth of what he had said. President B. Y. arose from his seat the second time and addressed the audience. I had been well acquainted with Joseph the latter part of his life. We had been at his home many times and Joseph, Hiram and families felt at home with us. [Emily writes of events leading to martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum.] ... But the God of Heaven who had said it was his business to provide for his saints, sent President B. Young home just in time, and clothed him not with "the mantle of Elijah," but the spirit and power which had rested on Joseph. I was an eye, and ear, witness. The manner of reasoning, the expression of the countenance, the sound of the voice thrilled my whole soul. My own eyes had beheld Joseph’s murdered body. My own hands, had felt death’s icy coldness on his once noble forehead. I knew that Joseph was dead. And yet I often startled and involuntarily looked at the stand to see if it was not Joseph. It was not, it was Brigham Young and if any one doubts the right of Brigham to manage affairs for the Saints, all I have to say to them is this. Get the spirit of God and know for yourselves. The Lord will provide for his own. Has the word of the Lord ever failed. Br Young will not live forever clothed with mortality. But He who rules in heaven and on earth will control all things by the counsel of his own will. Saints will live.” Emily Smith Hoyt, Reminiscenses and Diaries 1851-1893, holograph, 20-21, microfilm, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City

[8] There are some who would argue that the reflective accounts of the transfiguration of Brigham Young were nothing but a hoax. The people who bore testimony simply were acting on the orders of Brigham to promote this myth. Sidney Rigdon commented on this fact in a letter to Brigham on 6 Dec 1870. The author does not believe god fearing men and women would be willing to swear an affidavit to the truth of the transfiguration if it was merely brother Brigham forcing them to tell about a faith promoting rumor of his own devising. Furthermore these people did more than say that this happened they bore the truth of the transfiguration with their lives. They followed Brigham Young across the prairie. They spent the rest of their lives living their testimonies.

[9] This embellishment is much the same way that a fisherman’s fish gets bigger with each telling of the story or that the fisherman caught more fish each time he recollects the story.

[10] “I know this work is of God. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I have heard two or three of the brethren testify about Brother Young in Nauvoo. Every man and every woman in that assembly, which perhaps might number thousands, could bear the same testimony. I was there, the Twelve were there, and a good many others, and all can bear the same testimony. The question might be asked why the appearance of Joseph Smith given to Brigham Young was. Because here was Sidney Rigdon and other men rising up and claiming to be the leaders of the Church; and men stood, as it were, on a pivot, not knowing which way to turn. But just as quick as Brigham Young rose in that assembly, his face was that of Joseph Smith—the mantle of Joseph had fallen upon him, the power of God that was upon Joseph Smith was upon him; he had the voice of Joseph, and it was the voice of the shepherd. There was not a person in that assembly, Rigdon, himself, not excepted, but was satisfied in his own mind that Brigham was the proper leader of the people, for he would not have his name presented, by his own consent, after that sermon was delivered. There was a reason for this in the mind of God: it convinced the people. They saw and heard for themselves, and it was by the power of God” Wilford Woodruff, "Remarks," Deseret News, May 22, 1872

[11]“ I do not know if there is any one present here tonight but myself who was there at that conference. There are but few living who were present on that occasion... and when Brigham arose and commenced speaking, as has been said, if my eyes had not been so I could see, if I had not seen him with my own eyes, there is no one that could have convinced me that it was not Joseph Smith.” Wilford Woodruff, "Priesthood and the Right of Succession," Deseret News Semi-Weekly, March 15, 1892, 3

[12] They are questionable because there is concern why they were not evident in the earlier account.

[13] George Q. Cannon, Juvenile Instructor 5 (October 29, 1870): 174-75

[14] Benjamin is to be credited, in that he mentions that he did not share it out of concern regarding the sacredness of the event. He did not feel he should share it in public and did not until many others had done so.

[15] Benjamin F. Johnson to George S. Gibbs, 1903, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City

[16] Orson Hyde, "Remarks," Deseret News Semi-Weekly, November 16, 1869

[17] However the distance from the when the event occurred should be taken into consideration. Contemporary accounts are important because they are viewing the event metaphorically speaking from only a few feet away. Reflective accounts especially years later can be viewing the event from a hundred feet away or even thousands of feet away. With this distance opportunity exists for the event to be misremembered. Memories of eyewitnesses can over tine become contaminated, lost, destroyed or made to produce results that lead to incorrect conclusions. There is in the criminal justice system speculation that eyewitness accounts should be considered as evidence.

[18] It is noteworthy to also consider that there are no contemporary primary documents asserting that Jesus was the Christ. The accounts of all four gospels were written reflectively decades after the events transpired. This does in no way mean that Jesus was not the messiah. There were simply other things (like survival) going on that were more important than writing down what had transpired. Oral tradition was sufficient during that time.

[19] It is hard for the author to know with any certainty if the documents he was analyzing had been doctored or censored in anyway. There were no obvious marks in any of the documents that suggested that such a thing had happened.

[20] This leaves the researcher in a position to determine the truth of what happened. There are many differing accounts from both sides that use the same evidence in different ways to support their conclusions. To paraphrase the Apostle James, if you don’t know what to do or think ask God. God will give you the truth of what has happened. For the person who truly seeks to understand what happened on that August day there is nothing left to do but ask Deity what truly transpired.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

He is Risen!

I have more to share and say but this video is a good beginning to a wonderful Easter.

He lives. Jesus Christ has conquered Death and Sin. He died for me and for every man, woman and child. Every man, woman and child needs the atonement of Jesus Christ because we are all sinners who stand in need of His redemption.

He has asked that we follow Him. He has asked that we have faith in Him. He said to take His cross and follow Him because it is worth it.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One of the difficult things for me

“Down went the gunner, and then the gunner’s mate,

up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look,

and manned the gun himself as he laid aside the Book,


Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!

And we’ll always stay free.”[1]

“The Chaplain of the 25th Aviation Battalion

at Cu Chi

prays for the souls of the enemy

on Sunday morning

and earns flight pay as a helicopter door gunner

during the rest of the week.”[2]

One of the most difficult concepts I’ve struggled with since my call to military chaplaincy is that military chaplains are not allowed to bear arms. I struggled with this because my prior military training was as Marine Corps infantry rifleman. I worry that not bearing arms will label me as a hypocrite, as I encourage men and women around me who do. Herman Wouk’s novel The Caine Mutiny speaks to this same concern, as echoed by Ensign Wille Kieth who wanted to be on the front lines of battle. Keith’s father told his son in a letter of comfort, “It’s your way of fighting the war.”[3] Each member of the United State military has their own unique way of contributing to the battle.

Chaplains have their own unique way of fighting the war. A large portion of our current military is not made up of individuals who do the shooting, and their contribution is no less important to the mission than those who are directly fighting. Chaplains fit into the category of those whose contributions to fighting are more indirect.

There is an aphorism that states “there are no atheists in foxholes.” This is getting at the basic idea that “many ministry opportunities derive from close proximity to combat action.”[4] Recognizing the importance of faith on the minds of those fighting military doctrine further “encourages the concentrating of ministry efforts in forward combat areas.”[5] Chaplains in combat seek to be a person of faith that shows the importance of compassion in the midst of the wasteland of war. Chaplains have a unique role that can filled by no other member of the armed services.

A chaplain’s conduct in war is limited however. Current Navy Regulations stipulate that “while assigned to a combat area during a period of armed conflict, members of . . . Chaplain . . . Corps . . . shall be detailed to perform such duties as are related to . . . religious service and the administration of . . . religious units and establishments.”[6] Chaplains have a unique status as noncombatants and any action on their part to change this cause’s far greater harm to the whole. Simply put, becoming a combatant gains chaplains very little and they stand to lose a lot.

William Tecumseh Sherman is often attributed to have said that “war is hell.” The realization of this truth is found in rules that have been established more firmly over the last two centuries that seek to limit the horrible aspects of war that make it such a hell. The Geneva Conventions have sought to establish the boundaries of war. Within the treaties chaplains are given a special status that concerns the treatment, benefits and responsibilities of men and women of faith who serve their God and their country amid the horrors of armed conflict.

One of the most important aspects regarding the laws of armed conflict (LOAC), concerns who or what are legitimate targets in war. Another is the rights of people capture during war. One of the biggest distinctions between who can be targeted and who cannot is the status of combatant and noncombatant. Combatants are defined as individuals who are directly engaged in the fight while noncombatants are defined as those who are not engaged in the fight. Chaplains are grouped in the list of people who are noncombatants.

Chaplains have not always enjoyed this status. Chaplains were expected to teach the troops, provide medical treatment, administer field hospitals, serve as unit postmasters, organize shipboard libraries, take charge of unit recreation programs and supervise the commander’s mess.[7] Chaplains were recognized as heroic warriors in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 for actions that today would be considered very un-chaplain like.[8] These fighting parsons continued to engage in combatant roles in the Civil War where they worked as aides-de-camp, spies, and direct participants in fighting. [9] These combat chaplains continued to blur the lines of combatant and noncombatant in the twentieth century and twenty-first century .[10]

The role of a chaplain in combat is to act as a force multiplier.

When ground forces go into action, their chaplain should be with them. This may mean he will move from one platoon to another or will minister to the wounded in exposed positions but never place himself in unnecessary danger. He must be careful that his movements do not disclose hidden positions to the enemy nor draw his fire. If casualties are numerous, he will serve best at the forward aid station. He may be placed in charge of collecting the wounded and bringing them there or he may assist in bandaging and similar forms of relief in emergencies. His skills may save the lives of wounded men. While he will do everything in his power to relieve and increase the physical comfort of the men, he will bear in mind that his is not his primary function. He will do his utmost to comfort the suffering and give the consolations of religion to the dying. . . . The chaplain who shares the peril of battle, showing kindness that never fails and a sincere concern for their welfare, will gain a place in their confidence that will reinforce powerfully all his efforts give moral and religious instruction and inspiration . . . Many proper services performed by the chaplains are an indirect injury to the enemy. If he raises the moral of the men, he makes them better fighters. If he bandages a wound, he may save the life of a soldier who will fight again at a later time. If he distributes chocolate bars in fox holes, he may make the soldiers more energetic physically and more resolute of mind. These, however, are proper functions, and he would do the same for enemy wounded or prisoners. If he were to observe the enemy position and tell the artillery where to fire, or were to carry ammunition to the firing line, or convey information or orders about combat operations; it would be direct participation in hostilities.[11]

Despite the dubious actions of chaplains in previous wars modern military doctrine prohibits chaplains from taking any direct combat role in armed conflict. The reasons for the ban on chaplains bearing arms and participating in combat stems from the protected status of chaplains in the Geneva Conventions.

The Geneva Convention defines a combatant as someone who meets the following requirements: “(1) the person’s unit is commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates; (2) the person has a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (3) the person is carrying arms openly; and (4) the persons unit is conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.”[12] The purpose of a chaplain as defined by the Geneva Convention is to “bring the solace of religion and moral consolation to the wounded and dying where they are present at the last moments of men who have been mortally wounded.”[13] A chaplain who bore arms becomes a combatant and a legitimate target and can no longer fulfill his or her duty. Current regulations prohibit chaplains from bearing arms.[14]

Being a non combatant comprise more than not bearing arms and performing only religious duties. Having a noncombatant state-of-mind “serves to protect the noncombatant status of military chaplains,” [15] and retain their protected status. A letter sent to all Navy chaplains after the September 11th attacks reminds chaplains of their role. “We chaplains are, first and foremost, noncombatants.” As chaplains you must “do more than simply refrain from carrying or using weapons; it requires a noncombat state-of-mind.” Chaplains, “must never participate in any activity that compromises noncombatant status or other chaplains.” By taking this stance it allows chaplains to be “respected and protected in all circumstances”[16] on the battlefield. All circumstances applies when “they are with their own army, or in no man’s land as when they have fallen into the hands of the enemy.”[17]

One of the other protections of the Geneva Convention extended to chaplains is their role if they are captured during war. Chaplains are not considered prisoners of war (POW) but rather “retained persons.” This status affords chaplains unique protections. These protections are some of the greatest reasons that chaplains should not bear arms.

The first protection afforded to chaplains concerns the duration of their retention. Normal POWs are held until the end of the war. Chaplains on the other hand “should be repatriated if captured.”[18] Chaplain can be retained if there is a need for their religious services but if not they should returned to their side as soon as it is practical.[19] This protection allows chaplains to continue to serve their vital role of providing moral, and religious instruction and inspiring those they serve. Another protection is that even though they are not POWs they are afforded the protection given POWs. These protections include, “humane treatment, rapid evacuation from the battlefield, possession of personal property, hygienic and healthful conditions, adequate maintenance, equality of treatment, limited questioning by captors, right to send and receive correspondence, and religious liberties.”[20] Chaplains also have a limited role in fulfilling the obligations of the Code of Conduct.[21]

One of the greatest duties and protections of the noncombatant role of chaplains is the performance of their duties after capture. According to the Geneva Convention “under no circumstances can commissioned officers be required to work,”[22] this however does not apply to chaplains. Chaplains are encouraged to continue to perform their religious duties to all those around them. Chaplains are also free to serve “in accordance with their professional ethics,”[23] “in accordance with their professional etiquette,”[24] and “in accordance with their religious conscience.”[25] With these freedoms chaplains are free to “lift some of the depression and pressures inherent” in a POW camp.[26]

The religious duties of chaplain in a POW camp benefit both the POWs and their captors. The drafters of the Geneva Convention noted that religious observance was part of the “moral welfare” of men or women captured in war.[27] The convention thought that it was necessary that chaplains be able to see to the needs of POWs because religion can have “beneficial results” on the individual POWs “psychological state.”[28] It was also noted that in POW camps a general feeling of hardship and despair exist and that “individuals who had abandoned their faith practices as adults actually ‘reverted to their childhood practices’ when they became prisoners of war and ‘found comfort’ comfort in such pursuits.”[29] By helping to comfort POWS chaplains are able to provide a service to both POWs and their captors.

These protections and freedoms in and of themselves outweigh any foreseen benefits from a chaplain becoming a combatant. If a chaplain were to become a POW they could not perform the duties of a chaplain that would be needed by soldiers, sailors, or marines in a POW camp. Even though chaplains have historically walked a fine line and sometimes even crossed it, they do so at the peril of the entire Chaplain Corps. Chaplains who cross the line often justify it by saying they carry weapons to protect those with them and themselves in case of attack.[30] The United State military has millions of armed men and women who are willing to be the point of the spear. The military only has a couple thousand men and women to remind the rest “that life is bigger, that God’s love is more enduring, than war.” A couple thousand men and women are all that stand to help motivate, inspire, and comfort those who need it the most.

[1] Joanna Bourke, An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare, (Great Britain: Basic Books, 1999), 270

[2] Joanna Bourke, An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare, (Great Britain: Basic Books, 1999), 270

[3] Herman Wouk, The Cain Mutiny, (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1951), 58

[4] Department of the Navy, Fleet Marine Force Manual 3-61 Ministry in Combat (22 June 1992) Hereafter cited as FMFM 3-61

[5] FMFM 3-61

[6] Department of Navy Regulations (1990) art. 1063

[7] Richard Budd, Serving Two Masters: The Development of American Military Chaplaincy (Lincoln, NE: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 2002), 18-20, 48-51

[8] “John Steele, the 1756 commander of Fort Allison, Pennsylvania, also served as its chaplain and was addressed as ‘Reverend Captain.’ Massachusetts minster William Emerson of Concord carried a musket in the fight against the British in 1775. Chaplain David Jones, armed with a brace of pistols, led a cavalry reconnaissance at Brandywine Creek. John Hurt, captured on an intelligence-gathering mission of Baron Von Stuben was another chaplain who basically operated in a combat role.

Many Navy chaplains were also at the forefront of battle. Benjamin Balch, who was a minuteman at Lexington, served as chaplain on the frigate Alliance later in the war fought alongside the crew in a fight with two British men-of-war. Combat participation by Navy chaplains continued on several occasion during the War of 1812. Chaplain David Adams on board the frigate Essex was given command of three different captured prize vessels because of his knowledge of navigation and because of the shortage of line officers. Thomas Breeze, chaplain with Commodore Oliver Perry Hazard at the battle at Put-in-Bat, helped the purser and Perry fire the last gun on the Lawrence.” Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002): 5-6

[9] “A common role for chaplains was to acts as the regimental colonel’s aide-de-camp. Future President James A. Garfield’s chaplain acted in this role. . . The same was true for Chaplain Dean Wright of the Seventh OVI. . . at least three southern chaplains served in this same capacity. . .

There were chaplains who performed the even more dubious function of carrying or seeking military information and using their chaplain status as cover. Frederick T. Brown, also of the Seventh OVI disguise as a mountaineer in homespun clothing, his fine features shaded by a slouch hat carried unwritten dispatches to General Jacob Cox. James H. Fowler, chaplain of the Thirty-third U.S. Colored Troops, was described by his colonel as ‘our most untiring scout’ and as being ‘permitted to stray singly where no other officer would have been allowed to go, so irresistible his appeal, ‘You know I am only a chaplain.’ . . . Apparently at least one Confederate chaplain, William M. Patterson of the Sixth Missouri Infantry Regiment, also crossed the line and engaged in both spying and running contraband goods when we was supposed to be buying Bibles.

The ultimate combatant role for the chaplain, of course, was actually to stand with the troops and fire a weapon. Some went to war prepared for such an eventuality. His fellow ministers gave a Rhode Island chaplain named Jameson a sword as a present on the occasion of his leaving for the battlefields. Wearing his sword and pistol, Chaplain Denison saw no reason for chaplains not to be armed like surgeons and quartermasters. ‘If chaplains exhort men to fight’ Denison said ‘why not fight themselves if they have a chance?’ Apparently, some of the chaplains did take their place in the ranks and trade shots with the enemy. It was said of Thomas D. Witherspoon, a southern chaplain, that he had his commission only on the grounds that he could fight in the ranks with the rest of his regiment. Chapin Henry Hopkins of the 120th New York Regiment was better known for hi martial ardor than his spiritual qualities, he received the Medal of Honor for his battlefield valor.” Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002): 6-7

[10] Example of this can be seen in the characters of Albert J. Hoffman, who learned from sappers “the delicate business of defusing [mines]. After that, when a platoon he was traveling with came to a mine field, he insisted on going in first.” Jack Alexander, “He’s Our Guy”, Saturday Evening Post 217 (April 28, 1945) “Ammunition bearers darted and dashed across the terrain all afternoon. . . Chaplain Hoffman, as he often did when he was going in that direction, could be seen carrying up ammunition for the mortar platoon.” Homer Ankrum, Dogfaces Who Smiled Through Tears In World War II: A Chronicle, (Lake Mills, IA: Graphic Publishing, 1988), 345.

Israel A.S. Yost is another example of a WWII chaplain who blurred the lines. “During this time all forces opposing German troops in Europe were alerted to the possibility of advances in their area on our border with Italy [still German-occupied] we were warned of the possibility of paratroopers dropping behind our lines. Should this occur such Nazis would want to acquire American uniforms to pass themselves off within France as Americans. We chaplains were therefore ordered to carry arms during this period whenever we were away from close contact with our own troops. I complied. On jeep trips away from Menton, Kent carried a rifle in its case on his side of the vehicle and I placed a loaded pistol beside my car seat. It was clear to me that we were armed for the protection of our uniforms and not our persons. It was only during this short time span that I was ever ‘armed’ while overseas.” Israel A.S. Yost, Combat Chaplain: The Personal Story of the WWII Chaplain of the Japanese American 100th Battalion, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006), 27.

Claude Newby a Vietnam era chaplain recounts that “ On October 1 . . . I found myself aboard a medevac chopper, in the right door seat behind an M-60 machine gun . . . The LZE hadn’t been hot, after all, but had we taken fire, I would have returned it. Officially a combatant or not, I couldn’t have, wouldn’t have, sat on my hands while wounded grunt and the chopper were shot at with impunity. . . . Several chaplains in the 1st Cav, even some senior ones, kept a personal weapon. One concealed a grease gun in his pack, and another carried a concealed nickel-plated revolver. . . Most field commanders, in my experience, smiled on the chaplain carrying a weapons for his own protection, and some of them on occasion allowed or forbade a chaplain to go into a hot situation, depending on whether the chaplain was prepared to ‘take care of himself.’ . . . What did I do? I carried what I jokingly called my .45 caliber camera – for close up shots. This item of equipment remained discreetly out of sight in my left-front trouser pocket, except on those occasions when none present objected to my possession of it. ‘Spare film’ I kept in an ammo pouch on my pistol belt, naturally.” Claude Newboy, It Took Heroes: A Cavalry Chaplain’s Memoir of Vietnam, (New York City: Random House Publishing, 2003)

[11] U.S. Army Technical Manual 16-205 The Chaplain, (1944) 64,67.

[12] Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002):9

[13] Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002):10

[14] FMFM 3-61, supra note 3, 1004f. “Marine Corps regulations . . . make it clear that chaplains are not to bear arms under any circumstances.” SECNAVINST 1730.7B, Religious Ministry Support Within the Department of the Navy (12 Oct 2000), “Chaplains shall not bear arms.”

[15] Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002):19.

[16] Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field (12 August 1949) (hereafter referred to as GC I) supra note 41, at 24 .

[17] Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of the Armed Forces at Sea (12 Aug 1949) (hereafter referred to as GCII)supra note 43, at 134, 135.

[18] Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002):27.

[19] GC I, supra note 41, art 30.

[20] Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002):28.

[21] Department of Defense Instruction 1300.21, Code of Conduct Training and Education, (28 Jan 2001) also see Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002):36-39 for a detailed review of the Code of Conduct as it applies to chaplains.

[22] GC III supra note17, art 49.

[23] GC I, supra note 41, art. 28.

[24] GC II, supra note 17, art 33.

[25] GC III, supra note 17, art 35.

[26] U.S. Army Technical Manual 16-205 The Chaplain, (1944), 48.

[27] Jean S. Pictet, Commentary to the Convention Relative To the Treatment of Prisoners of War, (International Committee of the Red Cross, 1952) (hereafter referred to as Commentary to GC III), supra note 17, art 225

[28] Commentary to GC III, supra note 171, art 225

[29] Jonathan Odom, “Beyond Arm Bands and Arms Banned: Chaplains, Armed Conflict and the Law,” Naval Law Review, 49 (2002): 30

[30] For an example of this in the twenty first century see

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Requiescat In Pace

We can sleep in peacefully in our beds tonight because there are men and women who are willing to do violence on our part. We live in a world that has walls and those wall are guarded by men and women who are part of a small percentage who have volunteered to do so. While to some the existence of these men and women is grotesque and incomprehensible, they don't appreciate the peace they have. They live in a world where a multicultural unicorn with a PhD in Diversity and Sensitivity snorts magical pixie dust. Here in reality land, I understand that it is because of these men who use words like honor, loyalty, and esprit d corps. These words form the backbone of a life that is spent defending something. Those who don't understand these words use them as a punchline at parties.

To those who don't understand I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain to someone who rises and sleeps under the blanket of freedom that is provided by valiant men and women why those men and women are necessary. I would rather that such people simply say thank you and go about their day. Otherwise, I suggest that they pick up a weapon and stand a post.

Either way, I don't give a damn what they think they think.

Requiescat In Pace