It is commonly assumed that the Book of Mormon forbids offensive war. [1] This comes from a (mis)reading of several verses as well as the general defensive nature of the Nephites within the Book of Mormon. But carefully examining the text suggests that this isn’t the case. While there are many examples of possible first strikes and preemptive war in the Book of Mormon, the most important example is the previously unexamined events from Helaman 2. Helaman’s servant obtains knowledge that Kishkumen would kill the Chief Judge Helaman. But instead of arresting him, the servant slays Kishkumen. This slaying within the Book of Mormon depicts the traditionally defined elements of an imminent attack that justifies an anticipatory first strike while introducing the concept of means intent and imminence in judging the need for and morality of military actions.

The Book of Mormon contains many examples of preemptive war, implying that isn’t radical to discuss the concept using the Book of Mormon. Nephite leaders often considered preemptive warfare a valid option without editorial dissent from Mormon (or the Lord). Zeniff began his record in Mosiah 9:1, acting as a scout for an attack that Nephite leaders had already launched. As noted by Mark Henshaw and other scholars in SquareTwo, Captain Moroni pursued a preemptive war:

“However, not all Latter-day Saint national security professionals see the same dangers in preemptive war doctrine. Some of these professionals note that the scriptures demonstrate that there are times when even offensive, or at least preemptive, action is appropriate; and, for this view, they see a scriptural precedent. A first-century B.C. Book of Mormon figure named Amalickiah tried to overthrow the government of the Nephites and become a totalitarian king. He was prevented from doing so, but then determined to take those who followed him and ally themselves with the opposing nation of the Lamanites. In this case, though Amalickiah had not committed or even planned an attack, Captain Moroni knew that if allowed to reach the Lamanites, Amalickiah “would stir up the Lamanites to anger against them, and cause them to come to battle against them.” Accordingly, Moroni acted preemptively and attacked Amalickiah as he tried to escape to the Lamanites.”

The differences between these two approaches may be to some degree denotative—depending on whether one views preemption as defensive or offensive in nature. However, both views understand the same scriptural passages to support their view of the appropriate national security approach. [2]

There are more examples or discussion of preemptive war in the Book of Mormon. Ammon and the sons of Mosiah dismissed the notion of preemptive war. But the innocent people captured from the city of Noah (Helaman 16:3) during the destruction of Ammonihah, and the presumably innocent soldiers who died fighting to get them back (Alma 25:3), suggests that a purely defensive posture was costly. LDS National Security professional Ryan Chavez discussed the Teancum option, which is necessarily a form of preemption or prevention, and its modern application in assassination. [3] Nephite leaders seized, tried, and executed Pahoran as he was “about” to flatter the people (Helaman 1:7-8).

While less clearly offensive or preemptive, the Nephites launched “search…and destroy” missions against the Gadianton Robbers (Helaman 11:28). Gidgiddoni launched a daring night march, like Captain Moroni, to “cut off” the Gadianton Robbers (3rd Nephi 4: 24–25). And Mormon’s refusal to lead the Nephite offensive was because of their strategy (Mormon 3:14, 4:5)—though in fact, it was really because of their sins of boasting and false oaths of vengeance (Mormon 7–10.) The concept of offensive war gets thrown out with the (bloody and vengeful) bath water. [4]

Perhaps the most important examination of the concept of first strike comes from Helaman chapter 2. We read in the second chapter of Helaman:

“And it came to pass as [Kiskumen] went forth towards the judgment-seat to destroy Helaman, behold one of the servants of Helaman, having been out by night, and having obtained, through disguise, a knowledge of those plans which had been laid by this band to destroy Helaman. And it came to pass that he met Kishkumen, and he gave unto him a sign; therefore Kishkumen made known unto him the object of his desire, desiring that he would conduct him to the judgment-seat that he might murder Helaman. And when the servant of Helaman had known all the heart of Kishkumen, and how that it was his object to murder, and also that it was the object of all those who belonged to his band to murder, and to rob, and to gain power, (and this was their secret plan, and their combination) the servant of Helaman said unto Kishkumen: Let us go forth unto the judgment-seat. Now this did please Kishkumen exceedingly, for he did suppose that he should accomplish his design; but behold, the servant of Helaman, as they were going forth unto the judgment-seat, did stab Kishkumen even to the heart, that he fell dead without a groan.”

There are some gaps in the narrative that could suggest Kishkumen was miles and or hours away from the chief judge, which in turn might make the danger sound less imminent and less justified. Changing the narrative to achieve the preferred analytical result is common in debates about anticipatory strikes and is part of the difficulty in determining their validity. That is why it is important to consider the text we do have, which closely mirrors the language and events surrounding the preemptive seizure of Paanchi. Helaman 1 describes an imminent threat as Paanchi was “about to flatter” the people (Helaman 1:7–8). Or as the father of international law, Hugo Grotius, wrote about potential coups that warrant the death penalty, Paanchi had “formed a plot.” [5] Just like Kishkumen’s assassination, it is not indicated how imminent his rebellion was. The imprecise immediacy of his rebellion shows us the difficulty of judging how just an action is and suggests caution in inventing potential details to support our preferred arguments. But the threat was close enough for Nephite leaders to order Paanchi’s arrest and execution. Mormon did not editorialize against those actions or record any displeasure from the Lord. This suggests that even the details we don’t have do not change the underlying rationale and justification for preemptive actions.

Just a chapter later, Helaman’s servant seems to follow the example of Nephite leaders. The chapter about Helaman’s servant used the same language about a threat, with similar preemptive actions, with the same results from the chapter before. Kishkumen formed a plot, moved to execute the plot, and found himself preemptively killed for it. In total, the strong similarity of the accounts suggests that Kishkumen was as close to accomplishing his objectives as Paanchi was in starting a rebellion.

Also, it is important to consider that even in matters as small as a dagger or marketplace disturbance, the Nephites were concerned enough in multiple chapters to use force. From the lack of editorial dissent in the text, it seems they were righteously concerned about those dangers. Modern weapons are more destructive and mobile, yet many modern analysts advocate for more restrictive—and by implication, dangerous—policies than displayed by the Nephites.

When Helaman’s servant killed Kishkumen, this seemed like a divinely ordained protection of Helaman (verse 2). [6] Kishkumen’s guilt is established by the narration in verse 8. Curiously, the Book of Mormon says that Nephite law didn’t punish a person’s belief in Alma 30:7 and 9; Nephite law says a person should be punished only after committing murder or robbery (Alma 30:10). Kishkumen did murder the preceding chief judge (Helaman 1:9) but hadn’t yet committed this crime. Yet there is no record of the servant’s punishment over his preemptive murder or taking justice into his own hands and no editorial critique from Mormon, except a warning that the Gadianton Robbers would overthrow the people of Nephi (Helaman 2:13-14). The text simply implies that Helaman was a prophet and good leader whose servant was implicitly righteous in defending him.

Various thoughtful theorists from hundreds of years in the past have explained why something like a killing without due process can remain a just action and not a heinous murder. Except little of that thought has been applied to LDS scripture. Patrick Mason summarized what many Latter-day Saints seem to think when he called just war theory “neither broad nor comprehensive enough” for modern problems. [7] Even National Security professionals writing for other professionals felt the need to defend the use of just war for members of Christ’s church to resolve modern problems. [8]

The common reason given for ignoring these theorists is that the restoration scriptures create a higher bar than what they see as “neither broad nor comprehensive enough” just war sources. And Latter-day Saints aren’t beholden to what the “higher bar” scholars imply are fallen or narrow-minded Catholic theologians. It is true that Mormons are blessed with the restored gospel. But there have been vanishingly few explications of restoration scriptures. [9] My manuscript exploring the interaction between the Book of Mormon and just war theory filled a small paragraph worth of sources that even cumulatively fail to provide more than halting preliminaries about a smattering of topics. The short history of Mormon thought and the interactions of that thought with just war would benefit immensely from using those thousand-year-old texts, not ignoring them. The great thinkers have wrestled with questions, like the morality of preemptive war, for ages longer that Mormonism itself has existed and that Mormon thinkers have only briefly considered in the last few decades.

Moreover, failing to engage the great texts that have guided discussion for a thousand years seems incredibly short-sighted and, I’m sorry to say, borderline chauvinistic of LDS intellectuals. The Lord commanded the saints to “teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books [and] words of wisdom, seek learning, even by study…” (D&C 88:118). Despite having restoration texts, scholars like Benjamin Hertzberg said while reviewing one of the few texts devoted to Mormon ethics of war and peace, that Mormonism intellectualism is still “restricted to the (metaphorical) mountain valleys as [pioneer] communities once were.” [10] Engaging the restoration texts with the ideas of the great thinkers trying to answer the great questions throughout history is an important part of leaving those narrow intellectual confines.

There is another reason that is only found by a deep study of just war theorists. These theories have been watered down for the masses, to the point that many of their positive aspects of the theory, such as the protections for women and children are assumed, without giving credit to just war theorists. But the abuses of the theory by tyrants like Putin are attributed to just war theorists. So just war theory gets blamed for the bad, and given little credit for the good.

Moreover, what’s left out of the discussion of just war theory are very specific prohibitions and guardrails designed to stop abuses of espoused principles. For example, while the principle of just war is recognized, every discussion of it in theory is followed by a lengthy series of warnings about the chaos, bloodshed, and factionalism that can happen when it is applied and a suggestion to pursue alternatives. The interaction of just war theories with the Book of Mormon provides the very kind of discussion and insights that are often lost in rote proof-texting and goes deeper than “partisan allegiances and the urgency of battle” that still permeate the discourse among Americans and Latter-day Saints 20 years after the start of the most infamous preemptive war in American history. [11]

With that in mind, there is a rich body of theory that can help readers understand and apply the account in Helaman chapter 2 and preemptive warfare in general. The morality of preemptive war was a frequent topic of writers throughout world and American history. [12]

Writers like the Salamanca School scholar Francisco Suarez made logical arguments such as the idea that the people of a nation cannot forever cede the initiative to lawless lands filled with robbers and the people should not have to suffer as perennial and passive target of robbers. [13] This should sound familiar to Book of Mormon readers. The Nephites faced constant attacks from Gadianton Robbers in strong defensive positions which is why they launched “search... and destroy” missions against the Robbers, without editorial dissent from Mormon (Helaman 11:28). [14]

The strongest defense of the practice comes from natural law. Again, this is an example of arguments that might not apply when given restoration scriptures. The natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness seem undisputed among LDS national security professionals. The Lord says he established fundamental freedoms in the American constitution (D&C 101:80). And D&C 98:5, the same section from which many of the criticisms of this piece derive, says “that freedoms and rights belong to all mankind and [they are] justifiable before me.”

What follows are not the severe oversimplifications of, “get them before they get us,” but reasoned explanations of fundamental moral concerns, those rights that the Lord says belong to all mankind, of when people have a right to preemptive self-defense. The theorist, Samuel Pufendorf, writing in the late 17th century, compared the right of preemptive or even preventive action to a person that sees a “charging assailant with sword in hand.” [15] The idea of a sword in hand is compatible with Alma 48:14:
"Now the Nephites were taught to defend themselves against their enemies, even to the shedding of blood if it were necessary; yea, and they were also taught never to give an offense, yea, and never to raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve their lives."

The above scripture says to never give offense, which at first glance sounds like another refutation of preemptive war. But then it also says the Nephites can raise a sword to preserve their lives. Only the words attack and defense are never used. The text instead says, “raise the sword,” not smite, strike, slay, or any other word to denote that the sword had been swung and met flesh. That isn’t simply an evocative phrase but illustrates a fundamental truth. Mormon didn’t have to explain the distinction between a raised sword and a sword strike because the two concepts are so closely related that they are the same.

Thus, while not explicitly stated in the Book of Mormon, if a Nephite attack is called “raising the sword,” Alma 48:14 seems to suggest the idea that righteous defense applies when a Lamanite soldier simply “raised his sword” to attack, and not after the first (or third) actualized attack. That means the Nephite standard for defense only requires an incipient attack, or someone that “raise[s] the sword.” The basic premise applied to both thought Alma 48:14 and Pufendorf, is that an individual who sees an attack in progress doesn’t have to wait for the first blow to assert their God-given right to defend themselves.

The early modern theorist Hugo Grotius explained those underlying principles when he wrote that if the state faced an “immediate and certain” danger or an attack that “commenced but not carried through,” they could take preemptive action.

Commenced but not carried through might sound odd, but some simple examples explain this well enough. Puffendorf used the example of a charging assailant with sword raised. And this seems very close to the example in Helaman 2. A would-be assassin that had sworn an oath to kill the chief judge and arrived on the scene with a dagger to do the deed, and this assassin had also previously killed a former judge (Helaman 2:3). A modern example would be that a nation has launched its bombers in a nuclear first strike, but they haven’t hit their target yet. Even though President Eisenhower is frequently quoted as an opponent of preemptive war, [16] he admitted during the Berlin crisis that if placed in that situation, he would launch a preemptive nuclear first strike. [17]

The modern conception of just preemptive war is referred to as the Caroline standard. In stopping an arms shipment to Canadian separatists in 1837, the US navy took preemptive action to destroy the ship carrying these arms, named the Caroline. In the uproar that followed, Daniel Webster argued that the “instant and overwhelming need for self-defense, leaving no choice and no moment for deliberation” justified the attack. Again, some might question the use of a modern criterion instead of something in the gospel.

In short, the main criteria summarized by theorists as far back as the 16th century suggests that preemptive warfare is justified when a threat must demonstrate intent, means, and imminence. These ideas are supported by sound reasoning about fundamental moral concerns expounded upon by later theorists and we can find numerous examples of this concept in the Book of Mormon, including Helaman 2 and Alma 48:14.

The concept of preemptive war is controversial. While the debate is ongoing, sufficient evidence of its just use has been provided above that we might tentatively apply it. Looking at Helaman 2, a previous chief judge had been killed, and the servant attended the meeting of conspirators planning the murder of Helaman, and thus knew of their intent. Kishkumen had the weapon to carry out the plan and he had been granted access to the chief judge, and therefore had the means. He would commit the assassination within moments, lending imminence to the threat. This seems to meet all of the requirements. But there are still questions about the theory itself and its modern application.

With the Caroline standard, and principles of preemptive war in the modern age, the problem is the rather subjective nature of “imminent.” Grotius for example, used the example of a plot formed by robbers to argue hundreds of years before President Bush for a more restrained and patient approach led by law enforcement instead of a preemptive strike. In one of the many examples of ignored guardrails in theoretical writings he wrote, if the conspirators “formed a plot, prepar[ed] an ambuscade, poisoning, or readied a false accusation [the planner] cannot lawfully be killed either if the danger can in any other way be avoided, or if [the ruler] thought delays could afford remedies.” [18]

Returning to the example of Paanchi highlights the difficulty in assessing imminence. Nephite authorities seized, tried and executed him according to the will of the people for his attempts to flatter the people and start a rebellion. But the key point is that he was only “about to” flatter the people (Helaman 1:7–8). This suggests that even though Nephite law only provided for prosecuting people according to the crimes they had committed, some legal concept of the need to stop conspiracies and potential crimes existed. John Welch made the same argument and presented numerous legal cases from the Ancient Near East, as well as from Israelite and Roman history, that suggested incipient rebellion was a unique crime that justified preemptive action and the death penalty. [19]

But Helaman’s servant didn’t preemptively seize Kishkumen, he simply killed him. This could have been due to Kishkumen already obtaining access to the chief judge, contrasted with the public forums that Paanchi and Nephi were in. Paanchi had credible and committed plans for sedition, and Nephi had condemned the government in a way that had been construed as such and to those that didn’t believe in prophecy, and later, he seemed in league with those that just murdered the chief judge. Helaman’s servant likely discovered Kishkumen was a murderer in their secret meeting and knew from the same meeting that Kishkumen was moments away from doing it again. All of which suggests this case had some unique circumstances that made this more imminent than formed plot explained by Grotius and displayed by Paanchi.

There is more to consider. Justified self-defense within criminal law is founded upon the principle of defending yourself against an immediate attack. Criminal law excludes justifying a preemptive attack because the two parties have been threatening each other, or the act was a long-awaited revenge killing in retaliation. Going back to Webster and the Caroline case again, the preemptive attack must be in the moment when the threat of deadly force creates an “overwhelming need” for force and the attack must be made when there is “no moment for deliberation.” [20]

All of the above restrictions and caveats narrow the concept considerably and argue against casual, emotionally laden appeals for or against the practice. The preemptive rhetoric used by Putin or other controversial figures in the realm of international law might use the justifying language of theorists, but clearly do not meet the requirements. Invoking justifying rhetoric only shows that some concepts of just war—such as the need for defense—have entered the popular mind. It doesn’t mean the principle is wrong, only that the concept is being manipulated. This makes it even more imperative that we study both the Book of Mormon and theory so we can be part of the public armed with reason and a better knowledge of just war to see through the farce. [21] Conversely, we should also be cautious about those who invoke abusers like Putin to goad their audience into an overheated rejection of a basic right.

A key criterion is that the user of preemptive force must have no moment for deliberation, suggesting that Helaman’s servant may not have been justified. The text says that he received this information the night before. Thus, by that standard, the servant of Helaman didn’t have to resort to killing. He could have notified Helaman, so the latter wasn’t on the judgement seat when Kishkumen came. The servant could have called for additional guards to arrest Kishkumen, like Paanchi, when Kishkumen arrived on the scene. But the servant resorted to killing, when he had been out by night (Helaman 2:6) and thus potentially had time to arrange a non-lethal way to end the approaching attack.

In defense of the servant, that did save God’s prophet with his preemptive killing of Kishkumen, perhaps he didn’t know what to do, he only knew of the plans because he was a member of the society that later rethought his commitment to the Gadianton cause, as a member of the servant class perhaps he didn’t have the authority to order an arrest, or he couldn’t take decisive action until the plot had been more fully carried out. We don’t know, and again, don’t want to invent details that aren’t in the text. But what we do have still suggests the servant had to wait until the murder was imminent, and then he used the only option available to him, and this made it justified.

This is especially the case if we consider other theorists with expanded justifications for first strikes. A contemporary theorist of Grotius, Alberico Gentili argued that “at the first signs trouble are perceived, it is easy to find a solution, but if one lets trouble develop medicine will be too late.” [22] This is the exact same argument that the classical Chinese theorist Shizi made:

“Even a tree so big that it shields the sky was, at its beginning, only as thick as the base of a tree sprout: easy to get rid of. But once it has fully manifested itself, a hundred people using hatchets and axes are unable to fell it… only stupid people contend with things after they become obvious.” [23]

The enlightenment writer Emil Vattel wrote that a state can attack “as soon as [its neighbors have] been given evidence of injustice, greed, pride, ambition, or desire of dominating over its neighbors.” [24]

The problem with the reasoning of the above theorists is that just about any change or perceived change can justify those conditions, and anything can be spun by a ruler seeking expansive war to justify those requirements. In short, there is significant debate over how immediate something must be and how important that qualification is with answers ranging from very to none.

It is interesting to note that Vattel and Gentili (along with Grotius) were the only substantive quotes from traditional just war theorists that LDS national security scholars mentioned in their two published volumes. And even then, they were quoted in only one article, and from a secondary source, which suggests the author didn’t actually read the primary texts of Vattel, Gentili, or Grotius. [25] This further suggests a lacuna in current Latter-day Saint thinking on the topic, and perhaps shows the need for international relations personnel to buttress their study with more historical, philosophical, and ethical studies.

It would be unfortunate if this lacuna is real, because modern-day problems sometimes seem tougher to define, even while becoming more dangerous by orders of magnitude. Applying principles from the just war theorists to an analysis of Helaman 2 can provide key insights. This body of thought has particular application in the modern difficulty of judging imminence. For example, if the US waited until the 9/11 attacks were “commenced but not carried out” as Grotius said “left no moment for deliberation” from the Caroline case, or were clearly imminent as the standard demands, then the planes would have already been on their way to the Twin Towers. By that logic, America would have been forced to kill several hundred innocent passengers to stop the terrorist attacks.

This suggests that the more expansive views of Gentili, Shizi, and Vattel—as well as the justified actions of Helaman’s servant—are the answers to the problem of immediacy. (Though in using an expansive version of imminence, the average use of force would be a relatively restrained and limited drone strike.) The common criticism of Vattel and Gentili is that their criteria for anticipatory strikes are so broad that a ruler could justify any attack. For example, policymakers must first distinguish between threats from nation states and terrorists. But both present dangerous challenges that often require preemptive and even preventive action. (The difference between the two terms is the perceived imminence of the attack.)

Terrorists have been attacking Americans for years, so like the Gadianton Robbers, they have shown intent. But unlike Kishkumen’s dagger, terrorists hypothetically armed with nuclear weapons would have much stronger means. With a nuclear weapon, they could kill millions in a single attack. Sounding very similar to arguments from my own writings, [26] John F. Kennedy wrote during the Cuban Missile Crisis, “We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation’s security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in deployment may well be regarded as a threat to peace.” [27]

This means that in the modern era, having the means often becomes more important than the imminence of the threat. Keeping in mind the fundamental ethical claims of natural law, if a terrorist group fulfilled the first two criteria, means and intent, but the timing of the attack remained unclear, it would be incredibly dangerous to the point of foolishness and neglect for leaders to wait and accept a single blow or wait until the attack was commenced but not carried out. Instead, as an act of justified self-defense, America would be justified in launching an anticipatory strike to remove the threat.

Many Latter-day Saints wrongly presume that scriptures like Section 98 are a strict guide to foreign policy and argue the aggrieved party should receive three attacks before being justified in responding. Discussing the application of this section deserves its own piece, [28] but as Duane Boyce pointed out, [29] even the simplest command is a confusing criterion. While “patiently bear[ing]” three “smites” or “trespasses” (v23, 40), (both of which are more broadly defined than “attacks”), does a defender count three bullets, three magazines, or three battles? And how could Helaman “patiently bear” (D&C 98:23), three daggers strike to the heart? Or should America wait to receive three Pearl Harbors, or three dirty bombs from terrorists before striking them? Additionally, many people seem unaware of Abraham’s sneak attack that didn’t follow the procedure of Section 98. [30] Even the individual blessed by a prince of peace (Alma 13:18), didn’t lift the standard of peace before attacking.

Section 98, like the Sermon on the Mount, refers to the heart a person should have, and is not a prescription for foreign policy. Even the most loving and forbearing person has a God-given right to defend themselves. And they have a right to defend themselves by preemptively attacking a charging assailant with sword in hand (or more importantly, its modern, often nuclear, equivalent). The simpler and stronger explanation of Section 98, consistent with God’s word and His desire for all mankind to enjoy their rights, should be our guide.

Likewise, a discussion of preemptive war against incipient attacks is a sober understanding of their God-given rights. Any reasonable person, would recoil at the suggestion that they must let someone else attack them, let alone receive three attacks of any kind, in order to be righteous. Yet many members hold this standard regarding foreign policy.

In short, though the principle is clear, responding to modern crises is not quite as simple as theory would suggest, which is why it is important to more fully examine the example provided by Helaman 2. The lesson is that Americans should be aware of terrorist ideology or, in other words, Kishkumen’s intent. They must continue to take steps to prevent them from obtaining means such as nuclear weapons, and other WMDs. The servant couldn’t take the dagger out of Kishkumen’s hand, but could act before Kishkumen sprung his attack. American leaders have to worry about more than a dagger, and thus in certain circumstances, would be justified in not waiting for imminent attacks before striking, as that would often be too late. Instead, to protect lives they should launch devastating strikes against terrorists before the threats materialize.

Helaman 2 is not simply a short cloak and dagger tale, nor an introduction to the Gadianton Robbers who eventually dominate the text. But it is an important case study about the just—and even righteous—principles behind first strikes. If an enemy shows intent, means, and imminence (however sometimes vague the last might be), like Helaman’s servant, they have a right to strike first with preemptive and even preventive war. While they thoughtfully consider other options short of force, the right remains, especially when there is no time for other options.


Beinhart, Peter. 2017. How America Shed the Taboo Against Preemptive War. April 21.

Boyack, Connor. 2009. Preventive War and the Book of Mormon. September 13.

Boyce, Duane. 2015. Even Unto Bloodshed. West Jordan UT: Greg Kofford Books.

Chavez, Ryan. 2003. "The Teancum Option." In Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconcling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Reveald Truth, edited by Kerry Kartchner and Valerie Hudson, 87-100. Provo: Brigham Young University Press.

Colonomos, Ariel. 2013. "War in the Face of Dbout: Early Modern Classics and the Preventive Use of Force." In Just and Unjust Military Intervention, edited by Jennifer Welsh and Stefano Reechia. Cambridge University Press.

Deane, Morgan. 2021. "Fear Flying Faster than Hypersonic Weapons." Epoch Times. October 21. Accessed February 27th, 2023.

—. 2023. "Renounce Peace and Proclaim War: Love, Intervention and Section 98." LDS National Security Conference 2023. Provo.

Deane, Morgan. 2012. "The Lord Forbid? Offensive Warfare in the Book of Mormon and a Defense of the Bush Doctrine." In War and Peace in Our Times: Mormon Perspectives, edited by Patrick Mason, David Pulsipher Richard Bushman, 9-19. Draper: Greg Kofford Books.

Grotius, Hugo. 2012. On the Laws of War and Peace. Translated by Stephen Neff. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hertzberg, Benjamin. 2014. "Just War and Mormon Ethics." Mormon Studies Review.

Johansen, Jeffrey. 2002. "Wars of Preemption, Wars of Revenge." Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 236-238.

Kennedy, John. 2002. The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis. Edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow. New York: WW Norton.

Maddox, John. 2004. "The Book of Mormon as a Touchstone for Evaluating the Theory of Just War." In Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: views from the LDS Community on REconcliing the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Truth, edited by Kerry Kartchner and Valerie Hudson, 57-66. Provo: Brigham Young University.

Mark Henshaw, Valerie Hudson, Eric Jensen, Kerry Kartchner, John Mattox. 2009. "War and the Gospel: Perspectives from Latter DaySaint National Security Practioners ." SquareTwo.

Olsen, Kristen. 2013. "Abraham's Intervention: An LDS Perspective on Responsibility to Protect." In Time of War Time of Peace: Latter Day Saint Ethics of War and Diplomacy, edited by Eric Jenson, Kerry Kartchner Valerie Hudson, line 702-1329. Provo: Kennedy Center for Foreign Relations.

Patrick Mason, David Pulsipher. 2021. Proclaim Peace: The Restoration's Answers tot he Age of Conflict. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.

Totten, Mark. 2010. First Strike: America, Terrorism, and Moral Tradition. New haven: Yale University Press.

trans., Paul Fischer. 2002. Shizi: China's First Syncretist. New York : Columbia University Press.

Walzer, Micheal. 2006. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historial Illustrations. New York: Basic Books .

Webster, Daniel. 1983. The Papers of Daniel Webster: Diplomatic Paters, vol. 1. 1841-1843. Edited by KE Shewmaker. Dartmouth: Dartmouth College Press.

Welch, John. 2008. Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon. Provo: Brigham Young University Press, Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religous Scholarship.

Yates, Robin, trans. 1997. Five Lost Classics: Tao, Huang Lao, and Ying Yang in Han China. New York: Ballantine Books.


[1] See for example: Jeffrey Johansen, “Wars of Preemption, Wars of Revenge,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. (2002) 35 (3): 236–238. [Back to manuscript].

[2] "War and the Gospel: Perspectives from Latter-day Saint National Security Practitioners" Mark Henshaw, Valerie M. Hudson, Eric Jensen, Kerry M. Kartchner, John Mark Mattox, SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 2 (Summer 2009) [Back to manuscript].

[3] Ryan Chavez, “The Teancum Option and Modern LDS National Security Thought,” Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconciling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Revealed Truth, Kerry Kartchner and Valerie Hudson eds.,(Brigham Young University Press, 2003), 87-100.
[Back to manuscript].

[4] See Morgan Deane, “The Lord Forbid? Offensive Warfare in the Book of Mormon and a Defense of the Bush Doctrine,” in War and Peace in Our Times: Mormon Perspectives, Richard Bushman, Patrick Mason, David Pulsipher eds., (Greg Kofford books, 2012), 9-19. See also, chapter 12, To Stop a Slaughter: The Book of Mormon and the Just War Tradition. Forthcoming. [Back to manuscript].

[5] Hugo Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace, Stephen Neff trans., (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 84. [Back to manuscript].

[6] Hereafter all references refer to Helaman the younger. [Back to manuscript].

[7] Patrick Mason, David Pulsipher, Proclaim Peace: The Restoration Answers to the Age of Conflict, (Deseret Book, Maxwell Institute, 2021), 135. See also Connor Boyack who dismisses the applicability of all the war chapters: Connor Boyack, “Preventive War and the Book of Mormon,” Connors Conundrums, September 13th, 2009 (Accessed, August 26, 2022.) [Back to manuscript].

[8] John Maddox, “The Book of Mormon as a Touchstone for Evaluating the Theory of Just War,” in Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconciling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Revelated Truth, Kerry Kartchner and Valerie Hudson eds., (Brigham Young University, 2004,) 57.
[Back to manuscript].

[9] Kyle McKay Brown, “'Whatsoever Evil We Cannot Resist with Our Words': An Exploration of Mormon Just War Theory” (master's thesis, University of Edinburgh,) 2012. Duane Boyce, Even Unto Bloodshed: An LDS Perspective on War, (Greg Kofford Books, 2015.) Wielding the Sword While Proclaiming Peace: Views from the LDS Community on Reconciling the Demands of National Security with the Imperatives of Revealed Truth, Kerry Kartchner, Valerie Hudson eds., Kennedy Center, 2003). Times of War Times of Peace: LDS Ethics of War and Diplomacy, Valerie Hudson, Eric Talbot Jenson, Kerry Karchner, (BYU Kennedy Center, 2018.) Duane Boyce, “Captain Moroni and the sermon on the Mount: Resolving a Scriptural Tension,” BYU Studies, 60:2 (2021), 127-162. David Pulsipher, “Defend Your Families and Love Your Enemies,” BYU Studies, 60:2 (2021), 163-184. Patrick Mason, David Pulsipher, Proclaim Peace: The Restoration’s Answer to an Age of Conflict, Deseret Book, 2021) [Back to manuscript].

[10] Benjamin Hertzberg, “Just War and Mormon Ethics,” Mormon Studies Review, 1:1 (Article 15) 2014. [Back to manuscript].

[11] Michael Walzer, “Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, (New York, Basic Books, 2015,) xxix. [Back to manuscript].

[12] See Peter Beinhart’s article in fn 16. [Back to manuscript].

[13] Ariel Colonomos, “War in the face of doubt: early modern classics and the preventive use of force,”Just and Unjust Military Intervention, Jennifer Welsh and Stefano Reechia eds., Cambridge University Press, 2013,) 53. [Back to manuscript].

[14] Being hunted by a predatory band of robbers recalls the right of a hunted man to surprise his enemy. Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, 88. [Back to manuscript].

[15] Mark Totten, First Strike: America, Terrorism, and Moral Tradition, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 129-146. [Back to manuscript].

[16] See Connor Boyack’s piece, for example, in fn 2. Peter Beinhart, “How America Shed the Taboo Against Preemptive War,” The Atlantic, April 21st, 2017, (Accessed November 15th 2022.) [Back to manuscript].

[17] Totten, First Strike, 2. [Back to manuscript].

[18] Hugo Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace, Stephen Neff trans., (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 83-84. [Back to manuscript].

[19] John Welch, "The Case of Paanchi." In The Legal Cases in the Book of Mormon, 311-322. Provo, UT: BYU Press/Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2008. [Back to manuscript].

[20] Daniel Webster,. 'Letter to Henry Stephen Fox', in K.E Shewmaker (ed.). The Papers of Daniel Webster: Diplomatic Papers, vol. 1. 1841-1843 (1983) 62. Dartmouth College Press. [Back to manuscript].

[21] Chinese theorists described the gap between justification in theory and practice as “the punishments and prohibitions must accord.” Robin Yates trans., Five Lost Classics, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), 57. [Back to manuscript].

[22] Hugo Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace, Stephen Neff trans., (Cambridge University Press, 2012), 83-84. [Back to manuscript].

[23] Shizi: China’s First Syncretist, Paul Fischer trans., (Columbia University Press, 2012,) 67-68. [Back to manuscript].

[24] Totten, First Strike, 136. [Back to manuscript].

[25] Chavez, The Teancum Option, fns. 4-8. [Back to manuscript].

[26] Morgan Deane, The Lord Forbid. [Back to manuscript].

[27] Totten, First strike, 71. [Back to manuscript].

[28] Morgan Deane, “Renounce Peace and Proclaim War: Love, Intervention, and Section 98), National Security in an Era of Global Upheaval: Perspectives from Latter-day Saint Professionals,Provo Utah, Marc 3rd, 2023. [Back to manuscript].

[29] Duane Boyce, Even Unto Bloodshed (West Jordan UT: Greg Kofford Books, 2015), 156-157: The matter of definition is especially important when we consider the trespass of one state against another. … When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the assault occurred in two waves and involved six aircraft carriers and more than three hundred fifty planes. During the attack the Japanese damaged or sank sixteen U.S. ships, destroyed some one hundred ninety planes, killed twenty-four hundred Americans, and wounded twelve hundred more. Now, which of these numbers is most pertinent to the commandment that an aggressed party (the United States in this case) must suffer “trespass” three times [as explained in section 98] before responding? Would this assault on Pearl Harbor fall short of that threshold altogether since it was only a single attack and occurred in only two waves? If we saw the matter this way, then it would seem that the United States was obligated to suffer two more attacks from the Japanese before being justified in declaring war in response.
[Back to manuscript].

[30] Kristen Olsen, “Abraham’s Intervention: An LDS Perspective on Responsibility to Protect, A Time of War, A Time of Peace: Latter-Day Saint Ethics of War and Diplomacy, Valerie M. Hudson, Valerie M. Hudson, Eric Talbot Jensen, Kerry M. Kartchner eds., location 702-1329. [Back to manuscript].

Full Citation for this Article: Deane, Morgan (2023) "Kishkumen’s Dagger: First Strike in the Book of Mormon," SquareTwo, Vol. 16 No. 1 (Spring 2023),, accessed <give access date>.

Would you like to comment on this article? Thoughtful, faithful comments of at least 100 words are welcome.