History plainly shows that natural and man-made disasters can bring out the best and worst in people. In the aftermath of earthquakes, hurricanes, famines, wars, riots, and so on...stories surface of people that risked their lives to give aid to others...putting their own needs...and perhaps those of their families on hold in order to perform acts of truly selfless service. Many of these amazing and touching stories are of those in the medical and emergency services fields who stick to their jobs serving a higher call than just a paycheck...even when it could put them in great danger. Other stories of those who rise to the aid of others are of just everyday people who believe that they are their brothers keeper and take to heart what it is to be a good Samaritan.
On the flip side to these Christlike individuals...are others who use times of societal distress as an opportunity to become like devilish animals...seeking only their own well-being...even if it means hurting others. There are even dark individuals whose hearts are so dead and sickened that they find amusement in the pain of others and only the rule of law and fear of punishment now keeps them from acting out their satanic desires. History tells the tale that when this rule of law is strained enough...these bad guys do come out of the woodwork to prey upon the weak. Businesses are broken into...people are robbed or even killed for their possessions...the chastity of our women is taken by force...gross darkness and fear covers the land and the natural man and the devil reign. The good and yet foolish that have professed that anarchy is preferable to government see first hand their folly as that law that has protected them now disappears into the shadows leaving them naked to the cruelty of the coarsened.
And it doesn't take a sudden disaster for the bad guys to come out either. As the economy continues to look like the day of economic reckoning that Ezra Taft Benson spoke of in his teachings...and people continue to lose jobs...crime goes up and up! The local news reported a few weeks ago that burglaries are up 59% in South Sacramento over the last two months! Those reporting attributed this to having less parole officers and a strained economy. It is reasonable to suppose that if our economy continues in a downward spiral...that those percentages will rise as the desperate become more so and our riches become "slippery" as they fall into the hands of these desperate individuals.
While we may hope that disasters/societal distress and the subsequent evil acts that are spawned out of them would not happen in the future...prophecy would tell us that this is not to be the case. The Lord through His prophets has clearly spoken of an increase in the frequency of disasters...as well as and increase in the severity. The result of at least some of these disasters WILL bring people to violence against each other.
The Doctrine and Covenants 45:33 speaks of the calamities of earthquakes and desolation's that SHALL be...and a then mentions the resulting bloodshed...
"And there shall be earthquakes also in divers places, and many desolation's; yet men will harden their hearts against me, and they will take up the sword, one against another, and they will kill one another."
Joseph Smith gave added details about a future time of violence when he spoke this prophecy...
"I saw men hunting the lives of their own sons, and brother murdering brother, women killing their own daughters, and daughters seeking the lives of their mothers. I saw armies arrayed against armies. I saw blood, desolation, fires. The Son of man has said that the mother shall be against the daughters, and the daughter against the mother. These things are at our doors. They will follow the Saints of God from city to city. Satan will rage, and the spirit of the devil is now enraged. I know not how soon these things will take place; but with a view of them, shall I cry peace? No; I will lift up my voice and testify of them. How long you will have good crops, and the famine be kept off, I do not know; when the fig tree leaves, know then that the summer is nigh at hand." (Joseph Smith Teachings of the Prophet JS Section Four 1839-42, p.161)
It may be hard for those who have never known anything other than the days of prosperity to understand how things could get so bad that family members would turn on each other and kill their own flesh and blood. The reason for such behavior... or at least a contributing factor may be the coming famine that Joseph mentions at the end of his quote. Famines can dull the morals and proper reasoning of the usually moral. Famines have taken the lives of millions upon millions of people in the earths history and show that men commit great atrocities against their fellow man to get through them. There are sobering biblical recordings of some of these famines that as we sit in the cushy comfy armchair of life seem harm to fathom.
2 Kings 6:25-30 records the famine that took place during the Syrian siege of Samaria where people were boiling and eating their own children.
Lamentations 4:1-11 records the famine that took place as Jerusalem fell to Babylonia and the cruelty and cannibalism that resulted.
The great historian Josephus recorded the famine that happened in Jerusalem when it was besieged by the Romans in 70AD. He tells the story of a people gone insane...practicing all sorts of cruelty and lack of natural affection even for ones own family. He also tells of how people were breaking in doors of others homes and taking their food that they felt entitled to and torturing them to tell them where their food was hidden. Read Book 5 of the War of the Jews...Chapter 10.
Hopefully we are not so naive as to suppose that now we are all civilized and such things could not happen now! A couple of years ago I was talking with a police officer about preparedness. We got on the subject of food storage and he said "Yeah...I'm worried because I haven't stored anything". Then he pointed to the people on the street and said "None of these people have stored anything! When the food supply gets cut off...and it will...people will go nuts!" He went on to say incredibly candidly..."If I don't have food...I do have guns...and I will go and take it from whomever I have to!!!!!" He went on to tell me about how hard it was to defend a house and how no one could defend a home in the city forever. I couldn't believe it!!! Here...one of our police that many hold in such high regard was conceding that he would use his guns (he has an arsenal) and training as a police officer to take food for his family from other people!! At first I was stunned...but then I realised...that he was more in touch with reality than our average public is. He understands on some level what times of true distress can be like. I have since been trying to work with him to get his food storage together.
With a realization that there will be a time when anarchy will prevail...and the bad guys and good guys turned bad will come out of the woodwork and may seek to hurt you and yours...the prudent must ask questions such as...
"Do I need to protect myself and my family from people that would seek to kill us?"
"Can I expect that the Lord will protect me and what do I need to be worthy of that protection?"
"What will I do to protect my family? What weapons or training do I need?"
For many...the thought of ever having to take someone Else's life even in self defense is about as repugnant as a thought could be. This is good! We should tremble and shake at the thought of dispatching someone "unprepared to meet their God". Much like Nephi we should "shrink at the thought" of having to kill a man. An article called "Somebodys Going to Get Hurt" from the New Era magazine has excellent examples that should shape how we feel about violence. We must not buy into the deception that there is glory or some sort of satisfaction in killing as Hollywood would make it seem...regardless of how malicious or wrong the enemy is.
One should also read Alma chapter 48 for a clear understanding about how a disciple of Christ should feel about killing in self defense. We are to Bear no malice towards any man
Still...in spite of how we feel about having to kill...we must come to grips with the doctrinal reality that if we are to preserve our own lives or the lives of others in the days to come...we may have to kill in self defense and that such action is approved of the Lord.
In that New Era article Larry A. Hiller makes the point that...
"We need to be absolutely clear that there is such a thing as justified self-defense. You have the right to protect yourself against physical harm if you are attacked. You have a right to use physical force to protect virtue, family, freedom."
In 1969 President Ezra Taft Benson spoke of the need to protect and provide for our families...
"The scriptural parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins is a reminder that one can wait too long before he attempts to get his spiritual and temporal house in order. Are we prepared? A man should not only be prepared to protect himself physically, but he should also have on hand sufficient supplies to sustain himself and his family in an emergency." (Conference Report, April 1967, p.61)
In "The Family; A Proclamation to the World" this role of a man was reiterated...
"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families."
Our pioneer fathers were no strangers to mobs and physical danger. They had been beaten by mobs...had family killed...and ultimately were driven to the State of Utah to finally settle in peace. Brigham Young had great concern that the Saints would think that the danger was past and that they had no need to defend themselves any longer...
"As for this people fostering to themselves that the day has come for them to sell their guns and ammunition to their enemies, and sit down to sleep in peace, they will find themselves deceived and before they know, they will sleep until they are slain. They have got to carry weapons with them, to be ready to send their enemy to hell cross lots, whether they be Lamanites or mobs who may come to take their lives, or destroy their property. We must be prepared that they dare not come to us in a hostile manner without being assured they will meet a vigorous resistance and ten to one they will meet their grave." (Brigham Young Journal of Discourses,Vol 1, P . 171 - 172, July 31, 1853)
Heber C. Kimball encouraged the women to be ready to defend themselves...
Nine months ago in the September 2008 Ensign the Church reminded the Saints of their "duty" to defend themselves and lives of their families when they printed and article with various letters that the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote to his wife Emma. It was called "My Dear and Beloved Companion". They included this quote from a letter that Joseph wrote just before he died in the Carthage Jail:
"There is one principle which is eternal…It is the duty of all men to protect their lives and the lives of their households whenever necessity requires, and no power has a right to forbid it."
Joseph Smith did not say that it was a "good idea" to defend your family...he did not say "Don't worry about defending yourself...God will do that for you"...he said it was a "duty of all men". Brother Brigham did not say "It is the righteous who should expect God to fight their battles for them with no effort on their part". No...he said in so many words that those who thought there was no need to defend themselves were deceived and would wind up dead!
The Churches "Leaders Guide to Welfare: Providing the Lord's Way" reminds us of this very important principle..."He never forsakes us, but he does not do for us what we can do for ourselves"
While it is ultimately God who wins our battles...as evidenced by scriptures like...
D&C 105:14 - I will fight your battles
Joshua 23:10 - One man chase 1000
...that does not mean that he doesn't require of us to show up ready to fight. This is made clear in numerous scriptural passages and events in church history...
D&C 35:14 "And their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their enemies shall be under their feet; and I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them."
While for some reason there may be some who may read the above only figuratively...I believe that there is a transparent literal meaning that....yes...the Lord can preserve us with His power...but he still requires us to "fight manfully for" Him.
In the Doctrine and Covenants 98:23-31 we are told of great blessings for bearing with patience and not retaliating against our enemy "smiting us" and how those blessings are multiplied depending on how many times we endure the smiting. Smiting in this context seems to be referring to physical blows...not meant to kill...as evidenced by how many times the enemy could come back to do it again! Then in the latter part of verse 31 it no longer speaks of just smiting....it speaks of if the enemy comes with the intention to kill...
"Nevertheless, thine enemy is in thine hands; and if thou rewardest him according to his works thou art justified; if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine enemy is in thine hands and thou art justified."
In the Doctrine and Covenenants 134:11 it reads....
"We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded."
There may be some that may believe that having a gun or weapon in some way shows a lack of faith in Gods power. To those who feel this way...I would lead them to the words of James who said....
James 2:18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
Here are some more examples...
Our prophet Joseph Smith accepted a six shooter from Elder Cyrus H. Wheelock while in the Liberty Jail...and ultimately shot several of the mob before his own death. Why would the prophet have grabbed the gun...and used it...if he felt that self defense was unnecessary?
Alma Chapter 49 and 50 outline the many works of Moroni and his people to protect themselves from the invading lamanites. They got ready all kinds of weapons and prepared "forts of security" to be ready for the coming lamanites. While speaking of their preparations...the author uses the word prepared and forms of it at least 13 times! He wants to drive home the fact that Moroni and his people had to work for the protection of God. In chapter 50 verse 12 he speaks of the "assurance of protection which his works did bring forth unto them". Earlier he states that these works were given by way of commandment when he said "Moroni had kept the commandments of God in preparing for the safety of his people". The people of Nephi wisely knew that it was the Lord who had delivered them (see 49:28) and given them peace again. Despite that time of peace...Mormon states in Chapter 50:1 that "Moroni did not stop making preparations for war, or to defend his people". This same Moroni was described not as being a faithless warmonger...but so righteous that "if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."
Ammons father Mosiah had recieved a promise that Ammon and his brothers would be delivered from the Lamanites. (see Mosiah 28:7) Perhaps Ammon (if he was aware of the promise) could have just layed down when he was being threatened by the men at the waters of Sebus...saying "The Lord will protect me...and make a miracle happen without my participation"...but no...he physically stood against them and defended the property of the king and the lives of servants.
Those are just a handful of examples to consider. While it seems doctrinally conclusive that the Lord expects us to be ready to protect ourselves...we must not fall into the trap of relying solely upon the arm of flesh and worshipping the gods of steel. No matter how many guns you have...no matter how big and bad you are...there will always be someone bigger and badder with more firepower than you. I would rather be on the side of God than have all of the guns in the world.
There are other promises given that perhaps we may never have to physically defend ourselves and may be delivered without such conflict...
"I am grateful that the Lord gave me the vision and strength to refrain from trusting in the arm of flesh and to put my trust in the protecting care of our Heavenly Father. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon promise to us of the last days that “the righteous need not fear,” for the Lord “will preserve the righteous by his power.” (1 Ne. 22:17.) I am grateful for the protection promised to those who have kept their covenants and qualified for the blessings promised in sacred places."(Dallin H. Oaks, “Bible Stories and Personal Protection,” Ensign, Nov 1992, 37)
The Doctrine and Covenants 45:68 speaks of a future time when...
"And it shall come to pass among the wicked, that every man that will not take his sword against his neighbor must needs flee unto Zion for safety."
It could be concluded from that scripture that we could be spared from ever having to take the sword..or gun...or whatever weapon you have...against our neighbors...by being a resident of Zion.
So...personally I advise the following....
1. Prepare to defend yourself as if it all depends on you...but know that only God can deliver you.
2. Talk to someone who knows about guns to get advice about what they recommend. Personally I like the Remington 870 express shotgun. Most law enforcement officers and people that are knowledgeable will steer you towards a shotgun first for home defense. It doesn't require a gun license...and is pretty simple to use. Make sure that you practice from time to time to become familiar with it's operation. Not much puts fear into the heart of someone coming into your home than that "CHCKKK...CHCKKK" sound when you load a shell into the chamber!
3. Live your life in such a way that you may be worthy of His divine deliverance...or at least His divine comfort.
4. Look into ways to make your home more protected. Strong locks on your doors...good lighting outside...taking out bushes where people can hide etc...are all things I've heard recommended.
5. In addition to guns...consider non-lethal deterrants like pepper spray. It can be picked up fairly cheap at sporting good stores and doesn't require a special license.
6. Self defense courses I think can be a good idea...as long as they don't turn you to enjoying violence.
After having read that advice...you might say to yourself..."Well...that isn't what the current prophet is saying!"
To which I would reply...
"What would happen if our current prophet stood up in General Conference and recommended that we all got guns!" "What would the media do with that?" "What kind of persecution would begin?"
Perhaps we would quickly join the ranks of those that the FBI is watching as being potential "domestic terrorists" who are "Storing foodstuffs and supplies"...or"caching weapons and ammunition" like those from the Christian Identity? Or how about on their list of 1000 American "apocalyptic cults" who "share the belief that the battle against Satan, as prophesied in the Book of Revelation, will begin in the years surrounding the millennium" or are led by "persuasive persons who claim to have a special mission in life or have special knowledge"...that is of course...if we aren't already on that list. I called the FBI and they wouldn't tell me if we were...or were not.
President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke the truth when he said...
"Our critics at home and abroad are watching us. In an effort to find fault, they listen to every word we say, hoping to entrap us." (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Testimony to the World,” Ensign, May 1997, 83)
Mostly now it seems that they just give us history lessons and let us connect the dots...
"The Saints broke camp and headed for home to prepare their defenses. Rather than flee, this time President Young declared, “We have transgressed no law, and we have no occasion to do so, neither do we intend to; but as for any nation’s coming to destroy this people, God Almighty being my helper, they cannot come here.”"(Boyd K. Packer, “The Test,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 88–91)
He gave these reassuring words later in the talk when he plainly said...
"It is my purpose to show that in troubled times the Lord has always prepared a safe way ahead. We live in those “perilous times” which the Apostle Paul prophesied would come in the last days.1 If we are to be safe individually, as families, and secure as a church, it will be through “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”2 (Boyd K. Packer, “The Test,” Ensign, Nov 2008, 88–91)
While one could take that quote and the one by Dallin Oaks above as saying that "all you have to do is be obedient to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel to be protected "...that person would be denying all of the other words of the prophets quoted earlier in the article. When one puts together the puzzle pieces of this topic the message is to obey the laws and ordinances of the Gospel and do your "duty" by being prepared to defend your family.