“Thou shalt not kill” Exodus 20:13
“Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” 1 Nephi 4:13
“And it was because the armies of the Nephites went up unto the Lamanites that they began to be smitten; for were it not for that, the Lamanites could have had no power over them.” Mormon 4:4
The scriptures seem to present a rather complicated view of killing and war (a brief smattering above), despite what appears to be a pretty straightforward command to NOT kill. Now there are a myriad of issues at play here that require way more time and effort than a simple blog post can provide. So, I’m going to focus on something a little different.
If God commanded me to kill somebody, could I do it?
Once upon a time, I probably would have answered that with a somewhat hesitant, but quick yes. Those days are gone.
Now, I don’t know if I could. Does that make me a bad person? Maybe. Probably depends on what your value system is based on.
So, there are two big scriptural stories that stick out—Nephi and Abraham/Isaac. They are similar, but different. Nephi’s commanded in an instant to kill a dude so that he and his family can have the scriptures and survive (even though the entire city’s about to be destroyed, so did Nephi really need to KILL Laban? Again, a question for another day).
Abraham is commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac, which requires a long journey, a pre-meditated murder if you will. BUT as Ol’ Abe’s about to slash his poor son, an angel calls out to stop, so no murder-times for Isaac.
Would I be able to do what these two dudes did?
I still think not. But why? What would hold me back? Is it that I don’t have enough faith? Do I not trust God that much? Am I unwilling to go the distance for God—doing absolutely whatever it takes to further His/Her/Their work and glory?
I think part of it is that I just can’t really imagine a situation where God would be like “Yo, Conor, see that dude over there with the beard and man-bun mocking his covenants by smudging the outside of that chalkline? Kill him. It’ll be better for the world.”
Yeah, I don’t see that happening. It could. But I don’t think it will. The only thoughts I have about murder involve me trying to plot the perfect murder. Or envisioning horrific doomsday scenarios that end with tragic deaths of people I know and care about, or maybe the people I know and don’t care about. It goes both ways.
The harder question is, if God asked me to kill Person X would I be more likely to do it than if I was commanded to kill Person Z? That gets even murkier. I mean, I’m still pretty confident that I wouldn’t kill anybody, but there probably are people that I would be more likely to kill than others. I don’t think that’s unusual…but perhaps I just hang out with a rough crowd…
I still don’t think I would be able to accept such a revelation though. I just couldn’t believe that God would ask me to do something like that. And since I may occasionally daydream about murder (in a perfectly harmless, 100% hypothetical way), I would brush off any murderous thoughts as my wandering, overactive mind. Particularly if it was someone that irritated me.
If God commanded me to sacrifice one of my kids (in the hypothetical future where I have children), I might do that. Not actually sacrifice them, but go through the motions. Yet, it would only be because I would anticipate an Abraham/Isaac sort of moment, so I wouldn’t really try and kill them on some alter, which probably invalidates the whole trial. If it’s supposed to prove devotion to God above all else, it doesn’t really work if I know that my kid is safe the whole time. Right? I picture me laying my kid on the alter, raising some nasty sacrificial dagger and then waiting for the angel to show up and stop me. He wouldn’t come, so I’d lower the dagger towards my kid, stopping short of his chest in anticipation and still nothing. I’d probably start to freak at this point and look to Heavenward and be like “Yo, I’m ready for the angel to come bring the goat and stop me from sacrificing my adorable son here.” Then I’d feel like God was throwing some shade, you know, the one eyebrow raised, ‘Really?’ look. And then I’d drop the wicked nasty dagger, untie my kid and walk away because that ain’t me.
Maybe if there was some wicked apocalyptic battle and someone was coming at me guns blazing I could take them out. Maybe. I mean, it would depend on me suddenly having the ability to defend myself, which is probably unlikely, but I think I could muster the wherewithal to take a life IF my own or the lives of those very close to me where at stake. But I’d probably just sacrifice myself and hope they’d make it out on their own. Or RUN FOR MY LIFE.
All of that is to say, I don’t think I could do it. Regardless of the circumstances. Maybe I just need to trust a little (ok, A LOT more, like an ocean of faith more) in God. I guess, I’m more comfortable with the possibility of not trusting God enough than I am with believing in a God that would require me to kill another wonderful human (or less than wonderful).
Maybe I need more faith. Or perhaps I need to rethink who my God is. Maybe I just need to be more bloodthirsty and a little more heartless. Maybe.
If that’s the case, my pseudo-hippie, ‘make love not war,’ somewhat pacifist self is probably on the highway to Hell, and would love some directions to the Stairway to Heaven…