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Finding inner peace serving in military

Leaders counsel combat veterans, their families

Centuries before faithful LDS military personnel were called to serve their countries during times of conflict, a pair of ancient prophet-soldiers experienced the ugliness of war.

Mormon and his loyal son, Moroni, once donned the armor of battle even as they served the Lord and promoted the cause of peace. By enlisting faith, they endured and remained sensitive to the Spirit.

So, too, can Church members who have or will wear their countries' uniform in Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflict-torn regions. In a recently released DVD, President Gordon B. Hinckley, President Boyd K. Packer and other General Authorities offer thanks, encouragement and counsel to Church members in military service and their families facing the realties of war.

"We are all indebted to those of you who serve," says President Hinckley at the conclusion of "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled: A Message of Peace for Latter-day Saints in Military Service."

President Hinckley notes that there are few moments in history where conflict could not be found. War remains a waste of human life and resources, laments President Hinckley.

Still, there are times when war is necessary to protect freedom, life, home and family. Military service remains an honorable endeavour, he adds.

It's been said that all of Satan's wares can be found on display during war. The challenge of LDS members of the military is "to stand taller and act better and return with honor," President Hinckley says. Prayer is the single greatest resource available to Church members who find themselves in conflict.

President Hinckley encourages Church members in the military to seek out opportunities to worship with fellow members and remain worthy of a temple recommend. He speaks of the gospel seeds that had been planted by LDS members of the armed forces during past conflicts. Such seeds would later bear fruit in many nations where the Church now thrives. The gospel in action can become "a silver thread in the dark tapestry of war."

Church members serving in the military, along with their families, are in the prayers of Church leaders. The Lord is aware of their needs, President Hinckley says.

Even in a season of conflict, the gospel is a message of peace, love, comfort and strength, President Hinckley said.

An Air Force pilot during World War II, President Packer, knows first-hand the challenges of war. But "there are great blessings, as well, that come to you and your families."

While serving in the armed forces, President Packer found strength reading the Book of Mormon. He was drawn to the lessons evident in the battles between the Nephites and the Lamanites as described in the 43rd chapter of Alma. The Nephites, reads President Packer, were fighting for a better cause. They did not fight for power — but for their families and church. They were doing that which they felt was their duty.

And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed, Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion (Alma 43:47).

Amid the challenges of combat, members in uniform can keep their testimonies and find opportunities to worship in unusual circumstances, President Packer says. The Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve remembers sharing the sacrament with a fellow Church member in a Filipino jungle during his military service.

Messages of counsel and encouragement are also offered on the DVD by Elder Robert C. Oaks of the Presidency of the Seventy and Elder Lance B. Wickman of the Seventy. Elder Oaks served several decades in the Air Force and flew missions in the Vietnam War, and retired as a four-star general. Elder Wickman is also a Vietnam War veteran, serving two tours as an army infantry officer and as an advisor.

Both men speak of their gratitude for LDS men and women wearing their countries' uniform during times of conflict.

Elder Oaks observes that the ongoing war against terrorism is different than many prior wars: The enemy is difficult to identify and understand and victory will not likely come in a documented, formal surrender. Such a war will continue for the foreseeable future.

But, again, like many other wars "it's being fought for freedom, and that alone makes it worth fighting," he says.

Elder Oaks warns of the difficult role of the warrior that can numb Christian sensibilities. Veterans who return to the home front may be haunted by the lingering images of war. It is critical that returning soldiers find comfort and peace in prayers, fasting, temple attendance and Church and community service, he says.

He adds that all must be sensitive to the needs and suffering of each casualty of war and their families.

Elder Wickman reassures LDS military personnel returning from combat that they can enjoy rich, pro-active lives.

"Let me assure you — you can, and will."

Mormon and Moroni — two soldiers who experienced the horrors of war and "the work of death" — knew that readers of the Book of Mormon would live in a time of conflict and bloodshed. The Book of Mormon demonstrates that one's spiritual sensitivity need not be dulled by war, says Elder Wickman.

But behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Nephites and the Lamanites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their affliction, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility (Alma 62: 41).

Elder Wickman speaks of an LDS soldier he served with in Vietnam. The soldier literally and symbolically walked through fire in the execution of his military duties. Yet he never lost his sweet temperament and spiritual sensitivity as a faithful priesthood holder. He prayed each day and brought comfort to others.

Even in times of war, "the Lord is about doing His work," Elder Wickman says.

The DVD concludes with a rendition of "Goin' Home," performed by the BYU Men's Chorus.

"Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled" has been distributed to priesthood leaders, LDS chaplains and counselors from LDS Family Services to help families face the challenges associated with military service. The DVD is designed for home use and at stake and ward firesides, by home teachers and by priesthood leaders in one-on-one interviews with LDS members of the armed forces and their families.

E-mail: jswensen@desnews.com