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Spiritual Strength in Combat
When I went to Iraq back in 2003, I didn’t spiritually prepare myself for what I was about to encounter. I think to some degree I suffered for that choice. It took me a long time to get back on track and feel some semblance of the Spirit within me. The sights, sounds, and actions that combat brings chiseled away at me and I could not rely on my faith that had been neglected for too long.
I prepared myself before leaving for Afghanistan and was strengthened during some of the hardest times of my life. When it seemed as if the world was turning against me, I had a strong faith upon which I could rely.
Though I’m home now, the following letter finally made its way to me from retired Air Force General and church elder Robert C. Oaks. I know that I don’t usually discuss many aspects of my religion or religious topics on this site, but I found great strength in reading it and hope to share it with my readers as well. I’ve added links to the scriptural references that are found solely in LDS canon in case you wanted to read more context.
The letter mentions Captain Moroni, a figure in the Book of Mormon that I’ve personally relied upon to answer many of questions about resolving my faith with my military service.
I recently learned that you have deployed to Afghanistan in conjunction with your military service or employment. I want you to know of our love for you and express our sincere appreciation for the sacrifices you are making in defense of our freedom and liberty. I served in the Vietnam War and have a sense of what you are experiencing.
I testify that the Lord knows you personally and is aware of the desires of your heart. He understands the challenges you face and is mindful of your loved ones while you are away. I urge you to be faithful and He will bless you with His Spirit to guide and direct you. One of the greatest soldiers in the Book of Mormon, Captain Moroni, was a righteous man who fought to protect the safety of his people, his home, and his religion. Though he had to shed the blood of his enemies, he never let his heart grow hard. It was written of him: “Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, 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” (Alma 48:17). I urge you to seek that same balance—righteousness without callousness.
With the stress of war, often the simple things such as reading the scriptures and daily prayer are overlooked, but these are the very things that will bring calmness and confidence. As you live righteously, the Holy Ghost will bring you comfort, warn you of danger, and inspire appropriate actions. May it be said of you as it was of Helaman’s stripling warriors: “…they were exceedingly valiant for courage, and for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all—they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him” (Alma 53:20-21).
For those who are married, military service can create additional challenges for family and loved ones back home. Please be aware that assistance is available to your families and encourage your spouse to meet with the bishop as the need arises.
On behalf of a grateful nation and the members of the Church, we are proud of you and the courage you have shown in the face of danger. We pray for your safe return home. May the Lord bless you with peace and assurance as you unselfishly serve in this noble profession.