What “Renounce War and Proclaim Peace” Means

Latter-day Saints Renouncing War

I came across this the other day through the Mormon Worker blog:


It says on its homepage,

We, the undersigned, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

We believe following Jesus requires us to be Peacemakers, to “Renounce War and Proclaim Peace” (D&C 98:16), and, as an act of faith, “lay down our weapons of war.” (Mormon 7:4).

Therefore, based on our personal religious beliefs, each of us, hereby, publicly renounce war and proclaim peace by Conscientiously Objecting to all nation-to-nation wars and armed conflicts.

and then it lists the signatures.  Anyone can sign the declaration and there are also essays on the web site explaining the position.

I am not going to give my opinion on this effort. My only purpose with this post is to show the meaning of the phrase “renounce war and proclaim peace.” For that, I must turn to Webster’s 1928 Dictionary.

RENOUNCE war and proclaim peace

Let’s start with renounce.

RENOUNCE, v.t. renouns’. [L. renuncio; re and nuncio, to declare, from the root of nomen, name.]

1. To disown; to disclaim; to reject; as a title or claim; to refuse to own or acknowledge as belonging to; as, to renounce a title to land or a claim to reward; to renounce all pretensions to applause.

2. To deny; to cast off; to reject; to disclaim; as an obligation or duty; as, to renounce allegiance.

3. To cast off or reject, as a connection or possession; to forsake; as, to renounce the world and all its cares.

We have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty. 2 Cor. 4.

In D&C 98:16, renounce means to forsake, which is the third shade. We are to renounce, or forsake, a sin. (Keep that in mind.)

renounce WAR and proclaim peace

Next is the word war.

WAR, n. [G., to perplex, embroil, disturb. The primary sense of the root is to strive, struggle, urge, drive, or to turn, to twist.]

1. A contest between nations or states, carried on by force, either for defense, or for revenging insults and redressing wrongs, for the extension of commerce or acquisition of territory, or for obtaining and establishing the superiority and dominion of one over the other. These objects are accomplished by the slaughter or capture of troops, and the capture and destruction of ships, towns and property. Among rude nations, war is often waged and carried on for plunder. As war is the contest of nations or states, it always implies that such contest is authorized by the monarch or the sovereign power of the nation. When war is commenced by attacking a nation in peace, it is called an offensive war, and such attack is aggressive. When war is undertaken to repel invasion or the attacks of an enemy, it is called defensive, and a defensive war is considered as justifiable. Very few of the wars that have desolated nations and deluged the earth with blood, have been justifiable. Happy would it be for mankind, if the prevalence of Christian principles might ultimately extinguish the spirit of war, and if the ambition to be great, might yield to the ambition of being good.

Preparation for war is sometimes the best security for peace.

2. In poetical language, instruments of war.

His complement of stores, and total war.

3. Poetically, forces; army.

Oer the embattled ranks the waves return, and overwhelm their war.

4. The profession of arms; art of war; as a fierce man of war. Isaiah 2.

5. Hostility; state of opposition or contest; act of opposition.

6. Enmity; disposition to contention.

The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart. Psalm 55.

Man of war, in naval affairs, a ship of large size, armed and equipped for attack or defense.

Holy war, a crusade; a war undertaken to deliver the Holy Land, or Judea, from infidels. These holy wars were carried on by most unholy means.

The only shade of meaning that is always a sin is #6, which is enmity; disposition to contention. This is what we are to renounce. So, to renounce war, as written in D&C 98:16, means to forsake enmity or to forsake the disposition to contention. It does not mean to refuse to take up arms in self-defense of your life, property, family, neighbors or nation. It does not mean there is no such thing as justified warfare, or that God will not ever command His people to go out to battle against another people. It cannot mean these latter things because the rest of D&C 98 gives the church God’s laws concerning justified conflict and wars, showing that it was never the Lord’s intention that “renounce war” meant to refuse to participate or support any and all wars, no matter how justified they may be. Instead, “renounce war” is a personal thing, dealing with the sin of enmity and the disposition to contention. I suppose I ought to define enmity, huh?


1. The quality of being an enemy; the opposite of friendship; ill will; hatred; unfriendly dispositions; malevolence. It expresses more than aversion and less than malice,and differs from displeasure in denoting a fixed or rooted hatred, whereas displeasure is more transient.

I will put enmity between thee and the woman. Gen.3.

The carnal mind is enmity against God.Rom. 8.

2. A state of opposition.

The friendship of the world is enmity with God. James 4.

Enmity, then, is hatred.

renounce war and PROCLAIM peace

PROCLA’IM, v.t. [L. proclamo; pro and clamo, to cry out. See Claim.]

1. To promulgate; to announce; to publish; as, to proclaim a fast; to proclaim a feast. Lev.23. 1 Kings 21.

He hath sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives. Is.61.

2. To denounce; to give official notice of. Heralds were formerly employed to proclaim war.

3. To declare with honor; as, to proclaim the name of the Lord, that is, to declare his perfections. Ex.33.

4. To utter openly; to make public. Some profligate wretches openly proclaim their atheism.

Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness. Prov.20.

5. To outlaw by public denunciation.

I heard myself proclaimed.

Thus, when we proclaim peace, we are letting people publicly know of our peaceful intentions, that we bear no ill-will towards men.

renounce war and proclaim PEACE

Finally, peace means,

PEACE, n. [L. pax, paco, to appease.]

1. In a general sense, a state of quiet or tranquillity; freedom from disturbance or agitation; applicable to society, to individuals, or to the temper of the mind.

2. Freedom from war with a foreign nation; public quiet.

3. Freedom from internal commotion or civil war.

4. Freedom from private quarrels, suits or disturbance.

5. Freedom from agitation or disturbance by the passions, as from fear, terror, anger, anxiety or the like; quietness of mind; tranquillity; calmness; quiet of conscience.

Great peace have they that love the law. Ps.119.

6. Heavenly rest; the happiness of heaven.

7. Harmony; concord; a state of reconciliation between parties at variance.

8. Public tranquillity; that quiet,order and security which is guaranteed by the laws; as, to keep the peace; to break the peace.

This word is used in commanding silence or quiet; as, peace to this troubled soul.

Peace, the lovers are asleep.

To be at peace, to be reconciled; to live in harmony.

To make peace, to reconcile, as parties at variance.

To hold the peace, to be silent; to suppress one’s thoughts; not to speak.

Although the other shades of meaning are important, in the context of D&C 98:16, it is shade #7 that is to be proclaimed. In other words, we are to let people know that we seek reconciliation, if possible. This is part of the ministry of reconciliation to which all saints are called.

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:18-19)

When the Lord authorizes warfare

Only if after renouncing war and proclaiming peace a number of times, if that person or group or nation still threatens warfare and refuses reconciliation, then warfare is justified by the Lord and we must take up arms and go to battle. In other words, we are commanded to go to battle, as an actual commandment of the Lord. Those who do not go to battle or support the war effort become guilty of sin. This is why we take no oath of non-violence, refusing to ever take up arms. The Lord reserves the right to assume, at any moment of His choosing, His divine role as Lord of Hosts, that He might show forth His miraculous strength (the strength of the Lord), which necessitates that His earthly people be unencumbered by such oaths and covenants.

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