DEFENSE: Should we be prepared to defend our families and our possessions?

Prophetic Statements

Joseph Smith

There is one principle which is eternal; it is the duty of all men to protect their lives and the lives of the household, whenever necessity requires, and no power has a right to forbid it, should the last extreme arrive, but I anticipate no such extreme, but caution is the parent of safety. 1

What greater love hath any man than that he lay down his life for his friend? Then why not fight for our friend until we die? 2

When my enemies take away my rights, I will bear it and keep out of the way; but if they take away your rights, I will fight for you. 3

The Mayor [President Smith] spoke. Said he rose to make a confession, that he used all his influence to prevent the brethren from fighting when mobbed in Missouri. If I did wrong, I will not do so any more. It was a suggestion of the head. He would never do so again; but when mobs come upon you, kill them. I never will restrain you again, but will go and help you.

The Chairmen [Brigham Young] spoke again; acknowledged his wrong; said he would never put his hand on Brother Hosea Stout’s shoulder again to hold him back when he was abused.

John Taylor spoke of Missouri; said he would never submit to such treatment again.

Mayor [President Smith] spoke again. If I do not stand with those who will stand by me in the hour of trouble and danger, without faltering, I give you leave to shoot me. 4

We are American citizens. We live upon a soil for the liberties of which our fathers periled their lives and spilt their blood upon the battlefield. Those rights so dearly purchased, shall not be disgracefully trodden under foot by lawless marauders without at least a noble effort on our part to sustain our liberties.

Will you all stand by me to the death, and sustain at the peril of your lives, the laws of our country, and the liberties and privileges which our fathers have transmitted unto us, sealed with their sacred blood? (“Aye!” shouted thousands.) he then said, “It is well. If you had not done it, I would have gone out there (pointing to the west) and would have raised up a mightier people.”

I call upon all men, from Maine to the Rocky Mountains, and from Mexico to British America, whose hearts thrill with horror to behold the rights of freemen trampled under foot, to come to the deliverance of this people from the hand of oppression, cruelty, anarchy and misrule to which they have long been made subject. Come, all ye lovers of liberty, break the oppressor’s rod, loose the iron grasp of mobocracy, and bring to condign punishment all those who trample under foot the glorious Constitution and the people’s rights. [Drawing his sword, and presenting it to heaven, he said] I call God and angels to witness that I have unsheathed my sword with a firm and unalterable determination that this people shall have their legal rights, and be protected from mob violence, or my blood shall be spilt upon the ground like water, and my body consigned to the silent tomb. While I live, I will never tamely submit to the dominion of cursed mobocracy. I would welcome death rather than submit to this oppression; and it would be sweet, oh, sweet, to rest in the grave rather than submit to this oppression, agitation, annoyance, confusion, and alarm upon alarm any longer.

I call upon all friends of truth and liberty to come to our assistance; and may the thunders of the Almighty and the forked lightnings of heaven and pestilence, and war bloodshed come down on those ungodly men who seek to destroy my life and the lives of this innocent people.

I do not regard my own life. I am ready to be offered a sacrifice for this people; for what can our enemies do? Only kill the body, and their power is then at an end. Stand firm, my friends; never flinch. Do not seek to save your lives, for he that is afraid to die for the truth, will lose eternal life. Hold out to the end, and we shall be resurrected and become like Gods, and reign in celestial kingdoms, principalities, and eternal dominions, while this cursed mob will sink to hell, the portion of all those who shed innocent blood.

God has tried you. You are a good people; therefore I love you with all my heart. Greater love hath no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends. You have stood by me in the hour of trouble, and I am willing to sacrifice my life for your preservation.

May the Lord God of Israel bless you for ever and ever. I say it in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, and in the authority of the Holy Priesthood, which He hath conferred upon me.

(The people said “Amen.”) 5

Ezra Taft Benson

There is wisdom in having on hand a year’s supply of food, clothing, and fuel, if possible, and in being prepared to defend our families and our possessions and to take care of ourselves. I believe a man should prepare for the worst while working for the best. Some people prepare and don’t work, while others work but don’t prepare. Both are needed if we would be of maximum service to our God, our family, and our country. 6

In a primitive state, there is no doubt that each man would be justified in using force, if necessary, to defend himself against physical harm, against theft of the fruits of his labor, and against enslavement of another. This principle was clearly explained by Bastiat:

“Each of us has a natural right – from God – to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but and extension of our faculties?” (The Law, p.6)

Indeed, the early pioneers found that a great deal of their time and energy was being spent doing all three – defending themselves, their property and their liberty – in what properly was called the “Lawless West.” 7


Alma 49:27-50:1

… Moroni had kept the commandments of God in preparing for the safety of his people … And now it came to pass that Moroni did not stop making preparations … to defend his people….8

D&C 63:33
I have sworn in my wrath, and decreed wars upon the face of the earth, and the wicked shall slay the wicked, and fear shall come upon every man;

Supporting Statements

George A. Smith

Terrible destruction awaits the wicked. They will come to us by thousands by-and-by, saying-“Can you not feed us? Can you not do something for us?” It is said by the prophets they shall come bending, and shall say you are the priests of the Lord. What priest could administer greater earthly blessings than food to the hungry, who have fled from a country where the sword, famine, and pestilence were sweeping away their thousands? I look upon the subject of storing grain and other kinds of food as a very religious matter. 9

  1. HC 6:605; TPJS p. 391
  2. WJS p. 81
  3. HC 5:181; TPJS, p. 268
  4. HC 6:94
  5. HC 6:499-500
  6. Ezra Taft Benson. From God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, pg. 406. 1974.
  7. Ezra Taft Benson, The Proper Role of Government.
  8. Alma 49:27-50:1
  9. Heber C. Kimball, JD 4:336-339. June 7, 1857.
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