Death and the bells tolling

Today I finished about half of Ernest Hemingway’s famous “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and have found it fascinating so far.  Interestingly, as he has gone through different aspects of the community uprising against the fascists, I wondered about my own capacities to deal with such things.  What if I was on the side of those being abused and slaughtered for my beliefs?  Would I die with ‘dignity’ as some of the captured fascists do not do?  Would I be prepared to be caught up in death just as the priest is?  Would the planes, the sounds of planes, ring to me as instruments of death or the roaring of death?  I really don’t know.

Looking into my life, I do not feel like one who is afraid of much.  I feel a tinge of fear with heights, especially as the chance of being exposed to fall increases.  However, I have always thought myself as one who when the fall was actually in process, would enjoy the fall.  That would be of course if it was long enough for me to realize I was falling and had the chance to enjoy it.  Then again, I will probably never have the chance.

War is such an interesting crucible of the soul.  I honestly don’t believe I would have the capacity to force my view, opinions, or ideology on anybody else.  I could see myself defending myself, even in guerrilla warfare or some type of underground.  Then again, I always wondered about even my feelings then.  How much were the German Saints to uphold and sustain their government?  I remember several people showing me an article about an LDS individual who helped develop torture techniques for the German government.  It was his job.  Where is the separation?  Where do we draw the line to where we begin civil disobedience?

We don’t seem to quibble much over speeding when it really can be deadly, and yet we insist we are to support a President whose war we may not support.  Do I go to jail or do as my draft card tells me to do in Vietnam?  Do we do as Schindler’s Jews and deliberately undermine quality control or give our all to our employer?  Even if what they do is not correct?  Do we just go along with the status quo or think twice about it?  Do I build or buy a large home when entire countries are basically homeless by our standards?  Do I buy that jet ski when the money could fund the entire education for another individual?

I really don’t see myself getting caught up in a mob but would I put my life on the line to oppose a mob?  Would I stand idly by while a mob worked their vicious course?  Do I defend my life, liberty, and family or do I fall to my knees before the enemy like the Anti-Nephi-Lehies?  Do I lay down my weapon rather than shed the blood of a brother?  Do I do, as America seems to do, and draw a line in the sand daring anyone to step over it, willing to fight to the death?  Or do I take a magnanimous approach to all I associate with, whether I agree with them or not?

There are so many questions of scenarios with which I hope I am never faced.  However, I want to make sure my mind is settled if the situation should ever arise.  What if I was called to go behind the enemy lines and blow up a bridge?  Would I be willing to kill myself rather than be captured?  Would I be willing to blow up a bridge when I know I will die in the process?  Robert Jordan is so completely against suicide and yet he may have to do the very thing.  (Ironic Hemingway works through this scenario and then does the deed himself years later.)

To take it a step further, while we may not personally be engaged in a civil war, are we still taking part of a war unknowingly.  President Hinckley mentioned a number of times how the War in Heaven has continued to this day.  This war is ongoing and are we having to face spiritually many of the same questions I have been posing?

“Nevertheless, after all this, I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power.  I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.  Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know; therefore I went on rebelling against God, in the wickedness of my heart,…” (Alma 10:5-6).

Do I find myself like Amulek?  Doing things which I know I should not, claiming ignorance?  When I should be doing something differently.  Do I stand by while my place of business is actually robbing from the widow?  I know it is wrong, but do I do nothing about it because ‘I would not know’.  Do I not say something while my neighbor does something that is actually ‘oppressing the hireling’?  Do I stand by while the mob, which could resemble the economy, ‘grinds the face of the poor’?  These are questions we all have to ask ourselves.  I seem so worried about if I can afford another car while people are worried about their next meal.  Can I be so hard in my heart?

Should I be blowing up these enemy bridges so the imps of evil cannot reach the battlefront where my children may have to fight?  Do I let them march right into my home through the television?  Do I let the propaganda distill upon the minds of others through the melodies and sounds of music?  Not only as an individual, but as families and communities?

I really don’t know the answers to these questions.  But Amulek gives us the answer of where to start to make sure we are right.

“Yea, and I will say unto you that if it were not for the prayers of the righteous, who are now in the land, that ye would even now be visited with utter destruction, yet it would not be by flood, as were the people in the days of Noah, but it would be by famine, and by pestilence, and the sword.  But it is by the prayers of the righteous that ye are spared;…” (Alma 10:22-23).

Prayer is a great place to start.

As to the death aspect, would we be willing to lay down our lives?  Latter-day Saints seem to have such an interesting set of perspectives.  We for the most people are a very peace loving people.  We should be the first to always seek peace first, which I believe generally we are.  Mobs and uprisings are unheard of among the LDS.  But, when it comes time, our view of death also changes our determination.  When we feel called upon to fight, to lay down our lives if necessary, we do so (or should) gladly.  After all, we should have no fear of death.

“Now, there is a death which is called a temporal death; and the death of Christ shall loose the bands of this temporal death, that all shall be raised from this temporal death.  The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.  Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not be so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought to be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.”  (Alma 11:42-44)

I guess the real question through all of this that weighs on me is this.  Do we go on like we are and wait for it all to work out in the resurrection?  Or, do we rise up and do something about our current state?  Do we fight for it?  Where the answer lies, I really do not know.  All I know, John Donne had it correct, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”


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