The Book of Mormon and Terrorism


The Book of Mormon and Terrorism

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my religious beliefs shape many of my political beliefs. Such is the case with the War on Terror.

The following article explains how my belief in The Book of Mormon colors my views on Terrorism. It article was written in 2003, after a visit by Benjamin Netanyahu in which he spoke before Congress, in which I was struck by the similarities between what he said and what The Book of Mormon says on this subject. Here it is:

Yes, The Book of Mormon was clearly written for our day. It was never fully assembled during the time of the Nephites. Moroni was the only Nephite to have the opportunity read it in its entirety, and very few could have read the major portions that Mormon prepared.

From its earliest chapters, Book of Mormon writers speak directly to the United States and other nations of the Western Hemisphere.

“And I beheld the Spirit of the Lord, that it was upon the Gentiles, and they did prosper and obtain the land for their inheritance; and I beheld that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto my people before they were slain.”[1]

“And I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles that had gone out of captivity were delivered by the power of God out of the hands of all other nations. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.”[2]

From the beginning of the book to the end , various comments by Book of Mormon prophets seem directed squarely at us. Part of its purpose seems to be to give us guidance on great national questions.

Today, we face a new threat—a new kind of enemy, with tactics that have never threatened us before. For example, when Adolph Hitler marched into Poland, there was no doubt as to the identity of the invading army. When the United States was attacked at Pearl Harbor, we knew the nation that was responsible. Even during the guerilla warfare of Viet Nam, we knew who the enemy was and who was sponsoring them.

Today, old rules of warfare are being cast aside by an enemy whose objective is to terrorize entire populations of people. They meet in secret. They have no capital city, no organized army. They commandeer our own resources and use them to strike randomly. Their objective is not a conventional territory grab, but to disable our civilization through fear, to murder, and to destroy. It seems that the act of destruction is not for any tactical advantage, but simply for the pleasure of destroying people and things.

The attack on America on September 11, 2001, was carried out by an organization called Al Qaeda. They are but one of a loosely-knit conglomeration of world-wide terrorists. Some say that this was the beginning of a new form of warfare. But it wasn’t the beginning. It was a giant step forward for these terrorists, but it wasn’t the beginning.

Five years earlier, on August 28, 1996, a man proclaiming himself as Usamah bin Muhammad bin Laden issued a document that he titled “A Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.”  It was issued from the Hindukush Mountains, Khurasan, Afghanistan. The document alleges sins by the Americans including having troops in Saudi Arabia; carrying out sanctions against Iraq which, it claimed, had caused the deaths of more than 600,000 Iraqi children due to lack of food and medicine; supporting Zionists; and generally humiliating Muslims.

It called for unity among Muslims around the world. It prayed: “Our Lord, unify the Muslims and bestow love among their hearts!” and, “Our Lord, show us a black day in them.” Threats against Americans were cloaked in religious language. It called for Muslims to terrorize Americans and not to fear death because, “Death is truth and ultimate destiny, and life will end anyway.” “Terrorizing you,” it told Americans, “while you are carrying arms on our land, is a legitimate and morally demanded duty. . . . the humiliation suffered by Muslims as a result of the occupation of their sanctities cannot be kicked and removed except by explosions and Jihad.”[3]


But the war didn’t start in 1996. This was only the formal, public declaration of it. It goes back at least to February 26, 1993. On that fateful Friday, a rented Ford Econoline van pulled into the second level of the World Trade Center parking garage. It contained just under a ton of a home-made explosive, and the driver parked it strategically about eight feet from the south wall of Trade Tower Number One, near one of the key support columns. The explosives were detonated at approximately 12:18 p.m.

The resulting blast produced a crater approximately 150 feet in diameter and five floors deep. Its purpose appeared to be to topple Trade Tower Number One into Trade Tower Number Two, destroying them both. It failed, and only six people were killed.[4]

Yes, ten years ago, America was attacked by a foreign enemy on American soil—only the second time in our history that such a thing was done. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tried to warn us after this first bombing of the World Trade Center that it was time for us to respond in our own defense. He wrote a book to us: Fighting Terrorism. He said that if the Islamic militant terror groups were not stopped, “then the next thing you’ll see . . . is not going to be a car bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center, but a nuclear bomb.”[5] We didn't take his warnings seriously.

On September 11, 2001, the terrorists were back. They had done their homework, and they were deadly, sophisticated, and gruesomely effective. With lethal accuracy, they placed one completely filled fuel tank of jet fuel into each of the towers of the World Trade Center where it would do the most damage. The heat from the ignited fuel melted the steel supports of the towers, and within minutes they collapsed into a heap of rubble, with thousands of innocent civilians trapped inside. The world was horrified. The terrorists and their sympathizers in the Arab world danced in the streets.

Netanyahu went back to the United States Congress to discuss terrorism with them one more time. This time they were more receptive.

In a later interview, Netanyahu stated, “I think that one must understand that this, as President Bush has said, this new terrorism, whose main engine is militancy against the West, has declared war on the West and on the leader of the West, on the United States. They are fueled primarily by what is a fantasy, and that is the idea that they'll reverse history and reverse the rise of Western democracy and restore their warped interpretation of Islam. That's what they do, and America stands in the way, so America has to be destroyed.”

He called the attack on the World Trade Center “a wake-up call from Hell.” The West, he said, needs to fight back and destroy the world-wide terrorist network. We could do that by taking from them their bases of operations—the nations that harbor them and support them.[6] He’s right—we can’t fight the terrorists the way we used to conduct wars. Direct attacks are impossible, because they move from country to country and operate in secret, and the direct perpetrators of the attacks sacrifice their own lives in the process. We have to deal with them indirectly by taking on the nations that harbor them and lend them aid.

On Thursday, September 20, 2001, President Bush addressed a joint session of Congress:

“Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking: Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.

“Al Qaeda is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the world—and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.”

He went on to explain that these terrorists are recruited from many nations and brought to training camps in countries like Afghanistan, where they are taught war, terrorism style, and sent back to their homelands to carry out these attacks from secret hiding places. And then he announced what has come to be known as the Bush doctrine: We will fight these terrorists, he said, until they are defeated. In order to do that, he would take the war to the nations that harbor them. “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” He called on the nations of the world to take a stand—“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”[7]

In the United States we all applauded that speech at the time. We were united as a nation. However, a year and a half later, as we were contemplating taking the battle against terrorism into Iraq,  many had forgotten the feelings we shared then. There were many in our country arguing, demonstrating, and using other means to try to dissuade our nation from pursuing this battle against terrorism into Iraq.

Now, after the key battles of the war are over, let’s reflect on this action that we took against Iraq. Did we do the right thing? Yes, we are getting a positive reaction from many of the Iraqi people. But there were many casualties inflicted in the process, and much damage done. Some may feel that this great display of force was unwarranted.

Let’s turn to The Book of Mormon for guidance. Surely in an issue as critical as this, there should be some guidance in this, the owner’s manual of the promised land.

Shortly after listening to a radio interview of  Netanyahu, I was listening to my Book of Mormon tapes. By chance, I happened to be in Ether, chapter 8. The parallels with the current war on terrorism struck me at the time as almost uncanny. Listen to Moroni, as he delivers a direct warning to the United States of America in dealing with secret organizations:

“And now I, Moroni, do not write the manner of their oaths and combinations, for it hath been made known unto me that they are had among all people, and they are had among the Lamanites.

“And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.

“And whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations, to get power and gain, until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed; for the Lord will not suffer that the blood of his saints, which shall be shed by them, shall always cry unto him from the ground for vengeance upon them and yet he avenge them not.

“Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain--and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.

“Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you; or wo be unto it, because of the blood of them who have been slain; for they cry from the dust for vengeance upon it, and also upon those who built it up.

“For it cometh to pass that whoso buildeth it up seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies; even that same liar who beguiled our first parents, yea, even that same liar who hath caused man to commit murder from the beginning; who hath hardened the hearts of men that they have murdered the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out from the beginning.

“Wherefore, I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away, and that the time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.”[8]

He is clearly speaking to us at this time in our history. The passage is addressed "O Ye Gentiles." He was saying the very same thing that Netanyahu was saying: “Awake to a sense of your awful situation!” “Suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain—and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you . . . if ye shall suffer these things to be.” If that weren’t enough of a parallel, Moroni identifies this combination as a group that “seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands.” It’s a direct description of the Islamic militants. He adds warning words to the nations that harbor the terrorists/secret combinations.

President Gordon B. Hinckley made the connection for us in his October 2001 General Conference address. Delivered Sunday morning, October 7, at the very moment that the United States was beginning its attack against Afghanistan, he reminded us, “We of this Church know something of such groups. The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction. In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society. We see the same thing in the present situation.”[9]

Doesn’t it make sense that this great spiritual guide for us in these latter days, The Book of Mormon, would address this issue that is critical to our survival?

We took the battle to Afghanistan and have destroyed the terrorist camps in that country. Did this put an end to terrorism? Of course it didn’t. There have been terrorist attacks since then and we know that more are being planned. These terrorist cells exist in many countries. They count among some of their friends the leaders of certain nations. Who are they? What are they doing? It was so much easier to fight the Japanese and the Germans, because they had emperors, capitals, nations with bases, navies, etc. Osama Bin Laden, if he is still alive, won’t even disclose his location.

How do we answer this? Some feel that we should always wait until a particular nation has overtly attacked us. They told us that the nation of Iraq never mobilized their air force, as the Japanese did, to bomb one of our cities. Should we have listened to these voices and waited for a conventional attack?

Those who feel that our action in Iraq was justified point out that, while we cannot point with absolute certainty to a link between Iraq and the September 11 attacks on the United States, it was nonetheless clear that Iraq was involved in terrorism. They used terrorist tactics with suicide bombers strongly reminiscent of the September 11 attackers.

In an interview that wasn’t publicized much until earlier this year, Iraqi defector Sabah Khodada detailed to the New York Times a disquieting story of a terrorist training camp, Salman Pak, where militant Islamists from Iraq and other countries would come for special training. This camp is located at a bend in the Tigris River, about thirty-five kilometers southeast of Baghdad. Recruits were trained “on assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking of airplanes, hijacking of buses, public buses, hijacking of trains and all other kinds of operations related to terrorism.” They were taught how to mentally prepare themselves to strap explosives to their body and conduct a suicide attack.[10]

A prominent feature of the camp is a Boeing 707 fuselage, used for training recruits in airline hijacking.[11]

Documents found at Yasser Arafat’s headquarters also have corroborated Iraq’s participation in funding for terrorist operations.[12]

After we attacked their training bases in Afghanistan, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, in September, 2002, said that al Qaeda operatives had found refuge in Iraq, and that Hussein’s regime was helping them develop weapons of mass destruction.[13] Other authorities gave us the same information: Iraq was harboring terrorists.

But it’s not like war used to be. These bits and pieces of information have come from informants, spy satellites, circumstantial evidence, and the like. It’s the kind of evidence that people, if they don’t want to believe it, have little trouble ignoring or denying. It’s not a visible threat, as Soviet nuclear bombs used to be, or as Hitler’s armies were. And, to complicate matters, Iraq’s official policy was to deny having any weapons of mass destruction.

Additionally, information is coming to light that some European nations have developed cooperative relationships with some of the sponsors of terrorism in exchange for assurances that their nations will not be attacked. France has helped supply nuclear fuel and nuclear technology to Iraq. [14] Germany has reportedly helped Iraq develop missile technology. [15] During the war, reports came to us that Russian advisers were in Iraq helping them jam our GPS systems. [16]

I believe that we are justified in pursuing these modern-day disciples of murder, secrecy, and oaths in Iraq or in any other country that harbors them. Even more than that, I believe The Book of Mormon lays upon us an imperative that we do away with these combinations, as much as it is in our power. Let me quote again from Moroni's words in Ether, chapter 8:

“Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up to get power and gain--and the work, yea, even the work of destruction come upon you, yea, even the sword of the justice of the Eternal God shall fall upon you, to your overthrow and destruction if ye shall suffer these things to be.”[17]

Going back to Book of Mormon history, you will remember that there was a time, a few years before the Savior came, when the Lamanites had been converted and actually, as a nation, they were more righteous than the Nephites. This was immediately preceding the ministry of Samuel the Lamanite. They were confronted, at this time, with an infestation of secret combinations.

It is interesting to see the differing responses of the two nations to this band. The Nephites were not too bothered by them. They tolerated them and many of them joined their secret plans. The Lamanites, on the other hand, would not tolerate them at all, and succeeded in destroying them. They used a two-pronged attack: military and spiritual. We read, “And it came to pass that the Lamanites did hunt the band of robbers of Gadianton; and they did preach the word of God among the more wicked part of them, insomuch that this band of robbers was utterly destroyed from among the Lamanites.”[18]

We’re living in historic replay, and we’re confronting the same sort of menace today. As it was in Book of Mormon times, the destruction of these murderous groups is the answer. Iraq has been harboring terrorists, and we needed to confront them. If Iraqi terrorists have now escaped into neighboring Syria and Iran, their governments need to know that they must not provide refuge for them. If we are to take the warnings in The Book of Mormon seriously, our survival as a free people, as well as the survival of all free peoples, will ultimately be at stake over this issue.

David Hall



[1] 1 Nephi 13:15

[2] 1 Nephi 13:19-20

[3] Usamah bin Muhammad bin Laden, “A Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places.” Khurasan, Afghanistan, Aug. 28, 1996.

[4] Williams, Dave “The Bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City,” International Criminal Police Review, No. 469-471 (1998)

[5] Savage, Michael, “Netanyahu Interview: A Wake-up Call from Hell,”, Sept. 16, 2001.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bush, George W., “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People,” United States Capitol, Sept. 20, 2001.

[8] Ether 8:20-26.

[9] Hinckley, Gordon B., “The Times in Which We Live,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, p. 72

[10] Public Broadcasting System, Frontline, “Gunning for Saddam,” Nov. 2001.

[11] Hedges, Chris, “Defectors Cite Iraqi Training For Terrorism,” The New York Times, Nov. 8, 2001. p. A-1.

[12] Timmerman, Kenneth R., “Exclusive: Proof That Saddam Bankrolls Terrorism,” Insight On the News, Nov. 13, 2002.

[13] CBS News, “New Evidence of Iraq-Al Qaeda Ties,” Oct. 1, 2002.

[14], “The Chirac-Hussein Connection,” Feb. 19, 2003

[15] Khidhir Hamza, “The Inspections Dodge: Why are France and Germany pro-Saddam? Follow the money.” The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 11, 2003

[16] Fleischer, Ari, White House Press Briefing, March 24, 2003

[17] Ether 8:23

[18] Helaman 6:37


“The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.”—Edmund Burke