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Avoiding Calamity: A Lesson from the American Civil War

"If you’ve been waiting for an invitation, this calligraphy is it. Commissioned by Facebook, this is a hand-lettered design for a poster. Quote is Facebook mine "

- Massimo Vignelli

During this election in the United States, the country appears to be heading into another dark chapter. When we look at the United States’ history, many similar times of uncertainty have come about. The American Civil War (1861-1865) divided friend, neighbor, and family in the country to a degree surpassing the divisions that exist today. In Timothy Ballard‘s book, “The Lincoln Hypothesis,” he stated the Civil War could have been avoided altogether if the United States pursued its intended higher purpose, to be a nation above all, of moral agency and followed a spiritual vocation as the Founding Fathers intended. Heroes however, rose out of the calamity of the Civil War to set the United States back on course. According to Timothy Ballard, Abraham Lincoln fell upon an unexpected

During this election in the United States, the country appears to be heading into another dark chapter. When we look at the United States’ history, many similar times of uncertainty have come about. The American Civil War (1861-1865) divided friend, neighbor, and family in the country to a degree surpassing the divisions that exist today. In Timothy Ballard‘s book, “The Lincoln Hypothesis,” he stated the Civil War could have been avoided altogether if the United States pursued its intended higher purpose, to be a nation above all, of moral agency and followed a spiritual vocation as the Founding Fathers intended. Heroes however, rose out of the calamity of the Civil War to set the United States back on course. According to Timothy Ballard, Abraham Lincoln fell upon an unexpected inspiration, or intervention, that helped guide him and the nation back out of its decaying state of moral decline and end the war.

“The great pillars of government and social life [are] virtue, morality and religion.  This is the armor… and this alone, that renders us invincible.” ~ Patrick Henry

Before Abraham Lincoln’s rise to presidency and the attendant Civil War over slavery he had been unwittingly thrust into, there was Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism who relayed many prophecies and foretold of a coming Civil War if the United States didn’t set itself right.

During the 1830s and 40s, Joseph Smith argued for the freeing of the nearly four million slaves and pleaded for Congress to end the rampant persecution inflicted on many religious minorities.

During Joseph Smith’s time, bands of thugs murdered hundreds of Mormons in the “Mormon Wars” in Missouri without any consequence or legal action taken against them. The violence was state sanctioned. Missouri Governor Lilburn Boggs, as stated in “The Lincoln Hypothesis,” “had issued an extermination order aimed at all Mormons in the state. Leave or die was the clarion call. For years, the Mormons had been driven from state to state by mobs backed by local governments.”

Joseph Smith unfettered, kept pushing for the release of the slaves and religious freedom. Pleading at every level of government with no success, he ran for President in 1844 to push the issue to the forefront of American politics. He only gained more enemies and little support from the nation. Joseph Smith had shortly after been killed by armed militias in Illinois. The legacy he left behind was the “Book of Mormon” that would years later fall into President Abraham Lincoln’s hands as he led the nation through the Civil War and its darkest hours.

“Certain it is that had Joseph Smith been elected President of the United States and had been sustained by Congress in his policies, this land would have been spared the desolating war which filled its hamlets and fields with carnage and its homes with sobbing widows and orphans.” ~ George Q. Cannon

In the first conflicts in the Civil War, the Union had suffered a string of unexpected defeats. Abraham’s son, William, had died in 1862. Heart-broken and at wits end, Lincoln stated

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” In his grief, Lincoln turned to faith for answers. Along with the Bible, Abraham Lincoln studiously read the “Book of Mormon” and Joseph’s Smith’s visions and prophecies within that curiously pointed to the cause of the future war, its surest cure and the Restoration of America.

“The date was April 30, 1789—the day the Constitution came into being, a document that, according to our religion, was based in “holy principles” established to protect “moral agency” for “all flesh.” (D&C 101:77–80)

Abraham Lincoln changed his tune, having previously being indifferent to spiritual matters, they now guided his thoughts, actions, policies, speeches, and his view on the Civil War. It was for the country, a humbling experience that mirrored the effects hardship had on Lincoln himself. Lincoln knew there was a lesson to be learned and courses in the nation that needed to be corrected to end the war. In a note, “Meditation on the Divine Will,” written solely for himself that was later discovered, Lincoln wrote, “In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party. . . . I am almost ready to say this is probably true—that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet.”

On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in America, perchance after being inspired by Joseph Smith’s writings. Decisive victories in battle soon followed for the Union. The North, rallied by Lincoln’s call to faith and prayer, had embraced the abolitionist movement. Abolitionist writer Julia Ward Howe penned the popular song “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to celebrate the newly restored spirit of America.

The Union North had now saw the war in a new light. They were not just fighting for a restored Union, but of re-establishing moral agency and liberty for all. The Confederacy was a doctrine based on big government that pervaded deep into its citizen’s lives, subjugated people into strict classes, and promoted religious persecution. The aims of the Southern Confederacy and its leaders were clear for all to see, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens in his Cornerstone Address, stated “Our new Government is founded . . . upon the great truth that the negro is not the equal of the white man.”

Democratic campaign pamphlet of George McClellan.

The Civil War had not just dealt a blow to the corrupt government of the Confederacy, but also straightened out an indifferent North. In his book “The Lincoln Hypothesis, ” Timothy Ballard stated, “the people of Lincoln’s day learned the hard way what we Americans need to learn immediately, particularly as we continue to legislate and codify immorality in the land.” In our modern day, we are facing a humbling experience as those who lived through the Civil War did. To question, and quickly set right our own iniquity we may overcome the challenges that lay before us again.

Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


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