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Christ’s Peace in Time of War

Shortly after the current war started with Iraq, Ruth Dawbarn Stonham brought the following article, written by her mother, Beatrice Ellen Dawbarn, to the Restoration Bookstore. Beatrice, who was known as Nelle to all who knew her, passed away June 30, 1991. Ruth had remembered her mother writing the article, but could not find a copy of it. She was pleasantly surprised, after this Iraqi War began, to receive Nelle's original copy, as a gift from a cousin in a distant state. It is hoped that Nelle's timely testimony of Christ's peace which came to her in the midst of the German air raids over England during World War II, will bring comfort and peace to the present generation, now facing war and terrorism.

Nelle and Sydney Dawbarn
Nelle and Sydney Dawbarn, who endured the World War II Battle of Britain before coming to America.

Just prior to his death Jesus said to his disciples, “My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Inequality, sickness, poverty, and unrest abounded in Jerusalem. And the persecution of the followers of Jesus by their own fellow citizens added to the burdens of the times. And yet Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you.... Let not your heart be troubled.”

Confusion, turbulence, riots, demonstrations, law and order, war and peace are words which have become common in our day. Throughout the ages man has sought peace—making treaties and pacts through international conventions and organizations. Currently [1969] the Paris Peace Talks are an effort to bring about a peace of some sort to a very confusing and costly war....

We could say with the Prophet Jeremiah, who, concerned with the waywardness of the Israelites said, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14).

Nineteen and fourteen was the beginning of the First World War. It was cruel and ugly as wars always are. My father at the age of thirty-eight was called to the Armed Forces. Food, clothing, and coal to heat our homes were very scarce indeed. We ate black bread. It was a stomach filler. We lived near a military hospital and as the fighting grew thicker at the front, as the battlefields of France were called, so grew the convoys of ambulances to the hospital. As they passed slowly by people, many wives and mothers with husbands and sons at the front, lined the road and with tears would cheer the wounded soldiers.

It was a war to end wars. But in 1938 England was again troubled with the threat of war. Germany, under the leadership of Adolph Hitler, was out to conquer the world. And because England had some signed commitments with the smaller nations that were threatened, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain strove hard and long with Hitler for some kind of agreement to prevent the catastrophe of a Second World War. His last effort took him to Munich, Germany. And there he signed what later became known as the Munich Appeasement Policy. As he stepped off the plane on his return journey waving a piece of paper he shouted, “Peace in our time.” Of course everybody cheered. Not having forgotten the last war, that was what everybody wanted.

Sir Alec Douglas Home who had accompanied Chamberlain to Munich in 1938 said quite recently, “Chamberlain signed the agreement because he thought a price had to be paid for peace. The price being Czechoslovakia.” But this proved to be no foundation for peace. Hitler disregarded the signed agreement and continued his aggression.

A year later at 11 AM. Sunday, September 3, the nation heard the dreaded news of England’s declaration of war on Germany. It was a dark day for the whole of the British Isles. But darker days than we could then imagine were in store. It was indeed a bloody war. Man’s advancement in the scientific field had brought into being weapons of war which were more deadly and far-reaching than ever before.

My youngest brother, born during the First World War, still bears scars from such weapons during his service during the Second World War. The science of rocketry had its premiere toward the end of World War II. Six hundred Vs (vengeance rockets) fell on London killing 1,600 people and wounding 10,000. Two hundred thousand homes were damaged or demolished by these rockets alone. Every man, woman, and child was involved. The front line was on our doorstep. Fire rained from heaven, as it were, with incendiary and heavy bombs. Time bombs, dropped and buried in the ground, added to the terror. Whole areas had to be evacuated until the Bomb Disposal Squad could defuse them.

One such night during the blitz on Liverpool, my husband, Syd, along with other bus drivers, had taken a contingent of soldiers to the docks—the number two of our vital lifeline. The children were in bed when the air raid started. The blasts from the antiaircraft guns shook and rattled the windows. Fires in the distance dispelled the darkness of the enforced blackout. It seemed as if all Hell had let loose. As I thought of Syd somewhere out there in that inferno and looked at the children, and then to God in prayer, a peace came to my soul. Not an assurance that we would all be saved from the holocaust raging outside, but the blessed assurance of the immortality and eternal life of man.

Another of such nights we could hear the constant humming of the enemy planes as they passed over. And then such a clatter on the slate roofs of the houses. Looking out we saw this devilish thing near the back door spewing out brilliant white fire. The inky blackness was suddenly turned into the light of day as incendiaries burst into flame all around us. As Syd was trying to smother the bomb nearest the door with the emergency sandbags, I looked up and was horrified to see some of the neighbors’ homes on fire. My feet didn’t seem to touch the ground as I dashed inside and upstairs to the children. Then my husband, along with other air raid wardens, were bringing neighbors from their burning homes. Dazed, shocked, and fearful, we listened to what sounded like Hell’s orchestra—the roar of planes, bursts of gunfire, explosion of bombs, and the clanging of bells of fire engines accompanied the crying of children and the wailing of all the dogs in the neighborhood. Trembling all over, I busied myself helping the neighbors, making hot drinks, etc., all the while praying for help to keep calm. And again I felt the inner peace as the turmoil raged without.

War breeds hate. And hatred for Hitler and his ideology grew as the smaller nations fell before his armies.

In June 1940 France fell. What was left of the British Expeditionary Forces, all tattered and torn, were evacuated from Dunkirk. And England stood alone.

The offer of peace through capitulation was rejected. Come what may, we continued to fight for freedom, democracy, and peace.

The new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, spoke to the nation. This speech became known as the “Battle Cry of Britain.” With the nation’s ear glued as it were to the radio, we heard the truth of our plight and of the strength of the aggressor. It was pretty grim. The enemy had us with our backs to the wall. But the nation as a whole felt with the Prime Minister as he continued, “This island will never die. We’ll go on whatever God’s decree shall be at length. We shall fight on in France; on all the seas and oceans with growing strength. We shall defend our island and the cost will not be counted; neither death nor wounds. We’ll fight them on the beaches; in the fields and streets; on the hills and on the landing grounds. We’ll fight with no surrender, even if—which no one here can truly be believing—this island or substantial parts of it be starving or in subjugation grieving . . . until in God’s good time, the newer world [America], in all its younger strength and undrained might, sets forth to rescue and sustain the old; sets forth to free the Old World from its plight.”

Four weary years later, May 26, our youngest son was born. Preparation was then being made to invade France. June 6 [1944] was set as D day. An air of excitement coupled with anxiety pervaded the hospital as we heard that doctors and nurses from the hospital were to take part in this daring counterattack.

Hundreds of America’s youth had left the New World to come and help the Old World in its plight. The words of Churchill uttered in 1940 were fulfilled, “... until in God’s good time the newer world ... sets forth to free the Old World [Europe] from its plight.”

Soon after President Johnson’s inauguration he commissioned Sergeant Shriver and the late Senator Robert Kennedy to take letters of goodwill to the various heads of states and countries declaring peace and the spirit of democracy.

Before too long, however, we were thrust into an undeclared war on North Vietnam. And our youngest son, John, born in the Old World as it struggled for peace and freedom, is now wearing the uniform of the New World’s armed forces.

Peace as the world knows it is an elusive thing. Today, the New World, the Land of Promise or Joseph’s Land, is caught in a desperate struggle for peace both at home and abroad, the cost of which soars in both men and materials, to say nothing of the immeasurable cost in human heartbreak, pain, and suffering.

President Johnson’s suggestion in April 1965 of a billion-dollar program to raise Southeast Asia’s living standards and for unconditional discussions for a peaceful settlement, aroused much criticism from outstanding members of Congress.

The late Senator Everett Dirkson said, “The President offers a billion-dollar lure towards peace in Vietnam,” and then himself asked, “Do we actually buy peace with American dollars?”

Representative G. Ford, referring to the President, said, “There is a strong hint that he wants to buy peace.” And Representative 0. Passman stated, “The President’s address leaves me shocked . . . he is now verifying that we are trying to buy friends with our dollars.” These criticisms bring to mind the words of the prophets Zephaniah and Ezekiel when they warned the Israelites that neither silver nor gold would deliver them (see Zephaniah 1:18; Ezekiel 7:19).

President Johnson, like Prime Minister Chamberlain, laid down his seal of office a very disappointed man in that he failed to bring about peace as the world knows peace—freedom from wars.

President Nixon, carrying on the search for peace, said in his inaugural address, “I shall consecrate my office, my energies, and all the wisdom I can summon to the cause of peace. The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.”

Visiting London on his European tour in February 1969, President Nixon stood on a spot about three miles from where Prime Minister Chamberlain had stood in 1938 waving the good news, “Peace in our time,” and said, “I believe as I stand here today that we can bring about a durable peace in our time.” In November of that same year, thousands of people in freezing temperatures marched past the White House in Washington, D.C., chanting, “Peace now, peace now, peace now.”

But what of the peace Jesus spoke of to His disciples? In the days following His death they met together under the threat of death. What was it that helped them to continue to spread the good news of the Gospel under the most adverse conditions? They had plenty of reason to be troubled and afraid, yet they continued to testify of Jesus and to teach the things He had taught them. It was only by and through the strength of the Spirit wrought by the peace He had left with them, the peace that passeth the understanding of man; the peace that gives one a true perspective of life, that gives life its true meaning.

The Institute of Strategic Studies listed 93 wars between the years 1928 and 1967. In May of 1966, the Secretary of Defense said, “In the last eight years alone there have been no less than 164 internationally significant outbreaks of violence with 82 governments involved.”

This reminds one of the prophecy given through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The day speedily cometh, the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth” (DC 1 :6b).

Jesus didn’t promise peace as freedom from war, or from pain and sorrow, or from the problems of daily living. But knowing of the troubles brought about by man’s inhumanity to man, He said, “My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

His peace is what many people are unwittingly seeking in the confusion of today’s living. Being a Christian, or a member of the Restored Church [the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints], or a faithful tithe payer doesn’t immunize one from the ills of life. Job, from his own experiences said, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). And the time comes to all when we feel that this is so. But in the times of stress and strain we can be assured of this: that the peace Jesus spoke of to His disciples can bring comfort, healing, and strength in the hour of one’s need.

Scientists tell us that the most violent storms, as they sweep over the ocean, disturb the water only a few hundred feet beneath the surface. The hurricane which lashes the sea into foaming fury, causing shipwreck and disaster, is unable to affect the depths. But below the turbulent waves there is peace and calmness. Such is the peace Jesus spoke of.

In the hour of extremity when words cannot express one’s need, the Spirit itself, as the Apostle Paul so aptly put it, "... maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26). And the peace which passeth the understanding of men floods one’s soul with the assurance that all things work together for good to them that love God. Such has been my experience.

Jesus, speaking to His disciples, said, "And they shall hear of wars, and rumors of wars . . . nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.... And again, because iniquity shall abound, the love of men shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:29–31). And He said there would be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And on the earth distress of nations with perplexity. Men’s hearts failing them for looking after those things which are coming to the earth. Man himself has wrought such signs in the heavens, when on the earth there is much distress of nations with perplexity.

But Jesus said when these things come to pass, watch therefore, having your loins girded and your lights burning; to look up and to stand in the holy place (see Luke 12:21; Matthew 24). And the promise is the assurance of His love, the gift of His peace.

The year 1968 was a year of turbulence, demonstrations, hatred, violence, and bloodshed. It was also a year of amazing scientific accomplishment. In 1925 the latter-day Prophet said, “The hastening time is here and greater unity than ever before is necessary if the forces of opposition are to be met” (DC 135:2b).

Crossing the ocean in the nineteenth century was a long and hazardous undertaking. Today luxury liners cross in four and a half days. In 1903 the flying machine of the Wright Brothers traveled at the amazing speed of ten miles an hour. On December 21, 1968, three men left the earth in the spaceship Apollo to travel to the moon a quarter million miles away at a speed of 24,000 miles an hour. And on July 20, 1969, the world witnessed two men walk on the moon! Indeed it is the hastening time!

But what of man himself’? It seems that in becoming self-sufficient, having unlocked the door to the secrets of natural law and opening up new dimensions in his manner of living, he himself has lost his way. For the whole world is in turmoil and we cry for peace, peace, and there is no peace.

Many years ago, Lucien Humphrey, writer and philosopher, wrote, “Man has become a victim of his own creation. In creating a material world in which to live, effect has blinded him to cause.” Man, although primarily a spiritual being with an inherent desire to reveal himself, has allowed material values to obscure spiritual values and has haphazardly built a material world which is not organized to his spiritual and material desires.

Jacques Maritain put it this way: “Having given up God as to be self-sufficient, man has lost track of his soul. He looks in vain for himself; he turns the world upside down trying to find himself; he finds masks, and behind the masks, death.”

President Nixon in his inaugural address said, “Standing in this same place a third of a century ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed a nation ravaged by depression and gripped by fear.” He could say in surveying the nation’s troubles: “They concern, thank God, only material things.”

Our crisis today is the reverse. We have found ourselves rich in goods but ragged in spirit—reaching with magnificent precision for the moon, but falling into raucous discord here on earth.

We are caught in war, wanting peace. We are torn by division, wanting unity. We see around us empty lives, wanting fulfillment. We see tasks that need doing, waiting for hands to do them. To a crisis of the spirit we need an answer of the spirit. To find that answer, we need only to look within ourselves.

Today, young and old alike are caught in the mesh of confusion in both the secular and the religious world. Man has indeed built for himself a material world which is not organized to his spiritual needs. And as President Nixon said, “We have found ourselves rich in goods but ragged in spirit.”

The world continues to cry for peace, peace, and there is no peace. Nor indeed can there be according to the Scriptures, both ancient and modern, concerning the latter days.

To those who have come to know the Christ and have been made partakers of the heavenly gift, the gift of His peace, know that the only answer to the “crisis of the spirit” is to be found in the Gospel of the Kingdom as taught by Him.

As disciples of Jesus Christ in these the latter days, this then becomes our mission—that by and through the precious gift of His peace, [we] win others to His Cause—the Cause of the Kingdom.

For more on the life of Nelle and her husband, Elder Sydney Dawbarn, see Visions 7:4–5 and 36:3–5, which may be purchased at the Restoration Bookstore or from our online store.

 
 

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