Lessons on Freedom and Patriotism
Lesson No. Twenty-Eight

Citizen-Soldiers and the Voice of the People

Lieutenant General Joseph Smith commanding the Nauvoo Legion

History of the citizen-soldier – Citizen-soldiers have a noble history in defending freedom. On the other hand history shows that nations and rulers who attempt to subjugate others must maintain large standing armies. Enlightened societies have maintained a relatively small professional force capable of dealing with short term military crises and a much larger reserve force of citizen-soldiers trained and equipped to support the professional force when national interests require a larger or longer presence.  The citizen-soldier is a civilian volunteer who when needed is prepared to put on a military uniform to defend his country.  Examples include: 
“The people of liberty” (Alma 51:13), led by Moroni, Helaman, and Pahoran, many times took up arms to defend their freedom.  (See Alma 43-62, known as the war chapters)  When the conflicts were over they all returned to civilian life.  (See Alma 62:43-51) 
Cincinnatus was the best known Roman citizen-soldier.  (Cincinnati was named after him.) George Washington was known as the American Cincinnatus.  Both men left their farms to defend their country and when their service was completed anxiously returned to their farms.  Rome was originally defended by citizen-soldiers.  As Rome declined and lost its freedom the citizen-soldier was replaced by the legionnaire and professional armies of conquest.

General George Washington was the leader of the Continental Army and militias from each colony. They were all citizen soldiers.  A high compliment was paid to Washington when it was said of him that he did not "forget the citizen in the soldier".  The citizen-soldier remained the basis of our national defense until after World War II.  Washington and Lincoln and many other presidents and patriots have been citizen-soldiers.
Lieutenant General Joseph Smith was the commander of the Nauvoo Legion and a citizen-soldier. The Prophet considered this an important responsibility.  The Utah National Guard traces its history to the Nauvoo Legion.  On July 4, 1841 Joseph gave "an eloquent and patriotic speech to the troops, and strongly testified of his regard for [the] national welfare, and his willingness to lay down his life in defense of his country" (Matthew Brown, Joseph Smith, p. 67)

An army of citizen-soldiers is an army of the people – Sophisticated technology today requires a highly trained and specialized professional force.  This force can be relatively small in comparison to citizen-soldiers who stand in reserve.  These citizen-soldiers are guardsmen and other reservists who takes time from family and civilian occupation to train and prepare for activation in the defense of freedom.  These citizen-soldiers are activated in the event of a true national emergency.  A wise balance between the professional force and the citizen-soldiers is an important consideration.

The Book of Mormon teaches that we are “to do [our] business by the voice of the people” (Mosiah 29:26). Since World War II our nation’s professional forces have increased and our citizen-soldiers have decreased.  This should be reconsidered.  An army of citizen-soldiers would reflect the voice of the people.  This would help insure that our military forces are used in circumstances that truly require us to defend our freedom. The voice of millions of reservists, families, employers, and other citizens would be heard when considering the need to activate an army of citizen-soldiers. 

An army of citizen-soldiers would help insure that we would “never give an offense, and never raise the sword except it were against an enemy, except it were to preserve [our] lives” (Alma 48:14).   As it was with the people of king Mosiah if people are informed “it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right" (Mosiah 29:26).