I'm often finding that I'm not feeling very Mormon during my time here in Iraq. For starters, there's no LDS church or even small LDS group anywhere near here. We've got 29 US forces on an Iraqi army base, and I'm the only LDS member except when some come from training teams that are here temporarily, like they happily are this month. One gets a sense of the community aspect of the church when one is removed from that community for an extended period.
One thing I have noticed though is something fairly personal to me. When I was an adolescent trying to find my way, one evening my father asked me who my heros were. I stopped and thought, and realized I had none. I didn't idealize great men, nor did I respect lesser men. Well, I haven't gotten that much better since then, but I have reached the point where I can point to some men that I would consider heros. Captain Moroni stands to me as an example of someone who did not delight in the shedding of blood, but was entirely committed to protecting the memory of his God, his religion, freedom, wife and children. As I discuss the Mormon faith with all of the "infidels" (see South Park clip on "Mormons- The Correct Answer" for a giggle), the question of the LDS attitude towards war comes up- if we are a peace loving society, how can I justify my participation in the military? Captain Moroni provides a great example. Another is Ammon leading the 2,000 stripling warriors. They clearly had the moral imperative as they protected their families against criminals. The LDS church website actually has a subsection dedicated to service members, and it has a treasure trove of LDS talks and statements about the church and the military. I've got my DVD copies of Saints at War, Saints at War-Korea, Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, and Saints and Soldiers, too, to help me keep in touch with my spiritual/emotional side.
These are men, Ammon and Moroni, who serve as models for me in my current circumstances. I don't aspire to killing, but I've been training with my firearms almost every week I've been here. If I need to defend myself or my colleagues, I will do it, and I believe that I may be the best marksman among all LDS psychologists in all of southern Iraq, so enemies beware! And even if I'm not that good at it, my battle buddy is a U.S. Federal Marshal, and we've got 70 Aussie marksmen also ready to do battle.
Do I know that my faith will protect me during my time in Iraq? No. There is a frightening feeling of almost randomness in the fatalities experienced here. The likelihood of my facing combat is lower than most, but always possible. I've only had to participate in one convoy so far, and I'm not in an area experiencing the indirect fire that is common in many other areas, so the real probability is actually very low relatively speaking. But what I do believe is that my faith will help me work through the inevitable emotional peaks and valleys I experience during my time here, and I have no doubt that it has helped my family during my absence. They have shared with me some of the blessings they have experienced as church friends and family provide them support during my time away.