When will we be asked to leave?

10

March 30, 2009 by Ron Madson

military-recruiterWednesday I was almost arrested. UVU put on it’s annual job fair at the David O’ Mckay special events building. The US Marines and the US Army have their own recruiting booths. About 25 students (BYU & UVU grads/current students and Mormon Workers) connected with each other and decided to meet at the fair and speak privately and peacefully with any students that showed interest in enlisting with the military. Their intent was to target these individuals either before or after speaking with the recruiters and share their opinions as to why someone should not enlist in the US Military. One sister prepared a very nice pamphlet outlining the “myths” about military service and also commentary as to the damages done by our most recent wars of aggression. Josh M. and I joined them that day.
update: an article at UVU on the protest
For the first two hours it was very enjoyable and informative—and peaceful. No signs, no protest, just private conversations with potential enlistees. One student from Hungary (she was not LDS) told me that she was very surprised that there were any Mormons that were anti-war. Having been a student at UVU and living in Utah she had come to assume that we were all pro-USA wars and very supportive of the military. I told her that such support is primarily a Utah thing more or less, but that outside of Utah or at least outside of USA it is far less the case AND that our faith allows diversity of opinion on such issues—which exists even in Utah. Also, in speaking with some young men, my observation was that those that had enlisted did so from some need for employment, benefits and other such matters which interest was often triggered by a cool commercial.

Anyway, we were there to provide an alternative point of view. However, as fate would have it one elderly man with his missionary name tag (he was with LDS employment booth) overheard what was going on. He approached one young man with our group and started shoving him. He told us that we should not be spreading our propaganda. Angrily he told us that what we should support the brethren and that not supporting our country was contrary to the gospel etc. etc. (Josh M talked to this elderly missionary afterwards who continued to accuse us of spreading “propaganda”–the irony being that if propaganda is presenting facts and arguments to persuade people to change– then there he was with a missionary tag oblivious to the irony I suppose). Entertaining. It would have been fine, but he called campus security. When they came the officers immediately wanted to arrest four of the students the LDS missionary pointed out— for disorderly conduct. I told the officer I was representing them and I asked, “exactly what were they doing that would cause them to be arrested?” The officer became angry–put his finger in my face and said he was going to arrest me for obstructing justice. I told him I had a right to represent them and be with them during questioning.

Anyway, they herded us outside in the freezing weather. I told the students to identify themselves but say nothing else. They held us for about 20 minutes, then told us to leave and not come back. We were warned if we came back we would be charged with trespass. The four students, myself and all of our group left. That was that.

However, we met at one of their student apartments and then had lunch and I had time to ask some open ended questions such as:

  1. How did each of you get to the point where you would take time from work and school to essentially do anti-war missionary work when it is so unpopular in this red state and red county?
  2. what have you been reading?
  3. what common experiences have you had?
  4. When did you awaken to these beliefs? Why do you suppose there is so much support for the military and our foreign wars among LDS? Among leadership in our faith? How do you feel about that?

Here are questions that I did not ask, but with more time would have asked. The first is for fun but the second is one weighing on my mind.

  1. Why are you not focused on getting business degrees/accounting/ etc. and making loads of money so that you can then be primed to build the kingdom as church leaders and captains of industries? Or, in other word, why are you wasting your time in your youth going to the poorest areas of Mexico, the Russian Siberia, Palestine, working with Amnesty International, micro-businesses, etc. etc. (which they had been and were doing)?
  2. why are you giving your money to such causes, when as BYU Professor Warner Woodsworth pointed out that President Bateman, while president of BYU, told Warner that Warner that he should NOT be encouraging the students to give up time and $500 (donation requested for those volunteering for third world microbusinesses) when that money could be direct to the 8 million that Bateman was raising for the vast expansion of the football facilities AT BYU?
  3. What is wrong with you people? Don’t you understand the program?
  4. Don’t you realize you are going no where in the corporate ladder with such anti-social behavior? What are your chances for any positions of trust in the world or any church organization with such foolishness? Get with the program.

BUT HERE IS MY REAL HAUNTING QUESTION:

Many of these anti-war protestors have served missions. They believe and have faith and maybe they are even wrong on some issues here and there, but they are trying to be true to their conscience and beliefs and idealism. They believe they can have these opinions whether extreme anti-war and counter culture politics and still be members of the restored church,

but

  • At what point will they be “asked to leave?” just as they were at the jobs’ fair, and if so for what? I worry and wonder. Just how big is the tent in reality? At what level of civil disobedience to one’s nation will their thoughts and acts be considered “disorderly conduct” within our faith? At what point will conscientious objection be a “trespass?”

and more troubling

  • At what point will THEY become disillusioned if they are increasingly marginalized and shunned—not given callings, isolated, considered oddballs, not trusted and considered a bad influence in their covenant community? And at what point do they see themselves wondering , “why do we have to defend ourselves as being not supportive of the brethren or church when we denounce war and proclaim peace?” Why are we asked to leave our opinions at the doorstep of the church while the military recruiters and false patriotism are endorsed and embraced?

I REALLY DO NOT KNOW??? Maybe it is no real loss to lose these types? Maybe we are better off just asking them to leave or at least keep their mouths shut and leave us alone with our peace and uniformity of opinion? And what kind of losers would work of Amnesty International anyway–when one could be getting a business degree, make lots of money and really serve the kingdom and/or become an officer to fight for freedom–just like Captain Moroni? These kids these days! It’s time for them to grow up and get with the program. “When do we ask them to leave?” and no longer “trespass” on our theological and political war narratives? What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “When will we be asked to leave?

  1. Grégoire says:

    Hey Ron & J:

    My hat is off to you guys for *lengthening your stride* and being advocates of peace.

    Sorta funny that first you get assaulted, and then the assailant calls the cops, who show up to throw y’all out. Funny as in strange, rather than humorous.

    I finished high school there (the diploma/transcript says Provo High, but I took the last two classes I needed at the old UVCC Provo campus after moving out of my parents’ house on my 18th birthday). Back in 1988 there was something of a liberal element on that campus. I suppose things have changed.

    I told her that such support is primarily a Utah thing more or less, but that outside of Utah or at least outside of USA it is far less the case…

    I think this is a good point.

    Mormons in Utah still have a very strong siege mentality, perhaps an artifact of the pioneer days. As a kid moving back and forth it was fairly noticeable. The hyper-patriotism may be both a holdover from the militarized society which evolved when early settlers were expecting to fight the U.S. and Mexico, and simultaneously a sort of over-compensation. People in Utah may be insecure in their inherent Americanism, and feel they need to go to extraordinary lengths to prove as much.

    In some ways the same phenomenon is visible in the American South, perhaps for similar reasons.

    Anyway, great article. Thanks for *talking the talk*.

  2. Michael IsBell says:

    Idealism is not for sissies.

    When we voice other than the popularly perceived “orthodox religion” we rub against the grain no matter that our message is resonant with the values inherent in temple covenants.

  3. Ron Madson says:

    Gregoire,

    You hit on something that I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers”, and that is that the south in particular has an “honor culture” or clan mentality of “us against them.” We had elements of that same “honor” among those who founded our faith (just read the words of some of our militant/revenge church hymns from that era). It is reinforced by a sense of being chosen and that our enemies must be God’s enemies. I am not sure why it would still exist after Viet Nam and the revelations post our invasion of Iraq—other than the reality that we have chosen to ignore much of our doctrine/theology in favor of “personal opinions” from those at the helm of our faith.

    Michael,
    True. Isn’t it telling that 16 years ago the word “orthodox” had such a negative connotation in our temple ritual and now…well orthodoxy has replaced clear and unmistakable doctrines—even the “immutable covenant” found in DC 98. Although I will confess that overall I am a sissy for the most part and try to avoid pain and confrontation—and being arrested. But what I found revealing is just how little it takes to provoke those whose cognitive dissonance cannot endure the slightest opposition to their narrative…

  4. Grégoire says:

    we have chosen to ignore much of our doctrine/theology in favor of “personal opinions” from those at the helm of our faith.

    There’s a saying in North Africa which suggests that everyone has his own Islam.

    I don’t criticize Mormonism and don’t intend to do it here, but it seems like there is a personal connection to the divine in all faith traditions which nobody ought to dismiss. We all read sacred texts differently, and in doing so we all open ourselves up to unique, discreet, personal truths which might not be visible or accepted by others.

    Now that I’ve written this down it looks like one of those postmodern ideas which church leaders would dismiss out of hand; but if you polled all the apostles, I’d bet that there isn’t any real unanimity among them either. I’m confident Boyd K Packer doesn’t agree with *everything* espoused by President Monson, making their religious outlooks unique also.

    There’s strength in diversity. That’s not just a propaganda slogan. Groups of people benefit by having a wide variety of members with differing outlooks and backgrounds. Diverse groups are more fractious but more innovative. Differences can descend into quarreling but also can be the catalyst for problem solving.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s your Mormonism too. It’s as sensible for someone else to ask you to leave as it is for you to excommunicate the rest of the congregation.

    My motives are purely selfish. As the only Mormon in my house and family I’m hoping some of you guys can stay in long enough to ride the pendulum back to the center, at which point my great-great-grandchildren might revert back to the tradition of their ancestors. The pendulum is swinging back, by the way. Twenty years ago everyone involved with this newspaper would have been immediately excommunicated.

  5. Forest Simmons says:

    Wage slaves that came “out of captivity” (in Nephi’s words) in the 19th century and gathered to Zion in the rocky mountains were fully aware of the depradations of unbridled capitalism.

    But it just takes a generation or two of being a land owner out West, and the younger generation has no memory of the children in the coal mines and sweat shops.

    By the 1960’s the spectre of Kruschev banging his shoe to punctuate his threat, “We will bury you,” was enough to clinch and galvanize opposition of loyal US members to any bad mouthing of capitalism.

    In the 60’s the anti-war movement was associated with drug using, free love hippies w/o missionary haircuts or other conformity to the BYU dress code.

    Then pro-choice and gay rights became associated with anti-war and social justice movements.

    These superficial associations have been facile excuses for members to avoid doing their homework to find out the truth about the military/industrial/pharmaceutical/etc. combination that has enslaved the world including our own citizens.

  6. Ron Madson says:

    Gregoire:

    I agree that the pendulum is swinging back! Truth finds a way as well as common sense. We may not realize the full impact of the internet in influencing opinions until after it has occurred. As for being cut off from the faith, it is my observation that of necessity there is increasing toleration and humility…at least I hope. I appreciated Lowell Bennion’s quote explaining what was for him the ideal Mormon approach to life and relationships in our faith: “Plain living and high thinking” or as he would have defined “high thinking” as being a faith that really follows the mandate of the 13th Article of Faith where we pledge to embrace all light and truth no matter the source and in fact “we seek after” these things. The best tradition of Mormonism taught to me by my father which he received from his father and grandfather was this phrase: “in Mormonism you do not have to believe in anything that is not true and Mormonism is truth, the pursuit of truth and the love of truth.” That is how it began and how it will endure. For me the Mormon tent has to be big enough to include all light, truth and virtue no matter the source…that is our strength and any attempt to box it up, put members in a straight-jacket of orthodoxy will in the end fail. That is my optimism.

  7. Ron Madson says:

    Forest:

    Again, a very insightful observation. I believe you are right about superficial connections decoying us from seeking and embracing the truth about Viet Nam, war in general and religiously adoring capitalism. CS Lewis got it right in the Screwtape letters where he said essentially..”the devil sends error in pairs of opposite. IN creating our disdain for one evil we flee into the arms of the other. Our aversion to the unbridled hippie movement may very well cemented our need to go to the other extreme—smooth shaven, flag waving capitalist nazis. INteresting observation on your part once again.

  8. Cory says:

    When will we be asked to leave?

    On March 20, 2003 I found myself in Chicago visiting a friend. I had spent the previous three to four months attending weekly peace vigils at the federal building downtown Salt Lake City. Being young and hopeful, I sincerely believed that if the global community spoke out against the U.S. government’s potential occupation of Iraq, that that very government would listen and act based on the demands of the people. Any hope of peace was shattered for me on that cold March day when I was informed that the U.S. government had militarily invaded Iraq. I don’t remember who told me the devastating news, I just remember sobbing, as if my world had ended, on the telephone to my mother. I spent the following three days in the streets of Chicago, with thousands of others, protesting U.S. military action in Iraq and calling for peace. When I returned to Salt Lake, I found a very small and exhausted community of individuals also calling for peace. Depression immediately set in when I discovered that not only was the anti-war movement in Salt Lake fairly fragile, but that I was practically alone among my peers. In the months that followed the invasion, all I could think of was the death and destruction that was taking place in Iraq. It was a very lonely time. I spent many days walking from class to class on the University of Utah campus searching for any sign that there were others who shared my disgust at what was taking place in our name. A “U.S. Out of Iraq” stencil literally gave me the strength to make it through the day. I yearned to find who was responsible for such things. Much of my isolation at the time came from my experience of associating with fellow church members who were supportive of the invasion of Iraq and feeling conflicted over how they could morally support something so horrific, something that I felt was destroying me. I actually prayed that I could be like everyone else and either not care, or believe the propaganda being spouted by the Bush administration. One day I was driving home, heading north on state street toward the Avenues, while I poured out my soul in prayer. I prayed that He would change how I felt so that I wouldn’t feel so alone. The impression that I received at that time said to me, “keep doing what you are doing.” That answer gave me the strength to continue on, but it also has been the cause of great loneliness and personal conflict. In time I found other students who shared my views and together we formed a student chapter of Not In Our Name. I remember being surprised by the fact that I was the only active member of the LDS church who was a member of University Not in Our Name. Hadn’t we been taught to “renounce war and proclaim peace…” (D&C 98:16) Where were my fellow church members? Was I doing something wrong? At the time I really could not understand why they weren’t standing on the street shouting with me.

    So that is how I got to the point where I would “take time from work and school to essentially do anti-war missionary work when it is so unpopular in this red state and red county.” But it started so much earlier than that. It started with hearing stories of Christ and how he lived his life. It started with reading the Sermon on the Mount and believing that it was literal and that in order to follow Christ, we must do just that.

    Maybe I don’t understand the program, but I have been blessed to be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to reach and serve those who may not have otherwise been reached. You know, there are people that the corporate ladder doesn’t reach, and no amount of business classes or degrees will change that.
    I too worry and wonder about your haunting question. However, as heartbreaking as the thought of being “asked to leave” is to me personally, I have had to make the decision that I won’t allow those fears to prevent me from doing what I believe that we are on this earth to do: relieve human suffering in whatever way that we can, love, learn, and serve.

  9. Forest Simmons says:

    Cory,

    have you read the story of Helmuth Hübener, the German youth that was “asked to leave” because of his anti-Nazi activity? He was posthumously reinstated after the war. If I remember correctly, the book is “When Truth was Treason,” and the DVD is “Truth and Conviction.”

    Do what is right, let the consequence follow. Fresh courage take. Brother Joseph, Brother Brigham, etc. and all of your deceased ancestors and future grandchildren are in the spirit world cheering you on.

  10. Ron Madson says:

    Cory,
    Wow! The integrity and authenticity of your desires shine through your words. I appreciate your willingness to wrestle with these issues. All of us have had to do so. The concept of being “asked to leave” is a bit of a rhetorical device and I candidly doubt anyone would ask us to leave who are in positions of trust in our faith. As President Hinckley stated we have the right to dissent–that is our privilege. However, rejecting or even slightly criticizing the “blood and sins of any generation” predictably creates degrees of alienation. For example, speaking against gambling is great unless you live in Nevada; speaking against the tobacco industry is great unless you live in North Carolina and speaking against our war mongering killing machine is great unless you live in red states like Utah. And timing is also the issue. To denounce institutionalized racism is popular now but it would have been considered apostate in 1880 Utah. To denounce a war of aggression in 2002 and 2003 was unpopular but times are a changing borrowing and changing words of the country song: “I was anti-war when anti-war wasn’t cool.” In the end their is only one keeper of the gate and “he employeth no servant there.” In that there is peace…

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