March 30, 2009 by Ron Madson
Wednesday 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:
- 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?
- what have you been reading?
- what common experiences have you had?
- 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.
- 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)?
- 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?
- What is wrong with you people? Don’t you understand the program?
- 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,
- 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?