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Nix to MX

Mormon leaders protest

By Pat Christian
      The U.S. Air Force wants to hide 200 missiles in the bleak Great Basin desert of Utah and Nevada. Installations spreading across an area about the size of the state of New Jersey would require building 4,600 shelters and 9,000 miles of roads.  Along the roadways, flatbed vehicles, forever rolling, would carry missiles tipped with ten warheads each.  That is the $56 billion scheme for safeguarding the proposed MX system, a brobdingnagian shell game meant to foil a Soviet attack on the missiles.  The plan has been derided as an ineffective, ecology-destroying boondoggle, and the MX now has a powerful new foe: leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who, Mormons believe, are divinely inspired when they issue a "revelation," and whose personal statements therefore also carry great weight.
     "Our fathers came to this Western area to establish a base from which to carry the gospel of peace," declared Church President Spencer Kimball and his two counselors last week.  "It is ironic, and a denial of the very essence of that gospel, that in this same general area there should be constructed a mammoth weapons system potentially capable of destroying much of civilization."  Utah's Governor Scott Matheson, also a foe of the MX roadway plan, the Air Force's favorite among 35 safeguarding options, called the Mormons' opposition to the
depioyment of the missile "an exceptional step for the church to take."  He added, "I think it will sway public opinion.  It's going to be pretty tough for the President to ignore this."  Undoubtedly. Matheson, Utah's four-man congressional delegation and 70% of the state's population are Mormons.
     Political statements by the Mormon presidency usually resemble its attack on the Equal Rights Amendment in 1978.  The complaint against the MX, although couched in moral terms, was not labeled a revelation, and it addressed worldly concerns.  With the three-megaton missiles shuttling exclusively around Utah and Nevada, the presidency said, "one segment of the population would bear a highly disproportionate share of
the burden."
     In Nevada (56,000 Mormons, or 8% of the population) and Utah, there is already broad antimissile sentiment, despite the billions in construction money that would flow in over the next decade.
     The U.S. has already spent $2 billion on the MX.  "The missile is vital," insists Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.  "The question is, where do we put it?"   Last week's proclamation will make it much harder for President Reagan to adopt a plan that would implant missiles in the Mormon heartland. 
  

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