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
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
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.