You Make the Call: Missionary Draft Deferrals

It has been interesting for me to watch the reactions this past week as news stories illuminated yet again the contested territory where the free exercise of religion meets civic considerations and obligations. As I observed other LDS people comment on these stories, I realized that in our recent past, we have experienced something even more egregious and more threatening than being pressured to refrain from performing proxy baptisms for Holocaust victims.

In the Vietnam era during the late 1960s,  all young men were required to register for the Selective Service and make themselves available for the draft. Young men who were healthy, single, and heterosexual were classified as 1-A, eligible for military service, and they were quickly inducted into the service to undergo basic training. There was a different classification for ordained ministers, 4-D, and a young man with that classification would not be drafted. Among LDS people, young men who anticipated serving missions often succeeded in getting their classification changed from 1-A to 4-D. But as the war grew more serious and more troops were needed, the Selective Service became more and more reluctant to grant 4-D status to our missionaries, and it notified the church that all our young men should consider themselves candidates for the draft.

The church was alarmed. This policy would have a devastating effect on the missionary effort and severely limit our ability to perform one of our primary missions. The biography of Gordon B. Hinckley documents how he was delegated to negotiate with the government and seek a compromise. Eventually an agreement was reached which allowed each ward to designate one young man for missionary service every six months. In effect, each LDS ward could send out two missionaries per year. Although the restriction still crippled our outreach and missionary work, it was the best arrangement we could make, and better than nothing. The church recognized that it had obligations not only to itself and its mission, but also to the surrounding society. Freedom of religion is defined not only in imperative terms, but also in terms of considerations and responsibilities to those around us.

I’ll leave it to others (and I hope you do, too) to debate whether this example applies to some of the latest Mormon Moment news. What I’d like us to contemplate is how difficult this policy must have been to implement in wards with many young men who wanted to serve a mission. What would you do if you were a bishop and had 5 young men who were worthy and eligible and willing to be missionaries, but could only call one of them? These are young men who have been in your home and with whom you have camped. You have talked to them about girls and dating and how to get along with mom and dad. You have taken them to the temple and advised them about education and careers. They have saved their money and attended seminary and looked forward with great anticipation to a mission call. What would you do? The worst part is that your Sophie’s choice would not just keep a young man from serving a mission. You would also be exposing him to a 1-A draft status and to good odds that he would be killed or injured in war. The reality of this situation became immediate for me when I was quite young and opened our small town’s weekly newspaper. In the center of the page was the picture of a young man from our ward, KIA in Vietnam. I remembered him from just a year before, blessing the sacrament and handing the trays to the deacons. I wonder what it must have been like for our bishop. If you were in that calling, how would you decide?

Comments

  1. I have a question about the one missionary every 6 months rule. Did that apply to women as well? As in, was the rule that a ward could call one man every 6 months and no women at all, or was it that a ward could call one man every 6 months and as many women as wanted to serve? (Since women aren’t drafted, I don’t see how their numbers would need to be affected by this.)

    As far as how I would decide – It would be complicated. Definitely prayer would be a huge consideration. But also, if there were two prospective missionaries, and one had skills that would likely keep him in a safer position if drafted (i.e. if he were a medical professional or something), I would probably call the one without the skills to be a missionary. Likewise, if one had health problems that might prevent him from getting drafted, I would probably call the healthier one to missionary service. It sounds cold and utilitarian, but I don’t see a better way of doing it. (Or, perhaps, if there’s a ward nearby that has nobody eligible for missionary service, maybe I would work out a way to transfer someone’s records to another ward so he could be called from there.)

  2. Keri, as far as I know, the rule did not apply to the way we called women to serve missions.

  3. Unless explicitly prompted otherwise, I would use random selection like Nephi and his brothers who cast lots.Otherwise, it would be too easy for self and others to retrospectively blame and condemn choices that panned out poorly.

  4. In my Dad’s ward he was one of the lucky ones that served a mission. It was because he was rejected by the military for a club foot.

  5. Might be important to remember that even those young men who were able to serve missions were eligible for the draft immediately upon return. Serving a mission wasn’t an automatic stay-out-of-the-war-zone-free guarantee.

  6. Thanks Ardis, that is a good point.

    Here’s another factor for consideration. It isn’t unusual for men who are bishops to also have teenage sons of mission age.

  7. Once more I am grateful not to hold the Priesthood.

  8. There has been no honor in fighting undeclared and unconstitutional war for the USA for the last 50 years. I would advise a peaceful protest even if that means being thrown in to prison or worst. I would most likely never be a bishop though and even if hell froze over and if I was called as bishop I would turn down the calling anyway. The LDS Church and the US government has had a more cozy relationship in the last 50 years and I do not see that as a good thing.

  9. Central Standard says:

    In the late 60’s one of my companions who was from Rexburg, ID received his call while living for a short time with his grandparents in a California ward that had an open ‘slot.’ There were others who did a similar.

  10. Personally, I’d have all 5 serve missions simply by transferring their records to a stake that doesn’t have any and if I couldn’t find any within the state simply create another ward on paper. But that’s assuming all 5 wanted to serve missions, and not as a way to guarantee oneself two years of freedom.

    I wouldn’t be shocked if there were quite a few wards on paper that didn’t actually exist.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    What a tough situation for a bishop. Part of my likes publicly announcing that you’re going to make these decisions “by lot” (some random procedure), and just live with the results–even if your own son is involved. But another part of me likes taking into account the kinds of factors Keri describes. I’m not sure how I’d do it.

    This sort of came home for me when I was watching the draft lottery on TV and my birthday, September 1, was selected no. 1 that year. I was still just a boy and so not eligible for the draft, but seeing that all of a sudden made it all very real for me.

  12. What are the news stories this week where this is discussed? Sorry to be ignorant, but a link would be helpful.

  13. Did this also apply to young men who’s numbers didn’t come up? I know my Dad served a mission during this period, and he was registered for the draft–but his number was high enough (in the 600s in for the St George area, IIRC) that he wasn’t ever really worried about it coming up.

    Of course, I could be getting my timeline confused, because I know that Dad was a little older when he went on his mission, so it could have been after the war.

    Either way, my family was pretty lucky. Dad has 7 brothers, and all 8 boys served missions, and none in the military. On my Mom’s side, her older brother is diabetic, and so wouldn’t have been considered for duty, (but he did go on a mission), and her younger brothers were all too young for the draft.

  14. I realize few of us are directly responding to your questions, Mark — possibly because the responsibility is almost literally unthinkable. I don’t know what I would do, as bishop.

    I’ve done a couple of stories about young men who were drafted. One man served a mission to Great Britain, then was drafted, and was killed. 29 years after his death, his old school friends and those he had taught in Sunday School were still gathering to memorialize him; I learned about him from a non-Mormon in New Jersey on a cross-country trip in 2006 who had known the young Mormon only briefly in Viet Nam, but who stopped in Salt Lake hoping to learn more about him and his family because of the impression he had left.

    Another young man was drafted pre-mission. He went to Viet Nam as prepared as he could have been, getting his patriarchal blessing and being ordained an elder just before leaving. He wrote home and told of a returned missionary he had met in the service. I had lunch in 2009 with that returned missionary, who told me all he could remember of the other young soldier, who died in service.

    My vicarious acquaintance with those two young soldiers/elders, as removed as it is from having actually known the men, makes it too painful even to contemplate being a bishop faced with those choices.

  15. Did missionary enrollment go down substantially? Any numbers?

    It’s a compromise which would be pretty easy to circumvent, I wonder how often it happened. Split the ward. Send the kid to college. Send the family to another ward, etc. etc.

  16. This breaks my heart to contemplate. I was a child during Viet Nam and was “blessed” that my brothers both had physical issues that disqualified them from the draft and so VN was always a very distant concept for me.

    One question that crosses my mind– if a young man had Conscientious Objector status (didn’t that mean he wouldn’t be drafted?), was there a Church rule that he would have therefore been disqualified for a mission?

  17. Our former stake president served a mission in that era. He speaks with great humility about what a rare opportunity it was in those years (there were more than ten young men in his ward that had grown up with) to have the chance. He also tells about the awesome sense of responsibility he felt to be 100% every day . . . to serve that mission for ALL the young men who wanted to come and could not. He and his companions enjoyed much success in Southern California during those years. He believes it was a blessing to the Church for the difficulties endured in those years.

  18. #16 KerbearRN

    The modern LDS is huge supporter of US of A wars, I doubt there was a rule…and today I would not expect the LDS Church stand up for members who has objections to war.

    This article sums my views really well about this :

    http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/could-you-qualify-as-a-conscientious-objector/

  19. Ron Madson says:

    Zion, thanks for linking my post above in regard to “Could you qualify as a conscientious objector.” I am very passionate about this issue, and there is what I consider an easy answer, imo. But we suffer from spiritual dyslexia. If we as a faith community would embrace Section 98 of the DC (an “immutable covenant”) and internalize it as fully as we do Section 89 (a tenet) we would be able as an entire church be exempted from every war fought by our nation this past 50 years. We are entitled per our doctrine (if we really followed it) as much as JWs and other Anabaptists faith are today to blanket CO status. However, we have undergone our own Constantinian shift (see John Yoder) a century ago and have rejected Section 98. We now pledge allegiance to the flag over this “immutable covenant.”
    When I was 18 I was too ignorant and had demons that allowed me to be obedient to the laws of the land. Today, if I would advise every young man to conscientiously object to our nation’s wars of aggression. In fact I have my youngest writing papers in history and english now laying the foundation to show that he is truly a conscientious objector. It was done during Viet Nam by LDS and if I were a Bishop then knowing what I know now I would start with the Aaronic Priesthood and teach them the true gospel that IMO requires all LDS to be conscientious objectors. If we really flatter ourselves as the restoration of the primitive church of Jesus then we should consider embracing the same standard they practiced and taught—Blessed are the Peacemakers (Pacifi) or translated –Pacifists.

    If Bishop I would have every single young man seek to qualify as a CO. And it could be done. The problem is that they would have to crawl over the resistance institutionally that rejected then as much as it is rejected now Section 98 and the pure doctrine of Christ on this issue. But it can be done.

  20. I was in the Marines when I turned 19. It was no problem to get a leave for 2 years to do my mission, then return to the Marines.

  21. I qualified for the 4-D. One of my mission companions served in heavy combat in Viet Nam. When asked by european communists on the streets what he did prior to his mission he told them he killed communists. Always a lively discussion after that opener! I returned to 1-A status after the mission. As to the question: We render unto Caesar…”

  22. Twenty-five years before Vietnam, it wasn’t an issue. Young men who were physically fit either joined the military service or were drafted–and the numbers of missionaries fell to nearly zero.

    I remember young men in Provo going to great lengths to qualify for missionary service. I know one young man who moved from a youth-rich ward in north Provo to a ward full of elderly people downtown so he could receive a mission call.

    I’m not sure what happened once the draft lottery was instituted–if young men with high numbers could serve missions without regard to the quota. Before then, there were all sorts of ways to game the system–if you were wealthy or politically powerful or had friends on the draft board. Whether Mormons did that or not, I don’t know.

    I received my mission call about two years after the last Vietnam-era draft call-ups. That year there were eight or nine male missionaries called from my ward. What a difference it would have made in our lives if Nixon hadn’t had his plan to end the war! (He claimed to have such a plan in his 1968 campaign–apparently the plan involved bombing the hell out of Vietnam’s jungles for four more years and killing hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese while sacrificing the lives of over 20,000 more Americans.)

  23. oh that’s horrible. How does the Bishop go home and tell his wife that their son isn’t getting the 4-D? How does the bishop live with himself when some of the boys who get drafted, don’t come home?

    Duetcher could probably make a great movie with these kinds of stories..and I’d never see it because I’d have nightmares for ages.

  24. StillConfused says:

    I just learned that my brother in law had his records sent to another ward so he could go on a mission.

    If I were the bishop, I would send the first boy to turn 19 in the timeframe on the mission. No favoritism or special considerations.

  25. Why even have this Post? The last person drafted was 40 years ago. What am I missing?

  26. This may be a point of order, but all young men 18 to 26 must still register for Selective Service, even those illegally present. Only lawful non-permanent residents are exempt. I think the Bishop needs to follow the Spirit. Those drafted serve a mission in a different way. Everyone probably knows a convert who was introduced to the gospel through a military buddy.

  27. I’m a new reader here, but this article really brought it home for me.. I was a 19y/o Priest in 1969, and after graduating from HS in June 1968, I went to the local Jr College for two semesters. In early 1969, my Bishop began inquiring if I wanted to go on a mission. I began thinking seriously about it, and in June, when I finished my second semester in college, my father kept telling me that I’d better go and early register for the Fall ’69 semester, or I’d wind up drafted.. Of course, a 19 y/o never listens to good old Dad, and guess what? August 1969, I get the “greetings” letter from the draft board and was drafted in Sept 1969. Since there were no LDS services during basic training or anywhere close during advanced training, I got out of the habit of going to Church, and observing the Word Of Wisdom.. I got sent to Vietnam, and you can imagine there weren’t a lot of LDS Wards/Branches there.. Bottom line: Getting out of the habit of following the Savior tends to stick with you and in my case, I was the “prodigal son” up until about a year ago.. My lovely wife, to whom I’ve been married to for going on 27 years, called the Missionaries to come visit us, as I was going thru some very bad times, having lost my job recently.. She was baptised in Jan 2010, and we’re both working on going to the Temple as soon as my 40 years of bad habits can be curtailed…

  28. Moving to another ward so I could avoid the military and be a missionary is something I could easily see myself doing. However, I can also easily see myself battling survivor’s guilt and a bit of shame as a result. I can see this as a book–anyone up for a challenge? :^)

  29. Ron Madson says:

    #25, I believe that is it highly relevant to consider what members of our faith faced during Viet Nam. Retrospectively I am astonished that as a people that we did not have the imagination to consider that “there was another way.” The other way was to consider that we could have chosen to follow the words of Christ and provided the vocabulary that would have allowed ALL of our members to conscientiously object. Will there be a draft again? The USA is, imo, the hypocritical nation spoken of by Isaiah. We are a warmongering killing imperial war machine. And our church has provided a war indulgence every bit as much as Pope Urban II did in sprinkling holy water over the Crusades. We should uniformly denounce our recent wars of aggression, but NO, we have an Elder running for president that supports the military industrial complex, we have Elders in the chief seats that have endorsed every war of our nation since Viet Nam–all wars of aggression built one deceit. And as sure as the Gulf of Tonkin and WMDs were fabricated we are once again falling prey to starting another war of aggression into Iran (we are being manipulated again) and killing tens of thousands of civilians–as we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not only seek CO status as people but I would say “renounce war and proclaim peace” and encourage every single person in our faith to NOT join the military. We should renounce our nation’s criminal war machine.
    I would suggest every young man read Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God is within You and the Peaceable Kingdom essay. That is real christianity and not the false jingoistic patriotism that is being preached from our pulpits the last fifty years.
    Soldiers that join may be very honorable and noble and sacrificing but there is nothing honorable in our military missions for the last fifty years. Nothing. When do you get to actual live our christianity as a people? When do we start actually renouncing war. To “renounce” is not to say “well it is not nice” but an emphatic NO, we will not go!

  30. One other point. We have the “freedom of information act” which means we get the information 25 years later after the war crimes we committed and no one cares. We have the tapes where Nixon is speaking with Kissinger and Nixon wants to nuke North Viet Nam, but Kissinger speaks of the PR fallout. So then the compromise and decide to blow up a major dam that drowns 200,000 North Viet Nam civilians. Agent orange, endless murder–for what? There is a reason that world hates us. They do not hate our “freedom” but hate, really hate our endless bombing/predator drones that kill thousands of civilians in search of “insurgents.” What an ironic word. We invade their countries and then when anyone fights back we call them the “insurgents.”
    This has to stop. When will someone in the chief seats denounce this? Instead we have those that get “Medal of Freedom” medals from the President for supporting our invasion of Iraq. Geez, where are the Jeremiahs and Samuels when we need them?

  31. We will invade Iran. This was planned out eleven years ago by Neocons (seven countries, two down and five to go). As you can tell I am passionate about this topic. We need to now pre-emptively renouncing our wars and the next one. Now. I am linking a post I wrote for the tenth anniversary of 9/11 suggesting of “what could have been” if we really followed our doctrine. http://themormonworker.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/speaking-truth-to-power-911-my-reflections-ten-years-later/

  32. Dave Frandin – I’m so happy for you and your wife to have found the church. Thank you for sharing your story about being a 19 year old with the illusion of choices but then the draft decided some of those things for you.

  33. wreddyornot says:

    I graduated from high school in 1966. I immediately enrolled in college, which as I recall, exempted me from being drafted at that time. Despite that — things were in flux regarding the draft — I was asked to come in for a physical for the draft and to my utter surprise, I flunked (migraine headaches). About the same timeframe, they did the lottery and drew numbers for each day of the year and assigned a draft number. My birthday was drawn as number 366 to cover leap year. There was no way I was getting drafted. I turned 19 in June, 1967 and soon thereafter entered the MTC for three months and then went to Germany for two years. As I recall, there were no other youngsters from my ward wanting to go on a mission at the time. I’d hate to think my going, especially when I’d never have been drafted, prevented somebody else wanting to go from going. I remember the incredulity of many, many people in Germany over the U.S. war in Vietnam. As a young man serving a mission, the German people often felt free to bring up the subject. One ironic thing was that most of the mission’s baptisms during that timeframe came from American soldiers serving in Germany. In fact, my first companion told me I’d have to present my first door presentation one night after we’d tracted all day and he’d been displaying how it was done. Unbeknownst to me, he took me to U.S. military housing and knocked on my first door to do the presentation. A young guy a little older than me opened the door speaking German and I went through the spiel. Then I noticed my companion and the man laughing their you-know-whats off. I soon learned the man was an RM who’d been drafted and was in military housing with his young wife and a newborn. Hard to know what I’d have done if I’d not had the migraines and the high lottery number which excluded me and the ward that didn’t worry about a quota. These days I run to pacifism over against a father who served as a Marine in WWII in the South Pacific and came home with a Purple Heart.

  34. As I recall, there were several different ways this was done in different wards and stakes. I belive that my own ward (in SLC) did it by random selection (like drawing names out of a hat). I know that some of the boys I knew had high draft numbers, so they just waited out their year of eligability and then went on a mission. Others joined the military rather than get drafted, served their two years and then went on missions. My own husband lived in a ward in the Midwest in which there weren’t very many young men who wanted to go, so he got to go. Also, it was church policy that missionaries retain their 4-D status for the full two years of their mission. My husband, however, had a very high number and decided to drop the 4-D (switching to A-1) in the middle of his mission. By the time he got home, his year of eligability was up. I’m sure there were others who did the same. I also knew young men who went and lived with relatives in other cities in wards with fewer young men in order to get in on their quota. Young men who were drafted (or joined) and didn’t serve missions were, if worthy, made elders before they left and received their endowments if they wanted to and were given Sacrament meeting farewells just like the departing missionaries. It was awful, actually.

  35. As a nation and even as a church I think we have our priorities a bit mixed up. We condone violence or at least put up with it and are more accepting of it, at least in its media presentation and in our world policies, but freak out on morality issues. (See the resent post about the BYU dress standards). Seems that there are other nations that have a more relaxed attitude in regards to sex, and also have a less aggressive and violent national mindset (scandinavian countries as an example). Is there a correlation to this? Where is the balance? Will our nation really fall apart because we show too much skin and are accepting of alternative lifestyles, or will it be greed, violence and bloodlust that eventually do us in. Seems that it was the latter in the Book of Mormon that was the bigger atrocity.

    BTW, watch the documentary Restrepo to see how pointless our current engagements are. All that wasted effort in some 4th world mountain valley a million miles away from no-where, only to be abandoned, the locals resuming life as usual. No Hearts and Minds were changed.

  36. Of course it was hard not to be able to go on a mission. Just like it was hard for others to have to leave whatever they were doing behind and go face potential harm and death. I understand the relevance of adding an LDS dimension to the issue of the draft, but for a moment the “woe is me! I didn’t get to serve a mission because a war was on and others were serving their country and it was expected of me as well” vibe got me. But I’m guessing that wasn’t the vibe intended so I’m over it and reading the comments with interest.

  37. I received a deferrment for my mission, then another for continuing my education…as did many, many others. Ultimately, I failed my physical, but that is beside the point. Here is my question: if you managed to avoid military service via a ministerial deferrment, as I did, if you never had to confront your own conscience about military service in a war in some far off place in the world, is there something wrong in being hawkishly pro-war and wanting someone else not a member of our church who did not receive a deferrment to go off and fight in some foreign war?

  38. Last Lemming says:

    My dad told me that a similar arrangement was in place during the Korean War. He turned 19 in 1950, and did not seek one of the mission slots. Fortunately, he wasn’t drafted until after the war had ended. During the Vietnam era, he was strongly anti-war and inactive in the Church, but made it clear that he considered going on a mission to avoid military service to be dishonorable. That war ended when I was 16, and the draft was abolished altogether three days before I turned 18, so I never even had to register. But I remember sitting by the radio in 1969 praying for a low lottery number, even though it would not affect me.

  39. Tough call. My older brother left on his mission in 1966, one of about 8 missionary age boys that year. Not all were qualified to go on a mission, but at least half were. I have no idea how the bishop made that choice. I had at least three friends my age or slightly older who died in Vietnam, and one whose serious injuries and PTSD (although we did not call it that at the time) pretty much ruined his life.

    To my recollection, the lottery system ended the two-missionary-per-year rule. After that, if you had a high number, you could go on your mission without restriction. I lost my student deferment when my full time hours at college dropped below the minimum, but I got a high number in the lottery. However, I did not server a mission either. It was a confusing time for me, personally, and by the time I had things figured out, I was engaged to my wife. We are planning on a couple of missions, hopefully, after retirement. Better than a Walmart vest.

  40. #25, Bob, I don’t know Mark’s answer, but mine is so I could read comment #27. Thanks for your story, Dave. And thanks for sharing it with us.

  41. @19

    There has been plenty of modern discussion about the role of saints in the military. The church’s position seems to be that it is an intensely personal decision whether to serve in the armed forces of one’s country. Remember that the church is in many countries that still have mandatory military service. The Articles of Faith and D&C 134 affirm our belief that government is instituted of God. Service to one’s country – even in the case of an “unjust” or “unconstitutional” war is not a sin. Members of the armed forces will be judged for their conduct and for their hearts just as we all are in our various spheres.

    If the Lord reveals through the prophet that the church is to renounce war for all reasons, then we will do so. Until then, the prophet has counseled us to follow the laws of the country in which we live, and to seek for personal revelation for matters that relate to us and our own missions in life.

    BTW I served in the Army for 9 years with two tours to Iraq. There was much good done and much “leavening of the loaf” accomplished by having good, faithful, Melchizedek priesthood holders serving in those areas.

  42. Saksia’s comment at #36 is a good one.

    Also, a little perspective is in order. Believe me that I don’t say this to diminish the significant sacrifices of those that served in that particular war, including those that sacrificed everything. But your chance of going from draftee to dead was approximately 2%. Not that you’d have known that at the time, and not that that figure isn’t significant, but it ain’t exactly Gallipoli neither.

    Personally, I think that the Selective Service had a point. Is it quite fair to use the clergy exception when we take the position that virtually all of our potential warriors are clergy? And why should the government have to wait two years to get their hands on them, when the church could just as easily wait to get them back? With due respect to the Mormon conscientious objectors here, I think that when it comes to killing Communists, I like to think that Mormons are anxious to do their share.

  43. Actually, Last Lemming, despite the fact that nobody has been drafted for nearly 40 years, every man in the United States between 18 and 26, except lawful non-immigrants, is still required to register with the Selective Service. So, if you didn’t register, you were breaking the law.

  44. Saskia, sorry, got your name wrong.

  45. My husband converted as a teenager. He was one of about 10 or so 18 yr/old YM in his UT ward who ll wanted to serve a mission. I don’t know how a convert managed to be put higher up in the ward mission line-up, but his papers were filled out and he was “next” in line to go when his draft number came up. He quickly enlisted before he could be drafted. He missed serving a mission by about a month. He safely returned home, married me, and we raised our family.

    He lived and faithfully served another 40 years in the church, facing the most condescending treatment by fellow saints, especially his male peers- who all got the A-4 and/or stayed in school. (One stake leader even went to Canada.) So many people falsely think that for males, a mission is a life-saving ordinance. It is not. It is a mission- a special assignment. It is not on par with baptism, temple ordinances or Priesthood ordinations. YM who do not serve 19 yr old missions (GASP*) can receive the highest degree of Glory and assume church leadership, although many people falsely think these things are not possible. The truth is, many of the current WWII and Korean War Era apostles served in the military instead of serving missions, (President Monson and Elder Oaks are the two that come to mind first.) Some of the posts here (#26 and #33) acknowledge the important missionary work that took place within corners of the military here and there- where righteous YM served honorably. The documentary ‘saints and soldiers’ speaks to some of this as well.

    Perhaps it’s the LDS tendency toward pacifism, perhaps it was the whole post-Vietnam Era anti-vet thing, but my husband was treated as a second-class citizen in wards and HPGQs for the rest of his life, despite our living in wards encompassing military bases. For the survivors, a culture of elitism grew, pretty much in parallel with the nation’s attitudes and treatment of vets. Comment #17 speaks to this elitism quite well. May I suggest that perhaps door-to-door missions weren’t the place God’s most noble YM always went during this time? Perhaps it was a foxhole with a buddy who would soon die and wondered what Heaven was like and who God was, or in a unit that desperately needed a spiritual voice? Rough waters might simply mean skilled kayakers. The noble amongst us don’t always stay in calm kiddie pools. (Yeah, I’m a little bitter. Truly God is no respecter of persons, and serving a mission was an honorable thing to do. I just submit that a) it isn’t for us to judge and b) our assumptions are probably wrong c) each person is called to a different life. That’s just how it works out. God’s children bring a plethora of diversity in personality and talents to this earth and are subsequently called or volunteer to walk down different types of paths. The LDS 19yr old mission is not the only inspired path, nor is it the only one you will find God’s leaders and his faithful followers.

    Isn’t it odd that such a culture could grow in our stakes, so finely distinguishing between “missions” (LDS or US) considering our theology relating to liberty and this land (both from the BoM and D&C)? It makes me wonder whether Captain Moroni, the 2000 stripling warriors, Alma, the Mormon Battalion, etc, were they in our era, wouldn’t suffer from this anti-military treatment too.

  46. Ron Madson says:

    #42, “…when it comes to killing Communists, I like to think that Mormons are anxious to do their share…”
    You got that right. When do we get to start killing Chinese communists? Also, we need to kill Socialists as well because we all know they are essentially commies in the making. How about Muslims? Those that believe in Sharia law? How about brown/colored people because obviously they are under the curse for their sins and all they want is handouts (aka socialism/communism). We also need to start shooting all illegal border crossing Mexicans–the “law” is the “law” and we must honor the “law.” Lamanites, Palestinians, Iranians, North Koreans, all those we despise. Then there are those pesky insurgents who fight back after we occupy their country—all worthy of death. What we need is a latter day Captain Moroni who has no hesitancy in killing conscientious objectors. We need to do our part. The problem with the Nephites is that they did not kill enough. We need to learn from them and not get too squeamish about killing everyone of the “others.” Then we would have a real chance to create a Zion for the Lord to return as rule over His truly righteous followers.

  47. Ron, now you’re getting it! Glad to see you come around.

  48. You had me, JAT, until I read “Perhaps it’s the LDS tendency toward pacifism”–and then I nearly choked on my alfalfa sprouts on whole-wheat bread sandwich. Would to God that there were such a tendency in the church–I mean, we have clear scriptural authority for such a position.

    But, as Pres. Kimball said, we are a warlike people. And, sadly, we really like war. You might think that Ron has gone off his hyperbolic rocker–but he’s probably just quoting from what he heard in the elders quorum last Sunday.

    As to Elder Oaks, you’re right that he did not serve a mission. But he also did not serve in the military.

    I realize that many of us in the 1960s did manage to draw a line between making war on the North Vietnamese and defending liberty in this land–heck, JFK’s best and brightest managed to do that, so what was a 12-year-old kid supposed to do. But, having learned that there was no such line, you’d think we might have been smarter when Bush and the boys decided to imagine such a line between us and Afghanistan and Iraq. Somehow, we managed to forget.

  49. But Elder Oaks served honorably on the faculty of U. of Chicago Law.

  50. Ron Madson says:

    gst—you got me. Well played.

    Mark B—“probably just quoting what he heard in the elders quorum last sunday..” On the mark except HP.

  51. Mark B.,
    1)
    According to Elder Oak’s BY High alumni page, http://www.byhigh.org/Alumni_K_to_O/Oaks-DallinH/DallinHOaks.html he served in the National Guard during part of the Korean War, and anticipated being called up, although never was. Due to the same quota restrictions that existed for missionaries at the time, he was not chosen to serve a 19 year old mission. He was never deployed to Korea.

    2) Are you and Ron not LDS? You’d be surprised at how much pacifism there is in the church, how many people feel as you two do. We have a lot of early roots with the Quakers, Swiss, Czech, Mennonites, and other relatively pacifistic groups. Then, we had people like Hugh Nibley who was essentially a pacifist during Vietnam, although he did serve in WWII.

    3)
    Yes, I know there is a vocal group in the Inter-mountain West (both LDS and conservative Christian) that believes in:

    *defending your food storage at gun point
    *shooting IRS agents who trespass
    *blowing up God’s creatures bright and beautiful for target practice and ‘huntin’ fun
    *consuming copious quantities of meat
    *destroying the environment, b/c you know, it’s FOR us and the end is near anyway.
    *being unnecessarily militant and thinking mediation and peacekeeping are for sissies
    *Preachin’ these things on Sundays

    These groups are much more noticeable if you live in the West, and are essentially folklore to those living in the midwest, northeast, or overseas.

    4) We shouldn’t threadjack this topic to discuss the politics of the Vietnam War. To say the least, it was complicated and there were many perspectives at the time. The rich and contentiously debated sides were hardly articulated in Ron’s humorous and sarcastic posts. (Hilariously funny- yes, comprehensive, no.) The bloodthirsty- backward-zealots described in a few of the posts hardly represent a large number of others who perceived the moral and intellectual ethics differently.

  52. Last Lemming says:

    Actually, Last Lemming, despite the fact that nobody has been drafted for nearly 40 years, every man in the United States between 18 and 26, except lawful non-immigrants, is still required to register with the Selective Service. So, if you didn’t register, you were breaking the law.

    I got my info straight from the draft board, but since they aren’t around to clue you in, Wikipedia will have to do.
    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selective_Service_System

    On March 29, 1975, President Ford signed Proclamation 4360, Terminating Registration Procedures Under Military Selective Service Act, eliminating the registration requirement for all 18–25 year old male citizens.[12]

    On July 2, 1980, however, President Carter signed Proclamation 4771, Registration Under the Military Selective Service Act, retroactively re-establishing the Selective Service registration requirement for all 18–26 year old male citizens born on or after January 1, 1960.[13] Only men born between March 29, 1957, and December 31, 1959, were completely exempt from Selective Service registration.

    I was completely legit.

    And that low lottery number I was hoping for–I meant one that was low on the list. The wished-for number itself would have been high.

  53. I don’t know if Mormoms are pacifists or Zealots. But where are the Mormon war stories? Where are their Battle Ribbons? Who were the Mormon Battle Generals? It seems like you hear very little about Mormons in combat.

  54. Ron Madson says:

    #53. When Jesus came and taught his gospel/message for three hundred years afterwards there were no “Christian” war generals, no battle ribbons for war christian war heroes. Why? Because they were so naive that they took literally the words of Christ that they followed the example of Jesus in denouncing all violence in all forms. If only we had such a restoration of His words/doctrines to so influence us. Once the state embraced Christianity, the christians returned the favor and then within decades all soldiers in the Roman empire were “christians”—Onward Christian soldiers. While some called it the Constantinian shift we called it the great apostasy.

  55. @49, a position he attributes to a chain of events which began after he accepted a calling to be a stake/ward missionary and which be credits as being what started the chain of events. So perhaps his missionary service led to his commission in the U. Of Chicago Law Army.

    @45, I’ve heard of similar condesceding experiences from others who, for whatever reason, did not serve missions. Judging by the current First Presidency, they all have very good company.

  56. You need to have draft today. That would make the general population much less likely to support another military adventure.

  57. #55 – Thanks for acknowledging.
    #53- Where are the ribbons? It speaks VOLUMES that we never “wear” them. Unlike BoM stories, these faithful saints are (I believe) strategically hidden from leadership positions as well as the public view. Don’t forget that it was LDS saints who led U.S. arms manufacturing and were considered the world’s unparalleled artillery inventors and engineers in WWII and WWI. Most saints (under age 30 and especially those outside UT) probably don’t know this and couldn’t name this early pioneer family legacy. Without this family, we would not have carried superior fire power in the European front; and according to General Eisenhower, we would not have seen V-E day.

    Today, if we spoke of this family ‘after the manner’ of the BoM., we’d have people coughing up a lot more than their alfalfa sprouts. How to cause massive hysteria in PR department in 30 seconds or less . . .

    *hysteria is probably the incorrect word, thinking of the context and etymology.

  58. #57: JAT:
    The BAR my weapon for combat! (Eisenhower picked the Jeep).

  59. # 58 ; )

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