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. [Read more…]