In September 1979 President Jimmy Carter publicly announced his decision to support the deployment of the MX missile and mobile basing scheme in Utah and Nevada. Despite local opposition and the close proximity of the proposed base to its headquarters, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) remained silent until 5 May 1981, when the First Presidency issued a statement opposing the MX plans. The purpose of this work is to narrate the history of the development of the Mormon position regarding the deployment of MX missile in the Great Basin and evaluate the response to the statement both locally and nationally.
As described in this work the initial deliberations within the Mormon Church were held within the Special Affairs Committee (SAC), which gathered information on the issues concerning the MX. In the process the SAC met with scholars, politicians and religious figures furnished by the grass-roots opposition in Utah. As argued by this thesis it was the arguments presented by both national and local religious figures who convinced the SAC that the MX presented a clear moral concern which required further discussion.
Eventually the matter was turned over to the First Presidency and later the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for further consideration. Because a consensus could not be reached, in the place of clear Mormon opposition the First Presidency issued two general denunciations of the nuclear arms race. Eventually, there was full agreement and a statement was issued on 5 May 1981. As argued in this thesis, it was likely the efforts of Gordon B. Hinckley, a member of the Twelve and chairman of the SAC, who working behind the scene was able to unify the hierarchy, as opposed to Edwin B. Firmage, who has traditionally been credited with convincing the hierarchy to take a position.
As illustrated by this thesis the statement evoked a number of responses from the local and national media and religious and political leaders. The response was generally positive; however, there were a number of critical columns and editorials issued by the national media. Moreover, the statement had considerable influence moving Utah's congressional delegation toward opposition. As argued by this thesis this was a moot point because recently elected President Ronald Reagan had latent reservations about the MX program and had been looking for an alternative basing mode prior to the statement's release.
In conclusion this thesis argues that, although the statement had little impact on the history of the MX and the Mormon Church, the development of the First Presidency's MX position does provide a case study illustrating the bureaucratic processes within the Church for establishing official political policy in the late-twentieth century.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Olmstead, Jacob W., "A Diabolical Disneyland in Zion: the Mormons and the MX" (2005). Theses and Dissertations. 4994.
MX, Weapons system, Church, state, Mormon Church