To say the least, Utahns have had a historic dislike—and distrust—of the United Nations. Over the years, a number of church leaders have expressed hostility to the organization and its goals. In 1947, David O. McKay—who later became the ninth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—expressed a dim view of the fledgling organization, stating, "... unless the spirit of Christianity permeates the deliberations of the United Nations, dire tragedies await humanity."
While McKay's hostility softened over time, Utah's faithful have never claimed to be the U.N.'s best supporters. In fact, in 2001 the LaVerkin (Washington County) Town Council actually declared its town a "U.N. Free Zone," making it illegal for any U.N. personnel or facilities to be located within the city limits, outlawing any U.N.-funded programs or sponsored activities, making it a crime for the townsfolk to serve the United Nations in any capacity and restricting the city from investing in anything related to the global organization. (Oh, yes, folks, it meant that any child found trick-or-treating for UNICEF could have faced harsh fines and prison time.)
Predictably, the law was rescinded because it trampled free speech, rights of assembly, and other fundamentals of the U.S. Constitution. But, the anti-U.N. sentiment was not dead; only a few years later, a bill was put before the Utah Legislature denouncing the U.N. and declaring that Utah was not a part of it. The bill failed. (Just a note for you history buffs: The town was named LaVerkin in order to rhyme with the local pronunciation of Hurricane—Her-kin.)
Ezra Taft Benson, 13th president of the LDS church, was known for his McCarthy-esque anti-communist rants. He was also a rabid believer in world conspiracies, warned of the danger of giving authority to a world organization and asserted that a non-American military force would not facilitate world peace. Remarkably, his words, as it turns out, were suitably prophetic; the ideal of world peace is even further away than it was when Benson said it.
But now it's 2019, and Salt Lake City recently hosted the first major U.N. conference to ever be held outside its New York headquarters. (LaVerkinites were nowhere to be found.) Even more ominous was the name of the event, the 68th Annual Civil Society Conference, and its purpose—to discuss sustainability in our essentially out-of-control world. Indeed, on the schedule were considerations of renewable energy, adequate food supplies, poverty, clean water, health, infrastructure, transport, education, migration, violence and gender equality. Not to be missed was the subject of overpopulation. The world went from 6 billion people to 7 billion between 1999 and 2011. In the past eight years, it has reached 7.7 billion. Surely the statistics make it clear: The world cannot sustain that level of population growth. Yet, Utah's baby factories keep popping 'em out.
Any talk of responsible procreation is viewed, in our state, as an assault on one of Mormonism's most fundamental doctrines. The LDS church has always preached that members need to provide bodies for the yet-unborn, and that, when all those little spirits have obtained mortality, the earth will have fulfilled its purpose, preparing for the final battle between good and evil and the return of Jesus as the Earth's ruler and king.
Needless to say, that is the reason why Utah's birth rate is America's highest, and gives a very credible explanation of why Utah's Mormons seem to subscribe to Trump's maniacal disregard for the environment. The reality is, a high percentage of our population believes in a single-use, disposable world. (Since the world's going to end very soon, the notion that we should be good stewards of our planet is patently irrelevant.) It certainly isn't the first time that religion has steered people away from their deepest human responsibilities.
The U.N. meeting, which ended on Aug. 28, caused such a furor within the community, that dozens of long-hibernating anti-U.N. bears stormed from their dens. Predictably, the rhetoric of critics has increased in volume, and new websites have emerged decrying the evils of the U.N.—particularly its indictment of personal entitlement and how such entitlement endangers the welfare of the world populations.
For Utah's Mormon elect, anticipating their own godhood and worlds of their own, the idea of sharing and conserving resources is entirely repugnant—and unnecessary. For them the U.N. really is a foreign, evil power, for it aims to remedy some of the inequality that curses our world and leaves so many people in the strangling grip of poverties—medical, nutritional, educational and social.
While the U.N. doesn't have all the answers, it has certainly identified the sustainability issues for the world's burgeoning population. Humankind cannot keep going like it has, nor can Utah's religious-faithful count on the caveat that "the end is nigh." It's time for the Bible-toting nay-sayers to understand that it's everyone's responsibility to protect what we have—for our generation and generations to come.
It's a wonderful world, and it's everyone's job to keep it that way.
The author is a former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and one mongrel dog. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org