by Peggy Flatcher Stack
If Ammon Bundy and other Mormons involved in taking over a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon believe their religion is backing them, they should reconsider.
Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a news release Monday, “and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles.”
The release further states that “this armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis.”
Americans “are privileged to live in a nation where conflicts with government or private groups can — and should — be settled using peaceful means, according to the laws of the land.
That statement echoes the church’s 12th article of faith, which declares, “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
The Utah-based faith’s statement, posted onmormonnewsroom.org, also links to a 1992 speech by senior LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks, a former Utah Supreme Court justice, in which he warns against “excessive zeal” in creating so-called militias.
“I caution those patriots who are participating in or provisioning private armies and making private preparations for armed conflict,” Oaks said in the address given at church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo. Such people “risk spiritual downfall as they withdraw from the society of the church and from the governance of those civil authorities to whom our 12th article of faith makes all of us subject.”
Mormons involved in the Oregon protest include Ryan Bundy and brother Ammon, apparently named after a figure in the Book of Mormon. Another militia member dubs himself Captain Moroni, a warrior in the LDS faith’s signature scripture.
They are sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who made headlines in 2014 after an armed standoff with U.S. authorities over grazing on federal land. The elder Bundy mentioned his family’s LDS faith, but his sons have made their religion more explicit in the latest dispute.
Throughout its 185-year existence, Mormonism has had a complicated relationship with the U.S. government, explained historian W. Paul Reeve. “There are significant crosscurrents in the history.”
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