By Sharon Lindbloom
10 January 2016
Ammon Bundy believes in his cause. As a 4th generation Mormon, his church has taught him how to know right from wrong, how to recognize the leading of the Spirit, how to stay on the right side of any line.
So Mr. Bundy is confident in his actions. He and his compatriots have taken control of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. As Ammon Bundy explains it, “I did exactly what the Lord asked me to do in the way that He asked me.” Mr. Bundy expresses a firm conviction that he has been given explicit direction from God so that he clearly understands what God wants him to do.
Even so, the Mormon Church has condemned Mr. Bundy’s actions. Last Monday (1/4/2016), the LDS Church released a statement “Regarding the Oregon Armed Occupation” that said in part,
“…Church leaders strongly condemn the armed seizure of the facility and are deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on [LDS] scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis.”
In the many news articles I’ve read about the occupation, I haven’t read that the Bundys actually say they have scriptural justification for their actions. Ammon Bundy has spoken of receiving what would be known within Mormon circles as “personal revelation,” but to the best of my knowledge he has not provided any actual LDS scriptural references. A different occupier used Book of Mormon symbolism when he told a reporter that his name was Captain Moroni (a Book of Mormon character), but the news report didn’t say he justified his participation in the occupation with scripture. Journalist John Sepulvado wrote,
“Ammon Bundy uses much of the same language as his father [Cliven Bundy, who engaged in a standoff with the federal government in 2014], mixing Mormon religious symbolism with a disgust of the federal government.”
I expect this religious symbolism is as far as the Bundy brothers have gone publicly in explaining their current conflict with the government.
Yet the LDS Church understandably wants there to be no confusion regarding what the Church’s four standard works of scripture (i.e., the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) advocate (or don’t advocate) in this context. But what the Church has failed to address is Mormonism’s other scripture; that is, the words of Mormon prophets, seers, and revelators (identified within Mormonism as any of the top 15 leaders of the Church). The Church teaches,
“In addition to these four books of scripture, the inspired words of our living prophets become scripture to us. Their words come to us through conferences, the Liahona or Ensign magazine, and instructions to local priesthood leaders.” (Gospel Principles, 2009, 48.)
“God continues to reveal truths to living prophets through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. These truths are considered scripture (see D&C 68:4). They come to us primarily through general conference, held the first weekend in April and October, when members throughout the world hear addresses from our prophet and other Church leaders.” (“What We Believe,” Ensign, January 2011, 15)
If the Bundys accept this doctrine of the Mormon Church and recognize general conference and other teachings of LDS leaders as scripture, perhaps they could justify their armed occupation “based on scriptural principles.” Consider the following general conference teaching given during Ammon Bundy’s lifetime:
“The framers of the Constitution were men raised up by God to establish this foundation of our government, for so the Lord has declared by revelation in these words:
“‘I established the Constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood.’ (D&C 101:80…)…
“In the final analysis, what the framers did, under the inspiration of God, was to draft a document that merited the approval of God himself, who declared it to ‘be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh.’ (D&C 101:77…)…
“I am in full agreement with the statement made by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. [a late member of the LDS Church’s First Presidency]:
“‘I say to you that the price of liberty is and always has been blood, human blood, and if our liberties are lost, we shall never regain them except at the price of blood. They must not be lost!’ (Stand Fast by Our Constitution, p. 137.)” (Ezra Taft Benson, [then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church], “The Constitution—A Glorious Standard,” April 1976)
In 1986, when Ammon Bundy was about 10 years old, the man who was then the LDS Prophet gave a devotional address at Church-owned Brigham Young University. He said in part,
“We are fast approaching that moment prophesied by Joseph Smith when he said: ‘Even this Nation will be on the very verge of crumbling to pieces and tumbling to the ground and when the constitution is upon the brink of ruin this people will be the Staff up[on] which the Nation shall lean and they shall bear the constitution away from the very verge of destruction.’ [In Howard and Martha Coray Notebook, July 19, 1840, quoted by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps. and eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), p. 416]…
“I have faith that the Constitution will be saved as prophesied by Joseph Smith. But it will not be saved in Washington. It will be saved by the citizens of this nation who love and cherish freedom. It will be saved by enlightened members of this Church—men and women who will subscribe to and abide by the principles of the Constitution.
“The Constitution Requires our Loyalty and Support
“I reverence the Constitution of the United States as a sacred document. To me its words are akin to the revelations of God, for God has placed his stamp of approval on the Constitution of this land. I testify that the God of heaven sent some of his choicest spirits to lay the foundation of this government, and he has sent other choice spirits—even you who hear my words this day—to preserve it.
“We, the blessed beneficiaries, face difficult days in this beloved land, ‘a land which is choice above all other lands’ (Ether 2:10). It may also cost us blood before we are through.” (Ezra Taft Benson, BYU Speeches, “The Constitution—A Heavenly Banner,” September 16, 1986)
In Ammon Bundy’s video statement he says,
“Once I began, and others began to realize that, for whatever reason that we did not understand, that the county and the state were not going to stand up against these things, even though they were such blatant abuses they were not going to stand up.” (at approx. 13:50)
“I began to understand what we were supposed to do is we were supposed to get together individuals all across this country that understood and cared about what was happening and understood that our Constitution was being violated that is hanging by a thread.” (at approx. 16:40)
“I know that we are to stand now, and that we are to do these things now or we will not have anything to pass on to our children.” (at approx. 18:30)
If nothing else, it sounds like Ammon Bundy and his brothers are of the same mind as the 13th Prophet and President of the Mormon Church–a man who the Bundys were taught (and believe) spoke for God.