LDS Church condemns militia action in Oregon

Temple Square consists of the Salt Lake Temple, the Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall and two visitors' centers, Salt Lake City, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — As armed members of a militia group continue to occupy a federal building in Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a statement Monday condemning the action.

Acting as one of the faces of the group before the media is Ammon Bundy, son of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose family and supporters were involved in an armed standoff with federal agents over grazing rights in 2014. Known members of the LDS Church, Cliven Bundy and his family have often said they believe God was involved in aspects of the 2014 standoff.

In response to media inquires to the LDS Church regarding the situation in Oregon, the church issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

While the disagreement occurring in Oregon about the use of federal lands is not a Church matter, 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 scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis. We 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.

As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune in September 2012, LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks cautioned members of the church during a regional broadcast against joining or supporting potential “right-wing groups who mistakenly apply prophecies about the last days to promote efforts to form paramilitary or other organizations.”

He further stated that such groups can “undermine the authority of public officials … in the event of extraordinary emergencies or even in cases of simple disagreement with government policy.”

According the the LDS Church’s “Articles of Faith,” which covers 13 basic tenets of the Mormon faith, the 12th Article states: “We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”

Background

The militia took over a building in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, Saturday, following a protest over the sentencing of Oregon ranchers Dwight Hammond, 73, and Steven Hammond, 46, by a federal court.

Ammon Bundy told reporters the Hammonds had been treated unfairly.

The Hammonds were convicted of arson three years ago for fires on federal land in 2001 and 2006, one of which was set to cover up deer poaching, according to prosecutors. They said they lit the fires to reduce the growth of invasive plants and protect their property from wildfires.

The men served their original sentences —three months for Dwight Hammond and one year for Steven Hammond — but an appeals court judge ruled the terms fell short of minimum sentences that require them to serve about four more years.

Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore. Bundy, who was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights, told reporters on Monday that two local ranchers who face long prison sentences for setting fire to land have been treated unfairly. The armed anti-government group took over the remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon as part of a decades-long fight over public lands in the West, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, Jan. 4, 2016 | AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, St. Goerge News
Ammon Bundy, center, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, speaks with reporters during a news conference at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, near Burns, Ore. Bundy, who was involved in a 2014 standoff with the government over grazing rights, told reporters on Monday that two local ranchers who face long prison sentences for setting fire to land have been treated unfairly. The armed anti-government group took over the remote national wildlife refuge in Oregon as part of a decades-long fight over public lands in the West, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, Jan. 4, 2016 | AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, St. Goerge News

Their sentences have been a rallying cry for the group, whose primarily male members said they want federal lands turned over to local authorities so people can use them free of federal oversight.

The Hammonds turned themselves over to the custody of federal officials Monday to serve out their sentences in California.

Also according The Associated Press, the Hammonds have distanced themselves from the group.

The Bundys and others argue that the federal government has no right under the Constitution to control public lands, and therefore have chosen not to recognize its authority, or the authority of managing agencies like the Bureau of Land Management.

They claim the states are the rightful owners and managers of the lands and that the federal government should surrender control to the states.

Also standing with the group in Oregon at the wildlife refuge is Arizona rancher LaVoy Finicum, who told St. George News last year that he was following Cliven Bundy’s example and no longer paying his grazing fees to the BLM.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Email: mkessler@stgnews.com

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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14 Comments

  • native born new mexican January 4, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Note that the church stays out of the issue itself. The church only says that peaceful means should be used to resolve the problems. I understand and agree with that. I hope the situation in Oregon stays peaceful and that the GOVERNMENT does not decide to hurt more people than they already have. They are good at killing and hurting people and a lot of media people Montel Williams example want to see violence. Shame on them and the BLM and other federal agencies who do not hesitate to use violence to get their way about things. One of the most violent, war mongering forces in our modern world is the US government. Lets all support our bloody, war making government- or maybe not. I think I will take the church’s advice, see the GOVERNMENT as the violent organisation it is and not support it’s violent actions.

    • Chris January 4, 2016 at 8:04 pm

      Can you read at all? The church statements said far more than “that peaceful means should be used to resolve the problems.” Most importantly, they say that such problems must be solved “according to the laws of the land.” Bundy and his gang of complete idiots are ignoring those laws, and so are you. The church supports the rule of law, and you do not. I think that makes you an apostate.

      • native born new mexican January 4, 2016 at 11:14 pm

        I hope the GOVERNMENT does actually abide by the law of the land- the constitution. It has a habit of not doing that as the Hammonds and their friends can explain in detail to you. When the GOVERNMENT abides by the law of the land/constitution most of these problems will be solved. Peaceful law abiding governments usually don’t have too many problems with their citizens. I hope the GOVERNMENT decides to be peaceful and law abiding. Problem solved!

        • Chris January 5, 2016 at 11:37 am

          The Constitution specifically provides a judiciary branch to decide matters of law. That branch has already ruled on the Hammonds’ and the Bundys’ cases, according the law, and both families lost. The system functioned exactly as the Constitution prescribed. Now, you and they, the losers fair and square, want to change the rules after the fact. It doesn’t work like that as much as you wish it did. You are a loser. Learn to deal with it.

    • Chris January 4, 2016 at 8:23 pm

      “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 scriptural principles” Could they be any clearer? They are saying what the Bundy’s are doing, and what you support, is wrong. You can sugarcoat it anyway you want, but your church condemns your idiotic beliefs.

    • 42214 January 4, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      Call in the snipers. Let’s have another Ruby Ridge.

  • ladybugavenger January 4, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Anyone care what the cult condemns? All you Mormons better follow the leader and condemn the action too!

  • tcrider January 4, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    good for the mormon church,
    what would of happened if these militia morons were muslim or even blacks, this whole thing would of been handled totally different.
    The locals don’t want the bundys or militia there, it seems like the bundys are looking for attention or some kind of welfare case land deal.
    These people have taken over federal property with assault rifles, I hope the government takes action and does not show favor to a bunch of white trash thugs with assault rifles.

    • ladybugavenger January 4, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      If I showed up with an assault rifle on Federal land, I’m sure I’d get shot and be a Dead ladybug.

      • .... January 5, 2016 at 9:17 am

        I Just ordered my ladybug ‘check out my assault rifle ‘ T Shirt

        • ladybugavenger January 5, 2016 at 2:43 pm

          That’s awesome!

  • .... January 4, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    I hope the feds go in there. guns blazing ! grenades. tear gas. assault choppers. Kill’em all !

  • beentheredonethat January 5, 2016 at 5:04 am

    Who cares what the lds church thinks about political issues? And who are they picking for the Superbowl? That’s just as newsworthy!

  • htown January 5, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I think the commenting church just wants it a matter of record of what their New stance is.

    The don’t want deal with the fallout for another situation like the old stance, a.k.a. the Mountain Meadows Massacre to deal with for the next 150 years.

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