I am not a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nor do I have any authority to represent the LDS Church. I reiterate, these are my interpretations of public and authoritative documents. I should not be cited as having any form of legitimacy. These are my opinions alone. Yet, my views ought not to be summarily dismissed either.
A friend, associate, of mine Kate Hefley Dalley, is a an afternoon talk show host on a local radio station with a broader audience via the internet. Not only does she spend her weekday afternoons commenting on public issues she also posts her personal views on Facebook.
Among her personal views she posted the following: “When the Bundy’s were up against FED snipers trained on them and their children and the unconstitutional treatment by the Feds, Elected Officials both Federal and State failed to help them, their own constituents. Michele Fiore was the only one I can think of that listened to them and stuck her neck out for them. That means a whole lot of Elected Officials, Senators, Congressmen, even Sheriffs and Mayors quickly threw this family and LaVoy Finicum under the bus.” That is not her statement in its entirety but it portrays her sentiment, I believe. Kate is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referenced as the LDS Church.
Following her post several people jump on their own bandwagon of criticism of the LDS Church because of its stance regarding the imprisonment of several members and friends of the Bundy family over a dispute with the Bureau of Land Management. In addition to that dispute charges were also set against the Bundy family members for participation in the occupation of a wildlife reserve in Oregon, which resulted in the shooting death of Lavoy Finicum by local officials operating in conjunction with federal law enforcement agencies. At that time the LDS Church issued a statement encouraging people to refrain from the conflict.
Consequent to people’s reaction to Kate’s post, by bring criticism of the LDS Church’s otherwise non-position regarding the conflict, in Nevada, she posted a clarification that her comment (cited above) related to elected officials and not LDS Church officials. “I’m not addressing the Church in this post. I’m talking exclusively about the Elected Officials that we elect to SERVE us. Will they really serve us if we were treated as the Bundy’s were. Let’s stay on topic. Please!” Yet, the people otherwise critical of the Church’s role continued their commentaries of complaint. It is then that I felt compelled to comment on the matter specific to the LDS Church’s role. Rather than a lengthy Facebook comment I chose to use this blog.
Again, one more time, I reiterate these are my singular viewpoints and are shared by others only coincidentally.
The role of elected officials and the media are substantively different from the role of religious leaders and organizations, in most cases. At least I hope so. In the case of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints its mission is to “Bring Souls Unto Christ.” Over the years the LDS Church has reiterated that it takes political positions only as they related specifically to that mission. It is important to note that the LDS Church does not comment on every political issue, nor should they regardless of the strength of their influence. As President Abraham Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Likewise, I hold the perspective that a Church divided in its mission cannot long stand. When the winds come it shall fall and great shall be the fall of it.
When the LDS Church encouraged membership to refrain from participation in the Oregon incident I hold the opinion that it did so to encourage peace and a well-ordered society. The LDS Church leadership, with the perspective of thousands of hours on interactions with violence across the globe and seeking to fulfill its mission none-the-less, may have foreseen highly potential outcomes. In fact, the outcome was in fact the death of a former LDS Bishop, Lavoy Finicum, whom chose to participate and even taken on the role of spokesman.
As a personal side note I was somewhat well acquainted with his brother, whom was serving as an LDS Bishop, and we discussed Lavoy at some length. Correspondingly, I worked very closely with the father-in-law of one of Lavoy’s sons and had similar and even more in-depth conversations. I lived next door to the home of one of the main parties involved in Lavoy’s shooting. A week before Lavoy’s death I interviewed him for over an hour. Although frustrating that I will not go into detail about those conversation because they are private and sacred I believe I am qualified to understand better than some the subtle roles played by various people.
The LDS Church maintained its position consistent with its mission, as directed by its ordained leaders. Some people may disagree with that because of their own designs and desires. They will likely continue with criticism. Yet, they do not, like myself, guide the reigns.
With respect to those whom would criticize the LDS Church too harshly let me draw upon an easily overlooked or manipulated portion of LDS Church Scripture, “We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied.” (Doctrine and Covenants 134:9)
That verse may be easily manipulated to defend or justify criticism or use of religious influence. Some will attempt to twist its obvious meaning with personal nuance. However rational minds will recognize that between the mission and this scripture of the LDS Church the intent is clear. The LDS Church focused upon bringing souls unto Christ and commenting or unduly influencing publicly elected leaders, for all religious societies, clearly would have been inappropriate.
Further, “We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.” (Doctrine and Covenants 134:11)
That does not suggest that the Church itself should be engaged such activities, but rather that men are justified in such behaviors. Expectation for the LDS Church to step into the breach of every social issue is foolhardy. However, in keeping with their mission it is wise to counsel people, through means of a broader perspective, to use wisdom to keep themselves from harm’s way both temporally and eternally.
Further, willfully overlooked by some is that this verse does not justify insurrection. It justifies just self-protection where governments cannot supply immediate and satisfactory means against criminal elements. It is popular among some to suggest that governments themselves are criminal elements. Yet, they are not. They are duly elected and appointed by the established means, If we are dissatisfied with the conduct of those elected we have a right, even an obligation to justly seek to replace them. Again, not by insurrection but by legitimate means.
ps- Initially, I held the stance as many others. I questioned why the LDS Church would refrain from raising a voice of warning against obvious and apparent government unjust intrusion. However, accepting that the Church leaders had a broader and more experienced perspective than myself I was able, after some time, to recognize the deeper and longer merit of their course.
That is The Way I See It.