By now, most Latter-day Saints know that at least a few of the 200 (or was it only twelve?) armed patriots who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon are members of the Church. One of them, Ammon Bundy, is the son of Mormon-in-good-standing Cliven Bundy, who had a similar run-in with Second Amendment haters last year. Another, who calls himself “Captain Moroni,” gave an interview to Oregon Public Broadcasting invoking his Mormon faith.
A number of my more liberal Bloggernacle colleagues have already complained about the double standard: the Church, they say, excommunicates gay members and refuses to baptize their children while, at the same time, allowing people like the Bundys to engage in armed insurrection and point guns at federal officers without as much as a polite request not to take the sacrament.
But (as hard as it is for liberals) let’s try to be rational about this. Just because nobody has been subject to Church discipline for participating in militias and taking up arms against the government does not mean that there are not spiritual traps inherent in their actions. By my count, there are at least six specific ways that this act of armed insurrection and premeditated treason could develop into something really serious that would require ecclesiastical action:
- The insurrectionists have already run out of food and are asking people to bring them snacks. Soon, they will be reduced to looting vending machines and other supplies left in the visitor’s center. And this is the problem: no food or beverage is more common in federal facilities than COFFEE. There is probably a pot in every office, with can upon can in the storage room. As the siege goes on, their food and beverage choices will continue to shrink. There is every chance that they will rationalize serious violations of the Word of Wisdom.
- Ammon Bundy himself has said that the patriotic freedom fighters are willing to “stay here for years.” Let’s think about what this means in spiritual terms. It is possible, of course, that the men will continue to have some kind of sacrament service during this time, but if they stay for two years without leaving, THEY WILL MISS 24 MONTHS OF HOME TEACHING. I can’t imagine that the Lord will be pleased with such dereliction of a spiritual duty.
- Now that the Church has officially condemned the takeover, there is a great risk that, in defending their actions to the press, Bundy and the Captain will disagree with the Brethren and therefore SPEAK EVILLY OF THE LORD’S ANNOINTED. If they engage in this behavior by themselves, out of the hearing of others, their offense will probably not rise to the level of a disciplinary council. However, if one of them writes a blog post, or puts something on Facebook, or gives an interview to the press expressing their disagreement with the prophets, seers, and revelators of God, they will be engaging in a sin that Elder Oaks has called “in a class by itself.” Ecclesiastical leaders cannot ignore such affronts.
- The brother going by the name of “Captain Moroni” is, in all likelihood, VIOLATING A TRADEMARK held by the Church. While the Book of Mormon is no longer protected by copyright, its major figures constitute intellectual property that can be licensed to those who create educational materials such as this action figure. By violating this, the protestors are damaging the Church’s brand and lowering its market potential. And if that weren’t bad enough, it is a violation of the 2013 Stolen Valor Act to use a military rank which one has not earned. I seriously doubt that the gentleman involved is a captain of any kind. And this is where things get dicey. By choosing to commit treason and take up arms against their country in ways that violate both intellectual property and military integrity laws, the protestors risk violating the 12th Article of Faith.
- I must be circumspect here, in case there are young people reading. But the fact is that, if these men spend years occupying a visitor’s center without the company of their eternal mates, they will face certain, um, temptations. Men have certain urges, and, without the holy bonds of wedlock near, they will be sorely tempted to commit the FOUL AND UNNATURAL SIN OF SELF-ABUSE, which the Lord, through His prophets, has condemned in the strongest possible terms.
- And finally, as President Kimball warned us so many years ago in The Miracle of Forgiveness, the practice of self-abuse can lead us to one of the worst depravities known to man, even THE SIN OF SODOM, which, I trust, I do not need to name here. But the fact is that, after years of being deprived of matrimonial bonditude, coupled with the stress and erotic thrill of combat, it is very possible that these men will turn to each other for the affection and love that only an eternal partner should ever give. This would be a grave sin. And if it led to a same-sex marriage, it would constitute apostasy and deprive their children of the gifts of blessing and baptism.
So, I don’t know if you can hear me Brother Ammon and Brother Captain, but if you can, I urge you to be careful. Now all you can see is a simple case of armed sedition and an opportunity for gratuitous violence. But I tell you that there is more to the story than that. Cunning are the ways of the evil one, and there are spiritual traps that you can’t see. What has started as a simple case of treason and potential mass murder could, before your very eyes, evolve into a situation that has real spiritual consequences.