However, one LDS member who joined a militia got into serious legal trouble, and though he successfully dodged conspiracy to murder charges, Coleman Barney still faces prison time for various weapons charges. Undoubtedly, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is aware of this case, and during a regional stake conference held at the Marriot Center at Brigham Young University on Sunday September 16th, 2012, decided to address it indirectly. The Salt Lake Tribune picked up the story, so the cat's out of the bag.
Elder Oaks began his talk by reminding the audience of the Church's position of political neutrality, and urged attendees to conduct their political discussions and advocacy in a civil manner, reminding people that we are all first and foremost brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Elder Oaks noted that the Church will not always respond publicly to every incident of inaccurate representation because it may give the impression that the Church is promoting or opposing one or another candidate.
But it was about halfway through his speech that Elder Oaks delivered his warshot on militias (the full text of the speech is posted at this YouTube site; since the audio quality is poor, I'm not embedding the video here):
Another example that I understand to be current among some members in this part of this church is the influence of right-wing groups who mistakenly apply prophecies about the last days to promote efforts to form paramilitary or other organizations. Such groups might undermine the authority of public officials in the event of extraordinary emergencies or even in cases of simple disagreement with government policy. The leaders of the church have always taught that we should observe the law and we should not try to substitute our own organizations for the political and military authorities put in place by Constitutional government and processes. We counsel against joining or supporting paramilitary organizations. I have sometimes taught this principle by reminding that the church has counseled the storage of food and water, not the storage of arms and ammunition.
One person took the videographer to task on the YouTube website, writing "Are you aware that posting this is against Church guidelines? See Handbook 2, 21.1.33". Here's what the Handbook states about recording speeches by General Authorities:
Church members should not record the talks or addresses that General Authorities and Area Seventies give at stake conferences, missionary meetings, or other meetings. However, members may record broadcasts of general conference on home equipment for personal, noncommercial use.
The problem is that the deed is done and the cat's out of the bag. Unknowledgable people and anti-Mormons will draw and state inaccurate or unfavorable conclusions about Elder Oaks' speech. Thus it behooves us to be conversant about the speech and be prepared to set the record straight. The speech has already triggered some debate among LDS members on the Tribune's website (after the jump):
Carbon Dioxide 3 hours ago:
Keep in mind Oaks did not say members could not or should not store guns and ammo but it simply was not something church actively advised members to do. If one has the money and space and their needs meet in other more important areas, no reason a member can't store ammo. In some places in the country, it is probably a good idea to have a few guns. If an emergency does happen, one needs to protect their food from a mob. No reason to have food storage if one gets looted in the first 24 hours of a disaster.
Joining a paramilitary group is stupid. One risks getting into legal trouble if some idiot in the group does something stupid. Just be armed to protect your family and your neighbor. No need to plot the overthrow of the government. The individual does not have the means to do it anyway. Just sit back and watch the government destroy itself. It is a slow process but it is will get there.
- and a previous comment by Carbon Dioxide 3 hours ago:
I hate to do this being LDS but I do want to "correct" Oaks on one small point. Paramilitary groups do not undermine the authority of public officials. They are not officials but our servants. When we elect them, we elect them to do our business, not to rule over us.
Trenton Weekes 42 minutes ago:
Careful. He didn't warn about all militias. Just those that are falsely applying signs of the second coming and seeking to substitute their organization over the constitutionally elected leaders. It's all in the context. It bothered me at first too, but I have studied more scripture and talks and lessons in the last 24 hours then I have for a long time. Maybe that's why he said it :) To get me to study.
petragalazio 3 hours ago:
We do see "religion" in being prepared, and, as I said, it is mostly for economical reasons (like losing your job) or regional emergencies (like earthquakes). It is wonderful to see any LDS General Authority telling LDS to think twice about any far-right groups, and calling them such - LDS theology is NOT far-right, though those who do not actually study LDS doctrine might think it is so only because of "the traditions of their fathers" (who were also in error). Elder Oaks actually said positive things about government, which is a real threatening thing to these fringe groups.
The GOP/LDS thing has a long history - but hopefully things are changing now. I see many more LDS being either registered Independents (like me) or Democrats (like lots of my friends). I think the tide will begin to turn, even in Utah. And if it does turn, with more General Authorities speaking out on this issue, you can expect to hear the LDS on the extreme right claim that the LDS Church is being led astray...
Although Joseph Smith predicted in 1844 that the day would come in which America would spend its strength and means warring in foreign lands until other nations shall say "Let us divide up the lands of the United States", that day has not fully arrived. The requisite third major political party has not yet formed. So Elder Oaks is simply counseling us to concentrate more on storing food in case of personal emergency rather than ammo for national emergency.