Monday, September 17, 2012

LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks Cautions LDS Members Against Joining Militia Groups Who Form On The Basis Of Latter-Day Prophecy

Many patriotic members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, upon encountering the latter-day prophecies of people like Joseph Smith and Wilford Woodruff, look to prepare themselves against the expected tribulation. Some even go so far as to join militia groups who train to survive and operate in the absence of a civil infrastructure.

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.


Anonymous said...

The church's food storage program doesn't counsel every member to store guns and ammo. What FOOD STORAGE program does? Church counsel applies to every member, so this would likely never be the general counsel from the church. Those who couldn't shoot their way out of a wet paper bag or even know how to safely handle a firearm need to be exempt. Of course, the church must distance itself from stories about members who join fringe groups to overthrow the government. This is a great season of opportunity to share the gospel and we won't open any doors by being perceived as advocating violent overthrow of governments from supposed "prophecies." Note there is no official counsel against possessing firearms/ ammunition. His remarks in no way mean that those who are familiar with firearms should not own and use them in righteous ways. The Book of Mormon is filled with armed saints (Where did you get that sword Nephi?). It also doesn't negate the commandment/ obligation to "defend your families, even unto bloodshed" (Alma 43:47); unlike Elder Oaks good counsel to avoid paramilitary groups based on purported prophecies, that scripture is canonized LDS doctrine and binding upon the church as a whole.

Ben L. Kemer said...

The real issue here is irrational paranoia about government, and blindly treating them as the antichrist. Militias do this, some fringe groups do this. Dallin H. Oaks specifically did this to address the rising conspiracy theory trend among members of the church in believing the craziness that 9/11 was an inside job, the government is seemingly behind every terror attack, etc., when this is simply dishonest priestcraft. The government of the United States is divinely appointed, so much that it should take nothing short of some serious revelation to argue otherwise. Even then, however, the latter-day history of the church has shown that when faced with such a hateful enemy, the policy of the Lord has been to evacuate to designated areas for protection. But then again, I disclaim this as being totally my opinion.

Anonymous is totally right about firearms, in a time of shortage, I see nothing against using a firearm for hunting meat, which can be important nutrition in survival situations, the Lord even made quail unable to fly so sick saints in Joseph F. Smith's group could catch and kill the birds for meat with their own hands. What's also true is that it's not against the Lord to hopefully intimidate your enemy out of a fight altogether. Joseph Smith's family fired off multiple gunshots to let attempted assailants know that they were trying to attack a group of people fortified in a house. Joseph Smith also fired shots off in Carthage Jail to draw mob's gunfire to him, and to that end, he succeeded with John Taylor and Willard Richards actually surviving that day. Captain Moroni used multiple shows of force which in some situations evaded plenty of bloodshed was evaded both ways.

The predatory nature of extreme-right groups is that they deceptively prey upon the Saints' fears of old persecution coming back, however, what's important to note is that if there was some reason to override the counsel of the Lord in Section 134 of Doctrine and Covenants, I am pretty sure nothing short of the Lord's orders would justify going against it.

What's important is for any Saint or Citizen to know is that extreme bigotry against the church is not promoted by the higher-ups of any political party. Neither party is ovewhelmingly anti-mormon at this time. Even President Obama respected and chose John Huntsman, a member of the church, as ambassador to East Asia
Even Gordon B. Hinckley stated the need to be helpful and civil to our government following 9/11 as well. I think it's important not to succumb to extremists who think that it's their way or the highway in America, left or right regardless, extreme fringes are the kinds of people who are no friends of the church, because they don't like company not radical or reactionary enough for them.

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Anonymous said...

Gladiaton robbers and secret combinations could never happen today right?

Anonymous said...

Vaughn J. Featherstone " Food Storage" CR April, 1976

I should like to address a few remarks to those who ask, “Do I share with my neighbors who have not followed the counsel? And what about the nonmembers who do not have a year’s supply? Do we have to share with them?” No, we don’t have to share—we get to share! Let us not be concerned about silly thoughts of whether we would share or not. Of course we would share! What would Jesus do? I could not possibly eat food and see my neighbors starving. And if you starve to death after sharing, “greater love hath no man than this …” (John 15:13.)

Now what about those who would plunder and break in and take that which we have stored for our families’ needs? Don’t give this one more idle thought. There is a God in heaven whom we have obeyed. Do you suppose he would abandon those who have kept his commandments? He said, “If ye are prepared, ye need not fear.” (D&C 38:30.) Prepare, O men of Zion, and fear not. Let Zion put on her beautiful garments. Let us put on the full armor of God. Let us be pure in heart, love mercy, be just, and stand in holy places. Commit to have a year’s supply of food by April 1977.