Mormon News, April 14–18

In the News

Defiant Rancher Has Mormon Roots, Political Rhetoric

Cliven Bundy, a rancher in Nevada, has long refused to pay the Bureau of Land Management cattle grazing fees. Bundy, a millionaire with a large herd, has been fined for decades but has also refused to pay the fines.News Update When federal agents moved to seize Bundy’s cattle, supporters of Bundy, armed and invoking violent rhetoric, appeared on the scene. The government, perhaps with memories of Waco, Texas on their mind, withdrew.

As the drama unfolded, some sharp-eyed online watchers familiar with Mormonism noticed that Bundy’s rhetoric sounded familiar. Bundy, it turns out, is a Mormon and inherited his land from his LDS ancestors who settled the area under Brigham Young. Bundy appears to be well-read in the works of Dr. Cleon Skousen and invokes Skousen-like language to justify his stand against the government. Skousen, known among Latter-day Saints as the former head of the Freemen Institute and an ultra-conservative political commentator, has achieved a wider audience recently after being hyped by conservative talk radio host Glenn Beck. A local Nevada sheriff and acquaintance of Bundy who supports his stand against the federal government has also spoken openly of his admiration for Skousen. In the past the LDS Church has issued statements warning against extremist political views and the potential of violence by independent militias. The leadership has even excommunicated their members for ultra-conservative political views.[1]

LDS Leader Meets with Obama

The LDS church, which has long had a more progressive policy toward illegal immigration than other socially conservative faiths, had a top leader invited to meet with President Barack Obama on immigration reform. First Presidency member Dieter F. Uchtdorf acknowledged that the President has policies and positions the church does not agree with (presumably a reference to marriage equality) but that they are more aligned on immigration reform. The church has advocated a lenient, compassionate approach that has at times surprised some of its members used to more politically conservative statements from the faith.

A Small Oregon Town. 

In the news feeds this week, we got a chuckle out of this unfortunate headline about the LDS ward located in Boring, Oregon.

Mormon News

In Books

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam has written a new book on the murder of Joseph Smith, titled “American Crucifixion.” Beam is getting positive reviews from mainstream journalists in organs like the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, both of which see Beam’s treatment of Joseph Smith as “balanced.” At least one LDS reviewer, Julie J. Nichols writing for the Association for Mormon Letters, feels that the portrayal lacks nuance or insight.

News updates by John Hatch, acquisitions editor

[1] See John-Charles Duffy, “The Making of Immanuel: Brian David Mitchell and the Mormon Fringe,” Sunstone October 2003: 34–45.