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Mormon cattle rancher Cliven Bundy takes an idiosyncratic stance on his church's 12th Article of Faith, which calls for "being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."
Bundy, who owes the federal government more than $1 million in grazing fees, supports the U.S. government only when it doesn't interfere with what he views as his rights.
"We are to be 'subject to kings, presidents, rulers and magistrates' as they honor the Constitution," he told KUER "RadioWest" host Doug Fabrizio on Wednesday. "But if they don't honor the Constitution, we don't have no obligation to 'em. Only as they honor the principles of protecting liberty and freedom of individual rights do we honor them and their government. It don't say we honor them and their laws."
Bundy's view of government is "far on the fringes," said Quin Monson, a political scientist at LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University. "It is not something I see or hear among people at BYU or at church. It has not made its way into mainstream Mormon websites or quasi-church material or affiliated sites."
In a 1994 speech at America's Freedom Festival in Provo, LDS apostle Dallin H. Oaks rebuked the notion that Mormons can break laws they think are unjust.
Oaks pointed to church policies reminding Mormons in any nation that they are "obligated by the 12th Article of Faith to obey the tax laws of that nation (see also Doctrine & Covenants 134:5) . ... A member who refuses to file a tax return, to pay required income taxes, or to comply with a final judgment in a tax case is in direct conflict with the law and with the teachings of the church."
In the speech, Oaks said "Latter-day Saints affirm that God gave the power to the people, and the people consented to a Constitution that delegated certain powers to the federal and state governments and reserved the rest to the people."
That does not mean, Oaks said, "that each citizen is free to determine which laws he will obey or that one or more citizens are free to redefine the concept of sovereignty ... [which] would result in anarchy."
There are even rules in the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for disciplining members "who don't obey the law," Monson said. "It depends on the severity of the situation and the person's prominence in the church community."
Such discipline "may not be applied consistently," the BYU professor said, but "at least there's a provision for it."
A recent LDS Church statement noted that "church discipline may be required for [members] guilty of serious criminal offenses."
Bundy has talked with his LDS bishop, he told KUER, and said he is not in any trouble.
Mormonism's 12th Article of Faith
"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law."