Ammon Bundy, a constitutional rights defender to his allies and a domestic terrorist to his critics, spoke in Smithfield on Wednesday and claimed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he is a devout member, has been infiltrated by socialists, globalists and environmentalists.
He claimed that the federal government’s prosecution of him and his supporters following confrontations in Nevada and Oregon is really a “battle of high priests” of the LDS Church. He said his father, himself and his attorney are all high priests in the church, but so are the lead U.S. attorney prosecuting his family, the chief judge in Oregon and former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid.
These comments elicited murmurs from the largely LDS crowd of nearly 200 people gathered in the Smithfield Recreation Center at Sky View High School.
“Why would I come in here and testify to you that I truly believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true church and that the Book of Mormon is true and then tell you that we’re being prosecuted by a high priest of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?”
Bundy asked. “Why would I tell you those things? Because the truth matters.”
Bundy went on to explain his view that events detailed in the Book of Mormon and the Bible have been repeating themselves over the past several years in his confrontations with the federal government.
In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management descended on his father’s desert ranch in Nevada to impound his cattle. Cliven Bundy, Ammon’s father, for years had refused to pay fees for grazing cattle on federal land, which includes the habitat of the threatened desert tortoise.
Ammon Bundy said Wednesday that his family has been grazing that land for 143 years, originally under the direction of Brigham Young, second president of the LDS Church.
The Bureau of Land Management eventually left the Bundy ranch in the face of armed militias.
In January 2016, Ammon Bundy, after claiming victory against the federal government, headed to Oregon to defend two men convicted of arson on federal land. A group of armed anti-government demonstrators then occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. President Trump recently pardoned the two Oregon men, Dwight and Steven Hammond, convicted of arson.
The LDS Church at the time issued a statement condemning the armed takeover of the refuge, stating “this armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis.”
Bundy quoted passages Wednesday from Third Nephi in the Book of Mormon and the Book of Judges in the Bible’s Old Testament to draw comparisons to how his family and others have been unjustly targeted by the government. He said it’s a battle between good and evil.
“I’m trying to show you that what was happening then is happening now,” Bundy said.
These statements come under the backdrop of Bundy’s worldview that all plants and animals on Earth were placed here by God for the express use and benefit of humans.
On the other side, he claims that environmentalists, globalists and socialists believe that man has evolved into an intellectually advanced species, and therefore all other species are at a disadvantage. He said the environmentalists believe it’s man’s duty to balance the species and to eliminate much of the human population. He said environmentalism is a religion.
“It is a completely different theology than a Christian theology,” Bundy said.
He said this same group of environmentalists, educated in “government” schools, have infiltrated the lower and middle levels of the LDS Church.
“I know that our church on the lower levels, the mid levels, has been infiltrated by these same people, but not the higher levels,” Bundy said. “I truly believe that those higher levels are honest, good, righteous men who follow the Lord’s guidance and inspiration, and I believe that they will guide us … through these rough times.”
When a Herald Journal reporter asked Bundy if members of the LDS Church can trust their local clergy, Bundy said it’s up to the individual to determine what is right and wrong.
“Whenever anybody in the church or out of the church is trying to infringe upon your agency, then they have become an enemy to God,” Bundy told The Herald Journal.
The Herald Journal reached out to the LDS Church for comment Thursday, but the church declined to comment on Bundy’s statements. Some of the attendees, however, agreed with Bundy’s claim that the church has been infiltrated.
Paradise resident Barry Gregerson said he was born and raised in the church and believes it has “been infiltrated in some ways.”
“It’s all about freedom,” Gregerson said. “It’s about looking forward to your own personal freedom.”
Providence resident Debra Pitcher said she believes there’s a split in the LDS Church.
“I think every church on the face of the Earth has people that are phony. Some of them, you know, they don’t believe the main teachings or they could be a spy,” Pitcher said.
Others hedged on Bundy’s use of the word “infiltrated.” American Fork resident Steve Bybee said there’s a difference between knowingly infiltrating a church and just being raised in society and taught by schools, family and friends.
“Huge difference,” Bybee said. “Infiltration means, ‘I know that I’m evil and I’m going to get myself in here so that I can do my evil,’ but what Ammon is saying, even though he used the word infiltrate, it’s not infiltration. They grow up thinking the way they think.”
Layne Beck, a former Cache County Council member and local representative to the Utah Republican Party State Central Committee who invited Bundy to speak in Smithfield, agreed with Bybee’s interpretation.
“Every one of us, including myself, has been educated in a government school system, and I do happen to believe what Ammon said here tonight about it is a religion, this environmentalism is a religion, and I’m not going to say that it’s infiltrated because that’s what they’ve been taught, and they haven’t been taught differently,” Beck said.