Ammon Bundy’s militia has occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon since January 2. The standoff with authorities continues despite the arrest of Bundy and 11 of his followers and the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum during a traffic stop last week, and despite Bundy’s pleas that the four remaining militia members leave the refuge. They insist that they will not leave until their comrades are released and everyone is pardoned. These conservative Mormons have claimed that God told them to seize the land in defense of ranchers sentenced to jail time for setting fires on federal land.
A decade ago, I was writing historical novels about black Latter-day Saints history. I was contextualizing the death of Mary Ann Adams Abel, wife of black LDS priest (ordained by Joseph Smith) Elijah Abel, and reading newspapers of the day. What stories were the people who attended Mary Ann’s funeral reading? The most interesting article (for me) was one published in the Deseret Weekly News on December 5, 1877—a week after Mary Ann’s death.
When I am not involved in matters religious or scholarly, one of my favorite escapes is science fiction and fantasy literature or media. My favorite series is The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan.
The series focuses on the actions of four friends, pushed by circumstances from their little village into the larger world. They discover along the way that they are meant to play central roles in the coming Last Battle of the Ages.
Ongoing and open revelation sets the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints apart from many other religious traditions. Mormons believe there is a living prophet of God on Earth and that he has the power and authority to receive new doctrine directly from the Lord. Despite its infrequent implementation, the ninth article of faith is one of the most important tenets of Mormon doctrine: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Open revelation is at the heart of the recent excommunication of Mormon feminist Kate Kelly.
The history of the American heartland sometimes appears as little more than a bloody farrago of killing which, in the God-soaked vocabulary of the perpetrators, must be understood not as murder, but as something inevitable and even holy. This tradition persists long after the Native American resistance to European settlers was put down by settlers and soldiers certain of providential favor.