The Mormon Roots of Cliven Bundy’s New Political Party

Editor’s Note: This post originally ran here at Approaching Justice on May 27, 2014. Re-posting in light of recent events, though I would emphasize that Bundy’s view and those of his family are very extreme and fringe even within Mormon community, which is in mans ways ultra-conservative. -CH

Cliven Bundy has left the Republican Party and switched his party affiliation to the Independent American Party.

The Independent American Party has roots in Utah and according to their website, they were founded out of a commitment to the right-wing political principles of the late Mormon leader Ezra Taft Benson. Here is how they describe their 1993 founding:

Utah wanted a “truly” conservative party, and citizens formed the Utah IAP. The founders were inspired by a speech given by Ezra T. Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture, entitled “The Proper Role of Government”. Benson’s love for America and belief in its divine destiny were echoed by many and thus became the basis for the initial platform. The 15 principles for the proper role of government, taken from his speech still influence core decisions today.

Ezra Taft Benson was President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1985 until his death in 1994. He was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from 1943 to 1995.

Ezra Taft Benson

Ezra Taft Benson

While an Apostle of the LDS Church, Benson served as the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during both terms of President Dwight Eisenhower. His appointment to the Cabinet was a gesture of reconciliation with the conservative wing of the GOP.

After his time in the Eisenhower administration, Benson was an outspoken right-wing voice in American politics. He blasted everything from social welfare programs, civil rights, and the United Nations as being part of a Communist conspiracy to take over the United States and the world. While he was not a member of the John Birch Society, he was a vocal supporter.

The Independent America Party is not associated with the John Birch Society. However, when covering Utah politics in the late 1990s, it was not uncommon for me to see signs for Independent American candidates next to official John Birch Society “Get Us Out of the United Nations” signs.644px-USOutOfUN

The Independent American Party was briefly associated with the national American Party, an offshoot of the American Independent Party. The American Independent Party is best known for having Alabama Gov. George Wallace as their presidential nominee in 1968.

George Wallace had approached Ezra Taft Benson multiple times about joining his ticket in 1968 in the Vice President slot. Benson followed the advice of then LDS Church President David O. McKay and declined the offers.

The Independent American Party became a national party in 1998, but it has not had been much of a presence beyond Utah and other Mormon pockets of the American West. Even in those areas, I can find no record of an Independent American candidate being elected to office. In many ways it has been in the shadows of similar right-wing “Constitutionalist” parties like the Constitution Party.

From their website, it is clear the the party is both a Ezra Taft Benson fan club and functioning ideological political party with under a dozen candidates running the 2014 Utah elections. With the party’s official heavy emphasis on Benson, it is unlikely that the party would appeal to many non-Mormons. For Cliven Bundy, himself a Mormon, this was not an obstacle and likely part of what lead him to officially align with the Independent American Party.

The national and Nevada GOP are likely very relieved.

12 replies »

    • I had almost forgotten about Gritz. I think that might be because he had fallen from the limelight by the time I moved out west. I also think that Gritz used Mormonism to advance his agenda, while Bundy and the IAP seem to be quite deeply Mormon.

  1. It’s important to note that these folks believe they are fulfilling prophecy. From the journal of Mosiah Hancock (which purports to quote Joseph Smith):

    There will be two great political parties in this country. One will be called the Republican, and the other the Democrat party. These two parties will go to war and out of these two parties will spring another party which will be the Independent American Party.


    • I think he had particular influence because of his high profile as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. The fact that he became President of the Church gave his views sticking power. While Mormons look up to Apostle, they have a special love for the President of the Church.

      • Pure nonsense!! The personal political views of an apostle or prophet are nothing more than that. What they say or do on their own time in their non-ecclesiastical capacity is clearly understood to be their own point of view and not that of the church. You are just creating misinformation to satisfy your own interests.

        • “Creating misinformation”? How is the author “creating” the historically verified facts in the article? How is it “misinformation”? This is a substantially non-speculative piece.

  2. A couple of corrections are in order. First, the Independent American Party in Nevada is affiliated with the national Constitution Party, and has nothing at all to do with any other Independent American Party. Secondly, though the lead dogs of the IAP undoubtedly have a very high regard for the words of Ezra Taft Benson, as was alluded to by Last Lemming, they seem to set even greater store in this purported prophecy of Joseph Smith recorded in the journal of one Mosiah Hancock a couple of decades after he apparently heard the prophecy given when he was a small boy of eight or ten years old. The problems with that scenario don’t need to be expounded upon. The most telling thing, however, is the claim of this prophecy that the Republican and Democrat parties would “go to war”, and out of those two parties would spring another, called the Independent American Party. Who in his right mind today would entertain the notion that these two parties have gone to war? Rather, regardless of the rhetoric, they are joined at the hip, with the Republicans doing nothing more than offering token resistance to the Democrats now and then. Who has ever seen one party reverse the policies of the other when the power changes hands? Not much of a war. More like two different retail outlets selling the same line of drivel.

    A further thought: What likelihood is there of building a national party whose basis is founded on a prophecy of the Mormon Joseph Smith?

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