LAS VEGAS — Fifteen years before Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff against federal agents near his arid desert ranch, the devout Mormon combed through Latter-day Saints scripture and writings with his neighbor, another rancher upset about how the government regulates the public land around them.

The pair found support for their beliefs, and they have since passed their findings on to others who continue to challenge what they consider federal overreach and a collapse of the U.S. Constitution.

They compiled the works, highlighted and annotated, into an anthology called “The Nay Book,” named for rancher Keith Nay, Bundy’s late neighbor. The nearly 200-page booklet starts with a letter from Bundy outlining the document’s central question: “What is the Constitutional duty of a member of the Lord’s church?”

Bundy found answers in the scripture that he believed directed and justified him in “defending my rights and my ranch against the federal government’s tyrannical” usurpation of his land.

“The Nay Book” is a document rarely found outside Bundy’s inner circle, and it appears to lay a religious foundation for the rancher’s strong and consistent views that the federal government has been trampling his rights. More than an issue of the control of public land and federal taxation, it shows that Bundy and those close to him tie a unique interpretation of Mormon tenets to fundamental American governance and believe that defending their land is both a political and a religious necessity.

An illustration of Betsy Ross stitching an American flag is on the book’s cover, the words “Freedom, Liberty, for God We Stand” hanging over her head. The book explores what the Nay and Bundy families believe Mormon prophets have said from the beginning about the Constitution – that it is a sacred document but that American society is on the “brink of ruin” because its meanings have eroded.

Bundy family supporters discussed the book outside the federal courthouse in Las Vegas, where Bundy – along with his sons Ryan and Ammon, and a Montana militiaman named Ryan Payne – are on trial for a standoff at the Bundy Ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, in April 2014. In a livestream from the courthouse in November, Shawna Cox, who has said in the past that she is Bundy’s personal secretary, read aloud from “The Nay Book.”

“The book is phenomenal,” she said, noting that it has given the Bundy family strength. “Cliven has been pushing, pushing, pushing to get everybody to understand this book.”

The LDS Church has never supported the Bundy cause. In early 2016, the church condemned Ammon and Ryan Bundy’s armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge – a bird sanctuary – in Oregon, noting at the time that church leaders were “deeply troubled by the reports that those who have seized the facility suggest that they are doing so based on scriptural principles. This armed occupation can in no way be justified on a scriptural basis.”