Tag Archives: Denver Snuffer

Church Bubbles

This is an image you’re going to see a lot of in the news and around the bloggernacle.  It’s from a leaked powerpoint presentation (UPDATE – the LDS Church has issued a take down notice to Mormon Leaks) that was given to the 12 Apostles in December of 2015.  It highlights what Church leaders deem as the most important issues or ideas causing Church members to be “lead away from the gospel.”

Might I just say at the outset of this post that I truly respect these men who are sincerely trying to grapple with very difficult issues confronting the Church.  I know many of them. Some are my friends.  I do not envy their positions.  I believe them to be as sincere as I ever was as an active LDS person, or more so.

But might I also suggest that this bubble chart is very much the stuff of the corporate realm.  Where paid data analysts and middle management folks do the research and then present a well-thought out proposal to their VPs and CEOs.  As you know, this is one of my issues I have with the Church.  I feel like the Church operates too much like a business rather than by revelation.

I did find it interesting that this particular page of the powerpoint refers to people “leaving the gospel.”  I can’t speak for others, but I see some of these bubbles on this chart as reasons why people may leave the Church (although not necessarily), but who in many cases as a result of their “issues” may actually find the gospel.

As one example, the chart speaks of “pornography, chastity, and lack of righteousness” as to why many people are leaving. And yet we learn in scripture that the Lord gives us weakness that we may come unto Him:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27).

I can personally testify that God gives us weakness (one might say the tendencies of the natural man) — that we may be humble — that we may turn to Him.  Or you could say, turn towards the Gospel.

Perhaps the Church is too worried about people’s weaknesses and should see them more as God’s hand in our lives. This reminds me too much of the obsession we have as Mormons to be a part of the Not Even Once Club.  It’s almost as if the Church would prefer no one ever make a mistake rather “learn by our own experiences to choose good over evil.”

I love the verse in the D&C that shows how our Lord uses our weaknesses and trials to His advantage:

And after their temptations, and much tribulation, behold, I, the Lord, will feel after them, and if they harden not their hearts, and stiffen not their necks against me, they shall be converted, and I will heal them (D&C 112:13).

It is usually when I feel most broken (often from my sins and weaknesses) that I experience the Lord feeling after me.  And of course the best part, it is most often then that I become more converted to Him and more healed by Him.

The Church seems to be more concerned with Church activity as a way to measure righteousness.  Some of my most spiritual experiences with ward members have been in hospitals, prisons, at grave sides and in the homes of “inactives,” where in many cases sin or other tribulations have brought someone to their knees.

I spoke to a family member recently for example who is inactive.  Her bishop asked her the other day if she has been praying.  His insinuation was that she was not, because after all, she is “inactive.”  She replied in disbelief and in tears, “I have never prayed so hard in my life for answers.  I have never cried so hard to God.”  She then added that she had recently and for the first time in her life, screamed at God to not let a person she loved, die.  I asked her if it helped.  She explained that although the person did die, something powerful had taken place in her heart in the process of yelling at God.  There was a new trust developed.  A new understanding.  New healing despite the heartache.  All this from someone who has “left” the gospel according to the bubble chart.

Perhaps a better title for this powerpoint page might be “Issues and Ideas Leading People Away From The Church.”  Or “Leading People To The Not Paying Tithing Category.”  I think it would be a more accurate title based on what I think is their goal — to keep people active in coming to Church.

I’d like to spend a minute on what I think is the most important and interesting bubble on the leaked powerpoint:  Denver Snuffer.

Denver is unique on this chart.  He claims to have seen the Lord.  Other people on the chart may be interesting, but in the case of John Dehlin, my understanding is he’s more progressive and would like the Church to change or adapt to more popular and modern positions.

I personally like John Dehlin.  I think he does a great job helping people tell their stories.  He encourages and embraces dialogue.  While I don’t always align with his ideology, I generally find him interesting, intelligent, and compassionate.

But interestingly, Denver seems to want to lead people to the Gospel.  He makes the case that by focusing on the message of the Book of Mormon, all can have and should try to have the same experience he has had.  In fact, Denver, more than anyone else, defends the Restoration and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and the Lectures on Faith etc.

I personally always struggled defending the Church narrative when it came to issues such as Polygamy, Blacks and the Priesthood, and Mountain Meadows.  I made awful excuses that justified awful things because I believed the Church version of its own history.

But Denver HELPS the Church enormously.  He makes a great case for example that Joseph never had sexual relations with Fanny Alger (14 years old) or with anyone, save Emma. One would think that IF this was true, the Church would want to exonerate Joseph from all the awful accusations of pedophilia, polygamy, fornication, and adultery.  Can you imagine how many people would be relieved and overjoyed — who perhaps would “Know brother Joseph again” if Snuffer is right?

Snuffer also makes a great case that blacks should have never had priesthood withheld from them.  At least not the priesthood the Church has and gives.  Can you imagine how much easier it would be IF the LDS Church had not discriminated against Blacks up until 1978?  Joseph was campaigning to free the slaves in the 1800s! and was giving them priesthood. That all stopped with Brigham Young, the self-professed Yankee Guesser.

Denver Snuffer also offers a very compelling reason why the LDS Church is still under condemnation, culminating with the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum at Carthage, fulfilling the promise from the Lord in D&C 124 and reflecting the idea of Moses being taken from Israel as is depicted in D&C 84.  Joseph is described by Nephi to be like unto Moses is he not?  (2 Nephi 3:9).  Maybe Joseph was taken because we, like Israel, wanted something less than the Higher Priesthood and the Fulness of His Glory?  This sure makes sense to me.

Everything I have read from Snuffer suggests to my mind a return to what the Lord was trying to restore through the prophet, seer, and revelator Joseph Smith.

Everything the Church seems to do today is with the goal of saving the Church and with keeping people coming to Church.

Admittedly the Church has a very difficult path.  If it exonerates Joseph from polygamy, it throws Brigham and ALL prophets and Church leaders up to the present under the bus. Wilford Woodruff included, who said, “Keep your eye on the prophet, he can’t lead you astray, the Lord won’t let him.”  (Wink, wink.)

If the Church admits that Brigham was the real culprit in polygamy (misunderstanding Joseph’s doctrine of sealings completely), and in denying Blacks the priesthood and in Blood Atonement — the teaching of lawful killing to help save the sinner, i.e. a mixed race couple, then it admits that everything post Joseph is unreliable at best and must be seen as condemned by the Lord rather than condoned.

And hence the dilemma.  Good men generally, who find themselves at the helm of a massive corporate organization, without a Joseph-like connection to heaven.  They believe it is the Kingdom of God on Earth as did I for 40+ years.

I love them. I am sad for them.  Because they rely upon research rather than revelation.  And because they simply cannot consider a more beautiful and truthful narrative that restores and preserves the restoration itself, because it very may well undo the Church.  It certainly would undo the confidence many have in the Brethren, which as Denver has noted is the last doctrine left of the LDS Church.  We hear it over and over in Conference:  “Stay on the Ol’ Ship Zion and look to the Brethren, who can’t lead you astray.”

In my view, Denver Snuffer is the most reliable witness of our day.

Many of my questions, many of my concerns, many of my issues regarding deep and important questions about the gospel and eternity HAVE been answered by this obscure and interesting man the Church sees as a threat.  Denver ironically has kept me in the gospel when I might have otherwise been tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater as so many have when I discovered harsh truths about the Church.  Truths the Church seemed to deliberately keep from me.

I hope the Church will come to see Snuffer as a friend to Mormonism.  IF Snuffer has seen the Lord and IF Snuffer has been called to some work in these the Last Days (another dangerous bubble apparently) THEN perhaps we should at least read and consider what he is saying and ask God if it is from Him or not.

When I read his books, it makes me want to be a better person, turns me to scripture and makes me want to come unto Christ. If the Church determines that is “dangerous” then I am guilty as charged. Guilty of wanting to repent, be redeemed, and to have no more disposition to do evil.

God damn me I suppose, but for now, I’m inspired to hold fast to the gospel, in large part because Denver Snuffer helped me not throw away the restoration along with my many concerns I have with the Church.  This is why I see him as unique.  One the Church should see as a friend, if in fact they care about people not leaving the Gospel.

I Know Nothing

Every so often I hear myself communicating with some measure of implied or assumed authority.  I apologize for the times I do.  The truth is I really don’t “know” anything or at least I know very little.

Even as a bishop I did not like to say in my testimony that “I know God lives, or that Jesus is the Christ, or that the Book of Mormon is true.”  I prefer to say that I believe, perhaps even with all my heart, that such things are true.  But I don’t like to say “I know.”  The truth is, I only believe most things.

I don’t mean to criticize anyone who believes they do know things.  Some of you may “know” much.  For me though, I believe, and I want to believe more and receive more and don’t want God to think I have all that I want.  I love the example of Abraham who “sought Him earnestly.”  This seeking seems to suggest that he did not stop searching.  That he was inquisitive and unassuming before meeting the Lord.  His reward?  “My name is Jehovah…” and the incredible knowledge that followed, not the least of which was the knowledge of God and the receipt of his Exaltation.  Or the example of Moses who said:

I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

Too often I think we beat each other over the heads with our testimonies.  As a missionary we were instructed at times to dust our feet, so to speak, in leaving our testimonies with someone who disagreed with us.  What a mistake that is in my view.

I think the end result for most of us still in the “belief” stage who share our testimonies in this way, or our perceived “knowledge” is to offend the receiver of our words, rather than to convert them.

Sadly, I think we Mormons tend to be very passive aggressive although we may not realize it.  I believe one of the chief reasons that we can’t discuss anything in church is due to this tendency we have.  I see the same in many comments online, including on this blog.

For many years I found myself arguing with others in gospel discussions, which in looking back I think we can all agree, goes counter to all that the gospel actually is.  I think part of my problem was that I often felt threatened by the ideas or decisions of others, especially those I loved.  Now I see that I was insecure and full of pride, not full of love, as I had thought.  I want to be better at discussing ideas with others and in loving people despite differences of opinion.

I also no longer like it when someone says “The Lord told me to do or say such and such…”   Again, I don’t mean to be critical.  Most of us have done this to one degree or another.  I certainly have.  But, again, I think the effect of this practice generally shuts down communication and ends what could be healthy conversations and relationships.

I would so much prefer to hear someone say, “I think the Lord is trying to tell me to do such and such…”  Or “I feel very strongly that I’m being guided, but I simply don’t know… I’m acting on faith…”

One of my best friends in life is so good at this.  Ironically, I believe he is closer to the Lord than anyone I know.  And yet he rarely uses the Lord’s name in such a way.  When we discuss gospel ideas, and I know he knows what he’s talking about, he is still very careful to not force his ideas on me with such statements as “the Lord revealed to me that this idea is true… etc.”  I love this trait in my friend.  He reminds me that anyone’s ideas may have merit and to be careful to not simply dismiss them, even if they are just free lancing as most of us are.

As I look back upon certain statements I’ve made over the years, I’m embarrassed.  Perhaps I’ve informed a congregation that the Lord or the Spirit has just revealed something to me.  Or that the Lord has told me to call them or that the Spirit told me to go somewhere.  Am I doing this to set myself up as a light?  To elicit an effect?  To make myself look good?  To appear more in tune than others?  Do I speak with assumed-authority and throw scriptures at people to beat them down instead of lift them up?  I’ve been there and still repeat such mistakes.  I seek forgiveness.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we aren’t ever guided.  It’s not that the Lord can’t or doesn’t speak to us.  But, perhaps often we think He is speaking where He may not be.  Or perhaps He is communicating something with us that we simply misunderstand.  Or worse, some other force may actually be inspiring us and we think and claim it is the Lord.  Why not simply err on the side of complete humility unless the Lord commands otherwise, literally (not maybe).

I seek to engage with others in a way that is more kind and patient and unassuming.  Less authoritative.  After all, what do most of us really know?  We are less than the dust of the earth are we not?  We are nothing, which thing perhaps we should begin to suppose.

Now, some of you may be saying “Well, AB what about you and your criticisms of the church and some of its leaders?  Isn’t that unkind?”  I think that’s a very fair question.

It’s a challenge for me because like many of you, I’ve learned some things about the Church that have been hard to digest.  I have experienced something akin to what I’d call the mourning of the loss of something very dear to me.  Like most of you, the Church was my identity for almost my entire life.

I spent a few years very angry when I began to realize the Church wasn’t as true as I had thought.  Not true to the restoration at least.  Not true to Joseph Smith or to the Book of Mormon.  Or to the Savior.  Or to the truth.  And frankly, not true to the poor or to the sick or to those struggling in so many ways.

This discovery for me of truth that had been withheld or perverted inspired some anger, I admit.  I don’t feel that way so much anymore.  But the mourning stages for me were real and were painful.

An important distinction I make though is that the Brethren AND any other man or woman who claims to be a prophet places a burden upon those in their midst to discern if their message is true or false.  Beware of false prophets we are taught!  That goes for Thomas or Denver or any human who makes claims of open veils and revelations.  It becomes our duty to expose or to believe.  It is my understanding that choosing wrongly, leads us to unbelief and misjudgment, things we will held accountable for.

I’m always reminded of how hard it must have been to believe Joseph was a true messenger.  Even many of those who first believed, ended up betraying him in the end.  Are we any different or better?  And then what about John the Baptist?  Or Jesus?  Even the Son of God came in such a way that most did not believe His message.  It must have been even worse for Isaiah and Jeremiah and Lehi and Nephi and all the other holy prophets.

So if I am critical and am sinning, I ask for your forgiveness.  For God’s forgiveness.  But for now, I believe it is my duty to discern and expose and/or believe and share.  I don’t do so with any authority and I attempt to only do so in an unassuming way — in a way that hopefully helps others seek the Lord, and not men.  Certainly to not follow men in an idolatrous way as we are so prone to do.

I am hopeful that this year God will bless us to love better and to grow in greater light and knowledge.  Especially those of us who claim or think we are awake.  Who are here reading these blogs.  I hope that as we discuss these things together it can be in a way that is thoughtful and profound.  So much is at stake in discovering the truth and in being redeemed.

God bless us all in 2017,

AB

The Spirit of Prophecy

IsaiahThe scriptures warn us that in the last days there will be prophets who do not prophesy and seers who do not see (Isaiah 30:10).  Jesus also warned that there would be false prophets and an abundance of men teaching their own precepts to get gain, so that even the very elect will be deceived (2 Nephi 26:29; JS Matthew 1:22).

As Latter-day Saints we must learn what a true prophet is and we must learn to discern between true and false prophets lest we also be deceived.

The scriptures provide a standard by which we can all judge.  Simply put, a prophet must have the spirit of prophecy in order to be a true prophet.  This is the sign.

As we watch General Conference we should look for the spirit of prophecy.  We should measure carefully what is being said.  We should pray that those who we sustain as prophets will prophesy and speak prophetically because when prophets and seers, prophesy and see, they become a great benefit to their fellow man (Mosiah 8:18).  This is the means whereby we can receive salvation.

If men who are called prophets do not have the spirit of prophecy we can know they are false prophets.  Nephi gives us an important bar by which we can measure:

Wherefore, hearken, O my people, which are of the house of Israel, and give ear unto my words; for because the words of Isaiah are not plain unto you, nevertheless they are plain unto all those that are filled with the spirit of prophecy (2 Nephi 25:4).

All prophets will understand the words of Isaiah.  They will also share the testimony of the Savior and of Nephi and others that the words of Isaiah are great!  (3 Nephi 23:1).

When’s the last time you heard an LDS prophet give a talk on the words of Isaiah in General Conference?  When Jesus came to the Nephites, He gave them the “commandment to search these things diligently; for great are the words of Isaiah.”  Do the servants of the Lord today emphasize this same commandment?

Deseret Book

In a cursory search on DeseretBook.com, I found 21 books on the topic of Isaiah:

If Ye Lack Wisdom, Ask Trained Scholars

BalklardElder Ballard spoke last week to a very large crowd in the Marriott Center.  You can read his entire talk here.

In his remarks, Elder Ballard spends a significant portion of his time “praising the Saints” he says “as Paul did” in Biblical times.

Elder Ballard suggests that the Utah County saints are the most faithful, most affluent, and most blessed among all of God’s people.  He makes the case that our vast wealth in Utah County, and access to hospitals along with our great athletic teams and the Arts and Universities and spacious buildings are the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the desert would blossom as a rose.

It quickly becomes clear that this talk is meant to be of the Boise Rescue variety, wherein Elder Ballard begins to focus on false prophets (i.e. Denver Snuffer) and the need to follow the Brethren, who, as he reminded us in his last conference talk, “cannot lead us astray, the Lord will simply not allow it.”

But there’s a feigned change to his tone when Elder Ballard expresses sympathy for those of us with unanswered questions or concerns:

We have heard stories where someone asking honest questions about our history, doctrine, or practice were treated as though they were faithless. This is not the Lord’s way. As Peter said, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man [or woman] that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”[9]

We need to do better in responding to honest questions. Although we may not be able to answer every question about the cosmos or about our history, practices, or doctrine, we can provide many answers to those who are sincere.

I have to chuckle when Elder Ballard says “We have heard stories…”  as if to suggest he and the Brethren have had nothing to do with the way Denver Snuffer, Adrian and Tausha Larsen, Rock Waterman, and dozens of others have been treated for “their questions.”  Denver Snuffer’s Passing the Heavenly Gift, for example, is one of the most honest books I’ve ever read that asks sincere questions about the Church’s history.  Is he not being treated by the Brethren as “faithless”? all the while ironically, attempting to provide answers the Brethren have not provided, with the hopes of keeping people from leaving the Church.

But here is the revealing highlight for me from the talk.  Elder Ballard explains what he does when he has questions:

When I have a question that I cannot answer, I turn to those who can help me. The Church is blessed with trained scholars and those who have devoted a lifetime of study, who have come to know our history and the scriptures. These thoughtful men and women provide context and background so we can better understand our sacred past and our current practices.   

Now I get that some of you may rightly argue that Elder Ballard doesn’t mean to suggest that he never asks the Lord when he has a question.  But, don’t you find it peculiar that one who calls himself a “prophet” doesn’t go out of his way to emphasize that when he has a question, he asks the Lord, with whom he speaks regularly?  That’s what it means to be a prophet right?  Is this not the message of the restored Gospel?  That God once again speaks, even face to face, with His servants the prophets…?

This is certainly Nephi’s counsel when his brothers had interesting and difficult historical questions about the House of Israel and the Olive Tree from Lehi’s dream?

And I said unto them: Have ye inquired of the Lord?  And they said unto me: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us.  Behold, I said unto them: How is it that ye do not keep the commandments of the Lord? How is it that ye will perish, because of the hardness of your hearts?  Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you (1 Nephi 15:8-10)

What’s interesting is that Nephi doesn’t ask his brothers if they’ve asked the prophet Lehi for an answer to their question.  And he doesn’t ask them if they’ve thought about writing a letter to the Rabbinical scholars from Jerusalem for an answer.  He asks, “Have you inquired of the Lord?”

Conversely, Elder Ballard teaches us that when they have tough questions, they don’t always take those questions to the Lord, they often take them to trained scholars, but remind us to rely upon them, the “living prophets,” for the answers.

Maybe soon the Brethren will just cut to the chase and teach: “Follow the Trained Scholars” for they cannot lead us astray.

Elder Ballard concludes his talk with:

It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles.

Well, that would be because it’s a lot easier (and safer) to go online to see what trained scholars say than it is to get an appointment with an apostle who apparently is only going to defer to the trained scholars anyway and who might just instruct your stake president to excommunicate you.

The best advice from this talk is to consult the scriptures and I would add “the Lord” as we have questions.  Despite what others may say, He is the only one we can trust.