Centerville

The address for Sunday is 525 North 400 West, Centerville, Utah. Everyone has to be in a seat to comply with fire code. There are approximately 500 seats (including a balcony).

If you are in town for General Conference and want to attend, come by. All people from out of town will be admitted free. Locals are also free. Anyone arriving before the talk begins will be free. Come to think of it, this time it will be free to all. The talk begins at 7:00 p.m. 

Some Reflections on the Weekend

Saturday I was in Idaho Falls. After the conclusion of the talk my wife and I drove home. We went to church with the family Sunday morning, then she and I drove back to Logan on Sunday evening for the talk there.

Three talks have been given. There was an introduction, and then discussions about faith and repentance comprised the first three topics. The Centerville talk, this coming Sunday, will be about covenants.

There are about 7 1/2 hours of material covered to this point. This is about 30% of what will be covered. My original estimate of 25 hours seems to be about right at this point. I’m hoping to get another talk in before the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year time frame and then not do another one until the Spring. If another can be fit in after Centerville and before a winter break, then this will be 50% complete. That would be a wonderful accomplishment.

Now that three are done, I have learned how challenging it is to drive and speak in two venues in a single weekend. The only other time I expect that to happen will be in Las Vegas and St. George.

There continue to be warnings coming from the leadership about attending these talks. That seems to be attracting unwanted attention. The size of the audience in Boise and Idaho Falls was about the same. Logan was larger. Centerville should accommodate 500, but I’m hoping there will be empty seats. If the church continues to oppose, discuss, announce and call attention to this it will drive up curiosity. I don’t like that.

Here’s what happens. When someone who has been warned that I’m “apostate” comes and listens, they hear something that doesn’t sound like it is apostate. It seems rather more faith promoting and sincere than rebellious and angry. That produces another round of distrust of the church that is altogether avoidable if the church would just be quiet. Opposing won’t work. Ignoring is the best tactic. I’d recommend that the leadership and those stake presidents and bishops who want to prevent people from coming to hear me never mention my name. That way I can come and go unnoticed by those who are not interested enough to search out what it is I am doing. Let them sleep. I’m not trying to steal anyone. But people can be alienated by the false and unwarranted criticism being cast my way.

If what I am doing is of God, then that will show soon enough. If it is not of God, then it will fail of its own accord. Nothing needs to be done. The best approach is to allow the matter to unfold as it will. In the end, we will all know whether this is something the Lord has required of me, or if I am just another one of the long list of pretenders.

I give this advice in all sincerity. Smaller venues and a more intimate and informed group would be better Larger crowds, who are interested in a carnival atmosphere will be disappointed. I discuss scripture and doctrine. Deseret Book told me, “doctrine doesn’t sell.”

Equal in Authority and Accountability

The First Presidency are the primary organizational leadership in the hierarchy of the church. (D&C 107: 22.) They are the presidency of the church. They set the agenda and are accountable for keeping the church running.

The Twelve are equal in authority. (D&C 107: 23-24.) They differ from the First Presidency in their responsibility. They have no authority within organized stakes, but are missionaries, whose job is to spread the missionary work throughout the world. When there is no organized stake, they preside because of their role as a “traveling high council.” But their authority to administer in a stake ends once a stake is organized.

The Seventy are equal in authority. (D&C 107: 26.) Like the Twelve, they are missionaries. They fill missionary assignments when the Twelve cannot be present.

The stake High Council forms a quorum equal in authority. (D&C 107: 37.)

Joseph Smith never called a member of the Twelve into the First Presidency. They were sent on missions. In Nauvoo, Joseph presided over the sitting High Council, as you can read in the minutes of the Nauvoo High Council.

When Brigham Young wanted Sidney Rigdon excommunicated, he recognized as a member of the Twelve he had no authority to do so. Therefore, the trial was before the Nauvoo High Council.

When Joseph died, and Hyrum predeceased him, there was no one designated to replace Joseph. D&C 43: 4 required Joseph to designate his successor. He did this. It was Hyrum. (D&C 124: 91-95.) Therefore, there was no successor.

Interestingly, Section 107 was not referred to in the succession process in August 1844. Nor was there a revelation given to settle the matter. It was handled as a political event, with an election by common consent. Brigham Young campaigned for the Twelve, not for himself. Rigdon campaigned unsuccessfully to wait for one of Joseph’s sons to be old enough to assume the role. The election in Nauvoo was primarily between those two options. In the months following however, others would make claims and would peel off followers.

Once the Twelve were elected as the replacement leadership group, they have thereafter remained in control. Today there is an oligarchy of the Twelve governing the church, and they control everything, with the senior member becoming the automatic successor President, and the First Presidency invariably organized from the Twelve (though there have been exceptions).

Although the Twelve and the Presidency of the Seventy were responsible for my excommunication, they lacked the jurisdiction to implement their decision. Therefore, it was necessary to employ the stake, which had jurisdiction, to accomplish this.

I’ve appealed to the First Presidency. But what I find interesting is that the process in my case has involved the stake high council, the Presidency of the Seventy, the Twelve, and will now also involve the First Presidency. All of those quorums which are “equal in authority” are to be affected by this decision. Only the Lord could bring about such an interesting alignment of responsibility for this decision to excommunicate someone for their belief in scripture, belief in prophecy and their historical viewing of Christ’s prophecies about us and our behavior.

Idaho Falls

Please have your scriptures and The Lectures on Faith  for the upcoming Idaho Falls lecture.

Elder Christopherson of the Twelve gave a speech at BYU Idaho this week. It fits in nicely with the upcoming talk, therefore I am linking it here. I’d recommend you listen to it. His defense of the Prophet Joseph Smith is needed as more and more believing Latter-day Saints get a little troubling information, and collapse in disbelief. The cure, as Elder Christopherson explains, is to not know too little, but to immerse yourself in study and find the answers to any troubling information you unearth.

We have greater access to information today than we have ever had. But if we neglect studying it, then it serves no purpose. Whether Joseph was a prophet or not should matter to you. If you conclude he was, then he affords an opportunity to better understand the relationship between God and man. Joseph’s life is recent enough, with sufficient enough material, that we can learn things about him that are not available to us about Paul, Peter, John the Baptist, Mormon, Moroni, Nephi, Isaiah, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Enoch or Adam.

Learning of the difficulties Joseph endured, understanding the tendency to attribute ill-will to his words and actions despite what motives were in his heart, and the subsequent drift away from his preaching and teaching is important to understand. That understanding should help you in your own effort to live in harmony with God.

I believe that the many revelations in the D&C identifying Joseph as the spokesman for God means exactly that: Joseph was and IS the spokesman God sent. Joseph’s words need to be heeded as if they came from God directly to us. No one has the right to change or ignore them. No one (and I mean NO ONE) has the right to claim they are Joseph’s equal. There are no “keys” or “key holders” who can alter Joseph’s teachings except at their peril. When they ignore or contradict Joseph’s revelations, and teach others that they can ignore the message and warnings given by that prophet who was called by God to begin this dispensation, they damn themselves and any who listen to them.

When Elder Christopherson defends Joseph, I want to rejoice and shout my own “Amen!” to his message. He is my brother in belief as he makes that defense.

Missionary Mishap

When we got back from a walk the other night, there was a missionary tract with $5 in it, a note, a pumpkin, and some tomatoes. The note apologized for destroying our watermelon. The $5 was to pay for the lost watermelon.

On Saturday when the missionaries returned, we learned that the pogo stick on the front porch was too tempting to the Jacksonville, Florida Elder. In his attempt to impress, he mashed the porch watermelon. I told him that I’d like that on video if he filmed it, and that since the garden produce was an unexpected gift, the watermelon wasn’t missed. I gave him his $5 back.

If the Jacksonville parents read this, your Elder is fine, and in the good care of a Missouri companion. If the mission president reads this, I gave the Elders some referral information they could use.

Comments come to the blog and we read every one of them. They are not posted, but are read. Comments degenerate and quickly get off topic. They made this into another discussion blog/board. This is not intended to be a discussion board.

If I wanted to mislead people and never brook even constructive criticism, I would want to make people believe I could never lead them astray. In that regard, instead of telling you that you should always ask and defer to God, because He is unchanging and unchangeable; and instead of explaining that everything you believe should be measured against the scriptures and consistent with what was revealed through Joseph Smith, I would expect you to accept my pronouncements and whims. I respect your intelligence too much to attempt such a foolish undertaking. If I tried to do anything other than persuade with meekness and pure knowledge, you would be able to discern I was up to no good. You know better than to trust any mere man with your faith and confidence. At least I hope you do.

The Red Sox have locked up the AL East. My daughter hit a two out RBI double last night in a boy’s league hardball game. Life is good.

A Contemplated Rebuttal

I received two emails notifying me there is a man, woman, child, or committee who is now getting ready to do a “rebuttal” to Passing the Heavenly Gift. It can be found at: http://onewhoiswatching.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/an-evening-in-boise-with-denver-snuffer-part-one/

Normally I would just dismiss someone who lacks the courage to stand up for what they write by identifying themselves. Only then can they be tested by the kind of criticism, disdain, insults, derision and discomfort my family and I are constantly subjected to. Denver Snuffer is my real name. However, this particular woman, or committee, or man has some thoughtful material that I have enjoyed reading. Therefore, despite her/his/their anonymity, I am hopeful there will be worthwhile and productive criticism given.

I suspect this is written by a single individual, because of the constant use of the word “I.” However, that could be a collective agreement to use the singular. It is clear the individual/committee want to be viewed as masculine, but I’ve seen this done by women as well. You will note in the first installment that when they agree with me, I am called “Denver” and when they disagree I am “Snuffer.” That suggests some internal disagreement, so there’s either more than one or the individual is conflicted.

In any event, I’m hopeful this can provide what the church never has: some feedback based on history that shows PTHG errs in retelling the events of our dispensation.

Schedule

The next lecture in the fortieth year series will be on Saturday, September 28th in Idaho Falls (Skyline Activity Center, 1575 North Skyline Drive, Idaho Falls.) Since it is a Saturday it will be casual dress. The site will accommodate 200 people. There is overflow potential outside, and the intention to put two speakers for that area (if needed). This would allow some folks to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets and (weather permitting) listen outside. Or just get a CD afterwards and listen to that. Copies can be preordered at http://www.publishinghope.info. The following day in Logan (The CopperMill Restaurant, Emporium, upstairs, 55 North Main Street, Logan, Utah. Enter off Center Street or 1st West.) The talk will begin at 7:00 p.m. I will be in Sunday dress.

Each talk is entirely different material, laying a foundation to understand the topic of Zion. All the talks will be leading into a single theme: the restoration of Zion.

The fourth talk will be on October 6th in Centerville, Utah. It will also be Sunday dress, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Do not think you need to attend. The talks are recorded. They will be available on CD’s. The CD’s will be transcribed. Once they are transcribed they will be made available here on this blog. Eventually the recordings will be made available as a free MP3 download. When the entire subject is concluded next year, the transcripts will be gathered into a book and the book will be available. So whether you ever attend or not, the information will all be available in two formats: recorded and written. Both will be available for purchase (CD’s/book) and for free (MP3/blog entries).

The discussions will mean a good deal more if you just listen to the material. The ideas and doctrine matter. The scriptures and their language matter. The message, not the messenger.

I like criticism more than praise. Criticism, particularly well thought through criticism, is appreciated. Never shout down critics. Let them have a full say. If they make a good point then think about it. Always remember that redemption comes from the only Holy Being who condescended to come here precisely because of His perfection. He alone could break the bonds of death.

Remember that in all the diversity and wonder of nature there is very little that is identical. Each one of us is unique for a reason. Your unique existence is a reflection of God’s great liberty given to us all. There is no uniformity of thought. We ought to exchange ideas, never try to control the thinking of others. Let everyone believe as they may. If you have a better idea, articulate it and persuade others. But never think your view alone ought to rule everyone else’s thinking. God doesn’t do that. He persuades. He invites. He entices. Gently. Lovingly. Patiently. So stop acting like you shouldn’t be bound by the same constraints. Also remember that when discussing an important topic, it is not possible to set out every detail in one statement, one comment or one discussion. The entire scope and sweep of the matter takes time and patience for clarity. If you’ve read it, the discussion in The Second Comforter about the first year Torts class in law school is a good illustration of how confused the subject was before clarity was found. It is good to let a matter emerge incrementally until you can see enough of the topic to have it form a clear image.

On Marriage

A couple trying to lose weight decided they would be more motivated if they began to weigh themselves together. As they did, the husband complained that all the increases were the fault of his wife. He took credit for all their losses. Over time she became very thin, and he quite corpulent. But they did lose a little in the process.

The Talk Transcriptions

For those who read the newly linked talks, the transcripts will differ slightly from the talks. In the talks I spoke spontaneously using lists of scripture as my only text. The remarks were free flowing and unrehearsed. Then they were transcribed verbatim.

I took the verbatim transcription and edited it to reflect better sentence structure and subject-verb agreement. I took some compound sentence fragments and reshaped them into actual sentences. NOT perfect, but somewhat better. Then I added parenthetical references to show where an unexpressed scriptural cite could be found because that was what was in my head when the remark was made. It gives context to the reader.

I also corrected some misstatements, such as “Articles of Faith” when I meant “Lectures on Faith.” Since I knew what I meant, the transcription corrects that. Also there was a “Levite” which was meant to be “Judah.”

I also noted that one thought I began wasn’t finished. So in the transcript I finished the thought.

When these get gathered together and published as a book, it will be edited further. At that time, it will be edited with readability in mind and a good deal more grammar and sentence structure will be imposed on the text. Also, there are numerous footnotes that will be added when I make them into a book.

None of the talks are written or will be written in advance. They will just be given – then transcribed. The only talk I’ve written in advance was the paper presented at Sunstone last year. They required it. Otherwise, I speak spontaneously.

Evil Speaking of Anointed

I was asked how I justify “evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed” –a question I’ve already answered here, here, and here, among other places.

It would be better to read what I write than to presume something about me. If you’re interested enough to criticize, then why aren’t you interested enough to read what I’ve written so your criticism can be grounded in more than your imagination?

It used to take a hundred years for changes to come about. Now those same changes in understanding take about 5 to 7 years. A whole new understanding of the history of the church is coming. Just wait, and remember when it does, how very foolish the church’s reaction to Passing the Heavenly Gift was back in 2013.

I spoke with a member of my ward (leadership) the other day. He said he thought I’d gotten all the facts right in the book. He said the church can differ in interpretation, but no one can really argue with the facts.  

I kept all my covenants with both the Lord and the church. I would never have broken my covenants with the church. But the church has broken them. That will not change what covenants I have with the Lord. They will remain unbroken.

Sometime after Joseph’s death, there was one covenant the church changed. Instead of consecrating everything for the building up of Zion, the covenant was reworked to consecrate everything to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for the establishment of Zion. That reworking of the covenant means that if the church doesn’t do it, then someone who honors the covenant with the church cannot. Or, alternatively, it means that when the church neglects to build Zion, then the church has broken the covenant and that relieves the other party of their obligation to consecrate to the church. I took the first view. I would not depart from that covenant, even though I’ve had more than one conversation with the Lord about it. Now I find the church has broken the covenant, relieved me of any further need to involve them in the matter, and allowed me to pursue this as a matter of faith. The irony of that is they broke the covenant on the day I was traveling to Boise to begin a year-long series of talks about Zion. I see the hand of God in that.

As soon as the Boise talk is transcribed I will post it/link to it here. I imagine that will be within the next two to three weeks.

Ten Points

Because of recent events I want to make ten points:

First, I disabled comments and then I stopped blogging as a sign of good faith to the stake president.

Second, I was and am able to a pass temple recommend interview. I can answer all the questions in the right way. I don’t pretend to “preside” over anyone. Even within my family, everyone is merely encouraged to believe and act consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But they must have their own testimony and are free to disbelieve or think freely. I hope my example persuades. Outside my family I have absolutely NO ambition to lead anyone, control anyone, or even be discussed (much less praised) by anyone. The presiding authorities are the only ones who are sustained by common consent and they are welcome to it. I don’t envy them, don’t want their positions, and don’t hope to be one of them.

Third, I have been expelled for writing a book. The book was not a “sin.” Therefore, what separated me from the church is not some shameful moral lapse, but writing history. It represents a good faith attempt to reconcile events with scripture. It was undertaken as an expression of faith, not rebellion. I feel no shame at having written it, and sincerely believe it to be a truthful account of how we wound up in our present condition. I do not believe I need to “repent” to be right with God. Throughout this whole ordeal, I have always been right with God.

Fourth, I am not trying to reform, revise or affect the church or management of the church. I don’t much care about that. What I’m interested in is exploring and finding truth. That requires openness and candor. I am not interested in threatening anyone or anything. If others feel threatened by that then I regret their reaction, but that is all it is: their reaction. Soon they will get over it and perhaps take some time to reflect on what I’m saying and maybe come to another view. If not, then perhaps they can support their view more persuasively and we can agree on things again.

Fifth, I am not and have never been a critic of the church. My focus is on history and doctrine. The church is irrelevant to the inquiry.

Sixth, I spent time with my stake president on Saturday, at his home. Delivered a copy of the Boise talk, which he said he would listen to. Last evening my wife and I talked with my bishop. Today I was with one of the stake counselors, then with another bishopric member. I have said to all of them that I would be willing to talk with anyone in my ward or stake who is troubled and help them get over any ill feelings. I have none. If someone locally is upset then they can talk with me and I will gladly help them realize they still belong in church. That’s where I’ll be – just not this Sunday, because I don’t attend Stake Conference anyway. But next Sacrament Meeting I’ll be there. All of these local leaders said they would refer upset folks to my blog so they can read about what they (local leaders) aren’t supposed to give details about. They thought the blog would be helpful.

Seventh, I’m an odd sort of “apostate” who entertains no ill will against the church. I’m not sure that what I’ve done can reasonably be called “apostasy.” In matters of doctrine, we are not supposed to have “faith” in anyone or anything other than Christ. I readily admit I don’t have, never have had, and have not advocated faith in the church. But I don’t think that matters. What matters is faith in Christ. Take a look at Christ’s doctrine at the end of 3 Ne. 11: 32-40. You’ll notice that “whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock.” I testify of Christ and seek to establish His doctrine. My book says nothing to contradict His doctrine. So when I’m accused of violating “the doctrine of the church” I have to say: So? That doesn’t matter anyway, or if it does it “cometh of evil.”

Eighth, you forfeit priesthood when you sin. You forfeit it when you exercise control or compulsion or dominion over others in unrighteousness. You forfeit it when you use it to gratify your pride or to serve your vain ambition, a proposition which is facilitated by having some office or standing which allows you to assert that “by virtue of the priesthood” you are entitled to be followed. You forfeit priesthood when you depart from His doctrine and seek to establish your own priestcraft, but do not seek to establish Zion. But you do not forfeit priesthood when you talk about Christ, testify of His doctrine, and follow the Spirit despite those who may abuse you. Nor do you forfeit priesthood when you look charitably on the mistakes of others. Nor do you do so when you have no office, nor any standing in a priestly office which is used to demand others follow you. When you testify of Christ and tell others to follow Him, there can be no force, order, panel, critic or organization that can affect your priesthood. Indeed, if they wrongly attempt to do so, then “amen to the priesthood or the authority” of those making the attempt.

Ninth, there have been changes in heaven and on earth recently. I’ve done all I have done in obedience to our Lord. Things will unfold and everybody will have a more fulsome understanding of things. Be patient. Be believing. Do not despair as God’s work unfolds.

Tenth, you don’t know me by reading what I write. I very much try to keep myself out of these discussions. I truly believe I am irrelevant, therefore I make an effort to remain outside the material. What little I disclose is to give context. At the beginning I wanted to remain anonymous or use a pseudonym. The problem with that is the message must be identifiable with someone who can be evaluated, known to exist, and can be tried. It was unavoidable. I must be known. For that reason alone I have let myself be identified. I wish it were otherwise. Privacy would be preferable.

Clarification

My wife and I dropped by to visit with President Hunt at his home today. Neither he nor I like the present circumstances. We had a pleasant discussion.

He clarified to me that the comment, “What makes you think the church wants that kind of people?” was not intended by him to mean they weren’t welcome. Rather it was meant that their attitude, if it arose from Passing the Heavenly Gift, was an attitude that wasn’t necessarily helpful. I told him I would make that clarification.

We discussed many interesting things, and parted as we were before – friends and fellow sojourners in this troubling world.

Flavor of the Month

I notice there’s a lot of blog activity for the moment. That doesn’t fool me. I’m the “flavor of the month” to folks and that will soon pass. But while I have your attention let me say this to whoever is stopping by because you think this is a temporary amusement, outrage, vindication or car wreck:

I really do believe in the religion I’ve accepted. I live it faithfully and joyfully. There’s a lot of stupidity parading as enlightenment in the congregations of the “Saints” and I’ve never rebelled against that. People have always been allowed to believe as they want, and to preach things I don’t believe or accept without any opposition from me. I have been a “low maintainence” Mormon and I’m not looking for a fight.

The conduct of the church reminds me that “the wicked flee when no man pursues.” (Prov. 28: 28.) I’m not after them and never have been. There are a lot of problems with our history that can’t be explained with the “traditional narrative.” I’ve looked into this fearlessly, and honestly tried to reconcile the many corners we have turned since the death of Joseph. The book that got me into trouble was written to help those who are similarly befuddled by what we had as opposed to what we have. The book has actually helped people. It wasn’t advertised. I recommended it to a tiny handful of people.

In the narrative I propose, the framework is taken from scripture and prophecy. It is reassuring. We aren’t in a mess solely because we were irresponsible, but are here because God foresaw it, planned for it, told us it was going to happen, and now wants us to wake up to it. There’s still time. And that time is precious and ought to be spent doing something other than arguing over the “flavor of the month.”

The church excommunicated me, but now it’s time to move on. I suspect, however, they will fire up the machinery to deal further with me. Before all that kicks in, let me assure you that whatever goes on I am content, even happy with life and with my 40 years in Mormonism. I will be pressing forward in faith, believing that you matter, I matter and our love for one another matters.

I don’t matter. But God does, prophecy does, your soul does and God’s potential involvement with you matters a lot. That is something you can engage in without any need to ever look at another flavor of the month.

So be of good cheer. And don’t believe all you are going to read about me. If you want to really know what I think, read what I say. Better still spend your time learning how to relate to God and how He actually does relate to you. Even those who are bitter about your Mormon experience and now distrust God Himself. The fact is that much of what has broken your heart did not originate with Him. It was always an abuse inflicted by men.

So hang in there. Christ is cheerful. You be cheerful too.