Fearful Question

I received this comment:

I’m trying to reconcile your inconsistencies. On one hand you cry obedience (a significant theme of The Second Comforter), and yet, at the same time, you have clearly denounced (with the exception of Joseph Smith) true prophets and apostles speaking the will of the Lord in these last days. Therefore, you would also have to say their words are not binding and it is not necessary to obey anything they have taught. So then, one wonders what obedience looks like to Denver Snuffer and who has set the standard? The words of Jesus Christ given in the New Testament, and nothing since then? Attending church meetings? (I’m guessing optional, since you have publicly stated you don’t do stake conference). Word of wisdom irrelevant? Tattoos okay? No such thing as sustaining general authorities of the church (since you say they have no authority) so general conference must also be optional/ irrelevant? Priesthood power didn’t get “passed on” so nothing in particular required to hold/honor the priesthood? Lacking priesthood power, the sacrament must be nice but not necessary? Temple worship irrelevant? Covenants and ordinances have no value so nothing required to be obedient regarding temples and covenants made there? Temple recommends must also be bogus then? One has to wonder just what the construct is for obedience to you. Promoting the idea that there is no legitimate priesthood power, temple ordinances and covenants, or prophets on the earth today lands you (as much as you may love Joseph Smith) in the same church camp as all of our protestant friends. What is so profound about that mindset? Ironically, it places you theologically as far from Joseph Smith as you could be. One last thought: if it is true that you have received a visitation from Jesus Christ Himself, how do you know it was because the Lord was validating the course you were pursuing? Have you considered it may have been to humble and chastise you, and correct the path you were on?

This sounds like fear. The first thing I would recommend is that you quiet your mind and calm your troubled heart. Take a deep breath or two, and let’s reason this out.

Look at all we share. Both you and I believe in Christ. We share a common acceptance of Joseph Smith’s mission. We both believe in the Book of Mormon. We are on the same side. We have so much in common we ought to be able to allow one another the right to think things through for ourselves on those few things about which we differ.

Remember, our views will only differ momentarily. Eventually, if we are both seeking to understand the truth, and both are proceeding prayerfully and sincerely, we will grow together. While we are developing, let’s not insist that everyone see things exactly as “I” see them.

From a bird’s eye view, exactly what does the church ask of you that you can “disobey” or be in a state of rebellion by refusing? Let’s go through a list:

Tithing? I paid it. Fully. For forty years.

Home Teaching? I enjoy home teaching. I sincerely care about and appreciate those families I home taught. I was a 100% home teacher. I miss it.

Attend Sacrament Meeting? Always did, still do.

Accept callings? Never refused one. Served whenever asked.

Stake Conference? Not required. They don’t take attendance. Never been asked by any bishop or stake president to attend. I was invited, but that was merely an invitation.

General Conference? Not required. They don’t take attendance. But I do watch. And I have attended priesthood session every six months at the BYU Marriott Center with my sons and a friend with his sons, and my father-in-law, and brother-in-law. We have done this for 24 uninterrupted years. Afterwards, we go to the same Mexican restaurant for dinner. It is a well established tradition for us and we all enjoy it greatly.

Word of Wisdom? Always obeyed. Still do.

Tattoos? Don’t have one. I tell my kids “if you have a tattoo you failed the IQ test.” Even before President Hinckley advised against them, Lev. 19: 28 forbid them. Now that’s the law of Moses, it is true. But I think it good advice. And, more importantly – never tempted to do such a thing.

That’s a pretty good overview of what the church asks, isn’t it? So where’s the beef? The church has not asked of me as a normal, faithful member, anything that I have not done. They did, however, ask me for something that contradicts their own standard established in the temple recommend interview, violates the scriptures, runs contrary to the teachings of Joseph Smith, and offended my conscience. That I could not do. Not because I wanted to rebel, but because they were not justified in the request. We reached an impasse.

The temple recommend interview, among other things, asks me to be honest in my dealings with my fellow man. That requires me to respect contracts I enter into and honor my promises to others. It required me to honor a contract in publishing, which I did. The offer of money to have me betray that obligation was not, in my view, an honorable way to terminate my commitment.

The scriptures teach an ideal which the ancient Nephite civilization respected. I think this ideal is described in the Book of Mormon to teach us how to deal wisely with one another: “Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him. . . . Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore a man was punished only for the crimes he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.” (Alma 30: 9, 11.) What I believe is the result of faithful service, careful study, years of prayer, and diligent searching. I do not expect you, or anyone, to agree with me. Nor do I ask you or anyone to agree. I state what I believe and why I believe it. Then I leave it to others to agree or disagree. I afford all the freedom to disagree with me in the way I would like to have reciprocated.

Joseph Smith taught against adopting “creeds” or demanding that people all agree or be disciplined. He remarked that the Methodists “have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty to believe as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (DHC 5: 340.)

My conscience and my heart told me that the LDS church has changed, and my mind needed to understand why. I studied to learn the answer. I believe I found it. It was learned by study of the scriptures and revelations given through Joseph Smith, and in the diaries, journals, letters and histories I searched. I honestly believe I’ve answered the questions to my own satisfaction about how we got from where we began to where we are now. I do not offer my explanation as a denouncement of anyone else’s beliefs, only as my own. In my explanation, I remind readers that I’m not offering the accepted view, and that the traditional narrative is very much different from the one I tell. In the long run, a century from now, I believe Mormon history will be told the way I have explained it, and the traditional narrative will continue to unravel.

I have not “denounced” church leaders. I have quoted them. In recent times, the church has denounced past leaders in ways I would not have dared. They affirm that past leaders made serious mistakes about doctrine, and unjustifiably left unsaved, unordained, unendowed, and unsealed an entire bloodline. They did this “in the absence of revelation” to guide them. This is “denouncing” the past church leaders by the present ones. I did nothing of the sort. I quoted them, and let their words speak.

The church is very useful. It gives important foundational material the world needs. But like any organization, it has its limits. If you make the church the end of your journey, instead of the introductory course it is supposed to be, then you have made it an idol. The church is growing more idolatrous in recent years. The pace of that is accelerating. Your comment is grounded in both fear and idolatry. This is the fruit of the emphasis on controlling even what you think. That seems afoul of the scriptures, Joseph’s teachings, and common sense.

But to answer the question: I believe in obedience to Christ. I believe He is the standard and the prototype of the saved man. I believe the Book of Mormon is the most correct book and a man will get closer to God by abiding its precepts than any other book. I believe in worshiping God according to the dictates of my own conscience, and allow you the same privilege. I believe all that God has revealed, all He continues to reveal, and that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to His coming Kingdom. I believe in revelation and the gift of prophecy. I believe the church has a commission and should remain true to that commission – preach the Gospel of Christ. I believe it is hazardous to change the ordinances, because it risks breaking the covenant when we do so. I believe Christ will set His hand a second time to reclaim and rescue His people before His coming. I believe when we killed Joseph Smith, we fell under condemnation that required three and four generations to pass away before the Lord would open the heavens for salvation again, and that those generations have now passed. The symbol of their passing was the death of Eldred G. Smith. I look forward to the Lord’s hand now moving again to reclaim and restore His people.

I believe it is important to keep the Lord in mind always. To always remember Him, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. I believe it is difficult to always remember Him when we are preoccupied with potentates, presiding elders, captains of fifty, captains of hundreds and captains of thousands as our substitute “connection” with heaven.

I teach of Christ. I testify of Christ. I worship Christ. I preach faith in Christ. And I advise all men to likewise believe in and obey Him and Him alone.

Letter From Liberty

Joseph Smith co-wrote a letter from Liberty Jail. The entire letter can be found either in the Documentary History of the Church, vol. 3, pp.289 through 305, or in TPJS, pp.129 through 148. The letter is where D&C Sections 121, 122 and 123 came from.

When you read the entire letter you can see how our scriptural excerpts skip about and leave out paragraphs. It jumps around from one disconnected thought to another. The impression you get from the D&C sections leads you to believe that each verse follows in order.

I leave it to you to track the differences. It is well worth the effort. There is only one matter I would like to call to your attention. Section 121 ends and Section 122 begins in the same thought. In the original letter there was no division between them. They belong together. As presently published, the impression you get is that Section 122 is speaking about Joseph Smith. While it certainly would apply to him, it also applies to you. Here, then, is how this section of the letter was originally composed. Read these words as one thought, and apply that thought to yourself:

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the Priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile, reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; that he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the chords of death; let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee; While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand. And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors. And although their influence shall cast thee into trouble, and into bars and walls, thou shalt be had in honor; and but for a small moment and thy voice shall be more terrible in the midst of thine enemies than the fierce lion, because of thy righteousness; and thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever.

This is how to act as a priest, and also to understand doctrine because you are serving in the way God requires. As a result of living these principles your confidence will grow in the presence of God. This is how you will obtain a scepter of righteousness given you by God.

This describes Joseph. It describes the faith Joseph had and the religion he lived. You live it too. You rise up likewise to gain confidence in the presence of God. If you do, God will stand by you forever and ever and you will no longer need to fear any man.

My Peculiar Status

I was asked: “Do you no longer sustain the church’s leaders?”
The question doesn’t apply to me. I am no longer a member of the church. I cannot sustain leaders of a church i don’t belong to. I’m not allowed to sustain them, or anyone in any calling in the church. Nor am I permitted to pray in meetings, or teach, or perform any function beyond attending meetings (which I still do). 
I remain devoted to my faith. But my faith exists independent of the institution. I suppose that was the case for many years prior to my excommunication. However, I was grateful to and supported the institution. As a result of the actions of the institution, I am no longer a member. I did not resign or voluntarily leave. I was told I was no longer permitted to be a church member.
I was also asked: “If there is a future 3rd edition of Second Comforter, would you still write this in the concluding chapter? ‘There are rationalizations for why Joseph was not called of God or if called, why he failed in his task. Or, if Joseph didn’t fail in his task, then the Church officers following in his footsteps have failed in their tasks. Or, if past Church officers did not fail, then the current ones are in the process of failing.’”

No, I’d leave that the same. If you are a member of the church, these things should not matter. The leaders are not the issue. The issue is the faith itself which you believe. Leadership  may try and intrude into your faith, you needn’t let them. You can follow Christ while giving to those who “sit in Joseph’s seat” their due regard. 


Remember, I am in a different situation than those with active membership. There is a difference between a member of the church, who should still submit to church leadership elected through common consent, paying tithing, and participating in the church programs, and someone who has been discharged from that obligation. My responsibilities are different. If you are a member, you should work within the church to fight for the truth, testify of Christ, oppose idolatry and bring others to appreciate the great responsibility and unfinished work of the restoration.

Also, “Would you have ever voluntarily left the church?”

Yes, under circumstances which have not occurred yet. I have to assume each person will weigh for themselves the circumstances which would provoke them to depart. Those circumstances never happened while I was a member, and therefore I did not voluntarily leave. 

Broken Hearts and Critics

Readers have pointed me to places on the Internet where discussions or blogs are critical of me. Some are quite funny; others are just mistaken. I assume the critics are well intended. They have every right to be skeptical of motivation and sincerity. Some of those who are most disapproving of me have had their hearts broken by trusting religious leaders who have failed them, lied to them, or abused them. Therefore, questioning motives is not only justified self-defense, but based on hard learned lessons they have taken to heart.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ taught: “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets, which were before you.” (Matt. 5: 11-12.) This is not just sage advice, it is the way the Lord would like people to interact with one another in order to come to understanding.

There are a couple of people on the internet who are fixated on me. They are watching to see their predictions of my future ambitions, adoption of plural wives and religious ambitions unfold. This is good. They care. They are paying attention and want to see for themselves the mess they have come to expect from religious people.

I understand their heartbreak and disillusionment with organized religions. They are right to be heartsick.
For myself, I believe the Latter-day Saints are some of the best people I know. They are sincere, and do many good things for one another, voluntarily. I love being among the Latter-day Saints. I do, however, have a different view on some things. The common view I have heard is that the trouble experienced by the church is the fault of the members, not the leaders. They accept their own failings, acknowledge their inability to measure up, and then go on to heap adoration on the leaders for their obvious righteousness. Latter-day Saints take as proof of righteousness the church leaders’ callings themselves. It is a “but-for” sort of argument. They would not be a “president” or an “apostle” or a “seventy” but-for their righteousness; because God would never call an unrighteous man to such a position. In contrast, my view is that the leaders are unworthy to lead the Saints. The basic member is more virtuous, more worthy, and better than those who lead them. I’m skeptical of the top, not the bottom.

Leadership treat the religion as a product they own, market and manage. Their decision-making is largely informed by business decisions about their product. The current demographic of tithe payers must focus on the Mormon corridor, and primarily the Utah segment of that corridor. Therein lies the financial engine which foots the bill for the rest of the worldwide venture. These are hardy, largely conservative, middle-aged and older, lifelong Latter-day Saints. As that demographic ages, there must be a new demographic. This new demographic is younger, more liberal, and integrated into a larger population which has very different values than the Mormon corridor. The management challenge for the leaders is to balance retention of the current financial support from the paying demographic, and adjust the message to suit the targeted demographic. Gay marriage illustrates the management’s dilemma. The older, conservative Latter-day Saints in the Mormon corridor oppose gay marriage. Utahn’s voted about 70% in favor of the law recently declared unconstitutional by the US District Court. But the younger demographic, particularly those under age 21, are overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage. The trend lines all suggest that in the future the church will need to remove this barrier to entry/conversion in order to attract the younger members. The church’s recent maneuver with the Boy Scouts is an illustration of the balancing act in open display. The Boy Scouts would have looked for support and approval from its largest sponsors before making this kind of major change to their policy.

Leadership must “hold the line” with their rhetoric to keep the current conservative payers paying, but need to give signals to the younger, more liberal coming population. They are doing just that. Ultimately, good management would seek to remove homosexual opposition as a barrier to converting the younger demographic. This would suggest a compromise of the church’s historic opposition so as to permit open acceptance. But that cannot be done now. Too quickly and it would be a financial disaster. For the present, the worldwide programs of the church require the current conservative payers to continue paying. Their opposition prevents any hasty changes.

From my perspective, the church is run exactly like a business would be run if its product was a religion called “Mormonism.” It gives lip-service to the faith by the leaders/managers/owners but the strong convictions and the righteous lives are not found there. Those things are to be found in the daily lives of the faithful who surrender their purses to the leaders for their use, consumption, distribution and enjoyment. This confers on the leaders the political, business and social power of the purses of the believers. With that, the leaders influence (virtually control) political life in Utah, wield influence in Washington, DC, own vast real estate holdings, and allow fortunes to be made by trading with favored companies and suppliers for LDS ventures.

Some disaffected Latter-day Saints believe that everyone who holds religious sway in any way at all does so for the same reasons as displayed by the LDS church. That is, religion is big business. It is a way to make a profit and acquire influence. They project these ideas on me, and then question my motives and sincerity. I understand it. I honestly do not envy church leaders. I pity them. I’ve concluded that nothing can be done any better in this world than what is being done at present. No matter how it starts out, eventually every organization will become captive of traditions and social and governmental pressures. All organized religions will eventually become Catholicism. I will not leave another relic to become the tool of the established order here below. Religion must be heavenly and otherworldly to remain pure.

However, since I now have these devoted critics’ attention, I’ll address them. Further, I get to live my life before these captivated critics and allow them to see whether or not:
-I love my wife and am devoted to her alone.
-I have no ambition to profit from others’ donations.
-I will/have sacrifice/d for my beliefs.
-I can gracefully endure rejection at almost every hand.
-I use my own resources to give talks, not accepting anything in return.

Or, in other words, they can measure whether I count myself “blessed” by having to live through the ordeal Christ described: “when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.” I get to live the Sermon. They get to judge whether I measure up. I do not begrudge them their right to judge me. Their hearts, like my own, have been broken by pretenders. The challenge is to live without pretense. The challenge for me is to not break their heart again by proving there are none who are willing to worship God by what we lay upon His altar. I am keenly aware of my weakness and all my past failings. But I am converted, and I do believe with all my heart in the Lord and His message. Therefore, I do “rejoice” in the limited time I’m afforded to make my efforts here in this temporary world.

Divine Word Usage

For generations, the words “endless punishment” and “eternal punishment” had a clear meaning. So clear, that churches built their doctrine upon it. Then the Lord explained to Joseph Smith that the words had a different meaning:

“Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal damnation; wherefore it is more express than other scriptures, that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory. Wherefore, I will explain unto you this mystery, for it is meet unto you to know even as mine apostles. I speak unto you that are chosen in this thing, even as one, that you may enter into my rest. For, behold, the mystery of godliness, how great it is! For, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my name is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore– Eternal punishment is God’s punishment. Endless punishment is God’s punishment.” (D&C 19: 6-12.)

Instantly, what was once an adjective turns into a proper noun. With that shift, doctrine collapses and a new understanding unfolds.

What makes you think the scriptures are not filled with these same forms of Divine word usages that have one meaning in the minds of the uninitiated, and another to the minds of “mine apostles” [or the Lord’s true witnesses of His resurrection]?

When I read the many arguments regarding the design of God in authorizing plural wives “to raise up seed unto me” (Jacob 2: 30), I am left with the same bemusement about this error as I am with the historic Christian error about eternal punishment. I would ask you to consider whether the designs of God in “raising up seed unto Him” might be fulfilled ONLY by producing eternal fruit worthy of preservation at the coming harvest? (See Jacob 5: 74.) If this is the meaning, then the process of “raising up seed unto God” will require something different than merely breeding. It will require a covenant, and redemption, knowledge, light and truth, and ultimately the glory of God, which is intelligence. I think there was as much going on in using a Divine vocabulary with the term “raise up seed unto me” as there was in the terms endless punishment and eternal punishment.

Our greatest problem is the presumption that we “know” something to be true when it is merely our belief in a notion, coupled with our arrogance and lack of humility before God. We want certainty. We want to be right. We don’t want to be working out our salvation in fear and trembling, as the Gospel requires. (See Philipians 2: 12; Mormon 9: 27.) We want no such anxiety.

Disgusting Too

That same email makes this observation: 

Here in Utah it seems many people who read your blog go to classes and gifted people will DIVINE God and repeat the message to these people. Some have claimed to receive their calling and election this way and have been told through these arm’s of flesh that they were certain people of significance to Christ in probations past.”

This too is distressing. Think about this process, if it is taking place: Someone goes to a soothsayer to receive revelation about God’s will for themselves through another mortal. They do not appeal to the Lord. They bypass Him. They do not learn to fast, pray, approach Him and become capable of receiving light and truth by revelation from He alone who can save us.  They are turning over the “voice of God” to an individual. They rely on another person in place of the one with the absolute right to speak to them (God).

I have never asked another person to receive revelation for me. The only thing that approximates such a thing is the Patriarchal Blessing I received as a church ordinance. Thereafter, all revelation I’ve received to govern and guide my life has come directly to me from the Lord as a result of prayer.

You will never grow to receive angels if you instead rely on others to tell you God’s will for you. They will weaken you, not strengthen you. As the trials of these final days mature, you must have the required oil in your own lamp, and cannot borrow it from another.

The idea of past lives has intoxicated those who preach it. If it were important, it would be set out plainly. If Joseph spoke of it in hushed tones among select few, it was for a good reason. He denounced reincarnation publicly, calling it a “doctrine of the devil” and this was not the “way of eternal life.” (See TPJS p. 105.)  That is the public standard. We would be wise to follow it. The many foolish speculations and arrogant assumptions about pre-mortal experiences are extremely unwise. 

Speculation about what happened before your birth here will not rescue you from the challenges you face here, now, today. The way back is to live as if all eternity was at risk by what you do now (because it literally is). (See 1 Cor. 15: 30.) We are in a battle to survive. There is more than enough evil to be overcome without distracting us from the present challenges by directing our attention to somewhere and sometime other than now. Be here. Be present. Be engaged now. This is the day of the battle.

As King Benjamin lamented, “I cannot tell you all the things whereby ye may commit sin; for there are divers ways and means, even so many that I cannot number them.” (Mosiah 4: 29.) The possible ways we can fail are endless. But the way to succeed is singular. There is only one of them and it requires you to follow Christ in the here and now. 

King Benjamin added, “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not.” (Mosiah 4: 30.) There is enough challenge to do what is right. So much so there is no time remaining to spend speculating upon what past experiences you had before entering into this mortal probation now underway.

Errors are plenty. Truth is narrow, confined, singular and solitary. You find it between yourself and the Lord. Looking elsewhere for someone else to lead you will only cripple your development and bring to you darkness. (That darkness comes just as readily from foolish reliance upon presumably inerrant “church authorities” as it does from “spiritually gifted” men and women when they become the source of your faith, devotion and trust.) Trust no man. Look to God and live.

A true messenger will point you to Christ and seek to strengthen you in your independence from man.  A false one will seek to make you dependent upon them, so they may exploit you for their own ends.  I do not ask nor want your devotion. I want all of you to become my equal or, better still, my better. I want you strengthened in the Lord. We will never have Zion if we are not equal in all things, both spiritual and temporal. I am too weak a reed for you to rest your weight upon; as is every other man or woman. Trust only God. He alone has the strength to support us all.

Disgusting

I received an email which contained, in part, this alarming information:

To the homes we have been to, your name is spoken in hushed reverent tones, no jokes are allowed to be made about you in a fun teasing way without people glaring. I have noticed a huge amount of people calling themselves ‘Snufferites’ and welcoming us into the ‘Snufferites group’ …. I can see that You are becoming to people a man with ‘God awe’ not of your own doing but of our own love of men and wanting a man to lead us instead of trusting in God. I notice how there are off shoort groups and group leaders that have cult following. There is so much going on with the mystical aspect of different sorts of healings and controlling elements, that I hardly hear Christ mentioned. I hear people well known in these groups dropping your name as to give themselves more credentials because they had a conversation with you, or a phone call or went out to lunch with you.”

I assume this email information is based on actual events and not merely a put-on. It disgusts me to read of such things.

Worship of anyone or anything other than the Lord will damn all those who participate. (D&C 76: 99-103.)  Anyone who listens to what I say or reads what I write knows I believe these scriptures. How utterly foolish to think that changing from one idol to another will bring any advantage in the world to come.

Looking to others for answers instead of looking to and asking the Lord for answers is idolatry which will end in disappointment.

I have no respect for anyone who calls him/herself a “Snufferite.” They have no support or encouragement from me. When have I asked anyone to follow me? When have I asked anyone to believe in me? I point only to belief in Christ and following Him. If you are following me, stop it. Follow Him alone who can save you. (John 14: 6.)

I have repeatedly declared that alleged private communications from me should not be trusted. I’ve written, spoken and published the things that I believe. Anyone who “name drops” to achieve credibility should be the last one you trust. 

All of us should be willing to confine what we believe, teach and accept to the scriptures. I have accepted that burden, limitation and obligation and have expounded the scriptures in all I have taught. The only additional text I have accepted as authoritative has been Joseph Smith’s teachings. Apart from these, I advocate nothing.

If someone is trying to gather their own following they are welcome to acquire whomever they can mislead. They should lead them away, because such people and their followers would be destructive to a Zion community. They need to be “picked off” into these strange paths so they cannot prevent Zion from coming.

We have had too many errors creep into the faith restored through Joseph already. Adding to it new, novel and self-aggrandizing errors compounds the mistakes of the past.


In his day, Joseph was confronted with the dilemma of how to keep order and establish a new faith. He did what then had to be done. The result was an organization which itself is a testimony of Joseph’s prophetic status. The church organization is a miracle and a gift from God to man.

The problem is that any organization, no matter how Divinely inspired, can become corrupted. Without the same Spirit that accompanied its founding, it will invariably become corrupted. This is as true of our government as it is of the church. 

In the meantime, I want it understood that those who follow others and fail to obtain a relationship with the Lord by going to Him for answers, will not be invited to the wedding feast. They, like the foolish virgins, will have no oil in their lamps. Therefore, they will be unable to continue to borrow from others what they believe to be oil, but which is instead merely dross and error which expands the darkness and dims the light.

Zion is the Lord’s. He will decide who to gather. I am satisfied, however, that both the soothsayers and their idolaters will neither be invited to the gathering, nor will they be able to endure the glory there.

Polygamy

I do not find the discussion of polygamy interesting. But it is clear by the comments and emails I’ve received that a number of you do. Without putting the questions I’ve received into this post I’ll explain:

The significance of Joseph’s failure to father other children with plural wives is nothing other than a data point in a much larger picture. Fanny Alger was later married to another man and had, as I recall, eight children from that marriage. She was therefore clearly fertile. Joseph fathered children with Emma. He was clearly potent. But between them, Joseph and Fanny had no children although both were clearly capable of doing so had they been determined to bring children to their union.

The many historical candidates and continuing suspicions resulted in an attempt to identify those who may have been a child of Joseph Smith’s. There was a decades long search, using DNA testing, to try and prove he fathered someone (anyone) other than Emma’s children. None of the suspected children were his. They finished the list about two years ago, as I recall.

This is only significant in one, narrow regard: Joseph’s purpose with plural wives was not primarily to produce offspring.

That is very different from what happened under Brigham Young’s administration, and later. The primary reason for the later Mormon practice was to produce offspring.

There is something very different to me between Joseph’s practice and the later practice. I am not really interested in elaborating fully about the difference. But there was a definite difference in the orientation and justification.

For Joseph, (as has been criticized, condemned and mocked) the explanation dealt with his assurance that the plural marriage would result in “salvation” for not only the wife, but also for “her family.” This was/is regarded by many of the critics and even many faithful Latter-day Saints, as Joseph exploiting women using (or abusing) his claim to priesthood power.

What if there was something more to this idea than we have preserved? What if Joseph understood more about salvation that do we? What if Joseph could offer salvation to these others by “sealing” them to himself (he being a saved soul who had a connection to heaven)? What if Joseph was actually offering something of value to these women and to their families, which had little or even nothing to do with producing offspring?

It may just be that Joseph understood this as something quite different than what later became the teaching of the LDS Church.

To me, the subject is plagued with the Brigham Young version of the practice, which almost all Latter-day Saints believe represented an accurate continuation of what Joseph Smith was teaching. I disagree. I think Brigham Young changed rather dramatically the primary orientation. Under Joseph it was primarily focused on the afterlife, salvation and organizing a family that would endure death itself. Under Brigham Young it was primarily focused on breeding children for this life, and secondarily promised some next-life continuation for the worthy.

To me there is much more to the difference between Joseph Smith’s focus and Brigham Young’s than has been appreciated by those interested in this subject. I think it is possible to view Joseph’s practice in different terms than Brigham’s. I think it is possible to think of Joseph as morally superior to Brigham Young. I think it is possible to believe Joseph had a higher code of personal conduct than Brigham Young. I think it is possible to believe Joseph held women in higher regard than did Brigham Young.

But this is not a topic I think I need to spend any time sorting through. It really does not interest me. The advocates of polygamy who think they believe in some higher law are almost invariably thinking that Brigham Young got it right and his model is worth following. I think Brigham Young didn’t even understand the subject, nor did he have the power to save anyone, nor did connecting to Brigham Young as a sealed plural wife garner any advantage in the world to come.

Some day I may try to fully explain what I think Joseph Smith was up to. But that’s not a current priority for me, and I don’t think it should be a priority for anyone. At least not until a good deal more of what the restoration was designed to accomplish is first understood.

Just To Clarify

I assumed it was clear from all I’ve written before that I am not persuaded polygamy was ever appropriate or understood by the church. Joseph Smith did not father children with any woman other than Emma, his wife. The subsequent advocacy of taking of multiple wives, I believe, was an abomination and offensive to God.

The purpose of the last post was to show how reluctant the church was to abandon the practice, and how dishonest they were about ending it. If the US Government did not force the church to end plural marriage, they never would have. If there was any party that deserves credit for the “inspired” ending of the abominable practice, it was the US Congress.

Plural Wives

The LDS church has issued another press release. This one is on plural wives. The press releases could certainly help combat the “Google Apostasy” and the “Swedish Apostasy.” When Elder L. Tom Perry went to Europe recently and said he had answers in his briefcase but couldn’t release them, presumably he was referring to the press releases now rolling out onto the LDS.org website.

The historical stories that have been taught within the church are generally in conflict with the outside accounts told by historians. Increasingly, there are LDS historians recounting history in ways which conflict with the church’s narrative. The best way to deal with these things is to get it all out.

The church’s statement on plural wives in early Utah begins its discussion with the year 1843, ignoring all the history between 1829 (when I date the beginning of the topic) and 1843 (when the revelations on the subject were reduced to writing in what is now Section 132 of the D&C). Although the statement mentions someone (not clearly identifying who) did post-1890 plural marriages, it avoids discussing the deceit  and official involvement at the highest levels of the church in continuing the practice of sealing plural wives from 1890 to 1904, and thereafter.

The church avoids discussing the full history from 1832 (Joseph Smith/Fanny Alger) through 1904, which the fundamentalists make good use of. The problems will not be solved by hiding the unpleasant parts of the history. Fundamentalists and church critics should be able to exploit this lack of complete candor.

The statement by the church says the 1890 Manifesto was “inspired.” It reads: “In 1890, the Lord inspired Church President Wilford Woodruff to issue a statement that led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.”  That is not quite true according to actual history. This subject was debated in my High Priests Group a couple of Sundays ago. Some of these fathers and grandfathers have children and grandchildren falling away from the church over the subject of polygamy. Not because the practice existed, but because there is very little candor by the church in its discussion of it. The Manifesto was a political statement. It was a press release to deal with pressure from the Federal Government. It was not “inspired” in the LDS vernacular. Rather it was a desperate attempt to preserve legal rights and church property by making a statement designed to mislead Congress into believing the practice would end.

Heber J. Grant, an apostle at the time, was the publisher and managing editor of the Salt Lake Herald. His paper responded to another newspaper’s article that said the Manifesto was a revelation by writing: “[The Tribune] pretends the declaration is a revelation… although no one today has heard anyone except the lying sheet say it was a revelation.” (Salt Lake Herald, October 9, 1890.) Heber J. Grant said on September 26, 1890: “I …feel that it is merely a public announcement of the course which we had already decided in our private councils to adopt. …Yet I believe greater troubles will follow the prominent Elders in the Church through adoption of this policy.” When asked if the Manifesto was a revelation, “President Smith answered emphatically no… he did not believe it to be an emphatic revelation from God abolishing plural marriage.” (First Presidency Office Journal, August 20, 1891.) In the trial for the membership of Apostle Matthias Cowley he testified that President Joseph F. Smith informed him the 1890 Manifesto did not “mean anything.” Others including George Reynolds, L. John Nuttall, Charles W. Penrose, John Henry Smith and B. H. Roberts all denied the Manifesto was a revelation. To the extent the statement by the church is intended to convey the impression this was an inspired revelation, there is plenty to show that is inaccurate. It would be more correct to say the church reluctantly abandoned the practice as a result of legislation passed by Congress which disincorporated the LDS church, escheated its property, disenfranchised Mormons from voting, disqualified Mormons from serving on juries, and criminalized continued plural marriages. But it was abandoned only as a temporary measure to secure statehood. It was to resume when a state legislature, instead of the US Congress legislating for the Federal Territory of Utah, could pass laws. The United States did not trust Mormons, and required Utah’s state constitution to include the abandonment of plural wives as a condition of statehood. Utah became a state in 1896, but underground plural wives were continued until the Congressional hearings during the Senator Reed Smoot controversy in 1904. President Joseph F. Smith went to Washington, DC and testified under oath about the matter, and subsequently actually ended the practice. The trauma of testifying during these hearings resulted in the “Second Manifesto” written in 1904 by President Joseph F. Smith. This was another attempt to end the underground practice.

Even the 1904 letter didn’t actually end it. It just became more secret. Apostles Taylor and Cowley were sacrificed when their continued sealing of plural wives was brought to light by the Salt Lake Tribune. Their trials removed them from the Quorum of the Twelve for failing to discontinue the practice of sealing multiple wives in violation of the 1904 letter (NOT the Manifesto). No one contended in the church court proceedings for Apostles Taylor and Cowley that the Manifesto ended the practice or required them to cease sealing plural wives as early as 1890.

Interestingly related to this topic is the ruling by Judge Clark Waddoups on the issue of plural wives. The Waddoups’ opinion does not legalize plural wives. Instead it decriminalizes private sexual relations between consenting adults which would otherwise violate a criminal statute adopted by Utah. It also does not prevent criminal prosecution of bigamy. The distinction between what is legal and what is illegal is driven by whether the people engaged in the private consensual relationships bothered to purchase a marriage license and seek governmental authorization for their second (or more) marriage. If they did, and they have more than one legal marriage, they violate Utah’s bigamy law and can be prosecuted. If they did not, then they are merely engaging in private conduct which is protected by the penumbra of the First Amendment.


As a result of the decision, a man could have concubines, but not plural wives. Which brings to mind a discussion that took place in a meeting of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve on April 5, 1894 (four years after the Manifesto): They discussed concubinage as a means of meeting the technical requirements of the law, while still continuing sexual relationships with multiple women. George Q. Cannon said: “I believe in concubinage, or some plan whereby men and women can live together under sacred ordinances and vows until they can be married. Thus our surplus of girls can be cared for, and the law of God to multiple and replenish the earth can be fulfilled.” President Lorenzo Snow added: “I have no doubt but concubinage will yet be practiced by this Church, but I had not thought of it in this connection. When the nations are troubled good women will come here for safety and blessing, and men will accept them as concubines.” President Woodruff added: “If men enter into some practice of this character to raise a righteous posterity, they will be justified in it. The day is near when there will be no difficulty in the way of good men securing noble wives.” (Spellings corrected.) If you put the decision of Judge Waddoups together with the discussion on April 5, 1894, a resumption of concubinage seems possible. I’m not expecting it to resume with official sanction. But the fundamentalists are going to be perking up in Utah, I assume.

Sound Doctrine

2 Timothy 4: 3-4:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; [they will be unable to even tolerate it. Unable to “endure” hearing it. They will think what is “sound” or true doctrine is beyond what can be permitted to be spoken, thought or believed.]

but after their own lusts [that is, they will allow their ambitions, pride and desire to be popular and praised to control what they are willing to believe. They will require the truth to give way to the social attitudes and fashions of the day.]

… shall they heap to themselves teachers, [that is, leadership which will give them what they want. Leaders and presiding authorities whose goal is to deliver on the “lusts” for popularity and acceptance. Leaders whose decisions are driven by focus groups and opinion polling and other social studies to arrive at the place they lust to arrive.]

… having itching ears; [that is, ears tuned to hear the flattery, praise and assurance that comforts them in their false pride: “chosen people” and “royal priesthood” and “all is well” and “cannot be led astray” and such nonsense.]

… and they shall turn their ears away from the truth, [because it is never popular. It does not gather wealth and status, but instead criticism and ostracism. It will cost you something, not pay you something. Indeed, among the false teachers one of the evidences they offer of God’s favor toward them will be their wealth, influence and popularity.]

… and shall be turned unto fables. [in which a counterfeit is portrayed as the real Gospel. In which lies are told about history. In which soothing things are provided by wormtongue preachers whose goal is to keep the flock praying, obeying and paying; with no regard for the souls being lost by their false preaching. Fools trifling with the souls of men will offer fables instead of revelation.]

I’ve Met Valor

A recent email I sent in response to an on-line conversation about the current state of affairs in the US:


My father landed on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944 in the first wave, as a Combat Engineer.  It was his job to clear the beach of tank traps for tanks which would never arrive.  The water was too turbulent that morning and all the tanks sank before reaching the beach.  But destroying the traps was not an option anyway, because they were the only thing to hide behind to shield soldiers from incoming machine-gun fire.

Eventually the surviving few, filled with rage at what was done to their comrades, did the only thing they could do: sacrifice their own lives to kill the bastards who were killing their friends.
So it was that the mines intended for tank traps were diverted to destroying the fencing and barbed wire protecting the cliffs from being scaled by the GI’s.  At a cost difficult to comprehend, they overtook the pillboxes and destroyed the German emplacements.
On the morning of June 7th, 1944 my father was the only one in his Company who was not a casualty of the first day’s fighting.  He was unhurt.  So they formed another Company made of the remaining remnants and he turned from combat engineer to infantryman.  
He pressed into Paris, then into Germany.  He was involved in the Ardennes, where he suffered his only injury of the war: frostbite to his feet.  He was taken to a surgical tent where they intended to amputate both his feet.  Outside there were barrels of hands, feet, arms, legs and assorted GI parts.  He begged to keep his feet.
There was a nurse from his home state in the surgical prep area.  She took pity on him.  Throughout the night she rubbed his feet to restore circulation, while moving others ahead of him for surgery.  At morning the waiting supply of injured were exhausted, and only my father remained awaiting care.  They carried him into the room to begin the amputation, and the Doctor inspected his feet beforehand to decide how much to remove.  The Doctor said he saw signs of circulation, and thought it might be alright to wait and see a few more hours.  Everyone was exhausted anyway, and my father was in no hurry.
The next day the feet improved a little more.  After a few days he was removed from the list to be amputated, and then allowed to return to fighting.
For the rest of his life his feet hurt him.  But he never complained.  In fact, the pain made him grateful, he said, to have his feet.
He never collected a dime of disability.  Worked till retirement age, then went to work again.  Worked until they retired him again.  Then he worked part time till he was in his late 70’s.  
As he was dying he returned to a hospital for the second time in his life.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer on Friday, and died on Sunday.  Saturday night he and I were talking in the hospital sometime in the wee hours of the morning and he remarked:  “I can’t figure out why my life was spared when all those others died that morning.”
Warriors are not like those who live safely at a distance from the fight.  But they only die once.