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Slavery?

I received this email from a friend:

I was wondering if you have ever written anything about slavery and would love to know where to find it.  If not, what your take on it?
_____________________________

I responded:

I haven’t written anything.

I think it was wrong because it limited agency and enthroned abuse and control by one human over another.

But 2 Ne. 1: 6 forces us to ask the question of whether slavery was used by the Lord to bring some people to this land who would not otherwise have come.  If so, then even though it was an evil institution, it was turned to a purpose God intended to accomplish.
______________________________

America’s history of slavery presents an interesting question for Mormons because of Lehi’s prophecy. The advent of African slavery in the Americas would come hundreds of years later when Dutch and Spanish slave traders would bring the institution into colonial America.  By the time of American Independence, African slavery was woven into the economy of the southern states and economically impossible to eliminate without destroying the south. It took nearly another century before the nation could end the practice. If Lehi’s prophecy is applied to the involuntary relocation of Africans, then Mormons must ask themselves how to understand Lehi’s prophecy: “[T]here shall none come unto this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord.” (2 Ne. 1: 6.)

My first job after law school I worked for a company that built television stations in Nigeria, Africa. One of the employees who traveled to Africa to help construct the facilities was a black engineer from California. After returning from a lengthy assignment, he was overcome with the conditions in Nigeria when contrasted with conditions he and his family enjoyed in California. He had mixed emotions. Although he knew his ancestors were forced to come as slaves to America, his life today was so much better than the lives he saw for the descendants of those left behind. He literally declared: “Thank God for slavery!” If I hadn’t heard him say it I would not have believed that sentiment was possible. To me his reaction was completely unexpected.

The ebb and flow of history shows the obvious immediate results, and later, unanticipated consequences. People are driven by one motivation at one point in time, but generations later their posterity live with the full results. After history unfolds, the earlier reasons may seem crude or even wrong, or they may seem noble and laudable. But life gets to be experienced in the immediacy of the day. We are not permitted to see the long-ranging effects over generations from our acts today. Unless the Lord shows it to us, only later generations will fully appreciate the effects of our choices.

Damned Again

An interesting FYI:
An email exchange received and responded to. 

On Tuesday, May 20, 2014, xxxxxxxxx <xxxxxxxxx@xxx.xxx> wrote:

Hey Denver,


I met with you in your office a few years ago after reading The Second Comforter.  I was mostly impressed at that time by your recurring theme of obedience.  Now you’ve been excommunicated for disobedience?  Only possible through vainglory and a loss of the influence of the Holy Ghost.  And perhaps other motives, which you yourself would only know about within your own heart.
The fact that you cannot see the glaring oxymoron of your message/actions– while anyone with the Spirit can– is no doubt just one example of what happens when one loses the gift of the Holy Ghost aka light and intelligence. The most amazing, intangible reality/truth about members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who truly and sincerely are submitting their will to the Lord’s will with a pure heart is that they/we are unified in possessing the gift of the Holy Ghost (given when baptized, lost when excommunicated) and we are, as a body/church, able to discern who is among us that lacks that same Spirit.  It was pretty obvious you lacked the influence of the Holy ghost when you wrote Passing the Heavenly Gift.  Not knowing that, I bought it,  started to read it, found nothing enlightening, skimmed and eventually discarded it as a book full of contradictions within itself.  All this was months before any controversy about this book began.  I did not need church leaders telling me your book was full of contradictions and even untruths.  I was able to discern that by the influence of the Spirit.
Additionally, your blogs lack the Spirit.  You have lost the Spirit and you can’t even tell that you have.  I suppose that is typical.  The scriptures call it “spiritual blindness.”   I think you are an imminent spiritual train wreck and I am sorry for you and your family.  
Sincerely,

Jan Riley

 —–Original Message—–
From: Denver & Stephanie Snuffer <xxxxxxxxx@gmail.com>
To: xxxxxxxxx <xxxxxxxx@xxx.xxx>
Sent: Tue, May 20, 2014 10:32 am
Subject: Re:

Thank you for caring enough to admonish me.  I believe you to be sincere.  

I try to be obedient and submissive.  Sometimes that carries a price that is hard to pay.  Nevertheless the same Spirit that brought me into the LDS church informs me now, and I continue to pay a price for remaining true and faithful to The Lord. 
I do not expect anyone other than The Lord to understand me.  But fortunately I also know only The Lord can judge me.  I look forward to His kind treatment of all my errors, and believe He will likewise look with mercy upon yours.
Denver Snuffer
__________________________________________________________
xxxxxxxxx


4:07 PM (23 hours ago)

to me
Hmmm…..Sometimes obedience carries a price that is too hard to pay?  Really?  You actually just typed that?  I don’t recall reading anything that even comes close to that in The Second Comforter.  That is just one example of how you have now become inconsistent with your own writings, changing your writings/paradigm to support your behavior, which is as common among those who lose their way as weak faith and a lack of testimony is common.  You have become common, Denver.  Even predictable.  If I decided to check in on your blog five years from now I can almost predict what I will read.


Abraham’s faith and obedience in the Lord is a perfect example that “Sometimes that carries a price that is hard to pay”  is quite untrue.   Obeying the request of the church and your priesthood leaders, which were as loving with you as they could have been, to cancel promoting Passing the Heavenly Gift (which completely lacked the Spirit) is hardly in the same league as the price Abraham was willing to pay in order to prove His desire to obey.   I’m sure you would agree. Yet Abraham obeyed.  Why didn’t you?  That should actually give you a reality check/barometer on where you land in your desire to be obedient.  

The same Spirit that brought you into the church actually does not and cannot inform you now, or every scripture in Old and New Testament, Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants is not true.  If it did, those who are obedient and also possess the Spirit, would know and recognize that you have the Spirit and there would be a oneness of belief among all.  Or perhaps you think you are the only one on the planet who currently possesses the Spirit?   

You are being deceived by the Adversary who loves what you are doing for him.  Like CS Lewis said, murder or cards, or in your case, disaffection from the LDS Church.  It doesn’t matter to him. It all works for his cause.  You have been cast out and therefore you no longer have access to the constant gift of the Holy Ghost.  Thinking that you do, thinking that your position is different, more honest, unique or enlightened than Sandra Tanner and Sonja Johnson, or Korihor for that matter, is the incredible power the Adversary has upon our paradigms, once we begin justifying/rationalizing our own very special reasons for disobedience. That is why it is called “spiritual blindness.”  But in reality you are headed down the same path and you will land in the same lonely place.  It’s a sad story but one that’s been lived in every dispensation, by many people who thought they were every bit as enlightened as you.

Discerning between truth and evil is not a judgment call, by the way.  Thinking those who are informing you of the truth are therefore somehow judging you is a bogus accusation.  Actual judging only happens when we go so far as to tell each other what degree of glory we are going to ultimately obtain.  I would never do that.  I only know that you are today on track for an inevitable spiritual train wreck, like all the spiritual train wrecks that have been on this same track before you, and hopefully you will wake up and recognize it before its too late for you and your loved ones.  That would require an incredible admission of vainglory, which would indeed make you extremely unique.
________________________________________________________

xxxxxxxxx

10:58 AM (4 hours ago)

to me
Therein lies the rub for you, Denver Snuffer, Jr.  “If you’re not one, you’re not mine.”  All the brilliant blogging you can crank out for the next decade cannot reconcile you to this profound doctrine taught by the Savior Himself.   You may indeed be following a spirit that has brought you both into and out of the Lord’s only organized body of covenant people in these last days, but it is not the same Spirit that the faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints are following.  Admit it and do whatever it takes to return, is my prayer for you.


Trust God Alone

Oliver Cowdery wrote a series in the LDS Messenger and Advocate, including Letter VII in July 1836 and Letter VIII in October 1836. In these letters Cowdery recounted early events and provided some of the first details of pre-church events in Joseph Smith’s life.

Orson Pratt prepared a publication while in England in 1840 which drew on Oliver Cowder’s earlier account. Pratt’s Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records likewise retold early events. Pratt’s account actually quotes Cowdery’s account in the relevant part below.

I assume both Cowdery and Pratt believed the material, and trusted it contained important principles for others to likewise learn and believe. It is one detail which they included, but which Joseph Smith omitted from his own account, that stands out to me. I think this omitted detail holds doctrinal significance.

The angel visited Joseph Smith on the day following the all-night visits of 22 September 1823 in his bedroom. He returned when Joseph arrived at the site of the buried book. When Joseph opened the container by removing a top rock, according to both Cowdery and Pratt, in addition to everything you are familiar with already, the following took place:

[T]he Angel of the Lord, who had previously visited him, again stood in his presence, and his soul was again enlightened as it was the evening before, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and the heavens were opened, and the glory of the Lord shone round about and rested upon him. While he thus stood gazing and admiring, the Angel said, “Look!” And as he thus spake, he beheld the Prince of Darkness, surrounded by his innumerable train of associates. All this passed before him, and the heavenly messenger said, “All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God, and the power of darkness, that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that evil one.” (See JS Papers, Histories Vol. 1, p. 527.)

Both Cowdery and Pratt urge this to persuade others to trust Joseph Smith. It rings of a doctrine heard today. Essentially they claim Joseph could not be led astray, because he was enlightened in 1823 to such a degree that Satan could not thereafter deceive him.

This notion is, of course, false. It was as false when applied to Joseph Smith as it is false when applied to any man at any time, myself included. All men err. All men are tempted and fall victim to their weaknesses and foolishness.

Just five years after the event reported by Cowdery and repeated by Pratt, in July 1828 Joseph Smith allowed Martin Harris to lose the first 116 pages of transcribed material for the Book of Mormon. The Lord stated: “And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his word– Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.” (D&C 3: 6-8.) Joseph was persuaded by his weakness and financial vulnerability to disobey God.

That same summer the Lord also said this to Joseph Smith: “Behold, I do not say that you shall not show it unto the righteous; But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.” (D&C 10: 36-37.) Joseph couldn’t even tell wicked men from righteous men.

There is no guarantee against error. There is no fortification which makes a man, any man, invulnerable to mistakes. Though both Cowdery and Pratt wanted to give Joseph super-human ability to detect the Devil and avoid mistakes, Joseph still made them. When Joseph prepared his own history in 1838 and 1839 he omitted this claim from his own history. He knew he could and did make mistakes. Therefore he wanted no such claim to be made.

Trust God, not man. And for yourself, keep yourself aligned to heaven, so when presented with the opportunity to make a mistake, heaven can help you in your hour of need. Weakness is part of every man’s life. (Ether 12: 27.) To trade weakness for strength we must all “humble themselves before [God], and have faith in [God].” (Id.) That formula given by Christ to Moroni has no room for trusting or coming to a man. Nor does it require you to humble yourself before a man. I fear my weaknesses and try to always guard against them. I know failure is always possible, and indeed more likely than success.

Cowdery and Pratt wanted the same kind of foolishness in their day as people now want in ours. They and we want some man to save us. Some trustworthy collection of leaders who cannot lead us astray or make errors in judgment which will deprive us of salvation. They were wrong, as are all those who similarly today espouse a similarly false doctrine.

Trust God alone. Fear your weaknesses. There is nothing any of us can take pride in. Nor is there anything we can trust other than our own fidelity to God alone.

Dates for Remaining Lectures

Ephraim – June 28, 2014
Las Vegas – July 25, 2014
St. George – July 26, 2014
Phoenix area – September 9, 2014, this will conclude the 40th year and will take place on day 365.

All talks will be in the morning.

Never Been A Dissident

I am not and have never been a “dissident” in the LDS Church.

I do not want to reform the LDS Church. I do not want to manage it, or join in managing it, or change its management. There is no “cause” I advocate in the hope of altering a policy or procedure of the LDS Church. Their policies, procedures, programs, choices, how it spends its money, what it builds or who it employs are all matters I am indifferent to.

Those who want to get the LDS Church to ordain women are dissidents. Those who want to have the Book of Abraham abandoned, or want to wear pants (a convention, not a policy), or seek to have homosexuals married are the work of dissidents. There are many causes and many dissidents. I am not one. They are welcome to their causes.

I was converted to a religion which I understood was restored by Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith and contained the latest clarifications, corrections, additions and explanations God wanted me to understand. I am still converted to that religion.

At one time I briefly identified the religion with the LDS Church. But that lasted only a few months. With a little reflection, it was apparent the religion was not the institution. All the other organized religions I was familiar with held the Bible to be God’s complete statement of faith. It was not to be added to or expanded upon. The new religion I accepted taught me to believe God spoke still, and revelation would continue. God likewise talked with me for the first time when I joined this new religion. If God hadn’t spoken to me in answer to sincere prayer, I would not have become Mormon.

I believe “the extent of [our] knowledge respecting [God’s] character and glory will depend upon [our] diligence and faithfulness in seeking after [Him].” (Lectures on Faith, 2nd Lecture, par. 55.) Therefore I ventured to try to gain knowledge about God directly, by my own inquiries to Him. I pursued this in all sincerity of heart, believing God would answer me when I sought Him. (James 1: 5.) I have learned it to be true that “the inquiry frequently terminated, indeed always terminated when rightly pursued, in the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty.” (Id. par. 56.)

To practice this religion, I joined the LDS Church because I thought it welcomed and encouraged this kind of relationship with God. For a season it seemed to do just that. Over the course of four decades, however, it became increasingly difficult to pursue the religion inside an institution with ambitions which ran contrary to my desire to understand God and become acquainted with Him.

I did not resist the desire of the LDS church to control its meetings and pursue an ambitious course of controlling what its members could say. I did not dissent and petition for change. But neither did I cease from seeking God in the manner I found in Joseph Smith’s example, Nephi’s teachings, Jacob’s sermons, Alma’s writings, Abinadi’s warnings and Christ’s discourses. It was my understanding that I was free to worship God “according to the dictates of [my own] conscience,” and the LDS Church was likewise free to enjoy “the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” (11th Article of Faith.)

If they had permitted me to do so, I was absolutely content to remain a member of the LDS Church. Although I understood the religion differently than taught within the programs of the church, the church had the right to pursue its course without my interference. I do not believe I ever interfered. I studied the faith, tried to live the faith, tried to understand what it offered each of us when rightly pursued, and ultimately received “the most glorious discoveries and eternal certainty” from my pursuit.

Like others who tasted from this tree of life, once I learned the religion restored through Joseph Smith was indeed alive, and able to reconnect us to the True Vine (John 15: 1-5), I wanted others to also know it was possible to eat from the Tree of Life. (See 1 Ne. 8: 12; also Enos 1: 9.) It should be welcome and appropriate for all Latter-day Saints to both belong to the LDS Church and to reconnect with heaven and be filled with knowledge from God.

I thought I was free to believe and teach others about how great things God offered to us all, liberally, if we ask in faith, believing. However, the LDS Church took the position I was out of harmony with the institution and should be excommunicated. They were free to do so. I do not challenge their right to remove me from their membership roles.

Now, just as before when I was part of the institution, I still believe and practice the religion restored through Joseph Smith. I believe I have always been free to practice this faith, and I intend to continue to do so. Now, however, I am unmolested by institutional constraint and control, and therefore I needn’t be concerned about some of the things I was before.

There is no office in either the LDS Church or the priesthood of God called “Prophet.” Nor is there an office in the LDS Church or the priesthood called “Seer;” nor “Revelator” nor “Translator.” There is an office called “President” and an office called “Apostle” and “High Priest” and “Elder” and others.

The role of a “prophet” comes as a gift from God, not from holding an office. To receive this gift, one must receive a prophecy from God, or a testimony from Jesus, to be delivered to people. Likewise revelation comes from God, and when it comes the person receiving it has received revelation and is therefore a revelator. It is a gift, not an office. Similarly the gift of seership is not an office, but a gift bestowed by God, and requires God’s showing to the recipient something before the gift is held. In the case of Mosiah, the gift included “miraculous interpreters” (Mosiah 8: 13), but in the case of Enoch, the Lord made the gift reside within his body (Moses 6: 35-36). Likewise, translation of ancient languages to preserve truth previously lost to mankind is a gift from God, not an office.

When the LDS Church claims its presiding authorities are “prophets, seers and revelators” I took no issue with the claim, but understood this to be descriptive of a hope, or ambition, to be given by God as a gift to them if God willed to do so. I presumed sustaining them as “prophets, seers and revelators” did not empower them to make the claim to possess these gifts in the absence of God bestowing them. Therefore, I awaited God’s hand to vindicate the expectancy, never dreaming that by merely voting I could elevate a mere man to possess what is God’s right alone to give.

There is no official “creed” given to us by Joseph Smith. He advised all to search into God’s mysteries: “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” (TPJS p. 364.) I have done that, and believe all should do likewise. No institution can do this for me, or for you. It is up to each of us to practice this faith.

I believe everyone ought to practice a living, fruitful faith by reconnecting to the True Vine, because it is only through Christ we are able to do anything. When any soul reconnects to Christ, they are alive in Him and should do as Christ would have them do. If this puts you into conflict with an institution, then I believe it is our duty to obey Christ and endure the insults, rejection and turmoil which follows.

When I joined the LDS Church I literally sacrificed all I knew before. My family and closest friends were all anti-Mormon. When I joined, I lost their friendship. Although I succeeded in reconciling with many of them, it was a difficult process taking years.

When I found Christ, I was threatened with the loss of everything I had come to know during the 40 years of membership in the LDS Church. I was even confronted by a Stake President’s threat of the “spiritual demise” of “my family” if I did not relent from doing as Christ asked of me. After 40 years of building a new life as a Latter-day Saint, once again I was threatened with the sacrifice of all I knew and enjoyed. It was no easier the second time than it was the first. There are a lot of lies about me, and false claims attributed to me.

I believe “that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6, par. 7.) Because I have made these sacrifices, I have been called “proud” and “stubborn” and filled with “self will and ambition.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I mourn my losses, but believe they were made in obedience to Christ. Therefore I endure this, while wishing it were otherwise.

I have come to realize that criticism can be used by the Lord to accomplish what He wants to happen. There are many Latter-day Saints who will now read what I have written just because I was excommunicated. More has been done by that action to spread knowledge of what I believe than anything I have done. It stimulates curiosity and interest.

The LDS Church was entirely within its right to excommunicate me, and any of its members it considers unwanted. It is free to teach, advocate and alter what it does without any interference from me. I do not dissent from it, or hope in any way to change it or its course. That is between it and God. But likewise I claim the right to continue as I began, and believe in the faith restored through Joseph Smith and practice it according to the dictates of my conscience.

I likewise believe the LDS Church members who now spew venom against me are free to do so. They are not likely to persuade anyone by such tactics. I think the truth is more resilient than a lie.

If there were one scripture I could commend to my LDS critics it would be this: “And now I say unto you, Refrain from [this man], and let [him] alone: for if this counsel of this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.” (Acts 5: 38-39.)

Be Wise

Why did Zion fail in Joseph’s day? How can we avoid that today? In almost every respect we are no better than those in Joseph’s time, and unfortunately in most respects we are not as good as they were. The only advantage we have is their failure. Provided, of course, we will learn from it. Their failure gives us great insight into what does not and cannot work.

The Lord counsels us to not attempt anything involving Zion in “haste.” But we are also told to be diligent. (See, e.g., D&C 59: 3-4.)

Read this advice from the Lord as if it were given to you about your day:
Verily I say unto you who have assembled yourselves together that you may learn my will concerning the redemption of mine afflicted people— Behold, I say unto you, were it not for the transgressions of my people, speaking concerning the church and not individuals, they might have been redeemed even now. But behold, they have not learned to be obedient to the things which I required at their hands, but are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them; And are not united according to the union required by the law of the celestial kingdom; And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer. I speak not concerning those who are appointed to lead my people, who are the first elders of my church, for they are not all under this condemnation; But I speak concerning my churches abroad—there are many who will say: Where is their God? Behold, he will deliver them in time of trouble, otherwise we will not go up unto Zion, and will keep our moneys. Therefore, in consequence of the transgressions of my people, it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion— That they themselves may be prepared, and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience, and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands. And this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high. For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me. Therefore it is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season, for the redemption of Zion. For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion; for, as I said in a former commandment, even so will I fulfil—I will fight your battles. (D&C 105: 1-14.)

Now go back and read D&C 101: 1-68. Remember the greatest challenge to prepare beforehand is the hearts of the people who are to gather. There is no reason to gather to fail again. Without appropriate preparation of people beforehand, angels will not gather them in. (D&C 77: 11.)

Zeal and haste will prevent Zion from coming and will destroy it if it’s here.

1 June 1830

On the 1st of June, 1830 a small meeting was held by about thirty people who comprised the church. The meeting was in a home. During the meeting Newel Knight was carried away in a vision. Only Brother Knight had the vision, but Joseph accepted it as true and had it put into the history.

Here is what Newel Knight’s visionary experience included:

“He saw heaven opened and beheld the Lord Jesus Christ, sitting [at] the right hand of the Majesty on high, and had it made plain to his understanding that the time would come when he should be admitted into his presence to enjoy his society for ever and ever.” (JS Papers: Histories Vol. 1, p. 388, Draft 1; punctuation and insertions as in original.)

That example shows how open Joseph Smith was to allowing others to both receive revelations and for their revelations to be regarded as authentic and trustworthy. Joseph trusted in this visionary experience of Brother Newel Knight so much it was included in Joseph’s history.

This experience would be described as Brother Knight’s calling and election being made sure, since it includes the promise from God that he (Bro. Knight) will be able to enjoy Christ and the Father’s “society for ever and ever.”

It is not regarded as “too sacred” to discuss.

It is not regarded as impudent to have a visionary experience apart from Joseph.

It did not excite Joseph’s jealousy or condemnation, but inspired his confidence and faith.

It happened in a home, although it was a church meeting. No church buildings existed among the Saints during Joseph’s lifetime, other than the Kirtland Temple. The people met in homes or outside during Joseph’s lifetime.

Can’t we build a bridge?

There is a gulf between two views regarding Mormonism which makes it very difficult for us to speak and understand each other. This gulf is problematic because it labels one group as blind and the other as faithless. It is possible to hold either view and still be very believing, committed and prayerful. Therefore, it is wrong to accuse one another.

Below is a contrast between the two sides illustrated by the extreme. There are shades between the extremes, but the extremes are the best way to illustrate the separation:

I call the first position the “brethrenites” because it is a shorthand way to capture the view: These Mormons believe that everything done since the death of Joseph Smith through Brigham Young and successors in the Presidency and Twelve of the LDS Church has been entirely conforming to God’s will. They believe “keys” were passed and, as a result, these successors control God’s power and can seal on earth and in heaven. They believe the statements made by the successors are invariably in the status of “prophet, seer and revelator” and therefore inspired by God (or binding upon Him by reason of the “keys” held). The general authorities are able to give binding statements as mentioned in D&C 1: 38. They speak the “mind of the Lord” as described in D&C 68: 4. As  part of this construct, any criticism of the Brethren is by definition ‘evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed’ and therefore criticism is apostasy. These people also believe the scriptures are secondary to a “living oracle” and therefore the scriptures are not as important as whatever the president of the church says now.

I call the second position the residue [of the saints]. These people believe the Book of Mormon and Joseph’s Smith divine calling, but do not agree that everything that began with Brigham Young conformed to God’s will. They believe the Lord spoke to this generation through Joseph (D&C 5: 10) and it was binding on everyone, including all subsequent leaders and members. They are skeptical of the claims to “keys” and authority, and believe the leaders after Joseph are not his equal. They believe the scriptures hold a higher priority than church authorities and when the scriptures are contradicted, the advice or direction can be safely ignored. They do not think criticism is evil or apostasy, but believe all who claim to believe in the Restoration through Joseph Smith are similarly bound to accept the Lord’s will through Joseph until the Lord decides to call another like Joseph (if He does).


When the brethrenites quote long passages from Talmage, McConkie, Grant, Brown, Widstoe, Lund or Romney to make a point, it has no persuasive impact on the residue. Likewise, when the residue quote the scriptures, it does not persuade the brethrenites as long as there is something contrary from Snow, Young, Taylor or Pratt. The arguments that one side believes should settle a question never succeeds in persuading the other because the underlying assumptions are so very different. Until the different groups decide to agree on what matters, what defines the faith, and whose statements carry authority and weight, there can be no agreement.

This is an odd gulf confronting Mormonism, because the brethrenites quote Eph. 4: 11-13 (leaders given to bring “unity of faith”) and the residue believe D&C 38: 27 (“if ye are not one ye are not mine”). Both ends believe sincerely in their position.

To the Brethrenites, I would pose this question: If apostles and prophets were given to bring “unity of faith” why do the doctrines differ so greatly between Brigham Young and Thomas Monson? What is this “in the absence of revelation” that changes very important doctrines?

To the residue, I would pose this question: If you believe your position, why do you remain silent in sacrament meeting, sunday school, priesthood, relief society and ym/yw classes? (Your position will never unify Mormons if the strength of your position goes unarticulated.)

Altered

In response to a question about whether my views have changed since I wrote The Second Comforter, I would say they have in some respects and have not in others. I do not intend to write a new edition and change what I wrote there. Believing Latter-day Saints should faithfully follow their religion. I was cast out of the church, and therefore have no reason to follow it lock-step any longer. But I do not resent the church, want back in, or hope to change it.

Even though the LDS Church is working very hard to put its leaders between the members and the Lord, I think a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint can endure that abuse while still honoring God. Christ did as much in His lifetime, and He is the great example. When you pass through all the rites of the LDS Church it begins and ends at almost the same point. The starting point is believing Joseph Smith, inspired by James 1:5, asked God and received an answer–and you can too. The ending point involves an ordinance which promises you further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil. Both at the beginning and the end of the LDS journey you are told to speak with God and expect an answer. If not for my belief in this promise, and the LDS Church’s teaching of it, I do not believe I would ever have conversed with God. So even now I see the LDS Church as having great value to its faithful members who can grow closer to God despite the foolishness of its Correlation program and distorted elevation of mere men.

The energy and light given through Joseph Smith powers the LDS Church still today. Even though the church’s leadership want to disregard, ignore, and even violate Joseph’s teachings, they still benefit from his original ministry.

One of the clearest moments in LDS Church history came on August 8, 1844. Joseph was dead. There were multiple contenders to lead the church in the leadership vacuum left by Joseph and Hyrum’s murders. When the critical moment arrived, the church took a profound, irreversible step. The church which was founded by revelation, proclaimed it was led by revelation, and held itself out as “true and living” because it was led by a prophet who received revelation, chose at that moment to ignore revelation. No one argued the choice should be made by God and then revealed to the church. Instead the church held an election and voted the 12 into power. At that moment the church decided to vote for its destiny, instead of letting God reveal to her His choice. Under the new direction Nauvoo was abandoned, the Saints fled into the wilderness, suffered, endured misery, were abused and blamed by the leaders for the leaders’ failures, and received chastening from an unimpressed God.

Although the Saints descended into a salty wasteland, the discovery of gold in California, the railroad and the convenience of a mid-mountain stopover helped them to survive. With time and a larger American economy in the midst of an Industrial Revolution, the church was likewise elevated economically and politically. Each step along the way the church positioned itself to benefit until now it is a powerful, multi-billion dollar enterprise with political, economic and social clout to protect itself from ever again enduring the early embarrassments and persecutions. It has diversified its product line from merely the “Mormon” religion, and has vast real estate, cattle, farming, business, banking, housing, educational, employment, television, radio, satellite, and other ventures. With all its leaders must manage, there is little time for and increasingly less attention given to the religion Joseph Smith was restoring. It is becoming increasingly clear to those who study the faith that it has undergone drastic changes since June 27, 1844. Those changes make the LDS Church much more like the rest of the world’s religions, and less like the revolution begun by God through Joseph.

I’m not sure the LDS Church today is even the same one I joined in 1973. I am certain it is not the same one Joseph Smith restored.

When I first joined the LDS Church there was a Presiding Patriarch sustained as a “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” in General Conference, which I understood was required for a fully organized church. He was subsequently released, his office left unfilled, and he has now died.

When I first became LDS the temple rites included roles, penalties and signs (I did not then understand) but which have subsequently been eliminated or changed.

When I first became LDS priesthood was restricted (which I hated but accepted), subsequently removed.

When I first became LDS there were 70’s in every Ward who were regarded as having a distinct office, which has now been eliminated, confined to General Authorities, who are all now High Priests, the office of 70 having been essentially eliminated.

When I first became LDS doctrine mattered, scriptures were used as the primary source of teaching, and General Conference talks were not re-read in Sacrament, Priesthood, Relief Society and Sunday School as the basis of lessons, unlike today. The adoration of church leaders is now almost the only “religion” practiced. Jesus Christ is a nominally mentioned party, appended at the end of talks and testimonies, as if mentioning Him at the end certifies everything remains His.

When I first became LDS we twice had the Sacrament blessed and passed each Sunday, we discussed openly the “mysteries” and had a very different Spirit within the community. There is a harshness to the LDS Church, and a hardness in its members which wasn’t there in 1973.

The list of changes is now over 120 items long and I won’t lay them out here. It isn’t important to do so. In the dedication of The Second Comforter I wrote: “Dedicated to the ‘few who are the humble followers of Christ.’ (2 Ne. 28: 14.)” I hoped readers would go look that verse up and read it, and the surrounding verses. If they do they will read this description:

“Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sancturaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are teh humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” (2 Ne. 28: 12-14.)

The dedication at the beginning of The Second Comforter was deliberate. I have recognized the truth for many, many years. But I honored every obligation I took upon myself. I have only joined one church organization in my life: the LDS Church. I am grateful to it and would not have left when they excommunicated me. But that does not mean I wasn’t alarmed by what I saw the leaders doing to alter and misshape the church. I tried to be meek, and still to be so. Now, however, I am entirely free to be meek in relation to the Lord alone, and no longer need to be anything but a “humble follower of Christ” (to use Nephi’s description). It is no longer necessary to be “led, that in many instances [I will] err because of the precepts of men.” I can look to the Lord alone, and forget institutional demands on my attention, time and thought. Or, as our Lord once put it: I can be about my Father’s business.