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God’s Great “Strength”

In an email discussion with someone I respect, the following exchange occurred. This is his criticism of my views and his attempt to persuade me I am in error. His emails are italicized and quoted below, followed by my responses.
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I believe in a God who is stronger than the God you believe in.  My God was able to restore everything that He wanted through Joseph Smith before Joseph was killed.  And He was able to control (through birth and death) those that led the Church thereafter so that it was (and is) always led by a righteous and worthy prophet.  In contrast, it appears that your God wasn’t able to get everything revealed before Joseph was killed and has let Church leaders be chosen and to ascend to influential positions even though they are not completely inspired.

Second, it seems that I have more faith in the Latter-day Saints than you do.  I believe that righteous men have been consistently available to serve with inspiration in Church callings.  In addition, I believe the righteousness of a portion of Church members has always been sufficient to make them worthy of inspired leaders.


Consequently, I believe that if the Church, its leadership and members, ever begin to apostatize, my God is strong enough to  call the erring leaders home (through death) and install new inspired ones. And such men have always been available and a portion of the Saints have been righteous enough to deserve it. The Mormon fundamentalists and others who want to claim God’s pure grace and authority, saying the mother Church has gone astray, have adopted a very narrow view that is quite self-serving.  Yet, I believe God is powerful enough and a portion of Church members have always been righteous enough to have allowed the continued fulfillment of D&C 65:1: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.”

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My reaction to this bundle of false ideas is as follows: (I did not include the scripture references in my email to him)


I do not disbelieve in God’s strength, but know I can trust in His great restraint. (See, e.g., Matt. 26: 39; Matt. 26: 51-54; John 2: 4; John 7: 3-8; Alma 14: 10-11; 3 Ne. 11: 11; and many others.) He honors us by giving us agency to choose (Moses 4: 3; Helaman 14: 30; D&C 93: 30; and many others), He even gave Lucifer the right to choose and rebel (D&C 29: 36; D&C 76: 25; 2 Ne. 2: 17-18; and many others), and then He shows the wisdom to allow us to reap the consequences of our choices (Alma 10: 25-27; Helaman 14: 30-31; 2 Ne. 2: 14-16; Jacob 3: 11-12; Alma 41: 3; D&C 121: 25; and many others).


I believe He is the same yesterday, today and forever (1 Ne. 10: 18-19; 2 Ne. 27: 23; 2 Ne. 29: 9; Heb. 13: 8; and many others) .That He cannot limit one generation’s right to choose any more than He has done so with another (Mosiah 27: 25-26; 2 Ne. 28: 1-32; D&C 18: 42-46; D&C 84: 54-58; and many others). That if God intended to accomplish what you suggest He has underway with the Latter-day Saints, He could have interrupted man’s agency in the Garden and saved us all.


Come to think of it, you are proposing a God of such strength and determination to prevent mankind’s failure that this God of strength reminds me of Satan’s proposal so that not one soul could be lost (Moses 4: 1).


I believe we are in jeopardy. All of us.  From the moment we enter this life we are in peril.  (1 Cor. 15: 30.) We become accountable at age 8. Then we are judged on the basis of the choices we make. God doesn’t interrupt our mistakes. He permits them. He does this for a wise purpose. For underlying it all is the patient plan to “prove” us by what we do. (Abr. 3: 24-26.)


I think your proposed God is not a God of “strength” so much as He is a fearful dictator who will not allow man’s agency to survive. This, to me, is not only an error, but it is Satanic.


I believe we have exactly the same situation in our day as in the days of Adam. Exactly as in the days of Noah. (Matt. 24: 37-38; Luke 17: 26-30; JS-Matt. 1: 40-48.) Exactly as in the days of Abraham. (Abr. 1: 5.) Exactly as in the days of Moses. Exactly as in the days of Peter and Paul. That is, I believe we also must find our way back through the fog of a true religion administered in a false and vain way, in which man cannot save man, but can only assist one another or interfere with one another in the quest to find God.


I believe it is more than foolish to stake the outcome of your life on the bet that God owns, personally, everything about the present situation of the church. I think God is as dismayed and alarmed by our present choices and predicament as any prophet proclaimed Him to be about ancient Israel. I think we are no better than the Jews who slew Isaiah, or the righteous pretenders who denounced and rejected Christ’s Apostles, or the brothers of Nephi who refused to accept his leadership once Lehi died. I think our dilemma is exactly like all others. We proceed with the exact same test. Few will pass it. Few will find it. But those with the eyes to see and ears to hear will listen to the Master’s voice and follow. No amount of criticism or doubt from man will deter them from following the Master. No offering from an organization or institution will substitute for the Master.


I distrust all men. I am a man. Therefore, I distrust myself. It is the Lord and the Lord alone upon whom I stake my eternal outcome. Grateful for what I know, humbled by what He has shown me, and always keenly aware of many weaknesses which beset me at every turn, I hope to endure the course He has shown me and to finish with my trust in Him intact. I fear my failure. I do not believe myself at all equal to the privileges He has granted to me, nor qualified to accomplish what He has asked of me. I do what I am asked, trusting in the Lord’s wisdom, not mine.


I believe in Him. Only in Him. And I cannot allow that trust to be displaced by anyone making any claim to speak for Him, because He speaks with me. Therefore, I do not need anyone to stand between Him and me.


In my view, it is not the “strength” of God at issue. It is man’s weakness and God’s respect for man’s agency that is at issue. These two combine to allow us to fail. Likewise some few, with His help, will succeed. 

The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel and He employs no servant there.  (2 Ne. 9: 41.) Therefore, it is only that gate which I seek.


I am certain of very few things. But I know God, and have reasoned with Him as one man reasons with another. I have questioned His counsel to me. I have used scriptures and testimonies of those who knew Him before to persuade Him to my view. His wisdom is greater than mine, His comprehension of the scriptures is greater than mine, and His will is more benign, placid and love filled than mine. Because of my own weakness, I expect to fail. However, He knows the end from the beginning and I do not expect Him or His purposes to fail, even if it involves my weak contribution to His plan.

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In reply, I received the following:

I have not represented my beliefs very well.  I agree with you that God would never intervene so as to control us (and take away our agency).  However, I believe God is not impotent regarding His believers and leaders on earth. 

God controls when and where we are born and “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of [our] habitation” (Acts 17:26; see also D&C 122:9).  He “holds the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth” (D&C 117:6) and can determine when we die.  Joseph explained:  “I understand my mission and business. God Almighty is my shield; and what can man do if God is my friend? I shall not be sacrificed until my time comes; then I shall be offered freely. . . . I thank God for preserving me from my enemies” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 274).  I do not believe God let Joseph Smith die before he had restored everything that was necessary.  If God had not preserved him, the Prophet might have been killed years earlier (I’m sure you know the stories, but see D&C 38:13).

As you know, Joseph Smith’s God knows “the end from the beginning” (Abraham 2:8). He assures us that “all things are present before mine eyes” (D&C 38:2).  Nephi explained:  “the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words” (1 Nephi 9:6). 
I believe God’s power over life and death and his foreknowledge allow Him to have leaders and believers here today to perpetuate His work.  We are told that “The Prophet Joseph Smith, and … Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits… were reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work” (D&C 138:53).  Why not Thomas Monson and Gordon B. Hinckley as well?

You wrote:  “I believe we have exactly the same situation in our day as in the days of Adam.  Exactly as in the days of Noah.  Exactly as in the days of Abraham.  Exactly as in the days of Moses.  Exactly as in the days of Peter and Paul.”  Forgive me if I disagree.  You don’t seem to believe it because you say there is no Adam, no Noah, no Abraham, Moses, Peter, or Paul here to guide us today.  In those days, people rejected the prophets, but there were prophets to reject.

 The reason I wrote to you in the first place is that I have studied Mormon fundamentalism for many years.  Fundamentalists universally condemn the Latter-day Saints in the 1890s because they accepted the 1890 Manifesto.  Lorin Woolley wrote:

 [Church members were writing letters] asking the leaders to do something, as the Gentiles were talking of confiscating their property in connection with the property of the Church.  These letters not only came from those who were living in the Plural Marriage relation, but also from prominent men who were presiding in various offices of the Church who were not living in that relation.  They all urged that something be done to satisfy the Gentiles so that their property would not be confiscated. (1929 Account.) 

The problem I encountered was that as I studied the Saints of the 1890s, I discovered many devout believers who were willing to do anything their God required.  Most didn’t know what to do with the Manifesto and were willing to continue sacrificing for plural marriage. Then it dawned on me that the fundamentalists today needed to believe they were more righteous than the 1890 Saints so to support that belief, they simply misrepresent them in their literature.   

It is easy to say the Saints are not righteous enough, but many are very righteous, even holy.  You seem to say our leaders have led us astray, but I believe God would have called them home before they would have been able to do so.  It isn’t a question of respecting agency, it is God’s foreknowledge and His control over when and where we live on earth that allows His Church to continue to fulfill the prophesy:  “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2). 

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In response I state:

I do not disagree with the scriptures you quote. They are as you say. But they are not, of course, the entire story.


I am not “rooting” for or against our success or failure. No matter how flattering or condemning the truth may be, I’m only trying to understand our condition. I’m not interested in skewing the decision, only trying to make it correctly. However delightful or painful the truth about our day may be, I want to understand it.


I have made no judgment of the saints. But the Lord, who does know the end from the beginning, has revealed His own judgment of us. He said: “And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, i will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.” (3 Ne. 16: 10.) This prophecy of Christ, recorded in the Book of Mormon, at least raises the possibility of our rejection of the fullness of His gospel.

This possibility turns into a probability with this revelation from the Lord through Joseph: “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things which you have received- Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation restesth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which is written- That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.” (D&C 84: 54-58.) This was a revelation given about eighteen months after the church was organized under the laws of New York. We’ve never remembered the Book of Mormon, as Daymon Smith’s series currently coming into print demonstrates. Nor are “the children of Zion” closer to Zion now than in 1832. 

Then there is the last great revelation given to Joseph Smith in January 1841 where the Lord reminded Joseph that the fullness of the priesthood had been lost to the church. (D&C 124: 28.) The Lord offered to restore it again as long as the conditions were met. Those conditions were possible in a time frame known only to the Lord. For us, it was merely described as “sufficient time” for the demanded work to be finished. (D&C 124: 31.) Whether or not we succeeded or failed, the Lord gave us an objective way to decide. If we succeeded we would not be moved out of Nauvoo, but the Lord would fight our battles. If we failed, we would be driven out, cursed, and put through hardships. As the revelation states: “If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy. And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I shall have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place. But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest, because they pollute mine holy grounds, and mine holy ordinances, and charters, and my holy words which I give unto them. And it shall come to pass that if you build a house unto my name, and do not do the things that I say, I will not perform the oath which I make unto you, neither fulfil the promises which ye expect at my hands, saith the Lord. for instead of blessings, ye, by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practice before me, saith the Lord.” (D&C 124: 44-48.)


The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith was accomplished through a conspiracy involving William and Wilson Law, among others. William Law was a counselor in the First Presidency. Nauvoo was wallowing in sin, including adultery and fornication initiated by men with evil designs. The seducing of women in Nauvoo was perpetuated by many evil men, including John C. Bennett while he was also a counselor in the First Presidency. Reading the High Council minutes for Nauvoo you can see how widespread this adulterous conspiracy spread inside the community. I do not mention this to judge or condemn anyone. Only to suggest that the Lord’s description of the latter-day gentile condition in His prophecy (“filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations”) can be taken as a description of events at the end of Joseph’s life. If so, then it was merciful for the Lord to pour out “wrath, indignation, and judgments” upon the saints to end those things and prepare for something better to come of Joseph’s ministry.


I do not think the restoration through Joseph accomplished Zion. That remains undone; future. The time Joseph had was very short. He restored much, and did what he was required to do in that period of time. He left us a foundation to build upon. More is necessarily coming. 


Brigham Young did a great work in preserving the church as a body and keeping Joseph’s work alive. But he never claimed to be Joseph’s equal, nor to be a prophet like Joseph. He repudiated that idea.


I am converted to the Book of Mormon, and to Joseph Smith as a prophet, and to the revelations we received through him. But we remain under condemnation. I’m not interested in judging anyone, condemning anyone, or belittling anyone; far from it. I am grateful to all those who went before and acknowledge a debt of gratitude to them for keeping the revelations of Joseph in print and maintaining an organization that at least tries to remember Joseph and the work God did through him. But I want to know the truth of our awful state, even if if breaks my heart.

Why Ignore “Fact”?

History is an attempt to weave into one comprehendable story the complex interaction of an almost infinite number of moving parts. It involves not just one life in isolation, but how all lives interrelate. In a very real sense, all history is theory; merely a fiction helping our understanding of the infinitely complex.

The Book of Mormon is not history. The writers repeatedly tell us it is not a full history:
Nephi:
-“[T]hese plates… are not the plates upon which I make a full account of the history of my people[.]” (1 Ne. 9: 2.)
-“[I]f all the things which I saw are not written, the things which I have written are true.” (1 Ne. 14: 30.)
-“And if my people desire to know the more particular part of the history of my people they must search mine other plates.” (2 Ne. 5: 33.)
Jacob:
-“And a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, which now began to be numerous, cannot be written upon these plates.” (Jacob 3: 13.)
Mormon:
-“I cannot write the hundredth part of the things of my people.” (Words of Mormon 1: 5.)
Helaman, son of Helaman:
-:”But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, …cannot be contained in this work.” (Hel. 3: 14.)
Nephi, son of Helaman:
-“[H]e did teach them many things which are not written, and also many things which are written.” (Hel. 5: 13.)
Nephi (son of Nephi, son of Helaman)
-“And there had many things transpired which, in the eyes of some, would be great and marvelous; nevertheless, they cannot all be written in this book; yea, this book cannot contain even a hundredth part of what was done among so many people in the space of twenty and five years[.]” (3 Ne. 5: 8.)
-“And now there cannot be written in this book even a hundredth part of the things which Jesus did truly teach unto the people[.]” (3 Ne. 26: 6.)
Moroni:
-(Writing of the account of the Jaredites he abridged in the Book of Ether:) “[A]nd the hundredth part I have not written[.]” (Ether 15: 33.)

It was not a full history because telling everything is not necessary in order to establish the truth of the proceedings among the Nephites. Their record was true, even if incomplete. A more complete history might even have been misleading. For example, preserving all the arguments Laman and Lemuel used against Nephi would not contribute to understanding. It would only detract from the account we have.

Likewise, the priests of Noah were not ignorant. They were qualified as priests, held positions of authority, were trusted by the king, and used the scriptures in their counsel to Noah. They quoted from Lehi and Nephi when they argued Abinadi was a false prophet. (See Mosiah 12: 15. This was based on the revelation to Nephi found in 1 Ne. 2: 20. Lehi reiterated this in counsel to his children found in 2 Ne. 4: 4.) The full arguments of the priests of Noah are not preserved

Which introduces the topic about my own retelling of history. Like those who have written about God’s dealings with past generations, I do not believe it is either necessary or advisable to include all information in order to tell the truth. Taking second-hand accounts from highly partisan “defenders of the faith” is a dubious practice. As a lawyer I’ve encountered such witnesses. They are usually not qualified to give evidence. Their statements are mere hearsay, and if an objection is made, the Court will not permit such evidence to be considered.

Apart from my own education and profession, however, the church itself has a standard which precludes a lot of the information used to attempt to support a “more faithful history.” Lorenzo Snow’s son and granddaughter, for example, are not qualified under the church’s standards to proclaim a revelation for the church. Yet they are the only sources for a purported meeting between Lorenzo Snow and Christ on the staircase of the Salt Lake Temple. Apart from this failing, however, there is the other most obvious problem: Why did not President Snow discuss or mention or testify about this to the church? One of the most obvious reasons would be because it isn’t true. Or, alternatively, it is greatly embellished, but was actually uneventful. Or, alternatively, he did not think it mattered.

I’ve been criticized because I fail to mention this second-hand account from a granddaughter of a church president who claimed to have heard a story from her grandfather a few decades before she retold it which supports a different narrative than the one I tell in my account of the Lord’s dealings with the Latter-day Saints. Well I admit I ignore it. I consider it insubstantial.

The priority for finding the truth begins with searching the scriptures. They tell us in prophecy about what the latter-day gentiles will do when the Book of Mormon comes forward. I let that prophetic framework construct the outline. Then, trusting the Book of Mormon as “the most correct book,” I followed the prophetic outline into well documented historical events. The result was a “hand-in-glove” fit between what has transpired and what was foretold.

I do not blame anyone for thinking I am in error. After all, there have been hundreds of written accounts that can be marshaled to support the existing narrative. These favorable, flattering histories have been told and retold. Entire libraries exist which support the church’s claims. I acknowledge they exist. I also acknowledge I ignore a great deal of the material precisely because I consider it incompetent.

When the disputes began between the sons of Joseph Smith (and Emma) and the “Reorganized” church movement on the one hand, and the LDS church on the other, emotions ran high. There were several critical issues at the bedrock of the conflict. Perhaps the most obvious (then and now) was plural marriage. Emma artfully denied it, and her sons (Joseph III and David) disbelieved it even happened. When their cousin, Joseph F. Smith, tried to prove them wrong, he gathered evidence from surviving witnesses. These included a number of women who claimed to have been married to Joseph in Nauvoo. These affidavits were gathered many years after the events, in a highly charged atmosphere wherein:
-there was a pending dispute with the US Government over plural marriage
-there was a threat to the survival of the church mounted by an upstart rival church
-the dispute made Brigham Young and Emma rivals
-loyalty to defending both the church and its hierarchy were at stake
-some of the women were remarried in plural relationships, including some with Brigham Young.

In this setting the affidavits that were gathered were affected by the circumstances. In the courtroom, sometimes witnesses are not only discounted, but ignored, once the self-interest of the witness is brought to light. A jury needn’t believe anything they hear as testimony from a biased witness. They get to consider the statements, but are not bound to accept them as true or reliable.

I offer what I believe to be true. It shouldn’t be very difficult to muster together another assortment of statements, claims, and records to the contrary. When it comes to the truth, however, you are not required to agree or accept any and/or all statements made in favor of a particular party, issue or view. If that were the case, then the Book of Mormon would not have ignored Laman and Lemuel’s views. Nor would Abinadi have been counted as a true prophet delivering a true message to a fallen and corrupt society desperately in need of reconnecting with God.

What could be more “faithful history” than one which accepts the words of Book of Mormon prophets as the guide?

Connecting With Heaven

Religion is a terrible thing when it is sold like a product by an institution trying to profit by claiming ownership of the rights. Faith in Christ is a wonderful, liberating thing.

When Paul was called directly by the Lord, it was as if Christ were proclaiming His independence from the very movement He had launched by calling Twelve Apostles. It is apparent the Lord wanted to affirm that He alone would be involved in how His faith would roll forward. This independently called Apostle witness then proceeded to write two-thirds of the books of the New Testament. Christianity is Pauline, even if the Catholic tradition claims to be Petrine.

When the Lord rose from the dead, He visited with women first, then with two men who were not His Apostles. His Apostles were told, but they didn’t believe these women. (Luke 24: 1-11.) Then when He came to visit with the Apostles, He criticized them for failing to respect the women’s testimony of His resurrection. (Mark 16: 14.)

The Lord’s behavior was (and still is) uncontrollable by institutional constraint. That is a very hard thing for some good people to comprehend. After all, in a revelation, the Lord said the restoration through Joseph Smith was the “last time” he would be giving in the “last days.” (D&C 112: 30.) But, then again, the same Lord, speaking through the same prophet in another transcript from heaven itself, used the word “last” to mean “most current” or “latest” rather than precluding another. (D&C 76: 22.) And we confront the Lord’s word usage of “Endless” and “Eternal” as proper nouns, meaning “God’s” rather than an adjective meaning “forever.”

We try to capture God by His words, and find He is always free to speak again and again (Moses 1: 4), and to amplify, enlarge, and expand even the scriptures when He chooses. (2 Ne. 29: 10-11.)

It is a rule that the Lord’s house is a “house of order.” But what if the “house” about which He speaks is not institutional, but familial? (See, e.g., D&C 132: 18.) He established a system to replace Apostles in His church, right? And that system remains in place, right? It is like the one in His original New Testament organization, right? That system allowed the remaining Apostles to vote and replace the deceased Judas. (See, Acts 1: 21-26.) But then He alone called Paul without consulting with the Twelve. (Acts 9: 3-15; see also Gal. 1: 1.)

What if the Lord’s “house of order” can only be established by Him, directly? Something with fewer moving parts, no one in charge except for the “keeper of the gate” who cannot be deceived in a worthiness interview? (2 Ne. 9: 41.) That would remove doubt from all our minds about whether anyone gets included or excluded based on man’s judgment.

How do we make sense of what God is up to at any given moment? He always allows Himself to speak yet more. Alma explained, I think, how God works: “It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God… he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.” (Alma 12: 9-10.) So God gets to talk. To anyone at any time. Even to women. Before the Twelve. And He gets to condemn the Twelve because they didn’t believe the women.

Faith in Christ is liberating because Christ is the final authority and power. Fear is the opposite of faith. Christ invites and entices to do good by His great love for us. When the god of this world tries to reign with blood and horror, constantly reminding you to be fearful and cower, you are sensing the bitterness of hell itself. (Moses 1: 20.) Remember the Lord’s tools and even the Lord Himself are the opposite. (1 John 4: 8.) Be of good cheer because He has overcome the world. (John 16: 33.) Have faith in Him and doubt not because He lives. I know for I have seen Him.

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.

A Riddle

Anyone can obtain it, and yet it is:
so fragile it can be lost in a moment,

but powerful enough to destroy nations and defeat armies.

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.