[The contrast between his attributions to me and the text I wrote is remarkable.]
The very odd thing about those who are busy damning the book is that:
1. My book is a defense of faith in the restoration. I’m actually on the “same team” (so to speak) as those who hate the book.
2. Testimonies have been strengthened, people have returned to activity, and bitter feelings have been soothed by those for whom it was written.
I bear my critics no animosity. They are doing and saying what they honestly believe to be worthwhile when they say and write what they do. There was a time when I would have joined them in that view.
Mormonism is a faith which simply cannot be confined to a single tightly controlled confession of faith, because it was always designed to “comprehend all truth.” Think about that for just a moment. If it encompasses all truth, then it is vast in scope. Endless, really. So, at any given moment, Mormons will include those who are beginning to study the faith, those who have brought a background in Buddhism, those who have a foundation in science, or any number of other pre-conversion talents, capacities and preferences. These new believers will use those backgrounds to search into the Gospel.
Those varieties of talents were always intended to be a blessing, even a strength, to the restoration. Any requirement for absolute uniformity will not permit those who have vastly different capacities to share in faith, even though they are honest, believing and acceptable to God.
Coming into the “uniformity of faith” is an ideal that will require a lot of work, a lot of communication and sharing, and a process that allows people of honest intentions and good faith to speak openly across diverse views. Remarkably, many of those who have been the object of official church ire are more open and willing to discuss faith issues than are those who are extremely active, or employed by the church.
I am a Mormon. I’ve done a series of posts on that. I remain a Mormon, though now a cast-away saint. I’m fine with my status. Nothing has changed in my soul as a result of the current situation. God and I still have a relationship which continues uninterrupted by the excitement which PtHG has caused.
Some day Gregory Smith will drop his defensiveness and become capable of an open and friendly discussion, and we will be friends. This is because we both have far more in common that we do in opposition:
-He and I accept Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.
-He and I both accept the Book of Mormon as scripture.
-He and I both believe in the revelations which came through Joseph Smith.
-He and I are both trying to live our lives in harmony with our faith.
These are vastly more important than our differences about what happened following Joseph’s death.
These important beliefs we share between us make him my brother. Therefore, I regard his misunderstanding of the book and his attribution of motives which I simply do not possess as only his opening position. It will not be his final position. He will be led to a better conclusion about me in years to come. His motives arise from defending what he honestly believes to be threatened by what I wrote. This is good, even commendable. His mistake is to read with such alarm and fear that he turns a difference in understanding into an attack on me and my motives. With time and patience he will figure those things out much better than he does at present. Given the Lord’s patience with me, can I give Gregory Smith any less patience?
Read charitably his review. That is how I have taken it. At present I am too busy to go through and respond point-by-point to his rant. If I find the time, I may respond to his review.
If Gregory Smith reads this (or someone knows him) I’d like to invite him to come to the talk I will be giving on November 2nd in Orem at 9:30 a.m. The address and directions will be posted soon.
If you are going to read PtHG, then read the words in the text rather than overlaying your own fears and conclusions. Your reaction to the book is not indicative of what I wrote.
There is very little of me in the book. Nor does the book represent all of what I think or know about the topics covered. It is an overview, not a comprehensive treatment.
The book assumes it is competing with another tradition taught to us by the church, and only suggests there may be another way to view events. It does not claim to be right. That is left to the reader to decide. In many specific topics the material reaches a “tie” and leaves it to the reader to choose the result.
Careful readers have claimed I am “wishy-washy” because I refrain from making conclusions. Others who read carelessly have instead damned me for their own conclusions, using “Snuffer claims” or “Snuffer views” and “Snuffer wrongly assumes” to substitute their internal reactions for what I have written.
It is not until Chapter 15 that I move from recounting what scripture and church leaders wrote or said to assume the proposed new view is true. That chapter opens with this explanation: “For purposes of this chapter, I am going to assume the church never obtained the fullness offered by the Lord in Nauvoo.” Then I give all the reasons why I would choose to believe, and remain faithful to the church. That is the point at which my voice emerges into the narrative. It comes to quiet alarm, reassure belief and to muster support for the church.
Eventually the furor will calm down and the book will have a dispassionate reading. When we finally get there, people will wonder why the reactions were so overwrought. I hope the many things now written by the pseudo-defenders of Mormonism remain available, so they can inform future saints on how to react with less fear toward unwelcome ideas.
The purpose of Passing the Heavenly Gift it to awaken all of us to how delicate a proposition it is to live faithfully. Perhaps the most offensive character treatment is given to Heber J. Grant. The offense is taken from his own hand, recorded in his own diary, preserving his own mother’s criticism of him. But those are his words and the words of his mother. I defend him and praise his candor and honest introspection. My voice praises the man; his condemns. The distinction between these two voices is altogether lost on at least one of the most harshest reviewers of PtHG. His quarrel is not with me. It is with others.
I would suggest that it is better to take a look at the source material and consider that, and leave me out of the equation.
The Nauvoo Temple was not complete. Ever. Nor did they perform any endowment in a completed structure. When they left Nauvoo after shutting down the rites, they prayed to be allowed to complete the Temple so they might be able to dedicate it. The next day the attic caught fire and the area where the endowment had been performed was badly damaged. While they re-covered the roof, the attic was not repaired. Finally they abandoned work and “considered it complete enough to dedicate.” These events are chronicled and the sources quoted. In light of Section 124, those events matter. I was hoping to provoke some effort to examine those facts. Instead all I see are personal attacks directed at me borne out of ignorance and insecurity. Your insecurities do not belong to me. When you react to the book by attacking me, you expose your own doubts.
We should confidently state the case for Mormonism. I’ve done that in PtHG, even with historical lacunas in our story lines. If a reviewer wants to react to the events, then it would be a better service to everybody, myself included, to fill in the missing connections.
Below are the reviews I have put onto Amazon for each of the first three volumes:
When someone you love is terribly ill, but unwilling to accept treatment, what is the solution? Is fiction about their condition an adequate substitute for dealing with their illness? Can you lie your way out of such difficulties? What if the necessary treatment will be unpleasant? Even painful? Does your love of her justify causing her pain? And so it is that Daymon Smith ventures into treatment of his beloved faith in Mormonism. I don’t think she’s going to appreciate it (or at least her management won’t).
Here is an effort to search into the origins of the mythical and tradition-ridden retelling of the origins of Mormonism in a substantial and candid way. The resulting exposure of events, measured against the contemporary source material (which made no effort to conceal what happened by adopting later interpretations and reinterpretations), requires a new lens to be accepted.
For some this new lens will be disorienting, even confusing. This retelling makes no allowance for the fictions created to support the traditions which encumber Mormonism. Some will reject this outright because it disagrees with their lifelong understanding of events. But in the end it is fiction, not truth, which really threatens our world.
If we are viewing Mormonism from within (as the author and this reviewer does) or from without, it deserves the respect of as honest an assessment of its origins and meaning as we can give the topic. This book is a delightful search into, and then an honest of a retelling of the events that those living it might have understood and agreed with it. Some of them would be shocked at the face of both modern corporate Mormonism and the stories it tells about Mormon origins. They might not recognize themselves in the corporate accounts, but likely would see themselves in this book.
The influence of Parley Pratt and Sidney Rigdon upon the original trajectory of Mormonism is parsed and shown to be considerable. Much like the foreign occupiers of Egypt anciently who claimed to conquer Egypt, only to find themselves conquered by it (Pharaoh Alexander, for example)so too Mormonism’s triumph in the first Mission to the Lamanites failed to convert any of the targeted audience, instead bringing aboard the Campbellite community at Kirtland, Ohio. This missionary success became an instant burden on Joseph Smith’s original path, bringing into the “church” what would be a body of beliefs which entwined themselves into Mormonism and begin immediately to dominate the faith.
In this book Smith tracks these cultural and religious influences to demonstrate how the hallmarks of the “restoration” through Joseph Smith grew to include much of the zeitgeist of the Scotts, through Thomas and then Alexander Campbell, then Rigdon to Pratt and into Mormonism. The “Old Independents” and John Glas were among those who set in motion a stone rolling downhill, and Smith searches for the many historical antecedents which Mormonism acquired as it first rolled forth.
This history tells the “context” in which the Book of Mormon appeared to emerge into the foreground. That “context” then substituted pretext for text, metatext for reading meaning INTO the Book of Mormon rather than allowing meaning to come FROM the text itself.
I found this book hard to put down. But some readers will have a difficult time with this author. He should be read for substance and not necessarily for style. His anthropological bent and graduate school vocabulary will leave some readers wondering what he’s getting at. As I read it I came away fearing this would not be wideread or well understood except for a very few. Hence the four instead of five stars. I’d encourage everyone intersted in Mormonism to make the try.
At the book’s end Smith quotes from Michel Foucault this line: “How can we reduce the great peril, the great danger with which fiction threatens our world?” Inspired by the question Smith has undertaken a work to value truth above fiction with a result I found delightful and entertaining at the same time.
The second volume of Daymon Smith’s Cultural History of the Book of Mormon is better than the first. It is more accessible and less technical in writing style, but every bit as important in content. Like the first, I found the book hard to put down.
Daymon Smith’s retelling of Mormonism’s neglect, abuse and misunderstanding of the Book of Mormon is gripping and tragic. From the opening moments of the book’s appearance, it was overwhelmed by an artificial forced interpretation which rendered it merely a secondary support for the Bible. When read for its own content, the Book of Mormon roundly condemns the Bible as a corrupted text which has had important covenants removed by men.
The Book of Mormon voices Jesus Christ’s message. That message is not aligned with Biblical traditions. But the faith which claims The Book of Mormon as its foundational scripture has never actually allowed the text to inform the faith claims.
As Daymon Smith acknowledges, it is not as linear as “Campbell begot Rigdon, who begot Pratt, who begot Mormonism” however all of these operated together to make The Book of Mormon into a Bible meta-text. The effort underway in this series of books tracks the beginning of Mormonism using the archival material generated at the time, and permits the reader to see how the religion that emerged was not well informed by The Book of Mormon itself. Instead The Book of Mormon has been required to fit into another, prior tradition.
The second volume is a bit more reader friendly, but you will need to have read the first beforehand. The story continues here, but you need to be familiar with the material that precedes it to appreciate the evolution of Mormonism. Because it is more readable, I give this volume more stars than the first. But they are equally valuable.
This volume in Daymon Smith’s series continues the account of how Mormonism’s descent into a wilderness was physical, cultural and spiritual. Heedless that the possible cause could have been God’s ire with the Latter-day Saints, Mormon leadership blamed their followers for insufficient fidelity to the leaders. It was unthinkable to even consider the leaders were themselves pursuing a course unapproved by God.
The Mormon Reformation only intensified the notion that Mormonism could advance only at the cost of submission to the leaders, because God’s disapproval was evident. The cause could not have been the follies, epic and novel, of the direction leaders had taken the work begun by Joseph Smith.
In this volume the story begun in the earlier volumes continues, with chilling accounts of the depths to which the early Mormon followers fell in search of pleasing their leaders, if not God.
Particularly interesting in this volume is the account of how “keys and power” were claimed to have been continued through a replacement hierarchy, then a replacement “prophet” which descended thereafter to the leaders who followed. The foundation of sand is recast into stone by rhetoric originating in an affidavit from Orson Hyde between September 1844 and March 1845 which none of the other apostles would sign. Daymon Smith reflects on the document as reading “like an obsequious boosting of apostolic ambitions to take collectively the powers of the church, by copying the image of the Prophet onto their countenance.” (P. 50.)
Enjoyable and `tough love’ throughout, this is an unrelenting stare into the eyes of the foundation of the beast which now claims to be the Restoration through Joseph Smith. If you have an appetite for candor and a willingness to go on an adventure in humanity’s insufficient best-efforts, then you will find this a great read. This is Mormonism stripped of varnish and left naked, completely unaided by soft lighting and an unfocused lens. The truth requires something as important as the Restoration through Joseph Smith to be allowed to define itself, not to have pretensions and presumptions act as substitute.
It is the failure of Mormons to allow The Book of Mormon to ever have spoken which drives this series. Daymon Smith is hoping to allow that to at last begin. But first an honest seeker must overcome the opposition now to be found in the institution which has made its fortune by selling a different version.
Here is another link to a review done by The Association of Mormon Letters of Passing the Heavenly Gift.
Another review of Passing the Heavenly Gift.
[My wife noticed this and put it up yesterday. I’ve now skimmed the review. Wasn’t worth really reading. Doesn’t look like the reviewer actually read the book. Seems like he collected comments from others and put a patchwork together as a response. Committees always tend to bungle things. Maybe he’ll read the book sometime and look back with embarrassment at this poorly done review.]
Apparently the reason the church is now interviewing and discouraging some of those attending the talks I have given is driven by the false expectation that I intend to start a church. Let me be clear: I will not start a church. Period. Won’t. Not now. Not later. Never.
There is nothing about starting a church that appeals in the least to me. To the extent one is needed, we already have one.
Any organization formed in this world must comply with laws of man. Tax issues, regulatory issues, and potential legislative intrusions are always part of the life of an institution. Pressure from political and economic interests abound. Before long, no matter how noble in origin, this world erodes and later controls the institutions here.
A “strong man” model is the opposite of Zion. A controlling hierarchy where some are over, and others under control perverts the essential equality that must prevail in order for Zion to exist with one heart, one mind, and all things in common. From the moment Brigham Young began to envision the church as a platform to support his kingly ambitions until today, the church has been a temptation to practice priestcraft.
The church can dismiss any thought I have that ambition. I don’t.
When religion is reduced to a market and business interests drive programs, I find it repugnant. The idea that you identify under served areas and build temples to drive larger temple recommend participation to produce a cash stream may excite business leaders, but it repels me. That the church now recaptures the cost of building a new temple in two to three years after building one is little more than priestcraft. The Jews used their temple as a place of commerce. The Latter-day Saints have turned the temples themselves into merchandise. That is NOT my ambition. It causes me to mourn, not to become excited that I might join in the feeding frenzy upon the sheep.
I am just not like you. Not at all. I will not become like you. You keep the Mormon religion as your product line and never give another thought to me trying to “poach” your paying members. I WILL NOT lead another church. Ever. Period.
The break off movements led by the carnal and ambitious polygamists are even more repugnant to me. They oppress their women and have descended into child sexual exploitation with disappointing regularity. The idea I want to follow in that distasteful abomination is even more offensive than thinking I want to be an LDS leader.
Read what I’ve written. Listen to my talks. You needn’t think there is a hidden agenda. There isn’t and won’t be one. I am so transparent that even the church court information has been made public.