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Tradition’s Grip

Assume you are taking a course at the local university on William Faulkner. The book for study this semester is The Sound and The Fury. This course does not require you to actually read the book. Instead, the information in this class will come exclusively from your professor. To begin the semester, she will be lecturing and instructing you on ‘all things Faulkner.’ She will discuss biographical information, including everything she could find about his personal life. She will give lectures on his writing. There will be discussions about literary criticism given his writings and awards he has won. You will listen to audio recordings of Mr. Faulkner reading passages of The Sound and The Fury. 

As the semester progresses, she will begin to discuss the book. She will tell you about the first time she read it, and what kind of impact it had on her. She will tell you why she decided to teach an entire semester course on this one work of Faulkner’s. You will learn what her expectations and preconceptions were before she even began reading. You will hear all her first impressions. She tells you that she thought it was difficult the first time. There will be lectures on the genre, characters, plot, setting, style and structure, point of view, images, symbols, and themes. She will discuss the reception when first published. She will discuss each part of the novel in detail. She will then tell you how her personal reactions have changed as her understanding has deepened. As the semester winds down, she will end with her explanation of the literary significance of this book. With that, the semester is over.

Shortly after the end of the semester, because of this class and the things you learned, you decide to actually read The Sound and The Fury:
Do you suppose, with your first reading, you could formulate any thought about this book independent of what your professor fed you?
Could you make your own critical evaluations about characters, plot, point of view, themes, or symbolism?
Could the biographical information you learned about Mr. Faulkner be extricated from your psyche in order to have a blank slate from which to assess Mr. Faulkner’s reason for writing this novel?
Could you read this book through your lense?
How much of your professor’s impressions, understanding or analysis would you have to completely discard in order to form your own personal conclusions about this material?
How many times would you have to read it before you began to make your own analysis?
Would the professor’s framework control your first reading?
Could you ever escape from her views to discover your own?

The Lamanites were unable to convert, even when taught the truth, because of the traditions of their fathers which were not correct. (Mosiah 1: 5.)

“Becoming as a little child” is necessary, because children are able to be taught. They are still open. They want to be filled. For such is the kingdom. (Luke 18: 16.) None of the arguments our Lord was required to endure with His fellow-man was ever with a child.

The Ongoing Battle

Although I know of no one who has left the church or “lost their testimony” as a consequence of reading my book, Passing the Heavenly Gift (“PTHG”), there continue to be accusations that this has/does happen. Therefore, again, I want to reaffirm the purpose of PTHG.  

Let me give some background. I joined the church while in the Air Force, stationed in New Hampshire. After joining, I was a zealous missionary, and there followed over a dozen conversions of other military young folks who would listen to me explain the restoration. I got them open to the idea, then the full-time missionaries and ward members would take over. Mormonism was an exotic religion in New England. Little was known about the faith. So we got to begin with a relatively blank slate and tell the story our way. 
I was transferred to Abilene, Texas shortly after joining the church. In Texas things were very different. At the local Laundromat I used, there were racks of religious tracts on the wall. Included in these were a wide assortment of anti-Mormon pamphlets intended to “prove” Mormonism was false. We went from being exotic to being the devil’s workmanship. Missionary work in Texas was a good deal more difficult. Even though I served as a Stake Missionary, and took the third-Elder (who awaited his Visa to Brazil) every evening and weekend as a companion to tract and teach, the results in Texas were nothing like what had happened in New Hampshire. 
The organized effort in Texas was supported by radio programs, Sunday sermons, and the occasional editorial in the local newspapers. The “Christian” churches were tired of losing their best congregants to the Mormon Elders. So the effort to oppose the church was inter-denominational.  
I joined the church in 1973 and finished my Air Force term in Texas in 1975. This is now long ago. Since then, the growth of the church has left no corner of the United States untouched by wards, stakes, missions, temple districts and advertising. We are no longer exotic anywhere – including New Hampshire. 
The result of church growth has been the increasing awareness of Mormonism’s effect on other religions. It is not a happy thing for other faiths to see our church grow at the expense of their own congregations. The original inter-denominational cooperation I saw in Texas in 1974-75 has now spread. It is now worldwide. All churches are wary of the loss of revenue and participation represented by each Mormon convert who leaves their fold to join ours. 

Today there is widespread sharing of anti-Mormon material among other denominations. The best defense is an organized offense. In many areas, Elders (who are easily identified) are followed in order to discover who they are teaching. Then the investigator is contacted by volunteers who distribute anti-Mormon material to prevent conversions. Some years ago there were ministries who bragged they could not only prevent conversions, but they could take it one step further: They could convert the Mormon Elder! That led to a growth in seminars, literature and preaching about ways to “convert Mormon Elders” while they are on their missions. 

I do not think there has been any significant success in actually converting active Mormon missionaries. But that isn’t the point. It is the Evangelical perception of that success that has fueled two things: First, it has helped insulate converts, because if the Elders can be converted, then Mormonism must not be true (or so the reasoning goes). Second, it creates more confrontation by anti-Mormon forces aimed directly at our missionaries.

The Evangelicals have realized that the best way to practice this kind of undermining of Mormon missionary efforts is to take the soft-sale approach. Instead of Bible-bashing, just ask questions the Elders can’t answer. Make the Elders do the thinking and work to solve the riddles. When they can’t, then they are filled with doubts that linger.

This is not just happenstance. This is an organized and inter-denominational effort that began decades ago. It now bears so much fruit it is is alarming to Mormons. Returned missionaries are falling away. When I was in charge of missionary work in my stake, I attended regional leadership meetings at which the Mission President and a Seventy advised us of the trends underway. The inactive church members were called “low hanging fruit” who could swell our ranks just by returning to activity. One category of the “low hanging fruit” was the returned missionary population. At that time, (years ago now) it was estimated there were 40,000 returned Elders along the Wasatch Front, from Ogden to Provo, who were so inactive we didn’t have a reliable address for them. The suggestion was to contact the families of the inactive, returned missionaries and locate them that way.

This background is part of why PTHG exists. This battle has been underway for decades, and the most successful topic being used to question our members and raise doubts is our history. The anti-Mormon forces know we are generally ignorant of our history. We don’t know enough to answer hard questions. So all that needs to be done is to put the right question to the ignorant, but believing Latter-day Saint, and the doubts will eventually percolate into disbelief and abandonment. I do not think most of those who have and are leaving do so because they know the church is not true. They leave because they no longer think the church has answers to the difficult questions. Part of the reaction of the church has been to run from the hard questions, which reinforces the idea that we don’t know the real answers. 

So, I wrote the book to deal with anything I thought was out there being used or potentially being used against us. I assumed the audience would be those who were already in distress, already having doubts, already aware of these efforts to undermine faith and create doubts. It was intended as relief from anxiety over the battles which have raged for decades now. 

Instead of this audience, there are some who have picked the book up and thought it was intended as a hostile attack on the church, its history, and its doctrine. Thankfully, such readers are already sure they belong to the “only true church” and therefore their ire is only directed at me. They aren’t leaving the church. They’re only interested in damning me for writing something they can’t conceive of as helpful.

Well, I have literally dozens, perhaps hundreds of emails and letters from readers who were the intended audience. Person after person, young and old, male and female, returned missionaries and church leaders have thanked me. Some who left the church have returned. Some who have had their names removed from the records of the church, or were considering it, have written to tell me they were remaining in the church.  At last, they say, they can find faith and answers that enables them to remain in fellowship with the church.

For those who were never intended to read the book, but are now angry at me for having addressed this problem, let me assure you:

First, I believe in the restoration of eternal truths through the prophet Joseph Smith. My testimony of this truth is rock solid. My purpose, and all that I seek to accomplish by writing, is to further this work and be a small contributor to development of God’s work. 
 
To be clear: 

1.     I sustain today’s church leaders as prophets, seers and revelators.  The scriptures give them the right to use those titles (D&C 107: 92). They preside, and it is their right to do so. They have our common consent and ought to be upheld by our “confidence, faith and prayers” (D&C 107: 22). I uphold them in this way. They carry heavy burdens and have my sympathy, not my judgment, for any human frailties they display.  

2.     It is utterly untrue that I have said the church is apostate. I reject the accusation. If the narrative I suggest in PTHG is true, then the Lord’s post-Nauvoo ire is evidence the Lord is still watching over and intends to further His work with the members of this church. Those whom He loves, He chastens. (Heb. 12: 5-11; Helaman 12: 3; D&C 95: 1.) Mine is not a faithless, but a faith filled history.  I’ve reiterated this before and reiterate it again. (See my post: The Traditions of Men, Part 1, April 21, 2010.) 

3.     I believe the church possesses the right to seal on earth and seal in heaven, and have agreed with President Eyring’s general conference talk on the subject. 

4.     I believe that all organizations, including the church, tend to characterize their history in a light most favorable to them. They have that right. I take no issue with it and think it should be expected. That does not change the divine origin and mission of the church.  

5.     The church provides ordinances required to see and enter into the kingdom of heaven, in addition to providing us with the necessary scriptures. Through the church, we  receive the foundation of faith, repentance, baptism and enduring to the end. I hope to endure to the end myself and I seek to help others do so.   

I am still in the battle to help people find and focus upon Christ. As a faithful Latter-day Saint I owe my knowledge of the Lord to the tools I obtained through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have enjoyed every minute of my association with the church, and I intend to remain a faithful member. The current war we face did not originate with blogs or bloggers. The blogosphere is following the battle, not leading it. It began long ago, and the efforts to deal with it here are because of the many losses we have and are suffering. They are needless losses. We just need to be willing to discuss and recognize there certainly are some tough questions. They don’t go away because we ignore them. They grow.

A couple of Questions

I was asked the following:

1 Ne. 10: 11 And it came to pass after my father had spoken these words he spake unto my brethren concerning the gospel which should be preached among the Jews, and also concerning the dwindling of the Jews in unbelief. And after they had slain the Messiah, who should come, and after he had been slain he should rise from the dead, and should make himself manifest, by the Holy Ghost, unto the Gentiles.”

Is this talking about a physical manifestation to the Gentiles? Does Christ show Himself to others physically by the power of the Holy Ghost? Or is this to the Gentiles’ hearts and minds before the Restoration?

This is speaking about the immediate post-resurrection ministry of the Lord. At that time He visited only with the tribes of Israel in their scattered condition. He did not go among the gentiles. Nephi explained that in the last days ministry of the Lord at that time, He would appear to the gentiles “in very deed.” (1 Ne. 14: 1.) This is why the Lord appeared to Joseph Smith (JS-H 1: 17-19) and Oliver Cowdery (D&C 110), and to Sidney Rigdon (D&C 76), and to others.

_______________________________________________________________

In Mosiah16:1 and Alma 13:21, it says the phrase “he stretched forth his hand.” What does that mean? Raising it to the square? Using the priesthood to testify of what he is about to teach? A little help here would be wonderful.

Read Mosiah 15: 31 to understand 16: 1. He is demonstrating the Lord’s action, thereby affirming he is His messenger. He had been given the sign to testify, and used it as his sign that he was a true messenger.
In Alma 13, the prophet concludes his testimony of Melchizedek by using a sign to evidence his authority. He used this sign because he was authorized to do so, and knew what it meant as he did.  Although those who were there may not have understood, it was a sign he was a true messenger.

We cannot be saved in ignorance.

Once the key of knowledge is lost, mankind is lost and cannot be saved until that key is returned.  Prophets sent with messages who testify to an ignorant people use signs that the Lord recognizes and authorizes, but they may not be noticed or understood by those who hear the message.  Nevertheless, the testimony becomes binding when the Lord’s seal is put upon it. This often involves a required sign to be given, or in other words, for hands to be stretched forth. 

Misunderstandings

I received the following comment, which I am putting up because it does a good job of illustrating a number of misunderstandings:

Mr. Snuffer,

I am not a follower of your blog but I love some who are. When I read your recent post, “I’ve been getting emails and comments asking if I’m alright. I’m fine. When I have something to say I’ll say it” I thought wow. It feels so unkind? People have become dependent on your claims to know Heavenly Father’s will. Many have abandoned their own voice of reasoning leaning on your daily prophesies. They no longer feel secure in their understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without your input so I question how you are okay with dropping and then mocking those who you have called into your fold? I expect all is not well and pray that Heavenly Father will be able to mend His children’s fearful hearts, including yours. Peace and goodwill.

This comment contains a number of misunderstandings:

It is abhorrent to me that anyone would “become dependent” on me. I’ve worked to point to the Lord, never to myself. If there are some who have “become dependent,” then there is every reason for me to withdraw to prevent that from happening. It is wrong for any person to be dependent upon another in matters of faith. We should all be dependent upon the Lord alone. As Moroni confirmed, citing Acts 3: 22-23, the only “prophet” people must hear to avoid being “destroyed” is Christ. Those who will not hear His voice will, according to Moroni, “be cut off from among the people.” (JS-H 1: 40.)

If it is true that, “Many have abandoned their own voice of reasoning leaning on your daily prophesies. They no longer feel secure in their understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ without your input” then the only proper response on my part is to withdraw. It is wrong of them to do this, and it is the more wrong for me to facilitate it. This idea is one I have rejected, repeatedly denounced, and consistently stated that I am unworthy of followers. It would be wrong of me to continue.

I have not intended to “mock” anyone who is seeking to know more of Christ and to understand His Gospel more clearly. I have done what I could to assist. In doing so it has been my purpose to point to Him, never to myself. I have fully recovered from the last surgery. I lift weights; I walk several miles a week, and I am in better physical condition than I have been in some time.
I have no “fold” and I am not a shepherd of anyone. Even my own children are asked to find Christ and His truth for themselves.

My “heart” is not “fearful” of anyone, or of anything. I am at peace with God, and I hope others will become similarly at peace with Him. I have been asked to accomplish a number of things and I have accomplished them. Until asked to do something further, I stand at the ready and await His counsel and guidance. In the meantime, I serve as asked in my ward and stake, and try not to call any undue attention to myself.

I hope that this Christmas season will be filled with remembrance of the Lord and His great condescension coming here to live among us. His birth was necessary to allow Him to die for us. He entered mortality foreordained to die for our salvation.  He willingly came here, endured what was required of Him, and suffered the will of His Father in all things, even drinking out of the bitter cup given to Him when He begged to have it taken from Him. Bethlehem and Golgotha are linked together by the ministry of our Lord; the one necessary for the other. I would hope also some reflection would be given to Mary, whose soul was inevitably to be “pierced” also as the prophet Simeon foretold to her. (Luke 2: 34-35.) Our Lord, His Father and His mother all paid a price both to bring Him into this world and to witness His sacrifice for us.

CD’s of Talks

I was in Benchmark Books yesterday. They told me they now have in stock CD’s of all the recorded talks I’ve given. They asked me if I would inform blog readers. In the past, Confetti Books and on-line were the only sources to get copies. Benchmark is located at 3269 South Main Street, Suite 250 in Salt Lake City.

I Have No Spokesman/Spokesmen

A couple of years ago I put a post up confirming that no one speaks for me. You can read that post here.

It is still true. If I have something to say, I will say it. No one is authorized to speak on my behalf. And no one is entitled to interpret what I think, or how I view any given issue or subject. To the extent that I have a view, I will tell it.

A parting thought

I’ve been getting emails and comments asking if I’m alright. I’m fine. When I have something to say I’ll say it. I do have one parting thought:

In the Book of Mormon a people were “destroyed” when they lost control over their government. Their ability to preserve their own values, and choose the way they were governed was taken over by others. Most often it was from a different ethnic group, though not always. In the case of Amalackiah he was ethnically Nephite, but his values were Lamanite.

Once people were “destroyed” they were oppressed and suffered. Often they were oppressed with grievous taxes, and had religious liberties removed. Then they faced a choice: Either repent, in which case they came through the period of oppression with another chance. Or, if they were angry and rebellious, they would then be “swept away.”

Being “destroyed” is not at all the same as being “swept away.” It is possible for people to have been destroyed and not even realize it. But when swept away they face extinction, and cannot help but notice it.

144,000, part 3

One final passage of scripture seems connected to this process. A question was posed by Elias Higbee. Joseph took this question to the Lord. The question and answer is in D&C 113: 7-8:

“Questions by Elias Higbee: What is meant by the command in Isaiah, 52d chapter, 1st verse, which saith: Put on thy strength, O Zion—and what people had Isaiah reference to? He had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.”

Although the number 144,000 is not mentioned here, this is also clearly a last-days event. The individuals involved are those who “God should call in the last days.” The verses describing the 144,000 make it clear they will be called of God, and will receive sealing from the angels; as Revelation 7: 3, D&C 77: 11 and D&C 84: 42 all reference.

The “power” of the angels “over the nations of the earth” (D&C 77: 11) is needed to prevent Zion from being overrun or destroyed by the nations of the earth. These other nations, if they oppose Zion, will be destroyed. (See Daniel 2: 31-45; D&C 87: 6.) The “powers of heaven” which will hover over Zion will discourage any army from battling her. (D&C 45: 70.)

I put the term “powers of heaven” in quotes because this refers to the hosts of heaven. This is why the term “powers” and not “power” is used in D&C 121: 36. Priesthood is always a relationship between man on earth and the “powers” or hosts of heaven. These angelic or heavenly beings were those who escorted men to the first heavenly Zion (Moses 7: 27), and will do so again. 

It will be the relationship between those who have been “sealed …of our God in their foreheads” (Rev. 7: 3) and the heavenly powers or angels which grants “the power of the priesthood to bring again Zion.” (D&C 113: 8.)

Notice the return of Zion is connected also with “lineage” in the answer above. Or, in other words, the bloodlines of Israel are required to be found in those who will be gathered. This has always been true of Zion. In the first Zion, the gathering of individuals was carefully assembled to bring together “a mixture of all the seed of Adam” so all the families were included. (Moses 7: 22.) There was one exception, however that bloodline was likewise preserved through Noah’s son’s wife. (Abr. 1: 21-23.) The Lord, therefore, took measures to keep either in Zion or on the earth a representative descendant of “all the seed of Adam.”

As the revelation explains, to “put on the authority [notice here authority is singular] of the priesthood” is necessary to “bring again Zion.” This is why the Lord says HE will “bring again Zion” and not men. (See Isa. 52: 8; 3 Ne. 16: 19; see also the description in Moses 7: 62 of the Lord’s role in the final Zion.)

Zion is the Lord’s and His name is “the King of Zion.” (Moses 7: 53.)

In the answer found in D&C 113: 8 the priesthood power has been “lost” and needs to be returned. This raises the interesting question of whether this is referring to the final calling of the 144,000, or if it means the restoration with Joseph Smith. Have/will we successfully perpetuate the authority from Joseph’s time until the return of Zion? (Look at D&C 86: 11.) Or will it require a new connection between man and the “powers of heaven” and a new “sealing” of men in their foreheads by the angels? Revelation 7: 3 implies this authority will be returned immediately prior to the plagues described in the next chapter. But it is up to the Holy Ghost to provide a correct interpretation of these verses. I leave that to you to receive.

The Lord appears in prophecy to claim a direct or immediate role in establishing Zion. And the verses we have considered appear to make it a project which will involve not only the Lord, but also angels and the Father. Indeed, the “powers of heaven” appear to all have some hand in bringing again Zion, do they not?

The most interesting thing to me is the symbolic nature of the number 144,000. If the Lord intends to preserve the blood of all Twelve Tribes, and there are perhaps as many as a thousand different families connected together in your own ancestors, could one man account for a thousand of these 144,000? Could his wife account for another thousand? How few individuals could be able to preserve the bloodlines of the twelve thousand families from each of the Twelve Tribes?

For those who are not included, they will nevertheless have part in the resurrection. The scriptures promise it will be “tolerable” for them. (D&C 45: 54.)

144,000, part 2

The 144,000 are “sealed” by the “four angels” in Rev. 7: 1-3. They are “sealed” by “angels to whom is given power over the nations of the earth” in D&C 77: 11.

In the account of Revelation, they are sealed before “the earth, …the sea, …the trees” are “hurt” in the last days. (Rev. 7: 3.) This timing necessarily requires the “sealing” to precede great distresses which to us are still future. 

-What does it mean to have an “angel to whom is given power” come and “seal the servants of our God in their foreheads?” (D&C 77: 11; Rev. 7: 3.)
-Are men, or institutions, in control of this process?
-How would you expect this to happen?
-Does the “sealing” imply some kind of ordination?
-Is this connected in any way to the “oath and covenant of the priesthood?”

On that last question, D&C 84: 33-42, is often read, explained, and taught. But a context is imposed on the words that presumes a certain meaning. What if that context is incomplete, or merely a tradition, and not what the words were meant to convey? Here are the verses with another possible context inserted into them as they proceed:

For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling [notice “calling” is singular], are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies [here? now? in the resurrection?]They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron [who are “sons of Levi” and associated with the Aaronic or first priesthood] and the seed of Abraham [who is the father of the righteous, and one of the “fathers in heaven” to whom we must connect or be “utterly wasted” at the Lord’s return; and is associated with the second priesthood], and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God [this body of chosen individuals are a “church” and that church is confined to the “elect”]. And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord [in other words, the Lord makes Himself known to them, for that is how He is “received”]; For he that receiveth my servants [who are His “servants?] receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father [is this what Mosiah 5: 15 is referring to when it says Christ will ‘bring you to heaven, that you may have eternal life?’]; And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him [in other words, the promise of exaltation and eternal life. Therefore, obtaining these two ordinations is directly connected with the “servants” and then the ministry of the Son, and the introduction to the Father]. And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood. Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father [in other words, they have knowledge from the Father that they are His, will inherit from Him all He has, and learned this as a result of the Son’s ministry with them], which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come [because they have knowledge obtained from the Son, and a covenant obtained from the Father, and if they turn away they must rebel against the Godhead, whom they have come to know. They become ‘sons of Perdition’ because this is willful and known rebellion]. And wo unto all those who come not unto this priesthood [because if you do not receive this, you do not receive the fullness of the Gospel, and you do not have knowledge that will save you] which ye have received, which I now confirm upon you who are present this day, by mine own voice out of the heavens [because the higher priesthood is only given by the “voice of God” as described in JST Gen. 14: 29: “And it was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice” -see also JST Gen. 14: 26-29. This is why the “ordination” is confirmed by God’s voice here]; and even I have given the heavenly hosts and mine angels charge concerning you [which is how the “sealing” of the 144,000 will be connected to the “angels” who have “authority” in the verses which describe these events].

I have inserted a possible new context into the words for you to consider. I would remind you, however, that scripture is not something for “private interpretation,” but can only be unlocked through the Holy Ghost. (2 Peter 1: 20; see also JS-H 1: 74.) The meaning belongs to and is controlled by God.