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Question on Priesthood/Monarch

I received the following question:
“I was reviewing the audio version of Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and came across the part where Joseph makes the comment that High Priests are to administer in Spiritual things and hold communion with God.  But not to ‘exercise monarchical government’, or appoint meetings with out the approval of the Elders.  Considering the limited comment you recently made on your blog regarding the divine right of kings, but also considering the invitation found in the temple to be both a priest and a king, I wondered how these thoughts reconciled and was interested to hear your thoughts.”

My response:
The object of the Lord’s return is governmental. More specifically, Monarchical. He will return to be a “King of kings” and a “Lord of lords.” (See Rev. 19: 16.) To be a King who presides over “kings” requires the existence of other kings. To be a Lord over other “lords” requires the existence of other lords. But the church’s High Priests are not qualified to be that, and therefore cannot exercise such a monarchical form of government. To do that is a revolutionary act inside the United States of America. That is one reason the Lord has decreed there will be a full end to all nations. (D&C 87: 6.) He will institute a new form of government that will not be compatible with other national interests.

The Lord’s plans are quite different than we sometimes presume them to be. Joseph Smith was apparently tuned in to that in a surprisingly revolutionary way. It is no wonder he was killed. He represented a new era where old things were to be thrown down and a new order established.

Joseph represented an opportunity; but we weren’t interested in it. Ultimately it was the Saints themselves who complained and got him to return and surrender. He remarked that if his life was of no value to his friends, it was of no value to him. He realized the Saints were unwilling to follow into the kind of remaking of the world his ministry offered.

I doubt Joseph Smith would be any more welcome today than he was in his own time. I think we’d treat him like a crank, who entertained delusional ideas and offered a foolish, magical view of the world unworthy of serious consideration.

Kingship is tied to the promise of land, as we see in the case of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Lehi and Nephi, among many others. When the land is given to the Lord’s “king and priest” it comes from the Lord by His word and is everlasting. It is received by covenant, and when received the king is the land in a very real sense. He and it are connected by the covenant, and what goes on thereafter is a reflection of how the king (or his descendants) honor or dishonor the covenant.

Although the Melchizedek priesthood cannot exercise monarchical government (a form of government involving Patriarchal rule), there will be a return of this kind of order before the Lord returns. The remnant will build Zion. There will be an Ephriamite with the authorization there to “crown” those kings and lords who will rule with Christ at His return. (D&C 133: 32.) Everything will happen as foretold. But we can’t and aren’t supposed to be able to see it beforehand. We are only supposed to witness it unfold before us. We cannot comprehend God’s strange act. Those who take the Spirit for their guide will not be deceived or hewn down. (Mark 13: 5-6; D&C 45: 57.) This was the original form of priestly order from the beginning of time. It will return at the end of the world again. (Moses 6: 7.) This priestly order is what allowed a small group to gather at Adam-Ondi-Ahman where the Lord visited with them and comforted Adam. (D&C 107: 53-55.) That scene, involving Adam and seven who held this same priesthood will be re-enacted again at the end. We are working our way back in a great chiasm of history as the Lord counts us back to the beginning and we draw to the end. He calls it His “strange act” (D&C 101: 95; Isa. 28: 21.) Joseph’s ministry took us back to an earlier time. The Lord intends to return us back further.

But, again, these are things Joseph understood and began to put in place. Now we have only a tattered remainder of that original purpose and an ambition to become something more modern, like the other faiths. Today we have no capacity for monarchical government under the present organization of things. That might be a good thing. We get into less trouble that way.

Ambition for these things will not accomplish a thing. It will be the Lord’s doing or it will not happen at all. He always tells us emphatically that it will be HIM who brings again Zion, not us. (3 Ne. 16: 8; Mosiah 12: 22; Isa. 52: 8; D&C 84: 99, among others.) Our ambition will not bring it to pass. Only His will can do so. The challenge, of course, is to be among those invited by the angels to participate rather than to be left among the residue who will be hewn down.


I do not think Zion will initially be where people think it will.

I do not think Zion will be at all what people think it will be.

Nor do I think people are at all ready in our current circumstances to begin to learn what Zion will require; what standards of conduct will be required; what covenants will need to be assumed to establish Zion.

I do not think Zion will be an institutional enterprise. The angels will be the ones responsible for that gathering. (See D&C 77: 11, Mark 13: 27.) This presents an apparent impediment to those who either don’t believe angels minister to mankind, or who believe they only minister to church leaders, or who think them possible, but have never been administered personally by them.

In the Mark 13 text, the repeated “and then” language of the KJV is not chronological or sequential. It is referring to the generation living at the time it starts, who will live to see it all occur. Meaning “in that day” or more precisely, “among the generation then living.”

When there is an abomination that renders desolate in the Temple, you will also see afflictions. You will see those who claim they are Christ, or they are Christ’s true living prophet– though they are not. You will see signs and wonders, including great building projects and the astonishing ability to speak in every language across the world in a single time, but that will not deceive those who take the Holy Spirit for their guide.  They will be able to distinguish between the truth and error. Heaven will be shaken. Angels will gather those who follow Christ rather than trust the arm of flesh, and ultimately Christ will return and the world will be wasted at His coming. Though there will be some fragment, like the days of Noah, there will be those who have been gathered by the angels. Those few will be preserved.

Ezra Booth was among the first to hear the original four missionaries sent out at the very beginning of the restoration. He wrote about what Oliver Cowdery told him of the original mission. It was to include identifying the location for the New Jerusalem. Ezra Booth explained: “This is the person commissioned by the Lord to proceed to the western wilds, and as he himself stated, ‘to the place where the foot of a white man never trod,’ to rear up a pillar for a witness, where the temple of God shall be built, in the glorious New Jerusalem. But alas! he was arrested by man in his course, and by the breath of man the mighty undertaking was blown into the air, and Cowdery was thrown back among the Gentiles, to await for the spirit to devise some new plans in the place of those which had been frustrated. But as the city and temple must be built, and as every avenue leading to the Indians was closed against the Mormonites, it was thought that they should be built among the Gentiles, which is in direct opposition to the original plan.” (Ezra Booth, Letter IX, originally published in the Ohio Star in 1831. It has since been reprinted in numerous places and can be found on-line as well.) This is referring to the charge given to Oliver Cowdery, and the other 3 missionaries to find the place where the New Jerusalem would be located. That effort was aborted when the Federal Indian Agents threatened to arrest them if they didn’t go back across the line separating the whites and Indians from each other. That line was at Independence, Missouri. So Independence was as close as they could get at the time. By default Independence became the location for the New Jerusalem.

It has remained the location in popular understanding ever since then. Subsequent revelations seem to confirm that as the site.

When Joseph Smith fled Nauvoo on June 22, 1844, and crossed the Mississippi headed west, he explained his purpose was based on revelation. “The Lord warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life,” according to his brother Hyrum. (DHC Vol. 6, p. 547.) It was there he hoped to locate the Book of Mormon remnant who have the prophetic responsibility to build the New Jerusalem. It will not be built without their involvement.

If the first missionary assignment for this purpose (finding the location for the New Jerusalem to be built before the Lord’s return) was directed to the distant west, beyond Missouri, and Joseph’s ambition was westward toward the Rocky Mountains, there is reason to suspect that our presumption that the New Jerusalem will be in Independence Missouri is somewhat misplaced. I am persuaded it will not be there until after the Lord’s return. There will be a location elsewhere, in the Rocky Mountains, where the preliminary gathering to a Holy City to be built will occur before the Lord’s return. Then, following His return, activities will also involve Jackson County.

What precedes His return may be diminutive, but that didn’t matter in the case of Noah, so it won’t matter in the coming days like the time of Noah. It will be interesting to see how the Lord fulfills His prophecies, promises and warnings, because He does tend to fulfill the prophecies He speaks. Oftentimes not in the way we imagine. Then we will understand the saying “the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence.” (D&C 133: 31.) The initial gathering before the Lord’s return will be in the Rocky Mountains.

This gathering will require a kind of social order we are unprepared to live. We cannot be “one” in the sense required for Zion in our present social, political, economic and educational systems. It requires a kind of inter-dependence and cooperation we find repulsive. Even those in the commune on Isaac Morely’s farm, after converting to Mormonism, couldn’t live the united order and have all things in common. It was this experience, prior to conversion, that led to the revelations about the united order.  It fell apart. We’ve never had a successful long-term experience trying to live withint that kind of system.

Faithful History

Is “faithful history” required to be accurate? Is it better if there is an effort to improve the facts by adding details drawn from the writer’s imagination? Is it our responsibility to be faithful to the truth or to promote faith? Because a “faithful history” could be either of those.

As an example, the sacrifices of those who built the Kirtland Temple were a living testimony of their conversion to the restored Gospel. They literally suffered to build the Temple. They endured poverty to make it possible for the building to be completed. Some went without food, because they were not always paid for their labors. Their heroism is beyond question.

For some reason, however, we aren’t willing to retell their great sacrifices without fanciful embellishment. We insist on improving the story by adding a fake overlay about the women donating their best china to be ground up and put into the exterior plaster. LDS Church History researcher, employed by the Church History Department, Mark Staker researched the topic and found the story of the women donating china originated in the 1930’s. The story was such good fodder for “faith promotion” that it soon found its way into official versions of Kirtland history.

There was china ground up into the exterior plaster, but it came from a community dump where such things were discarded. Kirtland, like all other communities, had a broken china dump from which the children retrieved scraps to use in the building process.

When the truth of the sacrifices are then overlain with a fictional story about the best china sacrifices/donations, we run the risk of having our members find out about the exaggeration later. Then upon learning this “faithful history” is nothing more than “faith promoting fiction” we risk having them disbelieve everything about the church’s history. What is true and what is exaggeration? What is left of the stories we retell? If we’ll add this fake account of the sacrifices, does that mean there really weren’t sacrifices made?

We invite the crisis of faith when we turn from “faithful retelling” and offer “faith promoting fiction” as our Sunday School fare. We could get away with that once. We can’t now.

Similarly, a recently converted Willard Richards visited Kirtland after the Temple had been built. He observed this about the city: “Sectarians build their own houses first, then, if ever, a house for their Gods. The Latter Day Saints first build the Lord a house & now he is giving them an opportunity to build their own dwellings.” (Willard Richards letter to his sister Jan. 30, 1837.) This was the example in Kirtland. It was not repeated in Nauvoo, where the brick mansions we have restored today bear testimony to the priority change from Kirtland to Nauvoo. In Nauvoo the brick mansions were all built and completed before the Temple was completed. Indeed, there were no more mansions being built (because the city was then abandoned) while the Temple was being completed. The Nauvoo Temple attic was used from November 1845-February 1846 by Brigham Young and the Twelve to perform ordinances in the incomplete Temple. The first wave of refugees left in February, the day following the last endowment rites performed in the unfinished structure. The Temple was not considered complete enough to dedicate until April of 1846, but even then was not finished. A year following the dedication a Palmyra newspaper editor visited the building in 1847 and remarked on its incomplete condition. He speculated about how grand it might have been had it ever been completed.

We have a tendency to “know” what we want to have other people believe or conclude. Then we adapt our story to support our conclusion. That is not history. It is an approach that invites us to tell faith promoting but unfaithful history. We ought to confine ourselves to a faithful retelling. No matter how poorly that reflects on our history, it reflects credit upon us.

Interview By My Wife

My wife looks at links to the blog, and also searches other sites to review discussions. As a result, she has posed the following questions and asked I answer them:

1. Why do you refer to the church presidents as “modern popes” in your new book?
A: That is not my term, but a term borrowed from President J. Reuben Clark, a respected counselor in the First Presidency. I use it because he used it. I assume he meant no disrespect. I certainly did not.

2. Why did you refer to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as “the fifteen men” on your blog?
A: That is not my term, but a term used by Church Historian Marlin Jensen, a respected member of the Seventy. I use it because he used it. I assume he meant no disrespect. I certainly did not.

3. Why do you refer people to your books in answers you give in the Mormon Stories interview? Are you trying to market a product?
A: The interview actually started and stopped with my first answer. When John Dehlin heard me answer his first question, he stopped the interview and told me I had to let him control the flow and keep the answers short. He explained that long answers would make for a poor interview and we could not get it done, and I needed to trust him. So we started over again and what is on the podcast is the “take two” version involving short answers. Questions that ask about a topic I’ve written 180,000 words to carefully explain cannot be done in a brief oral response. Therefore, I attempted to be clear by referring to what I’ve written rather than leaving a listener with the impression all I had to say was what was included in a brief oral response. I couldn’t care less if someone actually reads my books. I provide them as an explanation of what I believe and why, but it requires someone to take the trouble to find them, buy them and read them. That is a barrier I assume few will overcome, but those who do will have the full answer rather than a sound-bite response. Since my livelihood is practicing law, if I were attempting to promote something of economic value to me it would need to be my law practice. I do not do that. Apart from giving free copies to friends, there are very few members of my own ward who even know I’ve written a book. In my stake, there can’t be more than a handful. I’ve never spoken of them while serving in any capacity in the church. But it is actually amusing to think a niche market like Mormon doctrine and history is a money-making audience to begin with. When you add to that the fact nothing I write is advertised, and we’ve declined two approaches from Deseret Book to have them carry copies, it becomes even less of a money-making venture. The books are not for everyone. They are difficult to obtain and not widely distributed because I know they are not meant for everyone. I mention them on my blog, but that is because if someone is interested in reading the blog they should have become acquainted with what I’ve written first. That is purely voluntary. I don’t want everyone reading what I write. 

4. Why do you think it appropriate to call Joseph Smith “boneheaded” in your Mormon Stories interview?
A: Joseph called himself foolish. The Lord rebuked him for his carnal desires, boasting and fearing man more than God. These are both Joseph’s (JS-H 1: 28) and the Lord’s (D&C 3: 4-7) characterizations of him. Therefore, I mean no disrespect, but believe the term is a modern descriptor which reflects what both Joseph himself and the Lord have stated about him. It does not lessen him in my estimation.

5. Do you believe the church leaders today are comparable to the Jewish leaders at the time of Christ, specifically do you compare Thomas S. Monson to Caiphus?
A: No. I did not do that in the interview and do not believe that is true. I used the reference Christ made to supporting the clearly wicked leaders of His day to illustrate how great a deference is owed. If those  wicked men were deserving respect, then good men trying hard to perform a difficult job deserve all the more respect and deference. In fact, if you listen carefully to the words used you will find that comparison was not made in the interview, but instead the contrast was made.

6. Do you lead a following?
A: Not as far as I am aware. I tell all who either listen to what I say or read what I write not to follow me. All should remain active and faithful as Latter-day Saints. The church leaders alone have the right to preside over the church’s affairs. I believe we all have a duty arising from baptism to mourn with those who mourn, and to serve one another, which is best done inside the church.

7. Have you said the Correlation movement has led the church into apostasy?
A: No. I only quote President David O. McKay’s statement that he believed it would have that result. Everyone is free to decide for themselves the results of the Correlation process.

8. You must have extremely good balance in order to walk the razor’s edge: pride; membership; priestcraft; discipleship.  How do you do it?  What lessons have been afforded you, allowing you to remain objective?
A: I’m not sure I understand the question, but I disagree with the premise. I fail in every respect. I suffer for my failings. I will continue to suffer for many things because the failings continue. I do not believe it is possible to be perfect and mortal, but I do believe a mortal can have a perfect intent. God appears to weigh our intent far more than our actions. He knows the desire of the heart motivating the conduct, and can look beyond the errors and foolishness displayed to the underlying desire to serve and honor Him. Christ repeatedly said this was the case. The rich Pharisee was contrasted to the widow. He certainly gave more. She clearly gave much less. But her heart willed to give all. His did not. Her sacrifice was accepted, his pride was rejected. This is how God views us all. He is not handicapped as we are.

9. Do you think the temple keys are lost?
A: Church presidents have frequently said the keys to perform plural marriages have been taken from the earth. The 1990 changes to the endowment removed some of what had previously been regarded as keys to salvation. However, anti-Mormon crusaders Jerald and Sandra Tanner have preserved them and make them available on the Internet. So, if they are in fact keys, and if they need to be known, then they have not been lost but merely removed from the temple and put onto the Tanner’s website. If someone believes they need them, they can still be had and cannot be said to have been lost. Beyond that, I leave it to each person to decide how important such things are to their relationship with God. I’m of the view that the temple rites are not the real thing, but are instruction and an invitation to receive the real thing.

10. Why do you believe it appropriate to speak about something so sacred as an appearance to you by the Lord ?
A: Anyone who has had the Lord appear to them should testify as a witness to that fact. That is paramount. It is important for witnesses to declare He lives. That they have seen Him. That His life did not end on a Roman cross in Judea. That He rose from the grave and all of us have hope through Him for our own rescue from death. That is critical. What is not appropriate for disclosure are details that go beyond what the Lord has chosen to make public already through the scriptures or ordinances. He controls that. Though He may reveal much to a person, and place them under a different standard than what is given openly to mankind, that is His decision. Until He commands, the line is drawn between witnessing He lives– which is required, and disclosing what He alone reserves for Himself to reveal– which is forbidden. I have said and I do believe our Lord has a continuing ministry. But that is His, not mine. Like any Latter-day Saint with a testimony of the Lord, I testify to help my fellow Saint increase in faith in Jesus Christ. I have an obligation to do so. We all do.

11. Have you ever been criticized by church leaders?
A: No. I’ve never been criticized nor asked to stop writing by any church leader. Not from my bishop, stake president, nor any higher authority. I have had some contacts, but they have been private, and encouraging me to continue. There have been a number of people who have returned to church activity because of what I’ve written. Those results are viewed with some support. The criticism I am aware of, some of which has been quite harsh, has come from overanxious church members who have not read the things I’ve written.

12. Have you singled out President Boyd K. Packer for criticism?
A: No. In fact he is the single most often quoted living authority in my writings. I have a great regard for him and have never criticized him, but have often defended or quoted from him. His “Candle of the Lord” sermon was a milestone talk. When Pres. Monson and Pres. Packer die, that will mark the first time there will be no apostles in the Quorum of the Twelve who were there when I joined the church. He represents a symbolic transition point for me, and I will very much mourn his passing which I hope is many years from now.

13. Why do you criticize the church if you are a faithful member?
A: I do not believe I criticize the church. I believe I respond to criticism by providing an explanation of the issues which are alive and driving people away from activity or membership. If everything I had written disappeared this instant, that would not stop the issues from being discussed. The real critics are studying ways to undermine faith and developing new arguments against the church all the time. They do not need to lie about the church to undermine faith. They only need to tell truths which we have hidden. The best thing we can do is to tell the truth first, and do it from the vantage point of faith. If we still believe, and we know about the problems, then we are best situated to disclose and address them. Being angry with a faithful member for being honest is a futile act. Hiding from the truth is equally futile. The truth is going to be told. Better us than the antagonists to tell it.

14.  Do you admit some of Joseph Smith’s sexual activities were sinful or immoral?
A: That is not as easy a question as it may appear. You would need to know about the ancient kingship, and the king’s duties to begin to answer. That is a topic so foreign to current culture that I’m not even going to undertake an answer. Under American social, cultural and religious mores of the 1800’s Joseph Smith was immoral. Under the traditional Christian values of both his and our day, he was immoral. Under an ancient form of kingship, that is a great deal less clear. So the conclusion on the question must ultimately await several things: First, a determination if Joseph Smith was being placed in a very ancient form of conduct by the commandment of God. I happen to believe he was. But that is not a topic that can be answered in passing. Second, was Joseph Smith’s conduct justified under that ancient standard? Again, that depends on Joseph’s role and God’s command. Third, does this have anything to do with current practices? Clearly it does not. We’ve long since lost track of those things and perhaps we are the better for it. When Joseph was crowned a “King and Priest” (Melek and Zadok) he was confirming a peculiar and ancient tradition. The tradition does not belong inside a democratic republic like the United States, and the rules governing the conduct of such a person are completely foreign and quite distasteful to modern sensibilities. So we are left with a standard which would condemn him, and the possibility of another standard which would justify him. One of the requisites of this ancient office required the death of the king. Not merely in ritual, though later imitators would substitute a surrogate to kill in the renewal of kingship. The original required the actual sacrifice of the king himself. Joseph did that, as well. In that sense he was perhaps an authentic return of the ancient order at more than one level. As one learned friend of mine has characterized Joseph, “he was a Divine King and a Divine Victim.” There is only one of those at a time. And his death by sacrifice is required as one of the incidents of the ancient office. But those ideas hardly belong to our day. Just alluding to it will confuse most people. There are probably only a handful of people who could speak intelligently about the topic. Yet, if you know what you’re seeing, it is all over in the Old Testament. So let me reduce it to this: Based on our standards and based on social and religious standards in his day, Joseph Smith was sinful and immoral. Whether God viewed him as such is a different question. That would need to be taken up with Him rather than me. I would hesitate to reach a conclusion on that question, however, unless you know a great deal more than most people know today, and even then not before receiving the Lord’s judgment on the question. 

15. Why do you say the restoration through Joseph Smith was intended to being back something more ancient than the New Testament Church?
A: Because that is what Christ taught. He did not say we would return to conditions like His day. He said when He returned the conditions would be like the days of Noah. Noah’s day is to be mirrored in ours. That day is pre-New Testament. I think Christ knew what He was talking about. Even the restoration itself is an imitation of the more ancient family of Abraham. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are the three great patriarchs. The Twelve Sons of Israel are the next tier of patriarchs. There were seventy descendants of Israel who went into Egypt (Exo. 1: 5). The church structure imitates the patriarchal family. We will be going back there before the Lord’s return. You don’t live as “one” when you are inside a hierarchy. You live as “one” when you are a family having all things in common. The family was the “church” in the day of Noah. That is where it is headed. We’ve just temporarily frozen the process. It will resume again.

16. Why do you ignore the church’s claim that the Nauvoo Temple was completed and the fullness was retained by the church?
A: I don’t ignore the claim. I explain it. It is called “the traditional narrative” and is set out in my last book. The church’s position is essentially that completing the baptismal font is all that was required, and Joseph conveyed the fullness above his red brick store. That position leaves many questions unanswered: Why did the Lord state the fullness could only come in the temple if the red brick store was sufficient? Is it correct to conflate baptism for the dead with fullness? Why did Brigham Young, upon his return to Nauvoo in August, abruptly change his mind and teach that completing the temple was essential? What about the ultimate failure to finish the structure? Did it matter that in 1847 the structure was not complete, even though it had been “regarded as sufficiently complete” to be dedicated? What about the revealed warnings? Were the saints driven out of Nauvoo, or planted and protected there? Did that matter? Were the saints put through judgments and buffetings rather than being protected and blessed? Did that matter? What reason is there for the Lord to state He had taken the fullness away in 1841? Does the church’s traditional narrative answer all the questions, or start from the conclusion and reason backward? If you begin with the conclusion that it was successful, and then string together whatever is needed to justify the conclusion, is that a faithful retelling of events? These and many other questions deserve at least careful consideration. I set out the church’s position or the traditional narrative, then give some careful consideration to the obvious questions which remain worth asking and grappling to resolve. If the traditional narrative is correct, then much of the language in Section 124 is a “bluff” by the Lord, apparently only to motivate the saints to engage in the drudgery of a public works building. But He apparently did not really intend to discipline them, drive them out of Nauvoo, put them through suffering and buffeting, and stir them up to repentance. Therefore, the events in Nauvoo belong inside a narrative of success, blessing, glory and vindication by the faithfulness of those involved. Their bickering, ambition, and even Brigham Young’s condemnation of the those receiving their endowments as being “thieves” because they stole the temple garments intended to be used by others reflects only credit on these faithful saints. It is puzzling to me, but perhaps it is not to others. If the traditional narrative answers all the questions of the faithful, active saints today, it does not do so for other reasonably-minded people. I’m trying to have it make sense to them. So, in a way, those who only want to consider the traditional narrative really don’t need to read the book or to consider the difficult questions I raise. But for this question, I maintain I have not ignored the traditional narrative, but have responded to it with a reasonable discussion told in an objective way. I hoped it would be matter-of-fact and dispassionate. It was not written to be any kind of “hit piece” but instead a rational discussion of reasonable historic events holding some importance for those who believe, as I do, in the Lord’s involvement in the history of the Latter-day Saints.

17. Do you love your wife?
A: Beyond all reason and forevermore. Apart from the Lord, there is no friend or other companion whose company I long to retain for all eternity than hers.

A Contrast:

Two dialogues:

Jehovah: Abraham, take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, and offer him as a sacrifice unto me.
Abraham: Thy will be done.

Jehovah: Pharisaint, take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, and offer him as a sacrifice unto me.
Pharisaint: I don’t feel good about that. That is neither tender nor merciful. I doubt God would ever ask such a thing.
Lucifer: Take thy son and anoint him, call him blessed, and keep him in thy care.
Pharisaint: Now that is tender!
Lucifer: Sacrifice is not needed, for I intend to save all mankind so that not one soul will be lost. The odds are you shall be exalted.
Pharisaint: Now that is merciful!
Lucifer: Yes, I am the god of this world, worship me and there will be nothing but reward to follow.
Pharisaint: Who was that other one asking for sacrifice?
Lucifer: He has been my opponent from the beginning. He has opposed my ever mercy, my ever tenderness, and he pretends to displace me as the god of this world.
Pharisaint: How can such a being, demanding cruel effort, who does not offer tender mercies as you do, ever hope to be worshiped?
Lucifer: He is not. There are some who pretend to do so, but there are none among my chosen, holy Pharisaints who do.


An observation about discussion groups:

The greatest mischief of discussion groups lies in the mistaken impression that collective effort will help the individual in their personal journey. The path to God is solitary. It is between the individual and the Lord. Groups create an artificial environment. The stage erected lets the group appear to occupy center stage moving the Lord into the wings.

It would be better to spend the same hours pondering or praying. Any person doing that would be better served than they are by devoting time to arguing, debate or the convincing of others.

When you learn a new idea and that is followed up with questions or uncertainties about how to make it fit together with current belief or understanding, pondering and praying is more useful. Groups debate. They argue over how to fit it together. How you fit it into your understanding will be different than how another does. The group may not share your background or have studied what you have. Therefore, a group discussion may not even address the difficulties you are contemplating.

In a group discussion there is more contention than harmony. Contention is dark and invites errors. It would be far better to contemplate, meditate, study scriptural passages, to look into related statements from prior patriarchs, prophets and apostles than to debate with others. New information can open the mind. Contentious debate will close it.

When the Lord appeared to Paul on the Road to Damascus, there were others with Paul. But the interview was between Paul and the Lord. The same is true of Joseph in the Grove, Nephi on the mountain, Moses on the mountain, the Brother of Jared, Enoch, Abraham, These and the many other times the Lord spoke with or appeared to His followers came in solitary interviews. (There are of course exceptions. There were two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. The appearance at Bountiful involved twenty-five hundred. But these exceptions are just that – exceptions. On the Road, the two disciples had previously been acquainted with and taught by Him. They were prepared. It was the very day of His resurrection. He was looking to establish a body of witnesses. The same is true of Bountiful. As I discuss in The Second Comforter, those witnesses were carefully prepared and self-selecting.)

Another problem with discussion groups, or even valued teachers, is the tendency to take attention that belongs to the Lord and give it to a man. No man is supposed to be the focus of your adoration. That belongs to the Lord alone. Men who seek to become the focus or to “win” a debate are likely to draw attention to themselves, rather than to place the focus where it belongs.

If even one member of a discussion group is unprepared, the Lord will withhold from everyone the greater light. If you tie yourself to others, you may find it hinders, rather than helps your progress. Since no two people are similarly situated, there will be hinderances for some participants.

The scriptures are a gold standard for parsing the mysteries. They contain a great deal of undiscovered truth. Unlocking those mysteries is almost always done in study, contemplation, prayer and solitary reflection apart from the world. Discussion groups become part of the world as soon as they deteriorate into contention. Take a look at discussion boards. How often are they wholesome and free of contention? The “comments” on this blog were disabled because of the deterioration that took place here.

No one can help you find your way back to God. Ideas and doctrines will; men will not. They are a poor substitute for truth, careful study, individual prayer and meditation, pondering and parsing the scriptures and developing your mind. If someone has something to teach, let them teach. Then go your way and ponder upon it. But debating and arguing is valueless or worse.

Priesthood Authority: Pres. Packer’s Remarks

In the Worldwide Leadership Conference this month President Packer made this interesting statement:

“Any elder holds as much priesthood as does the President of the Church or as I do as an Apostle—different offices. But the priesthood is not delegated out and parceled a little here and a little there. It is given all at once. In the ordinance where ordinations take place, the priesthood is conferred, and then the office is conferred. So a young man as young as 18 planning to go on a mission has this ordinance, and they first say, “We confer upon you the Melchizedek Priesthood” and then ordain you to the office of elder in that priesthood.” (See Priesthood Power in the Home.)

This statement is interesting in its implications. All the more so because of President Grant’s alteration of the practice. He discontinued conferring the priesthood. Instead he had the church ordaining to an office in the church, which he said was enough. There was no need to confer priesthood, only to ordain to an office. On the point raised by President Packer, we have an earlier statement of President Jos. F. Smith dealing with a slightly different issue. These two statements, however, can be considered together:

“Then again, if it were necessary, though I do not expect the necessity will ever arise, and there was no man left on the earth holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, except an elder– that elder, by the inspiration of the Spirit of God and by the direction of the Almighty, could proceed, and should proceed, to organize the Church of Jesus Christ in all its perfection, because he holds the Melchizedek Priesthood.”  (Gospel Doctrine, p. 148.)

These explanations of the “whole” being present in the conferral to anyone of the Melchizedek Priesthood has profound doctrinal implications regarding the subject of “keys” and their application. Brigham Young claimed possession of keys through his ordination to the apostleship (1835). He would later adopt Elder Pratt’s position that the relevant keys came in the 1836 Kirtland Temple appearances. This topic of how authority is preserved or passed is also quite interesting and worth pondering, I think. Something about which many claims are made, but the underlying mechanics are not well understood.

Clearly, if it was important for angels to individually appear to Joseph (and Oliver or Sidney), then it raises the question of how widely that gets spread about, and how any surviving Elder could organize the church “in all its perfection.” Then again, what does Jos. F. Smith’s reference to “the inspiration of the Spirit of God and by the direction of the Almighty” include?

President Packer’s teaching that any elder in the church holds as much priesthood as does the church president or any of the apostles is, however, a very valid point. I agree with President Packer on that score.

First Impression

The interview I did for Mormon Stories has an introductory title designed to grab attention and get the followers of that site to listen to the interview. I presume most of that audience is unacquainted with what I’ve written. I know John Dehlin had not read any of the books I’ve written before interviewing me. He did read some of the posts on this blog, but has not completed reading any book I’ve written and has a copy of only one of them. He had limited information from which to conduct the interview.

The impetus for doing the interview came from recommendations John Dehlin received from others who had read some of my writings. He followed up on the recommendation, and persuaded me to participate.

In some of the reactions to the interview, his audience has presumed the headline title to the podcast is an accurate representation of what I’m all about. It’s rather attention grabbing to say that someone “Claims to Have Seen Christ.” That was a deliberate attempt on John Dehlin’s part to get someone who knows nothing about me and knows nothing about my work to listen to the podcast. It gives the impression to a stranger that I wear that claim on my sleeve. That I am a braggart. Worse still, that I have little regard for the sacred and tend to profane deeply personal experiences and to parade them about as if it made me noteworthy. If that were true, I would think such a person would be unbelievable. Therefore, when the listener’s reaction is indignation, I can understand that. It is reasonable.

On the other hand, if someone had actually read my writings, they would find there is almost nothing of me in them. I write about doctrine, history and scriptural exegesis. Even The Second Comforter is a book about the reader, not the writer. It gets inside the person reading it and causes them to reflect on their own relationship with God. To the extent that I am mentioned, it is in the context of my failings, shortcomings and mistakes. The reader is walked through the process of overcoming their own failings, following a path, and undoing their mistakes. At the end the reader should be better acquainted with their own deepest desires, and regard me as little more than a flawed, but believing fellow-sojourner in this challenging predicament of mortality.

I am not bothered by the first impression given by the title. The best reaction I can think of to what I’ve written would be this: “I can’t stand Denver Snuffer; but what he has written is of value to me.” That reaction will do two things: First, it will establish a proper view of my irrelevance. Second, it will focus on the ideas advanced, which are in my view, a reflection of the Lord’s plan to rescue us all from our fallen condition.

Those who collect their first impression of me from John Dehlin’s headline will be quite disappointed to find there is very little of me in anything written. Or, perhaps not disappointed, but rather relieved. Either way, I am not responsible for the way he has titled the matter and have no complaints about the way he did. After all, he came into the interview without an adequate basis to know anything about the work I’ve been doing. Knowing almost nothing about that work, I thought he did an admirable job of asking critical, important and relevant questions. As a composer of headlines, I suppose he displays a flair for that, as well.


I reluctantly did an interview with John Dehlin at Mormon Stories Podcast. I do not like doing those types of things. You can listen to it here. John Dehlin asked that I do the interview and then stay around to answer some questions on his site. I took care of that and anyone who is interested can read the remarks there.

If you choose to listen, the interview is approximately 2 1/2 hours. I had no input on the questions asked and no input on the title of the interview.