Harold Bloom has written an interesting article in the New York Times titled “Will This Election Be the Mormon Breakthrough“– it includes Professor Bloom’s observations about how dramatically Mormonism has changed from its origins.
I had a conversation this morning with a friend whose years-long alienation from the church has been healed through reading Passing the Heavenly Gift. I have also had a discussion yesterday about how another man was deeply offended by the content and thought it was nearly apostate to have written it. One man who withdrew from membership in the church told me he could not finish reading it because it was too “faith promoting” and “apologetic” and could not be regarded as true history because of its pro-church bias. Another man told me that it finally told the truth and liberated him to continue in church activity while feeling at home again among the Saints. I also heard a woman bear her testimony for the first time in years, in part because of the book’s effect upon her heart.
The book has been praised as inspired, by a reader who told me they felt close to the Holy Ghost as they read every page; and it has been denounced as the product of an evil and aspiring man.
Well, I’m not going to react to the reactions. But I want it clear that first, the only motive I have is to deal honestly with what I know is a current problem friends I know are struggling to solve. People who want to believe in the Restoration, but who cannot find any peace in the details of the history. I have looked at the problems and the book is an honest explanation of how I cope with the issues.
No one needs to read the book. Anyone who does read it is put to the inconvenience of buying or borrowing a copy. I do not advocate it, but only offer it. If you are untroubled by church history issues, then go your way and give it no thought. If you struggle with problems from the church’s past, then I offer it to help.
I do not advocate any position. I offer my understanding for whatever value someone may take from it. I never speak up in church and argue my views. I sit silent for the most part and leave people to enjoy their own understanding. On occasion I’m asked to teach or talk in Sacrament. When asked, I teach the assigned topic in the way I think brings the greatest understanding to the topic. As far as I know, there are only a very few people in my home Ward who are even aware I have written a single book. And of those who may know, I believe most have not read anything I’ve written.
I have no following, as far as I am aware. If there is anyone who claims to be following me, the only advice I would give them is to quit. I do not want a follower. Like any other Latter-day Saint, I offer my testimony and I give what I hope will help others understand difficult issues. If there is anyone worth following it is the Lord alone. I know of no man who can help anyone be saved. It does no good to claim you are “of Paul” or are “of Cephas” or you are “of Moses” or “Apollos” or some other man. That merits a Telestial condemnation comparable to what is merited by the liars, and whoremongers and adulters. (D&C 76: 98-105.) Therefore I do not commend any man as someone to claim you follow.
Last week we took our Priests to the Draper Temple to do baptisms. It was a busy evening. I talked the Bishop into doing baptisms, and I was able to do confirmations. This left me dry.
Then I rushed home to pick up my wife and we returned to attend the last endowment session of the evening with her brother. He was taking out his own endowment for the first time in a “live session.”
A neighbor of mine was in the Celestial Room as a worker and he told me the temples were all overbooked for weddings last Friday. The 11-11-11 date was in high demand for weddings. He had a sheet with numbers on it. I forget the totals, but it was to be the largest single day of weddings in the Draper Temple history. Apparently there was a lottery for the 11:00 time frame.
The Draper Temple is quite lovely. I liked the Jordan River Temple (which was our district before the Draper Temple was built). It was very efficient. With six session rooms you can get a session every 20 minutes. I liked the convenience of that. When we lost that district assignment, the Draper Temple was so busy that I started going to the Oquirrh Temple. That is an amazingly beautiful facility. It was the temple I attended temporarily. It had a wonderful spirit about it. Then the police shot and killed that fellow on the temple grounds and I haven’t been back. It’s a personal thing, I suppose.
We helped with the Draper Temple Open House as a stake and as a family when it was first open. We enjoyed that experience.
The Temple I like most is the Manti Temple. Like Salt Lake, it is live with real people instead of a film. It is not crowded. The pioneer workmanship is interesting and beautiful. I also think the outside architecture is among the most beautiful of any of the Temples.
The Priests were taught today about how to find ancestors for whom work can be done through the “Ancestry.com” website. The hope is that between the visit this week and the information provided in today’s lesson, these young men will find themselves interested in finding their ancestors. That would be good. Our lives are not ours alone. Our ancestors have an interest in how we live and what we do with the time we have allotted to us in mortality. As Joseph put it: “The spirits of the just are enveloped in flaming fire,…are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.. and are often pained therewith.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings, p. 326.)
Temples can remind us we are not living for our own interests, but also owe an obligation to those who went before in our family lines.
Jesus complained to the Nephites about their religious arguments. He called such disagreements over religion “contention” and said it was His doctrine that “such things should be done away.” (3 Ne. 11: 30.) Seems we want to believe in Christ, but reject His doctrine. He was quite unrelenting on the point: “Verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.” (3 Ne. 11: 29.)
It is interesting how He did it. Because He disagreed with the presiding authorities of His day on almost every particular of their then-current religious observances. But He managed to declare what He believed, to teach what He thought comprised the higher, underlying purpose of the law, without contending. He answered their oftentimes hostile questions forthrightly, and unequivocally but not through contention.
He goes on to declare His doctrine, which is the doctrine given to Him by the Father: “I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everwhere, to repent and believe in me. And whosoever believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God. And whoso believeth not in me, and is not baptized, shall be damned. Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and I bear record of it from the Father; and whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.” (3 Ne. 11: 32-36.)
His doctrine is to “bear record of the Father.” And His doctrine is the “Father will bear record of Him.” And the “Holy Ghost will bear record of both Him and the Father.” For they are all one.
It is nice, I suppose, when someone bears their testimony. I do it. I hear others do it. I see some folks swooning when they hear someone they think holds an important office in the church bearing a testimony. But we are supposed to get our testimony from Christ and from the Father and from the Holy Ghost.
We are all told by Christ that “all men everywhere” are commanded to repent. That is all inclusive. There isn’t some special, elect few who are so nigh to heaven they are not required to repent. Everyone. Relentlessly. We are all in desperate need of repentance. We don’t need a healthy self-image. We don’t need reassurance that we are loved, even doted upon by God. We don’t need to be indulged in our sins, told we are just born with problems we should accept, or given any excuse to turn away from facing our weaknesses. They are, after all, gifts from Him to humble us. (Ether 12: 27.) They were given to humble us, to drive us onto our knees, and to commend us to Christ. We are commanded to repent from them, and they are a gift to remind us of our dependence upon Him.
When someone cries out that we are in desperate need of repentance today, however, they are called “negative” and “unkind” and “not at all like Christ.” They imagine Christ as a limp-wristed, happy-go-lucky chap who is indulgent and promiscuously forgiving. I do not imagine such a being; but instead a Counselor of Righteousness, whose every word is designed to make me become more like Him. Whose every sacrifice was designed to bring greater light into my mind and heart. Who stretches and pulls me relentlessly forward and upward, bringing me to my knees as I view in horror my many failings. I see a Man of Holiness who cannot tolerate any degree of unrighteousness; but who is ever ready to heal and instruct. A God indeed. Who works to bring others to become like Him.
“Wait!” shouts someone, “I have a testimony of ‘the church’!” Well, that’s nice, I suppose. I find the church important, too. I fellowship there every Sunday. I enjoy immensely my ward. But that isn’t Christ’s doctrine. My testimony should come from Christ bearing record to me of the Father, and the Father then bearing testimony or record to me of the Son, and the Holy Ghost bearing testimony to me of the Father and the Son. That is His doctrine. And Christ is quite emphatic on that point, as well: “And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.” (3 Ne. 11: 40.)
I’ve been bearing testimony of Christ in books I have written for some time now. But the testimony I bear is that He lives and is altogether willing to bear testimony to you. And the Father, also, is willing to do so. And also the Holy Ghost.
I do not believe God was meant to be experienced second and third-hand. I do not believe we are supposed to “know about God” but were instead, according to Christ’s doctrine, to “know God.” He will make Himself known to you. Not vicariously through a Pope, or a Bishop, or an Archbishop, or a Cardinal, or a Stake President, or some other preacher. He, Christ, and He, the Father and the Holy Ghost are the ones who are to declare themselves to you. Then you aren’t building on the sandy, unstable foundation comprised of the many varieties of the hireling intermediary who gets acclaim here, praise and adoration here, as an inappropriate surrogate for He alone who can save. When men get put between the individual and God almost every individual immediately begins to exercise control, and dominion and compulsion over others. It is a wise God who restricts His delegation of “power” to such a degree that it cannot be exercised unrighteously. (D&C 121: 41.)
God is knowable. He comforts.
Our many cares often focus on things which do not matter. Christ told us what matters. It is not what we can get from God, but what we do for Him, what we give up for His sake, that has value. If we lose our fathers and mothers–are rejected by those we are closest to in this life– for His sake, we are in the right way. (Matt. 10: 35-39.) When we are entrusted with something by Him, it is not for our benefit, but for the benefit of others while in His service. (Matt. 25: 14-30.) In the parable about the talents, the talents were given for the Lord’s sake, not the servants. The servant was accountable for what he did for the Lord with what was given. It was not about the servant, nor the pride of being entrusted, nor the praise of men. It was only about doing the will of the Lord and glorifying Him.
What little we have must all be given to Him if we hope to please our Lord. (Luke 21: 1-4.) Until we give all we have to Him, we have nothing.
This is more than enough to occupy all our days. How is it then we have time to fret about so much else? How do we have time for endless debate and group discussions which circle about but fail to reach the truth; without ever noticing how little we have given to Him? Why do we ever contemplate with pride what we’ve received, what we own, what office or station we occupy, or how great we have become down in this dark well? What use is it to succeed here? What great thing is it you have here that will endure for even a thousand years? “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8: 34-37.)
I’ve just finished a conversation with a daughter who is in college in another state. Some doctrinal issues were on the agenda stemming from interpretations of the Book of Revelation. She had an encounter with a Relief Society teacher who introduced her to some ideas which are largely borrowed from Evangelical sources, adopted by Mormon writers, and now being repeated as if they were true. That conversation provokes this post.
We should be careful about importing doctrine and interpretations from other traditional Christian sources. The reason “the professors [of traditional Christianity] are all corrupt” is not because they are bad people. (JS-H 1: 19.) It is because their doctrine is wrong. They do not have the truth. They entertain ideas which are not informed by heaven, and rely upon men to speculate about meaning, without knowing a thing about heaven.
Joseph remarked that “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world.” (TPJS p. 217.) The meaning of “knowledge” is, of course, the key to that statement. For the only “knowledge” which can save it to “know God” for yourself. (See, John 17: 3; D&C 132: 24.) The means of knowing this God is, of course, revelation and His personal ministry. His personal ministry will bring the faithful to the Father, as well. Both the Son and the Father will take their abode with you. (John 14: 18, 23.) This is the knowledge that saves.
The Christian world cannot save, their doctrines are corrupt, because they do not have the required knowledge to be able to teach. Therefore, they are “all corrupt” because their minds are corrupt. They cannot save themselves, much less inform us of anything which will aid us in knowing God.
Even reading Joseph’s teachings will not save us. His knowledge and his covenant is not ours. We must find the required knowledge for ourselves. “Reading the experience of others, or the revelations given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God.” (TPJS p. 324.) Even Joseph’s revelations, and Joseph’s scriptures are inadequate. They must be obtained by each individual or they will be left without saving knowledge.
How do we get good doctrine, good information and a valid covenant with God for ourselves? It is through knowledge from Him. “could you gaze into heaven five minutes you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (TPJS p. 324.) This is true because we then gain knowledge that saves us. We know God.
I don’t give a fig for lengthy quotes of man’s speculation about the “truth” as they understand it. I care only for the revelations from heaven. Men who have never gazed into heaven simply do not know the truth. Good men, honest men, and men of the highest intent who know nothing about the heavens cannot help anyone to find their way to God.
There are, of course, disappointments along the way when you gain knowledge. You find that you learn things you do not want to know. You become disconnected with this world as you attach to the higher world. I read the Doctrines of Salvation from Joseph Fielding Smith as a convert to the church, believing it to be filled with truth. I accepted the notion he advances that “Christ has himself declared that the manifestations we might have of the Spirit of Christ, or from a visitation from an angel, a tangible resurrected being, would not leave the impression and would not convince us and place within us that something which we cannot get away from which we receive through a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. Personal visitations might become dim as time goes on, but this guidance of the Holy Ghost is renewed and continued, day after day, year after year, if we live to be worthy of it.” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol 1, p. 44.) I believed that at one point. I thought it good doctrine. I was troubled and disappointed to learn this was wrong. I did not want to know Joseph Fielding Smith was in error. But I learned it. Visitations are more, not less, powerful than the Holy Ghost.The scriptures prove it. For an angel will not come to visit you without being fully armed by the power of the Holy Ghost. Indeed, they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost when they visit. (2 Nephi 32: 2-3.) I wish I did not know Joseph Fielding Smith was wrong. I wish I did not realize he had never been visited by an angel, for only by lacking such an experience could he make this error. But we seek “knowledge” to be saved, and therefore we should find ourselves informed by heaven alone, and not men, even very good men, trying to tell us about things they can only guess to be true.
There is a great deal of difference between saving knowledge, which comes from heaven, and error, speculation and man’s own doctrine, which cannot help us. We should never find ourselves among those who “teach for doctrine the commandments of men.” (JS-H 1: 19.) Get connected to heaven and you needn’t be dependent upon any MAN for your salvation. Not even Joseph Smith wanted you to do that by depending on him. Such things make you darkened in your mind, because you neglect the duty which God has imposed upon you. (TPJS p. 238.)
I do not point to me, or to another man, or to any group of men, no matter how well intentioned. I point to Christ, who alone can save you. You will not be rescued by another. No office can do it. No ordinance can do it. Only Christ has the power to save. (Mosiah 3: 17; Mosiah 5: 8.)
The most dogmatic and well studied Mormons are often the furthest away from heaven. Proud, confident, insistent they possess great knowledge, all the while little more than a child of hell, bound in darkness, and unable to recognize the truth. They will, as Joseph put it, “be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world,” (TPJS p. 217.) because they are already captive by a spirit of contention, which Christ told us all is of the devil. (3 Nephi 11: 29.)
We should declare the truth, point to Christ, and say what we know to be true from our knowledge. It is up to others to accept or reject what is true. We cannot be saved; NONE of us can be saved unless we have saving knowledge which comes from Christ. You would know this if the heavens were opened to you and angels ministered to you. This is why the Book of Mormon authors so often confirmed their message did not originate from them, but came as a result of the Lord or His angels requiring the message to be delivered.
I do not care if anyone believes a thing I have ever said or written. But I do care if someone decides they will close the gate of heaven by the false things they preach, all the while declaring they are Christ’s. How can they know the Master when they oppose knowledge of Him? It is more than an enigma. It is a tragedy.
The talk on Elijah given in Spanish Fork and posted on this blog last week is a continuation of the development of information found in Passing the Heavenly Gift. The foundation for why the Elijah issue required further discussion is found in the book. Some people have listened to the talk without first reading the book. Therefore they are unacquainted with the background information which shows the importance of re-examining the Elijah tradition inside the church. I will give a brief explanation here, although you won’t really understand the reason for the talk unless you read the book.
Briefly, and without repeating all the historic records, journals and sources from which the history is explained in the book, this is what happened: Elijah came to visit the Kirtland Temple in 1836 according to the third person account written by Warren Cowdery in the back of the 3rd volume of revelations in Kirtland. It is the last entry made, and the source of all the later claims made about Elijah, his purpose and appearance. The account is third-person, (i.e., The Lord appeared to them… said to them…., etc.) but when it was later discovered it was reworded to the first person (i.e., The Lord appeared to us…. said to us…, etc.). You can read the original document, actually see a photostatic reproduction of the original, in the Joseph Smith Papers. I give the cite in Passing the Heavenly Gift.
The record Joseph Smith left makes no mention of Elijah’s appearance. The record Oliver Cowdery left makes no mention of Elijah’s appearance. Joseph died without every explaining anything about the event, or making any mention of it. Oliver also. Both of them testified about visitations they received, and wrote about who had come to empower them, but neither of them ever mention Elijah.
In talks in Nauvoo, Joseph refers on every occasion he mentions Elijah as a future event. Not as a past event. He explains Elijah “will return,” not that he has returned.
Joseph Smith received the sealing power in a revelation given sometime in the early 1830’s, which was recorded in 1843. I take some effort to lay out the chronology in the book, and the information can be reviewed there.
When Joseph Smith died, there is no contemporaneous source to verify the appearance of Elijah in 1836, and the appearance was not known at that time.
There is no mention of the Elijah appearance in 1836, nor 1837, nor 1838 nor ’39, ’40, ’41, ’42, ’43 nor in 1844, though Joseph does say there will be a future return. After Joseph Smith’s death, there was nothing said or known in 1844, ’45, ’46, ’47, ’48, ’49, ’50 nor for years thereafter. When the Kirtland Revelation Book was reviewed in the 1850’s the first notice resulted in the revelation being published for the first time in November of the year it was found. Along with the publication was an explanation given by Orson Pratt explaining it was quite significant. He garbles the chronology in that article, and the chronology ever since was taken from his first editorial. Since then the chronology has remained the same as Orson declared, even though he erred in attributing the revelation recorded on July 12, 1843 to having been given on that date. The revelation was received much earlier, the first part in 1829. I also walk through that in Passing the Heavenly Gift.
Since the 1850’s when the revelation was found (which is now Section 110) about the Kirtland Temple appearance of Elijah, and then published for the first time in the Deseret News, there have been hundreds of statements which rely upon Orson Pratt’s original analysis accompanying the announcement of finding the record.
By the time the words were discovered, Warren Cowdery who wrote it down was dead. He could not explain where it came from because we couldn’t ask him. Oliver died shortly before Warren, and he also could not be asked. And, of course, Joseph died before either of them, and so he could not be asked either. Therefore the two witnesses left nothing about it, could not be asked, and the scribe who recorded it could not be asked either.
I walk through all these events using the historical records, scriptures and lengthy explanations. It is a topic which takes a lot of material to set out in full, but has been done in the book.
The talk on Elijah’s mission posted on this blog was taking the topic and discussing what the still future mission of Elijah would necessarily involve. Since Joseph expected it to happen in the future when he spoke about it in January and March, 1844, there must be a future mission for him. Because if Joseph, who was present in the Kirtland Temple in 1836 when the Warren Cowdery recorded event took place thought there was still a future mission for Elijah, then it would be important to notice that and give some thought to what it could involve. I’ve done that. Hence the contents of the talk.
Now, if you disagree with history and you are perfectly content with what Orson Pratt bequeathed us as the accompanying commentary when the account was discovered, then you needn’t give this one further thought. There have been generations come and go with that explanation regarded as the absolute truth and the basis for our Temple work. So you’ll be in good company. But there are those serious minded individuals who are trying to sort this out right now at high levels of the Church who know these are important issues which are NOT as settled as the past pronouncements make it appear. In fact, I doubt the current explanations will last much longer because the record simply does not support the conclusions we have urged. The place to start is not after the 1850’s discovery, when there were conclusions leaped to by Orson Pratt which then became the operative explanation thereafter. The place to start is instead from 1836 to 1844 in the records of that time. What was Joseph saying? What was Oliver saying? Why did both of them leave out mention of Elijah in their testimonies of who had come to visit with them? Where did Section 110 come from? That is, who did Warren Cowdery consult with to learn the material he wrote into the book? I work on that in both the book and the talk.
I think Elijah has a ministry still future. I think it is connected to the very things Joseph Smith was speaking about in January and March, 1844. And I explain what that is in the talk linked on this blog.
I got another email inquiry which I responded to yesterday I thought I ought to put up here: This inquiry related to Passing the Heavenly Gift:
[The email linked to several conversations of some length.] Well, that’s a lot to read. I did scan some of it, but not all. I do not mind being criticized, nor people disagreeing with me. They’re free to do so. And I mean both criticize me and disagree. The problem is that criticizing me is sort of a misadventure, because doing that detracts from the underlying real questions. Who cares a fig about me? I hope no-one. But the stuff I write about– meaning an attempt to discuss the Gospel –that is important and certainly worth spending some time thinking about and discussing.
Does he actually claim in the first quote that all the keys of the priesthood are not held by Thomas S. Monson?No. I don’t take a position on that. In one chapter I entertain the possibility of that and discuss how important the church remains anyway. As to whether he has them all, that is a matter between him and the Lord. When he became President, I prayed and was told to sustain him and I do. That’s enough for me. The Book of Mormon clearly identifies us (the Latter-day Saints) as gentiles. Joseph Smith said we were “identified with the gentiles” in the dedicatory prayer for the Kirtland Temple (D&C 109: 60). Book of Mormon prophecies clearly indicate there will be an apostasy or sorts by the gentile church (us). We either have (in the past) or will (in the future) reject the fullness. I show how a reasonable interpretation of our history could reach the conclusion it was in the past. If it isn’t then it is in our future. But if the Book of Mormon can be trusted on the point, and I think it can, then we’ll reject the fullness of the Gospel at some point. But that’s a quick and altogether distorted treatment of a topic worthy of so much attention and so much care that I’ve written a 170,000 word book on the subject which will do a better job than a snapshot.
Does Bro. Snuffer actually believe that the sealing power is not with the Church and was lost?No. Don’t take a position on that, either. The sealing power is conferred in one way and that way is described in the scriptures. I take some lengths to explain, using scripture, the matter. Beyond laying out the process I never say anything about what the church has. I do explain the church’s claims. And I also use the church’s explanations to show where the church’s authority comes from.
That the GAs over the Church’s curriculum are not teaching what God has instructed them to include in our Church manuals?I’m not sure I understand this question. Where has God instructed someone to do something about curriculum? There are committees that do this stuff. In the fourth phase everything is attributed to the president, and that process is laid out in the book. This question is a product of that process. But I really don’t understand the question. So far as I’ve seen, there is nowhere a claim made that God was involved in writing or developing the church’s curriculum.
We have a ‘devalued gospel’ in the LDS Church?There are a list of 72 approved subjects allowed to be taught, as a result of the Correlation process. The Gospel allows everyone to learn all the mysteries of God. It is, you know, given unto many to know the mysteries of God. And those who will give more heed to the matter learn more, those who give less heed learn less. (Alma 12: 9-11.) By the Spirit we can know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10: 5.) Limiting the scope of discussion to the list of approved topics is removing some of the great, even important topics from our permitted discussions. Therefore the most important subjects have now gravitated away from Sacrament, Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society and into the Internet. I have seen unapproved subjects on your blog’s index.