Fearful Question

I received this comment:

I’m trying to reconcile your inconsistencies. On one hand you cry obedience (a significant theme of The Second Comforter), and yet, at the same time, you have clearly denounced (with the exception of Joseph Smith) true prophets and apostles speaking the will of the Lord in these last days. Therefore, you would also have to say their words are not binding and it is not necessary to obey anything they have taught. So then, one wonders what obedience looks like to Denver Snuffer and who has set the standard? The words of Jesus Christ given in the New Testament, and nothing since then? Attending church meetings? (I’m guessing optional, since you have publicly stated you don’t do stake conference). Word of wisdom irrelevant? Tattoos okay? No such thing as sustaining general authorities of the church (since you say they have no authority) so general conference must also be optional/ irrelevant? Priesthood power didn’t get “passed on” so nothing in particular required to hold/honor the priesthood? Lacking priesthood power, the sacrament must be nice but not necessary? Temple worship irrelevant? Covenants and ordinances have no value so nothing required to be obedient regarding temples and covenants made there? Temple recommends must also be bogus then? One has to wonder just what the construct is for obedience to you. Promoting the idea that there is no legitimate priesthood power, temple ordinances and covenants, or prophets on the earth today lands you (as much as you may love Joseph Smith) in the same church camp as all of our protestant friends. What is so profound about that mindset? Ironically, it places you theologically as far from Joseph Smith as you could be. One last thought: if it is true that you have received a visitation from Jesus Christ Himself, how do you know it was because the Lord was validating the course you were pursuing? Have you considered it may have been to humble and chastise you, and correct the path you were on?

This sounds like fear. The first thing I would recommend is that you quiet your mind and calm your troubled heart. Take a deep breath or two, and let’s reason this out.

Look at all we share. Both you and I believe in Christ. We share a common acceptance of Joseph Smith’s mission. We both believe in the Book of Mormon. We are on the same side. We have so much in common we ought to be able to allow one another the right to think things through for ourselves on those few things about which we differ.

Remember, our views will only differ momentarily. Eventually, if we are both seeking to understand the truth, and both are proceeding prayerfully and sincerely, we will grow together. While we are developing, let’s not insist that everyone see things exactly as “I” see them.

From a bird’s eye view, exactly what does the church ask of you that you can “disobey” or be in a state of rebellion by refusing? Let’s go through a list:

Tithing? I paid it. Fully. For forty years.

Home Teaching? I enjoy home teaching. I sincerely care about and appreciate those families I home taught. I was a 100% home teacher. I miss it.

Attend Sacrament Meeting? Always did, still do.

Accept callings? Never refused one. Served whenever asked.

Stake Conference? Not required. They don’t take attendance. Never been asked by any bishop or stake president to attend. I was invited, but that was merely an invitation.

General Conference? Not required. They don’t take attendance. But I do watch. And I have attended priesthood session every six months at the BYU Marriott Center with my sons and a friend with his sons, and my father-in-law, and brother-in-law. We have done this for 24 uninterrupted years. Afterwards, we go to the same Mexican restaurant for dinner. It is a well established tradition for us and we all enjoy it greatly.

Word of Wisdom? Always obeyed. Still do.

Tattoos? Don’t have one. I tell my kids “if you have a tattoo you failed the IQ test.” Even before President Hinckley advised against them, Lev. 19: 28 forbid them. Now that’s the law of Moses, it is true. But I think it good advice. And, more importantly – never tempted to do such a thing.

That’s a pretty good overview of what the church asks, isn’t it? So where’s the beef? The church has not asked of me as a normal, faithful member, anything that I have not done. They did, however, ask me for something that contradicts their own standard established in the temple recommend interview, violates the scriptures, runs contrary to the teachings of Joseph Smith, and offended my conscience. That I could not do. Not because I wanted to rebel, but because they were not justified in the request. We reached an impasse.

The temple recommend interview, among other things, asks me to be honest in my dealings with my fellow man. That requires me to respect contracts I enter into and honor my promises to others. It required me to honor a contract in publishing, which I did. The offer of money to have me betray that obligation was not, in my view, an honorable way to terminate my commitment.

The scriptures teach an ideal which the ancient Nephite civilization respected. I think this ideal is described in the Book of Mormon to teach us how to deal wisely with one another: “Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him. . . . Nevertheless, there was no law against a man’s belief; therefore a man was punished only for the crimes he had done; therefore all men were on equal grounds.” (Alma 30: 9, 11.) What I believe is the result of faithful service, careful study, years of prayer, and diligent searching. I do not expect you, or anyone, to agree with me. Nor do I ask you or anyone to agree. I state what I believe and why I believe it. Then I leave it to others to agree or disagree. I afford all the freedom to disagree with me in the way I would like to have reciprocated.

Joseph Smith taught against adopting “creeds” or demanding that people all agree or be disciplined. He remarked that the Methodists “have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty to believe as I please, it feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (DHC 5: 340.)

My conscience and my heart told me that the LDS church has changed, and my mind needed to understand why. I studied to learn the answer. I believe I found it. It was learned by study of the scriptures and revelations given through Joseph Smith, and in the diaries, journals, letters and histories I searched. I honestly believe I’ve answered the questions to my own satisfaction about how we got from where we began to where we are now. I do not offer my explanation as a denouncement of anyone else’s beliefs, only as my own. In my explanation, I remind readers that I’m not offering the accepted view, and that the traditional narrative is very much different from the one I tell. In the long run, a century from now, I believe Mormon history will be told the way I have explained it, and the traditional narrative will continue to unravel.

I have not “denounced” church leaders. I have quoted them. In recent times, the church has denounced past leaders in ways I would not have dared. They affirm that past leaders made serious mistakes about doctrine, and unjustifiably left unsaved, unordained, unendowed, and unsealed an entire bloodline. They did this “in the absence of revelation” to guide them. This is “denouncing” the past church leaders by the present ones. I did nothing of the sort. I quoted them, and let their words speak.

The church is very useful. It gives important foundational material the world needs. But like any organization, it has its limits. If you make the church the end of your journey, instead of the introductory course it is supposed to be, then you have made it an idol. The church is growing more idolatrous in recent years. The pace of that is accelerating. Your comment is grounded in both fear and idolatry. This is the fruit of the emphasis on controlling even what you think. That seems afoul of the scriptures, Joseph’s teachings, and common sense.

But to answer the question: I believe in obedience to Christ. I believe He is the standard and the prototype of the saved man. I believe the Book of Mormon is the most correct book and a man will get closer to God by abiding its precepts than any other book. I believe in worshiping God according to the dictates of my own conscience, and allow you the same privilege. I believe all that God has revealed, all He continues to reveal, and that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to His coming Kingdom. I believe in revelation and the gift of prophecy. I believe the church has a commission and should remain true to that commission – preach the Gospel of Christ. I believe it is hazardous to change the ordinances, because it risks breaking the covenant when we do so. I believe Christ will set His hand a second time to reclaim and rescue His people before His coming. I believe when we killed Joseph Smith, we fell under condemnation that required three and four generations to pass away before the Lord would open the heavens for salvation again, and that those generations have now passed. The symbol of their passing was the death of Eldred G. Smith. I look forward to the Lord’s hand now moving again to reclaim and restore His people.

I believe it is important to keep the Lord in mind always. To always remember Him, that we may have His Spirit to be with us. I believe it is difficult to always remember Him when we are preoccupied with potentates, presiding elders, captains of fifty, captains of hundreds and captains of thousands as our substitute “connection” with heaven.

I teach of Christ. I testify of Christ. I worship Christ. I preach faith in Christ. And I advise all men to likewise believe in and obey Him and Him alone.