Denver Snuffer is becoming less of an enigma to me. I still don’t know him but I like him, based solely on his writings. I think his little book, Ten Parables, tipped my thinking to his favor. I’ve now read six of his eight books and am working on the seventh – Eighteen Verses. I have saved the best for last – Nephi’s Isaiah.
I have Denver’s permission to derive my own interpretations of his parables. I offer them here as a way of solidifying what I have read and pondered. He writes in his preface that parables “teach truths by using symbols and analogies.” They are “intentionally susceptible to different interpretations and layers of meaning.”
The book was a fun and easy read. I completed it during a lunch hour at work. It is only 107 pages. Some of the parables were obvious as soon as I read them. Some seemed a little obtuse, requiring a bit of pondering. “They have been carefully composed. The words are deliberate.” I hope my interpretations do them justice.
This is another in an ongoing series of essays on the books of Denver Snuffer. I have previously reviewed Passing the Heavenly Gift and The Second Comforter. Comments are welcome. Obviously you will have had to have read the book. I look forward to reading what you think of the parables.
1. A Busy Young Man
This one is very short. I wondered why he placed it first in his book. I suppose it represents Denver when he was a young attorney. He worked many long years to learn of the Master, while doing the Lord’s work. First the rope for seven years, then the net for seven more. Perhaps it represents Denver’s callings in the church.
2. Wise Men
This one is obviously about the General Authorities of the church. I love the symbol of the fruit tree. It could be so many things, but mostly I thought it was a good representation of members of the church. The symbolism of the telescope is also profound. It represents the ability to see things far off, available to all.
“They became men … with the most cunning and cautious minds. For many years they added no wisdom to the kingdom … They only spoke of … the great lessons of the past.” Then again, the parable could be referring to the religious leaders of the past since there is an obvious reference to either Galileo or Copernicus.
This is obviously about temple worship. It contains one of Denver’s common themes throughout his books that the ordinances of the temples are mere symbols and not the real thing. You may also conclude that it is about the study of God or more precisely, the Godhead. I love the many references to orthodoxy and creeds.
Then again, it can also be construed as a much generalized view of the history of man, his beliefs about God and his religious worship practices. The part about wars and schisms leads me to think that. There is reference to the restoration and again, the introduction of orthodoxy and the idea of speaking directly to and with God.
The ending is wonderful. It is so applicable to the church today whether we realize it or not. We do indeed look upon anyone who claims to have an “unusual” story of spiritual communion with God to be heterodox. I suspect it is because of the fear of being deceived that this has been inadvertently promoted by those who lead us.
4. The Horses of Shiloh
This is a wonderful parable about the Savior. I like the implications of the lines, “He was hard for any man to ride, and many feared to approach him. Only the most brave attempted it. Only a few were able to ride him.” Obviously this is referring to the process of coming unto Christ and gaining an audience with Him.
The churches of the world have made an image of the Savior that is nothing like who he truly is. The ending: “In Shiloh there was a neglected statue, in a forgotten back alley, of a rearing horse covered with scars whose disproportionate and unruly form was thought to a symbol of everything vile and unwanted in a horse.”
Sadly, in the end, nobody would ever know what the horse really looked like. I wonder if this is meant to imply that our depictions of the Savior in art today are not at all what he was really like. I suspect this is the intent. Most pictures of the Savior depict him as almost feminine, not the battle-scarred warrior that he was.
5. The Weathered Tree
At first I thought this was going to be a camping story. I was delighted it turned out to be the story of a wise tree that stood alone on a cliff, gnarled and scarred, but who had a commanding view of all that surrounded her. The two forests that grew below her are a good contrast between the foolish and the wise who look to her.
6. Five Men From God
The five men from God are Sampson, John the Baptist, Jesus, Joseph and Hyrum. These are the witnesses who were sent to warn and bless mankind. But they were all rejected. God was therefore justified in leaving man to fend for himself, with no warning of impending danger. Man will be unprepared when the last day arrives.
7. Hope and Tarwater
This has become my favorite. I expected something more or different at the end but was pleased that the same theme played out all along. It was a sustained effort. It is analogous to life and the way we travel through it. One young man finds the woods to be a dangerous place. His journey through it reflects wariness and uneasiness.
The other young man found the woods to be a place of beauty and serenity. He was at peace with his surroundings and derived much enjoyment and pleasure from his journey. Although the two men became aware of each other towards the end, they did not meet. They each related their journey to others when they arrived home.
I could write an entire essay about the analogy and the symbolism in this parable. But the end result for me was the way the two young men related their tale at the end and how it confirmed to others their impressions of the forest. They brought with them their perceptions of how things were in the woods, and they were right.
8. Brakhill’s Greatest Citizen
This one is told so well I thought there really was a town of Brakhill, Wyoming and a real children’s author named Olyvie Canfield. I can imagine Denver wrote this for one of his daughters. I got the distinct impression that the building built by the story’s other leading citizen – Ira Wilkas – represented the City Creek Center.
I’m still pondering this one. I wonder if anyone else has come up with who might be represented by Olyvie Canfield. I suppose Ira Wilkas represented the Church. Is it possible that Olyvie might have been a symbol for Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon? This has probably been discussed on LDS group blogs but I missed it.
9. The Great Competition
This one is about the plan of salvation, told from a very long-range view, including the great battle at the end of the world between the forces of good and evil. Denver has drawn some profound implications of what happens at that great event because those who chose not to come to compete were invited to the great feast at the end.
The focus is on loyalty. Who would remain true to the king in spite of the seeming unfairness of the competition designed to cause a great division among the people? I would love to share this one in a Sacrament talk or Sunday school lesson, but of course, you and I know that one cannot quote from unorthodox sources in church.
10. The Missing Virtue
I’ve read this one a couple of times since the initial reading. When I first read it I knew right away that it was about Denver. I think he had referenced somewhere else in his books his experience with failure to help someone in need. I suspect this was highly personal and significant to Denver. I’m grateful he shared it with us.
One the one hand you could focus on how much he was affected by having failed to provide something for the beggar earlier in his life. Eighteen years is a long time to wait to feel that you have made up for an earlier failure. Thankfully, he found the opportunity again, took advantage of it and was greatly blessed as a result.
I did not see any judgment of his fellow priesthood brethren in this parable. He only related the facts. He told it the way it was. I too have seen this many times. But I have also seen the goodness of my brethren in similar situations. There are many who go out of their way to help those in need. I love my fellow brethren.