Orthodox Mormonism


Is there such a thing as orthodoxy in Mormonism? And who has the right to proclaim what is orthodox in our religion that should or should not be believed? I understand and accept that the men I sustain as leaders in the LDS Church have the right to determine and enforce what should be taught in the classrooms and declared from the pulpits of that worldwide institution.

But many things I attribute to Mormonism the religion, are not taught today in the LDS Church. Does that mean the Mormon religion and the LDS Church are two different things? Consider the recent General Conference address from Elder Donald Hallstrom, “Converted to His Gospel through His Church.” He is obviously declaring the Gospel is not the same as the church.

The Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ, the plan of salvation, the doctrines that teach how we can be saved and live forever in a state of happiness, redeemed from death and hell. On the other hand, the church is the institution organized and established by the Lord through Joseph Smith in 1830 that has undergone a tremendous number of changes over the years.

Religion and Church

Although it embraces both, in my mind, our religion is something altogether different from the gospel and from the church. I suppose that’s dangerous ground. If you think about it, I’m saying what I believe to be truth is not limited to what the LDS Church declares to be truth today. That is indeed dangerous ground. It invites speculation that the Church limits us in some way.

At one time we taught that we embrace all truth. Yet some things we taught as truth in the early days of the church are no longer found in our official curriculum. I’m not talking about plural marriage, blood atonement or restricting the priesthood. I’m talking about things like the reality of evil spirits, catastrophes of the last days and the literalness of D&C 93:1.

I feel a debt of gratitude to three men whose views have changed my life. Although they do not want or care for the attention, I would like to acknowledge them, their ideas and their work. Each has worked tirelessly to bring their beliefs to light and I for one have benefited from their work. They illustrate the idea that something from the early days of our religion has been lost.

Jan Graf – Reality of evil spirits

I first met Jan at a time in my life when I was troubled by many things that would not go away. There is no other way to explain it concisely. Because of his ideas and explanations of things, I was able to make them go away. It’s that simple. What he teaches about how to remove distress is nothing new or different. It is simply the application of the principle of forgiveness.

But what is unique, unorthodox and controversial about Jan’s skill in helping people find peace are his beliefs about what causes stress in our lives. It is the idea that evil spirits are real, can be found in the world around us and are very active in afflicting and tormenting us. That is a very common belief in the early days of Mormonism but hardly ever taught in the church today.

I was so excited about the amazing results in my life from what he taught that Carol and I went to St. George to interview him and talk about writing a book. Because what he does is so easily misunderstood, he asked that I not pursue my project. Out of respect I dropped the idea but continue to refer people to him I know could benefit from his stress-reduction technique.

Anthony Larson – Latter-day catastrophes

A long time ago I ran across a book that got me genuinely excited about how the last days are going to unfold. It was not told from a social, political or even religious perspective but from a cosmological view that could only be described as unorthodox. Anthony Larson explained for me how the signs and prophecies of the scriptures are descriptions of natural events.

What he explained in his trilogy of prophecy books was not thought to be so unusual in the early days of Mormonism. We were at one time considered an Adventist church, preparing intently for the forthcoming return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even though his books are based on scripture and statements of early Mormon leaders, today they are considered unorthodox.

I have written many essays about his beliefs and interpretations of scripture. I have attended his seminars, read each of his books multiple times and had many dialogs and conversations about how he interprets myths of the past. I’m in the process of writing a fictional account based on the now unorthodox but one-time common beliefs of this visionary, prophetic man.

Denver Snuffer – The Second Comforter

I was recently introduced to the writings of Denver Snuffer, a man who claims to have received the Second Comforter and was asked by the Lord to write about it. That’s an amazing claim and obviously very unorthodox in our modern LDS church. He has generated a lot of controversy. Some have called him apostate or dangerous and said he should be excommunicated.

I have almost finished reading Denver’s eight published books. I have written previously that I would withhold judgment until I finished them all but I think I have made up my mind. Denver’s advice that we read his books in order has merit. I read them in reverse order. That may have been a mistake, but I survived because I read most of the “alternative views” previously.

I have decided I like Denver, or that I can at least accept and trust what he has written. Just as I have with Jan Graf’s and Anthony Larson’s writings, I have pondered and prayed about what I have learned. I am not dismayed or taken aback by his latest book as some others have been although I confess an initial misunderstanding of how he defines the sealing power.

Spiritual Experiences

I suppose I need to change my bio on Twitter, Google Plus and here on my blog. Because of my acceptance of the beliefs of the three men I have described, I guess I can no longer claim to be an orthodox Mormon. What’s more, I am discovering I am unusual in my church because I have long believed and taught that we can seek and should strive to have “spiritual experiences.”

After years of sharing some of my sacred experiences online, engaging in dialog about the reality of personal revelation, I have come to the conclusion there are many within our church that do not experience communication from the spirit world like I thought everybody did. That sounds weird, doesn’t it? “Spooky,” an embarrassing unorthodox belief, some would say.

Perhaps that is why there are two conflicting cultures within the LDS church today. On the one hand we are encouraged to share our testimonies, which are supposed to be based on personal sacred events. On the other hand, the subtle message is being communicated that we must keep our spiritual experiences to ourselves, because they are “too sacred” to share.

Summary

Orthodoxy seems to be all about what is appropriate and acceptable as the norm. As I wrote at the beginning of this essay, I accept and sustain the right of the leaders of this church to direct what is preached from the pulpit and what is taught in the classroom. The church is a place of order. It is a magnificent, effective organization that does tremendous good.

The meetinghouses, the temples, the missionary force, the humanitarian effort, the welfare system, the lay ministry, the willingness of the members to sacrifice and serve each other all attest to the goodness of this organization. But there is something more to our religion than just the church and our activity within it. There is something intense and personal.

That something today is unorthodoxy. It is our individual efforts to commune with God. It is our testimonies, our spiritual experiences, our determination to study, understand and internalize what we believe. It is developing our ability to hear and respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. It is our participation in the ordinances and adherence to the covenants we make.

Conclusion

In short, it is being different from the world and even from many within the church who are not willing to pay the price of obedience and sacrifice that inevitably bring the promised blessings. The church is not the same as the gospel and the church is not everything there is to our religion. There is so much more to Mormonism but you have to be willing to be unorthodox to see it.

14 Responses

  1. Comments are encouraged but the comment filter is being funny lately. Sometimes it holds comments as spam that obviously are not. Please be patient as I work out the bugs with my blog host. Because of this and other issues, mainly slowness, I’m seriously thinking of finding another host. It is such a pain to transfer everything that I have been putting it off forever. If your comments don’t show up right away, give me a few hours. I check and read all your comments every few hours as my daily schedule permits.

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  2. Very interesting. I always considered myself very orthodox, and considered that a good thing. But through a lot of my reading lately, here and elsewhere, I’ve realized that what orthodox really meant for me was close-minded (I’m not calling anyone else close-minded – just me), and unwilling to accept things because they did not conform to my limited view. I was very skeptical of any spiritual experience outside of the “traditional” still, small voice (I do think it’s quite possible to be deceived, so some skepticism is warranted).

    Anyway, I’d be interested in a further take from you on the church, and what your views mean for your relationship with the church. I like how John Pontius (who writes a lot about seeking the miraculous and manifestations from God) says it:

    Lastly, I think one of the missions of the UnBlog has been to say over and over that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not broken. It is not somehow true-but-not-functioning, or a kindergarten class one must enroll in, and then graduate from to go beyond. The voice of the UnBlog is that this church is true, and it is operating as Jesus Christ directs it, and will be the organization through which He finally authorizes and orchestrates the building of the latter-day Zion. Stepping outside of the fellowship of the church is stepping outside of the path to the very blessings you think you will find beyond.

    http://unblogmysoul.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/looking-back-on-the-unblog/

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  3. I think that there is a difference between not taught and not orthodox. I have heard various parts of the Jan Graf teachings around church many times. The latter-day catastrophes are also discussed as part of a few SS lessons (outside the lesson manual, but in or near the scriptures).
    As for spiritual experiences, there are many people who have them, but most have come to recognize that others do not have the same type of experiences often or ever. There are many operations but there is one spirit.
    Some of this change is clearly a distance from the founding visionary experiences of the prophet Joseph. The last church president who knew many of the early leaders was Pres. Grant, who seemed to have different types of spirituality. Since his day we have also baptized many new converts who come from modern viewpoints with limited context for relating to the visionary aspect you describe. Being a Zion people is more important than building up individual gifts from the church HQ point of view.

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  4. I’m familiar with Anthony Larson and Denver Snuffer, but not Jan Graf. (So, thanks in advance for the reference!)

    If you’ve haven’t read John Pontius, I think he complements Denver Snuffer quite well and would suggest Following the Light of Christ and The Triumph of Zion (along with his blog which Denton already provided a link to above).

    Regarding:

    That something today is unorthodoxy. It is our individual efforts to commune with God. It is our testimonies, our spiritual experiences, our determination to study, understand and internalize what we believe. It is developing our ability to hear and respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. It is our participation in the ordinances and adherence to the covenants we make.

    By that definition the visiting GA who came to divide the stake I live in last year gave a most unorthodox talk in the priesthood leadership session.

    The overall thrust of his message was: 1) All is not well in Zion; 2) Our lives are not as they should be because [generally speaking] we have not thought deeply about doctrines–we need deep thought, prayerful study and preparation; 3) that we need to “unshackle” (I remember that was his exact word) our minds and start literally believing the scriptures–D&C 93:1 speaks of “every soul” not just a select few [at the top of Church leadership]. He elaborated on D&C 93 for some length and challenged us to “find God” ourselves. He told us it is possible to do and become as Enoch if we will do what is necessary to remove our condemnation.

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  5. I have been thinking lately of evil spirits and the idea of casting out devils. This is never talked about anymore. I wonder why.

    Have evil spirits/devils stopped working?

    Are we too afraid in this PC/scientific world we live in to dare bring it up, lest someone be offended or we be called a kook? Everthing nowadays can be explained biologically/psychologically/enviornmentally. Maybe people are just possessed.

    What type of behaviours would indicate that somebody is possessed? Addiction? compulsion? obbsession? temper?

    Maybe the priesthood should step up and be more pro-active in casting out devils. I know, that sounds a bit wacky. But why?

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  6. Aside from some great comments above, I’d also add that it’s dangerous to judge the church as a whole by what happens in the United States, and particularly American West. A less sinister-sounding explanation for the correlated materials is that the church is responsible for instructing a huge diversity of cultures.

    A good friend of mine served in Tonga. His stories of the spiritual beliefs of those people indicate a firm faith in what Westerners would consider ‘ antiquated’ teachings (calling and election made sure, evil spirit, etc.).

    In my experience, the “deep doctrine” is alive and well. My mission president, one of the most orthodox people I’ve ever met, went to great lengths on teaching and giving talks upon making our calling and election sure, personal visitations of the Savior, etc. He even testified that he had that experience for himself.

    The truth of this era in our dispensation is that the culture of the world is particularly strong in modern societies, and purpose the general populace has accepted that culture and mingled with the doctrine which produces our weaker and more watered-down orthodoxy.

    As for the role of church leaders, I find them remarkably more specific and entertaining these “old” doctrines more often in the smaller meetings of the church. I wouldn’t expect to hear those detailed topics at General Conference, because the core doctrine of Christ is the most important and most effective message for the greatest number of people.

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  7. I am interested in locating the book by Jan Graf but after searching the internet and many libraries, I have only been able to find the “Blue Book”. Do you know where to find the “Reality of Evil Spirits”? Thanks

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  8. Hi Anthony,

    Jan did not write a book by that title. I have a copy of an early manuscript that had some sections that dealt with the subject. I was planning to write a book that also referred to that subject but as I noted in the essay, I dropped it at Jan’s request. I can’t speak for him but it’s my impression that he did not want that to be the focus of his work. It’s not.

    My point in mentioning Jan in the essay is that it was from him and others he taught that I first found evidence of the reality of the influence of evil and unclean spirits around us. That had a profound impact on my life and the way I approach the doctrine of opposition. It became much more profound for me, especially in how I respond to that opposition.

    I cannot offer you a copy of Jan’s early manuscript. It is his, not mine. You’re right. The Blue Book contains nothing of this subject or of the practice of muscle response testing. But if you are a client of Jan’s you are familiar with that aspect of his work. I can also refer you to others who use the same technique with the same results.

    I am finishing up an essay this week that deals with the subject. I hope to post it this evening or tomorrow. I know there is much interest in the subject because of the response to essays I have written about it in the past. I don’t know why that is. Curiosity, perhaps? It is such a difficult, uncomfortable subject that is often openly mocked.

    I will respond more on this in response to the private email you sent me. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  9. Update for Anthony: I think the book has finally been published, anonymously online at: http://uncleanspirits.blogspot.com. I have read it in it’s entirity and am of the opinion that the author is indeed Jan Graf. Regardless, it contains so much more than I had hoped to include in the book I was planing to write so long ago when I first discovered this technique of discerning spirits. I highly reccomend it.

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    • Oh, update to my update above: I have been in communication with the author of the Unclean Spirits blog. It is not Jan Graf, or at least he does not identify himself as such. I learned a lot from it but have found some things in it that I am unable to support such as the idea that evil spirits can repent. You can read more in my two essays, “Dealing With Unclean Spirits” and “The Devil and His Angels” both dated 6 August 2012.

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  10. I would love to read the Graf interview, but the link doesn’t seem to be working.

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    • Hi Matthew,

      Sorry about that. My website is down at the moment. I’m still trying to find the time and an electronic home to rebuild it. I’ll shoot you a copy of the Graf interview to the email address you provided in the comment.

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  11. [...] What Denver Snuffer Teaches 06. July 7, 2012 – Deceived by an Angel of Light 07. May 12, 2012 – Orthodox Mormonism 08. May 5, 2012 – Ten Parables by Denver Snuffer 09. April 8, 2012 – Conversing With the Lord [...]

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  12. I haven’t read any of these books but I am curious to read them. Some are on my wish list. I think if you pay attention to your patriarchal blessing and to the things you learn in the temple, you will see that all of the blessings of the temple and the sealing powers are dependent upon our faithfulness, and the faithfulness of those in the spirit world, as well as on the atonement of Christ. We do need to be sealed by the Holy Spirit Of Promise. It’s my impression that once we have entered the gate of baptism, and step by step received the ordinances of the gospel we are on a path of eternal progression where we will receive line upon line as we are ready for it. Remember that Jesus said, “Blessed are they who have not seen, yet have believed.” If we aren’t ready yet for a personal appearance of Jesus, that’s OK. We will surely see and know Him if we keep seeking. “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Temple work is a commandment. I like to think that the Latter Day Saints have the same job as Joseph the son of Jacob. We are a people and a place of refuge and safety in times of trouble. We are here to help feed our brothers and sisters physically and spiritually. As we do this we are working with Christ and his angels even though we are not aware.

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