What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated


WhatToExpectRockWatermanIf you’re drawn to this blog post by the title, I ask you to look past that to the subtitle. It is “The Believing Mormon’s Guide to the Coming Purge.” Although this will be a review of Rock’s book, I hope it will also provide background and detail on why long-time members of the LDS Church would be willing to lay it all on the line in defending an idea that many find shocking.

The idea is this: The LDS Church is in a state of apostasy and has been since before the death of Joseph Smith. The first time I posted about Denver Snuffer, I invited dialog on his teachings. I certainly did receive it – from both sides. One comment in particular stuck with me. I have been pondering it for years, wondering if it represented an accurate summary of Denver’s message.

This is the comment: “Snuffer’s position can be summed up as follows: I was personally visited by Christ who made my calling and election sure, told me I was part of the true church within the dead church, that he would soon call others like me, and it was my job to help with that.” This was from reader “Fred” on 27 April 2012. I wondered what Fred meant by “…the dead church.”

Gentiles Shall Reject the Fullness

Rock’s book answers that specific question. Rock, of course, is Alan Rock Waterman, proprietor of the “Pure Mormonism” blog, a saucy site that dishes out hot servings of LDS Doctrine with a small twist: “…much of what passes for doctrine among my fellow Saints appears to contain ‘the philosophies of men mingled with scripture.’” His writings focus on early restoration doctrine.

Rock examines the warnings of the falling away of the latter-day saints in our day as foretold in the Book of Mormon. Of course, most Mormons scratch their heads and say, “What warnings?” The discussion centers around 3rd Nephi 16:10 where the Lord says, “…when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fullness of my gospel…” Just who are the Gentiles?

In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple (D&C 109:60), Joseph said the “revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles.” In other words, the Gentiles the Lord referred to in 3rd Nephi 16:10 are in the LDS Church. I have heard the arguments opposing this idea and remain convinced Joseph had it right. We are the Gentiles.

The Higher Priesthood Was Lost

Of course, the next question to be answered is what is the fullness of the gospel? Regular readers of this blog know we have examined that question in particular. In summary, the fullness is the higher priesthood. It is actually more than that, but “higher priesthood” is a good summary. That includes the idea of entering into the presence of the Lord and receiving the Second Comforter.

When did the LDS Church reject the Higher Priesthood? Joseph taught in D&C 124:28 that the higher priesthood could only be restored in the Nauvoo temple, and urged the saints to complete it as soon as possible. Sadly, the temple was not completed before Joseph’s death. Instead of the promised blessings of verses 40-45, the church received the cursings promised in verses 46-48.

Joseph desired to bring the Saints into the presence of the Lord in the Nauvoo temple, where the Lord promised he would “bless you, and crown you with honor, immortality, and eternal life.” This is the same thing Moses desired to do for the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, but they insisted God speak only to Moses on their behalf, something Enoch and Melchizedek were able to overcome.

Introduction to Rock Waterman

That’s enough background. If you want more, you can read Denver Snuffer’s books and lectures. He certainly has enough of them to help anyone understand what the Lord was trying to bring about through Joseph Smith and which was cut short by his death. The Lord placed the entire church under condemnation. A modern prophet confirmed we are still under that condemnation.

On to Rock’s book. You’ve got to ask yourself why someone would write a book with such a provocative title. Rock tells you why right up front. He was told by his bishop, who said he was speaking on behalf of an unnamed general authority, that Rock must either 1) Quit blogging, 2) Resign from the Church or 3) Face Church disciplinary action in the form of excommunication.

I was immediately interested in reading Rock’s book for three reasons: 1) I have been an avid reader of Rock’s blog for years, 2) I recently met Rock at Sunstone and 3) I have also been told by my Bishop to stop blogging. I have tried to do as my Bishop requested but after a week-long examination of my feelings and beliefs, have decided I would rather do as the Lord has directed.

Not the Same Church of Joseph Smith

I can’t speak for Rock, but my blog has been a journey of discovery. It has been my vehicle for learning and sharing what I have learned. I love to study the gospel and early church history. I found Rock had a common pursuit in his blogging activities so naturally I was drawn to what he was writing. Rock is a talented writer who has an entertaining although somewhat acerbic style.

The book is 160 pages and can be read in a few hours. I took longer because I wanted to digest the content and compare it to what I was experiencing in my blogging activities. This is the story of a life-long Latter-day Saint who has overcome the blind loyalty to the current managers of the Church operating out of Salt Lake City, which is NOT the same church restored through Joseph.

And therein lies the crux of the matter. If you are convinced the Church today has not changed from the time it was restored, you will not appreciate this book. If, on the other hand, you have seen in your lifetime, as I have, evidences that the Church has become more and more corporate in nature, managed by professionals, then you will find the book helpful in facing the inevitable.

Correlation got Caught by the Internet

Am I suggesting there will be a mass exodus of Latter-day Saints from the Church? It is already happening and has been happening for many years. It started when the Internet became popular. Stories that were once suppressed were being shared in online forums and email reading groups. Today, social media is ablaze with groups dedicated to the sharing of the history of this Church.

The Brethren have made it clear they are concerned about the losses among our Internet-savvy young people, especially returned missionaries, where the losses are said to be as much as fifty percent. Many of these young people are not just going inactive, but are actively resigning from the church, even staging mass-resignation days and sharing form letters online to make the exit.

Why are they doing this? The answer lies in Rock’s book. Remember I asked at the beginning of this post to focus on the subtitle: “The Believing Mormon’s Guide to the Coming Purge.” That’s the key. These young people grew up being taught the “correlated” gospel, went on missions, got married in the temple and then found out surprising things about Church history on the Internet.

Listen to the Prophets but Follow the Lord

Rock is a believing Mormon. I am also. The problem is we apparently believe too much. We believe in things the Church has now abandoned, such as the importance of seeking an audience with the Lord in this mortal lifetime and not resting until it is received. Joseph taught this clearly as being of utmost importance. Today, this doctrine is not found in the LDS Church curriculum.

Instead, we are taught the most important thing you can do as a latter-day saint is to “follow the prophet.” Now, in and of itself, the phrase seems innocuous. The problem is that the phrase is false doctrine. You cannot find it in the scriptures. Or sure, you can find injunctions from the Lord declaring “whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”

What the Lord said was “Come, follow me.” We are to listen to the prophets, consider their words carefully and then pray about them in order to know the truth of their words for ourselves. But that’s not what we teach our Primary children. We teach them the prophet can never go astray. That is simply not true and the Lord never said it, although Wilford Woodruff did.

There is Room for Everyone in This Church

Rock examines these and other examples of how the Church has changed from one led by a prophet declaring the word of the Lord by revelation recorded in the presence of others to a church that only responds to important doctrinal questions through corporate PR staff. He shares the recent case in point of how the church handled the Kate Kelly excommunication debacle.

One case that has come to light in recent years if that of the resignation of the daughter of Elder Malcolm S. Jeppsen, a recently deceased emeritus General Authority of the Church who became famous for his direct involvement in the excommunication of one member of the September Six. As it is contrary to scripture, General Authorities should not be involved in disciplinary actions.

Rock even mentioned my case (on page 106) in which I have been feeling the heat from local leaders for my blog writings about “Maverick Mormons” such as Brent Larsen, Will Carter, Denver Snuffer, Rock, Mel Fish and others. My heart goes out to these individuals who I have met, interviewed and shared their stories. Each is accused of or has been cast off for apostasy.

Get Ready for the Coming Purge

Rock concludes his work with detailed advice on how to prepare for a disciplinary council. Although I have serious questions about the guidance of the church today, I will not resign. Rock has stated the same. Why should we? We believe in the original revelations and in the mission of Joseph Smith. We know the Book of Mormon is scripture and the word of God.

Rock steps you through the process of what to expect from a Bishop’s council to a Stake level council. They are similar but with key differences. Having participated in both for many years, I can tell you he has it fairly accurate. Rock supplies scriptures that dictate how such councils should be held, but of course, the Church Handbook of Instructions supersedes the scriptures.

I highly endorse this book. I give it five stars out of five. I found only two typos, not bad for a self-published work put together in just a few short months. I’ve already given my reasons above why you might not like it. I recommend you read it anyway. Try to put aside anger you might feel about the sharp presentation. If you have an open mind, you’ll find the book enjoyable.

Do This in Remembrance of Me


 

BreadAndWineOn that fateful Passover night in the Meridian of Time before Gethsemane, the Savior instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Sacrament was a change from the way His disciples were used to observing the Passover. Therefore, the Messiah gave them a commandment to do the things which they had seen him do, that is, break bread and partake of wine “unto the end.”

In the Book of Mormon, the Lord gave another commandment to his disciples, “that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily … if ye know that a man is unworthy … ye shall forbid him.” Thus, in our modern Church Handbook of Instructions, we find the same injunction. You also find there the restriction of the sacrament as a punishment.

I would like to investigate the idea of restricting a man from partaking of the sacrament as an appropriate inducement to change his way of thinking. Frankly, I disagree with this idea, and have taken many opportunities to counsel bishops with whom I’ve served, of my opinion in this matter. I was gratified when some heeded my counsel, as I served in the Bishopric with them.

Bloggers and Apostasy

Apostasy is the modern church is nebulously defined. It seems that just about anything can be called apostasy if the presiding authority does not like it. This has become especially evident in the case of LDS bloggers who write things about the church or the gospel that leaders consider offensive. The definition of apostasy from the handbook has been shared before, but here it is:

1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.

2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

4. Formally join another church.

So if a local priesthood leader does not like the tone or direction of a member’s blog, or if other members complain to the local priesthood leader they find the blog content “troubling,” the local priesthood leader can impose punitive measures on the member in an effort to compel, coerce or otherwise control or dominate the member to change written expressions found on their blog.

Guidelines from the Church

Although I quoted these in the comments of my last post, I’ll share them again for clarification:

“Church leaders are not asking members not to blog, and they are not attacking the rights of honest explorers of faith to have these conversations in the so-called Bloggernacle.” Church Spokeswoman Ally Isom on KUER radio, June 16th

“There is no coordinated effort to tell local leaders to keep their members from blogging or discussing their questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue and recognize that today it’s just part of how the world works.”-Michael Otterson, Managing Director, LDS Church Public Affairs, quoted in the New York Times June 18th.

“There is no effort to tell local leaders to keep members from blogging or discussing questions online. On the contrary, church leaders have encouraged civil online dialogue, and recognize that today it’s how we communicate and discuss ideas with one another.” -Jessica Moody, Church Spokeswoman quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune June 19th.

Worthiness is the Key

It seems to me that the Lord’s commandment to his disciples to not allow another to partake of the sacrament unworthily would require a mutual understanding of what constitutes a state of unworthiness. I’m not sure I would define what a man believes or shares in a blog, for example, as a proper manner to determine worthiness. Worthiness is determined by actions, not beliefs.

I think we would all agree a Bishop is doing the right thing in forbidding an individual from partaking of the Sacrament who is involved in fornication, adultery, incest, child abuse, rape, spousal abuse, murder, attempted murder, homosexual relations (not for being gay), robbery, burglary, theft, embezzlement, sale of illegal drugs, fraud, perjury, conviction of a felony, etc.

There are others such as abortion, an elective transsexual operation, predatory behavior with intent to commit bodily harm, and the list goes on and on. By the way, did you know that the charge of Apostasy falls under the category of when a disciplinary council MUST be held? But how can blogging be considered an activity that makes one unworthy to take the sacrament?

Examples of Apostate Writing

I suppose if one writes things like, “Here’s why you should leave the LDS Church,” or “How to lie through the temple recommend interview,” then yes, I think that constitutes heresy, which is the correct word for what we now call apostasy. Apostasy literally means to separate oneself from or to leave a body of believers. We use the word apostasy when we really mean heresy.

By the way, although I know it has an agenda, I don’t think the website Mormon Think is an apostate site. Heck, I even struggle with classifying Post Mormon or New Order Mormon as apostate sites. Recovery from Mormonism is a different story. Proprietors of that site make open efforts to persuade readers to leave the church. I also don’t think Rock’s blog is an apostate blog.

And since we’re at it, I don’t think my blog is apostate even though I have been told otherwise by many who feel it is. My blog is dedicated to discussing the events of the last days, one of them being the prophesied falling away of the Gentile church. Of course, that alone is a matter of contention for many who claim no such thing is prophesied in the Book of Mormon. Yes, it is.

Partaking of the Sacrament

As a clerk or counselor in a Bishopric, I suppose I’ve sat in on dozens of disciplinary councils. As a member of the High Council in another Stake, the number was not so high – perhaps ten. In the Stake Disciplinary councils, the Stake President rarely asked us for advice on what counsel or direction he should provide to the one being disciplined to help them in the repentance process.

However, in ward disciplinary councils, the Bishop almost always asked for counsel. Invariably the standards would come out: Read “Miracle of Forgiveness,” Don’t exercise your priesthood in the church, don’t partake of the Sacrament in the Church, Don’t speak up in Sunday School or Priesthood / Relief Society, Don’t offer public prayers, You’ll be released from your callings…

I almost always asked, “Why are we restricting him or her from taking the Sacrament? Don’t you think it would be helpful in their repentance process to have the Spirit of the Lord with them in greater abundance? Isn’t that what the promise of the Sacrament is all about?” The Bishop would pause, ponder and sometimes say, “You’re right. Strike that one from the list of restrictions.”

Sacrament Restriction as Punishment

I say “sometimes” because not all Bishops agreed with me. Some would respond, “I want him or her to feel the loss.” I never agreed with that but held my tongue. After all, he’s the Bishop and the one entitled to inspiration on what would help the member repent. By the way, almost all the cases in the ward disciplinary councils were related to sexual sins – fornication or adultery.

Ordinarily Disciplinary Councils involving Melchizedek Priesthood holders are handled on the Stake level, but often, almost always when the outcome was not going to be excommunication, the council would be delegated to the ward level. No sisters are subjected to the stake level councils nor are those who have not been endowed. Of course there are exceptions to this rule.

In any event, I simply wanted to post and offer for discussion the idea that restricting someone from partaking of the Sacrament when they are trying to repent may not be the best idea. Yes, we are commended to forbid the Sacrament when the individual is unworthy, but again I ask, unless you consider an individual to be in a state of apostasy, does open blogging make one unworthy?

Invitation to Open Dialog

I have three questions for you gospel scholars out there:

1. The church prohibits members from partaking of the sacrament outside of the Sacrament meeting. The handbook is clear that the Bishop holds the “keys” to this ordinance within the boundaries of his ward. In fact, the handbook states the Sacrament should not be administered at family reunions and such. Could a priesthood holder administer the sacrament in his own home?

2. The Church has substituted water for wine in the Lord’s Supper – the Sacrament. When Joseph went to buy wine in section 27, an angel instructed him that wine should be home-made. Yet we now use water. Perhaps it is because it goes against the Word of Wisdom. I don’t know. Do you think this constitutes a change in the ordinance and thus invalidates it? Why or why not?

3. Do you think it is proper for local leaders to place bloggers under restrictions that include not partaking of the sacrament simply because they disagree with the content of their blog? Isn’t this somehow a contradiction to the Lord’s commandment that we partake of the Sacrament often in remembrance of Him? Does blogging about church practices and doctrines make one unworthy?

Facebook Discussion Group for Latter-day Commentary


LDCFacebookGroupAt the request of my bishop, I have created a new space for those who wish to discuss posts from this blog on a closed Facebook group rather than in the comments below. You can find it at this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/latterdaycommentary/ I hesitated a long time before creating this group. I feel strongly such a move should not have been necessary. If you are LDS and are even halfway awake you should be interested in learning more about the mysteries of the kingdom and discussing them. But apparently the “tone” of my posts has upset too many people.

Best Vacation I’ve Ever Enjoyed

I just returned from two Denver Snuffer lectures in Las Vegas and St. George, then spent three days at the Salt Lake 2014 Sunstone Symposium. This was absolutely the best vacation I have ever enjoyed. I can’t remember the last time I was able to take two weeks off without having to put out some sort of IT fire at work every night from the hotel via Remote Desktop. Some people like to visit relatives on vacation, others go for culture – museums, art gallery, Broadway plays and the like. Put me in a room of intelligent, educated people discussing how the gospel and church affect their lives and I’m in dog heaven.

Upcoming Posts planned for Latter-day Commentary

I knew I had to get the page created and ready to go for the upcoming posts I have in mind: A review of Rock Waterman’s new book, What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated, a review of Denver Snuffer‘s Sunstone talk, Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge, as well as his lectures from Las Vegas and St George – A Broken Heart and a Contrite Spirit. I loved Spektator’s talk on The Latter-day Apostasy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it is a landmark paper that should open the eyes of the most blind of the LDS members among us because of the sound scriptural support contained in the paper.

Renewing the Temple Recommend

I am meeting with my Bishop this evening to get my Temple Recommend renewed. As I wrote previously, I have resolved my hesitation in answering the affiliation question correctly. I now know the correct answer and know the Lord approves because I asked him. I have discussed it with my wife and several blogging buddies and readers in private emails. But just to review, here’s the logic. 1) The handbook is clear the priesthood leader is not supposed to deviate from the questions as recorded in the front of the recommend book. 2) When asked the affiliation question, the answer is no. 3) If the priesthood leader probes, ask for a copy of the official notice from Salt Lake that one cannot hold a temple recommend if they read works from Denver Snuffer. There isn’t one and won’t be one.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

In one of the many conversations I enjoyed while at Sunstone, one of my readers wanted to understand better how to hear the voice of the Lord and discern it from our own thoughts and those of the adversary. I shared many of the experiences I have shared on these pages in greater detail, especially my encounters with the adversary and the importance of the baptism of fire. One of the greatest and most important works we must accomplish in this life is to receive that baptism. It is absolutely essential. I am a witness it is real, it can be obtained, and it is a distinct event – not just a process. Imagine my surprise when a discussion of that very subject came up during the Q&A with Denver. His response: “I promise you the Lord can and will speak to you in complete sentences to your understanding.”

An Additional Witness Has Come Forward

Some have asked for copies of my correspondence with the individual who claimed to have met with the Savior and Heavenly Father at the young age of twenty before he was a baptized member of the LDS Church. I have received his long – 47 page – account and a follow-up 24-page account. I share this with you as evidence there are others beyond the five previously documented cases – I have their affidavits on file – but I have promised him I would not share it on my blog or in any public forum. He authorized the release to two individuals who asked for it, but only if I felt it appropriate. After reading his accounts, I feel the need to engage him in additional dialog before I can share it – but never online – as promised.

An Apostasy From Within the LDS Church

The second document he shared is timely and prophetic. In my opinion – and he noted the same in his written account – there are some things about to come to pass that will amaze and astound the members of the church. I know it’s not fair to tease you like this, but I’ll give you a clue. It involves the fulfillment of D&C 112:24-26. I was introduced to a new word which I’m sure has been debunked by many of my readers, but I’ll throw it out there anyway – Laneshine. For those who follow the link, consider the source. Consider also 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. Has anybody studied this chapter that can offer an inspired interpretation? I’m an open minded guy and thought I had heard all the weird stuff, but this takes the cake. Rob: I’m keeping this private as we agreed – just asking for assistance.

The Gentile Church Will Reject the Fullness

I know this is one of the favorite arguments of those who are opposed to how Denver has interpreted the Book of Mormon. When I was first introduced to his writings I had a hard time with this concept but believe I have now come to understand it. Carol and I discussed this concept, along with many others, during our windshield time on our way home from Utah yesterday. That’s one of the benefits of long car rides together. The idea that the LDS Church could be in apostasy is such a disturbing idea, Carol said even thinking about it made her feel physically sick to her stomach. Here’s a little advice for those who believe this doctrine. Find ways to share it gently, especially to those whose ancestors were converted back in the days of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young. It can be a tough thing to hear.

Open Invitation to Dialog

Many of you know I have agreed to a debate, or rather, a dialog with my long-time friend Bill Mason about the idea of the Lord sending messengers from outside the hierarchy of the LDS Church. I have written about this several times, especially in this post entitled, The Doctrine of Additional Prophets. I knew it hit a nerve by the number of “likes” it received but also by the number of private email messages sent to me with calls to repent, to please consider getting help in casting out whatever evil spirit was afflicting me and numerous requests to remove the post. I will never cease to be amazed why the open discussion of dissident ideas is so difficult for some people, especially those I admire, respect and have served with side by side in the priesthood for so many years. Can’t we just talk?

Comments Welcome on Any of These Ideas

Comments welcome below, on the new Facebook group, via private email, text or a phone call. Let me know how you feel about any of the ideas shared in this post. Help me learn how to present truth in a better way to unify the Saints. Thanks and God bless you my friends. And for the record, I want that temple recommend and believe I am worthy of obtaining it. I sustain the brethren, meaning I have voted for them to lead this church and am OK with following their direction when I know it’s pleasing to the Lord. I am not a “Follow the Prophet” kind of Mormon. I am a “Come unto Christ” kind of member. That’s my mantra. I will do as the Lord directs, and trust me, he does direct me. The heavens are not silent. I have heard his voice and have conversed with Him through the Veil. Cheers.

Live Blogging Sunstone 2014


Sunstone2014This is an experimental post. I’m attending the Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium over the next three days. I’ve chosen some sessions that are pertinent to LDS blogging and would like to add thoughts to this post during each session. I will be using my iPhone to do so because I don’t want to lug my laptop around and I haven’t made that purchase of a tablet just yet. I hope it will prove interesting to some of my readers. By the way, Denver is presenting on Saturday and has promised to post his lecture immediately after the session is over. If you’re in the area, you can attend that Sat 2pm session for $9. Here’s where I’ll be:

Thursday 31 July 2014

8:30 – Repairing the Church – Robert A. Rees. Summary notes: Whose church is this anyway? It belongs to both Jesus Christ AND to the Latter-day Saints. Top-down hierarchy is NOT the only way The Lord intended the church to be managed. The church is broken because the hierarchy has taken control.

The Latter-day Saints have been beaten into submission believing only the leaders have the right to manage the church – as a body of believers. The members are in immense pain and in great need of repairing. We are more afraid of making mistakes than in making decisions.

Robert offered several suggestions for repairing the church. One was to introduce emeritus status for the Apostleship. He also suggested a change in how the president becomes the head of the church. The current system based on longevity is flawed as evidenced by the diminished capacity of the current President.

Another suggestion is a strong need to change how the church responds to criticism, especially from those who blog openly. The hierarchy feels threatened by such openness and tends to crack down with the intent to silence instead of listen, consider and respond instead of the only options we see today: silence or the threat of excommunication. We can do better.

9:45 – Church Discipline: Historical Overview – D. Michael Quinn and others. Summary notes: Banning, shunning, blotting out of names, cut off, expelled. Always seems to be directed toward intellectuals as a threat. Why? Being Ex’ed is considered by leaders to be God’s hammer in the hands of his earthly servants. Sterling McMurin was not ex’ed because of intervention of President McKay.

Tolerance, live and let live, kindness and compassion should be employed long before the hammer. There is a big difference between reasons for church discipline in early church history and the way it is used today. It seems to be used more for the one main, central focus of control, usually of behavior or thought. Excommunication is used as a method of public shaming. Historically, members were ex’ed for non payment of tithing or not obeying the word of wisdom.

The standard narrative in the church states the cause of being ex’ed is not believing the orthodox or conservative way of seeing things, politically or doctrinally, even when doctrinal views or interpretations have changed over the years. The main reason for being ex’ed at least historically is for apostasy as opposed to say, moral transgression.

Armand Mauss pointed out that tolerance of deviant thought or behavior in a young institution was much more commonplace. Today, as the institution has matured, the amount of tolerance decreases and, in fact, becomes almost non-existent. In other words, the church is more willing to cast off the small percentage of members who do not conform to boundaries.

11:00 – Bridging Mormonism and Popular Culture – Stephen Carter, Sunstone Editor and others. Summary comments: Early CCA Christiansen illustrations of Book of Mormon scenes that seem very different from the way we illustrate our scriptures today. Next, Stories of the Book of Mormon, a Deseret News series of comics back in the 1940’s that parents could compile into “Sunday Fun Books” to keep kids quiet in Sacrament meetings.

Book of Mormon stories or the Book of Mormon Reader. In the seventies had different styles when it first came out. Today’s version is unified and correlated. Can you believe that? Even our comic books have been made to look the same. What happened to diversity and imagination?

I had no idea there were so many comic books of the Book of Mormon over the years. I never would have imagined there were so many styles of art – some good and interesting with references to pop culture. Others were way too serious and would not resonate with kids today. Well, whatever helps young people get into the BofM, right?

The presentation included analysis of LDS musical groups and LDS writers. Finally we also considered LDS Science Fiction and Fantasy as well as magic vs. rule-based systems like the LDS church. The best and funniest part of the session was on Mormon memes. The audience was roaring with laughter – we were laughing at ourselves.

2:00 – Author Meets Critics – Will Bagley, Todd Compton and others. This is supposed to be a “vigorous exchange” between “careful readers.” The book is “Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary.” Will Bagley led out with a couple of minor criticisms such as referring to Joseph, Brigham and others by their first names. He then shared a passionate objection to Todd’s defense of Brigham in regards to the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Lindsay Hansen Park shared her criticism that we view, talk about and write about our history from the point of view of white European males. However she gave Todd kudos for portraying the love story between Jacob and his wives. Both Bagley and Hansen Park spoke highly of the book as being well worth the read. Todd of course is the author of “In Sacred Loneliness,” the definitive work on Joseph’s wives.

Elise Boxer gave a wonderful insight into the difficulty of the lack of written records among the indigenous people, including her people, the Dakota. The obvious problem is that any historical work will be missing details that can only be found in recorded oral traditions. Finally, Todd responded to the criticism, although he had prepared remarks and did not have copies of Elise’s or Lindsay’s criticism.

I appreciated this panel showing us how a good review and critique should be done, something I wish I knew how to replicate in a blog format when we discuss doctrine and practice. Why can’t we make points dispassionately and then discuss them with thoughtful responses with the intent of coming to some sort of agreement and unity, even when discussing difficult and challenging subjects such as messengers sent from outside the hierarchy of the church?

3:45 – Flat Church Seeks Engagement – Alternatives to Hierarchical style. Summary notes: hierarchy style is obsolete. The PEC is also obsolete because it is male dominated. Remember, the Church of Jesus Christ is comprised of millions of members in 30,000 congregations. The Church is NOT just what those at the top say it is. The ward is where the work is done. The church is no bigger than a congregation. Work can be done on your iPhone and via Skype no matter how geographically dispersed the congregation has become.

The discussion after the presentation was extremely frustrating because of the example after example of ideas the local members wanted to have implemented, but the bishops and stake presidents are afraid to act because we have been so intimidated by the cultural struggle we have with hierarchical control from the central church committees in Salt Lake.

5:00 – Leaving or Staying in the LDS Church – D. Michael Quinn and Paul Toscano. Summary notes: the LDS church is not Mormonism, it is a subset of Mormonism. The LDS Church has made many mistakes over the years. The church is flawed because it is staffed by the damned – imperfect men and women. The idea that the prophet will not lead us astray is not from Joseph or Brigham. That all changed in 1954.

Twenty-one men who have been sustained as prophets, seers and revelators have been excommunicated or dropped from the church. Therefore some prophets HAVE led members of the church astray. The current mantra of “follow the prophet” is detrimental to the Lord’s injunction to study and seek confirmation of the words of the prophets. The church is a divinely established but flawed organization. Mike concluded by encouraging us to stay in the church to provide goodness in service.

My personal impression is that Mike has a love and passion for the church and the people in it. Mike is coming out with volume three of his series of books about power in the church early next year. It is about church finances.

After a few humorous opening remarks, Paul Toscano then read from his latest book, his memoir. It seems that Paul has not changed much from his angry days when he was excommunicated in 1993 other than he is not so angry. I hate to say it but his reading was a little dry until the end when he expressed his love for his readers and his hope to see us in the resurrection. I got much more out of Mike Quinn’s short paper than out of Paul’s long reading, but that’s a personal preference for Mike’s style and the depth of his passion.

Friday 1 August 2014

8:30 – Church Discipline: Procedural Overview – Robert A. Rees. Opening remarks  by Nadine Hansen, an attorney who submitted a brief in support of Kate Kelly during her disciplinary council. She has launched a website which I haven’t been able to find. She wrote a brief in favor of Kate on the OrdainWomen website from which she read. Nadine made some excellent suggestions on how to remedy the serious problems in our church disciplinary procedures, especially as related to apostasy, or more correctly heresy.

Robert Rees then presented some wonderful observations about his experiences as a Bishop and High Councilor over the years. I have read some if them previously on the blog of Jana Riess – Flunking Sainthood. He also pointed out the need for change in the disciplinary process in regards to apostasy which seems to befuddle bishoprics.

Russell Osmond, a management consultant and motivational speaker focusing on change strategies. He was also a former bishop who shared a story similar to Robert Rees in that an individual he resisted excommunicating  many years ago. He referred to http://mymotivators.com Group name: Sunstone2014

9:45 – The Latter-Day Apostasy – Joe Jensen – http://JustandTrue.com and http://fulness.com (This is a MUST attend)

Presented a paper on apostasy and dissidents. He will also present observations on how the institution responds. Started with Nehor – 14 verses in Alma. Discussed priestcraft. He noted the phrase “follow the prophet” fits the definition of priestcraft – setting themselves up as a light unto the world. Verbal abuse is a form of response of the institution to those they consider apostates. Next considered Alma, who was considered an apostate for following after Abinidi. I’ve got to get a copy of this paper. There are two many good things to record here.

Joe made a wonderful point that the church should allow members to determine for themselves through the Holy Ghost what is true doctrine and apostate doctrine. He also pointed out that the church handbook definition of apostasy is flawed because it is all about actions related to member’s responses to the church leaders as opposed to the gospel. The definition of apostasy should be based on our response to the gospel, not our response to church leaders.

I confess I was enthralled by Joe’s paper. He talks about the Gentiles and the Gentile Church. Who is the Gentile church? It is the LDS church. We are the Gentile church. The Book of Mormon is directed to us as well as the Jews and the Lamanites. We are the intended recipients of the warnings to the Gentile Church. We have rejected the promises and the requirements of the Gentiles. He also pointed out the fate of the leaders of the Gentile Church.

This is a landmark paper. It clearly identifies the prophecy that the Gentile Church will reject the gospel. That’s us – the LDS Church. But the Gentile Church is invited to return. We can individually return by repenting and accepting the gospel, even if the institution rejects the gospel and is rejected of The Lord. Joe’s paper is a second witness of PtHG from Denver Snuffer. It is now posted on his blog. You can read it here: http://justandtrue.com/?p=554

Next presenter is Michael J Stevens, professor of management and organizational behavior at Weber State.  He analyzed the response of the church to the Kate Kelly debacle. The idea of responding to a doctrinal issue with a press release he called “Amateur night at the Apollo.” Michael is an excellent teacher, engaging the audience and supporting Joe’s paper. He compared what is happening today in the church to what was happening with the local leadership at the time of the Savior’s advent.

11:00 – Why we Stay – Dan Wotherspoon, Mitch Mayne, etc… This is a very crowded session.  We will  hear the stories of those who elect to stay in the church in spite of challenges of the traditional faith, as interpreted by the LDS Church.  Boyd Petersen, Wendy Williams Montgomery, Russell Osmond, Jennifer Finlayson-Fife are the speakers. We miss Mitch Mayne who was unable to make it here. There’s no way I can live-blog this wonderful session. If you’ve never attended a “Why we stay” session you’ve got to come to Sunstone and attend one.

12:00 – Free BBQ lunch for all attendees  – Cost for three days is only $85 for first-time attendees. Lunch was OK – hot dogs and hamburgers, sponsored by Signature Books. But I got to sit next to an incredibly interesting group of people including Rebecca McHood, a community activist who has a new website which I’m going to be writing about in a future post. http://iseeuhope.org

2:00 – Church Discipline: Impact on Family, Ward and Community. Session summary: ostracism is very real – guilt by association by ward members toward family members of the one being disinclined. There is also the difficulty when family members know how abusive the member being disciplined really was and then see he only gets a slap on the wrist – like formal probation.

A big problem in the church is that apostasy is not clearly defined when it comes to doctrine. Think of the example of a disciplinary council where the high council simply doesn’t know all the details of church history they should when the subject is apostasy for blogging about that very subject. Another problem is that as those on the fringe are cast off, the church becomes more and more entrenched in the same kind of thinking – that of the local presiding authority.

How do we decide who belongs to our ward and stake communities? Excommunication is always about power – who has it and who is allowed to define the boundaries of our communities. The exercise of church discipline is the “Holy practice of minding your neighbor’s business.” You have two ways people respond to church discipline – some wards treat it as a death in the family. Others practice shunning, which is the more common response along with gossip.

The church seems to be more interested in control of its members than it is with efforts to minister to members on the fringe.  In the presentation the idea of leader roulette was identified – some leaders are quick to discipline while others are much more tolerant. One of the presenters shared her personal example of being threatened with excommunication simply for a Facebook wall post about Kate Kelley and Ordain Women, which is now apparently considered an apostate group. Amazing. It’s obvious the church is all about control now. Control comes from fear.

Boundary keeping is a very important part of any community, especially the church.  The burden of proof on why certain boundaries have been established should lie with the church, or on the individual to explain why they feel or think in a manner that is different from the majority. Mass resignations and encouraging members to request a disciplinary councils – purpose is to get the church to respond as to why it is disciplining Kate Kelly and John Dehlin.

3:45 – Sunstone Town Hall Meeting – not sure there’s much to share from this session. Not quite sure why I chose to attend this session other than a desire to get to know the people who run Sunstone. I’m surprised Sunstone is not in the blogging space anymore. I think that’s one if the things John Dehlin tried to implement. I know there is a blog on the site but it’s a joke. There’s no interaction. It just a place for making quick announcements. I guess the blogging activities changed to the Facebook group – The Mormon Hub: https://www.facebook.com/groups/themormonhub/

I’m glad I attended because the need for help with technology, finance, organization or help with remote symposia. I wanted to ask them in the Q&A about remote or distributed (Skype) participation by volunteers or even streaming the symposia but I’ll bet they’ve already considered that. I did learn there is a symposium coming up in Southern California this fall. I wonder if it’s too late to submit a paper. I don’t even know where it will be held.

5:00 – Theocracy Unfounded: Polygamy Rulings – Utah’s law prohibiting “religious cohabitation” was struck down last December. Decided to skip this session in favor of going to dinner with one of my long-time readers to share ideas and get to know one another better.

Saturday 2 August 2014

8:30 – Apologetic Ethics: defending Your Faith Without Losing Your soul. Seth Payne focused on 1 Peter 3:14-17. Be prepared to defend your faith. Apologetics has increased the amount of available material to those who are interested in discussing Mormonism. If a core view or belief is threatened, the whole fabric and structure of one’s faith can unravel. Defending one’s faith can unite believers. We are not to fear or to be intimidated. But We need to be meek and humble in our defense, not arrogant or argumentative. Simply explain the facts with gentleness and let others respond as they will.

Reverence complements the gentleness we should implement in depending faith. It is the best way to show Christ within us. We need to show respect and understanding of opposing views. Demonstrating your understanding of the beliefs, assumptions and world view of others can only help with open communication. Apologetic ethics is something every defender of the faith should understand and exercise. We are all called to take upon us the pastoral role.

Apologetics can play an important role among members of the church especially in the online world we live in today. Honesty, charity, respect and kindness are the best ways to defend our faith. We never know who will read our online posts and comments. We should never be over confident or assume the absolute rightness of our positions. Prove all things. Hold fast to that which is good. There are many examples of modern LDS apologists who have abandoned their positions after engaging in respectful apologetics and being convinced of a clearer position or more correct doctrinal view.

The purpose of apologetics is to unite souls in faith, not to prove one another right or wrong. Apologetics can and should be an act of faith and devotion. It should bring us closer to God. Those who engage critics should be charitable and respectful or the purpose of the dialog is wasted and turns into a polemic screed. In such cases religion can be the victim of friendly fire. In other words, sometimes apologetics, especially Mormon apologetics can backfire because we defend the wrong thing.

We should not focus on making apologetics meet our expectations. We can inadvertently set up the wrong standards. Arguing historical issues may not be the best way to defend our faith in Christ. Simply engaging in loving, faith-centric dialog should ultimately lead all participants to Christ and enhance their desire to know Him.

9:45 – Life After Church Discipline – Lavina Fielding Anderson and three others. Even though Lavina was ex’ed In 1993, she feels heavy-hearted about the recent sad and unnecessary excommunications of Kate Kelly, Will Carter and the impending actions against John Dehlin and Rock Waterman. We need to separate our worship of God and Jesus with our activity or status in the church. It can stand as an impediment between us and the Gatekeeper there. Excommunication is ineffective when it is imposed involuntarily. It is effective for those who voluntarily confess, repent and accept the imposed sanctions. May we not be found in the seat of the great accuser.

Another speaker, Janice Ririe, told of her own disciplinary council and what a horrible experience it was to feel the toxic shame of having intimate details of her life disclosed in front of the men in her Bishopric. She related the hell she passed through because of the broken disciplinary system of the LDS church. She shared how she finally broke free of the shackles placed upon her by the disciplinary council by learning to accept the undeserved grace of Christ. She has deeply hurt by the disciplinary council and is still dealing with the aftermath many years later.

The next speaker, Flip Johnson, served a mission where he lost his faith, partially due to the management style of his mission president who lied about several things. He worked hard on his mission, especially at the end, when he slept with a girl. He confessed to his stake president and was excommunicated.  He says he had no defense and accepted the action.  His presentation was humorous. He had good things to say about his bishop and stake president. He stake president asked if he was ready to come back. He said not yet. So his stake president said, “then don’t.”

The last speaker, Richie Steadman was ex’ed for nine years. He described his life after being excommunicated – the difficulties. He didn’t like it. He has had his blessing restored. He says he feels stronger for having gone through the experience but that it’s not for everyone.

11:00 – Moderating Mormons in Cyberspace – Rock Waterman http://puremormonism.blogspot.com (This is also a MUST attend for me)

Derek Lee – moderates online Facebook group the Mormon Hub – Sunstone’s online discussion. Jerilyn Hassell Pool moderates Feminist Mormon housewives. Andrew Spriggs also moderates the Mormon Hub. Nicole Forsgren Valasquez also moderates on the hub. Rock Waterman is the only one on the panel who is not a moderator on the Mormon Hub, his site is Pure Mormonism. We talked about keeping dialog on track. The Hub is truth agnostic – meaning it’s not a place for trying to convince others of  the truthfulness of their claims.

Rock had some wonderful comments in response to some of the questions. Nicole gave examples of difficult subjects to moderate such as getting 45 minutes to prepare for the Kate Kelly story.  There is a big difference between moderating blogs and moderating the hub. For example, on my blog – and Rock agreed – we rarely moderate. We, or at least I, am OK with the comments getting off topic. The only time I will delete a comment is if there is an inordinate  amount of swearing or personal attacks.

2:00 – Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge- Denver Snuffer (Please come and join me – It’s only $9 for one session). I’m grateful to have Carol at my side. This is the only Sunstone session Carol wanted to attend. After Denver presents his paper, Dan Wotherspoon will present a response and then hopefully there will be time for Q&A. There are four parts to the paper. Denver will be posting the paper on his blog this evening. I’m not sure I can live blog this. It is too packed with intricate details. I’ll read and comment on the paper some other time.

Here’s a link to the paper on Scribed: http://www.scribd.com/doc/235706812/Cutting-Down-the-Tree-of-Life

But I will share my impression that Denver’s delivery was, as usual, confident, engaging, well presented and well summarized. He raised four specific  points where the church has changed or will probably change either a fundamental doctrine or practice. First was plural marriage, next was the policy of blacks and the priesthood next was the issue of women and the priesthood and finally LGBT issues. I asked Denver if the point of his paper was that the church past and potential future changes was or will be due to social and government pressure for fear of losing tax exempt status. I’m not sure if he answered with a clear yes, but I’m fairly certain I have read a  similar affirmation on his blog.

By the way, I was impressed with the passionate and thoughtful response from Dan. I could feel the strength of his convictions that we should focus on the fruits of  the tree of life. I get the message of the title of Denver’s paper in which he was pointing out that change in the church was being motivated for the wrong reason. But the title included the Tree of Life so I appreciated Dan’s defense of the joy that comes or should come as we partake of the fruit of the tree of life. His response was very moving in this area.

3:45 – Church Discipline: Ecumenical Overview – I enjoyed learning about church discipline in three other denominations – the Community of Christ, the Presbyterian and the Catholic Church. They seem much more focused on keeping the individual within the fold. The threat of excommunication is rare or even non-existent. Big difference from the fear that is generated in the LDS Church to keep members in line with the will of the leaders, local and general, as opposed to helping them / us focus on pleasing Christ first and following the promptings of the spirit.

5:00 – Show us Our Money: LDS Finances – Will Bagley and others. LDS Church members and leaders are largely in the dark about the Church’s finances, even though they have a direct impact on local congregations and stakes. The panel will discuss the consequences that might arise from more transparency about the church’s finances, investments and holdings.

Will started with the Power Corruption Cycle:

1. Power and resources with no accountability
2. Distance from rank-and-file
3. Inflated view of oneself and one’s position.

Rank and file reactions: Compliance, submissiveness, helplessness.

Ron Madson spoke about the Liahona Foundation and the need to help the poor, which is one of the four missions of the church.

There was a lot more but I was too burned out after three days of live blogging to capture the essence of this extremely interesting session. Sorry.

And that’s it for my live-blogging notes from the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium 2014. I hope you enjoyed my comments. I enjoyed being there and thank again the anonymous donor who made it possible for Carol and me to extend our vacation by a week to attend the Symposium. I’m an amateur apologist attempting to use the tools of scholarship on my blog.

Study Required by the Lord

This is a lifelong dream for me. I have always wanted to attend a Sunstone Symposium but in between work and family commitments could never swing it. I make it no secret an anonymous donor generously and kindly made it possible for Carol and me to extend our vacation one week to take in the Symposium. It was a miracle I had no projects requiring my immediate return to work.

And, I’m pleased to report, Carol is attending Denver’s lecture with me on Saturday. I think our dinner meeting with him last week helped break the ice. I am a blessed man. She still disagrees with him but at least she is wiling to listen and consider what he has to say. I pray God to bless our marriage. I hope to see some of you there. You’ve got my schedule and know where I’ll be. Cheers.

Questions on LDS Blogging and Apostasy


StatementOnApostasyIn response to the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, and the pending disciplinary actions against John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman, The Office of the First Presidency issued a statement on apostasy today. As an active LDS Blogger, I am especially interested in this clarifying message positioned as “Addressing Doctrine and Questions.”

Statement from The First Presidency

“In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God.

“We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

“We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding.

“We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them. Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy.

“Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.”

Applying This Statement to LDS Bloggers

While the First Presidency statement is helpful and provides additional clarification to what is found in the handbook, I still find myself uncertain how it applies to me and other LDS bloggers. I met recently with my Stake President and Bishop to review my own blogging activities, which contain questions about LDS history and doctrine, and my attempts to find satisfying answers.

Blog Readers Not Followers in This Context

In the blogging world, readers are sometimes called followers. I have thousands of readers who receive my posts each time I publish. In some of my posts, questions about doctrine, history or practice go unanswered, with open invitations for my readers to offer their thoughts, opinions, ideas and related quotes. I don’t teach doctrine on my blog. I seek answers to honest questions.

Attending Lectures From Cast-off Members

I traveled to Utah to attend a lecture today delivered by a man some LDS members have called a messenger or servant or even a prophet of God. The lecture was the seventh in a series of ten lectures in a series entitled “Forty Years in Mormonism.” Denver Snuffer was excommunicated for apostasy by the LDS church last year exactly forty years to the day after he was baptized.

Desire to Understand Denver’s Message

This is the first of his lectures I was able to attend in person because it coincided with a planned trip to Utah to attend Carol’s family reunion. I am extremely grateful to Carol, who, knowing how much I wanted to attend this lecture on the Savior, surprised me by arranging a rental car for me to travel down to the lecture in the morning and still attend the reunion in the afternoon.

Sharing Ideas of Those Excommunicated

Because I find Denver Snuffer’s books, blog postings and lectures so fascinating, I share much of what he has shared, usually with additional thought about how it applies to me or to anyone who is serious about his primary subject, which is to receive the Savior while yet in mortality. Inasmuch as he has been excommunicated, does my sharing of his ideas constitute apostasy?

Other Bloggers Disciplined For Sharing

I continue to ask this question specifically because of the recent cases of Brent Larsen and Will Carter, two LDS bloggers excommunicated for writing about Denver’s message on their own blogs. If members are “always free to ask questions as they seek greater understanding,” and “asking questions has never constituted apostasy,” why were Brent and Will excommunicated?

Consideration of Specific Open Cases

You’ll have to decide for yourself if Kate Kelly’s action constituted advocacy that went beyond asking questions. John Dehlin’s case has been “de-escalated.”  He will be meeting with his Stake President this weekend. Can John’s Advocacy for greater kindness toward LGBT members be called apostasy? Rock’s case is open. He has been told to stop his blogging activities or resign.

Advocacy, Criticism, Doctrine and Questions

Without arguing the merits of their ideas or causes, I see advocacy in Kate’s and John’s cases. But what about Rock’s criticism of church practices? There is no advocacy there that I can find. As far as I can tell, his local priesthood leaders simply don’t like the criticism. Is that a just cause to ask him to stop blogging, resign or face disciplinary action? Do you see advocacy on his blog?

Bloggers are Targets for Public Opposition

Of course, advocacy is not the only criteria to judge apostasy. There is also the public opposition clause to consider. Before Denver was excommunicated last year, I posted dozens of positive things I found in his books and on his blog that demonstrated his support for the church. I was amazed by the number of opponents who said they found just as many that opposed the church.

Blogging in a Search for Clarification

When I asked for details, one or two readers shared a few quotes they considered to fall into the category of public opposition. I disagreed. I felt they were simply items of fact from our history. Inasmuch as I continue to assert my belief that Denver is indeed an inspired messenger from the Lord, acting as His servant and thus a prophet, am I an apostate because I also blog about it?

Seeking definitions of Some Key Words

I am not advocating anyone follow me or Denver. I am not teaching doctrine. I am asking a few questions and seeking clarifications on some key words. What is a messenger? Can the Lord send us messengers from outside the church hierarchy? Can a man be a servant of the Lord without being a member of the LDS Church? Are there other prophets besides “The” prophet?

Blogging is Usually a Public Activity

Is blogging considered public opposition by its very nature? The church asked us to be involved in the public discourse. We have been asked to let our voices be heard online. What if some of the voices are not quite in harmony with the standard historical narrative? In recent years the church has rescinded or corrected key elements of our history. The church has admitted error.

Blogging is All About Open Dialog

I’ll finish this post with two thoughts. First, I’m not criticizing the church, its faithful leaders, the doctrine, history or practices. I am simply asking a few open-ended questions. I appreciate and accept answers from all readers. I seek my own answers in the scriptures, books and online sources. But I would be a fool to ignore the extremely valuable resource of thousands of readers.

Receive the Words of a True Messenger

Second, I am serious about answering those questions about Denver. He says he is not important. I disagree. In my lifetime, I have never heard a message so clearly from anyone like what Denver has shared. It has always been there in the scriptures. In the three hour lecture today, the great majority of what I heard came from scripture or from doctrine found in the Lectures on Faith.

The Lord Defines a Prophet, Not the Church

Why in the world would the LDS Church cast out a prophet sent from the Lord with a message intended for our salvation and benefit? According to the Statement from the First Presidency today, I am entitled to ask this question. What I heard today was true doctrine. It inspired me. It increased my desire to come unto Christ. For this good thing, the LDS Church has cast him out?

Don’t Blame Me, I Just Report the News


ThisIsNotThePlaceEarlier this month, a Facebook event was created entitled, “This is not the place.” It is subtitled, “Mass resignation from the LDS Church,” and is to protest Kate’s excommunication. The event is scheduled to be held at City Creek Park on 24 July 2014 in Salt Lake City, which is Pioneer Day, a holiday in the state of Utah. I’m sure it will be well attended, at least by the news media.

Mass Resignations From the LDS Church

A similar event was held sometime after the Proposition 8 fallout. I knew some of the people who resigned at that time. I have kept in touch with many of them. They are still my friends on Facebook. They seem happy for the most part, but of course, I only know most of them from interactions on my blog over the years. I also have some friends who are resigning on July 24th.

We Are Losing Some of the Best and Brightest

From what I see, these are young people – well, young to me. I am an old guy, although not nearly as wise and experienced as those who lead this church. These young people seem smart. In fact, in my interactions with them, I know they are. They are, for the most part, college grads with good jobs, well-educated, many being returned missionaries, many married in the temple.

A Serious Step to Get Your Message Across

Why, we must ask ourselves, are these young people leaving the church? According to some estimates I have read, they hope to have thousands participate in the mass resignation. They are also encouraging those who are dissatisfied or disaffected by the disciplinary actions against Kate and John and Rock to ask their own priesthood leaders to hold a disciplinary council.

Understanding Why People Leave the Church

I’m just a blogger so don’t get upset with me for reporting the news. It’s not a secret. But I would like to point out another site created by John Dehlin several years ago specifically to help young people stay in the church, in spite of their feelings about being lied to about church history or about the discriminatory practices against blacks and women or other concerns they may have.

Consider the Contributions of John Dehlin

I have long been a fan or follower of John Dehlin’s work. I believe he has done more good to help those who are disaffected reconsider their desires to leave the church. He is an advocate for the LDS LGBT community and outspoken about marriage equality. I’m not saying I agree with his work as an activist but I do agree with his work to promote tolerance, acceptance and love.

You May Learn Some Things New at StayLDS

If you haven’t been to StayLDS lately, I encourage you to visit the site and view the presentation originally created by John. There is other good material on the site to help foster understanding about why people leave the LDS church. I especially enjoyed viewing the “Top Five Myths Why Committed Mormons Leave the LDS Church.” It may be an eye opener if you haven’t seen it.

Imagine Being Asked to Resign From the Church

John has been asked to resign from the church. He later reported he will be meeting with his Stake President in the next week or so. I met with my Bishop and Stake President earlier this week and am pleased to report we are working things out. I have a new appreciation from my dear bishop of just how my posts have affected some people I love and don’t want to hurt.

For the Record From Daymon Smith

In the spirit of Daymon Smith’s “For the record” posted Thursday, I would like to post my own official statement of disclaimers, specifically for those who want to know what my intentions are and why I write as I do. I record this late at night, in St George, on my way to a family reunion this weekend, after driving all day, so it may be a little incoherent, but I want to get it posted.

Question and Answer with Latter-day Commentary

Q. Do you feel you have changed your style or tone over the years?

A. I didn’t think so until a long-time reader pointed out some differences in the way I answered some questions put to me by a reader. I was much more church-centric back when I started.

Q. Can you explain what you mean by “church-centric?”

A. I started blogging in 2007. I specifically wanted to provide standard answers that I could use in answering all the common questions we were and still are getting on the Internet.

Q. Like what?

A. Plural Marriage, Blacks and the Priesthood, Mormons and Masonry, The peep-stone in the hat, Multiple versions of the First Vision, Book of Abraham, Adam-God, Mountain Meadows, Mark Hoffman forgeries, Elder McConkie’s treatment of George Pace, President Benson and Alzheimer’s disease, Kinderhook Plates, DNA evidence of American Indians, and on and on.

Q. So why do you call these “church-centric” issue and answers?

A. I tried to make my responses correlate as close as possible with what I had been taught as a missionary, what I had read in the correlated church handbooks and CES material when I was a seminary teacher and with the answers I found on official church websites.

Q. And now?

A. I am more focused on coming unto Christ.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I guess I’m not so concerned about all the historical issues the church has had. Most people who have studied them have concluded the church did not record them accurately, and in many cases, changed the record to make it look better. The church has acknowledged this and is doing something about it by publishing original documents from the very early days of the church.

Q. So you no longer focus on answering historical questions.

A. That’s correct. A few years ago I read a book that changed my life.

Q. You’re referring to Denver Snuffer’s “Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.”

A. No, actually, I’m referring to his 2011 book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift.”

Q. You do know that’s the book for which he was excommunicated last year?

A. Of course. But still, it changed my life when I read it.

Q. How so?

A. I could not put it down. I picked it up to give it a quick perusal just before I went to bed one night to see what it was all about. A friend had asked me about it so I bought it and thought I would write a few words about it on my blog.

Q. And…

A. I stayed up all night reading it. It was a spiritual experience for me.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I mean, I had multiple sacred “ah-ha” moments of enlightenment as I was reading, and when I finished, I knelt down and asked the Lord to let me know what He thought about the book.

Q. And He told you?

A. In no uncertain terms.

Q. What did He say?

A. He said I didn’t need to continue my blogging efforts to answer everybody’s objections to the historical difficulties they were having with our church.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because Denver Snuffer had answered them perfectly.

Q. You do know, of course, there are many people who disagree with his conclusions?

A. Of course. But that means nothing when you get an answer from the Lord.

Q. Let’s move on to something else. You said you are more focused on coming unto Christ.

A. Yes.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. I went back and read all of Denver’s books, including the other one you mentioned.

Q. “Conversing With The Lord Through the Veil?”

A. Yes. I decided the most important thing I could do with the rest of my life would be to live in such a way that I am prepared to receive a visit from the Lord in this life.

Q. And you believe that is possible?

A. Not only do I believe it, but the Lord has promised it in multiple places in the scriptures.

Q. Now, be honest. How many people do you know who claimed to have seen the Lord?

A. Less than a half dozen.

Q. And you believe them?

A. Why should I doubt?

Q. Because when you meet the Lord, you’re not supposed to talk about it.

A. That’s a myth, generated by those who can’t explain why it isn’t happening to more people.

Q. Let’s wrap this up. What are you trying to accomplish with your blog these days?

A. Let me do two things. Let me first state unequivocally what I’m not trying to do and then I’ll answer your question to the best of my ability.

Q. Please. Go ahead.

A. First of all, I am not trying to encourage anyone to leave this church. In fact, I am trying to do the opposite. Stay. We need you. We need your strength. We need your talents and abilities. We need your service, your help, your testimonies and your love of the Savior to share with us.

Next, let’s be clear. I am not the cause of anyone deciding to leave this church. Just because I report on events of the day or I write a book review about a controversial book, it is up to the individual to decide how they will take the news or if they like my opinion of the book.

And finally, I want to make sure everyone who reads this knows I have no doubts that God is our Heavenly Father, that He lives and loves us and answers our prayers. I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior, our Lord and Redeemer. He is calling out to each of us to repent and come unto Him. I know Joseph Smith was called of God to translate the Book of Mormon.

He did this through the gift and power of God. It is scripture and we need to spend more time studying it so we can understand God’s will for us in these last days. I know the Lord established His church through Joseph Smith and restored priesthood authority and keys of the kingdom. I sustain the leaders of this church as prophets, seers and revelators and pray for their success.

Q. Thank you. And the last question: What are you trying to accomplish with your blog these days?

A. I am on a journey, a spiritual journey. I have questions I am trying to answer. I am sharing my journey with those who are interested. Sometimes the stuff I write may be mundane and boring. But it is my hope and prayer that something I write can help someone else who has asked the same question and is on the same journey, believing that D&C 93:1 can be fulfilled in mortality.

Q. And that concludes our interview with Latter-day Commentary by blogger Tim Malone since it’s now one o’clock in the morning. We hope to have future interviews and delve deeper into some of the subjects you raised, especially your contention that the scriptures about the Lord coming to visit men and women in this life are meant to be literally fulfilled in a physical way.

A. Thank you. God bless and good night.

Confessions of a Mormon Blogger


MembersFacingDisciplineI thought about entitling this “Lessons Learned from Church Discipline,” but I don’t want that to be the main focus of this post. First, to be clear: In spite of rumors to the contrary, I am not under any restrictions or church discipline. I turned in my temple recommend because I felt I no longer qualified – all based on my understanding of the way I thought a question had to be answered.

So Easy to Be Judged and Misunderstood

One of the things I learned is how offensive this action is to some people. I was truly shocked by the number of private and public emails, blog comments and Facebook comments from people who expressed disappointment, shock and even anger at what I had done. To them, it was as if I had turned my back on the church and was declaring myself a non-believer or even an apostate.

Wisdom in Keeping Some Things Private

I also learned the wisdom of following counsel to keep some things private. I am now certain I misinterpreted my priesthood leader’s request to not write about this on my blog or Facebook. I thought he meant to not share the private details of the conversations, which I haven’t. I believe now he meant to not share *anything* about the process. Too many people have misunderstood.

Yet Open Dialog Helped and Persuaded

OK, so I’m a fool. Nevertheless, I’m grateful for the conversations that ensued with wonderful input from some of my friends who helped me understand what that temple recommend question really means. As they have shared, just because you read material from individuals who have now been excommunicated, it does not mean you are no longer worthy of a temple recommend.

Come to Understand Certain Key Words

You’d think I would know better. I’ve probably conducted hundreds of recommend interviews over the years but never had anyone say anything other than “no” when asked the affiliation question. I thought deeply about those three words: a) support, b) affiliate, and c) agree. They refer to “teachings or practices that are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the church.”

Stigma of Being Labeled an Apostate

I have spent two and a half years reading, studying and trying to understand the writings of one LDS author who has now been excommunicated. In spite of this, I am more confident to answer that last temple recommend question “yes.” There are many, many things in his writings which caused my heart to burn and with which I agreed as I studied them. I found much truth in them.

Support, Affiliation and Agreement

Once this author was excommunicated, I had to answer the question for myself if I supported, affiliated or agreed with his teachings. I made up my mind he was not teaching new things, he was simply offering his interpretations of key scripture. I happen to agree with many of those interpretations. Did that make me an apostate, especially since I intended to go to his lectures?

Responses Based on Both Love and Fear

I discovered the idea of reading the material of a now-excommunicated author and especially my intention of attending a couple of his lectures was particularly offensive to some of the people I know and with whom I keep in touch on Facebook. It confused me. What motivated such words of condemnation? How had I threatened them by my intentions? Were they really that insecure?

Seek Learning by Study and Also by Faith

This particular author is presenting a series of lectures along the Wasatch Front. I purchase the recordings, study the transcripts and write blog posts about them. I do this because I have asked the Lord in prayer for knowledge on opening the heavens, which is the subject being addressed. I have learned answers to private, individual prayer are difficult to explain to those not involved.

Must Experience It Yourself to Relate

It reminded me of my missionary days and the salt analogy from President Packer. I had tasted salt. In my personal and private prayers, I received undeniable witnesses I was on the right path for me. The Lord was pleased with my studies, my efforts to understand the truth and my future intentions to deepen that understanding through attending lectures discussing profound doctrines.

Takes Time to Understand Deep Doctrine

After many discussions, Carol has agreed to attend two of the lectures with me in July, although I know it is not something she really wants to do. As part of my “due diligence” in forming my opinion and ascertaining truth for myself, I felt it important to experience the lectures in person. There’s nothing like hearing someone teach in order to get a better understanding of their spirit.

Continue to Invest in Close Relationships

That brings up another thing I learned – the importance of lots of open conversations with others in your family who are invested in your spiritual standing with the Lord and the church. I tried to reassure Carol over and over that my many hours of studying this material – along with studying the scriptures – will NOT lead me away from her, from the LDS church or from our Savior.

United as a Family in This Challenge

I believe Carol has a right to participate in my upcoming counseling session with the Bishop and Stake President this week. I intend to ask them if she can attend the meeting. Ordinarily, such interviews and counseling about temple worthiness are conducted separately, even when husband and wife are being interviewed for the recommend renewal process. That’s just the way it is.

Surprise at the Rapid Growth of the BlogGrowthOfBlog

I am extremely appreciative of the thousands of people who read my blog. Each time I write a post, it goes into the news feeds or email boxes of people all around the world. I know because I have reviewed the list of subscribers. There are many additional thousands who come to read my blog each time I post something new. Hundreds have joined the dialog to share their comments.

Thoughtful Comments From Blog Readers

For the most part, readers and commenters on the blog are civil and respectful toward each other, even though my subjects tend to cause strong feelings. There are those who are supportive of the conclusions I have reached in my studies and those who see them as heretical or false doctrine. I am constantly reminding my readers I am not teaching doctrine – only expressing my opinions.

Facebook Readers are a Different Breed

On the other hand, I notice the dialog on Facebook has a different tone. It seems more combative with occasional personal attacks. For a while I disconnected my Facebook connection to the blog until I saw how many hundreds of readers came from Facebook. Every blogger seeks readership and I am no different. I write to be read with the hope of being understood, otherwise why write?

Grossly Uninformed but Still Opinionated

Many of my readers have taken the time to read, study or otherwise come to an understanding of some of Denver Snuffer’s commentary on the scriptures. Others have a cursory comprehension based on the summaries of others. That’s unfortunate. They come across as misinformed and even bigoted because they have missed the wonderful depth of doctrine that he has explicated.

A Closed Mind is a Dangerous Thing

It never ceases to amaze me that people want to talk about Denver as opposed to my desire to discuss the scriptures he has opened to unorthodox interpretation. It also surprises me how many people are adamant they know such interpretations are wrong because they do not fit what we have taught in the standard historical narrative over the years. Their minds are closed – period.

Equally Yoked – Both Love to Write

Carol and I have discussed this often with specific examples of individual cases from my blog. Since Carol is a writer with some experience and skill, having invested thousands of hours in her craft, I know she can relate when people are dismissive of her ideas about superior ways to get a story across. I am grateful for my dear wife who accepts the importance of continually learning.

Edifying Content Can be Controversial

When I first started sharing my study notes, observations and commentary on the things I was learning from this writer, I was surprised at the polarity in the feedback. One of the best tools of a writer is persuasion. Everyone should learn to write persuasively. Writing with passion is also a skill that helps get your point across. But there is a difference between passion and ad hominem.

Persuasion Part of Power in the Priesthood

As I have attempted to share what I have learned about certain uplifting subjects such as power in the priesthood, it became clear even long-time members of the church do not understand the source of that power and the only authorized way the Lord endorses our exercise of that power. They seem to be confused between authority and power even though it’s such a basic doctrine.

LDS Bloggers Being Excommunicated

Because I have written so much about what I have learned by studying the scriptures behind the doctrines expounded by this particular writer, I became concerned as I was made aware of others who were being excommunicated for what appeared to be simply reading and commenting on the same books I was studying. My fellow bloggers were excommunicated for endorsing a book.

Practices of Fear and Control in the Church

I knew about the Strengthening Church Members Committee from the excommunications of the September Six back in 1993. I remember those days. It put a real damper on intellectual pursuit of the doctrines of the gospel. It initiated a period of time where nobody dared to ask questions anymore for fear of being reported by the SCMC committee to their local priesthood leaders.

Strengthening Church Members Committee

Now, I don’t think the SCMC is particularly looking to find fault with my material, but I have to wonder at some of the IP addresses in my logs that come from downtown Salt Lake City. I know I have readers in the Church Office Building. Some of them have written and called me. I have enjoyed our discussions. Thousands of readers come from Utah but don’t comment. That’s okay.

Guidelines from the Church PR Department

I’m not paranoid. I’m just concerned, especially after learning of the excommunications of some of my fellow bloggers who write about the same subjects. In light of the disciplinary action for Brent Larsen, Will Carter, John Dehlin, Kate Kelly and Rock Waterman, the church recently responded with some helpful guidelines. My friend Log helped me parse the church statement:

  1. Insisting on changes to “Church” doctrines or structure.
  2. Recruiting others.
  3. Creating organized groups. <—- that’s “affiliate”.
  4. Staging public events.
  5. Creating literature. <—- books and blogs qualify.

Tone of Your Writing Determines Response

Based on these guidelines, there’s no doubt the church IS looking at the blogs of the members, searching for content with the wrong “tone.” Clearly, “How and why one asks is as important as the questions we’re asking.” I hope I’ve made it clear. I have questions but I don’t feel there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t consider them doubts or present them as such to anyone else.

Leave Official Doctrine Up to the Church

Another key for LDS bloggers is to avoid teaching. Leave that up to the church. Pondering and speculation are OK. Some doubt the profitability of speculation. I don’t. I love to consider “what if” scenarios. I guess it’s the computer guy in me. I do that all the time at work. Otherwise, you might find yourself called in by your Bishop or Stake President asking specifics about your blog.

Future Direction of My Blog

To close this post, and hopefully encourage some of my readers who wonder about where I’m going with this, I thought it might be helpful to share my conversation with Carol in our weekly family council this afternoon. Because she loves me and seeks reassurance, she is also concerned about what I am doing with my blog, my studies and what I intend to do with what I am learning.

Reassurance is Always Helpful

We went over the five points of testimony. I assured her I know God lives. We pray together as a couple each morning and night. My personal prayers are rich, rewarding and fulfilling. I know my Savior lives and loves me. I feel His presence during the day. I am certain he walks with me and is very interested in how I respond to the daily challenges I face with work and my blog.

My Testimony and One of my Questions

I know Joseph was a prophet of the Lord and received keys to administer this latter-day work. I know he received the priesthoods – both Aaronic and Melchizedek – and passed on the Aaronic priesthood to the church. The power of the Mechizedek priesthood must be received by each of us individually. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by the gift of God.

God Bless our Prophets and Apostles

Some have expressed difficulty with my qualifications of the priesthood as I have described it above. That’s one of the questions I am working out in my own mind. I sustain each of the fifteen men to whom we have given the title of “Prophet, Seer and Revelator” in this church by common consent. I pray for them each night. I am happy to pay my tithing to the LDS Church.

Acceptance of Local Priesthood Counsel

I look forward to receiving counsel from my local priesthood leaders this week. I plan to fast all day before our meeting as I seek to be humble before the Lord. I intend to accept and implement any counsel they offer, or any discipline they feel needs to be administered. However, if asked to remove my blog, I will need to talk to the Lord about that as I feel He approves of my blogging.

Need Official Guidelines for LDS Bloggers

Note: I started blogging in 2007 just slightly prior to this invitation from Elder Ballard for LDS Members to get involved in the “online conversations” about the church. It sure has taken a long time for the church to finally start coming up with some guidelines about what is and isn’t acceptable in our blogging efforts.  I wonder what took them so long. Didn’t expect this kind of response?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,504 other followers

%d bloggers like this: