Coming Unto Christ Through Reading


ScriptureStudyLDSOne of the books we were allowed to bring with us on our missions back in the 70’s was Jesus the Christ by Elder Talmage. I remember reading it as part of our personal study time. The little white missionary handbook that laid out our daily schedule included one hour of personal study time but we often found time during lunch or just before we retired around 10:30 each evening.

Even with reading the book several hours each day, it took at least a month to get through it. I had to look up so many of the words that were new to me at that age. We were allowed to read The Articles of Faith and The Great Apostasy, both by Talmage, also A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards and D&C Commentary by Hyrum M Smith and Janne M Sjodahl.

Different Apostle for a Different Generation

Words are important. They convey a world of meaning. The little book that got me through Jesus The Christ was called Understanding Talmage, 1973 from Deseret Book – forty pages of words not found in the every-day language of middle-class 19-year old LDS missionaries. Talmage was on one level and I was way down on a much lower level when it came to his massive vocabulary.

Later in my life I read the Messiah series from Bruce R. McConkie. I found the books easier to read, mainly because I was older, had a college education behind me and frankly, I don’t think McConkie used quite so many erudite words. I felt a greater sense of majesty about the Savior as I read McConkie’s books, quite different from the rather scholarly approach I got from Talmage.

Except Some Man Should Guide Me

It was not until I read The Second Comforter and Come, Let Us Adore Him by Denver Snuffer that I began to feel a connection with the Savior as someone with whom I could relate. The Lord became a friend, a brother and a mentor. Something in Denver Snuffer’s books touched me in a way Talmage and McConkie could not. I’d like to investigate that difference in this short post.

I’ve read and heard many people say, “You shouldn’t need to have someone else interpret the scriptures for you. You should be able to get everything you need out of the scriptures.” Sorry, that doesn’t work for me. I’ve noted before, I feel like the Eunuch reading from Isaiah asked by Philip if he understood what he was reading. “How can I, except some man should guide me?”

Those Who Know Don’t Talk About It

I’m not saying Talmage or McConkie have not met the Lord. Goodness knows we adore Elder McConkie’s last conference talk as being a witness of that fact. On the other hand, neither of them ever came out and said, “I first met the Lord on such and such a date. He ministered to me. We embraced. I felt the wound in his side and touched the nail marks in his hands and his feet.”

There are many who continue to respond the same way to every essay I write which includes a reference to Denver Snuffer. “You can tell Denver Snuffer is a liar because God tells men not to talk about the experience when they come into the presence of Christ.” We have discussed this myth ad infinitum on this blog starting with my first post on Snuffer back in February of 2012.

Bear Witness of the Testimony of Jesus

I am a witness that God asks us to share sacred experiences as appropriate. I have been prompted by the Lord many times to relate some experience in conversing with the Lord through the veil. On the other hand, some things should never be shared, nor can they be shared because words fail when trying to relate such experiences. They are intended only to prepare us for the next life.

Perhaps I relate better to Snuffer because I’m older now. Denver and I are similar in age. He is an attorney, while I am employed as a computer professional. His vocabulary does not seem to overwhelm me. I enjoy his writing style, even though I have complained in the past about his tendency toward verbosity and replication. That skill is actually the sign of a good teacher.

Seek Balance Through Service to Others

My mother was a professional educator. My love of learning and of books comes from her. My personal library contains numerous books inherited from my mother. My sister, a librarian, has an equal number. I seem to spend all my spare time reading. Physical limitations kept me from participating in sports and kept me from following the military career exampled by my father.

The argument can and should be made about coming unto Christ through service. I fully agree, but there is nothing that can replace studying about a subject or individual to obtain a foundation upon which to build. Thus, coming unto Christ by reading is and has been my focus. I spend far more time reading than I do in service. I know that’s imbalanced, but it’s the way it worked out.

Reading and Learning Motivates Action

I’ve reviewed the Second Comforter in several previous posts. I tried to relate the points that I found enlightening. I was amazed to find multiple readers wanted to argue with me about the source. Their contention was that nothing from Denver Snuffer could be trusted, especially since the man had been cast off from the LDS Church for apostasy. That seems a little close-minded.

The book was published in 2006. Since then Denver has come out with numerous other books and multiple lectures, all focusing on the same subject of coming unto Christ. As far as I can tell his message has always been, “You can read about it all you want, but until you actually do what the Lord directs, you’ll never obtain the desired goal of entering into the presence of the Lord.”

A Book on How to Meet the Savior

I think that’s the difference I find in Snuffer’s books about the Savior as compared to Talmage, McConkie, or others who have written about the Messiah. Denver’s books invite us to action, and contain promises of results, to which he bears witness by personal examples. Church leaders today simply don’t come out and say, “I have seen him and so can you. Here’s how you do it.”

I suspect that’s the appeal of Denver Snuffer to so many like me who have long believed the promises of D&C 93:1, D&C 107:18-19 and D&C 88:68. I suppose that’s why hundreds flock to his lectures in spite of threats from local church leaders to “stay away from that apostate.” There are those who recognize not all truth comes exclusively through the LDS General Authorities.

Suffering in the Garden Came in Waves

I have written previously about my own witness of what I saw in the Garden of Gethsemane, but it was nothing compared to the witness borne by Denver in his book, Come, Let us Adore Him. I challenge anybody to read the chapter on Gethsemane with humility and then come away with anything but great adoration for the Lord and Savior of us all for what he suffered on that night.

Wave after wave of suffering, torment, grief and pain tore through his body. He healed himself using his own virtue because he was a God, even the Son of God. He suffered the pains of both those who caused the sorrow of others and those who were the victims. The greater suffering came in the second wave – that of the victims – who suffered anger, bitterness and resentments.

We Can Hear His Voice as we Read

How grateful I am to know we can have a direct and personal relationship with our Savior. He wants to talk to us, to commune with us and to dwell with us. I learned this in greater abundance through reading the words of a man now cast off by the LDS Church. Yes, I had read and knew this previously, but I didn’t internalize this until it was explained in words I could understand.

How can a man come to know the Master unless someone teaches him? How can someone teach of the Master unless they know him? There is so much out there written about the Savior. Those who have taken the Holy Ghost for their guide will recognize the Master’s voice, no matter what the source. His promises to come unto us, to dwell with us are real and can be literally fulfilled.

The Promises of the Lord to Us

One of the great promises of the Lord to us is that his work is not yet complete. What he did while upon the earth, teaching, preaching and then suffering for us, he called his preparations. For what was He preparing? He was putting into place the mechanism for us to fulfill our life’s work, which is to exercise faith in Him, to repent, and then to be baptized by water and by fire.

“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” One of the most common topics of my private emails seems to center on the process of how one can receive the baptism of fire.

We Can Know and Hear the Voice of the Lord

The second most common topic is how we can hear the voice of the Lord. The answer lies in the first question. Once you receive the Holy Ghost, you can speak with the tongue of angels. Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

The scriptures act as a Urim and Thummim or a conduit for the voice of the Lord to come unto us. The more familiar we are with the scriptures, the more familiar we are with the voice of the Lord. We learn to distinguish that voice, oftentimes delivered to us by angels and sometimes by the Lord directly, from all the other voices we hear. We can also speak by that same tongue.

Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy

Joseph Smith linked revelation from the Lord with our own salvation. Without it, we cannot be saved. “Salvation cannot come without revelation. It is vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy.” (DHC 3:389)

I thank God for the knowledge of Christ or the testimony of Jesus that has come into my life both through studying scripture and the words of those who know Christ today. My efforts to put into practice acts of kindness and service are directed by the ongoing voice of the Lord that comes to me through the Holy Ghost. We can know Christ. We can hear His voice. But we must study.

Learn by Study and by Faith

We must understand doctrine.  We must study the scriptures.  But more important than anything else, we must seek to gain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord directly. In this post I have focused on the importance of studying. I have strong feelings about studying because in my rebellious youth, I felt I didn’t need to study. The Lord showed me otherwise.

But there is a better kind of knowledge, one that has greater eternal impact. As Joseph said, “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” He also declared that “the best way to obtain truth and wisdom is not to ask it from books, but to go to God in prayer, and obtain divine teaching.”

May we do both with faith and diligent effort. God will bless us for so doing.

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?

Keys of the Kingdom Revisited


Keys-of-the-KingdomCarol and I have had a running conversation since Sunday about the succession crisis at the death of Joseph. To me, it has become the crux of the matter when considering the legitimacy of the LDS Church as the Kingdom of God on the earth. We have both been taught all our lives that Brigham had the Keys of the Kingdom and therefore nothing was lost when Joseph was killed.

Before I present anything may I remind everyone that this is the blog of a private member of the LDS Church and in no way represents the official viewpoints or doctrines of the LDS Church. For that, go to lds.org where you can read the official narrative of how the succession between Joseph and Brigham took place. I won’t review it here. I assume you are familiar with the story.

Second point: if my writing about this bothers you, please don’t read it. I am simply trying to understand our history more perfectly. If the history of our Church is not something that has anything to do with your faith or your willingness to follow the prophet or the Savior then go elsewhere. Pease ignore what I am about to present if the succession issue was settled in your mind long ago.

The Death of Joseph Smith

Up until a few years ago, I had no problems with stating Brigham was just as much a prophet as was Joseph. I accepted the standard narrative that the keys of the kingdom were given to each of the apostles by Joseph before he died. I’m sure we have all read the story of Brigham’s concern when he heard about Joseph’s death. He was with Orson Pratt in Peterboro, New Hampshire.

At first, Brigham was not sure and did not know how to proceed. He had to think about it. This was new and unexpected. It had never happened before. Hyrum was the intended successor, but he died before Joseph. Then Brigham remembered the Twelve had the keys. Section 107 tells us the Quorum of the Twelve is equal in authority and power to the Quorum of the First Presidency.

Legal Successors to Joseph

Brigham did not consider himself to be the legal successor to Joseph. He believed that right belonged to either Joseph Smith III or David Smith. He long hoped for the Spirit of God to move either Joseph or David to fill the station Brigham believed their father had appointed to them. We see things as being very clear and orderly today. At the time, they were not so clear to Brigham.

Brigham said, “[Joseph’s] boys … are in the hands of God, and when they make their appearance before this people, full of his power, there are none but what will say- “Amen! We are ready to receive you.” He also said, “The brethren testify that brother Brigham is brother Joseph’s legal successor. You never heard me say so. I do not think anything about being Joseph’s successor.”

Elected to the Position

In the great debate between Sidney and Brigham, both claimed they would be caretakers until Joseph’s sons could lead. Brigham relied on the idea that he possessed “all the keys” and was voted into office. When he became President of the Church, he recorded in his own journal he was “elected” to the office. He did not believe he needed any ordination to assume the office.

Did you catch that? Brigham Young was never ordained to be the President of the Church. He was only elected or sustained to the position. Common consent was all he felt he needed to take over the leadership of the Church. And he got it. Things were different in the early days of the Church. The position exists by reason of common consent and gives all the authority needed.

Authority and Power not the Same

Authority in the Church was derived from the consent of its members. However, authority is NOT the same as priesthood. While many have been called, few have been or ever will be entrusted with the power of the priesthood. Power in the priesthood is received by God and not by the laying on of hands. Power in the priesthood cannot be passed from one man to another.

I’ll state it again: Authority in the Church is not equal to power in the priesthood. President Packer made this clear in an April 2010 General Conference address. “The priesthood does not have the strength that it should and will not have until the power of the priesthood is firmly fixed in the families as it should be.” The power of the priesthood cannot be controlled by men.

Power not Controlled by an Institution

Power in the priesthood comes from heaven or it does not come at all. There has never been an institution entrusted with the power of heaven, and that includes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church can convey authority for men to rule over one another throughout the world. But the power of the priesthood comes only one way, and that is by the voice of God.

As the revelation to Joseph states it, man, or the Church does not have any right to either confer power in the priesthood or to prevent it from being conferred. Heaven alone determines if a man will be permitted to act as one of Heaven’s chosen high priests. Ordination is only an invitation. God alone confers the power. Any priesthood holder who has thought about this knows it is true.

Priesthood Independent from the Church

Priesthood and redemption are tied together. And if Joseph Smith’s revelations are to be trusted, then the church does not and cannot control either, because God controls both. Establishing the church was distinct from restoring the priesthood. And priesthood has existed, can and does exist independent of a church. Joseph’s revelations and ancient scripture repeatedly teach this truth.

The Church is completely dependent upon the priesthood to fill the male offices of the Church, but the priesthood still remains independent of the Church. The Aaronic priesthood has power for angels to minister, but Melchizedek priests may behold the face of God. When a man such as Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son in 1820, he must have held the higher priesthood.

Higher Priesthood Comes Only From God

No man can see the Father without this priesthood and live. Therefore, Joseph had this higher priesthood even before the appearance of angels who later conferred priesthood upon Joseph. It is apparent Joseph was among those whose priesthood reckons from before the foundation of this world. The higher priesthood does not come from a man. It is only given by the voice of God.

Priesthood power is clearly something different than an ordination. But it is clear the only thing an ordination accomplishes is to invite the one ordained to connect to heaven. It is from heaven alone that priesthood power is obtained. An ordination confers an office in the Church, but an office in the Church is not synonymous with the power of heaven or power in the priesthood.

Ordinances are Invitations to Get Power

There are two different kinds of apostles. One is an administrative office in the church. The other is a witness of the resurrection, who has met with Christ. When Brigham was ordained an apostle, he was told his ordination was not full and complete until God had laid His hands upon him. The Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?

Most of the ordinances of the church are not the real thing. They are types and symbols of the real thing. They are official invitations, authorized by Christ, and extended to any person who will join the Church to go and get the real thing. Any person who has priesthood conferred upon him will need to go into God’s presence and receive power in their priesthood, through the veil.

Brigham Claimed to Have All the Keys

Every person who joins the church and keeps its ordinances will be invited through these very ordinances to come and receive the Lord. When they do come into His presence, they will find themselves in possession of promises, rights, privileges, power and covenants for themselves and their posterity, for all generations, and into eternity. They will have then turned unto the fathers.

Brigham’s claim to be in possession of “all the keys” previously conferred upon Joseph by heavenly messengers raised the question of exactly what was included in the conferral. Even today there is no full description of what keys were involved or what rights were included. Today, the claim is that the keys identified in section 110 are what were passed to the Twelve.

Joseph Never Taught Section 110

I have a copy of the Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, volume 1 in my possession. I read with interest the account of how section 110 came to be. It was recorded by Warren Cowdery, not as a direct eyewitness but being copied from some document no longer extant. This account is written in the third person and describes the visit of the various messengers to Joseph and Oliver.

The account of section 110 was not inserted into the record until many years after the deaths of the only eyewitnesses, Joseph and Oliver, who never taught or mentioned they had been visited by Christ, Moses, Elias or Elijah in the Kirtland temple. It was not discovered until 1852. In any event, the wording states the keys were committed, as if Joseph already had the sealing power.

Visit Of Elijah Still a Future Event

Until his dying day, Joseph referred to Elijah’s return as a still future event. Brigham Young was ordained an apostle in 1835, more than a year before the 1836 appearance of Christ, Moses, Elias and Elijah in the Kirtland temple. Joseph did not participate in Brigham’s ordination. Brigham was ordained by the Three Witnesses. How then, did Brigham receive the keys of the kingdom?

The Apostles were all invited to complete their ordinations by having hands laid upon their heads directly by Him who had the right to confer the Apostleship with power. Brigham Young never claimed such an ordination ever happened. Quite the contrary, he claimed the Lord never visited him. He said he never had any being from a higher sphere visit or speak with him in his lifetime.

Fullness of Priesthood Never Conferred

Brigham Young was correct about who should lead the church after Joseph’s death. The Twelve Apostles were entitled to lead the church. Section 107 makes this clear. The Church has the right to function as a complete organization with all the offices we have today. It also has the right to sustain by common consent individuals to those various offices, constituting authorized leaders.

Did Joseph die before he conferred the keys he held upon another? Was something vital lost to the Church when Joseph was taken? It is clear the Church was offered the fullness, but a temple was required to reveal it. Once completed, it would be the Lord that would confer priesthood power upon the saints, transfer the fullness of the priesthood, and then come to dwell with them.

Keys of the Kingdom Were Lost

But the temple was not built in time. Joseph even offered to sacrifice his life to give the saints more time. His offering was accepted, yet the work was not completed in time. In fact, the temple was never completed. The Lord never visited the building. The promised fullness was not passed to the saints in the manner section 124 commanded. Something vital was lost for a time.

Joseph’s death did not end the Lord’s plan for the Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon confirms the gentile church – we are identified as such in D&C 109:60 – will remain part of God’s plan from the moment of the restoration until the New Jerusalem is built. And so it has. But what keys, if any, were passed from Joseph to Brigham? Who has the Keys of the Kingdom?

Rebuttals Welcome

Parting the Veil


BeStill_FribergI yearn to connect with the powers of heaven. Each morning in my prayers I ask the Lord to walk with me. Each night I ask Him to part the veil that I may see and understand His will for me. On occasion, He does just that. May I share two such experiences from many years ago that remain with me still? I have often wondered why the Lord revealed them to me when I was so young.

Expanding the Mind

At seventeen years of age, most young people don’t have sufficient life experience to know how to keep themselves within the bounds the Lord has set. In fact, they usually don’t know just what those bounds are or why He has set them. New friends come into their lives, bringing new ideas and new things to share. Sometimes, the things shared seem to open the mind but are deceiving.

Cryptic? I think you can read between the lines. After six months I decided I had been deceived long enough. I found myself on my knees pleading with the Lord to redeem my soul from hell. Night after night I cried unto my God. I apologized. I begged for forgiveness. I felt the pains of a damned soul. I could not seem to shake the feeling of being lost, or of having lost my birthright.

The Lord Calls Unto Me

I was not an addict, or was I? Cravings to turn to old ways of sin enticed me day and night. Yet in my prodigal days before going cold turkey, I felt the constant beckoning of my Savior. “Come back to me,” he cried. “This is not what you want. This is not real. I have something better. I can show you what is real.” I held on to this promise through days and nights of pure torture and hell.

I turned to scriptures I had casually carried with me every Sunday, but had not taken seriously. I was especially drawn to the large print, early-morning edition Seminary scriptures. I found in them passages I had underlined. They reminded me of lessons taught by loving and sacrificing seminary teachers who gave of their time and sleep in an effort to reach out to me in my youth.

Putting Off the Natural Man

One night, after an especially difficult day, I found myself in the Book of Mormon, reading the discourse of King Benjamin to his people, sharing the words of an angel he had received only the night before. “Awake, and hear the words which I shall tell thee; for behold, I am come to declare unto you the glad tidings of great joy.” I pondered the idea of being taught by an angel.

Closing the book, I knelt in prayer and poured out my soul for the Lord to save me. I had read once again that “…the natural man is an enemy to God…unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man…” How many times had I read this before? I knew it by heart. Even in the 1970’s we had scripture mastery. This was one that always impressed me.

The Sin of Rebellion

I next remembered another scripture lesson from my Old Testament teacher. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee…” Me, stubborn, rebellious? Yes, you, my son. It sank deep into my heart. I had rejected the word of the Lord. Does that mean he had rejected me?

I cried unto the Lord for peace, but no peace came. I pled for mercy, knowing I did not deserve it. After what seemed like hours of wading through the darkness with a broken heart and contrite spirit, I began to feel a lessening of my burden. I sensed a change in my body. I felt lighter. Did I imagine it or were the cravings really gone? In their place I felt something different in my heart.

An Angel Sent to Teach Me

“Be still, and know that I am God.” I stopped my crying. I became aware of the presence of something or rather someone powerful. This was a new experience for me. This was the first time the heavens had parted. Did I see anything? No, my natural eyes saw nothing. In fact, they were still closed. I sat still for the first time in hours – perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe.

I had never sat this still before in my life. I was not alone. Someone was there with me. I could sense his presence. Somehow, I knew it was not the Lord, but someone sent to teach me or show me something. I literally felt a hand pass across my face, over my eyes, slowly from left to right. I was impressed the Lord wanted to show me something. I got off my knees and lay upon my bed.

An Entry From my Journal

May 1974: “After prayer, I am overcome by the spirit. I lay upon my bed but can’t sleep. In my mind’s eye, I see myself speaking to an overflow gathering of people wanting to be taught the gospel. We are in Southern Utah. It is inside a building like a tabernacle. The feelings are very overwhelming. It is incredibly quiet and reverent. People are listening to me intently as I teach.

“There is an unbelievable outpouring of love and the Spirit. What I am relating is intensely important and has to do with the end of the world and preparations for the Second Coming. The building is filled to capacity and the crowd spills out into the street. People are standing at the windows, straining to hear. The building is lit by candles. It seems there is no electricity. Why?

“I can see I am an older man, in my seventies or eighties. I remember these intense feelings for the rest of my life – they were very real.  I believe it was the Spirit of the Lord showing me what the Lord expected of me. He knew this vision would be motivational to make myself worthy for the gifts of the Spirit – prophecy and revelation – as promised to me in my Patriarchal blessing.”

Another Entry From my Journal

June 1974: “After prayer one night, I remember lying in bed unable to go to sleep because of the intense feelings associated with what I am seeing in my mind’s eye.  I see myself speaking at an outdoor gathering.  It is late summer or early in the fall. It is not cold or wet in any way. There is a green sunshade stretched over the podium and speaker area. There are trees to either side of us.

“I am on the stand with many other individuals participating in the Lord’s work. It is later in my life and I am an old man. There is a gathering of thousands upon thousands of people stretched out for what seems like miles before me.  I am one of the speakers.  In fact, it is my impression I am conducting the meeting at that particular gathering. I am confused by this impression. Why?

“Shortly after we are married, Carol and I visit the Valley of Adam-Ondi-Ahman. I realize I have been there before – it is the same place I see in my mind’s eye this night. I am overcome with the same feelings of that night. I remember most intently the feelings associated with speaking to this large gathering to this day. I am not sure this is an event I will experience during mortality.”

We Can Receive Revelation

These were the first of many revelatory experiences in my life. The Lord gave me permission to share these. In fact, He asked me to share them this evening. I don’t know why. I am not trying to call attention to myself and say, “Hey, look at me. I’m so good. I got revelation.” As you have read, I am not so good. I did not deserve these experiences. I still wonder why I received them.

The only reason I can think the Lord asked me to share these particular journal entries is because there is someone out there who needs to read this. I speak to you, whoever you are. Don’t doubt the Lord is willing to reveal things to us. I am a witness he does. Our Mormon culture seems to forbid the sharing of sacred things such as this. Not so. They are given to strengthen each other.

Share When the Lord Asks

Over the years, I would try to work these and similar experiences into my priesthood, Sunday school or Seminary lessons. I even occasionally tried to share them over the pulpit in a talk or a testimony. I knew the Lord was OK with me sharing them, because He prompted me to do so. For some reason, I have not been prompted to share experiences such as these in recent years.

There have been a few more similar revelatory experiences the Lord has asked me to share. I have done so on my blog over the years. Some He has forbidden me to share. I don’t know why. Some I will only share in private. I don’t try to second guess the Lord. If He says share, I do so. If He says keep it to yourself, I shut my mouth. The point is, revelation is real. I am a witness.

Daily Conversation With the Lord

For the past few years I have had a daily running conversation with the Lord. He knows what I want. He tells me to be patient. He does not say no. He tells me to wait. He is testing me. He told me so. There is more He wants me to know. It can only be known by revelation. Meanwhile, I study and pray because that is what He asks of me. He is constantly directing me in what I study.

I suppose that’s also a form of revelation. I sometimes take it for granted. When I was younger I thought everyone was directed by the Lord in what they should study or learn. I was surprised to learn otherwise. Everyone has spiritual gifts. I know I’m not the only one.

From My Patriarchal Blessing

“You will be guided and directed and schooled in your mission by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit unto you … as you share these blessings with the Lord, He will pour out more blessings upon you. Your cup will run over, your heart will be full. You will have the peace of mind that brings great comfort to the soul.” The Lord has asked me to share, so I share what he requests.

The more I share, as directed by the Lord, the more I feel His pleasure at what I am doing. The more I bear witness of the revelatory process, the more I sense the joy He has promised. As I am blessed, I desire to share that with others. As I do so, He pours out more blessings and fills my heart with joy. I know He is pleased. Revelation is real. The Lord is willing to speak with us.

Remember His Long-Suffering

I did not appreciate the Baptism of Fire I received later that year when I was seventeen. I wish I understood then how fragile a thing it is to retain a remission of your sins. The great secret is to always remember the Lord’s goodness and long-suffering toward us. I remember those days as the Lord called out to me to return to Him. I remember His long-suffering and patience with me.

Lately, my days have been filled with anticipation. Like many of you, I know something is about to happen. Too many of you have shared with me privately and in the comments of this blog to think this is just me experiencing this feeling. There is something afoot. The heavens are open for business. He is willing to reveal Himself to us and show us wonderful things. I know this.

“And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.”

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.

Cry Mightily Unto the Lord


BrotherofJaredThe Brother of Jared took sixteen small stones to the mountain. We know they were small because he carried them in his hands. They were certainly smaller than an egg. Perhaps he had eight in each hand. When he came down from the mountain he had eighteen stones. The Lord gave him two more to be used by future prophets to read and translate the words the Brother of Jared would write of the Savior.

After the Brother of Jared cried unto the Lord in a prayer of great faith and sound reasoning, the Lord touched the stones one by one with his finger. The record does not say the Brother of Jared placed the stones on a rock in front of him as we see depicted in the painting by Arnold Friberg. I like to think he held them in his hand as he cried unto the Lord in mighty prayer saying, “Lord, see these stones…”

Assuming he held the stones in his hands, I wonder what that would have felt like as the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched them one by one. The Brother of Jared would have felt the pressure of the Lord’s finger as He touched each one of them. I also wonder at what point the Brother of Jared finally saw the finger of the Lord. Was it on the first stone or did it take sixteen touches before he could see?

Taught by a Servant of the Lord

This is an example of one of the things Denver Snuffer taught us this weekend. I have been a member of the LDS Church all my life and have never heard anyone teach the importance or significance of the phrase to “Cry Mightily.” I am not seeking to point out any deficits in the teachers or the material. This may not be a new idea to you. I can only conclude I was not ready to hear or did not understand before.

I have been praying unto the Lord all my life. I have been asking the Lord to reveal Himself to me from the time I was seventeen when I first entered into His presence. I fasted for three days once thinking the Lord did not hear me or doubted my sincerity. At the end of the fast he reminded me I had not yet been endowed. He invited me to return to my quest in a few years. Thus I continued to study and prepare.

After being endowed, I got busy with my mission. After being sealed, I got busy with building a marriage and responding to the demands of my career. I forgot about the Lord’s invitation. I think I would have appreciated a reminder from those who lead this church of the importance of completing the invitation of the Lord to come into His presence. For some reason it never came up again from our church pulpits.

Reminded of the Promised Invitation

It wasn’t until I was introduced to the writings of Denver Snuffer and read Passing the Heavenly Gift that the Lord visited me again. It was on the night of 25 January 2012. I wrote to my Facebook friends a few days later I hadn’t stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to read a book in many years. I knelt in prayer that night and cried mightily to the Lord asking if the invitation I had received at age seventeen still stood.

He assured me it was an open invitation. From that day to this I have been living in a state of rejoicing and anticipation. Knowing the path I was on, the adversary visited me last year to discourage me. I saw him, or rather his minions with my natural eyes. It was not a pleasant or uplifting experience. It has been a mighty struggle these eighteen months to recover from that experience, walking daily with the Lord.

Even stranger than the opposition from the adversary has been the opposition from those who love me. I find it amazing so many friends have fought against the Lord in their attempts to discourage me from fulfilling my promise to receive Him. It is especially disconcerting to see those who should know better, oppose the Lord and even deny Him by claiming He doesn’t work the same way taught in the scriptures.

Do Not Hinder Members in Their Efforts

If you are a servant of Jesus Christ, you will not oppose his invitation to come unto Him. If you claim to represent Him, or claim to be authorized by Him, or that you hold keys from Him, I know you will not teach those who believe in Him and seek to follow Him that they cannot receive Him. That would be anti-Christ, wouldn’t it? Surely a key holder would not hinder members from crying mightily unto Christ.

I have been counseled to forsake the Lord by those who claim to be His servants. “Come off this path,” I have been told. “You are in the mists of darkness,” when I can clearly see the rod of iron in my hand. How can this be? “For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.” Surely a priesthood leader would not ask a member of the flock to not heed the shepherd.

Is it possible a humble priesthood leader, in his zeal to follow the handbook could be in the wrong? “. . . they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men” (2 Ne 28:14). Does our handbook contain policies with specific instructions against praying as taught in the temple?

A Sacred Sacrament Meeting

On Thursday evening I met with a number of my fellow travelers who are on the same journey. A small group of some fifteen to twenty of my friends met to take the Sacrament and to teach and testify to one another about the reality of being called of the Lord to come unto Him. The handbook of the LDS Church includes a policy that forbids members from administering the sacrament without a Bishop’s permission.

As instructed in scripture, and in order to not change the ordinance, new wine – not grape juice – was used instead of water. We partook of unleavened bread, as a reminder of the Passover. We had loaves of additional bread, that we all could be filled as we met and talked about the Lord for a few hours. It was a sacred experience. We all knelt. I was honored to bless the bread. Nobody led or controlled us.

I don’t think I have been to a more sacred, uplifting and sweet sacrament meeting in my life. Tears were shed, especially mine, as I realized how much I loved my fellow Saints while I listened to them describe how difficult their journey to Christ was because of the persecutions of their leaders. Some had been excommunicated. Others left voluntarily because they were forbidden to worship in the Lord’s way.

A Meeting With a Prophet

On Friday evening Carol and I enjoyed dinner with Denver and his family. I’ve declared and proclaimed on my blog at least a half dozen times now my conviction, borne of the spirit after years of studying, pondering and praying, that this man is a prophet of the Lord. I have never said he is a prophet of the LDS Church, which some have misunderstood. Nevertheless, he is an authorized messenger of Christ.

I love how many people start their private emails to me writing, “I know something of this man…” and then proceed to share their fears – borne out of love for me – that he is no prophet. I promised I would report on my meeting with him. I specifically asked the Lord for this opportunity some six months ago. Just a few days later Denver called me, without any prompting from me, and asked for this meeting.

I had no desire to ask him anything. I did not want to interview him. I did not want to discuss doctrine. I simply wanted to feel of his spirit and see how he treated his family. I had spoken with the Lord several times about my desire to know the truthfulness of this man’s claims and to know if his witness could be trusted. After all, it’s not every day a man claims to have been visited by the Lord, at least not lately.

A Witness Confirmed – Again

I don’t know how many more times the Lord can tell me Denver Snuffer is His servant before I weary the Lord with my petitions. I do not need to ask again. The matter is closed. There is nothing anyone can say, there is no argument anyone can offer, there is no doubt in my mind. When the Lord tells you he has asked a man to deliver a message, then you reject that message at the peril of your own salvation.

If I haven’t made it clear before, then I do so now. I am a second witness the Lord calls men in this day to do His work. This prophet messenger did not and does not challenge the right of President Thomas S. Monson or the rest of the men we sustain as Prophets, Seers and Revelators to preside over this Church. Denver Snuffer is not claiming that authority. He is doing what the Lord has asked him to do for now.

I know this is a radical claim that causes anger in some people. I have received those angry emails and have read those angry comments on my blog. The only response I can offer is the same one the Lord gave to his disciples when He visited them in the Americas. Contention is the spirit of the devil. If you feel angry because of the message of Denver Snuffer to receive Christ, think carefully about the source.

Excommunicated for Being Visited by Christ

I am grateful Carol agreed to attend the lectures this past weekend. I am grateful she attended the sacrament meeting and the dinner with Denver and his family. I am also grateful she gave me time to meet with other friends in a private setting to discuss changes in the LDS Church over the past few years. She joined us later for dinner on Saturday evening for a wonderful meal and entertainment.

I hope I don’t embarrass Him, but I want to publically thank Will Carter, “Good Will,” for joining us that evening and sharing story after story after story of faith-promoting evidences of the Lord working in his life. I don’t believe I have ever witnessed a man more filled with faith than Will Carter, a man who wants only to do the will of the Lord and come into His presence. For this he was cast out of the LDS Church.

I once originally entitled a post about Max Skousen, “The LDS Church Excommunicates Those who Know Christ.” Because so many LDS members were offended, and told me so, I changed it to something less offensive but just as factual. I wish I had kept the original title. For me, the evidence continues to mount. In spite of claims to the contrary, I can almost promise you will be cast off if you say you have seen Him.

My Witness, My calling and Election

I have shared my witness many times of the reality we can be born of the spirit. I have born witness we can enter the presence of the Lord. I have testified He will converse with us through the veil. I look forward to the day when I fall on my knees to bathe his feet with my tears. I hope to embrace him, in the flesh, and feel the wound in his side and touch the nail marks in his feet and his hands – in this life.

Receiving the Second Comforter is a true doctrine. Having your calling and election made sure is a true doctrine. If you are a key holder in this church and fail to teach these doctrines, you are anti-Christ. You and I have the responsibility to receive these ordinances and to bear witness to others that they can and must receive them in this life as well. If not, we will be held accountable for not performing our duties.

God bless the men who we have placed in leadership positions in this church through common consent. I sustain the fifteen men who lead this church as prophets, seers and revelators. Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. He translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. I sustain the local authorities I work with and pray for them every morning and night. God bless us to come unto Christ.

An Open Invitation to the Brethren

Yes, these words are directed at the men who lead this church. I am asking you to do your duty. If you have been in the presence of Christ, the only way you can help stem the tide of young people leaving this church in droves is to bear witness of Christ. Testify you have seen Him. If you haven’t, call mightily unto Him until he comes unto you. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He works this way.

I know it is considered bad form to counsel those who preside over you. I am sorry if this offends you. I can only do what the Lord has asked of me. I know my words may get me cast off. You are welcome to exercise control and compulsion and domination over me by virtue of your priesthood but you know the results. Amen to the priesthood of the man who does not use kindness, long-suffering and persuasion.

And please stop perpetuating the myth that those who are excommunicated will lose their souls or at least their exaltation. This is false doctrine. You cannot remove a man’s priesthood and you know it. Power in the higher priesthood comes from God, not from man. I have associated with enough of my friends whom you have cast off to know they are happy, they love the Lord and are trying to please Him.

Amen to the Priesthood of that Man

Read the appeal letter carefully: http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2013/11/appeal-letter.html. Notice the use of the words, control, compulsion, dominion and Amen. I know all appeal letters are supposed to be read by the members of the First Presidency. I suspect they are not, but are simply delegated to the bureaucracy. If that happened in Denver’s case, I have to wonder whose priesthood was really lost.

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