Archive for the ‘Personal Revelation’ Category
I apologize for the misleading title. This is not about Denver Snuffer. This is about my progress in reading and digesting what Denver Snuffer has written. If you’ll recall, about a month ago I ordered, received and wrote about Denver’s latest publications. I just finished reading volume one of Remembering the Covenant and want to share a few things I learned from that volume.
Remembering the Covenant is a reprint of Denver’s blog. Volume one covered approximately the first five months, from 1 February 2010 to 7 June 2010. It is about 435 printed pages. I took my time reading it because I had several other reading projects going on at the same time. I read each entry twice, highlighting with a different colored marker on each pass, pondering as I read.
This is still a solo project. Carol is not interested in what I am reading, although I do share a few quotes with her on occasion. She usually likes to point out that if the Lord wanted me to know what Denver had to say, the Brethren would have told us to read his books. Sigh. Carol’s not big on doctrine. The social aspects of the church are more important to her. We balance each other.
Careful, Ponderous and Solemn Thought
Many of the entries were familiar to me, having read them at one time or another on his blog. I was also impressed that a lot of content was shared here the first time in this volume and found full expression in his book, Passing the Heavenly Gift. It’s obvious the ideas found in PtHG were developed a long time before they were put together so powerfully in that controversial book.
My objective in the methodical and deep reading of Remembering the Covenant is obviously tied to my desire to obtain what Denver has written about in his first book, The Second Comforter. No, I have not yet obtained an audience with the Lord, but then, I’ve only been asking seriously for the last year or so. I started asking in earnest after my first reading of The Second Comforter.
Maybe my approach is all wrong, but what I’m trying to accomplish here is prove one way or another that a regular member of the church can have the same experience Denver Snuffer says we all can and should have – to receive a promise from the Lord of Eternal Life. And yes, that means a personal visit from the resurrected Lord, and to receive that promise from his own lips.
Why I Haven’t Received the Promise Yet
I found many helpful entries to explain why I haven’t had that sacred experience yet. One of them is found on page 261. You can read the entry on his blog dated 27 April 2010 – God is No Respecter of Persons. About halfway through the post he discusses what alienates us from the Lord. He makes an interesting point that it is not our sins per se, but the way we offend Christ.
Specifically he says, “He is offended when we are forgiven by Him, and then return to the same sin. This shows a lack of gratitude for His forgiveness.” Denver acknowledges that some struggle with addictions, compulsions and weaknesses for years, even decades. That’s me. He then offers what I found to be a sad commentary. It made me think that I must still have a long ways to go.
He writes, “When at last, because of age or infirmity, a troubling weakness is at last overcome, He will readily accept your repentance and let you move forward, clean, whole and forgiven.” This makes me sad because it causes me to feel that those who struggle with addiction will not be accepted by the Lord until the biological temptations of the body go away due to old age.”
I Sin Differently Than You
Perhaps you can help me out in my thinking here. Maybe some of you know what I am talking about. I’m going to be frank. They say confession is good for the soul. I’ve written about this before on my blog and got a lot of positive feedback from folks who said it helped them to be so open and honest about such a sensitive subject. You may think less of me after reading this.
Mental illness runs in my family. So does addiction. I’ll bet they go hand-in-hand. I recall a line used by President Uchtdorf in a recent General Conference address (April 2012). I believe he said it came from a bumper sticker. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” In my previous blog post on the subject I wrote I was exposed to Internet pornography in 1995.
However, that wasn’t my first exposure to pornography. It seems the adversary knew what my weakness was before I ever understood. I struggled with pornography from the time I was eight years old, long before the Internet. I find it interesting that this temptation came into my life right after I was baptized. It has been a constant battle with many ups and downs for nearly fifty years.
A Common but Serious Weakness
I have never confessed this in a public forum before. I am pleased to say that I am a recovered addict and have been clean for many years, but like an alcoholic, it can come back in a second. My state of mind is something about which I have to be constantly wary. I must always be careful about what I look at, what ads I see, what TV shows I watch, what web pages I visit.
This is not a secret from Carol. We have worked on this together over the years. I am amazed at how kind, patient, loving and accepting she has always been. This is an intimate part of our lives but human sexuality is a big part of the mortal experience so it has eternal ramifications. For me, the biggest part of this struggle has always been feelings of guilt and of disappointing the Lord.
The last time I tried to confess this sin to a bishop, I also tried to turn in my temple recommend. This was many years ago, early in my married life. He pushed the temple recommend back at me and said, “I want you to go to the temple more frequently and I want you to stop confessing this. This weakness is between you, your wife and the Lord. You work it out among yourselves.”
Broken Souls Are Loved by the Lord
I came away from reading Denver’s entry that God is No Respecter of Persons thinking that I will not be worthy or qualified for a visit from the Lord to obtain the promise of Eternal Life for many more years, probably just before I am ready to leave this life. Perhaps someone who struggles with an addiction is a special case, who can’t be trusted until they’re almost dead.
I found some consolation in reading his entry on Broken Souls on page 387 which can be found on his blog dated 25 May 2010. In it Denver describes his work with and love for those who find it difficult to associate with other members of the church because they struggle with feelings of anxiety and depression caused by addictions. I could immediately relate this to my life-long hurt.
He writes that he has close friends who struggle with addictions so haunting and so terrible a force in their lives that rising each day to face the coming fight takes greater courage than he could imagine. “They are acting in faith at every waking breath, as they fight against a foe that I do not comprehend and could not face.” Yep, that pretty much describes my daily walk in life.
Forgiveness for a Former Addict
Hope came as I read there, “I marveled at how very much these broken souls, these discouraged people … are the very ones with whom I feel the Lord’s presence and love as I have the honor of meeting and talking with them about the gospel. These are the ones He loves the most. These are the ones with whom he associated during His ministry. He associates there, still.” I like that.
I made a decision a long time ago to continue to follow the gospel path, to attend my meetings each week, to accept and faithfully serve in callings when asked, to attend the temple and to do all within my power to prove to the Lord that I loved Him and wanted His forgiveness. But I also accepted the fact that I would never really feel that I belonged, that I was not worthy of the Lord.
All this, because as a former addict, I did not feel I could be trusted. I could and would do all that we are supposed to do, including prayer and gospel study, but deep down, I knew my weakness and it terrified me that I was capable of such betrayal. I had known the Lord’s forgiveness early in my life, but my constant struggle over the years caused me to feel I had offended the Lord.
You Deserve Your Insecurities
On page 408, in the post entitled Developing Your Faith dated 30 May 2010, Denver writes, “Insecurities are a result of a lack of faith. You deserve them. You have not acquired knowledge yet. You have them as a gift, as a warning that you have not yet received what you need. Nor have you developed faith yet.” He then admonishes us to go and re-read Lectures on Faith Six.
Of course, that lecture is about offering sacrifice to obtain sufficient faith to be saved. In this lecture is found the famous quote that “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” I have thought and pondered about this for at least twenty years. I have yet to figure out what more I can sacrifice.
According to Denver, it is my fears and insecurities that I must sacrifice. It is my lack of trust in myself that comes from years of being a former addict that I must sacrifice. I know the Lord has forgiven me. That’s a given. I have asked and know that He has forgiven me. There has never been a hesitation when I have asked for forgiveness. But does he trust me enough to visit me?
Timing for the Visit From the Lord
I suppose the real question is, “Do I trust myself enough to let the Lord visit me?” Of course, we do not set the timing of the Lord’s visit. So the mechanics of how this works puzzles me. Let’s say I finally figure out in my mind at last a way to give up that lack of trust that I put there so long ago as I began my recovery from my addiction. I give up the fear that I can’t be trusted.
Well, that’s nice. That is, it’s nice to be able to say to myself that the Lord trusts me, but unless I hear the Lord say it to me personally, perhaps it’s just self-deception. The Lord has commanded us to drop doubts and fears from our hearts. I am willing to do so. For non-addicts I assume it’s a simple thing. You simply say to yourself, “I trust myself that I will not participate in sin again.”
I’m sure I’m over-analyzing this and making it way more complicated than the Lord intended. The gospel is supposed to be so simple that even a child can understand it. We are supposed to become child-like in our trust and faith in the Lord. I know I can trust the Lord, but I am not certain I can trust myself, even after all these years. There simply are no guarantees, are there?
Invitation to Dialog
For any other Snuffer readers out there, what do you think? Am I going about this wrong? Denver reports on page 421 in “Be Still and Know That I Am God” (2 June 2010), “Study what I’ve written carefully and anyone will find it is all there. Several people have done so, and have received the promised results.” That’s nice to know. I believe Denver and am happy for them.
I’m still pondering the approach I need to take to accomplish this work that only I can do for myself. One approach is to hang onto the belief that because I am a former addict who has offended Christ by returning to my sins after having been forgiven, that I must wait patiently until my life is nearly over before the Lord will visit me to proclaim I have Eternal Life.
The other approach is to give up all doubts and fears left over from years of sin, trust the Lord implicitly that He is willing to come to me now and ask all the more sincerely for that blessing. Perhaps I have missed something in The Second Comforter and need to go back and re-read it yet one more time, asking the Lord to show me what steps I missed the first few times I read it.
Some of my regular readers are going to be mad at me. I’m going to argue in this essay the exact opposite position I presented a few weeks ago on Eternal Lives, Past Lives and Reincarnation. In that paper I stated what I would consider to be the orthodox position of most church members. I focused on the idea that we pass through this life but once. That essay opposed reincarnation.
Since I wrote that essay I read two older books from Dr. Edith Fiore. She has published three but I just could not bring myself to read Encounters, which presents fourteen case studies of people who, while under hypnosis, have recalled being abducted by a UFO. I read the reviews and will probably purchase and read the book someday, but come on now. Abducted by aliens, really?
One of the two books is The Unquiet Dead: A Psychologist Treats Spirit Possession. I read this one first although it was written after her original work, also based on clinical case studies, entitled You Have Been Here Before: A Psychologist Looks at Past Lives. The Unquiet Dead is the more popular of her books and benefits from better editing, a glossary and a bibliography.
Church Opposed to Reincarnation
But it’s her first book I want to focus on in this essay. At 185 pages, I read it in less than two days. I was so fascinated I could have completed it in one day but I was already stealing time from work to read it. Balance is a good thing to pursue in this life. You’re going to need balance if you read this book and have never considered the idea of reincarnation or past-life regression.
Like I wrote previously, I’m fairly certain the church’s official position is that there is no such thing as reincarnation. Yes, it’s official. I just found it in Preach My Gospel and you can read a nice argument against it by Spencer Palmer in the I Have a Question section of the August 1989 Ensign. If I remember correctly, Bruce R. McConkie wrote that it was a doctrine of the devil.
Just to state my position clearly, I do not believe in the type of reincarnation that advocates a return to this life in another state, either as a plant or an animal or as an inanimate object. However, I’m going to entertain the theory in the next few paragraphs that perhaps there is something to the idea that we may possibly experience Multiple Mortal Probations. Just maybe.
Convincing Clinical Case Studies
Notice the weasel words I used – perhaps, possibly and maybe. I am not convinced there is such a thing as Multiple Mortal Probations, but after reading the amazing case studies, I am scratching my head looking for explanations to fit this into what I already know and believe. I don’t read many suspense or horror stories, but the best is in this book – “I know what’s behind that door!”
How can you argue with recorded clinical case studies? Some of the individuals who participated with Dr. Fiore in these past-life regressions said they didn’t believe in reincarnation but could not deny what had happened to them. I have an explanation I’ll offer in a minute but it’s unorthodox. It combines what I have read in The Unquiet Dead with Mel Fish’s From Darkness Into Light.
You Have Been Here Before is a reprint of an earlier edition of Dr. Fiore’s groundbreaking work. It contains all the original typos, grammatical errors and formatting issues. It also contains the enthusiasm, excitement and amazement that Dr. Fiore experienced with her patients as together they discovered and documented the new breakthrough modality of past life regression therapy.
My Theory Explaining Past Lives
Here’s my explanation of how this works. It’s all theory and it’s all mine, so you can criticize it all you want. I throw it out there as a way of making sense of something that goes against all I have ever been taught and believed about the purpose of life – a one-shot, single pass-through experience. It has to do with spirit attachments, another controversial area that draws criticism.
As I read these case studies of past life regression, I kept thinking to myself, “whose past life are they now entering?” Dr. Fiore contends they are past lives of the individual patients themselves. I propose that the past lives being explored belong to spirit attachments that have been with the patients for a long time, perhaps their entire life. You can read more of this in The Unquiet Dead.
Dr. Fiore herself intimates in The Unquiet Dead that maybe hypnosis and past life regression is really a conversation with an attached spirit, not with the subconscious of the patient presenting itself in a previous mortal probation. She first wondered if they were multiple personalities but later came to recognize they were in fact, separate individuals embodied within her patients.
We Come Here to Learn
Now here comes the argument in favor of Multiple Mortal Probations. Note that I don’t call it reincarnation. I don’t want to confuse MMP with what some people believe that we can come back as a rock or tree. That just doesn’t fly for me. But as I read the case studies in Dr. Fiore’s first book, I found myself getting excited about the idea that maybe this does makes sense.
What about an individual who came to earth in the middle ages, had no education or prospects for advancement but simply lived day to day, hand to mouth, with little thought of anything else? What if this individual made a mistake, chose a foolish course of action that got her killed and did not accomplish anything with her life? Could she be given another chance another time?
This exact scenario is presented in Dr. Fiore’s book through one of her patients who had suffered from terrible headaches for the past seven years. A past-life regression through hypnosis revealed that the headaches were the result of being clubbed to death in a past life. You’ll have to read the story to understand why it made sense that her current headaches were related to her past-life.
Neither Heaven nor Hell
In any event, it made sense when I considered The Doctrine of Eternal Lives, which is presented in a book of the same name. I had rejected the idea the first time I read the book. I continued to reject the idea when I visited the topic again earlier this year and got such a tremendous amount of helpful feedback from so many of you. Now, with Dr. Fiore’s books, I’m considering it more.
Now before you come unglued and accuse me of blaspheme, remember I have offered a theory that explains how these patients and Dr. Fiore may have made a mistaken assumption in the research she was doing. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating. The past lives that the patients found in hypnosis were not their own, but the past lives of other spirits that had lived and died.
I estimate that less than ten percent of members of the LDS church believe that spirits can hang around after they have died. We are taught to believe that we either go to the light of paradise or are sucked down into spirit prison by the chains of darkness which bind us in this life. But I have had too many witnesses to disbelieve there are some who die who go to neither place right away.
Spirit World Still Holds Secrets
The bottom line for me is that I have my alternative explanation to explain past-life regression therapy and now I think I have a clearer picture of the possibility that Multiple Mortal Probation may in fact be something that might be part of God’s plan. I know that’s a bold statement. I don’t believe that one can come back to experience an additional mortal probation after resurrection.
If you read the case studies closely, you’ll note that the patients reported in their hypnotic state after viewing their death in a past life, they were met by escorts who helped them understand what they had learned. Some were ready to begin the next mortal experience immediately, others needed a few years to adjust and decide if they wanted to try it again and do better this time.
Some of her patients had many past lives, some just a few, some only one and some none. It seemed that it all depended on what they had learned and if they were ready for the next step in their eternal progression – to go to the light and prepare for resurrection. There is so much we don’t know about how the spirit world works. Some of these things are only revealed by angels.
An Invitation to Dialog
Has anyone else read Dr. Fiore’s books? If you would like to meet her, you can watch excerpts of two videos on Thinking Allowed. I’m fairly certain I’ll be purchasing the full DVDs. In the end, acceptance or disbelief in the possibility of Multiple Mortal Probation is not central to the purpose of this life. What’s important is how we live here and now and how we bless others.
As Denver Snuffer wrote on his blog, “…whether true or not, it does not change a single thing about your life now. You have a challenge before you which can only be met by keeping every requirement established by the Lord for your redemption now. I fear those who are most enamored by this teaching are only distracted by it.
“They speculate about their own past history (or histories), and don’t realize their present life is slipping into history without adequate attention being given to the moment-to-moment responsibilities we are called upon to meet every second of this life. … even if you decide there is truth in it, nothing should change. … you have a challenge to live your life well NOW.”
I love to sing in the choir, especially our stake choir. Our ward choir is pretty good, but it’s small. As with most ward choirs, there are never enough men. With only three tenors and four basses I never quite feel the majesty of a full choir. That’s why I enjoy the Stake choir. There is just something special that happens when you get that many faithful Saints singing to the Lord.
We’ve got maybe fifteen or twenty brethren and twice that many sisters. I’ve got six or seven other tenors with whom I can blend my voice. I sing better when we have that many voices. For those of you who sing in a stake choir, I think you know what I mean. We enjoy our practices but when it comes time to perform, oh the sacred and holy sound that comes out of those choir seats.
This next Stake Conference will be a little sad for us as we say goodbye to our Stake President before he leaves to preside over the Taiwan Taichung mission. I already know it’s going to be an emotional day. As the Stake Financial clerk, I meet with the Stake President every month. I have enjoyed working with him and appreciate his dedication and ability as a church administrator.
Administering and Ministering
I don’t like to focus on the mundane aspects of managing the church. Someone has to do it. I’m grateful to be able to contribute. I’m glad I can take some of the administrative burden from the Stake President. But administering as compared to ministering in the church is simply not one of my favorite things to do. I would much rather sing or teach a class or preach to the congregation.
We don’t use that phrase much in the church anymore. We are not professional preachers. We are all equal in our opportunity to stand before our brothers and sisters to share what we know. It’s nice when someone actually takes the time to prepare and deliver a talk designed to uplift as well as enlighten. I come away from such a meeting much more enthused about life’s challenges.
I believe that the Lord is pleased when we sing or preach in such a way that we bring a sense of holiness into our lives and the lives of those who hear us. It’s that feeling of holiness I’d like to focus on in this little essay. I don’t think we have enough holiness in our lives. I know I don’t. Even with daily prayer and gospel study it’s so easy for the world to take away that holiness.
Service in the Temple
On each temple we read the words, “Holiness to the Lord – The House of the Lord.” I went to the temple last Friday and will go again next Friday. We always have Stake temple night just before our Stake Conferences. Being instructed by a member of the Temple Presidency in our chapel sessions is a highlight of our time there. I feel a little bit more of that holiness that I so desire.
I’ve been going to the temple for all my life. I mean that literally. I was six years old the first time I entered into the Los Angeles temple to be sealed to my family. I enjoyed baptisms in that same temple every six months as a youth. I was endowed there before my mission and married there after my mission. I have been back almost every month for the last thirty-seven years.
There has never been a time I have gone to the temple and not come away feeling a little closer to heaven, a little more connected to the Lord. I look forward to getting older because I know I’m going to be one of those little old men you see in the temple every time you go. There’s just something special about serving in the house of the Lord that can help us to feel more holy.
Commanded to Be Holy
Holiness is a frame of mind as well as a feeling that we cultivate. It’s not a false piety but a genuine feeling of closeness to the Lord in spite of being far away. It is a way of thinking and acting that causes us to remember the Lord many times during the day. It is noticing His hand in our lives, in the daily interactions with others and His help in dealing with troublesome things.
Holiness is sensing the sacred and the divine in nature around us but also in the flow of our lives. Holiness comes when we accept that the Lord is trying to mold us into something that may be different from what we had in mind. We become holy when we accept the Lord’s chastening hand in our lives without becoming bitter or questioning why such trying things happen to us.
It is the desire for holiness that prompts us to overlook faults in others and ourselves. It is that need, that intense passion to be all that the Lord wants us to be that burns holiness into our hearts. “Be thou Holy,” the Lord said. He didn’t say to be holy only when you are in church or only when you read the scriptures or pray. We are commanded to be holy, to do things with holiness.
Worship Brings Holiness
When I cultivate a feeling of holiness, I am able to overcome the world, even if it’s just for a moment. If we let them, the fears that permeate our society will suck out the feeling of peace that we need to be holy. Holiness is next to reverence and a part of worship. It’s a time to reflect, to ponder and to meditate. Surrounding ourselves with light and beauty will engender holiness.
Holiness is something that we give to the Lord. That’s the significance of that phrase, Holiness to the Lord. We ascribe Him to be a Man of Holiness. We can be filled with that holiness when we praise Him, when we worship Him, when we sing unto Him and when we pray unto the father in His name. He hears us. He knows our efforts to please Him and to will return holiness unto us.
That’s the beauty of true worship. When we praise Him or sing unto Him, we become one with Him. We begin to feel about things as He does. He is filled with holiness and peace. Majesty and glory are His because He earned them, but He is willing to share them with us, here and now, in this world, when we reach out to Him in our hearts in the spirit of worship. He makes us holy.
Holiness is a gift from God
If we sing in a choir with the intent to be united and to praise God, we are magnified. I have felt this many times. My soul expands and I begin to feel the expanse of eternity. It seems that God cannot resist touching our hearts and our minds when we worship Him. I have felt the same thing when I teach under the influence of the spirit. That connection with God engenders my holiness.
Holiness is a gift from God, yet it is something that we can claim. Indeed, we have a right to claim it according to our worthiness and our efforts to repent. God loves to bless his children with feelings that help us understand His true nature. Man of Holiness is His name. Think about that. Perhaps there is no better phrase to describe the God whom we worship – a Holy Man.
I also want to be a man of holiness, but so often feel like Nephi, “Oh wretched man that I am. My heart sorroweth because of my flesh. My soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about because of the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins. Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”
Become Holy to receive Him
Holiness is a step on the rung of the ladder to come unto Christ and to be received into His presence. He who embodies all that is holy is ever so willing to teach us how to become holy. Jacob exclaimed, “Oh how great is the holiness of our God!” He offers it to us as a tool for us to come back into His presence. He has abundance and enough to spare for all who desire it.
If our eyes become single to His glory then holiness descends upon our spirits. Holiness brings us to a unity of the faith. There are times when singing in the stake choir that the unity of voice is converted to unity of faith. It is a wonderful feeling, this bestowal of holiness through worship. Receiving the spirit of holiness through worship and praise, we can endure His consuming fire.
We must cultivate this sense of holiness and let nothing detract us from achieving it. No devil, no evil being, mortal or not, can dissuade us in our quest if we are committed to obeying this great commandment to become holy. We must become holy so that He can share with us all that He has. We can achieve that state in this life and receive some of those blessings now if we desire.
We can be Holy
To the western man or natural man way of thinking, we want something to “do” to become holy. It has been my experience that I can be doing all that the Lord asks of me and yet still not feel holy. If you are confident you are already doing all that you can to be holy and still don’t feel so, then it’s time to change your thinking. We must literally decide to obey the command to be holy.
Achieving a state of holiness is a gift you accept. We are commanded to receive it, just as we have been commanded to receive the Holy Ghost. Being holy takes faith. It requires that we cast out fear. We are commanded to do so. It also requires us to resist the urge to self-criticize. There is no way to accept this gift of holiness and find fault with ourselves for thinking we are holy.
The best way I have found to sustain this sense of holiness is to focus on the phrase, Holiness to the Lord. As I worship him, I raise myself to a higher plane, a different state of consciousness. I praise Him, ascribe holiness to Him and in turn he beings me into that state of holiness through His grace and mercy. It’s a reciprocal feeling. He loves me and loves to bless me. We are holy.
I received my copies of Denver Snuffer’s Remembering the Covenant, Volumes 1, 4 and 5 the other day. Why would I invest $55 to purchase printed versions of something that is available for free online? I’ve already purchased and read Denver’s previously published eight volumes. And for the most part, I read the majority of what’s in the books on Denver’s blog over the past year.
Two reasons: I’m an old guy. I like physical books. I enjoy turning the pages, marking them up and seeing them stored in my library. Second, I found it interesting Denver hinted at something I have been thinking about for a long time. We take the availability of the Internet, Blogger and hey, even electricity for granted. The day may come when these things are no longer guaranteed.
I like the formatting of the books, the new chapter organizations and the footnotes. The blog comments are not included. That’s understandable. If you’re read some of them, they get way off the subject and frankly, there are some weird things in there that are distracting from the content. I’m not saying comments aren’t valuable, just that they can take things in unintended directions.
Commentary on The Second Comforter
I feel like a late-comer to the Denver party. Now, he wouldn’t like that characterization. He has always said the important thing is the message, not the messenger. And of course, Denver is not the only one focusing on the idea that we can and should receive the Savior in this mortal life. By that I mean a personal visit from the Lord in which he ministers to and teaches you sacred things.
As Denver noted on his blog, volumes two and three in the series were published previously as the single volume Removing the Condemnation. The advantage of purchasing them in this new format is that they are in a larger font and split into two volumes. I chose to save a few bucks by just getting the ones I didn’t already have. Amazon already has the three other volumes bundled.
So for me, having the luxury of the printed volumes allows me to study Denver’s commentary on his original book at my leisure, which is usually at night before retiring for the day. I learned recently that if I work on the computer right up until I retire, it makes it difficult to get to sleep. There’s something more relaxing about reading a book instead of reading on a computer screen.
Two Areas of Disagreement
In the year or so since I was introduced to Denver’s writings, I’ve made it a point to share with Carol some of the things I have been learning. She’s not all that interested, especially since the first book I
read from Denver was his last one, Passing the Heavenly Gift. We basically disagree on two points – the desirability of meeting Christ in this life and just what priesthood power is.
Carol was taught all her life and believes that there is no need to receive the Savior in this life in a literal way, meaning you don’t need a personal visit to be saved or exalted. She says that will come after this life. When I show her the scriptures and the teachings from Joseph she responds, “Well, the majority of the members of the church aren’t going to see Christ in this life, so there.”
We read chapter one of Passing the Heavenly Gift together. I wrote about her response in my first essay about Denver early in 2012. We’ve had an ongoing discussion about power in the priesthood ever since. Every time a baby is blessed, a baptism is performed or someone is confirmed or ordained, she leans over to me and whispers, “not valid – no power, right?”
Difficult Ideas to Accept
She’s trying to point out that, in her mind, Denver’s argument that power of some kind was lost, does not make sense to her because of the special feelings we each feel when we witness an ordinance of the priesthood, partake of the sacrament or attend the temple. While in the Celestial room, we’ve discussed what he has written. Gratefully, we’ve been able to keep it quiet and civil.
Carol’s viewpoint is that receiving a personal visit from Christ in this life is not necessary, at least according to all we’ve been taught growing up in this church. The focus has always been, receive the ordinances, including marriage in the temple, then endure faithfully to the end. That means as long as you attend church, accept callings, pay tithing and pray often, you’ll be exalted.
Thus, she says the focus of Denver’s first book is unnecessary, at least according to what we’ve been taught. What she got out of Denver’s last book is that he was very clearly saying that the church lost something with the death of Joseph, perhaps even sooner. She took great exception to this idea. What exactly was lost has been a matter of discussion between us over the past year.
Focus on the Book of Mormon
I’m glad I read his last book first. I had long been feeling that there was something missing in our modern church compared to the early church, meaning in the days of Joseph Smith. If you have been following my blog for any length of time, I hope I’ve made it clear that I believe that Joseph was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is scripture and is intended to guide our lives.
I also believe that Joseph received the sealing power from God, just like Nephi did, but that there was so much more he wanted to share with us that he received from the Lord before his life was cut short. He did not live to see the completion of the Nauvoo temple. There were things he knew that he tried to teach in the last few months of his life, that we just didn’t quite understand.
I’m looking forward to reading and studying these three volumes, Remembering the Covenant. I note that he positions them as a commentary on the Book of Mormon. I like that. There is so much of this marvelous book that even after a lifetime of studying I still don’t understand. I know Denver taught much of this stuff in his Gospel Doctrine classes over some twenty years.
Remain True and Faithful
In case you were wondering, I see no incompatibility between studying the works of Denver Snuffer and remaining a faithful member of the church. In fact, as many others have stated, I don’t think I have ever studied the gospel more intently in the past year since I first encountered his works. Denver has repeatedly encouraged us to remain faithful and serve in the church.
Yes, his first book is somewhat unconventional in that the doctrine of seeking an audience with Christ in this life is no longer taught in our church. And yes, his last book is controversial in that he put in one place all the arguments we have been reading on the Internet for years that there is something amiss in the direction of the church compared to what Joseph restored so long ago.
Can one believe that something is missing or not quite right in the church today and still answer the temple interview questions honorably? Absolutely. I sustain the Brethren as authorized to lead this church. I see nothing in what Denver writes to be contrary to or opposing the teachings and practices of the Church. Denver has encouraged us to be faithful and serve in the church.
Future posts on Denver Snuffer
Although this blog is not devoted to discussing the writings of Denver Snuffer, I intend to bring up a number of things I have read in his books that I find interesting and worthy of discussion. I have had a paradigm shift in the way I view the priesthood that answers so many questions for me. I am also delighted to see the idea of meeting Christ in this life being taught and promoted.
Surely the Brethren cannot find fault with anyone who encourages us to seek an audience with Christ for the specific purpose of receiving instruction pertaining to our salvation. And surely they can’t fault him for informing us in one place, in a very favorable way I might add, about the things we have read in many places on the Internet regarding a different view of our history.
Don’t call me a Snufferite. I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I’m just a regular member of this church. I merely want to know what I must do to have an audience with my Redeemer in this life. I can’t imagine anybody labeling this as an undesirable thing. I’m simply grateful that Denver says it can be done and that he has done so. Thank God for his testimony and witness.
For More Information
In case you are interested, I’ve written several previous entries about Denver Snuffer:
01. March 24, 2013 – Overview of The Second Comforter
02. March 9, 2013 – A New Star Will Shine Forth
03. March 3, 2013 – All Are Invited to the Feast
04. December 25, 2012 – The Four Phases of Mormonism
05. December 11, 2012 – What Denver Snuffer Teaches
06. July 7, 2012 – Deceived by an Angel of Light
07. May 12, 2012 – Orthodox Mormonism
08. May 5, 2012 – Ten Parables by Denver Snuffer
09. April 8, 2012 – Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil
10. February 26, 2012 – Loss of the Sealing Power
My friend Eric has e-published another free book on Lulu. This one is entitled, “The Doctrine of Meeting Christ in This Life: Jacob’s Ladder, the LDS Temple and Greater Things.” It is 144 pages. His first one (110 pages) was about the Plan of Salvation symbolized as One Eternal Round. He also published a short booklet (68 pages) about the Sacrament. http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/eternalround
Eric was my Bishop a few years back. I also served as one of his counselors in the Bishopric. We now serve together in the Stake Presidency. Well, sort of. He’s the Executive Secretary and I’m the Stake Financial Clerk. But positions in the Church certainly don’t matter a hill of beans, do they? I only mention this to let you know that Eric’s a good guy and can be trusted. He’s a physician here in our local area.
The booklet is mainly a compilation of quotes and scriptures. A few words from his introduction might give you a feel for the content and Eric’s focus. He also included a Step 0, which is to Study Christ, to learn about Christ, and expressed a hope that our time spent on this lower level is short. In other words, we all should be a little further up the ladder by now in following Christ, seeking to meet Him.
Spiritual Progress on Jacob’s Ladder
So pick up the little booklet from Lulu. It’s free and is a thoughtful and well-organized compilation. Quoting the introduction, “Jacob’s ladder, symbolically applied to our own personal spiritual progression, has 3 principal steps:
Step 1: Telestial Level – Follow Christ
Step 2: Terrestrial Level – Meet Christ
Step 3: Celestial Level – Know Christ
“For us, Step 1 occurs in this mortal life. Step 3 occurs after this mortal life. This book would like to suggest that Step 2 can occur in this mortal life (Hence the title). On this salvational ladder, knowledge makes up the steps. Faith, hope, and charity make us attempt to climb the steps. Grace, provided through the Atonement of Christ, is the power that actually moves us up the steps.
“Nothing is worth more than the spiritual climb up this ladder. Nothing should be allowed to distract us from the path to knowing Christ. Mortal life is too precious and short to waste on the relatively less important things. I do not place my faith in the Church, which is an organization of imperfect humans. I place my faith in Jesus Christ. I have membership in the Church because I feel it helps me progress along this path.”
The Ladder Leads to Christ
Eric has gone to great lengths to compile these quotes and scriptures in a logical and comprehensive manner. He leads you step by step or rather rung by rung up Jacob’s ladder, providing evidence that meeting Christ is not only a doctrine of the Church but is the central theme of the gospel – something we all MUST do. I like the format of an e-book. You can keep it handy for reference in electronic format.
The chapter on Jacob’s ladder is enlightening. I had the pleasure of being taught by Bishop Chun on a regular basis in the combined third hour instruction that took place once a quarter. He was continually reminding us to wake up, like Jacob needed to do in order to begin his ascent up the ladder. Of course, Bishop Chun was also a fan of the Matrix so maybe “wake up” meant even a little more to him.
The Temple is a Map
He writes about the temple being a map: “How is the temple endowment a map? Our spiritual understanding of the symbols shows us where we are, how close we are to God’s presence. The hidden treasures of gospel understanding will remain hidden to the spiritually unenlightened mind. The mysteries are ingeniously concealed within the symbolism of the temple ordinances.
“How much we are able to see, discern, and understand is a measurement of our spirituality. Understanding the symbols is what endows us, because personal revelation is required to understand the symbols. Continuing to receive until we are at such a spiritual level that we can pierce through the veil and enter the presence of the Lord—that is being endowed with spiritual power from on high.”
I have been re-reading Denver Snuffer’s first book (second edition, 2008), The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil. I’m in Chapter Four – Nephi’s walk. The focus of Denver’s message, or actually Nephi’s, is that we must act upon what we believe in order to have sufficient faith to come unto Christ and save our souls. A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.
But the kind of knowledge we’re talking about here is the kind that comes from obedience. When you learn a principle and then live it, you obtain your own personal witness of its validity. You then have knowledge. That’s another step up the ladder. The trick is to know what knowledge is most important to obtain and then to let nothing stand in your way of obtaining that knowledge experience.
Seek the Face of the Lord
We are to seek the Lord’s face. We start with a desire to believe. Nephi heard his father tell of his visions and dreams. At first he was skeptical. He decided to ask God to help him believe. He says the Lord visited him and softened his heart. We know the response of his brothers. Sam believed Nephi’s words but Laman and Lemuel hardened their hearts. Nephi’s first visit was to simply soften his heart.
Have we had that first visit from the Lord? I have. But it only comes if we ask. I have had my heart softened towards the things of God. I have asked Him to help me accept difficult doctrines and to have the courage to act upon them. Like Nephi, there was no rushing wind, no parting veil, nothing material happened. But I had a desire to receive, I asked for it, and I received. Skepticism and doubt vanished.
Hear the Voice of the Lord
Nephi teaches us the next step in the path when he reports back to the Lord on his efforts to share his testimony with his brothers. He then hears the voice of the Lord saying, “Blessed art thou Nephi, because of thy faith…” I think we just left a large number of church members behind. I would say the majority have experienced step one in that they had a softening of the heart, else why would they come to church?
But this hearing the voice of the Lord thing, that’s where we lose a lot of people. Of course it was not an audible voice. The voice of the Lord came into his mind. I can’t tell you how many conversations and private dialogs I have had with people who said, “How can I tell the difference between my own thoughts and the voice of the Lord?” This sacred subject has received a lot of attention over the years.
Visions or Dreams
The ability to hear, just like the ability to accept what is heard, is directly related to keeping the commandments. The more faithful you are in obeying the word of the Lord to his prophets, the more prepared you are to receive his voice individually. The cleaner your personal life is the better you can hear his voice. When the Lord speaks to you, you will know it. It is accompanied by a quiet peace in your heart.
Sometimes the Lord chooses to speak to us in a vision, also called a dream. I know few people who have open visions, but know many who have communicated with the Lord through dreams. Don’t discount dreams as a legitimate method of the Lord to answers the prayers of his children. I have received some sacred visions in this manner. I know when a dream is from the Lord. I record them in my journal.
Daily Walk With the Lord
The next step or rung on the ladder is to understand the process of the daily walk with the Lord. God is not some distant being who cares nothing for you. He is someone who cares enough about us that He will help us accomplish whatever it is He asks us to do. Just like Nephi had the faith to say, “I will go and do,” we too must walk each day with the assurance that the Lord will help us step by step.
Start each day with prayer. Tell God what it is you need to accomplish that day. Tell him why you are trying to do what you must do. Ask him to help you and to walk with you as you step through the process of each task. Talk to Him as you encounter difficulties during the day. Listen for His calm reassuring voice telling you that you can do it or suggesting alternative ways to accomplish your task.
A Pause on the Ladder
And that’s about as far as I’ve come in my third re-read of Denver’s book. I have my pen and highlighter out and am marking each step and each part of the process so I can say I understand and evaluate where I am. I am pleased to say I am at least up to this point. I desire to see His face, I have heard his voice in my mind many, many times. I can also tell you that this daily walk with the Lord is a real thing.
I know we can meet Christ in this life. I have not seen His face yet, but I know where I’m at on the path. He has asked some difficult things of me. I have failed some tests and passed others. Tests that used to come at me over and over again now seem to have served their purpose and no longer appear on the path. I am so very grateful for a living and loving God who lets me know where I am in life.
Invitation to Dialog
Where are you? I invite comments. I love the dialog. Thanks for reading my story.
On my blog, I review a lot of LDS books. For some reason, most of them are not found in Deseret Book. I don’t know why that is. Perhaps it is because some of them are considered controversial. I’m fairly certain Denver Snuffer does not care if his books are in Deseret Book. He has written that he wants people to have to search them out, make an effort to find them.
I thought I had reviewed his first book, The Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil. Apparently not. I wrote about it here, but didn’t cover much of the material. There is already a plethora of book reviews out there on Amazon, Goodreads, and various other sites. I thought it might be helpful to share my study notes from the introductory overview.
Note that the numbers at the beginning of each paragraph correspond to the page numbers found in the 2008 second edition of the book. These are simply the notes I took as I read those pages. There may be some overlap and some additional ideas I have added but that’s because I felt inspired to add it as I was reading the content. I always want to be able to teach from my notes.
3 – The Lord is the Promised Second Comforter – There are two comforters. The first is the Holy Ghost. The second is the Lord. (John 14:15-18). This is a basic doctrine of the church. I think most people who have attended any LDS Sunday school class over the years have heard it at one time or another. The idea is that when we are baptized and receive the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands, we should continue to humble ourselves before the Lord, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, seeking to live by every word of God. We then have the promise that we may receive the other Comforter, which is to have the Lord minister unto us from time to time. Apparently, there are times when we need the comfort of a personal visit from the Lord to help us pass through trials. Besides, there are some things that can only be revealed in person.
4 – We are to have the heavens opened unto us – Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by the Lord on several occasions. He taught that this promise is to be taken literally by all the Saints. It is not just a promise for Joseph or the current prophet of the Church. Joseph wanted us to understand that this is an actual, physical visit with the Savior to us. This involves having the heavens opened. It is the culminating part of Christ’s gospel in which the Savior ministers to us individually, one at a time, just as he has ministered to others before. In other words, it should not seem strange or unusual to us to have or expect the Lord to visit us, while we are yet mortal. This is a promise to all the Saints. It is our heritage and a blessing for those who strive to keep his commandments. Obedience is a requirement. We should seek for and obtain this blessing.
5 – You can receive Him – there is no exception – When the Lord makes a promise, he does not excuse himself. He intends to keep his promises, even if men do not. If we come to him in obedience, he has no intention of leading us along, only to disclose an exception. There is no exception. We can all receive Him as he has promised. In the Millennium, men will walk and talk with the Savior. Any person who abides the laws that will be kept during the Millennium can expect to receive the promised blessings of the Millennium, including that of walking and talking with the Savior. It is the privilege of the saints today to receive the Lord, to separate ourselves from the world, to ask for and to receive the personal ministration of the Lord Jesus Christ. This doctrine is a part of the fullness of the gospel. It is a promise of Jesus Christ unto those who love Him. If you obey the laws and ordinances of the gospel, exercise faith and come unto Christ, he will keep his promise. D&C 93:1 lays out the five requirements for receiving the Lord.
6 – You will always need church programs and ordinances –Some teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ are not for the novice. They require maturity, time and patience. The Church has wisely chosen to focus on the basic doctrines of salvation in the curriculum, especially since so many members are new to the gospel. As we grow and mature in the gospel, we are left in large measure to seek further light and knowledge on our own. Some people think that seeking to be ministered unto by the Lord is one of those “mysteries” from which we should stay away. Done the right way, with the right understanding, approached in humility as intended, it is right. You can never outgrow the programs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can never outgrow the need for the saving ordinances. The Church is His medium for delivering the gospel. Therefore, it will not be something you leave behind. Besides, it’s a great place to give service and help others learn the gospel and the only place to pay tithes to an authorized agent.
7 – Intellectual criticism brings no revelation – Many church members want a deeper understanding of the gospel. There are numerous publications and organizations, trying to append themselves to the church, attempting to satisfy this desire for higher knowledge. Dialogue and Sunstone are two periodicals addressed to Mormon intellectuals. While there is much good found in their covers, there is also much criticism and even outright hostility toward the views of the Church in many of the papers and conferences of such organizations. Revelation does not necessarily come through critical thinking. Although we are commanded to study things out in our own minds before we turn to the Lord for a confirming witness of the truth, finding fault with the Church or those we sustain as its leaders does not bring us closer to the Lord. To be learned is good if we hearken to the counsels of God. Humility is needed with intelligence.
8 – Debate is not the right method – Seemingly established to combat Dialogue and especially Sunstone, FARMS (Foundation for Ancient Religious and Mormon Studies) and FAIR (The Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research) grew out of the need to respond to the critics who employ scholarship or pseudo-scholarship to accuse the Church of alleged failings. These groups seem to employ a combative approach (especially FAIR) in presenting pros and cons of many matters that are not included in the Church’s internal teaching materials. These approaches promote debate among the Saints which has never been unifying. I have read many stories of disenchanted individuals who report they had never heard of some doctrine or practice of the church until they read it on the FAIR website. Sometimes the arguments composed to explain the questionable historical events do more harm than good, leaving seekers unsatisfied. Note that FARMS is now the Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and a part of BYU.
9 – Intellectual approach is insufficient – All of these publications provide some interesting reading. The polemics are entertaining, even when they are not enlightening. They can be useful for defining issues and providing a source for further study, but they make no attempt to instruct in the process of receiving the Second Comforter. Denver’s book is about receiving the Second Comforter. It is an attempt to show the reader a roadmap for going from where he or she is now to the position where the Lord can be received. The book is not about the afterlife or some future millennial day when all mankind will see the Lord. Rather it is about receiving the Second Comforter during your present lifetime. The Book will explain what it means to receive the Second Comforter and outline a course of conduct to apply those teachings in your life. It is intended to provide a practical guide, an examination of what you must do in order to receive the promised blessing. It is not intended for mere academic inquiry. It is also not a scholarly work. It is about how the scriptures teach us to grow in light and truth until we reach a perfect day.
10 – Reason and scholarship does not produce revelation – Many of the things discussed in this book will be foolish to the academic. Scholars are some of our harshest critics. This work does not participate in the scholars’ debates. The greatest theologians in history have failed to crack open the heavens in the slightest. Reason alone does not provide light and truth. There are some irrational – or more correctly extra-rational – sources of truth as well. Angels do not come to us because we have an interesting paper to present to them. The well-schooled are not those who have received the greatest truths revealed to mankind. Angels visited and Christ ministered to fishermen and plow boys. The greatest prophets of history came with less education than most modern-day high school graduates. They had access to truth from another source. There is a significant distinction between the process followed by the revelators and the reasoning of theologians and scholars. Divine revelation will never come through the scholar’s tools. Instead, it comes as people follow the principles of the gospel and obey the commandments of God.
11 – Revelation obtained through a practical process – Even those who rely on reasoning and intellect must ultimately base their reasoning on the basic truths revealed to simple but faithful people who have received revelation. Scholars attempt to teach others to use analytical tools to reach reasoned conclusions. They use logic, reason and supporting studies to establish their “truths.” Prophets attempt to duplicate their experiences by teaching others to obey God and to ask Him to reveal hidden knowledge. Prophetic knowledge is not obtained merely by study, reason or logic. It is obtained by obedience to God’s will and from revelation. What we need is a practical process to discover what is required to get revelation and then we want to get that revelation. We want the truth through revelation. The scriptures tell us how to get the “mysteries of God.” Learning these “mysteries” is the fullness of Christ’s Gospel. Scholars do not pretend to uncover new mysteries or revelations from God. They do no attempt to open the heavens for us. On the other hand, the scriptures do attempt to open the heavens to all, under specific conditions. Some knowledge can only be received by revelation. It is to be learned but is not to be taught.
12 – Seek further light and knowledge – The majority of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are composed of new converts. The primary focus of the teachings of the Church in Sunday school and Sacrament meetings is always going to be the fundamental principles of the gospel. Discussing the “mysteries” before the foundations have been adequately established is more destructive than edifying. Immaturity leads some curious but unprepared folks to seek these things prematurely. Encouraging them in this before they are ready may result in deep frustration or even losing their testimony altogether. In most lives it will take many years of development before this process is appropriate. Those many years of development can best, perhaps only, be acquired by faithful service within the Church. Church service is the best means for obtaining the necessary preparation. The Church is literally preparing its members for citizenship in heaven. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the work of God. Through its institutions the ordinances which must precede and accompany the acquisition of mysteries are given to the members. Seeking further light and knowledge is not independent the Church, but utterly reliant of it. We need the Church. The Church needs our strength and support.
13 – Must live up to what we receive – Throughout his ministry Joseph was always torn between the desire or requirement to teach on the one hand, and the preparedness and willingness of the Saints to receive instruction on the other. In Nauvoo, Joseph lamented: “I could explain a hundredfold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.” Permission to reveal and preparation to receive go together. No one is “permitted” to reveal something else unless “the people are prepared to receive them”. That limit also applies to angels. God waits for each person’s preparation before giving them light and truth. We decide what we are willing receive. If you decide you are willing to receive more, then you must follow the path to do so. There are rules which govern these things. We want to find and follow those rules. You cannot avoid the rules and then hope to get what they offer. This book is a guide to discover and apply those rules.
14 – So many people are not prepared with basics – Those who are unprepared will never receive and incorporate spiritual things into their lives. Since they are unwilling to live a higher standard they will not be judged against that standard before they have first had a merciful season to prepare. Almost anyone will accept truth if they are prepared to identify it as truth. But many people are unprepared, and cannot recognize it as true. So, for them, the Lord withholds information to allow them to prepare first. You have no right to impose upon unprepared souls, higher information than they are able to bear. This book is intended only for active, faithful members of the Church with many years of faithful living. It is for those faithful members who have felt there is something more to the Gospel, but do not have a secure sense of how to proceed to receive it. It is for people whose lives have been filled with years of active service in the Church supporting its programs and providing service to others. It is for those who have attended the temple, and consistently returned to worship there. It is for the few humble followers of Jesus Christ as described by Nephi (2 Ne 28:14). You decide if it is for you.
15 – People today have received the Second Comforter – To receive the Second Comforter we must allow others who have been so blessed to serve as our guides. Their instructions and testimony need to be accepted and followed. The steps in this book are not innovative. They are based entirely on the scriptures. This book will show the propriety of these things from scripture and then show the reader how to approach the task. If this subject makes you uncomfortable, this book may not be suitable for you. Heaven will not open to the skeptic. On the other hand, if you believe there is a deeper level available through faith which you long to experience but is just beyond your reach because you are unsure how to proceed, this book can help you. You may already have the faith required, but you may lack the knowledge or the confidence to realize these things are in fact available to you. Rest assured they are part of Christ’s Gospel. There are people today who have received the Second Comforter. It can be done by any Saint who is willing to abide the conditions set to receive this kind of comfort. It can be done by you.
16 – Rethink – Search into the mysteries of Godliness – Joseph admonished the Saints; “I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.” The notion you should “leave the mysteries alone” has become a mantra for some Saints. Perhaps that is an appropriate mantra for most Saints and in most settings and for all those whose maturity in the Gospel has not prepared them for receiving the deeper things of Christ’s gospel. But there are some Saints who have a legitimate right to these things. Gospel understanding is not meant to make you popular or garner acclaim. It is meant to remake you into a humble servant, to change your heart so you, like the Good Samaritan, will minister to others in need. You will not get recognition for pursuing this effort. It must be a private struggle, about which the world will never know. If you hope for status from the experience, you will be disappointed. But if you wish to know God, you will not [be disappointed].
17 – Visions are private and for our own benefit – Receiving these things does not mean you are authorized to get in front of the Brethren who preside as authorized agents, and begin teaching doctrines either in addition to or different from their authorized message. No one, at any time is authorized to teach beyond what the Lord’s chosen authorities have taught. Joseph said, “…if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction…” The mysteries can be received by any person who will follow the process to receive them, but they cannot be taught. You should note that within this last quote from Joseph is the expectation that there will be those who will receive “a vision or visitation from a heavenly messenger.” That is the right of the Saints. It is one of the characteristics of true faith that the heavens communicate to men and women on the earth.
18 – Many people are learned but cannot be taught – However, limited disclosure is one of the requirements of receiving these things. We are to “impart only according to that portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.” (Alma 12:9) If you are incapable of obeying these requirements, then you cannot receive any new mystery by revelation. Heaven will not permit any soul to receive mysteries if they cannot resist revealing them unwisely to others. The constraint that they may be learned but cannot be taught is enforced by withholding them from those who will not be able to abide by this constraint. If you are one of those who cannot respect this limitation, then the process will not work for you. Joseph said, “The reason we do not have the secrets if the Lord revealed to us, is because we do not keep them, but reveal them; we do not keep our own secrets…” Joseph later said, “If God gives you a manifestation; keep it to yourselves.” The Second Comforter is for your individual comfort and instruction, not for public display.
19 – We must be trusted to keep sacred things sacred – An audience must be prepared and worthy to learn of sacred things. This is a binding limitation and an essential part of the process. To be qualified you must be someone who can be trusted to keep sacred things sacred. Of course, when required to testify of something by the Lord, the Lord’s insistence upon that testimony always takes precedence. The general rule is to keep them to yourself. The exception is when the Lord constrains you to do otherwise. The Second Comforter is not provided in order to produce faith. Rather, he comes in response to faith. If you are seeking a sign, it will not be given. He comes to you at the end of a path, and not merely to begin or move you along. If you hope to receive a sign as a result of the message in this book, you will be disappointed. The witness comes after the trial of our faith. These things are given in follow-up to a lengthy process. They are not given before then. “Those who are the most anxious to see these things , are the least prepared to meet them…” (Joseph Smith DHC 5:31). There is a process, and it must be followed. The revelation comes after a maturation process, not before.
20 – Learn to practice perfectly the right sequence – The process needn’t take long, but almost always does. The expression “practice makes perfect” is really incorrect. If you practice imperfectly you cannot hope to become perfect. The expression should be “perfect practice makes perfect.” Having the veil open to you is like seeking to open something kept shut by a combination lock. No amount of turning the dials on the combination lock will open it until you have the right sequence and the right numbers. So it is here. Unless you have the right sequence and the right information, it is not possible to have the veil open. Joseph taught, “That this is a situation to which no man ever arrived in a moment.” Elsewhere, he said, “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.” He encouraged us when he said, “If you do right, there is no danger of you going too fast. God does not care how fast we run in the path of virtue. Resist evil and there is no danger.”
21 – Work on the things most wrong at the moment – These things cannot, however, be rushed. You teach complicated or intricate steps one at a time. There should be in the mind of the student only one thing to do. There is always only one thing to do. There is never more than the single thing to be addressed. It is the thing most wrong at the moment. Once that is addressed and corrected, then you can move on to the next thing, where again there is only one thing to do – and it is the next thing in the sequence. When the next skill is acquired, then there is still only one thing to do. So it is with these steps. There is only one thing for you to do. You will know what you need to do within the context of your own life. Whatever it is that most hinders you is the one and only thing you have to do. When it is resolved, you move on to the next thing. If you cannot figure out what the thing you most need to resolve is, ask the Lord. He has always been willing to answer the sincere inquiry of “what lack I yet?” But the answer to that question will always be the one thing you should work on. Never work on three, thirty or fifty things at once.
22 – Feelings are more important than thoughts – There is harmony and balance to this process when it is being done correctly. You can feel it more than think it. You need to seek for balance in your life. It is the object of this work to get you to become balanced, nimble, and more attuned to feeling than to thought. If you are reading this book as an intellectual exercise, or for evaluation purposes only, it will do you no good. This is a workbook, with specific steps that must be done, completed and passed before you are ready to receive more. You will know when you have passed each step. The Lord will reveal it to you, but you must ask him every step of the way. Sometimes, you may need to go back and review a lesson. The Lord will also let you know that if it is needed. If you are not already, you will become comfortable with the voice of the Lord and know what it is he wants you to do to come into his presence and receive what he has to offer. There are some things that can only be received through His personal ministration.
23 – Test the process, experiment, prove it – Much as been written about Denver Snuffer by those who want to criticize his work. In an effort to discredit the process he describes in this book, they want to find and reveal his weaknesses. As you read the book, you will discover that he gives you plenty of ammunition if you want to go that route. Each chapter has a small but instructive vignette from Denver’s personal life that demonstrates his human weaknesses. I can’t imagine a more humble approach in teaching us that even someone as imperfect as Denver can successfully navigate this process. As he writes, “The content of this work stands alone as the authority for these things. If you accept anything from this book, you must do so on the strength of what it says and not who is saying it. This work should not be accepted for any reason other than it persuades you it is true. If it does not persuade you, then you should reject it. Test its teachings. See if they do not provide you with growth in your walk with Christ.”
Denver Snuffer doesn’t need my help. He is controversial enough on his own to get all kinds of attention from members of the LDS Church. But when he wrote recently that a new star would soon appear, troubling all the world, and that it would be a sign that he was the Lord’s servant, I felt certain we would read some news articles, or at least see a mention or two by LDS Bloggers.
Except for this thread on New Order Mormon, there was nothing. Nada. How often do you read a prediction or prophecy about a major astronomical event about to come to pass, especially one that will trouble all the world? He writes that the entire world will see this new star and will wonder what it means. His claim that the star is a sign of his status with the Lord is…unusual.
Here’s what he wrote: “When the Seed of the Woman was born, a new star appeared in the heavens. In like manner, when the Lion of Judah returns, as with his first coming, there will be a new star seen. All the world will note its appearance and shall be troubled at its meaning. When it makes its appearance, you may know His return is soon upon the world. You may also know by that sign that He has given to me the words I have faithfully taught as His servant.”
Dealing with Nutcases
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know I don’t think Denver is a nutcase. Jim Harmston is a nutcase. Warren Jeffs is a nutcase. Even Sterling D. Allan is a bit of a nutcase, based on some of the stuff on his website. Anyone can write about the church, things of a religious nature or whatever they want, and post it online for public consumption, for whatever reason they want.
There are lots of people out there who write about Denver. They have plenty of opinions about what they believe he has said, usually based on what someone else wrote that he said. Sadly, it’s been my observation that very few people have actually taken the time to read his books or study his blog consistently. There’s a reason for that. He’s very prolific. After all, he is a lawyer.
For some reason, many people who write about Denver lump him into the category of nutcase, similar to how we might think of David Koresh. Nothing could be further from the truth. Denver has made it clear that he does not want a following. He does not want people to hang on his every word and he has repeatedly called himself a fool, even writing that we mustn’t trust him.
Comets and Meteors
Six months ago, I taught the Gospel Doctrine class about the signs of the Second Coming of the Lord. Again, anyone who reads my blog knows that this is one of my favorite subjects. As I prepared for that class, I was surprised to learn that a new star will appear at the time the savior is soon to return. Now maybe you already knew this, but I didn’t. It really stood out in my mind.
So you can imagine I paid attention when Denver wrote the same thing on his blog the other day. What kind of star it was that appeared at the birth of the Savior is a matter of conjecture. Some say it was a supernova, others that it was simply a comet. But according to the Book of Mormon, it was unusual in that it caused a night without darkness. Will the same thing happen in our day?
We’re expecting several comets in the near future. One this week made its appearance in the Northern hemisphere. A brighter one is projected to make its appearance later this year. Comets are really no big deal. They happen all the time, relatively speaking. This year is a little unusual to have two, along with the close passes by all the meteors and the one that exploded over Russia last month.
A Night of No Darkness
I’m going to assume that the star in question is not going to be mistaken for a comet. That leaves the probability of a Supernova. Don’t go thinking for a second that the astronomers will see this thing any sooner than you or me. But you can be sure the media will be all over their favorite science pundits looking for an explanation for this one. The last one was hundreds of years ago.
I should clarify for my science-minded friends. There have been more recent supernova, most notably SN1987A, but you probably didn’t hear about it because, although it could be seen with the naked eye, it was not very bright. I think Denver’s new star we’re talking about will be much brighter and probably much closer. I suspect it will cause a night with no darkness here on earth.
Is the idea that this new star will cause a night with no darkness just a guess? Of course it is. But I’ll claim it as a thoughtful guess. Otherwise, there is just nothing significant enough to make the whole world take notice. The Lord knows this amazing thing is going to happen soon. It has been foretold in scripture. But why would Denver decide to announce it on his blog last Sunday night?
Verify Statements with the Lord
I’m going to go back to that statement by Denver that we should not trust him unless we verify for ourselves that what he has written or said can be confirmed by the Holy Spirit to our souls. I was skeptical when I first started writing about Denver a year ago. In fact, if you go back and read my first essay, I was a little bit upset. Denver turned my world upside down for a while.
However, with each subsequent reading of his books, and I have read most of them several times now, I became more and more convinced that he was the real deal, meaning that his claims to have been ministered to by the Lord were legitimate and that the Lord asked him to write at least his first book. Don’t call me a Snufferite. I’m just convinced that Denver is a servant of the Lord.
Now, that’s a huge claim that we usually reserve for the men that we sustain as prophets and as apostles in this church. I also use it for Stake Presidents, Bishops, High Priests Group Leaders, Elder’s Quorum Presidents and humble home teachers. In fact, I consider any man or woman who seeks to do what the Lord wants them to do, to be a servant or maidservant of the Lord.
The Warrior Planet Mars
I find it interesting that there is current conjecture in the news about a comet that may possibly hit the planet Mars next year. In fact, one of the comets (ISON) coming by the earth later this year will also pass close to Mars, but not as close as comet Siding Spring next year. As you can tell, even though I am not a scientist per se, I love to follow astronomical and cosmological news.
Immediately upon the announcement of these events, the speculation began that should the comet hit Mars, it could possibly throw it out of its orbit, even if just a little bit. What do you think popped into my mind as soon as I read that? I wondered if perhaps that little red planet might somehow make it way a bit closer towards the earth sometime in the next few years.
To me, this is exciting news. But then, I thought people would get excited when Shoemaker-Levy disintegrated and impacted Jupiter back in 1994. Ho-hum. Didn’t happen here. Didn’t affect me so no big deal. But what if, just what if, that little red planet does start to meander on over here? Could it possibly affect us and make some sort of interruption in our daily lives?
The Lion of Judah Returns
Well, my regular readers know the answer to that one. I am a fan of Velikovsky, Anthony Larson and the alternative view of cosmology known as the Electric Universe. I subscribe to the theory that at one point in time in the recent history of the world, approximately 747 BC to 687 BC, the planet Mars menaced our planet, caused great destruction and terrified the people of the earth.
I also believe something similar will happen again as part of the prophesied destruction of the latter days, just prior to the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Only this time, instead of coming as the Babe of Bethlehem in mildness and meekness, he will come as the Lion of Judah, full of fierceness and vengeance. The Lion of Judah will open the book and loose the seven seals.
The Lord uses natural means to accomplish his great designs. The destruction of the last days is not without purpose or meaning. We have lived in cosmological peace for so many thousands of years that we are totally complacent about the possibility of catastrophic calamities coming to the earth again. I am certain good people will return to God in times of distress that now approach.
Seeking After a Sign
And now to Denver’s claim that we may know by this sign that he has faithfully taught the words the Lord has given him. I confess that when I first read that I thought of the scriptural phrase, “It is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeketh after a sign.” Why should we need a sign to know if Denver was fulfilling his assignment from the Lord? Can’t we just ask him directly?
The answer, of course, is that you can and should ask the Lord directly to know for yourself if what Denver has taught is the truth. And not just generally overall, but even about specific things that he has shared. The same applies to everything we hear from our prophets and apostles. We should ask the Lord if what they have taught is true. We do not believe in prophetic infallibility.
In this case, because so many people have ignored or mocked Denver, I suspect the man feels that he has not been effective in fulfilling his assignment. This sign may not come in the next few years. It may not come until many years from now. Somehow, between now and then, like in the Book of Mormon, I suspect Denver will be even more persecuted by those who are in power.
Denver has no Spokesman
Denver has written that nobody speaks for him. I can’t help it if I come up second in a Google search for Denver Snuffer. I’ve only written a few essays in an effort to understand what I’ve read over the past year. That’s how I learn. I read, I write, I share. You read, you comment and I adjust my thinking as necessary. You don’t know how much I appreciate dissenting viewpoints.
I don’t mind you telling me I’m investing an inordinate amount of time in studying the writings of Denver Snuffer. Really I’m not – maybe just a few hundred hours over the past year. Like you, I have a regular life in which I work, I travel, I spend time with my family and I fulfill my calling for the Stake Presidency. It’s just that I’ve gotten so much satisfaction out of Denver’s books.
Like I said at the beginning, Denver doesn’t need anyone to defend him. I hope I’m not causing him distress by all these essays on his books. I have a half dozen more planned along with a whole bunch of other stuff that the Lord keeps giving me. Do you get like that when you write – you just can’t stop because the more you write, the more the ideas flow for future articles?
An Entirely Different Subject
I’d like to conclude this little essay with a request for some help in understanding a website and book I ran across a few years ago. The website is Elliaison.org and the book is The Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I suppose it’s not entirely unrelated since what Denver has invited us to do is to converse with the Lord through the veil. Has anybody else dealt with these people?
Has anybody else read it? If so, what did you think of it? I thought about doing a book review but still need to finish a couple of others in the queue, most notably Mel Fish’s Healing the Inner Self. The book seems to be based on what these folks have learned from Denver’s first book and then shortened it down to the point where you can ask the Lord three specific direct questions.
In prayer, ask “Have I made my calling and election sure? Wait for a response. If negative, ask “May I have your promise that I will be exalted and receive all the blessings of eternal life right now?” If negative, ask, “What do I need to ‘become’ to be worthy of this promise?” Wait for it… The idea is that this is supposed to be the quickest way to having your calling and election sure.
Bear Witness of Parting the Veil
There’s a lot more that goes before and after that little paragraph found on page 61 of the book. I did some fasting and temple preparation about a year ago and put it to the test. What I got was “No, No, and You need more time.” I found it kind of frustrating. “Time for what?” I asked. No answer. “Seasoning” was all I could come up with. Sigh. I put the book aside until recently.
I’m thinking of reading Denver’s first book again. This will probably make the fifth time. I wish I could talk to the man personally. I’ll bet many people have chatted with him about this in the past. But I’m a Southern California boy and he’s in Salt Lake so there you go. I get up to SLC about once or twice a year and usually only because I’m passing through to Brigham or Logan.
I’m convinced we can and should have sacred spiritual experiences where we are able to part the veil, receive instruction from divine messengers and be allowed to bear witness that this is what the Lord wants us to do. I’ve had enough encounters with the dark spirits in my life. How I long for the further light and knowledge that comes from conversing with the Lord through the veil.
The Great Competition is the ninth of Denver Snuffer’s Ten Parables. It is short, one of the shorter parables in the book, at only seven pages. Yet it is the one I have pondered the most over the past year. I have shared it with Carol, offered my opinion, asked hers. We are not in agreement. I have not seen much discussion of the parable on the Internet. I don’t think it has been widely read or discussed.
When I wrote about this before, I was rather orthodox in my interpretation. I offer it here for comparison, but this is no longer how I view this parable. If you haven’t read the original parable, you really must purchase the book and do so. It begins, “There was a King who loved his people. He also loved the competition of games.” It’s $12.99 at Amazon - $5 Kindle edition.
An Early Interpretation of the Parable
Here’s what I wrote last year after the first reading: “This one is about the plan of salvation, told from a very long-range view, including the great battle at the end of the world between the forces of good and evil. Denver has drawn some profound implications of what happens at that great event because those who chose not to come to compete were invited to the great feast at the end.
“The focus is on loyalty. Who would remain true to the king in spite of the seeming unfairness of the competition designed to cause a great division among the people? I would love to share this one in a Sacrament talk or Sunday school lesson, but of course, you and I know that one cannot quote from unorthodox sources in church.” Like the parable, my analysis was short and sweet.
When Good Men Are Excommunicated
A lot has happened to me in the past year, mainly through my study of the gospel, my writings and the responses of many of you to my essays. One particularly eventful episode was my interview and subsequent report on what happened to Mel Fish, a man who searched deeply for truth, believed he found it and was excommunicated when he tried to share it with others.
Mel’s excommunication affected me deeply. I confess I was incensed. As I wrote before, I only know one side of the story and will never know the other side. What happened to Mel caused me to deeply rethink my understanding of the purpose of life, the purpose of what we do in this church and the purpose of tests – the kind of tests that, if we’re not careful, tear a family apart.
Denver Snuffer Disciplinary Action
For those who don’t know, Denver Snuffer is going through the same process in our church. He is being investigated for disciplinary action. This is no secret. He has made it clear through the writings of his own blog. Like many of you, I have plenty of contacts at Church Headquarters. I am not privy to any inside information. But I do know his investigation is soon coming to a head.
In the church we’re taught that disciplinary action for apostasy is only taken when one has been openly or deliberately disobedient to direction from priesthood leaders to cease from teaching certain things they find offensive or to be, in effect, false doctrine. Once you have published a book, or written an essay on a blog, how can you take back what you have caused to be written?
Stand Up for What you Believe
I suppose you could simply write something new, disavowing all the things you have previously written, but that seems so disingenuous, as if you are just doing that to stave off inevitable action. To each man, there comes a time when he must stand by what he has studied and thought about, prayed about and decided to be true. Else what is the purpose of intellectual pursuit?
If you can’t be true to what you feel the Lord has led you to understand, then of what use are you to the Lord? Either stand up for what you feel the Lord gave you to share, then share it and teach it, especially if you know it can benefit and bless those who believe. The Lord gives passion to men for a reason – so that others will pay attention when they proclaim something is important.
We are in the Great Competition Now
In the parable of the Great Competition, we learn that not all were blessed with the same gifts or talents. Some would never be able to compete in the area of physical strength, musical talent, intellectual or academic excellence, patience or a myriad of other virtues to improve the health and vigor of the people. We could all watch and could all compete as we felt endowed to do so.
Some refused to compete and left the playing field in anger. They claimed the competition was not fair and said they would do all they could to disrupt the games. And they did. They offered no support of those trying to excel. In fact, they discouraged them, whispering in their ears that the competition was unfair, unwise and a waste of time and effort. They were well organized.
Evil Spirits Who Followed Lucifer
So far, I’m confident nobody could miss the implications of this parable. Those who opposed the competition were those who followed Lucifer. They did not believe it possible to succeed. They believed Satan who said the competition wasn’t fair. They did not listen closely when the King explained the competition was designed to test loyalty as well as improve the lives of the people.
“After the days of the competition ended, a great feast was called. For the feast, the King invited not only those citizens who participated in the games, but also those who had fled the city rather than participate. Those who had remained loyal and participated in the games were troubled by this. … Many of those who participated resented the presence of those who had fled.” (Page 87)
All Are Invited to the Feast
And that is what I would like to focus on for just a moment. I don’t know if the feast Denver has presented here in this parable is the same as the wedding feast found in Matthew 22. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the animosity felt by some that others were invited who they considered unworthy or unacceptable. The great feast turned into a great argument over who was worthy.
In the end, those who opposed the king’s decision were cast out. Only those who remained were able to live in peace. The fairness or unfairness of what they may have encountered in life did not bother them. They were at peace. They were loyal to the King and his plan. It did not bother them that some had not participated in the competition as they had. The King loved and accepted those who opposed him at first just as he had loved and accepted those who were loyal all along.
The Doctrine of Repentance
I want to now apply this to current events in my life. I have recently found at least three sources or individuals who teach a doctrine that I have always disagreed with because of the fairness principle involved. It has to do with forgiveness of those who rebelled against the Lord at the beginning. I suspect that teaching of this doctrine may be grounds for excommunication. I am not teaching it. I am simply explaining it as I have come to understand it. You decide its truth.
Here is the doctrine: Some evil spirits can repent. Some evil spirits can change sides. Some evil spirits can choose to do good things with their agency. Therefore, some evil spirits have not yet forfeited their agency. By definition, they are no longer evil spirits but simply spirits who have never been and never will have a mortal experience. These are not the same as unclean spirits.
How False Doctrine Comes About
Of course one must ask, “Why would evil spirits have any desire to turn from promoting Satan and his works to encouraging others to follow the Savior and his teachings? What benefit could they possibly derive from such a course of action, assuming it was even possible? And of course the second but possibly more important question: “Is it really possible for evil spirits to change?”
One theologian posted in clear and unmistakable terms that there is neither the desire nor the ability of evil spirits to repent. He proposed that the idea is a foolish thought. He rejected the notion that a fallen, rebellious spirit would have any desire to pursue salvation, especially when none is offered. The sin against the Holy Ghost is unpardonable. Rebellious spirits would have nothing to gain by turning from darkness to light. Therefore there is no reason to do so.
An Example From Real Life
And yet, read this from Mel Fish, then tell me if you think he was deceived. Mel is not the first to have shared something like this, but this example is one of the most profound I have discovered. It is found in his book, Healing the Inner Self, pages 121 through 123. My wife and I also heard him tell this story and have it recorded. It is a powerful story with a real teaching moment.
—– Beginning of Quote —–
One day a woman came to me. She had been attacked by a legion of devils. She was in intense pain and paralyzed on one side of her body. As I worked with this woman, I had several others with me, helping me. I sought help because there were so many of those spirits present. We needed all the power and faith that we as a group could exert.
As we worked with these spirits, teaching and commanding, they left one or two at a time. After two hours of struggle, there were only two spirits left. At that time these spirits took control of this woman and began speaking to us through her voice.
“Go away and leave us alone,” they said. “We are far too powerful for you to control. You could never send us away.”
“What makes you think you are so powerful?”
“In Satan’s kingdom there are many levels of authority and power. The two of us stand next to him in authority, and therefore there is no one more powerful than we are, except for Satan himself.”
At this point I said a silent prayer, asking the Lord what I should do. The answer came into my mind very clearly, “Send them to the Light.”
I argued with the Lord saying, “I can’t send them to the light. They are the wicked ones that are to be cast out into outer darkness at the time of the final judgment.”
“No, send them to the Light.” The answer came again. “I still love them.”
I spent the next hour trying to teach these two spirits and convince them that it was possible for them to go to the Light. They argued and insisted that they were too wicked and evil, and that there was no way that the Lord would accept them.
Finally, I asked, “How long have you been fighting against Christ?”
“For millions of years.”
“What has been your goal in all of that struggle?”
“To lead people away from Christ into the fold of Satan, and we have been very successful.”
“You know that there is opposition in all things. If one can leave Christ and embrace Satan, you can leave Satan and embrace Christ.” Just look up. He is there with outstretched arms waiting for you.”
Suddenly this woman fell to the floor and contorted in a way that I have never before witnessed. The expression on her face and her body language communicated the greatest degree of sadness I have ever witnessed. At this point the spirits began to weep saying, “He lied. He lied. He told us that if we would follow him he would force us to do good, and we would automatically go to the highest heavens. All he has done is force us to do evil and we hate it. He has us trapped. We have to do everything he says or he will punish us.”
“Your day of deliverance has come,” I said. “Turn to Christ. Give your burdens to him. He will forgive you. He will take all your darkness and replace it with light. He will then take you into a world of light where you can finish the healing process and resume your eternal progression.”
“If we did that, we would lose our great power.”
“What you perceive to be great power is only the power to destroy. Anyone can destroy. Real power is the power to create. Your only hope of getting that real power is to embrace the Light, accept the healing that comes from Christ, and allow him to take you to that realm of light.”
At this point, this woman relaxed. Calmness spread throughout her body and throughout the entire room. It was evident that they were gone. This wonderful woman was completely recovered from her paralysis.
—– End of Quote ——
Well, that’s enough to illustrate the point. I can provide many other examples but will refrain. My purpose is not sensationalism, but discussion of doctrine. Who is correct – the well-published theologian or the humble, but now excommunicated man, Mel Fish, who has helped hundreds, if not thousands of people, rid themselves of the influence of evil and unclean spirits? Teach me.
Difference Between Evil and Unclean Spirits
Remember, there is a difference between evil spirits and unclean spirits. Evil spirits have never been born into this mortal existence. Unclean spirits have been born and died but have not gone to the light. They still hang around, bound by the pull of the flesh – an addiction or some other mortal temptation that they continue to seek by momentarily inhabiting the body of another.
And just to wrap this up into the parable offered by Denver Snuffer, is it possible that these evil spirits represent those who will be invited to the great feast at the end of the competition? In fact, aren’t all invited and aren’t all welcome at the King’s table, both those who have been mortal and those who not only didn’t participate but discouraged others from doing so successfully?
Only a Theological Exercise
But then, it’s just a parable – food for thought. What do you think? Can evil spirits repent? Or is Mel Fish simply trying to say that God will do with them as he sees fit. Perhaps he is not really teaching that they can repent, only that they can choose to go to the light if they have a reason. If you invite an evil spirit to go to the light and you think they have gone, have you been deceived?
Disclaimer: Please don’t accuse me of teaching false doctrine. This is only a theological exercise. If this sort of writing offends you or causes you concern, please don’t read it or give it a second thought. And please don’t complain to the Strengthening Church Members Committee that Brother Malone needs to be talked to by his Stake President. This is just a blog in which I review books.
Note 1: If you want to read more of this kind of stuff online: Go to Unclean Spirits Blog. I don’t know the author. I have communicated with him by email but he wishes to remain anonymous.
Note 2: I have added a link to a three-page PDF of the full copy of the theological argument against evil spirits having any desire or motivation to repent. Let me know if think you know the author. I would like to give him credit. It is quoted in Doug Mendenhall’s book: Conquering Spiritual Evil.
In the Mormon Church, excommunication is devastating. It is a real and constant threat for those who write publically about the church. In the five years I have been blogging about LDS themes, I confess I have written a few controversial essays. But I have never felt something I wrote could get me into trouble. This essay is different. You may find it to be critical of church leadership.
For the most part, serving in leadership positions in the LDS church is a volunteer assignment. The official phrase is “to receive a calling” but in effect, you are asked to accept a responsibility, often at considerable sacrifice of time and effort. In the local congregations, we have no paid ministry. Instead, the men are asked to lead the meetings and counsel local members as needed.
Being an old guy in the church, I have had my share of leadership assignments, but always in a support position. I would not want to be a Bishop or Stake President because of the difficulty of the task. My role has always been as a counselor or clerk to a Bishop or Stake President. Years ago I served on a Stake High Council, the group of men assigned to assist the Stake President.
One of the duties of priesthood leadership is to participate in disciplinary councils, something I never enjoyed. I am an imperfect man and am hesitant to pass judgment or even offer an opinion on the worthiness of another individual in the church. Gratefully, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the Bishop or Stake President and never a bishopric counselor or High Counselor.
In the eighteen years I have served in leadership positions, I suppose I have probably participated in a few dozen disciplinary councils. That’s where a group of men get together to determine if another member should be allowed to remain in fellowship with the rest of the Latter-day Saints. When serving as a clerk, I have also written the follow-up reports that we send to Salt Lake.
In the years prior to the time I started serving in priesthood leadership, a disciplinary council was referred to as a church court. I never liked that phrase. To me, a court focuses on proving guilt, something I personally find distasteful. The purpose of a disciplinary council should be to help an individual struggling with personal moral failings find strength to turn their life around.
The Ideal Standard
I feel blessed to have served with men who loved the Lord and wanted to do his will. The Stake President with whom I served as a High Counselor is now a Mission President. He was and is a kind man, who always exhibited great care and concern for the welfare of the individuals who were called into judgment under his tenure. Let me share just one example of his kindness.
I recall an elderly gentleman who had been excommunicated for teaching false doctrine. It was evident the man had some mental and emotional problems. But he wanted to come back into the church. For those who don’t know, a disciplinary council must again be convened to reconsider the original evidence and to determine if change is evident and sufficient to be baptized again.
This stake president went out of his way to ensure this elderly man and his family members were comfortable with the procedure. He had his executive secretary sit with the family members the whole time the disciplinary council was being held. He sent his clerk out to the waiting area to keep the man and his family informed while we deliberated his case in the High Council room.
Justice and Mercy
Again, for those who may not be aware, in a Stake disciplinary council, half the High Counselors are assigned to look out for the interests of the person whose case is being heard. The interests of the church are the primary concern of the other six High Counselors. I have sat on both sides of that High Council room. In my experience it seems to be a fair and equitable system of justice.
In every disciplinary council in which I have participated, both as a bishopric member and as a High Councilor, without fail, mercy and love have been the prevailing concern. I said I dislike disciplinary councils. At the same time, I can tell you that it is in these councils that I have felt a strong closeness to the Lord as I have witnessed an outpouring of his love for these individuals.
Tears have almost always been shed by most of the grown men in the room as, in the end, we either brought the individual back into the church or pronounced that he or she would no longer be considered a member of our church. Tears of joy or tears of sorrow were accompanied by an overwhelming witness from the spirit to each of us that the will of the Lord had been done.
I want to tell you about a friend who was excommunicated for priestcraft but before I do I need to tell you a little bit about what he does and why it is troubling for some people in the church. I also need to refer to Zoob’s law, which reads: “Generally people tend to oppose that which they don’t understand, the degree of their opposition being directly proportionate to their ignorance.”
In other words, when learning about something new and different, the non-informed attempt to hide their ignorance by a degree of aggressive descent roughly equal to the amount they do not understand. The greater their ignorance, the greater the opposition. If you think about it, you will recognize the truth of this axiom and circumstances in which you may have witnessed it fulfilled.
If you have not had personal experience with something and witnessed the good that it produces, you may feel uncomfortable with the idea or practice until you have had time to study it out for yourself to make your own determination if it is worthwhile. Imagine how you would feel if you are asked to pass judgment on a subject you don’t understand and only heard about hours before.
Opposition in All Things
In contrast, there are those who do understand something, at least to a small degree, and have decided it is not something of value because it exposes personal weaknesses or causes them to feel condemned by the light contained in the thing being considered. For example, if you are a controlling individual, wouldn’t you object to anything that gives freedom to those you control?
Even though it is expressly forbidden in our church, sadly, there are those who exercise control or compulsion upon others, usually their own family members, all in the name of priesthood authority and their right as the head of a household. This control may manifest itself in emotional abuse of their family members, and even more sadly, sexual and even satanic ritualistic abuse.
For those who are not aware, the problem of sexual abuse is well known and documented among church members living along the Wasatch front. In a 1990 document written by Glenn L Pace, then a member of the Presiding Bishopric to the Strengthening Church Members Committee, he detailed sixty alleged incidents of ritualized child abuse among Utah and Idaho Latter-day Saints.
Trauma in Southern Utah
I don’t want to focus on that negative element of the story but you need to be aware it does exist. The victims of that abuse experience deep psychological pain and trauma. It drives some to acts of self-loathing and even suicide. Because some of these individuals are strong, they seek help and healing from counselors and therapists in an effort to find peace and get on with their lives.
This is where my friend comes into the story. Melvin Fish has a Ph.D. in Counseling. He lives in Southern Utah, where, for some reason, there are a large number of individuals suffering from the trauma of sexual or emotional abuse. I know this because I have been studying the subject for about twenty years. Other counselors in Southern Utah have corroborated this fact, at least for me.
Now, to be fair, people come to these counselors from all over the Western United States, in fact, from all over the world. But our story takes place in Cedar City, where the men who sat on the High Council decided to excommunicate Mel Fish for priestcraft. I defined this unusual term in a previous essay but need to expound on the subject to make it clear in the minds of my readers.
Priestcraft in the LDS Church
The scriptural definition of priestcraft is that men set themselves up as a light instead of pointing others to Christ. The definition of priestcraft that seems to be used in the LDS Church today is that men charge money to help people find healing through Christ. As long as a man does his counseling the way the world recognizes and approves, the Church seems to have no problem.
As long as you practice techniques approved by the APA (American Psychological Association) or the AMCAP (Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists) then you are more than welcome to charge professional fees for your services. In fact, the church will support your business by sending you people from local congregations and then paying your regular fees.
In case you didn’t know, there is no place in the APA or AMCAP for the belief that problems of a psychological or emotional nature can be caused by the influence of evil or unclean spirits. In fact, there seems to be little belief remaining in the LDS Church in general that such beings exist. Even if you profess to believe that evil spirits cause problems, you can’t use that in your work.
On the other hand, let’s say you obtain a PhD in counseling with the intent of helping people resolve emotional issues that trouble them. You set up a practice and begin to see clients but are troubled by the fact that they have to keep coming back over and over to get help. Talking about their issues only seems to make them worse. You conclude that psychotherapy is ineffective.
So you search for other, more effective means to help people and are led to ideas and techniques that produce positive results in record time. Not surprisingly, these techniques center in ideas found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness of others is central to this technique. The belief that problems can be attributed to the influence of evil and unclean spirits is also essential.
Encouraged, you start practicing a technique of discovering and teaching unclean spirits to go to the light of Christ. The people who come to see you are healed in record time. They go away from their counseling sessions filled with joy and relief, happy to be free of the burdens they have cast upon the Lord. You publish books and teach others how to do what you have done.
Discovering Hidden Stress
Well, that’s what Mel Fish has done. And for this he has been excommunicated. This happened in 2009 about the time I first learned about his work. I purchased his books in 2010, studied them and discovered they contained teachings that brought me closer to Christ, especially as I applied the principle of forgiveness of others and myself. His visualization techniques are powerful.
The problem with what Mel Fish did is that he was too effective. He helped people who were bound by the adversary and in the process upset a few people who lost the control over their family members they once had. They could no longer be manipulated or coerced into doing what the controlling individual wanted. These individuals found fault with Mel and his techniques.
Now unless you’ve been exposed to kinesiology or muscle testing, you may think this method of discovering and identifying hidden stress or darkness is, well, simply put, weird. I have written a blog specifically dedicated to the process of how I first learned about muscle testing and saw firsthand how it helped my family. I appreciate that the weirdness factor takes some adjustment.
Strengthening Church Members
I mentioned this committee previously. When someone finds fault with what another member of the church has written or is doing, they tend to call Salt Lake to complain. Of course the Church asks that such complaints be resolved through local church leaders. But even those leaders will sometimes call Salt Lake because they don’t know how to handle the complaints they receive.
If enough of these complaints are received, it comes to the attention of a loose committee of individuals identified as the Strengthening Church Members Committee. When Elder Oaks was asked about this committee he characterized it as a clipping service. It is much more than that. This committee keeps track of anything that is published about the church by church members.
That includes blogs, which is why I mentioned that this essay about a controversial subject – the excommunication of a prominent published member – is something that could come back to bite me. I don’t want my stake president to get a call or letter from this committee asking him if he is aware of my blogging activities. Ordinarily I do all I can to hold the church up in a positive light.
Telling Mel’s Story
In this case, I would like to share with you what I consider to be failing in our church, brought about because of the efforts of the Strengthening the Church Members Committee and the local priesthood leadership of the Cedar City Utah North Stake. Ultimately the fault can be attributed to the adversary as he works to keep people ignorant of the true power of Christ’s atonement.
When I met with Mel last week, my intent was to write a better book review. I wanted to focus on his work and his books. I was only incidentally interested in telling the story of how he was excommunicated. As we met and discussed things, it became obvious that bringing his story to the attention of a wider audience was more important and what the Lord wanted me to do.
What happened to Mel Fish should not happen to anyone in our church, but especially to a man who has spent a lifetime serving the Lord and helping God’s children heal from pain and sorrow. I can tell you from personal experience that Mel and Gwena Fish are loved of God. I know this because I asked God in prayer with my wife and received a revelation of God’s love for them.
The First Disciplinary Council
Mel first published Healing the Inner Self in 1999 at age 66 after counseling and helping many hundreds of grateful people over the previous decade. He received his PhD in Counseling in 1995. Anybody who has done the work for a PhD dissertation knows how difficult it is to meet the strenuous academic requirements. Mel’s work involved many years of clinical experience.
In 2007 Mel’s Stake President was asked by the Strengthening the Church Members Committee to hold a disciplinary council. The council was held and no action was taken. In preparation for the disciplinary council, the Stake President received expert witness and testimony from Dillon K Inouye, a beloved professor in the BYU Psychology Department before his death in 2008.
I have a copy of that expert testimony and can understand why Mel’s Stake President took no action on that occasion. The document is convincing in demonstrating that Mel Fish’s work is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, it shows that Mel’s techniques are superior over three other well accepted techniques of producing psychological behavior modification.
The Second Disciplinary Council
A copy of that expert testimony was sent to Elder Holland, Elder Bateman and Elder McMullin. Mel’s Stake President was released in 2008. New priesthood leadership was put into place. In 2009, a second disciplinary council was held in which the testimony of the first Stake President was presented, along with a personal endorsement from Elder F. Enzio Busche, all to no avail.
Mel was not allowed to speak in his own defense. He was not allowed to explain his work or how he helped people discover and then relieve their burdens by giving them to Christ. As far as Mel knows, there was nobody assigned to see that his interests were met. At age 76, he was also required to stand for seven hours while the charges were considered and his case deliberated.
At that point in the story I knew something was terribly wrong. It seemed obvious that the church had received one too many complaints about Mel’s work and had made it clear that he was to be excommunicated, no matter what. The disciplinary council was not concerned about Mel. They were only concerned about meeting the technical requirements to justify the action taken.
Of course I wasn’t there so I’m only telling one side of the story that I heard from Mel. As I wrote previously, the church does not comment on disciplinary actions. If you are familiar with the September Six, you know what a chilling effect the Church’s crackdown on intellectual criticism caused at that time. It seems now the Church has done the same thing among healers.
If you were at the disciplinary council I would like to hear from you (Strike that. It’s not an appropriate request to ask someone to break confidences). I doubt anyone will respond but as one who is familiar with the process from personal experience, I want to know if there was a spirit of love and concern expressed for the welfare of Mel’s soul. What efforts were made to help Mel understand what he had done that the Church found so offensive about healing lives?
I still intend to write that review of Mel’s book within the next few weeks. I received training in the techniques Mel uses so I know they are real and produce valid results. I have never seen a conflict between what Mel teaches and practices and what we find in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I welcome your comments. Mel gave permission to share the BYU document endorsing his work.
Update 3-28-13: I reviewed Mel’s book in this post.
About twenty years ago I served in a unique position in the church. My calling was “Melchizedek Priesthood Leader.” Because our little ward was so small, the Stake President had placed all priesthood holders in the ward into one group. In effect, he combined the Elder’s Quorum and the High Priests Group and put me in charge.
I also served as the de facto ward mission leader because we had none. As you can imagine I felt a little overwhelmed. I often prayed for inspiration to know what to do to help our little ward grow, but it was to no avail. We lived in an older part of town with many transients. Older members kept retiring and moving away to Utah.
On one occasion I attended a stake meeting where I had decided to speak up about the problems we were experiencing in our little ward. I thought about and prayed about what I wanted to say. But for some reason I didn’t pay attention to the fact that this particular stake meeting was not the right place to bring up my concerns.
Preparation for Prayer
Now in order to understand what I’m about to share, I’ve got to tell you a little bit about how I receive revelation. When I pray and ask the Lord to help me with a problem or to guide me through a difficult situation, I know I’ve got to do two things first. I’ve got to study it out and make a decision about a course of action.
Then I present my decision to the Lord in prayer. I tell Him about the problem. I tell Him what I’ve studied. Then I tell Him what I’ve decided. Finally, I ask for a confirming witness of the spirit to know if what I’ve decided to do is good or best. It’s a time-tested formula that has worked for me as long as I have been praying.
After praying, I then wait and listen carefully. Sometimes I know immediately one way or the other about what I have discussed with the Lord. But often, my prayer is not answered right away. This was one of those occasions where I did not feel that confirming witness of the spirit that what I wanted to do was the right thing.
The Mind’s Eye
A little more detail might be helpful to understand how revelation works for me. When I ask the Lord for help to know if a certain course of action is the correct one, He will often answer my prayer by allowing me to see myself engaged in that particular activity. In fact, I can often hear as well as see some things in advance.
When I was young I wondered if I should go on a mission. I followed the formula. I studied it out. I made a decision and I asked the Lord for a confirming witness. I was then overwhelmed with what the Lord revealed to me about my mission. I saw myself helping people understand the truth. I heard myself preaching the gospel.
Over the years, this gift of seeing myself perform specific actions in advance of actually doing them has been repeated. There are times when I can hear the words I say as I am performing the task, such as teaching or speaking. There are also times where the Lord inspires me with specific words or phrases so I will write them out.
Revelation is Rehearsal
For me, revelation is kind of like a rehearsal. It gives me confidence and makes it easier to do the difficult tasks of life because I have already seen myself complete them successfully. I greatly appreciate this gift and have come to rely on it more and more as I go through my life. It’s like the spiritual creation before the physical.
Now back to my story. I had studied the problem out. I had made a decision. I had prayed about it. But I did not receive that confirming witness. I did not see myself sharing my thoughts in the meeting. I knew I had done my homework. I had done my part. The problem was clear in my mind. I felt confident I could explain it.
And indeed I could, but it wasn’t what the Lord wanted expressed at that time in that meeting. The problem was real, my proposed solution was good, although not best as I later found out. In another setting, the discussion I wanted to have would have been appropriate. This meeting was not the time or place for my comments.
The Moment of Truth
I went to that meeting prepared, or so I thought. The meeting progressed to the point where the problems were being discussed. The Stake President solicited discussion. A sister shared her concerns. I raised my hand, was called on and began to speak. No sooner had I opened my mouth then I knew I had made a mistake.
A feeling came over me that I knew I was wrong in what I was trying to share. I should have stopped right then and graciously said something like, “What I’m sharing right now doesn’t feel right. Although I thought it was earlier, it doesn’t seem so now. Forgive me.” The discussion could have continued from there.
Instead, I foolishly continued to speak, reaching into my mind for the things I had studied out and thought about as I prepared to present my solution to the Lord. To my amazement and eventual embarrassment, what was once clear and concise was now a jumbled mess in my mind. I could not recall my points to make any sense.
The Stupor of Thought
And that, my friends, is how I learned that the stupor of thought is a real thing. I could not explain myself. My words weren’t making sense. My fellow brothers and sisters in the meeting were looking at me funny. Finally, the Stake President had to interrupt me to keep me from blathering on. My face burned with embarrassment.
The Lord had answered my prayer. I just hadn’t understood. There was nothing really wrong with my proposed solution, given a different set of circumstances. I didn’t have all the information the Stake President had. I didn’t have the whole picture. My ideas were fine, just not relevant or pertinent in the current situation.
I sat quiet the remainder of the meeting and reflected on what had just happened. I was chagrined and a little confused. It was then I realized I had not been careful in listening to the Lord as I prayed. I had not seen or heard myself sharing what I had studied out so carefully. There was no rehearsal, no advance spiritual creation.
Summary and Conclusion
I learned that the stupor of thought can last as long as it needs to in order to work. I had been given a stupor of thought and should have kept it to myself in my prayer. Instead, I took it with me to a public meeting where it was made evident to all. The stupor of thought God gave me caused me to forget my erroneous conclusions.
I have since learned to be more careful in my prayer rehearsals. If I am unable to see myself sharing my conclusions or performing my intended course of action with success first in my mind’s eye, then I know it would be better to seek another solution. I have come to greatly appreciate this wonderful gift of prayer.
I now know how to use the stupor of thought to refine my path through life without making embarrassing mistakes like I experienced in that stake meeting so long ago. In essence, I have learned to keep quiet unless the Lord distinctly inspires me to say something at the right time and in the right place. This has taught me patience.
Reference: D&C 9:7-9