Tag Archives: Controversy

Facebook Discussion Group for Latter-day Commentary

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

Best Vacation I’ve Ever Enjoyed

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

Upcoming Posts planned for Latter-day Commentary

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

Renewing the Temple Recommend

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

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

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

An Additional Witness Has Come Forward

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

An Apostasy From Within the LDS Church

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

The Gentile Church Will Reject the Fullness

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

Open Invitation to Dialog

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

Comments Welcome on Any of These Ideas

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

Conversation With The Bishop

PriesthoodLeadersThis is a fictional account. It is based on current events, but it is NOT how things went down with my Bishop. I have promised to keep that confidential. I share it because of the intense interest in the excommunication of various LDS bloggers in the news lately, including the impending disciplinary actions against Mormon Activists John Dehlin and Kate Kelly. I do not consider myself a Mormon activist. I considered it at one time, but it always seems to lead to excommunication. Enjoy.

——————————————————

“Hi Brother Malone. How are you doing?”

“I’m fine, Bishop. Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.”

“You’re welcome. What would you like to talk about?”

The temple. Specifically the temple recommend questions.”

“Alright, any particular question that’s bothering you?”

“Yes, it’s the one that reads, ‘Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?’”

“I’ve very familiar with that one. What’s the trouble?”

“Well Bishop, you know we’re commanded to “…seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.”

“Of course. That’s D&C 88:118

“Sometimes I like to read books that some members of the church would find objectionable – you know, stuff from Signature Books, and SunStone publications, that sort of thing.”

“I’m not too familiar with those, but go on…”

“I also like to read blogs and listen to podcasts that some would say are, well… not faith-promoting or uplifting…”

“Why in the world would you want to do that? I barely have enough time to read the scriptures every day.”

“I know. You’re a very busy man. I’m glad you’re the bishop and not me. We always pray for you in our family.”

“Thank you, Tim. I feel the prayers of the members. Now, what’s this have to do with the temple questions?”

“There’s this one guy in particular who has written some really interesting stuff, but he’s been excommunicated…”

“I don’t know, Tim. I wouldn’t go there if I were you. It seems like dangerous ground. Why would you read his stuff?”

“He wasn’t excommunicated when I started reading his stuff. He has some great books on how we can come unto Christ.”

“OK, yeah. I think I’ve heard of him – Denver Snuffer, right? I still don’t think I would read his stuff, but go on…”

“It started as a simple book review. I enjoy sharing my thoughts on books I read. You know I have an LDS-themed blog.

“Oh, yes. I’m well aware of it. I don’t read it but other members have told me about it. You’ve got some controversial stuff.”

“I know. I started it just before Elder Ballard asked us to get involved in the online conversations about the church out there.”

“That’s good, Tim. Tell me how reading this apostate’s book is connected to the temple recommend question you quoted.”

“Remember, he wasn’t an apostate when he wrote most of his books. It’s only his last book that got him into trouble.

“OK, fine. But he’s now been excommunicated for apostasy so I wouldn’t touch his stuff. It seems like a waste of time.”

“I never did very well in school – had trouble with lectures. Didn’t get things until I read and studied it and then wrote about it.”

“I understand. So you’re a hands-on kind of learner, right? Lots of people are like that. They have trouble with lectures and talks.”

“Good. I’m glad. Thanks. That makes me feel better. So you get why I have to not just read stuff, but need to write things out.”

“I get it Brother Malone. Let’s circle back to the temple recommend question. Are you saying this guy teaches polygamy?”

“No, nothing like that. But he’s got a lot of good points that I hadn’t considered before, things that have to do with our history.”

“OK. Is he starting a church and asking people to join? Or are you just having some trouble with the questions he has raised?”

“No, he’s not starting a church. In fact, he’s encouraging everyone to stay in the church and continue to serve wherever asked.”

“So, what’s the problem?”

“Some of my blogging friends have been excommunicated simply for writing about this guys stuff.”

“And that troubles you….”

“Oh, yeah. There’s this church committee called the Strengthening the Church Members committee.”

“I guess I’ve never heard of it.”

“Yeah, I think Elder Holland or Elder Oaks called it a clipping service, but now everything’s on the Internet, so it more like a reading service.”

“You’re losing me. Why are you bringing this up?”

“Well, you know I’m a computer guy, right? That’s how I make my living.’

“OK, so?”

“Well, we bloggers are very interested in who reads our stuff, how they found us, what keyword searches they use and how long they stayed.”

“OK, makes sense.”

“We can track the visitors down to the IP address they use. We can almost pinpoint the physical address from where they read our stuff.”

“That doesn’t mean anything to me. Can you get to the point about the temple recommend question?”

“Alright, Bishop. I’m sorry. I just want to make sure you understand why I’m turning in my temple recommend.”

“You’re what?”

“Yeah. here you go.”

<Bishop looks stunned>

“I don’t know what to say. Why are you doing this? Is this because your friends have been excommunicated?

“I’m not really sure, bishop. I’m still trying to figure out my own feelings. I am kind of upset about that, but it’s a matter of honesty for me.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I were going for a temple recommend, having never been endowed, and you asked the affiliation question, I’d have to say yes.”

“You mean you agree with the stuff this apostate teaches?”

“I don’t know. But I do know I have sympathy for what my blogging buddies are going through – being ex’ed for simply reading a book.”

“OK. I can understand being upset about your blogging buddies, but you don’t know the whole story and never will. Only their leaders know.”

“Agreed. But because I like to be thorough in my research, I‘m going to attend a couple of the lectures of this excommunicated author next month.”

“I see. I’m going to hold on to your recommend. I think I need to talk to the Stake President about this. I’ve never run across this before.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry Bishop. I know I’m a pain in the rear. I just can’t answer ‘no’ to that question. I hope you’ll understand.”

“I do, Tim. I know you’re a good man. We’ve always appreciated your service over the years. Let’s get together next week with the Stake President.”

“Thanks, Bishop. I’ll look forward to it.”

My Defense Before the High Council

32493_000_01_Title.qxdOne of my readers, Steve, asked, “I wondered what you would do if your stake president told you to quit blogging about Denver or you would be exed.” This is a fictional account, based on that very possible what-if scenario that could happen:

What if members were called to account for themselves in regards to the books they read and what they publish on their blogs? Oh, how I hope and pray that day never arrives. Isn’t that what George Orwell’s 1984 was all about?

Standing Before the High Council

“Thank you, President, for allowing me to take a moment to speak. I’ll make this brief. I know your time is precious and I don’t want to prolong this council any longer than necessary. I know we would all like to return home to our families.

“First, please allow me to express how much I love and appreciate each of you brethren. I hope you can feel that. Even if I am excommunicated tonight, I am grateful to have been able to know each of you and to have served with you.

I Have Received Sacred Experiences

“Many years ago, I had some sacred spiritual experiences that convinced me God lived, loved me and had a plan for my life. I have also felt the love of my Savior so many times since that I have a sure and certain witness He is guiding my life.

“In many ways, I have given my life to this church. I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again. I’m simply your typical, average member. I love this church and love the people in it. I love to serve. I’ve always accepted every calling extended to me.

The Approved Curriculum

“Like many of you, I grew up being taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in primary, Sunday school, Seminary, Institute and priesthood quorums. I have always appreciated my brethren and sisters. They were just like me – regular folks. They tried to teach the approved curriculum by the spirit of inspiration.

“Sometimes that process can be a contradiction in terms. What we find and teach from our authorized curriculum is not always exactly the way things happened. That’s OK. It’s faith-promoting and invites the spirit of the Lord to attend us. So what if we leave out some little part of the actual story that makes us look bad?

Some Things Are Embellished

“I always felt it was not worth bringing things up when I knew the teacher was not exactly sharing the perfect truth, meaning the story he or she was relating was later proven to be hearsay or something with a little extra added. We all know, if we have studied our history that some stories are embellished or parts left out.

“I’m sure you know what I mean. Think of Paul Dunn for a moment. He did a lot of good. But the fact remains he embellished some of his stories. Do I love him any less for doing so? No, of course not. He helped me develop faith in the Lord.

My Testimony of Joseph

“I grew up reading the Book of Mormon at my mother’s knee. I literally learned to read from the Book of Mormon when I was five years old. I love that book. I learned long ago it is scripture and contains the word of God.

“Over the years I have made an extensive study of the life of Joseph Smith from as many sources as possible. I have read the good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what I have read that claims otherwise, I know Joseph was a prophet.

“Because of my witness, I knew I would serve a mission, marry in the temple and do all I was asked to do over the years to help build up the church through home teaching, serving in callings, paying tithing and trying to be a good example to others.

Asked to Write About the Church

“Shortly before Elder Ballard invited the members of the church to become more involved in the conversations taking place on the Internet, I decided to start my own blog. For those who don’t know, a blog is a website where you keep adding new entries over time. The newest entries always appear at the top of the page.

“At first I simply wrote rebuttals to stuff out there that I knew were lies. I work on the Internet for a living. I read a lot of web pages. It’s my job. I got tired of all the stuff I read out there by those who had an axe to grind against the church.

Members Who Have Doubts

“After a while I noticed those who responded were mainly other members, and then only members responded to my blog posts. They wanted to argue with me. They wanted to show me where I was wrong and why I should think otherwise.

“I considered them naive. I could not believe they were duped by some of the stories out there on the Internet. Even worse, I could not believe they had not read or heard these things growing up. It seemed they wanted to shock me with some new revelation they spouted about how Joseph practiced polygamy or polyandry.

Inoculated at an Early Age

“What they didn’t know is I had a mother who taught me to read and who had a library full of controversial LDS books. She was a teacher. We did not grow up with a television. Reading was something my family did. I grew up with four sisters. We went to the library each Saturday and came home with a dozen books.

“I mainly read science fiction, but I also read a lot of history, especially from my mother’s library – LDS history. Mother was a Gospel Doctrine teacher and she loved to research her subjects. I think I read No Man Knows My History when I was in seminary. I was probably only fourteen or fifteen years old at the time.

“For those who may not know, the author of that controversial book was President McKay’s niece. She was excommunicated for writing that book. I first learned of polygamy from Fawn Brodie, and more to the point, of Joseph’s polygamy. There are seminary students in our stake today who know absolutely nothing about polygamy or that we ever practiced it as a church, especially in Joseph’s time.

Sympathizing with an Apostate

“I stand before you today accused of sympathizing with an individual whose teachings are contrary to the official story of our church history as found in our curriculum. I can’t believe it has come to this. Are we now willing to discipline our own church members simply for what they read? I can see the importance of writing uplifting material, but not everything in our church history is uplifting.

“I have always made it a point to teach ONLY authorized material from the official curriculum when I am asked to teach or speak in church. However, this is my private blog, in which I quote what others have said about the church. I offer my opinion and sometimes additional insights that come to me as I write about them.

Encourage Others to Remain Faithful

“If I were publishing things in my blog that advocated members to leave the church then I could understand the reason for this council. I don’t encourage others to teach the things I write in my book reviews. I always reassure my readers they should teach only what is found in our official curriculum. That is what the Brethren have asked us to do and I sustain that decision. Milk before meat, right?

“My whole blog is about LDS-related book reviews and specifically books that deal with the doctrines of the Last Days – the Coming of the Lord and how it will happen. That’s all I write about and nothing more. I comment a lot on Denver Snuffer’s books because he has written so much in this area. His writings are controversial, especially now that he is probably about to be excommunicated.

My Testimony and Conclusion

“That’s all I wanted to say. I love this church. I know it is authorized by the Lord to preach the gospel, to perform the ordinances of salvation, to print the scriptures, to collect tithing and to build temples. I am happy to be a part of the work. I hope to contribute until the return of the Lord. I believe my blog helps some people who struggle come to grips with some of the more difficult parts of our history.

“I will do as this council directs. Specifically president, if you ask me to take my blog down or at least to stop publishing or reporting on what Denver Snuffers says as he conducts his lectures over the next year, I will do so. But I can’t believe we would let it come to such a thing – controlling the lives of our members like that.”

Can the Church Control Bloggers?

And that is the end of my imaginary defense I would offer if I were called in to defend myself for writing about Denver Snuffer and his teachings. By the way, I ran this by my wife. She thought it was funny and said I was being overly dramatic but I don’t think so. I’ve read of bloggers being asked to stop writing certain things about the church, haven’t you? There just seems to be something wrong with that.

The Lord Prepares Groups of People

TheSaviorKirtlandTempleI was pleased to be asked to substitute teach Gospel Doctrine class this week. It is about the closing of the Kirtland period, the first missions of the early Saints to Canada and later to England, then the exodus from Kirtland. Of course that exodus was not as dramatic as leaving Nauvoo, but it was nevertheless undertaken under duress, especially by the prophet Joseph.

Preparing to Teach

I enjoy teaching the gospel whenever I’m asked, just as I enjoy speaking in church whenever I’m asked. I have found over the years that I tend to over-prepare. I probably spent twenty hours this week reading various sources of church history, but mainly in The Life of Heber C. Kimball by Orson F. Whitney. I was amazed to read again the way the Lord prepared groups of people for the missionaries.

Entire Congregations

Both Heber C. Kimball and later Wilford Woodruff, converted and baptized entire congregations of hundreds, including most of their ministers. At one point in time, it was estimated that a full 80% of the church membership had descended from one of these early English converts. I know that’s true in my wife’s family. I, on the other hand, still consider myself to be a first generation Mormon.

A True Believing Mormon

While my wife’s family is from Utah – and wow there are a lot of them – I’m a California boy. I only bring that up because I tend to think of myself as not your typical Mormon. Although I have described myself as orthodox and conservative everywhere I write, I like to think that I’m more open-minded about some things. Let’s take Denver Snuffer for an example. Uh-oh, I know what you’re thinking.

Books from Denver Snuffer

When I first encountered the writings of Denver Snuffer, I knew right away that the Lord had either asked him or inspired him to write his books, or both. There’s just something about his style, his tone, the authority with which he writes, the depth and the importance of his subjects that causes him to stand out in my mind as someone who has something special and something very different.

A Divisive Individual

So I began to mention him on my blog, write a few reviews of his books and generally bring him to the attention of my readers. I was amazed and shocked by the response of some who found that my suggestion of even considering his legitimacy could have any merit. “How could you be such a fool, Tim? How could you be duped by someone who is an obvious charlatan and one who will lead you astray?”

Read the Material First

They didn’t use those exact words, at least not in the public comments, but in essence, that is what they were saying. Invariably, when I asked if they had read his material, almost all those who were opposed to his ideas, had not gone directly to the source. They were only responding to what they had read from others. Occasionally I’d have an intelligent private dialog with a few who had taken the time to read.

Beware of False Prophets

I have found that when people comment on Denver Snuffer on my blog, they tend to fall into one of two groups. The first believe he is another Warren Jeffs, Jim Harmston (died June 2013) or some other recent wanna-be prophet claiming that the LDS Church is apostate so they start their own. Most have no idea what Denver Snuffer has written. The second group has taken the time to seriously read his writings, consider them, pray about them and attempt to improve their lives by following his suggestions.

Stay Active in LDS Church

I guess I tend more towards the second group. I have read most everything he has written, or at least enough to know that the man is not inspired from the wrong source. There is some real substance to what he has written. Some of it is above me – way above me – but most of what he writes makes sense, especially the part about staying active in the LDS Church. I like that because I have lots of friends at church that I love dearly.

Private Discussion Groups

There are a number of online groups that discuss Denver’s writings, some public, but most private. I confess I belong to a few of them. I don’t contribute much there. I prefer to write on my own blog. This has always been my own spiritual journal so to speak. I have a separate journal that I have kept all my life, but I use my blog to “push the envelope” on spiritual areas I’m pondering so I can get feedback.

A Year-Long Lecture Tour

If you know anything about Denver or follow his blog, you know he has announced a series of lectures beginning on September 10th in Boise, running in various Intermountain West cities and ending in Phoenix a year later on September 9th, 2014. I’m glad they are being recorded because I would very much like to attend one of them but it doesn’t look like he will be making a visit to California on this road trip.

More and More Missionaries

One of the things Denver has pointed out is that the gathering of the elect in the very last days is a two-fold project – one conducted by the institutional LDS church – and one conducted by the angels of God. I am convinced the missionary changes announced last year by President Monson and which are already bearing fruit, at least in the number of missionaries we send out, is not the final gathering prophesied in the scriptures.

Hastening the Work

I believe it is simply a hastening of the work. The Lord is using the LDS Church to gather the elect. There is no doubt about that. But the Lord is also causing something wonderful to happening to various members of the church that puts them in another group – a group that is being prepared to be taught by angels and to eventually receive an audience with the resurrected Lord in this mortal life.

A Movement in the Church

I am being contacted by more and more individuals who want to talk privately about Denver and what they sense is happening in the church today. Some dialogs are via email, some on the phone, but all focus on the fact that we each want to receive a personal visitation from the Lord. Do you remember the terrible controversy this created when George Pace was rebuked by Elder McConkie for even suggesting such a thing?

An Audience With Christ

Maybe you’re too young but I remember it well. It put a real chill and damper on the church for a long time of anybody bringing that subject up again in Gospel Doctrine or a priesthood quorum. It’s almost as if we now give lip service to the idea of knowing the Lord, but we dare not say that we can indeed “know” Him, as in, have an audience with Him while in mortality. Why is that idea so bothersome to some people in our church?

Teach by the Spirit

I’m rambling and I know it. It’s late and I’ve got to get to bed to be ready to teach the gospel tomorrow. Although our block meets at 1pm, I still want to review the material I have prepared and petition the Lord for strength to teach by the spirit. I never want to be so married to the order or the exact content of my prepared material that I miss when the Lord whispers that I teach something a little differently that I had planned.

To my Regular Readers

Let me end by throwing this out there for discussion. Now I know I don’t have as many readers as I used to since I was dropped by ldsblogs.org, but the numbers show a couple hundred visitors a day – most who get here through a Google search on Denver Snuffer – in addition to a couple hundred subscribers who get my posts in an email or on their reader. I would like to know what you think about this.

A Risk of Missing Out

Specifically, what if the Lord really did appear to Denver Snuffer as he claimed? What if the Lord really did ask him to write his books? What if he is now asking him to take the message more directly to the LDS people via this series of lectures he is conducting over the next year starting in September? What if the Lord really does intend to see how we will respond to the message of this man some call an apostate?

Gathering the Elect

Did Jesus come from within the established ranks of the Jewish hierarchy when he came in the Meridian of Time to teach His gospel and establish his church? What if, just what if, the Lord really is sending Denver Snuffer out on these lectures to seek out and find those from within the church that are ready to be taught by angels and to receive an audience with the Lord? What if the Lord wants you to know something more?

Remembering the Covenant

RememberingTheCovenantI 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

And The Moon Shall Turn to Blood

MoonToBloodThirty years ago, I encountered a book that changed my life. It introduced to me a unique way of interpreting and understanding prophetic phrases. Passages of scripture that previously mystified me with their obscurity became clear as day and have maintained that clarity ever since. I know of no other book that has impacted my thinking about the last days quite like Anthony Larson’s first book in the Prophecy Trilogy …And the Moon Shall Turn to Blood… The Very Last Days.

As I read the book for the first time I had numerous “ah ha” moments that caused me to open the scriptures to annotate them with new insights. Even after dozens of subsequent readings, I still get that same feeling of wonder each time I read it again. At 136 pages it only takes a few hours to read. For me, the insights from pondering the ideas presented continue for days. The book has led me to a multitude of discoveries about the history of this world and our future world events.

I always wondered why some things described in the scriptures seemed like magic. I knew God was not a magician and wondered if there couldn’t be a logical explanation for such things. Although I picked up the book because of my interest in the last days, I was surprised to learn how the miracles of the Exodus may have come about and how they can explain the prophesied events of the end times. In the process I was introduced to the ideas of Immanuel Velikovsky.

Controversial Theories of History

Even after thirty years of discussing this book with others, I still find the majority of people I encounter have never heard of Immanuel Velikovsky, the author of Worlds in Collision, a best-selling book first published in 1950. The public bought millions of copies. The academic and scientific community denounced it as pseudoscience and declared war on Velikovsky. Carl Sagan ridiculed Velikovsky at a famous 1974 science conference and in his TV show Cosmos.

I think the reason Velikovsky was denounced so vociferously was because he used biblical sources to supplement his other, more accepted histories to put forth his theories. That and the fact that he claimed Venus was ejected from Jupiter in the recent past. Carl Sagan especially had a field day with that one. I won’t get into the science arguments here. Just be aware that a large part of Anthony’s book is based on the idea of close encounters between Earth, Venus and Mars.

Even though both Velikovsky and Anthony Larson present their books as theories, because the ideas are so radical, they are attacked by those who supposedly know, based on science that such things could never be. If you are married to the idea that science has all the answers then you will find this book infuriating. If you are open to the possibility that what we currently accept as fact, even laws of the universe, may in fact also be theories, then you will gain much from this book.

Last Days Foretold

How much do you think about the prophesied events of the last days? If you’re like most people, it’s probably very little to not at all. Yet I suspect that within a few years, it’s a subject that will be on everyone’s mind, perhaps night and day. Why? Even though I’m in the latter part of my time here on earth, I am confident I will see some of the cataclysmic events foretold in the scriptures fulfilled before I die. When these things start happening, the whole world will change.

Social upheaval, economic collapse, government failure, breakdown of the communication and transportation infrastructure and all kinds of other events we worry about can all be explained without any reference to unusual cosmological or geological happenings. But when you throw in earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, plagues, new comets, showers of meteorites that are not predicted and all kinds of other unforeseen events in the earth and sky, people tend to panic.

In order to understand what is about to take place, Anthony Larson takes us back to the times of the Exodus as he examines the pillar of fire and smoke with a unique explanation. Once you have accepted this basic premise of his book, all the subsequent material, as fantastic as it may seem, comes into focus. In fact, if you can agree to this key component of the theory, you are in for a whole new world of possibilities about how the world works and what will soon come to pass.

Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism

I suppose the most objectionable part of the theory to readers of a purely scientific mind is the idea that the world has not always been the same. The prevailing belief of today’s scientific community is that the same gradual, almost imperceptible changes occurring in the earth around us today are the result of eons of the same slow forces at work. The argument is that lofty peaks, deep canyons, prairies, islands and great continents were all caused by gradual uniform forces.

Catastrophism, as opposed to Gradualism, purports that geologic changes come from sudden, dramatic upheavals. This implies that when change comes, it is catastrophic in nature. Up until the time of Darwin in the mid 1800’s, catastrophism was supported by science. The geologic record supports catastrophic change. The scriptures support catastrophism (2 Pet 3:3-4). It is difficult for modern thinkers to accept because we simply have no recent evidence to support it.

The cataclysmic events of the very last days have been dismissed by many in the scientific community because of this very reason. They are consumed with the idea that “all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” However, we are taught and believe that the heavens and the earth of old have changed and they will change again, probably within the very near future. The earth shall reel to and fro. There shall be a new heaven and a new earth.

Close Encounters of the Planetary Kind

The fundamental criticism from the scientific community against Velikovsky, and by extension Anthony Larson, was that its celestial mechanics were irreconcilable with Newtonian celestial mechanics, requiring planetary orbits which could not be made to conform to the laws of conservation of energy and conservation of angular momentum. In other words, there’s no way a large planet can come close to the earth before gravity pulls them apart (look up Roche Limit).

Velikovsky conceded that the behavior of the planets in his theories is not consistent with Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation. He proposed that electromagnetic forces could be the cause of the movement of the planets, although such forces between astronomical bodies are essentially zero as far as science can currently detect. This is another idea that will be helpful to readers of Anthony’s book in order to understand the events of the very last days.

The bottom line revelation and premise of the book is that our world in the past was visited by planets knocked out of their observed orbits. When they came close, they wrecked devastation upon the earth. I won’t give away the details in Anthony’s book. It is fascinating to read and ponder, especially if you are looking to make sense out of the many obscure phrases that the Lord uses in reference to events that are prophesied to come to pass just prior to His return.

Cataclysmic Events Prophesied

I have some favorite sections in the Doctrine and Covenants I like to read to remind me of the coming prophesied cataclysmic events we will all experience. I note they were all received early in Joseph’s years as the first prophet of this dispensation. They contain language that can make one uncomfortable, especially if you don’t like to think about upcoming end of the world stuff.

September 1830 – Section 29:8-28

Nov 1831 – Section 133:10-74

February 1831 – Section 43:17-35

March 1832 – Section 77:6-15

March 1831 – Section 45:15-75

Dec 1832 – Section 88:87-116

Verse 93 in section 88 has always intrigued me: “And immediately there shall appear a great sign in heaven, and all people shall see it together.” It makes reference to Matthew 24:30, where the Savior taught his disciples, “And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven… and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Joseph further elaborated on the Savior’s great sign. “. . . then will appear one grand sign of the Son of Man in heaven. But what will the world do? They will say it is a planet, a comet, etc. But the Son of Man will come as the sign of the coming of the Son of Man which will be as the light of the morning cometh out of the east.” Joseph’s interpretive statement has been hotly debated.

Signs of the Times

James Burgess recorded some additional detail as Joseph spoke: “So also is the coming of the Son of Man. The dawning of the morning makes its appearance in the east and moves along gradually. So also will the coming of the Son of Man be. It will be small at its first appearance and gradually becomes larger until every eye shall see it.” Very interesting wording, I think.

And from LeGrand Richards, 1951: “While I was president of the Southern States Mission, one of our missionaries wrote in from Florida and said, ‘President Richards, I have been reading about the signs of the coming of the Lord. When the sun darkens and the moon ceases to give its light and the stars fall from heaven, everybody will know that he is coming.” His answer:

“The newspapers might announce some great phenomenon in the heavens, misplacement of planets, that have caused this consternation, and scientists will have their explanation to make of it.  Unless they have faith in the Living God, unless as Jesus said, they can read the signs of the times, they may not know anything about what is going on in the world.” In other words, it may not be such a good idea to trust what the science pundits are saying when it comes to this stuff.

The Grand Sign

I’ve thought a lot about this great sign or grand sign referred to by Jesus and the prophet Joseph and how we will perceive it when it happens. I think Joseph and LeGrand Richards nailed it. We will rely on our scientists to explain what is happening and take their word for it that it really is nothing unusual. Their explanations will be so logical that we would be foolish to doubt them. Or so they would have us believe. But those who have studied the signs of the times know better.

Joseph gave us a little insight into the timing of the grand sign. It really is one of the last things to happen before the Lord returns. He said that no one will see “the sign of the Son of Man … until after the sun shall have been darkened and the moon bathed in blood.” He also taught us that “The devil knows many signs, but does not know the sign of the Son of Man, or Jesus.”

Yet we know that “all people shall see it together.” OK, I think it’s obvious that it’s some sort of celestial manifestation. How else could everyone see it at the same time? I just can’t imagine it could be anything other than an approaching planet that looks like a comet just as Joseph said. I wonder what the world would be like if another planet came close to the earth. Could it happen?

World-wide Destruction

And could the earth survive such a close encounter? If two planets came that close together, they would have a tremendous destructive force upon each other. Besides the electromagnetic interaction between the two planets, the gravitational forces would cause the tectonic plates to shift with violent movements. Volcanic activity would explode wherever the plates met. Surely the last days will be a day of burning as smoke and fire cover the earth with tremendous heat.

Think about what would happen if two large planets came close together. The rotation of the planets would change. The magnetic poles would align. The earthquake at such a movement would be tremendous. It would look like the stars were falling from the sky. The oceans would throw themselves beyond their normal bounds for miles and miles inland. Eventually they would race towards the other planet and stand up as if in a heap drawn by the magnetic embrace.

Does all this sound familiar? “The earth shall tremble and reel to and fro as a drunken man … the stars shall … cast themselves down …” Or this: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven …” And this: “The heavens shall shake and the earth shall tremble …” My favorite: “He shall command the great deep and it shall be driven back into the north countries …” These and many more scriptures are examined and explained in Anthony’s first book of his trilogy.

The Beginning of the End

It all starts with the approach of a large comet or a small planet with a tail. Of course, by the time you start hearing about all this, it will be too late. You’ve only got a few weeks or months left, depending on how soon it is discovered and announced. There is a lot that will happen before this great and dreadful day. That’s why I love prophecy. The Lord has given us so many signs.

Call me crazy for trying to marry what I know about science, astronomy and cosmology with what I believe from the scriptures about the last days. I am convinced that the Lord uses natural means to bring about his purposes. “Miracles cannot be in contravention of natural law, but are wrought through the operation of laws not universally or commonly recognized (Talmage).”

In other words, I think it’s plausible and beneficial to look for natural explanations for the signs of the last days, especially as they relate to the great and dreadful day. I’m thinking we’re going to be hearing and reading a lot more about this in the years to come. I know we’re not there yet but I for one intend to keep looking for those signs in the sky above and in the world around me.

Watch for these Signs

Anthony writes about each of these signs in his book. He does not attempt to put them in any chronological order. Note that none of these can be attributed to man. Some may attempt to ascribe them to global warming, but as we advance in the Lord’s agenda, it will become more and more obvious that there is no other explanation other than what we find in the scriptures. Yet I suppose until they actually see the Lord, some will continue to say it’s all due to natural causes.

1. Plagues, pestilences and famines, 2. Signs and wonders in heaven and earth, 3. Disasters, earthquakes and tornados, 4. Great hailstorm will destroy crops of earth, 5. Sun shall be darkened, 6. Moon shall turn to blood, 7. Earth shall reel to and fro, 8. Trumps shall sound both long and loud, 9. Great deep rolled back into north countries, 10. Great earthquake such as never before, 11. Return of the lost ten tribes, 12. Return of the City of Enoch, 13. Earth will be cleansed by fire, 14. New heaven and new earth

I don’t know about you but this stuff fascinates me. I want to know what to look for as the end of the world approaches. I am grateful the Lord has revealed it in advance. He loves us and has forewarned us. The adversary is doing all in his power to discredit the warnings, mainly through the opposition of the theories of science. Remember, scientific laws discovered by man are incomplete. There is so much we don’t understand about how God works through natural means.

The Prophecy Trilogy

I think you can tell I am excited by Anthony’s book. As I wrote in the beginning of this essay, it has made a profound difference in my life. It has changed my relationship with the Lord. It has strengthened my testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet of God. What’s even more exciting is that this is only the first book in a trilogy of additional insights and revelations from Anthony. If you think this book is exciting, wait until you read the next two books in the Prophecy trilogy.

Besides being influenced by Velikovsky, Anthony subscribes, as do I, to the theories of the Electric Universe. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my references to Dave Talbott and Wal Thornhill. If you have not heard of the Saturn Myth, look it up. If you want to know how Anthony has applied it to LDS theology, continue to read the other works in the prophecy trilogy. Each of the three books are about 150 pages in length and well written.

Beyond the prophecy trilogy, Anthony has authored two additional books about the last days that again, offer a unique perspective on revelation. One is a commentary on that very book entitled The Plainest Book: Revelation. The other is entitled Parallel Histories: The Nephites and the Americans. If you want to learn more about things happening in America today, and things yet to happen in this great nation before the return of the Lord, read and ponder this wonderful book.

Summary and Conclusion

I love Anthony’s books. I have read them over and over. I have read every entry on his blog and every article he published in other sources. I have attended his seminars, both in person and over the Internet. There is no doubt that he is controversial. He is also extremely confident that what he shares is helpful, strengthening and uplifting to members of the LDS church and others. I am one who happens to agree, even though I have read plenty of well written opposing viewpoints.

I feel so strongly about what I have learned from Anthony that I have committed to write a work of fiction based on what I have learned from him, from Velikovsky and from proponents of the Electric Universe. I have spent the last several years learning to write fiction. In my opinion, it is much more difficult to write good fiction than it is to write essays like these. My personal goal this year is to write each month two essays related to the last days and two chapters of fiction.

Thanks for reading my review. You can read others on Amazon, Goodreads and on Anthony’s website. In fact, you can read the first few chapters online for free. Anthony’s books sold well when they were first published. I believe they will see a resurgence of interest in the coming years. Yes, they are strange and unusual. Yes, they are controversial, even among the LDS community. But are they worth your time to read? Yes, I enthusiastically endorse these books.

Links to Anthony Larson’s materials:

Videos – http://youtube.com/user/toeknee1943/
Website – http://mormonprophecy.com/
Blog – http://mormonprophecy.blogspot.com/
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/keystomormonprophecy
Scribd – http://www.scribd.com/anthonyelarson

Orthodox Mormonism

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

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

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

Religion and Church

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

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

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

Jan Graf – Reality of evil spirits

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

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

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

Anthony Larson – Latter-day catastrophes

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

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

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

Denver Snuffer – The Second Comforter

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

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

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

Spiritual Experiences

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Loss of the Sealing Power

While in a sacred place a month ago a friend asked what I thought about “Passing the Heavenly Gift.” I confess that I had not heard of the book or the author, Denver Snuffer. I assume he asked my opinion because he knows that I have reviewed similar books on my blog that focus on controversial issues facing the LDS Church. Denver’s books are not advertised. People learn about them only by word of mouth or through online reviews on sites like mine.

I purchased the book and posted on Facebook that I had done so. Several of my blogging buddies noted it and expressed interest in what I thought. A few days later after my first quick read-through, I wrote “I speed read the first half. Finding no major faults, I devoured the second half (pages 240 to 499) in about four hours. I haven’t stayed up until 2:30 in the morning to read a book in years.” There is something dramatically different about this book.

Don’t leave the church

I also reported that “My focus in reading was to find anything smacking of disloyalty to the brethren or encouraging the members to leave. He came close on the first point but completely negated my concern on the second.” Before I write anything else I want to focus on that second point. I am convinced that Denver Snuffer has his reader’s best interest at heart. I cannot say that about the authors of any other recent book of LDS History I have read. Denver wants us to stay in the Church.

However, Denver Snuffer has caused me to do something no other recent writer of Mormon history has been able to do. He has produced in me a desire to read his book again and again. I want to study it, to research it, to look up many of the quotes, to read what others have said about those quotes. In other words, I am taking seriously Denver’s claims which, although not all unique to his book, are argued more precisely and effectively than any other author I have encountered.

Receive the Second Comforter

I have just completed the second reading of the book and am starting on the third, this time with pen and highlighter in hand. I have read his first book, “The Second Comforter” twice and have purchased each of the intervening six books. I have invested hours reading Denver’s blog from start to finish and have contemplated each of the points he has made there over the years. Other than the scriptures, I have never invested this much time in trying to understand an author’s message.

Everything I have learned about Denver has caused me to contemplate his message more and more. He has asked that we not focus on him, his life or his background. He has asked that we pay attention more to the process he is trying to get us to pass through – a process that if we follow through to completion will have us receive The Second Comforter for ourselves. I like that. I want that. I endorse that. How can you fault a man for wanting to help you come unto Christ? I don’t.

Details lacking in faith-promoting history

In the meantime, you are going to have to pass through some very difficult realizations that, depending on the strength of your relationship with the things of the spirit, may leave you gasping and reaching for help and understanding. If you are not already familiar with things our detractors have written about us you will have a challenging time reading this book. It will make you angry. It will cause you to think of Mr. Snuffer as an apostate and wonder why he hasn’t been excommunicated.

This book is not for everybody. If you are a casual member of the church you will not be interested. If you are not familiar with some of the controversies about our history being discussed on the Internet today, you will be a little shocked at what you read. You may not understand why some of the issues are problems at all if all you have ever learned about our history is what you were taught in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary or even Institute. This is an alternative view of our history.

Sealing power has been lost

I wish I was at the point where I could say that I can vouch for Denver’s accuracy or that I agree with his interpretations. I am not there yet. I suspect it will take me years to arrive at that level. In the meantime, if you have already read Denver’s works, I want to hear from you. I am especially interested in discussion about the two most controversial arguments in his book – the idea that the sealing power is not on the earth at this time and Denver’s interpretation of the fullness of the priesthood.

<Update 4-29-12> Denver has posted on his blog that “I have never said the church does not have the sealing power.” This obviously is in direct conflict with the thesis of this essay and my (and my wife’s) interpretation of the first chapter of his book, especially this line: “The church and its ordinations and ordinances does not confer power.” (p 36) He’s right. He did not say the church does not have the sealing power. Carol and I did not clearly understand the message of his first chapter. <end of update>

I kept looking for Denver to address the implications of the position he is advocating in regards to the work we are doing in the temples. I confess I have so far been disappointed by the lack of a sympathetic discussion of what this means to the thousands, if not millions of members who have spent so much of their time and energy over the years in researching and performing proxy ordinances in the temples for their ancestors. I am one of those individuals and want to know his response.

The work in the temples

In other words, if the sealing power is not on the earth then what hope do my wife and I have that we will be united in the eternities? If the sealing power is not on the earth, then what in the world have I and my mother and sisters been doing for these past forty years in digging and corresponding and compiling the thousands and thousands of family names ensuring that their work was done in the temples? I see this as the single most important issue to be answered.

Because I am so intrigued by what I have learned so far, I am going to give Denver the benefit of the doubt that he has already answered this question satisfactorily and I have simply not yet found it. I am not like some of my online friends who have become disaffected and left the church then complain about how much they resented the loss of their tithing money or that they felt duped when they learned they had been teaching a “sanitized” version of our history.

Section 110 misinterpreted

This idea of the sealing power is central to my feelings about the church and core to the reason why I have spent so many thousands of hours in the temple over the past thirty-five years. No, I don’t feel that my time was wasted if what Denver claims about section 110 is true. Of all the things that could strike at the heart and soul of Mormonism this is it. If you want to hurt a whole lot of good people, tell them that the the work they have been doing in the temples is not valid.

There is one question I would like to ask Denver, but I won’t because I don’t know him and he has made it clear that he gets far too many requests to answer directly. Because I felt strongly about sharing what I was learning from Denver’s books, I asked Carol to read the fist chapter of “Passing the Heavenly Gift” to me as we drove to Southern Utah for a family vacation this weekend. We had one of the most deep and enjoyable gospel discussions we have ever had over the course of several hours.

Exaltation is a family affair

Carol came away from the reading with the distinct impression that Denver was saying that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is today no different than any other good Christian church. She read that Brigham Young was only elected to be the President of the Church and that there was no ordination that passed the keys of the kingdom to him or to any of the rest of the twelve. She related her feelings while as a missionary she was taught by her mission president that Joseph ordained and passed the keys of the kingdom on to the twelve before they left on their missions.

Denver, what would you say to my wife, who related while she stood at the Far West temple site with dozens of other missionaries how she felt the spirit bear witness to her soul that Joseph successfully passed the keys of the kingdom on to the apostles before he sent them away on their missions and went on to Carthage jail to seal his testimony with his blood? Would you say that Joseph wasn’t referring to the council of the twelve, but to the council of fifty?

An incomplete ordination

What Denver is writing about is serious business. He is apparently all about getting people to question what they have been taught and what they believe about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He says he wants to bring us to Christ but in the process he wants us to rethink what we have been taught and what we believe about the power of priesthood and how it is manifested in our lives. He says the temple will point us to Christ yet says the sealing power is not there.

Am I the first to see the implications of what he is teaching? I don’t think so. Tell me I’m wrong or that I’ve missed the point completely. Tell me that all the thousands of temple workers, so many of them my good friends, are not wasting their time laboring in temples that have been rejected. Tell me that the blessings I have given to my wife and so many others over the years are efficacious even though I have not had my ordination completed by having the Lord lay his hands upon my head.

Receiving the Heavenly Gift

I am not a lawyer, so I can never argue as well as Denver has done. I am a simple member of the church, happy in my faith and grateful to have lived my life in the orthodox manner as taught by my leaders. I have served a mission, been married in the temple, served in bishoprics and high councils for the past twenty-five years and generally loved my time associating with saints of the Lord, who Denver is now calling a fallen and proud people, members of an apostate gentile church.

What do you think? Has Denver taught the truth in his book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift” or is he an apostate like some have declared him to be? Is it worth my time to read the rest of his books? Is there a whole lot more that I don’t see yet that will prove Denver to be right? Perhaps I need to re-read his first book again and put the process to the test as he is asking us to do. Is Denver teaching that we need to do in our homes what we are taught in the temple to converse with the Lord through the veil?

I would love to read your opinions.

The Ambush

“I don’t think Manny knows what he’s talking about,” whispered the astronomer from Harvard.  I could hear her clearly even though she was five rows back.

“It’s obvious he still doesn’t understand celestial mechanics,” said her companion, who didn’t even bother to whisper. My daughter Cynthia turned around and glared at them. I ignored the whisperers and continued with my presentation.

“It’s time for scientists of the world, starting in this conference, to acknowledge there are other forces at work in the heavens besides gravity. Electromagnetism as a source of energy is billions of times more powerful than gravity. The planets are charged bodies.”

“So now you’re an expert on unified field theory. Get off the podium, Volynsky. Just because you knew Einstein doesn’t make you a scientist.” I recognized the other Harvard delegate as Harrison Stafford, who had been criticizing my work for years.

“As I was saying before I was interrupted, the historical record is clear. Earth has suffered natural catastrophes on a global scale both before and early in recorded history. The evidence for these catastrophes can be found in the recent geological record.”

“And you’ve been proven wrong over and over again. Give it up Manny. You’re a deluded crackpot. When are you going to accept the obvious?” I had known Harrison to be combative in his writing, but never rude like this in a public forum.

I turned to the moderator of the panel. “Mr. Goldstone, will you please ask members of the audience to be respectful? I was invited to present my research to an intelligent company of distinguished scientists. Is this a demonstration of the scientific method in action?”

Although it appeared Mr. Goldstone was amused by the outburst, he turned to the audience and obliged my request. “If there is time, we will have a question and answer session at the conclusion of the scheduled presentations. Please refrain from making comments until you are recognized.”

After a short pause he turned back to me and said, “You may continue Mr. Volynsky.”

I glared at Harrison. “I know only a few of you have read my works. Yet some of you have made public rebuttals. I understand some of my claims may seem a little, uh, unusual…”

“You mean crazy,” said Harrison.

“Doctor Stafford,” Goldstone started but Harrison waved him off.

“Time will bear out my claims. New evidence will come forth proving that the planets have not always been stable in the orbits we see today. The day will come when it will be common knowledge that Venus was once a comet on a collision course with earth.”

I tried to cut my lecture short but there was so much I wanted the people to hear. If only they would listen with an open mind. The fidgeting and coughs were becoming more frequent so I concluded with what I wanted them to remember more than anything else.

“Theories – that’s all we have. We weren’t there so we don’t know. We draw our conclusions from the same record – the geology of this earth and the records of the ancient people of this world. Don’t reject the ancient records because they don’t coincide with what we see around us now. The heavens once looked different than they do today.”

I sat down to a smattering of applause, anticipating the question and answer session to begin right away. I was disappointed to hear Dr. Goldstone announce that in the interest of time, the questions would have to be held until all presentations had been made.

Leaning over, I whispered to Cynthia, “Well, how did I do?”

“You were wonderful Daddy. You always are.”

“I can’t believe Harrison was so rude.”

“I don’t think he has read any of your books.”

We waited through three more presentations that afternoon. With each successive speaker it became clearer that this conference was not at all what I had been told. What I thought was going to be a vindication of my work was turning into a forum for attacking my theories.

The last speaker sat down and Mr Goldstone announced that there would be an hour break for dinner. This was preposterous. Half the audience would leave. How was I ever going to convince the scientific community what my years of research had revealed?

We found an open table at the hotel restaurant nearby. It was crowded and noisy. I almost had to shout so Cynthia could hear. It was so nice to have her here with me. I wish her mother were still alive to enjoy this trip to the West Coast. How I missed her.

“Cynthia, I think you’re right.”

“About what?”

“The biggest problem we have is that the most influential people in the field won’t read my books. If they did then we could at least have an intelligent conversation.”

Cynthia nodded in agreement. “From what I can tell, they have only read what Harrison has written. It’s obvious that he didn’t read more than a few pages, if any before writing that nasty review in his Science News Letter.”

How I appreciated that Cynthia had kept up with the controversy. I could always count on her. She didn’t dismiss me like so many others. She worked hard for her PhD, but never stopped believing in my work no matter what some of her colleagues said.

“Why won’t they take the time to read the sources? It’s all there in the books.”

“Turf wars, daddy. If you’re right then they’re all crazy. They can’t handle that.”

“I know I can never convince Harrison. His mind is made up. But no scientist should rely solely on what others have said without considering the evidence firsthand. That’s irresponsible.”

“No, it’s called keeping your job. Harrison is very powerful. If he tells them to ignore your books then they better not admit to anyone that they have looked at them.”

“So I’m a heretic. OK, I can accept that. But at least give me a fair hearing.”

Cynthia sighed. “You know I love you daddy, but I still can’t believe how naïve you are after all these years. People aren’t interested in the truth. They want things to remain the same.”

“But that’s the problem. Things change. Things have changed in the past and I’ve tried to give people the evidence. Things are going to change again. History repeats itself.”

“You know that and I know that, but you’re going to have to consider the possibility that your ideas are too radical for the scientists of our day. They will never accept your theories.”

“I can never believe that. I’ve got to keep trying. I know I’m right.”

Cynthia smiled at me. “That’s what I love about you. You never give up.”

“Let’s get back to the conference center. It’s time for the Q and A to begin.”

Copyright (c) Tim Malone, 2011

How Americans View Mormonism

We spent an hour with Gary Lawrence last night. He was gracious enough to come up to visit our stake in Camarillo from his home in Orange County. Dr. Lawrence is an American opinion pollster who also happens to be a Latter-day Saint. He has been travelling around the church sharing the results of a poll he conducted in the spring of 2007 on American’s perception of Latter-day Saints in the United States.

He published a book in 2008 with the findings of his poll, How Americans View Mormonism: Seven Steps to Improve Our Image. Dr. Lawrence received a PhD in communications psychology from Stanford University in 1972. He said that of over twenty doctoral candidates in his group, he was the only LDS, Republican, conservative hawk among them. So he knows a little about being in the minority.

Lawrence Research

Now if you know anything about recent events in California, you’ll recognize that Gary’s business, Lawrence Research was the opinion polling company that was heavily involved in Proposition 8. Gary was also the state LDS grassroots director for the Protect Marriage coalition. Brother Lawrence, who has served as a bishop has spent over 35 years studying opinions and behaviors of the American public.

From the results of his survey, Dr. Lawrence maintains that the misconceptions, distortions, and untruths being told about Mormons have slowed the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that the average member is best positioned to turn things around. By the way, the name of his next book, due from Deseret Book later this year is “What Part of Our Name Don’t You Understand?”

Survey Results

For me, the most interesting result of the survey was that our perceived image is upside down. Forty-nine percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable impression of Mormons. Only thirty-seven percent had a favorable impression. They say that we have weird beliefs and are secretive. Yet they also say we are good neighbors, hard workers, believe in clean living, have high moral standards and help others.

Lawrence said that thirty-seven percent of all Americans do not know a Mormon, and fifty-five percent of all Americans do not know an active Mormon. In fact, those who know one Mormon have a worse opinion of us than those who do not know any Mormons. We are viewed unfavorably more than Jews or Baptists (3.5 to 1) and Catholics (2 to 1). Mormons, less than 1 to 1. That’s a terrible ratio.

Negative Image

Simple ignorance is often blamed for Mormonism’s negative image, but Gary also concludes that it is driven by fear — fear of a supposed political agenda, wealth, organizational ability, unwavering doctrine, and a unique vocabulary that is often misunderstood. He gave some wonderful examples but I’ll have to defer in sharing some of the better ones until I receive his book that I ordered from Deseret Book.

His book explains that individual members in their daily interactions with others are the key. In his presentation, which he has probably delivered dozens of times, he pointed out that friendly and natural conversations, the facts, simple claims, individual latitude, non-threatening invitations and gentle mentoring are the ways Mormons can combat distortions, improve our image, and spread the gospel.

Unique Vocabulary

A central claim of our church is that we have the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Gary explained that this phrase is not well understood by those outside our faith. They equate the word restore as something you do to an old car or a piece of old furniture. He suggested that a better phrase to use would be: “We claim to be the re-established Christian Church.” I like that. It is simpler and easier to understand.

He even broke it down for us into three bite-sized pieces: 1) Christ organized a church. 2) Men changed it and 3) It has been brought back. Amazingly, 84 percent of Americans have had exposure to our church, yet only 14 percent can tell you that this is our main differentiating claim from other Christian churches. While people may not agree with our claim, we want and need them to understand it.

Meaning of Gospel

They can then decide for themselves how they will respond to that claim. But if they never get the real message, how can they make a legitimate choice? Naturally, some people will reject the gospel truth once it has been presented to them. And that’s another word that we use differently from the rest of Christianity. To us, the gospel means more than the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter and Paul.

Most Mormons equate gospel to mean the overarching plan of happiness that was presented in our pre-earth life. We have come to see the gospel as more than just a theology, but as a way of life, and that it encompasses all truth that we embrace. But in reality, the gospel is the good news of the doctrine of Christ, that all will be resurrected and that we can be forgiven of sins through repentance and ordinances.

Higher Education

That’s why we can say that the fullness of the gospel is contained in the Book of Mormon even though there are many additional doctrines we believe that are only found outside the Book or Mormon. In fact, some within our church have gone so far as to claim that obtaining a degree of higher education is a part of the gospel. Does that mean that early saints and prophets without a B.A. degree are not saved?

Of course not; that would be a ridiculous example. While we believe in continuing education and encourage our members to get all the education we can, an advanced degree is not a requirement for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. A high school diploma is not required. There is no requirement for any type of certified education to meet God’s conditions to enter into his kingdom; only obedience to his laws.

Mormon Scholars Testify

In our Mormon culture, besides placing great emphasis on education, we also hold those who have received advanced degrees and yet remained faithful in very high esteem. Dr. Lawrence has shared his testimony in greater detail on the website, Mormon Scholars Testify, which was created by another visitor to our stake, Dr. Daniel C. Petersen, speaking about BYU’s involvement in the Dead Sea scrolls.

My fellow blogger Steve Faux introduced me to the site a few years back when he was asked to share his thoughts and feelings about being a believing Mormon who teaches evolution at the University level. I have watched participation grow over the years until there are now more than 200 testimonies recorded there. Compare that to twenty being promoted on the opposing site Ex-Mormon scholars testify.

Opposition in All Things

One of our fundamental doctrines is that we believe there must be opposition in all things. I love the Internet for the very reason that it allows us to see the very best and the very worst of the extremes on just about any issue. I’m not a scholar and will probably never have an advanced degree, but I have come to appreciate both sides of the debate on controversial subjects I have written about over the years.

I can judge for myself when someone is presenting the truth in a distorted manner because I have been counseled over the years to study things out and come to my own conclusions about the truth of an issue. Some things can never be proven and will have to wait until the next life to determine who is right and who is wrong. That’s one of the purposes of life – to exercise faith and choose what we believe.

Choose What We Believe

I recommend you read the testimonies of Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Petersen, S. Faux and any others that you may recognize. They come from a variety of disciplines such as the Arts, Business, Management, Accounting, History, Religion, Social Science, Language, Literature, Law, Medicine, Psychology, Philosophy, Science, Mathematics and Engineering. Yes, Mormons believe in the value of education.

I hope this helps to dispel any misconceptions that Mormons are ignorant, closed-minded, brain-washed or uneducated. We do not follow our leaders blindly, nor do we worship our prophets, living or dead. But we do value loyalty and respect to those who we sustain as prophets and apostles. It is my testimony that they are leading us to Christ. I choose to follow their direction and counsel for my family.

For a great discussion of our image, or rather reputation, listen to what Michael Otterson had to say to Robert Millet on this episode of Mormon Identity on The Mormon Channel.