What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated


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

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

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

Gentiles Shall Reject the Fullness

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

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

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

The Higher Priesthood Was Lost

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

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

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

Introduction to Rock Waterman

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

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

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

Not the Same Church of Joseph Smith

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

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

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

Correlation got Caught by the Internet

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

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

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

Listen to the Prophets but Follow the Lord

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

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

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

There is Room for Everyone in This Church

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

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

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

Get Ready for the Coming Purge

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

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

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

Facebook Discussion Group for Latter-day Commentary


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

Best Vacation I’ve Ever Enjoyed

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

Upcoming Posts planned for Latter-day Commentary

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

Renewing the Temple Recommend

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

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

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

An Additional Witness Has Come Forward

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

An Apostasy From Within the LDS Church

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

The Gentile Church Will Reject the Fullness

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

Open Invitation to Dialog

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

Comments Welcome on Any of These Ideas

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

Live Blogging Sunstone 2014


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

Thursday 31 July 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 1 August 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 2 August 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will started with the Power Corruption Cycle:

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

Rank and file reactions: Compliance, submissiveness, helplessness.

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

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

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

Study Required by the Lord

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

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

Cry Mightily Unto the Lord


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

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

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

Taught by a Servant of the Lord

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

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

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

Reminded of the Promised Invitation

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

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

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

Do Not Hinder Members in Their Efforts

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

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

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

A Sacred Sacrament Meeting

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

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

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

A Meeting With a Prophet

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

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

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

A Witness Confirmed – Again

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

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

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

Excommunicated for Being Visited by Christ

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

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

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

My Witness, My calling and Election

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

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

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

An Open Invitation to the Brethren

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

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

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

Amen to the Priesthood of that Man

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

Answering the Affiliation Question


 

TempleRecommendWhen I turned in my temple recommend I didn’t expect it to upset so many people. It might have had something to do with blogging about it. There is wisdom in keeping some things private. But blogging about the issue paid off in droves. I received countless emails with advice and ideas on how to solve my dilemma. The solution: Most people concluded I was simply being too honest.

I know what you’re thinking. You can’t be too honest. Oh, yes you can. For example, what’s the correct answer to the question, “Does this dress make me look fat?” More to the subject at hand, think about the Lord’s instructions to Peter, James and John from the first time he sent them to see what was happening with Adam. There are times it is appropriate to withhold information.

The Affiliation Question

For those who aren’t familiar with the question, from what I remember, it reads like this: “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?” You can read the temple recommend questions online in many places including the church website.

This question has been discussed ad infinitum in dozens of LDS forums and blogs over the years. It’s still a current topic of discussion. The young people in our church have grown up Internet-savvy. They’re concerned about all the different information they read online about doctrine and history. There are so many things online that simply aren’t taught in the official LDS curriculum.

Become Independent Witnesses

We study and research the facts. This is good practice. We need to think about things. We need to make our own decisions. Hugh B. Brown said: “We must preserve freedom of the mind in the Church and resist all efforts to suppress it.  The Church is not so much concerned with whether the thoughts of its members are orthodox or heterodox as it is that they shall have thoughts.”

One of my long-time readers emailed me this morning. He casually mentioned a chat with his Elder’s Quorum President in his home. My friend was excited about some of the things he was reading and shared them with his Quorum President. What was the response? “I don’t think you should be reading that stuff.” When asked why, he replied, “It’s not published by the church.”

Amen to the Priesthood

This sort of answer causes me to think of the words in Section 121 about control, dominion and compulsion. I know the Brethren want us to be educated. I know they want us to be informed. It is not right to tell a man what he can and cannot read. That is contrary to the plan of the Lord. We are here to gain knowledge or light and truth. The Church doesn’t have a monopoly on truth.

We should encourage free thinking. We should encourage our members to study things out. We should not be telling our members to avoid opposing points of view. That causes blindness of the mind and eventually hardness of heart. I’m serious. How can you treasure the truth if you don’t know what others think? We become unbalanced if we don’t know both sides of our doctrines.

Accepting Counsel and Direction

I know cautions like those expressed by the EQ President of my friend are motivated by love. I feel the same Christ-motivated love from my Bishop and Stake President. Like my wise friend expressed in his email, he appreciated the counsel of his priesthood leader. I also appreciate the counsel of my priesthood leaders as they express their concerns for me in what I read and write.

Because I know they love me, I ponder carefully their counsel and direction. Ultimately, what I read is up to me. I read what I feel inspired to read. Sometimes, the material is not particularly uplifting. That doesn’t matter. It’s what the Lord wants me to know. Not everything in life is all light and rosy. While I would prefer direct revelation, the Lord always tells me to study it out.

Traditions of Our Fathers

As I shared previously, when I turned in my recommend, it was because I felt it was the honest thing to do. I have been very open and clear about my study of the writings shared by a former member of the Church. When I started reading his material, he was a member in good standing. I found in his writings an enormous amount of light and truth, as witnessed by the spirit to me.

Here was my reasoning: I agree with many things this good brother has shared. However, he is no longer a member of the church. Therefore, I can’t answer the affiliation question with a “no.” The tradition in our church is when a man is excommunicated you should no longer consider his words of any value and should refrain from reading anything he may write, or so I’ve observed.

Truth is Truth, No Matter the Source

I was wrong for several reasons. First, the only reason I knew the man had been excommunicated is because he felt it important to be open and honest about his standing with the church. I greatly appreciate that openness. Next, the Church has not published anything to indicate we should not read what this man has written or listen to his lectures. How do we know the Church’s position?

I don’t know if his teachings are contrary to those accepted by the Church unless they tell me. I must rely upon my Priesthood leader to tell me. He receives notices from the First Presidency. He can consult with the Stake President – we already have – and the Stake President can then consult with the Area Authority Seventy. But I doubt there will ever be an official statement.

My Answer to the Affiliation Question

Therefore, my answer to the affiliation question is not only no, but an unqualified no. I’m certain the Church will not direct its members to stay away from reading books or attending lectures in the pursuit of truth and knowledge, or would they? In Handbook 2, section 21.1.40, we read the current policy of the Church in regards to certain kinds of “Symposia and Similar Gatherings.”

“The Church warns its members against symposia and similar gatherings that include presentations that (1) disparage, ridicule, make light of, or are otherwise inappropriate in their treatment of sacred matters or (2) could injure the Church, detract from its mission, or jeopardize its members’ well-being. Members should not allow their position or standing in the Church to be used to promote or imply endorsement of such gatherings.”

Beware of False Prophets

Similarly, Elder Ballard has taught in General Conference,

“Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They ‘set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion’” (2 Ne 26:29) CR, Oct 1999, pp. 77–78 or Ensign Nov 1999 pp. 62–63.

Attending Lectures and Conferences

I have been to one of the lectures of this excommunicated individual I am discussing. I found it to be uplifting and enlightening. I came away feeling edified. To be frank, I am fairly certain the policy of the Church is referring to certain Sunstone Conferences of the past. It is also clear the intent of the affiliation question is to weed out those who are members of polygamous groups.

It is unfortunate the policy causes some members of the Church to consider all lectures about the doctrines of the gospel not sponsored by the Church to be “off limits.” I don’t think that was the intent of the Brethren when they published the symposia policy, nor do I think it was the intent of Elder Ballard to discourage learning when he spoke about the subject in General Conference.

Forty Years in Mormonism

I have listened to and studied each of the seven preceding lectures presented by Denver Snuffer. I found no fault in his material meaning I heard nothing that disparaged, ridiculed, made light of or was otherwise inappropriate in the treatment of sacred matters. I have also read nothing in his material that could injure the Church, detract from its mission or jeopardize my well-being.

I have declared previously on my blog that the man presenting the lecture series, “Forty Years in Mormonism,” has a message well worth our time and attention. I consider him a messenger from the Lord, with a “Testimony of Jesus” I have not found elsewhere. Specifically, the man claims to have been ministered to by the Lord and will be talking about that subject this very weekend.

Please Don’t Resign Your Membership

To those who plan on resigning their membership from the Church this week on Pioneer Day, and especially to those of my friends who I know have made that decision, I ask you to please reconsider. Instead of resigning, I invite you to consider the message of the man who claims to have been ministered to by the Lord and claims to be sharing a message given him of the Lord.

Yes, this borders on advocating, but I recommend it to the alternative being considered. To those of you who have no problems with the “untaught” history and changes in the Church over the years, this message is not for you. For those of my friends who are unhappy with the perceived deceptive practices and lack of forthrightness of the Church in the past, please heed my plea.

We Need You – Don’t Leave Yet

You can do much good as a member of this Church. Many of you are young, intelligent, returned missionaries, married in the temple. I have heard you teach. I have heard your testimonies. I have seen your loving concern for your brothers and sisters in PEC meetings and in ward council. We need you. We need your voices, if nothing more than to make Gospel Doctrine class interesting.

I express my love for you. I hope you will come back. I have sought the Lord diligently for all my life. I have found no better place to associate with like-minded individuals than within the membership of this Church. I know there are problems. I know it is difficult to attend when you hear the same thing over and over again. There is wisdom in the practice of “milk before meat.”

You Are Some of Our Best and Brightest

I had a long-time reader tell me privately “these are not our best and brightest” that are resigning. I disagree. You are smart and talented. You are savvy as to the ways of the world because you have had to deal with things in your youth we older folks never encountered. You know how to make a convincing presentation and how to passionately persuade others to your views on truth.

You have energy and drive we need. You are knowledgeable about the scriptures, the doctrines of the Church and especially about the issues that face it. Many of the older members are blind in that they do not see these issues. To them, all is well in Zion. You and I know otherwise. Yes, you will make a big splash with lots of media attention on Pioneer Day but what about after that?

I Have Been in the Lord’s Presence

I have been asked if I have been ministered to by the Lord. The answer is yes. I have not seen Him but I have been in His presence. I have never shared this before. The baptism of fire is real. I have also been in the presence of the adversary. They are both real. So is the Holy Ghost. We can talk with the Lord. We can converse with Him through the veil. Please let Him guide you.

I long for the day when I will be ushered into the presence of the Father again. It is the Son that takes us there. It is true there are some things too sacred to share but bearing witness of the love of the Savior is not one of them. You’ve heard me teach. I wish I could be in your presence so you could feel my words. I pray the Lord’s blessing upon you. He asked me to share these words.

Questions on LDS Blogging and Apostasy


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

Statement from The First Presidency

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

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

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

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

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

Applying This Statement to LDS Bloggers

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

Blog Readers Not Followers in This Context

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

Attending Lectures From Cast-off Members

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

Desire to Understand Denver’s Message

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

Sharing Ideas of Those Excommunicated

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

Other Bloggers Disciplined For Sharing

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

Consideration of Specific Open Cases

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

Advocacy, Criticism, Doctrine and Questions

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

Bloggers are Targets for Public Opposition

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

Blogging in a Search for Clarification

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

Seeking definitions of Some Key Words

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

Blogging is Usually a Public Activity

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

Blogging is All About Open Dialog

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

Receive the Words of a True Messenger

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

The Lord Defines a Prophet, Not the Church

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

Don’t Blame Me, I Just Report the News


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

Mass Resignations From the LDS Church

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

We Are Losing Some of the Best and Brightest

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

A Serious Step to Get Your Message Across

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

Understanding Why People Leave the Church

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

Consider the Contributions of John Dehlin

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

You May Learn Some Things New at StayLDS

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

Imagine Being Asked to Resign From the Church

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

For the Record From Daymon Smith

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

Question and Answer with Latter-day Commentary

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

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

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

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

Q. Like what?

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

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

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

Q. And now?

A. I am more focused on coming unto Christ.

Q. What do you mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. How so?

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

Q. And…

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

Q. What do you mean?

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

Q. And He told you?

A. In no uncertain terms.

Q. What did He say?

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

Q. Why is that?

A. Because Denver Snuffer had answered them perfectly.

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

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

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

A. Yes.

Q. Can you elaborate?

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

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

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

Q. And you believe that is possible?

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

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

A. Less than a half dozen.

Q. And you believe them?

A. Why should I doubt?

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

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

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

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

Q. Please. Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A. Thank you. God bless and good night.

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