What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated


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

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

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

Gentiles Shall Reject the Fullness

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

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

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

The Higher Priesthood Was Lost

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

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

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

Introduction to Rock Waterman

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

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

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

Not the Same Church of Joseph Smith

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

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

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

Correlation got Caught by the Internet

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

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

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

Listen to the Prophets but Follow the Lord

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

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

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

There is Room for Everyone in This Church

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

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

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

Get Ready for the Coming Purge

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

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

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

Do This in Remembrance of Me


 

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

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

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

Bloggers and Apostasy

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

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

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

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

4. Formally join another church.

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

Guidelines from the Church

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

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

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

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

Worthiness is the Key

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

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

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

Examples of Apostate Writing

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

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

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

Partaking of the Sacrament

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

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

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

Sacrament Restriction as Punishment

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

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

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

Invitation to Open Dialog

I have three questions for you gospel scholars out there:

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

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

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

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.

Conservative Mormon Bloggers Under Scrutiny


RockWatermanOne of my greatest desires as a blogger is to help people of differing beliefs and political ideologies come together in a unified search for peace that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus I was delighted today to be able to express and expound upon those sentiments to Kristen Moulton of the Salt Lake Tribune, substituting for the vacationing Peggy Fletcher Stack.

Disciplined for Following a Prophet

The focus of the piece is that conservative Mormons, as well as progressives, are being called in and disciplined by their local leaders for their blogging activities. I don’t fall into that category, since I’m under no disciplinary restrictions, but because I’ve written much on the subject, I was honored to be asked my opinion. The piece was well done. My contribution was two small ideas.

Asking Questions is not the Same as Doubt

I’d like to elaborate on those ideas for a minute to illustrate an observation that is now becoming clearer to me each day as this drama unfolds, a drama which many people hope will blow over soon, and which the majority of the church outside Utah has very little idea even exists. First, the idea of asking questions seems to be misinterpreted by many conservatives as expressing doubt.

Some Think it Not Acceptable to Ask Questions

I can’t tell you how many of my conservative friends have written me privately, as well as on the blog, expressing grave concerns for the welfare of my soul. I know they love me. I know their concern is genuine. We’ve served together in past leadership positions or have worshiped in the same wards and stakes over the past fifty plus years I have been a member of the LDS Church.

Some Seem to be Afraid of Asking Questions

For some reason, it just strikes them wrong to ask a question that may or may not be answered in the official curriculum of the church. And if I dare to suggest the answers provided in the official material may not be exactly truthful, meaning they leave out parts of the story or the narrative is perhaps slightly embellished to make the church look better, why, I’m sowing seeds of doubt.

Church Encourages Us to Ask Hard Questions

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love to ask questions. It’s how I learn. It’s part of my nature. I ask questions, then I answer them. I’m confident I can find quotes from at least a half dozen General Authorities endorsing this manner of learning as being superior to simply reading the scriptures every day. We are to search the scriptures and be ready to defend church doctrines.

Elder Ballard Encouraged us to Be Active on Blogs

Second is the idea that blogging is somehow a rebellious activity in the church – something only progressive activists do. Neither idea is anywhere remotely close to the truth but I encounter both every day on this blog. Misunderstanding goes with the territory. I openly invite participation and encourage comments. I do not censor anything, no matter what kind of comment they leave – unless they are obvious trolls.

Trolls Should be Banned for Contention

I get trolls just like every other blogger. In case you don’t know, a troll is someone who will do everything they can to stir up contention. They will be personally abusive with ad hominem attacks and will purposefully misrepresent the facts. I suppose trolls have their place. They can sure get the conversation going, but they don’t contribute anything intellectually constructive.

Blogging Can and Does Make a Difference

I started my blog just before Elder Ballard invited all members of the church to be involved in the Internet conversations taking place with or without us. He said we could make a difference. He was right. I’ve seen that evidenced time after time as friendships are created, ideas are then discussed with passion, and conclusions are reached with agreement or a better sense of unity.

Open a Dialog, Have a Conversation, Let’s Talk

HannahWheelwrightDo all bloggers and their readers agree on the ideas expressed? Of course not, there are too many divergent views based on differing experiences in life. But just the fact we are having a dialog to discuss the doctrine, a policy or practice is constructive and allows us to exercise kindness in the way we respond to each other. It’s especially helpful if we pray before we write responses. I do.

Most LDS Leaders are Ideologically Conservative

Because many if not most of the local leaders in LDS congregations are conservative by nature, and usually very successful in business, law or medicine, they tend to be authoritative and, well, controlling to a degree. I hate to say it but it’s true. They seem to see it as their most important duty to make sure the meetings run smoothly, emotions are under control and all is peaceful.

Seems Not Okay to Ask Questions in Church Classes

While it is a commendable practice, I have to wonder how much ministering is done when the members feel it is NOT okay to bring up their questions in the classrooms. There seems to be an immense amount of pressure to project “all is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth” that nobody wants to get down to the raw nitty-gritty of problems they may be experiencing with doctrine.

Church History Narrative Not Always Accurate

It is especially manifest in discussions of church history. For the longest time, we have been spoon-fed the same standard narrative of “this is how it was” and there is no other interpretation. Unfortunately, there are some who know otherwise. They have done as the prophets have asked us to do and have discovered some things were not exactly as they have always been presented.

Bloggers are an Inquisitive, Questioning Bunch

This is common to both progressive activists and conservative bloggers. President Boyd K. Packer one time proclaimed that three of the greatest threats to the church are intellectuals, gays and feminists. I used to wonder why he would call such members threats. Why should we limit the participation and acceptance of members of our faith because they fall into these categories?

Should be Room for Everybody in This Church

What about John Dehlin’s argument that he is happy as a cultural Mormon and just wants to be left alone? What’s wrong with that? Isn’t there a place for him in this church? So what if he doesn’t believe a lot of the truth claims of the church. Must you believe everything the church teaches in order to be a member? Isn’t any other behavior a controlling and thus forbidden act?

Cultural Mormons Want a Place in the Church

In other words, why are we excommunicating members for what they believe, especially if they are NOT encouraging others to doubt or to leave the church? I have read or listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts from Mormon Stories and have not lost my belief or faith in Jesus Christ or the role this Church has to play in these Latter-days. Why are so many conservatives so fearful?

Excommunicated for Endorsing a New Book

But what really gets me upset is the way some conservative LDS leaders have forced their members to “shut up” and not share their appreciation for the words or writings of individuals who have helped them come closer to Christ. In particular, I am extremely disappointed that stake presidents have excommunicated members for simply telling their friends about a book.

Amen to the Priesthood of that Leader

Seriously. We’ll never hear the other side of the story, but when the excommunicant explains they were cast off for simply recommended a book and wanting to discuss it with friends, I say the leaders have abused their priesthood or worse, have lost it because they exercised control, compulsion, and unrighteous dominion. That is not the purpose of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

The Internet Changed Everything for Research

Now back to the story for some concluding thoughts. From Jan Shipps: “The fact they are going in both directions [against conservatives and progressives],” Shipps said, “makes me think the church is finally coming to grips with the fact the Internet is changing the situation.” Oh, how I hope that is true. I’ve made a living with the power of the Internet for the last twenty-five years.

Every Member Should be an Amateur Historian

I have watched it bring people together like nothing else ever has. One of the best uses of the Internet, in my opinion, is the sharing of gospel doctrine and newly discovered LDS historical evidence. The fact should be obvious to all by now our history has been whitewashed, covered-up or embellished, especially in the earliest 1820-1840 developments in some very key areas.

We Lost an Opportunity With the Death of Joseph

Here’s my concluding point. I love to research church history. It makes a difference in my faith. It helps me to understand what Joseph Smith was trying to do. He wanted to establish Zion much more than to simply start a new church. The Lord intended to perform a marvelous work and a wonder through him that simply did not get completed. He died before it could be brought about.

It’s Time to Prepare Ourselves Individually for Zion

Enough time has passed – four generations according to the scriptures – that we now have an opportunity to establish Zion again. But we must individually become a Zion people. We must come unto Christ, receive Him in this life. That’s the entire purpose of the temple, to receive the Savior and have Him confer the power of the priesthood upon us – both upon men and women.

Just Expressing my Thoughts – Don’t Crucify me

False doctrine, you say? Not from what I’ve read and not from what the scriptures teach. Yet every time I try to provide the evidence from our scriptures and our historical records I am lambasted for heresy. I know I don’t have all the answers yet. I wonder if anyone in this church understands what the Lord was trying to do through the Prophet Joseph Smith. What say ye?

Comments are Still Welcome – Trolls are Warned

New policy: Trolls and Haters are subject to banning. The policy against no ad-hominem attacks will be enforced. Your comments are welcome, but only if you can provide a sound and logical argument, devoid of contention. Passionate expression of opinion is allowed and concern for the welfare of others is always appreciated. But please, no knee-jerk “you’re a fool” crap anymore.

God bless and thanks for reading and sharing.

Update: I felt the church’s response was important enough to include a link in the post:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765655450/LDS-Church-responds-to-concerns-over-member-questions.html

Yet, members who leave comments or questions on blogs are still being called in and questioned by their bishops:

http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/58088940-78/church-bishop-leaders-mormons.html.csp

 

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.”

Public Statement on my Status


The sacred power of marriageOwing to the many private inquiries as to my status in the current “purge” of bloggers and Mormon activists, I would like to share this comment I wrote a few days ago in response to a reader’s questions. I hope it demonstrates where my loyalties lie. If you want further information, my email address and cell phone number are prominently displayed on this blog. Please don’t assume anything. I have not received notice of pending disciplinary action.

My statement:

The church has a mission and authority. There is no doubt about that in my mind. It was restored for a purpose. It is still a place where the Lord’s work is being performed. It has a commission to preach the gospel, publish the scriptures, build and maintain meetinghouses and temples and to perform or administer ordinances. Because I am commanded to pay tithing, I choose to pay my tithing to the church. I still accept what the church does with it.

Something was Lost With Death of Joseph

It just seems to me that something was lost. I can’t quite put my finger on it. I noticed it about twenty-five years ago when I was called into a Bishopric. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of administrative work and not enough of a focus on ministering to the spiritual needs of the members. But since I have never been a bishop, I chalked it up to the nature of my callings over the years – secretary, clerk, counselor… I saw my job as an opportunity to take some of the burden off the bishop.

I Love Serving in my Ward and Stake

I still feel that way. I appreciate the opportunity to assist the stake presidency with the financial management of the stake. I love this church. More correctly stated, I love the people in it. I love the opportunities I am occasionally given to teach the gospel in Sunday school or priesthood. I feel the spirit of the Lord working within this church. I appreciate taking the sacrament. I love going to the temple. I love going to baptisms. There’s always a special feeling at baptisms.

I Love the Leaders of This Church

I love the leaders of this church, local and general. I have no animosity toward them. I question some of the decisions made by leaders in other stakes who have excommunicated some of my online friends. I love the First Presidency and members of the Quorum of the Twelve. I sustain them. I pray for them. I help pay their salaries and that’s OK with me. I accept their leadership. I know they have a tough job. I would not want to be in their shoes in this instant age of the Internet.

Church Discipline seems Displeasing to Christ

Because I disagree with the excommunications taking place in other stakes of individuals I have come to know and love – first online and then in person – I felt it would be less than honest to keep my temple recommend. I turned it in because I could no longer answer no to the question about “affiliating” or “sympathizing” with individuals who the church has cast out for apostasy. I do sympathize with them and I do intend to affiliate with them, many of them next month in St. George.

Let’s Educate Ourselves on Issues of the Day

Many readers have a “cut to the chase” way of observing and summarizing the problem I have been trying to identify for the last twenty-five years. I’m not sure I would have phrased it so directly, but then I assume they are relating it in the negative way they have seen it asked. I also have seen it asked in a negative manner and it somewhat pains me because of the love I have for this church. Surely we can seek to educate ourselves on the issues of the day without being negative.

Denver Snuffer is a Catalyst for Discussion

Like it or not, Denver Snuffer is one of the issues of the day. He is a catalyst for many people who feel the way he does about something being missing. I am one of those people. Although I have not met the man – I will next month – I have read and agree with the vast majority of what he has written in his books, his blog and delivered in his lectures. Instead of recognizing the man for helping us to obtain a better grasp of our history and predicament, the church has excommunicated him.

Disagree with Strengthening Church Members Committee

That bothers me. I disagree with what was done. I disagree with the idea of a “Strengthening the Church Members Committee.” It seems so wrong. It’s like controlling what we read, think and write. I chafe at the feeling of fear and suspicion I sense just knowing such a committee is reading my blog, looking for content worthy of some sort of corrective or disciplinary action. I don’t believe such a committee has any place in the true church of Jesus Christ. It’s just wrong in my view and opinion.

I Want to See the Church Succeed in it’s Mission

I want this church to prosper and continue to grow. I want to see it succeed in it’s mission. I want to help with that mission. I have given most all my life to furthering the work of the church as a missionary and as a “volunteer” leader on the local level with whatever I have ever been asked to do. I have grown tremendously in this church, but I can no longer stand idly by and see injustice done that I have witnessed. Many say I am wrong. My heart and the Lord have told me otherwise.

God bless and thanks to all for your thoughtful comments.

Update: I was interviewed on Friday afternoon by Brian Mullahy of KUTV2 via Skype specifically for this story. I would never have chosen to do something like that on my own, but had the opportunity to testify of Christ and of the service LDS bloggers can and do provide. Of course they cut my testimony and used only two short clips about the SCMC. You can see it here:

http://kutv.com/news/top-stories/stories/whats-lds-panels-role-mormon-disciplinary-actions-11952.shtml

Update2 (6/20/14) : The facts remain: The SCMC is behind the disciplinary action of at least one blogger / author. You can read the very detailed facts here:

http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-facts.html

 

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