The Doctrine of Additional Prophets


The day of the Lord will come quicklyTo My Long-Time Friends and Associates

We have a lot in common. We have spent years worshiping together and providing service in the church. We have served in Bishoprics, on High Councils, in High Priest groups, as teachers in the Primary and in a multitude of other callings over the years. We have taught seminary and Sunday school together. We have been missionaries and have sung together in the choir. It has been forty years since my first calling as a teacher at age seventeen. Know this: I love you and love my association with good people like you.

I understand the orthodox, standard and correlated doctrines of the church. I have studied and taught them all my life. From my earliest days in Sunday school, Primary, Seminary, religion classes at BYU-I, institute classes, adult Sunday school, including years teaching the doctrines and history of this church, I have loved every minute of it. I have tried to develop gifts of the spirit in teaching and preaching. Some of my most spiritual experiences have been in prayer, while preparing lessons to be taught on Sundays.

A Rich Tradition of Conserving the Past

I recognize most leaders and members of the LDS church are conservative by nature. We hold dear the traditions of our church and our nation. We love the ceremonies of remembering, partaking of the sacrament, participating in home and visiting teaching, striving to find our ancestors through research in family history and taking the names of our ancestors to the temple to perform ordinances of salvation. This is right and good. I am also conservative by nature. I cherish our long history and rich traditions.

I can’t tell you how much I love singing the songs of Zion in Sacrament, Sunday school and priesthood meetings with you. I’ve enjoyed my time on the Stake High Council, in Bishopric meetings, ward council and PEC meetings. My association with you has blessed my life and caused me to reflect many times on the happy state of those who are righteous, of those who strive to live after the manner of happiness. I see the result living the gospel has brought to your lives and have tried to emulate your good examples.

We Are Each A Little Different

I’m sure you have recognized I am a little different in that I am quiet, introverted and somewhat shy. I learned to immerse myself in books and studying the gospel from the time I was seventeen. I have spent over forty years studying the doctrines of this church, trying to understand what we really believe and what we are supposed to accomplish with our lives. For the most part we are agreed. I have been able to “put questions up on the shelf” as we have been taught to do, while waiting patiently for answers.

Because I know I am responsible for my own salvation, I have sought those answers diligently. Over the past few years I have come to see things a little differently. I have come to view certain passages of scripture with a different interpretation than what we have been taught all our lives in the standard curriculum of the church. I know this is bothersome to some of my long-time friends. I know you are concerned about me. You have told me so. I appreciate your kind expressions of love and concern.

I Love the Lord, I Love His Church

Please know I am not seeking to disassociate myself from this church and certainly not from our long friendships. I have no desire to create doubt or confusion. I do not wish to be blamed for influencing your children to turn from their membership in this church we love and have loved for so long. I am a Mormon and intend to remain a Mormon as long as this church will allow me to stay. Because I love the Lord, and believe in the principle of personal revelation so strongly, I intend to do as He directs me.

The Lord has directed me in the scriptures and in my personal prayers to places I had never imagined I would go. I have always thought of myself as a true-blue, died-in-the-wool Mormon, believing all I had been taught about our history and how we should view certain events in that history. You may ask why our history is so important. It is critical to our understanding of what this church has to offer and what the Lord is doing with His church. Note I still refer to the Church as the Lord’s. I do not doubt that fact.

I Sustain the Authorities of This Church

I have repeatedly stated I sustain the local and general authorities of the Church. I continue to reaffirm that commitment. I sustain these men as prophets, seers and revelators as we have done by common consent since the days of Joseph Smith. Although I do not understand the principle of keys as well as I would like, I have always and will continue to affirm the living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, as a prophet of God, the only man who is authorized to exercise all the keys of the priesthood as I understand them.

The big difference, and what has changed in my life over the past few years, is my belief in additional prophets of the Lord, outside the hierarchy of the LDS Church. For this I have been chastised, warned and pleaded with to be careful, to turn from this erroneous belief and to keep my beliefs to myself. In a desire to be honest and give my local priesthood leaders full opportunity to determine my worthiness to continue serving in my current stake calling, I turned in my temple recommend a month or two ago.

Response to Turning In My Temple Recommend

I was surprised at the reaction. You would think I had done the worst thing any member of this church could do. Especially astonishing were the responses of former associates in stake leadership positions – in a previous stake – whose words caused me to feel I had turned my back on all I hold precious and true in my life. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have done nothing of the sort. I am loyal to a fault. I have no desire to do or say anything to cause others to doubt their testimonies of the restored gospel.

I know I am not the first to go through this experience, but perhaps I am the first to make such a public issue of the matter by explaining and describing the process on my blog. I am striving to honor direction from my local leaders to not share details of our meetings, and believe I have kept that promise. The funny thing about my declaration and my actions is that it is so in line with what we find in the Book of Mormon, I can only surmise people have not read or do not accept the Book of Mormon on this matter.

Multiple Prophets Currently Lead Our Church

We currently have fifteen men we sustain as prophets, seers and revelators. Every General conference and at least in one Stake Conference per year, I raise my hand with you in sustaining them in this calling. Many of you know my sister is the secretary to one of those apostles. I am grateful to have met Elder Perry both in his office in the Church Administration Building and here in my home ward a few years ago. I find him to be a delightful man, worthy of the position he holds, filled with the light of the Lord.

The Scriptures teach the Lord reveals His will and directs His children through prophets. I fully accept this doctrine. If we study the scriptures closely, especially the Book of Mormon, we will note the Lord does not limit Himself to prophets within the prevailing institutional hierarchy. In other words, it is more common for the Lord to send prophets from outside the leadership of the day than it is from within that church. Think of Enoch and Moses, then Lehi, Alma and Samuel the Lamanite from the Book of Mormon.

There Is a Strange Thing in the Land

We are studying the Old Testament in our Gospel Doctrine class this year. We just learned about how the Lord called Samuel, even as a boy, who replaced Eli, who served as the Presiding High Priest in Israel at that time. In the New Testament we have the examples of John the Baptist and even the Savior who came from outside the accepted hierarchy of the day. The more you think about it, the more you will come to realize the Lord has always sent prophets to warn us of destruction and prepare us for Zion.

Just so I’m not misunderstood, I am going to be as clear as I know how to be. Although I am not the first to make this declaration, perhaps because of my leadership positions in the church over the years, and because of the prominence of my blog, I am going to place everything on the line in proclaiming what I know to be true through study and prayer. It will go contrary to what you have been taught over the years. You may find it outrageous and may be offended. Nevertheless, this is prompted by the Lord.

My Declaration of a New Prophet

I declare unto you, in all words of soberness, in words revealed unto me by the Lord, that He has sent a prophet to us within the last few years from outside the hierarchy of the Church, with a mission to teach us, to warn us, and to lead us to the Lord. I have spent hundreds of hours studying his published words. I have listened to his recorded teachings over this past year and have found truth in what he has shared. I have sat in his presence recently to test his spirit. I found no fault and have had my witness reaffirmed.

I declare unto you this prophet is acting as an Elias, or a John the Baptist, with the mission to prepare us to receive the Lord. More importantly, he is as Moses in striving to show us the way to the Lord, that we may enter into His presence in this life, to be prepared to be caught up to meet the inhabitants of the City of Enoch at the coming of the Lord. That event will be accompanied by great destructions. This is well known. Not as well-known is just how soon those destructions will begin to be poured out upon us.

I Am No Apostate – I am True and Faithful

I make this declaration knowing full well it is contrary to the traditions of our fathers and of our church, but it is not contrary to the ways of the Lord. You will know this if you take seriously the message of the Book of Mormon. Use the current mantra of the church in “Follow the Prophet” to study the words of this prophet. How can you judge a matter without studying it out, pondering it and praying about it? You may find it uncomfortable and unfamiliar at first, but I promise you, the Lord bears witness of the truth.

I am not alone in this declaration. There are hundreds, if not thousands, who also know this man to be a messenger sent from the Lord. You would think a church that teaches the importance of studying the Book of Mormon would stand by this doctrine of prophets coming from outside the hierarchical order of the established institution. Instead, they have cast this messenger out as an apostate. In so doing, they have violated the principles of the priesthood, and in effect, have rejected the fullness that was offered.

The Lord Will Reveal Himself to Us

The day of the Gentile is now past. It is over. The Gentile church rejected the fullness as prophesied. I am saddened to have been a witness to this event. I did not think it would happen in my day. I do not know the timetable of the Lord, but I do know we are now in the last days, not just the latter-days. I do not know what will happen to me. I only know I must do what I have covenanted to do. I have promised to stand as a witness of the Lord in all times and all places. I am called upon to bear my own witness.

I bear witness the Lord is willing to reveal Himself to us. We should be diligent in seeking His face. He has promised to come unto us, to not leave us comfortless. I know this is true. He has promised us He will bear witness of the truth of all things if we will but ask Him. I have done so. The Lord has made it clear I must share my witness in order to progress. I dare not disobey Him. I love Him. I seek to do his will. If I am cast out as an apostate, so be it. That will not change the priesthood He has given me.

A Few Closing Thoughts

You can hear this prophet for yourself. He is now declaring the message the Lord has given Him. He will be teaching in the desert for two days at the end of July – First in Las Vegas and then in St. George. This will give time for people to soften their hearts before the final message to be delivered in September in Phoenix. I pray the Lord will soften the hearts of the honest and believing blood of Israel before we reap the bitter harvest of our rejection of the fullness. The time is short. Great destructions now await us.

You can tell false prophets by their fruits. But you must study and understand the message they deliver before you can tell the Lord you have done as He has asked. Let the Lord take control. Let Him compel you and have dominion over your heart. Seek righteousness in your judgments. Do not add your “amen” to the rejection of a prophet, a true messenger sent to guide us in the way of salvation. I, for one, cast my lot with the Lord and what He has revealed. I stand by my sacred covenant. I am true to my promise.

Las Vegas and St. George

Las Vegas LectureDate:  Friday, July 25, 2014
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Place: Fiesta Henderson Hotel & Casino
777 West Lake Mead Parkway
Henderson, NV 89015
Seats: Cancun Room A/B, seats 150St. George Lecture

Date:  Saturday, July 26, 2014
Time:  9:30 a.m.
Place:  Lexington Hotel and Conference Center
850 Bluff Street
St. George, UT 84770
Seats:  Ballroom, seats 275

Note: The Ephraim talk is now online: http://www.scribd.com/doc/233544493/Ephriam-Transcript-Christ. How can anyone claim this man is teaching false doctrine? I still can’t believe the church cast him out.

Update (7-14-14): There has been so much misunderstanding in regards to my declaration above, I feel the need to clarify. Note I did not proclaim this man was sent to be a prophet within the LDS church. In fact, I thought I made it especially clear he was sent from outside the hierarchy. I did NOT proclaim him to be an LDS prophet. I declared he was sent to us as a servant of the Lord with a message for all who would hear it.

The testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy, thus my declaration that he was / is a prophet. I stand by what I wrote. Please don’t add inference that the messenger / servant I refer to has anything to do with the LDS church hierarchy. He is not part of the institutional church. Members of the LDS Church vote on our prophets. They are called and sustained by common consent. The whole point of the post was / is that this man was sent by the Lord with a message.

Update two (7-18-14): Many of you know I took my blog down for a day or two at the recommendation of my Bishop. There was so much interest in this post, my declaration and the ensuing commentary that I could not bear to disappoint those who come here for discussion. I brought the blog back online after 24 hours. I thank you for allowing me to read your comments. I am simply amazed at the awesome thoughtfulness that goes into the ideas you share. God bless you all.

Some of you know Jules and her blog, 2nd Witness. Although I promised I would not add any new posts until after I return from the two lectures in Las Vegas and St. George next weekend, I was made aware of this letter from Jules to her bishop(s) and simply could not resist sharing: http://2ndwitness.com/letter-of-dissent-jules.html I found it especially interesting as she added so many insights in the area of this original post: The Doctrine of Additional Prophets.

Forty Years in Mormonism


CDs of Denver Snuffer Boise LectureI received my CDs from last week’s Boise talk. It took a day or two more to get to me in California. I know some already had theirs Saturday. I haven’t listened to it yet. I plan to rip the CD and put it on my iPhone. I’ll listen to it to and from work tomorrow if I can wait that long. I’ve read good reviews already: http://goo.gl/TslGw4

Update: The full transcript is now available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/168908635/Boise-Transcript-Be-of-Good-Cheer-Be-of-Good-Courage

Excommunicated Forty Years Later

Denver delivered this lecture last Tuesday evening having received word that very morning he had been excommunicated from the church forty years to the day he had been baptized. How ironic. Those who attended reported he said nothing of the disciplinary action, but was upbeat, cheerful, positive and spoke with confidence.

Spoke for Over Two Hours

One observer said he rarely looked at notes, but simply spoke from the heart. I suppose years of preparation from being a lawyer and teaching the gospel helped but that does seem a bit amazing. Even after many years as a High Councilor, I think I could speak for thirty or forty minutes before I would have to sit down.

First in a Series of Lectures

This is only the first part of a series of lectures. From what I have read, he stopped after two hours and twenty minutes, inviting everyone to the next lecture to be held in Idaho Falls on Saturday, September 28th and the next night in Logan on the 29th. If you want to pre-order your CDs go to Doug Mendenhall’s PublishingHope.info.

Denver is Blogging More Frequently

Denver seems to have gone back to posting something on his blog most every day. Today he wrote about “Evil Speaking of the Lord’s Anointed.” I’m not sure who is accusing him of that but the blog post provides links to where he has answered that question previously. You can’t fault Denver for not giving us enough information.

Read Before You Leave Comments

Too many people are forming or have formed their opinions without reading his books or listening to his lectures. You can tell almost immediately when you read the comments in this and other blogs about Denver who hasn’t done any reading. It’s sad really. I would be embarrassed to express an opinion without any facts.

Hundreds of Recent Comments

This will be a short post tonight. I have many private emails to answer and want to get the CDs ripped and loaded up onto my iPhone. But there are a few things I would like to make clear. I have read hundreds of your comments over the past few weeks as I have written almost exclusively about the Denver Snuffer episode.

Strong Feelings About Denver Snuffer

The comments seem to be equally pro and con. I like that. It makes for good dialog. Thank you to all who have left comments and especially to those who had ongoing running conversations over a period of days. I have learned a lot from you. Mostly I learned you feel strongly about the subject. That is a good thing.

Leave Links Back to Your Blog

There are some really smart people who have left great comments here. If you blog regularly somewhere else, take advantage of the open forum where you can leave your web address in the comments. Readers will click on your blog link to get to know you better. I like to know more about my readers, so don’t be anonymous.

Backup Up Your Comments

Second, don’t be afraid to state your position, but please be prepared to back it up with intelligent reasons. I don’t know about you but I dislike reading comments that state, “Denver is an apostate who deserved what he got. Anybody who reads his stuff should not be allowed to have a temple recommend.” Really? Why is that?

Provide Your Sources

And please stop repeating lies, innuendoes, false accusations and other falsehoods. If you have a source for what you are sharing, please let us know what it is so we can look it up for ourselves. Opinions are great, but what caused you to form such an opinion, either pro or con? Give examples from Denver’s books or blog entries.

Please Be Civil and Considerate

For all I know, Denver could possibly open his blog up again for comments. He said he closed comments at the request of his stake president. I can see why. Some of the comments on my Facebook threads where I announce my blog posts have been downright rude, vicious and mean. Most people prefer civil blog comments.

This is an Open Blog

Some of you may be wondering, “Who made you the spot to write about all things relating to Denver Snuffer?” I’m not. Trust me, there are other places you can go to discuss this issue like the LDS Freedom Forum or Google Groups. However, I think I am one of the few that is open to the public. Can you point me to others?

This Blog May Suddenly Disappear

Two final thoughts: 1) If my bishop or stake president asked me to stop writing about or bringing attention to Denver Snuffer, I would do so in a heartbeat. They may feel that what is discussed is too detrimental to those who have already fragile testimonies of the concepts that we discuss here, especially about church authority.

Respect the Privacy of the Man

2) If Denver asked me to stop writing about him or bringing attention to his blog or his lectures, I would do so at a moment’s notice. I in no way want to impose upon his privacy, although that’s pretty hard to do since he has made himself a public figure. I have a lot of respect for what he is doing but I could not follow his path.

My Position – I Love This Church

I have no intention of ever leaving this church. Denver has always advocated we remain true and faithful to the church by attending our meetings, partaking of the sacrament weekly and attending the temple regularly. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love this church and love to serve my brothers and sisters in this church.

I Want to Know the Lord Better

I hope you can tell I’m excited about receiving these CDs. I have few passions in life: one is computers – helping other people use them, two is books – collecting and reading them and three is the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the LDS Church. I should have reversed that order – my love of the Lord comes first.

Boise Lecture Review is Coming Up

God bless you all. I hope to have my review of the Boise talk posted sometime within the next few days. Review is probably not the right word. A blog post containing my impressions of what Denver said and what I felt as he said would be more appropriate. Thank you for visiting, for reading my blog and for commenting.

Orthodox Mormonism


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

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

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

Religion and Church

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

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

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

Jan Graf – Reality of evil spirits

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

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

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

Anthony Larson – Latter-day catastrophes

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

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

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

Denver Snuffer – The Second Comforter

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

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

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

Spiritual Experiences

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Top 50 Most Viewed Essays


If you are a new visitor to my blog, you may want to take a few minutes to browse through some of my top essays. These are ranked by page views over the past two years. I have a different list of some of my favorites but these are the most viewed. I hope this gives you a flavor for the kind of material I like to cover in my essays – current LDS topics.

 

1. General Authority Training – Advanced Subjects
2. How Americans View Mormonism
3. About Tim
4. There is no middle ground
5. It Came From Behind the Sun
6. Elder Packer Was Right about Bearing Testimony
7. My Interview with Mormon.org
8. What they don’t tell you about Bishopric Meetings
9. The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith
10. The Mormon Corporate Empire
11. Getting past prejudices with Rent – the Musical
12. An Evening with Richard Bushman
13. The Endowment is more than the ordinances
14. When Prophets need to know
15. Divine Manifestations must have a purpose
16. Come Unto Christ – my Christmas talk
17. A different kind of knowledge
18. Rachel Esplin video continues to be a hit
19. Shades of grey and relative truth
20. Walt Whitman – the great American poet
21. Mormon visitors from outer space
22. A website for the average Mormon
23. Thoughtful discussion of controversial topics
24. 2012 the movie
25. Revelation and emotional response
26. Add your profile to Mormon.org
27. The attitude of mocking
28. Objections to the Book of Abraham
29. A letter to a reader – burning of the bosom
30. The ambush – a fictional background story
31. Spiritual experiences as a foundation for faith
32. Seer stone in a hat – book of Mormon translation
33. When a prophet gets Alzheimer’s disease
34. The personal power of Hester Prynne
35. Red Sky – an early version of my novel
36. Unique Religion of Benjamin Franklin
37. God even loves computer geeks like me
38. Moving toward gospel promises
39. Sandinistas – missionaries in Nicaragua
40. Mormon mommy blogs are the traffic queens
41. Multiple versions of the first vision
42. And the stars shall fall from heaven
43. Miracles and angels – a car wreck in Oklahoma
44. The government of the United States will collapse
45. Just where exactly are the lost ten tribes?
46. Mormon Church is not the fastest growing
47. Just what was Portnoy’s Complaint?
48. Changes to the Book of Mormon
49. Changing requirements of perfection
50. Public rebuke from an apostle

How Americans View Mormonism


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

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

Lawrence Research

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

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

Survey Results

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

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

Negative Image

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

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

Unique Vocabulary

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

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

Meaning of Gospel

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

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

Higher Education

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

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

Mormon Scholars Testify

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

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

Opposition in All Things

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

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

Choose What We Believe

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

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

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

An Evening with Richard Bushman


About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.

For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.

Open and honest discussion

It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.

There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.

A well-qualified historian

One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.

Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation.  He knows early church history.

Serving faithfully in the church

And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple.  I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history.  I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.

I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.”  I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.

Believing in spite of knowing

This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?”  I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.

Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?

Shocked by our history

Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church?  For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey.  Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.

Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.”  Things were different back then, weren’t they?  The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.

History not being hidden

When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.

For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.

Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright

Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission.  Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.

We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review.  Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.

Consider carefully the source

For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil.  Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.

We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.

Get the facts straight

If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.

Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?

The Joseph Smith Papers

Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation.  In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.

I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.

We can believe the prophet

As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.

Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.

Add your profile to Mormon.org


I haven’t been this excited about something the church has done in a long time.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love the blessings of being involved in church activity each week, especially as I watch the young single adults grow and develop (I serve in the Bishopric of a YSA ward).  But for me, this is probably the single most exciting development I have seen come from Salt Lake City in many years.

I’m talking about the new Mormon.org, a complete redesign of the companion website to lds.org, the two main websites of the Mormon church.  Since I make a living with computers in IT support, I have been watching the church embrace and use technology for my entire adult life.  In the early nineties I wondered for a long time when the church would finally get a website.  When they did, it took me a while to not think that it was just a little bit behind the times even when it was new.  I felt the same way when Mormon.org first came out.  But with release 4.0 of the site, I confess that I am just blown away.  Why?  Because of the interactive element.

The church has embraced social media in a big way.  I confess that I am a little shocked at the amount of openness and trust that is exhibited in allowing members of the church to create their own profiles on the site.  It’s especially progressive that links to FaceBook, Twitter and blogs are not only allowed but encouraged.  The Brethren are putting a lot of faith in the members of the church to show the world who Mormons really are.  The profile and links are reviewed but they are left totally up to the members to maintain – warts and all.  It is an awesome way to share the gospel.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to add your profile to the new Mormon.org.  It’s a simple process and takes just a few minutes.  All you need is an account on LDS Account.  Most members of the church have already done that as they participate in the new Family Search or access their ward and stake websites.  I can’t think of a better way to share our beliefs with the world and help dispel all the misconceptions that are still out there, especially on the Internet.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, come be my friend on Facebook.  That’s where I do most of my online social interaction these days.  It’s just so much quicker to share my life with family and friends there.  I’m glad that I spent several years writing essays on Latter-day Commentary because I wanted a place to explain in depth how I feel about the church and the powerful doctrine.  But you may have noticed that my essays have become few and far between.  Social media is not just for the young.  I have reconnected on Facebook with 500 friends from school, work, church and life.

What an amazing thing that the church has done.  I think we’re going to hear a lot more about this.  Now go create your profile on the new Mormon.org.

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