Answering the Affiliation Question


 

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

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

The Affiliation Question

For those who aren’t familiar with the question, from what I remember, it reads like this: “Do you support, affiliate with or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” You can read the temple recommend questions online in many places including the church website.

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

Become Independent Witnesses

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

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

Amen to the Priesthood

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

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

Accepting Counsel and Direction

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

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

Traditions of Our Fathers

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

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

Truth is Truth, No Matter the Source

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

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

My Answer to the Affiliation Question

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

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

Beware of False Prophets

Similarly, Elder Ballard has taught in General Conference,

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

Attending Lectures and Conferences

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

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

Forty Years in Mormonism

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

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

Please Don’t Resign Your Membership

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

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

We Need You – Don’t Leave Yet

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

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

You Are Some of Our Best and Brightest

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

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

I Have Been in the Lord’s Presence

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

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

Concluding Testimony at my Disciplinary Council


MartinLuther95ThesesI shared my testimony in our regular monthly testimony meeting this morning. I wanted to make sure the Bishop and a member of the Stake Presidency present – he’s also in our ward – heard me say I sustain the general authorities and local authorities of the church. Of course these words were in addition to sharing comments reflecting my love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior.

Covering All the Bases

Carol asked me afterward if I did that to offset whoever it was that complained about my blog a few months ago. I assured her I was sincere, but yes, I wanted the whole ward to know of my feelings for those who lead this church. I continue to sustain them with my prayers and with my money. Yes, I know my tithing is used to pay their salary. It also helps pay my sister’s salary.

Follow the Bishop’s Counsel

As far as I know, I’m not under any priesthood leader’s watch list for an impending disciplinary council, but a few of my friends and fellow bloggers have been surprised, so I’m being careful. I’m doing my utmost to follow my Bishop’s counsel to keep my headlines non-inflammatory and to keep links to my posts off Facebook. Those links are apparently where I got in trouble before.

It’s Tough to Be a Bishop

I continue to be appreciative of my Bishop’s opening remarks when he called me to talk the first time a few months back. He said our chats – there were two follow-ups – were motivated out of love. I know I’ve shared this before but I believe him. Our bishop is a good man. I love him and appreciate all he does for our ward. It takes a lot of time to manage the largest ward in the stake.

If Ye Are Prepared, Ye Shall Not Fear

Specifically because some of my fellow bloggers were surprised at the rapidity of the course of events surrounding their disciplinary councils, I want to be prepared, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually in case I get surprised. In one case the good brother was notified on Sunday he was to be tried for his membership and was excommunicated 72 hours later on Wednesday evening.

Course of Action Planned in Advance

I’ve written my defense before the High Council in a previous post. Obviously it was imaginary, a defense based on years of observation of disciplinary councils in which I have participated as a High Counselor, a Bishopric Counselor or a clerk. I hope this will never be needed, but in that same spirit, I’d like to have my closing testimony prepared in the event I am allowed to share it.

How I Dislike Disciplinary Councils

In case you don’t know, there’s no guarantee you will get to say anything at your disciplinary council. Seriously. I know what the handbook says. About the only thing they have to let you say is how you answer to the charges – innocent or guilty. Don’t you just hate the whole concept of a disciplinary council? I do. It doesn’t seem right to have such things in the church of Jesus Christ.

Our Decision That You Be Excommunicated

But then, what do I know? I’m just a lowly member, happy to be here, grateful to serve. So with that in mind, and since I use my blog as an auxiliary personal journal, here is what I would like to say if I ever hear the words, “Brother Malone, our decision is that you be excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Is there anything you would like to say?”

Shared Desire to Do the Will of the Lord

“Thank you President. I’ll be brief here. Thank you to my brethren of the High Council for their service. And thank you, President, for your thoughtful and prayerful consideration of my case. I know this is painful to you, not because you’re losing a financial clerk, but because I know you are a good man, with a desire to do the will of the Lord. I’m grateful we share that same desire.

Excommunication Difficult on Family Members

“There’s no need to go over the details of my case. The decision has been made and I sustain your action. I suspect the decision was made at a higher level in the church, but that doesn’t matter. I am no longer a member but will continue to attend with my wife for whom I pray night and day. This chain of events has been painful for her and a source of resentment and frustration.

Apostasy – Simply Writing a Few Book Reviews

“I will not be appealing the case. I have never seen it do any good for anyone else. Besides, I have no intention of seeking rebaptism. I was excommunicated for apostasy – for simply reading a book and sharing it with others. I felt led by the Lord in the entire process. I was introduced to the book in the temple. I prayed about the book in the temple and was answered in the temple.

My Issue is With Interpreting Church History

“The book has changed my life. It clarified for me many things I already suspected or believed. I know my path is not for everyone. There are fundamental differences in the way we look at the church. I suspect it will always be so. This is not a personal issue with you, your leadership, or anyone in this room. My issue is with the Brethren in Salt Lake, always has been and will be.

The Priesthood Was Taken From Israel

“I will continue to pray for them, but am no longer allowed to sustain them, meaning they will not accept my tithing. It won’t be missed. I will continue to love them. They are good men who have taught and inspired me. They have done a good job in leading this church. You may think me deceived and naïve, but I feel sorry for them. They are stuck. They cannot escape the past.

Gentiles Shall Reject Fullness of the Gospel

“I don’t want to offend anybody so I won’t say anything more. My reasons are on my blog and will be amplified with greater clarity now that I am free to share more openly. I hope you won’t consider my blog to be anti-Mormon because it’s not. I am not an enemy of this church. I love the church and pray for its success, but believe things about the church that are no longer taught.

Prophecy and Traditional Narrative Differ

“For the record, I refute the charges that I do not sustain the Brethren. Perhaps it’s semantics. I simply disagree with some of their interpretations of history and scripture. I’ve been told I need to repent until my thinking is in line with what the Brethren teach about those certain events in our history. I appreciate the invitation. I know it’s offered with love and concern for my welfare.

Testimony of Church History Not Required

“I’ll conclude with words I wrote privately to a long-time reader who was troubled by my blog: Thank you for your love and concern. My mind is made up. I choose to believe things about our history that are not taught in our church or are taught in a manner that leaves out key elements. The beautiful thing is we don’t have to have a testimony of church history to come unto Christ.

The Purging of the Two Percent

“Let’s focus on what is important – to know Christ. I love this church for the renewed focus we have on the Savior. I have watched it happen in my lifetime. I pray that priesthood leaders will leave good men alone who are striving to come unto Christ but don’t believe some of the history. But recent evidence shared with me privately indicates the purge of men like me is accelerating.

The Truth Will Set You Free

If the church continues on this path, they will alienate and lose the strength and backbone of the priesthood brethren who faithfully pay tithes and administer in wards and stakes in the church. Can the church afford that? Perhaps – perhaps not. God bless us each in our pursuit of the truth. It is the truth that sets us free. When I finally accepted the truth of our history, I indeed felt free.”

This Could Never Possibly Happen

I don’t want to end on a negative note. Other than the interviews with my Bishop and the private correspondence with several bloggers who have recently been excommunicated for apostasy, this is all speculation and supposition. You may say it’s a product of my imagination. “You’ve been under a lot of stress, Tim. Nobody at Church headquarters even knows or cares about your blog.”

Strengthening Church Members Committee

That may be true. I hope the book reviews I write on my blog and what I choose to believe about the contents of those books has nothing to do with the status of my temple worthiness or church membership. Recent evidence from others is contrary. The SCMC is real. They really do determine that certain authors and bloggers are a threat to the church and need to be disciplined. It happens.

We Pay People to Read Member’s Blogs

God bless us all to stay in the good graces of the members of the Strengthening the Church Members Committee. I know I have communicated with a few of them. One is a Facebook friend and a blog follower. He is also a church employee. I have lots of church employees who are friends and read my blog, but this individual is vehemently opposed and vociferous in his opposing comments.

Lo Que Será, Será

I served my mission in Central America. They never used this phrase, but I like to use it. It fits in this case. I do all I can to follow what I believe is the will of the Lord. I know there are consequences of being misunderstood. After I have done all I can to make things clear to those who want to know the truth, all I can do is wait. I used to mock sites that said they had the truth of church history. Now…

As Always, Comments Open

What do you think? Is it possible the church is on the lookout for bloggers like me who write about church history in a way that differs from the standard narrative? Is it possible the church is out to squelch opposing viewpoints from among their own members? Am I a wolf in sheep’s clothing? My patriarchal blessing warns me about such individuals. Do you find my blog offensive? I’d love to read your views.

Arguments Against Denver Snuffer


UtahCourtBuildingI do not speak for Denver. He needs no spokesman. Go read his blog. These are simply questions I have been asked since I have done a few reviews on his books over the last year or two. They seem to keep coming up over and over as new people discover my blog and want to know some of these basic facts and my opinions. I always respond – go read his books. But in an effort to make it easy for readers in a time-constrained world, I have put together answers to some of the most common questions that have come up more than once. It would be better if you found them for yourself on his open blog or any of his many books which are for sale in several locations in Utah as well as on Amazon, where I picked up all my copies and where they are still available.

01. What kind of a name is Denver Snuffer? I kid you not, these are some of the comments I have received in private emails or here on my blog. One guy said the first time he read Denver Snuffer (he came here from Reddit), he thought he was a serial killer from the mile high city. Denver is named after his father so all his books have Jr. appended to his name. Yes, that’s his name. Denver was not raised a Mormon. His mother was a Baptist. He was raised in Idaho but joined the LDS Church 40 years ago in 1973. He was excommunicated 40 years later to the day. It’s an easily remembered name isn’t it? I think we will be hearing it more as the years go on. If my calculations are correct, Denver is now either 60 or 61 years of age as of late 2013. So what?

02. Why should I listen to someone who has been divorced? I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. As Denver has shared in his first book, The Second Comforter, he’s just a regular guy, the “least” of the saints. He shares very few things from his personal life. He has shared this one in an effort to point out that unlike the LDS Church, which will not consider a divorced man for a leadership position (see my note below), the Lord does not hold something like divorce against us. Denver has since remarried and is the father of nine children, although that has nothing to do with his message that we each can and should have a personal relationship with the Lord, one in which we receive a personal witness of the Lord’s resurrection, also known as the Second Comforter.

03. Why doesn’t he like to have his picture published with his books? You can find pictures of Denver at various ages on the Internet, but he has made it a practice to make sure promotional material on upcoming talks, lectures or book discussion does not include personal pictures. He continues to state this is because he wants people to concentrate on the message, not on him. He has offered many times in many places in his books and on his blog that the messenger is not as important as the message. Obviously, you can infer from this that he feels he has been given an assignment from the Lord to deliver a message to us that the promises in section 93:1 and other scriptures are literal. He says the Lord wanted him to tell the people that anyone can experience a personal visit from the Lord, be they male or female. Endowment is required but not priesthood. In other words, the Lord does not discriminate his visits to women who qualify themselves.

04. What makes him think he can write a book or give a lecture? Denver is an attorney by trade and thus has some expertise in writing and speaking. My reviews of his books have included something to the effect that he is verbose, tends to repeat himself and can go on and on about a subject at some length. That has been helpful to me in many ways as I have read his books. He will introduce a concept, give an example or two, repeat the concept, explain how the idea can he applied in our lives and then conclude by restating the concept again, always backed up with abundant references to scripture, both modern and ancient as well as words of LDS leaders. Some have criticized his writing style. His first book, The Second Comforter, acknowledges editing contributions of others, which he says makes the message clearer or easier to understand.

05. What special claim does he make that I should listen to him? Denver claims, at least for his first book, that he was asked, perhaps even commanded by the Lord to explain to the LDS people in particular that they can and should seek to obtain the witness of the Second Comforter. From what I can tell the gist of his message is that we have left many of the original teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith behind and either misunderstood or misapplied many scriptures for which he offers clarifications from twenty years of callings as a Gospel Doctrine Teacher in various wards and stakes in which he has lived in the Sandy Utah area. He at one time served on the High Council in that stake and, I am told, held many meetings in his home, in which attendance was similar to when he taught or spoke – always overflowing. People came from miles around to hear him. Yet he continues to say he does not want a following. He wants to bring people unto Christ. In short, he does indeed claim that he was given a message from the Lord for the people.

05. Why would the Lord speak through him and not through the LDS prophet? This is perhaps one of the most oft repeated criticisms I encounter in the comments in the dozen or so essays I have posted on my blog about Denver Snuffer over the past year or two. It’s not one that I am qualified to answer. However, it does not bother me in spite of the fact I know the stories of how the Lord dealt with this in the past through the Doctrine and Covenants. I’m referring to the story of Hiram Page and his white stone in section 28. In verse 6, we read, “And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church. For I have given him the keys of the mysteries, and the revelations which are sealed, until I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.” This scripture has been cited by many as the main reason Denver was excommunicated.

06. A messenger from God would not drive a Harley or use swear words. Yes, Denver drives a Harley, or at least he did in the past. I don’t know if he still does. So what? What does that matter? What gives us the right to judge another man by the kind of vehicle he chooses for transportation? Yes, Denver has been known to let slip a “hell” or “damn” in his lectures, but then so did J. Golden Kimball, so there you go. The idea here is that a prophet or messenger from God should and would conduct himself with decorum, be conservative in his principles and would want to portray himself in an acceptable light, more like the way our current general authorities present themselves in public. I don’t believe I have ever heard Denver call himself a prophet, although the testimony of Jesus Christ is the spirit of prophecy. He has, however, said he has been given an assignment from the Savior, is His servant and is delivering His message.

07. The church does not want us to listen to excommunicated individuals. This is true. That’s one of the reasons why the Church excommunicates members who go astray. The charge against him was apostasy, although many have tried to make a distinction that what he did was heresy in the way he denigrated the brethren, opposed some of their interpretations of scriptures and history and in short, was less than respectful in his writings and lectures towards those whom we sustain as “prophets, seers and revelators” in the LDS Church. The unusual thing of course is that we would know nothing of Denver’s excommunication if it did not come from his blog. In other words, the church does not now or no longer announces disciplinary actions against former members as it once did. Many members simply will not listen to or read Denver because of this.

08. He is a slick, deceiving anti-Christ. Stay away from men like him. Yes, this argument has been presented in the comments of my blog. Personally, I do not find this statement logical, since Denver, in all he does, as far as I can tell, invites and implores us to come unto Christ, to do all within our power to heed the spirit which leads us unto Christ and prepares us to enter the Savior’s presence. His entire first book was all about the steps we can and should take to come unto Christ. Each subsequent book, up until the last, augmented that message. In fact, the last book, Passing The Heavenly Gift, which is the one that brought about his excommunication, made direct statements about how and why we should come unto Christ, even though they were couched in terms accusing the current LDS church of no longer teaching this doctrine of Joseph.

09. He is just trying to get a following to start a church and get our money. Denver has expressed many, many times he seeks no following, does not want a following, has asked people to not follow him but to seek after the Savior. He has even renamed the widget on his blog to display “readers” instead of “followers.” He has explained to us many times he donates the proceeds of the sales of his books to the LDS Church General Missionary Fund (I assume now through other family members). He at one time also explained the printing of his books was contracted through an individual who depends upon Denver’s books for his livelihood to support his family. If I remember correctly the man was handicapped or could not provide for his family in any other way. Denver is NOT trying to start a church, although he has said we should all seek to become members of the church of the Firstborn, which, as you know, does not have an earthly structure.

10. What makes him different from other apostates who have left the church? First, you will have to decide if you feel comfortable calling him an apostate. I don’t. Others have argued he fits the bill so they have no problem with that. They claim he leads members away from the Prophets and is therefore an apostate. I disagree. He had told us to sustain the Brethren, has taken great pains in sharing his excommunication procedures, including some details behind the scenes in which he wanted his children to know he sustained his bishop and stake president. Of course, there are those who argue if he sustained them, he would have done what his stake president asked by ceasing the publication of his books and cancelling this year’s lecture tour. You can read his response on his blog. I am satisfied in my mind he is no apostate. It is true enough that the church cut him off, but I do not see him as someone like the leader of the Strangites or any of the leaders of the polygamous groups such as Lorin Wooley, Warren Jeffs or Rulon Wells.

11. He seemed belligerent and disobedient as he was being excommunicated. Because he made the documents and some of the background discussion public on his blog, there was much discussion here and on the private discussion groups that he was not being cooperative with the requests of his priesthood leaders. I fact, some went so far as to say by bringing his children to the proceedings he violated their instructions and in effect, “did an end-run” around the process. They considered this mockery. Denver explained his reasoning on his blog. You will have to decide for yourself if he was honoring his wife’s right to revelation as I believe he was or if he was trying to manipulate the proceedings. What does it matter? The end result was the same. He knew the decision had been made before the council was held. I was surprised he decided to attend. He told Peggy Fletcher Stack the Friday before in the Salt Lake Tribune he felt it was a done deal. The decision had been made and his local leaders were only doing as they were told. If anything, perhaps Denver was tired of waiting and wanted the process to be over quickly.

12. Why didn’t he stop publishing PtHG like his Stake President asked? You’ll have to ask him that question if you’re not satisfied with the one he gave on his blog about negating contractual obligations. Personally I’m not sure it would have made a difference. The book is published. It has been available for almost two years. I am certain tens of thousands of copies are out there. I am also certain hundreds have read it. I have received written affidavits from individuals who swear it helped keep them in the church, saved their marriage and caused them to reconsider and understand so much of what they had previously misunderstand and been taught growing up in the church. In short, and in my opinion, Denver did not stop publication of the book because he feels Passing the Heavenly Gift is helpful and is helping people come to grips with what they learned from the official curriculum and what history teaches from documents and witnesses.

13. He has given ammunition to the enemies of the church with his book, PtHG. Yes, I have read this from some of my Facebook friends. I cannot understand this since most everything he wrote about is already available and has long been available in a form much less flattering on the Internet from sites like Mormon Think, Recovery From Mormonism, Post Mormon, New-Order Mormons and many, many anti-Mormon sites. They didn’t need PtHG to find the quotes or the stories they use in their publications and on the Internet. If anything, Denver related the stories with greater factuality, from original sources and drew conclusions that were complementary to the individuals involved. I can think of several examples which he told with sensitivity that belies the brutality of what actually happened. Think of some of the way local bishops ran some of the towns in Southern Utah in the late 1800’s. Think of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Denver did not make up these facts and was not the first to relate them. He wrote them clearly.

14. I prayed about it and the spirit told me not to listen to him or read his books. Then don’t read his books. They are not for everybody. It does require a strong testimony to read some of the things in PtHG. The book was not written for the new member of the church, weak in the faith. If the spirit is telling you to not go to his lectures, then for heaven’s sake, don’t go. If you feel a pre-disposition to be offended or are worried about being led astray by what he might say, then, by all means, stay away. Many people find all the spiritual nourishment they need from the regular meetings of the LDS Church. We are encouraged to study out of the best books. I consider Denver’s books to be some of the best. I have gained so much from them. They have answered so many questions for me and removed so many doubts. Yes, removed doubt, not introduced any new doubts. I also have prayed about Denver books and lectures and feel impressed they will be helpful to me in my regular study of the Mormon faith. I read the scriptures on a regular basis, read the lessons for Sunday school and my High Priest Group but I also read a ton of other LDS books that help me understand this religion including Denver’s.

15. Something changed between his first seven books and his last one – PtHG. Yes I have read this one a lot. Some write he went rogue just before publishing PtHG. They write they can accept all his books before this one but not PtHG. Perhaps something did change. Perhaps he got tired of people not “getting” it, because they were stuck in some false beliefs about our history or about our doctrine. Yes, this is getting into deep territory. We teach that only prophets have the right to interpret scripture and teach official doctrine for our church. You may believe what you like about whatever may have happened to Denver before he wrote PtHG. I for one am grateful he wrote the book. As I stated previously, it helped me resolve many discrepancies I had been taught growing up from the official curriculum and what I later read in the journals and other sources. In any event, it’s a moot point. Denver is excommunicated. You can freely ignore him.

16. Why did he make his summons letter and excommunication notice public? I guess you’ll have to ask him this question. I believe it was to provide a witness of what was happening. Denver is not like the rest of the September Six, for example. His stake president proclaimed in front of his children that Denver was worthy of a temple recommend. The disciplinary council was only about a book – Passing the Heavenly Gift. He and President Hunt are friends. From what I read, President Hunt was willing or perhaps suggested individuals who had questions about what had happened to Denver should read his blog for the detailed explanation. Previously I wrote the church did the right thing by excommunicating Denver. I am no longer so sure. With all his knowledge and background in teaching, could they not have made him a consultant to help those who are struggling with a faith crisis? Trust me there are a lot of them, especially in Utah. Although I see only a little here, I read stories of people resigning from the church every day in Utah. It seems to be the in thing to do as a way of protesting the feeling of being deceived.

17. Doesn’t he teach the ordinances are not the real thing – they’re only symbolic? Yes, he does, at least to my understanding. Denver relates and backs up with scripture we should go to the Lord in prayer after receiving an ordinance specifically to ask the Lord to ratify it and send the promised power described in the ordinance, and I mean every ordinance, including those of the temple. The church is authorized to perform those ordinances but as President Packer taught, there is a big difference between authority and power. Power comes from the Lord and only from the Lord. We need to be taught by the Holy Ghost and then by angels what we must do to receive the power described in the ordinance. The ordinances are earthly representations of heavenly things. I don’t think this is a new or different doctrine. Denver does a great job of teaching and explaining it in a way that helps us understand we have work to do after receiving the ordinance.

18. His book claims there was no succession in the presidency from Joseph Smith. I confess this is one I still don’t understand. I may be totally wrong on this point. My wife and I have had several discussions about this point. You’ll have to read the chapter on succession in the presidency from PtHG to understand what he is trying to explain. I have read it probably half a dozen times now and I confess I still don’t understand. I have read Denver’s statements that he never said the church didn’t have the sealing power, yet he makes a very big deal about how Nephi received the sealing power in the Book of Mormon – only by hearing it from the voice of God. We also used to teach in this church that an apostle’s ordination is not complete until he feels the hands of the Lord upon his heads and hears from the Lord himself that he is ordained as an apostle. He makes a distinction between an administrative apostle and an apostle who is a living witness of the resurrection of the Savior. This is not new. You can read the record for yourself how the charge was given to the apostles until the turn of the 19th century. What power or what Heavenly Gift was being referred to in Denver’s book that so upset the Brethren?

19. Why would he publish such a horrible book that does so much damage to the church? When I was first introduced to the book and read it, I thought to myself, “Finally, someone has written all the things about the church I have found spread out all over the Internet in a way that makes sense, presents facts and wraps them up neatly in a nice bow. The ending didn’t always come out so pretty but that’s because some of our history is ugly. Men and women are imperfect. Our leaders made mistakes. I’ve said it many times, these things can be found all over the Internet in ways that are not complementary to the church. Denver’s book does a good job of explaining them in a better light, even though they are not so desirable. They really did happen. The book is not filled with lies. It is filled with a slightly and sometimes radically different narrative of our history from what we were taught growing up in the church or from the official curriculum. In my mind, it is not a horrible book, but I would only recommend it to my friends who struggle with things they have read on the Internet that contradict what we teach in Sunday school class.

20. He is out of order. He criticizes. It is not his place to tell the Brethren what to do. OK, this is one that I chalk up to Denver being a convert. It’s unheard of to disagree with the official story of our history and then to publish it in a non-academic environment with all the peer-review and weasel-words that allow an essay to be read without offense. There’s no doubt this book offends some people, especially when he uses phrases like “proud descendants of Nauvoo” (he explains that well I think). I could never have done what Denver did in publishing this book. I think he knew when he wrote it that it might cause a few ripples, a few waves and perhaps result in some disciplinary action. In an email he wrote to me six months ago, I think he even had an inkling that he might have to suffer excommunication as a result of publishing Passing the Heavenly Gift. But I’m glad he did and appreciate his courage in doing so. The book has blessed my life.

A Moderate Approach to Denver Snuffer


IncreaseInVisitsToLDCIn a private email from Denver Snuffer earlier this year, I had an epiphany about myself and my writing style. I was surprised when he answered my email directly and pleased that he would do so. He shared some advice and an observation which stopped me in my tracks. He said I had a “fair and moderating voice.” At first I thought, “Hey, wait. I’m a conservative, not a moderate.”

Flavor of the Month

But then I got to thinking about this whole Denver Snuffer affair over the past few weeks. My blog readership has gone off the charts. I don’t think it’s because of anything I’ve written. Denver also commented on his blog he has become the “Flavor of the Month” because of what has happened over the last few weeks. He noted his blog hits had also gone through the roof.

A Change in My Bio

I’ve decided I have to change my bio once again. Long-time readers will note I label myself a conservative here, on Twitter, Google+, FaceBook and just about everywhere else you can find me. I’ve decided Denver is right. Seriously, I was a little taken aback about the “moderate” thing but please allow me to provide a few examples of why I now am convinced Denver was correct.

Dangers of Extremism

Growing up, I’ve always viewed the world as black and white, right or wrong, us or them. I was proud of being a conservative and saw progressive liberals as deluded, overly tolerant of evil and basically wrong. Over the years, mainly though my interactions with you, my readers here on my blog, and my interactions on Facebook, I’ve had my eyes opened to the dangers of extremism.

Actively Engaged in the Dialog

“But we’re just zealous for our cause,” you may say. That’s wonderful. We know the Lord wants us to be anxiously engaged in the work. I consider my blogging activities to be a part of the work the Lord wants me to do. It’s a personal revelation thing. Elder Ballard asked us to get engaged in the online conversations about the church happening on the Internet with or without us.

Don’t be a Lukewarm People

We read in the scriptures the Lord doesn’t want a lukewarm people, those neither hot or cold. I used to be very zealous as an activist for the conservative cause. All it got me was arguments from the liberals and silence from the conservatives. I’ve never argued a liberal / progressive stance on anything so I can’t tell you how readers would respond to that. Things changed over the years.

Take Time to Understand Others

I started to see things from the point of view of some very articulate individuals we would label as progressive / liberals. And you know what? I was surprised. A lot of them made sense. I also began to notice how hard-nosed and defensive some of the conservative writers had become – or was it my imagination? I’m not talking politics. I’m referring to discussions on religious topics.

I’ve Decided I’m a Moderate

I’m not sure my wife will be pleased, but I’m sure she’s suspected it for quite some time. Well, now I’m going to come right out and say it: I’m a moderate. Gasp! There I’ve said it. That feels better. I don’t like extreme views on either side. I now see the closed-mindedness that so many of my progressive / liberal friends have been talking about. Wow. It can be really annoying.

We’ve Had Some Wonderful Dialogs

I always thought being a moderate meant average or non-committal and I didn’t want to be average. And I do have strong feelings of commitment, even loyalty to certain ideologies and beliefs. I enjoy the dialog that takes place here on my blog between those who feel strongly either for or against the ideas and writings of Denver Snuffer. But I dislike the bickering.

This is an Open Forum

I do not like personal attacks. I have never banned a single writer here and never will. A friend on Facebook asked me to delete an entire thread because of the bickering he saw going on there. For those who don’t know, when I post here, it also posts on my Facebook account. Sometimes there are as many if not more comments there as there are here. But this is where I mainly post.

Civility With No Personal Attacks

Now you may be interested in what advice Denver shared with me. I suppose if was more of a generalization of his feelings as he experienced the reactions of so many against him. But I felt it was just what I needed to read because I had been writing book reviews of his books and got some of the same hostile reactions to what I wrote. I still do. Most people are civil, but some…

A Prophetic Email From Denver

His email to me, written some six months ago, was prophetic. In it he hints he knew his path would eventually end in excommunication. I wish I could share it now. I treasure it. But it would not be right to do so without his permission. Besides, it probably wouldn’t mean as much to you unless you write about controversial things – not intentionally – that simply bother some people.

Please Contribute as You Feel Prompted

Everyone has an opinion, or should. Everyone should take a stand on certain principles, such as following what your heart tells you, or more correctly, what you feel prompted by the Spirit of the Lord to do. Everyone has something to contribute to this discussion. I hope you never feel shy about adding your comments here. I’ve left it wide open on purpose. I love your comments.

Numb To The Insults and Derision

I don’t care if you disagree with me, and many people do. Some have told me in private emails I am deluded and going to burn in hell for bringing additional attention to the writings of Denver Snuffer through my book reviews. So be it. I will quote one line from Denver’s email: “…with continuing personal trouble eventually you become numb to the insults and derision.” Indeed.

Upcoming Review of Denver’s Lecture

I hope to receive the CDs of Denver’s Boise talk in the near future. I intend to share impressions here on my blog of what I hear there. Again, I sure hope Doug worked out the glitches and got a good recording. If not, we’re going to have to reply on notes taken by individuals who were there such as these shared by one writer: http://goo.gl/TslGw4 (I’ll remove link if the owner objects).

My Position on Denver Snuffer

I make no bones about where I stand. Something in the writings of Denver Snuffer has stirred my soul. Since I started reading his books and blog, I study the gospel more. I am in the scriptures more, and not just to read the lesson for Sunday school. You say I should be doing that anyway, because every prophet and apostle says the same thing. You’re right. I wonder what has changed.

Growth Means Change

I have changed. I no longer see things in black and white, right or wrong. Although I know there are absolutes out there and I feel strongly about some things, I have come to believe I may have been wrong about certain things, or certain ways of thinking. “Oh, no,” I can hear you know, “Tim’s been infected by Snuffer. He’s questioning and doubting. He’s no longer temple worthy.”

I Love This Church

No, that’s not it at all. I’ve said it so many times in the comments, but I’ll say it again here. I love this church. I grew up a Mormon and I’ll always be one. This is the Lord’s church. I love the people I associate with at church each Sunday. 90% of them are asleep as to the sort of things I blog about but that’s OK. They’re good people anxiously engaged in raising their families.

Wisdom Comes at the Price of Tribulation

That’s another quote from Denver’s email. Didn’t Joseph Smith say something similar? He was “wont to swim in deep water,” I believe he said. He also said he was like a rough stone rolling that got a corner chipped off every now and then as it went on its way – I’m paraphrasing. If we don’t take a stand on what our heart tells us is right, we are not being valiant to the Holy Ghost.”

Be Valiant to the Whisperings of the Spirit

I know we are to be valiant to the Lord. I suppose I should say “valiant to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.” That’s a sacred line from my patriarchal blessing – that if I will “be valiant to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, I will be prompted in the path that I should go…in the work I have been called to do.” Is sharing my thoughts and feelings on this blog part of that work? Blogging is a way of sharing the gospel.

Prompted of the Spirit to Blog

I think so. I felt prompted of the Lord to start blogging six years ago. Actually, prompting came continuously for several years. I ignored it and am sorry I did. Once I finally started this public blog, I have felt my testimony strengthen by leaps and bounds. What I’ve written has gotten me into trouble a few times, but the Lord has always helped me through it. God bless. Cheers to all.

My Blogroll – Are you on There?

By the way, if you’re an LDS blogger and would like to be listed on my blogroll, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add you. I try to read regularly from the ones I have listed, but don’t always have the time. I’m grateful that this year has turned out well for me. On weeks that I am training, I start at 6am and am home free much earlier in the day with energy to read and to write.

The Encouragement Talk


This is a talk I prepared a long time ago for an occasion just like this. It’s a talk I’ve always wanted to hear from the pulpit and one I hope is helpful. It has to do with encouragement.

Paul said, “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…” I’ve thought often about this statement and wondered why Paul suggested it. Perhaps it’s because he knew we all need to be encouraged from time to time.

Do you ever get discouraged? I do. I’m older than some of you and younger than others but I’ve had enough experience in life to discover there’s not always someone there to cheer you up or help you on your way when things get tough.

Or is there? I’ll address that in a little bit.

Sources of Help

I learned very early in life that my parents didn’t have all the answers when it came to dealing with difficulties. I saw them struggle sometimes just like I did. I watched them make mistakes, lose their patience or give bad advice to others.

It was a little disconcerting at first, especially since I loved them so much and wanted them to be perfect. I’m grateful that over time, the Lord helped me to see my parents as good people trying to do their best but occasionally, no, often, failing. This realization only increased my love for them.

There comes a time in most of our lives, especially when we are young, when we turn to friends for guidance and direction. Maybe we don’t specifically ask them in words like “Hey, can you help me figure this out?” but we nonetheless look to them for help in dealing with things that concern us.

Unfortunately, friends can disappoint. Even though they may be well-meaning, they can sometimes be less than encouraging, mainly because they have no clue themselves what to do in our situation. It’s good to have friends, especially those who are patient and kind, but friends with good answers are rare.

We’re all Sinners

So what do you do when you get discouraged? You’re a good person, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But you make mistakes. We all do. I do. The scripture usually cited to back this up is 1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Don’t be upset if this is the first time you’ve been called a sinner. We’re all sinners. If I were to pause right now and ask everyone here to think about some sin or weakness that is bothering you, everyone here would be able to bring something to mind, even if it’s the mistaken thought that you have no sins.

In fact, I think I will. I’m going to pause for just a few seconds. I promise you the Holy Ghost will help you think of something that bothers you, something you can improve or something that you know is displeasing to the Lord.

OK, that’s long enough. The thought or image that came to your mind was probably not very pleasant, was it? The memory of my weakness causes me to feel like a failure. It’s something I’ve struggled with all my life. I’m not going to tell you what it is and I don’t want to know what your weakness is.

Hope and Gratitude

Now I want to talk about hope. For me, hope is tied closely to gratitude. I’m grateful I’ve been taught all my life that we can overcome our weaknesses. It gives me hope to remember the reason I’m here on earth is to learn from my mistakes. That means I will make mistakes when I try to accomplish good things in life.

Just remembering that thought is very comforting to me. One of the biggest results of discouragement is that we stop trying to do new things or stop trying to do better in ways we know we should. For example, I know I should study the gospel more and read the scriptures every day. I don’t do as well as I should.

Every time I come to church and hear someone share something they discovered in their gospel study, I am encouraged and filled with hope. I then feel I can and will do better myself in my efforts to study the gospel during the week. I am especially encouraged by good teachers who are prepared to lead our classes.

God Gives Us Weaknesses

I just finished reading the Book of Mormon again. As I came to the twelfth chapter of Ether, I once again read these words with joy, “… if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble … if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I have decided I will confess my weakness unto you after all. In James 5:16, we read, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I ask for your prayers in my behalf. Even though I’ve already been talking about it, to be very specific, my fault, my weakness is discouragement.

Now you may say, “Discouragement is no sin. We all experience it.” Yes, I know, but it can be debilitating, especially when it’s used by the adversary. When I get discouraged, I have a hard time remembering all the good things the Lord has done for me. I forget promises I have made about doing better each day.

I have made every effort to come unto the Lord as he has asked us to do in the scriptures. The Lord has not only shown me my weaknesses, he has also shown me how the adversary uses them as stumbling blocks to keep me from reaching my full potential in this life. Discouragement causes me to feel overwhelmed.

When I get overwhelmed, I tend to shut down. I refuse to take on new tasks or try new things. Do you ever get that way? When I get overwhelmed, I have a hard time deciding what among all the good things before me I should do with the limited amount of time I have been given. So I do nothing. That’s not good. Or worse, I waste my time with things that are not worthy of me.

Turn Weaknesses Into Strengths

I want that promise in Ether to be fulfilled. I want my weak things to be made strong. I also remember that the Lord gave me my weaknesses. Since my weakness is discouragement, can I accept that the Lord gave me that weakness? I can, especially because I know he wants to help me turn that into a strength.

Gratefully, this scripture teaches the secret to have our weak things turned into strengths. It is to humble ourselves before the Lord and to have faith in Him. In other words, we need to believe His promises and act upon them. He promises to help us become strong. I believe Him. That gives me hope.

I don’t know exactly how he does it. At this point in my progression, it’s still a miracle to me, something I don’t fully understand. I accept it on faith. I know that the Lord loves me and I know that he wants to help me. He has proven that to me many times in the past. I’m encouraged by the hope this scripture brings.

Working a Plan

So I pray unto the Lord, and even though I know He already knows, I tell Him I’m discouraged. I tell Him I’m overwhelmed. I tell Him I don’t know which of all the demands on my time I should address first. I tell him I’m tempted to do nothing for fear of masking a mistake or wasting my time.

Because He loves me, He doesn’t always tell me what to do. In fact, He is rarely specific. But He does remind me I have agency, encourages me to make a decision on a course of action and then present it to Him for confirmation. So I make a list, order the tasks in the way I think they should be done and then return to him in prayer with my list and a few ideas on how to accomplish them.

Invariably, the Lord says, “OK, sounds good. Go ahead. Looks like you’ve thought it out. Let’s see where that takes you.” Never have I heard, “No, that’s not a good idea. That would be a waste of your time.” The Lord always honors my agency and encourages me to try things to see what results I get. Occasionally, He even shows me the results in my mind’s eye in advance so I can plan better.

Doing the Work

Sometimes I discover after starting on my task that it did not produce the results for which I was hoping. That’s OK. At least I tried it. I then go on to the next item on my list and the next until I can return to the Lord and report I have tried everything I could think of to fix the problem. I know that pleases Him.

In the process I discover I have accomplished a lot of good things I might not have done had I not been trying to solve this problem, to fix this weakness, to overcome this sin or this temptation. People compliment me on how organized and efficient I am or that I get a lot done. Trust me, it’s only because I’m trying to do everything in my power to eliminate stress from my life.

In the end I know I can’t fix myself anyway, only the Lord can do that. I keep asking and keep pleading to be healed, but know that it will be on his timetable after I have learned whatever it is I am supposed to learn from the process of overcoming. Perhaps what I am learning most is patience with myself.

Thorn in the Side

I feel like Paul when he said that he had asked the Lord three times to remove a thorn in his side. We may never know in this life what he was talking about. Many scholars have assumed it was some sort of physical weakness or frailty. I don’t view it that way. Paul called it a messenger of Satan. I think it was temptation of some sort. He said it kept him from being overly exalted.

He also said he received an abundance of revelations. I’m not going to make a claim like Paul’s, but I will say I have felt the Lord give me answers to prayers and guide me in my thoughts as I turn to him for help in solving my problems. I have no doubt the Lord knows me and is willing to help me through this life. I am grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost that seems to grow stronger each day.

As a people, I think we tend to be overly hard on ourselves. We’re prone to expect perfection sooner than we are ready for it. The word perfect has interesting connotations. In one sense, it means complete. We remind ourselves that in this life we cannot be perfect, but in the same breath, we say we must be perfect because we are commanded to be so. I think the Lord was simply telling us to finish the race, to endure to the end and to pass though all we are supposed to before we die.

Finish the Race

In other words, don’t quit, don’t give up before our days are through. I think most of know someone who has fought cancer or some other illness that, in the end, took the life of our friend or family member. I am constantly amazed by the faith of those passing through such illnesses. They believe they are going to get better. Their courage is a source of inspiration to all those around them.

But then they die. All of us must die. We don’t like to think about it. Sometimes we act like mortality will go on forever, especially when we’re young. “I have time to finish that self-improvement project,” we say to ourselves. When I graduate from college, once I get married, when the kids are grown, when I retire. The list goes on and on. But today is the day to do the work we are here to do.

Alma 34:34 – “Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”

In other words, our eternity is what we make of it here. How can we become something we are not? The purpose of this life is to prepare for eternity, to be the person we want to be in the life to come. If we are happy when we depart this life, we will be happy when we enter the spirit world and when we’re resurrected.

I’m not teaching anything new here. This is all standard doctrine found in the scriptures. What I am trying to do is to help us step back and take another look at the big picture just for a moment. In the context of encouraging us to do those things that we know are hard to do, remember that this life is short and the whole purpose is to do those hard things, not to relax, take it easy or be entertained.

Constant Companionship

At the beginning of this talk I said that there’s not always someone there to cheer you up with you get discouraged. But then I questioned that statement. I’d like to clarify. If there’s one thing of which I am a witness, meaning I know from personal, first-hand experience, it’s that we are not alone. We are never alone. We have been given the promise of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.

I read a lot about this idea, even from General Authorities, who teach that there are times when we will be left alone to work things out on our own. While I agree with them in principle, I still feel that we have the right to ask the Lord to send his spirit to help us through our trials and difficulties. When we are in agony, we can do as the Savior did and pray even more earnestly.

We are taught that in the end, the Savior was left on his own while on the cross to be able to claim the full power of the atonement as His. I can understand and do support that teaching. Like I’m sure you have, I have passed through some terrible moments when I fell entirely alone. I knew I was being tested to see how I would respond. I have prayed with great earnestness that perhaps my cup, my trial could be taken from me. I also prayed that the will of the Father be done.

Help from Angels

Even when I have felt that nobody could take the pain or sorrow from me, I have always felt that the Lord has constantly been there and very much aware of what and how I’m doing. When I have felt anger at having to suffer, or despair at the loss I knew I was about to experience, still, I knew the Lord or His Angels were watching me. Even when I did not have the comfort of the Holy Ghost, I felt the presence of someone watching over me. Always. All my life. Every day.

I don’t think I’m special or any different from any of you. I am tempted and tried. I make mistakes. I fail. I commit sins. I often do less than my best. But as far as I know, I have not had to pass through the feeling of being left totally alone that the Savior suffered in those last few moments on the cross. I am so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Light of Christ and the presence of angels to watch over me and bear me up. Because of this, I know my Father in Heaven loves me.

He wants me to do better. He wants me to succeed. He wants me to be happy. He wants me to overcome and master the flesh. He understands that I am weak but continues to encourage me to be strong, get up and try again. If there’s anything I can say to help anyone here today who is discouraged, it would be just that. Get up, try again. God knows your struggle. He is cheering you on. I am too.

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.

Interpreting Impressions of the Spirit


One of the greatest blessings of membership in the LDS Church is the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Of course we are not the only people in the world with whom the Lord works through his spirit.  But we are the only people who have claim upon the Holy Ghost as a constant companion.  That is a very unique and special claim.

When asked by a President of the United States, “How is your religion different from all the other religions of the day?” The Prophet Joseph Smith answered, “We are different from all other religions in the mode of baptism (immersion) and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (by those who have authority).”

God inspires all

In section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants we read, “A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.” All honest seekers of the truth can feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, leading them to Jesus Christ and His gospel.  People everywhere can be inspired by the Holy Ghost.

However, the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is available only to those who receive the gift through the laying on of hands by one who is authorized and then remain worthy of that gift.  This basic doctrine is taught and emphasized often from the pulpit and in the classrooms of our church each week.

One of the most important duties we have in this life is to learn how to interpret the impressions of the Holy Ghost that we receive though this gift.  Sometimes they come unbidden but most of the time we need to prepare for and ask for spiritual guidance.  With this sacred gift, we can be confident that the Lord will respond.

God will guide us

This gift contains an inherent covenant promise that the Lord will respond to our requests for guidance. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”  As long as we do our part in striving to keep his commandments, repent and seek his spirit, we can rely on his promise.

However, the gift needs to be exercised and developed until we can go before the Lord with confidence and ask in faith for what we want.  We need to learn what specific things we need to do to achieve the results we desire. “When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

We know we must study things out and come to an understanding or a decision on a subject before we approach the Lord for a confirmation of our decision or course of action.  Sometimes it can take years to fully consider and achieve a mastery of a subject before we can approach the Lord and ask to guide us to further knowledge.

Much already revealed

That’s why the Lord and his prophets counsel us to study the scriptures and the words of the living prophets and apostles.  When we ask the Lord for help in some area of our lives, we can expect him to answer through both the promptings of the spirit and very often by directing us to what he has already revealed on the subject.

It is amazing to me the number of times I feel impressed to look to the scriptures or a recent conference talk for the answer I am seeking.  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”  It is while I am reading the scriptures or conference talks that I feel the impressions of the spirit.

I think it is in the process of reading revealed words that we become most familiar with the mind and will of the Lord for us.  We begin to think like the Lord and develop a greater understanding of how he speaks.  The mind of the natural man is not attuned to God’s way of thinking so it takes effort to understand revelation.

Revelation requires humility

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.”  Even our natural reasoning processes, if they are not directed by the spirit of the Lord, can lead us to false conclusions.  “For the natural man is an enemy to God … and will be forever … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.”

The rest of the verse (Mosiah 3:19) emphasizes being submissive.  I guess if there is nothing else I have learned about receiving revelation, it is the idea that in order to receive it, I must be in a submissive state of mind and willing to do whatever it is that the Lord reveals to me.  Indeed, I must strive to become like a little child.

Of course, I know that the Lord will not tell me to do something that is contrary to what he has already revealed.  For example, if I ask the Lord for help in knowing the best way to get out of debt, I am confident that he will not direct me to play the lottery, nor respond to email invitations to send money to Nigerian scammers.

Revelation is real

That is why I am confident that the Lord is sincere in his promise to reveal the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  The key phrase there is “with real intent.”  Like you, I have witnessed this promise fulfilled over and over again throughout my life.  I have seen it happen for young and old when they ask with real intent.

I do not doubt the revelatory process.  It is real.  I have witnessed it in action throughout my life in Bishopric meetings, High Council meetings, in disciplinary councils and in preparing and presenting talks and lessons over the years.  It seems to flow easiest for me when the revelation being requested is meant to help others.

But the Lord never reveals things that are outside the stewardship of my family, my own life or my specific callings in the church.  While I may feel a desire to help another, if I do not have a direct responsibility for them, then I need to be very careful about what I feel impressed to tell them the Lord would have them do.

Revelation for others

I had a recent experience with this that confirmed to me how easy it is to step over the line into imposing my will on another.  The Lord will never direct us to do that.  In counseling with a fellow church member about a difficult situation in their life I shared some personal observations about what I thought got them into trouble.

Since I was not this individual’s priesthood leader, I was not entitled to know the whole story and made a judgment based only on what I saw.  My counsel to this individual was flawed and was offensive because it was lacking in understanding.  Gratefully, they were forgiving when I apologized after the error became apparent.

My point is that the Lord will never reveal something to me that another person should do unless I am responsible for that person as a husband, father or priesthood leader.  That can even be applied to prospective marriage partners.  The Lord will not tell us that another person should marry us. It should not be phrased that way.

Revelation to marry

When I asked my wife to marry me, I felt the Lord whisper to me that we could be happy together.  Of course Carol had her agency and could have said no.  It was an act of faith on her part to accept my marriage proposal.  The Lord knew I needed that revelation to prompt me to propose, but it was intended for me and not Carol.

I knew the Lord wanted me to marry.  I had been praying about it for some time and was actively seeking a marriage partner.  I knew that the Lord had revealed through his prophet that “soul mates are fiction and an illusion.”  So I wasn’t looking for that one special person, just someone with whom I could be happy.

I know that’s not very romantic but what made it special for me was the intensely strong and powerful impression that flowed into my heart and mind as I pondered asking Carol to marry me.  In my mind’s eye, I saw us many years down the road, even in these years today, enjoying each other’s company, growing old together.

What I have learned

In conclusion, I guess there are two things I have learned about revelation.  First, we must be humble and submissive to receive it and second, we can never receive revelation for anyone else’s life outside our own immediate family.  It just doesn’t work that way unless the Lord puts us in a priesthood position that requires it.

Impressions of the spirit are very private and should be kept so.  They are personal and unless you are the prophet of the Lord or have a direct priesthood stewardship for someone else, are meant specifically for one individual – you.  They are not to be shared with others unless you feel prompted to do so and then only carefully.

I have been blessed throughout my life with impressions from the Holy Ghost.  It is specifically because of the Gift of the Holy Ghost that they seem so abundant.  Receiving revelation can be almost a daily occurrence, but usually it comes in the form of very quiet, subtle impressions that are sometimes almost imperceptible.

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