I 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.
Filed under: Doctrine, Mormon culture, Personal Revelation | Tagged: Anti-Christ, Anti-Mormon literature, Apostasy, Apostles and Prophets, Church Criticism, Denver Snuffer, Dissent, Ex-Mormon Sites, Excommunication, Former Mormons, Hiram Page, LDS Doctrine, LDS Publishing, Order in the Church, Ordinances are Symbolic, Passing the Heavenly Gift, Personal Revelation, Second Atonement, Strengthening Church Members Committee |