Over the years, I’ve read with interest many stories of conflict between husbands and wives where one spouse was a believer in a religion and the other wasn’t. It always hurt my heart to read such stories. Some even made me cry to think of two people who loved each other enough to marry and start a family who are now quarreling over religious beliefs and commitments. This sort of story is more common than you may think, or perhaps those who experience are more prone to share.
Not Important to Their Marriage
Inevitably, my response was, and you’ll think this uncaring, “Well, you knew what you were getting into. Why did you marry him (or her) without working this out first?” I know many people who either a) don’t care what the other spouse does when it comes to religion or b) don’t care what religious beliefs the children are exposed to later on. In a sense, they have it easy. They simply don’t care and religion is not an issue. It’s not important to either one of them. In other words, neither holds strong religious beliefs, so it doesn’t matter or bother either of them.
Unequally Yoked Is A Real Issue
What if one or the other spouse does care deeply about their religious beliefs? Worse, what if for the most part, the couples agree on just about everything else? They have so much in common when it comes to what they believe about God, religion, doctrine, church history, family, prayer, worship, discipline, service and all kinds of other things that matter in raising a family. I’ll bet you can see how that could raise some concern, even be the source of some heated arguments.
Sudden Interest in What the Other is Reading
Let me give you a modern day example. A loving couple, married more than thirty years, never really interested in what kind of books the other was reading before, discovers their spouse is now reading the sort of books that some might consider controversial in a religious sense. I’ll make an even more personal example, especially for those who know us. What I’m describing is happening right now and has been happening for the last six months to a year to Carol and me. I guess I’m not really looking for advice but I’ll bet there are a lot of you who have gone through something similar. This is more of a journal entry of what’s happening in my life these days.
Determining Orthodoxy in LDS Publishing
I’ve always said my blog is mainly about book reviews that deal with the last days. For those who have followed my blog you know that’s true. I confess the subjects of some of my books are controversial or are non-orthodox. In other words, they weren’t published by Deseret Book – who rarely, if ever will publish a book not found in the home library of an apostle or other church leader. I’ve forever been a bit of a rebel. My sort of publisher was always Bookcraft, then Signature Books, and now most of the LDS books I buy are self-published, meaning no LDS publisher would touch them.
Unorthodox Books Reviewed (Some not LDS)
Some examples of books I’ve recently reviewed are Visions of Glory, (Cedar Fort), Conquering Spiritual Evil (Doug Mendenhall), And the Moon Shall Turn to Blood (Anthony Larson), The Unquiet Dead (Dr. Edith Fiore), You Have Been Here Before (Dr. Edith Fiore), Beloved Bridegroom (Donna Nielsen), From Darkness Into Light (Mel Fish), The Second Comforter (Denver Snuffer), Teachings of the Doctrines of Eternal Lives (Anonymous), Passing the Heavenly Gift (Denver Snuffer), Shaken Faith Syndrome (Michael Ash), and on and on…
Passing the Heavenly Gift
I’d like to focus on one book in particular because of the contention it has caused in our home: Passing the Heavenly Gift by Denver Snuffer. PtHG was one of the most fascinating and one of the most infuriating books I have ever read. As most of you know, ultimately, it got Denver excommunicated. I have other books in my home from excommunicated or disaffected members that don’t seem to bother Carol, specifically books from D. Michael Quinn or Grant Palmer. I also enjoyed Rough Stone Rolling (Bushman) and No Man Knows My History (Brodie).
Note: Please don’t put Bushman in this category of authors. He is a faithful temple worker.
Direct Opposition to Existing Belief
I first read it in February of 2012. Unsurprisingly, as with any book about which I feel strongly, I asked my wife to read it with me. I thought the natural place to start would be back at chapter one. That was a big mistake. All it did was get her riled up. She would not read past the end of the chapter and will not listen to me read excerpts from other chapters or even from his other books, including his wonderful books on the Savior, The Second Atonement or Come, Let Us Adore Him, both wonderful exposes on the Savior and how we can draw closer to Him. There was something in chapter one that convinced her Denver Snuffer was an out-and-out apostate.
Not the Right Book at the Right Time
I apparently made a big mistake. While I may have been ready for PtHG, Carol was not. As I read PtHG, I had a spiritual experience. I’ve related this before. It spoke to me. It answered so many of my questions that had been on the shelf for so many years. I had not had a spiritual experience like that since my early youth, perhaps from the days when I was preparing for my mission and reading doctrine and history ten to twelve hours a day. I loved the book. I wanted to share it. I thought the dearest person in my life would surely be understanding and sympathetic.
Conflict in Past Religious History
You’ve got to understand a little bit about Carol. She’s no dummy. I wouldn’t have married her if I wasn’t impressed with her gifts and abilities when it came to knowing the church, how it worked, the history, the doctrine, the culture – oh, Carol exudes the culture of the LDS Church since her ancestors crossed the plains. But not me – I’m a first generation Mormon. I’m an old California boy whose maternal ancestors were Presbyterian preachers and paternal ancestors were Baptists Ministers. I have a lot of strong feeling in my blood about religion, but no LDS culture.
The Book is Divisive and a Sifter
That shouldn’t have anything to do with how we view books like Passing the Heavenly Gift. But I found the opposite to be true. I was excited about the book. It got me enthused. It caused me to want to study more, to read more, to pray more and to understand more of Mormon history. I was shocked to discover it had the opposite effect on Carol. I quote: “Yes, Denver Snuffer scares me. I can’t explain my fear. If the Brethren came out and said Denver Snuffer is the next big thing, to listen to and follow him, then, I’d be all over that.” I’ve left out some content. You may find it strange we communicate in writing as husband and wife, but you’ve got to realize Carol is a published author, works all day at writing and was simply responding to an email from me.
There Is No Such Thing As A Snufferite
I have read almost all of Denver’s books. I have listened to almost all his published lectures. By the end of the week I will have finished his last four lectures from Forty Years in Mormonism – Talk 1 – Boise (Sep 10), Talk 2 – Idaho Falls (Sep 28), Talk 3 – Logan, (Sep 29) – Talk 4 – Centerville (Oct 6). I’ll be listening to them in the afternoons after I finish yet another week of early morning Microsoft certification classes from 6am to 2pm – as long as I don’t fall asleep. Many who have been following my blog know I am also seeing a psychiatrist in the afternoons as recommended by my primary physician. We’ve tried everything else to get rid of seven months of constant, and I mean constant migraines. But that’s the way of Western medicine, isn’t it?
Motivated to learn and study the Gospel more
Yes, I know there have now been two or three rebuttals published. I have not yet read the rebuttals. I have always said I am not a scholar or an apologetic. I will leave that to those who love to argue logic. I understand the game but refuse to play it. Carol says she lives her life by her gut feeling – which explains why she was not ready to read PtHG – It would not help her. She didn’t need or want it. The book helped me. I needed it. I wanted it. I had been looking for something like that book for many years. Please note: I am not any less of a believer in the church, in the apostles and prophets and their right to lead us or in the existence of the sealing power in the temples. I simply want to learn more.
We Need to Understand Priesthood Keys
By the way, this is probably my 20th post on some aspect of Denver Snuffer. Obviously I feel he has something special and unique to offer. No, he does not take the place of President Thomas S. Monson. No, he does not have keys to lead this church (as far as I can tell). I am certain the Lord would let us know if something were to change in that area (Amos 3:7). I believe Denver has a mission – perhaps more than one – that has been revealed to him. He performed one mission that got him excommunicated – publishing a controversial book. He is now performing another mission, providing us with about 25 hours of lecture on some very important aspects of priesthood doctrine. I am looking forward to his next talk. I truly wish I could be there. Due to work, I will probably not be able to make it to any of his lectures except maybe St. George.
We Worked Out our Differences
And for those of you who are wondering how Carol and I worked this out, I will share this. It got so testy for a while I put all his books and CDs in a box and put them away. I refrained from saying, “Well, here’s something I remember reading Denver saying about that…” This morning we came to an agreement. Even after I had her read this post, she confesses she is still afraid that Denver will “steal me away.” I have no idea where she thinks I would go or what I would do but I never professed to understand women except for one thing – they need lots of reassuring. Carol is no different. Perhaps I should be the one who needs to be reassured as her career grows, as she publishes more books and realizes her dreams but I see my role as to encourage her, to do nothing to hold her back, including pay for publishing classes, seminars, conventions, etc, which I gladly do. I want to see her succeed as a published author (if she could just figure out her genre).
God bless You Who Deal With Similar Issues
I have seen divorces as a result of disagreements over religion, especially when it comes to how to discipline children or budgeting. These are the most difficult areas to make a marriage work. I remember my own inadequacies and failures in this area. They left me feeling awful, like I had failed at the most important mission of my life. At times I felt like the meanest father in the world. At other times I felt like the weakest man in the world, unable to lead my own family in righteousness. I don’t know any perfect families. I am grateful my son is still alive and a productive, seemingly happy member of society in his own home. We gave him up to suicide, mental insanity, drugs and alcohol many years ago. The answer was to put his name on the prayer role as often as possible and to continue to pray for him every morning and night, which we have done all his life, but especially the last fifteen years since his drug / mental issues first showed themselves. (Write me privately at tmalonemcse @ gmail.com if you want to know the story of how his drug addiction sent me to the hospital twice in February of this year).
Trust in the Lord as you Seek Knowledge
I pray that something as silly as the reading of a book will never get in the way a working relationship with your loved ones, be it the Book of Mormon or some anti-Mormon book. Think about it. Some General Authorities have to be assigned to read them so they’ll know what’s in them. How would you like to be that GA? Not me. If someone in your family wants to read the works of D. Michael Quinn, Denver Snuffer, Mel Fish or anyone else that write about the church but is not published by Deseret Book, please don’t let that desire or fear get in the way of your marriage. Trust the Lord and your love for each other. I wish I could have Carol tell her side of this story. I’ll bet it would be very different. Maybe someday she’ll oblige us. I’m confident it will be focused on her fear of losing me to the dark side.