Don’t Read TPJS or that Snuffer Guy


teachings-prophet-joseph-smithYou’re probably familiar with Nearing Kolob, the blog dedicated to posts from missionaries and mission presidents that seem a little, well … unusual. I recently came across a letter from one such mission president whose counsel falls into that “unusual” category by controlling what missionaries study. When I served as a missionary in 1976 we were encouraged to read books from the list below. In fact, our mission president, a former CES Institute Director, encouraged us to read many additional books that were found in the mission library, mainly from current General Authorities.

 

  1. The Standard Works / the Scriptures
  2. Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage
  3. The Great Apostasy by James E. Talmage (not all missions approved this one)
  4. A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards
  5. The Articles of Faith by LeGrand Richards
  6. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith
  7. Essentials in Church History, by Joseph Fielding Smith
  8. Doctrines of Salvation (three volumes) by Joseph Fielding Smith
  9. Faith Precedes the Miracle by Spencer W. Kimball
  10. The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball

Today, the only book that I think is still on the approved list is Jesus the Christ. I find this simply amazing and absolutely deplorable. It’s no wonder most of the missionaries today seem to know so little about LDS Church History or what Joseph Smith taught on a subject. In fact, as this letter demonstrates, knowing what Joseph taught is detrimental to missionaries.

041915

Hermana – I do appreciate your openness in our discussions. That helps me understand where you are in your personal conversion process and areas that I might be able to help you with. We are all converts and are all going through a continual conversion process throughout our lives.

I know you were concerned about not being able to read the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. It may seem unusual that you are not allowed to read this book while on your mission but you will recall that the call letter you received from President Monson specifically said to not bring any books with you that were not on the list of the missionary library. The principle here is that with the missionary library, including the standard works and those teachings available through the church web pages, you have all you need to effectively teach the gospel here on your mission. Not reading Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith is a matter of obedience to the counsel and direction of our living prophets and apostles and is not something that I have personally determined. That said I wholeheartedly support what the brethren have asked of our missionaries in this regard and see the blessings in the lives of those missionaries who are obedient to this principle.

We revere Joseph Smith and reverence his role as the first prophet of this dispensation. That said we believe in modern and continuing revelation through living prophets such as Thomas S. Monson. Many of the things we are doing in the church today were not revealed to Joseph Smith and came to us via continual revelation and are nevertheless part of the restored gospel in its fullness. A good example would be the revelation given that all worthy men could hold the priesthood which came through living prophets of that time I also find it wonderful and inspired to see how D&C 107 has continued to be used to address the expanding needs of the church with the quorums of the seventy taking on a larger and larger role in the administrative affairs of the kingdom.

When we discussed the fact that President Monson is a prophet just as Abraham and Moses were you noted that you knew of no prophecy given by him. It is certain that you and I do not know of all the revelations and prophecies given to President Monson but that lack of personal knowledge of revelations that God does not want him to share with the rest of us does not then make him any less of a prophet. Over the years there have been many prophecies revealed to the Lord’s anointed prophets that are not widely known to men such as when prophets have been shown things but were forbidden to write them or reveal them. A good example is found in Alma (See Alma 45:9-14).

I know you have dedicated much time in the study of the history of the church and related information. That is good. My only caution is that you take care not to trust so much in your own understanding and that which you are personally able to learn for yourself and shut off spiritual learning. We know that the Holy Ghost is the Master Teacher (See Elder Bednar’s talk – Becoming a Preach My Gospel Missionary) and that through the Holy Ghost we can know the truth of all things (Mor 10:4-5). When Elder Bednar toured our mission he told the missionaries to not write down the words that they hear him say but to write the feelings that come to them as he spoke. Scholars both in and out of the church risk becoming so enamored with their own understanding and learning that they are blinded to the Spirit. Of use is the caution provided in 2 Nephi 9:28.

28 0 that cunning plan of the evil one! 0 the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

I am quick to admit that I do not know everything about the gospel. I think you would admit this as well. When we trust our own learning we are trusting in the arm of flesh and that always leads us to places where we do not want to go.

For talks to study this week I would like you to print, study, meditate and pray about the following:

President James E. Faust, The Healing Power of Forgiveness.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/04/the-healing-power-of-forgiveness?lang=eng

I am concerned about feelings you have about President Monson and these incidents that you do not want to disclose to me but which seem to trouble you about him. Read this talk and begin the process of forgiving him for whatever wrong you perceive he has committed. You will be healed and be strengthened in your testimony of him in the process. I sat next to Gary Ceran on a plane coming back to SLC on a business trip a few months before our mission and we had a most amazing conversation.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/10/be-meek-and-lowly-of-heart?lang=eng

Elder Soares does an amazing job helping us realize those attributes that make us true disciples of Christ.

https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/receive-the-holy-ghost?lang=eng by Elder Bednar.

I wrote this on Sunday afternoon but very early this morning as I was pondering and praying about your situation and feelings I had the impression to share the following. I tell missionaries who are going home that if they show me their friends I will show them their future. I am trying to inspire them to seek out good company and in surrounding themselves with such people they will live the standards of the church as well. It goes without saying that if you hang out with people who do drugs or break the law of chastity that you will eventually do those things too. How does this apply to you? It applies in the fact that if you read literature produced by or focuses on things taught by people who are disaffected with the church who are either members or who are separated either of their own choice or through church discipline that you will eventually become like them. That is why it is never good to do so. The 13th Article of Faith says in part that if there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy we seek after these things. Nothing that someone like Denver Snuffer or any other person who criticizes the prophet or the church and what they do falls into any of those categories. Time spent on these things are a distraction from that which will elevate us to exaltation … the things spoken of in the 13th Article of Faith.

As I thought further on this my mind was taken to those who criticized Joseph Smith and sought to tear him or the church down or diminish him as the Lord’s chosen vessel. They either repented of those things or they became separated from the church either by their choice or by church discipline. Regardless, they put in jeopardy their exaltation for doing so. Some would say that church discipline is wrong. I know that Denver Snuffer says that he was treated unjustly by his local leaders for holding the council and by President Monson for upholding his excommunication and that it was an exercise of unrighteous dominion. The simple fact is that there were those who opposed the church and Joseph Smith who were excommunicated in councils in which the prophet presided or which were approved by him. That was not unrighteous dominion any more than the actions of President Monson.

I truly hope and pray that I can help you through these challenging moments so that you can achieve your full potential as a missionary and as a daughter of our Heavenly Father. I am not your enemy. I am here to help you from going down a path from which the return will be hard and perhaps ultimately impossible if followed for too long.

Regards, President ******

 

Questions on LDS Blogging and Apostasy


StatementOnApostasyIn response to the recent excommunication of Kate Kelly, founder of Ordain Women, and the pending disciplinary actions against John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman, The Office of the First Presidency issued a statement on apostasy today. As an active LDS Blogger, I am especially interested in this clarifying message positioned as “Addressing Doctrine and Questions.”

Statement from The First Presidency

“In God’s plan for the happiness and eternal progression of His children, the blessings of His priesthood are equally available to men and women. Only men are ordained to serve in priesthood offices. All service in the Church has equal merit in the eyes of God.

“We express profound gratitude for the millions of Latter-day Saint women and men who willingly and effectively serve God and His children. Because of their faith and service, they have discovered that the Church is a place of spiritual nourishment and growth.

“We understand that from time to time Church members will have questions about Church doctrine, history, or practice. Members are always free to ask such questions and earnestly seek greater understanding.

“We feel special concern, however, for members who distance themselves from Church doctrine or practice and, by advocacy, encourage others to follow them. Simply asking questions has never constituted apostasy.

“Apostasy is repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine.”

Applying This Statement to LDS Bloggers

While the First Presidency statement is helpful and provides additional clarification to what is found in the handbook, I still find myself uncertain how it applies to me and other LDS bloggers. I met recently with my Stake President and Bishop to review my own blogging activities, which contain questions about LDS history and doctrine, and my attempts to find satisfying answers.

Blog Readers Not Followers in This Context

In the blogging world, readers are sometimes called followers. I have thousands of readers who receive my posts each time I publish. In some of my posts, questions about doctrine, history or practice go unanswered, with open invitations for my readers to offer their thoughts, opinions, ideas and related quotes. I don’t teach doctrine on my blog. I seek answers to honest questions.

Attending Lectures From Cast-off Members

I traveled to Utah to attend a lecture today delivered by a man some LDS members have called a messenger or servant or even a prophet of God. The lecture was the seventh in a series of ten lectures in a series entitled “Forty Years in Mormonism.” Denver Snuffer was excommunicated for apostasy by the LDS church last year exactly forty years to the day after he was baptized.

Desire to Understand Denver’s Message

This is the first of his lectures I was able to attend in person because it coincided with a planned trip to Utah to attend Carol’s family reunion. I am extremely grateful to Carol, who, knowing how much I wanted to attend this lecture on the Savior, surprised me by arranging a rental car for me to travel down to the lecture in the morning and still attend the reunion in the afternoon.

Sharing Ideas of Those Excommunicated

Because I find Denver Snuffer’s books, blog postings and lectures so fascinating, I share much of what he has shared, usually with additional thought about how it applies to me or to anyone who is serious about his primary subject, which is to receive the Savior while yet in mortality. Inasmuch as he has been excommunicated, does my sharing of his ideas constitute apostasy?

Other Bloggers Disciplined For Sharing

I continue to ask this question specifically because of the recent cases of Brent Larsen and Will Carter, two LDS bloggers excommunicated for writing about Denver’s message on their own blogs. If members are “always free to ask questions as they seek greater understanding,” and “asking questions has never constituted apostasy,” why were Brent and Will excommunicated?

Consideration of Specific Open Cases

You’ll have to decide for yourself if Kate Kelly’s action constituted advocacy that went beyond asking questions. John Dehlin’s case has been “de-escalated.”  He will be meeting with his Stake President this weekend. Can John’s Advocacy for greater kindness toward LGBT members be called apostasy? Rock’s case is open. He has been told to stop his blogging activities or resign.

Advocacy, Criticism, Doctrine and Questions

Without arguing the merits of their ideas or causes, I see advocacy in Kate’s and John’s cases. But what about Rock’s criticism of church practices? There is no advocacy there that I can find. As far as I can tell, his local priesthood leaders simply don’t like the criticism. Is that a just cause to ask him to stop blogging, resign or face disciplinary action? Do you see advocacy on his blog?

Bloggers are Targets for Public Opposition

Of course, advocacy is not the only criteria to judge apostasy. There is also the public opposition clause to consider. Before Denver was excommunicated last year, I posted dozens of positive things I found in his books and on his blog that demonstrated his support for the church. I was amazed by the number of opponents who said they found just as many that opposed the church.

Blogging in a Search for Clarification

When I asked for details, one or two readers shared a few quotes they considered to fall into the category of public opposition. I disagreed. I felt they were simply items of fact from our history. Inasmuch as I continue to assert my belief that Denver is indeed an inspired messenger from the Lord, acting as His servant and thus a prophet, am I an apostate because I also blog about it?

Seeking definitions of Some Key Words

I am not advocating anyone follow me or Denver. I am not teaching doctrine. I am asking a few questions and seeking clarifications on some key words. What is a messenger? Can the Lord send us messengers from outside the church hierarchy? Can a man be a servant of the Lord without being a member of the LDS Church? Are there other prophets besides “The” prophet?

Blogging is Usually a Public Activity

Is blogging considered public opposition by its very nature? The church asked us to be involved in the public discourse. We have been asked to let our voices be heard online. What if some of the voices are not quite in harmony with the standard historical narrative? In recent years the church has rescinded or corrected key elements of our history. The church has admitted error.

Blogging is All About Open Dialog

I’ll finish this post with two thoughts. First, I’m not criticizing the church, its faithful leaders, the doctrine, history or practices. I am simply asking a few open-ended questions. I appreciate and accept answers from all readers. I seek my own answers in the scriptures, books and online sources. But I would be a fool to ignore the extremely valuable resource of thousands of readers.

Receive the Words of a True Messenger

Second, I am serious about answering those questions about Denver. He says he is not important. I disagree. In my lifetime, I have never heard a message so clearly from anyone like what Denver has shared. It has always been there in the scriptures. In the three hour lecture today, the great majority of what I heard came from scripture or from doctrine found in the Lectures on Faith.

The Lord Defines a Prophet, Not the Church

Why in the world would the LDS Church cast out a prophet sent from the Lord with a message intended for our salvation and benefit? According to the Statement from the First Presidency today, I am entitled to ask this question. What I heard today was true doctrine. It inspired me. It increased my desire to come unto Christ. For this good thing, the LDS Church has cast him out?

Conservative Mormon Bloggers Under Scrutiny


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

Disciplined for Following a Prophet

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

Asking Questions is not the Same as Doubt

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

Some Think it Not Acceptable to Ask Questions

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

Some Seem to be Afraid of Asking Questions

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

Church Encourages Us to Ask Hard Questions

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

Elder Ballard Encouraged us to Be Active on Blogs

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

Trolls Should be Banned for Contention

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

Blogging Can and Does Make a Difference

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

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

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

Most LDS Leaders are Ideologically Conservative

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

Seems Not Okay to Ask Questions in Church Classes

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

Church History Narrative Not Always Accurate

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

Bloggers are an Inquisitive, Questioning Bunch

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

Should be Room for Everybody in This Church

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

Cultural Mormons Want a Place in the Church

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

Excommunicated for Endorsing a New Book

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

Amen to the Priesthood of that Leader

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

The Internet Changed Everything for Research

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

Every Member Should be an Amateur Historian

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

We Lost an Opportunity With the Death of Joseph

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

It’s Time to Prepare Ourselves Individually for Zion

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

Just Expressing my Thoughts – Don’t Crucify me

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

Comments are Still Welcome – Trolls are Warned

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

God bless and thanks for reading and sharing.

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

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

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

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

 

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.

Cut Off From Among My people


LDSChurchHandbooks1When one is excommunicated from the LDS Church, he is provided instructions by the Bishop or Stake President as to what he can and cannot do. Given that the church just severed the relationship with the individual excommunicated you would think the instructions provided are no longer applicable. It is assumed they are given with the intention of helping the individual make their way back to baptism again within a short period of time, even as little as one year.

Instructions Provided When Excommunicated

It has been my sad duty over the years to write and deliver the notice to appear, then to write the summary of the disciplinary council for the report sent to Salt Lake, and the instructions given to the individual who has been the subject of church discipline. Frankly, I have found it a difficult process. It requires that I listen intently and take copious notes so as to capture the essence of what transpired, what was considered, what was decided and finally, what instruction was given.

Alternative Method – Administrative Action

I’m sure you know that many individuals forgo the trauma of a disciplinary council and elect to simply resign their membership. The Stake President is supposed to contact the individual and make sure they are aware of the seriousness of what they have just done. Most Stake Presidents I have worked with have been hesitant to perform this duty, and, in fact, have let it drag on for a year or more before executing that final step which cuts the individual off from the LDS church.

Rights, Privileges and Authority Removed

They are supposed to instruct them what they are giving up, such as all rights to the priesthood, to the temple, to the sacrament and any claims they may have on others such as the sealing of a spouse or even children born in the covenant. As with any individual excommunicated, they are told they may no longer wear the garment of the holy priesthood, may not exercise priesthood authority, may not speak in church, offer prayers, serve in any church callings or pay tithing.

Defending Oneself in a Disciplinary Council

For many individuals, this is a relief. For those who chose the administrative action (no council), it is fairly obvious they no longer believe and simply wanted to stop being bothered by home and visiting teachers. For those who elected to go through the formal council proceedings, one can assume they had hopes to avoid excommunication. In other words, they believe in the cause of the church, enjoyed the privileges of membership and were willing to petition to retain them.

Apostasy is a Whole Different Animal

In the case of someone accused of apostasy, the case has pretty much been decided before the council is held. Either the Stake Presidency has received instructions from the Area Presidency to “take care of it,” or they have decided on their own that the member is too much of a pain in the butt and can no longer put up with the things he or she is sharing among church members that are out of line with accepted church doctrine. Of course, they are supposed to have been warned.

Role of a High Councilor

The wheels of the church grind slowly, but they usually grind smoothly. It’s a bit of a burden to serve on a high council. Besides speaking in church each month, attending early-morning stake council or high council meetings, High Councilors are to serve as advisors to the Stake President in disciplinary councils. They are supposed to be evenly divided with half to see that the interests of the church are met and the other half to see that the interests of the individual are represented.

Apostasy Usually Decided in Advance

In reality, the high councilors probably know nothing of the circumstances regarding the man or woman being tried for their membership until a few minutes before the council begins. It’s pretty hard to represent someone being tried for apostasy when it is clear the “apostate” knows more about church doctrine and history than you do. Therefore, apostasy is usually decided based on the attitude of the individual – if he or she is willing to do whatever is asked of them by the SP.

Keep Your Beliefs to Yourself

I have now had several online friends – fellow bloggers – excommunicated for apostasy because they wrote things in their blog indicating they believed something was missing from the church. Apparently you can believe what you want about the church as long as you don’t share it with anyone else. I even had one individual in a previous stake claim he had just as much right to lead the church as the then-prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, but he also had extenuating mental issues.

I Sustain the Leaders of This Church

I think it’s a little foolish to be so “in-your-face” in your comments about the Brethren or about the Prophet in particular. Unless you are so ticked off at what they are teaching and feel they are perpetuating a myth, then you might want to hold back on the public statements opposing their actions. Lest I be accused by any of being an apostate, let it be known here and now I love the Brethren who lead this church. I sustain them and accept their leadership, guidance and direction.

Open Dialog, Free Speech and LDS Bloggers

As I wrote for many years, if the Brethren or my local leaders ever felt my blog was out of line or too provocative or placed the church in a bad light, I would gladly change it or remove it. I had even expressed that I would have no problem discontinuing the blog altogether, although of course with the Internet Way-back machine, what I have written is preserved for a long time, or at least as long as there is electricity and the server on which it is stored is not nuked by an EMP.

A Preview of Things to Come

I shared in a recent post a conversation I had with the Lord in which I asked for and received his permission to share a few things on my blog in the months to come that I have been hesitant to write about for fear of offending the leaders of this church or causing others to doubt their own testimonies and commitment to the church. I still feel strongly one should look for the good in all things, especially when you have invested a lifetime of time and money to building a good cause.

An Honest Seeker of Truth

I am going to explore a few scriptures and offer alternative interpretations of those scriptures. I am also going to be looking at a few events in our church history and noting interpretations of those events that differ, sometimes radically, of the “standard narrative” we have all been taught or grown up with all our lives. Please don’t label me an apostate or trouble-maker. I believe I am an honest seeker of truth and have felt led to these conclusions by much pondering and prayer.

Living With Difficult Church History

You may think I am parroting the views of Denver Snuffer and in fact, I will be quoting some of his insightful points, but only because he has been bold in bringing them to our attention. I did not hear about these things first from Denver. I learned them in my youth from my mother in the things she taught me and books I read, or I learned them later as I felt led to certain sources that one can find online which were not available until recently. The Internet has changed everything.

Troubling Issues in the Standard Narrative

You may ask why I choose to do this. You may wonder if I am looking to force the Brethren to take action. No, I am only looking for certain troubling issues to be addressed. I recognize that I am in the minority in this church. Some estimate that as few as two percent of the LDS members actually do any serious study of our history and the evolution of our doctrines over time. And if we are to believe John Dehlin (which I do), the Brethren have decided we are irredeemable.

Home Sanctuary – A Sacred Altar

Up until recently I was greatly concerned about missing out on the blessings of the sacrament and the temple if I were to be excommunicated from the church. With what I have learned about the home sanctuary in the last few weeks that concern about the temple has been resolved. And with what I have determined in my own mind about priesthood authority and priesthood power, remembering the Lord through administering the sacrament in my home is no longer an issue.

Bishop Holds Keys to Administer Sacrament

I know what you’re thinking, “Brother Malone, don’t you know that the Bishop holds the keys of administering the sacrament? You can’t do that without his permission.” Well, if the church cuts me off, then they no longer have any say about what I do in my own home, do they? Let me make it clear my issues with the church are not with my local priesthood leaders. I have many times expressed my love for them on my blog and will continue to do so. My issue is priesthood.

Sealing Power Received by Voice of God

The bottom line for me is I am not so sure the higher priesthood can be passed from one man to another. It can only be received by hearing the voice of God or by receiving it directly from God by the laying on of hands – the Lord’s hands, even Jesus Christ. Even if one receives this higher sealing power from the Savior, it cannot be passed on to another. Each man must receive this power for himself. I’m not saying the church doesn’t have authority because I know it does.

A Kingdom of Priests with Priestly Authority

I liken the authority of the church to that of the tribes of Israel after Moses and before the advent of the Lord in the Meridian of time. It is a priestly authority, authority of the Aaronic priesthood, or a type of authority that invites us to go and get the real thing, the power of the priesthood from the Lord and Master of the universe. I know this is quite a claim. We teach Peter, James and John gave this authority to Joseph and Oliver and I have no doubt they did. But was it later passed on?

Seek to Behold the Face of the Lord

Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were asked to choose the twelve apostles. They did so. After they were ordained, Oliver gave them this charge:

“…it is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God. That is more than the testimony of an angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out; although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven.

Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off you doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?”

 

Denver Snuffer Excommunicated


PassingHeavenlyGiftDenver Snuffer recently posted the news on his blog that he has been excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for apostasy. It was not unexpected by most who are familiar with his writings. This morning, before I learned the news, I received the email below from a reader regarding Denver and my many posts about what he has written. I asked for the writer’s permission to share it here on my blog so I could respond publically. He agreed.

My response to a private email on Denver

Warning: If you have any feelings of love, support, friendship or sympathy for Denver Snuffer, this email will make you sit up and think as it did me. The writing is strong and passionate. [Update: see comment below: Strong writing is protected speech as it is opinion about a public figure.] Let’s please be clear up front these are not my words. It is my intention to defend against these claims, based solely on what I have read of Denver Snuffer and my feelings as a follower of Jesus Christ. Denver doesn’t need me to defend him, but I feel the desire to do so.

Loss of Temple Recommend Over Reading a Book

Now that the excommunication is official [see my note below], and even though I’ve already addressed it in two previous posts, I recognize my public expressions of sympathy for Denver Snuffer, whom I have never met, could conceivably disqualify me for a temple recommend. The question is “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?”

Update: The church has not and has said they will not comment on Denver’s official status as a member of the church. Therefore, I have no problem with reading his material, listening to his recorded lectures or attended meetings at which he speaks. I can answer the temple recommend question truthfully that I do not support, affiliate with, or agree with any … individual whose teachings are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the LDS Church.

Divisiveness Over Denver’s Book

Here is the email, with some identifying information left out:

—— Start of email ——–

“…the last thing I want to do is to pick a fight with a Snufferite.  Nevertheless, I saw your blog, so now I am commenting, as I can’t understand how you think the way you do.  I am not a fan of Denver Snuffer.  I was introduced to Denver Snuffer’s work by a former friend of mine … who is a friend of Snuffer.  We are no longer friends, mostly because of disagreements over Denver Snuffer.

Denver is Labeled a Liar

“I have his Second Comforter book, and find the THEOLOGY impressive.  In fact, I find almost ALL of Denver Snuffer’s theology impressive.  I actually AGREE with the idea of a second comforter experience while in the flesh, but that is not impressive in the sense that it is actually more common than we think, as a lot of mundane people out there have had it.  And so, Denver Snuffer’s claim is not a unique one or a special one.  What is unique, and what makes him a liar is the fact that he claims a commission from the Savior.  He is out of order.

Claims Denver Is Seeking A Following

“I HAD the book PTHG but quickly disposed of it after I read it (not impressed).  It as well is very useful in certain aspects but I didn’t want to own a copy, to be frank.  It is his worst book.  Not the facts presented in the book, but the interpretation of them.  It made me irritated that Denver Snuffer is capitalizing on certain facts to gain a following.  Yes, I stand by that statement.”

Says Denver Vilifies the Lord’s Anointed

“He vilifies the Strengthening of the Members committee.  He vilifies the Lord’s anointed that has received revelation on Snuffer’s need to be disciplined.  And sorry [but] Snuffer publically vilified his own stake president for his own political gain, in hopes that he could affect the outcome of his trial.

Calls Denver Snuffer a False Prophet

“I’m sorry, but this is what makes Denver Snuffer such a subtle false prophet: Because his Theology IS so believable, and IS mostly so much on track.  It’s not that the Church does not need reform.  It’s that Denver Snuffer is the one taking it upon himself to proclaim that to the world.  Yeah, I’ve heard it all before.  Sorry.

Claims Denver Needs to be Humbled

“The prophet that will reform the Church will be a successor to Thomas S. Monson or to his successors, with actual keys, not some guy with a holier than thou complex.  Snuffer needs to be brought down off his high horse.  He needs discipline, and I hope he is excommunicated.  His attitude is apostate through and through.

Says Denver Has Not Seen Jesus Christ

“I don’t care how much he claims to support the brethren.  He does no such thing.  I find his THEOLOGY very useful for the most part.  But his attitude is that of an apostate with a cloven tongue.  He is not a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.  He is a liar and has not seen Jesus Christ.

Warns Us to Withdraw Support for Denver

“Jesus Christ would have told him to stand down and submit to the keys of the priesthood before he got to this point if he was truly in communication personally with him.  It’s all hogwash.  And so, I just thought I would give you my opinion, though you being a Snufferite so it seems will be another one probably with deaf ears to someone like me that tries to warn people about actual false prophets.  I would advise you to withdraw your support for Snuffer.”

———— End of Email —————–

What You Can Expect From Me

My personal rules of engagement are that I will not attack an individual for making statements that I believe are unsupported. I also desire to find unity in my responses. I attempt to compose my sentences in such a way that they are not offensive, but thought-provoking. I have tried to have an open mind about the writings of Denver Snuffer from the day I was introduced to them.

My Personal Investment of Study and Prayer

I also want you to know up front, if you haven’t read any of my previous posts about Denver Snuffer, and I have written over a dozen, that I have read most everything Denver has published or made available publically. I have also listened to many of his lectures and pondered both the lectures and the writings. What’s more I have prayed specifically about the content of both.

The Book Puts the Church in a Negative Light

The Church did the right thing. I know that sounds harsh, but too many people were bothered by Denver’s book. The Stake President’s letter spells it out. I can’t speak to the mischaracterization of doctrine because I’m not a scholar, but yes, I can see how you can say Denver denigrated just about every prophet since Joseph Smith. And there is no doubt the book puts the church in a negative light. Quoting the SP, “Your work pits you against the institution of the church.” Yep.

Some say Denver Snuffer is Now an Apostate

If it wasn’t clear before, it is now. You can officially call Denver Snuffer an apostate if you feel so inclined. He was specifically excommunicated for apostasy, or even more specifically for an act of apostasy, which was the publication of the book, Passing the Heavenly Gift. Wow. That concerns me. As I considered in a previous post, can an individual be disciplined for expressing opinions about the church in a personal blog that just happens to be open to the public? Yes. [See my comment to Tom below – this is NOT official news from the church.]

Reading the Words of an [Alleged] Apostate

I have been questioned by those who love me and by some who read my blog why I have such an interest in the writings of Denver Snuffer. The simple answer: I don’t know. I find something in them that satisfies my soul. I don’t consider myself a scholar or an intellectual. I just like some of the explanations and exhortations I find in Denver’s books, especially in Passing the Heavenly Gift. So is it wrong to read the words of an apostate? I thought we are to seek for knowledge.

Seek Out of the Best Books

I started reading Denver’s books so I could answer the question when asked, “What do you think of his latest book?” I had to seek the book out, purchase it online and then invest the time to read, study, ponder and pray. I’ve related that experience in a previous post. Others have had contrary experiences, but for me, reading PtHG was an enlightening and spiritually uplifting experience. It did not contain new information, at least in the first two thirds, but it had a powerful ending.

Finding Good in Some Bad History

The book gave me hope. For years I had felt something was amiss in my worship experience. I thought perhaps if I studied more, prayed with greater intensity or tried all that much harder to be submissive and obedient to what I thought the Lord wanted me to do, things would improve. They didn’t. I was not finding joy in my service in the kingdom. I know that’s my own personal problem, one only I could fix. Reading PtHG gave a voice for the feelings I was experiencing.

The Church Holds the Keys

I love this church, this religion, this gospel and the people who embrace it. I love to associate with the Saints. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I could not do what Denver has done. I need the sacrament each week and the temple as often as possible. The church holds the keys to my admittance to the temple. I will do what the church says to do in order to get into the temple.

I Need The Church Each Week

I need the sacrament each week. I am a sinful man. I make mistakes. I need the atonement and believe that comes through repentance and partaking of the sacrament frequently. I love to serve in this church. I’ll accept any calling and appreciate my opportunity to serve the stake presidency as an assistant stake financial clerk. I would be just as happy serving as a primary teacher. I love to teach the gospel either from the pulpit or from the front of a classroom. I need those things.

I Also Need Freedom to Write

Even though I agree with what the church has done in excommunicating Denver, I am troubled now that this action has taken place. He did not lose his membership because of any issue with the moral code of the church. His Stake President said he was worthy of a temple recommend just last Sunday. The problem was over freedom to express himself in writing. Yes, that is why I am so interested in this case. I grow as I write. I learn as I write. It is the way I study the gospel.

Some Specific Responses to the Email

I am not a Snufferite. I do not follow a man. I follow Jesus Christ. I do not believe Denver Snuffer is a liar. I believe him when he writes he has been ministered to by Jesus Christ. I accept his claim that he received a commission from the Savior to write at least his first book on the Second Comforter. I also believe he wrote Passing the Heavenly Gift under the inspiration of the Lord. I know it’s a controversial book. It’s not for everyone. My wife won’t read it. It scares her.

A Commission From the Savior

I don’t believe Denver is seeking a following. He has specifically stated he is not looking for a people to lead. He said his purpose was to add his witness that we can commune with the Lord in a personal and direct way. I suppose he was asked to write that first book to show that a regular member like you or me can receive the Second Comforter. He lays out the steps to achieve it. Such a goal is the meat of the gospel – to be ministered to by Jesus Christ and to hear His voice.

A Man of Humility Who Loves the Lord

I don’t believe Denver to be a false prophet. Everyone who has the testimony of Jesus Christ is a prophet. Denver has not asked us to leave the church. On the contrary, he encourages us to be as faithful as we can, to love and serve our fellow members. I do not sense pride in the writings of Denver Snuffer. I sense the opposite. He comes across as a humble man, a man who wants to do the will of the Lord. He is sacrificing a lot to do what he feels the Lord has asked him to do.

A Man Trying to Do the Lord’s Will

No man is perfect. So what if he rides a Harley (gasp!). So what if he occasionally lets slip an expletive like hell or damn most conservative LDS would never use in public or private. I do not know how I would respond if the Lord asked me to do something that would eventually get me excommunicated. If the Lord really asked Denver to write PtHG as a tool to help some of those who it helped (and I have letters from them to prove it), then he was doing as he was directed.

A Threat to the Church and Weak Members

Don’t tell me I am being double-minded, saying the church did the right thing while at the same time defending Denver for doing what he says he has been directed to do. I do not fault the church. I agree with the action taken. Denver was too much of a threat for most members of the church.  I am impressed that Denver would do what he felt the Lord wanted him to do – write that book – even though he probably knew at the time it would eventually get him disciplined.

Follow Your Own Inner Voice

Is Denver out of order? Does he sustain the Brethren? You’ll have to answer those questions for yourselves. But for goodness sake, don’t judge the man without at least making some small effort to get to know him. Read his blog. Read his books. If after doing so you feel what he writes is not for you, so be it. If you pray and the spirit tells you to not read his books, so be it. What he writes is not for everyone. All I know is his books helped me. I’m glad he wrote them.

Not a Follower of Denver Snuffer

I don’t think I’ve added much new in this post I haven’t written before. I would like to write a review of his Boise lecture once I receive the CDs later this week. I read from a friend who was there, the CDs were delayed. They hoped to be able to burn them on the spot. I’m sure Doug will fill the orders as quick as he can. I look forward to reading what others have said who were there. If you attended the lecture, perhaps you could leave a few comments here on what you thought.

Don’t Believe His Teachings Are Contrary

The bottom line for me is that I feel impressed of the spirit to continue in my quest to understand what Denver Snuffer has shared. I need to finish some of his books and intend to re-read parts of PtHG and especially The Second Comforter. I learn something new each time I invest the time to read and ponder what I can apply that will bring me closer to my goal of opening the heavens and be taught what the Lord wants me to know. In the meantime I will serve here as best I can.

We do not Encourage Compulsion

I’ll make no broad statements condemning anyone who says Denver is a liar. I am not offended if you call him an apostate. According to our church, he is. But don’t tell me what I can and can’t read or believe. Amen to the priesthood of any man who tries to exercise control or compulsion on the souls of men. Force is not the way of the Lord. Neither is fear. We should not be afraid to learn something new and then make up our own minds if it is useful or helpful to us. God bless.

My Defense Before the High Council


32493_000_01_Title.qxdOne of my readers, Steve, asked, “I wondered what you would do if your stake president told you to quit blogging about Denver or you would be exed.” This is a fictional account, based on that very possible what-if scenario that could happen:

What if members were called to account for themselves in regards to the books they read and what they publish on their blogs? Oh, how I hope and pray that day never arrives. Isn’t that what George Orwell’s 1984 was all about?

Standing Before the High Council

“Thank you, President, for allowing me to take a moment to speak. I’ll make this brief. I know your time is precious and I don’t want to prolong this council any longer than necessary. I know we would all like to return home to our families.

“First, please allow me to express how much I love and appreciate each of you brethren. I hope you can feel that. Even if I am excommunicated tonight, I am grateful to have been able to know each of you and to have served with you.

I Have Received Sacred Experiences

“Many years ago, I had some sacred spiritual experiences that convinced me God lived, loved me and had a plan for my life. I have also felt the love of my Savior so many times since that I have a sure and certain witness He is guiding my life.

“In many ways, I have given my life to this church. I’ve said many times and I’ll say it again. I’m simply your typical, average member. I love this church and love the people in it. I love to serve. I’ve always accepted every calling extended to me.

The Approved Curriculum

“Like many of you, I grew up being taught the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in primary, Sunday school, Seminary, Institute and priesthood quorums. I have always appreciated my brethren and sisters. They were just like me – regular folks. They tried to teach the approved curriculum by the spirit of inspiration.

“Sometimes that process can be a contradiction in terms. What we find and teach from our authorized curriculum is not always exactly the way things happened. That’s OK. It’s faith-promoting and invites the spirit of the Lord to attend us. So what if we leave out some little part of the actual story that makes us look bad?

Some Things Are Embellished

“I always felt it was not worth bringing things up when I knew the teacher was not exactly sharing the perfect truth, meaning the story he or she was relating was later proven to be hearsay or something with a little extra added. We all know, if we have studied our history that some stories are embellished or parts left out.

“I’m sure you know what I mean. Think of Paul Dunn for a moment. He did a lot of good. But the fact remains he embellished some of his stories. Do I love him any less for doing so? No, of course not. He helped me develop faith in the Lord.

My Testimony of Joseph

“I grew up reading the Book of Mormon at my mother’s knee. I literally learned to read from the Book of Mormon when I was five years old. I love that book. I learned long ago it is scripture and contains the word of God.

“Over the years I have made an extensive study of the life of Joseph Smith from as many sources as possible. I have read the good, the bad and the ugly. No matter what I have read that claims otherwise, I know Joseph was a prophet.

“Because of my witness, I knew I would serve a mission, marry in the temple and do all I was asked to do over the years to help build up the church through home teaching, serving in callings, paying tithing and trying to be a good example to others.

Asked to Write About the Church

“Shortly before Elder Ballard invited the members of the church to become more involved in the conversations taking place on the Internet, I decided to start my own blog. For those who don’t know, a blog is a website where you keep adding new entries over time. The newest entries always appear at the top of the page.

“At first I simply wrote rebuttals to stuff out there that I knew were lies. I work on the Internet for a living. I read a lot of web pages. It’s my job. I got tired of all the stuff I read out there by those who had an axe to grind against the church.

Members Who Have Doubts

“After a while I noticed those who responded were mainly other members, and then only members responded to my blog posts. They wanted to argue with me. They wanted to show me where I was wrong and why I should think otherwise.

“I considered them naive. I could not believe they were duped by some of the stories out there on the Internet. Even worse, I could not believe they had not read or heard these things growing up. It seemed they wanted to shock me with some new revelation they spouted about how Joseph practiced polygamy or polyandry.

Inoculated at an Early Age

“What they didn’t know is I had a mother who taught me to read and who had a library full of controversial LDS books. She was a teacher. We did not grow up with a television. Reading was something my family did. I grew up with four sisters. We went to the library each Saturday and came home with a dozen books.

“I mainly read science fiction, but I also read a lot of history, especially from my mother’s library – LDS history. Mother was a Gospel Doctrine teacher and she loved to research her subjects. I think I read No Man Knows My History when I was in seminary. I was probably only fourteen or fifteen years old at the time.

“For those who may not know, the author of that controversial book was President McKay’s niece. She was excommunicated for writing that book. I first learned of polygamy from Fawn Brodie, and more to the point, of Joseph’s polygamy. There are seminary students in our stake today who know absolutely nothing about polygamy or that we ever practiced it as a church, especially in Joseph’s time.

Sympathizing with an Apostate

“I stand before you today accused of sympathizing with an individual whose teachings are contrary to the official story of our church history as found in our curriculum. I can’t believe it has come to this. Are we now willing to discipline our own church members simply for what they read? I can see the importance of writing uplifting material, but not everything in our church history is uplifting.

“I have always made it a point to teach ONLY authorized material from the official curriculum when I am asked to teach or speak in church. However, this is my private blog, in which I quote what others have said about the church. I offer my opinion and sometimes additional insights that come to me as I write about them.

Encourage Others to Remain Faithful

“If I were publishing things in my blog that advocated members to leave the church then I could understand the reason for this council. I don’t encourage others to teach the things I write in my book reviews. I always reassure my readers they should teach only what is found in our official curriculum. That is what the Brethren have asked us to do and I sustain that decision. Milk before meat, right?

“My whole blog is about LDS-related book reviews and specifically books that deal with the doctrines of the Last Days – the Coming of the Lord and how it will happen. That’s all I write about and nothing more. I comment a lot on Denver Snuffer’s books because he has written so much in this area. His writings are controversial, especially now that he is probably about to be excommunicated.

My Testimony and Conclusion

“That’s all I wanted to say. I love this church. I know it is authorized by the Lord to preach the gospel, to perform the ordinances of salvation, to print the scriptures, to collect tithing and to build temples. I am happy to be a part of the work. I hope to contribute until the return of the Lord. I believe my blog helps some people who struggle come to grips with some of the more difficult parts of our history.

“I will do as this council directs. Specifically president, if you ask me to take my blog down or at least to stop publishing or reporting on what Denver Snuffers says as he conducts his lectures over the next year, I will do so. But I can’t believe we would let it come to such a thing – controlling the lives of our members like that.”

Can the Church Control Bloggers?

And that is the end of my imaginary defense I would offer if I were called in to defend myself for writing about Denver Snuffer and his teachings. By the way, I ran this by my wife. She thought it was funny and said I was being overly dramatic but I don’t think so. I’ve read of bloggers being asked to stop writing certain things about the church, haven’t you? There just seems to be something wrong with that.

%d bloggers like this: