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?

Don’t Blame Me, I Just Report the News


ThisIsNotThePlaceEarlier this month, a Facebook event was created entitled, “This is not the place.” It is subtitled, “Mass resignation from the LDS Church,” and is to protest Kate’s excommunication. The event is scheduled to be held at City Creek Park on 24 July 2014 in Salt Lake City, which is Pioneer Day, a holiday in the state of Utah. I’m sure it will be well attended, at least by the news media.

Mass Resignations From the LDS Church

A similar event was held sometime after the Proposition 8 fallout. I knew some of the people who resigned at that time. I have kept in touch with many of them. They are still my friends on Facebook. They seem happy for the most part, but of course, I only know most of them from interactions on my blog over the years. I also have some friends who are resigning on July 24th.

We Are Losing Some of the Best and Brightest

From what I see, these are young people – well, young to me. I am an old guy, although not nearly as wise and experienced as those who lead this church. These young people seem smart. In fact, in my interactions with them, I know they are. They are, for the most part, college grads with good jobs, well-educated, many being returned missionaries, many married in the temple.

A Serious Step to Get Your Message Across

Why, we must ask ourselves, are these young people leaving the church? According to some estimates I have read, they hope to have thousands participate in the mass resignation. They are also encouraging those who are dissatisfied or disaffected by the disciplinary actions against Kate and John and Rock to ask their own priesthood leaders to hold a disciplinary council.

Understanding Why People Leave the Church

I’m just a blogger so don’t get upset with me for reporting the news. It’s not a secret. But I would like to point out another site created by John Dehlin several years ago specifically to help young people stay in the church, in spite of their feelings about being lied to about church history or about the discriminatory practices against blacks and women or other concerns they may have.

Consider the Contributions of John Dehlin

I have long been a fan or follower of John Dehlin’s work. I believe he has done more good to help those who are disaffected reconsider their desires to leave the church. He is an advocate for the LDS LGBT community and outspoken about marriage equality. I’m not saying I agree with his work as an activist but I do agree with his work to promote tolerance, acceptance and love.

You May Learn Some Things New at StayLDS

If you haven’t been to StayLDS lately, I encourage you to visit the site and view the presentation originally created by John. There is other good material on the site to help foster understanding about why people leave the LDS church. I especially enjoyed viewing the “Top Five Myths Why Committed Mormons Leave the LDS Church.” It may be an eye opener if you haven’t seen it.

Imagine Being Asked to Resign From the Church

John has been asked to resign from the church. He later reported he will be meeting with his Stake President in the next week or so. I met with my Bishop and Stake President earlier this week and am pleased to report we are working things out. I have a new appreciation from my dear bishop of just how my posts have affected some people I love and don’t want to hurt.

For the Record From Daymon Smith

In the spirit of Daymon Smith’s “For the record” posted Thursday, I would like to post my own official statement of disclaimers, specifically for those who want to know what my intentions are and why I write as I do. I record this late at night, in St George, on my way to a family reunion this weekend, after driving all day, so it may be a little incoherent, but I want to get it posted.

Question and Answer with Latter-day Commentary

Q. Do you feel you have changed your style or tone over the years?

A. I didn’t think so until a long-time reader pointed out some differences in the way I answered some questions put to me by a reader. I was much more church-centric back when I started.

Q. Can you explain what you mean by “church-centric?”

A. I started blogging in 2007. I specifically wanted to provide standard answers that I could use in answering all the common questions we were and still are getting on the Internet.

Q. Like what?

A. Plural Marriage, Blacks and the Priesthood, Mormons and Masonry, The peep-stone in the hat, Multiple versions of the First Vision, Book of Abraham, Adam-God, Mountain Meadows, Mark Hoffman forgeries, Elder McConkie’s treatment of George Pace, President Benson and Alzheimer’s disease, Kinderhook Plates, DNA evidence of American Indians, and on and on.

Q. So why do you call these “church-centric” issue and answers?

A. I tried to make my responses correlate as close as possible with what I had been taught as a missionary, what I had read in the correlated church handbooks and CES material when I was a seminary teacher and with the answers I found on official church websites.

Q. And now?

A. I am more focused on coming unto Christ.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I guess I’m not so concerned about all the historical issues the church has had. Most people who have studied them have concluded the church did not record them accurately, and in many cases, changed the record to make it look better. The church has acknowledged this and is doing something about it by publishing original documents from the very early days of the church.

Q. So you no longer focus on answering historical questions.

A. That’s correct. A few years ago I read a book that changed my life.

Q. You’re referring to Denver Snuffer’s “Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.”

A. No, actually, I’m referring to his 2011 book, “Passing the Heavenly Gift.”

Q. You do know that’s the book for which he was excommunicated last year?

A. Of course. But still, it changed my life when I read it.

Q. How so?

A. I could not put it down. I picked it up to give it a quick perusal just before I went to bed one night to see what it was all about. A friend had asked me about it so I bought it and thought I would write a few words about it on my blog.

Q. And…

A. I stayed up all night reading it. It was a spiritual experience for me.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I mean, I had multiple sacred “ah-ha” moments of enlightenment as I was reading, and when I finished, I knelt down and asked the Lord to let me know what He thought about the book.

Q. And He told you?

A. In no uncertain terms.

Q. What did He say?

A. He said I didn’t need to continue my blogging efforts to answer everybody’s objections to the historical difficulties they were having with our church.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because Denver Snuffer had answered them perfectly.

Q. You do know, of course, there are many people who disagree with his conclusions?

A. Of course. But that means nothing when you get an answer from the Lord.

Q. Let’s move on to something else. You said you are more focused on coming unto Christ.

A. Yes.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. I went back and read all of Denver’s books, including the other one you mentioned.

Q. “Conversing With The Lord Through the Veil?”

A. Yes. I decided the most important thing I could do with the rest of my life would be to live in such a way that I am prepared to receive a visit from the Lord in this life.

Q. And you believe that is possible?

A. Not only do I believe it, but the Lord has promised it in multiple places in the scriptures.

Q. Now, be honest. How many people do you know who claimed to have seen the Lord?

A. Less than a half dozen.

Q. And you believe them?

A. Why should I doubt?

Q. Because when you meet the Lord, you’re not supposed to talk about it.

A. That’s a myth, generated by those who can’t explain why it isn’t happening to more people.

Q. Let’s wrap this up. What are you trying to accomplish with your blog these days?

A. Let me do two things. Let me first state unequivocally what I’m not trying to do and then I’ll answer your question to the best of my ability.

Q. Please. Go ahead.

A. First of all, I am not trying to encourage anyone to leave this church. In fact, I am trying to do the opposite. Stay. We need you. We need your strength. We need your talents and abilities. We need your service, your help, your testimonies and your love of the Savior to share with us.

Next, let’s be clear. I am not the cause of anyone deciding to leave this church. Just because I report on events of the day or I write a book review about a controversial book, it is up to the individual to decide how they will take the news or if they like my opinion of the book.

And finally, I want to make sure everyone who reads this knows I have no doubts that God is our Heavenly Father, that He lives and loves us and answers our prayers. I know that Jesus is the Christ. He is our Savior, our Lord and Redeemer. He is calling out to each of us to repent and come unto Him. I know Joseph Smith was called of God to translate the Book of Mormon.

He did this through the gift and power of God. It is scripture and we need to spend more time studying it so we can understand God’s will for us in these last days. I know the Lord established His church through Joseph Smith and restored priesthood authority and keys of the kingdom. I sustain the leaders of this church as prophets, seers and revelators and pray for their success.

Q. Thank you. And the last question: What are you trying to accomplish with your blog these days?

A. I am on a journey, a spiritual journey. I have questions I am trying to answer. I am sharing my journey with those who are interested. Sometimes the stuff I write may be mundane and boring. But it is my hope and prayer that something I write can help someone else who has asked the same question and is on the same journey, believing that D&C 93:1 can be fulfilled in mortality.

Q. And that concludes our interview with Latter-day Commentary by blogger Tim Malone since it’s now one o’clock in the morning. We hope to have future interviews and delve deeper into some of the subjects you raised, especially your contention that the scriptures about the Lord coming to visit men and women in this life are meant to be literally fulfilled in a physical way.

A. Thank you. God bless and good night.

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?”

 

Max Skousen Excommunicated Twice


MaxSkousen2Please don’t take offense at the title. It is sensational on purpose but I think factual. Read on to see why. Note: I changed the title from the original because so many people wrote to say they found it offensive. It was not my intention to offend. The original title was: “The LDS Church Excommunicates those who Know Christ” The next week Denver Snuffer was summoned to a disciplinary counsel and was eventually excommunicated. He was one who wrote a book about the Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.”

Some Controversial Writers

I have been reading Max Skousen. You know, the Max Skousen who was excommunicated twice for writing about Christ. It made me think about Mel Fish, my friend from Cedar City who was excommunicated for writing about Christ. As I pondered further, I thought of my LTM branch president, George Pace, who was released as a Stake President for writing about Christ, Finally, I thought of Denver Snuffer, who is under church investigation for his recent books on the Savior.

Remove the Condemnation

What is going on in our church? Why are we forcing men out who want to bring us to Christ? I have read the works of these men and can say without reservation that each of them have been sincere and have gone to great lengths in their labors to teach us how we can come unto Christ. It is not an easy thing to write a book, let alone several of them as some have done, in their efforts to help us remove the condemnation we are under for esteeming lightly the Book of Mormon.

Church Teaches Come Unto Christ

This concerns me. On the one hand, I have been taught all my life from General Authorities, Bishops, Stake Presidents, Gospel Doctrine Teachers, and just about anyone who teaches in this church that if we will but come to know, love, follow and emulate Christ, we will be blessed, we will be happy, and we will be able to help the rest of the world by our example. I have tried to live this principle all my life. My number one goal is to come unto Christ. Always has been.

We Need to Know The Savior

Something is wrong here, or so it seems to me. Have I simply chosen a few poor examples in my list above? These are men whose writings have affected me deeply. I have met and interviewed some, and have prayed about each of them and their writings. Now, to be sure, I am also affected by the words of the men we sustain in this church as prophets, seers and revelators, sometimes very deeply, especially when they teach of the Savior. Aren’t we all supposed to know Christ?

Looking Beyond the Mark

I think the problem is that these men I mentioned above, and you can read about each of them in the links I have provided as I have written about them previously, have gone beyond what the Brethren felt comfortable in letting them share. Does that sound strange? It does to me. It seems to smack of controlling or restraining in some way, something I find distasteful. It makes me ask, of what are they afraid? What do they fear these men have taught or are trying to teach us?

A Blessing Hitherto Unknown

Take Max Skousen for example. He passed away in 2002, but you can read his books on the blog dedicated to his works, with links to Scribed, where they are stored. I have only read a few of his essays and the first few chapters of Looking Beyond the Mark, the first in his series of books, A Blessing Hitherto Unknown. In it he describes how he was inspired by President Benson who invited us to remove the condemnation of pride and unbelief from ignoring the Book of Mormon.

Disciplined for Doctrinal Writings

Max simply expounded that. I read no further than a few pages before I had to know about the man and what motivated him. That’s when I discovered he had been excommunicated twice for writing his books. The pattern became obvious. Each time the Lord has led me to read the works of someone who teaches about the Savior in greater depth than what we find in our curriculum, I discover they have been disciplined in some way or form. Thus I write this post, wondering why.

Tree of Life not Tree of Knowledge

From what I have been able to discover so far, Max teaches us about the differences between the tree of knowledge and the tree of life. Oh, how quickly I was able to relate. I have been seeking new and revelatory experiences every day at the tree of knowledge, when all along, I should have been pursuing my way to the tree of life, clinging to the iron rod until I fell down at the presence of the tree to partake of the fruit, which the Lord promises we can taste and even have in this life.

Investment in Denver Snuffer Books

I have only just started reading Max’s works. I am so pleased that someone has gone to great trouble to place them on the Internet where I can find and read them for free. I do not have to buy them like I did when I wanted to read what Denver Snuffer has written. I don’t mind. I suppose I have invested well over $200 in Denver’s books, but I wanted to have them in my library. Some I have read multiple times, and others I am still reading, like Removing the Condemnation.

I Remember a Great Teacher George Pace

I read George Pace’s book many, many years ago, went to many of his lectures, and received personal counsel from him just as I was starting my mission. I’ll always remember his focus on the Savior, and how he KNEW we could have a personal, sacred, and sustaining relationship with him that would give us strength throughout our lives. I was devastated when I later read what happened to him and his family all because he dared teach what he taught about Christ.

Learn About Mel and Gwena Fish

I’ve written previously how I was led to meet with Mel Fish, a man who I am convinced knows the Savior better than anyone I have ever met. If someone were to ask me if I knew anyone who had their calling and election made sure, Mel and Gwena Fish would be the first couple to come to mind. The sprit witnessed to my soul how much the Lord loved Mel and Gwena and just how much he appreciated what they were doing to help people cast off the influence of the adversary.

Conquering Spiritual Evil

By the way, two other other individuals come to mind who have done so much to help people free themselves from the adversary and were persecuted by their church leaders for doing so. One is Doug Mendenhall, who wrote Conquering Spiritual Evil, and my friend Jan Graf who was somewhat of a mentor to me in first learning about communicating with our subconscious mind, although I learned his techniques second-hand and modified through one of his students.

Denver Snuffer Lecture Series

Anyone who has read my blog for the last year and half knows how I was introduced to Denver Snuffer and his writings, as well as the subsequent change in my life as a result of what I learned, and am still learning, from his books. I still hope to make it to one of his seminars in Utah next year. I’m certain I won’t be able to go to his Idaho or Northern Utah lectures anytime this year. I have some very specific questions I want to ask Denver why some teach evil spirits can repent.

Men Persecuted for Publishing Truth

The point of this post is this, and it’s more of a question for those who are my regular readers, if I have any left after being dropped by most LDS blog aggregators for being too controversial. I have felt led to read the works of these men I have mentioned. Their books have thrilled me. They have fed my soul. Reading them have been spiritual experiences, akin to reading scripture. Why is it that these men are persecuted by our church when their writings ring so true with me?

Go Where the Spirit Leads

I have to ask: Am I out of touch? Am I out of line with the General Authorities? Are we or are we not taught by our leaders to seek after Christ, to learn of Him, to come to know him and to emulate Him? Why do I feel that the Lord has lead me to the writings of these brethren I have mentioned in this blog? Is it because the writings of these men represent the meat of the gospel? Is what they write too much, too controversial for the general membership of the church today?

Just Your Basic Everyday Mormon

I don’t feel I’m anybody special. I’ve always said, “I’m just a regular member of the church.” I have no special influence. I am a lowly assistant stake clerk. I like to stay behind the scenes. I gladly accept speaking or teaching in church when asked but I ALWAYS teach ONLY what is in the approved curriculum. I do not deviate unless the spirit directs. I like to think I serve faithfully. I love this church. I love my brethren and sisters. I am your basic everyday common Mormon.

An Effort to Control Publishing

I’ll leave it at that. Some will respond that I have been and am being misled. It happens almost every time I write about Denver Snuffer. My counter is always, “That’s not what the spirit has been whispering to my soul.” Is it at all possible that there is some sort of cover-up or rather an attempt to control, to constrain and to tightly correlate what private members write and publish? If so, how can they expect to do that in today’s Internet world? We can publish anything today.

My Faith Discovery Journey

I’ve been blogging and working on an LDS-themed book for years. My wife just beat me to the punch and published her first book. I’ve watched her journey go in an entirely different direction than where she thought she wanted to go. I can say the same thing for me. I started out wanting to ONLY write faith-promoting, toe-the-line LDS explanations that mirrored the official line of reasoning for every controversial and questionable doctrine or practice. I feel like John Dehlin.

Finding Spiritual Fulfillment

John is much smarter and much more prominent in the LDS blogging world than I am but where I am today is not at all where I expected to be six years ago when I started thinking about adding my voice to the LDS blogging community. I don’t question the right of the leaders of our church to lead. I sustain them. I pray for them. I love them. But for the first time in my life, I’ve come to a point where I have to say, I’m not getting the spiritual food that fulfills my soul in my church.

Controversy Always Gets Attention

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not leaving. Where would I go? I also fully recognize feeding my soul is my own responsibility. That’s why I seek out and feel led to the writings of the men I mention at the top of this post. I just can’t figure out why these same men, whose writings I find so very rewarding and fulfilling, can be at odds with those who lead our church today. Is it a made-up controversy? Everyone knows strong opinions and debate generate interest. Maybe that’s it.

General Membership Don’t Read

Maybe the brethren are disciplining and excommunicating these men in order to bring attention to their works, so the members will sit up, take notice and make some effort to find out what all the hullabaloo is all about. Yeah, that’s it, isn’t it? I’m kidding. I really doubt that. But if you can tell me why I am led to find such spiritual satisfaction from the writings of these men who are or have been disciplined for what they have written, I would greatly appreciate you clueing me in.

Looking for Informed Opinions

That is, of course, if you know what you’re talking about, have read some of their works and can advise me with an educated opinion. I dislike reading some of the comments that start out, “I’ve never read a thing Denver Snuffer has written, but I can tell you if you don’t stop reading what he has published, you’re going to lose your church membership and then you’ll be sorry.” But I have a much higher opinion of my readers than that. Send me a private email if you prefer.

You can Reach me Privately

And, as always, thanks for reading my blog. I hope what I share is helpful and gets us thinking. I can be reached privately at tmalonemcse @ gmail.com if you prefer, but why not share your insights with others in the comments? I always respond to private emails, even if it sometimes takes me a few weeks. I appreciate the hundreds of readers who have reached out to me privately for help or discussion. I welcome all, public or private and ask only for thoughtful discourse. God bless.

Answers are Found in the Scriptures


NewScripturesI often have this feeling that the Lord wants to talk to me. It usually comes on a Saturday night. It is also stronger if I haven’t been to the temple in a while. We were last there three weeks ago and typically make it at least once a month. I’m not sharing this to brag, only to point out that there is just something about regularly attending the temple that brings a feeling of peace to my life.

Stay on the Right Path

I suppose what I’m looking for most is a feeling that I’m on the right path; that I’m pursuing goals that are pleasing to the Lord and am using my time in the best way possible. I have always felt this life is short and that my time is to be used to advance myself in some way or another. I suffer a feeling of “Divine Discontent” when I’m not sure if I’m where I should be on the path.

Read the Scriptures

I don’t know if you can relate. When I get like this, I go into my bedroom alone, kneel in prayer and pour out my spirit to the Lord. It never fails. The Lord says, “Go read the scriptures.” I don’t know why that kind of bugs me. I keep expecting that maybe the Lord will send an angel or a strong impression of the Spirit telling me what to do with my time – that’s what I wish He’d do.

We are Blessed with Free Time

I have so many projects and so many possibilities of what I can do with my free time. We are so blessed with living in this modern day and age. We don’t have to spend all our time trying to get enough to eat or keep our house in good repair or whatever our ancestors worried about. They spent their time and energy on things other than spiritual when they were living on this earth.

Ministers Among my Ancestors

Or did they? On my father’s side, my ancestors were mostly poor dirt farmers, not very well educated but good Christian folk. I know this because I have read many of their life stories. Many of them were Baptist preachers. On my mother’s side, the standard of living was higher, they were more educated, and coincidently, there were a lot of Presbyterian ministers there.

I am a Mormon Minister

I’m a Mormon minister of sorts. I had an ecclesiastical license to preach that I carried with me when I was a missionary. I’ve taught the gospel and spoken in church all my adult life. I love this church and love to serve wherever I’m asked. Tomorrow I meet with the Stake Presidency to review the financial status of the stake. It’s just part of my job as the Stake Financial Clerk.

Uplifting Sabbath Days

I love Sundays because they are so rewarding and fulfilling. I come home from church feeling spiritually fed and uplifted. Sometimes I wish every day could be Sunday. But something seems to happen to me during the week. My spirituality balloon tends to get a slow leak in it. I think it comes from the normal course of events as I do my daily work and “fight the worldly dragon.”

Counsel With the Lord

I do a lot of gospel study during the week, but sometimes, I simply need a one-on-one study session with the Lord in which I think about things that are bothering me, ask the Lord for some inspiration on where I can find some help in the scriptures, turn to what he inspires me to read and then sit and ponder it for a while. Mostly, He tells me in no uncertain terms I need to repent.

Scrupulosity – Thank you John Dehlin

And that kind of bugs me too, because then I find myself hesitant to read the scriptures. But I persevere and ask exactly what I do need to repent of so He can bless me that way I want – with that feeling that I am doing with my time what is pleasing to Him. I sometimes wonder if I am a candidate for what my friend John Dehlin taught me about scrupulosity, but with no real OCD.

Getting Direction from the Lord

I hope you’ll pardon me for rambling on about such a vague subject – getting direction from the Lord in our lives. But after all, this is my journal and it helps me to write and share. I wonder if any of my readers are as concerned as I am about wanting to know what the Lord thinks about them. Most people I know don’t care, and think it’s kind of nuts to even be concerned about it.

Gifts of the Spirit

Maybe growing up in the LDS Church does that to the men of the church – not all – only some. We’re taught how important it is to be spiritual and to be “in tune” with the whisperings of the spirit. We look up to men – and women – in our faith that we consider spiritual, or who seem to have some sort of gift of the spirit to be able to speak with inspiration when asked their opinion.

Blessings of Fast Sunday

It’s Fast Sunday tomorrow which means we go without food until the evening meal. A lot the brethren I know who serve in leadership capacities do this every Sunday, mainly because they are involved in meetings – public and private – from early in the morning until sometime late in the evening. I’ve served in some of those positions – bishopric counselor, high counselor.

Magnifying Your Calling

But nothing beats being a Bishop or a member of the Stake Presidency. I work closely with these men and see the dedication they put into doing their church job – magnifying their calling. I asked our new Stake President last month why he spent so many hours in his callings, knowing that it is at least twenty hours a week. He said, “I do it for the same reason you do Bro. Malone.”

An Offering to the Lord

I had to think about that. I know why I put up with so many meetings and go out to train my fellow clerks on how to use the church computer system. I know why I gratefully accept every opportunity to teach or speak in church when asked. I do it as an offering to the Lord as a token of my appreciation of my love for Him and for what I know He has done for me all my life.

Taught by Good Leaders

I’m looking forward to whatever our High Priest Group Leader will teach us tomorrow. He teaches us each Fast Sunday. He’s a good man, a former bishop. I enjoy his lessons taught with love and with a desire to help us understand the gospel and to be motivated to live it more fully. I enjoy participating in the discussion – always have – especially when I was a HPGL in our ward.

The Purpose of Adversity

In Sunday school tomorrow we’ll be studying lesson 28 in church history – The purpose of adversity. It’s about the time the prophet Joseph and others spent in Liberty Jail. I have been to that jail and seen the terrible conditions under which they lived for so many months. It was a low time in Joseph’s life. He asked the Lord why he had left him alone. He received D&C 121-123.

Rare Spiritual Experiences

Sometimes I feel like that. Why hast thou left me alone so long, Lord? When was the last time I had a truly uplifting and edifying spiritual experience? You know the kind I’m talking about – the kind where you come away feeling like you haven’t a problem in the world, that everything will be alright, all is right with the world and the Lord is pleased with you and loves you dearly.

Purpose of Daily Prayer

I’m aware that some people say they have those kinds of spiritual experiences every night in prayer. I confess my prayers are not like that. In the morning I tell the Lord what I’m planning to do that day. In the evening, I tell the Lord what I’ve accomplished and ask for His blessings upon my work that it will not have been in vain, especially as it regards helping others along the way.

Peace Be Unto Thy Soul

So I’m reading D&C 121 tonight in preparation for tomorrow’s lesson. I love verses 7-8: “My, son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then if thou endure it well, God shall lift thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all they foes.” There’s more, but those two verses got me thinking of a whole series of events in my life.

The Foes in My Life

I don’t really have foes, especially not like Joseph did. Oh, sure I have people who mock me or make fun of my beliefs and writings I share on my blog. That doesn’t bother me so much. But I am concerned about people who oppose what I believe in so strongly about the events that are happening now in the last days. I have foes in the sense that they dissuade others from the path.

Things we are Losing in Church

For example, I have long been convinced that we are losing or have lost some basic knowledge that was taught in the early days of the church about the operations of the spirit world. In other words, there are people in the church today who do not believe that there is a devil or that we are bothered by evil spirits who try to keep us from accomplishing good things in our daily lives.

Signs of the Times

I am also concerned by those in the church who do not believe in the signs of the times. What I and many others plainly see as something prophesied and something about which we should be concerned, others poo-poo the subject, the event or the change and tell us we are being overly melodramatic about it. “Change is good,” they say. “You’ve got to accept things are different.”

Emphasize Certain Doctrines

These are otherwise believing members of the church who oppose my writings when I declare the Lord inspired me that some doctrine we used to believe needs to be emphasized more in the church. Of course, it’s not my place to say what we should be teaching but it concerns me they can’t see the loss and are not concerned about it. Oh well, I should be content with my lot.

Knowledge by His Holy Spirit

I’ll close this journal entry with a few more of the wonderful words from section 121, verse 26: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now.” This promise was not just unto Joseph. It is intended for each of us to receive knowledge from God. But we must ask and listen.

Constant Companion of Holy Ghost

“…let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion.” There’s more and I’m sure you know the verses well (45-46). God bless us to seek the Lord and ask Him to reveal truth to our souls.”

Smoothing down that Rough Stone Rolling


I have been listening again to John Dehlin’s interviews with Richard Bushman on my iPod on the days that I travel to the office. Thanks again John, for bringing the archives back. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: those podcasts are now an invaluable part of history. I’ve enjoyed each one and have listened to some of them multiple times, including the Bushman interviews.

I have also been re-reading Rough Stone Rolling, especially the early chapters dealing with the First Vision, the visit of the angel Moroni and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. I have thought deeply about this fascinating part of our early LDS history but John’s probing questions to Richard Bushman have got me thinking again about several of these rather complex issues.

The difficult questions of history

If you’re a student of our history then you know what the questions are and have most likely formulated your own answers long ago. I know I have. Through my blogging activities of the past couple of years I have been able to present my own answers to many of those more difficult questions. I have also been called on to defend my answers by those who don’t agree with them.

Here are just a few of those issues I have blogged about: multiple versions of the First Vision, God is an exalted man, God has a body of flesh and bone, the seer stone in the hat, objections to the Book of Abraham, the burning of the bosom, Joseph Smith was a Mason, plural wives of Joseph Smith, the new Mormon history, the only true and living church and Mountain Meadows.

Not taught in the classroom

As I’ve written in several of my blog posts of the past, I feel very blessed and grateful that I had an advantage that many who have studied our history did not have. I was exposed to almost all of the troublesome issues early in life and had come to understand even in High School that what is taught in the LDS classroom does not always tell the whole story of what really happened.

From the time I was fifteen I realized that there are some issues that are not taught in depth in our Sunday Schools, Seminaries and Institutes and certainly are not brought up from the pulpit. This was not a problem for me. I learned about the rest of the story by reading books that my mother provided for us in the family library. Although a convert, mother loved our unique LDS history.

Information from other sources

I hope John doesn’t mind, but I think his story is illustrative of what has happened to many of our young people in the church who have discovered at a later point in their lives things they didn’t know about our history. After the shock wore off, a feeling of betrayal replaced it. As John said, this feeling came because they loved and trusted the church too much, not too little.

In John’s case, he discovered many of these troublesome issues when he was called on to teach seminary. He studied the material in great depth in order to be prepared as he taught. He also supplemented his study of the official CES material with what he discovered on the Internet. And there is the big difference between my experience with this difficult material and John’s.

Learning Mormon history

You can learn more about the issues that trouble some of our members and investigators through a simple Google search than I could through many years of reading selected books provided by my mother. However, what you usually find on the Internet is someone’s interpretation of what they read and very little original research. That can taint the way you learn Mormon history

From mother’s library, I read books like No Man Knows my History by Fawn Brodie, Family Kingdom and the Kingdom or Nothing by Samuel Taylor, Great Basin Kingdom by Leonard Arrington and Joseph Smith, the First Mormon by Donna Hill. We also had the History of the Church and the Journal of Discourses in our home library in which I looked things up.

Learn details of history in personal study

My point is that I had the luxury of slowly reading one of these historical books, discussing what I had learned with my mother and then pondering why I had not learned these kind of details in my seminary classes. I came to the conclusion that there just wasn’t enough time to bring up in that 50 minute early morning Seminary class some of the more interesting stuff that I had read.

Having taught Seminary later in life, I have been impressed with the clear direction from CES that we are not to teach some of the more complex and difficult parts of our history. I think I can understand why and in fact, agree with this direction to teach our history in a manner that is both uplifting and faith-promoting. But leaving major parts of it out can cause problems for some.

It is human nature to discuss

One of the methods of those who are opposed to the work of the LDS Church is to present us with shocking statements about our faith, our beliefs or our history and then to accuse us of not wanting to accept the truth. It doesn’t matter how we respond – shock, indignation, dismay, anger, or even kindness, their desire is not to help us understand the truth but to destroy our faith.

That’s the problem with researching the church on the Internet. It’s common to want to discuss our new discoveries with others. That’s how we solidify our understanding – by sharing things with others and evaluating their response. Our young people turn to online discussion groups or forums because many of the older members of the church have never learned about these things.

True believing Mormons who know

Unfortunately, it is rare to find someone online who knows our history well and has no problem with the more difficult parts of that history. In fact, it is rare to find someone in your own circle of contacts who really knows our history. We are a church of lay leadership. There is simply no requirement that you know the history, only that you believe, are worthy and want to help others.

That’s why John’s interview with Dr. Bushman is so helpful to those who are struggling with understanding and accepting all the warts and imperfections of our history. Rough Stone Rolling is a great resource that tells our story without trying to whitewash it or cover anything up. Dr. Bushman is careful to provide the complete story with contemporary sources from that time.

A safe place to discuss our history

I don’t know if John has found the answer to what I feel was his best question. He asked, “Where can we go to find a safe forum in which to discuss our history?” In my experience, Sunstone is not the place. I think they tried forums but they didn’t take off. And the Mormon History Association has wonderful conferences and publications, but no online forums.

There are a plethora of online forums to which we can turn to discuss the church. I have listed them in a previous essay. You just have to choose what level of moderation you are going to accept. Some strive to keep the disaffected Mormons out, but what if you are simply going through a temporary crisis of faith? Who can you trust to guide you through your explorations?

Summary and conclusion

The Internet has done amazing things for the church. It has helped us share the message of the restoration in a way that allows us to reach millions, even billions with the story of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. It allows us to present our faith, our doctrine and our history in a manner that is faith-promoting and uplifting. That has been my objective in the essays I write.

John prepared and shared a wonderful presentation on how to stay in the church in spite of the loss of faith. I highly recommend it to all, no matter what your current level of belief. An updated version is available at the staylds forums, which I missed when I compiled my list of LDS-related forums. Thanks to John Dehlin for his work in helping those with a crisis of faith.

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