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.

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