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 Worth Pondering


zion-city-of-enochWhat if priesthood is not the power of God, but rather an association with angels and Gods?

What if keys are not licenses to exercise discretionary power, but items of knowledge which serve to unlock the hidden meaning of things?

What if the rituals of the temple are simply pedagogical tools intended to instruct, not rites intended to exalt?

What if the washings / anointings / endowments / sealings are a ritual reenactment of a sequence of events that is intended to transpire in mortality – in real life, here and now?

What if when we seek for further light and knowledge we instead find many who are willing to preach to us the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture?

What if Satan supervises our religious education?

What if we have seen the angels standing guard as sentinels, asking for our signs, tokens, and key words, in our day-to-day lives?

What if we didn’t give them what they asked for?

What if, by withholding our means from the poor or those we deem undeserving, we thus sell our signs and tokens for money?

What if real sealings only take place on the other side of the veil, and must be done in this life?

What if those sealings must be performed by the Father?

What if the future city of Zion, the New Jerusalem, has neither leaders nor followers, neither rich nor poor, but all are equal in all things, both temporal and spiritual?

A Day of Rejoicing – A New Beginning


TimBaptism2aCroppedI barely remember being baptized when I was eight years old. My family had joined the LDS church a few years earlier. Being only five at the time, I had the advantage of a few years of instruction in Primary and Sunday school. I also had the blessing of having read the Book of Mormon with my mother. It was the first time for both of us. I remember reading these words:

“… Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart.” (Mosiah 18:12) I wondered about these words. Even at seven years old, they impressed me. A man desired to do the work of the Lord. He asked the Lord for power to do that work.

Today I was baptized again. The man who baptized me repeated the words of Alma’s prayer above, then used the words of the baptismal prayer as found in Third Nephi 11:25, “Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” He did not say, “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ …”

A Commandment Renewed Today

I can’t tell you all the reasons why the wording is different or important but I can tell you this: I know the Lord was pleased I chose to be baptized again by someone using these words. I hope you can see it in my face in the photo I have included in this post. I knew I had completed what the Lord had asked of me twelve days earlier in Mesa, Arizona on the 9th of September, 2014.

When I heard those words that day, “I am telling you in the name of the Lord that commandment is renewed again by Him today, to you,” I knew I had to be baptized in the manner I have just described. “And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been … he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention …”

I knew I needed to be baptized in this manner and I was not going to argue with anyone about it. Because the LDS Church considers it an act of apostasy to be baptized again, and I had no desire to argue about it, I resigned my membership. I was then free to follow the commandment of the Lord to be baptized in the correct manner, using the correct words. It was a wonderful feeling.

A Temporary Community of Believers

I appreciated being joined by others who were baptized with me today. I will be forever grateful to the man who traveled from his community in Utah to baptize us. There were eight of us who met to discuss the gospel and partake of the sacrament in my home. We used wine – not water – as the Lord directed in the scriptures, grape juice for those who didn’t want to drink alcohol.

It will be awhile before I am able to join with a community who believes as I do. There are not enough in my area here in California. Having received the priesthood from my father, I can bless and partake of the sacrament in my home. That authority is not controlled by the LDS Church, just as the spirit of the Holy Ghost is not controlled by the Church. I felt the Lord’s spirit today.

I will be content with the community I feel with so many of you who read my blog. I know there are many who disagree with what I have done. I understand. Carol and I had a visit with a friend from Colorado after the baptism today. He is a family counselor. We discussed the importance of following the promptings of the Spirit, who leads us to Christ back to the presence of the Father.

A Tried and True Method

TimBaptism3aCroppedEven though I try, I don’t think I will ever understand how deeply this has affected Carol. She was not happy with my decision. Five or six generations of Mormonism have ingrained within her traditions that are not part of my heritage. To me, it was a simple logical decision. I studied the writings of a man who claimed to have seen the Savior. I confirmed his claim in solemn prayer.

This man claimed to have been given a message from the Lord to be delivered in a series of ten lectures. I read, listened to, attended some and studied all of the lectures. I was and am convinced the message he delivered is authorized of the Lord. I confirmed this using the principles I learned growing up in Primary, Sunday school and seminary – I studied them out, then asked the Lord.

I have been told by some, including Carol, that the message of this man is offensive. I did not find it so. It felt right as I studied it. It felt good. I guess you can say it “tasted” good. It fed my soul. The message led me to the scriptures. It caused me to ponder them again and again. I acted upon the message. I exercised faith in prayer culminating in the action I have taken this day.

77 Truths That Stand on Their Own

My friend from Colorado delivered a book to me at the Mesa Lecture. It took him years to write. From what little I have reviewed of the book, it is filled with truth – 77 Truths to be exact, which is the name of the book and the website. I have perused it and intend to review it in a future post. It has nearly a thousand quotes and probably an equal number of scriptures. It will take time.

“Within each of the 77 Truths, scripture is provided that reveals the light and wisdom necessary to receive the mysteries of God and become Zion at heart. Those who accept the Divine invitation represent the “few” who will be blessed to contribute to Millennial Zion. This is the day that each of us must now choose: God or man? Truth or tradition? Zion or Babylon?”

Bret, the author, asked that new readers commit to reading at least the first three chapters, and then, if the spirit prompts, up through chapter twenty-one. That’s only 107 pages. I can do that. I plan to read those first 107 pages before the end of the week. I hope some of you will take a look at Bret’s book with me. He worked closely with the Lord to bring it forth. Truth brings us light.

Promised Blessings of Obedience

When I asked the Lord about being baptized, I received from Him a promise. I asked if I could share it. He agreed. His promise to me is that by being baptized, I have demonstrated acceptance of the messenger He sent, and therefore, over time, and through effort, can receive the same kind of knowledge this messenger has received – a knowledge of what the Lord will soon accomplish.

A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world (TPJS 217). The message delivered by the servant should be carefully studied. I have put dozens of hours into it already. That is not enough. Each portion of the lecture deserves, indeed requires, dozens of hours to comprehend.

The Lord commands us to seek learning, even by study and by faith (D&C 88:118). It is one thing to be able to quote scripture, recite passages from writings or lectures of inspired men. It is quite another to obtain knowledge from heaven and from heavenly beings. That is the promise of the Lord I have received – that eventually, I will be taught by heavenly beings. It is made sure.

TimBaptism1aCropped

A Few More Quotes From Denver Snuffer


DenverSnufferGoogleSearchI learn best when I share. That’s one reason why I blog. When I finished reading the first volume of Remembering the Covenant, I thought I would share a few quotes that I found unique and spiritually invigorating. This is the second in a series of quotes from the book and from the blog. I can see that there will be at least four posts on this volume. I am finding too many good quotes.

23 Mar 2010 – page 105: Ordinances are not the real thing

The power of godliness is tied to opening the heavens and receiving assignments, confirming revelation, or blessings from God.  Promises given to others are not promises to you.  Men are rarely reliable sources from which to attain the Word of God.  All power is tied to heaven.  When the powers of heaven are withdrawn from someone, then their authority comes to an end and they have no power. The ordinances as symbols point to the real thing. The real thing is Jesus Christ and His Gospel. If you want to have the power of godliness in your life, it must be gained through Jesus Christ; access to whom is available to all men on equal terms.

23 Mar 2010 – page 106: Our libraries interfere with knowing God

I’ve been marveling at the irrelevance of higher education to the process of receiving light and truth. … a scholar studies philosophy and then everything looks like it can be fit into a paradigm matching their school of thought. It isn’t the volume of the books we possess which helps our search into deep truths.  Indeed, our libraries may well interfere with knowing God.  It is the depth of how we live the basic principles contained in the scriptures which let the light of heaven shine into our lives. A bad education (which is most educations) is worse than no education when it comes to the things of heaven. Heaven is an endless source of surprises.  There’s nothing mundane going on there.

23 Mar 2010 – page 108: We must hear the voice of the Lord first

The ministry of the Second Comforter is to bring those to whom He ministers to the Father, and have them accepted by Him.  This means that the Father accepts them as a member of the Heavenly Family, or in other words, promises them exaltation. Joseph Smith … put the voice declaring a person’s exaltation first, and the visit of Christ and the Father with that person second. … they will take up their abode with him, & the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him & the Lord will teach him face to face & he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God…

24 Mar 2010 – page 112: We must each wage a war against spiritual entropy

…we are always going to learn more.  It is the nature of the Gospel that our light should increase.  Whenever we learn more, we must change to reflect what we have just gained. The Holy Ghost is should be a regular participant in our lives.  Its renewed companionship is also primary.  Its witness to us that we are on the right path is the only way to wage the necessary war against entropy which seeks to take you into darkness.  It is the source of renewed light that always enlightens when it comes. We must do this individually.

25 Mar 2010 – page 117-118: We are required to offend and sound the alarm

Mormonism is either correct, or it has no reason to exist. Jesus Christ did not intend to let those who follow the work He was to commission through Joseph Smith to become popular, successful, or live in peace.  He intended to put them at odds with all the rest of the world. It is an instant challenge to the world. When we shape the message of the Restoration into a vocabulary which does not offend, we miss the point.  We are REQUIRED to offend.  We are REQUIRED to sound the alarm to “Awake! Arise!”  When the message to those who accept the Historic Christian faiths is that “you’re OK” we are contradicting Christ’s opening statement to Joseph Smith. All of this is only true if what we are doing is continuing the work begun by Joseph Smith.  If we have abandoned what he restored, then never mind.

28 Mar 2010 – pages 129-130: Not necessary for apostle to have audience with Christ

When someone in a position of Church leadership has an audience with Christ, we hear about it.  Joseph Smith told us.  Oliver Cowdrey told us.  Sidney Rigdon told us.  So did President John Taylor, President Joseph F. Smith and David B. Haight.  Their calling is to bear a witness of Him.  When they have an actual audience, I believe they tell us. The calling of the Twelve is to “bear witness” of Christ.  (D&C 107: 23.)  Because of that calling, they must proclaim they have a “witness” even if it could be more correctly described as a testimony born of the Spirit.  I accept their “witness” of Christ and believe it is authoritative.  However, I do not read into their testimony what they do not put there themselves. I accept the “witness” of the living Apostles, although it is a rare exception when one has an audience with Christ.  In recent talks Elder Scott has gone to some length to testify and describe his own spiritual experiences.  I trust in them.  I trust him.  I believe him to be an Apostle.  It is not necessary for an Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have a personal audience with Christ.

30 Mar 2010 – pages 133-134: We must feast upon the words of angels, not men

Isaiah prophesied about the effect of losing knowledge about God.  He wrote: “Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honourable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.”  (Isa. 5: 13.) This is an apt description of people when they are not “fed” with truth and light. In contrast, Nephi wanted the Latter-day followers of Christ to have a “feast” to consume while toiling in this fallen, difficult time.  But Nephi notes the “feast” will come to us from hearing the words of “angels” and not from the “arm of flesh.”  Nephi taught us: “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.  Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”  (2 Ne. 32: 3.) Whether we are to “feast” or be “famished” is up to us.  Seek, ask, knock: it will be opened.  Stay content, do not ask, seek, or knock: you will remain dried up with thirst.

31 Mar 2010 – pages 136-137: We have polluted the Restored Church

The great latter day “pollutions” referred to by Mormon in Mormon 8: 31 are the behaviors of men; not environmental waste.  Mormon identifies what those “pollutions” are:  “murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations.” Those are harsh indictments.  But it becomes even more harsh when Mormon identifies US as the culprits.  He calls us “pollutions.”  He tells us we have polluted the “holy Church of God.”  That can only mean the Restored Church.  Sobering indeed. “O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?”  (Mormon 8: 38.)  Remember that Mormon saw us.  Jesus Christ showed Mormon US. He was in a unique position to accurately tell us what ails us. (Mormon 8: 35.) So why do we think ourselves in good spiritual condition?  Why are we confident we aren’t condemned by the Lord?  Why do we presume that as Latter-day Saints we are safe?  Why do we think Mormon is talking to all those other churches; churches who will never read his book, and therefore cannot be warned by it?  It defies common sense, really. We are in a lot of trouble.  He’s trying to help us.  How foolish to think we can line up beside him and point the finger away from ourselves.  He won’t let us do that, you know.  He’s pointing the finger right at us.

02 Apr 2010 – page 142: The endowment ceremony misrepresents the creation

There are different versions of the creation.  The Moses, Abraham and Genesis accounts are similar in putting Adam alone at the point when the commandment was given to not partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  The Temple account does not preserve this. The creation (or transplant of man onto this world) is not really the reason for the various ceremonial accounts of the event.  They are intended to orient us to how we got here (by a deliberate, planned act of God), why were are here (to find our way back to God) and why conditions here are difficult (to gain knowledge of good and evil).  The accounts are really about us.  Each of us was born innocent in the beginning, gradually become accountable, feel ourselves outside the presence of God, and must work to return.

03 Apr 2010 – page 143: Thoughts are the key to come into the presence of God

Ideas are things. Real things. They come into existence as we create them. They will become subject to the judgment of God, because our thoughts are perhaps the most real part of us. (See Alma 12: 14.) We should guard our thoughts as we guard the lives of our children. Our thoughts hold the key to everything else. This is so important a matter that the Lord tied knowledge of priesthood itself to the thoughts we entertain in the privacy of our minds. Only when our thoughts are worthy are we able to bear the presence of God. (D&C 121: 45.) If you study the scriptures and then meditate upon them also. You will only develop power within as you do so.

05 Apr 2010 – page 148: Receiving Second Comforter not valued by this world

I was asked about the meaning of receiving the Second Comforter.  There is a chapter in the book (The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil) titled “What it Means and What it Does Not Mean” that summarizes the matter. The promises of God are helpful in enduring to the end.  But they have no value here apart from peace of mind.  They are not “property” which this world will value highly.  They are for the coming life.

05 Apr 2010 – page 148: God may require us to go public as part of a trial

All the prophets can do is offer encouragement to others.  They can affirm that the path back to God exists and can be walked even in a day of sin like today.  They cannot do the walking for anyone other than themselves.  Each person is obligated to walk on the path for him or herself. Examples of others offer encouragement, but can never replace the obligation devolving upon each individual. It would be easier for a person to live in harmony with God in obscurity than with public notice.  Sometimes, however, the Lord requires a person to take a public stand as part of the trial or obligation imposed upon them.  Whether the person complies with that duty is a measure of the person’s sincerity.

07 Apr 2010 – page 153: The church is flawed but necessary and good

I recognize weaknesses [of the church], have no intention of avoiding them, and am not an apologist in the traditional sense.  But I believe in the church, accept its authority, and think its role is necessary and even critical to the work of the Lord. Acknowledging the flaws is admitting the obvious.  But getting those who are discouraged, losing their faith, or have left the church to reconsider that decision is another thing.  They cannot be reached spiritually without some acknowledgment of the problems in the church.  They aren’t going to be deceived by offering a clever polemical argument. Once the varnish comes off the institution of the church, for many, faith dies. But that is not necessary.  Nor is it inevitable.  It is possible to see the frailties of men and still also see the hand of God. … the church may be flawed, but despite that, it is worthy, worthwhile, necessary and good.  I have had some success.

07 Apr 2010 – page 154: We should have faith in an imperfect church anyway

Some of the church’s most effective critics are former members.  Indeed, with the internet, the arguments against the church are multiplying, as are the number of critics. I try not to gloss over the flaws or ignore their existence or to pretend that there aren’t legitimate questions being asked about what has or is happening within the institution of the church. I’m saying that we can and should have faith anyway. The church matters and its mission has always been possible to accomplish. I also want those who sense we’ve retreated from the original scope of doctrine and practice to realize the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains on the earth.  It is as accessible to anyone living today as it was while Joseph was here.  The failure of others does not impose any limitation upon the individual who sincerely seeks, asks and follows. We are not dependent upon others or even the institution itself to receive that fullness.  Although the ordinances offered by the church remain the foundation upon which the fullness must be built.

08 Apr 2010, page 161: Sacrifice is required to produce faith sufficient to save us

…it is quite important to note the necessity of sacrifice to produce the kind of faith which saves.  Joseph’s explanation required us to sacrifice all things to be able to lay hold on saving faith.  Without the knowledge that we would give up everything, even our own lives if necessary, we cannot receive eternal life.  We have to trade this life for the next.  No trade, no exaltation. So when a man or woman reaches the point where she/he can be tested, the Lord will supply a test to them to prove (to themselves) that they will sacrifice all things.  [The Lord already knows, but we don’t.  And it is OUR faith which is required to be tested.]

09 April 2010, page 169: Times of Gentiles ending – no longer a Christian nation

We are witnessing the end of the times of the Gentiles.  There is a worldwide collapse of the Gentile populations.  (Gentiles being the white, European populations.)  Although we have scattered Israelite blood in us, the LDS Church was founded by those who are “identified with the Gentiles” (D&C 109: 60). But their (our) time has run its course. The God of this land (North America) is Jesus Christ.  When people reject Him, they lose their claim on the land and are swept away.  (See 2 Ne. 1: 7-10.) We have now, by the popular vote of the Gentiles who possess this land, chosen a leader who proclaimed on April 6th, 2009 (the Lord’s birth date) that “we are no longer a Christian nation.”

Your can also read part one – A Few Quotes From Denver Snuffer

We Have Limited Free Will


We have limited free will. Within certain limitations, we can make choices and act upon those choices. Our choices are partially controlled and determined by outside forces and by the laws of physics. But we have agency to act within certain bounds of natural laws that exist. We can exercise that agency, make choices and act upon those choices. Logic dictates there is no purpose or meaning to life if we do not have some free will. We instinctively know we have power to act in some things without constraint of necessity or fate. We are bound or limited by physics but we are independent agents within our sphere of influence. We intuitively think or feel we are free. We therefore act at our own discretion. We are capable of responding to random chance with purposeful choices. Thus we can be held morally responsible and accountable for our choices and actions in both the deterministic world of physics and the indeterminate world of observable quantum mechanics that we are still discovering.

Absolute free will is logically incompatible with determinism because we do not control the universe. However, as individuals, we are able to take more than one possible course of action in any given scenario. There are obvious choices in life we can choose to follow. We can conceive and believe things. This proves some free will even though there are limitations on the choices available to us. For example, because I am not a fish, I do not have the choice of living underwater without some sort of breathing apparatus. It is determined beforehand that human life is incompatible with living unaided under water. I am therefore limited to certain pre-determined boundaries if I want to sustain life. In like manner, in some situations I have a limited number of choices I can make because of the randomness of life. I hope I never have to decide what to do if I am in a plane that is about to crash. I would have no control of the physics causing the plane to crash, but I still have some obvious choices I can make and act upon, like remain calm or panic.

As an argument against any kind of free will, consider the views of hard determinism. Determinists believe that our thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors are all predetermined from the moment that time began at the big bang. A determinist advocates that we do not have any control over the state of the universe or the laws that govern the universe. Free will is an illusion, they say. You may think that your choices and actions have an effect on the universe but you are really no more than an observer. For a determinist, free will is a nothing more than a necessary delusion that allows us to build a society where praise and punishment actually mean something. Compatibilists hold individuals morally responsible for their actions as if they had free will. Although it doesn’t really exist, they say, we can act as if it does, thus providing a necessary condition for moral responsibility – accountability.

Following this logic, the universe is deterministic and bound by the laws of physics. Our bodies are bound by those same laws. If you are a materialist, you believe that all behavior is caused by chemical brain states outside of our control. In order for free will to exist, there must be a supernatural agent that is not bound by those laws to inject an input from outside the system; in other words, a God. I wish I could develop this further, but for now I will propose that there are only two arguments against free will. First, if determinism is the true state of things, then the will is not free because all events are caused and our actions are predetermined. Therefore, there is no moral responsibility or free will. The second argument against free will is indeterminism of random events or chance. If all our actions are caused by chance then we have no control, and therefore, again, no free will or moral responsibility. True free will requires we have control of outcomes. However, we do not control the universe or the laws of physics. If you think about it, we control nothing of this world or the universe. To prove free will, we must prove that we can control at least some things, thus becoming independent agents with power to act.

I don’t disagree with all the views of materialists or determinists. In fact, I readily concur with determinists that the laws of the universe are outside our control. I also concur that a large part of our body processes are apparently outside the control of at least our conscious mind and will. I can’t control the motion of the planets, the effects of nature, or prevent myself from dying someday. These things are determined. My bounds are set in these matters and many others. I also concur with indeterminism as it relates to many of the choices with which I am presented in this life. So many things are just random and purely by chance. I come across an object on the freeway that gives me a flat tire. It was pure chance that I happened to come upon that object and embed it in my tire first because I just happened to be there at that place and at that time. Random chance is just part of this life. So many things – most things – are out of my control.

So what do I control? There are many things over which I have control and thus free will. I control my responses to the choices I am presented in life. I can control my thoughts. I can control the things I put into my body. I control the things I say and the things I do. Nobody forces me to act a certain way or respond in a specific manner. I control my attitudes and my beliefs. I decide what I will do with my time, who I will go visit, what work I will do, what I choose to study. I may not choose many of the things that happen to me in this life but I can and do choose how I respond to those situations. I determine the character I build by using my free will adequately. My free will is limited to those things over which I have some control and have choices. I do not have free will when it comes to the laws of physics and nature. They are out of my control. In the things over which I do have control such as thoughts, beliefs and opinions I choose what I want to think about or believe. My thoughts are not caused and are not random. They are purposeful and demonstrate free will, especially when I act upon them. Therefore, my conclusion is that we have limited or adequate determinism and limited but genuine free will.

We Have Limited Free Will


We have limited free will. Within certain limitations, we can make choices and act upon those choices. Our choices are partially controlled and determined by outside forces and by the laws of physics. But we have agency to act within certain bounds of natural laws that exist. We can exercise that agency, make choices and act upon those choices. Logic dictates there is no purpose or meaning to life if we do not have some free will. We instinctively know we have power to act in some things without constraint of necessity or fate. We are bound or limited by physics but we are independent agents within our sphere of influence. We intuitively think or feel we are free. We therefore act at our own discretion. We are capable of responding to random chance with purposeful choices. Thus we can be held morally responsible and accountable for our choices and actions in both the deterministic world of physics and the indeterminate world of observable quantum mechanics that we are still discovering.

Absolute free will is logically incompatible with determinism because we do not control the universe. However, as individuals, we are able to take more than one possible course of action in any given scenario. There are obvious choices in life we can choose to follow. We can conceive and believe things. This proves some free will even though there are limitations on the choices available to us. For example, because I am not a fish, I do not have the choice of living underwater without some sort of breathing apparatus. It is determined beforehand that human life is incompatible with living unaided under water. I am therefore limited to certain pre-determined boundaries if I want to sustain life. In like manner, in some situations I have a limited number of choices I can make because of the randomness of life. I hope I never have to decide what to do if I am in a plane that is about to crash. I would have no control of the physics causing the plane to crash, but I still have some obvious choices I can make and act upon, like remain calm or panic.

As an argument against any kind of free will, consider the views of hard determinism. Determinists believe that our thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviors are all predetermined from the moment that time began at the big bang. A determinist advocates that we do not have any control over the state of the universe or the laws that govern the universe. Free will is an illusion, they say. You may think that your choices and actions have an effect on the universe but you are really no more than an observer. For a determinist, free will is a nothing more than a necessary delusion that allows us to build a society where praise and punishment actually mean something. Compatibilists hold individuals morally responsible for their actions as if they had free will. Although it doesn’t really exist, they say, we can act as if it does, thus providing a necessary condition for moral responsibility – accountability.

Following this logic, the universe is deterministic and bound by the laws of physics. Our bodies are bound by those same laws. If you are a materialist, you believe that all behavior is caused by chemical brain states outside of our control. In order for free will to exist, there must be a supernatural agent that is not bound by those laws to inject an input from outside the system; in other words, a God. I wish I could develop this further, but for now I will propose that there are only two arguments against free will. First, if determinism is the true state of things, then the will is not free because all events are caused and our actions are predetermined. Therefore, there is no moral responsibility or free will. The second argument against free will is indeterminism of random events or chance. If all our actions are caused by chance then we have no control, and therefore, again, no free will or moral responsibility. True free will requires we have control of outcomes. However, we do not control the universe or the laws of physics. If you think about it, we control nothing of this world or the universe. To prove free will, we must prove that we can control at least some things, thus becoming independent agents with power to act.

I don’t disagree with all the views of materialists or determinists. In fact, I readily concur with determinists that the laws of the universe are outside our control. I also concur that a large part of our body processes are apparently outside the control of at least our conscious mind and will. I can’t control the motion of the planets, the effects of nature, or prevent myself from dying someday. These things are determined. My bounds are set in these matters and many others. I also concur with indeterminism as it relates to many of the choices with which I am presented in this life. So many things are just random and purely by chance. I come across an object on the freeway that gives me a flat tire. It was pure chance that I happened to come upon that object and embed it in my tire first because I just happened to be there at that place and at that time. Random chance is just part of this life. So many things – most things – are out of my control.

So what do I control? There are many things over which I have control and thus free will. I control my responses to the choices I am presented in life. I can control my thoughts. I can control the things I put into my body. I control the things I say and the things I do. Nobody forces me to act a certain way or respond in a specific manner. I control my attitudes and my beliefs. I decide what I will do with my time, who I will go visit, what work I will do, what I choose to study. I may not choose many of the things that happen to me in this life but I can and do choose how I respond to those situations. I determine the character I build by using my free will adequately. My free will is limited to those things over which I have some control and have choices. I do not have free will when it comes to the laws of physics and nature. They are out of my control. In the things over which I do have control such as thoughts, beliefs and opinions I choose what I want to think about or believe. My thoughts are not caused and are not random. They are purposeful and demonstrate free will, especially when I act upon them. Therefore, my conclusion is that we have limited or adequate determinism and limited but genuine free will.

An Evening with Richard Bushman


About a thousand other people and I enjoyed an evening with Richard Bushman last night. He spoke about Joseph and Emma for about 40 minutes and then entertained questions from the audience for another 40 minutes. While his insights on Joseph and Emma were interesting, I found the questions more fascinating, because they reflected a lot of the issues I blog about.

For those who don’t know, Richard Bushman is the author of Rough Stone Rolling, the 2005 biography of Joseph Smith that has become the definitive account of the prophet’s life as told from the viewpoint of a faithful historian. I took advantage of the opportunity to have him autograph my copy and was not the only one in the audience who waited in line to do so.

Open and honest discussion

It was wonderful to see so many people interested in learning more about this great man and the beginnings of the Mormon Church. Every time he finished answering a question a dozen more hands shot up. We could have been there for several more hours. I think that goes to show you how much we as a people appreciate someone who has studied the prophet’s life in such detail.

There were many questions that focused on the process of translating, the Urim and Thummim, the seer stone in the hat, polygamy, the three witnesses and the eight witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, the martyrdom, succession, Book of Abraham translation, Mountain Meadows massacre and folk magic. He welcomed every question and encouraged us to ask even the most difficult ones.

A well-qualified historian

One of the most refreshing comments I heard was his expression of appreciation to the church, specifically to the church historian’s office, Marlin K. Jensen and Richard E. Turley for the recent publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows. He then said that he hoped that the church would do the same with the issue of polygamy, treating it openly and with historical accuracy.

Burt what impressed me most about the evening was the obvious fact that Richard Bushman is a highly respected historian who probably understands the beginnings of Mormonism as well as or better than anyone else. Besides being the co-general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, he chairs the board of directors of the Mormon Scholars Foundation.  He knows early church history.

Serving faithfully in the church

And yet, Richard Bushman has served as a bishop, a stake president, a patriarch and is currently a sealer in the Los Angeles temple.  I would say that he is a faithful, believing Latter-day Saint, in spite of everything he knows about early church history.  I bring this up specifically to make a point about a common response to my essays and how I can still believe when I know this stuff.

I recently had someone ask me how I was able to do what I do – serve faithfully in the church – in spite of all that I know about, as he called it, “the more disturbing facts of the origins of Mormonism.”  I think maybe he might want to redirect that question to someone like Richard Bushman who knows so much more than I do and yet has been a faithful believer all his life.

Believing in spite of knowing

This individual asked, “How do you reconcile your belief and what the church teaches, with the history of things like the origins of the temple ceremony, polygamy, first vision contradictions, development of the story of the restoration of the priesthood, and other issues?”  I answered him privately in an email but have been pondering this whole idea of believing in spite of knowing.

Frankly, it perplexes me. I think I have expressed this same sentiment several times in previous essays every time it comes up. What is so hard about studying and understanding our very early church history, warts and all, and then continuing to believe that Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God to bring about the restoration of the gospel and his church in the latter days?

Shocked by our history

Are we supposed to be shocked, dismayed and overwhelmed with doubt every time we discover some new fact about the early days of the church?  For example, last night we were reminded that beer and wine were used by the early saints, and sometimes even whiskey.  Today, we would be shocked if we learned that the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles drank a glass of wine.

Yet in volume IV, page 120 of the History of the Church on the date of April 17 1840 we read, “This day the Twelve blessed and drank a bottle of wine at Penworthan, made by Mother Moon forty years before.”  Things were different back then, weren’t they?  The Word of Wisdom had been received in 1833 but was not binding upon the saints as a commandment like it is today.

History not being hidden

When Fanny Alger was brought up by Brother Bushman last night as an example of an early failed attempt by Joseph to obey the law of plural marriage, I’ll bet there were a few people in the audience who did not know that Joseph had married this sixteen year old girl in 1833. The revelation on celestial marriage had been received in 1831 but Joseph was hesitant to obey.

For some reason, the idea that Joseph participated in plural marriage is supposed to be shocking to us. This continues to be one of the most common tactics of our critics – to try to shock us with facts that are supposedly being hidden from us by our modern church leaders.  Nothing could be further from the truth. We are always being encouraged to study our history and learn the facts.

Selling the Book of Mormon Copyright

Another example that our critics like to throw at us is the failed attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon in Canada. Until recently, the only source for this event was the memory of David Whitmer who was not present when Joseph sent the brethren on their mission.  Joseph never said that it must have been a false revelation as Whitmer claimed he said upon their return.

We’re then supposed to conclude that if we can’t trust a revelation from Joseph then how are we supposed to know what is revelation from God. I’m not an apologist but I’m grateful that there are people who dig into these things to get the facts and present them for our review.  Of course, the same facts can be presented in favorable or unfavorable light, depending on where you go.

Consider carefully the source

For example, you can read the story of the copyright mission to Canada on MormonThink as supposed evidence that even Joseph Smith didn’t know when revelations were from God and when they were from the devil.  Yet you can read the same account in greater clarity and detail from a more trustworthy and reliable source like FAIR and come away strengthened in faith.

We could go on and on with hundreds of things that are supposed to be shocking to us modern believers of the faith because they seem so out of character with what we’ve been taught about Joseph or other leaders of the early LDS church. If we are bothered by something, then we need to do our homework and get all the facts as part of the process of confirming truth for ourselves.

Get the facts straight

If I were concerned upon reading that Joseph Smith was supposed to have said that even he didn’t know when a prophecy came from the Lord or that he is supposed to have said that a revelation he received must have come from the devil, as David Whitmer said he did, then I would want to read more about this and would be very careful about the source that I study.

Because if I believed that Joseph really said this, then that might lead me to conclude that if even prophets have a hard time understanding revelation, how can I really be expected to understand or know the truth of revelations that come to me, especially revelation that I think is telling me that the church itself is true? Do you see how important it is to get the facts of certain matters?

The Joseph Smith Papers

Of course Joseph never said that he must have received a false revelation.  In fact, according to more recent information discovered, the brethren who went on the mission to Canada in an attempt to sell the copyright to the Book of Mormon felt that they were successful on their mission and that the Lord was pleased with their efforts. The promised sale was conditional.

I’m grateful for brethren like Richard Bushman, who are helping to bring us the Joseph Smith papers. In volume 1 of the Manuscript Revelation Books, we have the full copy of the mission to Canada revelation. It can be read there. The criticism that Joseph later claimed that the revelation had not come from God is in all likelihood the product of a false memory by David Whitmer.

We can believe the prophet

As I wrote in a previous essay, I believe it is our lifelong pursuit to understand revelation and to come to know how the Lord communicates with each of us. We can rely on the promises of the Lord to lead us, guide us and walk beside us because we have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I hope we cherish this gift and live worthy of the constant companionship of this promised revelator.

Joseph Smith knew when the Lord was inspiring him and so did most of the brethren who were with him at the time when he received revelation. We can trust that the Lord will help us to have the assurances we need to believe in the mission of the prophet Joseph Smith. Someday, we will meet Brother Joseph and if we still have questions about his life we can ask them to him directly.

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