Saturday, October 18, 2014

How To Become An Apostate In One Afternoon

Previously: The Problem With Denver Snuffer
If you'd like to see how difficult it can be to follow the counsel of Church leaders and still retain your membership in the church, take a look at what happened last Sunday to LDS blogger Adrian Larsen and his wife, Tausha. They were excommunicated for essentially heeding the advice of one of our apostles.

Apostle David Bednar has of late been concerned with how Mormonism is often wrongly perceived and misunderstood, and so last August Elder Bednar gave an address at BYU in which he encouraged individual members to flood the internet and social media, with the aim of correcting falsehoods about the church,
promoting truth, and boldly testifying of Christ. This is what Adrian Larsen has been doing with his Mormon-themed blog To The Remnant since early summer: correcting falsehoods, promoting truth, and boldly testifying of Christ.

But because Adrian did so, last Sunday a high council was convened in his stake and he was expelled from our society for the sin of apostasy.  So was his wife, Tausha, in a bizzare, highly unusual double-excommunication proceeding in which both were tried and sentenced together in the same proceeding.   Both had been devoted members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all their lives, yet in one afternoon representatives of that same Church officially declared them to be apostates and pariahs.

It is still not clear to either Adrian or his wife why Tausha was given the boot, since she herself had never blogged or written anything that anyone on the High Council ever alluded to. The only thing they can conclude is that Tausha was expelled because of guilt by association. She is the wife of a Mormon blogger. Apparently that is now an egregious sin, in and of itself.

It also wasn't clear to either of them from the proceedings what act of apostasy they were accused of having committed, for under the traditional definition, in order to be an apostate one must have at some point renounced his or her former beliefs and and actively fought against Christ and His church, something neither Adrian nor Tausha has ever been accused of.  Rather than accuse either of these good people of turning their backs on the faith, the High Council focused their interrogations on a particular post of Adrian's, the fourth part of a series on "Hearsay and Heresy" which he titled Never Led Astray. I found this post to be highly readable and extremely informative.  And frankly, I cannot find any factual errors anywhere in it.  This piece appears to be right in line with Apostle Bednar's charge to all of us to combat the pervasive misconceptions about Mormonism by countering them with truth.

Adrian has kindly given me permission to republish his controversial post below. Perhaps others reading it can detect where he has promoted falsehood rather than truth, or failed to adequately testify of Christ. If so, I hope you will help me understand what the controversy is by pointing those findings out in the comment section afterward.  

                                   Never Led Astray
                                                                     By Adrian Larsen

I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. (2 Nephi 4:34)
In the previous posts in this series, we've examined some manufactured quotes--falsely attributed to Joseph Smith--which are used to promote false doctrine. Among the ideas promoted:

  • The majority of the twelve can never go astray.
  • The records of the church can never go astray (not sure how they could...)
  • The majority of the church members can never be misled.
  • The majority of the church members will go to the Celestial Kingdom, and
  • Anyone who says otherwise is on the high road to apostasy.
Oh yeah...and the moon is inhabited by people that dress like Quakers.

Now make no mistake, the above ideas are FALSE, never taught by Joseph, not supported by scripture, and frankly really stupid if you think about them. They were made up in an effort to strengthen an agenda and win a historical power struggle with other branches of the restoration movement. Yet we persist in believing and teaching these ideas, even featuring them in our official church manuals. We find it more important to win an argument than to be on the side of truth.

Not good, but it gets worse. 

If we really want to get to the root of the problem we must consider the holiest of the holy grails of unbelief.

Warning: Confronting unbelief is never easy. You may find the following uncomfortable to consider. I sympathize with you; this wasn't easy for me, either. All I can do is plead with you to please hear me out. If you love God, value truth, and want to develop real faith, you'll need to confront your unbelief and seek truth above tradition. Saving faith can only be founded upon truth. If it is founded upon anything else, it is not faith. If confronting unbelief is the only way to know God, I'll gladly make that trade.
OK, on to the problem. This is the 800-pound gorilla of false doctrine that affects every part of the church from top to bottom. It is simply stated as follows:

The Prophet can never lead us astray.

The mantra begins in primary, where we march to the drumbeat of "Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, don't go astray."

By the time we reach adulthood, we take great comfort in the idea that no matter what, as long as we're following the prophet, we're A-1 guaranteed entry into the celestial kingdom, because there's just no way the guy can ever make a mistake.

So pervasive is this unbelief, that we've now placed the prophet in a place of priority above the scriptures, above the truth, and even above the Lord. These are bold statements to make, but they are absolutely true in our religious practice and beliefs.

For examples, look to Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, a talk given by the apostle Ezra Taft Benson in 1980. In this talk, Elder Benson asserted, among other things, that words of the prophet are more important than what is written in our scriptures, that anything that comes out of the prophet's mouth is revelation, and that even if the prophet tells you to do evil, God is bound to honor you for doing it. 

When this talk was given, it was roundly rejected by Spencer W. Kimball, who was the prophet at the time. In fact this talk very nearly earned Elder Benson a formal rebuke from the First Presidency, and he was required to apologize to the Quorum of the Twelve and explain himself to a combined meeting of all the general authorities of the church. In short, President Kimball was MUCH displeased with what was said, and considered it false doctrine.

Oddly enough, the same talk, filled with the same false doctrine, was just given in General Conference in 2010, without a peep from the Twelve, the First Presidency, or the general membership of the church. Nobody bothered to address how the doctrine could be false in 1980, but true 30 years later. Did God change the doctrine? Or did someone else?

So consider this: Brigham Young taught many things that the church has since flatly denied and openly called false (polygamy, Adam-god theory, blood atonement, refusal to ordain blacks, for example.) Obeying Brigham in these items nowadays will get you excommunicated. Yet when Brigham taught these things, he insisted he was speaking the word of the Lord. 

Was Brigham wrong? Or is the church today wrong? Remember saving doctrine never changes. God does not vary. Somebody was wrong. Somebody misled you. Was it Brigham, or is it today's leaders? They can't both be right.

This deserves careful thought. Your salvation is at stake.

Since this series is about origins of doctrines, let's go back and take a look at where this particular doctrine of infallibility came from. Like many issues in our history, it all starts with polygamy.

As you may be aware, during Joseph Smith's day, the practice of plural marriage was limited and secret. But Brigham Young went public with the teaching in 1852, advocating plural marriage as a necessary part of the LDS faith, which he practiced with gusto.

Due to national backlash about this practice, government persecution threatened plural marriage in the LDS church. Seeking protection under the first amendment, Brigham began forcefully teaching that polygamy was not only part of the LDS religion, but a fundamental part of the belief system--so essential, in fact, that exaltation was simply impossible without polygamy. It was polygamy or damnation. Period.

By insisting plural marriage was so fundamental a part of the religion, Brigham hoped the religious freedom guarantee in the first amendment would protect the practice. 

The church then commenced a 30-year series of court battles against various laws and attempts to curtail polygamy. Losses mounted for the church as government pressure and threats increased.

By 1890, in a final blow, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Edmunds-Tucker act, disincorporating the church and seizing church assets, including the temples. Though Wilford Woodruff, church president at the time, had previously vowed that the church would never give up polygamy, he found himself in a tough situation.

On the one hand, there had been 40 years of insistent teaching by prophets that polygamy was absolutely necessary for exaltation, that the church would never abandon it under any circumstances, and that the Lord would uphold the church against all its enemies. 

On the other hand, there was the U.S. government, which had already disincorporated the church, seized church assets, and publicly stated it was coming for the temples next. Meanwhile many church members and leaders were languishing in jail, facing court fines, and living in secret to evade the law.

Wilford Woodruff was indeed in a tough situation. 

Faced with the destruction of the church and no chance of statehood for Utah, under pressure from the government, he issued the press release now known as the Manifesto (Official Declaration 1), in which he stated that the church would no longer perform plural marriages. This statement was designed to mislead congress into believing the practice would actually stop. 

Not to be misled, congress insisted that the statement not only be published in the press, but actually presented at General Conference and sustained by the church membership as a binding policy change.

And so it was that on October 6, 1890, Wilford Woodruff found himself standing at the tabernacle pulpit, before the church and the world, reading a statement that said he now intended to do what he swore he would never do, and which he himself had taught the Lord would never allow. He intended to publicly abandon polygamy. But he needed political cover for this fundamental change in the very foundation of then-practiced LDS mormonism. As one doctrine was abandoned, he needed another to justify it. 

So he said the following:

"I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."
And thus was invented the doctrine of infallibility, now applied to each President of the LDS church. 

Why can't the President lead you astray? Because he said so.

Of course, the doctrine has since grown and expanded to the point that rational people actually believe they can safely entrust their salvation to another fallen mortal man, despite pointed scriptural warnings to the contrary. They actually consider it safe to surrender their agency to another, not realizing that this was Lucifer's plan from the beginning!

The doctrine teaches that it is impossible for the prophet to lead us astray, and that if he attempts to do so, the Lord is obligated to kill him. Seriously. And we're OK with that? Knowing how many mistakes I make, I'm sure glad I'm not the prophet...

This doctrine is not scriptural. This doctrine did not originate with Joseph Smith--Joseph actually taught the opposite. I'd say more along these lines, but there's no way I can possibly hold a candle to the summary given by Rock Waterman in his blog, Pure Mormonism:
"You can search the scriptures and the general conference archives until your eyes swim and never find one instance of a recorded revelation from God declaring the prophets will never lead us astray, or that God wants us to "follow" them.  We didn't get that doctrine from God. We have it because one fine day in 1890 Wilford Woodruff just pulled it out of his butt." 
Not much I can add to that. 

Wilford said it, he got the vote he needed to convince the congress he was serious, even though he wasn't (the church secretly continued polygamous marriages until at least 1904), and Utah got statehood. 

As a by-product, we were left with a lie.

We've since repeated the lie so often and so well, with so much passion and embellishment, that it's become THE new foundational doctrine of the LDS church. A recent example from General Conference states, "We have the Lord’s personal promise that the prophets will never lead us astray." I'd love to know when and where the Lord made that "personal promise." But all I can find is an apocryphal premise.

We've replaced polygamy with infallibility. 

Today, the prophet can do no wrong, and therefore, by extension, the church can do no wrong. And if it's impossible for the church to be wrong, then there's really no need for individual LDS members to do anything other than "follow the prophet" right into the Celestial Kingdom. 

We've traded the Savior's injunction of "Come, Follow Me" with Satan's imitation, "Go, follow him."

Cursed, indeed, is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. (2 Nephi 4:34)

Speaking of our day, Nephi said, "...they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." (2 Nephi 28:14)

Therefore, in our day:

  • ALL are astray
  • Except a few who are humble followers of Christ
  • And these humble followers are misled by their leaders in MANY INSTANCES.
Therefore if you're not astray, you're likely misled. 

So what's the solution?

There's really no need to despair. The gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to save you without the need for a man to act as the intermediary between you and God. Remember, "the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel, and He employeth no servant there." (2 Nephi 9:41) Salvation is an individual endeavor between you and God. It always has been. 

Certainly the church offers important things we need: Ordinances, opportunities to serve, a community of believers to love--in short, a lab in which to practice the gospel. 

But when it comes to the one you should follow, you can go to God yourself. You can receive the revelation you need. You can even commune with angels and know the Lord face to face. The most important first step is to actually receive the Holy Ghost. Know why? Because the Holy Ghost is the one who truly can't lead you astray.

I'll talk more about that in a future post. Until then, ponder this:

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 Nephi 32:3)

 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:5)

                                 Afterward by Rock
Since the members of the stake high council that excommunicated Adrian and Tausha Larsen acted in violation of scripture, outside their proper authority, and contrary to the counsel given to members by an actual apostle of the Lord who encouraged us all to be actively engaged in countering false information, we can always hope these excommunications will be overturned on appeal to the First Presidency, right?

Well, I wouldn't hold my breath.  In spite of the numerous assurances by official Church Spokespersons that there is no effort to tell local leaders to keep members from blogging or discussing questions online, Adrian Larsen is only the latest of many who have been disciplined for blogging and discussing questions online. Take a look at this transcript by Brett Larson after he was ex'd, or consider the appalling disposition of Mormon blogger Will Carter's appeal here.

What is supposed to happen after an excommunication when either party is dissatisfied with the result is outlined in our Doctrine & Covenants:
“Should the parties or either of them be dissatisfied with the decision of said council, they may appeal to the high council of the seat of the First Presidency of the Church, and have a re-hearing, which case shall there be conducted, according to the former pattern written, as though no such decision had been made.” (D&C 102:26-27)

But the Church doesn't operate according to scripture anymore.  What happens these days is that the Brethren in Salt Lake never do review these cases. Instead they automatically defer to the local leaders as having made the right decision. 

When you have been officially declared an apostate by men in your stake who hold high callings and important titles, that means they're right and you're wrong.  No further review is necessary.  Shut up and wear that Scarlett 'A'.

    UPDATE Monday, October 20: At the very time I was writing an reposting Adrian Larsen's piece, he was posting a follow-up to this one, which contains further insight as to what occurred, what it means, and how we all need to take a close look at the true damage being inflicted on the church we love.  In short, this is essential reading. It's important, the kind of thing I wish I had the power to shout from the rooftops.

Adrian's latest is entitled 40 Days On Death Row and you can access it by clicking here.                                                     

Important Notice: I again remind those who wish to comment that posting only as "Anonymous" is no longer allowed. You do not have to use your real name, but if you insist on choosing "Anonymous" from the drop-down menu, you must invent a username and place that either at the top or bottom of your comment so that readers can tell you apart from the many others who for some reason keep choosing to post under the anonymous option.   If you have a Google registration, use that one, otherwise it's best if you check the box that says "Name/URL", place your preferred username in in the "name" box, and ignore the box that asks for a URL. That way you can still remain anonymous if you so wish, but then other readers have a handle to address you with when responding. Comments missing any kind of identifying moniker are at risk of being deleted. I'm very strict about this because too many people posting as "anonymous" has created chaos in the past.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Problem With Denver Snuffer

Previously: Farewell, Sweet Soul

I'm willing to bet there's no one in Mormondom more misrepresented than Denver Snuffer has been these past few weeks. You'll find no shortage of people willing to tell you all about what Denver Snuffer believes in, or denounce him and warn you away from him based on extensive research they gleaned from hours of vigorous guessing.

If there's a problem with Denver Snuffer, it's that there is a veritable glut of wild speculation about him from people who have no idea what they're talking about. Much of what I’ve heard others say about the mysterious Brother Snuffer is wildly inaccurate, yet declared with an air of testimonial certainty by people who have never heard him speak or bothered to read a word he has written. Normally I'd find such ignorance oddly endearing; maybe even a bit entertaining. But right now I just find it...well, odd.

The man does have a website, after all. So anyone can just go over there and have a peek at this mystery man's writings. He has authored ten books, some of which had been available through Deseret Book before he was declared persona non grata from that fine establishment. Those books can still be purchased through and Barnes & Noble. His recent series of lectures, the source of most of the current controversy, can be read online for free. So I'd think it shouldn't be too much trouble to learn something about the man's beliefs by going to the source himself instead of lazily sitting around making up Boogeyman stories. Denver Snuffer is a lot less scary than some would make him out to be.

Denver Snuffer was a devout member of the LDS church for 40 years, all the way up until the day they excommunicated him for writing a book. I reported on that incident in my post The Denver Snuffer Debacle. If you are unfamiliar with who Denver is, you may want to read that piece first. Click here.

This particular book of Denver's was titled Passing The Heavenly Gift. It is a history of LDS Church leadership. And it is a very good one. No one in the Church hierarchy ever claimed anything in the book was inaccurate.

Nevertheless, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles took it upon himself to pressure Brother Snuffer's stake president to excommunicate Denver from the church unless he pulled the book from publication.[1]  Nelson leaned on Snuffer's stake president for a year and a half until finally Denver got the boot. Overnight an active, believing, devout stake high councilman who always kept his covenants and whose testimony never wavered was suddenly labeled an apostate. Over a book he wrote. A book no one challenged as being in error.

This move on the part of Elder Nelson was a serious violation of church law, as members of the Twelve are forbidden to interfere in such matters within the stakes of the church. The scriptures say so, and so did Joseph Smith. But today’s leaders rarely consult the scriptures anymore, and Joseph Smith is dead, so members of the Twelve disobey that instruction all the time.[2]

[1]Denver Snuffer, Letter of Appeal to the First Presidency, included as an appendix to the Phoenix Transcript, pg 41-42.

[2] "The Twelve will have no right to go into Zion or any of its stakes and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof where there is a standing High Council. But it is their duty to go abroad and regulate all matters relative to the different branches of the church.” -Joseph Smith to the Twelve, Kirtland Council Minute Book as quoted in Shephard and Marquardt, Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism's Original Quorum of the Twelve pg 85-86. See also D&C Sections 102 and 107.

To my knowledge, Russell Nelson has never denied the key part he played in the ouster of Brother Snuffer. If he did he would be lying. Someone has, however, managed to arrange for several members of the Church PR department to lie for him. This keeps Russell Nelson's hands clean and allows him plausible deniability.[3]

Despite being excommunicated for “apostasy” (which nowadays means anything the leaders want it to mean), Denver remains a devout believer in the gospel of the Restoration. So he went ahead with his plans for a year-long series of speaking engagements, the overall theme being, as the late Hugh Nibley aptly titled his own book, Approaching Zion.

In that book, compiled from speeches and articles written as far back as 40 years ago, Nibley lamented how far we have come from attaining a Zion society, which was supposed to be our principal goal from the moment this church was founded. Nibley asserted that rather than getting closer to Zion, the Church seemed be running lickety-split in the other direction. He noted that the Church in our day has more in common with Babylon than with Zion. He reminded us that Church leaders named Babylonian institutions like the local Federal Reserve branch “Zion's Bank,” which is as close to a slap in the face as you can give to God without hurting your own hand. Nibley made some very pointed barbs toward those in Church leadership, yet no one in the Church hierarchy moved to excommunicate him for his criticisms as they later did Denver Snuffer. Nibley was a beloved and respected Church scholar all the way up until his death at age 95.

Nibley's book was published at a time when there weren't that many overt indications that the Church was veering dangerously off track, so back then, Nibley did not succeed in rousing the Saints to their awful situation. Today it's a different story. There is widespread disillusionment among the rank and file. Hugh Nibley is dead, but Denver Snuffer's similar concerns are now resonating with a great many church members.

I have not seen Denver Snuffer say anything that a number of renowned LDS thinkers like Hugh Nibley would not have said also. What Denver mostly does is encourage his listeners to return to the scriptures. As Nibley also pointed out, a good many of our scriptures tend to indict those in positions of power who would lead the Lord’s people in a direction other than that which the Lord has commanded -all while assuring us they are incapable of error.[4]  A growing number of Saints have awakened in recent years to the reality that the prophecies foretold in the book of Mormon are being fulfilled in our very day.

Not Knowing Our Religion
In reading and listening to Denver's lectures, I was reminded of how during my teen and Young Adult years I attended the Church sponsored “Know Your Religion” series wherein various gospel scholars would travel to outlying stakes like mine, where they would present fascinating talks on church history and theology. The things Denver Snuffer teaches in his presentations remind me of things I learned listening to scholars like Truman Madsen and Sidney B. Sperry. Like Brothers Madsen and Sperry, Denver reminded his listeners that we have not been living up to the ideals of the Restoration, and he shows us how we can do better. Nothing very controversial here. Unless you consider the standard works to be controversial.

[3]For documentation on the recent assurances from the Church public relations department to various media outlets denying interference in local disciplinary matters, along with evidence that those assurances are patently untrue, see chapter 5 of my book, What To Expect When You're Excommunicated: The Believing Mormon's Guide to the Coming Purge. (You didn't think I would miss a chance to plug my own book here, did you? It's available from Benchmark Books in Salt Lake City, and also from

[4]Russell Ballard declared, “Keep your eyes riveted on the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. We will not lead you astray. We cannot.”  That's quite a promise of infallibility. Too bad Ballard wasn't able to back it up by quoting the Lord in a direct revelation. All we have for now is Ballard's word on it.

Unrighteous Judgment
Recently I’ve heard from several devout members of the church, most of them women, telling me they have been interrogated by their bishops and stake presidents merely because they were known to have attended one of Denver Snuffer's lectures. Four of them immediately had their temple recommends revoked, their church callings rescinded, and told they were prohibited from taking the sacrament. Others I know have been disfellowshiped, and some were excommunicated. On what grounds? “Associating with a known apostate” is the reason most frequently given.

So now any active, believing member of the church can be disciplined for befriending a non-member.

Many of these attendees were asked “Do you believe Denver Snuffer is a prophet?”

Well, the answer to that should be obvious to anyone who’s familiar with Snuffer. Of course he’s a prophet. The proper response to any bishop who asks such a question is “Aren't you? Aren't we all supposed to be prophets?”

Take a look in the Bible Dictionary at the back of your set of LDS scriptures and you'll find this definition: “In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.”

Denver Snuffer clearly has such a testimony, and he bears it frequently. But because he is a non-member (through no choice of his own) you can now get called into the Church principal’s office and get suspended or expelled just for being in the same room with this guy.

I suppose the reason Church leaders get so antsy about a member calling another person a prophet is because we Mormons have such a screwy idea of what a prophet is supposed to be. Most of us think of the prophet as the man at the top of the Church organization, the guy whose job it is to run and manage the Church and give us all our marching orders. But historically, a prophet was a far cry from what we have in place today. Look again at the write-up in your Bible Dictionary: “The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God's messenger and make known God's will.”

Someone on LDS Freedom Forum gave what I felt was a fairly apt analogy of the role of a prophet. He describes the prophet as similar in a way to the spokesman for the president of the United States. The president gives the spokesman a message to deliver, and he goes out and delivers that message on behalf of the president. That's it. The messenger doesn't all of a sudden start presiding over the executive branch of government. Nor does he convey his own opinion and try to pass that off as the words of his boss. He delivers only the message he's been sent to deliver, and goes no further. No one follows him home to find out what else he thinks.

There's quite a bit more in the Bible Dictionary regarding the role of a prophet, and as it happens, nothing in there bears much resemblance to what we have today; a corporate CEO who shows up to offer the dedicatory prayer over banks,[5] and participate in ribbon cutting ceremonies for lavish shopping centers.[6]

[5]That's right. The man we revere as the prophet of God on earth traveled to Provo to give the dedicatory prayer for a bank -very similar to the kind of prayers he gives when dedicating a new temple to the Lord.

[6]See “Bring Ye All The Tithes Into The Stores.”  and the follow up, “City Creek: How Did We Come To This?”

Joseph Smith not only didn't think his role included making celebrity appearances at store openings, he didn't even believe it was his place to run the church. Unlike the constant mantra we hear today to “follow the prophet,” Joseph vigorously insisted the people stop looking to him. He told them their dependence on him was the very thing that was causing them to be darkened in their minds. He tried repeatedly and in vain to get the members to depend upon no man, especially not him.[7]

Joseph Smith did not head up a hierarchy. Where today the Ensign publishes a fold-out flow chart suitable for framing[8] with the First Presidency at the top, followed by the Twelve Apostles, with the Quorums of the Seventy taking direction under the apostles, and the Relief Society as some awkward appendage to them all, Joseph Smith taught something different. All quorums were independent of each other. No position held status over another (not even the First Presidency, and especially not the Twelve Apostles, whose job it was to be the traveling elders, not some group of managers sitting around a boardroom at Church Headquarters). No division was answerable to another -not even the Relief Society, which was supposed to be completely independent of the male priesthood.
There was to be no hierarchy in the Church of Jesus Christ. It was a flat organization, with no one at the top “in charge” of anyone else. No member was subject to another, and no leader had authority over any member. A person with a calling had authority to direct only himself in his duties. He could not use his priesthood power to impose his will on others. If he so much as tried, his priesthood was instantly rendered impotent.[9]

It was a great source of frustration to the prophet Joseph that instead of each man seeking the will of God in his own life, the people clamored for someone else to tell them what to do. Nearly half the members in Nauvoo were converts from the British Isles, where centuries of dependence on authority was bred into the very culture.[10]  After Joseph Smith was murdered, the vast majority of these converts looked to Brigham Young to lead them.

We tend to forget that Brigham Young was not chosen to preside over the church by way of any revelation from God. He was elected by a slim majority of members after vigorously campaigning for that position. And even then it wasn't Brigham Young who the people selected, it was the entire quorum of the Twelve as a body, of whom Brigham Young was the Presiding Elder. Brigham Young was never ordained a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator; after the deaths of Joseph and Hyrum, there was no one left on earth who had those keys. Brigham even denied having the gifts that Joseph was blessed with. Nevertheless, over time we have been taught that Brigham Young was a prophet equal to Joseph Smith, until today our traditions hold that every man who attains the position of president of the Church has gifts and authority equal to those held by the founding prophet himself.

This belief is wholly unsupportable. We have absolutely zero historical evidence to back up these traditions, and we certainly don't see evidence of these gifts in our current leaders. Consider that not even our pioneer ancestors referred to Young, Taylor, Cannon, Woodruff, et al as prophets of God. In those days, the people called them presidents, not prophets. They presided over the church, but I am aware of few revelations received by them that were conveyed to the people as in Joseph Smith's day.

[7] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg 237. See also, “Follow the Prophet, Don't Go Astray”
 [8] Or wrapping fish.
[9] D&C 121, “Amen to that priesthood.”
[10] See Lake Wobegon Mormons, 

Those leaders who had earlier been contemporaries of Joseph Smith when he was alive, both taught and understood there was only one true prophet of this last dispensation, and the claim to that position was Joseph Smith's alone. This modern idea that the successor to Brigham Young is a full-fledged Prophet, Seer, and Revelator on par with Joseph Smith is a construct that did not develop within the church until the mid 1950s. That's also when the hymn “We Thank Thee O God For A Prophet,” originally intended as a tribute to the memory of Joseph Smith, began to be sung when President David O. McKay entered the tabernacle at the start of conference. Too bad McKay didn't nip that in the bud, because ever since then it has continued to be sung as an anthem glorifying men who never exhibited any gifts of prophecy whatsoever. [11]

In the past decade or two I've noticed that the Twelve Apostles are now also considered prophets, seers and revelators in their own right. I don't know when that business got started, but I don't remember being taught it growing up in the church. And unless I'm missing something, there doesn't seem to be much evidence to back up that claim. As LDS philosopher Tarik D. LaCour recently wrote in Sustaining Church Leaders: 
“In order to be a revelator, one must be a prophet and a seer also. It is not enough merely to have revelations, as all members of the church should have them. Rather, it is to tell others through the power of the spirit what has been revealed to you. If Joseph Smith had kept to himself what was made known to him, he would be a prophet and seer only. But, because what has been made known to him was made known to us, he is a prophet, seer, and revelator.
“Is President Thomas S. Monson a prophet, seer, and revelator? True it is that he holds the keys of the priesthood and is the president of the high priesthood. However, in the 40 plus years that he has been sustained as such, Thomas S. Monson has not made one prophecy, seen [translated] one thing, or revealed any new divine truth. This is not to say he is not a wonderful man. He is. But he is not a prophet, seer , and revelator. By virtue of theoffice he holds as president of the Church, he has the right to use these things. But apparently he does not want to use them.”12
Or it could be that the Lord has not seen fit to reveal anything in our day for reasons He already revealed long ago?[13]   We seem to have forgotten the Lord declared the whole church to be under condemnation. I would think that would include the Church's leaders.

It certainly couldn't have anything to do with the astonishing arrogance of some in high office who wear their titles like badges of honor, could it? On the popular new blog maintained by an anonymous bishop, we learn of this revealing exchange with apostle David Bednar:
I remember in a leadership training meeting where Elder Bednar told the story of how he was asked the following question: “How are you guys (referring to the brethren) so in tune with the Lord?” Elder Bednar’s response was interesting. “First of all,” he said “we are not ‘guys’. We are prophets, seers, and revelators. We are special witnesses. Don’t refer to us as guys.”
Hoooo-chee, Mama! Remind me not to cross that guy. David Bednar is so fully convinced of his special place in the firmament that if you forget to address him with the proper degree of deference, he will dress you down one side and up the other right in front of the the whole assembly! Bet you won't make that mistake again.

Here's my favorite part of this story: later that weekend in a training segment with the youth, Bednar sprinkled his conversation with words such as “dude, rad, gnarly, and freakin” so those kids would think of him as just one of the guys.[14]

[11] The lyrics to the hymn were penned by William Fowler, a British convert. The tune was borrowed from a Scottish bagpipe number played at military funerals. (You many have also noticed that the tune for Praise to the Man is also cribbed from a bagpipe standard, Scotland the Brave.)
[12] Sustaining Church Leaders
For a thorough analysis regarding what gifts should attend a prophet, seer, and revelator, see Michael Ellis, Thomas S. Monson, A Seer, A Revelator, A Translator, and A Prophet. 

[13] Ezra Taft Benson, “Cleansing the Inner Vessel” 
[14] I'm just an old geezer myself, so I'm not up to speed with the groovy lingo of these young hepcats of the now generation, but do kids today still use words like 'rad' and 'gnarly'? Those words were considered 'boss' and 'tubular' when I was a teenager way back in the sixties, so either Bednar is hopelessly out of touch, or I am, Daddy-O. (And isn't it odd that someone of Bednar's snootily proper stature would use the word “freakin',” which everyone knows is a slang variation of a vulgar term referring to the act of procreation?)

Why Not Simply Heed The Message?
Denver Snuffer has never claimed to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, so David Bednar, you and the boys in Salt Lake can breathe easy for now. Denver Snuffer is not after your jobs.

But he did have a message to deliver, and the last part of that message was presented at Phoenix, Arizona on September 9th. In a nutshell, the message was this: if we are to aspire to a Zion society, now is the time to dig in and get started. Waiting for the institutional Church to give us the go-ahead is not going to make it happen. And guess what? Zion was never intended to be instituted from the top down anyway. In fact, it could not be Zion if it was.  Zion has failed to appear thus far because the Saints have been waiting around for their leaders to start it up for them. It's been almost 200 years, and we'll wait 200 more if we refuse to simply follow the plan the Lord has already laid out for us.

You can read the Phoenix transcript for yourself here. But it won't have near as much meaning if you don't take a look at the nine lectures that preceded it. These talks, as Denver frequently reminds the listener, are intended to be seen as ten interrelated segments of one master presentation. They must be heard or read in their entirety and in the proper order if you expect to fully grasp the message.

How do we create Zion? Well first off, you don't do it by quitting this church and joining a new one. That's what so many outsiders feared Denver was up to; that his plan was to siphon off loyal latter-day Saints and start his own church. That's hogwash -the kind of nonsense that results from the current LDS corporate think, the idea that a prophet is some guy who has a bunch of followers who can't function unless they have a leader to look to for instruction. Denver Snuffer has no followers, nor does he want any.

In fact, an interesting thing happened as soon as Denver was finished speaking in Phoenix. He up and walked out the door.
That's right. He just left.

He had left his audience with a thousand questions they wanted answers to, but like the true prophet he is, he delivered the message God gave him to deliver, and when he was finished he was done. Many of the people who read or listened to that lecture later flooded his blog and email box with more questions.

Don't they get it? Denver Snuffer is not going to tell you how to do what the Lord has already taught you to do. He is not going to lead anybody anywhere. He is not going to be your president, prophet, or mystical guru. You want a Zion society? The instructions are in the scriptures. Denver Snuffer helpfully pointed those scriptures out to you. Now he's done. What more do you want?

If you're looking for someone to take charge and lead you, you may as well continue on the path you've been following. You've had people willing to take charge of you and lead you all your life and you're no closer to Zion now than the Saints were in 1831. What's it going to take for you to wake up and realize you don't need leaders in order to accomplish the Lord's purposes? Looking for someone other than Jesus Christ to be in charge of us is the very thing that has hampered this church for a hundred and eighty two years.

I am now encouraged that it's possible create Zion in our day. If anyone reading this is truly interested in doing that, I would suggest simply going to the source and reading the transcripts Denver Snuffer provides on his website, beginning with the first one he gave in Boise Idaho, and ending with the one at Phoenix, Arizona. You'll find them listed in order on the right side of his website. Do not rely on anyone else's summary or truncated interpretation of what Denver believes or what he preaches. I guarantee you will get it wrong.

I had intended to supply some snippets of quotes from the Phoenix seminar, because it's so rich in wisdom. But then I realized that offering snippets of things Denver Snuffer said has been part of the problem; it's very easy to misinterpret what he says if you don't hear or read it all in context.

I got a chuckle out of a question I saw in an online forum where someone had seen that the transcript of the Phoenix presentation was 42 pages long. He was reluctant to read the entire document, and asked the other members of the forum, “is there some sort of Cliff Notes version where I can get the gist of what he's saying?”

I guess he didn't realize that Denver's ten part series of lectures is the Cliff Notes version. These transcripts are the Cliff Notes to the Standard Works. They are an overview and analysis to the entire purpose of the Restoration of the gospel. They represent the coursework that will enable you to get the full gist of God's plan for his people. If you take the trouble to familiarize yourself with Denver Snuffer's Ten Part Overview of the Restoration, you will have earned your G.E.D. in Mormon Studies. Here are the chapter headings:

Be of Good Cheer
A Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit
Marriage and Family
Preserving the Restoration

That pretty much covers the essentials of what the Lord would have us know and do, front to back. And it's all very fascinating; you won't want to stop. There's nothing tedious about Denver Snuffer's teachings. If you want a deeper understanding, then go ahead and read the entire standard works. But when you do I think you'll be glad you had a guide like Denver Snuffer to point out the good parts for you in advance.

I highly recommend not only reading the transcripts, but also listening to the audio recordings, because Denver has a droll sense of humor that does not always translate to the written page. If you don't hear the inflections in some of the things he says, some of his comments could be misinterpreted, and you might take too seriously some of the things he says in jest. I like listening to the audio version of the talks first, then I read them so I get the footnotes.

Let me make a couple of things clear: First, Denver Snuffer is not looking to lead any kind of movement. The very idea repulses him.

Second, there is no such entity as a “Snuffer-ite.” If you come across someone who calls himself a
follower of Denver Snuffer, run the other way. He's either a phony or he just doesn't get it. Those who attended Snuffer's lectures are not Denver Snuffer's followers. They consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ.

Some years ago while reading a book on early American history, I was struck by a letter sent back to England from one of the colonial governors assigned by the King of England to govern the colonies. He was lamenting the fact that the American colonists refused follow his orders.

“We tell them their king demands obedience, but they stubbornly reply 'we have no king but Jesus.'”

If there is one belief held in common by the thousands so far who have found validity in the messages delivered by Denver Snuffer in his series of talks, it is that we have no king but Jesus. A rapidly growing number of latter-day Saints are discovering that leaders don't contribute anything to the advance of Zion; they often just get in the way. I think of that poor confused colonial governor every time I hear someone try to tell me my safety lies in following the Brethren. It makes me want to remind them of the words of the prophet Joshua, which I prefer to paraphrase.“You can follow whatever idols you want to, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I suggest that if you hope to become spiritually mature, you're going to have to stop letting others frighten you away from examining the words of a fellow believer simply because someone in authority has told you he'll endanger your soul. Read Brother Snuffer's words and judge for yourself whether you think his thoughts are at least as inspired as anything you just heard in general conference this weekend.[15]  And if your bishop, stake president, or any other authority figure asks you if you think Denver Snuffer is a prophet, ask him this question:

“Aren't you a prophet?”


[15] Yes, I made a joke. Of course Denver Snuffer's words are more inspired than anything you'll hear in conference.


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