Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Common Consent: The Voice of the People

Despite my previous comments, there are reasons that might suggest the response received by the "Lots team" was not necessarily given by the Lord. However, I don't believe the question is relevant here.

In the Answer and Covenant, for some reason (which might be worth pondering) the Lord made no stipulation about bringing anything to Him either for approval or before including it, only that "I require a statement of principles to be adopted by the mutual agreement of my people ... [and] when you have an agreed statement of principles I require it to also be added as a guide and standard for my people to follow." (p. 8) With the Lord's clarification of what He meant by the phrase "mutual agreement" (i.e., "As between one another, you choose to not dispute"), it seems very clear now how to proceed.

But first, two quotes for context:
"Even after a church was organized in 1830, and after a revelation designating Joseph Smith as the only one “appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church,” (D&C 28:2, received in Sept. 1830) common consent was used to decide the will of the Lord. In a conference held November 11, 1831, Reynolds Cahoon wanted an answer: “the question which he wanted settled was whether it was the will of the Lord that he should go to Zion in the spring.” (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 128, minutes of a special conference in Hiram, Ohio) The issue was settled by common consent: “Voted that it is the mind of the conference that our br. Reynolds is not yet commanded to go to Zion in the spring by any thing yet written; Therefore, Voted that our br. Reynolds be not sent up to Zion in the coming spring.” Even the duties of a bishop were decided by common consent in the beginning of the restoration.1 The time has come again for common consent to hold sway in the lives of believers. Relying on others to exercise control more often than not invites abuse." [emphasis added] Preserving the Restoration, pp. 259-260

1 “…and the duty of the Bishop shall be made known by the commandments which have been given and by the voice of the conference.” (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 150; D&C 72:7.) The Crooked Creek Branch of the church voted in a conference on July 7, 1840 to become a stake. They sent conference minutes to the Times and Seasons, which inspired Joseph and Hyrum Smith to publish a letter praising their decision and advising them, “it will be necessary to appoint a Bishop to transact business for said stake, which appointment will be left to the decision of said branch.” (Times and Seasons, Vol. 2, No. 2, November 15, 1840, p. 222.) Joseph was church president, Hyrum was in the church presidency and also patriarch to the church, but choosing the bishop was left for the members’ vote.
Also:
"Conferences were held to resolve all questions, disputes, ordinations and even mission calls. (See, e.g., JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2, p. 128, minutes of a conference in Hiram, Ohio.) Conferences using common consent allow those in fellowship with each other to prayerfully reason together and grow in unity."  Preserving the Restoration, pp. 515
All that may be required is the voice of the people ("common consent") for which draft of a "statement of principles" to use. And then, those who wind up not having voted for whichever is selected then "choose to not dispute." (And I'm not persuaded that the idea that no vote being needed after some draft is produced holds any water--how can a people agree to something before it has been composed?) Proceeding would thus be as simple as letting the people agree by their voice on one and then, going forward, the body refusing to choose to dispute that vote.

Given the many disputes and arguments over what is deemed doctrinally correct, the quote which will soon appear at the head of the Teachings and Commandments volume seems timely:
"I would rather submit to the decision of the group than insist that my view be followed. For me harmony between brethren is more important than getting what I think best to be followed. I believe harmony can lead to much greater things than can merely enforcement of even a correct view. I know how difficult it is to have a correct view, because of how often I have been corrected by the Lord. Sometimes I am humiliated by my foolishness when the Lord reproves me. Humiliation can lead to humility, but my experience is that the humiliation is accompanied by shame, whereas humility can proceed with a clear conscience. 
"My experience with others leads me to conclude that if we can have one heart first, eventually we can likewise come to have one mind. But if we insist on having one mind at the outset, we may never obtain one heart together." — Denver Snuffer
It aligns well with what the Lord teaches in the Answer:
"Be of one heart, and regard one another with charity. Measure your words before giving voice to them, and consider the hearts of others. Although a man may err in understanding concerning many things, yet he can view his brother with charity, and come unto me and through me he can with patience overcome the world. I can bring him to understanding and knowledge. Therefore if you regard one another with charity then your brother’s error in understanding will not divide you. I lead to all truth. I will lead all who come to me to the truth of all things. The fullness is to receive the truth of all things, and this too from me, in power, by my word and in very deed. For I will come to you if you will come unto me." [emphasis added]
During His mortal life, our Lord could have refuted every incorrect teaching, misunderstanding, and form of unbelief, however He chose not to except on rare occasions as directed by the Father.

As those who have entered into a solemn covenant with the Lord, may we hearken to His example and value harmony with one another above "being right," as we suppose.

"And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen." (D&C 26:2)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Messages, Witnesses, and Accountability

Messages and Witnesses

Isaiah posed the question: “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1) It is always possible to dismiss God’s message. Truth inspires institutional opposition, rejection, and an army of opposing skeptics. That is the only way the test can be the same over and over again. Who is going to believe the report? Who is going to see the arm of the Lord? It is rarely those who occupy the seats of authority. (Nicodemus and Alma are the rare exceptions.) Christ will always be a threat to such and to their craft.

As the author of Preserving the Restoration made clear, the contents of the book seek to reteach and reestablish what the Lord brought forth through Joseph Smith. Since Joseph's death, that body of teachings has been altered, abandoned, amended, subtracted from, and added to by men claiming the ability (by mere right of being successor to the office once occupied by Joseph) to adjust what the Lord gave through Joseph despite the Lord's instruction to the contrary. The book is an attempt to recover and preserve what truth and light of the Restoration came forth but which, out of neglect, continues to fade and would otherwise soon be lost as external forces continue to drive our LDS Church institution in a very predictable fashion. It is an attempt to re-teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ that Joseph taught but which we no longer teach in the Church today. It is an invitation to come to Christ in the most literal way--a teaching once referred to by Joseph as "the Second Comforter." Despite this teaching still being enshrined throughout LDS scripture (perhaps most obviously in D&C 93:12 Nephi 32:6, D&C 132:22-23, and D&C 130:3) and in the LDS endowment ceremony, it has now in recent years been openly opposed by the LDS Church and taught to be a Satanic idea. (or its teaching being "a familiar tactic of the adversary" as Elder Oaks referred to Nephi and Joseph's teaching in a June 2015 talk) The message of the book does not invite the reader to leave or to join any church or institution.

The author of the book states that its contents constitute a message he was personally directed by the Lord Jesus Christ to speak and give:
As a public act of remembrance I spent a year beginning September 10, 2013, giving a series of ten lectures reiterating the foundation of the faith. These lectures ended 365 days later on September 9, 2014. At the conclusion of 40 years of faithful membership in the LDS Church, I was sent by the Lord to preach the restoration so others would also remember. The yearlong ministry was the Lord’s idea. He chose the locations, and the subjects and instructed me in what to discuss. (Preserving the Restoration, p. vi)
When the Lord sends a message, He makes no distinction between Himself speaking and someone He sends to deliver a specific message. The effect and the accountability are the same. (D&C 1:38) The challenge, therefore, is to determine when He sends a “servant” rather than accepting a message from someone using His name in vain. You and I individually have that responsibility.

I have myself carefully read and studied this message in its entirety several times. I can find no fault in it. Instead, I have perceived more light and truth than I have found anywhere outside of scripture. I have already shared the witness I received of the message contained in it as plainly as I can. I have also stated that I believe this is in fulfillment of the Lord's words in 3 Nephi 21:11--that these are the words of the Lord He has caused "a man" to bring forth to the Gentiles (whom the Lord identifies as us LDSs). If true, Christ has stated there is a penalty for those who will not believe His words: "they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant." This ought to be a sobering possibility, inviting careful consideration from any believer in Christ and not perfunctory dismissal.

But the Lord Himself does personally commission and send additional witnesses. The below are the two additional witnesses included in the book, one at the beginning and one at the end, both of whom have since been excommunicated from the LDS Church for the act of having given these witnesses.

After these two, I have also included the preface to the book itself, which has been shared publicly before.

The Witness of Louis Naegle

At the time of this writing I am a member in good standing of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, entirely a direct descendant of “proud Nauvoo” and pioneer ancestors. To my knowledge, every one of my direct predecessors were active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while Brigham Young was president, and most were members before that time. My forefathers include John Conrad Naegle, Levi Savage, Joseph Leland Heywood, John D. Lee, Thomas Ross, Levi Bracken, James McFate, Joseph Cadwallader Davis, George Zimmerman, John Harvey, George Prince, James Jackson, Joseph Woolsey, James Bell, Owen Williams, John Davies, and James Crawford. All of my great-great-grandparents were church members.

As far as bloodline heritage is concerned, I think it would be impossible to be more “Mormon” than am I. I say this not to boast but as part of a solemn testimony and declaration:

I am not a dissenter trying to “destroy the kingdom.” I am instead a descendant of those who built “the kingdom” and I am attempting to make the pathway straight and the record clear. I believe this is in the best tradition of the pioneers who were trying to live a true religion. I reject the notion that I am apostate. I know I will answer to my forefathers and to my Father for the testimony I give, and therefore I want most of all to be true to the faith once held by my fathers.

Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the current church management and culture will understand what publishing this testimony will mean to me and my family. I anticipate retaliation from the church, and although it saddens me, I am resigned to facing those consequences. I do not claim to be righteous, but I am a witness.

I testify that the Lord has set His hand a second time to restore the truth through His servant before the great and dreadful day that fast approaches. I have known Denver Snuffer since 2007. I have attended every public talk he has given since that time, including all ten lectures of the Forty Years in Mormonism series. I have read what he has written. I am a witness that events he now shares in public concerning his interactions with his stake presidents and church leaders were shared with me by Denver at the time they were happening and while he was in good standing with the church. He valued his church membership greatly and the events he now shares publicly have not been fabricated or reconstructed after the fact to support an agenda of his own design.

I know God the Father and Jesus Christ live. I have seen them. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I have been in his presence also. I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. I have had my eyes opened and my life changed through its message. I also know from my own sense of reason, from the testimony of the Holy Ghost, and from God declaring it to me by His own Voice that Denver C. Snuffer, Jr. is an honest messenger, sent by Him, and telling the truth.

Please do not ignore what is written in this book. Please do not take this warning lightly. I implore all who read this testimony to repent and return to Jesus Christ, the God of Israel and savior of the world. Receive the words of a true prophet, but follow no man! Do not allow any man or group to come between you and your Savior. To the extent you do so, you are laboring in idolatry and you will damn yourself and any who follow you in doing likewise. (D&C 76:100)

Jesus Christ alone is the Holy One. He employs no servant at that gate through which we all must pass. The fullness of the gentiles is now fulfilled except for our impending destruction. Who cannot see that all is not well in so-called “Zion.” Only a few repentant gentiles will be gathered. Only the penitent of the House of Israel will establish the New Jerusalem. Will you be among them?

Save what was given through the Prophet and Seer Joseph Smith. What is offered in this book contains the most light and truth that has been presented in writing in almost 2,000 years.

Denver has openly testified that Jesus Christ has ministered to him. I testify this is true, and that he has been called as a servant to declare the heavens are open again for all to freely partake of the Heavenly Gift.

If you will consider the message of this book from a servant sent to deliver it, with a sincere heart and real intent, you will also know that what is presented is true and faithful. If you will not consider it, but instead harden your heart, you will be damned. God is working to save us, and this book is part of God’s kindness in forewarning us about our present state. Even if you find it hard to believe, it is important for us to see and understand our circumstances.

I leave this testimony with you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;

Amen.

Louis Naegle
August 29, 2015

The Witness of Keith Henderson

At the conclusion of the ten lectures in Phoenix, Arizona area I bore my testimony concerning them. Fifty-two years earlier I had come on a mission to that same area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to bear testimony of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon and the Prophet Joseph Smith. Now, almost a year later, I lift up my voice before all mankind who read this book, to again bear testimony. My growth in the intervening 53 years since my mission has been great, but my testimony still remains very simple.

My name is Keith Henderson. At the time I first testified in 2014, I was still an active member in good standing with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and with the Lord Jesus Christ. The church has since excommunicated me from their community for what they claim to be “apostasy.” I had committed no sin warranting this drastic measure. They have, however, viewed my testimony of these things as an egregious and flaunting act of insubordination to the authority of the church and its leaders. For that they have thrown me out. This time I bear testimony as a member of Christ’s Church as defined in D&C 10:67 in good standing with Christ and the Father.

I am grateful for this opportunity that I have received to lift up my voice and reaffirm my witness and testimony before the Most High God, before His holy angels, and before all of you who would be witnesses with me that: this book, loosely based on those ten lectures, written by our friend and God’s servant, is a message given from God to all men and women everywhere, who will hear or read.

I so witness that I know that it is God’s message and not a man’s.

I had attended every portion of those ten lectures. I have listened time after time to the recordings, and I have read every transcript. I have now also read the manuscript of this volume before it was published, with its expanded material, including the chapters on King Benjamin and the Sunstone talk (Cutting Down the Tree of Life to Build a Wooden Bridge), which I attended when it was originally given in 2014.

And now I bear solemn testimony that I have received a message by God’s own voice of their truthfulness, and also of His desire for us to believe in, and act upon these things that have been spoken and written.

I stand as another witness with Denver, conforming to the law of witnesses, that theses things are true. I expect to be held accountable for this in the days and eternity to come, before Christ and my Father, and to all men.

I bear this testimony humbly and solemnly, and in the power of the most Holy Priesthood.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

Keith Henderson,
Clinton, Utah

Preface to Preserving the Restoration

In 1832 the Lord posed this question: “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given him, neither in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33) From the moment Joseph Smith died those who believed he was a prophet began to lose memory of what God revealed through him. The pace of forgetting has accelerated.
The obligation to respect Joseph’s revelations is clear from the Lord’s instruction, “no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses.” (D&C 28:2) [The revelation allows for the possibility for someone else to be later appointed “in his stead.” (28:7) It would be through Joseph, however, the power was given “to appoint another in his stead.” (D&C 43:4) That appointment came in January 1841 when Hyrum Smith was appointed. (D&C 124:91-96) Hyrum, however, was slain moments before Joseph, and therefore no one else has been appointed to amend, supplement, disregard, alter or reject commandments and revelations given through Joseph Smith.] When Joseph was slain the church wanted a replacement. When no one with his gifts was available, an imitation served.
On August 8, 1844 the quorum of the twelve were voted to lead. By December 1847 Brigham Young no longer wanted to share power with eleven others. Against Wilford Woodruff’s recommendation and the active opposition of John Taylor and Parley Pratt, Young successfully won a vote at Winter Quarters making him the second president of the church. [Technically he was the third, but no one counts Hyrum Smith despite his actual appointment and service.] From Young until David O. McKay in the 1950’s, when the word-title “the Prophet” was used it still meant only Joseph Smith. But rhetoric matters, and the word-title began to be used to first secure acquiescence, then to compel compliance by LDS Church leaders.
The church’s presidents claim that they too could communicate “commandments and revelations… even as Moses” began the process of accelerating our forgetfulness [Forgetting includes re-interpreting the language by divorcing it from context, supplying new meaning not originally intended, and improperly using Joseph to vindicate later improper innovations.] of Joseph’s words. He became less important as successors claimed equality. Who cannot see the logic in preferring a “living” prophet to a deceased one? Ignoring Joseph means forgetting. By forgetting we have refused the gift God offered. Our first obligation now is to remember. Until we remember what was given before, there is no reason for God to give more.
The primary repository of Joseph Smith’s work has been The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are others, of course, who retained valuable parts of Joseph’s work. Emma Smith kept the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, something Joseph explained was necessary for the church to have or it “would yet fall.” (JS Papers, Documents Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833, p. 85, footnote 76) The translation became the property of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was not until the 1980 edition of the LDS Bible that the Joseph Smith Translation was first used by the LDS Church, and then only partly added in footnotes and an appendix.
As soon as Joseph Smith died, a spirited competition developed to control the documents and access to information. One writer described it:
The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Generally referred to as the “Documentary History of the Church” or the “DHC.”] was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that “no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed” is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: “I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Navuoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess, Signature Books (Salt Lake City, 1994), p. 322.)
Today our challenge is two-fold: First, finding the truth through the deliberate efforts to conceal and modify the record. Second, once found, whether we will accept in gratitude what God offered by repenting and returning to His path. We fail these tests when we ignore, oppose, dismiss, reject and allow our fear to control us. As Christ said the day of His resurrection: “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” (Luke 24:25) Nothing has changed. Our challenge is identical to that faced by all believers since Adam. [Satan’s original and continuing urging remains the same: “Believe it not.” (Moses 5:13)]
As a public act of remembrance I spent a year beginning September 10, 2013, giving a series of ten lectures reiterating the foundation of the faith. These lectures ended 365 days later on September 9, 2014. At the conclusion of 40 years of faithful membership in the LDS Church, I was sent by the Lord to preach the restoration so others would also remember. [The yearlong ministry was the Lord’s idea. He chose the locations, and the subjects and instructed me in what to discuss.]
This book was written to compile a reference work on the restoration. But this is not merely a restatement of the lectures. The lectures were given entirely within the Mormon corridor, and addressed only to the people there. This is written for a different audience outside the Mormon corridor. It is a reference work on the foundation God provided through Joseph Smith.
This book is not a repetition of the lectures. It has been expanded to include more about the various topics. Where appropriate the order of the discussion has been changed. Subject matter has been consolidated and some of the material has been moved into the more appropriate chapter.
Between the 4th lecture in Orem, Utah (Priesthood) and the 5th in Grand Junction, Colorado (Zion) I wrote a series of blog posts about King Benjamin’s sermon. Those posts have been used to develop a chapter in this book.
Finally, a paper delivered at the 2014 Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium after the lecture in St. George, Utah (Marriage) has also been updated and added. With the addition of the King Benjamin and Sunstone materials, there are 12 chapters.
The restoration is not the property of an institution. Although dozens of churches claim the role of succeeding to Joseph Smith’s ‘true and living’ church, the restoration belongs to us all. Whether you belong to some denomination claiming Joseph as a founder, or you are a traditional Christian, the things restored through Joseph Smith came from God as a gift to all. Because of this, we all have the responsibility to remember and respect the inspired work of Joseph Smith.
The restoration is God’s call to action and offer to renew His direct contact with mankind. The response during Joseph’s day was less than adequate. The restoration was founded on revelation, but when Joseph and Hyrum were martyred no one suggested revelation could solve the succession crisis. Instead the crowd in Nauvoo voted, the quorum of the twelve received the majority of the votes, and the most successful version of the restoration, LDS Mormonism, has perpetuated itself by voting to install leadership continuously ever since.
The leadership of LDS Mormonism has increasingly ignored and replaced the commandments and revelations given through Joseph. Today, members fall in line as church leaders provide their commandments and direction. The result is an increasingly altered form, varying greatly from the original. Gordon B. Hinckley institutionalized a public relations based management style for LDS Mormonism. The opinion polling and focus group testing for decisions and campaigns have increasingly taken hold until now, LDS Mormonism is changing at a stunning pace, reflecting shifting public opinions. The LDS Mormon tradition now repudiates its history, curtails its curriculum, and discards essential elements of its earlier belief system to be more popular.
If there is any chance of remembering the restoration, it is now. Until the restoration is remembered, there can be no completion.
This work is more than a tribute to the Mormon faith. It is an effort to restate the religion and recover its original potential. Mormonism has become imperiled by alteration, forgetfulness, and neglect. It was never intended to be just another Christian denomination. It is destined to reunite all truth into one great whole. Truth is Mormonism, wherever located and in whatever form presently practiced. All truth belongs to the Mormon religion. [“One of the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (Discourses of Joseph Smith, p. 199, Kindle Book, (Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2009).) “[W]e believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, with that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds[.]” (Times and Seasons, February 1840, (Vol. 1, No. 4) Copy of a Letter from J. Smith jr. to Mr. Galland.)]
Mormonism requires study and contemplation. Social change, educational disintegration, and the lack of critical thinking have made modern Mormonism a shallow relic unworthy of the original. Society has surrendered to the “sound-bite mentality” in which quick and quotable phrases substitute for required deep understanding.
I was converted to the Mormon faith through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For forty years I belonged to that church and served in it faithfully. The day I drove to Boise, Idaho to give the first lecture in the Forty Years in Mormonism series, I learned I was excommunicated. My stake president called as my wife and I were driving to Boise and we heard the sad news together.
I am grateful to the LDS Church for introducing me to Joseph Smith and Mormonism. It remains my religion, though now I practice it independent of institutional control.
Many churches claim Joseph Smith as their founder. However, none adequately practice the original faith. This book is written to persuade all to believe in the restoration. I hope to remind all who already believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet and accept the Book of Mormon as scripture, of the original greatness of this revolutionary religion. Mormonism should once again become revolutionary.
It is time for the Mormon faith to begin a new phase. One in which all are equal before God, and believers are free once again to worship Him according to the dictates of their own conscience. Priesthood should serve, and not rule over any man. “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” In the LDS version of Mormonism, that limitation has been reversed. LDS Mormonism today has been reduced to nothing other than “priesthood” dominion and control through the “correlation” process. It is unscriptural. Indeed anti-scriptural. [I put the word “priesthood” in quotes because it is the LDS Church’s claim, and therefore I use their word. However, as this book will clarify, their claim is not the reality.]
Mormonism can only try and gently persuade you to believe its precepts. This book will attempt to persuade you to believe once again in a dynamic, truth-filled, confident and powerful religion. Mormonism should free your soul, and reunite you with heaven itself.
There are many quotes from historical sources in this book. When quoted they are left as in the original, leaving cross-outs, misspellings and peculiar capitalizations as they appear in the sources used. There are a dozen blank pages provided at the end for a word index. Readers can compile their own list, based on what they would like to locate for later reference while reading. 
I have not included the full text of the scriptures referenced in this book. This is because LDS Mormonism has deemphasized the scriptures in their curriculum. [See, Peggy Fletcher Stack, "New Mormon Curriculum Divides Scholars", Salt Lake Tribune, October 28, 2014.] Readers are invited to use their scriptures to check references. Hopefully it will inspire you to review all of the verses cited.
Mormonism must live again. It belongs to all of us. We should all believe in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s status as a prophet sent by God, and be willing to approach God directly. In the final analysis, the entire restoration is nothing more than a modern affirmation of the New Testament promise found in James 1:5.
             
September 10, 2015

Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Enough

I am grateful for what transpired Wednesday.

A passage from the original "Governing Principles" draft comes to mind when contemplating the Lord's acknowledgement given on Wednesday:

"If led by the Spirit, one may be led to share an experience, but it should not be used as a trump card to compel agreement; rather, inspiration by way of dream, vision, messenger, or His Spirit should be shared and judged by what is found in scripture, that we may remember not only to say, but also to do what was given us by God. Persuasion rather than domination is necessary to bring harmony between us [D&C 47]."

Although some may not have felt comfortable adopting this portion of the original draft statement, it may nonetheless be true. And it may be that pointing to the answer the Lord gave to this group and using it to compel others to get in line is less than helpful. It may even prove counterproductive to repairing the damage we have inflicted on one another and to bringing about unity of heart. Perhaps it could instead be enough to encourage and allow each person to carefully and prayerfully ponder the situation. Concerns others have wrestled with may not always be what is portrayed "for the sake of argument."

For example, it is possible a person might struggle with what has most recently been composed not because she or he reject any of the words of the Lord included in it but because of words the Lord specifically gave for inclusion in the statement which have instead been rejected as unsuitable. Should this inability to accept those words also be considered as "rejecting Him"?

Another way to put it: could it be somewhat hypocritical when we triumphantly celebrate the words of confirmation given by the Lord to this group of seven through a once-obscure woman while simultaneously refusing to celebrate or even acknowledge the words given by the voice of the Lord (not mere impressions) precisely for inclusion in the first GP document? (one of which quotes turns out, in fact, to have been given through the channel of David, the other of which was given through an obscure-at-the-time man)

Anything obtained by the voice of the Lord should be celebrated.

I am personally grateful for the careful, thoughtful work of those elected by lot to work on composing a document, who willingly labored under the set of constraints the majority of the body of believers were able to agree on. They have been dilligent and faithful to the comission given them.

I am also grateful that despite the initial ambiguity, in the end, the agreed list of rules did not limit this group to using only words from the Answer and Covenant (A&C) itself. There was much more that needed to be included in order for it to be "kind" and for us to be "charitible".

I believe that lots are and were a perfectly acceptable way to allow the Lord to manifest His will in a selection.

I'm thankful that, despite our collective procedural miss where we ought to have asked in advance whether David would be willing to take the draft product of this group to the Lord (prior to any vote of the body), the group of seven/eight instead humbly approached the Lord themselves in faith (and with the united faith of many others, myself included), not attempting to rely on David.

And I am personally persuaded that the Lord has, in fact, acknowledged (in words given through a "mere" woman, as well as witnesses of others) that the results of the work of this group of eight are "enough".

I believe it is evidence of His patience with us and His mercy that He is willing to accept this offering despite our collective inability to unite on a statement without first excluding pearls He initially gave us, we preferring instead to limit ourselves only to what had been given in the past and not being willing to accept anything more that hadn't already been overtly and demonstrably given by the Lord through His servant, David.

If it is enough for the Lord even with this deficiency, it is enough for me. The Lord is clearly more interested in our unity of heart at this point--that we become precious to one another.

Having said this, I do not believe that this in any way suggests that the first effort was not similarly "enough", since the Lord already clearly stated in the A&C that this should-have-been-small effort could have been complete (by virtue of being accepted) long before any covenant was offered. The words suggested it was the condition of our hearts that was at fault.

Either way, in the end, whatever is put forward must still be adopted by the voice of the people. It may yet remain more a matter of our hearts than of document revisions, although the words certainly matter. And will we continue to hold to "super-unanimity" as the meaning of the Lord's requirement for agreement?

I pray we can move on from this "small thing." But at the same time, I wonder how this precedent (should it to now be adopted) will affect us--our inability to receive the Lord's word he may choose to impart by any other men, women, or children than His servant, David. How important a principle does the Lord consider that for the establishment of Zion?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Unrecognized Gifts

From Standing Aside:

It was easy for Joseph to make himself indispensable. It was tempting to do so. But he and the saints would have been better off had he refused to shoulder responsibilities that belonged to others. There are incidents along the way that can be identified as moments when Joseph could have seen a pattern emerging. One example was in November 1831 when a conference was convened to approve publication of the Book of Commandments. The book would need a preface. A committee was assigned to draft the preface.
'[William] McLellin said that he, Sidney Rigdon, and Oliver Cowdery had been given the assignment to write the preface to the Book of Commandments, but when they presented their draft to the conference, the ‘Conference picked it all to pieces’ and requested that J[oseph] S[mith] petition the Lord for a preface. After J[oseph] S[mith] and the elders bowed in prayer, JS, who was ‘sitting by a window,’ dictated the preface ‘by the Spirit,’ while Rigdon served as scribe.”(Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833, p. 104.) He then dictated what has become D&C Section 1. 
What if Joseph had refused? What if he told them God had a revelation, but the committee should receive it? What if Joseph insisted others perform their duties, rather than relieving them of their responsibility? Had he declined in November 1831, would the talk given in May 1842 have been necessary?
... Joseph handicapped the saints by taking too much of their responsibility on himself. The saints refused to let him alone and required him to be their answer-man. The best thing Joseph could have done would have been to keep riding when he crossed the Mississippi River with Hyrum. He should have headed to the Rocky Mountains. He didn’t. The saints continued to depend on him. When he died, they were unable to call down a revelation for themselves. No one proposed to solve succession by revelation.

So here, the assignment had been given to a committee--legitimately. And the saints "picked [their result] all to pieces." We apparently don't have that draft any more.

Suppose for a moment, however, that they had, in their labors, sought revelation from heaven, and suppose in response to their earnest labors, Heaven had then given one or more revelations. (i.e., quotable words from the Lord) Would the saints have valued those words? Would they have even recognized and believed them as having come from the Lord? (They were clearly very critical of whatever was produced, even though Oliver had actually received revelation from the Lord for His church before.) Or, would the saints have even asked the Lord in the first place if they were His words before assuming they had been faked? Might they have set it aside because some were unable to perceive their origin? Or because some believed them not of God? Then perhaps reverting to only being willing to consider words already given through Joseph, because they couldn't agree that a purported revelation was from heaven or that it included the literal words of the Lord?

Well, whatever the case in this situation, we know that they ultimately demanded a replacement through Joseph, and he obliged.

A Bible, A Bible

But what if Joseph had instead refused to produce it, would they have reverted to limiting themselves to only previously accepted words of the Lord, not anything newly received through the labors of another, because no one could agree that the Lord had spoken or could speak through another? (LE Alma 32:23) Is this something we Gentiles have ever been prone to do? (LE 2 Nephi 29:3)

Public Review & Comment

It's also an interesting thought exercise to consider what might have happened had the situation been different for a separate committee tasked with authoring a document for inclusion in the scriptures. A document which repentant Gentiles now universally accept as scripture. What if the initial draft version of the "Doctrine" half of the D&C (i.e., "the Lectures on Faith") produced by the committee of Sydney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and Frederick Williams had been made available to the saints for six months prior to adoption by vote in 1835? Would the saints have balked at its wordiness? Or questioned the new ideas included which didn't seem to be apparent in their reading of existing scripture? Or which were not readily ascribable to Joseph? Or would they have deemed it inadmissible as scripture when they asked and found out Joseph wasn't the sole author of it even though he was fully involved? (LDS scholars almost universally now agree Sydney was the main author and used this excuse to partially justify the LDS Church's removal of it from their scriptures without any vote of the Church) Or might others have come forward claiming they instead had been given the assignment by God and therefore the appointed committee should yield to them? Or required that it should all be summarized to a single page? Or only four pages?

All hypothetical, of course, since it was never put forward for review by all the saints in advance of the vote.

Labor to Obtain

From What's Wrong:

As I reflected further on this email and my response I thought of Oliver Cowdery’s effort to translate the Book of Mormon. The Holy Ghost does not relieve us of great effort, but instead equips us to obtain truth as the yield from our effort. 
Joseph Smith proved the pattern true. He investigated all the religions. He attended their meetings, spoke with the ministers, and paid attention to their claims. He could not determine the truth. Then he “labored” over the scriptures. “At length” he finally decided to do as James asks and prayed. His prayer was answered because he did the preliminary work, the required study, and put in the necessary labor. 
For three decades I studied and taught the scriptures. Each week between 10 and 40 hours were invested as I prepared to teach a 50 minute class. I labored, the scriptures yielded to study, and I learned more and more about God. The Vision of the Redemption of the Dead found in Section 138 was likewise obtained by study and prayer.
The scriptures are a Urim and Thummim designed to provoke revelation. You cannot divorce the process of getting revelation from necessary scripture study. God made no such thing known to Laman, Lemuel or us when we do not search the scriptures and invest our heart and mind in learning His ways.

It is apparent that significant labor should be expected to be involved before the Lord might grant His words by revelation. How much labor might be expected? A few hours of discussion in a committee meeting? A few hours of individual preparation? Perhaps a fast, too? Or what if it really did require days, weeks, months, or even years of careful study, review, and re-review of what the Lord had given them, both very recently through Joseph and over the millennia via scripture? Can someone seeking the Lord's guidance demonstrate the sincerity of their seeking and asking in any other way? Can a small group assembled, even if by lot, expect to obtain a revelation without having first labored?

Learning from or Repeating Earlier Mistakes in Our Day

And how could these principles be any different in our day, were this same sort of situation to repeat? What if such a committee were to be formed and similarly tasked (even if just initially one person) and then that committee were to proceed prayerfully, earnestly, and with great labor over long days, weeks, and months, carefully reviewing all that the Lord has recently given, in particular, not missing direction given that is specific to this new dispensing of truth but not otherwise in our scriptures or the Lord's recent revelation? What if the not-insignificant labors of such a committee were to then actually be deemed by heaven worthy of granting some further light and knowledge through the Lord's words? And what if that committee were to then faithfully complete the assignment, both correctly transmitting the key direction from the Lord for this new dispensation previously given, while also valuing the additional revelation just given as a result of those labors? Would the rest of the saints today (the body or assembly) recognize the results? Would they be able to recognize the word of the Lord newly given by heaven in recognition of those labors? Or might they be prone to repeat the same "pick[ing] all to pieces" that the saints did in Joseph's day? Not recognizing His voice? Would they even find it within themselves to ask Heaven if the proposed draft were pleasing to the Lord? Or ask if the words claimed from the Lord were actually His?

Treasuring the Lord's Words

Over the past almost two years, those who have had "desires to serve" were called to the work of recovering the Lord's words as precisely and accurately as possible in the JST Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the original, unaltered revelations given through Joseph, attempting to undo the neglect and damage of the LDS Church over the last 173 years. This "scriptures committee" has demonstrated to the Lord their great love for His words and their determination to treasure them up by recovering them and not abandoning them. And He has deemed the results of that labor to be pleasing to Him.

So again, what if such a modern committee tasked with writing a replacement for D&C 20 were to actually succeed in obtaining the word of the Lord? How would we value those words given to the committee? Would we treasure them in the same way the "scriptures committee" has valued what they have worked with?

What if, instead, we were to deem those words given as unacceptable, require rewrites, and then also to determine those words given by the Lord were inadmissible for inclusion into those re-write attempts? What would that demonstrate about how we value a gift from the Lord obtained only through our labors? Would it be reasonable to expect that, in the economy of heaven, the Lord would reveal His same words a second time? Would setting it aside and deeming it unworthy of our careful preservation and heed say anything about our hearts? Or about what we treasure? Why would we treasure one set of gifts from the Lord (the RE scriptures) and deem another (what was initially given the committee of one from the Lord) to be dross?

Similarly, if the body were to make a seventh attempt to fulfill the original assignment, having once again "pick[ed] to pieces" the previous five progressively more creative re-write attempts, why would one start with the assumption that nothing but the actual words of the Lord to His people from the only direct revelation to His people given since Joseph be permitted as part of that statement? (i.e., from the "Answer") Why not any of the other critical light and truth unique to and specific to this new dispensation given through, for example, a year-long series of talks, whose content was directly given by the Lord and which content would be critical to make available to new-comers, which would be available in no straightforward way otherwise? If this one new revelation (the "Answer") is that paramount and singular in summarizing everything given before (which it does not), why not simply refer believers to read it rather than trying to summarize it and exclude other key direction given by Heaven? And why would the Lord require a "guide" to be agreed to and added?

The Document or the Hearts?

But setting aside the question of whether we could be throwing away a gift from the Giver of gifts in our zeal for re-writing:

In the "Answer", why would the Lord indicate that the assignment given could have been accomplished long before the covenant was offered if it required the work to be done only after the covenant was accepted? Why would He avoid discussing the correctness or error of the contents of the one draft voted and overwhelmingly accepted by His people but rather focus numerous times on our hearts not being right? Would it suggest that yet another (a sixth at the time) attempt to draft something was required? Or could His intent and concern been more on our hearts being softened toward His words already given and toward one another? What if the initial attempt were to have been acceptable to Him all along and it was merely our own proud hearts that needed changing? To learn something? What if the exercise were not to successively produce seven or more drafts in various old and new ways but rather to become as He is, slow to anger, unwilling to falsely accuse, patient to understand, willing to assume the best in others, kind in words, and kind in disagreement, rather than our LDS cultural training in the barely-veiled unkindness of passive aggression?

If that were the case, how successful could we expect yet another committee--selected this time by lot--to be in writing yet another document? Without a change of heart, are we any more likely to universally and unanimously be willing to accept whatever is produced? Without it, is there any less likelihood that some will protest wording or ideas they find unacceptable, even if received through a servant only willing to proclaim precisely what the Lord has directed, when effectively the same document re-authoring process has already been traversed five times? (i.e., open invitation to all to participate and help, prayerful, thoughtful work by those "who have [had] desires" and were therefore called to the work, and never having been limited to starting with a previous draft)

Portions Given

And if we continue to exclude the possibility of using words that may have already been given by the Lord in the first draft, are we demonstrating any better our willingness to both accept additional gifts from the Lord and value them? Will this be necessary for future citizens of a New Jerusalem? (Heb. 8:11) Or should they expect the Lord to only ever speak to them words through a single person, leaving the body susceptible to the same single point of failure the saints happily adopted in Joseph Smith's day? How better could the Lord test our willingness and readiness to receive more from Him than by giving and then observing the response to the gift? (LE Alma 12:10)

"For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in Him who is the Giver of the gift." (LE D&C 88:33)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

As They Suppose

Behold, there are many Called, 
 but few are Chosen. 
And why are they not Chosen?

Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, 
 and aspire to the honors of men, 
That they do not learn this one lesson—
 that the rights of the priesthood 
 are inseparably connected with the Powers of Heaven, 
and that the Powers of Heaven cannot be controlled nor handled 
    only upon the principles of righteousness.
 
That they may be conferred upon us, 
 it is true; 
but when we undertake 
 to cover our sins, 
 or to gratify our pride, 
 our vain [excessively prideful] ambition [desire for achievement], 
 or to exercise control 
 or dominion 
 or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, 
 in any degree of unrighteousness, 
Behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; 
 the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; 
And when it is withdrawn, 
 Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.1
Behold, ere he is aware, 
 he is left unto himself [disconnected from heaven], 
 to kick against the pricks, 
 to persecute the saints, 2
 and to fight against God.
We have learned by sad experience 
 that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, 
 as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, 
 they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are Called, 
 but few are Chosen.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained 
 by virtue [quality] of the priesthood, 
Only:
 by persuasion, 3
 by long-suffering, 
 by gentleness and meekness [submission of our will to the Lord's], 
 and by love unfeigned;
 By kindness, 
 and pure knowledge, 
Which shall greatly enlarge the soul 
 without hypocrisy, 
 and without guile [cunning & deceitfulness]—
Reproving betimes [in short time] with sharpness [clarity], 
 when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; 
and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love 4
 toward him whom thou hast reproved, 
 lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
That he may know that thy faithfulness 
 is stronger than the cords of death.

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, 
 and to the household of faith, 
 and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; 5
then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; 
 and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul 
 as the dews from heaven.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, 
 and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; 
 and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, 
 and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee 
 forever and ever.

1 What, then, causes someone who has a little authority "as they suppose" (they don't really have it, you see), to attempt to use that pretense to control and dominate others? The answer is contained in revelations already in print. It is their pride, their insecurities, the need to control, to be praised and celebrated, the need to gratify their vain ambition. These are character flaws. They cover up these flaws by claiming to have priestly authority from God

2 The caution in Section 121 about abuse is directed in whole at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Among other things, it is warning the LDS Church not to persecute the Lord's Saints, and thereby fight against God. It has been traditionally interpreted by the LDS Church to the complete contrary. The LDS teaching turns the warning on its ear, and reads it to mean that you shouldn't fight against the LDS Church! The warning, however, is addressed to the Church and warning it to exercise caution, least they find themselves fighting against the Lord's Saints, and thereby in turn fighting against the Lord. Read it carefully. It is not a caution to you or me, but a caution to the LDS Church itself. It means that there may be Saints of God who are at times at odds with, or critical of the LDS Church. When that happens, the LDS Church is warned to refrain from persecuting them, or else they may find themselves fighting against God. It is an unnoticed warning because the traditional interpretation is used to give the LDS Church protection against criticism.

3 It is always best to "control" as little as possible and to interfere with development of separate ideas as little as necessary. This is true of government, and it is true of rearing children [after you have instructed them in the foundational truths], as well. It is also true of churches, civic organizations and any cooperative human endeavor. Cooperation through persuasion, meekness, kindness, pure knowledge and love unfeigned works, whenever it is tried.

4 Most of the stuff we concern ourselves with is meaningless and time wasting. What matters are the principles and ordinances of the Gospel; and more important still, the underlying charity or pure love of Christ. Everything is attempting to get you to love your fellow man. Not in the sappy sentimental way we associate with "loving" someone. Because sometimes the most charitable thing you can do is rebuke someone, as we see from Nephi. Sometimes a sharp word comes from being moved upon by the Holy Ghost. But in the end the person rebuked should still feel they are loved and the reason for the rebuke was the concern held for them.

5 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.

You should let your thoughts be such that you will be confident in His presence.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Celebrating the Cursing of the Lord

It is a terrible irony that one state of our union (the dominantly LDS one) has created a public holiday that celebrates the "cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments" that we brought upon our heads when driven out of Nauvoo. We adore, idolize, and extol those of our ancestors who failed to do as the Lord commanded and were thus rejected "as a Church" and lost the chance for Zion in their generation.

But it is a whole other thing we have moved to when it has become commonplace for LDS youth to re-enact and celebrate that cursing by "feeling what it was like" to experience the wrath of God. It's called "pioneer trek" or just "trek." Our LDS Church even has online guides on how to accurately and "safely" recreate the experience of living through the indignation of God. There have even been those who have died or almost died as part of recreating these intentionally strenuous "activities." It is not uncommon to see heat stroke or third-degree burns with participants.

If it seemed it couldn't go further, yesterday in our mail we received an advertising flyer from a prominent LDS Church-owned retail outlet that takes things to a new level: this cursing re-enactment has become so popular among LDSs, that there are now those who are fully engaged in profiting off our propensity for foolishness. Utterly remarkable.

In contrast to our Gentile folly, for the equivalent among the Jews, I can find no ancient or modern example where they have celebrated their failure at the time of Moses and their 40 years in the wilderness. I know of nowhere that they attempt to "recreate" that suffering or where they extol their ancestors for having experienced it. That 40 years of suffering is certainly remembered by the Jews, but it sobers them. And they do not use parades, fireworks, concerts, or pageants to recall it.

D&C 84: A Few Notes

(also available in PDF format)