A while back I wrote an article entitled, “When Religion Comes Between Spouses.” It was my best effort at that time to share my ideas, successes and failures in dealing with a personal problem I was experiencing – and continue to experience in my marriage: a spouse who does not feel comfortable with, understand or encourage my blogging activities – for various reasons.
Stick Your Head in the Sand Mentality
I know from past experience this post is going to be difficult for a lot of people. For some reason that is a mystery to me, there are good people who simply do not want to talk about, discuss or see others write about subjects they consider sacred cows, such as what constitutes a testimony, what is a prophet, how revelation is received, who can receive revelation and if it can be shared.
Life’s Work to Teach the Gospel
I do not wish to offend. As with each of my posts, I ask the Lord to guide and bless me in the words and phrases I use. It is my desire to share in a manner that will be helpful and perhaps provide information you need to move your life’s work along. This blog is my life’s work, which is why I have approached the Lord in prayer first. I need to improve my communication skills.
This is Not a Scholarly Piece of Work
My method in writing these posts is to always write what is in my heart first, trusting the Lord to put there what He would have me say. If I were to approach the writing of my posts in the more conventional manner, I would do tons of research, find articles worth quoting, and then put my words together in a manner that uses the experiences of others who we would consider experts.
Using Modern-Day Social Media Tools
For example, my personal preference would be to cite the work and life example of John Dehlin, who has gone through this exact same experience I am about to describe, but perhaps on a more accelerated pace and with greater public attention. In other words, if you want to see how what I am about to describe has been put into practice, I recommend you find out how John has done it.
A Few Responses to Some of My Recent Posts
But since this is my blog, I’m going to cite my own examples and how I have handled it so far. Let me start by presenting an entertaining list of comments – all real-life responses – to things I have shared in posts found here on Latter-day Commentary. You can find some of them if you look, but since the blog currently has over 6,000 comments, I’ll highlight only a few of the best.
The Best Way to Build Blog Traffic
Also note some of these comments were shared in private. Like any blogger, I get tons of emails from individuals who, for one reason or another, don’t want to leave comments in public view. I can appreciate that. But as a blogger, I would always want my comments to be public with a link back to my blog. That’s the best way to build traffic – leave comments on other people’s blogs.
I’m Worried About You – Stop Thinking
Here’s an example from yesterday, a private response to my post “Allow me the Agency of my Doubts.” I may change some of the wording of these quotes slightly to reduce any likelihood of offending those who shared them: “I’m worried about you…” I can’t tell you how many emails start off with this phrase. “I plead with you…avoid speculation…” In other words, stop asking questions. This is just so contrary to the way I think, the way I study and the way I live my life.
Ask, Seek, Knock – God’s Formula
I define speculation thus: “Proposing a theory and then searching for evidence or proof of the hypothesis.” To me, speculation is the heart of the scientific method. My friend was pleading with me to stop thinking. Seriously. To stop asking questions is to stop thinking. Is that the way we are supposed to study the gospel? I find nothing wrong with speculation. It is good and the sign of a healthy, inquisitive mind, something I am certain is pleasing to the Lord. Ask, knock…
You Need to Step Back a Little…
Here’s another example from a few weeks back: “I think you need to step back and think about what you are writing lately…” That’s another phrase several people have used as they start a dialog with me. “Don’t you see how distressed your blog posts are making you? We’re supposed to be joyful in the gospel. You’re pulling away from the Lord, little by little. Satan loves that.”
Comfort the Afflicted, Afflict the Comfortable
Interpretation: What’s happening is this particular reader and others like him or her are feeling a bit distressed by the stuff I’m writing. I seem to bring comfort to the afflicted and to afflict those comfortable in the gospel. That’s not my intention but it’s becoming more evident. I thought life was supposed to be a journey. I thought we were supposed to learn new things on our journey. Why is it so hard to accept that learning new things can be an uncomfortable process? It just is.
Denver Snuffer’s Writings Not for Everyone
Carol won’t mind me sharing this one: “When I have prayed about Denver Snuffer I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I can’t stand to read his stuff.” My response: “I can certainly understand that. How can the Lord confirm something to you that you haven’t studied? If what he writes makes you uncomfortable, stop reading. It’s obviously not intended for you.” The last thing I want to do is cause discomfort for my wife. She certainly has a right to her own feelings.
Honor My Agency to Follow My Heart
Gratefully, as I wrote in the comments on the last post when asked by a reader, Carol and I came to an agreement about my blog, and especially about when I’m writing something that can be attributed to an idea found in Denver’s books. She doesn’t like what I’m reading or writing, she will not read it herself and for the most part, we don’t discuss what I read or write. She finds it troubling and the source of much anxiety. Yet, she acknowledges my agency to follow my heart.
The Appeal of Denver Snuffer’s Writings
I proposed the sexist theory one time that Denver appeals to men because he cuts to the chase, doesn’t sugar-coat anything, tells it like it is, offers no apologies, and will not back down. He keeps saying we should not focus on the messenger. Sorry. I can’t help but make the observation how effective I find his delivery, his writing style and the fact that I feel spiritually fed each time I study a chapter, looking up the scriptures and pondering the new and different interpretations.
Message Appeals to Both Men and Women
I say this is a sexist theory because I wrote somewhere in the comments of a past blog post that only men would find this method of delivery I described above to be fulfilling. I was quickly corrected when a half dozen sisters in the gospel told me they felt the same way – that Denver’s method of delivery enhanced the message, made it more acceptable and memorable. So it’s not a pink / blue kind of thing. Some people simply feel threatened or scared by Denver’s message and I still don’t know why.
The Messenger Has Talent from God
I’ve been called a “Denver wannabe” by more than a few readers. I have always provided the same response: “Yes, even though I have not met him, I find the man’s style captivating. I am transported to a different world when I read his books, I seem to lose track of time and wish I could spend more hours cross-referencing his commentary to the scriptures (Use this tool: https://ref.erenc.es/ds/). I wish I had half the talent this man has in writing about the gospel and getting people to engage with his message.”
The Messenger is doing a Damn Good Job
And of course, anyone who reads Denver’s material cites the standard response, “This is not about Denver. It is about the message that we can come unto Christ, receive Him directly as in D&C 93:1 and become instruments in His hands to do whatever he needs to have done in these latter-days to prepare for a Zion people to gather.” I also cite that response, but do not hesitate to point out that for me, the chosen messenger, who calls himself a fool, is doing a damn good job.
How to Best Help Others – Honor Agency
From another friend: “I wish I knew what to say so I could help Tim.” Of course, this implies there is something wrong with Tim. I know this good man loves me. We have served together in various capacities for many years. I know what he says is an effort to comfort and to help. It also demonstrates the fact assumed by so many people who read my blog about my spiritual state.
Can’t Believe a Man Can Be So Committed
“Tim has either gone off his rocker or has gone over to the dark side. He needs to be saved. He’s fallen into the clutches of an evil man. It’s those apostate books he’s reading. They have warped his brain and changed his thinking. He’s not reasoning straight. He has thrown out all that is good in his life and his hell-bent (another favorite phrase) on seeing this through to the end.”
Rotten Fruits Are Being Made Manifest
And finally, from a Stake President of another stake, far, far away: “Snuffer is an apostate, who has been excommunicated from the Church. He is, as all apostates, following in the pattern of Sherem, Nehor, and Korihor, and will in all probability become more like Amalickiah. At the end of the day I stand by the Brethren. Snuffer and his followers are on a dangerous road and the rotten fruits of his work are being made manifest.” I have heard a lot about bad fruit lately.
Show Us Evidence of the Rotten Fruit
One good sister left me a Facebook message as follows: “I have not seen anything good come from Denver. He has destroyed three beautiful families that I know personally. ‘By their fruits, ye shall know them.’ I responded: “Can you tell me more about what happened in how Denver messed up these families? Have these other families gone through divorce or something because they can’t talk about what the other is reading or believing?” Several other readers asked her the same question. Her response was to repeat her original statement or accusation – no elaboration.
Responses Based on Fear – Not Love
Although I could go on and on, I think that’s enough examples to make my point. What do all these arguments have in common? They are all based in fear. You can see they claim to be based on loving concern for me. They will either say that directly or imply it by the way they phrase their words. But deep down inside, their responses are based on a fear, an insecurity, that maybe, just maybe, they are wrong or they are missing something in their own confidence and strength.
Update 5-18-14: A wise man kindly pointed out the fallacy of my conclusion. Although it may appear to me that each of the responses or comments I have cited above are based on fear – and perhaps they are – the problem is I have judged those who have taken the time to respond to me. Whether they are fear-based response or not is not relevant. If the individuals I have judged think or perceive I have judged them to be fearful, there can be no hope of building a bridge between us.
Update (continued): I have failed to put myself in their shoes, so to speak. Usually, nobody bothers to respond unless they do indeed love you, or at least have a spirit of love and concern in their hearts. If there were no love for me present, they would simply ignore their feelings of concern and go on to something else. I have need to repent, and, to state it positively, I now repent of having judged my friends of being fearful. I have returned loving concern with judgment. I am sorry.
Change is Difficult to Watch – It’s Threatening
Oh, they will deny it if you confront them. Or, if they are honest like my good wife, she will say, “You’re damn right I’m afraid of Denver Snuffer. I’m afraid of what he has done to you. I’m afraid of what he writes. It’s false doctrine.” Carol has only read chapter one of PtHG with me. That was enough for her. She also quotes the “by their fruits ye shall know them.” Before we agreed to stop talking about Denver, I would ask, “What fruits? Tell me what evil he has done.”
First Response to Change is Always Fear
But that would only lead to an emotional, fear-filled response about me getting excommunicated, her losing her promise of celestial life, eternal marriage and no father for her son. I mistakenly read to her Lynn’s painful comments from last week’s post. Her response: “That’s exactly right. Are you willing to throw it all away all because of the writings of one crazed lunatic you don’t even know?” Sigh. When will I ever learn to stop sharing such quotes? It’s that pink-blue thing.
You’re asking for Excommunication
And finally, “Tim, are you trying to get excommunicated? Why are you egging on the Brethren? Don’t do this to your local leaders. It’s not fair to them. They have done nothing to you. If you are really hell-bent on going down this path [there’s that phrase again], perhaps an open letter to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles might be more appropriate.
Shooting, Shooting but Missing the Target
“Your poor Bishop and Stake President are going to get whiplash from all this–they will just be confused and hurt. You’re shooting and shooting, but you’re missing the target. Aim for the real culprits if you feel you must keep firing away like this.” And this is from a long-time reader whom I know loves and cares about me. He’ll recognize this but it’s too good not to share.
Must Work With Local Leaders First
Here’s my response: Your advice is good but the wheels are already in motion. I am meeting with the bishop this Thursday and the Stake President sometime next week. I thought about an open letter to the First Presidency, but the handbook precludes that. We are specifically directed to work with local leaders first. I don’t have a beef with the General Authorities. My issue is what this church has become or what we collectively have caused this church to become.
The Real Issue – Things We Have Lost
“It’s a place where we’re discouraged from studying the gospel in small non-family groups in homes. Otherwise we can only study in groups at church. It’s a place where prayer circles are not allowed in the home. It’s a place where the true order of prayer is not allowed to be practiced in the home. It’s a place where we are not allowed to display or reveal spiritual gifts such as prophecy, tongues, visions, revelations or healings – only annointings, no charismatic healing.
No Longer Taught Meat of the Gospel
“It’s a place where we are no longer taught or allowed to seek: Being born of the spirit, baptized of fire, calling and election sure or the Second Comforter. I can go on and on but I think you’re familiar with the list and know the source. The particular issue I brought up in my post is the Fullness of the Priesthood. I apologize if it looks like I’m trying too hard to pick a fight with my Bishop and Stake President. I’m only doing what the Lord has asked me to do.
Open Letter to Leaders Waste of Time
“I hope this won’t hurt the Bishop and Stake President. I know they’ve already got too much on their plate but what else can I do? The church requires it this way. An Open Letter to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve will do nothing. It will get no response. It will be ignored. I think we both know this already. I am not trying to get excommunicated, but I am prepared for the eventuality – emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and with my wife standing at my side.”
Not Seeking Change – Just to Help Others
I hope what I’ve shared is helpful to someone. I know it will seem like foolishness to some, but I hope you got the final message. As I wrote in my agenda notes for Thursday’s meeting with the Bishop: “I’m only doing this because I felt the Lord ask me to do so. I don’t question why and I don’t know why. The real question is, “Do you think I am being deceived or am I being led by the Lord?” Is standing up for my right to write book reviews on my blog worth my membership in the church?
This Thing Was Not Done In a Corner
A note on openness: Some have criticized me for sharing this ongoing saga, including reports on what I have discussed with my bishop here on my blog. They say such lack of secrecy or privacy demonstrates unworthiness so that the Lord will never honor me with spiritual manifestations of any kind because I don’t know how to keep things secret. Thanks for your criticism. It has been duly noted. I disagree. All I want to do is document my fight for the right to write book reviews. I pray my openness will help others who are being excommunicated for simply reading a book.
Ephraim – June 28, 2014
Las Vegas – July 25, 2014
St. George – July 26, 2014
Phoenix area – September 9, 2014, this will conclude the 40th year and will take place on day 365.
All talks will be in the morning.
Note on Comments
The WordPress spam filter is being wonky again. I check for blocked comments as often as possible, but if yours gets blocked and you want a quick response, text me at 818-257-0513 or shoot me an email at tmalonemcse @ gmail.com. Thanks for the dialog. I always appreciate comments.