The Four Phases of Mormonism

FourProphetsThis is another in a series of my study notes from Passing the Heavenly Gift by Denver Snuffer. I’ve spent considerable time this past year studying the material presented in an effort to come to grips with a paradigm change in how I view the LDS church. I am a lifelong active member. I love this church and the people in it. But the religion has changed dramatically even in my life.

In this essay I attempt to reconcile the changes I have seen from the religion of my youth to the faith we practice today. For those familiar with Denver’s latest book, you may recognize some of the wording in the early part of this essay to be taken from his summary of the four phases on pages ten and eleven. It can also be found on the back cover and the publisher’s online summary.

Besides a summary of the four phases, I’d like to respond to selected quotes from chapter two of the book, entitled History and Truth. If you don’t approve of quoting D. Michael Quinn or Davis Bitton for that matter (“I Don’t Have a Testimony of the History of the Church”), then you’re not going to like this chapter. From Denver: “If this book challenges your faith, then stop reading it.”

The Four Phases

Phase 1 – 1820 to 1844 – 24 years
Phase 2 – 1844 to 1904 – 60 years
Phase 3 – 1904 to 1951 – 47 years
Phase 4 – 1951 to present – 61 years

From its very beginning, Mormonism has undergone constant change. It has yet to assume a final form. It has undergone at least four distinct phases to date. The first was during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and ended with his death in 1844. The key changes during the first phase were exciting, additive and innovative: new revelation, new church structure, new doctrine and new ordinances.

The second phase began with Brigham Young and lasted until the second manifesto in 1904. As you can imagine, the key component of this phase was the influence of plural marriage. The end of this phase was so traumatic for some leaders of the church that they resigned their positions as apostles. Abandonment of polygamy was a watershed event in the maturing of the LDS religion.

The third phase began with the Smoot hearings and ended with the death of President George Albert Smith in 1951. This was a period marked by a church struggling to find its way in a modern world. Long gone were the days of isolation and clinging to old ways at all costs. The church became increasingly more conservative, doing all it could to shed a timeworn image.

The fourth and current phase of Mormonism began with the administration of David O. McKay. The early part of this period saw explosive growth of the church in membership, wealth, temple building, political influence and scholarship. In the latter part, Mormonism adopted correlation and corporate management techniques to consolidate and direct central church decision-making.

The Focus has Changed

In the early days of the church under the leadership of Joseph Smith, the focus was on every man becoming a partaker of the heavenly gift. The culmination of this period was at the dedication of the Kirtland temple. The rich outpourings of the spirit are unmatched to this day. The opening of the heavens in such great abundance for all greatly blessed the lives of early church members.

Brigham changed everything with the public announcement of polygamy as a major tenet of our religion. At one time we taught in this church that a man could not be exalted unless he entered into plural marriage. Mormonism became something I don’t think Joseph intended. The focus changed from receiving heavenly manifestations to a religion that only talked about them.

Later, the abandonment of polygamy became grounds for excommunication. The church outdid itself in efforts to prove to the world we are a “normal” church and people, just like the rest of America. We still celebrated our rich spiritual heritage but fewer and fewer people, especially leaders, focused on opening the heavens to pursue manifestations or new spiritual experiences.

In the modern church, we rarely hear of members, or leaders for that matter, who are willing to share their spiritual experiences. The church grows through modern efficiencies until one can say it is probably the best run church in the world. The focus on sharing spiritual events from our lives has almost completely disappeared. It seems we are expected to keep such things private.

What is Missing Today

I’ve thought long and hard about what it is I feel is missing in our church from my pre-mission days. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I recall stories of spiritual experiences, firesides focused on how to have the heavens opened, and classroom discussions that always included invitations to go and get a personal revelation on the subject so you could be an independent witness.

“Mormonism has become increasingly less mystic, less miraculous, and even less tolerant of ‘gifts’ of the Spirit. Although it retains an emphasis on personal revelation, there is no continuing expectation of new scripture, new commandments, or Divine visitations. The concepts are retained, but the expectations are gone. The idea of angels, visions and visitations are regarded as ‘magical thinking’ belonging to an earlier, primitive people.” – pages 45-46

Today, we seem to be a church at odds with itself. On the one hand, we continue to teach the importance of receiving personal revelation. On the other hand, those who talk about their own revelations are looked upon as weird or unusual. When did it become a taboo subject to talk about having the heavens opened? This is the major change I sense in our Mormon culture.

“The first phase of Mormonism was dominated by visions, angels, and direct involvement by God. Those experiences are still celebrated and taught. However, they are only used as a legitimizing credential for a demystified church. The current phase of Mormonism is missing the direct appearance or involvement of God, angels and visions. There is a disconnect between the miraculous events upon which Mormonism is based, and current church events.” – page 47

Expected Audience with God

It seems in the modern Mormon Church we are tolerant of just the right amount of revelation and no more. We nod our heads approvingly when we hear testimonies of new converts as they talk about how they prayed to know if the Book of Mormon is true. We smile as we hear them relate how they received their answer from God. Ah, yes, the warm, peaceful feeling of the spirit. We remember with fondness our own introductory experiences with the spirit in our youth.

“Every convert to the faith restored through Joseph Smith was, and is expected to have a revelation from God affirming to him or her that the work is God’s. … The purpose of Joseph Smith’s work was not to inform people of revelation as a theoretical possibility, but to install it as a practical reality. Revelation is required to bring converts into the religion, but an audience with God is always the expected culminating event.” – pages 49-50

Wait, what? An audience with God? Well, sure, maybe in the next life but not in this one. Yes, I know what D&C 93:1 says, but Joseph must have been referring to the life to come. “Verily, thus sayeth the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am.” It can’t be any clearer than that, can it? But in this mortal life?

Yes, I think it means in this life. We are expected to work towards and receive an audience with God in this life. Forsake our sins, come unto Christ, call on His name and do what he says. The heart of the work is to hear His voice and do as He personally directs us. We are to meet God face to face. Each person should approach Him for themselves. This was the primary message of the first phase of Mormonism that doesn’t seem to be taught today. I miss that.

Belief, Faith and Knowledge

Belief means to understand and accept true doctrine. Unbelief, as used in the Book or Mormon, means to accept false doctrine or to have an incomplete, and inaccurate understanding of correct doctrine. The phrase, “dwindling in unbelief” is the Book of Mormon’s way to describe moving from a state of belief, with true and complete doctrine, to a state of unbelief, where the truth has been discarded. Miracles end because men dwindle in unbelief. (page 52)

“The word ‘faith’ is used when an angel has ministered to someone. Going from belief to faith is a natural progression as soon as any person with a firm mind in every form of righteousness has been tried and found committed to the truth.” This short paragraph, also on page 52, was a real eye-opener to me. From it, I have come to the conclusion that I have not been a person of faith. Denver backs this up with Moroni 7:37, Jacob 7:5 and Moroni 7:30.

“A person acquires ‘knowledge’ when they have an audience with Christ. The Book of Mormon intends for all those who read it to acquire knowledge of Christ. They are to meet Him; to know Him. Hence the saying by Joseph Smith: ‘A man is saved no faster than he gains knowledge.’ Saving knowledge comes from ‘knowing’ – meeting with and being ministered to – by Jesus Christ. He is the Second Comforter. (page 53) We must gain this knowledge to be saved.

The Whole Purpose of the Temple

“The whole temple message can be summarized in one brief statement: We are to be prepared in all things to receive further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil. The ceremony of the temple is not the real thing. It is a symbol of the real thing. The real thing is when a person actually obtains an audience with the Jesus Christ, returns to His presence, and gains the knowledge by which they are saved.” (page 53)

“The ceremonies and ordinances of the temple all point to Him. They are not the end of the search but instead teach you how to conduct the search. If all you receive are ordinances, you have nothing of real value. They are dead without a living, personal connection with God. God alone can and will save you. …when men come into contact with the Lord, they gain authority from Him. The Lord’s friends and fellow-servants are always endowed with power.” (pp 55-56)

I have always wondered about the purpose of the prayer circle and veil ceremony if they are not to teach us how to approach the Lord and receive instruction from Him directly. We are taught what we must do, but then we don’t do it. Why? Do we continue to think it is only symbolic, or that it is not meant to be done in this life? When is the appropriate time to knock at the veil to receive further light and knowledge? Surely the Lord didn’t intend for us to wait until we die.

We Must be Taught by Angels and Christ

“Returning to God’s presence is Joseph’s witness, message and theme. If you return to His presence, you will learn more in five minutes than you can by reading all that has ever been written on the subject. Joseph showed that we like him, can gaze into heaven and gain knowledge. No man or woman has ever, or will ever, be saved in ignorance. All of us are saved only as quickly as we gain knowledge of Him directly from Him.” (pages 60-61)

“…revealed religion is always founded on the dramatic; the light going on suddenly and illuminating the room. Without the dramatic appearances of the Lord after His resurrection, the New Testament account would not provide the promise of redemption through Christ. Despite all His profound wisdom, it is the suddenly miraculous return to life which moves Him from teacher of wisdom to Savior of mankind.” (pages 62-63)

“The restoration is marked by the First Vision, the appearance of Moroni, the visit of John the Baptist and return of Peter, James and John. These events identify it as something quite different from other Christian religions. It is not another sect. It is God’s latest work among mankind. When angels stop ministering to the Latter-day Saints, then the original faith has ended among us. At that point we become like any other Christian sect.” (page 63)

Statements from Heber J. Grant

“I know of no instance where the Lord has appeared to an individual since His appearance to the Prophet Joseph Smith.” – Heber J. Grant, 13 April 1926, private letter to Mrs. Claud Peery

“I have never prayed to see the Savior. I know of men – Apostles – who have seen the Savior more than once. I have prayed to the Lord for the inspiration of His Spirit to guide me, and I have told Him that I have seen so many men fall because of some great manifestation to them, they felt their importance, their greatness.” – President Heber J. Grant, 4 October 1942, probably referring to Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor

These are troubling statements, because they seem to be in direct contradiction with the whole focus of the religion restored by Joseph Smith. Why would the president of the church denounce the need or desire to receive a visitation from the Savior who he represented as his prophet? Is personal knowledge of Jesus Christ unnecessary or viewed as a negative leading to a fall? This is so different from what Joseph taught – that such a visitation is the defining moment of our lives.

I also wonder why President Grant was not aware of Lorenzo’s Snow’s testimony that he saw the Savior in the Salt lake Temple directing him to reorganize the First Presidency immediately upon the death of Wilford Woodruff in 1898. In addition, On August 1, 1890, Charles Ora Card recorded in his diary that Apostle John W. Taylor had testified that “he had beheld the Savior.” Was President Grant withholding information on purpose? If so, why would he do such a thing?

Summary and Conclusion

Denver concludes chapter two with a discussion of the concept of “practical infallibility” that we have given to our prophets in the modern church. He quotes a few statements of the Brethren to the effect that the Lord would not allow the President of the Church to lead the people astray. It is the idea of respect for the office of the President of the Church that causes us to assume that they and all the apostles must be eyewitnesses of Christ, as opposed to administrative apostles.

In the next chapter Denver tackles the idea of succession in the church, another difficult subject in which he presents material in a different light from the traditional narrative of the church. As he wrote in the book and has written many times on his blog, “If this book challenges your faith, then stop reading it.” Remember, Denver is not advocating anybody leaving the church. On the contrary, he is encouraging all to remain a part of the church, to love and serve one another.

Occasionally, if you do a Google search for Denver Snuffer, you will note that two suggested phrases behind his name are “apostate” and “excommunicated.” Google searches are very telling in that they are a good indicator of what people think of a given subject or person. Denver has stopped posting as much as he used to. I think it’s to give some of us time to catch up and come to a better understanding of what he says the Lord asked him to share. That’s what I’m doing.

29 thoughts on “The Four Phases of Mormonism”

  1. The church is adrift, nothing else explains the saga of the ban on blacks. The brethern need to seek a reopening of the heavens.

    1. And yet, the church is authorized, even commanded of the Lord to perform ordinances, proclaim the message of the restoration, build temples, publish the Book of Mormon, accept tithing and so many other things that can only be done by an institution. I agree that the policy of withholding priesthood ordination from blacks for so long was an indication of men struggling without divine direction. In spite of this and many other failings, the Lord is working through this church to bring about his work in the last days. My point in sharing these chapter summaries from Denver’s book is to show that we are the Lord’s most important work. It is the individual return of each of us to experience an opening of the heavens that is needed. I seek that.

      1. Yes I agree, the church is authorized. But it lacks the power of God it once enjoyed, thus it is adrift. Authority is not power, ordinances are symbolic, covenants are temporary substitutes for a personal connected relationship with God.

      2. Yep. That, I think is one of the main ideas I have taken away from Denver’s latest book – authority is not power, either in an institution or an individual. Thanks for sharing and clarifying.

      3. There is much to learn from careful reading of any particular subject/topic,religious study is know exception,whether the writings be christian literature,budhist,hindu,jew…etc.The majority of readers read any particular material with prejudice and pre-formed opinions that they haved gained from years and years of parroting other peoples opinions,this is especially the case with religious writings.

        What is real is ever-changing,growing and EVOLVING,this is an eternal principal(law),this is REALITY.What is un-real is the opposite,it is never-changing,growing or EVOLVING,this is an eternal principal(law),this is unreal or ILLUSION.

        Unreal is called illusion for it gives the religionist the appearance that as he spends a lifetime of gathering he believes he has gained much,learned from the wisest of the wise,ie from his particular religious scriptures,manuscripts and so forth,giving him the impression that he knows something,for in this lies the illusion.The man on this course will go to his rest with that that he came with to this life,NOTHING.A more careful reading of Luke 16:18-30 will help to clarify.It is not until we come to a SURE understanding as moses did,when he knew he knew nothing and was then able to see his weakness(ess),Moses 1:10-42,from this moment moses FULLY understands he knows nothing,REALITY,now he is ready to learn and as the story unfolds we can see that he can now DECERN the real from the unreal,ILLUSSION.

        Hint:learn to read by looking for the story within the story,or the underlying PRINCIPAL being conveyed

        Enjoy,peace and blessings my brother

  2. “The idea of angels, visions and visitations are regarded as ‘magical thinking’ belonging to an earlier, primitive people.”

    That isn’t Mormonism talking with that sentence, but the modern scientific thinking of today’s culture. I have never heard that said by a Mormon member or leader. I have, however, heard that said with accusing force by non-Mormons about the beginning of Mormonism or especially the temple. If Mormonism has become reluctant to talk about angels, visions, and visitations it is only because they are living one generation away from a return to the days of Missouri and Nauvoo. where were you during Romney’s run for President?

    1. I suspect that quote from Denver was influenced by Michael Quinn. I too have never heard that from a Mormon member or leader but have been accused of such thinking many times in comments of previous essays defending the declarations of Joseph Smith. I think part of the problem Denver is pointing out in his book is that we are becoming less and less comfortable with the ideas of angels, visions and visitations. They are not a part of our life like they were in Joseph’s day. I, for one, would prefer to hear my leaders talk more about such miraculous events and how they can be a regular part of my life. Why do our leaders not encourage us to receive angels, to be taught by them and to seek to have the heavens opened? If being taught directly by the Savior is the message of the Book of Mormon, why do we not hear more of that?

  3. I have been following your posts for a while. This is where I am. It makes sense that the temple ceremonies are a guide to actually coming into the presence of God. I just feel like I have a long way to go. I feel like I need to work out the light I have already received. I need more action and becoming in my life, not more seeking of experiences that bring more light and knowledge and with it the responsibility to live it and become it.

    It may be a paradox. That I don’t seek the experiences that might be enabling of greater ability to do and be good in my life.

    I feel like I am merely treading water sometimes. I don’t want more responsibility. I do think that there will come a time for more of this. In a measured, time proven way that will not contradict the collective 15 apostles.

    1. Hi Rich. Great comment. I hope that nothing I write indicates a desire on my part to contradict the collective direction of the fifteen men we sustain as apostles. I’m just suggesting that there is a difference between an administrative apostle and an apostle who has had his ordination completed by having the Lord lay his hands upon his head. A witness of Christ should be an eyewitness, not just a witness of His name. I’m beginning to deplore the adage in our church that “those who have seen the Lord don’t talk about it.” I can’t think of any knowledge more important to share than to let others know that they can and should seek an audience with the Savior. My point in sharing my study notes from Denver’s book is that such a goal should be foremost in our spiritual pursuits. I too need more action and becoming in my life, but one of those actions is to return to the richer spiritual life of my youth when I felt the heaven’s open more frequently and with more power than happens now. Don’t let my personal journey become a detriment to what the spirit is telling you.

  4. The church has elevated form over function, over substance. If one wants to progress spiritually they must trancend the church because the church has become pharisaically symbolic leaving members marching in place doing much busy work in place of being “still and knowing I am God” by personally connecting spiritually with him. In spite of much doctrine to the contrary the church is incredibly Mosaic, material and mortal.

  5. What does it matter if there are no more visions, angels, and direct involvement by God or if we have become a Church of Priests? The authority is the same. The faith unto Salvation because of the atonement of Jesus Christ is the same. Revelation comes without them much more than with them. I will start to worry when there is a proclamation that all miracles and visions and angels have been done away and are no longer needed. My own belief is that the world and the general membership of the Church have become so wicked that the Lord has shut the mouths of the prophets to such things; because that is what the people want. Instead they get lets be nice to gays and equality of women rather than the fear of God. Besides, we could visions, angels, and direct involvement by God and still lose our souls. I know Jesus lives and I don’t need a vision to know that as a fact.

    1. Wait a minute Jettboy, we do need to be nice to gays and we do need to treat women better. There are too many insensitive priesthood holders who have no clue that their ordination is a charge to come unto Christ, to receive additional instruction from Him about salvation and life eternal. It does matter that we don’t hear more about visions, angels and how to have the heavens opened. It does matter that we have become a church of priests, similar to the Jews at the time the Savior came and ministered to them in the meridian of time. I too know that Jesus lives but I have not been ministered to by him as the Book of Mormon teaches. That’s the point of my recent series of essays on Denver’s books. Just trying to figure out how to make it happen. Thanks for sharing. Appreciate you stopping by. Always enjoyed your blog in years past.

      1. You didn’t really answer my question though of why do we need these things, at least as a Church at the stage we are in? Unlike at the time of the Jews or even Joseph Smith, I have never heard of members mocking and arguing against those who claim miracles – unless they are in direct violation of the Priesthood teachings and authority set up by God. I can agree that something is wrong via Moroni’s warning that when those things are not present that it is a sign of general wickedness. I can also see your point that “we do need to treat women better” as a general Christian call for charity. What I don’t see is that it is a sign of lack of proper leadership so much as members not wanting to seem “weird” to the world while living as the world does.

      2. Tim’s original post stated, “those who talk about their own revelations are looked upon as weird or unusual.”

        Jettboy stated, “I have never heard of members mocking and arguing against those who claim miracles.”

        My own personal experience would agree with Jettboy’s.

      3. Not sure if this will show up in the right spot. I intend this to be a reply to Elejian about the response of some members and some leaders to public or even private declarations of other members that they have received revelation or a divine visit, be it an angel or whatever. I have sat in leadership meetings where discussion took place about such members claims. It was not in my present stake. The wording used was very distinct in that the member was labeled a “crackpot, deluded, deceived” and that the revelation he purported to have received was not of God.

        Well, it just so happened that I agreed with them, but nonetheless this member was sincere when he went around sharing with others what he believed was divine communication. And we were just as sincere in judging him when we, leaders and members alike, said he was deceived. This man was looked upon as weird and unusual. His revelation had to do with the Word of Wisdom. It would have been better if he had kept it to himself. Perhaps it really was received as he said, from divine sources, but it was not a good idea for him to share it with everybody, telling them they should pay attention because it was from God.

        God speaks to each of us in ways we understand best. But usually, what he says is meant for our edification alone, not for public consumption. In the case of someone declaring that they have been visited by an angel, or that they have been ministered to by the Lord, again, I can’t imagine that anybody who received such a visit would attempt to tell others they needed to adhere to the direction they received in their divine visit. Nevertheless, those who do state in a public setting, say in a fast and testimony meeting, that they have had a visit by an angel, are indeed perceived as at least unusual, if not “weird.” Sorry, bad word choice.

    2. Because salvation is worked out individually fearing and trembling before God (literally) We must recieve the “testimony of Jesus” meaning His testimony that we are adopted into the Family of God

      1. I am aware of a member who was looked looked upon as weird and unusual by both his SP and Bishop because of the clarity of his revelations, it was confirmed by several other members.

  6. I think there are plenty of miracles happening in the church. And I think it’s right that we don’t talk about them too frequently — especially as the church is developing and enjoying a much higher media profile than ever before. And so if the brethren are not “talking it up” as we would like then it is probably best to assume that their muted communications on the subject are a reflection of their obedience rather than their supposed lack of heavenly visions. Remember Alma 12 —

    1. I can accept that there are those among the Brethren who have indeed been ministered to by the Lord. I can also accept that they are being obedient by not talking about what has been revealed to them. I can only assume that such revelations were personal, intended for their own edification, and not for the body of the church. What I’m struggling with is this: after twenty-five years of serving in stake and ward councils, it has been my observation that the majority of what is discussed is administrative in nature. Even in our highly correlated Sunday instruction, I rarely hear anyone teach how to open the heavens to receive revelation.

      If we as a church are focused on the salvation of each other’s souls, then where is the detailed discussion of how to petition the Lord in prayer in such a way that He cannot withhold himself as in the brother of Jared? There’s much instruction about the importance of reading the scriptures, studying the gospel and praying regularly, bit no specifics about what to ask for in those prayers to allow angels to minister to us or to be taught by the Lord Himself. I’m like a dog with a bone. I’m not going to give up on this idea that we can and must come into the Lord’s presence to have our ordinations complete and to receive power in the priesthood.

  7. Perhaps the Church is currently using 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 as a guiding principle . . . ?

    You wrote, “I rarely hear anyone teach . . .” and “where is the detailed discussion . . .” But as you know, hearing a mortal teach or having a discussion with mortals is not sufficient.

    You quoted Numbers 11:29. Since it’s the Spirit that teaches and motivates, the main goal of mortal teaching is to invite the Spirit (by teaching correct doctrine, testifying, etc.).

    A few scriptures come to mind:

    1 Nephi 11:1 – desire (and I assume that means with the right intent), believe, ponder

    D&C 88:68, D&C 93:1 – sanctify ourselves, forsake our sins (perhaps another reason a group discussion won’t be sufficient is that every individual has unique, personal things to overcome)

    As to things that people have said can happen in mortality, you know my list:

    Make calling and election sure, become pure in heart, see the face of God – Bruce R. McConkie, 10/1977 Conference

    Make calling and election sure, receive the Holy Spirit of promise – Marion G. Romney, 10/1965 Conference

    Enter into the rest of the Lord – W. Craig Zwick, Ensign, 2/2012

    [subtly said] Have a pure heart – David A. Bednar, 10/2007 Conference

    “There are even those who neither believe nor know that it is possible to see the Lord in this day, and they therefore are without the personal incentive that would urge them onward in the pursuit of this consummation so devoutly desired by those with spiritual insight” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 586, 591).

  8. The last talk of Bruce R. McConkie is a powerful testimony. I do ponder if it was also a veiled reference to his own calling and election visions. I ask this with all sincerity; what do you think would happen if the members both leaders and others were to start opening up to discussions about visions, angels, and miracles? My own answer to this question is not a very positive one.

    1. They are not talking about them because they are not happening.

      See: Elder Perry answers the question “Have you ever seen an angel or the Savior?” with Elder Richards’ report of a pre 1983 manifestation of President Woodruff and the 1978 outpouring of the spirit regarding lifting the priesthood ban. And he said that the heavens only open on rare occasions! Nothing more recent than 30 years ago? Apparently not!

    2. I personally know 2 people who have stated publicly they have seen the Savior. One stated this in a district conference, and the other in a fast & testimony meeting.

      The skeptic will still doubt these 2 people’s experiences. The believer already believed such things are possible. So no one’s opinions really changed . . . ?

      Perhaps stating doctrine is more effective than stating personal experience? Stating, “It is possible to see the Lord in this life” is more effective than stating, “I have seen the Lord”?

      Maybe partially because the former statement can be applied to the listener (“Maybe it can happen to me”), and the latter could potentially be misinterpreted by the listener (“They’re boasting about how much better they are because they had this experience”)?

    3. Maybe we can learn something about what Alma teaches his sons Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton in Alma chapters 36 through 42. The content of Alma’s teachings are pretty different between each of his sons. With Helaman, Alma shares about his very personal experience of seeing an angel and being born again. With Shiblon, Alma is more encouraging to his son. He seems to be well on the right path. However, as for Alma’s talk with Corianton, there are some obvious measures that his son must take to get back on the right path.

      I think this may apply to who, what, and how we teach in the church (or in general). Maybe it wouldn’t be appropriate to share deeply personal experiences to those who aren’t ready for that; like all the Corianton’s in the church in the Elders quorum class. On the other hand, maybe it would be appropriate to share experiences with a strong couple that you home teach. Though, it seemed that even after Alma’s experiences, he mostly taught faith and repentance to become born again to receive the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost. That is, after all, our primary goal if we wish to further our goal of receiving the Second Comforter.

      If anyone claims a visit from the Lord, there may be many skeptics; then there would be those that would benefit from hearing it.

  9. President Kimball wrote to his son: “Revelations will probably never come unless they are desired. I think few people receive revelations while lounging on the couch or while playing cards or while relaxing. I believe most revelations would come when a man is on his tip toes, reaching as high as he can for something which he knows he needs, and then there bursts upon him the answer to his problems.”

    President Kimball spent years pondering the ban on blacks and he spent months seeking revelation about it. When it finally came it was the equivalent of a D&C verse or two, just one of two Official Declarations since the D&C was published. Clearly the heavens of revelation are closed to the brethren compared to Joseph, they apparently rely on inspiration to guide the church with only occasional revelation. They must seek revelation in order to receive it, it won’t just come to them. The need to seek a reopening of the heavens!

    Elder Holland implied that lowering the missionary age was a miracle; “…one miracle at a time.” Is this administrative rule change really a miracle to the current church? If so the church is in trouble. If not where are the real miracles?

    President Kimball: “I had a great deal to fight . . . myself, largely, because I had grown up with this thought that Negroes should not have the priesthood and I was prepared to go all the rest of my life until my death and fight for it and defend it as it was.” So something must motivate these men to do the months of work on their on their knees of asking for revelation about something that opposes their bias. If you don’t believe gays should have access to temple blessings heteros enjoy, why would you do this work to find out if they should? Thus the role of agitation! Others must become their conscience. But! Agitation would not be necessary if the brethren truly enjoyed easy open access to divine revelation because it would come up in casual conversation with the Lord and they would know what to say and do about it.

  10. From my gospel study this morning: Sharing Sacred Experiences

    Let’s consider a single verse – D&C 63:64 – “Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.” Although this was directed at Sidney Rigdon, and specifically at what he had written as attempted revelation, the principle applies to any communication received from the Lord.

    Let’s apply this to the subject we’re considering – revealing, sharing or telling someone else about a sacred experience, revelation, vision or visitation. Denver Snuffer has done so, many times. He has told us that he has been visited by the Savior, not a figurative, but a literal visit in which the Lord ministered unto him. As I have read what he has written, at no time did I ever read anything specific the Lord told him in those visits. If he did, he didn’t identify it as such.

    The Lord does NOT say that we are not to talk about such things, only that we are to be careful when we do and reveal only that which the spirit constrains. In other words, to constrain is to hold back some things. Denver has surely done that in what he has shared of his visits with the Savior. He has simply announced them as a personal witness that such visits can and do happen to anybody who desires them, prepares for them and asks for them.

    We are not condemned if when we speak of our spiritual experiences, we do so by constraint of the spirit, received by prayer. In other words, if we pray and ask the Lord if it is OK to write about our sacred experiences, and then do so with constraint, meaning that we listen closely to the feedback mechanism the Lord has given us in the gift of the Holy Ghost, then we are fully justified in what we write. This is exactly the process Sidney went through.

    When Sidney tried to share what he considered revelation, he did not do so with humility. Sidney was a good preacher but not such a good writer. Joseph had the gift in perfection, meaning that he never sought to aggrandize himself or to be anything but humble and give the glory to God for all he received. Yet he was bold and not hesitant to share the revelations the Lord gave him. I have tried to follow this pattern when I have shared in writing what I have received by revelation.

    My whole point is that I think we as a church are under condemnation because we do not do as the Book of Mormon directs. We do not fully believe it, have not been taught properly how to apply it or do not understand when we have been taught. The Book of Mormon teaches us that we are to be taught by angels, who will prepare us to receive Christ. The spirit will prepare us to receive angels. We receive the spirit through prayer. We are then to do as directed by the angels and eventually, we will be prepared to receive Christ. To me, it’s that simple.

  11. Pingback: Remembering the Covenant | Latter-day Commentary

  12. Michael A. Cleverly

    I stumbled across this nine part interview series with LDS anthropologist Daymon Smith at BCC. I found it very helpful in understanding how Federal persecution in [to use Denver’s terminology] phase two put forces in play that explains the transition from phase two to phase three and then phase three to phase four in a very slow, natural, understandable way.

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