This is part three of my notes in preparing for the final lecture in the Denver Snuffer series – “Forty years in Mormonism.” While I am trying to encourage you to read Denver’s material, particularly the previous lectures in this series, I am not trying to advocate anything other than gaining knowledge by study and by faith.
I would not have put so much time, effort and energy into studying Denver’s materials over the past few years if I didn’t feel it was valuable and useful. It is not my intent to persuade anyone to abandon their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored through Joseph Smith. In fact, it is quite the contrary.
It is my hope that your faith will be increased in a loving Heavenly father and Savior who care about our happiness and salvation.
You can read the previous two parts in the links below:
St George – Marriage and Family: 7-26-14
Carol also attended this lecture with me. The venue was hot and crowded, but the spirit was strong. We brought in our camping chairs and sat right up front in an unused corner. Carol took copious notes at both the Las Vegas and St George lectures. As Carol said to me at the end of the lecture, “I didn’t hear anything wrong with or contrary to what I already believe in this lecture. I think he gave this lecture here in the heart of the Fundamentalist Mormons to make it clear the practice should be dropped in this generation.”
Opening Remarks in St. George:
“This is the ninth installment of a single talk, all of which is designed to remind us of what was once given in the Restoration through Joseph Smith. Much of what went on before is intended to be foundational to what comes today, and to what comes next when we finish in Phoenix. Today the topic is about marriage and the family, and as a consequence of that, I view everything before as foundational to today, because of all things that are necessary to understand before we qualify to be like God, it is having this subject understood and incorporated into how we live.”
Closing Paragraphs in St. George:
This was what we talked about in Ephraim. You need to hear all of these, and you need to hear all of them in one continuous discussion, because it’s all one. This isn’t my material, it’s the Lord’s. All we have been doing is looking at these scriptures. My volume of scripture is actually color-coded. These are the scriptures. My scriptures are color-coded with orange in Boise, and yellow in Idaho Falls, and pink in Logan, and light green in Centerville, and dark green yesterday, and purple today. You can see the Scriptures have become rather littered with markers. These talks are to help you remember. We cannot go forward until first we remember what has been already given.
This is the Gospel of Christ. This is the power of God unto redemption. This is the revelation Joseph Smith was attempting to lay out when he was taken. There is a lot left to yet be done. There is more left to be done than has been started. There is more that has not been revealed than what Joseph was able to get on the ground here before he was killed.
As we have gone forward we have preserved less and less. Now with the engines of Correlation, we are managing to trim yet further. The Gospel of Christ is not about, “Have a nice day.” The Gospel of Christ is not about being a keyhole. The Gospel of Christ is about awakening and arising. It is about you becoming redeemed from the fall and coming back to God’s presence. Thank God, that before Joseph died, he was able to lay out something in the red brick store, through ritual and through ceremony, that described walking back into the presence of God, conversing with Him through the veil, and then entering into His presence. Thank God that in addition to the scriptures, Joseph left us a ritual testimony.
But do you know why ancient Israel had their temple? It was to have ceremonies to point them to the coming of Christ in the flesh. The Latter-day Saints have been given a ritual ceremony to point them to also receive Christ in the flesh. The Israelites thought their temple was an end in itself. The Latter-day Saints seem to do likewise. But do not you do this. See the ritual for what it is: merely an invitation.
There needs yet to be another temple built. But it will be in Zion, and those who go there will meet with their Lord, because that will be His house indeed. You can build that only if you qualify to do so.
Final Paragraph from St. George:
“There is so much left to be done! Right now the only thing that can be done is to remind you of the Restoration, and that is available to all. Everyone is invited. Everyone. But don’t expect the Lord to give us anything further, or permit us to move one inch further, until we first remember what we’ve been given. Even if you are in a fallen world, among a fallen people, who are proud and who are arrogant to think themselves more than they really are, if you will love your wife, and if your wife will love you, you are in the image of God and that will be preserved unto all eternity. No matter what else you may have to go through between now and then, that’s what He’s trying to preserve. That is the image of God.”
Salt Lake – Sunstone – Cutting Down the Tree of Life: 8-2-14
Carol and I also attended this lecture. As I wrote at the time, Denver’s delivery was, as usual, confident, engaging, well presented and well summarized. He raised four specific points where the church has changed or will probably change either a fundamental doctrine or practice. First was plural marriage, next was the policy of blacks and the priesthood, next was the issue of women and the priesthood and finally LGBT issues. I asked Denver if the point of his paper was that the church past and potential future changes was or will be due to social and government pressure for fear of losing tax exempt status. I’m not sure if he answered with a clear yes, but I’m fairly certain I have read a similar affirmation on his blog. I’ve included his complete answer:
The definition of fundamental doctrine is not something that I applied to the Church, it’s what the Church has advocated (or defined) on its own (and for itself). I’m contrasting what the Church said at one time was fundamental doctrine, with what it has done to abrogate, denounce, renounce and even condemn unequivocally out of their own mouth, their prior practice. Their motivation for accomplishing that transition was the focus of the paper. I’m not trying to make a moral judgment. I’m trying to understand the events against the backdrop of why the events took place. Why change when they said it would be right or wrong (to do so), when they said it in the name of Jesus Christ, like the comment of Brigham Young that I read. I read his claim on purpose because he was stating, “I’m telling you this as my status as a prophet of God. I’m telling you this in the name of Jesus Christ, and I’m telling you this will never change,” and (it has been subsequently) changed.
And now the Church, after making the changes, has turned around and said, “We unequivocally condemn that.” That’s the purpose of the paper and also to highlight the fact that institutionally, this is a problem. The problem is that truth and love and purity does exist, but it exists primarily in a form that is not (and cannot be) institutional. According to the scriptures, there are only two ways, “there are save but two Churches only.” And one church, if it’s going to subject itself to institutional control, vagaries of the law, the pressure of the tax code, and everything else; that church will necessarily become sullied and soiled, tossed and pulled, and ultimately wind up contradicting itself. But there is another church that can remain pure, unsullied, untouched, untaxed, and unregulated. That purity can exist in your heart. That purity can be found between you and God. I think any institution is going to suffer the exact same history.
Phoenix – Conclusion: 9-9-14
We drove in from California on Saturday, spent the day with my sister on Sunday. It rained quite a bit late Sunday and early Monday, perhaps a cleansing of sorts in preparations for Tuesday’s lecture. I am not at all certain what Denver’s subject will be for tomorrow. I don’t think he will simply summarize the previous lectures. He has asked us to be familiar with what has gone on before. Somehow, things will be wrapped up with what will be presented in the tenth lecture.
Will it be a call to action of some sort – to build an organization? I don’t think so. Denver has said he will not start a church. We are to serve where the Lord has placed us. What then, is the purpose of these lectures, besides to cause LDS leaders to fear what he has to say, that he might ask the people to leave the church and to follow him somewhere? You’ll have to be the judge of Denver’s purpose. He says the Lord asked him to present this material. Do you believe him?
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Bonus Material: Three other past lectures from Denver worth reading:
2012 Sunstone lecture: Brigham Young’s Telestial Kingdom
Summary: “Brigham Young’s brief tenure (1851-58) as Territorial Governor and Church President allowed him to wield the power of both church and state. How he used this authority reveals much about the man. During the brief reign as God’s representative and United States’ regent, his sermons reveal how precarious a challenge it presents to consolidate church and state power. His predecessor, Joseph Smith, sought to establish heaven on earth. In contrast, Governor Young had the lesser concern of establishing and operating a “Telestial Kingdom,” while aggregating power and making pragmatic decisions in the present world. This article explores Brigham Young’s Governorship as a “king’s rule,” unsuited to the American republic. It includes cautionary advice from the Book of Mormon against attempting this very thing.”
What I like about this paper is what we learn when Joseph was referring to the “Keys of the Kingdom,” he was referring to the political kingdom or the Council of Fifty. When Joseph Smith spoke in the late-Nauvoo period about “the Kingdom,” or “the keys of the Kingdom,” he was referring to this council which elevated him to kingship. It was in this council Joseph Smith gave “the keys of the Kingdom” to his inner group of followers to permit them to perpetuate this “Kingdom of God” after his death. Brigham Young is best understood in the context of his sincere belief he possessed kingship given to him by God. His behavior and sermons reflect the conviction it was a king speaking; those who listened were expected to respond accordingly.
The Temple talk, First Three Words (Jan 2010)
This amazing little gem introduces the idea that some mortals are here to be proven and some are here to prove others. Some were Gods before they came here, willing to lay aside their exalted condition to fulfill a purpose in the Lord’s plan. God is willing to reveal to us which group we belong to, but only if we ask Him. Even then, it should not matter or make a difference how we live our lives. The risks of mortality are the same for all who are here. The purpose of this talk is to help us understand things as they really are and to give us hope and appreciation for life.
I like the concluding summary found on the last two pages:
First, there are those who were identified as “the Gods” before the world was organized.
Second, there were those for whom this world was designed to be a time of “proving” and testing who were not identified as “the Gods” before the world was organized.
Third, Joseph regarded those who were identified as “the Gods” to be “sons of God who exalted themselves to be gods before the world was made.”
Fourth, you cannot know the group to which you belong because there is a veil between all of us and the pre-earth existence. The risks of mortality, however, are the same for all who are here. The way back is the same no matter which group you belong to, and either can fall from their exaltation or can acquire their exaltation, depending entirely upon the kind of life they live here.
Fifth, only the Lord knows and can tell you of your pre-earth status. If you learn of that it will be only through revelation.
Sixth, nothing about this changes the risks of mortality or the obligations we owe to God while here. It should not change in any way the life you live. It may let you understand things differently, may give you more hope for things, or a deeper appreciation for some ideas, but it should not change how you understand your obligation to live your life. I am hoping, however, that it gives you a new way to view the endowment and how much more we can see within it with a little effort to open our eyes, and follow the admonition from Elohim, to “see.”
The Mission of Elijah Reconsidered (2011)
I would recommend this lecture for anyone who hasn’t heard the idea that even as late as a few weeks before his death in 1844, Joseph Smith considered the return of Elijah to be yet a future event. For those who have the Joseph Smith papers, Journals, Volume One, ask yourself why section 110 is not included in the original book of revelations. It was not found until 1852, years after Joseph’s and Oliver’s deaths.
Section 110 was recorded by Warren Cowdery, who was not a direct eyewitness to the events. He must have been copying from some document no longer extant. This account is written in the third person and describes the visit of the various messengers to Joseph and Oliver. During their lifetime, Joseph and Oliver never taught or mentioned they had been visited by Christ, Moses, Elias or Elijah in the Kirtland temple.
Conclusion: “From the death of Joseph Smith until today, there has not been anything helpful added to what Joseph said on the subject. Although tens-of-thousands of words have been spoken or written about Zion since Joseph‘s life ended, none of it has brought us any closer. If anything, we are further away from it today than we were on June 27, 1844. However, I am not trying to persuade anyone about anything. You are free to believe whatever you want to believe.
“I only attempt to explain what I believe and why I believe it. You owe it to yourself to investigate these things and ask God about them. I would discourage you from accepting what I, or anyone else, have to say on the subject. Ask God. See if He will not make the matter clear to you. Perhaps if enough were able to rend the veil of unbelief, there would be reason to send Elijah and begin the final preparatory work. It only takes a few, as we have seen.”