A high profile, believing Mormon, that has written several books about Mormonism, has publicly “denigrated virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith and put the church in a negative light”.
Please don’t jump to conclusions.
I am not referring to the person you think I am.
I am not referring to Denver Snuffer, although those exact words are contained in the Notice of Disciplinary Council that was recently hand delivered to him.
Last week I got a call from one of my sons who said he had heard a remarkable interview on NPR that I needed to hear.
“Just Google NPR and Black Mormon“, he said.
I did so and was fascinated to hear a short interview between NPR’s Jacki Lyden and LDS scholar and author, Terryl Givens. The interview was actually given back in March regarding changes that were made in the new digital scriptures, I glanced at it back then but I had not paid close attention to it at the time.
Givens is a professor of literature and religion at the University of Richmond and a celebrated LDS author who has served as a Bishop. He is very active in the LDS faith and he provides one of the messages of faith on mormonscholarstestify.org.
In the brief five minute interview, Givens was asked about the new digital edition of the LDS scriptures and some of the ground breaking changes that have been made in them.
Givens said, “.. there are some rather substantive changes in terms of the introductions to the actual scriptural material. And those are what are really catching the attention of members of the church.”
Regarding the Priesthood ban on Blacks, Givens said that “it appears that Joseph Smith himself ordained black members of the church to the priesthood” and that “after his death, beginning in the late 1840’s, Brigham Young apparently charted a new direction” with regard to the Blacks and the priesthood.
He said that the priesthood ban was “.. a matter of error or cultural and historical conditioning rather than as the will of God“.
He acknowledged that the change in direction has “been an albatross around the neck of the church and was for many, many years“.
Givens noted that although there had not been any introductory notes to the Official Declaration 2 previously, it now acknowledges that
“The Book of Mormon teaches [that] all are alike unto God, including black and white..It mentioned that during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, a few black male members of the church were ordained to the priesthood. ” and that “church records offer no clear insights into the origin of this practice [of banning Blacks from the priesthood.”
It appears that the “records” that offer no clear insights to the origin of the practice are the scriptures. LOL
When Givens was asked about the practice of polygamy, he noted that again, introductory notes have been added to Official Declaration 1 stating that “The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless he declares otherwise.”
Givens said, “I think one could read that almost as an inversion of many Mormons’ historical understanding of plural marriage.
For many years, it was taught that plural marriage represented a higher law, a law to which people could aspire if they were worthy and prepared for this higher law.
Now, that’s been inverted to the point that monogamy is declared to be the standard law for God of marriage. And polygamy represents a brief and momentary historical aberration from that norm.”
Give observed: “That’s a fairly significant change in focus.”
In essence, Givens is saying that from the time of Brigham Young, the church got off track regarding two of the most important doctrines.
Significant errors were made regarding the proper understanding and practice of who the priesthood was to be given to, and what the law of Celestial Marriage is.
In other words, Brigham Young acted falsely in his role of the prophet of the church.
The revelatory guidance he gave to the church was wrong and he made some serious errors regarding Blacks and the priesthood and regarding polygamy and the true celestial doctrine pertaining to marriage.
Obviously, every one of the presidents of the church that followed Brigham’s lead or refused to acknowledge the false doctrines he taught when doctrines were adjusted, were just as guilty as Brigham Young.
Although changes in doctrine have been made and the pendulum is swinging the other way regarding some of the important doctrinal issues, none of the presidents of the church have stood up to the plate and acknowledged these serious mistakes.
Rather, the church has decided to slowly and subtly revise the context of some of the official declarations and retroactively provide explanations of mainstream beliefs so that it will appear to future generations as if the true doctrines were always understood and taught even while false practices emerge for a season.
All of these changes in the scriptures are being made without having to make a formal public apology and acknowledgement that every president of the Church since Brigham Young has perpetuated serious errors and practices.
In essence, Professor Givens publicly “denigrated virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith and put the church in a negative light”.
Will he be hauled into a church tribunal like Denver Snuffer?
I suspect not.
Of course, Givens understands a little more about diplomacy than snuffer does. It was clearly “ cultural and historical conditioning ” that was the culprit, not the incompetence of Brigham Young and those that followed in his footsteps.
Givens has the ability to make someone feel like they just got kissed even though he actually gave them a backhand to the jaw.
In light of the current event having to do with Denver Snuffer, I find the above mentioned interview amazing.
I have previously suggested that John Dehlin is guilty of doing significantly more damage to the reputation of the church and its leaders than Denver Snuffer has done. At least Snuffer continues to sincerely believe.
It seems somewhat unfair that people like Givens and Dehlin are given a free pass to denigrate the reputations of church leaders and yet Denver Snuffer is being called on the carpet for simply being honest about some of the problematic historical issues.
Nevertheless, Snuffer obviously knew he was heading down this path and the brethren have labored with him and given him every opportunity to change his course. As I have observed in other posts, the church is now on the defensive because of the ongoing carnage from the Google Apostasy and they want to avoid high profile disciplinary actions whenever possible. They did not want it to come to this.
Denver surely knew it was going to come to this if he didn’t back off. He has counted the cost and appears to be unflinching in his stance. He does not appear to be terminating his speaking tour or the publication of the book that the church finds so offensive.
As I told a reader in a personal email six months ago, “Denver has put the church leaders between a rock and a hard spot, if they do nothing about him, there will continue to be fallout from what he has written, on the other hand, if they EX him and make a martyr out of him, he has the potential of taking a lot of followers with him and creating a public relations nightmare.”
Either way, tithing income will suffer and that is a major consideration to the brethren.
Unfortunately, Denver has put himself between a rock and a hard spot as well by continually bearing testimony that the modern church is true and that the leaders are God’s anointed and that every member should obey the leaders.
Because of this, Snuffer is going to have a credibility problem at this point regardless of what he does.
If he decided to repent and follow the council of the brethren, it looks like he bagged out on the instructions he has been getting from Christ and the ominous prophecy he made about himself being a servant of the Lord a few months ago.
On the other hand, if he continues going counter to the admonition of the brethren, his past advice to support the leaders looks less than inspired.
What to do?
One of the shocking statements in the letter of the disciplinary council that Denver received is the notice that his witnesses had to be approved by his local church leaders.
“If you wish to bring any witnesses, let me know by Wednesday, August 28th so that I can consider who you would like to bring and their purpose in participating in the council, in addition to the High Council“.
Now it is no longer the exclusive prerogative of the accused to choose their witnesses and have them testify on their behalf in the court hearing. Apparently, the Stake President can now prevent a witness from being heard for virtually any reason. I don’t remember seeing that in the protocol in the scriptures.
It is no secret that President Hunt has been working closely with the brethren on the Denver Snuffer problem and that they have bent over backwards to try and avert a confrontation.
Their hand has been forced.
It would appear that they have determined that the fallout of this court proceeding will be less, in the long run, than if they allow him to continue unrestrained.
For those who sustain the leaders of the church as prophets seers and revelators, it would appear as if the officially ordained prophets aren’t buying what Denver is selling. They don’t seem to think that Jesus is directing his efforts.
They don’t believe the god that Denver is communing with behind the veil is the same god they are communing with behind the veil.
I have felt this September was going to be memorable, but I hadn’t counted on this particular drama. It will be interesting to see how much traction and publicity this event attracts. One of the great sales strategies is to offer people a choice rather than to ask them if they have decided to make the purchase.
Now weak-minded people that need to follow a prophet have some exciting drama and a choice of which prophet they want to follow. Will it be Monson or Snuffer?
Anyway, it has now been 20 years since the famed September Six were weighed in the balance and found wanting.
September of 93 was a noteworthy time in LDS church history.
Will destiny make Snuffer the September 7th added to the list in September of 2013?