Sunday, August 25, 2013

Denver Snuffer Called To An LDS Disciplinary Council Over His Book "Passing The Heavenly Gift", Faces Disfellowshipment Or Excommunication

Update September 9th: Denver Snuffer's disciplinary council hearing ends inconclusively; updated post HERE. Subsequently, Snuffer reported he was excommunicated.

Back in March 2013, I reported that Tim Malone, the editor of Latter-Day Commentary, had speculated that Denver Snuffer, who has written eight books, was being investigated for possible Church discipline, and that the investigation was coming to a head. Malone did not give a specific reason at the time, though.

Now it's come to a head. Denver Snuffer has posted a letter from his stake president on his blog without any personal commentary. He is invited to appear before a disciplinary council to be held at the Sandy Utah Crescent Stake Center on September 8th, 2013. Presiding will be the stake president, Truman Hunt; also in attendance will be the stake high council and Snuffer's bishop. In a second post, Snuffer explained why he posted the letter, saying that he did not want anyone to attend any of his upcoming talks, including the first in Boise, without making them aware they were listening to someone who has church discipline pending. Snuffer also says there's no need for anyone to write letters to the Church defending him; he would just as soon let this run its course.

Update August 26th: In a new post entitled "Current Events", Snuffer provides more background. He says his previous stake president defended him against allegations of "apostasy" put forth by the Strengthening the Members Committee, which is apparently behind this kerfluffle. He warned Snuffer that the new stake president (Truman Hunt) would be the "Pharaoh that knew not Joseph". Snuffer says President Hunt has investigated, delayed, discussed this with him, pushed back against LDS headquarters, has been called in for "training", and received input from the top leadership in the church. He told Snuffer a great deal at the start about what was going on behind the scenes, which matched what the former stake president had been telling him during his tenure. Snuffer says he will continue to try to help the Church regardless of its opinion of him, and he simply has no axe to grind no matter the outcome on September 8th. What a Christ-like attitude!

The question to be considered by the stake disciplinary council is whether or not Snuffer's book, "Passing The Heavenly Gift", is considered apostasy. If the council concludes that the book is an act of apostasy, the only alternatives are disfellowshipment or excommunication. President Hunt does not seem enthusiastic about convening this council, which makes me wonder if he is being pressured by Church headquarters. Nevertheless, President Hunt suggests the "Passing The Heavenly Gift" is not constructive to the work of salvation or the promotion of faith in the Gospel. He considers the book's thesis to be in direct conflict with Church doctrine, and he accuses Snuffer of mischaracterizing Church doctrine, denigrating every prophet since Joseph Smith, and placing the Church in a negative light, although he does concede that the book tries to bridge the gap between the Church and its dissidents.

President Hunt imposes three conditions for Snuffer to avert the disciplinary council:

(1). Remove "Passing The Heavenly Gift" from circulation.

(2). Acknowledge to readers of his blog that "Passing The Heavenly Gift" contains content that needs to be withdrawn.

(3). Cancel his planned speaking tour which begins in September.

I have not read "Passing The Heavenly Gift", so I cannot personally rule out the possibility that there may be some foundation for concern. Here's a description of the book from Amazon:

Mormonism has undergone four distinct phases. The first began in 1820 and ended with Joseph Smith’s death in 1844. The second began upon Joseph Smith’s death and ended with abandonment of plural marriage, publicly in 1890 and privately in 1904. In the third phase Mormonism denounced as apostasy its practice of plural wives, marking the first time an orthodox practice became grounds for excommunication. The fourth phase began with David O. McKay and is still underway. In it Mormonism has adopted corporate management techniques to consolidate and direct central church decision-making. The first phase was innovative and expansive, continually adding doctrine, scripture, teachings and ordinances. Subsequent phases have curtailed, abandoned, even denounced earlier teaching and doctrine. Phases two through four have all abandoned doctrine. Growth in these subsequent phases has been defined in terms of political influence, financial gains, cultural inroads, and population growth; while the underlying religion has been curtailed. Today, marketing the institution has become more important to Mormon success than preserving the original religious content. The changes from phase to phase have completely transformed Mormonism, sharing a vocabulary but redefining the terms. Modern Mormonism has now institutionalized change. For the first time in this book Mormonism is candidly described in terms which track the changes by examining doctrine, teachings and practices. Interestingly, the passing of the heavenly gift was anticipated by Joseph Smith’s prophecies and the Book of Mormon.

While it may be harsh to say that the Church "abandoned doctrine" in phases two through four, I find nothing in the description alone that would hint of apostasy. As a matter of fact, Denver Snuffer has gone out of his way to assure readers that he is neither trying to supersede the General Authorities nor promoting apostasy. Snuffer himself made this abundantly clear in this post:

1. I sustain today’s church leaders as prophets, seers and revelators. The scriptures give them the right to use those titles (D&C 107: 92). They preside, and it is their right to do so. They have our common consent and ought to be upheld by our “confidence, faith and prayers” (D&C 107: 22). I uphold them in this way. They carry heavy burdens and have my sympathy, not my judgment, for any human frailties they display.

2. It is utterly untrue that I have said the church is apostate. I reject the accusation. If the narrative I suggest in PTHG is true, then the Lord’s post-Nauvoo ire is evidence the Lord is still watching over and intends to further His work with the members of this church. Those whom He loves, He chastens. (Heb. 12: 5-11; Helaman 12: 3; D&C 95: 1.) Mine is not a faithless, but a faith filled history. I’ve reiterated this before and reiterate it again. (See my post: The Traditions of Men, Part 1, April 21, 2010.)

Tim Malone has posted another defense of Denver Snuffer on Latter-day Commentary. He notes that if Snuffer is excommunicated, he would have to answer the temple recommend question “Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” for himself with a little bit more thought". Since Denver Snuffer wishes no harm upon the Church, my answer would still be No. Other reaction has been posted on LDS Anarchy and Wheat and Tares, and some comments on Pure Mormonism.

If the LDS Church can excommunicate Denver Snuffer, then Samuel the Lamanite must be thankful he came forth when he did. Could you imagine what would happen if Samuel the Lamanite started crying repentance in downtown Salt Lake today?

1 comment:

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