Monday, September 9, 2013

Denver Snuffer's Disciplinary Council Ends Inconclusively, No Decision Announced; Excommunication Seems Less Likely Now

Update December 10th: Denver Snuffer reports that the First Presidency turned down his appeal and upheld his excommunication.

The stake disciplinary council held for Denver Snuffer on Sunday September 8th, 2013 has ended inconclusively and no decision rendered, according to reports from both Denver Snuffer's blog and the Salt Lake Tribune. The controversy centered around Snuffer's book "Passing The Heavenly Gift", which some Church leaders insisted was an act of apostasy, accusing Snuffer of mischaracterizing doctrine, denigrating virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith, and placing the Church in a negative light.

Brother Snuffer was a bit cryptic in his report. He brought his wife and children to the hearing so they could see that he wasn't being tried for immoral conduct. The stake president, Truman Hunt, was willing to allow his wife into the hearing, but not the children, which provoked a one-hour discussion between Snuffer and Truman Hunt. During the discussion, President Hunt clarified it was only about a book. When Snuffer said he was still worthy of a temple recommend, President Hunt agreed. Snuffer also explicitly bore his testimony to his children, pointing to both President Hunt and his bishop, and telling his children that he sustained them in their positions. But it was the Tribune which definitively stated that no decision was rendered on Sunday night, and so as far as Snuffer knows, he's still a member of the Church in good standing as of this post. Update: Since this post, Denver Snuffer reports that a decision was made, but he has yet to receive the letter revealing it. Update September 11th: Denver Snuffer reports that he has been informed of his excommunication.

LDS Church spokeswoman Ruth Todd provided this response to the Tribune in an email: "Because of the personal nature of church disciplinary matters and to respect the privacy of those involved, we don’t provide information about the proceedings. Church discipline is administered by local leaders who are familiar with the individual and his or her circumstances."

But while Church discipline may be administered by local leaders, it does not preclude "command influence" being applied to local leaders from the top down. A post on the LDS Freedom Forum reveals which General Authorities may have been pushing the inquiry. They cite a March 2013 email from Tim Malone of Latter-day Commentary which states “Snuffer's stake presidency was also leaned on by SLC to ex him. They told SLC to take a flying leap because they knew Snuffer well and knew he wasn't apostate. In fact, until recently, he was on the High Council. Elders Christoffersen and Rasband have been assigned to read all of Snuffer's stuff and get back to the SP later.” This is in reference to Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve and Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Senior President of the Presidency of the Seventy. What was not revealed was WHO assigned Elders Christofferson and Rasband to read Snuffer's writings; such an assignment could only come from someone senior to both of them. This means either Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve, or perhaps the First Presidency itself. In case the LDSFF post is pulled, here's a screenshot:

Prognosis: I now believe that excommunication and/or disfellowshipment has become much less likely. The most likely sanction might be some form of informal probation; Snuffer may be asked to give up his temple recommend for a year. Here's the reason for my optimism:

(1). Inconclusive outcome. Disciplinary councils normally render negative decisions on the same day they are convened. The failure to reach a conclusion indicates the council may have been uncertain about the charges in the first place.

(2). Snuffer maintained a professional Christ-like attitude throughout this ordeal, repeatedly expressing loyalty to the Church and his Priesthood chain of command. He disavowed any intent to become a "One Mighty And Strong".

(3). Snuffer made some attempts to meet them partway, specifically saying that he had no intent to speak about or promote Passing the Heavenly Gift during his upcoming tour which begins in Boise on September 10th.

Update: Turns out I was wrong. Denver Snuffer now reports he has been excommunicated.


Anonymous said...

If they don't go ahead with it they are giving tacit approval to the book. I don't think they can do that, so they will give strong discipline.

Jack Mormon said...

They'd be giving strong discipline to someone who is fully loyal to the Church. As long as Snuffer makes it explicitly clear that his opinions do not necessarily reflect Church doctrine, I don't see why the Church would have a problem with it.

Snuffer is not like the September Six.

Anonymous said...

Right, but since they say the whole thing is because of the book, if they don't act they are giving de-facto endorsement to the book. They won't want to do that. So unless they find a creative way to handle the book problem, they are going to have to discipline the author I think. Strange situation.