The mainstream media has finally picked up on the Denver Snuffer controversy. Peggy Fletcher Stack, who on her best day could never be confused with LDS spokeswoman Ruth Todd, has published a short article in the Salt Lake Tribune that really adds little to existing reports circulating on the Web except to opine that unlike most earlier high-profile cases of church discipline against Mormon intellectuals such as the September Six, Snuffer is no liberal.
The Tribune recorded reaction from both sides. While Snuffer intends to defend himself at the disciplinary council to be chaired by his stake president, Truman Hunt, on Sunday September 8th, he says he fully expects to be excommunicated. "I think [my stake president] has received instructions to do so from downtown [LDS Church headquarters]," Snuffer says. "I believe the decision has already been made to excommunicate me." Snuffer says the outcome will not change his religious behavior. In fact, he continues to rejoice over the fact that he joined the Church in 1973, and he simply wants to alert Latter-day Saints about Joseph Smith’s prophecies on the end times that they are unwittingly fulfilling.
But LDS officials say that church discipline is left to local leaders, and the Tribune cited content from a letter Truman Hunt wrote to Snuffer, stating "I am not anxious to chase people out of the church...My goal is the opposite — to enable all to enjoy the blessings of the gospel." The story has triggered 720 comments so far, most of which are drivel.
Denver Snuffer continues to update us on his blog. In a post entitled "Compliance (So Far As Possible)", he says he can't cease publication of Passing The Heavenly Gift because would involve violation of agreements between him and others, even though the Church offered him money as compensation for potential liability. He also states he never intended to speak or promote Passing the Heavenly Gift during his upcoming tour; he says it has to do with the scriptures and promoting them.
In another post entitled "Contentment", Brother Snuffer vigorously proclaims his continued loyalty to the Gospel and the Church:
Tomorrow [Sept. 8] will not end my love of this restored faith, though it may cost me some "things" that the organized entity claiming to own the faith thinks it can remove. I'm reconciled to that potential loss. But I'm also reconciled to these few truths underlying my faith:
-- God spoke to me BEFORE I joined the LDS church. If He hadn't, I wouldn't have joined.
-- God has continued to speak to me since.
-- Administrative allocation of membership numbers, status and privileges inside an organization don't matter much to God. I know that because I've been the least of the Latter-day Saints and He has taken note of me.
-- God will continue to have fellowship with me.
-- The religion I believe has existed from eternity and will continue into eternity. Therefore, a temporary, corporate organization that is owned by a sole individual, which IS The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints won't survive beyond the veil. There you leave behind your money. You can't buy or sell in that better place. Since I've been there already, the turbulence here is of little moment to me.
-- Souls matter. Yours, mine the living and the dead. God is more compassionate that we are. No matter how serious we take our organizations, our things, the souls of mankind are infinitely more valuable than commerce between ourselves.
-- I have an assignment given to me I intend to discharge. It is because I love God and therefore love His children. It will cost me a great deal to accomplish that. Not only ire of the organization, but the money I will spend to accomplish the task.
-- I am converted. Not to things, but to God. Whatever stuff is taken away, that will remain.
Being that this is an imperfect Church with imperfect human beings, not all excommunications in the past proved to be valid. German LDS member Helmuth Hübener was excommunicated after his arrest by the Gestapo in 1942 for publicly opposing the National Socialist regime which ruled Germany. However, the official who excommunicated him, Arthur Zander, was a fervent member of the NSDAP, even to the extent of affixing notices to the church door stating "Jews not welcome" beginning in 1938. After the end of World War II, when the excesses of the National Socialist regime became fully manifested, the Church posthumously reinstated Hübener in 1946. So it is not impossible for an LDS member to be wrongfully disciplined.
Initially, LDS members primarily took two sides on this issue, with people like Tim Malone vigorously supporting Snuffer, while others, some suspected of being COB (Church Office Building) flaks, portraying Snuffer as an "apostate" (read some of the comments HERE). However, a third position has emerged, as expressed on LDS Alive In Christ. Jared suggests that Denver Snuffer started out well, but may have been deceived with the passage of time. Jared writes:
After reading his first book in 2007 I was excited. I talked with him a couple of times and prayed about his message, I was surprised when I began to feel uneasy, so I decided not to read any of his other books. I took a wait and see attitude. That’s the reason I haven’t read PTHG except for the first chapter. Over the years, I’ve kept up with him by reading others bloggers and reading his blog.
Even though I haven’t read all of his books I know enough about his message to offer a few thoughts on his work. Denver is a gifted researcher and writer. After reading his first book it was evident that he was going to become well known in Mormon circles.
His first book was written in April 2006. Today, Sept 6, 2013, he is on the verge of losing his church membership. Denver changed course from writing faith-supporting books, where now, in his latest book he undermines the credibility of the church and its leaders. To use the words of his Stake President Denver denigrates LDS prophets from Joseph Smith to President Monson.
I am very uncomfortable with the idea of a stake president asking Denver Snuffer to break commitments. This whole sequence may prove to be justified, but the execution is ham-handed.