The common LDS use of the term “familiar spirit” seems to imply a set of ideas that are ungodly because one takes them as truthful merely because someone else has vouched for them…hence you come under their influence due to nepotism, or “familiarity” with the speaker. The original sense of the term dealt with a sorcerer’s supposed familiarity with a spirit or spirits from the beyond, or rather, more precisely, a spirit’s willingness to obey and serve a witch or sorcerer. The LDS definition would be an accurate description of someone’s mindset if the person in question didn’t come to their own conclusions about each and every matter, and just accepted a thought because someone like a “Denver Snuffer” or a “Thomas Monson” said so, becoming in a sense, servants to these men. Further, the implication is that the “spirit”, or set of ideas conveyed, is false and ungodly in its own right. “Ungodly” has a specific set of criteria, or rather, “godly communication”, or “truth”, has a specific set of criteria that establishes the communication as coming from God, proving all other communications as evil or base. Those criteria are plainly discussed in the Lectures on Faith and in the Standard Works.

Furthermore, it is obvious in the scriptures that the priesthood of God has power over devils. The question is, when various workshops for hire crop up to teach how to overcome evil spirits, are the devils in question strong-armed definitively by such efforts (See Mark 3:22-30)? Or, does the devil of all devils laugh at them and play games with their minds, leaving them alone just long enough to convince them that they have some power and authority in these things, only to return and torture and tease them anew (see 2 Nephi 9:37 and Moses 7:26)?

Perhaps unintentionally, the LDS Church promotes sorcery by claiming the temple rites employ ancient techniques of using rich symbolism to teach godly ideas (See Nelson, “Personal Preparation for Temple Blessings”), while offering virtually no support for discovering the meanings of those symbols. Superficial treatments on temple symbology are offered in sanitized and approved books that necessarily avoid discussing off-limit topics such as signs, tokens, key words, and really anything involving the wording in the rituals. Within the temples themselves, a culture of fear prevails masquerading as reverence (stemming from the days the LDS Church was scrutinized by the US Government over their secret temple rites), stifling all discussion about such symbols in places that are ostensibly deemed as the only appropriate venues for such holy conversations (in the beginning of the twentieth century, the LDS Church President stopped all conversations about symbols inside of temples because it was feared the US Government had infiltrated the temples with spies…hasn’t the time for the militaristic oversight passed yet?). Ironically, the Masons foster much more freedom amongst themselves to discuss similar symbology, which promotes an insatiable appetite for learning and strong camaraderie over treasured concepts, even if their rituals are only a degraded remnant of something in the past with many interpolations introduced over the years. So, in absence of even this cementing virtue of brotherly love through rich shared meaning and purpose, the LDS have devolved into a stalemate over the symbols themselves. Russell M. Nelson can say the following about the meaning of the symbols: “Teachings of the temple are beautifully simple and simply beautiful. They are understood by the humble, yet they can excite the intellect of the brightest minds” (Ibid.), because there are no cultural reasons for the leadership to avoid discussing the meanings; yet there are for lay-members, who are sometimes afraid to even ask God about them, or ignorant that there are any intended interpretations at all. Devoid of meaning, the symbols have become venerated in LDS culture as magic talismans that harbor mysterious power over the heavenly hosts, as well as over demonic forces. A simple arm raised to the square while invoking the name of Deity is thought to be the authoritative means by which to cast out evil spirits. In the absence of success with this simpler practice (see Acts 19:13-17), more elaborate rituals are concocted by the foolhardy, who prey upon others who pay money to learn all the extra dance steps involved. Such individuals display a hunger for contact with the divine or other-worldly (a natural impulse to be sure), but they hunger not for righteousness; and, those claiming to “live without a veil” also seemingly live without sense in these matters as well, despite how many legitimate experiences they might have had.

Jesus said the adulterous seek after a sign, but do not get them (except unto damnation, see Matthew 16:4); yet the believing, humble, and penitent souls receive signs constantly at his hand (D&C 68:10). Furthermore, he said that some evil spirits “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Prayer is a two-way communication, as the LDS are wont to say, so it begs the question: what is being communicated by God when the case of casting out an evil spirit is presented before Him? A revelation in the D&C is instructive on this point:

Wherefore, it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus; and if he give not unto you that spirit, then you may know that it is not of God. And it shall be given unto you, power over that spirit; and you shall proclaim against that spirit with a loud voice that it is not of God—Not with railing accusation, that ye be not overcome, neither with boasting nor rejoicing, lest you be seized therewith. He that receiveth of God, let him account it of God; and let him rejoice that he is accounted of God worthy to receive. (D&C 50:31-34).

Symbols have meanings. What is dramatized in an ordinance is not the heart of the matter involved, but merely a symbolic parable of an eternal reality. The eternal reality is not reached unless God reveals it to you (the things of the Spirit are only understood by the Spirit, see 1 Corinthians 2:11). Even if studying things out amongst fellow believers in sacred places is an advisable first step, every individual must learn their meanings from God alone. At that point, the use of a symbol becomes infused with power due to the understanding of the person using it, as that understanding is given to them by God. It becomes an extension of language and thought, and not merely a dance step or ritual. Even still, having trivia knowledge concerning symbolic meanings doesn’t mean a person is capable of acting on God’s behalf indiscriminately. The devils understand many meanings, and have no power with God (see James 2:19). There is no valid substitute for meekness (as in only doing those things the Lord asks, no more and no less) and keeping all the commandments of God, as the means by which to develop power with Him:

Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (D&C 121:45-46).

And, although coming from a second-hand account, I find this reminiscence about Joseph Smith’s interactions amusing:

I recollect a gentleman who came from Canada, and who had been a Methodist, and had always been in the habit of praying to a God who had no ears, and as a matter of course had to shout and halloo pretty loud to make him hear. Father Johnson asked him to pray in their family worship in the evening, and he got on such a high key, and hallooed so loud that he alarmed the whole village. Among others, Joseph came running out, saying, “What is the matter? I thought by the noise that the heavens and the earth were coming together,” and said to the man, “that he ought not to give way to such an enthusiastic spirit, and bray so much like a jackass.” Because Joseph said that, the poor man put back to Canada, and apostatized; he thought he would not pray to a God who did not want to be screamed at with all one’s might. (Ohio Reminiscenses About Joseph Smith).

Speaking about his experiences with the divine, Joseph Smith gave us all reason to pause and consider how dreadful a task it is to represent the Lord, a warning that we take seriously ourselves:

…had I inspiration, Revelation & lungs to communicate what my soul has contemplated in times past there is not a soul in this congregation but would go to their homes & shut their mouths in everlasting silence on religion, till they had learned something. (Funeral Sermon delivered at the Nauvoo temple site on August 13, 1843).

One cannot reemphasize the following passage from Joseph Smith’s letter from Liberty Jail enough:

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity, thou must commune with God. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 137).

That depends on how you define the term.

The LDS people have their own definition of what a prophet is. They use, as their standard, a statement made by one of their church presidents:

The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2., included as a footnote to Official Declaration 1).

They also refer to a parenthetical insertion in verse 7 of the revelation contained in D&C 132, which states:

(…there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred). (D&C 132:7).

They use this reference to tie the role of a prophet to that of the president of their church exclusively, and create a hierarchy of the role that makes all other prophets, including their own apostles and seventies, subordinate to their one true “Prophet”. They suggest that only the president of their church can be a fully active “Prophet”, while all others are either barred from using the gift of prophecy, or are only allowed to use it if it doesn’t contradict the President, or if the use of it is constrained within the confines of their limited roles, callings, or within their own family.

Neither Official Declaration 1, nor the footnotes from addresses made by Wilford Woodruff, have been accepted by the LDS Church as canonized scripture, despite the text being published as appendages within their standard works. Publishing them there, however, has caused the membership to regard those declarations and writings as scripture without officially voting them as such.

There is evidence also that the parenthetical insertion in D&C 132:7 was added later at the request of Brigham Young, but that’s beyond the scope of this post. Instead, simply contrast that parenthetical afterthought with an earlier revelation given by Joseph Smith, where the Lord appoints Hyrum Smith to hold the sealing blessings of the church while Joseph Smith continued to be a prophet to the church:

First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you. I give unto you my servant Joseph to be a presiding elder over all my church, to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet. (D&C 124:124-125).

Despite the plainness of language in the D&C 124 revelation, the LDS have created a complex practice of delegation where “sealers” in LDS temples act only under the authority of the highest ranking priesthood holder in their church. Because of their confusion about the Lord’s intentions for the role as revealed through Joseph Smith, the LDS have projected modern organizational concepts onto past practices, and have convinced themselves that Hyrum and Joseph held roles similar to ones defined today to support their acceptance and interpretation of D&C 132:7 as it stands in their version of the Doctrine and Covenants.

On the other hand, the scriptures outline the role of prophets and their status as the seed of Christ with an important clarification. Abinadi says the prophets are the seed of Christ if they have not fallen into transgression (Mosiah 15:13). So, in Abinadi’s definition, a prophet cannot be permanently considered the seed of Christ until they have finished their course on this earth and have avoided falling into transgression. Denver has agreed with this assessment of the title and its application throughout his writings and lectures:

In my view, the word and the title of “Prophet,” is something hallowed and sacred. Like the name of the Son of God, it is something that ought not to be repeated too often. And I don’t think you can take the measure of a man until he finally lays his life down. How he lays his life down matters in the aggregate, as well. I don’t think someone who fares sumptuously and receives accolades during his lifetime is ever much in a position to understand the rigors of obeying God and the difficulties of being thought as merely a wild man, or preposterous, or everything that you are not. Read Paul’s description of the prophets: “―And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were astoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Heb. 11: 36-38.) If Joseph suffered prison and was slain for the faith he worked to restore, it takes more than we generally give to have the same faith as the ancients. This is why I spoke of Faith in Idaho Falls. The conditions are the same in every dispensation. So when we use the term “Prophet” casually, to me, it seems to take something that ought to be spoken of with a great deal of care and turns it into something like a mere calling card. I find it offensive. I think it cheapens something, and it troubles me. When I think of the word “beloved,” I think of it exclusively in the context of our Savior. “This is my Beloved Son.” The One doing the loving in that context is the Father. This makes the term all the more something to be used with extraordinary delicacy and reserve. When you take those two words and you couple them together (“Beloved Prophet”), my sensibilities are such at this point in my life, that when you use the terms in that manner you are not appealing to me. Instead, you are repulsing me. You are not persuading me, you are offending me. You are not converting me, you are driving me away. I don’t say this to be critical of anyone. I say this because despite everything that I would like to be able to tolerate, despite my best efforts to try and make allowances, there are some things which when I hear, I simply cannot control. My repugnance at the notion that there is one who walks among us, who ought to be called “Beloved Prophet,” is something that I just cannot control. I don’t invite you to join me in that, but I want you to understand that in some respects we talk across a gulf. I say it in part to try to influence those who use the term to be more circumspect. I think the general population would be more persuaded by our missionaries if the terms were used with more caution. I also think applying extraordinary titles are less impressive than having a man preach the truth. If the content of his sermon is prophetic, then everyone can decide for themselves the measure of the messenger.(Denver Snuffer, 40 Years In Mormonism: Zion, p. 24).

Although I can’t find the references now, I remember reading that Joseph Smith and his family often refused the title “Prophet” for Joseph, depending on the context of the use of the title, but either way, in our estimation, he certainly earned the title at his martyrdom. On the other hand, Balaam had the spirit of prophecy and spoke with the Lord (Numbers 22-25), and prophesied true prophecies concerning Shiloh (Numbers 24:15-19), but he was not considered the seed of Christ. Peter described Balaam as someone who proved to love the wages of unrighteousness as opposed to being a true prophet (see 2 Peter 2:15).

Despite Denver and Joseph’s hesitancy to apply the title to themselves, the scriptures use the term “prophet” more generally, as in the Lord’s parable about fruits of true versus false prophets (3 Nephi 14:15-20). The Old Testament even provides us this advice for testing each and every saying from a prophet:

And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. (Numbers 18:21-22).

And the Lord Himself defines the limited role of a prophet by contrasting their function to Moses’ role at the time:

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? (Numbers 12:6-8).

Yet, we often want absolutes and fail-safes. The LDS Church uses the term “Prophet” with the implication that they are incapable of falling into transgression, or at least incapable of transgressing to the point of losing their favored status. So in effect, they believe their prophets qualify for Abinadi’s final definition of who can be called the seed of Christ, while denying Abinadi’s clause about their ability to fall into damning transgression.

For sake of brevity, let’s say the LDS use the term “Prophet” with a capital “P”, meaning someone who earns the title indefinitely, who is protected from falling. And, let’s say “prophet” with a lowercase “p” means anyone who exhibits the gift of prophecy, who might lose or re-gain the gift as time goes on, according to their righteousness. Moses hoped we all could be called “prophets” among equals (Numbers 11:29), so Moses’ use of the word in that instance would be “prophet” with a lowercase “p”.

The LDS have applied a near-permanent status for the term “Prophet”, and consider it the role of their sitting president while he is living. Perhaps to avoid the baggage that goes along with the term, Denver Snuffer has avoided calling himself that kind of “Prophet”. But, if we were using the “prophet among equals” term, perhaps Denver would agree to the designation. This might be what he meant when he said:

Do I consider myself “a prophet?” The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. (Revelation 19: 10.) I have the testimony of Jesus. (Denver Snuffer, Clearing Off Some Pending Questions).

The LDS don’t use the term “prophet” like Moses did, so it seems better not to confuse Denver with the LDS version of “Prophet”, which is more like the term “Pope”, and for which the LDS have all sorts of confusion about. “Servant” seems more fitting for a title for Denver. Despite outside speculation, Denver Snuffer also categorically rejects the title of “the One Mighty and Strong” (see Denver Snuffer, Preserving the Restoration, pp. 403-404). There are too many references in his writings to worry about defending on that point.

Regardless, one of the big debates surrounding Denver is the claim that he said if you disagree with him you will be damned. The alleged source for this claim is the transcript of Denver’s 10th talk in Mesa, but a word search for “damned” or “damn” only produces a reference to Joseph Smith talking about John the Baptist and to the scripture in 3 Nephi 11 where one is damned for not listening to the Lord’s command to be baptized. In that talk, Denver did say the following, however:

I have never said this publicly, but because of what I think will ensue after this talk I am going to say it, not for my sake, and certainly not for the sake of anyone who believes the truth or who has the Spirit, but I say it only to benefit those who may view things completely otherwise. The Lord has said to me in His own voice, ‘I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you.’ Therefore, I want to caution those who disagree with me, to feel free, to feel absolutely free to make the case against what I say. Feel free to disagree, and make your contrary arguments. If you believe I err, then expose the error and denounce it. But take care; take care about what you say concerning me for your sake, not for mine. I live with constant criticism. I can take it. But I do not want you provoking Divine ire by unfortunately chosen words if I can persuade you against it. (Denver Snuffer, 40 Years in Mormonism: Preserving the Restoration, p. 4).

Whether or not anyone believes that the Lord actually said that to him is besides the point. In this quote, Denver says to feel free to disagree with him, contradicting the common claim against him mentioned above.

Others have issues with how Denver Snuffer expounds scriptures, such as when he learns more and updates his views on tangential topics like polygamy (but it should be noted, he has been against it throughout), or when he suggests non-traditional interpretations of old passages. Their problems stem from the idea that it is the role of a prophet to speak in absolutes at all times, and that he must be as knowledgable as the God he has met and/or talked with. Because of the glaring absence of this absolute in the scriptures (besides the footnotes that the the LDS reference from Wilford Woodruff above), this argument is weak. True prophets often challenge a culture steeped in degraded traditions, and their arguments resist popular opinions and interpretations. If we take John the Baptist as an example of proper expounding, the record shows that he taught things very similar to the Sermon on the Mount, which was radical in his day for suggesting what the true intent of the Law of Moses was on all of the commandments he covered (see Luke 3). It appears the Lord honored John’s “wild” expounding by making it a large part of His central teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, showing that He, the Lord, had the same mind as John on the subjects that he expounded on. Concerning the relationship between the mind of God and the spirit of prophecy manifested by the prophets when they appropriately expound on scripture, it is enough to understand the following quote from the Lord in Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Because of Denver Snuffer’s exposition on the scriptures and his sharing of the spirit of prophecy given to him, some who fellowship together in the way Denver has suggested can’t help but call him a “Prophet” with a capital “P”. This may be zeal without knowledge. It is certainly an impulse that is carried over from LDS culture. As LDS, we have done the same to LDS General Conference addresses and the speakers there, and it is easy enough to see that some are just doing the same to Denver now, despite Denver’s repeated rejection of that type of adulation. When the Lord has given Denver Snuffer or any other prophet something with which to expound on, it should be evident enough to those who know the voice of the Good Shepherd, but how well Denver or anyone else relays that content in their weak state as mortals remains to be seen by the test of time. Many do not consider it possible that a true prophet could make the following claim about their teachings (which again stems from their assertion that a prophet must be infallible, which is, as we have seen, a false premise):

Although what I say this evening represents my current thinking on the material, I could not have given this talk ten years ago. Nor do I expect that ten years from now I would give the same talk. My understanding changes over time, and this is a snapshot of my understanding taken from a moving picture. I hope it is useful to you. (Denver Snuffer, A Talk About the First Three Words Spoken Spoken By The Players In the Endowment, p. 1).

Unless they are quoting the Lord directly (for instance, Denver has proven he intends to portray even the bad grammar the Lord condescends to use, when he corrected the record after mis-quoting one word from the Lord once, see 40 Years In Mormonism: Christ, p. 6), we have to rely upon Denver or any other prophet to accurately convey the information they have been given when they put things into their own words, and teaching is a much more difficult task than one might think. We call the Lord the “Master Teacher” because the rest of us are quite sub-par in this category, including all the prophets and all current servants. Denver seems to rely on the scriptures a lot to avoid the disconnect, and invites us to get the original message for ourselves from the Lord, unsullied, and pure. We have probably read James 1:5 by now, and have hopefully become aware of the benefits, as well as the limitations, of scriptures and messages through messengers, which only cause us to “think” we have eternal life (see John 5:39). If Denver doesn’t portray the content the Lord has provided for him correctly, he says the Holy Ghost will be the last witness to determine that for you:

First, I explained in everything I’ve written, beginning with The Second Comforter, that it is the role of the Holy Ghost to prepare and bring us to Christ. Without the Holy Ghost we cannot come to Christ. Further, in that same book I acknowledged the Holy Ghost’s foundational role by telling the reader that they must receive a witness from the Holy Ghost as they read the book or they do not have the required two witnesses. Without the Holy Ghost’s ratifying confirmation, I tell the reader to discard what I’ve written. Far from denegrating the Holy Ghost’s role, I have made it a central part of the process, without it no person can come unto Christ. (http://denversnuffer.com/2011/09/response-to-question/).

For myself, I have attended almost every lecture of his 40 Years Series, re-read the transcripts, and read the book “Preserving the Restoration” which removes the personal anecdotes and focuses on the scriptures and the interpretations. I’ve made myself a personal index of all the claims I find important, and I’ve asked the Lord if he vouches for Denver as His servant and if the course the lectures outline for us to pursue to preserve the restoration is pleasing to His will, after experimenting upon it for over a year now, and longer if you count prior books. I have heard from the Lord that it is pleasing to Him, and Denver is an authorized servant. As far as Denver’s mistakes and updates on historical facts, (especially considering that all of us are subject to sources that have been tampered with as an LDS cover-up until the more recent Joseph Smith Papers project has exposed the original record more), “if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ” (Book of Mormon title page, and see http://denversnuffer.com/2014/05/damned-again/). If anyone searches Denver’s claims as seriously as they hope an investigator would search the Book of Mormon, they could know the same thing. If the Holy Ghost doesn’t confirm it, discard it. But, if you take a lazy approach, and make a man an offender for a word even after a long reading session mixed with skimming, and don’t experiment and sacrifice to learn about it, then you may not have given it a fair shake. You might end up like the CES instructor that finds contradictions all over the scriptures and has given up his faith in God, saying about the contradictions, in effect, “They can’t be explained.”

We’ll close with just one final note about what fruit to be looking for in a true prophet: Joseph Smith possessed the principle of love, and gathered many Saints, and to this day, even though the LDS Church is in apostasy, the LDS are good hearted, virtuous people. Perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the Book of Mormon is the fruit of the ancient Nephite and Lamanite prophets, while Joseph Smith’s fruit is his own labor of love for Christ and His people. That is Joseph’s fruit. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That is how Christ identified his disciples, as those who love one another (John 13:34). Even the RLDS are great folks. The Fundamentalists are not short on their own virtues as well, and even though they are largely Brigham Young’s fruit, many are opening up to the Lord’s word through Joseph Smith instead because of their good hearts, as they discover Brigham’s mistakes in representing what Joseph Smith said. It is those who practice priest-craft in any of the off-shoots who have become hardened. However, those who have taken the message of the true prophets to look to Christ have become Christ’s fruit, who loves us all (see Mosiah 15:10-12). No one “follows” Denver without suffering the same fate as those who follow any man (see 2 Nephi 4:34). The scriptures speak for themselves and Denver is not very important beyond a certain level. With God’s approval, we can all preach and teach like John the Baptist, correct ourselves when we learn more truth, and move on in faith. Besides, the meekness characteristic of a prophet compels them to guard their words carefully so as not to take the name of the Lord in vain, and to establish when they are speaking opinions or provoking inquiry and thought. Casual perusal of Denver’s writings clearly evidences this pattern of meekness. We ought to be careful not to become accusers, which is Satan’s role. Errors in doctrine may be discussed and corrected, but a man’s character ought not to be questioned except by positive evidence of misconduct.

A priesthood holder has authority to do whatever God commands, and any ordinance when commanded, except they can’t do any ordinance on behalf of the LDS Church unless they have an office in that Church (see our posts herehere and here). The fruits are the improved lives of the people, as opposed to a Pharisaical evidence-test that a prophet teaches completely without error. Because of a fear of making mistakes in teaching, the LDS correlate everything and demand compliance. As a consequence, outsiders are often nicer to them than they are to themselves. There are none who dare to molest or make afraid in their congregations. A true prophet, on the other hand, possesses the principle of love, and a pure love of Christ, and adherence, as a minimum, to the doctrine of Christ in 3 Nephi 11. But, true prophets are also fallible men, and they may make many teaching errors when exploring the vast resource of knowledge which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Smith said the following concerning an excommunication trial drummed up against an elder with strange interpretations of the book of Revelation:

I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 5:340).

And, Joseph Smith said the following about relying on a prophet too much leading to a darkened mind:

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43, p.237).

Any casual observer of LDS General Conferences can see that General Authorities make as many teaching errors as LDS lay members do in their congregations. If perfect teaching were the standard, then all General Authorities ought to be excommunicated for saying they are prophets and teaching errors. As for Denver Snuffer, we rejoice when God condescends to use a servant to expound the true meaning of the scriptures revealed in our day as the Standard Works, and pray to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

A great article on the topic of the role of a prophet is by Robert Sonntag, and is well worth the read: What is a Prophet – 10.30.2014.

That depends. In many cases in today’s circumstances, no you will not.

Excommunication is an ordinance just like any other. In the Book of Mormon, the ordinance consisted of blotting out the names of those who would not confess their sins, and baptizing or re-baptizing those who confessed and returned again (see Mosiah 26). Since these actions are performed by ordinances, that means that excommunication and reinstatement through re-baptism take abstract intangible concepts and spiritual realities, and put them into physical rites by the use of symbolism. Being cut off from your community, after a church trial and conviction, is a type or symbol of being cut off from the presence of the Lord, or being cursed so as to be unable to achieve redemption for a time, and to be barred from seeing the Second Comforter. A revealed pattern for conducting the trial is contained in D&C 42 and D&C 102. The scriptures describe excommunication like so: “Inasmuch as ye are cut off for transgression, ye cannot escape the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption” (D&C 104:9; see also D&C 78:12, D&C 82:21, and D&C 132:26).

In connection with excommunication being an ordinance, D&C 132 outlines how the Lord validates any action claimed to be performed by His priesthood:

And verily I say unto you, that the conditions of this law are these: All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power (and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead. D&C 132:7.

Therefore, it follows that excommunication is only valid if it is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. Excommunication must be done in righteousness, or else it is an abomination on the part of the leaders who so take the name of the Lord in vain by falsely accusing and convicting innocent members. A faulty excommunication would be as bad as baptizing little children (see Moroni 8). Perhaps the Lord’s exclamation would be fitting for those who so profane his name: “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones” (Luke 17:2).

In fact, the Lord is more explicit in section 121 (and consider that “anointed” has no reference to general authorities in particular at all, but to any person upon whom the Lord has poured out His spirit because of their innocence and sincerity in believing His word; and meaning none of the general authorities unless they, too, have had His spirit poured out upon them, since a physical anointing is meaningless unless it, too, is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise):

Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves. And those who swear falsely against my servants, that they might bring them into bondage and death—Wo unto them; because they have offended my little ones they shall be severed from the ordinances of mine house. Their basket shall not be full, their houses and their barns shall perish, and they themselves shall be despised by those that flattered them. They shall not have right to the priesthood, nor their posterity after them from generation to generation. It had been better for them that a millstone had been hanged about their necks, and they drowned in the depth of the sea. Wo unto all those that discomfort my people, and drive, and murder, and testify against them, saith the Lord of Hosts; a generation of vipers shall not escape the damnation of hell. D&C 121:16-23.

Ironically, the LDS do not believe that it is necessary to achieve an audience with the resurrected Lord in this life anymore, so the very ordinance they claim to have power to perform (see D&C 104:10) to cut people off from this possibility, has lost its symbolic meaning for them.

The Lord always has had veto power for all of the acts said to be done in his name. Furthermore, when a church loses it’s divine commission, excommunications from that institution become meaningless all the more.

If you are facing excommunication, or have been excommunicated by the LDS Church, how can you tell if you have really deserved that kind of treatment or not? In other words, how can you tell if the Holy Spirit of Promise has sealed a curse upon you because of sin, or how can you tell if someone you know has been excommunicated for the right reasons?

It all depends upon the manner of life that you or they live. King Benjamin said, “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith of what ye have heard concerning the coming of our Lord, even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember, and perish not” (Mosiah 4:30).

You shall know by the fruits of the Spirit, or absence of those fruits…Lehi observed that Laman and Lemuel were being excommunicated by the Lord Himself, as he feared they would be cut off from the presence of the Lord:

My heart hath been weighed down with sorrow from time to time, for I have feared, lest for the hardness of your hearts the Lord your God should come out in the fulness of his wrath upon you, that ye be cut off and destroyed forever; Or, that a cursing should come upon you for the space of many generations; and ye are visited by sword, and by famine, and are hated, and are led according to the will and captivity of the devil. O my sons, that these things might not come upon you, but that ye might be a choice and a favored people of the Lord. But behold, his will be done; for his ways are righteousness forever. 2 Nephi 1:17-19.

Thankfully, it appears the Lord spared Lehi from performing the ordinance of excommunication for his own sons, but suffered Lehi to merely prophesy about it, and performed the excommunications Himself. In all cases of legitimate excommunication, it is the Lord who finalizes the act anyway.

Those who are legitimately excommunicated do not watch their thoughts, words, or deeds anymore; they do not observe the commandments of God such as the Ten Commandments; they do not continue in the faith of what they have heard concerning the coming of the Lord, nor of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Prophet Joseph Smith. In a word, they perish. And, as the Book of Mormon points out about the early stages of apostasy: they “dwindle in unbelief”. (This has nothing to do with disbelieving general authorities, and has everything to do with disbelieving scriptures and the Lord. We have gone over the difference in past posts such as this one, but on with the current subject…).

On the other hand, no matter how many people believe someone has been excommunicated legitimately, and no matter how much they may not like that person; or even, no matter how much they believe their leaders’ excommunication decisions are correct and honored by God, if the person who has been excommunicated has done no wrong according to the scriptures, and if they keep the commandments, and continue in the faith they have received, it is more likely that the LDS Church has lifted up their heel against one of the Lord’s anointed, and cried they have sinned when they have not sinned before the Lord. The Lord will not honor such gross misapplications of His “courts of love”, but will instead, according to His word (see 1 Samuel 2:30), honor the person who was unjustly persecuted and shamed by the priestcraft of false leaders (see also 3 Nephi 12:10-12, as well other scriptural examples that are just too numerous to list, such as the Lord’s whole mortal ministry in the New Testament, and the Acts of the Apostles, and the beginning of the Book of Mormon, and all the prophets in the Old Testament who fought against the established “Church” of their day).

Temple blessings and baptismal covenants are untouched and in force in such cases of false excommunication. Who cannot see the logic in this? Little children can understand as much. Fear not. If you are excommunicated or are about to be, ask yourself, “Do I still have faith?” If so, then as Gordon B. Hinckley used to say, “Go forward in faith,” and continue to enjoy the blessings that a just God will never remove from those who are condemned by false brethren.

 

 

 

Generally speaking, yes. The Lord’s baptism as outlined in 3 Nephi 11 has no conditions against it.

The obvious contradiction would be joining a religion that is openly against Christ and his doctrine to the point you feel it would be counter-productive to your own faith and belief. You may decide on your own what the appropriate particulars are on that, but it is in the spirit of the Book of Mormon to serve others and then you will be in the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17).

Consider the example of Ammon (Alma chapters 17-20), who submitted himself to be a servant of a Lamanite king who supported an apostate system of beliefs. Ammon was able to believe as he wished and yet be willing “to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die” (Alma 17:23), even while considering, “the baseness of the traditions of their fathers, which were not correct” (Alma 17:9). Because of the incorrect traditions of the Lamanites, the Lord told Ammon, “ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me” (Alma 17:10).

You may hear the call of your Lord to serve among the Catholics, any of the Protestant denominations, or the Evangelicals; the Muslims, the Jews, the Baha’i’s, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Amish, the RLDS, or stay LDS, or serve in the Mormon Christian fellowships, or others.

Interestingly, the LDS Church used to (and may still) include as part of their definition of apostasy to “Formally join another church” (See p. 110 at https://file.wikileaks.org/file/mormon-handbook-of-instructions-2006.pdf ). So, if you are LDS, you may be subject to excommunication and being branded as an apostate if you join another church simultaneously.

But again, consider that you just may be considered in good company with the likes of Ammon, and Aaron, and Omner, and Himni, who served among the apostate Lamanites.

Within the other religions, you doubtless will face opposition with false creeds and requirements that challenge your commitment to the doctrine of Christ; but it is a “big brother” attitude, and falsely condemning, for the LDS Church to assume that its members are too immature in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be able to face those challenges resolutely if they were also members of other churches. As we see with Ammon, there are legitimate, Christ-centered reasons to serve others by becoming one of them. After all, God came among us as one of us. Simply put, it is NOT apostasy to formally join another church. As Jesus said, be as wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove (see Matthew 10:16).

Yes, you can.

It has been reported that Handbook 1(reserved only for use by Priesthood leaders, changed frequently, and not available for public consumption), Section 6.7.3, reads as follows concerning the LDS Church’s definition of apostasy:

[A]postasy refers to members who:

1. Repeatedly act in clear open and deliberate public opposition to the church or it’s leaders.
2. Persist in teaching as church doctrine information that is not church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or higher authority.
3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those who advocate plural marriage) after they have been corrected by their bishop or higher authority.
4. Formally join another church or advocate it’s teachings.
(see article here and here)

Many leaders interpret this to mean that no ordinance may be done without sanction from LDS priesthood authorities. Our various posts have proved, according to the scriptures, that such an interpretation of this policy is against Christ’s teachings, and that the definition of apostasy listed above contradicts the scriptural definition of apostasy (see Mosiah 26:36; Alma 6:3; and Moroni 6:7). The LDS Church does not have a monopoly on righteous priesthood use (see here). When they insist on such a notion, they prove they are exercising “unrighteous dominion” (D&C 121:39), since they only have jurisdiction on who performs Priesthood ordinances within official Church meetings only.

Because of the persistence of this overreach, and for other reasons we’ve outlined (see here), the LDS Church has lost all rights to claim it is collectively led by the Priesthood of God. They have a fellowship among themselves, but to use scriptural language, they have cut themselves off from the presence of the Lord (2 Nephi 5:20) inasmuch as they have rejected his servants, the prophets (D&C 124:8), the chief among those they have rejected being Joseph Smith and the Lord’s teachings through him in their own scriptures (D&C 64:39). They shall be their own condemners out of their own mouths. Joseph Smith described such a situation as the definition of hell:

The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers. (History of the Church, 5:425; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on June 11, 1843, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards)

A man is his own tormentor and his own condemner. Hence the saying, They shall go into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone [see Revelation 21:8]. The torment of disappointment in the mind of man is as exquisite as a lake burning with fire and brimstone. I say, so is the torment of man. (History of the Church, 6:314, 317; punctuation modernized; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on Apr. 7, 1844, in Nauvoo, Illinois; reported by Wilford Woodruff, Willard Richards, Thomas Bullock, and William Clayton.)

They certainly can.

See this post here. There isn’t a better summary we could come up with about the dangers study groups can present.

Yet, there are legitimate reasons to gather outside of church that can be uplifting and serve God’s purposes.

Assembling together in conferences outside of church allows for:

  • Fellowshipping on the doctrine of Christ,
  • Studying the scriptures in fellowships and families,
  • Teaching as opposed to debating,
  • Performing Priesthood ordinances such as Sacrament and Baptism (see here and here and here), and
  • Serving others and sharing our means to relieve the poor.

As long as the group doesn’t replace our individual duties to study things out on our own and gain salvation from God on our own, groups can be a source of inspiration and fellowship. Without a group, we cannot bare one anothers’ burdens and mourn with those that mourn (Mosiah 18:8-10). These group meetings do not have to be within church meetings alone. And, just because getting together as a group outside of church has its pitfalls, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done in the right way as well. Close friends and family can and often do worship together in righteousness (Matthew 18:20), without regards to LDS Church jurisdictional constraints.

To find such a fellowship or learn how to start your own, see here. A link to the fellowship locator will remain in the sidebar as well. A fellowship that does not encourage apostasy from the Lord cannot be called an apostate group (for a scriptural definition of apostasy, see Mosiah 35). However, some LDS Church leaders mistakenly equate disagreement with the ever-changing church handbook of instructions to be equivalent to apostasy, so beware of such leaders should you wish to also meet with a fellowship.

Members for years have sustained General Authorities without question. It makes you wonder sometimes if the alternative is too scary to consider: living during an apostasy. We have all heard the horror stories of the Catholic Church and the Inquisition, and as Americans, our blood boils when we think of the American Revolution and what might have been were we not successful in casting off the shackles of kingdoms and their oppressors, but when it comes to the LDS Church, ironically we are often like lemmings walking off of the cliff as we follow the leader.

Is it possible to live to God if there is no formal Church institution that God recognizes as His own? That is the very question righteous souls would’ve faced during what the LDS have called “The Great Apostasy”, defined roughly as some period after the death of Christ’s apostles all the way until Joseph Smith was called on the scene to restore the Gospel. “The Great Apostasy” is a theme that is central to the concept of the Restoration, since there would be nothing to restore had there not first been an apostasy from the truth. We are very keen to not want something like that to reoccur.

However, in our fervor to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again, have we added teachings to the Gospel that actually come from evil (3 Nephi 11:40)? Have we assured ourselves that such a terrible event is impossible this time around; especially since we are now so painfully aware of the great one that we think we’ve fully recovered from? In our franticness, have we resurrected the very beast we have feared (Rev. 13:3)?

As painful as it might seem, the natural man always has been and always will be an enemy to God (Mosiah 3:19), and his addictions resurface time and again. We are not immune from the problems of the past.

So, assuming that an apostasy is possible again, and hypothetically accepting the idea that one has happened again (and that it’s the Church that is doing the apostatizing this time, and not individuals, just like in the Great Apostasy), how does one live in such circumstances? How does one cope with realizing that all chapels, temples, programs, leaders, and efforts, on the large scale are vain and slated for being discarded by the Lord, if not already rejected by Him? (In contrast, the “small scale” would be defined as limited usefulness to programs where virtue is still to be found…some of the Reformers actually remained Catholic, for instance). What about all of that effort building those pyramids today, if they are destined to be ancient artifacts tomorrow? How does one get married for time and eternity, and not just until death do you part, if there is no sealing commission in the LDS Church anymore? How does one receive or perform any authoritative ordinances? How does one worship God? Some of these posts have or will tackle these issues, but in general, what do you do?

What has John the Beloved, who has tarried since Christ’s time, done all these years (see D&C 7)? Especially when there were no congregations for him to attend?

The Lord gave the answer to John when he said his mission would be sweet to his taste (free from the pains and sicknesses of this life), but bitter in his belly (sorrow for the sins of the world; anciently the belly was considered the area from which compassion sprung, because we all can relate to the pangs of hunger) (Rev. 10:9-10). In this description lies the key and answer: it is to mourn for the sins of the world. That is all we can do sometimes. Let it break your heart, and don’t harden your heart (Alma 12:10-13). Cry a little, unto the Lord (Ether 1:37). (Maybe they should make that into a t-shirt at Deseret Book).

In all candor, we hope you will see a pattern throughout these posts, that all of these answers are found within the scriptures. And, not just in catch-phrases from them, but in the real context to be found from diligent labor and searching. We can’t provide all of the answers, and don’t intend to try, but we intend to at least point to the Lord’s words and call attention to some important questions and the fact that there are answers and there is hope.