I’ll start out by saying that I’m a skeptic. The combination of my skepticism, an in-depth study of the restoration, a disillusionment with the current practices of LDS.inc, and an exacting application of Occam’s Razor resulted in the ultimate demise of my faith in the literal restoration of the LDS church over a year ago. As such, I’ll just point out right from the start that I am not one who relates with Denver Snuffer’s teachings or movement. I still care about Mormonism in general, however, and want to see it move forward in positive ways–so I asked myself if Denver Snuffer could part of the equation that can make that happen. After learning more about his most recent offerings, my interest is piqued in who he is as a person and what he’s currently achieving. I feel like not too many people are fully aware of him, especially of his most recent revelations and call to arms, so I figured I’d write up a blog post about it for those who are interested.
Denver Snuffer lives in Utah and has authored several books about Mormon history and communicating with Christ. My overview here will be brief, but for further insight and back story–Mr. Snuffer’s Mormon Story can be heard here and his personal blog is here. His most controversial books are The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil and Passing the Heavenly Gift, in which he speaks about being visited by Christ. I have not read his books, but I have seen hundreds of reviews for his work and have read dozens of personal testimonies online of how life-changing his books have been for his readers. The common theme I have sensed is that for many people who felt like they needed to leave Mormonism all together or were losing faith/hope in the divine as a whole–Snuffer’s books buoyed them back into belief in both God, Christ, and the restoration. He was excommunicated from the LDS church in October of 2013 for refusing to cease publication of Passing the Heavenly Gift.
That was the last I had really heard about Denver Snuffer. It has recently come to my attention, however, that he has been very busy! The visitation(s) referenced in his books seem to have been ongoing. He has been speaking publicly (a series of 10 public lectures *click here for full transcripts*, the most recent was this last week) and gaining sympathizers. I say the word sympathizer simply because I’m lacking a more accurate word. Kindred folk? Cohorts? I don’t know… it’s hard to explain. Denver isn’t seeking followers and he rebuffs the idea of being a leader. Those who are “following him” aren’t claiming to follow Denver at all, nor are they recognizing him as a prophet–but instead as equal brothers and sisters who are hearing the Lord’s call for restoration and are seeking to build Zion together.
For a quick summation of how Denver Snuffer views himself and what he’s doing, here’s an excerpt from his most recent blog post:
I have never claimed, in public or private, to be anything other than a weak and foolish man.
The notion that I think I am anything other than that repulses me.
For years I have said that until someone actually accomplishes something, they have no right to claim they are something great or wonderful, that they fulfill prophecy, or are God’s chosen anything.
Nobody has accomplished anything since Joseph Smith. There is a great hill to climb. Until someone climbs it and serves to guide others, we are left with pretenders, ego-maniacs, fools, impostors and villains. (1)
As for his view of if he’s seeking to start a new church, these are his words:
Likewise, we need to have a renewed community. Not an organization, but a fellowship. Not a hierarchy, but a group of equals. The community needs to be renewed. Men who have been ordained already, should renew this in the manner just described in the example of Alma. Have a community of believers. Be accepted by them. But before acting, ask God to pour out His Spirit to give power. (2)
So for clarity, Denver Snuffer does not claim to be a prophet, nor is he creating a new church. He is not seeking personal followers either. He simply sees that the current church is a far cry from what it once was, knows that Zion has yet to be established, and he feels that the current church is so caught up in worshiping “the brethren” and making investments that he has been asked by the Lord to shift Mormonism back on track to a pure following of Christ’s more simple message. He cites the Book of Mormon’s prophecies of the end of days to rather aptly accuse the current church of corruption and a form of apostasy. The community he is fostering is simply seeking a grass roots restoration of foundational Mormonism, and they believe that Denver Snuffer is receiving direction from the Lord as to how this should be accomplished. How this strictly differs from the current definition of prophet or church is kind of muddled to me, but it seems that Mr. Snuffer and those associated with him want to make this distinction quite clear. It makes perfect sense to them and that’s all that matters.
There are many, many interesting things going on with Denver Snuffer’s teachings, but this is a short blog post so I’ll just focus in on some key things I find to be distinct. For instance, Denver Snuffer has gained insight from the Lord about women and the Priesthood:
In my disgust and personal preference, I asked the Lord that priesthood get extended beyond the confines of the men who have continually abused and neglected it. I was told that priesthood is confined to men because of the Fall and the conditions ordained by God at that time.
Until we reverse things in the Millennium, that is the way it is going to remain, as to the ordinances thus far given in public. I asked the Lord to change that order. It is not going to change. I then asked the Lord that if only men were to hold priesthood for our public ordinances, then could only women vote to sustain them. The saying pleased the Lord, for it was already in His heart. But He said to me: “There shall be a minimum of seven women to sustain the man in any vote, and if the man is married, his wife shall be one of them.”
Here is how I would proceed. Even though I have already been ordained, a community needs to recognize I am authorized before I proceed further. However, given the fact men have abused and neglected the priesthood that they have been given, and given the fact that if men are only going to hold the priesthood, that there ought to be some independent check. Therefore when it comes to sustaining me, or any of you, to perform in a priesthood capacity in any renewed community, only women should vote. No man should be allowed to vote to sustain another priesthood holder, period. If only men hold it, then only women should sustain them. I have a wife and six daughters. Therefore I have a community. Jethro had seven daughters.
For any of you who would like to renew your fellowship, call a conference. In your conferences attended by a minimum of seven women, at least seven women must vote to sustain one to be a priest to the community. When that is done, all seven who vote to sustain should sign a certificate. If you look at the Joseph Smith Papers there were certificates given in the early church. These were just handwritten things so there was a written authorization to function in the church. Among your own fellowships, do like they did in the early church. Do as they did, but let the fellowships now respect a balance between the obligations of the men and the rights of the women. If the man is married, his wife must be among the seven women. If his wife will not sustain him, he is unworthy to provide priesthood service in the fellowship. Of course that does not bar him from continuing to do so in the LDS Church. Nor would it bar him from being in fellowship with both. (2)
What I find interesting is that OW has been asking for revelation on women for over a year now and never, at no point in time has the Prophet Thomas S. Monson even remotely mentioned bringing this before the Lord personally, nor has he claimed to have been given any additional insight concerning women from the Lord. At best we have gotten Elder Oaks quoting Joseph Fielding Smith and J. Reuben Clark as his official references for why women are “appendages” of the priesthood but will never hold it. Never mind the fact that both Joseph Fielding Smith and J. Reuben Clark erroneously supported and taught of the divine nature and providence behind the ban on black people holding the Priesthood for 150 years (which the church now entirely disavows). Did I mention that J. Reuben Clark was famous for ensuring that the Utah blood banks were free of “negro blood” so that those upstanding, white, male priesthood holders’ authority wouldn’t be voided by a blood transfusion with mixed-race bloods? (3) These are the men that Oaks quoted in his most recent talk on the Priesthood. What does Denver Snuffer do? He asks Christ himself and gives Christ’s direct, unfiltered answer. I don’t have a clue if he is actually communing with Christ or not and I also find this “revelation” to be problematic in several ways–but I honestly really like Snuffer’s moxie here; at least he’s asking directly and standing by the answer.
Other key points Snuffer is honing in on are the following:
- Use tithing to help the poor and needy above all else, also it should not be given to priests first but directly to the poor.
- The current LDS church has lost its authority (he cites this officially happened in April of 2014) due to abusing it and being corrupt. In the same way that John the Baptist ended the established hierarchy of Jesus’s time and a renewed authority was established, the Lord is doing so again in the restored church. (TPJS, p. 276: [John the Baptist] wrested the keys, the kingdom, the power, the glory from the Jews, by the holy anointing and decree of heaven). I can’t quite tell if Snuffer believes that HE has wrested this authority? Or if that’s in the works? Or if perhaps all of us can wrest our own authority in the “pattern of God” revealed/instructed by Snuffer.
- Church meetings should not be three-hour-long blocks of correlated, standardized teachings authorized by Deseret Publishing. Instead believers should meet together, read the scriptures, uplift one another, and pray.
- Buildings are not necessary for meetings of fellowships. The money that could be spend on buildings should be used to aid the poor.
- A temple will be built at some point in the future, where a record of baptisms for the dead will be kept (not much more was said on the subject than that).
- Christ’s church needs no hierarchy, it should be an egalitarian community of believers.
- Taking the sacrament shouldn’t ever be denied anyone for any reason. Doing so for disciplinary actions is offensive and wrong.
- Baptisms should be done in living water whenever possible.
He insists all baptisms must be redone as commitments to Christ himself rather than a co-opted commitment to Christ and the LDS church (as he currently views LDS baptisms). They also need to be redone to have the right authority and wording. The wording that should be used should reflect the words Christ gives in 3rd Nephi, 11:” Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” This is different than the current wording “Having been commissioned of Christ…”
In light of these more recent teachings, when Denver Snuffer is discussed in most circles of Mormonism–the overwhelming reaction has seemed to be “That dude is nutty as squirrel poo”. Many who were sympathetic during his excommunication are now thinking he might be completely insane. Or perhaps he is a power hungry fraud. Why do people infer this? Because he claims to be actively speaking for Christ and we simply aren’t used to that.
While I understand the kickback of thinking the guy is bonkers–I can’t help but note the ridiculous hypocrisy here. Are we not all Mormons? Have we not dedicated the majority of our lives to a church started by a man who… saw that the current organized churches had missed the mark and a restoration was needed? Who was an unqualified boy who had several divine visitations? Who gave Christ-authorized revelations nearly daily during his tenure as prophet and spoke as Christ in first person often? Joseph Smith received revelation about even the most mundane aspects of life–so why can we not believe that Christ would speak to Denver Snuffer for some grass roots insight? Do we truly not believe that we are all able to commune with Christ? Why is it so much easier to believe that Joseph Smith spoke with a series of spirits and Christ and God but our first reaction to Denver Snuffer is that he’s completely batty? I think the most probable answers here are simple: confirmation bias and/or herd mentality.
The truth is, Joseph Smith and Denver Snuffer can feasibly both be right. It’s honestly up to all of us to be open-minded and consider and pray about Snuffer’s words as seriously as we do any other person who claims to speak for Christ, LDS prophets included. In reality, the LDS prophets haven’t received new revelation straight from Christ since 1978 (4). It would appear they are so afraid of upsetting the status quo, the leadership has become completely stagnant in its ability or willingness to ask for or receive new revelation so they just continue to quote the leaders of the past. Could it be that the Lord is speaking to someone else to revive the lines of communication? Someone who isn’t bound by the laws and bylaws of LDS.inc?
What is Denver teaching? Is it good? Will it bring you closer to Christ? If the answer is yes… then perhaps Denver isn’t quite as deserving of epithets as previously assumed. If the answer is no, then go ahead and gear up for another thrilling conference in which the brethren quote each other repeatedly as they pontificate about how to dress, how to vote against equal rights for LGBT people, how men and women should be forced into rigid gender roles, and how to be the single type of family God likes best–but who rarely, if ever, speak in open, direct, new words from Christ. Or perhaps we can all realize that we don’t need to look to someone else to speak for Christ because we actually all have the ability to do so in our own hearts.
Perhaps, just perhaps, there is a much needed place in Mormonism for people like Mr. Denver Snuffer. After reading up on him to write this post–I for one, find him refreshing at the very least. You won’t see me lining up for a new baptism any time soon, though. After the content of the last few conferences, I also don’t think I’ll be tuning in for the upcoming round of sessions either.
2) Preserving The Restoration. Denver Snuffer. 9-9-14. Lecture 10 Mesa, AZ. http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
3) D. Michael Quinn’s biography, “Elder Statesman: A Biography of J. Reuben Clark” (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2002) “Clark’s attitudes toward Blacks was equally reprehensible. Along with others of his time, he opposed intermarriage and supported the common practice of segregating blood supplies in hospitals to ensure that no white person would be infused with blood from a Black person, and thus either invalidate his priesthood or disqualify him from future priesthood. But as time progressed, so did his attitude toward Blacks. As the Church extended its missionary efforts into South America and determining blood lines became more difficult, he came to something of an accommodation in the case of some Brazilians, even ‘wondering whether we could not work out a plan, while not conferring the priesthood as such upon them, we could give them opportunity to participate in the work certainly of the Aaronic Priesthood grades. (p. 354)
4) Official Declaration 2 https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/od/2?lang=eng