There are 31 thoughts on “Passing Up The Heavenly Gift (Part One of Two)”.

  1. Great job Greg – am looking forward to part 2. I love this quote from Brigham Young that applies to these Alternate Voices:

    Brother John [Young] referred to some persons receiving revelations. I say to such persons, Go ahead, and get all the revelations you can. If brother Joseph visits you every night, go ahead, and tell him to bring brother Hyrum, father Smith, Don Carlos Smith, St. Paul, Peter, James, and John, and Jesus Christ, if you can induce him to do so. But I could almost lay my hand on that Bible and swear that the man or woman who gets such revelations has been guilty of adultery, or of theft, or has been rebellious and apostatized in feelings, but has come back again, and now professes to have such revelations. Hell is full of such revelations; and I could almost testify that a man or woman who receives them has been guilty of some outrageous crime. I have had men come to me and tell the wonderful great dreams and visions which they have, when those very persons have apostatized heretofore, have denied their God and their religion; and I knew it. Many come to me and tell me what wonderful visions they have–that their minds are open to eternal things–that they can see visions of eternity open before them and understand all about this kingdom,–many of whom have at some time been guilty of betraying their brethren, or committing some atrocious crime. I never notice them much. I sit and hear them talk about their wonderful knowledge, but it passes in and out of my ears like the sound of the wind. It is for me to see to this kingdom, that it is built up, and to preserve the Saints from the grasp of the enemy. The visions of the class I have mentioned are nothing to me. They may exhibit their great knowledge before me; but when they have done, it is all gone from me. (Brigham Young, October 25, 1857, Journal of Discourses, 5:352.)

  2. Mr. Smith,

    Interesting review. I noticed a potential flaw in you having claimed Enos never saw the Lord. Type in “heard and saw” in the search engine and look at what is required to actually have “knowledge” of a thing. Enos uses the same language in verse 19 of his account. Something to consider, ponder, and pray about. I think that is important.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    – Chris

  3. Snuffler’s contentions appear to mean that the very real and personal witness that we are led today by prophets and apostles is deluded and false. I can choose to accept the arguments, convoluted as they are, or the powerful, affirming, real burning inside that I humbly and gratefully have received. I choose the latter. In the end, these things do not come down to whether a really good brief can be written, but what burns inside. I very much appreciate the review, not because I need it for my beliefs to be sustained and enduring, but because it helps me understand better the context in which others challenge what I humbly regard as feelings of the Spirit. So I thank you.

  4. Tremendous article! I had been waiting for someone to write an indepth review on PTHG like this. I think anyone who has heard about Denver Snuffer should read this article!

  5. Nice review.

    At the moment, I’m reading the Second Comforter and I like it. Up to now, Snuffer mainly cites scriptures, makes parallel between the prophets and us etc. I feel OK with his book.

    As far as his interpetation of history, i’d be much more carefull. By the way, the Spirit is the only one who can tell you as you read or listen, if a specifis teaching is true or false. When he talks about the church being “less true” or “less auhorized” than before, the Holy Ghost do not bear witness to me that it is true.

    On the other hand, I do not agree with everything the church is doing today but it’s more in the way they do or say certain things than on the important matter such as priesthood keys and authority to administer the saving ordinances.

    I always tell my son there are two types of behavior: constructive or destructive. The second comforter is constructive to me because it helps me to reach for the stars, it motivates me. PHG seems destructive (evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed kinda thing).

    I guess it is easy to get one’s wings burnt flying next to The Sun.

    • Snuffer says in PTHG that prior to PTHG, he wrote “as if” he believed the standard history of the Church:

      In everything I have written before, I have accepted the traditional narrative. It has not been important for me to comment on church history by challenging the traditional story. In this book for the first time it will be necessary to introduce other ways of viewing events (38).

      Yet, the view of history offered in PTHG is necessary, he insists, to understand all that he’s written before. So, it is not a late addition to the process:

      I’ve deferred any treatment of history until now. But this history will give context to what I have written previously, and I hope help establish the importance of the doctrine already explained in the earlier books. This is not really a change in subject from what I’ve already written….(xiv-xv)

      Thus, there has been a bit of bait-and-switch going on, it seems.

      • Boy, I wonder if he really planned it all out that succinctly. Because if he did that’s almost creepy.

        • One can only take him at his word. He talks about how he’s been waiting “a long time” for someone to write this book, and so he finally did it. So, I don’t think it’s a sudden idea. According to him, it informs everything he’s done so far.

          • I recently read part of his first book. I was very surprised to read how vigorously he defends the church and its leaders. He said something along the lines of “if you’re looking for criticism of church leaders, you won’t find it here”. I was left wondering when and why he decided to change his approach?

            I don’t think he understands what a terrible distraction his church criticism is from the correct things he teaches and how it completely discredits him in the eyes of most. Add to that his excommunication and suddenly his circle of influence has dwindled significantly. PTHG and his excommunication is what defines him now and everything written before is now viewed through that lens, fair or not. Maybe that doesn’t matter to him.

            Even if his criticism is valid, and some of it is, I don’t think fault-finding is a worthwhile gospel hobby. It shouldn’t require tearing down the character of church leaders in order to rebuild the faith of someone who is disenfranchised. Far better to draw eyes to the scriptures than to the faults of church leaders (real or perceived). That seemed to be his approach earlier. I wish it still were so.

            But as he has has said in the past, we can always repent. I hope he does, I hope I do, I hope as a church we all do. There is a lot riding on that.

  6. The calling of the 144,000 is likely a different operation. They are called to bring people to the Church of the Firstborn — which is something rather “other worldly” at this point. But even so, if one is to arrive at the gates of said Church in this life I don’t imagine they’ll do it without moving through the proper rites of ascension as found in the Kingdom today.

  7. Thank you very much for writing this. I really appreciate your thoughtful approach.

    First, you did well in countering his undermining of post-JS church leaders. Snuffer paints them as spiritually immature and weak-minded men. He goes beyond asserting all is not well in Zion to seemingly say nothing is RIGHT in Zion. Your quotes effectively rebut this view of church leaders. I do, however, agree with the premise that the purpose of the gospel is to bring us to Christ and not to any intermediary no matter how wonderful they are or aren’t. That truly is the essence of the gospel JS restored…that anyone can commune with God as he did. I think that is what Snuffer wishes to convey but for some reason he thinks his fault-finding is helpful in doing so. I’m glad you were able to show that his view of church leaders is not accurate.

    Second, your argument that men cannot be ordained by angels when a man is available on the earth with authority to do so contradicts D&C 77:11 wherein the 144,000 are said to be ordained by angels to their calling. I understand you are quoting a good source to bolster your argument, but canon trumps Orson Hyde’s recounting of something JS said 14 years prior (note 20). You also ignore the story of Esaias in D&C 84. Esaias was a contemporary of Abraham and was blessed by him, yet he received the PH directly from the hand of God (verse 11). So clearly this topic has a little more to it than your view suggests.

    Lastly, I think your argument against the fulness of the PH being conferred in a manner other than “[God’s] own voice” contradicts the JST of Gen 14:29, which you ignored. Since your reading of James Burgess’ notes (note 30) contradicts canon, I think the error is either in your reading or in Burgess’ notes. But really I think what JS is describing in Burgess’ notes is likely a physical ordinance that is ratified in JST 14 fashion by “[God’s] own voice”…in which case Snuffer is closer to being right on that point than you are.

    Again, thanks for the thoughtful rebuttal to PTHG. I’d love to hear any additional thoughts. When can we expect part 2?

    • Thanks. I’d agree that I’m not sure how much we can draw from the D&C 77 verse:

      a) Avoid single scripture theologies (as Harold B. Lee used to say!).

      b) Especially if they involve the Book of Revelation, which is deeply symbolic!

      c) “Angel” means “messenger,” or “one sent,” just as “apostle” does. [The temple tacitly draws on this near-equivalence.] So, I’m not persuaded that “angels” need always mean “celestial visitor out of the normal line of authority,” as opposed to simply “one sent and comissioned by God, whether mortal or otherwise.”

      d) Though the word “ordain” is used in D&C 77, I think that may reflect earlier, somewhat less precise terminology. In the case there, you have high priests who are “ordained,” and then “ordained” (I suspect we would say, “called” or “set apart”) to a specific role in 144,000. Given that we know little or nothing about the 144,000 in detail, it’s hard to conclude that this necessarily would impact mortal Church government or provide an “alternative” line of authority as Snuffer’s thesis would require. By contrast, the story of Joseph denying angelic ordination out of the normal line of Church authority involved someone speaking particularly of a given priesthood office ordination.

      e) Potentially, if priesthood authority original derives from an angel (in the sense of celestial messenger) then any subsequent ordinations might–esp in a symbolic book like Revelation of St John–be likewise “ordained ‘by’ an angel.”

      All this kind of comes together in the cases in early Church history of members being ordained or at least “sealed” to the 144,000. You have a case where Joseph Smith spoke of the choosing being underway (for example–see HC 6:196). This didn’t, so far as I know, give them any Church “line authority,” as we would call it, and was done by a mortal–who nevertheless had priesthood power from God ultimately via an angel. Hyrum Smith as patriarch made such promises to around fifty people (see Dialogue 23/3, p. 10 note 36–including 7 women), as did Joseph Smith, Sr. Wilford Woodruff likewise blessed William Clayton with membership in the 144,000 (though I don’t know if these fulfill the requirements for being “ordained,” or if it was just a type of promise.) But, it sounds pretty authoritative in at least some:

      22 Mar 1836: Thou art one of the hundred and forty four thousand which shall stand upon Mount Zion with the harps of God. These blessings, the Lord shall give unto thee in his own due time and I seal them for thee in thee in the name of Jesus and I seal thee up unto eternal life. – Blessing to Ethan Barrows, by Joseph Smith, Sr.

      Anyway, I suppose I don’t see any contradiction as necessarily being there. The single verse seems a very thin reed to hang an alternate reading of something about which Joseph was pretty clear in other sources. And, I think postulating the the source was “wrong” is a less-attractive option as well–I’d prefer to think the reading of the scripture is incomplete in this case.

      (If one reads the “Elias” in D&C 77:9 as an oblique reference to Joseph Smith, then again the messenger/celestial being dichotomy about “angels” gets even harder to maintain.)

      I don’t deny in the least that priesthood power cannot be given directly by God. I just think it unwarranted to argue that it must be. The verses following those you cite on Esais have Melchizedek giving to Abraham (as Joseph taught) and for it descending from Adam –> Abel –> Enoch –> Noah: with Adam explicitly giving it to Abel, and no mention of God’s direct intervention. (This is why, I suspect, those that do have the direct link from God are mentioned explicitly–it is an exception, and not the normal pattern.) At any rate, I think these clearly rule out Snuffer’s “only from God via theophany” theory, which is all I intended to do.

      Part 2 comes out, I believe, next Friday if the editorial minor deities are kind.

      • It seems the intent of Section 77 is to explain the symbols of the book of Revelation using plain language that is easier to understand. So I’m inclined to accept the explanations given in the plainness I see intended (e.g. angel means angel; ordained means ordained).

        You have yet to address JST Gen 14. Here again I see rather plain language saying that in order to be called a High Priest in the way that Enoch was called a HP then it must be (per verse 29) “delivered” to you “by the calling of [God’s] own voice”. Furthermore, per verse 28, it can’t come “by man or the will of man”. As Nephi might say, it’s plain so that ye cannot err.

        I believe you are failing to draw the distinction between a physical ordinance and a spiritual ratification of the ordinance. Just as a temple sealing (or any physical ordinance for that matter) is of no effect unless sealed by the HSoP, is it possible that a person ordained a HP is not truly a HP until it’s ratified by God’s own voice?

        While I reject Snuffer’s assertion that physical ordinances aren’t necessary (if indeed he said that; I’m assuming he did based on what you say as I have not read PTHG), since there are so many scriptures that contradict this idea, I also reject the notion that power in or of the PH comes because someone laid their hands on your head. In my view JST Gen 14 is too plain on that point to view it differently. The temple symbolism corroborates that it must come by His own voice.

        When Melchizidek “blessed” Abraham to this power, I believe it was the physical ordinance that would require God’s approving voice before it was ratified. So, again, I see the scriptures supporting Snuffer’s view more completely than your own.

        Be careful you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Just because Snuffer is tragically mistaken in some points doesn’t mean he is in others.

        • Quoth Leo: It seems the intent of Section 77 is to explain the symbols of the book of Revelation using plain language that is easier to understand. So I’m inclined to accept the explanations given in the plainness I see intended (e.g. angel means angel; ordained means ordained).

          But, as I indicated above, there may be reason to question that kind of facile reading. I’m not certain the text is meant to answer the questions we’re hoping it answers here. For example, “ordained” was used rather more generically earlier in Church history than later, so I just suggest caution. If we read terms anachronistically, and retroject our current terminology, we may be misled.

          After all, Joseph gave D&C 77, and yet made other statements that don’t quite mesh with the reading you’re offering. See below:

          Quoth Leo:You have yet to address JST Gen 14.

          Sorry, thought I had. Snuffer’s tendency to just quote snippets is misleading, I think.

          Quoth Leo:Here again I see rather plain language saying that in order to be called a High Priest in the way that Enoch was called a HP then it must be (per verse 29) “delivered” to you “by the calling of [God’s] own voice”. Furthermore, per verse 28, it can’t come “by man or the will of man”. As Nephi might say, it’s plain so that ye cannot err.

          “By man or the will of man,” means, I would suggest, simply that men can’t do this on their own–a “no man taketh this honor unto himself,” sort of thing. It is discussing the institution of the covenant and priesthood after the holy order of the Son of God (eg Alma 13).

          “And thus, having been approved of God, he was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch, It being after the order of the Son of God; which order came, not by man, nor the will of man; neither by father nor mother; neither by beginning of days nor end of years; but of God” (JST | Genesis 14:27-28).

          I think reading this as saying “God must ordain you” as too far a stretch. It isn’t, frankly, anything I think one would see unless one came at it with the idea first and was determined to find a proof text. Eisegesis, not exegesis, as the saying goes. 🙂

          The verse to which you refer likewise says simply:

          29. And it [he order] was delivered unto men by the calling of his own voice, according to his own will, unto us many as believed on his name.” (JST | Genesis 14:29)

          The order was delivered by God, via his own voice. The authority and keys must ultimately derive from God. But, there’s nothing about this that says that God must, on an on-going basis, ordain each and every person by his own voice.

          Making it clear that it ultimately derives from God would also seem to me to presume that some people might be having that authority transmitted from a mortal–but they must never forget that a mortal did not create it, or arrogate it to himself, but instead it derives from God. (Our priesthood line of authority tradition highlights this–it all traces back to those angelic visits.)

          D&C 84 seems to make this clear: it lists a whole bunch of people, and only one is said to receive it from God’s hand; the rest have a lineal descent (including Moses):

          6 And the sons of Moses, according to the Holy Priesthood which he received under the hand of his father–in–law, Jethro;
          7 And Jethro received it under the hand of Caleb;
          8 And Caleb received it under the hand of Elihu;
          9 And Elihu under the hand of Jeremy;
          10 And Jeremy under the hand of Gad;
          11 And Gad under the hand of Esaias;
          12 And Esaias received it under the hand of God.

          (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 84:6 – 12)

          By Snuffer’s argument, this would mean that Gad, Jeremy, Elihu, Caleb, and Jethro could not pass on the authority (since they “only” had mortal ordination). But that clearly isn’t what’s intended to be communicated.

          One sees almost the exact same ideas in D&C 18 as in the JST of Genesis 14, using almost identical language:

          34 These words [the revelations] are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man;

          (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 18:34)

          Yet, these words come via Joseph Smith. Joseph would edit the revelations, so he obviously didn’t regard them as direct, word-for-word “dictation” of the divine words. Rather, they are God’s words because spoken by his Spirit to one authorized to speak in his behalf:

          35 For it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them;
          36 Wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words.

          (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 18:35 – 36, emphasis mine)

          “The Spirit” is God’s voice; to have revelation via a prophet is sufficient, witnessed by the Holy Spirit, is sufficient to testify that one has heard God’s voice and words. So, perhaps high priests need that, but it is not the audible divine voice of God himself that Snuffer insists it must ever and always be.

          The same section discusses the Twelve apostles (all of whom were ordained by mortals, not angels) and says:

          29 And they are they who are ordained of me to baptize in my name, according to that which is written;

          (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 18:29, emphasis mine)

          So, here you have men already “ordained of me” (the Lord) and yet they were ordained by mortals who had authority from a prophet who had authority from angels, who had authority from God. God is the source, but he can use authorized intermediaries, either angelic or mortal.

          So, I think Snuffer’s thesis requires him to ignore all this sort of qualifying data.

          Quoth Leo:is it possible that a person ordained a HP is not truly a HP until it’s ratified by God’s own voice?

          Anything is, in some sense, possible. 🙂 But, I think it does violence to the text in question, and requires that we ignore a great deal of other data. See above.

          If so, then it would invalidate all ordinances performed by said high priest before such ratification.

          In the grand scheme of things, all such ordinations must be so ratified, but arguing that this means they’re not “really” high priests or holders of the authority prior to that does not really mesh well with Joseph’s thought, as far as I can tell.

  8. This makes me think of all the people deceived by false spirits in the Book of Mormon. All that matters to me is the Spirit gave me a witness of this church and it’s truthfulness and it witnesses to me that same truth many times throughout the day as I push forward God’s work and glory.

  9. Brother Smith opines, “it is absurd to claim that any opinion is as valid as any other opinion.”

    Yet, given Smith’s respect towards the leadership of the Church, he would no doubt agree with this statement by the First Presidency: “No man’s opinion is worth a straw.”

    Therefore, it would appear that Smith is hoisted by his own petard from the outset.

    In reading this review, I feel that Brother Smith is recasting Snuffer’s arguments, or propositions, into forms which they do not take in his book, and which are not necessarily equivalent to what Snuffer actually said, or is flatly misunderstanding Snuffer at key points, and is hence essentially engaged in both strawman argumentation, as well as begging the question. I think this is unintentional on Smith’s part, however. A fundamental point of disagreement is that there even can be a distinction between power and legal authority. Smith proceed as though there can be, and is – but this distinction is that which must be proven. Frankly, Snuffer has the upper hand, given D&C 121; Smith’s position, taken to its logical conclusion, would establish Catholicism, whose claim to legal authority traces back to Peter, and therefore render the Restoration fraudulent. That is a problem, I believe, especially since “divine endorsement or reproof is not, however, amenable to citation here.”

    Now, quoting from the review:

    Snuffer seems determined to always deny the importance of the Church’s role as the sole authorized source of the necessary ordinances.[1] “God wants you to know Him,” Snuffer tells us, “You can know Him. You do not need another person to speak to Him for you. You should speak to Him directly” (55). This is all true—but Snuffer ignores another theme that is equally prominent in Joseph Smith’s revelations and thought: an authorized representative is also necessary to perform vital and non-negotiable ordinances. This is something that cannot be done by oneself—the priesthood officer must play a role. But Snuffer says, “Since the language of the baptismal covenant was given by revelation, it has been approved by the Lord. Using the language for the ceremony authorizes the covenant to be performed” (421). “If the Holy Ghost will visit you even without an authoritative ordinance,” Snuffer declares, “then the responsibility to live so as to invite the Spirit is all you need to have that same companionship the ordinance could confer” (460, compare 33). This view contradicts Joseph Smith:

    There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was baptized, which was the convincing power of God unto him of the truth of the Gospel, but he could not receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after he was baptized. Had he not taken this sign or ordinance upon him, the Holy Ghost which convinced him of the truth of God, would have left him.[2]

    Let me explain how Brother Smith misinterprets Brother Snuffer’s meaning, which is consistent with Joseph Smith’s statement. Snuffer’s audience is duly baptized and confirmed members of the Church. They have already undergone all the ordinances. That is presumed in his discourse.

    What Snuffer is saying, as I understand it, is that if one’s confirmation was not authoritative because the “legal administrator” (in Brother Smith’s parlance) had not power to baptize by fire and the Holy Ghost – that is, because there is no such thing as a “legal administrator” of Melchizedek ordinances, since power and authority are one and the same – then you may yet lay claim upon the gift of the Holy Ghost by calling upon the name of the Lord, and so forth, as expressly instructed in the Book of Mormon.

    (As an aside, it seems Brother Smith does not perceive the implication which arises from the fact that apparently, all Cornelius needed, per Joseph, was baptism, to qualify to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This seems to mirror Joseph’s own experience, in that he, too, received the Holy Ghost after his baptism.)

    Does Snuffer truly seem to always deny the importance of the Church’s role as the sole authorized source of the necessary ordinances? Here, Brother Smith contradicts himself, apparently unknowingly – he quotes Snuffer as saying “the language of the baptismal covenant was given by revelation, it has been approved by the Lord. Using the language for the ceremony authorizes the covenant to be performed.” Implicit in this statement is that baptism by the Church is indeed authorized, and Snuffer nowhere says any other organization or group of people is so authorized. Snuffer has consistently pointed back at the Church for the necessary ordinances. He says ordinances and ordinations are necessary, but not sufficient; to be made of effect, they must be ratified directly of heaven. Possessing an invitation to a party is not to be confused with attending the party; the baptism by water is of none effect without the corresponding baptism by fire.

    Smith also mischaracterizes his own sources – as a single example, President Grant is not documented as pursuing spiritual manifestations, even if it shows he received some in apparent response to prayers (the content of which is not cited by Smith), yet Smith concludes, without apparent justification, that Grant was seeking spiritual manifestations. Therefore Snuffer’s claim, that Grant “resist[ed] any effort to pursue a spiritual manifestation the remainder of his life,” remains untouched by the evidence Smith brings to bear; it is not “plainly false, as the historical record shows.”

    I have to thank Brother Smith for a gem which I was not aware of. One of Snuffer’s points, as I read his book, is that the Brethren are not necessarily eye-witnesses of the Savior, neither have they necessarily stood in the divine council – that is, they may neither be apostles nor prophets after the Biblical definitions of the words. The Biblical definition of prophet was given in Hamblin’s wonderful essay on the divine council – “The Sod of YHWH” – carried in the pages of the Interpreter: a prophet is one who has stood in the divine council. Indeed, that they may not necessarily be eyewitness of the Savior, nor participants in the divine council, is borne out by this quote which Smith provides, from President Lee:

    “I bear witness to you that those who hold the apostolic calling may, and do, know of the reality of the mission of the Lord. To know is to be born and quickened in the inner man.”

    That does more to establish Snuffer’s point than anything Snuffer cited. To have a sitting president of the Church say the apostles “may” have been born again is a very interesting thing to hear.

    And there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to withhold the data upon which their claims to knowledge is based, either.

    Contrast this, from the article above: “I know, from experiences too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ.”

    With this, from holy writ: “And the angel said unto me he is a holy man; wherefore I know he is a holy man because it was said by an angel of God.”

    Which of these two statement was made to unbelievers? And which statement gives data whereby the audience may even begin to judge whether the claim to knowledge is justified?

    I believe the historical issues are far more complicated than Brother Smith has made them appear (see Quinn’s “The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power” to get a sense of just how complicated they really are), and I believe Brother Smith does not fairly summarize Snuffer’s statements, to say nothing of the overall argument.

    There are a few things I wish would have happened. I wish Brother Smith had given Snuffer a charitable reading – it is plain he did not. I wish Brother Smith was less sloppy in his characterizations of Snuffer’s claims, and of the claims of his own sources. I wish Brother Smith had taken seriously the fact that Snuffer wrote PTHG as an olive branch to the disaffected LDS who have left, or are sorely troubled, over the wide divide between what we present as history in the Church, and what the historical records actually show. Something like Brigham Young winking at the malicious castration of a competing suitor for a polygamous bishop’s desired next bride-to-be becomes far more palatable if Brigham, who maybe dreamed of Joseph Smith a couple of times, was not seen in the same light as Joseph Smith, who had been ministered to by angels, was an eyewitness of both God and Christ, had stood in the divine council, and brought others into the presence of God.

    Nevertheless, with this statement of Brother Smith’s, I can fully concur: “only divine revelation could settle the issue.” One has to make sure one is asking the right question, too – because, as the John Taylor revelation on plural marriage shows, asking the wrong question may get an unhelpful answer.

    • To clarify, Smith nowhere in his review adduces any statement by President Grant that he sought spiritual manifestations.

    • Brother Smith opines, “it is absurd to claim that any opinion is as valid as any other opinion.”

      Yet, given Smith’s respect towards the leadership of the Church, he would no doubt agree with this statement by the First Presidency: “No man’s opinion is worth a straw.”

      Therefore, it would appear that Smith is hoisted by his own petard from the outset.

      This is a good specimen of what my time in Passing the Heavenly Giff has led me to think of as “Snufferite proof-texting.”

      The quote was originally from some of the Twelve apostles. In context, it says something quite different:

      be careful that you teach not for the word of God, the commandments of men, nor the doctrines of men nor the ordinances of men, inasmuch as you are God’s messengers; study the word of God and preach it, and not your opinions, for no man’s opinion is worth a straw: advance no principle but what you can prove, for on scriptural proof is worth ten thousand opinions: we would moreover say, abide by that revelation which says, “preach nothing but repentance to this generation,” and leave the further mysteries of the kingdom, till God shall tell you to preach them, which is not now.
      Times and Seasons 1/1 (Nov 1839):13-14

      So, this text is talking about not preaching our own opinions in place of the word of God–a caution which Passing the Heavenly Gift might do well to heed. (It goes on to tell them to leave matters like the interpretation of eschatological prophecy with the beasts, etc., in Revelation alone in their missionary work. Excellent advice!)

      It also, however, clearly anticipates the use of evidence, logic, and reason (“advance no principles but what you can prove” [from the scriptures]) to draw true conclusions.

      I say again, if Snuffer et al want to advance a radically skeptical view of knowledge in which no one’s opinion about historical facts is any better than anyone else’s, they are welcome–but it undercuts his whole project. I don’t accept such a view–I believe that people can be better or worse at evaluating the evidence, closer or further away from the truth. And, nothing the apostles (not the First Presidency here) say above conflicts with that.

      This is why my review deals with historical matters, and not scriptural interpretation, as the introduction indicates.

      But, such a quotation shows precisely why Snuffer’s project is so flawed, given a rather loosy-goosy approach to historical evidence. This is simply one more specimen of the same, I fear.

      • I apparently am in good company in my use of that quote.

        It’s good enough for Nibley.

        So, reasonable people may disagree, but it certainly seems to more than one person to be a universal, and not specific, principle.

        • This verges on the silly.

          [Nibley goes on immediately to say “We say, How long is it to be? In what direction will it move? That depends entirely on what we find out from the text here.” Which rather presupposes that one’s opinions about the matter ought to be determined by the evidence: which one might ignore or follow with greater or lesser fidelity.]

          You evidently don’t believed that all opinions are equal–if you did, you wouldn’t be making the argument that my view is wrong, or citing evidence, since that presupposes that evidence matters and one can either respect or contradict evidence in one’s opinion (and thus that not all opinions are created equal). If you did, you would have no standing to critique my view of the “worth a straw” quote.

          I’m certainly not going to be bound in my view on the question by yours (or anyone else’s) decision to misread a quote on this point. There is ample, overwhelming evidence that the Church does not believe in–or teach–a radical skepticism in which no one’s views can be closer than anyone else’s views to the truth.

          That perspective is Snuffer’s–and, I don’t think he even believes it (as the existence of his book demonstrates). It’s simply a rather cheap rhetorical trick to try to flatter the reader into accepting Snuffer’s views and rejecting the views of those who might know the evidence better or present it more fairly.

          It’s just a variant of the “I’m just a simple country lawyer” schtick, which flatters the jury that they, as salt-of-the-earth folk, can ignore the fancy-pants scientists or whomever with training or experience.

          I endured an entire book of this sort of thing from Snuffer; I see no reason to continue to torment myself. 🙂

    • “Implicit in this statement is that baptism by the Church is indeed authorized, and Snuffer nowhere says any other organization or group of people is so authorized. Snuffer has consistently pointed back at the Church for the necessary ordinances. He says ordinances and ordinations are necessary, but not sufficient; to be made of effect, they must be ratified directly of heaven. Possessing an invitation to a party is not to be confused with attending the party; the baptism by water is of none effect without the corresponding baptism by fire.”

      A close reading (and I am assuming that as a lawyer Snuffer knows that words mean things) actually shows a rather different implication. Snuffer emphasises that the words are what render the covenant efficacious. So, one doesn’t priesthood authority, as long as the words ratified by Jesus through revelation are used. When combined with his other teachings it soon become apparent just how radical his attempt to undercut LDS claim of authority are.

      *So, one doesn’t need priesthood authority

  10. Sincere thanks, Greg, for a wonderful article on a subject that really needed to be addressed. Your painstaking research has born fruits that will greatly bless many. The collection of testimonies is wonderful and humbling. We are in your debt.

    • Professor Hancock,
      It is great to see your comment. I love your things talking about freedom and the constitution I only saw you in small classes that were part of a conference for the family at BYU a few years ago and became good friends with your son, John at Middlebury. He always share your contributions on Facebook. Keep up the good work.

  11. Greg,

    Pretty good stuff. Here’s another reference on later Apostles “seeing Christ,” though it comes from what you may believe to be a dubious source (Quinn):

    Jan 2, 1993 – At sacrament meeting in Tiberias, by Sea of Galilee, in Israel, Apostle James E. Faust tells Tabernacle Choir: “My testimony is like that of the brother of Jared who saw the finger of God and believed no more, for he knew. It has been given to me to know, for I have become acquainted with the Savior.” This is not published. (Extensions, 890)

    Also, I’m disappointed you did not dig much deeper into Joseph’s teachings on fulness of the priesthood/sealing power/calling & election/ordination as king and priest. You can use Joseph’s Nauvoo sermons to ratify Andy Ehat’s master’s thesis. These clearly point out where Denver Snuffer is wrong. The Apostles surely had the fulness of the priesthood and full authority to lead the Church after Joseph’s death.

    It is one thing to receive knowledge by the voice of God, (this is my beloved Son &c.) & another to Know that you yourself will be saved, to have a positive promise of your own Salvation is making your Calling and Election sure. viz the voice of Jesus saying my beloved thou shalt have eternal life. Brethren never cease strugling until you get this evidence. & Take heed both before and after obtaining the more sure word of Prophecy. (WJS, Howard and Martha Coray Notebook, 5/21/1843)

    God decreed before the foundation of the world that that ordinance should be administered in a house prepared for that purpose. If a man gets the fulness of God [“priesthood” as in the published version], he has to get [it] in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, by keeping all the ordinances of the house of the Lord. (WJS, 6/11/1843, Wilford Woodruff Diary; Joseph Smith Diary, by Willard Richards adds: “& he who will not have it all will come short. of that glory if not of the whole”)

    No man can attain to the Joint heirship with Jesus Christ with out being administered to by one having the same power & Authority of Melchisedec. [This authority and power came not from] a Prophet nor apostle nor Patriarch only but of [a] King & Priest [of Jesus Christ].” (WJS, Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items”, 8/27/1843)

    I ask was there any sealing power attending this preisthood. Oh no that would admit a man into the presence of God. Oh no, but Abraham’s was a more exalted power or preisthood he could talk and walk with God and yet consider how great this man was when even this patriarch Abraham gave a tenth part of all his spoils and then received a blessing under the hands of Melchesideck even the last law or a fulness of the law or preisthood which constituted him a king and preist after the order of Melchesideck or an endless life (WJS, James Burgess Notebook, 8/27/1843)

    When speaking of the passage “I will send Elijah the prophet &c” he said it should read and he shall turn the hearts of the children to the covenant made with their fathers Also where it says and they shall seal the servants of God in their foreheads &c it means to seal the blessing on their heads {meaning the everlasting covenant thereby making their calling & election sure. When a seal is put upon the father and mother it secures their posterity so that they cannot be lost but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father.} (WJS, William Clayon diary, 8/13/1843; Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items” adds: “What is the seal spoken of in Rev 7-3 find it out if you can I will not reveal it now but will drop an idea that I have never revealed concerning Election connected with the sealing of the servants of God in the fore or top of the head”)

    [BY] inquired who had the Melchezedek priesthood. That if any in the Church had it he did not know it. [this is before 2nd anointing had been conferred on anyone] For any person to have the fulness of that priesthood must be a king & a Priest. A person may have a portion of that Priesthood the same as Governors or Judges of England have power from the King to transact business but yet he is not the king of England. A person may be anointed king & priest before they receive their kingdom… (BY, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 8/6/1843)

    The question is frequently asked Can we not be saved without going through with all thes ordinances &c I would answer No not the fulness of Salvation. … any person who is exhalted to the highest mansion has to abide a Celestial law & the whole law to[o] (WJS, Wilford Woodruff diary, 1/21/1844)

    The spirit power & calling of Elijah is that ye have power to hold the keys of the revelations ordinances, oricles powers & endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood & of the Kingdom of God on the Earth & to receive, obtain & perform all the ordinances belonging to the Kingdom of God even unto the sealing of the hearts of the hearts [sic] fathers unto the children & the hearts of the children unto the fathers even those who are in heaven. … the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling & Election sure (WJS, Wilford Woodruff diary, 3/10/1844)

    This power of Elijah is to that of Elias what in the architecture of the Temple of God those who seal or cement the Stone to their places are to those who cut or hew the stones the one preparing the way for the other to accomplish the work By this we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise i.e. Elijah
    To obtain this sealing is to make our calling and election sure which we ought to give all diligence to accomplish (WJS, Franklin D. Richards “Scriptural Items”, 3/10/1844)

    Make your calling and election sure go on from grace to grace untill you obtain a promise from God for yourselves that you shall have eternal life. this is eternal life to know God and his son Jesus Christ, it is to be sealed up unto eternal life and obtain a promise for our posterity. Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, this is the power of Elijah to seal or bind or turn the hearts of the fathers to their children sealed against all sin but the sin of sheding innocent blood and the Sin against the holy ghost (WJS, James Burgess Notebook, 3/10/1844)

    the Spirit of Elijah is the sealing power— to seal the hearts of the Fathers to the children—and the children to the Parents as Paul declared that the Saints of the last days could not be perfect without them—neither can they be perfect without us —the Spirit of Messiah is all power in Heaven and in Earth — Enthroned in the Heavens as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (WJS, Thomas Bullock Diary, 3/10/1844)

    when the House is done, Baptism font erectd and finished & the worthy are washed, anointed, endowed & ordained Kings & priests, which must be done in this life, when the place is prepared you must go through all the ordinances of the house of the Lord so that you who have any dead friends must go through all the ordinances for them the same as for yourselves. (Wilford Woodruff diary, 4/8/1844; Joseph Smith Diary, by Willard Richards adds: “soon as the Temple is finished.—Lord hath ordained where these last & most important ordinances must be in a house”)

    Baurak Ale [a code name for Joseph Smith] was by common consent, & unanimous voice chosen president of the quorum. & anointed & ord[ained] to the highest and holiest order of the priesthood (& companion). (Joseph Smith Diary, 28 Sept. 1843; Wilford Woodruff noted of this day: “Then by common consent Joseph Smith the Prophet Received his second Anointing of the Highest & Holiest order” (Wilford Woodruff, Historian’s Private Journal, 1858)

    Those who come in here [the Nauvoo Temple] and have received their washing & anointing will [later, if faithful], be ordained Kings & Priests, and will then have received the fullness of the Priesthood, all that can be given on earth. For Brother Joseph said he had given us all that could be given to man on the earth. (Heber C. Kimball Journal, kept by William Clayton, 12/26/1845)

    Prior to the completion of the Temple, he took the Twelve and certain other men, who were chosen, and bestowed upon them a holy anointing, similar to that which was received on the day of Pentecost by the Twelve, who had been told to tarry at Jerusalem. This endowment was bestowed upon the chosen few whom Joseph anointed and ordained, giving unto them the keys of the holy Priesthood, the power and authority which he himself held, to build up the Kingdom of God in all the earth and accomplish the great purposes of our Heavenly Father; and it was by virtue of this authority, on the death of Joseph, that President Young, as President of the quorum of the Twelve, presided over the Church. (GQC, JD 13:49, 12/5/1869)

    No man receives a fullness of the Melchisedek Priesthood till he has received his second anointings. Men recommended for this sacred ordinance should be men of God whose faith and integrity are unquestioned. (Joseph F. Smith, Anthony W. Ivins, Diary, 8 April 1901)

    • Thanks! The Faust quote is interesting. (Quinn is most unreliable, in my experience, with things that put leaders in a bad light. I’ve been burned too often not to check–see Part 2!)

      There’s more Ehat-type stuff in part 2, though I didn’t want to just repeat him. But I think–as you imply–Ehat alone rebuts Snuffer’s idiosyncratic revision of history.

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