Use Your JudgementBy: Jeff Spector
Lately, on the Mormon-oriented blogs and even here on W&T, there has been much discussion on the chronicles of Denver Snuffer (I still can’t get over that name). I’ll let you find that here along with the almost 300 comments that go along with it. Word came down the other day that he was excommunicated from the LDS Church for apostasy. Again, it up to you to have an opinion about that, whether you’ve read his books, his blog, or other blogs discussing the subject. There are plenty of strong feelings to go around. Ironically, Denver considers himself a conservative in his theology and his loudest defense seems to be coming from the more liberal wing of the Church.
I was a bit surprised to see an article in the latest LDS Church News (Saturday September 7, 2013) about a talk given at the recent BYU Campus Education Week by Brother Robert Millet, professor of ancient scripture and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at BYU in Provo. He is a well-known author and lecturer. I have a number of his books and have heard him speak a number of times.
The article (found here) described his talk entitled “Be Not Deceived.” The point of the article was to encourage Later-day Saints to study the scriptures to “learn the doctrines of the Church lest they be deceived.” According to the article, he “proposed 5 questions a person might ask to determine if something is false. I will quote them below. But I must ask, is this a coincidence that this talk was given? Having participated in BYU Symposia in the past, I know that the talks and schedules are prepared well in advance of the presentation, six months or more. So it hardly seems likely that this talk was given specifically due to the Snuffer case. Anyway, here are the 5 points we can discuss.
“1. Is the person claiming the revelation acting within the bounds of his or her respective stewardship? There is a specific pattern that the Lord uses for revelation, Brother Millett said. He asked the audience if they could imagine if everyone received revelation for any part of the Church. It would be total chaos, he said. He then quoted Joseph Smith, “… It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves.”
2. Is the person receiving the revelation worthy to receive such? As a reference Brother Millett cited Doctrine and Covenants 52:14-15: “And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations — Wherefore he that prayeth, whose spirit is contrite, the same is accepted of me if he obey mine ordinances.”
3. Is the communication in harmony with the standard works and teachings of the prophets? Leave the exceptions to the prophets, Brother Millett counseled. “Elder [Bruce R.] McConkie taught to stay within the mainstream of the Church,” said Brother Millett. He advised class members to watch out for new interpretations of scripture or people claiming that following something outside the mainstream of the Church brings deeper spiritually.
4. Does the revelation edify or instruct? Is it consistent with the dignity that ought to be associated with revelation from God? God does not work against Himself, said Brother Millett.
5. Does the communication build a person’s faith and strengthen commitment? If what a person is claiming weakens faith in Christ or resolve to follow the leaders of the Church or a desire to do what is right, it is not of God, said Brother Millett.”
In his closing remarks, Brother Millet asks the following questions:
- “Does it make you feel closer to God?”
- “Does it uplift and encourage you to be a better person?”
- “Do you feel the Spirit?
“That we may not be deceived, we seek after the gifts of the Spirit, particularly the gift of discernment,” he said.
I realize that many will claim an answer of “Yes” with regard to Snuffer’s teachings.
Finally, a quote from Joseph Smith that may tie the questions and points all together.
“That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” (History of the Church, 3:385; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 2, 1839, in Montrose, Iowa; reported by Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards.)
Feel free to discuss.