Use Your Judgement

By: Jeff Spector
September 13, 2013

Jury-BoxLately, 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:

  1. “Does it make you feel closer to God?”
  2. “Does it uplift and encourage you to be a better person?”
  3. “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.

12 Responses to Use Your Judgement

  1. mh on September 13, 2013 at 8:09 AM

    Jeff, glad to see you posting on this. My last 300 comment Post was at Mormon matters when I posted on the Malay theory. I’m at the airport, so I will have to be short but try to answer your questions.

    1. Yes, I think snuffer is not trying to claim authority above others.

    2. I think so. Snuffer is encouraging members to live more faithfully.

    3. Yes. Snuffer is using the bom and d&c extensively.

    4. I haven’t read much of snuffer, but I did purchase the book in question. I will have more to say when it arrives. But I think it edifies.

    5. Once again, I don’t know, but I think so.

    He isn’t supporting polygamy or anything like that. He promises up continue to attend church as lavinia Anderson. He isn’t forming a new church.

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  2. Jeff Spector on September 13, 2013 at 8:15 AM

    MH,

    I am getting closer and closer to getting the book and seeing for myself.

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  3. Howard on September 13, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    Is the person claiming the revelation acting within the bounds of his or her respective stewardship? Is the person receiving the revelation worthy to receive such?

    The operative word here is *acting* because Bruce R. McConkie in his talk How to Get Personal Revelation made it clear we are entitled to revelation. I say that every member of the Church, independent and irrespective of any position that he may hold, is entitled to get revelation from the Holy Ghost; he is entitled to entertain angels; he is entitled to view the visions of eternity; and if we would like to go the full measure, he is entitled to see God the same way that any prophet in literal and actual reality has seen the face of Deity…the fact is that every person should be a prophet for himself and in his own concerns and in his own affairs. It was Moses who said, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” It was Paul who said, “Covet to prophesy”

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  4. Kullervo on September 13, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    So… Mormons believe in the reality of personal revelation, as long as personal revelation does nothing other than reinforce the Church’s organizational hierarchy?

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  5. Jeff Spector on September 13, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    Kullervo.

    It might be a bit hard to reconcile the fact that Joseph Smith taught that his people could have whatever doctrinal thoughts they like, but then bounced a large number of people out of the Church when he disagreed with what was taught openly or questioned his leadership.

    Is that any different than today?

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  6. Molly on September 13, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    The good Brother Millett seems to be playing fast and loose with the word “true.” His guidelines seem to be more a fallacy-ridden recipe for circular thinking to enable the control of the ruling class. Might I recommend the Baloney Detection Kit as a better alternative: http://users.tpg.com.au/users/tps-seti/baloney.html

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  7. The Other Clark on September 13, 2013 at 9:31 AM

    The Church tends to have a broad tolerance for unorthodox personal belief and even unorthodox personal revelation. But it has very little tolerance for unorthodox beliefs and revelations being TAUGHT. That, I believe is where Snuffer got into trouble. He wasn’t asked to disavow his beliefs; just to stop teaching them in seminars (and his book.)

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  8. hawkgrrrl on September 13, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    “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.” This is a tough one. I have to think it depends entirely on the person receiving it. From what I have read (none of his books, a few blog posts, several recaps of his books & blog posts), Denver’s criticism of the church was essentially accurate, yet he still encouraged people to stay in it and to join it and gave proceeds of his books to the missionary fund. He expressed testimony of the restoration. I imagine his words strengthened many but weakened those who were already looking for a way to criticize. Is that on him or on them? I know LOTS of people who have left the church because of statements and stances of actual church leaders whose ignorance on a variety of topics that they still felt confident in speaking about left people feeling disillusioned and less committed. Yet we don’t excommunicate our leaders for these errors in judgment. It seems to me that excommunication is about silencing criticism at times, and that is not productive or indicative of a healthy organization.

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  9. Jeff Spector on September 13, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    Hawk,

    “Yet we don’t excommunicate our leaders for these errors in judgment.”

    Well, I have seen Bishops and other leaders released early when shown to be ineffective leaders and exercising unrighteous dominion. Granted, it is somewhat rare, but it does happen. Yet, it can also mirror a trait I see in the Corporate world where ineffective leaders are not removed because of the fallout on the one who put them there.

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  10. NewlyHousewife on September 13, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Due to the assumed preparation and planning that goes into the Education Week, I can only assume it’s a topic that is frequently discussed during that week (as it’s also a topic frequently brought up in GC)–and if its a response to anything, a response to the Ordain Women movements.

    As for the News Week, straight up Snuffer.

    I feel bad for the guy and hope his ward members are an ally to him.

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  11. GBSmith on September 13, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    I wonder about his 5 questions and how they’d apply to JS, polygamy and D&C 132. As regards Snuffer it seems he’s called into question decisions of church presidents after JS and whether they were really acting as prophets. It’s the same starting place for most of the off shoots of the LDS Church so I can see why his SP was concerned.

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  12. Bb2013 on September 15, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Does brother millet subscribe to the teachings of the Book of Mormon?? Question number 1 makes me belief he doesn’t.

    -did Lehi have authority to preach repentance to the city over Jerusalem? (The had a prophet at the time-Jeremiah)
    -did Samuel the Lamanite?
    -Did Abinadi have authority in King Noah’s Court?
    How about Jesus Christ, who tell the Lepers to seek out the priests to be healed?

    The Lord, as a matter of pattern, calls those who are hard to hear, to preach His word. It takes faith to believe in these men, whereas there is little faith to “follow the prophet, he knows the way. “

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