Talking to AngelsBy: Mormon Heretic
Bonnie has written a really interesting post on whether regular people can have access to angels. Denver Snuffer was interviewed by John Dehlin on Mormon Stories back in February, and Denver has written a book detailing the steps to go through to receive an angelic visit. John introduces Denver as a “A Progressive, Fundamentalist, Non-Polygamist Mormon Lawyer Who Claims to Have Seen Christ.” Rather than recount the entire 2 hour interview, I’ve included the last 20 minutes or so of the interview that deals with this topic.
John, “Let’s end. I don’t want to end, but time is escaping from us. I want to end, well thanking you for joining us, and I want to end encouraging everyone to check out your blog and your books, again http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com . You know you’ve sort of—one of the things that people sort of really ask me to interview you about was what we’ve already alluded to, which is the belief that man—you know the bold belief that Joseph started with that you’re now sort of encouraging and interestingly enough, I don’t hear this encouraged as much at church. But can you talk to us about whatever you’re comfortable sharing about your own experiences with the Divine, and how someone who, in my case, I prayed to ask if the Book of Mormon is true. I couldn’t even get the burning in the bosom I was expecting to get, let alone a visitation from an angel or Christ himself.
So, can you (a) tell us whatever you can about your own experiences, and (b) tell those of us who would still be open and interested in having that type of experience, how we could achieve it even though we’re in an age of increasing secularism, agnosticism, and atheism? Give us a case for why we should even try, and if so, how it can happen?”
Denver, “You know, it took 170,000 words in the book The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord [through the Veil] to lay the entire plan out and I would commend that book to you, but here—let me just tell a little vignette experience dealing with the topic of the Second Comforter.
I have a friend; he’s a former stake president, a former mission president who had an occasion to be alone with Mark E. Peterson, the member of the Quorum of the Twelve who was considered the doctrinal authority in his day. It was Mark E. Peterson who was asked to identify all the errors Bruce R. McConkie made in Mormon Doctrine. This was the doctrinal go-to man, and my friend had a chance to be alone with him and while alone with him in a private conversation that he repeated to me, he said he raised the topic of the Second Comforter with Elder Peterson, and Elder Peterson’s response to the inquiry about the Second Comforter was this.
Jesus was sent to the Lost Tribes of Israel. He was not sent to the gentiles. The gentiles are supposed to be converted through the records of the children of Israel. ‘I (this is Elder Peterson speaking) am a gentile apostle to a gentile church, and the Second Comforter isn’t available to me.’
Now after my friend told me this story he said, what is your response to that statement? I said, ‘oh, I would have said, Elder Peterson, in 1 Nephi chapter 14 verse 1 it says that if the gentiles shall hearken to the Lamb of God in that day, that is when the Book of Mormon comes forth, he will manifest himself unto them in word and in power and in very deed. The limitation in 3 Nephi was not a limitation on gentile access to the Lord, it was a limitation on the Lord’s immediate post-resurrection ministry to go and visit with organized bodies of the children of Israel scattered throughout the globe. Nephi’s prophecy about our day is saying the purpose of the Lord in our day is to manifest himself in very deed.
Look, I do not believe there is anything extraordinary about me, period. In fact, l would say when it comes to basic human goodness and decency, since I am acquainted with all of the mistakes that I have made over the course of a lifetime, my guess is you John, and your listeners, and most of the people I know and everyone in my ward practically are better people than me.”
John, “You’re not saying that to be false-modest.”
Denver, “No, I’m not. I’m saying if I have to evaluate myself on a goodness meter, I am as wretched a man as you will ever meet, I practice law, I deal with people’s fights, I have not lived a life that has been free from setbacks, errors, mistakes, and my first temple marriage ended in divorce. There’s nothing about me that says, hey here’s a guy who has lived a life of such virtue that there’s no question God would want to talk to him. I am not Joel O’Steen, I am not Thomas Monson, I am not some great person.
But I believed God could forgive me. I believed God wanted to forgive me, and I believed what Joseph said the scripture teach to be true, and I asked. Then I followed the process laid out in the book The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord [through the Veil] and eventually on the Lord’s timing and in the Lord’s control, not mine, he did in fact make himself known to me.
Now, that was not the only spiritual encounter I had. Earlier I alluded to the fact that there is always the trickster, there’s always the deceiver, there’s always the darkness before the light. You have to press through that, because there are forces that want to mislead, deceive and hijack us, and I’m acquainted with those forces as well as with the light and the truth, and I can tell you I don’t believe I am a very good student. I think—you quoted from the blog where I said angels have instructed me. I’m not a very good student. Angels have personalities. Angels are real, sentient beings, and I’m confident there are those who have gone back, returned and reported and said, ‘I don’t know what you see in this guy.’
Denver, “He’s dumb. Look. We’re about out of time, but I’ll tell you one incident where I was caught up, I was in the presence of an elderly looking gentleman dressed in a white robe with a white beard who gave me some instruction and I heard what he had to say, and when he finished what he had to say, I was a tourist. I stood there and I looked around and I noticed that the floor we stood on was transparent, and the wall was transparent, and I’m standing there thinking, ‘why would you go to the trouble of building a wall if you can see right through the wall. That seems kind of self-defeating.’ And then I noticed there was a painting on the wall, and I thought, “Are you kidding me? People up here have nothing better to do with their time than to paint paintings? I thought there would be more of an earthly endeavor. Why are they doing it up here?’
I’m paying attention to everything except the fact that I’ve just gotten a message, I’ve just gotten instruction, and I’ve got someone standing there waiting for me to ask a question, and I never asked a question. I’m sure that was unimpressive. I’m sure that from that angel’s impression of me would have been, “this guy’s a dud. Why on earth would I be sent to give that message to that man, because there’s not enough to this guy to worry about.’
The Divine and the forces that are out there are not limited to inaccessibility to the masses. Every one of us had within us the capacity for the transcendent. Every one of us have within us the ability to reach up to God, and I have faith and I have confidence that if we do it, and if we follow the manner, and I try and outline it in The Second Comforter, that was commended to us, that the success stories are not going to be limited to a Joseph Smith, or a Moses, or an occasional, or a Nephi. It was meant to be the common experience of mankind. That is the story you hear in the temple, that is the purpose of the endowment. You and I are supposed to be prepared in all things to receive individually further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord through the veil. That’s what you’re invited to do, that’s what I’m invited to do, and you’re probably a better candidate than was I, and if God can reach down to someone like me, all the more someone like you.”
John, “So give me, I think we need to have—ok, this is going to be a teaser for next time I interview you…”
John continues, “…where we talk about this more in depth.”
Denver, “Yeah, as if you got a willing participant to the interview this time! You know, you had to talk me into this. You think you’re going me back???”
John, “I know, I know. It’s true. I worked hard at it, but that because a lot of people begged me to interview you. But let me say this. Give me five steps to being able to have a Divine experience. Is it pray, read your scriptures, do your home teaching, go to the temple, pay your tithing?”
Denver, “No, see here. The best example is the one that I used first in outlining in the book, The Second Comforter. It’s Nephi. Get Nephi in his context. What he does is he’s now out into the desert, his father has had this extraordinary series of visions, he’s got this message, and Nephi, like the rest of the family, and the mother was leading the charge on this. Nephi can’t even believe what Lehi is saying. He looks at what’s going on, and he’s a skeptic, and Nephi begins by praying. He says—the words he used are majestic. He says he was visited by the Lord, and that sounds like a huge deal, but it wasn’t at that moment. It would become so, but the very first step was when Nephi prayed and the Lord visited him by softening his heart so that he was able to believe the words of his father. That’s the first step.”
John, “Softening your heart.”
Denver, “The first step is reaching the point where you say, you know God I want to believe this. It’s that Lamanite prayer: Oh God, if there is a God, and if You are God, you know, make yourself known and I’ll follow you.
We are no longer children. We are no longer soft-hearted. We are no longer in the garden talking with God. We have been cast out into the lone and dreary world. We are out here where everything about us is acidic, and we have to first say, you know I would like to return. I would like to go back. I would like to believe, and the place it began with Nephi was extraordinarily humble, limited, and small. He simply found the ability to begin to believe.
And then, when he began to believe, it was quite some time, and it required quite a good deal more effort before he was able to get what was something in answer to prayer more than ‘I can believe.’ When he got an answer to prayer, he did what he was instructed to do. See man is so constituted—you’re made and I’m made exactly of the same stuff. You have to get an answer from God that is, it has all the substance of gossamer. It’s just an answer that comes into your mind, into your heart, and then you’ve got to take that and bring it into this concrete world, because the answer to prayer is going to lead you to do something, and it’s when you’re led to do something in this concrete physical world that you transfer from the state of mere belief into the point of having faith. Because you’ve acted consistent with what you believe God has told you to do.
Nephi did that. Great things unfold after you begin to believe, when you believe enough to be able to accept an answer, and when you act on that answer and you in this physical world begin to alter what it is you do here to conform your behavior to what you believe to be God’s will, because that will lead you to know that it was of God. After that, Nephi went through angelic visitations and after angelic visitations he met with the Lord.
Nephi took 40 years to compose his record. If you read carefully the text, it took him that long to think about it. When he put it together, he really put it together with an explanation of the process back to God’s presence in mind. The Book of Mormon is a book about coming back into God’s presence. Joseph Smith’s message is the return to God’s presence. The temple ordinances, in fact all of the ordinances leading up to the conversation at the veil in the temple that Joseph Smith put down here are an invitation back into God’s presence. If you’ve got that much affirming that you can be back in God’s presence, then trust it. Act consistent with it. Experiment upon it, and let it grow within you. That’s all that Nephi did. It’s all that I did.
I don’t think my results are as important as the recognition that that is possible for you, that it is possible anyone. That’s really the story, connecting you back to transcendent. Every one of us has something within us that is in fact connected to God that is in fact holy. I don’t care if you’re an atheist. In your core, there is something Divine that longs for reunification with the Divine, and more so the Divine longs to reunify with it, but we have the freedom to choose, and we have the freedom to exclude, and for the most part we bathe in this acidic environment, but we say, Ah, I’ve been cast out of the garden. That was back in my childhood. I can’t get back there. There’s angels and a flaming sword guarding the way. [Denver chuckles] And though there may be, they’ll welcome you back if you’ll follow the path.”
John, “Wow! Alright Denver Snuffer, well I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our conversation today. I will again refer our listeners to http://denversnuffer.blogspot.com, You know books include The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord [through the Veil], and Passing the Heavenly Gift, among many others. Please join us at mormonstories.org for further commentary and conversation. Denver, I hope you’ll come up there and read the comments and respond as you have time.”
Denver, “Oh sure! Yeah. But you know, I don’t like doing these things, so don’t suggest Part 2 to me.” [Denver chuckles]
John, “Ok, ok, we’ll only do it if you feel like if that same Divine source that you encourage us to tap into, if that Divine source happens to suggest that you come on for a second episode of Mormon Stories…”
Denver, “Fair enough.”
John, “..will you do it then?”
Denver, “Yeah, fair enough.
John, “Alright my good brother.
Denver, “Good talking with you.”
John, “Thanks for your time, and we appreciate you coming on to Mormon Stories.”
Denver,”Alright, we’ll see you.”
My question is what do you think of Denver Snuffer’s claims? Were you surprised by Elder Peterson’s remarks? Do you think apostles follow these steps to receive angels?