Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Passing the Heavenly Gift/Saints at Nauvoo were punished for slothfulness

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Response to Passing the Heavenly Gift

A FairMormon Analysis of: 'Passing the Heavenly Gift', a work by author: Denver C. Snuffer

Were the Saints at Nauvoo were punished for slothfulness in building the temple?[1]

PTHG claims that D&C 124:47–48 can be used to determine if the Saints failed at Nauvoo. It claims that “[w]e know for certain”:

  1. “The spot was not consecrated by the Lord, or made holy by His or the angels’ presence. At least there is no record of it having occurred”;
  2. “The church was moved out of the spot”;
  3. “The temple was utterly destroyed”;
  4. The migration westward was more than difficult and harrowing” (381).

We will consider each claim in turn.

The spot was not consecrated by the Lord, or made holy by His or the angels’ presence

This claim is false. “Others also beheld angels and the glory of God,” reported one witness at the Nauvoo temple.[2] The research in PTHG is not adequate. This issue is treated in more detail below (see here). Even Strangite apostates saw the glory upon the temple, though they had a more prosaic explanation:

Uriel C. Nickerson (a Strangite) said that on Sunday night last the Temple was illuminated from the top of the Belfry to the ground and swore that he saw men passing back and forwards having handles in their hands and wanted to make the people believe that there was a visitation by angels, but they were the Mormons themselves. Thus has a Strangite born strong testimony of the glory of last Sabbath.[3]

The church was moved out of the spot

Snuffer here plays fast and loose with the text, though earlier he does cite the text that speaks of the Church being “moved out of their place” (380, 381). The scripture in question reads:

If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot [the temple site—see v. 43] that it shall be made holy. And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place (D&C 124:45).

PTHG makes it appear that the Church was promised that because the temple (“that spot”) would be made holy they would not be moved out of a physical “spot” or “place”—i.e., Nauvoo (compare 267–270). This reading is not plausible. The Lord spoke in almost identical wording on 16 December 1833 in the wake of troubles in Missouri. He reassured the Saints: “Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered” (D&C 101:17, emphasis added).[4]

Thus, the heirs of Zion could be physically scattered or driven by wicked men, but this did not mean that they were “moved out of [their] place.”[5] This promise served to reassure the Saints that they would not lose their blessings or station before God—and, the condition placed on the commandment is an interesting one, given Snuffer’s hostility to the apostles: “if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people… they shall not be moved out of their place” (D&C 124:45).

And, finally, though forced from Nauvoo by armed men, the Saints were not “scattered”. They remained together in a body under apostolic direction, withdrew in a planned and orderly way, and a large majority followed the Twelve to the Great Salt Lake.

The temple was utterly destroyed

The temple’s destruction is an uncontroversial, if irrelevant, point. There is no promise in D&C 124 that the temple would endure forever, and PTHG’s textual contortions do not find one either (269). (Given that the Jewish temples were both destroyed, if consistent Snuffer would have to argue that they too were never holy spots.) Section 124 does, however, include important teachings on the allowances for the evil actions of others which the Lord will make:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings. And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God (D&C 124:49–50).

Were Snuffer not so dedicated to his theory, he might see the situation differently, as Brigham Young did:

I was thankful to see the Temple in Nauvoo on fire. Previous to crossing the Mississippi river, we had met in that Temple and handed it over to the Lord God of Israel; and when I saw the flames, I said "Good, Father, if you want it to be burned up." I hoped to see it burned before I left, but I did not. I was glad when I heard of its being destroyed by fire, and of the walls having fallen in, and said, "Hell, you cannot now occupy it."[6]

Suffering during the exodus from Nauvoo

In a way, this is the most disturbing of the charges because Snuffer presumes to condemn others, becoming an accuser of his brothers and sisters, declaring (based upon tendentious history and a distorted reading of scriptural texts) that the judgments of God were upon them. If he is wrong, then he condemns a noble group who sacrificed to the uttermost for their covenants.

One thinks again of Alma and his band of believers that fled from King Noah—they had to leave their homes to escape an army (Mosiah 18:34–35), settled a new land (Mosiah 23:1–4), suffered enslavement (Mosiah 24:8–12), had to flee again (Mosiah 24:20), reached another area of sanctuary, had to flee yet again (Mosiah 24:23), and ultimately had to return to Zarahemla for safety (Mosiah 24:25). Snuffer could doubtless distort this experience through his sin-seeking lenses—yet we are told explicitly in the scripture that the suffering was permitted despite their obedience: “nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith” (Mosiah 23:21).

Snuffer could also doubtless find evidence for evil in the Christian martyrs of Rome, or in Ammonihah when those who believed were stoned, driven out, and had their wives and children burned alive (Alma 14:7–12). Sitting thus to arraign others appeals to some, but it is an easy game. There is enough tragedy in any life to provide fodder for such facile judgmentalism—but the scriptures warn against it:

Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves (D&C 121:16–17).

No Pentecost-type experiences in the Nauvoo temple?

Here again, one wonders if Snuffer is simply ignorant of the historical record, or if he is willfully withholding information. Multiple accounts from the Nauvoo temple are extant:

  • "After the dancing had continued about an hour, several excellent songs were sung, in which several of the brethren and sisters joined....I called upon Sister Whitney who stood up and invoking the gift of tongues, sang a beautiful song of Zion in tongues. The interpretation was given by her husband, Bishop Whitney, and me, it related to our efforts to build this house to the privilege we now have of meeting in it, our departure shortly to the country of the Lamanites, their rejoicing when they hear the gospel and of the ingathering of Israel. I spoke in a foreign tongue; likewise, Brother Kimball. After a little conversation of a general nature I closed the exercises of the evening by prayer."[7]
  • "I stayed all night in the Temple of the Lord. The Spirit of God seemed to fill the House and cause every heart to rejoice with a joy unknown to the world of mankind, for the Lord manifested himself to his saints."[8]
  • "I labored in the Temple assisting in the endowments. The Spirit of the Lord filled the House insomuch that the brethren shouted for joy. Brother Orson Spencer said he could no longer contain himself. President Young told him to speak; and he opened his mouth and spake in power and demonstration of the Spirit of God."[9]
  • "At sundown went to the Temple. 14 partook of the Sacrament after which we had a most glorious time. Some of the brethren spoke in tongues. Bro. Z. Coltrin and Brown held a talk in tongues which was afterwards interpreted and confirmed. Some prophesied. Bro. Anderson related a vision. And all of us rejoiced with exceeding great gladness. A light was flickering over br. Anderson's head while relating his vision, Phinehas Richards face shone with great brightness. Two men arrayed all in priestly garments were seen in the n.e. corner of the room. The power of the Holy Ghost rested down upon us. I arose full of the Spirit and spoke with great animation, which was very cheerfully responded to by all, and prophesied of things to come. A brother testified that our meeting was accepted of God. And we continued our meeting until after midnight, which was the most profitable, happy, and glorious meeting I had ever attended in my life, and may the remembrance be deeply rooted in my soul for ever and ever. Beautiful day."[10]
  • "At sundown went to the Temple to pray. While there heard last night Chester Loveland was called out of bed by his mother in Law stating that the Temple was again on fire. He dressed as quick as lightening and ran out of doors and saw the Temple all in a blaze. He studied a few seconds, and as it did not appear to consume any, and there was no others running, he was satisfied it was the glory of God, and again went to bed. Another brother saw the belfry all on a fire at a 1/4 to 10. He ran as hard as he could, but when he came to the Temple he found all dark and secure....Thus was the Spirit, power and glory to God manifest, not only at the Temple while we were there but also in our families for which my soul rejoices exceedingly."[11]
  • "About the same time Sister Almira Lamb while in her own room saw a vision of her dead child. It appeared to her in great glory and filled the room with light. She was afraid. It went away and after she was calmed down, her child appeared again to her and told the mother to remove her bones from where they were buried among the Gentiles, and bury them among the Saints, and again disappeared."[12]
  • "At sundown went to the Temple to pray....The Spirit was upon me and we all had a most glorious meeting. The glory of God again resting on the Temple in great power."[13]
  • "Sunday, March 22nd, 1846. I went to my Seventies Quorum meeting in the Nauvoo Temple. The whole Quorum being present consisting of fifteen members,...Dressing ourselves in the order of the Priesthood we called upon the Lord, his spirit attended us, and the visions were opened to our view. I was, as it were, lost to myself and beheld the earth reel to and fro and was moved out of its place. Men fell to the earth and their life departed from them, and great was the scene of destruction upon all the face of the land, and at the close thereof, there appeared a great company as it were of saints coming from the west, as I stood with my back passing to the east and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, `Come, see the desolation which the Lord hath made in the earth'; and the company of the saints who had been hid as it were, from the earth; and I beheld other things which were glorious while the power of God rested down upon me. Others also beheld angels and the glory of God ...The sacrament was administered. Our joy increased by the gift of tongues and prophecy by which great things were spoken and made known to us."[14]

Notes

  1. Portions of this wiki response are based upon Gregory L. Smith, "Passing Up The Heavenly Gift Part 1 Part 2," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 7 (2103), 181–341. The text here may have been expanded, reworded, or corrected given the nature of a wiki project. References in brackets like this: (xx) refer to page numbers in Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011).
  2. See note 240 herein. See also note 236 herein.
  3. Thomas Bullock Journal, 17 March 1846; cited in Gregory R. Knight, “Journal of Thomas Bullock,” Brigham Young University Studies 31/1 (Winter 1991): 62–63.
  4. See similar eschatological imagery used in Revelation 2:5.
  5. Similar usage can be seen in D&C 97:19.
  6. Brigham Young, “Funds of the Church,” Journal of Discourses 8:203 (8 October 1860)
  7. History of the Church 7:557–58. See George D. Smith, editor An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1995), 244.
  8. Jacob Gates Journal, 9 January 1846, cited in Joseph Heinerman, Temple Manifestations (Manti, Utah: Mountain Valley Publishers, 1974), 50.
  9. Jacob Gates Journal, 15 and 16 January 1846; cited in Heinerman, 50.
  10. Thomas Bullock Journal, 15 March 1846; cited in Knight, 61–62.
  11. Thomas Bullock Journal, 16 March 1846, in Knight, 62.
  12. Thomas Bullock Journal, 16 March 1846, in Knight, 62.
  13. Thomas Bullock Journal, 18 March 1846, in Knight, 63.
  14. Journal Book of Samuel Whitney Richards, 22 March, 1846, Book No.2, 7–8; cited in Heinerman, 50–51.