Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Denver Snuffer/Doctrinal claims/Authority lost by the Church

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A FairMormon Analysis of Denver Snuffer's Online Claims: Doctrinal claims


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"At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints"


Denver Snuffer claim:

Last general conference [April 2014], the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood.[1]

FairMormon Response


Question: Have Latter-day Saint (Mormon) Church leaders lost priesthood authority?

Such claims are typically made by apostates because they were excommunicated

The course of events makes it clear that the Stake, the Seventy and the Twelve have all been involved and bear some responsibility for [my excommunication]. I need to afford the First Presidency the opportunity to bear responsibility as well.

— Denver Snuffer, Jr. to the First Presidency[2]
∗       ∗       ∗
Last general conference [April 2014], the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood.

— Denver Snuffer, Jr. to his followers[3]
∗       ∗       ∗
I will give you one of the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom. It is an eternal principle that has existed with God from all Eternity that 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 apostacy and if he does not repent will apostatize as God lives[.]
— Joseph Smith, Jr.[4]
∗       ∗       ∗

Some who are excommunicated from the Church believe that the leaders of the Church have lost any right to claim priesthood leadership. For example, Denver Snuffer, after his excommunication, claimed that everyone is "out of the way"—the Prophet, the apostles, the entire Church leadership, have all lost any right to claim priesthood leadership. Why? Because Snuffer was excommunicated.

Denver Snuffer stated:

Last general conference [April 2014], the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood.[5]

By contrast, Joseph Smith says that people who make claims such as Snuffer does are possessed with the spirit of apostasy, and not the spirit of God:

I will give you one of the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom. It is an eternal principle that has existed with God from all Eternity that 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 apostacy and if he does not repent will apostatize as God lives[.][6]

Snuffer claims to sustain Joseph Smith, and to be continuing his work.

But, if Joseph is a prophet, Snuffer is an apostate from the truth.

If Joseph is not a prophet, then Snuffer's religious claims are likewise false.

In either case, Snuffer is wrong.


Accusing First Presidency of transgression


Denver Snuffer claim:

"[7] Section 121 is a warning to church leaders. It is addressing the powerful, not the powerless. It is addressing those who occupy the seats of authority over others. Only those who claim the right to control, compel, and exercise dominion, are warned against persecuting the saints, who believe the religion and practice it as I did from the time of my conversion. My excommunication was an abuse of authority. Therefore, as soon as the decision was made, the Lord terminated the priesthood authority of the stake presidency and every member of the High Council who sustained this decision, which was unanimous. Thereafter, I appealed to the First Presidency, outlining the involvement of the 12 and the 70. The appeal gave notice to them all.

"The appeal was summarily denied.

"Last general conference, the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood.

"They have not practiced what He requires. The Lord has brought about His purposes. This has been in His heart all along. He has chosen to use small means to accomplish it, but He always uses the smallest of means to fulfill His purposes."[7]

FairMormon Response


"Claim the right to control, compel, and exercise dominion"

Snuffer believes that he is entitled to teach doctrines the Church regards as false, criticize Church leaders, and disregard priesthood authority.

He insists that to be subject to Church discipline is to subject him to an effort to "control," "compel," or "exercise dominion."

 False claim

 Contradicts D&C

This, however, is false. Church discipline cannot force Snuffer to change his mind, or his behavior—and has not. Snuffer seems to think that his behavior must have no consequences, and if there are consequences he then believes he can charge others with "unrighteous dominion."

The Church, however, is a voluntary organization, and has always claimed the right to decide whether individuals are eligible for on-going membership. The Doctrine and Covenants says:

We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life, to take from them this world's goods, or to put them in jeopardy of either life or limb, or to inflict any physical punishment upon them. They can only excommunicate them from their society, and withdraw from them their fellowship (D&C 134:10).

Snuffer has been found guilty of "disorderly conduct," "according to the rules and regulations of" the Church. We would not normally know the details, but Snuffer has provided them.

All Church leaders claim is the right to act on apostate conduct once members have been warned.

Evidence that Snuffer qualified as "apostate"

The following table compares the Church's definition of "apostasy" with Snuffer's behavior:

Apostasy[8] Relation to Snuffer
#1: Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders. Snuffer has:
  • criticized present and past Church leaders repeatedly
  • claimed that the Church does not possess all the priesthood keys given to Joseph Smith
  • publicized and justified his defiance of the Church's authorized representatives.
#2: Teaching of false doctrine after corrected by bishop or a higher authority. Snuffer has:
  • taught many false doctrines, despite having an opportunity to explain his views to his leaders. These include:
  1. claim that priesthood authority not necessary for ordinances
  2. claim that tithing is misused
  3. [citation needed]
  • refused to cease teaching these false doctrines, even when counseled by his bishop, stake president, members of the seventy, and at least two apostles.[9] His stake president wrote him:
I cannot deny...the spirit's influence on me and the responsibilities I have to protect the interests of the Church. I have tried to persuade you that PTHG is not constructive to the work of salvation or the promotion of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The book's thesis is in direct conflict with church doctrine. In your effort to defend the restoration, you have mischaracterized doctrine, denigrated virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith, and placed the church in a negative light. The book is a misguided effort to [p. 2] attempt to bridge the gap between the church and its dissidents. PTHG will never be the solution to hard questions that you believe it is. Like every other such effort, it will attract only the attention of those whose spiritual eyes, ears and hearts are obscured from the truth. Your work pits you against the institution of the church and will lead to the spiritual demise of you and your family.[10]
  • claimed that he is obeying God in teaching and acting as he has done.
#3: Following apostate practices (e.g., authorized plural marriage). Snuffer has not advocated plural marriage. He has, however, advocated such apostate practices as the performance of ordinances without priesthood authority.

Snuffer's excommunication and his claims

 Contradicts Joseph Smith

Any one of the above points is ample grounds under the laws and regulations of the Church for excommunication. Snuffer qualifies on all three counts.

To be sure, Snuffer disagrees—but, Snuffer has no authority in the Church to make declarations about such matters. His Church leaders worked with him over a period of at least eighteen months before taking action.

We can only conclude that the decision was in error if we decide ahead of time that Snuffer is right about everything. He cannot use his excommunication as evidence of his leaders' sinful nature—that assumes what he wants to prove. Joseph taught that such acts by Church leaders were both appropriate and part of their priesthood authority:

It is also the privilege of the Melchizedek Priesthood, to reprove, rebuke, and admonish, as well as to receive revelation....[11]

Testing Snuffer's claim that authority is lost

"the Lord terminated the priesthood authority of the stake presidency and every member of the High Council who sustained this decision"

"the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church"

Snuffer claims that because Church leaders do not agree with him—because they refused to allow him to teach doctrines the Church believes to be false and remain a member—they have "abuse[d their] authority."

Let us presume that this is so. How do the scriptures say that a threat to the First Presidency's worthiness to continue in their office should be dealt with?

Revealed procedure for correcting the First Presidency

 Contradicts D&C

If the First Presidency is charged with sin—as Snuffer charges them—his voice alone is not sufficient to determine their guilt. Church procedure instead requires that they be given an opportunity to confront the charges against them in a disciplinary council. Snuffer believes he can essentially "excommunicate" the entire leadership of the Church by writing them a simple letter of protest and then declaring that it is so. The scriptures, however, teach a different doctrine:

And in as much as a president of the high priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counsellors of the high priesthood; and their decision upon his head shall be an end of controversy concerning him. Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God; that all things may be done in order and in solemnity, before him, according to truth and righteousness (D&C 107:82).

Snuffer would have us believe that God has set aside this procedure—but we have only his word for it.

In a revelation of 12 January 1838, the Lord made it clear that Snuffer's word alone cannot bring such charges against the First Presidency. First, a question was asked:

A question asked of the Lord concerning the trying of the first Presidency of the Church of Latter Day Saints for transgression according to the item of law found in third Sec of the Book of Covenants 37 verse[12] Whether the decision of such an counsil [sic] of one Stake shall be conclusive for Zion and all the Stake[13]

The Lord replied:

Thus saith the Lord let the first presidency of my Church be held in full fellowship in Zion and all her stakes until they shall be found transgress ors by such an high council——as is named in the 3rd Sec. 37 verse of the Book of Covenants,[12] in Zion by 3 witnesses standing against each member of said presidency and said witnesses shall be of long and faithful standing and such also as cannot be impeached by other witnesses, before said council[14]

Snuffer does not qualify

 Contradicts D&C

 Contradicts Joseph Smith

Thus, to bring such a charge against the First Presidency, the following requirements were instituted by revelation to Joseph Smith:

  1. three witnesses are required;
  2. the witnesses must be "of long and faithful standing";
  3. the witnesses "cannot be impeached by other witnesses";

Snuffer simply does not qualify:

  1. he is a single witness;
  2. his repeated attacks upon the Church, its leaders, and doctrines disqualify him from the label "long and faithful standing," since it is precisely his faithfulness that is at issue;
  3. his witness can be impeached: he is clearly guilty of the charge of apostasy.

"They have not practiced what He requires. The Lord has brought about His purposes. This has been in His heart all along"

 Contradicts Joseph Smith

According to the scriptures, the Lord simply does not act as Snuffer claims that he has acted, nor does the Lord displace his constituted leaders privately, unknown to all save Snuffer. The revelations and Prophet Joseph that Snuffer claims to support forbid it. Joseph Smith taught:

we do not consider ourselves bound to receive any revelation from any one man or woman without their being legally constituted and ordained to that authority"[15]

Snuffer is not (and has never been) legally constituted or ordained to such authority.

It must be, then, that he is either mistaken or lying.

Another option

 Contradicts D&C

The January 1838 revelation provides another means of confirming the First Presidency in their authority and role:

And again the presidency of said Church may be tried by the voice of the whole body of <the Church of> Zion, and the <voice> <of a majority> of all her Stakes, And again except a majority is had by the voice of the Church of Zion, and the majority of her Stakes, the charges will be considered not sustained, and in order to sustain such charge or charges before said Church <of Zion> or her Stakes
Such witnesses must be had as is named above, That is three witnesses etc. Each president that is of long & faithfull sta[nd]ing that can[not] be impeached by other wi[tnesses] before [the] Church of Zion or her Stakes, and all this saith the Lord, because of wicked and aspir ing men, let all your doing be in meek ness and humility before me even so Amen[16]

The whole Church may also try such cases, but unless a majority all stakes condemn the First Presidency, "the charges will be considered not sustained."

 Undercuts own argument

Snuffer has undercut his own argument, since he notes that:

Last general conference [April 2014], the entire First Presidency, the 12, the 70, and all other general authorities and auxiliaries, voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the church. At that moment, the Lord ended all claims of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to claim it is led by the priesthood.

He does not go far enough, since it is not just the senior leaders that sustained those that Snuffer claims are in error, and thus now illegitimate. In fact, the entire Church voted to sustain the First Presidency and other leaders. Unfortunately, according to scripture this means that Snuffer's complaint against them is not sustained.

Thus, until Snuffer can muster a majority of members in a majority of stakes to condemn his "unjust excommunication," the First Presidency retain their authority. (As before, the three unimpeachable, faithful witnesses are also required in this scenario.)

Why is such a strict standard required? The Lord tells us: "because of wicked and aspiring men."

Notes


  1. Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 7.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  2. Snuffer to First Presidency, Letter (13 September 2013), reproduced in Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 42.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  3. Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 7.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  4. Joseph Smith remarks made at Brigham Young Dwelling, Montrose, Iowa Territory (Tuesday, 2 July 1839), recorded in Willard Richards Pocket Companion; cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 413. See also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 278. off-site
  5. Denver Snuffer, Jr. to his followers,Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 7.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  6. Joseph Smith, Jr., Joseph Smith remarks made at Brigham Young Dwelling, Montrose, Iowa Territory (Tuesday, 2 July 1839), recorded in Willard Richards Pocket Companion; cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of Joseph Smith, 2nd Edition, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1996), 413. See also Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 278. off-site
  7. Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 7-8.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  8. The definition of apostasy for Church disciplinary purposes is discussed in James E. Faust, "Keeping Covenants and Honoring the Priesthood," Ensign (November 1993). Also in Handbook 1, 6.7.3
  9. Snuffer says that Elder Russell M. Nelson and Elder G. Todd Christofferson were involved in forcing his excommunication. Denver Snuffer, "Ten Points," from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 14 September 2013, http://denversnuffer.blogspot.ca/2013/09/ten-points.html
  10. M. Truman Hunt to Denver Snuffer, “Notice of Disciplinary Council,” letter (21 August 2013), 1–2. On-line at Denver Snuffer, “Don't call me. (Yes, that means you too!),” at from the desk of Denver Snuffer blog (23 August 2013), accessed 3 September 2013. http://denversnuffer.blogspot.ca/2013/08/dont-call-me-yes-that-means-you-too_23.html
  11. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). Volume 2 link
  12. 12.0 12.1 This is the 1835 edition of the D&C, which section 3:37 is equivalent of the present-day 107:82 cited above.
  13. Revelation, Kirtland, OH, 12 Jan. 1838; handwriting of George W. Robinson; three pages; Revelations Collection, CHL, p.1
  14. Revelation, Kirtland, OH, 12 Jan. 1838; handwriting of George W. Robinson; three pages; Revelations Collection, CHL, p.1-2
  15. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 1:338-39. Volume 1 link Also in Times and Seasons 5 no. 24 (1 Jan 1844), 752. off-site GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  16. Revelation, Kirtland, OH, 12 Jan. 1838; handwriting of George W. Robinson; three pages; Revelations Collection, CHL, p.2-3