Criticism of Mormonism/Online documents/Denver Snuffer/Inconsistent claims/Misleading citation of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and George A. Smith

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A FairMormon Analysis of Denver Snuffer's Online Claims: Inconsistent claims: Misleading citation of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and George A. Smith


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At one point, Snuffer cites three authors for whom he normally has little respect, probably because his target audience is believing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These authors are:

  • Brigham Young
  • Heber C. Kimball
  • George A. Smith

Snuffer uses citations from each to argue that these Church leaders foretold a potential loss of priesthood authority by the Church:

To the same effect, during the Mormon Reformation Heber C. Kimball said: “We receive the priesthood and power and authority. If we make a bad use of the priesthood, so you not see that the day will come when God will reckon with us, and he will take it from us and give it to those who will make better use of it? (JD6: 125.) George A. Smith said, “God has set his hand at the present time to establish his kingdom. But unless the Saints will so live and so exert themselves that they can preserve the purity of the holy Priesthood among them, the work will be left to other people.” (JD 6: 161.) Even Brigham Young commented on the possibility that only an LDS remnant would remain to carry forward the work: “God will preserve a portion of the meek and the humble of this people to bear off the Kingdom to the inhabitants of the earth, and will defend His Priesthood; for it is the last time, the last gathering time; and He will not suffer the Priesthood to be again driven from the earth.” (JD 2: 184.)[1]

But, why would Snuffer regard these authors as authoritative? He has made his disdain for them clear elsewhere.

Snuffer's attitude toward Brigham Young and other apostles

Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "Passing Up The Heavenly Gift (Part Two of Two)"

Gregory L. Smith,  Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (2013)
"[Snuffer's] treatment of Brigham Young and blood atonement is simply vintage anti-Mormonism."

Click here to view the complete article

Snuffer wrote of Brigham Young:

Murder was allowed [in Utah] but only when President Young thought it was needed for the salvation of the victim.[2]:223

Snuffer also insists that Brigham Young did not receive all of the keys which Joseph could have passed on.[2]:36, 81-86

George A. Smith and Heber C. Kimball were both apostles, and Snuffer denies that they were in a position to have the sealing power from Joseph which they claimed to hold.[3] He claims too that they were not suited to be true apostles that could witness of Christ's resurrection.[2]:243

In Snuffer's view, something vital was lost with Joseph's death, and Brigham and the rest of the apostles were mistaken to think that they had it. He regards Brigham Young as one who winked at murder, and further blames the second President of the Church for:

Snuffer uses these claims (which are not explored in any detail, but only lightly touched on—presumably to shock the reader) to conclude that:

Although the gentile church was established by a Prophet upon whom the Lord conferred the fullness of the priesthood [Joseph Smith], the transfer of that fullness [to Brigham and the other apostles] is more presumed in the accounts than proven....But subsequent events can help illustrate whether the prophesied gentile lyings, deceits, wickedness, abominations, murders and hypocrisy foretold by Christ have happened.[2]:145-146

For Snuffer, then, Brigham's rule was a corrupt one marred by murder, violence, coercion, and hypocrisy: evidence that the Church did not retain what Joseph had started with. And, Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith were either in the First Presidency or Quorum of the Twelve during this period.

It is strange, then, that Snuffer would cite them as authorities. How can such men be said to have the spirit of prophecy, or the spirit of the Lord to guide them or the Church?

Snuffer cites Brigham Young

It seems obvious that Snuffer cites Brigham and the others only because he thinks he can enlist their support for his theories. If Snuffer's stake president, on the other hand, had cited Brigham Young's witness that he had all the keys from Joseph, Snuffer would doubtless reject this witness: we have seen what he truly thinks of Brigham.

Snuffer hopes we will consider this address authoritative. Very well—let us examine the address, and see if it supports Snuffer's claim that the Church risks losing priesthood authority.

Snuffer quotes Brigham:

Even Brigham Young commented on the possibility that only an LDS remnant would remain to carry forward the work: “God will preserve a portion of the meek and the humble of this people to bear off the Kingdom to the inhabitants of the earth, and will defend His Priesthood; for it is the last time, the last gathering time; and He will not suffer the Priesthood to be again driven from the earth.” (JD 2:184.)[4]

Snuffer inverts Brigham's meaning by omitting key information

Let us examine Brigham's statement in context, and see if Snuffer has honestly represented it. The snippet quoted by Snuffer is in bold type, color has been added to vital sections about which he has not informed his audience:

The quote

I can tell you something more, brethren and sisters, and friends, and the United States, and all the world; the Lord Almighty will not suffer His [p.184] Priesthood to be again driven from the earth, even should He permit the wicked to kill and destroy this people. The Government of the United States and all the kings of the world may go to war with us, but God will preserve a portion of the meek and humble of this people to bear off the Kingdom to the inhabitants of the earth, and will defend His Priesthood; for it is the last time, the last gathering time; and He will not suffer the Priesthood to be again driven from the earth. They may massacre men, women, and children; but the Lord will not suffer them to destroy the Priesthood; and I say to the Saints, that, if they will truly practise their religion, they will live, and not be cut off.[5]

Analysis

Snuffer has very cleverly omitted the key sentences before and after which explain Brigham's meaning. Brigham says that even if the whole world wages war upon the Saints, and even if violence and death comes against to the Church the Lord will still preserve some of the Saints to maintain the priesthood that they currently have. He repeats again that even if the wicked are allowed to massacre some of the Saints God will still preserve the priesthood. And, if the Saints live their religion they will not be subject to violence.

Thus, Brigham is not in any way supporting Snuffer's claim that the Church will lose the full priesthood authority en masse, with only a few chosen (like Snuffer, supposedly) to preserve it. Instead, Brigham is saying that even if the Saints generally become wicked and are thereby killed, the Lord will not kill all of them, and those who remain faithful will continue to hold the Priesthood that he insists they have. Even murder and death cannot wipe out the Priesthood authority, because the Church has it and God will not permit the priesthood's loss.

Thus, rather than supporting Snuffer's position, Brigham completely rebuts it.

To be sure, Snuffer likely does not accept Brigham's authority or his declaration—because if he did, it would mean that Snuffer's acts and doctrines are mistaken.

Why did Snuffer change Brigham's meaning? Why did he cite a man whom he regards with obvious distaste? The only reason can be that Snuffer wishes to persuade believing Latter-day Saints, and he thinks citing Brigham will increase his credibility. Many readers will find such tactics dishonest. They certainly reveal much about Snuffer's approach to historical documents and religious ideas.

Other information from Brigham in the same talk

Snuffer wants us to accept the snippet he quoted from Brigham's talk. Let us now look at what else Brigham said in the same talk. After all, if Snuffer wants us to accept Brigham as inspired in this talk, we should look at everything he said.

Brigham also said:

We ask where Christ's Church is. My conclusive answer is, if the Latter-day Saints do not constitute the Kingdom of God on the earth, the Church of Jesus Christ, it is no where to be found upon it....

Brigham thus completely disagrees with Snuffer. Brigham insists that God's kingdom is found—and only to be found—in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Compare this to Snuffer's claim that "There is no reason you can't be part of this fellowship [the religious group that Snuffer seeks to found, under his guidance and direction] and be part of the Lutheran Church, Catholic Church or part of an LDS community."[6]

If Snuffer does not wish us to accept this claim of Brigham's, then it is inconsistent for him to ask us to accept his skewed reading of Brigham.

Snuffer cites Heber C. Kimball

Heber C. Kimball's remarks show the same thing that we saw with Brigham's—they undercut Snuffer's claims. Snuff quotes Heber:

We receive the priesthood and power and authority. If we make a bad use of the priesthood, [d]o you not see that the day will come when God will reckon with us, and he will take it from us and give it to those who will make better use of it? (JD 6:125.)

In the same address cited by Snuffer, however, Heber describes the sort of things which might cause God to take the priesthood from some. (Heber speaks of individuals losing the priesthood, not the entire Church). He says:

Brethren, we have all got to learn one thing, and that is, to be one with our leader; and this oneness should extend from the least member up to Prophet and Seer—every man standing in his order and place, just as the branches of a tree are one with the stock and root.[7]:123

This is precisely what Snuffer will not do—he will not sustain priesthood leaders, he will not defer to their instructions or authority. Thus, according to Heber, Snuffer's behavior is the sort of thing that puts one at risk of losing priesthood authority.

Heber continues:

So it is with the sap that circulates through the limbs and branches of a tree: every branch and leaf becomes impregnated with the principle that is in the root. And so it ought to be with the kingdom of God: every member of it should partake of the principles of virtue and truth that are in the leader of that kingdom, and be as perfectly one with him.[7]:124

Again, Snuffer violates precisely what Heber teaches.

Heber also said:

The spirit of disobedience is the Spirit of apostacy; and if you do not look out, it will upset you, and you will go overboard before you are aware of it. Every branch should be interested for the root from whence it springs; for if the root perishes, the branch must perish also.[7]:124

This is not a message that Snuffer wants to hear, or that he wants others to embrace.

Heber also rebukes Snuffer when he says:

Have you a right to interfere with the things of God? No—not without the consent of the man that presides over you.[7]:124

Snuffer thus distorts Heber and tries to enlist him in encouraging others in apostasy and rebellion.

Snuffer cites George A. Smith

We conclude with apostle George A. Smith, whom Snuffer cites:

God has set his hand at the present time to establish his kingdom. But unless the Saints will so live and so exert themselves that they can preserve the purity of the holy Priesthood among them, the work will be left to other people.(JD 6: 161.)

The quote

As was the case with Brigham Young, we find Snuffer citing George A. Smith selectively, without including the material that undercuts his argument. Snuffer's material is in bold; color has been added for clarity in commentary:

Now, it I could not get up here and bear testimony that we are led by the power and instruction of the Spirit of prophecy—by the Spirit of the Almighty—by a Prophet called of God, ordained and chosen to instruct, teach, and lead us, you would never hear my voice in your midst. But that light never can be put out: it is with the Church, and God has set his hand at the present time to establish his kingdom. But unless the Saints will so live and so exert themselves that they can preserve the purity of the holy Priesthood among them, the work will be left to other people.

Analysis

Snuffer omits the witness that Brigham Young leads by the Spirit of prophecy. Snuffer also fails to tell us that George A. Smith testifies that this revelation and guidance to the Church prophet could not be put out. That power is with the Church, and thus while the Saints may fail individually and leave the work for others, the work will not be given to another people or group.

Further words from George A. Smith in the same talk

We once again also find Snuffer ignoring material in the same talk which challenges his behavior. For example, George A. Smith also says:

The very moment that revelation, to this Church through our Prophet and Presidency ceases to be communicated unto us, and we adopt any series of books, whether the writings of Joseph or the writings of any other man, or all the writings and revelations that ever have been given, and say, This much we receive, and no more; then we are as dead as the lifeless corpse: we cut off the channel of revelation, and the light and the communication between us and eternal happiness; we cut asunder the thread of light, and we are in darkness and adrift at sea, without a compass to guide us, like any other religious denomination. Hence it is that we bear testimony of the fulness of the Gospel and of the Priesthood conferred upon Joseph Smith, and conferred upon our Prophet and President Brigham Young, and all the authorities of Israel in their sphere and in their standing and position.[7]:160-161

George A. Smith makes the following claims, all of which contradict Snuffer's claims:

  • to be cut off from revelation to the Prophet and Church President is to be spiritually dead and utterly lost;
  • "the fulness of the Gospel and of the Priesthood" were given to Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and continue in the Church to that moment;
  • the writings of any other man (such as Snuffer) are worthless to our spiritual well-being if we do not have and follow revelation from the Church President and Prophet.

George A. Smith also bears witness that Priesthood authority and revelation to the Church will not fail, come what may:

This is the work of God, and the servants of God that are called to preside over us are the messengers of the Most High, and they have the light and the power. It matters not whether we live to behold it in this life or not, that light will triumph; and all those who live humble and keep the commandments of God will triumph also. This is my testimony (emphasis added).[7]:161

Conclusion

Based on what we have seen here, readers are entitled to question Snuffer's historical accuracy and commitment to frank truth-telling. It appears that he is more interested in supporting his own theories than in fairly reporting what others have said. Such distortion is unlikely to happen by accident, especially three times in a row.

Notes


  1. Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 6 note 18.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011)..
  3. [citation needed]
  4. Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 6 note 18.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  5. JD 2:183. .wiki
  6. Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014), 18.http://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration#download
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 JD 6: .wiki