Question: What happens when a Mormon criticizes Church leaders?

Table of Contents

Question: What happens when a Mormon criticizes Church leaders?

If done publicly and repeatedly, it can lead to excommunication

I am repulsed by people claiming they are to be respected as some giant, freaking, priesthood key holding, omni-competent replacement for God! I am tired of that! I don't want any more of that! I've had enough!

— Denver Snuffer [1]:31"
∗       ∗       ∗
To the extent I have ever spoken about living church leaders I have praised them.

— Denver Snuffer[2]:42"
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Murder was allowed [in Utah] but only when President Young thought it was needed for the salvation of the victim.

— Denver Snuffer[3]:223"
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It is not the responsibility of church members to judge church authorities.

— Denver Snuffer[3]:28–29, 422"

One critic of the Church, Denver Snuffer, told his stake president and the First Presidency::

I was shown a section of the Church Handbook of Instructions that mandated discipline for criticizing the church’s leaders. I explained I hadn’t done that. I quoted from past church leaders’ diaries, journals, talks, letters or writings. But I did not criticize.[2]:42

Snuffer's account is not accurate. He has repeatedly criticized and attacked Church leaders.

Snuffer claims that his stake president agree with this after he 'explained' it to him:

I denied this accusation and after giving the explanation President Hunt agreed.[2]

However, his stake president seems to see the matter very differently, as revealed in a letter he wrote to Snuffer which Snuffer made public:

You [Denver Snuffer] have mischaracterized doctrine, denigrated virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith, and placed the church in a negative light....[4]

Snuffer reports that:

I asserted [to the stake president] that if he believed I was really "apostate" he would never have stood down. For that reason it was him merely following commands from higher up, and not a local matter.[5]

Yet, the Stake President clearly did not agree with this view:

[A]s you know, a stake disciplinary council was held on your behalf on September 8, 2013. The council's conclusion was that several of the claims that you make in Passing the Heavenly Gift constitute clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church and its leaders. Consequently, the council determined that you should be excommunicated from the Church for apostasy.[6]

It seems more likely, then, that Snuffer's stake president concluded that further attempts to reason with Snuffer on this issue was pointless. Anyone who can make so many criticisms and complaints, and then insist with a straight face that they've never criticized Church leaders is either dishonest, or not open to reasoned discussion.

False and self-contradictory claims

This claim is blatantly false. Snuffer's book and other pre-excommunication writing[7] is filled with criticism of the Church's leaders.

Snuffer's book is also self-contradictory. He declares that "It is not the responsibility of church members to judge church authorities."[3]:28–29, 422

But, he judges them repeatedly. By his own standards, his behavior is inappropriate.

He is not speaking the truth when he says that he does not criticize, and he judges despite claiming he should not.

LDS leaders = Popes

Snuffer compares modern leaders to the Popes, making false claims:

"The proud descendants of Nauvoo who have always retained control of the church’s top leadership positions, claim to hold all the keys ever given to Joseph Smith. They teach that they can bind on earth and in heaven. They are the ‘new Popes’ having the authority the Catholic Pope claims to possess."[3]:303, see also 66, 263

If this is not a criticism, what is it?

LDS leaders foster "cult of personality"

Snuffer repeatedly claims that leaders of the Church foster a "cult of personality."[3]:241, 264, 352, 359–360

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

LDS leaders believe they should be "adored"

Snuffer claims that prophets believe

they are entitled to the adoration of followers.[3]:359–360

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

LDS leaders guilty of spiritual "murder" and "priestcrafts"

Snuffer claims:

We [the Latter-day Saints] claim to hold keys that would allow men filled with sin to forgive sins on earth and in heaven, to grant eternal life, or to bar from the kingdom of God. Using that false and useless claim, we slay the souls of men, thereby committing murder. We are riddled with priestcrafts.[3]:414

Snuffer ignores that the claim to hold keys derives not from "Latter-day Saints," but from both the Bible and Doctrine and Covenants:

Bible: And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19).

Doctrine and Covenants: That whoever he blesses shall be blessed, and whoever he curses shall be cursed; that whatsoever he shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever he shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (D&C 124:93).

Doctrine and Covenants:hatsoever you seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever you bind on earth, in my name and by my word, saith the Lord, it shall be eternally bound in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you remit on earth shall be remitted eternally in the heavens; and whosesoever sins you retain on earth shall be retained in heaven (D&C 132:46, emphasis added).

Does Snuffer imagine that these men were any less fallible, any less sinful that modern leaders? Yet, God declared that they had priesthood keys of blessing and cursing, binding and loosing, of remitting or retaining sins.

Joseph Smith could have been speaking directly to Snuffer's complaint when he wrote:

It may seem to some to be a very bold doctrine that we talk of—a power which records or binds on earth and binds in heaven. Nevertheless, in all ages of the world, whenever the Lord has given a dispensation of the priesthood to any man by actual revelation, or any set of men, this power has always been given. Hence, whatsoever those men did in authority, in the name of the Lord, and did it truly and faithfully, and kept a proper and faithful record of the same, it became a law on earth and in heaven, and could not be annulled, according to the decrees of the great Jehovah. This is a faithful saying. Who can hear it? (D&C 128:9). [Joseph then quotes Matthew 16 as above.]

Snuffer's quarrel, then, is not with the Church leaders, but with ancient and modern scripture, as well as Joseph Smith whom he claims to sustain.

These claims are criticisms. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

David O. McKay liked to be 'lionized'

Snuffer makes a false claim relying on a misrepresented text to claim that David O. McKay "liked his ‘celebrity status’ and wanted ‘to be recognized, lauded, and lionized'."[3]:349

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.


Question: Did David O. McKay like to be "recognized, lauded, and lionized"?

It takes a certain talent to transform an account that praises McKay as a “modest, private person,” into an “admission” that McKay “liked” his celebrity

Some claim that David O. McKay "liked his ‘celebrity status’ and wanted ‘to be recognized, lauded, and lionized'."[8]

<onlyinclude>Snuffer quotes D. Michael Quinn: “a First Presidency secretary acknowledged that [David O.] McKay liked his ‘celebrity status,’ and wanted ‘to be recognized, lauded, and lionized’” (349). He cites Quinn’s Extensions of Power volume, which gives as its source a book by secretary Francis M. Gibbons.[9] A check of these references is discouraging, but not surprising for those familiar with Quinn’s methods.[10] The actual text of Gibbons’ volume for the pages cited reads:

[263] The encroachment on [McKay's] private life that celebrity status imposed...was something President McKay adjusted to with apparent difficulty. He was essentially a modest, private person, reared in a rural atmosphere, who at an early age was thrust into the limelight of the Mormon community. And as he gained in experience...as wide media exposure made his name and face known in most households, he became, in a sense, a public asset whose time and efforts were assumed to be available to all. This radical change in status was a bittersweet experience. To be recognized, lauded, and lionized is something that seemingly appeals to the ego and self-esteem of the most modest among us, even to David O. McKay. But the inevitable shrinkage in the circle of privacy that this necessarily entails provides a counter-balance that at times outweighs the positive aspects of public adulation. This is easily inferred from a diary entry of July 19, 1950....The diarist hinted that it had become so difficult to venture forth on the streets of Salt Lake City that he had about decided to abandon the practice. For such a free spirit as he, for one who was so accustomed to going and coming as he pleased, any decision to restrict his movements about the city was an imprisonment of sorts. But the only alternatives, neither of which was acceptable, were to go in disguise or to ignore or to cut short those who approached him. The latter would have been especially repugnant to one such as David O. McKay, who had cultivated to the highest degree the qualities of courtesy and attentive listening.

It was ironic, therefore, that as the apostle's fame and influence widened, the scope of his private life was proportionately restricted.... [347]

Everywhere he traveled in Australia, or elsewhere on international tours, President McKay received celebrity treatment. Enthusiastic, cheering, singing crowds usually greeted him at every stop, sometimes to the surprise or chagrin of local residents. A group of well-known Australian athletes, about a flight to Adelaide with President McKay's party, learned an embarrassing lesson in humility. Seeing a large, noisy crowd at the airport, and assuming they were the object of its adulation, the handsome young men stepped forward to acknowledge the greeting [348] only to find that the cheers and excitement were generated by the tall, white-haired man who came down the ramp after them.

It takes a certain talent to transform an account that praises McKay as a “modest, private person,” (whose privacy and personal convenience suffered because of how unwilling he was to appear rude or short with anyone) into an “admission” that McKay “liked” his celebrity. The original line about being “recognized, lauded, and lionized” is obviously intended to point out that such things are a danger to anyone because they appeal to the ego, and all would be tempted by them—but it is likewise clear that Gibbons does not think that McKay succumbed to that temptation. Snuffer is helping Quinn bear false witness against both McKay and Gibbons.

LDS leaders = Proud

He repeatedly labels all general leaders since Nauvoo as "proud":

  • “Ever since the expulsion of church members from Nauvoo, the highest leadership positions in the church have been held by Nauvoo’s proud descendants.”[3]:113
  • “The proud refugees from Nauvoo and their descendants have always claimed they succeeded in doing all that was required.”[3]:381
  • “If [my] new view of history is more correct than the narrative offered by the proud descendants of Nauvoo…”[3]:420
  • “The Nauvoo saints and their proud descendants would necessarily diminish. This view is unlikely to ever be accepted by a church whose leadership is filled overwhelmingly by those same proud descendants of Nauvoo. There hasn’t been a single church president without Nauvoo ancestors.”[3]:119

It is clear that he intends the term "proud" in its negative sense, since he elsewhere accuses the leaders of great arrogance:

I am repulsed by people claiming they are to be respected as some giant, freaking, priesthood key holding, omni-competent replacement for God! I am tired of that! I don't want any more of that! I've had enough![1]:31

This is a gross misrepresentation of how LDS members see their leaders, or what the leaders claim. But, it is the attitude that Snuffer imputes to them—clearly stuffed with pride and arrogance.

To be "proud" is to be guilty of great sin.

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

LDS leaders only "administrative apostles"

Snuffer's attitude toward modern Church leaders is displayed in his chapter title, "Prophets, Profits and Priestcraft."[3]:185 The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are said to be "modern administrative Apostles,"[3]:61 who cannot bear the proper Apostolic witness that Snuffer can: there are “two different kinds of Apostles”—”one is an administrative office in the church. The other is a witness of the resurrection, who has met with Christ”.[3]:34

To accuse others of priestcraft and valuing "profits" over prophecy is not a compliment. It is not praise to say that the Twelve Apostles are only "administrators" instead of witnesses of the resurrection.

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

Church leaders use "Babylonian methods"

Snuffer accuses Church leaders of changing the Church, and using "[B]abylonian methods":

"The book brings to light the [B]abylonian methods church leadership uses to make rapid and dramatic changes. We are not now the same church restored by Joseph Smith....."[11]

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

LDS leaders = not true messengers

Snuffer writes:

Part of the ceremony [made] it...clear to those who participated that there were no mortal sources who could claim they were ‘true messengers.’ Mortal men were universally depicted as false ministers in the ceremony Joseph restored. The only source of true messengers was God or angels sent by Him.[3]:276

LDS prophets and apostles claim to be true messengers from God. Snuffer says that they are not.

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

"Instructions from above" are not from Salt Lake City

Snuffer tells his followers:

instruction from above...for me...has little to do with 47 East South Temple.[12]

Snuffer claims that instructions from Church leaders (at the Church Office Building at 47 East South Temple) are not from above, while claiming that he does get instruction from God above.

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

LDS leaders wish to hide the Church's desire to accommodate the homosexual agenda

Snuffer tells his audience that the Church is easing "toward open acceptance of socially progressive mormonism. This is the product of social, political and legal pressure," as evidenced by the Church's support of anti-discrimination ordinances for homosexuals.[11]

  • "This accounts for the difference between the reaction of the church to socially progressive Mormons (who are tolerated) and me. Those who advocate for the place the church has already decided to go are not a threat to their plans. What I write can create a good deal of difficultly in arriving there."[11]
  • "The church needs not only to "teach for doctrine the commandments of men," the church must be able to teach AS doctrine the commandments of men. Meaning that the church must have those aboard who will do, believe and accept whatever the leaders tell the members. Unquestionably. Unhesitatingly."[11]
  • "I will state for all you blog readers: Passing the Heavenly Gift contains content that will make your appreciation and acceptance of the efforts of the institution now and in the future to bend its teachings to conform to social, political and legal trends much more difficult to achieve. You will be happier if you don't read the book. You will be more inclined to sleepwalk along with what is progressively distant from the original restoration. You will not detect that these changes mark the downfall predicted in the prophecies of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants."[11]

Snuffer claims Church leaders are caving to social and legal pressure on homosexuality, and not following God's will.

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

LDS leaders wink at homosexual lust

  • The church introduced a web page on same sex attraction. Two of the twelve contributed to the page. One of them asserted that same sex attraction is not a sin, but only acting on the impulse would be. This is an interesting accommodation which contradicts the Lord's statement that "whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery in his heart." Or, adds to it: "but if you burn in lust for the same sex that isn't adultery in your heart."[11]

Snuffer here accuses two of the twelve apostles:

  1. of teaching contrary to Jesus' words
  2. of declaring that "burning in lust" isn't a sin.

Snuffer is clearly misrepresenting the apostles. Snuffer's "opposite sex attraction" is not a sin in and of itself, and someone else's "same sex attraction" is not a sin. Snuffer could sin by burning in lust toward someone, just as a homosexual member could sin by encouraging fantasies of same sex acts. But, there mere fact that Snuffer, or the homosexual member, have an attraction to one gender or the other is not a sin.

It appears that Snuffer is going out of his way to find fault, and reading Church leaders with the least charitable interpretation possible.

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

Question: Do LDS leaders bear proper testimony of the resurrection?

Snuffer claims:

Today, testimonies of the presiding authorities, including the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve, assert only vaguely they are “special witnesses” of the Lord…. A great number of active Latter-day Saints do not notice the careful parsing [sic] of words used by modern administrative Apostles. They presume a “witness of the name” of Christ is the same as the New Testament witness of His resurrection. The apostolic witness was always intended to be based upon the dramatic, the extraordinary…. Without such visionary encounters with the Lord, they are unable to witness about Him, but only of His name.[3]:62

It is not a compliment to claim that the Twelve Apostles "are unable to witness about" Christ.

This is a criticism. Snuffer's claim to not criticize is false.

Snuffer also misrepresents the content of many modern apostles' witness:

Response to Passing the Heavenly Gift: Claims about Brigham Young and apostles not being witnesses of Christ

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Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014).https://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Snuffer to First Presidency, Letter (13 September 2013), reproduced in Denver Snuffer, "Preserving The Restoration," Lecture 10, Mesa, Arizona (9 September 2014).https://www.scribd.com/doc/239760895/10-Phoenix-Transcript-Preserving-the-Restoration Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "1st_pres" defined multiple times with different content
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011).
  4. M. Truman Hunt to Denver Snuffer, “Notice of Disciplinary Council,” letter (21 August 2013), 1–2. Online at Denver Snuffer, “Don’t call me. (Yes, that means you too!),” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 23 August 2013, http://denversnuffer.blogspot.ca/2013/08/dont-call-me-yes-that-means-you-too_23.html
  5. Denver Snuffer, "Don't Know," from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 9 September 2013, http://denversnuffer.blogspot.ca/2013/09/dont-know.html
  6. Truman Hunt, letter to Denver Snuffer (18 September 2013), posted on Denver Snuffer, "No Title," from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 20 September 2013, http://denversnuffer.blogspot.ca/2013/09/no-title.html
  7. His post-excommunication writing is little different. We will not review those examples here, since they could not have had a bearing on his excommunication. Readers will note, however, that not much has changed before and after.
  8. Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011), 348, citing D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Signature Books, 1997), 363 ( Index of claims ) Quinn cites Francis Gibbons, David O. McKay: Apostle to the World, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1986), 347, 263..
  9. The citation is from Quinn, Extensions of Power, 363. Quinn cites Francis Gibbons, David O. McKay: Apostle to the World, Prophet of God (Deseret Book 1986), 347, 263.
  10. See note 55 herein.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Denver Snuffer, "Compliance (So Far As Possible)," from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 4 September 2013, http://denversnuffer.blogspot.ca/2013/09/compliance-so-far-as-possible.html
  12. Denver Snuffer, “Current Events,” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 26 August 2013, http://denversnuffer.blogspot.ca/2013/08/current-events.html