There are 51 thoughts on “A Response to Denver Snuffer’s Essay on Plural Marriage, Adoption, and the Supposed Falling Away of the Church – Part 2: Façade or Reality?”.

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write these reviews. My best friend has decided to join the “remnant'” movement started by Snuffer and talking with her has been confusing and uncomfortable at times. Reading this two-part review has helped me more than you know. I will not be wasting time arguing points with my friend (she has made up her mind for the moment), but these have helped me tremendously. I got the information I needed and the peace of mind I was looking for studying them. Thank you Brian C. Hales!

  2. Brian,
    Thank you for your defending the faith!
    I have a friend that is close to following Denver. I sent this quote you referenced to my friend:
    (In the last talk 10 lecture series “I said, the witness has now come, and I am he (p. 39).”)
    They said it’s not there and I’ve looked too. Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong place. Could you help me find this quote?
    Thank you

  3. Thanks for the question.
    Snuffer fails to acknowledge that once a gentile joins the Church, he or she is are no longer considered gentiles in the text, but they are the “House of Israel.” This is mentioned several times in the the Book of Mormon, including twice by the Savior:
    2 Nephi 10:18
    18 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, thus saith our God: I will afflict thy seed by the hand of the Gentiles; nevertheless, I will soften the hearts of the Gentiles, that they shall be like unto a father to them; wherefore, the Gentiles shall be blessed and numbered among the house of Israel.
    3 Nephi 16:13
    13 But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel.
    3 Nephi 21:6
    6 For thus it behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel;
    This process began early in the restoration, even before the Church was organized:
    D&C 14:10
    10 Wherefore, I must bring forth the fulness of my gospel from the Gentiles unto the house of Israel.
    This occurs in part as gentiles accept the gospel and become numbered with the house of Israel.
    The condemnations of the Gentiles as found in the Book of Mormon are for those who have not accepted baptism and been accepted into the House of Israel.
    Brian Hales

  4. How do we reconcile the prophecies in the Book of Mormon about the Latter day gentiles and the church of God? It seems that Snuffer use the these prophecies to interpret the church history and its events.

  5. Miriam Works was also dead at the time of the sealings, in fact she died I believe before Brigham Young moved to Kirtland.
    On another point it was Wilford Woodruff who declared it as a revelation that all sealings should be done to biological parents and not to people felt to be more righteous. Thus this suggests that a reading of a journal entry of his that argues for a different policy is probably flawed. Either a result of reading into the entry what is not there, or possibly reflecting the wording of the entry, written a while after the talk and without reviewing it may misconstrue the message of what was said, but we would not expect the deliberative statements of the prophet to misconstrue the overall message.

  6. I am pretty sure that the sealings to Don Carlos Smith would have also been by proxy since he died a few years before Joseph and Hyrum died. Which just makes the overall point of the list stronger.

  7. Hello Brian … hope this blog is still operating … I didn’t have another way of contacting you … I just finished reading your book “Jos. Smith’s Polygamy toward a better understanding” … thank you for putting forth this straight forward summary … it greatly strengthened my sympathy for the Prophet Joseph Smith. It greatly strengthened my testimony of his prophetic calling. He was commanded by God to implement polygamy and his obedience opened the door for polygamy’s wider acceptance. In reading your book I felt a tremendous sense of appreciation for Joseph’s Smith’s prophetic calling. It was helpful to me to see the Lord working through Joseph Smith and to imagine the tremendous burden of his calling. Understanding that the Lord works through flawed people, should provide hope to us all. Seeing Joseph Smith’s many accomplishments in light of his extreme burdens, helps me to carry my minimal burdens. I remember Pres. Hinckley testifying in a past conference that Joseph Smith was a moral man and that he was an honest man. Your book has helped me to see the truth of that statement. Thank you.

  8. I guess I need to understand how you interpret D&C 124:28 “For there is not a place found on earth that he may come to and restore again that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood.”
    Does it not say that the fulness of the priesthood had been lost, taken away, and needed to be restored again?
    You must have some other interpretation of that verse. I’m curious to hear if there is another way to read it?

    • The context supplies the important aspects of interpretation. The context is the temple and the ability to use the temple for the sacred ordinances of the endowment. What needed to be restored? Temples. What is the “fulness of the priesthood”? The temple ordinances which would be restored in the operational temple.
      Reading it to say that all priesthood had been removed in modern times misses the entire point of the revelation.

      • I don’t think anyone has argued “all priesthood” had been taken away, but rather that “the fullness” had been taken away.
        I’m curious as to why “the fullness” is simply temple ordinances. Are you suggesting that temple ordinances required the presence of the Lord to restore them? (See the first part of verse 28)

    • Hi Again,
      I agree with Brant.
      Perhaps we could reverse the question. What do you think the “fullness of the priesthood” is? I haven’t followed Denver’s claims, but worry he would misrepresent D&C 124:28 to mean that Joseph had the fullness but then lost it. This isn’t accurate, but Denver misrepresents things so routinely that I worry he has added this to the list.
      In fact, D&C 124:28 observes that there was no temple in which the highest temple ordinances can be performed. One example is child-to-parent sealings. None were performed during Joseph’s lifetime. He died without being sealed to his parents or children. Why? Because it requires a temple. Nearly 300 were performed in the Nauvoo temple and then none until 1877 when the St. George temple opened. Verse 28 is lamenting the loss of the ability to perform ordinances like these, the loss of the temple as Brant explained
      Regarding the actual meaning of the “fullness of the priesthood,” Andrew Ehat wrote: “One of the major milestones, if not the major milestone, of the Latter-day work was to be the restoration of the fulness of the priesthood (D&C 124:28). The Prophet’s “mission…[was to] firmly [establish] the [p.306] dispensation of the fullness of the priesthood in the last days, that all the powers of earth and hell [could] never prevail against it” (History of the Church, 5:140, or Teachings, p. 258). What was this fulness of the priesthood? The most concise but inclusive definition of the authority of the fulness of the priesthood was given by Joseph Smith in his 10 March 1844 discourse when he said, “Now for Elijah; the spirit, power and calling of Elijah is that ye have power to hold the keys of the revelations, ordinances, oracles, powers and endowments of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood and of the Kingdom of God on the Earth and to receive, obtain and perform all the ordinances belonging to the kingdom of God…[to] have power to seal on earth and in heaven.” However, the Prophet had not as yet administered the ordinances that made men kings and priests. Brigham Young said three weeks before this discourse that no one yet in the Church had the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, “For any person to have the fullness of that priesthood, he must be a king and priest” (History of the Church, 5:527, which is quoted verbatim from the original source kept by Wilford Woodruff, Church Archives). These ordinances were instituted on 28 September 1843 and in the next five months were conferred on twenty men (and their wives, except for those whose names are asterisked): Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, Newel K. Whitney, William Marks, John Taylor, John Smith, Reynolds Cahoon, Alpheus Cutler, Orson Spencer, Orson Hyde*, Parley P. Pratt*, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Levi Richards*, Cornelius P. Lott, William W. Phelps Isaac Morley, and Orson Pratt.*
      Please note that nothing was lost in 1841, except the ability to perform certain ordinances that require a temple and those ordinances (ALL OF THEM) were performed in the Nauvoo Temple when it was completed 18 months after the martyrdom.
      If you or Denver disagree on the meaning of the “fullness of the priesthood,” please explain in detail when it was given to Joseph and when it was lost.

      • I don’t claim to know what the fullness of the priesthood is.
        My main point and question, which seems to get lost in the dialogue is that Denver is not claiming a full apostasy. You seem to be suggesting that there is no such thing as a partial apostasy. I was merely pointing to D&C 124 to illustrate that things can be lost, taken away, restored again, and the church can be potentially rejected.
        Maybe apostasy has too strong of a connotation due to the great apostasy—but the original essay says that Denver is putting forth “allegations of a complete apostasy.” I disagree with that. I think he is merely suggesting that some things may be “lost,” “taken away,” and the Lord may “restore again.” The idea that the church can never lose anything, never have anything taken away, never be rejected, goes counter to the Lord’s own words in that revelation.
        At this point we may be going in circles, so I’m not asking any questions that merit a response. We’re all searching for light and truth and to connect with heaven. Godspeed in your search.
        p.s. I will look into Ehat’s thesis and consider further the definition of fullness of the priesthood.

        • Matthew–
          Here is some information about the fulness of the priesthood that might be useful to you. As Brian and Brant have said, nothing was lost in this dispensation. Rather, the context makes it clear that the verse in question is foreshadowing the restoration of the ordinance of the fulness of the priesthood once the temple is complete.
          Jeff Bradshaw
          The Fulness of the Priesthood
          Extracted from J. M. Bradshaw, “Temple Themes in the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood,” SLC: Eborn Books, updated edition, 2014
          The fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood belongs to one who is made a “king and a priest unto God, bearing rule, authority, and dominion under the Father.”(1) Correspondingly, worthy women may receive the blessings of becoming queens and priestesses.(2)
          It is fitting for these blessings to be associated with the name of Melchizedek, because he was the great “king of Salem” and “the priest of the most high God,”(3) who gave the priesthood to Abraham.(4) Later kings of Israel, as well as Jesus Christ Himself, were declared to be part of the “order of Melchizedek,”(5) which was originally called “the Order of the Son of God.”(6)
          Because of the sacred nature of the ordinance that confers the fulness of the priesthood, very little detail about it has been given in official church publications. For example, Elder McConkie described this ordinance, along with those ordinances leading up to it, only in very general terms:(7)
          In setting forth as much as can, with propriety, be spoken outside of the temple, the Lord says that “the fulness of the priesthood”(8) is received only in the temple itself. This fulness is received through washings, anointings, solemn assemblies, oracles in holy places, conversations, ordinances, endowments, and sealings…(9)
          As with all prior covenants and ordinances, the Savior Himself set the example for us to follow. Summarizing the exacting requirements expected of those who receive this final ordinance of the temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith said:(10)
          If a man gets a fulness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.
          Anticipatory Nature of the Ordinance
          Although other temple ordinances had been administered to selected saints in Nauvoo beginning in 1842, the ordinance conferring the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood was not administered by the Prophet until the final months of 1843. On 6 August 1843, Brigham Young said that “if any in the Church had the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood, he did not know it.”(11) However, on 22 November 1843, he finally received this much-awaited ordinance.(12) In later instructions at the temple, President Young said:(13)
          Those who… come in here [i.e., the Nauvoo Temple] and have received their washing and anointing will [later, if faithful,] be ordained Kings and Priests, and will then have received the fulness of the Priesthood, all that can be given on earth. For Brother Joseph said he had given us all that could be given to man on the earth.
          In contrast to the priesthood ordinances discussed previously which are available to all faithful members of the Church in this life, this crowning ordinance of the temple is now almost always reserved as a blessing for the hereafter. Indeed, even if the ordinance could be performed in this life, the realization of the blessings it portends could not be made fully effective in mortality. Emphasizing the anticipatory nature of this ordinance, Brigham Young explained that “a person may be anointed king and priest long before he receives his kingdom.”(14)
          Antiquity of the Royal Priesthood
          Although the concept of a “royal priesthood”(15) expressed in the ordinance conferring the fulness of the priesthood is foreign to most people today, it is perfectly consistent with ancient religious practices.(16) For example, Wyatt summarizes a wide range of evidence indicating “a broad continuity of culture”(17) throughout the ancient Near East wherein the candidate for kingship underwent a ritual journey intended to confer a divine status as a son of God.(18)
          Scholars have long debated the meaning of scattered fragments of rituals of sacral kingship in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms, but over time have increasingly found evidence of parallels with ancient Near East investiture traditions.(19) In this regard, one of the most significant of these is Psalm 110, an unquestionably royal and—for Christians—messianic passage.(20) A well-known scholar of the Psalms, John Eaton, summarizes the import and setting of these verses as part of:(21)
          … the ceremonies enacting the installation of the Davidic king in Jerusalem… Items of enthronement ceremonial seem reflected: ascension to the throne, bestowal of the sceptre, anointing and baptism signifying new birth as the Lord’s son (v. 3 (22)), [and] appointment to royal priesthood(23) … As [in Psalms] 2, 18, 89, [and] 101, the rites may have involved a sacred drama and been repeated in commemorations, perhaps annually in conjunction with the celebration of God’s kingship, for which the Davidic ruler was chief “servant.”
          Note that, in Israelite practice, the moment of investiture would not necessarily have been the time of the king’s first anointing. The culminating anointing of the king corresponding to his definite investiture was, at least sometimes, preceded by a prior princely anointing. Baker and Ricks describe “several incidents in the Old Testament where a prince was first anointed to become king, and later, after he had proven himself, was anointed again—this time as actual king.”(24)
          Although there is little indication in the Old Testament that these Israelite rituals were given to anyone besides the king, there is significant non-scriptural evidence from later times that similar rites were made available to others. For example, findings at Qumran and Dura Europos suggest that in at least some strands of Jewish tradition these rituals of royal priesthood enabled members of the community, not just its ruler, to participate in a form of worship that ritually brought them into the presence of God.(25) Indeed, a precursor of this tradition is evident in the account of God’s promise to Israel that, if they kept His covenant, not just a select few but all of them would have the privilege of becoming part of “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”(26) Going back to the very beginning of the Bible, scholars have concluded that the statement that Adam and Eve were created in the “image of God”(27) is meant to convey the idea that “each person bears the stamp of royalty.”(28) As an example from the New Testament, note that similar blessings, echoing temple themes and intended for the whole community of the faithful, are enumerated in statements found in the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation.(29) In the most direct of these statements, Revelation 3:21 declares: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
          Misconceptions Relating to the Fulness of the Priesthood
          Since the marriage ordinance of sealing is usually the last ordinance that temple-worthy Church members receive in this life, it is sometimes mistakenly concluded that this is the highest ordinance that can be received in the temple. In addition, sometimes it has been falsely assumed that the marriage sealing itself confers the fulness of the priesthood. However, the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith made it clear that it is in the “crowning ordinance of the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood” that husbands and wives receive “the confirmation of promises that worthy men could become kings and priests and that women could become queens and priestesses in the eternal worlds.”(30)
          Differentiating the blessings of becoming priest and king (“church and kingdom”) associated with the name of Melchizedek from the prior ordinances of endowment (“sons of Moses”) and patriarchal marriage (“seed of Abraham”), the Prophet Joseph Smith explained that:(31)
          Melchizedek… had still greater power… which was not the power of a Prophet nor Apostle nor Patriarch only, but of King and Priest to God…. No man can attain to the joint heirship with Jesus Christ without being administered to by one having the same power and authority of Melchizedek.
          1. O. Hyde, Diagram, p. 23. See also D&C 76:56-59. Cf. J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 27 August 1843, p. 322: “Those holding the fulness of the Melchizedek Priesthood are kings and priests of the Most High God, holding the keys of power and blessings. In fact, that Priesthood is a perfect law of theocracy, and stands as God to give laws to the people, administering endless lives to the sons and daughters of Adam.” See also J. F. Smith, Jr., Way 1945, p. 208.
          2. G. M. Leonard, Nauvoo, pp. 260-261; J. Smith, Jr., Record, 28 September 1843, p. 416. See also R. K. Esplin, Succession, pp. 314-315; J. Smith, Jr., Words, 27 August 1843, pp. 244-247, 303-307 nn.; W. W. Phelps, cited in S. M. Brown, Paracletes, pp. 80-81.
          3. Genesis 14:18. See also Hebrews 7:1-10, Alma 13:15-19, and JST Genesis 14:25-40.
          4. D&C 84:14.
          5. Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6-10, 6:20, 7:1-28, and Alma 13:1-19. See also clarifications given in JST Hebrews 7:3, 19-21, 25-26.
          6. See D&C 107:2-4.
          7. B. R. McConkie, New Witness, p. 315.
          8. D&C 124:28.
          9. Cf. D&C 124:39.
          10. J. Smith, Jr., Teachings, 11 June 1843, p. 308.
          11. B. Young, 6 August 1843, in J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 5:527.
          12. R. K. Esplin, Succession, p. 315. See also G. M. Leonard, Nauvoo, pp. 260-261.
          13. Heber C. Kimball Journal, kept by William Clayton, 26 December 1845, Church Archives, emphasis and brackets added, cited in J. Smith, Jr., Words, p. 304 n. 21. For descriptions of events surrounding the introduction of this ordinance, see R. L. Bushman, Rough Stone, pp. 490-499; L. W. Cook, Revelations, pp. 293-294, 347-349 nn. 4-11; A. F. Ehat, Ordinances., pp. 76-97; J. Smith, Jr., Words, pp. 303-307 nn. 21, 22, 29, 30, 38.
          14. J. Smith, Jr., Documentary History, 6 August 1843, 5:527.
          15. 1 Peter 2:9.
          16. See, e.g., J. M. Bradshaw et al., Investiture Panel; D. J. Larsen, Two high priesthoods? Evidence for non-Levitical priesthood in ancient Israel; M. B. Brown, Israelite Temple.
          17. N. Wyatt, Degrees, p. 192.
          18. N. Wyatt, Hollow Crown, p. 32. Postgate further explains (J. N. Postgate, Early Mesopotamia, pp. 266-267):
          A ruler’s claim to divinity can be expressed in three ways: his name may be preceded by the cuneiform sign for god, in the same way as other deities’ names are, his headdress may be represented with horns, the mark of a god in the iconography, and in a variety of ways evidence may be seen that he was worshipped by the population in a cult of his own.… Another, attractive, hypothesis is that any rulers who were offspring of a sacred marriage could legitimately claim both divine and royal parentage. Gudea, for instance, says that he had no mother and no father and was the son of the goddess of Lagas, Garumdug; however, elsewhere he also states that he is the son of Ninsun, of Bau and of Nanse, which makes it hard to be sure of the implications of such statements. He, however, did not lay claim to divinity.
          The seeming contradiction in Gudea’s claimed parentage can be explained by JST Hebrews 7:3 (“which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life”), where the parallel sense is that although Melchizedek certainly had been born to earthly parents, he later had been reborn as a “Son of God” through priesthood ordinances.
          19. Some well-known studies relating to this long research tradition include E. O. James, Initiatory; S. H. Hooke, Myth, Ritual, and Kingship; A. R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship; A. M. Hocart, Kingship; H. P. L’Orange, Cosmic Kingship; G. Widengren, King and Tree of Life; G. Widengren, King and Covenant; J. H. Eaton, Kingship; S. Mowinckel, Psalms. Wyatt insightfully critiques some of the earlier literature and emphasizes the continuity of divine kingship traditions throughout the ancient Near East (N. Wyatt, Myths of Power; N. Wyatt, There’s Such Divinity). Baker and Ricks have studied temple and coronation themes in the Psalms from an LDS perspective (L. L. Baker et al., Who Shall Ascend). See other studies by Ricks for overviews of coronation themes in the Book of Mormon (S. D. Ricks, Coronation; S. D. Ricks, Kingship).
          20. Translation in J. H. Eaton, Psalms Commentary, p. 384.
          21. Ibid., pp. 384-385. See also discussion of these verses by Margaret Barker, cited in J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 759-760 Endnote E-229.
          22. Cf. Psalm 2:7, 1 Chronicles 17:13.
          23. Commenting further on this royal priesthood, Eaton writes (J. H. Eaton, Psalms Commentary, p. 385):
          He will be priest-king, the supreme figure for whom all the other personnel of the temple were only assistants. It was a role of the highest significance in the ancient societies, treasured by the great kings of Egypt and Mesopotamia under their respective deities. There are indications in the historical sources that the role was indeed held by David and his successors, though opposed and obscured in the records by priestly clans after the end of the monarchy. The oracle gives a special aspect to the priesthood by linking it to the pre-Israelite king of Jerusalem, Melchizedek. David’s dynasty are here recognized as heirs of Melchizedek, who was remembered in tradition as priest and king of El Elyon, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:18f.). As Israel’s God took the title of the Creator as worshipped in old Jerusalem (El Elyon), so David took over the city-kingdom and royal priesthood of the old dynasty.
          24. L. L. Baker et al., Who Shall Ascend, p. 353; cf., e.g., 1 Samuel 10:1, 15:17, 16:23; 2 Samuel 2:4, 5:3; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Chronicles 29:22 and additional discussion on pp. 354-358. Compare J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 519-523.
          25. See C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Glory, pp. 56, 212–13, 476. See also C. H. T. Fletcher-Louis, Religious Experience, pp. 132-133; J. M. Bradshaw, God’s Image 1, pp. 663-675. Regarding the possibility of such forms of worship at Dura Europos, see J. M. Bradshaw, Ezekiel Mural.
          26. Exodus 19:6. Explains Kugel (J. L. Kugel, How to Read, p. 242):
          To understand the second half of this promise [i.e., Exodus 19:6], it is essential to know that throughout the ancient Near East, the priests of any given people were the ones who were uniquely privileged to be in touch with their gods. The priests’ job consisted of caring for the god’s house (that is, his temple), offering sacrifices in front of his image, and in general serving him in the place where he was deemed to reside. By saying that Israel would become a kingdom of priests, God seemed to be bypassing this common arrangement. He was saying, in effect: You will all be My intimates—just keep the simple rules that make up My covenant with you.
          27. Genesis 1:26-27.
          28. Sarna’s full explanation reads as follows (N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 12. See also R. E. Friedman, Commentary, p. 30; N. M. Sarna, Mists, p. 51):
          The words used here to convey these ideas can be better understood in the light of a phenomenon registered in both Mesopotamia and Egypt where the ruling monarch is described as “the image” or “the likeness” of a god… Without doubt, the terminology employed in Genesis 1:26 is derived from regal vocabulary, which serves to elevate the king above the ordinary run of men. In the Bible this idea has become democratized. All human beings are created “in the image of God”; each person bears the stamp of royalty.
          Hendel sees this as an explicit deprecation of Mesopotamian theology (R. S. Hendel, Genesis 1-11 and Its Mesopotamian Problem, p. 27):
          In Genesis 1 all humans are created in the “image of God,” and as such have the authority and duty to rule the world. As commentators have noted, this move effects a democratization of Mesopotamian royal ideology, raising humans as a whole to the status previously reserved for the king.
          29. Revelation 2:7, 10-11, 17, 26-28; 3:5, 12, 20-21.
          30. G. M. Leonard, Nauvoo, pp. 260-261, emphasis added.
          31. J. Smith, Jr., Words, 27 August 1843, p. 245.

  9. Hi Matthew,
    I appreciate the note. I am afraid I do not understand what you mean when you write that D&C 124 says the fullness of the priesthood was taken away. I know Denver says that the delay in building the Nauvoo Temple created a lasting condemnation of Church members. But he is in error.
    The “fullness of the priesthood” could refer to several things, none of which were lost in 1841 (when D&C 124 was given). In fact, it does refer to the highest temple blessings that were first bestowed upon Joseph Smith and Emma on September 28, 1843. Nothing was lost and the highest ordinances continued to be given to other worthy individuals after that time and in the Nauvoo Temple in 1845-1846. See Andrew Ehat’s master’s thesis.
    Getting back to the priesthood. If the priesthood keys are held by Thomas Monson, then Denver has no authority and his baptisms are not valid, but constitute “dead works” (D&C 22:2). Heber C. Kimball explained: “When a man loses his membership in this Church, he also loses his Priesthood, and of course the blessings of his endowments. Do not flatter yourselves that you can retain the blessings of the Gospel, and at the same time pursue a wicked course, for you cannot do it.” (JD 3:269.)
    The Priesthood keys cannot be split and are held by the senior apostle who has always been the President of the Church. In 1857 Heber C. Kimball also taught: “You Bishops, Seventies, High Priests, Elders, Priests, Teachers, Deacons, and members, where did you get the Priesthood and authority you hold? It came from this very authority, the First Presidency that sits here in this stand. There was an authority before us, and we got our authority from that, and you got it from us, and this authority is with the First Presidency.” Then he warned the Saints: “Now do not go off and say that you are independent of that authority. Where did you get your wives? Who gave them to you? By what authority were they given to you?” (JD 4:251-252.)
    Denver’s claims may seem new to doubters today who know little of the dozens of similar leaders who have arise in the past decades who employed the EXACT SAME ARGUMENTS that he uses claiming the Church is in apostasy and that they (or Denver) have the truth and authority.
    We can all watch what happens to the Denver Snuffer movement over the next decade. These types of dissenting groups usually form around an charismatic male and when he passes on, they disintegrate. Study James Harmston for a more recent example.
    The sad thing is that many become deceived fulfilling the Joseph Smith Translation version of Matthew 24:23: “For in those days, there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the ELECT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT.”
    Brian Hales

    • “Yesterday, after we were invited to sustain Thomas S. Monson as President of the Church, we also had the privilege to sustain him, the counselors in the First Presidency, and members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. Think of that! We sustain 15 men as prophets of God! They hold all the priesthood keys that have ever been conferred upon man in this dispensation.”
      Perhaps I am reading you wrong, but you seem to say that priesthood keys can never be split (or that Thomas S. Monson is the only one who holds all the keys) but Elder Nelson says that all 15 members of the Quorum hold the keys.
      I don’t think that Kimball’s argument of ‘the authority came from the First Presidency on this stand’ is very accurate. Their line of authority may be traced to that Presidency, but my guess is that it traced back prior to it.
      I cannot help but think about President Packer’s lament in Conference (I believe in October of 2010) when he said we have done a good job of distributing authority of the priesthood, but the power of the priesthood is lacking. Authority is important, but is it everything? If I hold the authority of God, but lack the power of God, aren’t I in the same boat that Christ Himself condemned in the First Vision?

  10. Hi Matthew,
    Sorry for the slow response–I have been out of the country for a few days.
    I think you bring up a good point. I don’t think Denver Snuffer wants to claim a complete apostasy. He simply wants to carve out a position as a new messenger to call the formal Church and its leaders to repentance.
    The problem comes when we look at the issue of authority. Joseph Smith was very adamant about the need for authority to perform any valid priesthood ordinance. “There is no salvation between the two lids of the Bible without a legal administrator” (TPJS 319). See D&C 132:7, 107:91).
    So here’s the issue for Denver. Where are the priesthood keys? If he doesn’t have them, then why would God talk to him? He could allege that the current keyholders are not listening, but I would heartily disagree. And I would argue it goes against plain scriptures (D&C 65:2).
    On the other hand, Denver could claim the keys have been lost and that he now holds them, but that would require a new dispensation to to Denver because Joseph Smith’s failed. God declared Joseph’s dispensation was the last dispensation (D&C 112:30). It is the “last” in God’s eyes and since He knows the end from the beginning, when He calls something the “last,” He would mean the “last.” (Denver has a misleading explanation to dismiss “last” from being “last.”)
    So when it comes to authority, I argue it is either a complete apostasy or no apostasy. Yes dichotomous thinking (or binary as you say). And yes, there is no nuance. For me as a physician, it is like pregnancy, a woman is or she isn’t. Similarly, you have authority or you don’t.
    Brian Hales

    • Hi Brian,
      I am similarly complexed by Denver’s explanation of “last” (although I believe there is some merit to it given D&C 19), but still when I first read that it made me scratch my head as it does seem like a less plain reading of that term. I also don’t fully understand his broader use of the word dispensation (although that there could be a parallel in how generation is used in different ways scripturally).
      So, at this point let’s just stick with a narrower definition of last dispensation. I agree, this is the last dispensation. Things have been restored that will never have to be restored again. Things that JS put in motion are still rolling forward. I think Denver agrees with that general premise as well, if we can get out of the semantical confusions.
      I guess where our views differ, is that I see that rolling forward (D&C 62:2) as less smooth.
      If we’re going to talk about authority and keys, then we’re talking about priesthood, right? And again, I go back to D&C 124 where the fullness of the priesthood was taken away (at least temporarily). Does that not mean that keys and authority can be taken away in the last dispensation and then restored again? If it’s all or nothing, are you then suggesting that there was a complete apostasy in 1841? Are you suggesting that since some keys and authority were taken away that all priesthood, keys and authority were then lost at that point? That dichotomous thinking regarding priesthood is much harsher than what I think Denver is suggesting.

  11. I’m confused. I’ve read a lot of Snuffer, but not everything. Where does he state “allegations of a complete apostasy necessitating a new dispensation in our day?”
    I guess the word that confuses me is “complete.” I think he is talking about partial apostasy. Condemnation and potential rejection of the church are words the Lord used in D&C revelations. Would that not be some measure of apostasy? When the Lord says “that which was lost unto you, or which he hath taken away, even the fulness of the priesthood,” wouldn’t that be a type of partial apostasy. If it was possible in JS’ time, why do we deny God the power to condemn, reject, or take away now?
    My understanding is that Snuffer is talking about a form of institutional apostasy, just as Christ does. But I know of nowhere that he claims the Aaronic priesthood will be taken from the earth. I’ve seen him cite the very passage that promises that priesthood will never be taken from the earth. So I don’t understand how you can claim that Snuffer is preaching a “complete apostasy.” His more recent book is called Preserving the Restoration. Does that indicate a “complete apostasy?”
    I’m not arguing that he is right in everything he writes or says. I just think that there’s too much binary thinking going on and you’re putting that same binary model on Snuffer when his position is much more nuanced.

  12. In relation to the supposed “malleability” of saving Ordinances…If a priest stutters during the Sacramental prayer or a single strand of hair floats to the top of the water during the immersion of someone being baptized, we do the whole ordinance over from the very beginning. So to say that the changes to our Endowment have not rendered it at the very least, worthy of a redo, is a hollow and deluded argument at best. Our ordinances are so detailed oriented that when mailing a baptismal certificate to the mission home when I an Elder, if that certificate never arrived, we had to perform the ordinance again for it to be considered valid and saving. I don’t believe Christ really considered it invalid. So if such precaution has existed to preserve these simple and saving ordinances, why has the exact opposite occurred in regards to our Endowment? What happened to obedience with exactness? The dialogue has changed, understandable to a degree, but some of the performed features have been removed. What if the removed performances are more important than a strand of hair floating to the top or a simple stutter of words? What if that ordinance is more important than that of baptism? Why has it not safeguarded as well? So the question remains, who is really straining at a gnat while swallowing camel after camel?

    • Regarding mistakes in the performance of the ordinances, the reason they are repeated sometimes (at the discretion of the presiding authority) is to make sure we are making an effort (within what is judged reasonable and appropriate) to respect the integrity of the ordinances in their currently authorized form.
      The same principle is followed in temple ordinances. In our performance of these ordinances, we are asked to demonstrate our respect for the forms that have been approved by those who are currently in authority. As far as changes to the ordinances themselves go, we believe in continuing revelation, which includes the right for God to reveal any changes in earthly ordinances that will benefit His children in some way. Any consequential imperfections in either teachings or performances will, of course, be corrected in God’s own due time, whether on earth or in heaven (an example of this is the way we sometimes have to correct and redo temple ordinances when new family history information is found). Here is the sentence from the abstract of my article that describes the key principle in that respect: “Happily, since the time of Joseph Smith, necessary alterations of the ordinances have been directed by the same authority that first restored them in our day.” As I also wrote:
      “While, as Joseph Smith taught, the “order of the house of God” must remain unchanged, the Lord has permitted authorized Church leaders to make adaptations of the ordinances to meet the needs of different times, cultures, and practical circumstances. Latter-day Saints understand that the primary intent of temple ordinances is to teach and bless the participants, not to provide precise matches to texts, symbols, and modes of presentation from other times. Because this is so, we would expect to find Joseph Smith’s restored ritual deviating at times from the wording and symbolism of ancient ordinances in the interest of clarity and relevance to modern disciples. Similarly, we would expect various adaptations in the presentation of the ordinances to mirror changes in culture and practical circumstances.”

  13. I appreciate the general tone ( with a few exceptions) and content of this discussion. I was very interested in the discussion of Elijah and have 2 questions about others views. the first is assuming section 110 occurred when and in the manner described in the traditional narrative I have always wondered why so far as I am aware neither Joseph nor Oliver mentioned it subsequently. I am also interested in your collective view of why we generally teach the Elijah was on the Mt of Transfiguration when Joseph apparently taught it wasn’t Elijah but John the Baptist Mark 9:4 JST, Matt 17:12 and 13. Any insights into these issues would be appreciated

    • Hi,
      It appears that shortly after the April 3rd vision, Joseph Smith recorded a first-hand account of the vision in his own personal journal or notes. That original record has not been found and is probably lost. Nonetheless, these important visitations were documented in other contemporaneous records. Within a few days, the Prophet’s secretary Warren Cowdery transcribed Joseph’s first-hand account into a third-hand account to be used in the Church history then being composed. Willard Richards made a separate private copy in 1843.
      The addition of John the Baptist to the account of the Mount of Transfiguration comes from JST Mark 9:3: “And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses, or in other words, John the Baptist and Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.” He didn’t make that addition to the Matthew version. No one that I know thinks that the “Elias” that appeared in the Kirtland Temple is John the Baptist. We have not been told his identity.
      I am sure other researchers have looked at this more than I have but I hope that helps.
      Brian Hales

      • Thanks . Do you have a citation to the Richards reference ? Do I correctly understand that so far as you are aware that , other than the handwritten account by Warren Cowdery , there are no contemporaneous accounts or references? I have always found it unusual that Joseph did not mention this appearance in Section 128 when he is giving a litany of other similar experiences , Incidentally it seems to me that the account in Matt 17 already makes it clear that it was John the Baptist hence Joseph did not need to change the language. Thanks for your help.

        • The reference for Willard Richards is from Robert J. Woodford, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants.” Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974, 1460, table 110. I didn’t look up where it he found it.
          Despite the important of Elijah and the Kirtland Temple visitations, Joseph Smith apparently did not refer it throughout the remainder of the 1830s. In his discourses beginning in 1840s, the Prophet began emphasizing the importance of Elijah’s mission and his priesthood authority. At that time he might have also divulged the details of the angelic visit to his followers. However, the historical record shows that he maintained public silence concerning that 1836 ordination throughout his life.
          The exact reasons for Joseph Smith’s public silence concerning Elijah’s visit are unknown. However, a parallel event described in the New Testament may provide a clue in Matt. 17:1-9. Matthew outlines the visit of Elias and Moses to Christ and his three senior apostles in a visit that resembles Joseph and Oliver’s experience in several ways. Importantly, after the theophany was finished, the Savior instructed them: “Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (Matt. 17:9). Perhaps a similar injunction was included regarding the public disclosure of Elijah’s visit with the limiting factor being to wait until the Nauvoo temple was completed or something similar.
          Joseph Smith did not publicly teach eternal marriage for perhaps six years after he received the authority to perform those ordinances. On first glance, the doctrine of eternal marriage seems to be a very innocuous teaching that could provide comfort to couples who were deeply in love or who had lost a spouse to death. Accordingly, the question arises, “Why did Joseph Smith wait so long to teach this principle?”
          Joseph Smith undoubtedly knew that upon learning of these principles, his audience would ask the obvious question: “If a man can be sealed to a living wife and a deceased wife, can he be sealed to two living wives?” The truthful answer was quite simple, “Yes, plural marriage is a correct principle when authorized.”
          However, Joseph had already witnessed the no-holds-barred rejection of plural marriage by Emma, Oliver, and others in Kirtland, Ohio, who considered it straightforward adultery. He recognized that generally, the Saints would not easily understand or embrace plural marriage. In other words, it seems likely that after the Prophet received the authority to seal marriage in 1836, he realized that the minute he introduced eternal marriage, questions regarding plural marriage would quickly arise, questions he did not want to answer. Accordingly, for several years he hesitated to discuss either teaching with the Latter-day Saints until compelled by an angel to do so.

  14. So I spent some time in Manti; a couple of years. Manti is home to the beautiful Manti temple… as well as an apostate group; the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were one of the polygamy groups.
    Fascinating people, most of whom tried to live the best they could. But their theology–wow; that’s all I can say. This was Harmston’s bunch, and he…. let’s say that he showed himself a false prophet shortly before his death. He predicted that Jesus would do the Second Coming in January of I think 2014 (may have been 2013). I must have missed it. His Priesthood authority came from, he said, being the reincarnation of Joseph Smith, who apparently was the reincarnation of like Moses and a few others along the way. I guess God sent the same spirit to lead the church; over and over again.
    The TLC didn’t do missionary work; they explicitly “left it to the main LDS church.” I imagine Snuffer is the same way. How does that work–the fallen LDS church; that has gone apostate; nevertheless is the one that God has commanded to spread the word while Snuffer or Harmston, the true prophet of God, bears no responsibility to preach of Christ? That….. does not sound like what God is about, to be brutally honest.

    • I like the comparison to James Harmston. The sad thing is that when his religious group imploded, people didn’t return to the Church. I think many of them just gave up religion or ventured off into their own spiritual worlds. Stepping into Denver Snuffer’s theological cosmos unfortunately results in a permanent apostasy from truth for most adventurers.

  15. It turns out that Denver Snuffer is both confused and confusing, as Brian Hales (and others) have demonstrated. He is also busy advancing an ideology that, despite being dressed a bit in some language found in our scriptures, and also buttressed by unseemly–even boastful–claims of contact with the divine, turn out to be soul-destroying rubbish. Put bluntly, Snufferite ideology seems to be a cover for something profoundly apostate and hence also demonic. One must lift the mask of personal pretensions and also look carefully at Snuffer’s none to subtle garbling of crucial exegetical and historical matters, as Brian has done, to see the way in which Snuffer lures others into personal apostasy.
    As some know, stretching back to the ignorance of my youth, I have had a passion for those on the islands of the Pacific. I believe, just as many Temple dedicatory prayers have indicated, the indigenous peoples of the Pacific are somehow to be numbered among the children of Lehi. I see myself stemming from those described in the Book of Mormon as Gentiles. We can, if so inclined, also be numbered, with the remnant of Lehi’s people–that is, among the Covenant People of God, if and only if we are genuinely faithful.
    I am also aware that much harm has been done by some Gentiles to the children of Lehi–those peoples of promise, including those living on islands in the Pacific. But this harm has not come from Latter-day Saints, who have as well as they possibly could, given their own limitations and resources, striven to be nursing fathers to that remnant of Lehi’s now widely scattered children. Snuffer seem intent on brushing all that (and much more) aside.

  16. Brian,
    I really appreciate your evaluation of Snuffer’s work. Like many people I’m sure, I have found much of what I have read from him to be good and inspiring. Yet mingled into this are falsehoods, which makes him a real anomaly. The whole ‘gentile church’ doctrine sounds good on the surface, but falls apart when taken as a whole. When I first read about it, I started looking up some of these references, such as 3 Nephi 16. Reading this, Snuffer & co. would have me believe that the LDS church, and specifically people like me and my family, have trodden down Jews/Indians and making them a hiss and byword (vs. 8), that Mormons were solely responsible for scattering Native Americans (vs. 8), that our pride has risen above the pride of all nations and people, that we are filled with lying, murder, whoredoms, secret abominations, etc (vs 10). While some of these things might happen with some individuals, it is inconceivable to apply these to the aggregate run-of-the-mill Mormons. This verse, and others like it, make more sense when interpreting it using gentiles as all those who are not of the house of Israel who are not believers in Christ, rather than “Mormons.” Doing so, however, weakens Snuffer’s claims considerably, as he and others choose to use the weaker interpretation to bolster his reformation. This was a deal breaker for me when I was investigating his teachings. I found the rest of your review informative.

  17. Ordinances save us because of the promises and covenants we make with God, pursuant to the ordinance. Thus, whether we partake of bread or crackers, drink wine (pre D&C 27) or water, it matters not, “if it so be [we] do it with an eye single to [God’s] glory.” D&C 27:2. The fact that words in an ordinance have, over time, changed to better teach a specific covenant or more fully allow the person to pledge to God, well that is not changing the ordinances in my view, one whit. The covenants and the principals behind the ordinance’s covenants have not changed.

    • Great point Brett!
      We all need to be sure we don’t strain at gnats while swallowing camels. It seems the heavy lifting in the Church is not performed by those who leave it and seek to criticize. We are to:
      Obey the commandment to construct temples, which “my people are always commanded to build” (D&C 124:39),
      Perform proxy temple ordinances , which Joseph’s instructed saying “Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation” (D&C 128:24).
      Serve as missionaries because “it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor” (D&C 88:81).
      Make and keep sacred covenants of the Church because “every person who belongeth to this church of Christ, shall observe to keep all the commandments and covenants of the church” (D&C 42:78).

  18. Brother Hales,
    The prophecy of this destruction can be arrived at through different means.

    O. Jerusalem. &c. whence are in the curse of Allmighty God that was to be poured out upon the heads of the Jews? That they would not be gathered. because they would not let Christ gather them. It was the design in the Councils of heaven before the world was that the principle & law of that priesthood was predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did every thing possible to gather the people & they would not be gathered and he poured out curses upon them Ordinances were instituted in heaven before the foundation of the world of in the priesthood, for the salvation of man. not be altered. not to be changed. all must be saved upon the same principle.
    that is only your opinion Sir—say Sectarians.—when a man will go to hell it is more than my meat & drink to help them to do as they want to.
    where there is no change of priesthood there is no change of ordinances says Paul. If god has not changed the ordinances & priesthood, howl ye sectarians, if he has where has he revealed it. have ye turned revelators? then why deny it?
    Words of Joseph Smith, 11 June 1843 (page 179 in my PDF copy)

    Brigham had this to say about the temple ordinances delivered him.

    [T]he Prophet Joseph Smith had taken [Brigham Young] and other Church leaders into a room above his Nauvoo store. There he divided off the room as best he could and carefully instructed them about the various temple ceremonies. “Brother Brigham,” he said when he was finished, “this is not arranged right, but we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I want you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies.” (L. John Nuttall diary, Feb. 7, 1877, typescript, Church Archives.) –

    The conclusion is immediate: the temple rites are not necessary for salvation, if they ever were necessary.
    If Brigham was telling the truth about what Joseph said, then they never were necessary for salvation, being explicitly changeable.
    If Brigham was lying, then they might have been necessary but what we have is broken, having been altered substantially through the years, and therefore what we have cannot be salvific.
    That seems to put us in this condition:

    Isaiah 24:1-6
    1 Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.
    2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.
    3 The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word.
    4 The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.
    5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
    6 Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

    It need hardly be pointed out the provenance of the received ordinances ends with Brigham and not Joseph, just as the provenance of the received text of D&C 132 ends with Joseph C. Kingsbury and not Joseph Smith. And we remember the Catholics claimed, through possession of the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, authority to change doctrines and rites at will, as well – see, again, Nibely’s “The Way of the Church.”
    Might these alterations be a contributing factor to the general lack of power in the priesthood that President Packer decried in his April 2010 conference talk “The Power of the Priesthood?” Again, if the Church were to fail, as Joseph said she would if she received not his translation of the Bible, what would this failure consist of? What would it look like? Would it be admitted?
    We might profitably get an idea by asking: what did the Catholic failure consist of? What does it look like? Does she admit it?
    And we get a good idea by reading our Nibley.

    • If we know nothing else from the history of the gospel in the world, it is that the scriptures in which it is declared have been read in multiple ways by multiple readers–and typically according to specific meanings they desire to pull from them. Suggesting any form of scriptural or procedural inerrantism for Joseph would seem to be one of those times that statements are being read and interpreted according to a proposed framework and not recognizing what Joseph himself did with the process of revelation during his lifetime.
      Your quotation of a Brigham Young remembrance really does feel like Joseph, who appears to have understood the difficulties of the human perfectly understanding the divine. I can’t see it in the context where you appear to suggest that ordinances should have no changes and that this must represent one. That doesn’t ring true to Joseph at all.

      • Brant,
        Well, viewing scripture and ordinances as being (in principle, infinitely) malleable is certainly a value judgement for you to make for yourself, but it is one the Church has not heretofore openly shared; quite the opposite, as I research her stated opinions on sprinkling as a valid mode of baptism. Malleability of ordinances has heretofore seemed more a Catholic failing than a Mormon virtue:
        And I suppose I need hardly refer anyone back to Nibley’s “The Way of the Church.” But I will.
        Indeed, the Church seems to think that the received baptismal rites are inerrant, brooking no changes whatever, and those for the sacrament very nearly so. It seems that we may trace her attitude towards, as well as the form and content of, the temple rites back to Brigham.
        Incidentally, when one hears the word of God in one’s own language, one need not understand it completely to be capable of repeating the words exactly. Scribes who copy scriptures need not be able to read, or even speak, the languages on the pages they transcribe. Priests who administer rites need not understand anything of the purpose of the ordinances they perform in order to follow directions with exactness and honor.
        After all, “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but if ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”

        • Hi Again,
          Thanks to Brandt for his comments.
          I just want to go on record saying I do not believe that ordinances are “malleable” in the Church or otherwise.
          Baptism is unchanged. While minor presentations of the sacrament has occurred, the prayer and remembrances are unchanged.
          The fundamentalists haggle about priesthood ordinations, apparently unaware that a variety of words were used to convey authority and office during the 19th century. It was not a set prayer. The proxy ordinations in the St. George temple (1877) were directly to an office in the Melchizedek priesthood (not confer/ordain).
          Most complaints say that we have changed the temple ordinances, which is untrue. The endowment is a set of teachings, covenants, and ordinances that have not been altered. The presentations have undergone some modifications, but the core elements have not been changed. Anyone who states that the temple endowment has always been given the same word-for-word is simply uninformed.
          I’m quite certain out little exchange will not change our minds. God bless us all in our search for truth and valid ordinances.

          • I have not yet come to a conclusion about what truly constitutes “change” sufficient to nullify or apostatize…but I do find the discussion here interesting.
            I suppose it could be argued that the essence of the endowment hasn’t changed, as the basic covenants have remained largely the same…most of the changes have been in presentation. But what are we to do about the removal of penalties? Isn’t that associated with the actual covenant?
            Also, I find the most significant change, that actually does feel like a total change of the ordinance, is in the washing and anointing. That has undergone massive shifts in the actual performing of the ordinance, and it isn’t just in it’s presentation. To suggest there has not been a significant change to that ordinance would be like saying it doesn’t matter whether you are baptized with a sprinkle or by immersion.
            In that sense, I have some sympathy for those who suggest we may have done some things that would be considered grievous to the Lord.

          • I am grateful for Brian and Brant’s perspectives on the continued validity of the ordinances. For anyone who is interested, I discuss the principle of bounded flexibility in the adaptation of temple (and other essential) ordinances at some length in the recent Interpreter article “Freemasonry and the Origins of Modern Temple Ordinances” (, pp. 180-184.

  19. Perhaps a distraction, but I don’t see your table listing any adoptions for Brigham Young. Didn’t he have John D. Lee adopted to him in Nauvoo?
    Were Nauvoo adoptions always done to a set of parents? Or were they sometimes done just to a father without a mother?

    • Good questions. John D. Lee was sealed to Brigham as an adopted son on January 25th. I haven’t included the names of all the adopted “children” like Lee.
      All of the adoption ordinances performed in the Nauvoo Temple were one child to two parents with one possible exception. John Bernhisel was sealed to Joseph Smith and no mother is listed. Brigham spoke about sealing “men to men” so whether this is a separate ordinance or whether the mother was not listed by mistake is not known.

    • Exactly. The parallels of the apologists of the LDS to the apologists of the Christian church in ensuring us all that no apostasy could have ever conceivably happened are a wonder to behold.

      • Hi,
        Interesting comment. I worry people sometimes misquote Nibley. According to his writings, he did not believe there would be another apostasy. For him, this is the last dispensation. (See “To Open the Last Dispensation” in NIBLEY ON THE TIMELY AND THE TIMELESS.)
        Snuffer followers may not realize it but he proposes another apostasy with another dispensation (to him of course) of authorities and truths like the dispensation given to Abraham.
        Snuffer has his own logic to try to discount the numerous scriptures and statements from Joseph Smith that he was to usher in the last dispensation. The Prophet taught: “You will receive instructions through the order of the Priesthood which God has established, through the medium of those appointed to lead, guide and direct the affairs of the Church in this last dispensation.” He didn’t say “in this next-to-the-last dispensation.”
        Couple these statements with the fact that there has always been humble men and women in the Church and we can see no need for a new dispensation. Perhaps I could add that I have known many individuals who believe the Church is in apostasy and that they have left the Church in order to embrace a true remnant. They could be followers of Lorin Woolley, Joel LeBaron, Denver Snuffer, or Elden Kingston. While some of those men and women are very good people, they aren’t (in my view) any more remarkable or righteous than sincere Latter-day Saints.
        Leaving the Church to join a dissenting group does not infuse holiness. Using the rhetoric Snuffer employs to condemn the Church does not infuse holiness. I remember a few years ago James Harmston referred to then Church President Hinckley as a “stench in his nostrils” or something like that. Snuffer hasn’t been that derogatory, but criticisms like these can be quite harsh and seem to have a power of their own to convince the critic that he or she is more holy, more righteous, more worthy, more “something” than Church members.
        I don’t think it is true.
        God Bless,
        Brian Hales

        • Brother Hales,
          JST Matthew 21 answers the issue plainly enough.

          52 I am the head of the corner. These Jews shall fall upon me, and shall be broken.
          53 And the kingdom of God shall be taken from them, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof; (meaning the Gentiles.)
          54 Wherefore, on whomsoever this stone shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.
          55 And when the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, he will destroy those miserable, wicked men, and will let again his vineyard unto other husbandmen, even in the last days, who shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
          56 And then understood they the parable which he spake unto them, that the Gentiles should be destroyed also, when the Lord should descend out of heaven to reign in his vineyard, which is the earth and the inhabitants thereof.

          On its face, this says that those miserable, wicked husbandmen (Church leadership) to whom the Lord has given the Kingdom of God will be destroyed when the Lord returns, and another people will tend the vineyard during the reign of the Lord, and who shall tender him the fruits in their seasons.
          That’s us getting destroyed, or we don’t have the kingdom of God. The law of the excluded middle precludes alternative hypotheses. Additionally, we are identified with the Gentiles (D&C 109:60).
          Given the historical proclivity of religions to doctor, counterfeit, and forge their own historical certifications, I would not place much confidence in declarations of the inevitable success of the Church, which mirrors in all respects the Catholic claims – see “The Way of the Church” by Nibley, linked to in my original comment.
          Nibley’s personal views are irrelevant to the patterns he’s describing. If we exhibit the same symptoms as the Catholics, we probably have the same malady.
          And our destruction is assured in D&C 112.

          24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
          25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
          26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

          Now, perhaps the miserable, wicked men spoken of are not the present leadership. But I would not want to be sitting in the chief seats when the Lord arrives, whenever that is.

          Brother Joseph Smith, Jr. said: That he intended to do his duty before the Lord and hoped that the brethren would be patient as they had a considerable distance (to go). Also said that the promise of God was that the greatest blessings which God had to bestow should be given to those who contributed to the support of his family while he was translating the fulness of the scriptures. Until we have perfect love we are liable to fall and when we have a testimony that our names are sealed in the Lamb’s book of life we have perfect love and then it is impossible for false Christs to deceive us; also said, that the Lord held the Church bound to provide for families of the absent Elders while proclaiming the gospel; further, that God had often sealed up the heavens because of covetousness in the Church. The Lord would cut short his work in righteousness and except the Church receive the fulness of the scriptures that they would yet fail.5 –FWR, p. 16. (Oct. 25, 1831.)

          Of course, the fulness of the scriptures he was speaking of was what we know as the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, which, unless I am mistaken, the Church never did receive, though she helpfully publishes select excerpts as footnotes in her Bible. I wonder, what would the failure of the Church consist of? Would it be outwardly visible? Would it be admitted?

          • Hi,
            Thanks for the comment.
            D&C 109:60 refers to the Church in 1836 as being “identified with the Gentiles,” which is absolutely true. I think few, if any, of the House of Israel (the Lamanites) on this land had been baptized by then. But not all “gentiles” in the last days are wicked and this is a major problem with Snuffer’s writings. In 3 Ne. 16:6-8 the Lord speaks of the “Gentiles” in the LAST DAYS saying:
            “ And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their BELIEF in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father. . .But wo, saith the Father, unto the UNBELIEVING of the Gentiles” (emphasis added). In the last days there are BELIEVING and UNBELIEVING “Gentiles.”
            The Lord told Joseph Smith in 1830: “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts” (D&C 29:7). This gathering separates the “believing” from the “unbelieving” gentiles in the last days. Those who do not accept the truth are the “unbelieving of the Gentiles” and will be destroyed. Leaders of Christian churches who profess the truth, but refuse the Restoration are the wicked husbandmen that will be purged.
            In the meantime, the believing of the Gentiles will be busy building up the Church as the Kingdom of God rolls forth to fill the whole earth (D&C 65:2). They will “set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12; see also 5:26, 11:10, 18:3 etc.). They will cause truth to “sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth” (Moses 7:62). They will figuratively “make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3; see also D&C 133:27). They will “Lift up a banner upon the high mountain, [and] exalt the voice unto them” seeking the truth (Isaiah 13:2). They will establish “the mountain of the LORD’S house . . . in the top of the mountains” so “all nations shall flow unto it ” ( Isaiah 2:2).
            When the Lord comes, he will start His purge upon His house (D&C 112:25, 1 Peter 4:17). Church members who are disobedient and are NOT “sincerely striving” to keep their covenants (and I believe, individuals who have made sacred covenants and then have been neglected them by criticizing and even leaving the Church) will be the first purged.
            You quoted the Prophet: “when we have a testimony that our names are sealed in the Lamb’s book of life we have perfect love and then it is impossible for false Christs to deceive us.” But we should all remember what Joseph Smith added to JST Matthew 24:23: “For in those days, there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, WHO ARE THE ELECT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT” (JST Matthew 24:23; emphasis added). Even the elect according to the covenant can be deceived and they are, many of them, today.
            God Bless,

          • Thank you for illuminating these points of scripture for me. They are a good starting point as I begin to gather together in one place all of the prophecies related to the Gentiles – and especially to those along the Mormon corridor.

        • “…are we, in our role as “kings and queens of the Gentiles,” prepared to serve as “nursing fathers and nursing mothers” to them after the pattern of King Benjamin (2 Nephi 10:9)? Or will we fail to live up to our callings as “saviors of men” and be accounted “as salt that has lost its savor” (D&C 103:10)? By all scriptural accounts, there appears no middle ground for Latter-day Saints between these two choices.”
          Studies in The Book of Mormon, Avraham Gileadi

  20. Brian,
    Your stalwart defense of the faith is appreciated. On the question of who we are sealed to, is it possible that Snuffer and the mainstream LDS are both right? Perhaps the patriarchs are sealed to Christ, and we need to be sealed to one of these patriarchs (or someone who is sealed to one of these patriarchs, etc.)? (Don’t worry, if Snuffer is right about this one thing, it isn’t sufficient to imply that we need to follow him.)
    Maybe this is what Joseph was talking about when he was talking about being crafty—
    “if you have power to seal on earth & in heaven then we should be Crafty, the first thing you do go & seal on earth your sons & daughters unto yourself, & yourself unto your fathers in eternal glory, & go ahead and not go back, but use a little Craftiness & seal all you can.”
    –and in that quote he probably isn’t talking about rank and file LDS members who go and get sealed in temples—he’s talking about what you do “if you have power to seal on earth & in heaven.” I don’t have that power. Few LDS do.
    There’s a lot we don’t understand about sealings: If a man is righteous, his parents aren’t, and his grandparents are, and the man’s sealing to his parents is void (maybe because his parents were excommunicated apostates), is the man automatically sealed to his grandparents? We all assume something like this must be the case, because we don’t get sealed to our grandparents, and no one has an unbroken chain of righteousness back to Adam (not even Jesus, but I think he’ll turn out ok), and we figure that it will all work out somehow, since the earth would be utterly wasted if Christ shows up and no one is sealed to Him. Of course, the whole point of being sealed to parents and children is to create some sort of chain sealing us to Christ. It’s not about being sealed to Abraham, Enoch, or Adam unless they are sealed to Christ. (Of course this raises the question of why we aren’t sealed directly to Christ instead). Perhaps dispensation heads are sealed directly to Christ? If so then being sealed to Joseph would be sufficient.
    The whole mission of Elijah is perplexing to me. Why is Elijah tasked with “plant[ing] in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers”? Why not Moses, or Abraham, or Peter? Elijah had sealing power, but so did Moses, and Peter, and Nephi (in the book of Helaman). Elijah was translated, but so was Moses, John, Melchizedek, and a whole city.
    My thinking is that Elijah, while he wasn’t the last to be translated, was perhaps the last to be translated and leave this earth. Where did Elijah go? The same place Enoch’s city, Melchizedek, and Moses went. People who were translated afterwards–John and 3 Nephites (and perhaps Alma & Moroni?)–remained immortal on the earth.
    Why does this give Elijah the job of turning the hearts of children to the fathers? When Moroni visited Joseph, he quoted Malachi 4:1 differently from the way it is quoted in the OT:
    “JS-H 1:37 For behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall burn as stubble; for they that come shall burn them, saith the Lord of Hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.”
    “They that come shall burn them” instead of “the day that cometh shall burn them.” Who are “they that come”? We think of the presence of Christ burning the wicked, but who are “they”? I think it might be Enoch’s city. If Elijah was the last person to be translated there, then maybe we can picture Elijah pulling up the ladder to the treehouse as he went up. And Elijah’s mission would then be to put the ladder down in preparation for the return of Enoch’s city to greet a latter-day Zion, fall on their necks and kiss them, etc.
    So then “the fathers” referred to in Malachi might not be Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but might instead be Enoch and his city (and anyone else–e.g. Melchizedek–who might have joined Enoch), and we may need some sort of link to them, perhaps they will help us learn how to be Zion, (since none of us have ever seen a Zion) so that when Christ comes, we will be prepared to meet Him and the earth will not be utterly wasted.
    None of this implies that we don’t need to be sealed to our parents and children also, we–and they–just need to be sealed to someone in a chain who is sealed to Christ.
    Of course, I could be wrong.

    • Hi Lemuel,
      You bring up some interesting questions. The fact is that we don’t know much about adoption (child-to-parent sealings). There is no plain evidence that Joseph taught the Twelve about the ordinances precisely, although it is assumed he described them, but since they can only be performed in a temple, the Twelve could not remember all the counsel. I apologize for recommending something I have written, but I analyze the data in my chapter on adoption in JOSEPH SMITH’S POLYGMAY: HISTORY AND THEOLOGY volume 3, pp. 165-90.
      The question of why Elijah appeared to restore the sealing keys is a very good one. Obviously Peter held those keys (Matthew 16:19) after Elijah. Peter (with James and John) had already appeared to give Apostolic authority to Joseph (and Oliver) in 1829.
      It appears that Elijah was given that calling and mission. Since many other men have held the sealing keys before and after Elijah, my theory is that any of them could have been given that mission. A keyholder does not lose the keys when he dies, but there is never but on ON EARTH at a time that controls that authority.
      I believe that the keys restored by Elijah could only be restored in a temple because they deal with temple ordinances. Just minutes after Christ accepted the Kirtland Temple, then Elijah and Elias and Moses appeared. They restored the authority, not to organize a Church like John the Baptist and Peter, James, and John, but to create eternal families. No wonder Joseph talked so much about Elijah in Nauvoo and so little about Peter, James and John.
      Take Care,

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