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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"We follow a man whom we call a prophet"

Edit 3/23/2017:
I received a response from Denver Snuffer on this post, which was forwarded to him by a reader. I have appended his responses to the end of this post with his permission. I have struck out and added (in italics) to reflect the corrected points. I make no argument with anything Denver said in his responses, and find them to be humble and charitable, as all his correspondence with me has always been.

Edit 3/34/2017:
I added the questions/comments Denver was responding to in his second email after realizing that some of his followers will mistakenly think he was talking about me, when in fact he was talking about them.
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This post is exclusively written to the group that call themselves "the remnant" who are from the LDS background (many other non-LDS Christian groups call themselves the remnant as well).

First, I insert this post in its entirety:
There is still a lot of confusion about the mechanism of salvation. Though we read and understand that Christ and Christ only is the gateway to salvation, we still struggle to understand what that means.

What does it mean that Christ is the only way to be saved? Does it mean that we can use him to be saved like a man uses a hammer to build a house? Is he our tool? The scriptures suggest quite the opposite.

But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. (Isaiah 64:8)

A potter does not merely create but also finishes his works. If salvation comes through Christ, it comes through yielding our hearts to him--completely and fully. That is how he can finish us without violating our free will. Believing in him is not a practice of mere confession with the lips, but of yielding our hearts. And it isn't a vacuous, passive position.

You can't yield your hearts to someone you don't know. Knowing Jesus requires seeking him, and that requires exercising every mechanism available to learn more about him.

Salvation is an awfully individual affair. No one can seek Jesus for you, and no one can know him for you. Nevertheless, the Christian world spends all or nearly all of their religious effort trying to get to know Jesus through someone else. For most Christians, the time they spend in the audience of a pastor, priest, pope, elder, friend, or anyone else far exceeds the time they spend in the audience of God himself, in prayer or in solitary scripture study.

This presents a dilemma. On one end of the continuum, we have the option of locking ourselves in a room with the Bible until we meet God. On the other, we have the option of locking ourselves in a church pew until we meet God. It turns out that either option will result in the same fruitless experience (though I would prefer the former rather than the latter). Why? Because of how ministration works.

God lives in a glory defined by the laws he lives. Truth produces glory in and around those who accept and live it. The higher the truth, the more the glory. Normal people cannot go to where God is. As Jesus told the Pharisees:

Then said Jesus again unto them, I go my way, and ye shall seek me, and shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come. (John 8:21)
In order to ascend to where God is, you have to live the law the God lives. This is true of any being: in order to ascend to the level of glory they enjoy, you have to live the law they live.

So how do you learn what those laws are? If it were as simple as reading the Bible, or finding a minister, we would have millions and millions of people ascending to where God is. How many people have you met who have been in God's presence in heaven? Where, then, is the disconnect? Clearly, only a very small minority of people have God's law. Or, as Jesus said,

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:14)
So where is it to be found? Paul gives us a clue:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)
How can you know a law unless you hear it? "...how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" (Romans 10:14-15)

Scripture gives us example after example of how God dispenses truth. Every man comes into this world possessing a certain state of glory. God reveals truths to these people of the level that they already possess. In order to ascend in truth, we must encounter higher truth than we possess. This elevated truth very rarely comes from God himself, except in the form of the Holy Ghost confirming truth to us. Instead, we must a) seek out and b) accept the teachings of people who possess higher truth than we do.

Obtaining truth from God happens by degrees. Jethro provided Moses with instructions that helped Moses advance from where he was before he met him to where he was after he met him. Moses did not stop there. Moses continued to obtain more truths that Jethro himself did not know, and thus was able to obtain more glory than Jethro possessed. We are surrounded by Jethros in our life. If we recognize and sort through what they say that is true and what they say that is error, we can catapault ourselves closer to God in a much faster manner than if we were left to our own devices, much like a spaceship can use the gravity of a planet to slingshot to its target much faster than it could with its own engines. But making the error of making the true messenger our target will end in the same catastrophe of making the planet the target: crash and burn instead of upward progression.

Teachings can be true or false. Teachers are neither.

There are several ways we can misunderstand the way this works. God makes use of vessels to do his work. Sometimes these are righteous vessels (like Isaiah), and sometimes these are wicked vessels (like Nebuchadnezzar). Most times, however, they are a little righteous and a little wicked (like Gideon, who did some things right and some things wrong). The righteousness of a man does not indicate that anything he says is true. The Bible is full of examples of true messages from God being delivered by men who were not worthy of emulation. On the other hand, the wickedness of a man does not indicate that a particular belief he has is not from God. The high priest who killed Jesus delivered a true prophecy (see John 11:49-51)!

We ought to assume that God will use anyone and anything around us to teach us all the truth we are willing to receive. We ought to prove all things, instead of just assuming something is false because it doesn't agree with what we currently understand. In fact, if we expect that there are things we do not yet know, and glory to which we have not yet attained, we ought to assume that the space between where we are and where we want to be will be spanned by new truth that will necessarily clash with what we currently understand, for if it did not, would we not already embrace it? We ought to avoid dismissing people out of hand because they believe differently than we do. Did Moses dismiss Jethro out of hand when he possessed truth that Moses had not yet heard? No. Rather, he proved all things, and found that much of what Jethro taught was useful to advance his own understanding.

Jesus himself was dismissed as wicked by the majority of people that witnessed his mortal ministry. Isaiah said that Jesus "hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2) There was nothing overtly obvious about Jesus' true role that would have caused people to listen to what he said. Instead, those who followed him did so on the merit of his message.

When we dismiss truth presented to us by our fellows, we are cutting ourselves off from the blessings God intends to give us. I have personally witnessed many occasions where someone I know has prayed for certain blessings or deliverance from God only to reject the person he sent to provide the requested blessings.

We should not look for true messengers, or disqualify messengers as false. We should not listen more to people (ministers, spiritual giants, popes, priests) we assume are righteous. We should not listen less to people we assume are wicked. Instead, we ought to try all things and hold fast to what is true.

By testing all things, you are relying on the Holy Ghost for truth, and not man, despite recognizing that God might be sending you new truth via association with other individuals who know something that you don't. <end previous post>

I write to draw your attention to the fact that you are based on the same LDS doctrine that you have claimed to reject: "We follow a man whom we call a prophet."

You would roundly deny that fact as an accusation, and rebuttal with the claim that you are focused exclusively on "the doctrine of Christ." I would ask you the following:

1) There are constant fruits that God gives for repentance. Where are yours? Can you honestly say that you are closer to God because of your doctrine than you were before? Are you more repentant than ever before, or are you simply looking for some new thing that fits the pattern the LDS church has trained you to look for?

2) There are several things that distinguish your doctrine from other sects: The consideration of Denver Snuffer's revelations and opinions as the supreme authority in doctrine, the requirement of having 7 supporting women to baptize, the organization of "fellowships", paying of tithing into fellowships, saving money for a temple, and the creation of new scriptures. Which of these tenets are authorized by "the doctrine of Christ" verse?

You echo Denver Snuffer's claim that he did not form a church, and is not the leader of a new church. Why do you insist on setting up what he himself will not, and making him what he himself has refused to be? While I don't personally care whether or not someone starts a church, I find the claim inherently dishonest. While we can play Bill Clinton and redefine the word "church" to mean something other than what everyone considers it means, let's avoid the label and examine the facts.

There is a tendency to hear this group described as communal. This is not true. "The remnant" is not a communal group, but a group of people seeking to correlate themselves.correlated by Denver Snuffer. Everything that has the trademarked logo has been approved by this group him. Normal people cannot call remnant conferences. When conferences took place at the mesa in Colorado and in Idaho Falls, though organized and attended by remnant folks, they were not listed on the conference website.

What about doctrines? Why are revelations from Is Denver the only ones recognized? Is he the only person receiving revelation? If so, wouldn't that indicate that his doctrine is incapable of bringing a person to the point of receiving revelation for themselves? Since revelations always come with the Holy Ghost, that would not be a good indicator. Suppose there are others receiving revelation. Why no mention of them? Why aren't there revelations going into the new publication? Why aren't there bloggers like Adrian Larson championing their every word?

You say that you are preserving the restoration. This is a claim worth examining [see here and here]. Yet, not one of your distinguishing doctrines came from Joseph Smith. Not one. The closest thing you have is the idea of a temple, but you a) disregard Joseph's accompanying teaching that the Lamanites will build it and b) disregard Joseph's accompanying teaching that only the righteous will enter Zion (it is not a come as you are and be perfected later experience). If your mission is to live what Joseph preached, why are you picking and choosing which of his teachings to live?

If your claim to validity is fidelity to what Joseph preached, how well do you emulate what Joseph taught? When Joseph preached, he said:

"If you will obey the Gospel with honest hearts, I promise you, in the name of the Lord, that the gifts as promised by our Saviour will follow you, and by this you may prove me to be a true servant of God." (Joseph Smith quoted in Hyrum Andrus, "Joseph Smith's Idea of the Gospel")

What fruits do you have that indicate you've got the restoration right? Where are the fruits?

Some people in the movement honestly admit that they have not encountered God. Others claim to be, because they have had some supernatural experience. People seem unable to distinguish between truth and error. They do not realize that there is opposition in all things, and that Satan is a great counterfeiter. They do not heed the admonition to judge a tree by its fruits. The clearest fruit is repentance. Because people are disconnected from God due to their lack of true repentance they rely on Denver and set him up as the Israelites did with Moses. Where is the focus on repentance? Where is the care for the poor (external to the hand-picked fellowships)? Instead, you have new ordinances, new rules, new scriptures, and a new building fund. Like the Saints in Joseph's day and the Pharisees in Jesus' day, you have swallowed a camel but omitted the weightier matters.

Those who have recovered and are living Joseph's doctrines surely should have the experiences he had. Which of you regularly entertains the Lord and his angels? Which of you walks with the power to heal the sick? Which of you ranges the earth to bless to Lord's children temporally and spiritually?

What is the true contribution of the restoration? If we had to boil it down to one thing, what would it be? In my view, it is the evidence provided by Joseph's connection to heaven that all men are capable of coming into God's presence if they can sufficiently break free of the false traditions of men, take God at his literal word, and seek him with all their heart, might, mind, and strength. This is also the lesson found in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many others. The strength of a godly movement is its contribution in breaking down false traditions, not its construction of new ones. If it weren't for the false traditions, the Book of Mormon--an excellent tool in tearing them down--might not be necessary. Isn't is odd that those who focus the most on doctrines purportedly revealed by Joseph later in his life have failed to achieve the experiences he had as a young man without any of those?

If you claim to validity is not what Joseph preached, but new revelation from heaven, why claim that your validity is based on Joseph's dispensation? Why put new wine in old bottles? Are you seeking God, and evaluating each message from every purported messenger for his voice, or are you wholesale swallowing everything that comes from Denver Snuffer, or worse--that which you claim comes from him, but is orthogonal to his real message? Do you seek the voice that calls you to change, or the voice that asks for small modifications and offers the same social patterns you have learned to love in the LDS church? Do you accept Denver's teaching because the Spirit witnesses of their truth, or because you are impressed by his claims of heavenly visitations? There will be many prophets in the last days. Some of what some say will be true. Some of what they say will be false. All of what many say will be false. If you can't recognize someone claiming to be a prophet, why would you bother to determine if what they say is true or false? If you believe someone just because they claim to have gone to heaven, you are in a position where you would be fully deceived by the priests of Pharaoh and other servants of the devil who nevertheless worked much mightier miracles than that. Are you aware that men are constantly lured from the straight and narrow path by soothing messages and the drive for community, and that those on the true path will always be lonely outcasts who have successively left the consensus position?

I'm not really sure why people in this movement are so intent on insisting that they don't have a prophet and they aren't a church. They certainly regard one man (and only one man's) connection with God as superior to anyone else's. If that is not a prophet, fine, but it doesn't change what you are doing. They certainly control what events, practices, and doctrines define the group. That is correlation. If you don't like calling yourself a church, fine, but it doesn't change what you are doing.

If you are bothered by the fact that you are in fact a church and you do in fact regard a man as a prophet, then you should stop being a church and regarding a man as a prophet. If you do not have a problem with that, you should stop hiding the fact and publicly lying about it.

I want to state outright that I hesitate to write this post because it could be misconstrued as being directed towards Denver. He has always been kind to me, and I have no reason to think he isn't sincere. I take him literally when he has--multiple times--asked people to go to God, not take his word for it, and not set him up as someone special. While I recognize that most of what It seems that what is wrong with this movement comes from his sycophants and not him., he often contradicts his own words when he claims a dispensation, claims to be or allows others to claim he is the one mighty and strong, modify scripture without dictated revelation, encourages people to canonize his writings, and allows a small group of people to control the tenets of this group.

Denver, You have taken upon yourself everything that made Joseph Smith fail. You've raised up a mediator to serve as your god. people to whom you are a God, a people incapable of connecting with God directly. Instead of emulating what brought Denver a connection to God, you've made him your connection to God. Will your end be any different than the followers of Joseph Smith in his day? making yourself redundant, you've made them reliant upon you. Choose one or the other: be the strongman you claim to abhor or abdicate your claims to authority and return to teaching by persuasion and reason. You can't have it both ways. 

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First response from Denver:
Your latest post got forwarded to me. I responded and sent you a copy of my reply. Keep up the good work.

He does make good points; ones I have also made.

And it is incorrect that I have every claimed to be "mighty and strong" and equally incorrect that I have not denounced it.

The scriptures project was spontaneous and independent of me. I only learned of it when it had been completed, following over a year of work by two independent groups, neither of whom were called or asked by me.

The conferences are independently organized and I have nothing to do with them other than being invited to speak. I've spoken at several conferences that were not put onto the conference website--Moab for example. At that one I was likewise an invited guest.

I do not own or control the logo. That is another group. I cannot use it without their permission. They can give permission without consulting with me.

The concepts are good. The specifics that are suggested by Rob Smith are in error.

-Denver

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Second response from Denver:

[In response to my comment that those close to him are hijacking what he does, and asking why he doesn't correct them:]
...Human weaknesses abound. It is not always good to confront and condemn people. Sensitive egos can be crushed, and must be handled with care. Hard and arrogant souls can be unwilling to even hear what is said. Every soul matters to God, and we have to deal with others as valued sons and daughters of a Father who cares as much for them as for any of us. As Joseph commented, "only fools will trifle with the souls of men." So we can't trifle. We must be serious and cautious. Each individual will react differently because they have different needs.

I have found that over time people expose themselves and what is in their hearts comes out in full display. Sometimes it requires years. Since I have nothing of value to offer anyone, no position, no opportunity for advancement, and I hold no office, eventually the vain and ambitious tire of sacrificing to help things along. They go off on their own and gather their own following. I don't try to reclaim them (or their followers). I'm content with stating clearly what I have given to me from above, and let everyone choose for themselves how they respond.

[In response to my comment about the treatment I get from many of his followers:]
It is unfortunate that people hate others because of disagreement about religious views. It is better to have religious views than to lack them. Even if we don't agree on everything, I would hope people who agree on many things could find a way to rejoice in agreements, and be kindly disposed about their disagreements.

Oddly, I get treated better by secular ex-Mormons than by Mormons. They are more generous in their views. It is tragic to think that religion closes minds, but it does.

[Returning to original point:]
I've repeatedly said (not sure how many time now, but it is often) that I have no spokesman. I try to put everything down in a written and edited transcript to state what I mean and to cite scripture to support ideas that are confirmed by scripture. Therefore what anyone else says is not something I have ever advocated be taken as what I say.

[In response to my asking whether the mention of the new name is a claim that he is the Davidic servant:]
The disclosure of the new name was accompanied with NOTHING that promised I would accomplish anything. Nor was it accompanied with any claim it conferred authority. In the account I think it reflects poorly on me, and on my reaction, and great credit on the Lord. His cutting rebuke was given in mildness and shows the great contrast between a foolish and ungrateful man (myself) and a kind and patient Lord.

All my best;
-Denver