The Priesthood Restored or Snuffed Out? John the Baptist Had It Right, I Think

In Utah especially and some other areas, a few Mormons are being influenced by an eloquent lawyer who claims to have received a special visit from Christ. Some of them show up to his lectures in the Mountain West. He has gained some sympathizers and followers–or rather, just “readers,” as he insists–starting with his previous book about seeing God, where he seemed genuinely pro-LDS and supportive of basic LDS claims. However, he is now claiming that the Church has failed and was predicted to fail. He claims it has departed from the fundamental old ways of Joseph Smith and complains that the Church long ago lost authority, alleging that Joseph did not give the keys of the priesthood to the Apostles. The leaders of the Church since Joseph’s day, he argues, have been misguided and have led the Church astray. Perhaps we need different leaders now, perhaps–I’m just guessing here–more humble, inspired men who have, say, actually seen Christ in a majestic divine theophany?

The bold claims that the author now makes can reasonably be taken as hostile to the Church and the subject of old-fashioned apostasy, though he claims he is just helping to bring disaffected Mormons back to the fold with his more enlightened understanding of the failed Church. Apparently his local leaders asked him to retract these apostate teachings and he refused to reconsider and repent. It’s hardly surprising that he was then excommunicated. Now he teaches audiences of “readers” as he criticizes the Church, following a path that other apostates have trod in various forms as they try to steady the ark–with a torch.

Did the Church actually lose the Priesthood due to its failure? That is, as Snuffer alleges, failure to pass on the keys, failure to complete the Nauvoo Temple fast enough, failure among the leaders in seeing Christ as frequently as Mr. Snuffer wishes, and failure to stick to his preferred old fundamentals instead of all the stuff we Luddites view as “progress” in a Church led by continuing revelation where growth and change are inherent, as they have always been. So what happened to the once-restored Priesthood?

Personally, I’m sticking with what John the Baptist said when he, as an angelic minister, began the process of restoring priesthood authority on the earth. From Doctrine and Covenants 13:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

No, I don’t think the Priesthood (Aaronic or Melchizedek) has been lost since the Restoration and don’t think it will be, in spite of weaknesses and, yes, mistakes of various leaders. The authority has been preserved and passed on in properly constituted quorums, with authorized leaders selected, sustained, and ordained following the principles of common consent and divine authority as taught by Joseph Smith. If someone stands up claiming to have authority from a secret ordination or that Christ has told them that the Church has gone astray and they need to fix it, I think there is no reason to take such a person seriously. Even if they claim that Christ and angels have visited them or even ordained them. It’s imperative to distrust such claims and the motives behind them, no matter how much they say “it’s not about me, I’m a nobody, just a humble guy who merited a visit from God to fix the Church.”

I had this man and others in mind when I wrote my recent post on condemning the Church. If you’ve been following the controversy, you may be interested in a detailed response over at the Mormon Interpreter: “Passing Up The Heavenly Gift (Part One of Two)“by Gregory L. Smith. It’s well done and has some key material to refute basic claims from Snuffer. There is some rich additional content by the first poster (“iamse7en”) in the comments that you should read also.

Yes, it’s easy to look at the modern international Church and feel that it’s not the same simple, intimate, spirit-filled club as we might imagine it was in Joseph’s day. To a critical eye, it can look like just a giant business with its great website tools, international broadcasts, buildings, financial management tools, lawyers, and other elements useful or essential for growth and survival in the modern area. But to those who participate in it fully with faith and sacrifice, the spiritual gifts are still there, miracles are abundant, the blessings of genuine priesthood power are real and sometimes remarkable, and the restored Temple truly is a house of God. It is the Church of Jesus Christ, and its leaders are men seeking His face and His will. Those who condemn them and claim they have lost authority should think carefully not just about why they are fighting, but also whom.  ‘Snuff said.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

18 thoughts on “The Priesthood Restored or Snuffed Out? John the Baptist Had It Right, I Think

  1. Denver Snuffer posted about the review you cited Jeff:

    [My wife noticed this and put it up yesterday. I've now skimmed the review. Wasn't worth really reading. Doesn't look like the reviewer actually read the book. Seems like he collected comments from others and put a patchwork together as a response. Committees always tend to bungle things. Maybe he'll read the book sometime and look back with embarrassment at this poorly done review.]

    Denver has posted a link to a blog of a guy that actually has read the book and has very little good to say about the book, this guy seems to be taking his time in responding to all that he sees wrong with the book though so be patient!

    This dust up with Denver Snuffer makes me want to see what he has written in context, so I now got the book my self and will read it. From what I can tell most of Snuffer's critics quote what others have said or argue a point that I am not sure is being treated in a fair way or in complete context of points being examined. 

    Another problem with this review you cited Jeff, and all reviews on FARMS or similar sites, and all books written by BYU religious professors, and all books written by GAs, is that their careers, their high church callings, their status in their wards, stakes, and families, and their very paychecks, are dependent upon NOT going against the status quo, NOT rocking the boat, and certainly NOT in anyway appearing heretical or apostate, or supporting anyone who might be seen as heretical or apostate. How in the world can we ever expect an unbiased review? 

  2. John the Baptist here refers to the Aaronic priesthood, which Denver never claims was lost. That priesthood was alive and well in the meridian of time, despite the failings of the Sanhedrin Pharisees , and other Jewish authorities.

    The loss Denver refers to is the one mentioned in D&C 124:28, the "fulness of the priesthood ". The Nauvoo temple was intended to be setting wherein this level of priesthood was to restored. Whether or not this restoration occurred is the point of contention.

  3. anonymous,

    I don't think anyone is getting paid over at the Interpreter. Greg Smith (a practicing physician, BTW) said he read the book — I'll take his word for it.


  4. I thought the review by Gregory Smith was very well done. I think it breaks down very clearly the concept of priesthood authority as taught by Joseph Smith. There are also many quotes about divine manifestations and the continuation of the priesthood that I had never seen before, so it was a very interesting read even if you have no interest in what DS has to say.

  5. So let me get this straight. Denver Snuffer doesn't read the review but then concluded that the reviewer didn't read his book. And on that basis dismisses it. Maybe Suffer will read the review sometime and look back with embarrassment at his glib review of the review.

  6. I've read The Second Comforter, which is actually not bad when just discussing interpretations of scripture for the most part but one can see the seeds of his apostasy being laid in his claims, in his commandments to the Church, in his warnings against excessive respect for leaders, and his repeated and perhaps overboard declarations that this work, commanded by God, is not about him, and how important humility is in seeing God, etc.

    Passing the Spiritual Gift is not available electronically which is what I usually rely on here in China, but I've read about as much as I can on Amazon by "looking inside" and using the "surprise me" feature over and over, and I've read his blog and statements from those who follow him. There is no question that he has turned critical against the Church, while claiming to just be helping it and helping those who have trouble with its history.

    For example, in addition to his attack on the "cult of personality" that he accuses the Church of in David O. Mackay's day, which I discuss in my previous entry, on page 356 he similarly charges that our modern practice of calling the President of the Church "the prophet" or "our beloved prophet" stands in sharp contrast to the language used, say, in 1919, from which era he provides numerous quotes. But Heber J. Grant himself (Conference Report, June 1919, p.3) used similar language to refer to the recently departed President:

    But we feel that those who have met in the Assembly Hall are entitled to hear some of the general authorities of the Church speak upon the life and labors, and bear witness of their love and reverence for, and their faith in, our beloved prophet, the late President Joseph F. Smith, who has departed this life since we last met in general conference.

    Love and deep respect for "the prophet" is not a modern innovation rising from a Church deep in apostasy, replacing worship of God with human idolatry. Mistaking respect for leaders as idolatry and neglect of Christ is a harsh and unfair accusation. And then haranguing them for not "coming out" with details of miraculous experiences and statements that they have seen God, unlike our humble accuser, strikes me as extreme and overly critical.

  7. The church has in recent years promoted "the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture". The rising MBA-ization of the church is quite apparent. The fixation on stats, be they Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching, baptisms, etc. Missionaries are trained and expected to act as salesmen rather than relying on the Spirit to lead them. Being a successful business man or having the right connections lead to high positions in the church. Leaders rely more on "studying it our in you mind" rather than relying on the spirit.

    The members and leaders of the church rely on their own intelligence and abilities rather than pursuing the guidance of the spirit.

    And frankly you should be ashamed for writing a blog posting based almost entirely on what others have written rather than going to the original sources.

  8. Is it possible that D&C 13 implies that the Melch. Priesthood will also be present, for that is how the Aaronic Priesthood will finally be taken from the earth: when it is no longer needed as an appendage to the Melchizedek Priesthood? The Restoration with ongoing Aaronic but not Melchizedek keys just doesn't make sense to me.

  9. His blog and books don't count as original sources? True, I don't have many pages of his latest book, but his own summary of it and the portions I have been able to read are plenty of evidence that he is in a state of apostasy. It's an old pattern.

  10. Fixation on stats: have you been away from the Church? I see a de-emphasis on that. They are helpful tools, but it's not a fixation.

    Salesmen rather than relying on the spirit? What basis do you have for that? Have you read Preach My Gospel? Abundant emphasis on obtaining and following the Spirit.

    Leaders not relying on the Spirit – it happens, sure, but the training and emphasis is on obtaining and following the Spirit, though there are rules and guidelines, as there must be.

    Your complaints lack basis. You're angry at something, maybe some decisions that seemed too financial or businesslike, but the way the Church operates and the way leaders are trained IMHO puts plenty of emphasis on spirit and revelation.

  11. "The rising MBA-ization of the church is quite apparent. The fixation on stats, be they Home Teaching, Visiting Teaching, baptisms, etc. Missionaries are trained and expected to act as salesmen rather than relying on the Spirit to lead them."

    I agree with Jeff. This is the opposite of what the Church is doing, especially the part about the missionaries. They are far from "sales" and are encouraged to be completely reliant on the Spirit.

    Stats are important – they always will be. Jesus said: "But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people" (3 Ne. 18:31); "But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them." (3 Ne. 16:3)

    Statistics are important and a great way to summarize data. However, if someone spends any time working with church leaders (local, area, or general) that person understands that it is always the people behind the stats who are important. Statistics are used to keep track but the focus is never on the numbers.

  12. Anyone who has received* the Gift of the Holy Ghost knows that priesthood authority and keys are alive and well within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for it is only by and through the higher priesthood that this gift can be given.

    (*Note the important distinction between "has received" and "has been given".)

  13. I don't trust a man who claims no desire to be a cult leader, and yet publishes books and goes on speaking tours. It's easy enough to not be a cult leader; it takes a willful effort to become one.

  14. Page 156 of "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith":

    I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: that man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.

  15. This post really made me think about how Joseph Smith was treated all those years ago. It seems to me that a minister or preacher of one of the other denominations could have written a very similar article about Joseph back in the 1830s. They clearly didn't believe that Joseph had any divine manifestations, and they didn't trust him that he had any priesthood authority from God either. So is it right to treat Denver Snuffer just as those preachers (and many others) did in the 1830s through today? What would have happened if everyone treated Joseph that way?


  16. Anonymous @12:21-

    Joseph also said something contradictory to what you posted:

    Address of the Prophet To the Relief SocietyBeware of Excessive ZealSection Five 1842-43, p.237
    'President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.' Response?

    Jeff I am surprised that you did not respond to d&c 124:28 which was given over ten years after the aaronic priesthood was given thru john the Baptist, and more importantly, after the saints had refused to live consecration, defiled the Kirtland temple and refused to build zion but instead began to be filled with lyings and murders etc (the Lord's words in the d&c not mine):
    Clearly the aaronic priesthood has remained but the melchizedic priesthood according to the Lord in d&c 124 : 28 was taken away by the lord himself. Context and timing are everything- What John the Baptist said was around 1829….but what 124 : 28 states solemnly is in 1841!

    If you haven't read the astonishing discoveries of the Watcher at about the trye melchizedic priesthood being restored in 1831 in isaac morleys farm in accordance with JST Genesis 14 : 25 – 41, then believe me when I say you are truly missing out on some phenomenal uplifting truth! !

  17. Thank you for your blog entry Jeff. It helps me to know I'm not alone in my perspective of this recent route to apostasy.

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