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.