Over the past few weeks, I have followed closely the discussions happening over at Latter-day Commentary. It is an interesting thing to have seekers of truth and the spirit come to such wildly different conclusions about people (like Denver Snuffer) or teachings (like the book Passing the Heavenly Gift). When both sides claim a spiritual basis for their views, it is hard to come to any decision who is right and who is wrong.
Sounds kinda familiar:
so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.
— Joseph Smith History 1:8
Today, the weekly paper was published at Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, which continues their line of examining so-called "dissenters."
As in their other examinations of the subject, I found this latest paper to improperly characterize the nuances of the problem, choosing instead to use hard labels like "apostate," as well as a tendency to straw-man the other side of things.
I'm sure some of the issue I take with this most recent posting is the lumping together of polygamists, ordain women proponents, and Denver Snuffer's writings. This, to me, is a bit of a strange grouping.
Lets look at one argument from Hales. After quoting D&C 84:54-57, which contains the Lord's condemnation of the saints because of their neglect of the Book of Mormon, Hales states,
Allegedly, the Saints apostatized from the truth at that time and never recovered. This stance is contradicted by several verses in the same revelation that support that their condemnation was temporary.
I guess temporary can extend a great many years, in 1986 President Benson said,
Now, in our day, the Lord has revealed the need to reemphasize the Book of Mormon to get the Church and all the children of Zion out from under condemnation—the scourge and judgment. (See D&C 84:54–58.) This message must be carried to the members of the Church throughout the world.
— Ezra Taft Benson, April 1986 Conference
More interesting to me is that Hales equates this condemnation with apostasy, that those who feel the Church is still laboring under some kind of condemnation from the Lord must, therefore, consider the Church apostate.
In full disclosure, I happen to believe that it is indeed possible that the saints were given a chance of something in building the Nauvoo temple, and did not live up to that chance.
I believe anciently that the children of Israel were given the chance to come into the presence of God, but shrank away and insisted that Moses be the only one to go-between.
I believe that despite the emphasis on the Book of Mormon that grew out of the talk by President Benson in 1986, that we are still struggling to appreciate and understand the Book of Mormon as we should.
Therefore, according to Hales, I must believe the Church to be in apostasy.
I do not.
Just as Israel can shrink from the presence of the Lord, build a golden idol, and still be His chosen people, just as the Lord can put the Church under condemnation in one verse, and call it "my church" in the next, so could a people fail to claim a blessing in Nauvoo, and still have the Lord's hand over the work. It need not be labeled apostasy. The Lord certainly takes the long view of things like this.
Consider, do we now, as a Church, live in Zion? Have we cultivated a Zion society among us? Were we offered such a chance in our early history? Did we take ahold of it and succeed?
I cannot speak for Denver Snuffer himself, but I have read his books, listened to talks, and read his blog. I can certainly feel confident in expressing the message I have received from that material. It isn't anything like the notion that "The Church, its members and all of its leaders have apostatized."
Rather, I see more keenly and starkly that as a latter-day saint member, and as a people, we have not arrived. There is more for us to do, much of which we hardly have contemplated. All cannot be well in Zion, despite what we like to tell ourselves, because we don't even have Zion yet. Our history and position is what it is because we still have things to learn.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
This is already too long. I'll stop here and next time examine the whole "never lead astray" business. Suffice it to say, I don't find it a defensible position anymore.