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

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Abstract: Part 2 of this response to Denver Snuffer’s essay entitled “Plural Marriage” posted on March 22, 2015, will primarily address non-plural marriage issues as discussed in the last twenty pages.1 Snuffer’s portrayal of adoption teachings and practices is analyzed and shown to be in error, along with his interpretation of presiding priesthood quorums as described in the Doctrine and Covenants. His primary thesis, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in apostasy, is also examined including Snuffer’s personal need for the Church to have fallen away in order to create an opening for his new visionary voice. The lack of evidence supporting such an apostasy is also reviewed including the obvious absence of any prophesied latter-day “dwindling in unbelief.” Snuffer is compared to other dissidents who have come and gone over the past century showing his claims are not unexpected or original. While the Latter-day Saints could be more obedient, a core group of righteous members and leaders has always existed in the Church through which the Lord could perform His restorative works.

Despite the title of Denver Snuffer’s “Plural Marriage” essay, the article’s focus shifts away from polygamy on page 28, devoting the last twenty pages to other topics, which are addressed below.

Sealing to Our “Fathers in Eternal Glory”

Snuffer first discusses a related topic — that of adoption — alleging: “Joseph knew it would do no good to seal ourselves to our dead ancestors” (p. 29). This declaration is apparently based upon Snuffer’s unique interpretation of Joseph Smith’s March 10, 1844, discourse. Wilford Woodruff recorded his instructions given that day:

[Page 32]Again the doctrin [sic] or sealing power of Elijah is as follows 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.2

Here Joseph tells us to be sealed to our “fathers in eternal glory,” but who are these fathers? Are they our biological fathers who are now dead or someone else? Snuffer’s answer may be surprising: “The ‘fathers in eternal glory’ are not your kindred dead in the spirit world. They are Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. … The family of man needed to reconnect to the family of ‘the fathers’ who had risen from the dead and become exalted” (p. 29). Snuffer interprets the “fathers in eternal glory” as resurrected and exalted beings. He argues that they could not be our deceased biological fathers because they now reside as unresurrected spirits in the spirit world.

Fortunately, on January 21, 1844, Wilford Woodruff also wrote the Prophet’s instructions, which clarify the identity of the “fathers”:

The gospel to be esstablished the Saints of God gatherd Zion built up, & the Saints to Come up as Saviors on mount Zion but how are they to become Saviors on Mount Zion by building thair temples erecting their Baptismal fonts & going forth & receiving all the ordinances, Baptisms, Confirmations, washings anointings ordinations & sealing powers upon our heads in behalf of all our Progenitors who are dead & redeem them that they may Come forth in the first resurrection & be exhalted to thrones of glory with us.3

Joseph taught that the “sealing powers” are for our “progenitors who are dead” who will “be exhalted to thrones of glory with us.” There is no mention of Abraham or other patriarchs.

Additional evidence discounting Snuffer’s view is found by investigating all of the known references of Joseph Smith to the fathers, their children, and Elijah’s mission. The Prophet mentioned Malachi’s [Page 33]prophesy in multiple revelations, writings, and discourses. In none of these did he indicate that the “fathers” were patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In fact, it can be argued that in every case Joseph Smith’s audiences would have understood that the “children” and “fathers” he mentioned were direct biological relatives. Their hearts were to turn toward each other resulting in the performance of sealing ordinances to bind them eternally together.


Joseph Smith’s References to the Fathers and Children

Malachi 4:6

“hearts of the children to their fathers”

D&C 2:2

“turn to their fathers”

D&C 27:9

“children to the fathers”

D&C 98:16

“hearts of the children to their fathers”

D&C 110:15

“the children to the fathers”

D&C 128:17

“the heart of the children to their fathers”

D&C 128:18

“welding link of some kind or other between the fathers and the children”

Joseph Smith History 1:39

“the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers”

Words* 11

“hearts of the children will have to be turned to the fathers, & the fathers to the children living or dead to prepare them for the second coming of the Son of Man”

Words 241-42

“the hearts of the children to the covenant made to their fathers”

Words 244

“covenants to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers”

Words 318

[Page 34]“our progenitors who are dead & redeem them that they may Come forth in the first resurrection & be exalted to thrones of glory with us”

Words 327

“sealing of the hearts of the children unto the fathers & the hearts of the fathers unto the children even those who are in heaven”

Words 334

“to seal or bind or turn the hearts of the fathers to their children”

Words 336

“to seal the hearts of the Fathers to the children – and the children to the Parents”

*Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith.

Abraham, of course, would be somewhere in the links, but creating a chain back to Adam was the primary focus. Joseph explained there needs to be a “welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time” (D&C 128:18). We must be linked back to Adam because he was a son of God (Luke 3:38). Through a chain of sealings leading back to him, we, too, are sealed to God.

Nauvoo Adoption Sealings

Snuffer’s view of adoption sealings is problematic in other ways. Sealing records from the Nauvoo Temple show that a total of 82 individuals were sealed to their own biological parents through child-to-parent sealings.4 Importantly, five of Hyrum Smith’s own children were sealed to him by proxy — a plain case where a living person was sealed to a dead biological father in contradiction to Snuffer’s declaration.

[Page 35]In addition, 211 people were sealed to non-parents, generally prominent Church leaders.5 No person was sealed to Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob or any of the Old Testament patriarchs, which would indicate that they did not interpret the meaning of “fathers” as Snuffer does.


Adoption Sealings Performed in the Nauvoo Temple, Jan. 11-Feb. 6, 18466

Dates in 1846


Leadership Position

Non-Biological Children

Biological Children


Jan. 28

Bent, Samuel


Kilborn, Mary

Jan. 31

Cutler, Alpheus



Lethrop, Lois

Feb. 6

Farr, Winslow



Freeman, Olive Hovey

Jan. 11

Hyde, Orson



Johnson, Nancy Marinda

Jan. 12, 25,

Feb. 1

Kimball, Heber C.




Murray, Vilate

Feb. 5

Lee, John D.


Woolsey, Aggath Ann

Jan. 25

Lyman, Amasa M.




Tanner, Mariah Louisa

Jan. 25

Miller, George




Fry, Mary Catherine


Bouton, Elizabeth


Wallace, Sophia

[Page 36]Feb. 3

Morley, Isaac



Gunn, Lucy

Jan. 17

Pratt, Orson



Bates, Sarah Marinda

Jan. 25

Richards, Willard




Richards, Jennetta

Jan. 30

Smith, Don Carolos


Coolbrith, Agnes Moulton

Jan. 25

Smith, George A.



Bigler, Bathsheba W.

Jan. 26

Smith, Hyrum*

Church Patriarch – Associate President



Barden, Jerusha

Jan. 25

Smith, John




Lyman, Clarissa

Feb. 3

Smith, Jr. Joseph



none listed

Jan. 31

Spencer, Daniel


Pomeroy, Sophronia Eliza


Lester, Sarah


Spencer, Mary

Jan. 27

Spencer, Orson


Curtis, Catherine

[Page 37]Jan. 17, Feb.

Taylor, John




Cannon, Leonora

Jan 26

Thompson, Robert


Fielding, Mercy Rachel

Jan 12, 26, Feb 1

Whitney, Newel K.




Smith, Elizabeth Ann

Jan 11, 25, Feb 1

Young, Brigham




Works, Miriam

Feb 2


Adams, Augusta




* Italics denote the sealings were performed by proxy

No additional adoption sealings were performed by the Saints after the Nauvoo Temple closed on February 6, 1846, until the opening of the St. George Temple in 1877. In Utah temples two types of adoptions were performed, some to non-kindred “fathers” (like Church leaders but never Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob) and others to biologically related progenitors. Sealings to non-relatives were discontinued in 1894 when Wilford Woodruff clarified that we should all be sealed to our biological parents as far back as the genealogical records would allow.

Snuffer states that because of a vision Brigham Young received on February 17, 1847, “The practice of adoption came to an end” (p. 31). This is ironic for a couple of reasons. First, as discussed above, adoptions [Page 38]were only performed in the Nauvoo Temple between January 11 and February 6, 1846 — less than a month. Either they ended at that time or decades later after 1877 when they were again performed in the St. George Temple. The second irony is that Snuffer treats Brigham Young’s vision as genuine even though he paints him as an adulterer leading the Saints into whoredoms at that time (p. 41).

Confusion about Priesthood Keys and Presiding Quorums

On page 40 Snuffer changes the topic by criticizing the organization of the Church after Joseph Smith’s death:

The First Presidency under Joseph Smith was a quorum equal to the quorum of the 12. … [T]he Quorum of the 70 formed a quorum equal in authority with the quorum of them and therefore with the First Presidency also. None of the equality survived Brigham Young! The standing High Councils of Zion formed a quorum equal in authority with the First Presidency and the quorum of the 12. All the “keys” (if that term is used) were held 100% by the First Presidency, 100% by the Quorum of the 12, 100% by the Quorum of the 70, and 100% in the High Councils. This meant that there was no primacy in the twelve. (p. 40)

In this statement Snuffer teaches multiple falsehoods regarding several of the Prophet’s teachings. It is true that section 107:21–26, 36–37, explains that the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Seventy, the standing high councils, and the high council in Zion all form quorums that are “equal in authority.” However, God’s house is a house of order (D&C 20:68; 28:13; 58:55; 132:8, 18). Those verses were not saying that there are five presiding quorums who function independent of each other. Rather, they hold similar authority to build up the Church and receive revelation to fulfill their individual stewardships.

Integral to the order of God’s house is presiding authority. The First Presidency presides over the Quorum of the Twelve: “The Twelve are a Traveling Presiding High Council, to officiate in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Presidency of the Church” (D&C 107:33). Together, these two quorums preside: “For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given” (D&C 112:30). The Seventy act under the Twelve: “The Seventy are to act in the name of the Lord, under the direction of the Twelve” (D&C 107:34). The [Page 39]other two councils mentioned, “the standing high councils, at the stakes of Zion” and “the high council in Zion,” are not discussed further.

Snuffer states that each of these quorums holds “all the ‘keys,’” which contradicts D&C 132:7. In that verse we learn that “there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.” The “one” is not a quorum, but a man who controls all the keys: “I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days” (v. 7).

The President of the Quorum of the Twelve presides when the First Presidency is not available. The Lord explained to Thomas B. Marsh, President of the Twelve in 1837:

Verily I say unto you, my servant Thomas, thou art the man whom I have chosen to hold the keys of my kingdom, as pertaining to the Twelve, abroad among all nations.

That thou mayest be my servant to unlock the door of the kingdom in all places where my servant Joseph, and my servant Sidney, and my servant Hyrum, cannot come. (D&C 112:16–17; italics added)

Upon the death of the keyholder, the First Presidency is dissolved and is no longer capable of presiding. The “keys of the kingdom” pass to the President of the Quorum of the Twelve because at that point, he presides “in all places.”

Contrary to Snuffer’s allegation, Brigham Young did not change Joseph Smith’s teachings regarding presiding priesthood authority and keys. He fulfilled them exactly. At the time of the martyrdom, Brigham Young was President of the Quorum of the Twelve. Upon learning of the death of the Prophet, Brigham recalled: “Brother Orson Pratt sat at my left; we were both leaning back in our chairs. Bringing my hand down on my knee, I said, ‘the keys of the kingdom are right here with the church.’”7

It is also clear that Joseph Smith had prepared Brigham Young to preside. Just a few months earlier, in January of 1844, the Prophet instructed the senior apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve regarding the administration of the highest temple ordinances and then authorized him to administer them to other members of the quorum.8 The Quorum [Page 40]of the Twelve was the only priesthood quorum of general authority status that had received all temple ordinances.9 Brigham explained: “No man can put another between the Twelve and the Prophet Joseph. Why? Because Joseph was their file leader and he has committed into their hands the keys of the Kingdom for all the world.”10

“Joseph Left an Incomplete Building”

The observations above illustrate an ongoing weakness in Denver Snuffer’s works. It appears he quotes specific scriptures and statements, often giving a novel interpretation, but he fails to deal with numerous contradictory evidences to his ideas. Sometimes it appears he is trying to rewrite LDS Church history to comply with his own ideas rather than trying to document what actually occurred and what was actually taught. Toward the final pages of Snuffer’s plural marriage essay, he continues this process by going on the attack, not against polygamy but against Joseph Smith and the Church over the past decades.

A consistent theme in Snuffer’s writings is that the Restoration is incomplete, lacking, unfinished, and inadequate. God’s efforts to establish the gospel in this dispensation have sputtered. According to Denver, “Joseph left an incomplete building and an incomplete family or house of God” (p. 28):

Joseph Smith was working backward in restoring the earliest teaching, scripture, covenants and ordinances as part of his brief ministry. That ended abruptly with his death. The still-not-completed restoration of the Gospel must return again the original body of teaching, covenants and ordinances revealed in the beginning to the first fathers, who are now resurrected, and in heaven.

There was such haste and foolishness in Joseph’s day that it hindered God’s work. (pp. 31–32)

We know almost nothing at this point of the full scope of the original body of teachings, revelations, ordinances and rites. Even all that came through Joseph is but a glimpse. (p. 34)

[Page 41]Joseph Smith was beginning to work … in Nauvoo but never finished. (p. 47)

Contradicting this view are God’s words to Joseph Smith in 1843: “I am the Lord thy God, and I gave unto thee, my servant Joseph, an appointment, and restore all things” (D&C 132:40; italics added). Is it possible that he died before God was able to complete this restoration? Joseph explained: “I know what I say, I understand my mishion & business God Almighty is my shield & what Can man do if God is my friend I shall not be Sacrafised untill my time Comes then I shall be offered freely.”11 This statement declares that Joseph would live until his time was come and the Lord stated that through the Prophet He would “restore all things.” After the Martyrdom, Joseph Fielding wrote the following in testimony of this fact:

All had been done. Joseph and Hyrum had done all that they could have done and the foundation of the great work of the last days was laid so that it could be finished by the Twelve Apostles who had been instructed in all things pertaining to the kingdom of God on the earth.12

The Prophet taught: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith, 9), so additional revelations are expected. However, to allege that God did not restore everything that He wanted to restore through Joseph prior to the martyrdom is unsupported.

“The History of the Church Has Been A Long, Downward Path”

Perhaps the leading message of Denver Snuffer’s more recent writings and discourses deals with the alleged apostasy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Snuffer, the apostasy unfolded in parallel with the earliest efforts of the Restoration: “The jarring and contention, envying and strife of Joseph’s time was so toxic. Heaven weeps at us when it might instead rejoice over us” (p. 36). To support his [Page 42]view, he emphasizes in his writings multiple events that either initiated or perpetuated an apostasy:

1832 — D&C 84 — Treating lightly the Book of Mormon13

1838 — “Expulsion from Missouri” (p. 39)

1841 — D&C 124 the five-year building time of the Nauvoo Temple14

1846 — “Forced exodus from Nauvoo” (p. 39)

After 1847 — “The afflictions, judgments and wrath of God at the Saints, at the their pride, lying, deceit, hypocrisy, murders, priestcrafts, and whoredoms” (p. 39)

After 1847 — “Inquisitorial abuse of the population” (p. 40)

1857 — “Mass-murders” (p. 40)

1890 — The Manifesto15

1900s — “Contradictions in ‘fundamental’ teachings, changes to the ordinances” (p. 40)

1978—“Changes to temple rites” (p. 40)

2000s—“Quest for popularity” (p. 40)

It seems that without missing any opportunities for criticism, Denver points his finger of scorn at any perceived imperfection or imperfect behavior manifested by Church members over the decades, contending that this event or that event caused the Church to lose its favor with God (and apparently the authority to perform valid ordinances and receive inspiration). His vitriol reaches its height on pages 39 and 40:

You can see them [signs of apostasy] all along the way, from the condemnation in 1832, to the expulsion from Missouri, the forced exodus from Nauvoo, the suffering during and following the exodus, the afflictions, judgments and wrath of God at the Saints, their pride, lying, deceit, hypocrisy, murders, priestcrafts, and whoredoms (as Christ foretold), [Page 43]inquisitorial abuse of the population once isolated from the US, mass-murders, contradictions in “fundamental” teachings, changes to the ordinances including the temple rites, quest for popularity and centrally-controlled, tightly correlated rejection of teachings — the history of the LDS Church has been a long, downward path. It has walked away from the light, and increasingly embraced darkness. Its members are now ruled by traditions that contradict the scriptures and commandments of God. They are asleep and cannot be awakened. God will now do something new and leave them to make their own way. (pp. 39–40)

In Denver Snuffer’s version of Church history, unrighteousness overwhelmed the Saints from the very first years after the organization of the Church, leaving the entire movement in paroxysms that prevented it from ever gaining spiritual traction on earth.

LDS leaders acknowledge that through the decades since the Church’s 1830 organization, there were groups of Latter-day Saints who were unrighteous and merited condemnation. But that is not Snuffer’s message. He implies not only errant members but also severe transgressions among core leaders in the highest councils. In his reconstruction, there is no critical mass of obedient Saints to keep inspired guidance and authority in the Church.

The Need for an Apostate Church

Snuffer’s rhetorical offensive against the Church is not unexpected. Whether his readers recognize what is happening, his denunciations fulfill a critical need in his overall theology. He must demonstrate that a huge void exists on the Restoration landscape.

Snuffer’s efforts are impressive. He eloquently describes a religious organization that has been, from the earliest days, compromised in its mission. The apostasy began early and has experienced additional convulsions since the 1830s. By his accounting, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has simply limped along spiritually to the twenty-first century.

The overwhelming question generated throughout Snuffer’s writings is simply, “What are the Latter-day Saints living today to do?” The answer in his view is also just as obvious. The Saints must find a new visionary voice that can save the entire endeavor. The apostasy as described by Snuffer creates a wide opportunity for a new reformer who [Page 44]is in some ways just like Joseph Smith, only he will be more successful and apparently more righteous.

In other words, there would be no need for Denver Snuffer’s declarations and ideas if the Church established by Joseph Smith still held the priesthood keys and prophetic leadership. Anyone wishing to garner influence among the Latter-day Saints must foment the belief that something is now missing in that organization and that an antidote for the described mess exists.

Denver Snuffer: A New Visionary and Seer?

In my first general response to Denver Snuffer’s claims that was posted on http://JosephSmithsPolygamy.org in April 2015, I predicted that at some point in the future he would make claims to priesthood authority:

Denver Snuffer’s situation is even more distanced from Joseph Smith’s teachings as he struggles to deal with his lack of priesthood authority. Joseph taught that genuine authority was always needed. No exceptions. But Snuffer doesn’t have any authority and has yet to claim a new dispensation of authority. That may yet come as his condemnation of the Church rises in pitch and volume. Many other dissenters in the past have followed this course and gathered a following around them claiming new revelation and eventually even new priesthood powers. Time will tell.

Ironically, we did not need to wait long for this assertion. Evidently, it can be found in Denver’s essay on plural marriage. On page 38 he provides a modified drawing originally penned by Orson Hyde where he identifies a line of priesthood authority. Snuffer then writes in the names of early patriarchs who held the priesthood in a continual line from Adam to Melchizedek. Then he writes: “After the days of Shem, who was given the new name ‘Melchizedek,’ the direct line of the Patriarchs fell unto apostasy and lost the birthright. There was no continuation of the line of government because it was broken by apostasy and had to be restored again (p. 38).”

Snuffer posits an apostasy between Melchizedek and Abraham, which is puzzling since they were contemporaries. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek: “For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all” (Hebrews 7:1–2; see also Alma 13:15). Regardless, Snuffer expounds how [Page 45]Abraham sought for “a restoration”: “Abraham sought it out after his fathers ‘turned from their righteousness … unto the worshiping of the gods of the heathen.’ He sought for a restoration of the kingdom of God. He wanted a restoration of this right or ‘blessing of the fathers,’ which only one man on the earth can hold at a time (p. 38).”

Apparently this is also a reference to a restoration of the sealing keys, which God explained: “There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred” (D&C 132:7).

Snuffer continues to explain that God directly “cured” the apostasy Abraham experienced.

When there is a living man who is in possession of that there is no problem for him to ask God and get an answer. It was the right belonging to the fathers. After a period of apostasy, and the break of this line, Abraham received it by adoption across generations who were dropped from the government or family of God. Therefore, God has the ability to cure the break in generations by restoring us again. (p. 39)

The inferences are clear: If God could cure an apostasy in Abraham’s time, then God can cross “generations” and restore again the “blessing … which only one man on earth can hold.” Snuffer asserts a similar apostasy today. But who is the new Abraham? Who is the recipient of Abrahamic-level blessings? Snuffer tells us that he is the new “witness” who has been appointed: “All that was left at the end was for a witness to be appointed, to come to declare, ‘Now it has come to an end.’ In the last talked [sic] in the 10 lecture series I said, the witness has now come, and I am he (p. 39).”

Elsewhere, on page 42 he writes: “I was shown …” This is the language of a seer. While I am not privy to Snuffer’s additional teachings on this subject. He has encouraged rebaptism, which could not occur without priesthood (D&C 22:1–4). I do not wish to misrepresent Denver Snuffer’s messages, but the overall implication is that the Lord has cured the reported apostasy by giving him new truths and new authority just like Abraham received. As a result, Snuffer is the “one man on the earth” holding priesthood keys.

Is Denver Snuffer Unique?

As a researcher who has studied Mormon dissenting groups for over two decades, I can attest that Denver Snuffer’s claims are not unique. [Page 46]During the 1990s, researchers Bruce Lawrence, Martin E. Marty, and Scott Appleby studied many different dissenting groups and their leaders throughout the world.16 They have identified several factors that are common to most dissenting movements:

  1. They advocate a minority viewpoint.
  2. They see themselves as a righteous remnant.
  3. They demonize their opposition.
  4. They are usually led by a charismatic, authoritarian male.
  5. They are selective regarding their traditions and beliefs, emphasizing specific tenants while ignoring others of equal historical importance.

In these things, Denver Snuffer and his followers seem very consistent. However, they are not alone in LDS history. That is, they are not the first and will certainly not be the last to break away from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, claiming their own revelations and divine mandates.

Dozens of similar individuals can be identified in the historical record in just the twentieth century alone:

Lorin C. Woolley (1920–1930) claimed multiple visits with Jesus Christ, even having “seen him laugh” in one of their conversations.17 He claimed priesthood authority given under the direction of a resurrected Joseph Smith who was physically present.18

[Page 47]John T. Clark (1920s) claimed to be the “one mighty and strong” of D&C 85:7 and reported that he had “seen the Savior several times also Joseph Smith and his successors in office.”19

Maurice Glendening (1930s–1960s) heard voices in the “Adamic language,” a language that was taught to him in the “twinkling of an eye.”20 He claimed new Aaronic priesthood authority and revelations.

Leroy Wilson (1930s) reported a vision in 1933: “I came to a belief in this because God revealed it to me. I have seen the Savior, I have conversed with my Father in Heaven, and I have seen my glorious Heavenly Mother.”21

Joseph W. Musser (1930s–1950s) reported divine prophecies and revelations and described a priesthood organization that existed independent of the Church.22

Elden Kingston (1940s–1950s) reported that after seeking divine guidance in a cave in Davis County, an angel visited him and appointed him to lead.23 He organized the Davis County Cooperative and his own Church.

Ben LeBaron (1950s) wrote: “The world is the wickedest ever in the history. Yea, about 20%. I am sure. The Lord has told me. … The Mormon people are so wicked and stiff-necked that three fourths will have to be destroyed. They have apostatized [Page 48]to be a friend of the world and do not follow the Holy Spirit.”24 Ben and several of his brothers claimed to hold the priesthood keys.

Gerald Peterson (1970s) reported angelic visitations of a deceased individual: “Within an hour, after Rulon C. Allred was killed, he was seen entering my office. … This happened about 5:00 p.m. on 10 May 1977. He came to where I was sitting in my chair, and spoke to me, very clearly and plainly” (1 Gerald 1:59).

James D. Harmston (1980s–2000s) described that in response to a prayer circle he held in his home, the heavens were opened and he and his wife received visits from divine messengers including the Father and the Son.25 He also reported that on November 25, 1990, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses appeared to him to bestow priesthood keys they had allegedly taken from LDS Church leaders.26

Robert C. Crossfield (1960s–present) has dictated numerous revelations from Jesus Christ currently compiled as The Second Book of Commandments.27

Brian David Mitchell (1990s–2000s) quoted God in a revelation dated February 9, 2002, stating: “I have raised up my servant Immanuel David Isaiah, even my righteous right hand, to be a light and a covenant to my people … in my servant, Immanuel David Isaiah, is the fullness of the gospel, which I, the Lord brought forth out of obscurity and out of darkness through my servant Joseph Smith, Jr.”28

Addam Swapp (1980) received a revelation on December 26, 1987, stating “Thus saith the Lord unto my servant, Addam … [Page 49]this generation is a most wicked generation. It is the most wicked ever to inhabit the face of the earth.”29 Three weeks later Addam Swapp placed a bomb in the LDS Stake Center in Kamas. Exploding at 3:00 a.m., it did considerable damage, but no one was physically harmed.

Further research would identify many, many more alternate voices, primarily men, who have proclaimed their own revelations and divine visions including those that arose in Joseph Smith’s day and later in the nineteenth century. Is Denver Snuffer’s message significantly different from those of the men mentioned above? The details may be different, but generally speaking, he is not alone in the types of claims and teachings he proclaims.

Why Would God Allow an Apostasy after the Restoration?

A critical issue is why God would have allowed an apostasy to occur after the 1830s Restoration. The heavenly anticipations for that restoration were immense. There were premortal preparations, prophesies of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon through a “choice seer” named Joseph, the creation of the small plates of Nephi to compensate for the 116 pages of the Book of Lehi that would be lost by Martin Harris, and many other things. To posit another falling away after such an elaborate restorative effort would not be expected unless it was unavoidable in God’s arithmetic.

Evidently the driving force for the apostasy described by Snuffer is the principle of “common consent,” which, according to him, binds God to the unrighteous decisions of Church members: “And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith” (D&C 26:2). In other words, if the majority of members “consent” to a wayward path or an uninspired leader, even if they don’t realize it, God is going to respect their agency and allow them to lead the Church astray.

To justify this interpretation, dissenters cite scriptural examples where God gave an individual or a group of his followers what they wanted, not what they needed spiritually. Included are references to the Israelites receiving a king in the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:6–10),30 of [Page 50]Joseph Smith giving Martin Harris the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon even though many previous requests by Joseph had been denied (D&C 3, 10),31 and of the Lord giving the Israelites in the desert the Law of Moses when they rejected the higher law (jst Exodus 34:1–2).32

However, God has made it clear that He is not bound to unrighteous choices: “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 82:10). In July of 1828, the Lord first introduced this principle to Joseph:

For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.

Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men. (D&C 3:2–3)

Here we learn that God’s work will not be “frustrated” by the “work of men.” Men’s choices and decisions will not cause God to “vary from that which he hath said.” Concerning evil men, the Lord instructed: “I will not suffer that they shall destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil” (D&C 10:43).

But how can God assure that the Church stays on the right path? He told Joseph Smith: “All things are present before mine eyes,” (D&C 38:2; see also Isaiah 46:9–10). God’s foreknowledge guarantees that nothing will happen within the Church or outside of it that will surprise Him.

In the premortal world, the Lord selected the individuals that would be His “rulers” in the Church here on earth; “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the [Page 51]midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers” (Abraham 3:22–23). Joseph Smith explained: “Every man who has a calling to minister to the Inhabitants of the world, was ordained to that very purpose in the grand Council of Heaven before this world was — I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that grand Council.”33

Certainly a man could have received a premortal ordination and then fail to magnify that office after receiving it in mortality. However, Snuffer’s view is that Joseph Smith failed to be valiant, Brigham Young failed to be valiant, and virtually every Latter-day Saint he mentions failed, even though they would have been ordained before birth to fulfill their callings. Snuffer’s version of premortal foreordination conflicts with the scriptures and the Prophet’s teachings. If God, who knows “the end from the beginning” (Abraham 2:8), knew these men would fail, why did He call them, one right after another?

Denver quotes from D&C 138 on page 41, so he apparently believes the revelation is genuinely from God. Verses 53–54 name several Church leaders — Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff — saying they were “reserved to come forth in the fulness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work, including the building of the temples and the performance of ordinances therein.” In Snuffer’s version of Church history, these men were reserved to come forth and preside in their unrighteousness over a stumbling church that has consistently failed to progress as God intended. It doesn’t appear these men were very special since according to Snuffer, they accomplished so little.

An alternate view is that God called valiant premortal spirits who, although imperfect and presiding over imperfect Church members, have guided the Church just as God knew it could progress. If a leader apostatized in his or her feelings, they were released by God’s hand: “For verily thus saith the Lord, that inasmuch as there are those among you who deny my name, others shall be planted in their stead and receive their bishopric” (D&C 114:2; see also D&C 64:40). This has already happened to Denver Snuffer who no longer serves in any calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The callings he held in the past are now fulfilled by other Church members.

On April 6, 1861, Apostle John Taylor assured his listeners that if a “corrupt man” should preside, he would be removed according to God’s time:

[Page 52]Suppose a corrupt man is presiding in a certain place, his corruptions are soon known. People need not strive to turn good into evil because they think that some man does wrong. They need not turn calumniators and defamers, for all will come right in its turn. Then attend to your own business, work the works of righteousness, sustain the constituted authorities of the Church until God removes them, and he will do it in his own time.34

The design of the Church is for callings to be issued in an orderly way through bishops who are inspired judges in Israel (D&C 58:17). God’s house is a “house of order” (D&C 132:8, 18). The Prophet explained:

I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves, therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them: but if any have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for their own benefit and instruction, for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the church is vested in the keys of the kingdom.35

In more extreme cases, God could “remove” a leader by calling him or her home through death. For example, David W. Patten, President of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1838 died on October 25 in the battle of Crooked River. Was God responsible for his death? Without explaining why, the Lord told Joseph Smith plainly: “David Patten I have taken unto myself” (D&C 124:130). Brigham Young agreed that God holds this power:

The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother’s arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth.36

This is not to say that Patten would have apostatized, but it shows that God’s omnipotence and omniscience assure that His Church on [Page 53]earth will be led by men and women who will accomplish His will. These observations are very important in interpreting Denver Snuffer’s message. They mean that if an apostasy occurred after 1830 when Joseph Smith established the Church, it could only have occurred if God had intended it to happen.

Scriptural Predictions of an Apostasy Four Hundred Years after Christ’s Visit

We are promised: “Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). Therefore, if a latter-day apostasy was a future part of the restoration started by Joseph Smith, we might expect God’s prophets to have revealed a warning to His followers who were going to apostatize. It is clear that the scriptures predicted an apostasy that would occur four hundred years after Christ’s visit to the Americas. Alma explained: “Behold, I perceive that this very people, the Nephites, according to the spirit of revelation which is in me, in four hundred years from the time that Jesus Christ shall manifest himself unto them, shall dwindle in unbelief” (Alma 45:10). Many other prophets referred to an apostasy.37 That the truth would be lost from the Lehites and they would “dwindle in unbelief” was a huge issue for God’s leaders in the Book of Mormon.

A restoration was also predicted:

Yea, even if they should dwindle in unbelief the Lord shall prolong their days, until the time shall come which hath been spoken of by our fathers, and also by the prophet Zenos, and many other prophets, concerning the restoration of our brethren, the Lamanites, again to the knowledge of the truth. (Helaman 15:11; italics added)

And it shall come to pass that the Lord God shall commence his work among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, to bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth. (2 Nephi 30:8)

The Church was established to accomplish this restoration:

Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has [Page 54]spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. (D&C 84:2; received in 1832)

Anciently the Lord explained to Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Jacob, concerning a “choice seer” that would be raised up to do the work of the restoration:

A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers. … And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.” (2 Nephi 3:3, 15)

Without ambiguity, the Book of Mormon predicts both an apostasy of the Lehites and a restoration through a prophet named Joseph.

No Prophecies of a Latter-day Apostasy and Restoration

A weighty question is whether the scriptures also prophesy of a latter-day apostasy and restoration, one occurring after Joseph Smith performed his work? Denver Snuffer and other critics allege that they do. Perhaps, the most popular verses quoted are Jesus Christ’s words in 3 Nephi 16:10–11:

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.

[Page 55]While critics may affirm this is a prophecy of a latter-day apostasy, the language is certainly indefinite when compared to the prediction of a “dwindling of unbelief” of the entire church four hundred years after Christ. While the Savior refers to a time where “the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel,” the identity of the “gentiles” is less clear.

Snuffer and his followers affirm those “gentiles” are the Latter-day Saints (and their leaders) in the twenty-first century, not just a portion, but the entire Church membership. The argument goes that they are the only ones who have received the “fulness of the gospel,” so they are the only ones who could reject it. To support this view, they further allege that currently Church members are guilty of pride, lyings, deceits, mischiefs, hypocrisy, murders, priestcrafts, and whoredoms.

An alternate interpretation is that the gentiles who reject the fullness of the gospel do not need to have first embraced it. If someone offers me an apple, I don’t need to first take a bite out of it before I can reject it. I can simply look at the apple and say, “No, thank you.” Similarly, investigators who reject the message of the missionaries today simultaneously reject the ordinances of baptism and the fullness of the gospel, which the missionaries also offer. They don’t have to be baptized and attend the temple before they can “reject the fulness of the gospel.”

George Q. Cannon explained the Gentile’s rejection would lead to the gospel being preached to the descendants of Nephi: “The Gospel would be revealed, and that it should be received by some of the Gentiles; that when it should be received by the Gentiles, it should be carried by them to the descendants of Nephi and his brethren, As they have rejected the gospel message, missionaries have been called to other lands to preach to those who are not of the house of Israel.”38

Consistent with this view are the Savior’s comments two verses earlier. “But wo, saith the Father, unto the unbelieving of the gentiles” (3 Nephi 16:8; italics added). Christ condemned the unbelievers without addressing the believers, which are not mentioned any time in the discourse. Verse 10’s condemnation of the “gentiles” is just a continued discussion of the gentiles He identified in verse 8. To interpret this as saying that all Church members in the latter-days were gentiles, and they would apostatize is not warranted. There would be unbelieving and believing gentiles in that day. The believers would continue missionary work and building up the Church.

[Page 56]Other scriptures are also advanced by critics as containing prophesies of latter-day apostasy including 2 Nephi 28:11–15 and Mormon 8:32–33. I have addressed them in other writings, but the verses are not specific.39 Multiple valid interpretations of these verses are possible with Snuffer’s being less defensible.

To summarize, the Book of Mormon predicts a dwindling in unbelief four hundred years after Christ’s visit and a restoration through a “choice seer” centuries later. The language is plain and unmistakable. However, there is no parallel prophecy of latter-day apostasy and second restoration. Ambiguous language found in a few verses can be recruited and narrowly interpreted in order to support Snuffer’s assertions, but his allegations of a complete apostasy necessitating a new dispensation in our day are without scriptural support.

Prophecy Supports that the Restored Church Will Continue to the Millennium

If the scriptures do not prophesy of a later apostasy, what do they predict? Multiple revelations and statements from Joseph Smith support that the church he established will persist to the millennium. One of the plainest was uttered in October of 1831 in Hiram, Ohio: “The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth (D&C 65:2).” Snuffer’s version is apparently that the gospel would not roll forth in 1831 but would wobble forth through a “long downward path” (p. 40) until after 2010 when a new visionary would arise to reset the gospel rolling.

Several other revelations plainly acknowledge that the church established through Joseph Smith is the “last kingdom” (D&C 88:70, 74; 90:6; see also D&C 24:19, 27:12–13). That is, it would not apostatize or be given to another people.

Therefore, thou art blessed from henceforth that bear the keys of the kingdom given unto you; which kingdom is coming forth for the last time. (D&C 90:2)

[Page 57]For unto you, the Twelve, and those, the First Presidency, who are appointed with you to be your counselors and your leaders, is the power of this priesthood given, for the last days and for the last time, in the which is the dispensation of the fulness of times. Which power you hold, in connection with all those who have received a dispensation at any time from the beginning of the creation; For verily I say unto you, the keys of the dispensation, which ye have received, have come down from the fathers, and last of all, being sent down from heaven unto you. (D&C 112:30–32)

Other revelations reflect the same expectation. In March of 1829, the Lord described the Joseph Smith’s efforts as “the beginning of the rising up and the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness — clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (D&C 5:14; see also D&C 33:5, 109:73). The Snuffer version depicts a bannerless Church that is not “clear like the moon” or “fair like the sun” and never has been.

Similarly, the Prophet taught: “‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but, when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.’ Now we can discover plainly that this figure is given to represent the Church as it shall come forth in the last days.40 Was that “coming forth” to begin in 1830 or 2010?

Although the Church was very small in the beginning, Joseph Smith had a prophetic sense of its grand destiny. Wilford Woodruff recalled a priesthood meeting at Kirtland, Ohio, in April 1834:

The Prophet called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland, and who had gathered together to go off in Zion’s camp. That was the first time I ever saw Oliver Cowdery, or heard him speak; the first time I ever saw Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, and the two Pratts, and Orson Hyde and many others. There were no [Page 58]Apostles in the Church then except Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery.41

After the meeting had begun, the Prophet tried to awaken the brethren to a realization of the future state of God’s kingdom on earth:

When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. Those that I have named spoke, and a good many that I have not named, bore their testimonies. When they got through the Prophet said, “Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.” I was rather surprised. He said “it is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America — it will fill the world.”42

How Can the Church Be True When the Latter-day Saints Manifest Unrighteousness?

The negative vitriol directed at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Snuffer’s writings and in his “Plural Marriage” essay contains a kernel of truth: The Latter-day Saints have not been as righteous as they should have been. Ever since 1830, Church leaders have been concerned and have consistently admonished members to improve.

Today the problem persists. Attendance at Church meetings is far lower than it should be and many adults who participate are not spiritually engaged. The percentage of adults holding temple recommends is small, and those who qualify for sacred ordinances could honor them better. The youth sometimes struggle with distractions and moral issues. Nevertheless, these observations do not validate Snuffer’s claims nor justify his harsh criticisms. Why? Because his standard of requisite obedience is vastly different from the Lord’s. “God does not look on sin with allowance, but when men have sinned there must be allowance made for them.”43 Our Heavenly Father does not require near-perfection [Page 59]that Snuffer implies is needed in order to qualify to assist with God’s work and receive His blessings.

To Joseph Smith the Lord explained His standard and His method of dealing with imperfections:

Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time. (D&C 1:24-28)

God deals with the Saints “in their weakness,” not “in their perfection.” If they “erred,” the penalty was to make it known. If they “sinned,” they would be chastened so they would repent. In either case, the consequence was not abandonment by the Lord. And if they were humble, they would be blessed and inspired.

The scriptures describe our Lord as filled with “loving kindness and long-suffering” towards his children (1 Nephi 19:9) who is a God of “compassion” (D&C 64:2), who is “pitiful” (1 Peter 3:8; D&C 133:53), and who is “merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end” (D&C 76:5). To ancient Israel, His hands remained “stretched out still” (2 Nephi 19:12, 17), despite their transgressions.

Through the Prophet, this loving Heavenly Father described the standard of compliance that must be met if mortals are to receive knowledge, revelation, prophecy, and other spiritual gifts. Those blessings are “for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do” (D&C 46:9; italics added). Keeping all the commandments is not required, but seeking to keep all the commandments is required.

Similarly, Joseph Smith prayed in 1836: “O Lord, remember thy servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., and all his afflictions and persecutions — [Page 60]how he has covenanted with Jehovah, and vowed to thee, O Mighty God of Jacob — and the commandments which thou hast given unto him, and that he hath sincerely striven to do thy will” (D&C 109:68). Again, perfection was not the expectation, but sincerely striving to do God’s will was the requirement.

So the Lord is willing to bless those who seek to keep the commandments and sincerely strive to do His will. However, has a core group of believers always existed among the members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were doing that? Critics like Snuffer may answer no, but a simple review of Church history shows that they are in error.

The willingness of early Saints to make sacrifices, like practicing polygamy, building temples stone-by-stone, and migrating to the West, supports that they were sincerely striving and seeking to be obedient. In the past century, different indicators like fulfilling mission calls, keeping the word of wisdom, attending the temple, serving in Church callings, paying tithing and offerings, and trying to become Christ-like have always existed. It is an undeniably fact that among the leadership and within each congregation, some Latter-day Saints have fulfilled the Lord’s requirements. Even if the number of sincere seekers has been small in the eyes of the critics, it has never been zero. The Latter-day Saints may have faltered in their quests for perfection over the past 170 years; however, they have never “dwindled in unbelief” as the Lehites did after about 400 ad.

The continued presence of seekers and strivers within the Church and especially among its priesthood leadership supports that God has never had a reason to abandon the Latter-day Saints. Since the beginning of the Restoration, the Church has continued to expand its membership, increase missionary work, build temples that now dot the earth, and establish a tradition of conservative moral values among its members. These areas of growth are consistent with the prediction that the Church has left the “wilderness” (D&C 33:5) to become an “ensign for the nations” (Isaiah 11:12). The actions of the Church literally fulfill prophecies:

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth.” (Moses 7:62)

[Page 61]Denver Snuffer has depicted the Church as a “vast wasteland” of immorality (p. 41), but this is because he needs this façade in order to legitimize his position as a new visionary among the people. He is like many other dissenters who have come and gone in the past. Latter-day scripture and the history of the Church both witness to the fact that the restored Kingdom of God that started rolling in 1830 continues with an accelerated pace in its onward motion today.

1. Denver Snuffer, “Plural Marriage,” accessed June 19, 2015, http://denversnuffer.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Plural-Marriage.pdf.

2. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comps. and eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, 1980), 331–32 (Wilford Woodruff Diary, Sunday, March 10, 1844); italics added.

3. Ibid., 318; italics added.

4. . Extracted from Lisle Brown, Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, and Anointings: A Comprehensive Register of Persons Receiving LDS Temple Ordinances, 1841–1846 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2006). See also Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera, The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845–1846: A Documentary History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2005), 399–400), 410, 423, 493–94, 497, 505–06, 516–17, 536, 549, 551, 565, 581, 583, 585–86, 609.

5. . Lisle Brown’s totals differ from mine. He lists 202 adoption sealings and 92 child-to-biological parent sealings. Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, and Anointings, 361. The reasons for the discrepancies are unclear.

6. . Extracted from Lisle Brown, Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, and Anointings: A Comprehensive Register of Persons Receiving LDS Temple Ordinances, 1841–1846 (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2006). See also Devery S. Anderson and Gary James Bergera, The Nauvoo Endowment Companies, 1845–1846: A Documentary History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2005), 399–400, 410, 423, 493–94, 497, 505–06, 516–17, 536, 549, 551, 565, 581, 583, 585–86, 609.

7. “History of Brigham Young,” Millennial Star, 26 (June 4, 1864): 359.

8. Andrew F. Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the Mormon Succession Question,” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982), 145.

9. Ibid., 192.

10. Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983–85), 2:437 (August 8, 1844).

11. Ehat and Cook, comps. and eds., Words, 158 (Wilford Woodruff Diary, Sunday, January 22, 1843); italics added.

12. Ehat, Andrew F. “‘They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet’ — The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding,” BYU Studies 19/2 (Winter 1979): 153; spelling modernized.

13. Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift (Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011), 376–85.

14. Ibid., 96–119, 265–87.

15. Ibid., 166–84.

16. See Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby, The Fundamentalism Project, Vols. 1–5 (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1991–95); Bruce Lawrence, Defenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina, 1989); Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby, Fundamentalisms Observed (Chicago: University Of Chicago, 1991); Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby, The Glory and the Power: The Fundamentalist Challenge to the Modern Age (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992).

17. Mark J. Baird and Rhea A. Kunz Baird, Reminiscences of John W. and Lorin C. Woolley, 5 vols. (N.p.: N.d.), 5:34.

18. The event was first recorded in 1929 and published five years later. Joseph White Musser and J. Leslie Broadbent, Supplement to a New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage (N.p.: 1934), 56–62. Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/MF0054.doc.

19. Joseph W. Musser Journals, May 24, 1922, CHL. Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MF0131.pdf. See Brian C. Hales, “John T. Clark: The ‘One Mighty and Strong,’” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 39/3 (Fall 2006): 46–63. Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MF0135.pdf.

20. Hans A. Baer, Recreating Utopia in the Desert: A Sectarian Challenge to Modern Mormonism (Albany: State University of New York, 1988), 49.

21. LeRoy A. Wilson, “John W. Taylor — Fact or Fable,” unpublished manuscript, 9. Copy in possession of the author. Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MF0253.pdf.

22. Joseph W. Musser, Joseph W. Musser or Journal of Joseph White Musser, 1872–1954 (N.p.: N.d. [1948]). Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MF0140.pdf.

23. Joseph W. Musser Journals, August 1, 1935; original CHL. Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MF0132.pdf.

24. Ben LeBaron, letter to Samuel W. Taylor, December 9, 1957. Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/MF00032.pdf.

25. Elaine Harmston (James Harmston’s first wife), telephone interview by Brian C. Hales, March 16, 1991.

26. John R. Llewellyn, Polygamy Under Attack: From Tom Green to Brian David Mitchell (Scottsdale, Ariz.: Agreka Books, 2004), 58.

28. Brian David Mitchell, The Book of Immanuel David Isaiah, unpublished manuscript, April 6, 2002, 1. Copy in possession of the author.

29. Addam Swapp, “Revelation to Addam Swapp 26 December 1987,” Sunstone 12/6 (November 1988): 12. Available at http://mormonpolygamydocuments.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/MF0239.pdf.

30. Joseph W. Musser, “Slanderous Statements Refuted,” Truth 2/8 (January 1937): 130; emphasis in original. See also David W. Jeffs, “Fulfillment of Isaiah’s Words,” Truth 6/1 (June 1940): 21; Gilbert Fulton, The Most Holy Principle, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Gems, 1970–75), 4:66.

31. Heber Bennion, Gospel Problems (N.p.: N.d.), 43, 49–50; Gilbert Fulton, The Most Holy Principle, 4 vols. (Salt Lake City: Gems, 1970–75), 4:66.

32. Dennis R. Short, Questions on Plural Marriage With a Selected Bibliography and 1600 References (Salt Lake City: Dennis R. Short, 1974), 25; Joseph W. Musser, “The Aftermath of Compromise,” Truth 18/10 (March 1953): 315; Joseph W. Musser, “What Authority Sanctioned the Manifesto,” Truth 20/6 (November 1954): 201; Editor [Joseph W. Musser], “Editor’s Comments,” Star of Truth 3/7 (July 1955): 276; Joseph W. Musser, Marriage – Ballard/Jenson Correspondence (n.p.: 1935), 76.

33. Ehat and Cook, comps. and eds., Words, 366 (Thomas Bullock Report, Sunday Morning, May 12, 1844).

34. John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 9:14.

35. “History of the Church,” Times and Seasons, 5 (January 1, 1844): 752.

36. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses, 9:289.

37. See 1 Nephi 12:12–22, 13:35; 2 Nephi 1:10; Alma 45:12; Helaman 13:5, 9–10, 15:11, 3; Nephi 21:5; Mormon 8:6, 9:20; Moroni 10:1.

38. George Q. Cannon, in Journal of Discourses, 25:123.

39. Brian C. Hales, “Dissenters: Portraying the Church as Wrong So They can be Right Without It,” accessed June 22, 2015, http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/dissenters-portraying-the-church-as-wrong-so-they-can-be-right-without-it/#comment-14075.

40. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (rpt; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977), 98.

41. Wilford Woodruff, Conference Report, April 1898, 57.

42. Ibid.

43. Joseph Smith, Teachings, p. 240–41. Cf. D&C 1:31–33.

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About Brian C. Hales

Brian C. Hales, is the author of six books dealing with polygamy, most recently the three-volume, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He has presented at numerous meetings and symposia and published articles in The Journal of Mormon History, Mormon Historical Studies, and Dialogue as well as contributing chapters to The Persistence of Polygamy series. Brian works as an anesthesiologist at the Davis Hospital and Medical Center in Layton, Utah, and has served as the President of the Utah Medical Association.

45 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. 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,


    • 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

  2. 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.



  3. 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.) – https://www.lds.org/ensign/1977/03/news-of-the-church?lang=eng

    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: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1977/10/the-things-of-god-and-man?lang=eng

        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.

  4. 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).

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.”

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

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