Passing Up The Heavenly Gift (Part Two of Two)

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Review of Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Passing the Heavenly Gift, Salt Lake City: Mill Creek Press, 2011. 510 pp., no index. $25.97.

Claims #4 and #5: The Source of the Authority of Brigham Young and the Apostles After Joseph’s Death

Snuffer writes of the apostolic succession:

In 1847, Brigham Young publicly explained his understanding of the keys he obtained in these words: “an apostle is the Highest office and authority that there is in the Church and Kingdom [of] God on the earth. From whom did Joseph receive his authority? From just such men as sit around me here (pointing to the Twelve Apostles that sat with him.) Peter, James and John were Apostles, and there was no noise about their being seers and revelators though those gifts were among them. Joseph Smith gave unto me and my brethren (the Twelve) all the Priesthood keys, power and authority which he had and those are the powers which belong to the Apostleship” (87).1

[Page 246]Snuffer then delivers his killing stroke: “This explanation is misleading because Brigham Young was not ordained an Apostle by Joseph Smith” (87). A few pages later, he writes that “Brigham Young’s claim to have received the sealing power when he was ordained an Apostle is completely dependent on the Three Witnesses’ ordination in 1835. That ordination came a year prior to the 1836 visit of Elijah” (91).

An Incomplete and Misleading Citation

Snuffer, though, is putting words into Brigham’s mouth. Brigham did not say, “Joseph ordained me an apostle,” nor did he say, “I received all these keys when I was ordained an apostle.” He says, rather, that Joseph got his authority from apostles, and that “Joseph gave” all the power and keys “unto me and my brethren (the Twelve).” Here again, Snuffer is only giving us part of the story. In the very same talk, Brigham explained: “We do not recieve all at once but we recieve grace for grace. When Brother Joseph received the Preisthood He did not recieve all at once, but He was A prophet Seer & Revelator before He recieved the fulness of the Priesthood & keys of the kingdom.”2 He goes on to say that after receiving the Aaronic priesthood, Joseph

recieved the Patriarchal or Melchisedick Priesthood from under the Hands of Peter James & John who were of the Twelve Apostles & were the Presidency when the other Apostles were Absent. From those Apostles Joseph Smith recieved every key power, Blessing, & Privilege of the Highest Authority of the Melchezedick Priesthood ever committed to man on the earth which they held.3

But, this is not all. Brigham then says that
[Page 247]

Elijah spoken of in the Bible that He should Come in the last days to turn the hearts of the fathers to the Children & the children to their fathers. The fulfillment of this scripture is manifest in establishing the kingdom of God & Priesthood on the earth in the last days & those who hold the keys of the priesthood & sealing power have the spirit & power of Elijah & it is necessary in order to redeem our dead & save our Children. There is much more importance attached to this than Parents are aware of.4

Brigham has thus argued for a progression from Aaronic, to all Melchizedek keys and authority held by Peter, James, and John, and finally to the mission of Elijah. This may hint that Brigham knew of the basics of the Elijah visitation five years before the account from Joseph’s journal was published in 1852 (we will see below that Willard Richards had made a copy for the Manuscript History in 1843, and may well have informed Brigham of it, if Joseph did not do so during his instruction in the higher ordinances).5

This supposition is strengthened by Brigham’s concluding remarks, for he again invokes both Elijah and the keys associated with redemption of the dead: “A man that has embraced the gospel must [be?] some one who has the Priesthood & keys & power of Elijah & must attend to ordinances” for their kindred dead.6

It is, then, misleading for PTHG to pretend that Brigham lays claim to all priesthood keys and power from Joseph via his ordination by the Three Witnesses to the office of apostle. Brigham clearly understands this authority as something received in discrete steps, and one that ultimately encompasses [Page 248]Elijah’s power. His claim is simply that he got this power from Joseph, and that all such power rests with the apostles.

PTHG claims that

apparently all prior information, charges, ordinations, washings, endowments, sealings and instruction were not as clear to Brigham Young at the moment Joseph died as he would later make it appear. It was only as time went on that the accounts of Joseph passing keys to the Twelve grew to add detail and certainty” (70).

Still, 1847 was not Brigham’s or the apostles’ first articulation of their claim to possess the authority and power vouchsafed them by Joseph. (And, if PTHG viewed Brigham with even a hint of charity, he might be forgiven if his initial reaction at Joseph’s death was a sudden confusion—the New Testament apostles were much slower to grasp the implications of Jesus’ pre-crucifixion teachings.)

Earlier Claims Made by Brigham Young and the Twelve

In public discourse in 1843, Brigham Young made it clear that the government of the Church rested upon “the prophet” and “the Twelve”:

Among other things said that a man or woman may ask of God & get a witness & testimony from God concerning any work or messenger that is sent unto them. But if a person asks for a thing that does not concern him, such as governing the Church what shall the prophet or the Twelve do &c? He will not get an answer. If he does it will not be from God.7

Joseph was still alive and did not rebuke or correct Brigham’s claim. Within less than two months of the martyrdom, members of the Twelve and other witnesses were reporting the [Page 249]same thing that Brigham claimed in PTHG’s truncated citation from 1847:

Elders O Hyde and P. P. Pratt testifyed that Joseph the Prophet and Seer had ordained, anointed, and appointed the Twelve to lead the Church. Had given them the Keys of the Kingdom of God for that purpose.

W. W. Phelps and R. Cahoon bore testimony to the same thing, saying that Joseph said unto the Twelve upon your sholdiers the kingdom of God must rest in all the world. Now round up your sholdiers and bear it.8

Heber C. Kimball likewise said that “when Jesus was upon the earth his time was spent in endowing the twelve apostles that they might do the things he had left undone and carry out his measures, and upon the same principle we carry out Joseph’s measures.”9 Wilford Woodruff wrote:

And when they [the apostles] received their endowment, and actually received the keys of the kingdom of God, and oracles of God, keys of revelation, and the pattern of heavenly things; and thus addressing the Twelve, exclaimed, “upon your shoulders the kingdom rests, elders, and bear it; for I have had to do it until now. But now the responsibility rests upon you. It mattereth not what becomes of me.”…

[Brigham Young] has not only had much experience with President Smith, but he has proved himself true and faithful in all things committed to his charge, until [Page 250]he was called to hold the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world, in connection with the Twelve: was the first to receive his endowment, from under the hands of the Prophet and Patriarch, who have leaned upon him in connection with the Twelve, for years, to bear off this kingdom in all the world.10

Again, the claim is clear that Brigham was faithful, and he was eventually ordained to all the keys by Joseph in conjunction with his receipt of the higher temple ordinances in Nauvoo. Woodruff would elsewhere write:

The prophet called the quorum of the twelve together several months before his death, and informed them that the Lord had commanded him to hasten their endowments; that he did not expect to remain himself to see the temple completed, but wished to confer the keys of the kingdom of God upon other men, that they might build up the church and kingdom according to the pattern given. And the prophet stood before the twelve from day to day, clothed with the spirit and power of God, and instructed them in the oracles of God, in the pattern of heavenly things, in the things of the kingdom, the power of the priesthood, and in the knowledge of the last dispensation in the fulness of times.

And as his last work and charge to the quorum of the twelve, that noble spirit rose up in all the majesty, strength, and dignity of his calling, as a prophet, [Page 251]seer, and revelator… and exhorted and commanded the brethren of the twelve to rise up, and go forth in the name of Israel’s God, and bear off the keys of the kingdom of God in righteousness and honour in all the world.11

Orson Hyde said:

Before I went east on the 4th of April last, we were in council with Brother Joseph almost every day for weeks, says Brother Joseph in one of those councils there is something going to happen; I dont know what it is, but the Lord bids me to hasten and give you your endowment before the temple is finished. He conducted us through every ordinance of the holy priesthood, and when he had gone through with all the ordinances he rejoiced very much, and says, now if they kill me you have got all the keys, and all the ordinances and you can confer them upon others, and the hosts of Satan will not be able to tear down the kingdom, as fast as you will be able to build it up; and now says he on your shoulders will the responsibility of leading this people rest, for the Lord is going to let me rest a while.12

Still less than a year after Joseph’s death, Parley P. Pratt would explain:

We [the apostles] hold the keys of the ministry and ordinances of salvation in this last kingdom; and if the people choose to be benefitted by them, it is their own blessing: if not, it is their own neglect….

[Page 252]This great and good man [Joseph] was led, before his death, to call the Twelve together, from time to time, and to instruct them in all things pertaining to the kingdom, ordinances, and government of God. He often observed that he was laying the foundation, but it would remain for the Twelve to complete the building. Said he, “I know not why; but for some reason I am constrained to hasten my preparations, and to confer upon the Twelve all the ordinances, keys, covenants, endowments, and sealing ordinances of the priesthood, and so set before them a pattern in all things pertaining to the sanctuary and the endowment therein.”

Having done this, he rejoiced exceedingly; for, said he, the Lord is about to lay the burden on your shoulders and let me rest awhile; and if they kill me, continued he, the kingdom of God will roll on, as I have now finished the work which was laid upon me, by committing to you all things for the building up of the kingdom according to the heavenly vision, and the pattern shown me from heaven. With many conversations like this, he comforted the minds of the Twelve, and prepared them for what was soon to follow.

He proceeded to confer on elder Young, the President of the Twelve, the keys of the sealing power, as conferred in the last days by the spirit and power of Elijah, in order to seal the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of [Page 253]the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth should be smitten with a curse.

This last key of the priesthood is the most sacred of all, and pertains exclusively to the first presidency of the church, without whose sanction and approval or authority, no sealing blessing shall be administered pertaining to things of the resurrection and the life to come.13

Pratt clearly appeals to repeated meetings with Joseph in Nauvoo (i.e., well after their ordination to the apostleship) and to a deliberate bestowal of keys when Brigham was President of the Twelve (which he was not when first made an apostle).

Snuffer also ignores a vital document, which was likely prepared by the Twelve to articulate their leadership claim. (Snuffer relies heavily on D. Michael Quinn, and some have suggested that Quinn was unaware of this document—this may explain Snuffer’s silence concerning it.14) The document was published in 2005,15 and was written between September 1844 and March 1845, likely in the fall of 1844.16

We were present at a Council in the latter part of the month of March last [1844]… and the greater part of the Twelve Apostles were present….

[Page 254]In this Council, Joseph Smith seemed somewhat depressed in spirit and [said]…

Brethren, the Lord bids me hasten the work in which we are engaged. He will not suffer that you should wait for your endowment until the Temple is done. Some important scene is near to take place. It may be that my enemies will kill me, and in case they should, and the keys and power which rest on me not be imparted to you, they will be lost from the Earth…. Upon the shoulders of the Twelve must the responsibility of leading this church hence forth rest until you shall appoint others to succeed you….

After this appointment was made, and confirmed by the holy anointing under the hands of Joseph and Hyrum, Joseph continued his speech unto them, saying, while he walked the floor and threw back the collar of his coat upon his shoulders, “I roll the burthen and responsibility of leading this church off from my shoulders on to yours. Now round up your shoulders and stand under it like men; for the Lord is going to let me rest a while.” …

Joseph Smith did declare that he had conferred upon the Twelve every key and every power that he ever held himself before God.17

Snuffer distorts the apostles’ claim and creates a straw man by writing that “if information in the endowment alone is sufficient to pass keys, then Mormon dissidents Jerald and Sandra Tanner, who have published the various endowment [Page 255]ordinances and versions would hold the keys” (111). This is extraordinarily obtuse—the Twelve did not claim that merely having received the endowment conferred keys. Rather, they claimed that they had received the endowment and all the higher ordinances and explicitly been given keys under the hands of Joseph and Hyrum. As one attendee later described the meeting, “‘the keys of power committed’ to the Twelve consisted of ‘Keys of Endowments to the Last Anointing & Sealing[,] Together with keys of Salvation for the Dead. with the eternity of the Marriage Covenent and the Powr of Endless Lives.'”18

Brigham Young and the apostles’ claims to possess all the keys via ordination from Joseph appeared very early and never wavered. PTHG’s hypothesis of a gradual evolution and solidification of claims about keys from Joseph simply does not match the accounts which predate Snuffer’s incomplete 1847 citation.

Claim #6: Joseph Received Sealing Powers in 1829

It is disappointing to see Snuffer resort to an ancient anti-Mormon canard regarding D&C 84 (30). Church critics have long claimed19 that Joseph Smith’s theophany cannot have occurred because priesthood is required to permit mortals to tolerate the divine presence:
[Page 256]

And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live (D&C 84:19–22).

Snuffer, like the Tanners before him, misreads the scripture, declaring that “Joseph Smith… necessarily holds this higher priesthood. For without it, no man can see the Father and live. Since Joseph beheld the Father in the First Vision, it was necessary for him to have this higher priesthood even before the appearance of the angels who later conferred priesthood upon Joseph” (30, citations removed). But this is not what the scripture says.

“Without this,” it reads, “no man can see the face of God.” To what does this refer? Its antecedent is clearly “the power of godliness”—thus, without ordinances and the priesthood authority necessary to perform them—”the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.” And, without the power of godliness, one cannot abide the presence of God.20

In most circumstances, the manifestation of that power would follow the receipt of and obedience to the ordinances, which require the priesthood. But God can by grace clearly grant the power of godliness to one who has been unable to receive the ordinances due to the absence of an authorized administrator.

[Page 257]To solve the problem that he believes he has discovered, Snuffer follows Orson Pratt in declaring that Joseph held priesthood already from a pre-mortal ordination (30, 295). But this claim will not salvage other aspects of PTHG’s theory. Joseph Smith taught that “at the general & grand Council of heaven, all those to whom a dispensation was to be commited, were set apart & ordained at that time, to that calling. The Twelve also as witnesses were ordained.”21) Thus, if PTHG wishes to appeal to a pre-mortal conferral of priesthood for Joseph to meet his lack of mortal ordination, the Twelve could likewise appeal to pre-mortal ordination even if they did not receive it from Joseph in mortality.22

Date of Plural Marriage Revelation(s) and Implementation

PTHG claims that “beginning in 1831, Joseph obeyed the” command “concerning plural wives” (326). Here again, his grasp of the relevant history is lacking. There is no evidence that Joseph practiced plural marriage in 1831.

The first documented plural marriage was to Fanny Alger, whose marriage to Joseph has been dated by historians between 1832 and 1836.23 Furthermore, Snuffer is not cautious enough in his use of the term “sealing” (e.g., 92, 326).

[Page 258]During the Nauvoo period, sealing could involve the sealing of spouses. (The earliest references to marriages lasting beyond death are found in W. W. Phelps’ 1835 letters to his wife.24) However, during the Ohio period, Joseph and others would be spoken of in the revelations as “seal[ing]… up unto eternal life” (D&C 68:12).25 This usage of terminology may be compared to the Book of Mormon, which often speaks of “sealing up” for protection or security (e.g., title page, 1 Nephi 14:26; 2 Nephi 26:17, 27:8, 22; 30:3; Ether 3:22–28, 4:5, 5:1; Moroni 10:2). One sees the same usage in Snuffer’s often-cited D&C 124, where Hyrum Smith is said “to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption” (D&C 124:124). This blessing was given on 19 January 1841, i.e., prior to Hyrum’s knowledge of or acceptance of plural marriage. However, despite D&C 124, Hyrum was severely rebuked by Joseph for performing an unauthorized marriage sealing in June 1843, since “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).26 Wilford Woodruff likewise sealed others up to eternal life in Joseph’s lifetime, but he had not received the sealing power involved in the higher ordinances.27 Thus, the two uses of “sealing” must not be confused if one is to understand Joseph Smith’s thought.

[Page 259]Furthermore, Snuffer uses remarks made by Brigham Young in 1872 as the basis for his claim that Joseph received the plural marriage revelation found in D&C 132 in 1829. PTHG declares that this “makes the conclusion inescapable that the original revelation… was provoked during and because of the translation of the Book of Mormon, and not the work done revising the Bible” (80). This is not a sophisticated approach to the issue. Many LDS historians have considered the matter, and most have concluded that there is other evidence that argues against Brigham being correct.28 It is ironic that Snuffer will reject Brigham Young’s account of his personal reception of priesthood keys from Joseph as a later elaboration or confabulation,29 but insist that Brigham’s late remarks about an event that occurred before he was even a member of the Church leads to an “inescapable” conclusion. The only conclusion we are forced to accept is that Snuffer is not doing serious history, and that he employs double standards in his evaluation of evidence depending upon whether it can be shoe-horned into his thesis.

The date of the marriage sealing power’s receipt is important to Snuffer’s broader argument because “I do not believe that Elijah’s [3 April 1836] appearance conferred sealing power on Joseph Smith. Instead, I believe it came to Joseph just as it came to Melchizedek…. It is delivered by the calling of God’s own voice” (327). As we will now see, for Joseph to receive authority from God alone, without an ordaining intermediary, is vital to Snuffer’s project of disputing whether transmitted priesthood authority is needed to perform ordinances.
[Page 260]

Elijah and the Sealing Keys

PTHG works tirelessly (326–327) to disprove the idea that Joseph received sealing keys in the Kirtland temple in 1836:

All the contemporaneous records kept by any party fail to record any mention by Joseph Smith of the Kirtland Temple visitation from Moses, Elias and Elijah. It was never taught by Joseph Smith, never mentioned in any sermon delivered by him, and was never mentioned in anything Joseph ever wrote (75).

This is excellent lawyering, since it is mostly true in a narrow, technical sense, but it hides several important points. One wonders, first of all, what a Snuffer-esque author in the first century would have written about Jesus’ encounter on the Mount of Transfiguration with the same individuals. Jesus wrote nothing about it, and said nothing about it to anyone afterward either. He likewise ordered the other witnesses present not to say anything (Matthew 17:9; Mark 9:9–10). Only when Jesus was gone did the apostles “conveniently recall” (our Snuffer clone might argue) this theophany and have it written down decades later.

Second, as Dan Vogel pointed out, there are two contemporaneous documents penned just after the Kirtland temple dedication which invoke the Elijah theophany.30 The first was written by a hostile source a week following the appearance of the Savior and those who bestowed keys:

They [the Mormons] have lately had what they term a solemn assembly. This was at the completion of the lower story of the Temple which is finished in a very singular order having four Pulpits on each [Page 261]end of the House and curtains between each. Also, curtains dividing the house in the center. They have had wonderful manifestations there of late behind the curtains. This was in the night. Their meeting held for several nights in succession. None but the Prophets and Elders were admitted. The number of Prophets now amounts to twelve. Some can see angels and others cannot. They report that the Savior appeared personally with angels and endowed the Elders with powers to work Miracles.31

The second more explicit account comes from a member, W. W. Phelps, who wrote his wife:

On Sunday, April 3, the twelve held meeting and administered the sacrament. It was a glorious time. The curtains were dropt in the afternoon. And There was a manifestation of the Lord to Br Joseph and Oliver, [by?] which they [learned?] thus the great & terrible day of the Lord as mentioned by Malachi, was near, even at the doors.32

Malachi 4:5 promised the coming of Elijah, and the Joseph Smith journal account would record that Elijah declared Malachi’s promise to be fulfilled (D&C 110:14), and said “the [Page 262]great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors” (D&C 110:16). When Snuffer claims there are no contemporary sources, he is wrong.

Thirdly, why would Joseph and Oliver have spoken about the event frequently, since the full temple ordinances for which the keys were necessary were not given to anyone until much later? A review of the Nauvoo-era discourses shows Joseph preparing the Saints for these ideas and lamenting their reluctance to accept anything new.33 Extensive public teaching about such things would make little sense until the Saints were ready to participate in the ordinances. One wonders if even Joseph understood their full import initially.34

Fourthly, Joseph “wrote” very little, so his failure to write about Elijah is unremarkable. He would often dictate material, but seldom took up the pen himself. The account that we have of Elijah’s appearance is found in Joseph Smith’s journal, in the handwriting of Warren A. Cowdery. And so, Snuffer must dispense with that evidence: “So far as any preserved record exists, from April 1836, until their respective deaths in 1844 and 1849, neither Joseph nor Oliver ever mentioned this event to anyone. Only Warren Cowdery’s third person handwritten account mentions it” (75).

This borders on the absurd. Warren Cowdery was Joseph’s scribe, and made an entry in Joseph’s personal journal (the vast majority of which was always written by scribes, not Joseph himself). Where does Snuffer think the account came from, if not from Joseph or Oliver? And, why would he presume anyone but Joseph was the source, since it was placed in Joseph’s [Page 263]journal? Clearly, either Joseph and/or Oliver mentioned it to someone, and did so quite early on.35

Furthermore, we can narrow the time frame considerably—it need not stretch to 1844 or 1848 as Snuffer argues: “Warren Cowdery, who inserted the account of the vision in the… journal, could have written it at any time” (76). Technically true, but still misleading. An initial upper bound can be placed on its composition, since Willard Richards made a first person copy in 1843, which he inserted into the Manuscript History of the Church.36 This demonstrates that the text existed by then, and that Richards (who by that date had received the Nauvoo temple ordinances from Joseph) likely understood the vision’s significance. Yet he did not speak or preach about it publicly either. Richards was preparing the Manuscript History under Joseph’s direction, and had reached 5 August 1838 before Joseph’s martyrdom.37 Given that Joseph accorded a high priority to the history, and would periodically review it, Snuffer’s confidence that Joseph communicated nothing at all before his death about the vision seems misplaced (324). His claim that the vision was “unknown in the 1830’s and 40’s” is also shown to be false (77).

We can tighten the timeline further by noting that Warren Cowdery arrived in Kirtland 25 February 1836,38 was writing editorials hostile to Joseph Smith by July 1837, and in 1838 would leave the Church never to return.39 Unless Snuffer would [Page 264]have us believe that Cowdery somehow had access to Joseph’s journals after his estrangement, and moreover that he would make an entry about a spectacular manifestation when he was at odds with the Prophet, we have a narrow window between April 1836 and July 1837 during which the text was written.

PTHG later uses the fact that Warren wrote a March 1837 article about the Savior’s Mount of Transfiguration vision of Elias, Elijah, and Moses to argue “if Joseph and Oliver failed to mention the appearances of Moses and Elijah, the scribe who wrote the event displayed an interest in the subject” (77). But if Warren knew nothing in March 1837 (as opposed to simply having no permission to mention the event) this does not help Snuffer’s case—it would narrow the writing of the vision to between March and July 1837. Warren’s article may, on the other hand, have been stimulated by what he had already written for Joseph, but was to keep private.

PTHG’s account is also misleading when it claims that the Warren Cowdery account “was finally discovered and published in the Deseret News on November 6, 1852″ (77). Willard Richards had placed the vision in the Manuscript History in 1843, and the serial publication of that history began on 15 November 1851.40 The 1836 Elijah vision was not suddenly “discovered” and then published; it appeared nearly a year later when the on-going newspaper account had reached the events of 3 April 1836.41

Though he cites the Joseph Smith Papers project, Snuffer does not inform his audience of the editors’ conclusions that hurt his thesis. For instance, the editors point out that “this account of visitations closes the journal. After more than six months of almost daily recording of developments in Kirtland, [Page 265]entries ceased.”42 This might push the record back to within days of the event. Furthermore, Snuffer claims again that “we [do not] know what source told Warren… about the event,” and notes simply that “it is written in the third person” (76). He does not tell his readers that the editors indicate that as Warren worked on Joseph’s history, he “also produced third-person accounts. In that endeavor, he had before him a first-person text (the earlier entries of [the] journal), which he changed to third person as he copied them into the history…. For this material, he must have relied on another original text—no longer extant—or on oral reports from either or both of the participants.”43 It is thus unsurprising that Warren wrote as he did, and he likely did so on the basis of a first person account fairly soon after the event.44

Snuffer also claims that the language of D&C 110 proves that “rather than ordaining or conferring something, Elijah made a statement about what Joseph had previously received…. [T]he ‘keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands’ is a statement about what was already there. The sealing authority had been given to Joseph earlier” (92). This is quite a stretch—Moses and Elias had just appeared and “committed” their keys; why ought we to assume Elijah is simply there to point out what has happened years ago? Elijah speaks in the [Page 266]present tense, not the past. He does not say, “The keys have been committed,” he says they are committed—and Elijah then said that his prophesied coming was foretold and is now fulfilled. And Moroni had long ago told Joseph Smith Elijah would have a role in restoring priesthood: “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah” (Joseph Smith History 1:38).

One does not often see such tortured efforts to dispense with data fatal to one’s thesis.

Joseph’s Nauvoo Era Teachings About Elijah

Joseph Smith likewise would not have agreed with PTHG’s claim that Elijah only appeared to announce that all keys had already been returned. On 5 October 1840, the Prophet taught:

Elijah was the last prophet that held the keys of this priesthood, and who will, before the last dispensation, restore the authority and delive[r] the Keys of this priesthood in order that all the ordinances may be attended to in righteousness….

And I will send Elijah the Prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord &c &c.

Why send Elijah[?] [B]ecause he holds the Keys of the Authority to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood and without the authority is given the ordinances could not be administered in righteousness.45

Joseph here explicitly rebuts two of Snuffer’s fundamental assertions by teaching that: (1) one must be authorized to perform the ordinances (see Claim #1); and (2) Elijah was [Page 267]sent because he holds keys necessary “to administer in all the ordinances of the priesthood,” and not simply to announce that everything had already happened.

Later, in the Times and Seasons of 15 October 1841, Joseph would discuss the concept that “the dispensation of the fulness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations, also other things that have not been before revealed. He shall send Elijah the prophet &c., and restore all things in Christ.”46

Joseph thus speaks twice of Elijah’s mission in the future tense even after April 1836. If this is not a mere rhetorical act (i.e., speaking for effect as if in the time of Malachi, looking forward to Elijah’s return) then it may undermine Snuffer’s claims even further. As Ehat and Cook noted,

Apparently in [Joseph’s] mind it was not sufficient that he alone had these keys and this power, but he intended by way of ordinances to confer a portion of this power on others who were faithful, thereby actually bringing about the restoration of all things…. It was not enough to Joseph Smith to be a king and a priest unto the Most High, but he insisted that his people be a society of priests “as in Paul’s day, as in Enoch’s day” through the ordinances of the temple (see 30 March 1842 discourse). Throughout the remainder of his Nauvoo experience, Joseph Smith taught and emphasized the importance of the temple ordinances, ordinances that would bestow upon members of the Church the knowledge and power he foreshadows in this discourse.47

This view is confirmed by an address given over three years later. Joseph declared, “The keys are to be delivered, the spirit [Page 268]of Elijah is to come, the gospel to be established, the Saints of God gathered, Zion built up, and the Saints to come up on Mount Zion.”48 We again note the future tense, which may be rhetorical, but seems here to also anticipate a culmination that was in the future. “But how are they to become Saviors on Mount Zion?” asks Joseph. He replies:

By building their 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, & herein is the Chain that binds the hearts of the fathers to the Children, & the Children to the Fathers which fulfills the mission of Elijah.49

The ordinances seem vital, Elijah’s keys seem vital, sealing powers are bestowed by mortal ordination, and there is no hint that the Saints are in danger of losing them (claim #9). In fact, as we will now see, it would be absurd for Joseph to act as if these things were in danger of being lost, since he had conferred these ordinances upon the Twelve and others already.

Claim #7: Necessary Authority Could Only Be Transmitted in a Completed Temple

PTHG claims that D&C 124:28 proves that “by 1841, the fullness of the priesthood had been suspended or ‘lost’ from Joseph Smith. He was no longer authorized to use that fullness on behalf of the church. The details of how it was taken have not been preserved” (97–98).

[Page 269]Perhaps there is no record of the details because Snuffer is in error. When the verse is read in context, such suspicions seem well-founded:

Build a house to my name, for the Most High to dwell therein. 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. For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead (D&C 124:27–29).

Snuffer often complains about LDS historians starting with a conclusion and “reasoning backward” (97, 99, 319, 321). He gives us a specimen of that approach here. The scripture says that something has been lost and taken away—but the text then immediately says that this includes the ability to do baptisms for the dead.50 But Joseph and the Saints had never done baptisms for the dead prior to August 1840, or had the privilege of doing them.51 Clearly, when God says something has been lost unto you and taken away, he does not mean taken away from the Church, but rather that the doctrines and powers associated with vicarious work for the dead were lost to mortals during the Christian apostasy. God deigns to restore these, but they can only happen in a temple, “For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me” (D&C 124:30). Meanwhile, for now “your baptisms shall be [Page 270]acceptable unto me” (D&C 124:31)—a clear sign that the Saints are not being deprived of a previous blessing or power. They are, instead, called to build a temple so that this work and the other ordinances associated with it can be restored and continue.52

“If a red brick store is an adequate substitute for a temple,” Snuffer archly observes, “then there must have been plenty of places that could be found for the Lord to come and restore again the fullness” (335). Yet, Joseph Smith specifically told the apostles and others53 that the Lord had commanded him to administer the ordinances and all the keys: “He told us that the object he had was for us to go to work and fit up that room preparatory to giving endowments to a few Elders that he might give unto them all the keys of power pertaining to the Aaronic and Melchisedec Priesthoods,” wrote one participant.54 After Joseph dedicated the upper room for this purpose,55 “Joseph washed and anointed [us] as Kings and Priests to God, and over the House of Israel… [because] he was commanded of God, [to do so]… and [thereby] conferred on us Patriarchal Priesthood.”56 Joseph told the Relief Society six days earlier, “the [Page 271]keys of the kingdom are about to be given.”57 Three days later, he preached on the “keys of the kingdom,” saying that there are “certain signs and words by which false spirits and personages may be detected from true, which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed.”58 Brigham Young reported succinctly once all the higher ordinances were given: “Brother Joseph said he had given us all that could be given to man on the earth.”59

(This is a far cry from PTHG’s dismissive claim that “Joseph instituted a form of temple endowment in May, 1842” (266). According to Joseph, he instituted all the ordinances, and he did so at God’s command.60)

Willard Richards, keeper of Joseph’s journal and among the first nine to be endowed on 4 May 1842, would note that Joseph was “instructing them in the principles and order of the priesthood, attending to washings it [sic] anointings, & endowments, and the communications of keys, pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood, and so on to the highest order of the Melchisedec Priesthood, setting forth the order pertaining to the Ancient of days & all those plans & principles by which any one is enabled to secure the fulness of those blessings which has been prepared for the church of the firstborn, and come up into and abide in the presence of God.”61 Observed Ehat:
[Page 272]

Though this priesthood order did not confer the fullness of the priesthood, it “pertained to the highest order” in that it presented all the “plans and principles” that would “enable” anyone “to secure” in this life or before the resurrection the fullness of the priesthood.62

Almost a year later, at subsequent meetings, the same participants were sealed in eternal marriage.63 Joseph would then teach publicly:

If a man gets the fullness of God he has to get [it] in the same way that Jesus Christ obtain[ed] it & that was by keeping all the ordinances of the house of the Lord…. [I]t was one reason why Jesus said how oft would I have gatherd you (the Jews) together that they might attend to the ordinance of the baptism for the dead as well as the other ordinances the Priesthood Revelations &c.64

Ehat observed:

When Joseph spoke of “all the ordinances of the house of the Lord,” the “fulness of the Priesthood” and “revelations as God gives in the most holy place in his temple” regarding becoming gods in eternity, he had in mind the highest ordinance of the temple—the only ordinance he had not as yet introduced. It was the capstone of ordinances essential to full salvation. To the members of the Quorum—still only the original nine members—this seems to have been clear. On 6 August 1843, Brigham Young in public discourse said, “If any in the church [have] the fullness of the Melchizedek Priesthood [I do] not know it. For any person to have the fullness of that priesthood, he must be a king and [Page 273]priest.” Brigham had in 1842 with the eight others of the Quorum received an anointing promising him he would, if faithful, eventually receive another anointing actually ordaining him a king and priest.65

The highest ordinances were first introduced on 28 September 1843:

These ordinances, depending on the person’s ecclesiastical position, made the recipient a “king and priest,” “in,” “in and over,” or (as only in Joseph Smith’s case) “over” the Church. Moreover, the recipient had sealed upon him the power to bind and loose on earth as Joseph explained in his definition of the fullness of the priesthood.66

And on 22 November 1843, Brigham Young became the first of the Twelve to “receive the fullness of the priesthood” with his wife, Mary Ann.67 Joseph then instructed Brigham to perform the same rite for the other apostles.68

Snuffer also ignores the fact that the Saints continued to maintain that a temple was necessary for the fullness of priesthood practice—and not only because the rank-and-file of the Church were to be endowed and receive the other higher ordinances there. The proxy work of endowments and sealings for the dead (as opposed to proxy baptisms)—which Joseph insisted formed part of the fullness—could not be performed outside of a temple, and never was.69 Joseph taught, however, [Page 274]that all the ordinances for the living and all keys and powers which he had been given could be and were bestowed on the apostles (see claims #4 and #5). In part, PTHG simply has too narrow a definition of the “the fullness,” and refuses to accept Joseph Smith’s statements about the legitimacy of what he did in the maligned upper room of the red brick store, and why he did it. Snuffer’s views are made to trump even Joseph’s, mostly by ignoring the relevant historical evidence.

Claim #8: The Saints Sinned in Missouri and Joseph Offered His Life to Give Them Another Chance

Snuffer discusses the difficulties in Missouri between the Saints and their neighbors, declaring, “Our pride wants us to be the innocent victims of unrighteous and wicked outsiders. But the events are not so one-sided” (98). Snuffer may know some who wish to see it that way, but he cannot charge such views to the Church. B. H. Roberts’ introduction to the official Manuscript History of the Church contains a lengthy discussion of the various causes of the difficulties in Missouri, and among these he cites “the unwisdom of the Saints.”70 Roberts dates the Saints’ errors to at least November 1831,71 and says that

it is very clear that the reason why the Saints were prevailed against by their enemies and driven from the center place of Zion, was because of their failure to live up to the high requirements made of them by the Lord. In subsequent efforts to redeem Zion, by attempting to return the exiles to Jackson county, the Saints in all parts of the land again failed to respond with sufficient promptness and fulness to the requirements of the Lord.72

[Page 275]Roberts goes on to describe the events of 1838—including Sidney Rigdon’s “salt sermon”—as “untimely, extreme, and unwise.”73 Snuffer caricatures the views of generations of Latter-day Saints about these events, even in the official history. But he also ignores the clear implication of D&C 123—that the majority of Saints were more sinned against than sinners.

At any rate, Snuffer claims that because of the Saints’ sins in Missouri, Joseph “apparently offered his life in exchange for another chance. The Lord accepted both his acknowledgement [of sin] and his offer” (100–101). A look at the footnote reveals that this claim is not as sturdy as the main text would lead us to believe: “What was offered is not explained either in the revelation or by Joseph Smith” (101 n. 120). But, despite this lack of evidence, Snuffer declares that “subsequent events… make it clear what Joseph offered for this additional chance to complete the restoration and have the saints receive the fullness of the priesthood. He offered, and ultimately forfeited, his life” (101 n. 120).

This is a strange claim. PTHG admits that there is no evidence in the revelations or in Joseph Smith’s statements—and, as we have seen, Snuffer is exceedingly resourceful in finding dubious textual “evidence” to defend his theories. He claims that “subsequent events” make this reading obvious, but he does not cite any of this data, or demonstrate how it proves his case. He merely asserts it in a footnote. If Joseph made such an offer, why do none of his sermons in Nauvoo describe it? Why does he not explain these matters to the Saints so they understand the stakes? The text itself says merely:

Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offering and acknowledgments, which you have made; for unto this end have I raised you up, that I might show forth my [Page 276]wisdom through the weak things of the earth. Your prayers are acceptable before me; and in answer to them I say unto you, that you are now called immediately to make a solemn proclamation of my gospel (D&C 124:1–2).

The answer to Joseph’s offering and prayers is that he is to proclaim the gospel. The solemn proclamation calls for the gentiles to bring financial aid and religious observance to Zion. There were many other offerings and acknowledgements made by Joseph besides Snuffer’s dubious claim about him offering his life for the Saints’ sins—Joseph’s letters from Liberty Jail, for example, instruct the Saints that they must set out the names of those who persecuted them, together with the costs (D&C 123:1–16). This is “a duty which we owe to God,” and the Saints ought to “waste and wear out [their] lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness” (v. 7, 13). When they have done “all things that lie in [their] power,” then they may “stand still…to see the salvation of God” (v. 17). It is at least as likely that these efforts have been accepted, so Joseph may now call on the world to either help them or suffer God’s intervention. This off-the-cuff reading is at least as likely as PTHG’s, with more textual evidence.

Such speculation and tale spinning is great sport, but it simply isn’t history.

Claim #9: The Nauvoo Temple Was Not Built With Enough Speed; the Saints’ Suffering Is Evidence of Punishment

PTHG tells us that “the revelation [D&C 124] required the construction of the Nauvoo Temple…. There was a set time. If at the end of that time the temple was not constructed, the words are clear ‘ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God'” (104).

PTHG does not tell us that the First Presidency had already urged the Saints to build a temple in August 1840, and the [Page 277]Saints had sustained this plan at an October 1840 conference.74 The Times and Seasons announced temple construction had begun on 15 January 1841, four days prior to the revelation, which suggests the Saints were not particularly slack regarding the temple:

The Temple of the Lord is in process of erection here, where the Saints will come to worship the God of their fathers, according to the order of His house and the powers of the Holy Priesthood, and will be so constructed as to enable all the functions of the Priesthood to be duly exercised, and where instructions from the Most High will be received, and from this place go forth to distant lands.75

“In Nauvoo at the time of Joseph’s death,” Snuffer observes, “there were completed homes built, a Masonic Temple, and manufacturing and retail facilities, but the Nauvoo Temple had been neglected. It was nowhere near completed when Joseph and Hyrum died” (105).

It is certainly true that homes and commercial buildings had been built. Snuffer’s claim that the temple was “neglected” must be established from the evidence, not merely asserted because his theory demands it. The temple required much more labor to complete than homes or businesses. Furthermore, commercial structures were also necessary in order to provide the economic muscle to supply labor and materials for the temple, which could not be built in a void. Does Snuffer believe [Page 278]the Saints were to have no homes until the temple was built? Joseph Smith evidently did not think so—the Heber C. Kimball family was living in a 14- by 16-foot log house about a mile from the Mississippi river, but in the summer of 1841, Joseph urged a move. Heber’s daughter recorded that “the prophet Joseph being anxious to have my father nearer to himself and his brethren our place was exchanged for one on the flat where father built us a more commodious house.”76 The Prophet’s behavior is simply inconsistent with Snuffer’s theory that the temple was being neglected, or that improvements in housing were inappropriate with the Lord’s timetable. If Snuffer’s views were correct, Joseph would have surely urged one of his most obedient followers to dedicate still more labor to the temple, rather than a new home.

Absent from Snuffer’s entire discussion is the Nauvoo House, a hotel whose construction was commanded in the same revelation (D&C 124:22–24). The Saints were not, then, to focus on the temple to the exclusion of all else, and it would have been economically impossible to do so anyway.

Joseph’s Discourses in the Relevant Period

If Snuffer is correct, there ought to be evidence in the historical record—Joseph spoke often and frequently of the Nauvoo temple and its construction. Does Snuffer expect us to believe that God would allow his people to fail without first requiring the prophet to repeatedly warn them? Let us look at some of the historical evidence which PTHG does not provide.

24 April 1842

Joseph “pronounced a curse on the Merchants and the rich, who would not assist in building” the temple.77 But he gives no warning that the Saints are in danger of losing their privileges [Page 279]simply because a few wealthy folk are not helping. God does not punish the many for the inaction of a few. The day prior to Joseph’s speech, Nauvoo’s Wasp newspaper (operated by Joseph’s brother) would note, “We passed by the Temple, and was delighted at the prospect that here presented itself. A scene of lively industry and animation was there. The sound of the polisher’s chisel—converting the rude stone of the quarry into an artful shape—sent forth its busy hum: all were busily employed—the work was fast progressing.”78 Yet Snuffer claims that scant days later, “by May, 1842 Joseph could see the temple would never be completed in the time allowed” (285). Evidence that we will see below is not consistent with this hypothesis.

1 September 1842

A revelation states:

Let the work of my temple, and all the works which I have appointed unto you, be continued on and not cease; and let your diligence, and your perseverance, and patience, and your works be redoubled, and you shall in nowise lose your reward, saith the Lord of Hosts. And if they persecute you, so persecuted they the prophets and righteous men that were before you. For all this there is a reward in heaven (D&C 127:4).

The audience is encouraged to continue, but no warning or chastisement is forthcoming. (Note that the transitive verb “redouble” does not mean to “double,” but means “to repeat in return… to repeat often…. To increase by repeated or continued additions,” such as in repeated blows.)79 Less than a week later, Joseph Smith sent a letter:
[Page 280]

6 September 1842

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).

Again, there is encouragement but no sign of condemnation. But in Snuffer’s telling, Joseph had already decided that failure was inevitable (285).

29 October 1842

About 10 {in the forenoon I rode up and viewed the Temple. I expressed my satisfaction at the arrangements, and was pleased with the progress made in that sacred edifice}.80

Joseph here praises the Saints’ progress and efforts.

15 November 1842

The Times and Seasons reported the enthusiastic response to the arrival of timber from Wisconsin for the temple. The temple committee made assignments by ward, and “requested all the carpenters to come together on the Thursday to prepare the timbers.” The response exceeded their expectations:

We had a cheering assemblage of wagons, horses, oxen and men who began with zeal and gladness to pull the raft to pieces and haul it up to the Temple. This scenery has continued to the present date and the expectations of the committee more than realized.

[Page 281]On Thursday we had a large assemblage of carpenters, joiners &c. who succeeded in preparing the lumber and laying the joists preparatory to laying the temporary floor and fixing seats &c….

Whilst watching for a few moments the zeal and cheerful labors of the brethren to accomplish this thing we could not avoid feeling grateful to the great Jehovah, and to the brethren engaged in this noble cause. We are constrained to feel thankful to the Almighty for the many blessings we receive at his hands for the prosperity of the place-for the harmony and good feeling prevailing in our midst-and for the great and glorious privileges granted unto us as a people….

Now brethren, if so great and glorious have been the blessings realized in so early a stage of the work what may we expect when the building is completed, and a house prepared where the Most High can come and restore that which has been taken away in consequence of transgression; even the FULNESS of the priesthood.

Truly, no exertion on our part ought to be lacking but to double our diligence because great, yea very great are the consequences pending.

As we have already said, we feel thankful to the brethren for the interest they have taken, not only on the present, but on all former occasions. They have come forth like Saints of God and great will be their reward. Not long since they were naked, destitute, afflicted, and smitten having been twice plucked up by the roots; but again they lift their heads with gladness and manifest a determination to fulfil the revelations [Page 282]and commandments of the Most High if it be at the expense of all their property and even their lives. Will not God reward them? Yea, verily!81

21 February 1843

Joseph urges both the temple and the Nauvoo House be built:

for I began it & will finish it. Not that public spirit here as in other cities dont deny revelation if the Temple and Nauvoo house are not finished you must run away….every thing God does is to aggrandize his kingdom how does he lay the foundation? build a temple to my great name. and call the attention of the great. but where shall we lay our heads…. The building of N. House is just as sacred in my view as the Temple.

I want the Nauvoo House built it must be built, our salvation depends upon it. When men have done what they can or will for the temple, let them do what they can for the Nauvoo House. We never can accomplish our work at the expense of another.82

We note that Joseph urges that the temple be given priority, though both are important. A few months later, he will urge a shift of resources to the Nauvoo House, suggesting that the temple was not being neglected.83

6 April 1843

Joseph discusses using the Twelve to fund-raise for the Nauvoo House—something for which he would be unlikely to slight [Page 283]the temple.84 He notes, in fact, that “there has been too great latitude in individuals for the building of the Temple to the exclusion of the Nauvoo house.”85 The Saints, then, can hardly have been slacking on the temple if Joseph wants them to put more emphasis on the Nauvoo House.

11 July 1843

He [Joseph] beautifully and in a most powerful manner, illustrated the necessity of the gathering and the building of the Temple that those ordinances may be administered which are necessary preparations for the world to come: he exhorted the people in impressive terms to be diligent—to be up and doing lest the tabernacle pass over to another people and we lose the blessing.86

Joseph encourages diligence—slackening would be unwise. Work on the temple had slowed over the spring, but this was due to the illness of a key craftsman, William W. Player. An English convert who was the temple’s principal stone setter, Player’s absence delayed the spring start on the walls. Technical problems with the crane needed to raise massive timbers and stones also slowed the work, but this cannot be blamed on a lack of zeal either.87

9 October 1843

“President Smith concluded with exhortations to the church to renew their exertions to forward the work of the Temple, and in walking before the Lord in soberness and righteousness.”88 [Page 284]Joseph discussed temple business, but no report is made of a rebuke or warning for being behind schedule.89

15 October 1843

Joseph responds to some critics about the economic cost of the temple—clear evidence that work was proceeding and diverting significant resources:

some say It is better, say some to give [to] the poor than build the temple.—the building of the temple has kept the poor who were driven from Missouri from starving. as has been the best means for this object which could be devised

all ye rich men of the Latter Day Saints.—from abroad I would invite to bring up some of their money and give to the temple. we want Iron steel powder.—&c—a good plan to get up a forge[?]. bring in raw materials, & manu[f]act[ur]ing establishments of all kinds.—& surround the rapids—90

1 January 1844

The Times and Seasons noted:

Considering the many improvements that have been made, and the difficulties in many instances under which the committee have had to labor, the Temple has made great progress; and strenuous efforts are now being made in quarrying, hauling, and hewing stone, to place it in a situation that the walls can go up and the building be enclosed by next fall.

[Page 285]There has not been much done at the Nauvoo House during the past season, further than preparing materials; most of the brick, however, and hewed stone are in readiness for that building; and the Temple and Nauvoo House committees, having purchased several splendid mills in the pineries, place them in a situation to furnish both of the above named buildings with abundance of excellent lumber, besides having a large amount to dispose of.91

We recall that delays had occurred in the previous year because a key tradesman was taken ill. There were also technical problems with the temple’s crane.92

21 January 1844

Snuffer cites this discourse, and uses it as evidence that Saints were ignoring Joseph’s warnings:

Interestingly, only Wilford Woodruff recorded the content of that talk. Willard Richards reports only that a talk was given, the weather was “somewhat unpleasant,” and the subject was “sealing the hearts of the fathers to the children.” Joseph’s warning that there was a limited time to ‘make use of the seals while they are on earth’ seems to have gone unheard by those in Nauvoo, and later their descendants. Even the leadership of the church at the time were tone deaf to Joseph’s alarm (106–107).

Unsurprisingly, this gloss distorts Joseph’s message:

I would to God that this temple was now done that we might go into it & go to work & improve our time & make use of the seals while they are on earth & the [Page 286]Saints have none to much time to save & redeem their dead, & gather together their living relatives that they may be saved also, before the earth will be smitten & the Consumption decreed falls upon the world & I would advise all the Saints to go to with their might & gather together all their living relatives to this place that they may be sealed & saved that they may be prepared against the day that the destroying angel goes forth & if the whole Church should go to with all their might to save their dead seal their posterity & gather their living friends & spend none of their time in behalf of the world they would hardly get through before night would Come when no man Could work & my ownly trouble at the present time is concerning ourselves that the Saints will be divided & broken up & scattered before we get our Salvation Secure for thei[r] is so many fools in the world for the devil to operate upon it gives him the advantage often times.93

Joseph’s advice to the Saints is not “hurry up and complete the temple.” Instead, he urges them to get all their living relatives in Nauvoo so they can be endowed (after all, most of the Twelve and some others had already been endowed and received all the temple ordinances). Joseph’s “only worry” about the Saints is not their failure or unworthiness, but of them being attacked. This is a risk not because of their failure—rather, it is because there are “so many fools in the world” whom Satan can act upon.

Furthermore, when Joseph speaks of the Saints having “none to[o] much time” to redeem “their dead” and “their living relatives,” this is not because the temple will not be done within God’s time limit—rather, he is explicit that the time is short [Page 287]because “the earth will be smitten & the Consumption decreed falls upon the world” and “the day that the destroying angel goes forth.” These are clearly eschatological concerns, “before night would Come when no man Could work” (see John 9:4)—the time before Christ’s second coming is short. Snuffer’s gloss abuses the text from start to finish.

It makes no sense for Joseph to encourage gathering to Nauvoo to receive living ordinances if his real message (as Snuffer claims) is that the members are being slothful in building the temple and are in danger of not being allowed to receive the blessings at all. It is likewise incoherent to argue, in light of this instruction, that Joseph had known since May 1842 that they would fail. The leadership is not “tone deaf”—they simply don’t hear what Snuffer’s bias and torture of the text creates out of thin air.

5 February 1844

The Manuscript History of the Church reports that Joseph told the Nauvoo Temple’s architect that

if he had to make the Temple ten feet higher than it was originally calculated; that one light at the center of each circular window would be sufficient to light the whole room, and when the whole building was thus illuminated, the effect would be remarkably grand. “I wish you to carry out my designs. I have seen in vision the splendid appearance of that building illuminated, and will have it built according to the pattern shown me.”94

Joseph declares that he has seen the finished temple in vision. There is again no evidence that Joseph worries that they will be denied its blessings.
[Page 288]

4 March 1844

at a meeting of the First Presidency, the Twelve Apostles, the Temple Committee and others, Joseph Smith announced that under the circumstances “he did not know but it was best to let the Nauvoo house be till the temple is completed. [W]e need the temple more than anything Else… we will let the Nauvoo house stand till the temple is done and we will put all our forces on the temple—turn all our lumber towards the temple.”95

Surely Joseph would tell the Twelve—nine of whom he had initiated into all the higher temple ordinances, including the “fullness of the priesthood”—if the Saints were slighting God with regard to the temple. But, he did not (compare 7 March 1844 below).

7 March 1844

A critic, Charles Foster, claims that the Saints cannot finish the Nauvoo temple due to the cost. Joseph therefore proposes that they prove him wrong: “who don[‘]t know that we can put the roof on this building this season? by turning all the means of the N[auvoo] House & doubling our diligence we can do it.”96 Joseph has thus been content with the pace at which the temple and Nauvoo House are progressing (at times urging more effort to be diverted to the Nauvoo House) and now suggests diverting all effort to the temple. Again, there is no condemnation, nor any hint that the Saints’ chances are running out with Joseph’s death fast approaching (compare 4 March 1844).
[Page 289]

10 March 1844

Joseph speaks extensively about election, and the spirit and power of Elijah, which

is that ye have power to hold the keys of the revelations ordinances, oricles powers & endowments of the fulness of the Melchezedek Priesthood & of the Kingdom of God on the Earth & to receive, obtain & perform all the ordinances belonging to the Kingdom of God even unto the sealing of the hearts of the hearts fathers unto the children & the hearts of the children unto the fathers even those who are in heaven….Then what you seal on earth by the Keys of Elijah is sealed in heaven, & this is the power of Elijah, & this is the difference between the spirit & power of Elias and Elijah, for while the spirit of Elias is a forerunner the power of Elijah is sufficient to make our calling & Election sure.97

In all this, there is no sign that the Saints are falling behind, or that they are in danger of losing these blessings—and Joseph’s death is less than four months away. He even takes time to assure the congregation that Christ will not come in 1844 as William Miller had predicted, and also prophesies that Christ will not come before 1890.98 Why would he not address the much more pressing issue of an incomplete temple if Snuffer’s fanciful historical reconstruction is correct?

15 March 1844

The Church’s official newspaper praises the Nauvoo saints and encourages those not gathered to Nauvoo to be likewise faithful in building the temple. There is no sign that the Nauvoo Saints are slacking or risking condemnation:
[Page 290]

We are also pleased that we can inform our friends abroad, that the saints here of late, have taken hold of the word on the Temple with a zeal and energy that in no small degree excites our admiration. Their united efforts certainly speaks to us, that it is their determination that this spacious edifice shall be enclosed, if not finished, this season. And a word we would say to the Saints abroad, which is, that the Temple is being built in compliance with a special commandment of God not to a few individuals, but to all. Therefore we sincerely hope you will contribute of your means as liberally as your circumstances will allow, that the burden of the work may not rest upon a few, but proportionately upon all.99

12 May 1844

It is not only necessary that you should be baptized for your dead, but you will have to go thro’ all the ordinances for them, same as you have gone through, to save yourselves; there will be 144,000 Saviors on Mount Zion, and with them an innumerable host, that no man can number—Oh! I beseech you to forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure—and if any man preach any other gospel with that which I have preached, he shall be cursed, and some of you who now hear me, shall see it & know that I testify the truth concerning them; in regard to the law of the Priesthood—there should be a place where all nations shall come up from time to time to receive their endowments, and the Lord has said, this shall be the place for the baptism for the dead—every man that [Page 291]has been baptized and belongs to the Kingdom, has a right to be baptized for those who are gone before, and, as soon as the Law of the Gospel is obeyed here by their friends, who act as proxy for them, the Lord has administrators there to set them free—a man may act as proxy for his own relatives—the ordinances of the Gospel which was laid out before the foundation of the world has been thus fulfilled, by them, and we may be baptized for those who we have much friendship for, but it must be first revealed to the man of God, lest we should run too far.100

Less than two months before his death, Joseph spoke again of both making one’s calling and election sure and of performing ordinances for the dead—both of which he had insisted require the temple. He did not, however, rebuke them or tell them that they were being slothful. Why teach them of matters they cannot—in Snuffer’s telling—have?

There is, in short, little or no evidence that the Saints were being slothful in building the Nauvoo temple. At various times, Joseph expressed his pleasure with their progress, encouraged them to diligence, asked that more resources be given to the Nauvoo House, declared he had seen the completed structure in vision, and then later moved full attention back to the temple. He encouraged members to bring all their family to Nauvoo so they would have time to receive their endowments before the wicked disturbed them—a strange command if he believed they would not be permitted to receive those blessings. The textual record simply does not match Snuffer’s rather speculative reconstruction.

How Much Time?

Snuffer argues that “it is critical to know when the time period of that ‘appointment'” with God in the completed temple [Page 292]“ended” (104). It probably would be critical—which is why the silence of Joseph on this matter is so telling.

A look at some figures does not, however, suggest that there is an obvious problem. The Nauvoo temple was 60% larger than the Kirtland temple, with over three times the floor area.101 The Kirtland construction was commanded on 27 December 1832 (D&C 88:119), and the Saints were severely rebuked for their lack of speed on 1 June 1833 (D&C 95:3, 11–17). The dedication took place on 27 March 1836.102 From commandment to dedication was 1186 days.

From the commandment to the martyrdom at Nauvoo, 1255 days had elapsed. It would seem unreasonable for the Lord to expect a structure more than half again as large to be built within essentially the same number of days, while also building the Nauvoo House, settling a new city on malarial swamp land,103 and developing all the infrastructure necessary to support both a city and temple construction.

Kirtland’s temple cost $40–60,000;104 Nauvoo’s was 16–25 times more, requiring a minimum of $1,000,000.105 Thus, [Page 293]while Nauvoo had a population of 11,057 by 1845 (with a total of 15,000 Mormons in all Hancock County),106 compared to Kirtland’s 2,025 by 1836,107 the cost of Nauvoo’s temple was still three times greater on a per person basis: $66.67/citizen compared to Kirtland’s $29.63/citizen. The construction times also favor Nauvoo over Kirtland: Kirtland did $50.59 of work per day, while Nauvoo did $518.94/day to its dedication on 30 April 1846.108 To be completed by the martyrdom, the Saints would have had to do a staggering $796.81/day.

Put simply, even with Nauvoo’s larger population base, the cost per citizen was two to three times higher than Kirtland, with at least ten times more labor and materials expended per day of construction. Only someone committed to seeing the Saints as failures would condemn and downplay this accomplishment, especially as almost all had arrived in Nauvoo destitute. Even getting adequate food was an on-going issue:

“Even the best providers were often short of flour, milk, butter, eggs, and other staples. Almost every letter from this period deals with the great struggle for food.” On balance it should be reported that food [Page 294]supplies were much better by the fall of 1845. Fruit trees planted earlier were now in production, and grain and vegetable products were plentiful. Distribution of these commodities now became the problem as farmers in outlying areas were driven from their farms by mobs, and crops were destroyed.109

It seems even more capricious for God to see the Saints fail without a single clear warning from the Prophet or the Lord himself. We can profitably compare the rebuke of June 1833 at Kirtland with the essential silence at Nauvoo:

For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that ye have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house.… Verily I say unto you, it is my will that you should build a house. If you keep my commandments you shall have power to build it. If you keep not my commandments, the love of the Father shall not continue with you, therefore you shall walk in darkness (D&C 95:7, 11–12).

The Saints Were Punished?

PTHG claims that D&C 124:47–48 can be used to determine if the Saints failed at Nauvoo. It claims that “we know for certain”:

A. “The spot was not consecrated by the Lord, or made holy by His or the angels’ presence. At least there is no record of it having occurred;

B. “The church was moved out of the spot;

C. “The temple was utterly destroyed;

D. The migration westward was more than difficult and harrowing” (381).

[Page 295]We will consider each claim in turn.

Point A: Spot not consecrated by divine or angelic presence?

This claim is false. “Others also beheld angels and the glory of God,” reported one witness at the Nauvoo temple.110 The research in PTHG is not adequate. This issue is treated in more detail below (claim #10). Even Strangite apostates saw the glory upon the temple, though they had a more prosaic explanation:

Uriel C. Nickerson (a Strangite) said that on Sunday night last the Temple was illuminated from the top of the Belfry to the ground and swore that he saw men passing back and forwards having candles in their hands and wanted to make the people believe that there was a visitation by angels, but they were the Mormons themselves. Thus has a Strangite born strong testimony of the glory of last Sabbath.111

Point B: Church moved out of the spot?

Snuffer here plays fast and loose with the text, though earlier he does cite the text that speaks of the Church being “moved out of their place” (380, 381). The scripture in question reads:

If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot [the temple site—see v. 43] that it shall be made holy. And if my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place (D&C 124:45).

PTHG makes it appear that the Church was promised that because the temple (“that spot”) would be made holy they would not be moved out of a physical “spot” or “place”—i.e., [Page 296]Nauvoo (compare 267–270). This reading is not plausible. The Lord spoke in almost identical wording on 16 December 1833 in the wake of troubles in Missouri. He reassured the Saints: “Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered” (D&C 101:17, emphasis added).112

Thus, the heirs of Zion could be physically scattered or driven by wicked men, but this did not mean that they were “moved out of [their] place.”113 This promise served to reassure the Saints that they would not lose their blessings or station before God—and, the condition placed on the commandment is an interesting one, given Snuffer’s hostility to the apostles: “If my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people… they shall not be moved out of their place” (D&C 124:45).

And, finally, though forced from Nauvoo by armed men, the Saints were not “scattered.” They remained together in a body under apostolic direction, withdrew in a planned and orderly way, and a large majority followed the Twelve to the Great Salt Lake.

Point C: The temple was utterly destroyed

The temple’s destruction is an uncontroversial, if irrelevant, point. There is no promise in D&C 124 that the temple would endure forever, and PTHG’s textual contortions do not find one either (269). (Given that the Jewish temples were both destroyed, if consistent Snuffer would have to argue that they too were never holy spots.) Section 124 does, however, include important teachings on the allowances for the evil actions of others which the Lord will make:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their [Page 297]might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings. And the iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not, and hate me, saith the Lord God (D&C 124:49–50).

Were Snuffer not so dedicated to his theory, he might see the situation differently, as Brigham Young did:

I was thankful to see the Temple in Nauvoo on fire. Previous to crossing the Mississippi river, we had met in that Temple and handed it over to the Lord God of Israel; and when I saw the flames, I said “Good, Father, if you want it to be burned up.” I hoped to see it burned before I left, but I did not. I was glad when I heard of its being destroyed by fire, and of the walls having fallen in, and said, “Hell, you cannot now occupy it.”114

Point D: Suffering during the exodus from Nauvoo

In a way, this is the most disturbing of the charges because Snuffer presumes to condemn others, becoming an accuser of his brothers and sisters, declaring (based upon tendentious history and a distorted reading of scriptural texts) that the judgments of God were upon them. If he is wrong, then he condemns a noble group who sacrificed to the uttermost for their covenants.

One thinks again of Alma and his band of believers that fled from King Noah—they had to leave their homes to escape an army (Mosiah 18:34–35), settled a new land [Page 298](Mosiah 23:1–4), suffered enslavement (Mosiah 24:8–12), had to flee again (Mosiah 24:20), reached another area of sanctuary, had to flee yet again (Mosiah 24:23), and ultimately had to return to Zarahemla for safety (Mosiah 24:25). Snuffer could doubtless distort this experience through his sin-seeking lenses—yet we are told explicitly in the scripture that the suffering was permitted despite their obedience: “nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith” (Mosiah 23:21).

Snuffer could also doubtless find evidence for evil in the Christian martyrs of Rome, or in Ammonihah when those who believed were stoned, driven out, and had their wives and children burned alive (Alma 14:7–12). Sitting thus to arraign others appeals to some, but it is an easy game. There is enough tragedy in any life to provide fodder for such facile judgmentalism—but the scriptures warn against it:

Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord, but have done that which was meet in mine eyes, and which I commanded them. But those who cry transgression do it because they are the servants of sin, and are the children of disobedience themselves (D&C 121:16–17).

Claim #10: There Were No Pentecostal-Type Experiences in the Nauvoo Temple

Here again, one wonders if Snuffer is simply ignorant of the historical record, or if he is willfully withholding information. Multiple accounts from the Nauvoo temple are extant:

  • “After the dancing had continued about an hour, several excellent songs were sung, in which several of the brethren and sisters joined… I called upon Sister Whitney who [Page 299]stood up and invoking the gift of tongues, sang a beautiful song of Zion in tongues. The interpretation was given by her husband, Bishop Whitney, and me, it related to our efforts to build this house to the privilege we now have of meeting in it, our departure shortly to the country of the Lamanites, their rejoicing when they hear the gospel and of the ingathering of Israel. I spoke in a foreign tongue; likewise, Brother Kimball. After a little conversation of a general nature I closed the exercises of the evening by prayer.”115
  • “I stayed all night in the Temple of the Lord. The Spirit of God seemed to fill the House and cause every heart to rejoice with a joy unknown to the world of mankind, for the Lord manifested himself to his saints.”116
  • “I labored in the Temple assisting in the endowments. The Spirit of the Lord filled the House insomuch that the brethren shouted for joy. Brother Orson Spencer said he could no longer contain himself. President Young told him to speak; and he opened his mouth and spake in power and demonstration of the Spirit of God.”117
  • “At sundown went to the Temple. 14 partook of the Sacrament after which we had a most glorious time. Some of the brethren spoke in tongues. Bro. Z. Coltrin and Brown held a talk in tongues which was afterwards interpreted and confirmed. Some prophesied. Bro. Anderson related a vision. And all of us rejoiced with exceeding great gladness. A light was flickering over br. Anderson’s head while relating his vision, Phinehas Richards face shone with great brightness. Two men [Page 300]arrayed all in priestly garments were seen in the n.e. corner of the room. The power of the Holy Ghost rested down upon us. I arose full of the Spirit and spoke with great animation, which was very cheerfully responded to by all, and prophesied of things to come. A brother testified that our meeting was accepted of God. And we continued our meeting until after midnight, which was the most profitable, happy, and glorious meeting I had ever attended in my life, and may the remembrance be deeply rooted in my soul for ever and ever. Beautiful day.”118
  • “At sundown went to the Temple to pray. While there heard last night Chester Loveland was called out of bed by his mother in Law stating that the Temple was again on fire. He dressed as quick as lightening and ran out of doors and saw the Temple all in a blaze. He studied a few seconds, and as it did not appear to consume any, and there was no others running, he was satisfied it was the glory of God, and again went to bed. Another brother saw the belfry all on a fire at a 1/4 to 10. He ran as hard as he could, but when he came to the Temple he found all dark and secure…. Thus was the Spirit, power and glory to God manifest, not only at the Temple while we were there but also in our families for which my soul rejoices exceedingly.”119
  • “About the same time Sister Almira Lamb while in her own room saw a vision of her dead child. It appeared to her in great glory and filled the room with light. She was afraid. It went away and after she was calmed down, her child appeared again to her and told the mother to remove her bones from where they were buried among [Page 301]the Gentiles, and bury them among the Saints, and again disappeared.”120
  • “At sundown went to the Temple to pray…. The Spirit was upon me and we all had a most glorious meeting. The glory of God again resting on the Temple in great power.”121
  • “Sunday, March 22nd, 1846. I went to my Seventies Quorum meeting in the Nauvoo Temple. The whole Quorum being present consisting of fifteen members…. Dressing ourselves in the order of the Priesthood we called upon the Lord, his spirit attended us, and the visions were opened to our view. I was, as it were, lost to myself and beheld the earth reel to and fro and was moved out of its place. Men fell to the earth and their life departed from them, and great was the scene of destruction upon all the face of the land, and at the close thereof, there appeared a great company as it were of saints coming from the west, as I stood with my back passing to the east and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, `Come, see the desolation which the Lord hath made in the earth’; and the company of the saints who had been hid as it were, from the earth; and I beheld other things which were glorious while the power of God rested down upon me. Others also beheld angels and the glory of God…. The sacrament was administered. Our joy increased by the gift of tongues and prophecy by which great things were spoken and made known to us.”122

[Page 302]


I will give you one of the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom. It is an eternal principle that has existed with God from all Eternity that that man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly that that man is in the high road to apostacy and if he does not repent will apostatize as God lives[.] (Joseph Smith, Jr.123)

In sum, PTHG’s history is both selective and dubious. Where does all this lead the author?

“Proud Descendants of Nauvoo”

Snuffer seems almost obsessed with the fact that so many current Church leaders are descended from those of the Nauvoo era. “The proud descendants of Nauvoo,” he grumbles, “who have always retained control of the church’s top leadership positions, claim to hold all the keys ever given to Joseph Smith. They teach that they can bind on earth and in heaven. They are the ‘new Popes’ having the authority the Catholic Pope claims to possess” (303, see also 66, 263). “The idea of men holding God’s power is what led to the corruptions of Catholicism,” (37) and “[w]hen it is believed a man can bind heaven, then it is believed that salvation is available by and through that man” (263).124 This grousing about lineage is a constant refrain:

  • [Page 303]“Ever since the expulsion of church members from Nauvoo, the highest leadership positions in the church have been held by Nauvoo’s proud descendants” (113).
  • “The proud refugees from Nauvoo and their descendants have always claimed they succeeded in doing all that was required” (381).
  • “If [my] new view of history is more correct than the narrative offered by the proud descendants of Nauvoo…” (420; see also 116, 118).
  • “The Nauvoo saints and their proud descendants would necessarily diminish. This view is unlikely to ever be accepted by a church whose leadership is filled overwhelmingly by those same proud descendants of Nauvoo. There hasn’t been a single church president without Nauvoo ancestors” (119).

It is difficult to escape the impression that on some level Snuffer resents not having opportunities in Church leadership. He berates members, claiming that “we envy those who fill leadership positions because we want the power granted through priestly office and position” (415). I do not think most Latter-day Saints of my acquaintance envy leaders or lust after power. One wonders if Snuffer is projecting his own struggles onto others. He lists his Church callings in the books he sells.125 As a convert to the Church, one wonders if he feels unjustly boxed out of the leadership positions that purportedly go almost exclusively to “the proud descendants of Nauvoo,” since “Church leaders at the highest levels… most often have family ties to other church leadership. Almost all Apostles and members of the First Presidency are related by blood or marriage” (209). He invokes the figure of the prophet Samuel, who “was called [Page 304]by God. Although he was not of the chosen family, he received the prophecy. Through him, God condemned the family of Eli, foretelling their destruction” (306).126 The analogy is hardly a veiled one. The autobiographical element in many of his claims is not subtle:

[In] the Dispensation of Moses, there were two traditions that operated independent of one another. The one was official and priestly. The other was unofficial and prophetic. The priestly tradition held recognized office, and could be easily identified. The other was “ordained by God himself,” and those who possessed it had His word to them as their only credential…They were not merely regarded as unofficial. They were persecuted by both the leaders and followers of the official religion. They suffered for their testimony of the truth…. [I]n every dispensation the truth taught in purity must come from unheralded, questioned and reviled sources. Therefore, those who obtained this higher priesthood during the Dispensation of Moses were denounced, rejected and almost always came from outside the recognized hierarchy…. The “line of authority” consists of only one: God. (292, 296).

Snuffer seems to have almost returned to the Baptist upbringing of his youth—he has concocted a kind of LDS priesthood of all believers. His model does the Protestants one better, however, since only the elect, the truly saved—those whose calling and election is sure, those who receive priestly [Page 305]power from beyond the veil—have any real power or priesthood authority.

Snuffer discusses a change to the LDS temple ceremony: “As long as [these elements] remained as a part of the ceremony,” he says, “it was clear to those who participated that there were no mortal sources who could claim they were ‘true messengers.’ Mortal men were universally depicted as false ministers in the ceremony Joseph restored. The only source of true messengers was God or angels sent by Him” (276, italics added).127 But, if this is true, that rules Snuffer out as a true messenger, since he too is mortal.

“Unless the Spirit witnesses to the truth, or an angel comes bearing unmistakable signs, no teaching should be accepted,” he says elsewhere (340). So perhaps mortals can be true messengers if the Spirit bears witness? But if so, why does he complain when members bear testimony that the Spirit has borne witness of the reality of President Monson’s calling (488–489)?128 In all this, the intent and effect is clear—to disqualify the prophets and apostles by any means necessary, and to insist upon Snuffer’s bona fides.

On 11 September 2013, Snuffer announced that he had been excommunicated for apostasy.129 He reported that the Church’s action resulted from his refusal to cease promoting and distributing Passing the Heavenly Gift. The book was the subject of a letter from his stake president, which Snuffer posted online prior to his excommunication. His stake president writes, in part:

The issue for consideration to [your] disciplinary council is whether the continued publication of Passing [Page 306]the Heavenly Gift constitutes an act of apostasy and, if so, what the appropriate remedy should be….

Denver, I am not anxious to chase people out of the church. My goal is the opposite—to enable all to enjoy the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have tried to be open minded about the issues we have discussed. I am sympathetic with those who face crises of faith.

I cannot deny, however, the spirit’s influence on me and the responsibilities I have to protect the interests of the Church. I have tried to persuade you that PTHG is not constructive to the work of salvation or the promotion of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. The book’s thesis is in direct conflict with church doctrine. In your effort to defend the restoration, you have mischaracterized doctrine, denigrated virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith, and placed the church in a negative light. The book is a misguided effort to [p. 2] attempt to bridge the gap between the church and its dissidents. PTHG will never be the solution to hard questions that you believe it is. Like every other such effort, it will attract only the attention of those whose spiritual eyes, ears and hearts are obscured from the truth. Your work pits you against the institution of the church and will lead to the spiritual demise of you and your family.130

Having read the book, I can vouch for the accuracy of this summary. Snuffer’s attitude toward the counsel he was given [Page 307]is made obvious both by his decision to post it, and his later comments:

  • “I do not want [my audience] to attend [my speeches] thinking all is well between me and the powers in control of the church.”
  • “The church must act in accordance with one law, and I must act in accordance with another for the purposes of the Lord to be fulfilled.”
  • “Right now, I don’t think [Stake] President Hunt thinks he has any other choice. He probably doesn’t. That is fine. I bear no ill will toward him or any other member of my stake. No one gets ahead in the institution by disregarding instruction from above. Actually, I do the same. However, for me, ‘above’ has little to do with 47 East South Temple and the institution is not where I expect any future. I try to help the church regardless of its opinion of me. I simply have no axe to grind no matter the outcome on September 8th [the date of the disciplinary council].”131

“The authorities are to be respected and sustained,” Snuffer writes early on, later adding, “It is not the responsibility of church members to judge church authorities” (28–29, 422). But, when those authorities instruct him, he lashes out:

  • “A temporary, corporate organization that is owned by a sole individual, which IS The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints won’t survive beyond the veil. There you leave behind your money. You can’t buy or sell in that better place. Since I’ve been there already, the turbulence here is of little moment to me.”132
  • [Page 308]“The book brings to light the [B]abylonian methods church leadership uses to make rapid and dramatic changes. We are not now the same church restored by Joseph Smith. Passing the Heavenly Gift shows how that happened.”133

Disdain for Rank-and-File Members

Snuffer claims he wants to help members,134 but his attitude toward those who disagree is best described as contemptuous. His tone is more off-putting because of the air of sanctimony that attends some of his text—Snuffer dispenses homilies on what true religion and real belief are about: “Real saints always appreciate anything the Lord condescends to give them. They are never ungrateful, impatient, or demanding. They qualify by patience and obedience to receive more. Then they petition in humility and gratitude to receive it” (308). He paints himself as the long-suffering, respectful martyr, and says that his stake president told Snuffer and his children that he is “worthy of a temple recommend.”135 Snuffer emphasizes to his children that he sustains his bishop and stake president.136 However, he refuses to attend his disciplinary council if his children cannot [Page 309]attend. He left his council without learning of its decision.137 He will not honor his leaders’ instructions to cease teaching that which Church leaders have declared to be false doctrine, and only days earlier was jabbing Church leaders in Salt Lake:

I’m not sure if that meets the requirement for “repentance” in this current predicament, but that’s what I can do. If the church wants to make me another offer, then let the stake president know and I’m sure he’ll pass it along. Given how little time remains I thought I’d skip the middleman and put this up here because you guys downtown read this blog (as we can tell from the blogmeter).138

Actions speak louder than mere words. “It is not for me to say,” he observes piously, “when such a line [to priestcraft] has been crossed” (211). But he has said it and implied it over and over again, and continues to do so.

Thus his irenic pose is frequently undercut by his switch to caricature and attack upon members and leaders of the church for not measuring up to his standards (all while denying that this is what he is doing):139

  • “When [the temple ritual] becomes a substitute for actually receiving the heavenly gift offered by the Lord, it can make those who participate think they are better than others who cannot” (287).
  • “The saints still claim we fulfilled everything required by the revelation in January, 1841 (Section 124)…. According to their account of the historical narrative, all [Page 310]is well in their Zion. They intend to build Zion some day, when they get around to it” (303);
  • “The gentiles140 will be prideful, taught by false teachers, and learning false doctrine….False religions offer everything but worship of Christ. They will use good ideas, virtues, even true concepts as a distraction to keep followers from coming to Christ.141 The way to prevent souls from receiving redemption is to distract them…. So long as they are kept occupied with hollow virtues and sentimental stories they cannot come to Christ, enter His presence, and gain salvation. The stories urged by false teachers are filling, but not nourishing to the soul” (336–337).
  • “We have moved further away from Zion since the time Joseph Smith was Prophet… until [the Lord] sends someone who can teach what is necessary… we will continue to lose light, discard, truth, forget what is expected, and dwindle in unbelief” (402).
  • “The gentile church will be secure with false teachings that tell them Zion is intact. Everything is fine. The power to redeem, to bind on earth and in heaven is with them. Zion is prospering and enjoys God’s favor. There is no need to repent and return to Christ, because everything is well with the church. But these ideas are not only false, they come from the devil” (338).
  • “The gentiles will console themselves with the thought that ‘there is no hell,’ instead only varying degrees of glory. In the end all will be saved to some state of glory. Repentance can be postponed. So, also, can study of [Page 311]the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no hurry…. Follow the broad mainstream of the institution, and all will be given in the Lord’s own time as we are prepared to receive more” (339).

As is so often the case, Snuffer’s self-appointed jeremiad mixes truth with error. He warns about the very real risks of mistaking mere sentimentality for the Holy Spirit, but in the next breath implies that the current church (“the gentiles”) all make the mistake: “The effect of the Holy Ghost is not sentimental. Moving someone to tears or thrilling them is a false emotional tool, employed by storytellers, writers, film makers, and composers. The gentiles could avoid errors if they had the Holy Ghost. But they confuse sentiment for the gift” (340).

Snuffer is perhaps most offensive when he decides to attack mainstream members’ testimonies or expressions of belief:

  • “Each week these gentiles will declare to one another ‘I know the church is true’ as a mantra to console them. Yes, ‘All is well’ with this imitation Zion” (339).
  • “In Mormon ‘testimonies’ each Fast Sunday for many years now… Mormons praise the church president by reciting a mantra. (‘I know President Monson is a prophet of God’ and also confirming ‘I know the church is true.’) Seldom does Christ’s name get mentioned in Mormon testimonies anymore, other than as an appendage to the ‘testimony’ confirming the exalted status of the president of the church, and the truthfulness of the church itself. The church has become a substitute for Christ, and in that sense has become the modern idol of the gentile church, just as Nephi, Christ, Moroni, and Joseph Smith predicted” (488–489).

Snuffer’s witness and claims, then, are to be praised and accepted. Others’ testimonies are to be ridiculed. I think it a pernicious slander to claim that Christ’s name is “seldom” [Page 312]mentioned in Mormon testimonies. Perhaps Snuffer’s ward is some type of anomaly. But one cannot reason with this kind of blind prejudice. He will notice only those things which prove his point, even if they are exceptions rather than the rule, or only in the observer’s jaundiced eye.

Disdain for Modern Apostles

The misrepresentation and criticism is also prelude and justification for the disdain Snuffer exhibits toward the modern apostles. He sometimes tries, I think, to hide it, but it tends to show itself anyway.142 His attitude is perhaps best summarized by his chapter title, “Prophets, Profits and Priestcraft” (185). Apostles are chosen, he insists, because of “proven management talent,” (209) and “talented business, civic, and education backgrounds, according to leader’s [sic] own explanations, outweigh religious backgrounds” (210). “In place of prophecy and revelation, church management focused on an effort to gain uniformity and control” (241).

He thus refers to the Church’s current leaders as “modern administrative Apostles” (61):

Today, testimonies of the presiding authorities, including the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve, assert only vaguely they are “special witnesses” of the Lord…. A great number of active Latter-day Saints do not notice the careful parsing [sic] of words used by modern administrative Apostles. They presume a “witness of the name” of Christ is the same as the New Testament witness of His resurrection. The apostolic witness was always intended to be based upon the dramatic, the extraordinary…. Without such visionary encounters with the Lord, they are unable to witness about Him, but only of His name (62).

[Page 313]PTHG also claims that there are “two different kinds of Apostles”—”one is an administrative office in the church. The other is a witness of the resurrection, who has met with Christ” (34). Thus, Snuffer sees himself as an “apostle” (and not a mere administrative one either). He repeatedly accuses leaders of the Church of fostering a “cult of personality” (241, 264, 352, 359–360), claiming the prophets believe “they are entitled to the adoration of followers” (359–360). His treatment of Brigham Young and blood atonement is simply vintage anti-Mormonism (132–141).143 He even has a preemptive warning should disciplinary action be taken against him:

For us [the Church] the coming sifting will be done by the Lord, not by us diving ourselves into splinters. Of course, the church can judge and reject true believers. If it elects to do so, and to thereby cause a separation, the responsibility for that will lie with the church leaders. Leaders have already been warned about persecuting the saints, as this will result in them forfeiting whatever priesthood remains with them (317).

Snuffer and Quinn on David O. McKay

PTHG does some persecution of its own. Snuffer quotes D. Michael Quinn: “A First Presidency secretary acknowledges that [David O.] McKay liked his ‘celebrity status’ and wanted ‘to be recognized, lauded, and lionized'” (349). He cites Quinn’s Extensions of Power volume, which gives as its source a book by secretary Francis M. Gibbons.144 A check of these references is discouraging, but not surprising for those familiar with [Page 314]Quinn’s methods.145 The actual text of Gibbons’ volume for the pages cited reads:

[263] The encroachment on [McKay’s] private life that celebrity status imposed… was something President McKay adjusted to with apparent difficulty. He was essentially a modest, private person, reared in a rural atmosphere, who at an early age was thrust into the limelight of the Mormon community. And as he gained in experience… as wide media exposure made his name and face known in most households, he became, in a sense, a public asset whose time and efforts were assumed to be available to all. This radical change in status was a bittersweet experience. To be recognized, lauded, and lionized is something that seemingly appeals to the ego and self-esteem of the most modest among us, even to David O. McKay. But the inevitable shrinkage in the circle of privacy that this necessarily entails provides a counter-balance that at times outweighs the positive aspects of public adulation. This is easily inferred from a diary entry of July 19, 1950…. The diarist hinted that it had become so difficult to venture forth on the streets of Salt Lake City that he had about decided to abandon the practice. For such a free spirit as he, for one who was so accustomed to going and coming as he pleased, any decision to restrict his movements about the city was an imprisonment of sorts. But the only alternatives, neither of which was acceptable, were to go in disguise or to ignore or to cut short those who approached him. The latter would have been especially repugnant to one such as David O. McKay, who had cultivated to the highest degree the qualities of courtesy and attentive listening.

[Page 315]It was ironic, therefore, that as the apostle’s fame and influence widened, the scope of his private life was proportionately restricted…. [347]

Everywhere he traveled in Australia, or elsewhere on international tours, President McKay received celebrity treatment. Enthusiastic, cheering, singing crowds usually greeted him at every stop, sometimes to the surprise or chagrin of local residents. A group of well-known Australian athletes, about a flight to Adelaide with President McKay’s party, learned an embarrassing lesson in humility. Seeing a large, noisy crowd at the airport, and assuming they were the object of its adulation, the handsome young men stepped forward to acknowledge the greeting [348] only to find that the cheers and excitement were generated by the tall, white-haired man who came down the ramp after them (italics added).

It takes a certain talent to transform an account that praises McKay as a “modest, private person,” (whose privacy and personal convenience suffered because of how unwilling he was to appear rude or short with anyone) into an “acknowledgment” that McKay “liked” his celebrity. The original line about being “recognized, lauded, and lionized” is obviously intended to point out that such things are a danger to anyone because they appeal to the ego, and all would be tempted by them—but it is likewise clear that Gibbons does not think that McKay succumbed to that temptation. Snuffer is helping Quinn bear false witness against both McKay and Gibbons.146 He is credulous, using unreliable sources that reinforce what he wants to believe.
[Page 316]

A Closed Mental System

Snuffer clearly sees himself as one called by God to straighten out Church members, prophets, and apostles.147 He has created a hermetically closed mental system, in which any disagreement with his ideas is simply evidence that he is correct and fulfilling prophecy. “Prophetic messages can be suppressed, censored or discarded,” he declares without a hint of irony, “They can be ignored or condemned” (273):

We [the Latter-day Saints] claim to hold keys that would allow men filled with sin to forgive sins on earth and in heaven, to grant eternal life, or to bar from the kingdom of God. Using that false and useless claim, we slay the souls of men, thereby committing murder. We are riddled with priestcrafts (414).

Snuffer even manages to persuade himself that a call to reform the Church must come from someone who is not a leader, because Nephi condemns “those who ‘lead'” since Satan “leadeth them away carefully down to hell” (337–338, citing 2 Nephi 28:11–14):

Those who claim repentance is necessary will be accused of looking beyond the mark. They will be thought of as false messengers, with a false message, trying to steady the ark. They will be asked by what authority they preach repentance, because they are not called to lead. However, Nephi condemned those who “lead” because they “teach by the precepts of [Page 317]men,” and not by the Holy Ghost. Therefore, a call to repentance cannot come from a leader. It must come from elsewhere. When it does, the result will be anger, even rage, as Satan stirs up the hearts of men (338).

(If this argument were valid, one could argue that because the Good Shepherd “leadeth me beside the still waters,” one should follow leaders. This is simply sophistry or desperation.)

Thus, Snuffer must be believed, because to accuse him of being a false messenger is to fulfill prophecy and to confirm his association with past prophetic figures. Like conspiracy theories, no evidence or argument can penetrate this kind of self-referential thinking. Snuffer claims that the absence of miraculous experiences at the Nauvoo temple proves its bankruptcy—but I do not expect that my having demonstrated that there were miraculous events reported will change his mind (claim #10).

Snuffer repeatedly casts himself in the role of beleaguered prophet, crying in the wilderness:

  • “If any dare to criticize the false Zion and its corrupt teachings, they will be met with anger, even rage” (337).
  • “If a gentile follower of this false Zion encounters an inspired view of their own awful state, they can awaken…. Unfortunately, that is unlikely because anger and rage at the truth will keep them from seeing it” (339).
  • “The call to repentance will be painful, difficult to bear, and unpopular” (340).
  • “The gentiles will be in a state of awful darkness. They will not know revelation when it comes, and reject it when offered to them. They will say they have a body of doctrine and trusted leaders, and they do not need anything more” (341).
  • [Page 318]“Any voice crying repentance is labeled a dissenter, and their words are condemned and attacked. They are thought to be ‘of the devil.’ By stirring up strife we succeed in making people fear truth. We close our minds, become deaf and blind” (415).
  • “The latter-day gentiles will be unenlightened by the Holy Ghost, rejecting the Spirit’s condemnation of them, and unwilling to receive anything more from God” (342).
  • “As to the messengers sent [after Moses to rebellious Israel]… they all held higher priesthood. Their power and authority came directly from the Lord, not from a priestly hierarchy which perpetuated authority” (406).
  • “False prophets benefit from their claims. True ones are never popular, and always preach repentance…. any time a true prophet is sent, all who reject him become part of ‘the world.’ Those who are of ‘the world’ fail to receive the messengers God sends, preferring the false ones that men admire. The result of their false religion is damnation alongside the liars, adulterers and whoremongers” (409–410).

One is reminded of Carl Sagan’s rejoinder to physics cranks who cry, “They laughed at Galileo, you know!” Replied Sagan: “They also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” One is not automatically right or inspired simply because others disagree.148

Now that Snuffer has been excommunicated for apostasy, that too will likely provide him with more evidence that he is right.149 If others’ testimonies disagree with him, they will be said to be deceived, corrupted, and lacking the true insight [Page 319]that he has been vouchsafed. To reject his “revelation” is to be unwilling to receive more from God.

All this is, to be sure, his privilege. But, Snuffer is not entitled to his own historical data. And, given how wrong he is about those things, one can only hope that he and his audience pause to wonder if he could be equally confused about matters of even greater import. “False messengers always imitate the true ones, claiming to be what they are not,” he warns. “They seek, of course, to deceive the very elect if it is possible” (276–277). This is a caution that cuts both ways—if we let it.

In this paper, I speak only for myself and not for any person or group. I’m grateful for discussions, references, and advance readings from Russell Anderson, Connor Boyack, Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, Cassandra Hedelius, Bryce Haymond, Dennis Horne, Ted Jones, Daniel C. Peterson, Stephen O. Smoot, and S. Hales Swift. Special thanks are due Matthew Roper of the Laura F. Willis Center for Book of Mormon Studies at Brigham Young University for pointing me to several primary sources. Any errors remain my own.

[Page 320]

Appendix 1 — Square Footage of Kirtland and Nauvoo Temples Compared

Kirtland. Heber C. Kimball wrote that the Kirtland temple “was 80 x 60 feet, and 57 feet high to the eaves. It was divided into two stories.”150 The temple also had a full attic. Thus: 3 levels x 80 feet x 60 feet = 14,400 square feet.

Nauvoo. Nauvoo had a basement baptistry, and a first and second floor. Each of the first and second floors had a half floor or “mezzanine” on either side (labeled “a” and “b” in the table below). The temple was crowned by an attic, and a multi-level tower. A bill for temple construction reports 2,225 square feet of flooring used for the entire tower, and so I have used that value here.

Level Length (ft) Width (ft) Total Area (ft) Source
Basement baptistry 80 120 9,600 Colvin, 182
1st Floor 80 120 9,600
2nd Floor 80 120 9,600
1st Floor Mezzanine (a) 18.5 100 1,850 Colvin, 207
1st Floor Mezzanine (b) 18.5 100 1,850
2nd Floor Mezzanine (a) 18.5 100 1,850 Colvin, 210
2nd Floor Mezzanine (b) 18.5 100 1,850
Front attic section 86 37 3,182
Main east attic 88.2 28.75 2,536 Colvin, 214
Tower (multi-level) 2,225 Colvin, 213

The ratio between Nauvoo and Kirtland is thus conservatively 44,143 ÷ 14,400 ≈ 3.1
[Page 321]

Appendix 2 — Temple Costs Compared to Population

Estimates of the Kirtland temple costs vary from $40–60,000. As discussed in the main text, the 1845 Mormon population in Hancock County is estimated at 15,000. An older work estimates 25,000 Mormons in and around Nauvoo in 1844. The tables below allow readers to compare these figures:

Temple Cost Population Days to Construct Cost/Citizen Cost/Day
Kirtland $40,000 2,025 1186 $19.75 $33.73
$60,000 2,025 1186 $29.63 $50.59
Nauvoo $1,000,000 15,000 1927 $66.67 $518.94
$1,000,000 25,000 1927 $40.00 $518.94

Costs Per Citizen

Nauvoo Compare to Kirtland at $40,000 Compare to Kirtland at $60,000
Nauvoo pop 15,000 3.4 2.3
Nauvoo pop 25,000 2.0 1.4

Even reading the data with the most favorable slant for Snuffer’s thesis, the Nauvoo temple cost 1.4 times as much per citizen as Kirtland.151

Costs Per Day

Nauvoo Compare to Kirtland at $40,000 Compare to Kirtland at $60,000
Nauvoo at $1 million 15.4 10.3

The most advantageous reading of the data for Snuffer’s thesis still shows the Saints spending ten times as much.

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  1. Snuffer cites Richard S. Van Wagoner, editor, The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2009), 1:241. The original is in the Woodruff diaries; see Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983–85), 3:257 (15 August 1857). Cited as WWJ hereafter. 

  2. WWJ, 3:257 (15 August 1847), emphasis added. 

  3. WWJ, 3:257 (15 August 1847). 

  4. WWJ, 3:258 (15 August 1847). 

  5. See note 36 herein. 

  6. WWJ, 3:259 (15 August 1847). 

  7. WWJ, 2:271 (6 August 1843). 

  8. WWJ, 2:455 (25 August 1844). 

  9. Heber C. Kimball, cited in “Conference Minutes, October Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons 5/20 (2 November 1844): 693–694 (from 7 October 1844). 

  10. Wilford Woodruff, “To the church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints, Greeting,” Times and Seasons 5/20 (2 November 1844): 698–700 (from 11 October 1844), italics added. Snuffer quotes this statement (110), but acts as if this is a change in the apostles’ stance—even though this statement predates the 1847 statement by Brigham Young upon the misrepresentation of which Snuffer hangs so much (87–88). 

  11. Wilford Woodruff, “To the officers and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the British isles,” Millennial Star 5/9 (February 1845): 136. 

  12. “Trial of Elder Rigdon,” Times and Seasons 5/17 (15 September 1844): 65. 

  13. Parley P. Pratt, “Proclamation to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Greeting,” Millennial Star 5/10 (March 1845): 151; dated New York, 1 January 1845. 

  14. Alexander L. Baugh and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, “‘I Roll the Burthen and Responsibility of Leading This Church Off from My Shoulders on to Yours’: The 1844/1845 Declaration of the Quorum of the Twelve Regarding Apostolic Succession,” Brigham Young University Studies 49/3 (2010):6–7 and 7 n. 4. 

  15. Baugh and Holzapfel, 9. 

  16. Baugh and Holzapfel, 11, 12 n. 18. 

  17. Declaration of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Brigham Young Papers, LDS Church archives, cited in Baugh and Holzapfel, 13–19. 

  18. Andrew F. Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question,” (Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1981), 163; citing Dean R. Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets—An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1976), 3. 

  19. The source for many seems to be Jerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1979), 149–150. A more recent repetition can be found in Richard Abanes, Becoming Gods: A Closer Look at 21st-Century Mormonism (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2005), 3. 

  20. This reading is also followed by, among others, H. Dean Garrett and Stephen R. Robinson, Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 3 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2004), entry for 84:20. 

  21. Samuel W. Richards record, discourse of 12 May 1844; cited in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1980), 371, italics added. (This work cited as WJS hereafter. 

  22. Orson Pratt taught that Joseph had a pre-mortal ordination to priesthood which allowed him to survive the First Vision (“The Divine Authority of the Holy Priesthood, Etc.,” Journal of Discourses 22:29–30 [10 October 1880]). (Journal of Discourses hereafter cited as JD.) I think Pratt makes the same error in reading that Snuffer and the Tanners make. If, however, Pratt et al. are correct and I am mistaken, then by Joseph’s statement, the Twelve were likewise ordained in the pre-mortal worlds (see note 21 herein)—a claim about which Pratt agrees in any case (JD 22:28). Neither scenario helps Snuffer’s theory. 

  23. George D. Smith has suggested as early as 1832, Todd Compton argues for the date range of “early 1833,” and Brian Hales inclines to “some point prior to 1837.” [George D. Smith, Nauvoo Polygamy: “…but we called it celestial marriage” (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2008), 38; Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1997), 4. Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books, 2013), 85.] Hales reviews all dating theories on pages 99–106. 

  24. W. W. Phelps Phelps to Sally Phelps, letter, 18 May 1835, 2–3. Phelps would mention the idea publicly about a month later: W. W. Phelps, “Letter No. 8,” Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate 1/9 (June 1835): 130. 

  25. See discussion in Hales, 1:119, 3:85–86. 

  26. See discussion in Ehat thesis, 66–70. See also Hales, 1:619–623. 

  27. Woodruff sealed William Clayton up to eternal life on 21 January 1840: “Thou art one of those who will stand upon the mount Zion with the 144,000….and I seal thee up with eternal life….” [George D. Smith (editor), An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1995), 8; see also James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 29]. 

  28. Snuffer is aware of these views (79) but does not engage them or even discuss their evidence. See Hales, 2:68–70 and references therein. 

  29. See Snuffer, 87–91, and discussion at notes 2-6 herein. 

  30. Vogel demonstrated his expertise in early Mormon sources in a Facebook thread: (14 October 2013). I’m grateful for Cassandra Hedelius bringing it to my attention, and for Vogel’s industry regarding primary sources. 

  31. Lucius Pomeroy Parsons to Pamelia Parsons, 10 April 1836, Family and Church History Department Archives, cited in Steven C. Harper, “Oliver Cowdery and the Kirtland Temple Experience,” in Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness, edited by John W. Welch and Larry E. Morris (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship), 263–264. Vogel cites Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, OH, as quoted in H. Michael Marquardt, The Rise of Mormonism: 1816–1844 (Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 2005), 422. 

  32. William W. Phelps to Sally Phelps, 1–6 April 1836, William Wines Phelps Papers, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, quoted in John W. Welch, Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844 (Provo, UT: BYU Press; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2005), 349. 

  33. Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1938), 91 (TPJS hereafter). See WWJ, 2:342 (21 January 1844). 

  34. See Hales, 3:86–89. 

  35. The other option is that the event did not happen at all—but Snuffer does not accept that hypothesis: he insists that the visitation of Elijah was real, as we will see shortly. 

  36. Trever R. Anderson, “Doctrine and Covenants Section 110: From Vision to Canonization,” (Master’s thesis, Department of Religious Education, Brigham Young University, 2010), 76. See also Hales, 3:88 n. 6. 

  37. Anderson, 7—8. 

  38. Anderson, 5. 

  39. See W.A. Cowdery, [“Editorial”], Messenger and Advocate 3/10 (July 1837): 534–541. Compare with the more friendly article in Messenger and Advocate 3/8 (May 1837): 505–510. 

  40. Anderson, 9. 

  41. Anderson, 9. British Saints would have the same material published from 5–12 November 1853. 

  42. Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen (editors), Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, vol. 1 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed., Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City, UT: Church Historian’s Press, 2008), 223, emphasis added. 

  43. Jesse, et al., Journals, 217. 

  44. Anderson likewise argues that the vision was written on “the day it occurred or soon after” (4, see also 15). Anderson’s research, like the Joseph Smith papers, is also cited by PTHG (75 n. 83), but Snuffer does not include these details for his readers, perhaps because they weaken his efforts to downplay the vision’s importance to Joseph’s thinking by claiming that we don’t know what role Joseph had in creating Warren Cowdery’s account of it. Given that the account was written into Joseph’s journal and then included in the Manuscript History while Joseph was alive, these claims are dubious. 

  45. Robert B. Thompson, original manuscript, discourse of 5 October 1840; cited in WJS, 43. See also TPJS, 172. 

  46. Times and Seasons 2/24 (15 October 1841): 577–78, citing a speech of 3 October 1841; also in WJS, 76–79. 

  47. WJS, 54–55 n. 22. 

  48. WWJ, 2:341 (discourse of 21 January 1844); cited in WJS, 317–319. I have here modernized the spelling, and added punctuation for ease of reading. 

  49. WWJ, 2:341–342 (21 January 1844). 

  50. Note that Snuffer ends the citation before the line about baptism for the dead on 101–102, and it is also absent from his gloss on 97–98. Necessary context has been omitted, since the citation on p. 102 ends with verse 28, and then resumes with verse 31 on p. 104—the lines that make it most clear that baptism for the dead is the “lost” matter are here absent from Snuffer’s discussion. 

  51. H. David Burton, “Baptism for the Dead: LDS Practice,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:95. 

  52. Baptisms were discontinued at the conference held between 2–5 October 1841 [Discourse of 3 October 1841, reported in Times and Seasons 2/24 (15 October 1841): 577–578; cited in WJS, 76–79]. The temple font was dedicated on 8 November 1841, and baptisms for the dead resumed there on 21 November [Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1922), 256–257]. See note 79 for a contemporary reading which accords with this view. 

  53. Ehat thesis, 272 n. 291 cites as examples: Joseph Smith, Jr, Manuscript History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Documentary History). 7 vols. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1978, 4: 608 (hereafter cited as Manuscript History of the Church.); Mills, “De Tal Palo Tal Astilla,” 120–21; WJS, 116; Bathsheba W. Smith, “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” 245; Lucius N. Scovil, letter to Deseret News Semi-Weekly, 15 February 1884; Justus Morse, affidavit, in Shook, True Origins of Mormon Polygamy, 170. 

  54. Lucius N. Scovil letter to Editor in “Higher Ordinances,” Deseret News Semi-Weekly (15 February 1884): 2; cited by Ehat thesis, 26, italics added. 

  55. Ehat thesis, 27. 

  56. George Miller to James J. Strang, 26 June 1855, from H. W. Mills, “De Tal Palo Tal Astilla,” Annual Publications—Historical Society of Southern California 10 (Los Angeles: McBride Printing Company, 1917): 120–121; cited in Ehat thesis, 28. 

  57. Nauvoo Relief Society minutes, discourse of 28 April 1842, cited in WJS, 116–117. See Ehat thesis, 31. 

  58. Manuscript History of the Church, discourse of 1 May 1842, cited in WJS, 119–120. See Ehat thesis, 35. 

  59. Heber C. Kimball, journal, 26 December 1845; cited by Ehat thesis, 80. 

  60. See note 97 herein. 

  61. Draft sheet of the “Manuscript History of the Church,” in the hand of Willard Richards, 4 May 1842, Historian’s Office Church Records Group, Church Archives; cited in Ehat thesis, 29. 

  62. Ehat thesis, 30. 

  63. Ehat thesis, 60–63. 

  64. WWJ, 2:230–231 (11 June 1843); cited in WJS, 213. See Ehat thesis, 77–78. 

  65. Ehat thesis, 79–80. Citation for Brigham’s discourse is WWJ, 2:271 (6 August 1843). 

  66. Ehat thesis, 95. 

  67. Ehat thesis, 121–122. 

  68. Ehat thesis, 145–148. See also 122, citing George A. Smith discourse, Millennial Star 37 (2 February 1875): 66, reporting 25 December 1874 discourse. 

  69. See Richard E. Bennett, “‘Which Is the Wisest Course?’: The Transformation of Mormon Temple Consciousness, 1870–1898,” Brigham Young University Studies 52/2 (2013): 5–43, especially 19–23. 

  70. Manuscript History of the Church, 3:xxxii. 

  71. Manuscript History of the Church, 3:xxiii. 

  72. Manuscript History of the Church, 3:xxxix. 

  73. Manuscript History of the Church, 3:xliv. 

  74. Lisle G. Brown, “The Sacred Departments for Temple Work in Nauvoo: The Assembly Room and the Council Chamber,” Brigham Young University Studies 19/3 (1979): 361. 

  75. Manuscript History of the Church, 4:269; citing Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, “A Proclamation of the First Presidency of the Church to the Saints Scattered Abroad, Greeting,” Nauvoo, [Illinois], 15 January 1841. It was also discussed by Joseph in a report in Times and Seasons 1/12 (October 1840): 18. 

  76. Stanley B. Kimball, “Heber C. Kimball and Family, The Nauvoo Years,” Brigham Young University Studies 15/4 (1975): 454. 

  77. Manuscript History of the Church, discourse of 24 April 1842; cited in WJS, 114. 

  78. The Wasp (23 April 1842); cited in Don F. Colvin, Nauvoo Temple: A Story of Faith (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; printed by Covenant Communications, 2002), 22. 

  79. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English language (1828), q.v. “redouble.” 

  80. Manuscript History of the Church (material in braces from “Book of the Law of the Lord”), discourse of 29 October 1842; cited in WJS, 132. 

  81. “The Temple of God in Nauvoo,” Times and Seasons 4/1 (15 November 1841): 10–11. 

  82. Willard Richards, Joseph Smith Diary, discourse of 21 February 1843; cited in WJS, 164–166. 

  83. See notes 84-85 herein. 

  84. See note 82 herein, where he asks that the Nauvoo House be next in priority after one has donated to the temple. 

  85. Willard Richards, Joseph Smith Diary, discourse of 6 April 1843; cited in WJS, 175. 

  86. Eliza R. Snow Diary, discourse of 11 June 1843; cited in WJS, 215–216. 

  87. Colvin, 22–23. 

  88. “Minutes of a Special Conference,” Times and Seasons 4/21 (15 September 1843): 331–332, reporting discourse of 9 October 1843; cited in WJS, 254. Joseph Diary, kept by Willard Richards, notes “Hasten the work of the temple. and all the work of the Last Days. Let the elders & saints do away light mindedness and be sober” (255). 

  89. “Minutes of a Special Conference,” 330–331; cited in WJS, 252. 

  90. Willard Richards, Joseph Smith diary, discourse of 15 October 1843; cited in WJS, 25. 

  91. “Editorial Address,” Times and Seasons 5/1 (1 January 1844): 391. 

  92. See note 87 herein. 

  93. WWJ, 2:342 (discourse of 21 January 1844); cited in WJS, 317–319; Snuffer cites TPJS, 330–331. 

  94. Manuscript History of the Church, 6:196–197. 

  95. Ehat thesis, 154; citing Joseph Smith, Diary, 4 March 1844. 

  96. Willard Richards, Joseph Smith Diary, discourse of 7 March 1844; cited in WJS, 322. 

  97. Wilford Woodruff Journal, discourse of 10 March 1844; cited in WJS, 329–331. Also in WWJ, 2:361–362. 

  98. WJS, 331–332; see WWJ 2:361–362. 

  99. “Our City, and the Present Aspect of Affairs,” Times and Seasons 5/6 (15 March 1844): 472. 

  100. Thomas Bullock report, discourse of 14 May 1844; cited in WJS, 365–369. 

  101. Wikipedia lists the Kirtland temple floor area as 15,000 square feet, and Nauvoo as 54,000 square feet. See my conservative calculations in the appendix, which yield 14,400 square feet and 44,143 square feet respectively. 

  102. Milton V. Backman, The Heavens Resound: A History of the Latter-day Saints in Ohio, 1830–1838 (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1983), 142–149, 157, 286, 286–294. 

  103. See Kyle M, Rollins, Richard D. Smith, M. Brett Borup, and E. James Nelson, “Transforming Swampland into Nauvoo, the City Beautiful,” Brigham Young University Studies 45/3 (2006): 125–157. “Drainage benefits were slow in coming [to Midwestern states’ swampland] and generally were not realized until after the Civil War…. [T]he drainage efforts in Nauvoo represent a rare early success story” (125). The city’s main drainage ditch alone “would have required at least 22,100 man-hours of effort to complete by hand,” and labor on drainage was a constant throughout the Mormons’ stay in Nauvoo (153). 

  104. Backman, 161; Eugene England, Brother Brigham (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1980), 26. 

  105. Colvin, 44; citing Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 8 (June 1889): 872 and Deseret News Church Almanac (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1975), F4. 

  106. Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, A People of Promise (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2002), Chapter 8. An earlier work [Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1958), 17] estimated 25,000 Mormons in 1844. The calculations using these older estimates can be seen in the Appendix. 

  107. Marvin S. Hill, Larry T. Wimmer, and C. Keith Rooker, “The Kirtland Economy Revisited: A Market Critique of Sectarian Economics,” Brigham Young University Studies 17/4 (1977): 403, 408. The authors note (409) that their assumptions may lead to an underestimate of Kirtland’s population. In all my calculations, I have used the largest estimate for Kirtland’s cost ($60,000), and used the estimate of 15,000 for all Mormons in Hancock County. I have assumed that the entire population was present throughout, which is an obvious over-simplification. My estimates are thus conservative, since these factors will underestimate the cost to individuals who helped throughout construction. Those living away from Nauvoo would also have been less able to provide volunteer labor, though monetary donations were solicited. 

  108. From 19 January 1841 to 30 April 1846 is 1927 days. 

  109. Colvin, 44; quotation from Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Some Thoughts Regarding an Unwritten History of Nauvoo,” Brigham Young University Studies 15/4 (1975): 420. 

  110. See note 122 herein. See also note 118 herein. 

  111. Thomas Bullock Journal, 17 March 1846; cited in Gregory R. Knight, “Journal of Thomas Bullock,” Brigham Young University Studies 31/1 (Winter 1991): 62–63. 

  112. See similar eschatological imagery used in Revelation 2:5. 

  113. Similar usage can be seen in D&C 97:19. 

  114. Brigham Young, “Funds of the Church,” JD 8:203 (8 October 1860). 

  115. Manuscript History of the Church, 7:557–58. See George D. Smith, editor An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1995), 244. 

  116. Jacob Gates Journal, 9 January 1846, cited in Joseph Heinerman, Temple Manifestations (Manti, Utah: Mountain Valley Publishers, 1974), 50. 

  117. Jacob Gates Journal, 15 and 16 January 1846; cited in Heinerman, 50. 

  118. Thomas Bullock Journal, 15 March 1846; cited in Knight, 61–62. 

  119. Thomas Bullock Journal, 16 March 1846, in Knight, 62. 

  120. Thomas Bullock Journal, 16 March 1846, in Knight, 62. 

  121. Thomas Bullock Journal, 18 March 1846, in Knight, 63. 

  122. Journal Book of Samuel Whitney Richards, 22 March, 1846, Book No.2, 7–8; cited in Heinerman, 50–51. 

  123. Joseph Smith remarks made at Brigham Young Dwelling, Montrose, Iowa Territory (Tuesday, 2 July 1839), recorded in Willard Richards Pocket Companion; cited in WJS, 413. See also TPJS, 278. 

  124. As he often does, Snuffer distorts a text or the Church’s teachings. In fact, the keys are said to bind “on earth and in heaven,” not to bind heaven (i.e., God) against God’s will (Matthew 16:19, 18:18; D&C 124:93). Surely Snuffer knows this. If such a claim is beyond the pale, then so were the New Testament apostles. Joseph Smith made the same claim, see note 97 herein. 

  125. “He has served on the High Council, taught Gospel Doctrine and Priesthood classes for twenty-one years… and instructed at the BYU Education Week for three years” (509). “I have taken assignments as a home teacher, gospel doctrine teacher, ward mission leader and high counselor [sic]” (3). 

  126. Snuffer also writes that “The family of Eli had filled the Lord’s House with corruption, extortion, and sexual perversion…. The end of Eli’s house came in a single day…. Thus ended the house of Eli. God’s judgments established Samuel as the new, presiding priest and prophet. When this happened, once again there was a man among the Israelites who could provide what Moses had earlier offered” (305, 307). 

  127. I have elided the more specific elements of the temple ceremony, which Snuffer mentions explicitly. 

  128. These sections are examined in detail following note 141 herein. 

  129. Denver Snuffer, “Yesterday,” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 11 September 2013,

  130. M. Truman Hunt to Denver Snuffer, “Notice of Disciplinary Council,” letter (21 August 2013), 1–2. Online at Denver Snuffer, “Don’t call me. (Yes, that means you too!),” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 23 August 2013,

  131. Denver Snuffer, “Current Events,” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 26 August 2013,

  132. Denver Snuffer, “Contentment,” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 7 September 2013,

  133. Denver Snuffer, “Compliance (So Far As Possible),” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), September 4, 2013,

  134. “If the church has been condemned, rejected and cursed, it may be a blessing for you. If a new narrative acknowledging this, allows us to avoid inappropriate adoration of men, I may save your soul” (467). 

  135. It is not clear how an accusation that he persists in teaching false doctrine is consistent with the stake president agreeing that Snuffer qualifies for a temple recommend. If Snuffer’s account is accurate, I presume the stake president meant that Snuffer was not charged with “immorality, dishonesty, or some serious moral transgression,” not that his leaders felt they could issue him a recommend. See Denver Snuffer, “Last Night’s Family Home Evening – Don’t call me,” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 9 September 2013,

  136. Snuffer, “Last Night’s Family Home Evening – Don’t call me.” 

  137. Denver Snuffer, “Don’t Know,” from the desk of Denver Snuffer (blog), 9 September 2013, See also Peggy Fletcher Stack, “Did Mormons boot writer? Church isn’t saying and he doesn’t know,” Salt Lake Tribune (10 September 2013, 9:29 a.m.). 

  138. Snuffer, “Compliance (So Far As Possible). 

  139. Compare his written claim that Church “authorities are to be respected and sustained” (28–29) with his attack on prophets and apostles below. 

  140. Snuffer’s interpretation requires that “the church restored through Joseph Smith [be] referred to throughout the Book of Mormon as the ‘gentiles'” (331). 

  141. It is ironic that this tactic is precisely that adopted throughout by PTHG—true principles are mixed with false claims. 

  142. See, for example, the claim that, for him, “instruction from above… has little to do with 47 East South Temple” in note 131 herein. 

  143. “Murder was allowed,” reads one representative sentence, “but only when President Young thought it was needed for the salvation of the victim” (223). 

  144. The citation is from D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1997), 363. Quinn cites Francis Gibbons, David O. McKay: Apostle to the World, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1986), 347, 263. 

  145. See Part 1, note 44. 

  146. Snuffer uses similar tactics to distort (210–211) the meaning of Jeffrey R. Holland, “Prophets in the Land Again,” General Conference, October 2006. 

  147. “I have an assignment given to me I intend to discharge. It is because I love God and therefore love His children. It will cost me a great deal to accomplish that. Not only ire of the organization, but the money I will spend to accomplish the task” – Snuffer, “Contentment,” (note 132 herein). Such a claim violates D&C 42:11: “It shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church. 

  148. “The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” [Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain (New York: Random House, 1979), 64.] 

  149. See notes 129, 131—133 herein. 

  150. Whitney, 100. 

  151. Estimates for both temples typically include labor and materials. See William Edwin Berrett, The Restored Church: A Brief History of the Growth and Doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, fifteenth edition revised and enlarged (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1973), 125; and Colvin, 44. 

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About Gregory L. Smith

Gregory Smith studied research physiology and English at the University of Alberta but escaped into medical school before earning his bachelor’s degree. After receiving his MD, he completed his residency in family medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital in Montréal, Québec. There he learned the medical vocabulary and French Canadian slang that he didn’t pick up in the France Paris Mission and won the Mervyn James Robson Award for Excellence in Internal Medicine.

He now practices rural family medicine in Alberta, with interests in internal medicine and psychiatry. A clinical preceptor for residents and medical students, he has been repeatedly honored for excellence in clinical teaching. He holds an appointment as an Associate Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Calgary. Since 2014 he has served as a community medical director for Alberta Health Services.

A member of FairMormon since 2005, he volunteers as their FairMormon Answers wiki managing editor. He was an associate editor of the Mormon Studies Review at BYU’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship from 2011–2012. Smith has a particular research interest in Latter-day Saint plural marriage and has been published in the FARMS Review and elsewhere on this and other topics.

With twelve years of classical piano training, he is a lifelong audiophile and owns far too many MP3 files. A self-described biblioholic, he would probably be buried in books had he not discovered the Kindle, and is grateful that he didn’t have e-books to distract him in medical school.

He lives happily with his one indulgent wife, four extraordinary children, and two cats.

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92 thoughts on “Passing Up The Heavenly Gift (Part Two of Two)

  1. So well done! Thank you for your diligence and efforts in making this review, I believe it will be a blessing to many. I’ve read the book, and I can definitely say that everything here, as well as part one, is spot on. Thanks again.

  2. I have to commend Brother Smith. I think it is beyond doubt that his characterizations of Snuffer’s claims in PtHG could not be more thoroughly demolished than has been done here. I must also say, I have rarely seen such a display of mind-reading prowess. Truly, I think Fawn Brodie might have learned a thing or two.

    I wonder, however, if the Golden Rule admits exception when one’s target is someone whom one considers a false prophet, or when one perceives oneself as defending the kingdom.

    • Log: One can only assess Snuffer’s book based upon its contents, which I’ve cited extensively. About all one can conclude about his mind from the book is that the mind is, at the very least, deeply confused about history, and not often given to clarity of argument or expression.

      One cannot read Snuffer’s mind or heart–only his public words and actions are available for assessment. I see no reason why his ideas or claims ought to be free from investigation.

      The only “target” is Snuffer’s claims. His stake president and high council can deal with the person.

      I think the claims frankly in error, as I have demonstrated at length. But, I treated those claims exactly as I would like my own claims treated–with close attention, explicit explication of the errors I perceive, and referencing to the primary sources to allow readers to judge for themselves.

      I do appreciate the irony of anonymous authors lecturing others about ethics, however. 😉

      It would be better to engage my arguments instead of an attempted appeal to a Mormon-esque style over substance fallacy. The “you’re not being Christian” card is simply a cheap way to sanctimoniously avoid having to deal with the evidence.

      In fact, your tone here and elsewhere reminds me of Snuffer himself. If so, I regret we do not agree, but have spelled out my reasons in detail.

      • Brother Smith, though you have tarred me elsewhere by implication as a “Snufferite,” I am just one who hoped to see the actual claims of PtHG reviewed competently, rather than watch a straw man be erected and duly demolished, and unseemly aspersions cast upon what you suppose Snuffer’s motivations to be.

        Unfortunately, it seems I must wait longer to see the book given an impartial examination, and perhaps not by anyone at the Interpreter; it appears you didn’t read the same book I did.

        • Log: As I have said, your rhetorical style and sorts of errors seem to partake of the same types seen in Snuffer’s work. (See, for example, your attempt to argue that the church teaches–and I should believe–that no opinion is of more worth than another in such historical matters.)

          I’ve not said you were an ideological “Snufferite” (whatever that might be).

          I’m not sure where to find the actual claims made by Snuffer’s book, save by quoting from it.

          I’m sure there are claims made in the 600 page book I haven’t addressed–it would be difficult to do every one, and tedious for author and reader.

          I can assure you I made a good faith effort to accurately report Snuffer’s thesis. The book leaps all over the place, is repetitive, and is not (as I indicate) always internally self-consistent. But the ten points I’ve outlined are claims made, usually repeatedly. And they seem to me to form the core of his historical argument. And, if the suppositions upon which an argument are grounded are false, we cannot have much confidence in the rest.

          If I have misunderstood, then that is a testament to how poorly written and argued the book is. (There is certainly no advantage to me in falsifying his statements, which could be easily detected and demonstrated.)

          But I do not think that a misreading from me is the case. It would appear his church leaders read the same book and understood the same thing by his arguments as I did.

          But I have often found some will insist they were misunderstood, without addressing the reality of the statements that are cited to create the (supposed) misreading. This spares them the trouble of addressing the arguments offered by those who challenge their claims.

          • Brother Smith,

            I lack the patience to illustrate every distortion in your review. Therefore, I shall address one.

            Claim #10: There Were No Pentecostal-Type Experiences in the Nauvoo Temple

            You expanded this in your “part 1” as “There were no divine, Pentecostal-type experiences in the Nauvoo temple as there were in the Kirtland temple. This demonstrates that God did not fully accept the temple because of the Saints’ delay in building it (381).”

            We dispatch ourselves to page 381 in PtHG and see nothing – at all – remotely approaching this claim.

            I’m not sure how much more clearly it can be stated: you have, at the very least, crafted this claim out of whole cloth.

            When you spend your time addressing claims not made, it is unclear in what sense you can be said to be reviewing the book under discussion.

          • If this is an example of a “distortion,” I think you just undercut your point. Here’s from p. 381: (this text is reproduced in review too).

            “We know for certain: 1) The spot [the Nauvoo Temple] was not consecrated by the Lord, or made holy by His or the angels’ presence. At least there is no record of it having occurred.” (381)

            We are also told that D&C 124, which is used to give the consequences “if the church failed to measure up to the Lord’s request and was rejected” (381).

            If you want more examples of the same claim:

            * “There is no record of angelic visitors to the Nauvoo Temple.” (380)
            * Earlier, he says that “The Kirtland Temple dedication was accepted by cloven tongues of fire resting on the building. This was witnessed by many of the Kirtland residents. The Nauvoo Temple, however, had a more physical manifestation of fire….” (116)


            Snuffer repeatedly says angels should have come and there was no record of them coming. But, I present many counterexamples. The 4th, 6th, and 8th bullet points report angels/celestial visitors explicitly. The account at note 111 also mentions angels.

            He invokes the pentecost of Kirtland, with divine “fire” seen as evidence, while falsely implying that Nauvoo reported no such–but I cite multiple counter-examples, including note 111.

            I think it may be your reading of Snuffer and the review that is skewed. Are you using the same edition? My citations are correct, and make the claims I say they do.

            Snuffer is not always clear, but these claims are.

          • Log. I’ve been discussing this topic with you for quite a while now, and I find it interesting that as the objective evidence disproving the core issues of PtHG grows, you seem to be taking it more and more personally, and your rhetoric, passion, and vitriol towards those you do not agree with have really stepped up a notch since this part 2 review has been published. In our discussions elsewhere, you like to claim objectivity, and that you have not taken a side, but your side is clear and your actions are far more characteristic of a person personally vested in Denver’s ideology. It has been suggested that you may be Denver himself, and if it is not true, you are certainly not helping your case.

            You say that pg. 381 has “nothing – at all – remotely approaching [claim #10]”. On page 381 we find, “We know for certain…the spot was not consecrated by the Lord, or made holy by His or the angels’ presence.” Furthermore, the last full sentence on page 380 says, “There is no record of angelic visitors to the Nauvoo Temple.” I would at least admit that this does at least remotely approach “There were no divine, Pentecostal-type experiences in the Nauvoo temple…”

            And that you think you can summarily dismiss all the other well-researched evidence because you find this particular point to be weak, is nothing short of fallacious reasoning. To me point #10 among the other 9 points is actually the least core of all the issues in connection to Denver’s central thesis, perhaps that is why it is listed last among all 10 points. So for me arguing against claim #10 is also the least relevant in trying discredit this well-done review. In my opinion points 1-9 are far more important / central to Denver’s thesis (as #10 seems more of an afterthought to #9), and particularly points 1 & 4-9 bring up facts that objectively disprove Denver’s core claims and overall thesis (assuming we accept Joseph Smith’s teachings as true).

            I’ve discussed with you long enough to know that you simply will never address or even acknowledge those points, but rather will find obscure mostly irrelevant points that are not perfectly clear, and attack them pretending that the objective core arguments that disprove your viewpoint do not exist. That you will never concede or acknowledge a single issue that is not in Denver’s favor, shows how extremely vested you are in his ideas – even if you proclaim otherwise.

            In the end passion and summary dismissal simply does not a good argument make.

            P.S. This comment was mostly for other readers who may not be as familiar with you and your arguments as much as I am. I am not interested in further conversation or debate on the subject. Instead I will let all readers read the review and the book as they desire to draw their own conclusions.

          • You are right that #10 is last because it is least important. It’s really part of #9’s claims, but #9 was already long, and #10 is more “aesthetically” pleasing, so I made a round 10. 🙂

            Plus, it’s a good example of how much data Snuffer ignores, so it makes a good, easy to follow way to end.

  3. If this is an example of a “distortion,” I think you just undercut your point. Here’s from p. 381: (this text is reproduced in review too).

    “We know for certain: 1) The spot [the Nauvoo Temple] was not consecrated by the Lord, or made holy by His or the angels’ presence. At least there is no record of it having occurred.” (381)

    We are also told that D&C 124, which is used to give the consequences “if the church failed to measure up to the Lord’s request and was rejected” (381).

    If you want more examples of the same claim:

    * “There is no record of angelic visitors to the Nauvoo Temple.” (380)
    * Earlier, he says that “The Kirtland Temple dedication was accepted by cloven tongues of fire resting on the building. This was witnessed by many of the Kirtland residents. The Nauvoo Temple, however, had a more physical manifestation of fire….” (116)


    Snuffer repeatedly says angels should have come and there was no record of them coming. But, I present many counterexamples. The 4th, 6th, and 8th bullet points report angels/celestial visitors explicitly. The account at note 111 also mentions angels.

    He invokes the pentecost of Kirtland, with divine “fire” seen as evidence, while falsely implying that Nauvoo reported no such–but I cite multiple counter-examples, including note 111.

    I think it may be your reading of Snuffer and the review that is skewed. Are you using the same edition? My citations are correct, and make the claims I say they do.

    Snuffer is not always clear, but these claims are.

    • I am gratified to see that you are now treating the actual claim Snuffer made on page 380 – that we lacked records of angelic visitors to Nauvoo – and not the claim you made for him that “There Were No Pentecostal-Type Experiences in the Nauvoo Temple.”

      Unfortunately, I’m not sure the sources you cite actually address whether the temple was made holy by the alleged angelic visitors (see D&C 110:7 for the kind of thing we should expect – God changes not), which to my eye is the important claim being made, rather than the minor claim to a mere lack of documentation of angelic visitors, which you may have rectified.

      • He _does_ make claims about Pentecostal-type experiences. Please read the previous posts. He claims that Kirtland had “cloven tongues of fire,” but then claims only that there was a physical fire in Nauvoo prior to its dedication.

        This language is precisely the language of Pentecost:

        1 AND when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
        2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
        3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them (Acts 2:1-3)

        How much more Pentecostal can you get? He claims Kirtland had it and Nauvoo didn’t. But, both did, by multiple reports.

        You–and Snuffer–are simply mistaken.

        • I’m sorry once again, Brother Smith – I’m not seeing a cited source which claims “cloven tongues of fire” were seen in or on the Nauvoo temple.

          I am also not seeing where Snuffer claims Nauvoo only had a physical manifestation of fire.

          I am sure we can agree that claiming only physical fire was manifested at Nauvoo is quite different from only claiming physical fire was manifested at Nauvoo. These two propositions are not equivalent.

          It is manifestly unclear, therefore, wherein Snuffer is mistaken, and I am also unclear how I am mistaken.

          • Log: Then you’re simply not reading or paying attention.

            I will, for the third time, refer you to note 111. There was fire seen on the temple, to the point that an apostate claimed the Mormons were trying to “fake it” with candles. The Saints were amused by this desperate ploy (as I am by your reading here) but not convinced.

            See also note 119, where many see the temple “all in a blaze,” but then realize that it is “the glory of God.”

            I am also not seeing where Snuffer claims Nauvoo only had a physical manifestation of fire.

            I’ve already cited the line. He says that Kirtland had the holy fire, but then compares it with Nauvoo saying “however” (i.e., there’s a difference betwixt Kirtland and Nauvoo). This isn’t a hard text to understand: “The Nauvoo Temple, however, had a more physical manifestation of fire after the prayer.” He focuses on the physical damage of the fire at Nauvoo, while focusing on the divine fire at Kirtland. The rhetorical intent is obvious. He tells us about a damaged floor joist and attic, but can’t be bothered to mention the Pentecost-like experiences that he mentions for Kirtland. Why? Presumably because it weakens his case. Or, he is ignorant of the data.

            Read the whole page, and it’s very clear that he’s trying to make Kirtland out to be sacred and holy, and Nauvoo only the victim of an accidental “physical” fire.

            I am sure we can agree that claiming only physical fire was manifested at Nauvoo is quite different from only claiming physical fire was manifested at Nauvoo. These two propositions are not equivalent.

            Let’s review. You’ve gone from claiming

            1) Your citation completely distorts the text and creates “claims” by Snuffer from whole cloth; to
            2) Well, he does talk about angels but he doesn’t talk about Pentecost, so you’re still making it up; to
            3) Well, he does talk about angels, and does use Pentecost language (almost direct citation), but Snuffer really meant to tell us that Nauvoo also had a physical fire, and the fact that he was mentioning Kirtland’s divine fire in the same breath was in no way intended to prejudice us against Nauvoo’s claims, it was just an interesting bit of the historical archaeology of the Nauvoo construction?

            As Bill Cosby put it: Riiiiiiight. 🙂

            It is manifestly unclear, therefore, wherein Snuffer is mistaken, and I am also unclear how I am mistaken.

            Proving, one supposes, that “da Nile” is not just a river in Egypt. 😉

          • Brother Smith,

            “Fire seen on the temple” is not, so far as I can tell, “cloven tongues of fire.”

            Maybe you feel it is. I don’t. If that’s denial, then I guess I’m in Egypt.

            We’ve gone from “There Were No Pentecostal-Type Experiences in the Nauvoo Temple” which was utterly absent in any form from PtHG to “There Is No Record of Angelic Visitors to the Nauvoo Temple”, which is actually part of the text under review. You may have found documentation of alleged angelic visitations. I suppose Snuffer may have to update his book in the future to account for that. It doesn’t seem to affect the point he was making, however, that we have no record of the Lord or angels making the site holy, a la D&C 107:7-8 (the kind of thing we ought to expect, if God changes not).

            Now you are trying to shore up your original fabricated claim by trying to make it appear that Snuffer denies Nauvoo had anything other than a manifestation of physical fire, when, in fact, he didn’t say anything remotely like it, “obvious rhetorical intent” notwithstanding – and we’re back in mind-reading land.

            A claim not made is a claim not made.

            Speaking of da Nile, I wonder, would you have had similar words for the Lord when He told Abram to ask his wife, Sarai, to tell the Egyptians she was his sister? The Lord’s intent was clear – He wanted the Egyptians to believe Sarai wasn’t Abram’s wife.

          • Sigh. I see we’re right back to square one with “fabrication.”

            Quoth Log: “Fire seen on the temple” is not, so far as I can tell, “cloven tongues of fire.”

            Maybe you feel it is. I don’t. If that’s denial, then I guess I’m in Egypt.

            As Backman noted:

            [300]…many persons described other unusual developments that took place during the period of the dedication. Several witnesses reported that they saw an unusual light on the top of the temple.

            Wilford Woodruff wrote:

            President Brigham Young related the circumstances of their seeing a Circle of about 40 persons dressed in white robes & caps in the upper Story of the Temple in kirtland during the spring of 1835 after the Endowments. Their was no person in that room at the time that was mortal yet the room was filled with light & many personages did appear Clothed in white & freequently went to the windows and Looked out So that the Brethren in the street Could see them plainly. Brother Young & Truman Angel stood to gether in the street & looked at them a long time. W W Phelps says he saw them for 3 hours. They were visable by all the Brethren Present. (WWJ 5:120)

            Again, one sees the themes of light, angelic beings, and it being visible from without the temple (near the top).

            If, however, you don’t wish to see the “cloven tongues” referred to by Snuffer as the visible divine light seen at Kirtland and Nauvoo, then you can see it in yet another sense also described in Kirtland. That reading makes it even more Pentecostal, which makes his/your case even weaker, hence my effort to be conservative in the reading. But, as you wish –>

            Joseph’s dedicatory prayer asked for:

            “Let it be fulfilled upon them, as upon those on the day of Pentecost; that the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof” (D&C 109:36).

            Times and Seasons 4/5, p. 56 described the same phenomenon:

            The spirit of God rested upon the people, on the day of Pentecost, “like cloven tongues as of fire” men began to prophesy, to dream dreams, and to see visions.

            Autobiography of Heber C. Kimball likewise said:

            The meeting continued on through the night; the spirit of prophecy was poured out upon the assembly, and cloven tongues of fire sat upon them; for they were seen by many of the congregation. Also angels administered to many, for they were also seen by many.

            There are many others, but that gives you the sense. So, these cloven tongues (in this sense) can involve:

            1) gift of tongues
            2) interpretation of tongues
            3) prophecying
            4) An illumination (“fire”) “seen” which “sat upon them.”

            Yet, all of these elements were likewise present at Nauvoo, and pace Snuffer ought to be seen as evidence of both sites being “made holy”. I give only one example of each here, though there are multiple in the review itself–if you choose to read it this way (and only this way) there is even more data against Snuffer’s claim (same number as above):

            1) “Sister Whitney who stood up and invoking the gift of tongues, sang a beautiful song of Zion in tongues.”
            2) “The interpretation was given by her husband, Bishop Whitney, and me”
            3) “Some prophesied….I arose full of the Spirit and spoke with great animation, which was very cheerfully responded to by all, and prophesied of things to come”
            4) “A light was flickering over br. Anderson’s head while relating his vision, Phinehas Richards face shone with great brightness.”

            Once again, Snuffer is shown to be wrong. If this is how you want to see “cloven tongues,” then he claims Kirtland had them. But, it is misleading for him to not equally acknowledge that Nauvoo had exactly the same things.

            That’s not mind reading, that’s simply reading the text.

            So yes, if you continue to insist that Snuffer doesn’t make these claims or that I’ve not addressed them, you are in denial, as I think any competent reader can attest.

          • Quoth Log:Speaking of da Nile, I wonder, would you have had similar words for the Lord when He told Abram to ask his wife, Sarai, to tell the Egyptians she was his sister? The Lord’s intent was clear – He wanted the Egyptians to believe Sarai wasn’t Abram’s wife.

            I’m not sure what your concern is here. When I say you’re in “denial,” I’m not talking about “denying” some fact or other.

            I mean, quite simply, that your continued insistence that I’ve falsified Snuffer’s argument on this point, or that you have not been shown to be mistaken in robust and unequivocal terms looks something like the psychological phenomenon of denial: a type of defense mechanism by which one is confronted with a fact which he is loathe to accept for emotional reasons, and thus simply denies the plain evidence to avoid having to admit its truth.

  4. Mr. Smith,

    Thank you for taking the effort to write this rebuttal. I was hoping you might address one point concerning the scripture from D&C 124:44
    If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy. (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 124)

    I assumed this meant that the Savior would consecrate the temple as He did in Kirtland, in other words He would appear there Himself. Is there an account of the Savior’s appearance?

    Should the spiritual experiences you cited be considered as the same thing as the Savior manifesting Himself in the flesh?

    The statement in question “I will consecrate that spot and make it holy,” must be properly defined if one is to accurately interpret whether or not this event was fulfilled.

    Personally, I don’t think spiritual experiences are necessarily the same thing as witnessing the Savior in the flesh. It is one thing to witness the glory of the Lord, it is another to be a witness of Him in the flesh.

    I have had many spiritual experiences where I have witnessed the glory of the Lord, in my home, at work, and at church. It is another thing entirely to stand in His presence. It is an experience everyone should receive in this life.

    • I’m unaware of an explicit Christ theophany associated with the Nauvoo temple, but I can’t claim to have done a really exhaustive search. Given that Snuffer said no angel or divine presence, and I knew about angels off the top of my head, I regarded that as sufficient to show he was misrepresenting the data. These quotes certainly hint at it, but they could also be read as just referring to a spiritual outpouring. I preferred not to stretch the data beyond what seems certain, but I think they ought to give Snuffer and those who’ve adopted his reading significant pause:

      * “The Spirit of God seemed to fill the House and cause every heart to rejoice with a joy unknown to the world of mankind, for the Lord manifested himself to his saints.”
      * In vision, “Others also beheld angels and the glory of God.”

      The idea, however, that Christ must appear to make a site holy is Snuffer’s reading. The scripture does not say that, nor does it say it will be identical to Kirtland.

      If the site was not holy, however, then why did God permit visible glory to rest on the roof of it? Why did he allow angels to appear? Why the outpouring of spiritual gifts? This can only serve to confuse the Saints at the time. Certainly they do not seem to have gone away with Snuffer’s reading. Why should we trust him over them?

      If one admits the possibility of spiritual gifts and experiences, I think it difficult to read the following types of claims and see them as anything but evidence of divine approval:

      * “The Spirit of the Lord filled the House insomuch that the brethren shouted for joy”
      * “we had a most glorious time. Some of the brethren spoke in tongues.”
      * “Some prophesied”
      * “And all of us rejoiced with exceeding great gladness.”
      * “Bro. Anderson related a vision….A light was flickering over br. Anderson’s head while relating his vision, Phinehas Richards face shone with great brightness.”
      * “A brother testified that our meeting was accepted of God. And we continued our meeting until after midnight, which was the most profitable, happy, and glorious meeting I had ever attended in my life, and may the remembrance be deeply rooted in my soul for ever and ever.”
      * “Sister Almira Lamb while in her own room saw a vision of her dead child. It appeared to her in great glory and filled the room with light.”
      * “The glory of God again resting on the Temple in great power.”
      * “we called upon the Lord, his spirit attended us, and the visions were opened to our view”

      Yet, Snuffer argues that we are to think that these people failed.

      Also, as the review also points out, Christ appeared in the Salt Lake Temple at its dedication. Yet, in Snuffer’s telling, the Salt Lake Temple cannot have been fully legitimate any more than Nauvoo was, because the apostles (including Wilford Woodruff who presided at the SL Temple dedication and reported the theophany) did not have the authority because they could not have gotten it from Joseph or from Nauvoo. But Wilford Woodruff did so report.

      But, Snuffer can’t let us know that, because that would imply that if Wilford Woodruff had the authority, Brigham, John Taylor, and the rest of the apostles did too.

      But, I would open the question up to the Internet’s hive mind: are there more accounts of Nauvoo than the ones I have cited? Kirtland tends (for obvious reasons) to get pride of place (and the Saints were better situated for writing history in 1836 than they were getting ready to flee in the winter of the Nauvoo dedication), but the record is not silent on Nauvoo.

    • Very well stated. I think you could not be more correct. Yet many in the church today seem to frown upon such aspirations, deeming them dangerous or risky.

  5. Steve,

    I’m not sure why Brother Smith posted your comment, since by your own admission your intent was not to engage in either conversation or debate, but apparently to poison the well by attacking my credibility. Neither did you contribute anything but that attack to this conversation.

    Since I have already conceded that Brother Smith may well have falsified an actual claim in the book (re: there is no record of angelic visitations at Nauvoo), while leaving the book’s point untouched (Nauvoo was not made holy by the angels, neither did the Lord visit and make it holy, or at least, we have no record of such), seems to count against your perception that I am engaged in “passion and summary dismissal.”

    I don’t necessarily agree that points 1-9 can likewise be established as claims from the text. I picked 10 simply because I really don’t have the patience to go through this mess of a review and illustrate each distortion or fabrication. I don’t believe appealing to “obvious rhetorical intent” legitimizes strawman argumentation. And I don’t have to be Snuffer to despise the rank deployment of rhetorical tricks to make a man appear an offender for a word.

    I believe, in fact, that such argumentation is an affront to truth and virtue.

    And, if it matters – though it really shouldn’t – I’m not Snuffer, even if Brother Smith has tarred me, by innuendo, in my response to his “Part 1” as a Snufferite. Snuffer, like Brother Smith, has publicly attached his name to his words, unlike you or I; sock puppetry would seem to be pointless after that.

    • I didn’t post this. Others on the Interpreter Board can approve posts. All but one or two of yours have been approved by others, not me.

      And, I will repeat again–I am not saying you are an ideological “Snufferite” (whatever that is). I simply said that your poor proof-texting and distortion of text trying to prove that the Church endorses (and I ought to accept) the view that all opinion about historical matters are of equal value reminded me of Snuffer’s approach. You may substitute the term “Snuffer-ish” or “Snuffer-like” if you prefer.

      Your behavior on this thread has, sadly, not weakened that impression.

      “Obvious rhetorical intent” is a description of what the text is doing.

      Are you claiming that Snuffer concedes that there were Pentecostal events at Nauvoo? If so, where? If he does not, what purpose is there in mentioning Kirtland’s Pentecostal events while not granting the same to Nauvoo? Are those experiences relevant for assessing his claim that the Nauvoo temple was not made holy, and thus did not have God’s approval?

      Snuffer, after all, cites a storm in Salt Lake to display divine displeasure with the Salt Lake Temple dedication. Surely Pentecostal experiences are at least as relevant?

      Either the experiences I cite are relevant or they aren’t. If they are, then why did Snuffer not mention them?

      If they aren’t relevant, why aren’t they? How are claims of angels and other evidence of holiness not relevant to the claim that there were no angels and there was no evidence of holiness? Is not a Pentecostal event the primordial Christian evidence of the arrival of the Holy Spirit in greater abundance?

      How can you say I “may well have falsified” the claim about angels? I’ve clearly, unequivocally falsified it. Snuffer says there are NO such reports. There ARE such reports. That’s as falsified as anything gets–person A says “There are NO examples of X.” Person B shows multiple examples of X. Falsified.

      This grows increasingly surreal.

      • Snuffer’s claim was quite limited and modest.

        I am making no claim about Snuffer and claims about Pentecostal events at Nauvoo. Neither, from what I can see, did Snuffer make any claims concerning Pentecostal events at Nauvoo, either for or against; what I will concede is that he didn’t mention any.

        Pentecostal experiences, angelic visitations, and even the visitation of God and Christ, are insufficient to make a place holy, as even cursory reflection should reveal. Moroni visited Joseph Smith at the family house. Nobody has yet claimed that is evidence of the holiness of the house. It is taught that God and Christ visited Joseph in the sacred grove, but nobody claims that site is holy because of it. What would make the Nauvoo temple holy? We have an idea of what to expect from D&C 110, as mentioned multiple times; at a minimum, it would appear that God visiting and declaring that it is holy ought to have occurred, again, because God changes not.

        As it is, we have no record of such a visitation, nor such a declaration, and the people were subsequently moved out of their place with what appear to be cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments.

        I apologize for believing you to be in charge of posting these comments. I guess Brother Gardner is having fun at the helm.

        • Quoth Log: Pentecostal experiences, angelic visitations, and even the visitation of God and Christ, are insufficient to make a place holy, as even cursory reflection should reveal. Moroni visited Joseph Smith at the family house. Nobody has yet claimed that is evidence of the holiness of the house. It is taught that God and Christ visited Joseph in the sacred grove, but nobody claims that site is holy because of it.

          Um, the “Sacred” Grove isn’t regarded as in any way holy? You do know what “sacred” means, right? 😉

          The point is not that the events themselves make the place holy, but that such events are unlikely to occur if God did not approve of and accept the structure they were building and dedicating.

          So Pentecostal experiences are not evidence of divine favor and approval? You’re right that God does not change–so, can you show me a single episode of Pentecostal-like experience in scripture that does NOT indicate God’s full approval and sanction?

          So the Saints build an (inadequate, in Snuffer’s telling) temple, and then have a Pentecostal outpouring, and they and we are not to conclude that the site is holy and the offering acceptable?

          How perverse would it be to give them what they regarded as the greatest experiences of their lives at an event that failed in its purpose, and that they were about to be punished and chastised for, as you and Snuffer are claiming? If God does not change, then that scenario seems pretty sketchy to me.

          And, given that similar events occurred with a reported theophany to Wilford Woodruff at the Salt Lake Temple, how could all that happen if the Church was fallen away from the full truth (as Snuffer claims) and if the apostles didn’t have the necessary authority and keys (ditto)? That verges on incoherence.

          But, in any case, the argument you are making here is your own, not Snuffer’s–and so, it is hardly surprising I did not address it.

          If Snuffer had made this argument, I would point out that it contradicts scripture, since physical places are said to be rendered holy simply by the divine presence–even trivial little bushes and desert soil, for example (Exodus 3:5, Acts 7:33). (Another example of where a divine flame or light indicates holiness and the presence of God, contrary to your claim–unless you want to argue that God really is a flaming bush. 😉 So, in Exodus the flame represents the divine presence, but in Nauvoo it represents–what, exactly? We aren’t told by Snuffer, but it certainly can’t be the divine presence, because that would mean he is wrong. So, it must be something else….) See Exodus 13:21-22 for another example.

          Further, the D&C is clear that God need not stand on something to make it holy. The mere fact that something is consecrated (literally, “made holy”) to God makes it holy:

          Let the city, Far West, be a holy and consecrated land unto me; and it shall be called most holy, for the ground upon which thou standest is holy (D&C 115:7).

          So, I think your claim here is directly contrary to scripture, as well as other LDS leaders, including Joseph Smith:

          Heber C. Kimball was “constrained” to bless an area in England as “holy ground” (Stanley Kimball, HCK, 52). Orson F Whitney’s biography of HCK said that Joseph Smith confirmed Heber’s impression, saying “that he had indeed been on “holy ground,” that some of the ancient prophets had traveled in that region and dedicated the land, and that Heber had reaped the benefit of their blessing” (188).

          George Albert Smith called the drumlin in New York where the Book of Mormon was found “holy ground” (CR April 1906, p. 56), while he regarded the Kirtland temple as something that “had been holy ground” (p. 57). President Kimball said to approach in prayer was to be on holy ground (CR, April 1958, p. 15).

          So, I think LDS texts suggest you’re being far too absolutist in the interests of defending Snuffer’s rickety claim.

          Back to Snuffer

          Snuffer however, does argue that the presence of angels would have been proof of its holiness:

          “A holy place is visited by angels….There is no record of angelic visitors to the Nauvoo Temple….The spot was not consacrated by the Lord, or made holy by His or the agnels’ presence. At least there is no record of it having occurred” (380-381).

          So, if you are right, then Snuffer is wrong. You may add your perspective as Claim #11 that he makes and has been falsified! Well done, take a bow. 🙂

          Unfortunately, I’m not sure your alternate reading holds water, as above.

          But, if Snuffer wants to claim that no evidence of angels is evidence against Nauvoo, then he must concede that multiple evidences of them and other such events is evidence in Nauvoo’s favor. I suspect, however, that like you he will not do so, because it contradicts a cherished thesis.

          Quoth Log: As it is, we have no record of such a visitation, nor such a declaration, and the people were subsequently moved out of their place with what appear to be cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments.

          We do, in fact, have evidence of such a declaration being received–many examples. (But, I here predict that showing that such existed will not change your mind. I suspect that the supposed absence of a declaration will serve you as evidence against Nauvoo, but the existence of such evidence will not help Nauvoo. One must ask, though, where the Saints got these ideas, if not from God–were Brigham and the rest all lying? Hopelessly deceived?)

          Brigham Young presided in these temple meetings (almost continuously). He would later say:

          We performed the work and performed it within the time which the Lord gave us to do it in. Apostates said that we never could perform the work, but through the blessing of God, it was completed and accepted of Him. Apostates never build temples unto God, but the Saints are called to do this work. (JD 10:252-253)

          Nor was this view “hid in a corner”–it was the common view of those present at the time. For example:

          * In one session, testimony was borne that the Lord had accepted their acts (see review).

          * In another case, John Pulsipher declared that “It [the temple] was accepted of the Lord, and His holy angels have ministered unto many therein.” [John Pulsipher, as quoted by E. Cecil McGavin,The Nauvoo Temple (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1962), 95.]

          * Another wrote that “Through the vigilance of our brethren who in this way protected the city, we were enabled to continue our labors until the [Nauvoo] temple was so far completed that a portion was dedicated for the purpose of giving endowments, thus we labored while the wicked raged, the mobs howled, but they could not stop the work on the temple until it was so far completed that it was accepted of the Lord.” [Autobiography of Wandle Mace, 187-188].

          * Likewise “I cast my eyes upon the City of Joseph from which the saints were exiled, and the temple of the Lord, upon which I had laboured so long, I felt that the saints, had done a great work in a short time, and that it was accepted of the Lord, a work in which I had not been idle myself. having laboured with my own hands….” (Samuel W. Richards Diary, 19th May 1846.]

          You’d think these above would appeal to Snuffer–after all, he emphasizes personal revelation and the like and disparages the leaders speaking God’s mind and will. Well, here you have rank-and-file members bearing witness that the temple was accepted of God, and yet he ignores this evidence. Yet another double standard.

          D&C 110

          You keep appealing to D&C 110, but Snuffer has already tried to defang D&C 110 (it’s the Elijah vision, which he must downplay). So, we’re told that D&C 110 must be imitated exactly when it serves Snuffer’s thesis, but when it doesn’t it can be downplayed and the textual record concerning it distorted? This is a clear double standard on your and his part.

          D&C 124 says that the Lord will “consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy” (D&C 124:44). As we have seen, God can and has declared this to be done without a massive theophany; Far West was made holy simply by declaration.

          So, you need to get all your claims into some type of self-consistent shape, I think.

          But, it is clear that we will not agree on even basic matters of textual reading. I’ll therefore forgo replowing the same ground yet again, including your claim from Snuffer that the Saints were driven and punished for their failures.

          In conclusion, FYI, here’s a few more Nauvoo-era experiences I’ve run onto recently since I wrote the review:

          1) Perrigrine Sessions said that in the morning and evening of 3 February 1846, he saw “a flaim of fier sean by many to rest down upon the Temple.” [Perrigrine Sessions,The Diaries of Perrigrine Sessions (Bountiful, Utah: Carr, 1967), 43.]

          2) Elvia Stevens wrote: “The heavenly power was so great, I then crossed and re-crossed to be benefited by it, as young as I was” [Elvira Stevens, as quoted by Carol Cornwall Madsen, In Their Own Words: Women and the Story of Nauvoo (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 23.]

          Two more folks destined for God’s anger and punishment, in the Snufferite looking glass version of Mormon history. Pity they were too thick to know it.

          • I suppose therefore I shall stand corrected: it is the declaration of God alone which makes a thing holy, and we lack any documentation of such a declaration by God pertaining to Nauvoo, on top of lacking a documented visit by God Himself, which, oddly again, seemed to be one of the purposes for which He commanded the building of the temple (D&C 124:27-28).

            Which does seem to rather imply, conversationally speaking, that as He had done in Kirtland, so ought we to have expected at Nauvoo.

            It is too bad they never finished the temple, despite having been given enough time (D&C 124:31); one wonders if that could have something to do with it?

            As to where the Saints got their ideas, who knows? Where did Brigham get his ideas, like the notion Adam was God, the Eternal Father? Who knows? Could it be that people suffer from wish fulfillment and confirmation bias? Who knows?

            I don’t have to have a final answer to know that we lack documentation of a visit by God to the Nauvoo temple, that we lack documentation of God declaring the place holy, and that we lack documentation of God accepting the house, and that we don’t lack documentation that the people were subsequently moved out of their place.

            No man’s opinion is worth a straw, even if their opinion is the Nauvoo temple was accepted, no matter the man who possesses it. Knowledge is what counts.

          • Incidentally, so far as I can tell, the sacred grove is not considered holy, even if one might use a thesaurus to cast “sacred” as “holy” – there is, to my knowledge, no effort made to restrict access to it by the unholy, unsanctified, and unclean, lest it be defiled.

          • Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired…

            — Jonathan Swift, Letter to a Young Clergyman (1720)

            I regret being unable to help further.

  6. Thank you brother Smith for taking the time to do what I wished I could have done. Your analysis is superb and inspired. You confirm many of the things I felt as I read PTHG but that I was not able to put into words because of time and ability. God bless you and may DS speedily repent and overcome his pride. Simply put DS (by his actions) must believe that PTHG is more important than partaking of the sacrament “often”.

  7. Gregory:

    Thanks for doing the review. Someone needed to.

    In your review, you state, ” When Snuffer claims there are no contemporary sources, he is wrong.”

    You cite two contemporaneous accounts referring to Christ’s appearance in the Kirtland temple to refute Snuffer’s claim that “Moses, Elias and Elijah” visits were not recorded or mentioned. That’s building a straw man, so you can tear it down.
    If you want to counter the argument that “contemporaneous records …fail to record any mention …of the Kirtland Temple visitation from Moses, Elias and Elijah” then incontrovertible video proof of Christs visit in HD says nothing about Moses, Elias and Elijah.

    This logical flaw is forgivable in light of Snuffers twice mentioning that Joseph nor Oliver ever record Christ’s visit (other than the Cowdery account). Why Snuffer choose to mention this is inexplicable at best and confusing since it adds nothing to his main points. I made the same mistake as you after my first reading of PtHG, namely, I assumed that Snuffer was questioning whether Christ appeared there at all. In fact, he refers to Christ’s visit in PtHG (see p. 328) and in his blog (see entry for February 25, 2010) without questioning that the event actually happened. He also does not state that Moses, Elias and Elijah did not appear in the Kirtland temple. Indeed, he mentions Elijah’s visit on pages 326 and 327 of PtHG without questioning its historicity.

    These minutia aren’t important. His big point, however, is very important. Is the church operating on the assumption that our apostles have the power to seal families for time and eternity with power than binds the heavens as the church assumes OR have the events of April 3rd, 1836 been misapplied to our peril as Denver suggests on page 75?

    As I have read all the recorded statements of all living apostles on the subject of sealing power, I have come to a surprising conclusion. “The Brethren” believe the sealing authority that they hold is not binding as Nephi’s power was. Here is a typical statement, “The Holy Spirit of Promise, through our obedience and sacrifice, must seal our temple covenants in order to be realized in the world to come.” ( Eyring ) Nephi, in contrast, was given the power of God without the caveats Pres. Eyring states. “all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word”. (Helaman, 10:7)

    I for one am glad Denver Snuffer raises the question. I wish I had your confidence that he is wrong.

    McKay Platt

    • I think you misunderstand me. I quote those contemporaneous accounts not because they mention Christ (though they do) but because they also allude to matters involved with the Elijah appearance (using some of the same language and appeal to Malachi, and mentioning that “angels” accompanied Jesus and conferred power the Mormons had not previously had).

      This is further evidence, I think–though somewhat oblique–that Elijah was present in the account very early and were not appealed to later by the Twelve as the source of the sealing power which Snuffer claims they didn’t really have.

      (In the same way, Snuffer’s efforts to make vague the entry in Joseph Smith’s Journal written by Cowdery are a misguided attempt to downplay the importance of Elijah, but I think the evidence presented shows why that’s a mistake.)

      I think the fact that we hear relatively little about Elijah really early on (though still hear some) is explained by:
      a) Jesus was there too, and obviously that is a more impressive and important thing to talk about; and
      b) No one (perhaps not even Joseph) really understood the implications of Elijah’s visit. They had no real concept of eternal families and proxy work for the dead in 1836. You can see Joseph’s Nauvoo-era discourses trying to get these ideas into the Saints’ consciousness.

      So, to us, it seems like Elijah ought to have been talked about extensively from the get-go. But, in historical context, it is pretty clear why it wouldn’t be, I think. But, this isn’t to say there are NO evidences of it in the 1830s and 1840s, as Snuffer falsely claims.

      • Mr. Smith,

        I find your response and commentary on the coming of Elijah interesting.

        First, I thought Snuffer’s main point was that Joseph only spoke of the coming of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to fathers, as a future event, not an event that had already occurred.

        Joseph spoke of the coming of Elijah right up until his death and he always referred to it as a future event.

        Today we refer to the appearance of Elijah as an event that occurred in Kirtland, and as the place where he restored the keys to turn the hearts, etc…

        I think it matters little whether or not people infer or allude to this event. I don’t question Elijah’s appearance in Kirtland. I believe he appeared there along with the Savior and others.

        However, I find it significant that Joseph spoke of the coming of Elijah as an event yet to come and then he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. If that event is yet to take place, what significance are we to ascribe to the appearance at Kirtland? Have we incorrectly interpreted the appearance of Elijah at Kirtland? How do we account for Joseph’s later statements on the coming of Elijah?

        • Well, Snuffer is not entirely clear. 🙂 That’s one of the book’s problems.

          He claims that Elijah showed up in 1836 only to CONFIRM and bear witness to what Joseph had already received in 1829, it was only “a statement about what had been given to Joseph earlier”. (See Claim #6. See especially Snuffer, 92; cited on p. 200 of Part 2 of my review.)

          I discuss the issue of Joseph’s tendency to speak of Elijah in the future tense on pp. 201-203. I offered two possibilities:

          1) It may simply be that this is a rhetorical stance, Joseph speaking “as if in the time of Elijah,” or closely paraphrasing the Malachi verses themselves.

          This can be hard to judge given that we have somewhat telegraphic accounts of Joseph’s sermons, so trying to draw really firm conclusions about a tense issue (especially when the cited form uses the same future tense that the scripture uses) is a dubious business. That is, Joseph could have been citing or speaking in the scriptural way, or his Bible-literate audience could have recorded it that way. So, given these caveats I didn’t think it was sufficient evidence alone to disprove Snuffer’s 1829 hypothesis.

          2) The second option (and probably the one I would favor, if pressed) is that Joseph saw the delivery of Elijah’s keys as the starting point, not the end-point of the process. That would require temples, and full proxy work for the dead (which did not come until St. George, in Utah), and the passing of the full blessings and keys to living members, which would not happen until Nauvoo and the Quorum of the Anointed.

          Ehat and Cook adopt this posture; see footnote 47.

          But, either options roundly disproves and is inconsistent with Snuffer’s thesis that Elijah was only there to announce the completion of what had happened 7 years earlier, in 1829.

          As to whether we’ve “misunderstood”–well, that’s a separate question. I think we clearly misunderstand if we consider the process finished at Elijah’s appearance, because in mainstream LDS doctrine we clearly still must do temple work and continue to be engaged in those things, and so on. In that sense, it’s not “done” until Christ returns, and probably not until well after that.

          But, I don’t see any warrant for thinking that adequate authority wasn’t given by Elijah, or that that authority was not adequately passed on–which is, as far as I can tell, Snuffer’s main contentions and reason for raising doubt about the issue.

  8. I ran across this from Denver Snuffer – I think he was in law school when he said this: “My developing analytical abilities were applied indiscriminately to everything including the Church… [My friend asked me] ‘Are you reading your scriptures?’ “I replied ‘What does that have to do with it? To which he responded ‘I would be more convinced of your complaints if you were reading your scriptures.’ I was unwilling to abandon my criticisms and thought he was being obtuse. But to prove him wrong, I began to read the scriptures and tried all the while to keep up my complaints against the Church. What I found however was that I could not both study the scriptures and reflect on their meaning and retain a critical and judgmental attitude…. I was off the mark. Criticism is easy. Anyone can do it. Obedience is hard…” (page 107)

    Perhaps DS has forgotten this principle he learned long ago?

    • Russell
      How many prophets have been given the same power Nephi had ?Well, I don’t know but I’ll hazard an answer. Peter, Nephi son of Helaman and Joseph Smith are the only prophets whee The Lord said in scripture that they had the power to seal, bind, loose, etc. Enoch, Melchezidek, Moses, Joshua, Nephi, Jacob, Elijah, Elisha, Nephi son of Helaman, the three Nephites, & Jesus all showed power over the elements, rivers, mountains, trees, wind, waves or armies which is implicit in the sealing power. Samuel the Lamanite, Abinidi, Alma the younger and others spoke mighty words with an arm stretched forth, which probably requires the sealing power.

      Why do you ask?

      • I cant seem to find the post but I thought you were suggesting – as DS does – that we don’t have the “sealing power” or “sealing keys” on the earth today. If I have misunderstood I am sorry. I believe the “sealing keys” or “sealing authority” is on the earth today. I suppose the power to “seal” is dependent upon the person’s personal righteousness/obedience to certain laws and is confirmed by the Holy Ghost. So my question was to ascertain whether all prophets have been given the “sealing power” and or the “sealing keys”. If we don’t have at least the “keys” and “authority” on earth today then we are wasting a lot of time in the Temples.

  9. McKay Platt,

    After the Lord says to Nephi that “all things shall be done unto [him] according to [his] word” He follows up with, “for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.”

    It’s not like Nephi is going to coerce people into sealings. No doubt he would, as the Lord would, respect the agency of his brothers and sisters. Indeed, if he didn’t then the Lord would not have entrusted him with such powers.

    So it is today — though they may not be perfect, the brethren continuously seek the Lord’s will and what’s best for His children without infringing upon their agency. The individual must receive the Holy Spirit of Promise by faith just as he/she receives the Gift of the Holy Ghost. It is not an automatic right merely because one has received the ordinance.

    • Agreed, but what other prophet/prophets had the same sealing power – to the extent Nephi had it?

      • Russell, Do you realized you are suggesting a previously undiscussed phenomenon, namely, sealing power by degrees. Its a fascinating idea and one I’ve heard before but what supports the idea? There is nothing in Helaman 9 to suggest any limits on the sealing power except that the man so endowed is limited by Gods will. Similarly, where do you find limiting language in Section 132 or in Peters endowment of power.

        If sealing power does come by degree, where can that be shown in scripture?


  10. From the listed credentials on the authors about page it is understandable why the contents of the book would be alarming. He is approaching this from an academic background. Great truths in the past have often times been revealed to the open “unlearned” minds of the prophets. I have read some of the book so far and it does challenge a lot of my current views, but it’s provoked a welcome search for truth.

  11. I’m still reading through–this is a long treatise–but my initial thoughts are, why can’t there be merit to both claims of spiritual support by God and spiritual rejection by God for Nauvoo events? And even for the same events? What strikes me as compelling about Denver Snuffer’s book is the weight given to alternatives to traditional readings, to open up the framework to consider the prophetically outlined displeasure of the Lord with the Latter-day Saints, even if there are also simultaneous blessings. We have plenty of resources and talk about the blessings, but not much about the rejection, and there is ample proof in scriptural language that there was Divine disapproval as well as acceptance, but there is also ample proof that we as humans, and we as leaders, shy away from admitting that disapproval (excepting Joseph, who was peculiar in his disregard for reputation). What I think Denver brilliantly does is open up that line of discussion. It really doesn’t matter about each individual “claim” as you call them, when it doesn’t strike me that Denver intended to conclude anything about each individual topic beyond, “no matter what you conclude, stay in the church.” Brilliantly done on that point. Purposefully presenting arguments that are not fully formed, and often presenting contradictory evidence in the same breath, may have different intentions than simply misleading others as your review and some others I have read seem to say. You seem to miss the overall thesis of the book. It sounds like we are so insecure in our faith that we can’t countenance the counter-arguments, and are so quick to judge a believer as an apostate for giving anti-Mormon arguments the benefit of the doubt, even when that exercise is done to undermine anti-Mormon efforts to destroy faith. Denver instead skyrockets the potential for faith because the ensuing discussion leaves everyone more fortified and thoughtful about the most important events in the Restoration. Eliciting stronger proofs and deeper research into these topics may have been one of the author’s motives, and you, as an author, have fallen into that trap very nicely. If you end up unearthing better reasons to have faith, than I would suggest Denver might be counter-intuitively intending that very outcome through his exposure of potential loop-holes. If you desire the glory and praise of others for that effort, than I would suggest Denver might very well be glad others like yourself receive that praise instead of him. Denver’s reputation seems to be tangential…if he gets people talking more and discovering the wonders of the Restoration more deeply, than I am all for it. And I imagine if Denver gets thrown under the bus in the process, than he is all for that as well, because isn’t it all about the curious work of the Savior and not of a man anyway? Brilliantly done, Denver. Brilliantly done.

    • I don’t consider Snuffer’s work a threat to my faith–I consider it a threat to good history. He’s simply wrong, on a great number of points central to his thesis. “Alternative readings” are well and good, but when they fly in the face of textual evidence, they ought to be demonstrated to be in error and rejected.

      It really doesn’t matter about each individual “claim” as you call them,

      I guess we’ll have to disagree on this. I think when an argument relies on certain premises or claims, and those claims are shown to be false, then it matters very much for the argument.

      it doesn’t strike me that Denver intended to conclude anything about each individual topic beyond, “no matter what you conclude, stay in the church.”

      That would be more persuasive if Snuffer had been willing to do what it would have taken for him to stay in the Church. He was obviously given many chances and opportunities, which he declined. Something was more important to him than his membership–for good or ill. So, if that’s true for him, why shouldn’t it also be true for whoever reads his book and adopts his views, whatever he may say about staying? Actions speak louder than words. (And, some words speak louder than other words. Saying “I sustain the leaders,” followed by chapters and blog posts denigrating them is not terribly compelling.)

      I think it mistaken to believe Snuffer didn’t want us to “conclude” anything. He himself drew a number of conclusions (outlined in Part 2’s conclusion). He concluded Brigham Young was guilty of murder, he concluded that various leaders have abandoned the restoration’s fullness through Joseph Smith. And so on–I shan’t repeat all of them here.

      His stake president seems to have agreed with these concerns, according to that which Snuffer has made public. That is why Snuffer has been excommunicated for apostasy.

      Ideas have consequences. No one writes a book or a review of a book without hoping to influence how people think about the issue. I forthrightly think my view of the history is more accurate and faithful to the data than Snuffer’s.

      Snuffer is free to adopt a pose of “I’m not trying to affect anyone,” or “I’m not trying to be a leader or guru,” or “I’m not arguing for anything, I’m just trying to support the Church or the brethren,” but I think that actions speak louder than words, and by their fruits ye shall know them.

      Chief among the troublesome fruits are the mocking of LDS testimonies, the claim that LDS testimonies do not focus on (and even rarely mention Christ), and so on and on.

      Snuffer continues to give lectures and speaking about these issues. This does not sound like someone who does not want to be listened to. He claims God has given him a task to accomplish–that does not sound like someone with no agenda, plan, or intent.

      One can, of course, debate in one’s mind whether such an agenda or plan is a good or bad thing, but a plan there surely is.

      One of the best ways to manipulate someone, a wise man once told me, is to insist that you aren’t trying to manipulate them. I don’t take pro forma insistence that one isn’t trying to challenge the Church or its leaders very seriously when there is plenty of clear-cut evidence that one is doing precisely that. (If one admitted it outright, one would be out, after all. So the presence of a denial proves nothing in itself.)

      This is why I’ve never felt it necessary to indicate in my writing whether I think people should stay in the Church, or whether I presume to challenge the apostles and prophets. To the degree my work impacts those issues, I trust readers will recognize my commitments and stance in what I produce–by my fruits. (If they can’t, then there is a problem regardless of what disclaimers I include.) Every writer has such commitments and stances on matters of ultimate concern; all we can ask is that they be open, and I don’t think mine are hidden.

      As Elder Ballard warned the Church, those in our day who are false prophets will often not appear as prophets outside the Church, but from within.[1] But, that doesn’t change the essential nature of what they are doing, whether they claim the label of “prophet” or not. That’s why he warned us, so I presume we are to take notice.

      But, getting into those waters is for each reader. I was content in the review to merely point out that Snuffer’s history is shoddy, and its resulting fruits are disquieting. What you and each reader do with that information is genuinely up to you.

      [1] M. Russell Ballard, “Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers,” Ensign, November 1999, 62. For example:

      * “As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our duty to be watchmen on the tower, warning Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony. Today we warn you that there are false prophets and false teachers arising; and if we are not careful, even those who are among the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will fall victim to their deception.”

      * “We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church [or God’s/Christ’s, one presumes] endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such….”

      * “Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the “proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings” (Gospel Doctrine, 381).”

      “Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church [or of God/Christ, one presumes] and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce.” (italics added)

      What, one might ask, is much more fundamental than the idea that the living prophet holds all the priesthood keys necessary, including sealing power and those needed for all essential ordinances?

      But, even if one does not accept that belief, one can still realize that Snuffer’s attempt to use history to establish his version is deeply flawed.

      • I think you missed my point that your exercise in responding to his book has produced good information or discussions at least, more reasons to have faith, and does a good thing in many ways. I suggest this may have been one of the author’s motives in writing the book, and hence, perhaps, his excitement for including links to yours and others responses on his blog. The “trap” I mention is a good trap to be in. The author has essentially indirectly strengthened your faith because you felt compelled to look deeper into the issues. If he is not concerned about his status with God for trenching into these dangerous waters, it shouldn’t concern us about his status either. What has resulted, at least in your case, is something beginning to be productive. That, I believe, is brilliant of Denver, even if you consider him to be a devil for doing it. If Denver’s motive is to become a martyr to further advance his claims, he has to become, in Mormon community parlance, a false prophet first to achieve it. The result is the Saints who claim to be most disparaged by him never will be persuaded by him anyway. So I don’t see the big fuss. Those same Saints may just wake up a little and look deeper into their own faith and re-confirm for themselves what they want reconfirmed. This opposition, I believe, is healthy. For us, however, we really should avoid judging, and if we see Denver judging others, we still can’t judge him for judging, be he Saint or sinner, because our own salvation is in peril when we attempt to do that. I am a trained historian, so I respect where you are coming from. If Denver in fact does a hack job with history, you have admitted at least, for yourself, that it hasn’t affected your faith negatively…”I don’t consider Snuffer’s work a threat to my faith–I consider it a threat to good history.” Maybe you take a different stance in your treatise above than that recent comment (I’ve since finished reading it), or are at least concerned for other people’s faith, so I won’t make you an offender for a word, but one has to consider that his work may not be primarily about presenting good history. I believe simply, that for good or for ill, Denver Snuffer contributes to waking up the world to the conflict of justice. It certainly has produced your efforts in response at least. These topics need to be discussed more. Whether you like it or not, the author has succeeded in getting certain topics discussed more, whereas largely such topics have been suffering from a trend of neglect or outright hostility towards their existence. Now apologetics, (including yourself as in your own first installment responding to Denver’s book), have to substantiate certain touchstones such as the primacy of Christ’s confirmatory prerogatives in order to spin your own arguments against particular stances seemingly suggested by Denver’s chapters. This, I see, is a victory for Christ and his gospel. Since so many are agitated and can’t simply ignore Denver, if you assume he is apostate and hence, under that circumstance, should rightly deserve being ignored, then these topics get discussed anyway. Hallelujah!

        • Bad history can certainly promote good history.

          Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History spurred a great deal of Mormon historiography among the Saints for a generation or two. In that effect, it was “useful.” Hugh Nibley used to say that we need more anti-Mormon books; they keep us on our toes.

          However, it was and is still a dreadful book. And, God can turn anything to good effect, though that doesn’t excuse those “by whom the offenses come,” as it were.

          I can’t say whether Snuffer truly cared about historical accuracy or not. He certainly includes a lot of appeals to history, and claims to be presenting “truth” in his presentation of history (see Part 1 review) and “the most accurate account” of our dispensation, etc. So, it certainly has a posture of being accurate history.

          He could, I guess, have some strange “devil’s advocate” plan to sacrifice himself on the altar of excommunication simply to stir a rebuttal of a bizarre historical reconstruction (which no one save him has offered, so far as I know) thereby strengthening the rank-and-file’s faith in the founding events of the restoration, but that seems a bit far-fetched to me.

          I think the simplest answer is best–he has misread the history because of an ideological agenda, and is simply mistaken.

          • Well, my arguments would seem far-fetched if you assume that it is the devil that he is advocating. If instead he is advocating for the disaffected in a way that validates their proper concerns while encouraging them to let go of rebelliousness, then Denver expecting (at the time of writing his book) to be sacrificed at the altar of excommunication would seem just as far-fetched, especially coming from a church that claims the same goal of retention and reactivation. It is viable enough of a conclusion that he could have hoped for better discussion outright, and in the off chance the church was so close minded as to do something as rash as cut him off for hypothesizing, than more discussion as a byproduct would still be good then, too, because the right to think through deep doctrine is worth sacrificing for. At the moment, you seem to benefit from freedom in the Mormon world to expound the way you do because your opinions are popular…it would be unfortunate for you if the tables were turned. I hope you never have to go through what this man seems to have gone through, but if you are confident enough that your opinions will never be persecuted by the rank and file, perhaps you can escape it. There are just as many arguments that could be made that you have read into your source materials the history you wish to see, that you have neglected just as many source materials injurious to your case, that your approach may represent the danger of false prophecy within the walls of the church. But I am more apt to side with Denver’s blog entry that assumes we are all more likely brothers than enemies. I’m signing off. Maybe I’ll see you around.

          • “Devil’s advocate” means taking the other side for the sake of debate or discussion. It does not mean one is literally advocating for the devil’s opinions.

            I don’t express my views because they are popular, I express them because I think them true, and I think the truth important. You are not, I fear, well placed to know what I have or have not “gone through.” I rarely discuss such things. But, in any case, having suffered greatly does not make false claims true, or invalid arguments logically sound.

            One does not “validate” the concerns of the disaffected by distorting history. That does not treat them with respect.

            And, Snuffer’s approach seems to be offering the disaffected the option of remaining in the Church, while concluding that every leader since Joseph Smith was either evil, corrupt, or disinterested in spiritual things, and the Church lacks some of the necessary authority. (But, never fear, Snuffer will tell you how to get it, and assure you that he has received all that is necessary himself.)

            If the Church does not have the authority and keys it claims, I cannot see much reason to stay unless one wants a social club. And, there are far less demanding social clubs out there. I hear the Knights of Columbus are nice.

            If I have neglected source materials that should be considered, you are welcome to demonstrate the case. You have not, however. And, an assertion is not an argument or a demonstration.

            I did Snuffer’s work the courtesy of taking it seriously and engaging it on its own terms–I found it lacking. If you have legitimate criticisms of my work, I hope you will do the same.

            We are all brothers and sisters. But it is no expression of kindness or charity to allow false claims about matters of importance–just as you are challenging mine. (I’m always bemused and a bit amused by those who criticize me for critiquing someone else’s ideas–a mind-bending double standard.)

            If I am guilty of “false prophecy,” I trust my file leaders will bring it to my attention–as they have corrected Snuffer, and then been rebuffed by him. Thus far, no Church leader has been in contact with me about this review. But the Church can have my silent loyalty or my vocal support for the asking. 🙂

  12. Bro. Smith. I have disagreed with a few things now and again that you have written about before. But in this thing, you deserve a standing ovation for what you have done here in exposing this false prophet for what he is. I have personal friends who have been led astray and deceived by this person, and I and I want to personally thank you from the bottom of my soul for what you have done here. I can only hope that this somehow helps them, and hopefully they will prayerfully take this into serious consideration.

    Ed Goble

    • Thanks! If you agreed with _everything_ I wrote, there’s probably a problem, since I’m not always right. 🙂

  13. I have a feeling of profound sadness. To see someone sacrifice historical accuracy to satisfy some other agenda–here fundamentally a spiritual one as I see it–and the consequences that flow from that, well there is a sadness for me. I appreciate the painstaking effort put into this review and response. Thank you.

  14. Mr. Smith,

    I came onto this site as a guest and proceeded to compliment you for your efforts: “your exercise in responding to his book has produced good information or discussions at least, more reasons to have faith, and does a good thing in many ways.” I also complimented Mr. Snuffer, which might be the reason I attracted your ire. Are you pre-judging?

    My last comment was cheerful:“Maybe I’ll see you around,” and it was also sincerely admonishing while taking a stance of friendship as opposed to siding with what could be done in opposition: “There are just as many arguments that COULD be made . . . BUT . . . we are all more likely brothers than enemies.”

    I never accuse you of writing your views FOR THE PURPOSE OF being popular, but merely say “you SEEM to benefit from freedom in the Mormon world to expound . . . BECAUSE your opinions are popular.” I make no claim about your motives, but state a possible fact about the status of your views, not you.

    I express genuine concern for your well being should the tables be turned at some future point: “I HOPE you never have to go through what this man seems to have gone through,” while never assuming to make any claims about what you have or have not gone through already. That would be presumptuous and rude, and I don’t imply I think you are “green” to suffering. And I have meant, and still mean for, all of my posts to be nothing more than an extension of a warm hand of fellowship.

    You miss my grasp of the meaning of “devil’s advocate”, which comes forth right after my first mentioning of it with: “If instead he is advocating for the disaffected in a way that validates their proper concerns while encouraging them to let go of rebelliousness . . .” which fits the definition precisely. My statement, “Well, my arguments would seem far-fetched if you assume that it is the devil that he is advocating,” merely points out that many might take from your comments that you assume Denver is advocating for the devil himself, and is anti-Mormon. I reject that assessment, whether you only imply it or outright demand that interpretation.

    You say, “If I have neglected source materials that should be considered, you are welcome to demonstrate the case. You have not, however. And, an assertion is not an argument or a demonstration,” you are absolutely right, and that was intentional. As a guest, I am not here to tear apart your theses. I merely state the possibility that it can be done, and probably will be by others in different forums. My purpose was to greet you on your grounds with an extended hand. Perhaps you are looking for a fight, but if so, you would only expose insecurity. You will not get that from me here, although I am not opposed to good healthy debate.

    I will give you the benefit of the doubt and respond to a few of your points with a healthy counter-argument, but you are welcome to the last word, since I am not fond of internet forums to completely hash these things out. Perhaps we will cross paths and finish our discussion at some future point.

    You say, “One does not ‘validate’ the concerns of the disaffected by distorting history. That does not treat them with respect,” and “But it is no expression of kindness or charity to allow false claims about matters of importance” I would disagree. If someone already has a distorted sense of history, than touching bases with them on their level is indeed quite respectful. If disaffected persons are adamant about retaining some of their concerns, then Denver brilliantly offers a better construct that they can swallow, and still maintain activity. If that is still distorted history, then at the least he is speaking their language. He has, in other books, advocated the rank and file interpretations as well. It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God, but they are laid under a strict charge not to impart only according to the portion of his word that he permits according to their heed and diligence. Before that, we find it righteous to lie about one’s wife and say she is a sister, to mislead Pharisees and Sadducees, and to catch wicked kings with guile. And even then, Denver may be right about some things. He does, after all, write mainly from scripture and journals. Although, again, it’s not my intent to go into that here.

    You say, “And, Snuffer’s approach seems to be offering the disaffected the option of remaining in the Church, while concluding that every leader since Joseph Smith was either evil, corrupt, or disinterested in spiritual things, and the Church lacks some of the necessary authority. (But, never fear, Snuffer will tell you how to get it, and assure you that he has received all that is necessary himself.)

    “If the Church does not have the authority and keys it claims, I cannot see much reason to stay unless one wants a social club. And, there are far less demanding social clubs out there. I hear the Knights of Columbus are nice.”

    That is an exaggerated misreading of Mr. Snuffer’s carefully parsed words, in my opinion, but let’s assume you are correct. IF that is the case, then what you and he apparently differ on is how compelling the reasons to stay in the church under those circumstances really are. You are not convinced. Many others have been, and have returned to activity. Your disappointment in the church, IF it doesn’t measure up to all of the keys and authority your expectations demand of it, is telling.

    Therefore, in my opinion, if you wait until rank and file leaders determine your status as a false prophet, your salvation may very well be too far gone to redeem. If, in reality, the church has all the keys it needs, but no more, and that limitation defines those keys as something less than what you imagined, and you then would rather be in the Knights of Columbus, then I am not too convinced about your silent and vocal loyalty to the church at all. I am more convinced by a man from Nazareth who stayed loyal to a corrupt Jewish church, even though he was likely excommunicated well before his trial and crucifixion (as witnessed by the blind man who would’ve been excommunicated for merely associating with Jesus by being healed, were it not for the power of the Spirit that confounded the chief priests), and killed by the same institution he loved.

    Now that is all hypothetical concerning your motives, because I will not hold you to what it SEEMS like your words say of you, because I very well may be in error with trying to expound on what’s in your heart. Again I say that I take the stance that we are brothers, and interested in the same time period in history full of the wondrous miracles of God in restoring truth. Do you not even countenance the hypothetical above so much such that you will make me an offender for a word for merely stating it? Despite my repeated assertion that I take the stance of brotherly kindness instead? Some people could take such ill-informed views of you based on what you say. But, do you disparage me, despite my own testimony of what my motives are similar to the way you say Denver disparages the rank and file because of their testimonies? Whether you do or don’t is of no matter. I suspect this debate is larger than the two of us and the Mormon community will not see the last of it with either of our interpretations or input (since I really don’t offer much interpretation on the history here).

    You say, “just as you are challenging mine. (I’m always bemused and a bit amused by those who criticize me for critiquing someone else’s ideas–a mind-bending double standard.)” Rather, I encouraged your responses to Denver’s book (see the first paragraph of this response), and the critique I included was what COULD be said to you as counter-argument on the historical points. Counter-arguments, in good healthy debate, do not disparage you for debating in the first place, they in fact extend the debate and encourage more discussion. And further, as I said, I intentionally don’t advance the potential counter-arguments to your points on history. I only counter-argue your comments to me here.

    You say, “But, in any case, having suffered greatly does not make false claims true, or invalid arguments logically sound.” Although technically true, this neglects the very fact that suffering produces a propensity to be able to discern the truth more clearly, and to refine the soundness of one’s mind. This is an eternal verity that the profession of history commonly ignores.

    And last, “I did Snuffer’s work the courtesy of taking it seriously and engaging it on its own terms–I found it lacking. If you have legitimate criticisms of my work, I hope you will do the same.” I am not convinced you took his book on its terms. If so, I believe you would admit it is hypothetical, and that his thesis resides in the enumerated reasons to stay in the church under such a hypothetical scenario. Only in your comment to me have I seen the beginning of you taking his thesis on its own terms, and your stated rebuttal is that you are not convinced one should stay in the church under those circumstances. I would be vastly interested to see your thesis on all the reasons you think one should leave the church if it should be proven not to have all the keys you think they should have, what you think those keys are, and how you think they work for the betterment of humankind, and all the evidence of the use of each particular key, and why not having them, or not having particular ones, and which ones you think they are, would make the church worthy of being rejected, and compare that to Mr. Snuffer’s list of reasons to stay active. Until you take the terms of his book in this approach, I don’t see it necessary to answer your historical claims when Mr. Snuffer presents his history as hypothetical. It would be useless to guess at his motives and his conclusions when he likely may agree with you himself on some points and there really isn’t any argument to debate on. I hope you have a good day, and hope you will consider coming to Orem for Mr. Snuffer’s talk so I can shake your hand as I proposed. I believe, on topics related to our comments back and forth, this is a good healthy debate. I hope you will not again take offense.


    (I couldn’t figure out how to italicize the words I placed emphasis on, so forgive me for using the more obnoxious looking ALL CAPS).

    • Brian:

      You have not “attracted my ire” or upset me. I was responding to your claims, nothing more. I am very, very hard to upset.

      I’m not looking for a fight. All I’m saying is, if you claim I’ve omitted relevant data, I would sincerely like to see it. But, claiming that I probably have or might have isn’t really worth much. It looks like simply an unwillingness or inability to confront the evidence I’ve assembled.

      We will just have to agree to disagree that using false claims or untruths to encourage people to do a “good thing” (like stay active) is warranted or appropriate. (And, one could ask how much good it would do them to remain in the Church while believing the Church had fallen away from the fulness of what Joseph restored: “…the Latter-day Saint church was predicted to fail, and in all likelihood has failed to secure the fullness of the priesthood.”

      this neglects the very fact that suffering produces a propensity to be able to discern the truth more clearly, and to refine the soundness of one’s mind.

      Suffering does not always do this. Sometimes suffering blinds people to truths they ought to see, but cannot or will not because they are too wrapped in their pain, or because they have drawn false conclusions from their experience. As Anne Morrow Lindberg wrote, “If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers.” Having suffered or having had pain serves little to tell us whether a given voice ought to be heeded on a given question of fact.
      I’m a bit surprised it’s a controversial point that if the Church is not what it claims to be, possessing the authority it claims to have, that it can do very little for us. Again, Snuffer would seem to be exhibit A for this proposition. He could still be a member–if he was willing to do certain things which he declined to do. Actions speak louder than words.

      You are welcome to conclude that I did not take the book on its terms, but I did. I took its main historical claims, and analyzed them. They did not, in my estimation, measure up. If they are hypothetical claims, then those hypotheticals are shown to be counterfactual.

      Still, Snuffer does not present his history as hypothetical. He may couch it occasionally in rhetorical questions, but he makes point-blank statements that are in no way hypothetical. A few examples among many:

      * “Brigham Young’s [claim] that Joseph Smith had the capacity to confer such power independent of the Lord’s direct involvement is a marvelous, even unprecedented claim”
      * “We [LDS] are riddled with priestcrafts.”
      * “we [LDS] slay the souls of men, thereby committing murder.”
      * “Murder was allowed” in Utah, “but only when President Young thought it was needed for the salvation of the victim.”
      * “a First Presidency secretary acknowledges that [David O.] McKay liked his ‘celebrity status’ and wanted ‘to be recognized, lauded, and lionized’”
      * ““…the Latter-day Saint church was predicted to fail, and in all likelihood has failed to secure the fullness of the priesthood”
      * “Seldom does Christ’s name get mentioned in Mormon testimonies anymore, other than as an appendage to the “testimony” confirming the exalted status of the president of the church, and the truthfulness of the church itself.”
      * “The church has become a substitute for Christ, and in that sense has become the modern idol of the gentile church, just as Nephi, Christ, Moroni, and Joseph Smith predicted.”

      One could go on and on and on.

      These are all statements of purported fact, there is nothing of the hypothetical about them.

      Thank you for the invitation, but living in Canada, I am unlikely to come to Orem. 🙂 I found Snuffer tedious intellectual and spiritual company as I pored over his book, so I doubt I’d enjoy hearing him in the flesh any more. 🙂 That says nothing personal about you or him, but simply reflects how relatively free from useful content I’ve found his oeuvre thus far.

  15. 2 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.

    3 Verily I say unto you, the keys of this kingdom shall never be taken from you, while thou art in the world, neither in the world to come;

    4 Nevertheless, through you shall the oracles be given to another, yea, even unto the church.

    5 And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend, and beat upon their house.

    (D&C 90:2-5

    I think DS has taken the oracles lightly.

  16. In reading these posts debating history based on who said what to prove a point then considering our pride, human frailties, insecurities, biases, “feelings”, etc. I then in turn hear peoples views and perspectives on things that happen today which can result in so many different renditions, views, perspectives, beliefs, etc. makes me think getting to the honest truth ALMOST seems futile. Especially on this subject matter. My point? I’m not only thankful for those that will take the time to research and write their well founded opinion for others to consider but mostly I am grateful for the spirit that will testify of truth. I’m grateful for personal revelation. You all have been gifted with amazing gifts and have obtained intellectual stages I can only dream about. Unfortunately what we consider “truth” can easily get in the way of the TRUTH that the Lord is trying to give us. Get rid of your biases and believed truths. Seek truth in all things. Become as a little child and let the Holy Ghost do its job; expand the mind and enlighten the understanding. Through which we can learn all things.

  17. Accepted vs. rejected

    In Section 124 The Lord uses the word REJECTED and ACCEPTABLE. In this revelation, in the Lord’s language to be ACCEPTED means
    1-His people shall not be moved out of their place. (Nauvoo)
    2-He would “reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world”
    3-He would “perform the oath which I make unto you”
    4-He would deliver a promise by his own hands -for all who would receive a blessing at my hands must abide the law that was appointed for that blessing, etc.
    5-He would “bless you, and crown you with honor, immortality, and eternal life” and give “honor and glory” to his saints
    6-He would restore again the fullness of the priesthood v. 28, a full expression of priesthood blessings and power
    7-These things would require that He come to the Nauvoo temple v. 28

    That is what it meant to be ACCEPTED of The Lord, using the Lord’s language in this revelation. That contrasts with being REJECTED.

    And what does it mean to be REJECTED? It means to NOT BE ACCEPTED, not see his face, not have Him lay hands on their heads and be crowned with honor and glory, not have Him perform the oath and covenant of the priesthood, not give them a fullness of the blessings available through the priesthood including the promise of eternal life and the sealing power described in Helaman 10.

    And what does it NOT mean to be rejected. It does not mean to shunned by God, forgotten, and abandoned. It does not mean that God would quit listening to your prayers, inspire you & answer the sincere pleas of the faithful. It does not mean The Lord would not give revelations to his legal administrators on the earth. It does not mean he would not give revelations to Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff etc. all of whom recorded revelations from The Lord. It does not means that miracles would not come through faith. It does not mean that The Lord would not leave us all of the tools, signposts and invitations to invite and entice us individually into His presence. It does not mean that in time the curse would not be lifted and the saints be given one last opportunity to bring about Zion before The Lord again rejected the Gentiles and choose instead another people.

    It does mean, in the words of The Lord that “by your own works, (you) bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me” V. 48. The Lord then lets the saints know that a curse lasts 3-4 generations, v. 52. If we had as a church been ACCEPTED in Nauvoo we would have brought about Zion, with the opening of heaven, and in time the city of Enoch coming down, falling on our necks and kissing the Nauvoo saints. (Moses 7:63) And the “weary traveler” resting in the Nauvoo house would have been able to “contemplate the glory of Zion” that was proximate, real and terrible and actual. V. 52. Nauvoo would have become the springboard for the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, the tabernacle of The Lord, His abode and a place of rest for the earth “for the space of a thousand years”. That is what The Lord said was at stake in Nauvoo in 1841 when this revelation was given.

    There is so much fear in the Latter-day Saints today. Fear of the hard truth.

    McKay Platt

    • Mckay,

      I think you highlight the real issue. People assume that if we were “not accepted”/”rejected” then the church can’t be true now or that all of our leaders since the restoration must be false prophets. But that’s just not true. The ancient Israelites rejected the fulness and had Moses taken from their midst and were left with a preparatory gospel. They still had prophets among them and they still had a law to follow, a “true church” as it were. God’s hand was and is still over them. His hand was and is still over us even though we continue to live beneath what’s been given us. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t under condemnation (D&C 84:54-59). It doesn’t mean “all is well”.

      Other scriptures: D&C 84:22-27 (Moses and ancient Israel as a type of latter-day gentiles). D&C 101:43-62 (the parable of the redemption of Zion). D&C 103:21-23 (the Lord’s first attempt to fulfill the parable). D&C 105:16-17 (the people’s rejection of the chance to redeem Zion).

      • I miss where Smith and any others are saying or feel that “all is well in zion”. I submit that all on this comment board do not feel all is well in zion but many feel it is not as bad as DS believes it is or paints it to be. I think it would be well to identify what is well and what could be better. All societies including a zion society “live beneath what’s been given”. The church, the kingdom, (parts of zion already here because some individuals are living close to that state of being) are all in some progression toward the zion spoken of by the prophets. Zion will happen one person at a time until there is enough of nucleus that it will begin to grow through more unity.

        Judging by these comments one can see where we are on the path to unity of the faith. God bless us all or God change us all!

  18. To borrow Joseph Smith’s phrase, thank you for exposing “this concatenation of diabolical rascality in all its dark and hellish hues.” Mr. Snuffer’s writings brazenly falsify LDS history and would be unworthy of scholarly review except that so many people take them seriously. I know enough about the workings of the leadership of the LDS Church, and enough about Church history since 1844, to recognize that their apostolic line of authority is legitimate, and in full, active operation.

  19. Excellent review. You’re a first-rate historian and wordsmith and I appreciate your hard work. You’ve opened yourself up for criticism and I don’t envy you for that. You seem to not take it personally, however, so I’ll offer a few criticisms myself and welcome your feedback should you wish to offer it. Love, respect, brotherly kindness, and a keen sense of my own weaknesses abound as I write this.

    I don’t understand the logic behind your analysis of D&C 84:19-22. Even if “this” refers to the “power of godliness”, that power is only available by virtue of the ordinance and authority of the PH…which puts you right back in the same conundrum w/r/t Snuffer’s/Orson’s/other apostates’ interpretations (I don’t mean to brand Orson Pratt as apostate, but it was also his interpretation). Your logic opens the door to its own gallows. You just really wanted to use the word “canard” is what I think (TIC!).

    Your defense of D&C 110 was excellent. I had researched this myself and was left scratching my head about Snuffer’s conclusion. The faith required to accept that 110 was somehow inauthentic is greater than the faith required to accept it happened as written! Strange that he pursued this point I think. I also appreciate the documentation of heavenly manifestations at Nauvoo. I was aware of only two minor events previously so thanks for bringing to light the others.

    In the end I find myself caught between two extreme worlds: Snuffer’s, in which nothing is right in Zion and yours where all truly is well in Zion. I can’t subscribe to either view. Snuffer tortures the history of our church, as you’ve shown. Are his motives as nefarious as you suggest? I can’t see him knowingly misrepresenting so much data as any fool would know he’d be exposed and discredited for it. I conclude then that he’s a poor historian, myopic in his interpretations, and over zealous for fault finding. And proud (though I don’t mean to judge him for it; I’m proud too).

    You, however, seem far too indifferent to our shortcomings as a people (leaders included). We have some very serious failings and we fall tragically short of what’s available to us. We soundly ignore much of the core of the restoration. We are content with a lower law and our general prosperity. “All is well with this imitation Zion.” Those are true words, Doc!

    2 Nephi 28 means what it says and much of it is directed at the latter-day church. Perhaps you recognize that all is not well, but I would not have guessed it from this review. I’m sorry Snuffer has made it so easy to do with his poor scholarship, but as I said before, I believe you’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. One person cries “wolf!” at the sight of a tempest. Another person says “there is no wolf, go back to sleep”. Who did worse?

    You’re clearly smarter than I am so I now ask for mercy! 🙂

    • Of course all is not well in Zion. No one who serves in the Church can be aware that there are sins and sorrows aplenty. But, those problems are not those upon which PTHG wishes us to focus.

      Orson Pratt issued a perceptive warning:

      Don’t you know that the devil would be very foolish, if he wished to lead astray men who had been in this Church, who had been taught for years to believe the principles you believe in, if he should undertake to lead them astray by telling them there was no truth in all these things? The devil can adapt himself to the belief of any person…. If he could get you to swallow down one or two great lies that would effect your destruction, and which you would preach and destroy many others, he would not mind how many truths you might believe. He would be willing that you should believe a great many things absolutely true if he could only deceive you and lead you astray and get you to reject some of the fundamental principles of your salvation, and the salvation of the people. (JD 13:73).

      A minimum number of false beliefs can be sufficient to undermine or negate many true beliefs–which is why the continued presence of some of those true beliefs means little in assessing his project, contrary to Snuffer’s current claims. (For example, while I’m glad Snuffer persists in a belief in Christ’s divinity, this does exactly nothing to reassure me because of his belief about the status of living prophets and their authority. The error in one is not mitigated by the truth of the other.)

      Or Jedediah M. Grant:

      Now Lucifer has philosophy enough and religion enough to suffer his agents to run along with the truth hand in hand, and make himself appear like an angel of light, and teach hundreds of true principles, if he can only thereby get you to swallow one item of false doctrine. But the grand story is, the devil may rage as long as he pleases, and use all the cunning and craft that he may, yet he never can overreach those who hold the keys of the Priesthood, nor succeed in deceiving them. This Joseph taught the people, but they were slow to believe. (JD 2:15)

      Note again how vital those keys and their holders are.

      If you want to know in what ways all is not well in Zion, the last general conference is full of examples to which we can and should ask, “Lord, is it I?” If you think people aren’t building Zion adequately enough, look in the mirror after general conference, figure out what you ought to be doing, and then go do it.

      Tellingly, very little of which Snuffer claims to be problems are the problems upon which the prophets and apostles focused in October. This is part of why he must undercut them for his project to be successful.

      “What’s wrong with the world?” was an essay topic assigned in the early twentieth century in England. Wrote Catholic GK Chesterton in response,”I am.”

      What’s wrong with Zion? I am–so repent, and cease following Snuffer who claims beams in the eyes of every Church prophet and of the vast majority of members, and ignores even the possibility of a mote in his own.

      As to his motives and intents, who can say? For the point of view of his audience, they do not matter. He is simply wrong; the reasons for his error are at best academic. (For his spiritual leaders, the question is much more germane. But, they have already made that decision.)

      I’ve not spoken of much of motives–I’ve simply presented his own words, which can tell us more than he prefers, I think.

      If Snuffer has inspired you to do better personally, run with it. If he’s telling you the leaders and other members need to do better, run away.

      And, ignore his history. ;-/

    • Sorry, neglected to answer your bit about D&C 84.

      In the first place, I guess it’s just a question of the grammar, and so I find my reading more compelling. 🙂

      But, I think it may matter. The difference I see is that God can, by an act of grace, confer the “power of godliness” on someone as needed.

      Priesthood and the ordinances it administers are the normal routes for receiving such grace, but this does not mean God cannot do it otherwise if he chooses.

      It just seems to me more parsimonious than assuming (as you point out) that every theophany for a prophet requires a premortal ordination (which would seem to render the whole idea rather academic, since presumably all have premortal ordination of some sort). So, why make the point at all?

      I could be wrong–Orson Pratt is smarter than me, and a better man to boot. 🙂 I just think my reading is closer to the text and gets rid of an apparent difficulty. Your mileage, however, may vary. As I say, I don’t think either answer helps Snuffer’s claims, though.

      Thanks for kind words.

  20. I haven’t read all of your second article or all of the comments but I did read all of your first installment and most of the second. Thank you for your writing.
    I read five of Denver Snuffer’s books which started after reading a comment from one of the writers of LDS Liberty. The mention of someone writing about having the “Second Comforter” or “Having your calling and election made sure” was provacative to say the least so I “bit” and slogged through several of his books.
    I can only say that I was left feeling hollow after reading any of his writings, not uplifted. I listened to a 2 hour interview during this same time and found his delivery cold and unfeeling. That was very perplexing given his claim to have had a personal visit from Christ.
    I consider myself to be a hard core convert, I know what it means to go from the darkness to the light. Raised in Rigby, Id where 95% of the population were LDS, I was totally inactive at the age of 17. Amazingly through providential events I was blessed to need to know of the things of God. I prayed for the first time in my life and was given in the most amazing wonderful and joyful manner the five truths that to me seem inseparable, God lives, Christ is my Savior and mediator to Heavenly Father, Joseph Smith was the Prophet that restored the Church, The Church is true and The Book of Mormon is true.
    I hoped that Snuffer was going to have uplifting insightful writings but I found what to me felt to be the opposite.
    Once again thanks for the clarification to what he wrote.

  21. “There is, in short, little or no evidence that the Saints were being slothful in building the Nauvoo temple.”

    Much of what you have written in this two part work is really quite good, however, I find it odd that you could arrive at the above conclusion about the temple. I believe that much of the documentation that you provided reveals a great uneasiness about the speed with which the temple was being built.

    You have accused Denver of leaving out documentation that would support a differing view. It appears you have done the same thing unless you are simply unaware of the following information.

    First of all, Joseph lumped the importance of the Temple and the Nauvoo house together and said that the salvation of the church depended upon the building of both of those structures.

    Secondly- Joseph commissioned the twelve to make “An Epistle of the Twelve to the Saints in America” concerning several things including the importance of the temple and in it they gave a scathing rebuke to a portion of the saints who were obviously being very slothful:

    “…While there are those who of their abundance have built unto themselves fine houses, and who ride in fine carriages and on horseback, and regale themselves with the good things of the land, and at the same time they have left the Lord’s house untouched, or, if touched at all, have touched it so lightly as scarce to leave the print of their little finger: their reward will be according to their deeds, and unless they speedily repent, and come up with their abundance to the help of the Lord, they will find in the end that they have no part nor lot in this matter; their gold and silver will become cankered, their garments moth eaten, and they will perish in their own slothfulness and idolatry, leaving none to mourn their absence.”

    Thirdly- Lyman Wight (who was intimately familiar with the temple project), firmly believed that the Church had been rejected because of the slothfulness of the saints in building the temple. He said: “We were to have a sufficient time to build that house during which time our baptisms for our dead should be acceptable in the river.If we did not build within this time we were to be rejected as a church we and our dead together.Both the temple and baptizing went very leisurely till the temple was somewhere in building the second story when Bro Joseph from the Stand announced the alarming declaration that baptism for our dead was no longer acceptable in the river, as much to say the time for building the temple had passed by and both we and our dead were rejected together. The church now stands rejected together with their dead The church being rejected now stands alienated from her God in every sense of the word” Church History Vol 2 p 790

    Lastly- over two years into the building project, on February 21, 1843, Joseph gave a sermon in which he gave the following warning which also happened to be a prophecy that came true:

    “… dont deny revelation if the Temple and Nauvoo house are not finished you must run away..”

    The revelation he was apparently referring to is contained in section 124: 45-46

    Did they finish the temple?


    Did they run away from Nauvoo according to Joseph’s prophecy and the one he was referring to in section 124: 45-46?


    Had they been promised in section 124:45 that they would not be moved out of their place upon obedience?


    There are plenty of inaccuracies in PTHG. You would do well to focus on them. Don’t attempt to justify the current state of the saints where no justification exists.

    • A Reader,

      Greg is quite thorough in his treatment of that subject as found under the heading:

      “Claim #9: The Nauvoo Temple Was Not Built With Enough Speed; the Saints’ Suffering Is Evidence of Punishment”

      • Jack

        I find your response somewhat incoherent and lacking substance in it’s dismissiveness.

        Perhaps you do not understand what I am saying, so let me attempt to break it down for you by asking you a question.

        Can you explain to me why the documentation I provided does not refute the statement that “There is, in short, little or no evidence that the Saints were being slothful in building the Nauvoo temple.”?

        I have shown that the Quorum of the Twelve thought there were people being slothful and they were concerned enough to spotlight the concern in the form of a strong rebuke in an epistle sent to the entire church.

        I have shown that Lyman Wight, who was living in Nauvoo and was one of the leaders of the church, and also responsible for overseeing the completing the Nauvoo House, (124:62) stated that the church was rejected because the building of the temple went “very leisurely” ( modern definition: acting or done at leisure; unhurried or relaxed, without hurry)

        He saw the problem as including the leisurely attitude of baptizing as well as the leisurely construction of the temple.

        “Both the temple and baptizing went very leisurely..”

        1828 Websters: LEIS’URELY, a. Done at leisure; not hasty; deliberate; slow….

        I have demonstrated that Joseph Smith, God’s anointed prophet, declared that both the temple and the Nauvoo House must be FINISHED and that the salvation of the church depended on it. This means that the slow progress of the Nauvoo House must be included in the mix. His interpretation of section 124 was that the temple AND the Nauvoo House were a package deal in the necessity of completion.

        I have shown that Joseph was concerned enough about the slow progress of the temple and the Nauvoo House after two years, to warn the saints in a public sermon that the saints must “run away” from the designated place if they were not faithful in building the temple.

        Furthermore, section 124 promised the saints that if they were obedient, they would NOT BE MOVED OUT OF THEIR PLACE.

        The indisputable fact is that the saints did flee. They were moved out of their place.

        Does this evidence not show that the statement made by Gregory L. Smith is simply wrong?

        If I provide additional supporting documentation will you respond by stating that:

        “Greg is quite thorough in his treatment of that subject”?

        Apparently, he was not thorough enough, or he was unable to interpret the thorough accumulation of documentation that he gathered. 😉

          • I apologize for my delay in responding to a few points here. I was in the Canadian Rockies away from reliable internet and my books, and then a hard drive crash required some computer work.

            “A Reader” asks about data I’ve not mentioned:

            Joseph lumped the importance of the Temple and the Nauvoo house together and said that the salvation of the church depended upon the building of both of those structures.

            Yes, and Joseph later instructed the Church to forgo the construction of the Nauvoo House and focus first on the temple [Times and Seasons 5/5: 456]. I discuss this in the paper.

            The Saints can hardly be faulted for obeying Joseph’s instructions, first as they worked upon it, and later as they deferred its completion.

            Times and Seasons 6/1: 861 has the leaders declaring that they still wish to finish the Nauvoo House. Mob action began causing problems, however [T&S 6/1, 1031]: “The Temple was reared by the tithing of the people as by the influence of God, and the Nauvoo House was mounting up with the same “nimble faith and works” when mobocracy stopped the progress….”

            D&C 124:51 makes it clear that commands from God that are later “hindered by their enemies” do not redound to the Saints’ condemnation. They built a temple worth in excess of $1,000,000; the $100,000 slated total cost of the Nauvoo House (which was partially completed) hardly seems like something they’d shirk if not driven out by farm burning, at point of bayonette and thunder of canon.

            Secondly- Joseph commissioned the twelve to make “An Epistle of the Twelve to the Saints in America” concerning several things including the importance of the temple and in it they gave a scathing rebuke to a portion of the saints who were obviously being very slothful

            The cited material does not support Snuffer’s thesis. The threatened consequence is not that the Church as a whole will lose the blessings promised, but that those who are being thus slothful “will find in the end that they have no part nor lot in this matter”–which is hard to have happen if the temple does not get built by the faithful portion of the Saints, despite the intransigence of some.

            Getting a temple recommend for Nauvoo depended upon whether you had contributed or not, which would seem to fulfill that injunction nicely. As Brigham put it in a September 1843: “Now, will you help us to build the Nauvoo House and Temple? If so, you will be blessed: if not, we will build it without you. And if you don’t hearken, you will not have the Spirit of the Lord; for the Spirit of the Lord is on the move” (HC 6:13).

            Besides, the Twelve were those who insisted in no uncertain terms that they had the authority, had finished the work and temple as required, did possess the keys, and had had all the ordinances necessary.

            It seems selective (to say the least) to invoke the Twelve at one point and then ignore them at another later point.

            Lyman Wight: We were to have a sufficient time to build that house during which time our baptisms for our dead should be acceptable in the river.If we did not build within this time we were to be rejected as a church we and our dead together.Both the temple and baptizing went very leisurely till the temple was somewhere in building the second story when Bro Joseph from the Stand announced the alarming declaration that baptism for our dead was no longer acceptable in the river, as much to say the time for building the temple had passed by and both we and our dead were rejected together. The church now stands rejected together with their dead The church being rejected now stands alienated from her God in every sense of the word

            Wight here puts words in Joseph’s mouth: “as if to say the time for building the temple had passed by.”

            But, this is not at all what Joseph said, or what subsequent events show him to have meant.

            I discuss these matters in the review (see footnote 52)–baptisms for the dead outside the temple were halted at the 3 October 1841, the baptistry was dedicated almost exactly a month later (8 Nov 1841), and baptisms resumed on the 21st. This was all under Joseph’s direction and instruction. It was also very, very early in the process of building the temple, and one can hardly claim that the “time was up” by then.

            There was a halt of only 6 weeks or so. And, this was very early on in the Saints’ stay–Joseph would not be murdered for another two and a half years. If the time for temple building had passed by (as Wight insists it must have) why did Joseph let them continue to waste their time, means, and effort? Compare with my timeline of statements with such remarks as 1 September 1842 (nearly a year later) or Joseph’s expression with his pleasure at the pace of things almost precisely a year later on 29 October 1842.

            Wight’s reading simply does not match the facts. (Given that he would go on to apostatize and try to establish his own temple in Texas, he has obvious biases and priorities which might lead him to his reading, but it is ahistorical as far as I can see.)

            Frederick Volcansek:

            I do not believe Mr. Smith can adequately respond to your comments, as his view will not accept that we have been rejected by the Lord. This mindset, clearly adopted at the outset of his rebuttal, shapes the content of his responses.

            This is a wonderful example of the ad hominem circumstantial, suitable for use in all logic classes. Teachers take note.

            I will address this issue in a separate post. suffice it to say here that I think a great deal of scriptural precedent and usage has been ignored.

            While I attempted to point out that Joseph Smith always referred to the return of Elijah as a future event, Mr. Smith immediately invoked Snuffer and his views in the first sentence of his response. Interestingly, I never once mentioned Snuffer and really I am not interested in Snuffer’s interpretation of events.

            I mention Snuffer because the review is of his works, and I had already addressed the point in my review. I apologize if that was confusing.

            Honestly, we either believe what Joseph said, or we do not. The consistency of Joseph’s statements concerning Elijah is strong enough to stand on its own. One need not refer to Snuffer’s opinion, or that of Ehat or Cook or anyone else. We need look no further than what Joseph said if we want to know the truth of the matter.

            Unfortunately, as philosophers of history and the like have established beyond doubt, statements do not “interpret themselves,” nor does data simply “speak” without engaging the biases of those who interpret it.

            This is simply an old trick: your readings are biased interpretations of the text; my reading is simply the clear, ‘objective’ meaning of the text. The history of scriptural interpretation is well littered with such tactics.

            But, those who are claiming that the Saints were rejected do not seem to “believe what Joseph said” when it impacts their claim. I cited many such examples–a particularly cogent one is 12 May 1844, where he encourages them all to bring their families to Nauvoo so they can receive the ordinances. This encouragement simply makes no sense if they have been rejected or are failing.

            My thesis can accomodate all the data; I do not believe that Snuffer’s or “Reader’s” can.

            There is also negative evidence, in the sense of data which is not present but which one might expect. A point-blank declaration of their lost state is not to be found–we are left to try to intuit it by ignoring contrary data, and reading in a certain way. Yet, Joseph/the Lord have already demonstrated what the response to slothful temple building looks like: an unequivocal rebuke and instruction (D&C 95) which is simply not present for Nauvoo.

            To support the idea that the Saints were accepted, Mr. Smith refers to an appearance of the Savior at the Salt Lake temple, thereby reasoning backwards to the events in Nauvoo. This is the main problem that afflicts our understanding of historical events today. We reason backward. We begin with an assumption and then force our preconceived ideas on events in the past.

            Handwaving aside, this is something which we must address. If Snuffer wishes to claim (as he does) that divine appearances indicate acceptance, then he must explain a later divine appearance and what implications that has for a previous event which he has called into question. It’s simply a matter of logic and internal self-consistency.

            This is not my sole (or majority) argument, it is simply one more data point which must be addressed for Snuffer’s model to work. It merely reflects his double standard toward evidence.

            I note that no one has mentioned (much less rebutted) the large amount of evidence I presented suggesting that rejection was not what Joseph/the Lord wished to communicate. Likewise, no one has found fault with the Appendix calculations which demonstrate (I think) a rather remarkable amount of work done in a remarkable amount of time.

            But, if I’m to be faulted for my biases (which we all have) that criticism cuts the hand that wields it. Better to just look at all the data, and decide as best we can, with all the honesty we can muster.

            So, if these are the largest smoking guns that I have “ignored,” then I reiterate my estimation that there is little or no evidence that Joseph regarded the Saints as a group as failing or being slack regarding temple commands. Others may read the data differently; they will have to decide if that different reading is honest, or whether their own biases lead them to it, just as I must.

    • Well done,

      I think your information deserves a timely response by Greg Smith. He is very well written and reseached but this may put a strain on that particular conclusion. That being said, I agree with most of his arguements about PTHG. At first, I really enjoyed Denver’s writings, as they confirmed many things the spirit had already taught me. Then I saw him slowly become more and more critical of the church and it’s leaders.I completely agree with Greg that a hundred truths cannot compensate for one untruth, particulary an important one. From the beginning, Denver’s name seemed so unusual that I thought it wasn’t real. How ironic that the cover of his critical book should symbolically depict a gospel flame that has been “snuffed” out.

  22. Thanks for doing this great review Bro. Smith! When I first heard of Denver and his claims I searched a little but then gave heed to the whisperings of The Holy Ghost which told me to stop. Glad I listened! Many have been led away by Snuffer!

  23. McKay,

    Thank you for providing a clear discussion on what it means to be accepted by the Lord and rejected by the Lord. I do not believe Mr. Smith can adequately respond to your comments, as his view will not accept that we have been rejected by the Lord. This mindset, clearly adopted at the outset of his rebuttal, shapes the content of his responses.

    While I attempted to point out that Joseph Smith always referred to the return of Elijah as a future event, Mr. Smith immediately invoked Snuffer and his views in the first sentence of his response. Interestingly, I never once mentioned Snuffer and really I am not interested in Snuffer’s interpretation of events.

    I am interested in what Joseph Smith said, which was quite consistent in all of the journal entries found in the Words of Joseph Smith.

    Mr. Smith then presented a couple of interpretations for explaining why Joseph Smith seems to have referred to Elijah as a future event, and even used an appeal to authority, referring to Ehat and Cook’s view, as if somehow that strengthen’s his own view.

    Honestly, we either believe what Joseph said, or we do not. The consistency of Joseph’s statements concerning Elijah is strong enough to stand on its own. One need not refer to Snuffer’s opinion, or that of Ehat or Cook or anyone else. We need look no further than what Joseph said if we want to know the truth of the matter.

    A reader, thank you for your contribution to this dialogue as well. The saints failed to fulfill their end of the covenant. They were moved out of their place.

    To support the idea that the Saints were accepted, Mr. Smith refers to an appearance of the Savior at the Salt Lake temple, thereby reasoning backwards to the events in Nauvoo. This is the main problem that afflicts our understanding of historical events today. We reason backward. We begin with an assumption and then force our preconceived ideas on events in the past.

    Of course, I suspect Mr. Smith will say I am adopting Snuffer’s view. This is not Snuffer’s view, this is simply an observation of Mr. Smith’s comments based on his own words.

  24. I neglected to mention that the Twelve actually sent two epistles to the Saints that documented the slothfulness of many of the saints and warned of the pending rejection.

    Prior to sending the one that I previously quoted from, an epistle titled “An Epistle of the Twelve Apostles to the Saints of the Last Days” was sent on December 13, 1841. (HC 4:472)

    In that earlier epistle, the Twelve said:

    “The building of the Temple of the Lord in the city of Nauvoo, is occupying the first place in the exertions and prayers of many of the Saints at the present time, knowing, as they do, that if this building is not completed speedily, “we shall be rejected as a Church with our dead;” for the Lord our God hath spoken it…

    ..But while many are thus engaged in laboring and watching and praying for this all important object, there are many, very many more, who do not thus come up to their privilege and their duty in this thing, and in many instances we are confident that their neglect arises from a want of proper understanding of the principles upon which this building is founded, and by which it must be completed..

    ..There are individuals who have given nothing as yet, either as tithing or consecration, thinking that they shall be able to do a great deal some time hence if they continue their present income to their own use, but this is a mistaken idea. Suppose that all should act upon this principle, no one would do ought at present, consequently the building must cease, and this generation remain without a house, and the Church be rejected; then suppose the next generation labor upon the same principle, and the same in all succeeding generations, the Son of God would never have a place on the earth to lay His head.”

    That first chastisement and warning by the Twelve gives greater context to the second one that was given a year later.

    The second epistle was given over a year later In April of 1842. The second epistle was not the exclusive idea of the Twelve, rather, the prophet Joseph Smith motioned and had it voted on in a council meeting that the Twelve send the epistle to use their influence to motivate people to respond to the building project:

    “Also voted that the Twelve unite their influence to persuade the brethren to consecrate all the old notes, deeds, and obligations which they hold against each other to the building of the Temple in Nauvoo, and that Willard Richards write an epistle in the name of the Twelve on that subject, and publish it in the Times and Seasons, which he did..” (4 :472

    Providing even more context to the two epistles from the Twelve apostles and the other references provided, is the following declaration made under the direction of Joseph Smith a few months after the second epistle from the Twelve on July 15 1842-

    “We have been chastened by the hand of God heretofore for not obeying His commands, although we never violated any human law, or transgressed any human precept; yet we have treated lightly His commands, and departed from His ordinances, and the Lord has chastened us sore, and we have felt His arm and kissed the rod; let us be wise in time to come and ever remember that ‘to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams”

    At an ” Important Conference of the Twelve, Held at Boylston Hall, Boston, September 9, 1843 while the Twelve were desperately trying to get funding from the saints for the temple, Apostle Brigham Young said-

    ” Wake up, ye Elders of Israel who have sought to build yourselves up, and not the kingdom of God, and put on your sword. Wake up, ye that have daubed with untempered mortar! Hearken and hear me; for I say unto you, in the name of Jesus Christ, that if you do not help us to build the Temple and the Nauvoo House, you shall not inherit the land of Zion.

    If you do not help to build up Zion and the cause of God, and help me and my brethren on our way when we want to go on the Lord’s business, you shall not partake of the blessings which are laid up in store for the Saints. Many Elders seek to build themselves up, and not the work of the Lord. They will say “Put gold rings on my fingers; give me what I want;” and they care nothing about the Temple. ”

    Following his remarks, Apostle Orson Pratt said:

    “I do not know that I can say anything to impress the subjects which have been spoken upon more fully upon your minds than has been done. There are some things, however, I wish to mention. We have learned from what we have heard this day that great blessings will be given to the faithful when the Temple is finished. I will speak of some of the consequences that will follow, if we do not obey.. His revelations, the consequences of not building the house unto His name within such a time. The Lord says, If you build the house in that time, you shall be blessed; but if not, you shall be rejected as a church with your dead, saith the Lord. So, if that house is not built, then in vain are all our cares; our faith and works, our meetings and hopes are vain also; our performances and acts will be void.”

    I think it is really quite evident that many of the saints were being slothful and there was high anxiety over the pending judgments of God, should the saints fail to complete the temple in the “sufficient time” given by the Lord.

    • What kind of God would “reject” those that were faithful in giving of their substance and time to build the temple – finished or not?

    • “Many” saints gave “more than” what was required.

      “We praise our God for the liberality that has hitherto been manifested; many have given more than was required of them, many have given their all, but they have done it cheerfully; they have done it voluntarily; and they shall have a great reward; for the blessings of heaven and earth shall be multiplied unto such; even the blessings of that Priesthood which hath neither beginning of days nor end of life.” (4 :472

      I suppose it depends on what “many” means as to whether a majority were slothful. If a majority were “slothful” would God “reject” the entire church? God was willing to not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there were a very small minority of righteous people…

      • Russell, we cannot equate “being destroyed” as Sodom and Gomorrah and being rejected. If you see these as the same or similar, they are not. To be rejected is to not be accepted, which constitutes a glorious blessing. To be destroyed is another thing entirely.

        • Great point McKay

          I think one of the reasons that the doctrine of being rejected as a church gets such tremendous blow back from many members of the church is because people assume that the doctrine means that church has been rejected indefinitely and they cannot deal with the finality of their assumption.

          The Book of Mormon assures us that after the Gentiles are rejected, a portion of the righteous gentiles will eventually repent at the time when additional records come forth. (Ether 4:6 )

          You didn’t elaborate on why you think being rejected is a blessing, but I agree. In the big picture, I think it was ultimately a blessing that God temporarily rejected the church in Nauvoo.

          It is also important to understand that God has temporarily rejected his people in past dispensations as well. (2 Kings 2:20, Lam 5:22, etc)

          On a related note, the Lord warned the saints in 1829, in BofC 4 that he would deliver them over to Satan if they were not repentant and willing to reform.

          That was also typological of past times when the Lord would deliver his people into the hands of their enemies because of their unrighteousness. But it was a temporary, chastisement and ultimately it was for the good of his people (Lev 26:25 1 Sam 28:19 2 Kings 17 :20 2 Chron 29:8)

          People who are defensive and unrepentant, often end up judging God and questioning his actions instead of looking inward and accepting the hard truths that the scriptures and the history of the church lay before us.

          The prophet Daniel provides an amazing template for what we should be thinking and confessing and petitioning the Lord for right now if we want to prepare ourselves for the return of the fulness.

          “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
          Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name…

          O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.

          O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face…, because we have sinned against thee. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;

          Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

          Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.

          As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

          Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice…
          ..we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

          (Dan 9)

          Is this supplication of Daniel not representative of the humble and repentant attitude that the latter day saints should have right now if we are going to repent and receive the fulness again?

        • One more to consider concerning “many”:
          “But, brethren, the Temple will be built. There are hundreds and thousands who stand ready to sacrifice the last farthing they possess on the earth rather than have the building of the Lord’s house delayed, all while this spirit prevails no power beneath the heavens can hinder its progress:…” From the same source you quoted

    • I had not realized that Gregory had finally responded to a few of my previous comments.

      GS #1 “Yes, and Joseph later instructed the Church to forgo the construction of the Nauvoo House and focus first on the temple [Times and Seasons 5/5: 456]. I discuss this in the paper.

      The Saints can hardly be faulted for obeying Joseph’s instructions, first as they worked upon it, and later as they deferred its completion.”

      I believe this to be an incorrect doctrine that is being introduced by Gregory Smith. If Joseph had produced a revelation from the Lord releasing the Saints from the commandment and the related consequences, or altering the terms and conditions of the previous declaration from the Lord, that is one thing.

      The situation was that the saints were struggling to accomplish the goal because of their own internal problems and lack of obedience. Joseph, out of desperation, made an executive decision and decided to have the saints focus on just one of the houses of the Lord, but that did not change the commandment and associated consequences laid out by the Lord.

      Although exterior pressures eventually took place, from enemies, that appears to have been after the “sufficient time” period had ended. The Jackson County issue fell under the “hindered by enemies” clause, but the Nauvoo issue did not.

      Prophet worship, is a real problem where people assume that prophets can never make mistakes and that their day to day directives to the saints are never in error and can override the commandments of God. It is similar to the infallibility beliefs that Catholics have about their popes.

      Joseph’s decision to focus efforts on just one house of the Lord did not change the declarations of the Lord.

      GS#2 “Wight here puts words in Joseph’s mouth: “as if to say the time for building the temple had passed by.” “Wight’s reading simply does not match the facts.” ” It was also very, very early in the process of building the temple, and one can hardly claim that the “time was up” by then.”

      It is interesting how Gregory Smith, four generations after the fact is much more in credible and in touch with what Joseph’s remarks were implying that Lyman Wight who was intimately involved in the whole thing and who was an integral part of the fundraising effort for the Nauvoo House.

      It is easy for Smith to judge Wight for not following Brigham Young who open declared that he was not a prophet seer and revelator. Lyman Wight was the first person in the dispensation to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and was one of the most valiant elders and most powerful missionaries of the restoration movement, but brother Smith can sit back in his easy chair and declare the apostate to not be a credible witness of the events that were experienced.

      Furthermore, it is inaccurate to say that it was “very very early in the process of building the temple and that nobody can claim that the time was up.

      Lyman Wight obviously had his reasons for believing that a sufficient time was up.

      There are a few things I want to point out. One is that the Lord can reject the Saints prior to the designated time if they commit grievous sins, such as participating in secret orders and putting efforts in building Masonic lodges when they were supposed to be putting all of their efforts on the two Houses of the Lord.

      Violation of the Law of chastity/monogamy as contained in sectionb 42 would be another reason the Lord could reject the church before the sufficient time was up.

      The other consideration is that Mormons have been indoctrinated to believe that section 124 is primarily about the Nauvoo Temple and that it represents the first time the Saints were commanded to build the Nauvoo Temple.

      For this reason many assume that the starting point of the Nauvoo Temple commandment was in January of 1841. That is not true. The revelation containing the commandment to build the Nauvoo Temple was not section 124, it was section 97. It is stated in Vol 2 of the Times and Seasons that Section 97 was the commandment having to do with building the Nauvoo Temple.

      The Saints new they were supposed to build a Temple in Nauvoo as soon as they arrived. They took over 1 1/2 years to get started erecting it. This is why the Lord had to command them again, a second time to build it.

      • A Reader,

        1 1/2 years before starting – really? I guess it depends on how you define “start”. I don’t see it. How can one begin before there are plans, property secured, materials procured? Have you really considered actual construction?

        Your views seem quite harsh on the Nauvoo saints. I feel you have judged the Nauvoo saints too harshly and that your views don’t consider the real world of construction.

        I believe you haven’t seriously considered or are ignoring a critical point: “sufficient time”. What does Lyman Wight really have to do with all this. Your clinging to his words surprises me or feels like you are grabbing at straws or one straw.

        As I have re-read sections 97 & 124 I don’t see that the temple and Nauvoo house are a package deal.

        Opinion: God would prefer the temple completion before the hotel!

        Fact: The Nauvoo Temple was completed.

        My opinion: The saints finished in “sufficient time”. I intend to show dates of the begining and ending of the temple and that by todays standards the saints did a remarkable job!

        My opinion: Anyone that believes the saints didn’t finish in “sufficient time” must not have much experience in construction, time scheduling, delays, estimating, preparing construction documents, procuring materials… and has not truly studied and put themselves in the 1840s saints shoes (so to speak).

        Additionally the “enemy” clauses would apply to the Nauvoo period for He states that it applies to any time period.

        Nauvoo temple dates:

        Late 1939 Mormons purchased the city of Commerce

        April 1840 Commerce renamed Nauvoo

        Aug 1840 First Presidency issued a general epistle “…erect a house of prayer…”

        10-3-1840 General Conference church resolved to build a temple, committee formed, tithe men’s labor (work 1 day in 10)

        10-12-1840 Limestone quarry opened

        Fall 1840 Joseph Smith “advertised for plans for a temple” several submit plans – none chosen

        Sometime William Weeks chosen to be architect

        Unknown Temple land secured from Daniel Wells

        1-19-1841 Section 124:43 the Lord approved the place where the saints intended to build the temple.

        Feb 1841 Foundation laid out and digging begins.

        4-6-1841 Cornerstones set in place.

        Fall 1841 Baptismal font completed and temporary roof installed.

        11-21-1841 Proxy baptisms for deceased persons – previously performed in Mississippi River

        2-21-1842 Joseph asks for labor to be distributed more “equally”. Bring your own tools

        June 1842 William Player – Master stone mason from England arrived and then the speed of the work increased.

        Over several dates Several parties went to help with cutting lumber, milling, drying, transporting (from Wisconsin)

        Summer 1842 Construction was slowed – waiting on Plinths to be cut and only one crane for limestone to be set

        8-4-1842 First raft of lumber arrives (100,000 feet)

        October 1842 Needed to build a small office on the temple site for the management of

        10-24-1842 Temporary floor set up for meetings

        2-4-1843 Wells finally deeds the 4 – 1 acre lots that the temple is being built on.

        During many phases there are disagreements over how to organize the work, how to distribute moneys, who is in charge of particular parts of the construction, purchase of needed materials…

        April 1843 Walls of temple 4’ to 12’ high

        4-21-1843 Construction delayed because William Player was sick all winter. Also repairs were many to keep the crane in operation.

        Winter 1843 Early winter brings an end to construction.

        Mar 1844 Second crane erected

        3-7-1844 First presidency, the twelve, and temple committee meet to discuss construction of the Temple and decide to put all resources into the temple so that the roof could be put on it before winter.

        6-12-1844 Joseph tell reporter that the interior structure had not been decided yet.

        6-20-1844 Nauvoo Expositor destroyed – construction ceases.

        6-27-1844 Joseph & Hyrum killed

        6-28-1844 Workman stop work and guard temple walls

        7-8-1844 Work resumes

        7-15-1844 W. Richards, P.P. Pratt, W.W. Phelps, and J. Taylor send letter to saints: “…let us haste to build the temple…”

        7-29-1844 3rd crane installed.

        9-26-1844 Threats that the wood for temple would be burned.

        12-6-1844 The late arrival of winter was looked as a blessing because they were able to set the last sunstone before the 1st snow.

        1-25-1845 Heber C. Kimball prayed privately if the saints would finish the temple. His answer: “verily yes”.

        Jan. 1845 Wooden font taken down

        3-15-1845 New drain for font

        May 1845 All stone laid but capstone

        6-2-1845 Roof partly on

        8-14-1845 Last shingle – wood roof complete now lead roof to be installed

        11-7-1845 Last 100,000 feet of board shipped and would be enough to finish the temple

        11-9-1845 Rotted floor had to be replaced

        Dec. 1845 Enough work in attic rooms was completed to initiate ordinances.

        Jan. 1846 New stone baptismal font completed.

        Dec. 1845–Feb. 1846 About 5,500 people received endowments,

        30 Apr. and 1 May 1846 Temple dedicated,

        5-8-1846 W. Woodruff: “the saints had labored faithfully and finished the temple and were now received as a church with our dead. This is glory enough for building the temple and thousands of the saints have received their endowment in it..”

        My views on “sufficient time” for just the Nauvoo Temple construction:

        I asked God what He meant by “sufficient time” this was the “still small thought”: Russell you have 30+ years of construction experience. What do you think is a reasonable or “sufficient time”?

        1st I have over 30 years experience in construction with churches of many faiths, temples, homes, commercial buildings of up to 11 stories, extensive remodels, design build fast track projects. I have also consulted with architects, engineers and specifically the architect of the 2nd Nauvoo temple.

        How long did it take to complete the Kirtland Temple – from announcement to dedication? Approximately 34 months. (15,000 square feet – 2 levels very basic simple structure – no carved stonework and no basement – no frills)

        How long did it take to complete the 1st Nauvoo Temple – from announcement to dedication? Approximately 62 months. (54,000 square feet – 4 levels with detailed craftsmanship, stone and wood carvings, carved stairways…) NOTE: I hope you would consider that work during the winters was often prohibitive. Additionally I would remind you that nearly every member was trying to build his/her own home, plant gardens, find employment, take care of family members or others in need. This was a difficult time compared lives of ease as it pertains to surviving and trying to build a temple with UNSKILLED labor – mostly.

        How long did it take to build the second Nauvoo Temple – from announcement to dedication? Approximately 33 months.
        Source – head architect of the Nauvoo temple

        Architectural plans during the 1840s took a long time and used the old school paper & pen. I have drawn a small house plan and that was painstakingly slow.

        How many SKILLED craftsman are available for the first Nauvoo temple – few.

        Imagine not being able to call down to the local Home depot to get what you need – instead you have to make about everything yourself.

        Tools – rudimentary compared to today. How many had tools – few. Have you ever hand sawn all day? Have you ever gone to a stone quarry and chipped rock all day? We are talking about a long monotonous process.

        How do you get the needed materials? Find and open your own stone quarry. Begin your own saw mill, cut trees, prepare them, dry them, and ship them.

        Work was not contracted out it was mostly a volunteer force. What kind of labor are we talking about? Have you ever used labors from a Temporary labor company? It can take about 50% to 100% more time with unskilled labor than skilled labor. It takes a lot of management, training, experience to do good work. Stone work is a tremendously physically difficult job. I wish you could chisel all day for weeks on end – I have and feel a tremendous respect for those that gave so much during the Nauvoo period.

        With some of the insights I have gained over this past week I must say that I believe the saints did a marvelous work on the Nauvoo temple both in time, quality, and sacrifice. I also am inclined to believe that God accepted the saints offering in terms of “sufficient time” and of sacrifice.

  25. McKay,

    I agree that “destroyed” and “rejected” do not “equate”. I should have spent a little more time in developing what I meant. I wanted to show that I believe God to be merciful to a small number of obedient even when they are outnumbered by a majority and that He keeps His promises to those that obey.

    I am more interested in the following: In your reference from BYU Studies it states:

    1. “Many” saints gave “more than” what was required.

    “We praise our God for the liberality that has hitherto been manifested; many have given more than was required of them, many have given their all, but they have done it cheerfully; they have done it voluntarily; and they shall have a great reward; for the blessings of heaven and earth shall be multiplied unto such; even the blessings of that Priesthood which hath neither beginning of days nor end of life.” (4 :472

    2. I suppose it depends on what “many” means as to whether a majority were slothful. If a majority were “slothful” would God still “reject” the entire church? If a majority were “obedient” would the church be accepted?

    3. Lastly and not entirely related; I don’t see that it is clear that the church was “rejected”. I suppose at anytime any people could become a Zion society if they chose to become one. I speculate that if Joseph had remained on the earth another 40 years he might have been able to help bring Zion about while the saints still lived in Nauvoo. However I am also reminded of a prophesy by Joseph: “I prophesied that the Saints would continue to suffer much affliction and would be driven to the Rocky Mountains, many would apostatize, others would be put to death by our persecutors or lose their lives in consequence of exposure or disease, and some of you will live to go and assist in making settlements and build cities and see the Saints become a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.” (Documentary History of the Church 5:85)

    If it is true that the saints were prophesied to go to the Rocky Mnts. then I don’t see that it was ever the destiny of the Nauvoo saints to become a Zion society while in Nauvoo. I believe the church and it’s members were so new in the gospel and in what one has to sacrifice to become Zion-like that it was not realistic for them to become such – though I believe there were several individuals that were well on the path to becoming Zion-like.

    PS. BTW I appreciate the civility that most exhibit on this post. It is refreshing to find a discussion board that is absent of angry feelings.

  26. “I appreciate the civility that most exhibit on this post..”

    I get it. Most means not quite everyone.

    It apparently means me.

    I guess I am the dirty dog that has been uncivil.

    In the “legend of Bagger Vance”, directed by Robert Redford, Junah, (played by Matt Damon), is a “has been” golf player that has lost his drive. (internally and also his swing)

    In the movie there is a really funny scene where Junah, who is trying to make a comeback by playing in a tournament against the two top pros in the country, is sitting on a park bench with his girlfriend, Adele.

    They are both upset at how poorly the match is going because he is not representing himself or his hometown very well.

    She says to him: “…Basically, what I’m trying to say is…that I’m sorry. But it’s not my fault. You’re the one to blame.”

    Junahs response is “That’s one hell of an apology, Adele”

    I share this little scene with you to give you a heads up about the apology I am about to make.

    First let me say that I published a booklet 21 years ago that discussed the topic of the church being rejected with their dead for not completing the Nauvoo Temple. I have been studying the topic in depth ever since.

    To say that I am very emotional, passionate, and heavily invested in this topic might be an understatement.

    I firmly believe that God exists.

    I firmly believe that he is the God that Joseph Smith revealed to the Latter day Saints

    I firmly believe that section 124 is a true revelation and that the God of Israel did in fact make the threat contained in verses 31-33

    Based on those three passionate beliefs, I consider the following statement to be blasphemous:

    ” What kind of God would “reject” those that were faithful in giving of their substance and time to build the temple – finished or not?”

    1. speak irreverently about God or sacred things.

    1.tease or laugh at in a scornful or contemptuous manner.

    The statement you made was so incredibly offensive to me that I just had to respond. In addition to the sacrilege, it seemed like an unfair tactic to use in the debate.

    By shaming everyone for taking the passages seriously, or for believing in the “kind of God” that would follow through on such a threat, you attempted to make doctrinal and historical documentation irrelevant and basically shut down the discussion by so doing.

    I honestly didn’t mean to be uncivil in my response and I kept trying to devise a way to address your comment in the most civil way that I could by watering it down and burying it within a much broader narrative to avoid calling the statement exactly what it was. I really didn’t want to use the “B” word which I have now done.

    I obviously failed in my attempt to water things down… and of course, this response gets it all out on the table.

    I would expect a comment like the one you made from an atheist or even an anti Mormon Christian that rejects modern revelation, but not from a believer, which I think you are.

    I think that is what made the comment even more painful to me, that fact that you are a believer.

    Please accept my humble apology if I have unjustly injured your spirit… but I believe a response was appropriate.

    As Adele would say if she were here, “It was ultimately your fault for blaspheming against God on a forum where both sides of the debate presumably believe section 124 to be inspired.”

    I don’t think you really meant what you said.

    I am not angry at you.

    I am a little angry at what you said… but hey, people who feel passionate about things often feel a little angry. It appears that you felt angry as well.

    I think you sincerely want to gain a greater understanding of things and that is why you are participating on this forum. I fully hope and expect that we will be rubbing shoulders with each other in Zion after all of the fuss is over with.

    I just feel frustrated that we can’t stick with legitimate scriptural and historical evidence and documentation in discussing such an important passage of scripture without shaming each other for taking God’s word seriously.

    One last thing

    I did not think the moderators of this forum would allow any of my past comments. I was shocked each time a past comment was approved. Particularly my last one. It actually was held up in moderation for a prolonged period of time.. Perhaps the powers that be were debating whether to allow it or not.

    I will be even more surprised if this comment gets through.

    Regardless of whether it does or not I want to tell the moderators something, and I think I speak for everyone on this forum..

    I just want to say that I think it is remarkable that the you are allowing both sides of this debate to be heard. This shows great integrity on their part. I don’t know if the old FARMS would have been so liberal, perhaps, I don’t know. But this is really wonderful that comments are generally not being blocked as long as someone has something pertinent to bring to the discussion.

    Thank you Interpreter! You Rock.

    • When I said “most” I didn’t feel I could say everyone (though it may be so) was civil because I am so new to this forum – maybe 2 weeks now – so I really can’t accurately say “everyone” (hopefully) yet. This is the first forum/post I have found that I really like and where I am challenged to think about some very good perspectives and where there are some very thoughtful and well studied points/positions. And I appreciate that there isn’t anger directed at others. I am a seeker of all Truth but it takes time – my time – to study these things out and know what is truth.

      I am sorry you felt that I somehow singled you out – I didn’t intend to. The little I have read from you puts you in the “most” category in my book.

      1st I am not offended in anyway (surprised yes) and enjoy a passionate discussion. I appreciate your assuming the best intentions in me – I believe that shows a lot of goodness in you – thank you. I will take your criticisms to help me do a better job at communicating my thoughts and ideas.

      (Taking offense is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die)

      2nd I consider myself a very strong believer. I consider my testimony similar to a rope made up of hundreds or thousands of strands of string/experiences that combine into one strong rope. Also I would rather see a testimony than hear one – though I realize both are important. I hope my testimony shows through my actions.

      3rd I apologize to you, others in this post, and most importantly to God if what I said was/is blasphemy. I ask all of your forgiveness. I don’t see myself as one that would ever blaspheme.

      I meant that I don’t understand why God would punish those “many” that did more than was asked. My having said “what kind of God…” was also said to elicit a response from someone that might discuss examples where God had done something similarly. I still have much to learn about the nature of God. I see God as very merciful and that when he promises a blessing to one and they obey then they are blessed even if a majority do not fulfill what He says (“I the Lord am bound…).

      I may have frustration that comes out toward PTHG and DS because of the influence the book and DS has had on a few friends – now questioning leaving the church, ordinances…. I read PTHG and didn’t feel peace at some of the things said and I didn’t like the way I felt DS portrayed/and portrays those in authority. I am sorry that perhaps some of that frustration came out on you – I didn’t mean it too.

      I wanted (and still want) you or someone with your perspective to deal with the other portions of the BYU studies reference I gave that inlcude “many”. It seems from my reading there were more that did more than asked than those that did not… Maybe they have been addressed and I have missed them.

      Each of us seems to rely more heavily upon those things in “history” that supports his/her views/perspectives.

      I will state perspectives and positions and see how they hold up to others (I may even push things to an extreme). I hope that I don’t care what comes up as truth – in the end my testimony is not based on historical facts and opinions nor am I swayed by something seemingly shocking in the churches history. I like to study and ponder on different ideas and with patience, and the Spirit figure things out.

      I will do my best to “stick with scriptural or historical” information in my future responses.

      Ditto to your response to the Interpreter.

  27. Sounds like I may have overreacted and jumped to the conclusion that I was being singled out.

    I apologize for that.

    I share the same frustration as you regarding the DS book.

    I really appreciate your perspective

    Thank you for that thoughtful response

  28. Russell

    This is how I would respond to your question.

    First of all, I agree with you that many people find what they want to find when looking into history or doctrine to justify a preconceived notion.

    I think you make a valid point.

    One of the things that determines our personal integrity as we search for the truth, and brings upon us the refiners fire, is when we have to change our paradigm and accept evidence that we don’t want to accept.

    In searching for the truth, it is important to have the ability to objectively see the evidence and/or patterns of evidence, that is really presented, instead of being preoccupied with building a case to justify what we want the truth to be.

    In one of the statements I quoted, from the twelve, they said there are “very many more” that were slacking than obedient:

    ” ..But while many are thus engaged in laboring and watching and praying for this all important object, there are many, very many more, who do not thus come up to their privilege and their duty..”

    That is one of several reasons why one could assume that there was a greater portion of saints that were being leisure about building the temple.

    On the other hand, I think some of the statements in Gregory’s paper and the link you provided also present an opposing characterization and I can see how someone could arrive at a different point of view.

    I would suggest, however, that whether there were more people being valiant or more people being slothful, is actually irrelevant. I say this because the declaration of the Lord in his ultimatum to the saints, had nothing to do the percentage of faithful vs. the percentage of unfaithful.

    It simply had to do with the collective efforts of the saints in accomplishing a designated objective within a predetermined time frame that was truly achievable according to the fairness, equity, and justice of God.

    We know that God has all time, past present, and future continually before his eyes. That means that He already knew, before giving the ultimatum, whether the saints were going to meet the achievable timeline objective or not.

    Apparently, He needed or at least chose, to allow the saints to go through the motions of being collectively successful or unsuccessful in obeying a commandment even though He had already seen the outcome.

    Interestingly those who are into studying prophecy could arguably claim that Joseph Smith had already prophesied that the future temple would not get finished in a discourse given in 1840.

    He apparently interpreted the parable of the redemption of Zion in section 101, to be referring to the upcoming Nauvoo Temple instead of the Jackson County or Far West Temple failures.

    “We shall build the Zion of the Lord in peace untill the servants of that Lord shall begin to lay the foundation of a great and high watch Tower and then shall they begin to say within themselves what need hath my Lord of this tower seeing this is a time of peace & Then the Enemy shall come as a thief in the night and scatter the servants abroad ”

    Regarding section 124, It is somewhat curious that he never specifies what the drop-dead date for finishing the task is, and yet, I believe it does not really matter since the task was never finished, to this very day (More on that later)

    Now then, one of the really significant things that Greg Smith brought out in his critique, that few people are aware of, is the little known fact that the Nauvoo Temple was already under construction BEFORE section 124 was even given:

    “The Times and Seasons announced temple construction had begun on 15 January 1841, four days prior to the revelation, which suggests the Saints were not particularly slack regarding the temple:

    The Temple of the Lord is in process of erection here, where the Saints will come to worship the God of their fathers, according to the order of His house and the powers of the Holy Priesthood, and will be so constructed as to enable all the functions of the Priesthood to be duly exercised, and where instructions from the Most High will be received, and from this place go forth to distant lands.”

    Here is a link showing the chronology of the Nauvoo Temple which provides a broader picture and verifies that the saints had known for a long time before section 124 that they had been commanded to build a temple in Nauvoo.

    I believe there are several reasons why this little historical tidbit is significant.

    One is that it leads us to the realization, upon further study, that the initial commandment to build the Nauvoo Temple had taken place BEFORE section 124 was given on January 1841.

    This indicates that God may have already been impatient with the progress of the Nauvoo Temple before 124 was even given. This is actually verified in 124 when God has to command the saints “again” to build the Nauvoo Temple.

    Another reason Brother Smith’s observation is so critical in understanding section 124 is that it points to the conclusion that some of the passages that scholars may have previously assumed were speaking of the Nauvoo Temple, were actually speaking about the Nauvoo House. (which happens to be a House of the Lord where the Lord is to dwell)

    Case in point: Verses 42-43

    “And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built. And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.” (verses 42-43)

    Why does the Lord need to show Joseph “the place whereon it shall be built” if the property had already been purchased and the temple was already under construction?

    Clearly, those passages are speaking about the Nauvoo House, not the Nauvoo Temple, which brings me to another disruptive observation taken from the words of Joseph Smith.

    Joseph stated time and time again that both the temple and the Nauvoo house were equally important and that both needed to be completed or the church would be rejected.

    How did he deduce that from section 124?

    If we go back and re-read section 124 without the use of any commentaries or preconceived notions, we find why Joseph made the alarming declarations that he did about needing to complete the Nauvoo House within the designated time frame.

    The fact of the matter is that the narrative about the Nauvoo House that begins in verse 22 never transitions to the topic of the Nauvoo Temple before the ultimatum is given in verses 31-33

    According to a literal and logical reading of section 124, it is the Nauvoo House (which is also a Holy House of the Lord where the Lord will dwell) that needs to be completed within the “sufficient time”.

    It is the building of the Nauvoo House as commanded in serves 22-24 that is being present to solve the dilemma presented in verse 28 that there is no longer a place found on the earth that the Lord can come to and restore the fulness that has been lost.

    Furthermore, the phrase “Nauvoo Temple” and the word “temple” NEVER show up in section 124.


    Because section 124 is primarily about the Nauvoo “House”, not about the Nauvoo “Temple”.

    I would submit to you that the only time the Nauvoo Temple is briefly, if not cryptically addressed in section 124, is in verse 55 when the Lord commands the Saints “AGAIN” to build the house to my name in “this place” (Nauvoo Temple). He is having to command them a second time, showing that a previous commandment had been given regarding the building of the Nauvoo Temple-

    “And again, verily I say unto you, I command you again to build a house to my..” name,

    Prior to verse 55, there is no discernible transition to the topic of the Nauvoo Temple and directly after that verse, the narrative reverts back to the topic of the Nauvoo House, an underlying topic of the entire section.

    I realize that what I am suggesting is contrary to what has generally been taught and I expect to get some criticism on what I am saying, but I challenge anyone to show me any other passage in section 124 beside verse 55 that is clearly speaking about the Nauvoo Temple.

    The reason this is significant is because it brings the debate of whether the church was rejected or not to a rather abrupt end.

    Game, Set, Match.

    It proves beyond doubt that the saints failed to obey the commandment.

    If the only requirement was to build a temple, some people may argue that the temple was briefly finished for awhile after the saints left Nauvoo, (which I don’t believe) or that the new temple that was built four generations later fulfills that commandment, within the acceptable time, (which I don’t believe), etc.

    The cold hard fact of the matter is that the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House both had to be completed and the Nauvoo House never even got close to being finished.

    When the saints put the building of the Nauvoo House on hold and later fled Nauvoo, it was all over but the crying.

    Even if one rejects the interpretation of section 124 that I am suggesting, they still have to get around the fact that Joseph, Hyrum and the Twelve repeatedly declared by inspiration, that the temple and the Boarding House were a package deal and that BOTH had to be completed or the Saints would be rejected as a church.

    How can one get around that other than to state that none of these brethren were being inspired in their declarations?

    The other issue that you seem concerned with is the faithful Saints being rejected with the slothful Saints.

    I would remind you again, that the rejection that took place was not a final, eternal rejection.

    It was temporary.

    It did not mean that everyone that was faithful lost their eternal salvation.

    First of all, God, in his infinite foreknowledge and wisdom had told the saints in section 86 that the wheat and the tares were going to have to grow together until the harvest is fully ripe, until the last final gathering takes place. That was prophetic evidence that the saints were not going to be successful with consecration or with establishing Zion until the final gathering out of Babylon which was clearly to be a future event.

    When the saints failed to live consecration because of a portion of the unfaithful saints, God made provisions so that the “innocent among you may not be condemned with the unjust”. (104:7)

    The same is true regarding the failure to complete the temple and boarding house. The innocent will not be condemned with the slothful in the ultimate sense, having to do with their salvation.

    We can be assured that God always makes those provisions in the ultimate sense, regardless of the short term consequences that the collective body of the saints must endure.

    The great safety net that Joseph revealed in section 136 is that ALL who receive or would have received the gospel with all their hearts, regardless of what time frame they live in and what obstacles they face as a collective body of believers, shall be heirs of the celestial kingdom because God ultimately judges men according to their works, according to the desires of their hearts.

    Hence, we see that the rejection of the church was a temporary act that had to be made based on the collective failure of the saints, but it does not mean that the collective body of saints have forfeited their salvation.

    It only means that the work was hindered and the redemption of Zion has been delayed. Nevertheless, the unconditional promises concerning the redemption of Zion and the gathering of the elect will still be fulfilled during the appointed time of the Lord.

    • Man, the goalposts move so fast and furious, it’s hard to keep up.

      So now that Snuffer’s theories about the temple have been pounded into the historical ground, we get to the Nauvoo House and how the problems were always really about that?

      Well, if one wishes. But, one must then abandon the claim that no authority could be transferred, and that keys were lost as a result of the Saints’ failure to have a suitable spot (the temple, a la Snuffer).

      If we go back and re-read section 124 without the use of …preconceived notions….

      You need to discard this idea that anyone can read a text without preconceived notions. It can’t be done. Anyone who claims they can is deceiving either themselves or trying to deceive someone else.

      I think it intriguing how far some will torture the text and history to support those preconceived notions, but to each his own.

      As we will see, your preconceptions do a real number here.

      “And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built. And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.” (verses 42-43)

      Why does the Lord need to show Joseph “the place whereon it shall be built” if the property had already been purchased and the temple was already under construction?

      Clearly, those passages are speaking about the Nauvoo House, not the Nauvoo Temple, which brings me to another disruptive observation taken from the words of Joseph Smith.


      In the first place, the Lord doesn’t need to “show Joseph” where to build it. He tells them to build it where they have contemplated doing so.

      In the second place, work on the temple site itself had not begun. Quarrying stone began 10 days after the October conference endorsed the plan to build a temple. The foundation was laid out, and the digging the basement/foundation began only in February 1841.

      You simply cannot read and interpret these texts without looking at their historical context. Your reconstruction makes no sense whatsoever.

      Furthermore, what does “the priesthood thereof” have to do with the Nauvoo house? Rather than ask if people can show you any reference to the Temple, why not as what verse in this part of the text (including the one you cite) isn’t clearly about the Temple? Let’s take it verse by verse, painful though the exercise may be for some:


      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.
      29 For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—
      30 For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.

      So, which house is this? Are we really to believe that the “house” is the Nauvoo House, and not the temple? Absurd. Why did Joseph have them build a baptismal font in the temple basement, and then conduct baptisms there himself if this set of claims is about the Nauvoo House?

      31 But I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; and I grant unto you a sufficient time to build a house unto me; and during this time your baptisms shall be acceptable unto me.

      Building a house for the baptisms, during which time the baptisms will be OK outside the house (i.e., temple).

      32 But behold, at the end of this appointment your baptisms for your dead shall not be acceptable unto me; and if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.
      33 For verily I say unto you, that after you have had sufficient time to build a house to me, wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead belongeth, and for which the same was instituted from before the foundation of the world, your baptisms for your dead cannot be acceptable unto me;

      Again, this house is “wherein the ordinance of baptizing for the dead” belongs is clearly the temple–there was no baptismal font in the Nauvoo House; there was in the temple.

      34 For therein [i.e., in this house, the temple] are the keys of the holy priesthood ordained, that you may receive honor and glory.
      35 And after this time, your baptisms for the dead, by those who are scattered abroad, are not acceptable unto me, saith the Lord.
      36 For it is ordained that in Zion, and in her stakes, and in Jerusalem, those places which I have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead.
      37 And again, verily I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?

      Not only is this “house” for baptisms, but it is also for washings–where does that happen? In the temple, as Kirtland temple had already demonstrated.

      38 For, for this cause I commanded Moses that he should build a tabernacle, that they should bear it with them in the wilderness, and to build a house in the land of promise, that those ordinances might be revealed which had been hid from before the world was.

      The “house” (temple) at Nauvoo is analogous to the tabernacle made by Moses.

      The tabernacle was not an inn or boarding house; it was a portable temple, in which place sat the ark of the covenant, sacrifices were performed, etc. It was eventually replaced by the Jewish temple, not Simon ben-Cohen’s Inn for Weary Travelers.

      39 Therefore, verily I say unto you, that your anointings, and your washings, and your baptisms for the dead, and your solemn assemblies, and your memorials for your sacrifices by the sons of Levi, and for your oracles in your most holy places wherein you receive conversations, and your statutes and judgments, for the beginning of the revelations and foundation of Zion, and for the glory, honor, and endowment of all her municipals, are ordained by the ordinance of my holy house, which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.

      Again, this house has such functions as:
      * washings (done in the Kirtland temple)
      * annointings (done in the Kirtland temple)
      * memorials for Aaronic sacrifice (invokes Jewish temple)
      * endowment (temple; Joseph told the Twelve and others he was to give it to them because the temple might not be ready before his death, not the Nauvoo House)
      * ordinances (Jewish temple)
      * something all covenant people commanded to build (Jews and Nephites built temples; we do not hear about Nephi’s chain of Super-8 motels).

      40 And verily I say unto you, let this house be built unto my name, that I may reveal mine ordinances therein unto my people;

      Ordinances–a temple issue again.

      41 For I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times.
      42 And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built.

      Priesthood–again, a temple issue.

      Now here’s the verse we started with in your analysis:

      43 And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.
      44 If ye labor with all your might, I will consecrate that spot that it shall be made holy.

      How anyone can read this and come away thinking that it refers to the Nauvoo House simply boggles the mind. It is very, very clear–this is the temple.


      I realize that what I am suggesting is contrary to what has generally been taught and I expect to get some criticism on what I am saying, but I challenge anyone to show me any other passage in section 124 beside verse 55 that is clearly speaking about the Nauvoo Temple.

      One reason for which this is “contrary to that which has generally been taught,” is that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries did not see it this way. And Joseph, of all people, should have known.

      But, the second reason is that the text simply doesn’t say that. It could hardly be more clear.

      Further, Joseph instructed them to postpone work on the Nauvoo House at one point in favor of the temple–a datum which keeps being studiously ignored here.

      We’re through the looking glass now, people.

      A Reader, are you sure you aren’t Denver Snuffer? Gives us a whole new reason to be wary of “Reader response criticism.” 😉

  29. GS #1 “Well, if one wishes. But, one must then abandon the claim that no authority could be transferred, and that keys were lost as a result of the Saints’ failure to have a suitable spot (the temple, a la Snuffer).”

    I never made that claim. I am not Denver Snuffer

    I am perfectly happy to take God at his word that the keys that were lost during the Kirtland era, could not be restored in Nauvoo, since there was not a suitable place.

    “And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built. And ye shall build it on the place where you have contemplated building it, for that is the spot which I have chosen for you to build it.” (verses 42-43)

    GS #2: “In the first place, the Lord doesn’t need to “show Joseph” where to build it. He tells them to build it where they have contemplated doing so.”

    Not according to the passage.

    The passage states that God WILL show.. the place whereon it SHALL be built.

    The fact that they had previously been contemplating a spot does not mean that they had received confirmation from the Lord on where it was to be built.

    They finally get the confirmation to build the Nauvoo House where they had been contemplating the spot to be, in section 124.

    “And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof, and the place whereon it shall be built.”

    GS #3: “In the second place, work on the temple site itself had not begun.

    Quarrying stone began 10 days after the October conference endorsed the plan to build a temple. The foundation was laid out, and the digging the basement/foundation began only in February 1841.”

    Apparently you did not consult the link I provided regarding the progress on the building of the Temple.

    According to a statement by the first Presidency in the Times and Seasons, the temple was in the PROCESS of ERECTION some time prior to their declaration as published in the Times and Seasons:

    “15 Jan 1841 — The First Presidency reported, “The Temple of the Lord is in the progress of erection.” (Times and Seasons, 2 [15 Jan 1841]: 274.)”

    GS #4″Furthermore, what does “the priesthood thereof” have to do with the Nauvoo house?”

    If you would take the time to read section 124 and itemize everything the Lord tells you about the Nauvoo House, you would see what “the priesthood thereof” does have to do with the Nauvoo House for significant reasons.

    Here is an article that provides a break down of the significance of the Nauvoo House and why the priesthood thereoff is significant.

    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.
    29 For a baptismal font there is not upon the earth, that they, my saints, may be baptized for those who are dead—
    30 For this ordinance belongeth to my house, and cannot be acceptable to me, only in the days of your poverty, wherein ye are not able to build a house unto me.

    GS #5: “So, which house is this? Are we really to believe that the “house” is the Nauvoo House, and not the temple? Absurd. Why did Joseph have them build a baptismal font in the temple basement, and then conduct baptisms there himself if this set of claims is about the Nauvoo House?”

    Yes, I have already told you, it is the Nauvoo House.

    The fact that a baptismal font was put in the Nauvoo Temple does not mean that there was not supposed to be one in the Nauvoo Hosue also.

    Joseph Smith said there would be multiple baptismal fonts and that baptisms for the dead would be done in multiple places. See the reference in the link I gave you.

    GS #6: “One reason for which this is “contrary to that which has generally been taught,” is that Joseph Smith and his contemporaries did not see it this way. And Joseph, of all people, should have known.”

    If that is true Greg, why did Joseph and the brethren state, several times, that the Nauvoo House must be finished with the Nauvoo Temple within the sufficient time or the saints would be rejected with their dead?

    Those declarations support the supposition that Joseph was interpreting section 124 different than you.

    But even if Joseph learned that the Nauvoo House must be completed along with the temple during the “sufficient time”, through a separate revelation, what does it matter?

    Do you accept the validity of Joseph Smith’s statements?

    If not, why not?

    If so, then do you admit that the Nauvoo House was not built in the sufficient time period?

    If so, there is nothing else to argue about, we can all agree that the church has been rejected with their dead. 😉

    • Does God say anywhere how much time he would give the saints?

      Does he say anything more than “sufficient time”?

      If God does not define “sufficient time” then do the math and give me what you interpret “sufficient time” would equate in days/months/years.

  30. I think Russell has pointed out a number of key factors which should be considered carefully. I note again that my calculations on the amount of work done per day and per person also suggest that there was a n enormous amount of work done in a short period of time. “A Reader” has not even engaged that data.

    Financing such a building was made even more difficult by the fact that the Nauvoo economy ran on barter, largely:

    Temple finance became an exacting business considering the costs involved and the fact that the economy of Nauvoo rested predominantly on barter rather than monetary exchanges. All manner of goods were received to further the work. When I. R. Tull of Pontoosuc was unable to sell his produce in regular Nauvoo trade channels, he took it to the Temple store, where, he said, he “could always trade it off for something.” They had “almost every conceivable thing, from all kinds of implements and men’s and women’s clothing, down to baby clothes and trinkets, which had been deposited by the owners as tithing, or for the benefit of the Temple.” All tithes and offerings were ordinarily received on Saturdays, said Joseph Fielding, “to prevent confusion,” and often totaled more than a thousand dollars a week. – Robert B. Flanders, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, 204-205.

    This does not sound like slacking, and acquiring the needed materials in a barter economy on the frontier is much more difficult than “A Reader” seems to realize.

    In a little more than a year (May 1843-July 1844), 2,558 acres of land were deeded to the Trustee-in-Trust for temple building (Flanders, 206). Again, not a sign of slacking.

    Joseph Smith wrote that things did not move as quickly as they would like, but the reasons he gave were not a lack of zeal, but economic: “In consequence of the impoverished condition of the Saints the buildings [Temple and Nauvoo House] do not progress as fast as could be desired, but…we hope to accomplish much by a combination of effort, and a concentration of action…[April 1841, cited by Flanders, 207].”

    The revocation of the Nauvoo charter after Joseph’s murder also made things more difficult and increased manpower demands for security: “”Lawlessness had raged in and around Nauvoo since the time of the acquittal of Joseph’s murderers and the repeat of the Nauvoo charter. The town became prey for petty criminals and fugitives.” – Mormon Engima, 217.”

    Quoth A Reader: : I am perfectly happy to take God at his word that the keys that were lost during the Kirtland era, could not be restored in Nauvoo, since there was not a suitable place.

    As I discuss in the review, such a naive reading distorts the text. That which was taken were not things that were had at Kirtland, but baptism for the dead, which was never practiced at Kirtland, and not had by the Church at all until 1840.

    Let’s not be so preumptuous as to put our own readings into God’s mouth! 🙂

    Quoth A Reader: : According to a statement by the first Presidency in the Times and Seasons, the temple was in the PROCESS of ERECTION….

    Yes, but this does not mean construction had begun. Stone cutting had begun, but nothing on site.

    Planning was beginning. They had to find a site, acquire the land, several people submitted plans (only one of which Joseph liked) and then the work started in February. The time-line is pretty clear. Russell set it out nicely. William Clayton adds some of the pre-construction-starting details:

    Before even this state of comfort was achieved, the authorities began to talk upon the subject of building a temple, wherein to administer the ordinances of God’s house. Several councils were held and a place selected whereon the temple was contemplated to be built. The matter was laid before the conference on the 6th of October, in the year 1840; and the Church voted to commence the work immediately. On this day the conference appointed a committee of three, viz: Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee and Reynolds Cahoon, to carry the business into operation and to oversee the work.

    During conference President Joseph Smith explained to the Saints the law of tithing and the plan upon which the building of the temple was to be conducted.

    Several plans for a temple were made and submitted by various individuals, but the only one which was satisfactory to the Prophet was the one drawn and presented by William Weeks.

    On the twelfth day of the same month [October 1841], the brethren commenced the opening of a quarry from which to obtain stone for the building. Brother Elisha Everett was the man who struck the [p.527] first blow on the works. He has continued in this labor from that time on until the present, and has proved himself a faithful worker and a worthy man.

    The committee contracted with Daniel H. Wells, Esq., for the land whereon to build the temple; and on the nineteenth day of January, in the year 1841, the Lord, through His servant Joseph gave a revelation approving the selection of a temple site and commanding the erection of the sacred structure upon that spot.

    In the month of February, 1841, Elder Alpheus Cutler, assisted by Elder Cahoon and others, laid out the foundation of the temple. On the eighteenth day of that month the brethren began to dig the cellar. As it was the wish of President Joseph that the corner stones of the temple should be laid on the sixth day of the next April, the Corners for the foundation were first excavated; and about the first day of March the cellar walls were commenced.

    On February 22nd the committee organized the city into Wards and called upon the brethren to come forward and labor every tenth day. By this means they were enabled to rush on the work so rapidly that by the sixth day of April the walls were sufficiently high at the corners to admit of the laying of the corner stones. And notwithstanding the extreme poverty of the Church, the labor moved so quickly and the prospects seemed very cheering and pleasing.

    – “An Interesting Journal, by William Clayton” in The Juvenile Instructor, 21 (January 15-Oct. 15, 1886), 2-20:23-311; reproduced in Smith, An Intimate Chronicle, 526-527

    So, again, a contemporaneous witness disproves your argument that D&C 124 is speaking of the Nauvoo House for the most part. That just isn’t how the contemporaries understood the matter, and Joseph was there to correct them (though how one can read it as you do without ideology, I don’t understand–I think they found it very clear.)

    A contemporaneous reading trumps your reconstruction, methinks. Note too Clayton’s contemporary witness about their speed and diligence.

    In short, your links to tie everything in D&C 124 to the Nauvoo House instead of the temple just doesn’t wash.

    Baptismal font in the Nauvoo House

    I would love to see any primary source evidence for your claim that there was to be a baptismal font in the Nauvoo House. I’m aware of no such reference.

    It also doesn’t make sense because why would they build the walls up, and then go in later and retrofit it with a baptismal font? Are the Saints that dumb? Wouldn’t it be easier to build it in situ? Or are they going to put the font on an upper floor with all that water mass? And haul buckets of water upstairs to fill it?

    I’d be fascinated to hear of such evidence, but I don’t think it exists.

    Lyman Wight

    Quoth A Reader: : It is interesting how Gregory Smith, four generations after the fact is much more in credible and in touch with what Joseph’s remarks were implying that Lyman Wight who was intimately involved in the whole thing and who was an integral part of the fundraising effort for the Nauvoo House.

    Don’t be silly. The question isn’t whether I understand the situation better than Wight did. The question is whether my evaluation of his reliability as a witness to such matters is better than yours. We both are at an equal distance from the historical evidence.

    There’s an incredible double standard here–there are many, many examples of people on record at the time saying they had finished the temple in time. You reject these, because you think your reading of the history disproves them. They were equally involved, “intimately” in the temple building, just as Wight was. But, you don’t seem to think it presumptuous for you to find their testimony less than wholly convincing.

    But, as soon as you get Wight’s testimony, you wave it like the final deciding factor simply because it agrees with you, and condemn someone who doesn’t follow along. Funny, but not convincing.

    The problem is that Wight’s testimony is not wholly plausible. It is late, after-the-fact, and after his apostasy. That introduces the question of bias.

    Of more importance is what Wight was doing contemporaneously. Wight claims later that the Saints ran out of time with regards to baptisms for the dead. But, Joseph Smith didn’t see it that way. The hold between stopping baptisms out of the temple and restarting them in the temple was less than two months (dedicated 8 November; proxy baptisms resumed 21 November). Joseph himself performed baptisms in the temple (28 December 1841). So, Wight’s claim is false on its face, at least from Joseph’s point of view. If the time was up, why did Joseph endorse the work being done in the Temple, and encourage the Saints to continue their work?

    Furthermore, Wight was not so faithful or dedicated in the matter of construction as he would have us believe, or that “A Reader” wants us to assume. From the non-LDS work Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi by Robert B. Flanders, we read:

    In the meantime, according to [Bishop George] Miller, Lyman Wight had brought the [Nauvoo House] Association to the brink of disaster. He had been sidetracked by “other speculative business ventures,” namely, house building in Nauvoo. Then, taking a mission east in the interests of the Association, he had lost a trunk containing a quantity of Nauvoo House stock certificates which were never recovered. “Lyman had become wholly disqualified for business of any kind, in consequence of his indulgence in a habit he was occasionally addicted to [drinking], his face and body very much bloated or swollen…He had accomplished nothing for the Nauvoo House.” Miller’s assertion that the Nauvoo House Association had been poorly managed in his absence seems to be corroborated by a cryptic remark of Willard Richards. “No investigation of Nauvoo House books yet,” he wrote Brigham Young in July; “Joseph says little about it.”10 Joseph and Hyrum Smith advised Miller privately to take Wight back to the pineries, since he was better suited to that kind of work and would be more “free from temptation.” – p. 184

    So, Wight himself slowed matters, was distracted from his assignment, and ultimately had to be moved into other duties. By “February, 1844, Miller and Wight were asking to leave the project to go to Texas” (p. 189). Thus, as it turns out, Wight himself wanted to abandon his work on it–but not until February 1844, more than two years after the baptism issue. In 1841, Wight did not decide to give up the temple/Nauvoo House building because the Saints had exhausted the time available to him (as he would later claim).

    Only later did he try to leave it–and, Joseph was still alive (and still encouraging temple construction) and Wight’s efforts with the enterprise would be considerably checkered.

    So, in doing history, one must assess such things, and try to decide which answer is more plausible. I think it clear that Wight did not regard the temple as a lost cause in 1841 when the baptism issue came up. At the earliest, he considered that the case in February 1844–but, that was prior to Joseph’s death, and Joseph could have confirmed the story of the Saints’ failure if he wished. This looks like Wight’s post-hoc justification of later decisions which alienated himself from the main Church.

    Your appeals to his righteousness and priesthood status are a thinly veiled arugment from authory or arugment ad hominem in the positive sense (one should believe a witness’s argument because of his upstanding personal qualifies). It is fallacious, and demonstrates how thin your reasoning is on this point.

    One could say similar things abut Brigham, Heber, Wilford, or the rest who stayed faithful to the main Church and temple. But, your story requires Wight to be right–despite the problems with his testimony–and all the others to be wrong.

    I think most readers can see through this kind of special pleading.

    A hold put on Nauvoo House construction

    Quoth A Reader: :I believe this to be an incorrect doctrine that is being introduced by Gregory Smith. If Joseph had produced a revelation from the Lord releasing the Saints from the commandment and the related consequences, or altering the terms and conditions of the previous declaration from the Lord, that is one thing.

    The situation was that the saints were struggling to accomplish the goal because of their own internal problems and lack of obedience. Joseph, out of desperation, made an executive decision and decided to have the saints focus on just one of the houses of the Lord, but that did not change the commandment and associated consequences laid out by the Lord.

    My heavens, talk about mind reading! My view can’t be “false doctrine”–there’s no doctrine that I’m aware of regarding the degree of revelation attending the decision. Your recreation certainly isn’t “doctrine” either.

    This is, instead, a historical question. We cannot know historically whether Joseph had a revelation or not. We can know, however, whether he or his contemporaries claimed it was a revelation. And, they did. So, your mind-reading reconstruction contradicts what the contemporary, primary source data claims.

    For example, Brigham Young spoke to the Saints prior to Joseph’s death, saying: “When did this work ever stop since it began! Never. The only thing the Saints now want to know is—what does the Lord want of us, and we are ready to do it. Well, then, build the Temple of the Lord. Keep the law of God, ye Saints, and the hypocrite and scoundrel will flee out of your midst and tremble, for the fire of God will be too hot for them. I expect the Saints are so anxious to work, and so ready to do right, that God has whispered to the Prophet, “Build the Temple, and let the Nauvoo House alone at present?” (HC 6:242).

    Where is “A Reader’s” evidence that this was Joseph making “an executive decision” in extremis? Brigham declares God has spoken to Joseph. Joseph doesn’t correct the idea. Here’s the perfect time for Joseph to say, “Actually you’re all falling down on the job, so I’m making the best of a bad lot.” [Joseph speaks about the temple after Brigham at the very same meeting as Brigham–see HC 6:243.]

    On May 3rd, Brigham and Willard Richards would write: “We have dropped the Nauvoo House until the Temple can be completed, and the Temple is going on finely.” [HC 6:351] That’s two witnesses to Wight’s one–and they were as intimately involved as he was: more so, by this point, since Wight had asked to go elsewhere in Feb 1844. Likewise, Wandle Mace’s autobiography notes, Joseph saying at this time that ‘we need the temple more than anything else'” Joseph clearly privileges the Temple over the Nauvoo House.

    Quoth A Reader: : Violation of the Law of chastity/monogamy as contained in sectionb 42 would be another reason the Lord could reject the church before the sufficient time was up.

    Again, that is a question not amenable to a historical answer. Joseph Smith certainly taught and practice plural marriage, and encouraged others to do so. (If you are among the minority of those who believe Joseph didn’t teach the practice, that’s another area of history for which you’re not really dealing with all the evidence.)

    If not, then one could cogently ask why we ought to believe a revelation to him about time limits for temple building, and reject his teachings on plural marriage. Ideology will influence this choice, not historical research. But, your declarations are simply ad hoc, they are not an appeal to historical evidence.

    Other LDS and non-LDS accounts

    Flanders account likewise considered the Nauvoo House beyond the Saints’ ability at the time: “Its [the Nauvoo House’s] conception was too grand for the available resources. – p. 189”

    Of the temple, Flanders would say: “Work on the Temple was pushed feverishly from the beginning, and the Saints were hounded and badgered to ever greater zeal in its behalf….Just what the length of that “sufficient time” was, Smith did not say; but the threat was taken seriously. [p. 199]….There is no doubt that whatever the cost it was a severe drain on the meager economy of the Mormon kingdom by the Mississippi. [p. 207]”

    Wilford Woodruff:

    [March 1842] The Temple is progressing well at the present time. – WWJ, 2:165

    [30 July 1845] The Nauvoo House & Temple is rapidly Progressing.- WWJ, 2:587

    This does not sound like slackness. William Clayton is another witness:

    He grew more optimistic as the work went on. “The works of the Temple progress very rapidly and there is a better feeling amongst the brethren than I ever saw,” he wrote on May 7, 1845. “Everything moves beautifully and harmoniously and the prayers of the saints ascend up daily that we may be sustained until the Temple and Nauvoo House are finished and the saints receive their endowment.” The next day he was delighted to report the visit of some people from Kentucky who were “astonished” at the industry of the Mormons and the beauty of the temple. – James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship, 171.

    Another hostile ex-member, Ebenezer Robinson, would later recall:

    “The brethren seemed to vie with each other in their diligence,…as many of them felt…if they failed to have the work accomplished by the time appointed, they lost not only their own souls’ salvation, but also that of their dead friends, for whom they had been baptized…I confess that was too strong meat for me…” Robinson reasoned that the baptism of the living could not be revoked and that the salvation of the dead could not rightly be made to depend on the performance or nonperformance of the living. “I came to the conclusion that the Lord did not give that revelation.” – Cited in Flanders, p 200

    Robinson did not believe the doctrines, or believe the temple was necessary, and he disliked Joseph’s teachings about plural marriage. Yet, he clearly reports that the Saints that he knew worked zealously, regarding it as affecting both their and their deceased friends’ salvation.

    Being driven out

    March 1845, the Saints were already at risk of mob persecution. “The subject of the movements of the mob was talked over and it was considered best for those who are hunted with writs to go on Missions so that we may if possible evade the blow until we can finish the Temple and the Nauvoo House.128 It was also decided that the workmen on the walls of the Temple commence tomorrow.” [Clayton Diary, 11 March 1845]

    Heber C. Kimball’s letters and journals discuss the pressure that mounted in September 1845:

    Heber Kimball, Journal and Letters, p.177 – p.78
    “Monday, 5th, [?]” he says, “our county election was held. Had a bee the same day to get wood for the Nauvoo House; had one hundred and fifty teams.” By the 20th, it seems, they had gotten eight courses on two sides of the Nauvoo House. But Satan became more and more enraged as he saw the work of God continuing to progress, and his power was arrayed against the Saints, and on the 15th of September, while my father and others of his brethren were in council, at Brother Joseph Kingsbury’s, two sheriffs came after the following men: Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Pratt, George A. Smith, John Taylor, Willard Richards, George Miller, John Karns, Orson Pratt, Orson Hyde, and John Page. These men said they were requested not to serve a writ on William Smith. They did not find any of them and soon left the city.

    [September] 16th [1845], father [Heber C. Kimball] met with his brethren to consult about what measures to enter into, and concluded to stop the work on the Nauvoo House. Adjourned at twelve o’clock, and met again at two. “We had not been in more than ten minutes,” father says, “before J. B. Backenstos, a sheriff and lawyer, not a Mormon, and Porter Rockwell came in. Learned that a mob rushed upon them suddenly and chased them from Warsaw. In the struggle to get away from the mob, Porter Rockwell shot one man, and Backenstos one or two more.” Orders were sent to the precinct by the sheriff for them to be in readiness. “About ten in the evening Colonel Markham went to Carthage, with fifty men. My Father in Heaven, wilt thou help thy people and deliver us from our enemies, as thou art our Father and our God.” He wrote that on the evening of the 18th several companies went out to take prisoners; Brother Redfield came in at the same time with tidings from Lima. On the 19th, the Twelve were in council most of the day at Bishop Miller’s. Father mentions one young man by the name of Tippen, being shot by accident in the camp. He says, “Visited the camp about ten o’clock. Tippen died about that time as we were going to see him.”

    Clayton also wrote that in September

    [September 14, 1845. Sunday.] Brother [George] Miller reported that he went to Carthage yesterday to attend to some business. While there he was arrested on a writ got up by the mob for the grave charge of Treason. He had a kind of trial and was admitted to parole bail till next Saturday. Col. [] William and [Thomas] Sharp were at Carthage with the mob. The writ is against President B. Young, H. C. Kimball, O. Hyde, O. Pratt, J. E. Page, L. Wight and several others. The treason is for colleaguing with the Indians, building an arsenal, and making Cannon. The Higbees148 are very active with the mob, and there seems to be a desperate effort to break us up. All the families have got up from Lima and there are a great number of teams gone to fetch up grain. The last report gives 44 buildings burned and considerable grain, furniture, clothing &c. belonging to the poor Brethren. The Sheriff J. B. Backenstos has issued his proclamation warning the mob to disperse and calling upon all the Law and order citizens to act as “posse commitatus” to preserve the peace.

    It was decided in the council to offer some of our best property in the City for sale to respectable merchants in Cincinna[t]i, Phi[l]adelphia &c. judging it better for the safety of the property to sell out to such men than to leave it to the destruction of the mob. A great many sick were prayed for and we also prayed that the Lord would preserve us from the mob till the Elders can get their endowment. It was also agreed to turn more force of hands to the Temple even if it have to hinder the Nauvoo House.

    [September 16, 1845. Tuesday.]…A committee of five viz. Peter Haws, Andrew H. Perkins, Erastus H. Derby, David D. Yearsley and Solomon Hancock were appointed to carry a letter to Col. Levi Williams149 stating to him that if the mob would cease their destructive operations, it is our calculations to leave the country in the spring, and requesting Williams to return a written answer, whether they would desist or not. The letter was signed by President Young and others. About 7 o’clock Backenstos with an escort of from fifty to one hundred men started for Carthage to fetch B[ackenstos]’s family and Demings family to Nauvoo. – George D. Smith, An Intimate Chronicle; The Journals of William Clayton, 182-183

    Even so, the Saints did not even then abandon the idea of the Nauvoo House after the temple. On 19 September 1845, William Clayton recorded Brigham as saying they would work on temple and Nauvoo House while “hold[ing] the sword in the one hand and the Trowel in the other.” As the pressure mounted, they were forced to prepare to evacuate–Brigham told them to be ready to pull out within four hours’ notice. A brief timeline:

    1 Oct 1845 – BY tells Stephen Douglas and JJ Hardin that they will leave.
    11 Oct 1845 – BY announces will leave [Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 11 Oct. 1845.]
    23 Nov 1845 – [“reports indicated that 3,285 families were organized for the trek—800 more families than wagons.” citing Journal History, 23 Nov. 1845.]
    4 Feb 1846 – Charles Shumway ferried acrross Mississippi, starting exodus – 12 agree need to leave soon, ready to leave with 4 hours notice
    6 Feb 1846 – first wagons cross river (Mormon Engima, 227)
    10 Feb 1846 – BY leaves Nauvoo with 1,600 Mormons across frozen river
    1 May 1846 – Temple dedication by Hyde
    Early June – anti-Mormon delegation into city
    Sept 1846 – 700-1000 Saints are all that remain in Nauvoo (these are the “poor camp” folks, mostly)
    11 Sept – anti-Mormons attack, outnumbering 8:1.
    13 Sept 1846 – armed attack
    16 Sept 1846 – remaining Saints surrender city

    Perhaps eyewitness Helen Mar Kimball is a worthwhile person with whom to close:

    Most of his time on the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was spent visiting the sick; and he [Heber C. Kimball] speaks of a funeral that he attended with Brigham Young, and speaks of them reading history and going on the [Nauvoo] temple. The house of the Lord was well on towards its completion. And they could truly say that this was one of the results of faith with works. These things may look strangely to those who are unacquainted with the principles of our faith and the great work which we have been engaged in for over fifty years, and especially that our people should continue working at the Nauvoo House and temple, and at the same time preparing to leave them to the mercy of a set of sacrilegious mobocrats to demolish. I think that this should be a convincing proof (at least) of the sincerity and honesty of their motives. Nothing could daunt their spirits; but if they had not enjoyed something superior to any man-made religion they could never have been supported under all those sorrowful and trying scenes. It was through the united faith and prayers of the faithful few that we were permitted to remain there long enough to finish that temple, that they might be endowed with the blessings which the Lord had promised them, and for which they cheerfully gave their mite and labored faithfully to finish the house which the Lord had commanded to be built. Words cannot express the gratitude that I feel for being counted worthy to have place among the ones of whom the Lord has made a “peculiar people,” which is the only church ever established upon the earth since the one we read of in the days of Christ, who believe and accept the whole of the gospel as taught in the ancient scriptures, instead of choosing that portion only which agrees with our peculiar ideas and notions. The ones who do this are blind indeed.

    – Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, Scenes and Incidents in Nauvoo, 170

    “A Reader” and Snuffer are welcome to their own opinion about whether the Saints’ fulfilled God’s criteria or not.

    They are not, however, entitled to their own facts, or the privileging of some facts while ignoring others.

    History cannot prove whether the Saints completed the task given them by God, or whether God gave them a task at all, or whether God even exists. But, a consistent historical case can be made for their faithfulness to what they believed God had commanded them to do. Snuffer’s and “A Reader’s” efforts to prove otherwise by an appeal to historical evidence is not, I think, persuasive. A case might be made for that proposition, but they have not made it.

    • Here is a few research notes that Matthew Roper of the Maxwell Institute allowed me to provide for those interested:

      On Being Rejected as a Church and Being Moved out of Place

      1: One common reference to the saints having “place” refers to their having place in the Kingdom of God (Enos 1:27; Mosiah 26: 23-24; Alma 5:24-25; Ether 12:4, 32-34, 37; D&C 18:25; 29:38; 75:29; 78:7; 98:18; 135:5). In context of these passages being moved out of their place would be losing their place in the Kingdom.

      2: “Place” also can refer to a stewardship, office or calling as in D&C 42:53; 93:48-50; 104:77; 124″71; “places” 118:6). To be removed from one’s place in this context would be to be removed from said office or calling and possibly replaced by another

      3. It also seems to me that the language of being moved out of place evokes the language of the Lord’s words to the Church at Ephesus who threatened to removed their candlestick out of its place (Revelation 2:5). The “candlestick” is the menorah lamp stand which was set in the Holt place of the temple. It’s removal from the temple means its rejection by God.

      4. There are also places which are appointed by God to be holy such as Zion’s center place, the New Jerusalem, other places of refuge, stakes and so forth. It is interesting that the Lord speaks of the Zion as the appointed location for the future New Jerusalem not being moved, notwithstanding the children of Zion being scattered (101:17; See also 90:37; 97:19).

      5. The Lord speaks of standing in holy places–holiness is portable for the Saints (D&C 45:32; 87:8; 101:22).

      In light of the above I interpret the Lord’s warning in 124:32 as the flip side of 124:45, that is “rejected as a church with your dead” as the danger and “not moved out of their place” as the blessing. I also read “all ye my Saints” as applicable to the members of the church collectively and individually. I take it to refer to place in their place in the Kingdom of God, not geographical location in Nauvoo.

      Significantly, the blessing to “not be moved out of their place” is based upon the Saints diligent efforts to build the temple and their obedience to the command to “hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people” (124:45). Question. Who were these servants who the Lord had appointed to lead his people? The First presidency and the Twelve (See 112:30). He names them in the revelation (124:125-29). Of primary importance are Joseph Smith, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve under the direction of Brigham Young. What counsel did they give to the Saints from 1841-46? To gather and build the temple.

      It is interesting that the command to build to Nauvoo House comes right after the Lord giving the “example” regarding enemies preventing the Saints from fulfilling some commandments.

      I also find it interesting to note many of those who the Lord warns in this revelation (Lyman Wight, John C. Bennett, Sidney Rigdon, and others). Rigdonites, Strangites, Brewsterites, Charles Thompson’s group and others ended up opposing the completion of the temple and rejecting the council of the Quorum of the Twelve. Those who rejected that counsel and opposed the completion of the temple ended up cutting themselves off from the main body of the Church and in effect severing themselves (and their dead) from the ordinances of the Lord’s house by their refusal follow the counsel of the twelve. So one could say from the LDS perspective, that these individuals and groups who had once been with the Saints were in fact rejected as a church with their dead, at least as far as opportunities in that generation were concerned.