A new movement based on the belief that the existing LDS hierarchy “lost it’s way” has achieved a major milestone: establishing a new canon of scripture. Placed alongside Joseph Smith’s teachings are those of Denver Snuffer, a man many believe is a latter-day prophet.
The creation of the new scriptures, designated the Restoration Edition, was announced last Saturday at the Doctrine of Christ Conference in St. George, Utah. From the official announcement:
One of the first ways a dispensation becomes corrupted is by compromising the scriptures used by believers in that dispensation. Therefore when a new dispensation begins, one of the first orders of business for believers is to adopt a new set of scriptures which restore, insofar as it is possible, a correct version of the material they regard as scripture.
Just like the saints of the New Testament adopted a new body of teachings, the Book of Mormon people preserved and added to sacred writings. And while Joseph Smith lived, there were both corrections to old scripture and new scripture was added. Likewise for us, there is a need to remove errors, correct texts, and add to the body of scripture to guide us. This assembly – that is, this worldwide body of believers – must also decide what we accept as scripture. It is our right and sacred responsibility to address this need.
The Restoration Edition is still a work in progress, and believers are encouraged to review the materials and submit suggestions via a designated email address. The goal is to eventually have a final product presented for approval at a future conference.
The new scriptures are based on the current mainstream Mormon canon with heavy modification. All verse numbering is eliminated (excepting Proverbs), and chapter divisions have been reworked (excepting the Book of Mormon where chapter divisions were determined by Joseph Smith). Punctuation is minimal “in order to free up the text for greater possible interpretation.”
Their Old Testament and New Testament is based on the Joseph Smith Translation. In the Old Testament the Song of Solomon is eliminated (Joseph declared it uninspired), and the book of Proverbs now includes sayings from both Joseph Smith and Denver Snuffer. The Book of Mormon is based on the 1840 edition, benefiting from Joseph Smith’s corrections to the 1830 and 1837 editions.
The Restoration Edition of the Doctrine and Covenants is radically altered. Some changes:
- All sections not authored by Joseph Smith are eliminated. Sections authored by Joseph Smith were compared to manuscripts from the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Sections which have questionable documentation (like the Kirtland Temple visitation by Elijah and others in D&C 110) or based on fragments of Joseph’s teachings (D&C 129) were removed. (Believers also find the hand-shake instructions in D&C 129 ineffective in discerning lying spirits.)
- Lectures on Faith are back in!
- Official Declarations removed: “Official Declarations 1 & 2 are declarations made by a different church.”
- D&C 132 is still in, but it’s Denver Snuffer’s edited version. (Snuffer doesn’t believe Joseph Smith practiced polygamy.)
- In the Appendix is a section titled “A Prophet’s Prerogative” by Jeff Savage. Using the example of Nephi and Joseph Smith’s creative approach to Isaiah 29, Savage argues that “a prophet can apply a generalized prophecy for a large body of God’s people over multiple dispensations to a more specific meaning only intended for [a smaller group,] even when that means adding and rearranging details not found in the original prophecy.” However, because Isaiah’s original prophecy is still useful in it’s broader meaning, the original KJV version is retained in addition to Nephi and Joseph Smith’s narrower Book of Mormon-centric interpretations.
Like the Doctrine and Covenants, the new Pearls of Great Price (note the switch from singular to plural) has many changes. Here’s a sampling:
- The section “Governing Principles” lays down principles and practices of the new movement. I’ll go deeper into this below.
- The full Wentworth Letter replaces the previous Articles of Faith to provide better context.
- A new section called “Testimony of John” contains “a newly revealed account of John the Beloved’s Testimony of Jesus the Messiah” (Denver Snuffer’s inspired and expanded translation of John’s gospel in the New Testament).
- Denver Snuffer’s revelations are tacked on to the end. There are 9 so far, though it is expected additional revelations will be added in the future.
Numbers are difficult, but there are at least a few hundred followers throughout the world. Local groups of believers are called “fellowships,” and fellowships are found in at least 6 countries (Australia, Germany, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, and the United States). Fellowships are organic, created and maintained locally. As explained in the “Governing Principles,” there is no hierarchy in the movement.
Denver Snuffer has long claimed he has no intention of starting his own church, yet it is clear this new movement is based in large part on his teachings in books and lectures. Snuffer once described his role to Jana Reiss:
The “movement” (if it can be called that) is not owned by me. The participants are independently motivated, and I exert no control over anyone.
No one sustains me, or accepts me as their leader. I don’t ask or expect them to, and I don’t believe that I am above criticism or that what I say can’t be challenged. Everyone is free to believe according to the dictates of their own conscience. Our common ground only has to be a belief in Christ, in baptism, in receiving the Holy Ghost, and the need for repentance. Everything else is open for discussion.
The new Pearls of Great Price give helpful perspective on the ideology of believers. In “An End of Authority”we find Snuffer’s 2014 declaration that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles forfeited their claim to the priesthood because they “voted to sustain those who abused their authority in casting me out of the Church.” In “His Return,” Snuffer confirms his belief that “without the ordinances of salvation through the authorized ministers of the gospel it was not possible for men to shed their sins.” The movement adheres to a male-only priesthood for the time being, as explained in “Seven Women,” but only women are permitted the vote to sustain men in those offices (and a minimum of seven female votes are necessary to sustain the man).
“Governing Principles” covers the general organization and operation of believers in the movement. Men who held priesthood offices in the mainstream LDS church prior to April 2014 (when the hierarchy lost the approval of God) still hold that authority and may bestow priesthood authority on others. While men administer the ordinances of baptism and sacrament, both men and women perform healing blessings. Tithing is collected and disbursed at the local level according to the principle of “common consent.” Tithes and offerings are to assist the poor. For more information on the inner workings of the movement, see Jana Reiss’ interview with Denver Snuffer from a couple months ago.
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a notable schism in the Mormon church. While I wouldn’t say the new scripture announcement legitimizes this movement, I feel it certainly lends new weight. What are your thoughts?
 This is the second conference members of the movement have organized, the first being at Boise last September. I mentioned the conference in my last post because of Dr. Robert Norman’s participation.
 This announcement was republished on at least two blogs of movement followers: Adrian Larsen (To the Remnant) and John and Jennifer Willis (A Little Peace in Paradise).
 Figuring just 5 believers in a fellowship multiplied by 50+ fellowships identified on the locator map gets you well over 200 members. Edited to add: most unofficial estimates I’ve seen put several thousand believers in the movement.
 Here at Wheat and Tares, Mormon Heretic reviewed Denver Snuffer’s book Passing the Heavenly Gift and gave his thoughts on Snuffer’s subsequent excommunication in 2013.
I have lots of thoughts regarding Snuffer. It is interesting to compare and contrast with Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, and Rock Waterman. My perception is that the excommunication of Kate and
Rock have limited their influence. Not so with John and Denver though. If the church was trying to limit influence, it seems Kate and Rock are success stories. Failures with Denver and John though.
I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with snuffer, although hearing about new and altered scriptures gives me perspective on what non Mormons felt about golden plates, or new scripture by James Strang.
I still think excommunication was a mistake but I’m sure the brethren feel even more justified now.
Does he have any plans to build a mall?
MH, I came on to the blogging scene after Snuffer was excommunicated, so maybe that impacts my view, but I think the discipline was entirely understandable. He’d been influencing people for years via his books, so by the time he got to PTHG where he cast doubt on the current leadership of the church, it had a wide-ranging impact. Denver continues his influence, I believe, more from his claim to revelation. Those dissatisfied with current leadership because of how far it has strayed from Joseph Smith’s time are vindicated any time Snuffer gets a revelation denouncing the church. It’s much more satisfying than the intellectual opinion of a blogger like Rock, no matter how much you like the guy. Also, people hungry for angelic visitations and the types of spiritual gifts manifested in the early church are going to love Denver’s step-by-step teachings on how to get them.
I’m *very* uncomfortable with Denver Snuffer. Like John Dehlin, he refuses to accept responsibility for the large influence he has on people’s spiritual lives.
(There’s no way Kate Kelly in one year could amass the level of influence that Dehlin had been building for well over a decade.)
I am sure the number of followers is much larger than 200. I went to lectures 8, 9 and 10. There were between 800 and 1000 at each with very little multiple attenders. I even saw Cody Brown (of Sister Wives) at the Las Vegas lecture, though he was not accompanied by any of the wives- some other woman. I have attended other Snuffer lectures. I have met and had lunch with Denver. That was about 4 years ago. I have always been skeptical of Denver because his history is so bad. If he submitted any of his writings for a Ph.d. dissertation it would be rejected before the committee got half way through it. His history is inaccurate, misleading and very agenda driven. To me, all of his resulting claims become suspect. His rejection of Joseph Smith’s polygamy is exhibit number one. He preaches a powerful message and for the dissatisfied it is easy to embrace. What is most telling is that he continues to lie to himself. He says he is not a prophet and he is not starting a new church. Ya right, Denver! I hope some graduate student in the Sociology of Religion or a related field is taking this on as a project. We are watching a new religion being born right before our eyes. Fascinating.
Shannon, I just finished editing that footnote to indicate most people put the numbers in the thousands while you were posting. Your personal experience is much better evidence.
Shannon, this feels more like a proto-religion – things still seem so fluid. It’s like Kirtland with the inevitability of many more break-offs before they get settled. They hate hierarchy, but with these scriptural/doctrinal issues, there has to be a governing council ultimately saying yay or nay (even if that council is simply whichever bodies happen to show up at the next conference). I have a background in archaeology/anthropology, so I agree it’s fascinating from a scholarly perspective, but there’s also a personal element in this that makes it hard for me to stay objective.
First, the fact that he considers his own excommunication the moment when the church lost priesthood authority is so ridiculously self-centered that it delegitimizes pretty much anything else he says in my opinion.
Second, I’ve often wished that the internet existed during Joseph Smith’s day so we could have a better record of what he was actually doing and saying as well as the general climate and responses to his claims. In this day and age of internet and cell phones that can take video at an instant I have a really hard time imagining any religion really being able to take off and become an institution of the size of the Catholic Church or even the mainstream Mormon church. Every religion has important myths that hold the theology together that are probably not true. If we’re watching these events unfold with a constant record of them, I’m just not so sure a religion can take of the ground. I could very well be completely wrong though. I’m really fascinated by the whole idea.
EBK, there was an interesting line in the Boise Rescue where Elder Oaks says they’ve been instructed not to talk about personal visitations from Christ precisely because of that current ability to record and disseminate information worldwide almost immediately – it’s casting pearls before swine. So I think your view has support.
Here in the UK I thought ‘the Denver Snuffer’ referred to some sort of horrible crime.
Here in North Carolina I thought ‘Denver Snuffer’ referred to a Colorado Basset hound.
I don’t really buy the argument that the apostles don’t talk about seeing Christ because it would be casting pearls before swine. Joseph Smith and the apostle Paul widely spread the stories of their visions. Paul traveled by boat and told his story to people in person. Joseph Smith published his visions and revelations in newspapers. I think they both would have loved to have the internet to tell the whole world about the message God gave them.
I think it is more likely that some or all of the apostles have not seen Christ and they do not want to announce it. Church members might prefer to follow someone like Denver who claims to have seen Christ instead of apostles who say they have not seen Christ. Telling the members not to discuss seeing Christ prevents the church members from connecting with someone outside the hierarchy and making him their prophet.
Andy, I thought it was a weak argument as well, but I was more bringing it up in response to EBK’s suggestion that modern media puts a different spin on traditional religious arguments. Oaks justifies the claim that the brethren don’t feel they can be as open with private spiritual experiences as they have in the past by expressing the concern of being surreptitiously recorded and having that experience go to a much wider audience than originally intended (in a meeting that was surreptitiously recorded, btw).
I applaud a sort of free-for-all theology. I admire people who push the boundaries and go in new directions. I would not want to call a man out officially for mistakes in doctrine. We are all brothers and sisters. We are all part of the tapestry of this people. I am related to Rod Meldrum and he is a great person and a good friend. I don’t think he should be “handled” in the old -fashioned way even if he is wrong. Same with Denver Snuffer.
But that goes both ways. If you are plowing new ground, don’t expect me to take it on faith since I am not even taking some of the old plowed ground on faith either. Snuffer’s delusional history puts him in an ironic place; he has lost his way before he even found a way. His new revelations are not going to fix his old problems.
One of the problems with accepting the truth about polygamy is that we are going to have to also swallow the perception of a very imperfect prophet. Arguments based solely on his authority are greatly weakened.He could be just as wrong about just about anything else. All of Smith’s revelations and concepts must now stand on their own and not borrow credibility from his persona or his prophethood or his priesthood authority. But those which do not stand can quickly be discarded, that is the beauty of this new perspective. The problem of coming to an orderly agreement of what is valid remains. Axing people like Snuffer makes this process more difficult as his response indicates.
If your religion requires a near flawless Prophet (as we seem to have been doing in the century or more of the sanctification of Joseph Smith) then sorry, you no longer find it in this church. Snuffer may be leading a few thousand out into the wilderness in his quest for THE TRUE CHURCH , but our own leaders who until recently have been sugar-coating our history are not far behind him in leading the rest of us astray. They bear responsibility, for failing to teach the truth (about polygamy for one thing) to Denver Snuffer when he was in primary and YM and seminary…. Whoop! He was a convert so shift the responsibility to the missionaries and the home teachers and the Sunday school program.
Snuffer’s perspective, beyond the history of one little denomination (us) is even more flawed. He exhibits no perspective of the Reformation when Protestantism was born. No appreciation of the numerous movements that succeeded and those that failed and are what we call heretics today. No appreciation of what happened to the Anabaptists to just name one of thousands of other movements. He is blindly going down well trodden paths that lead to predictable outcomes. Of course, so are his church leaders. Excommunication usually has the opposite of the desired effect.
If Snuffer had the courage and guts of say, Martin Luther, he would at least excommunicate President Monson.and the rest of the Q15. He would start composing hilarious pamphlets or blogs that demonize the rest of us to the point it convinces some of us of the errors of our ways. That is what the devoted Catholic monk named Luther did to the Pope when the Pope put him under the ban and all good Catholics were given an open season on hunting him down for torture and execution.
I suggest Snuffer read one good biography of Martin Luther and learn what a strong and successful reformer does. His new scriptures need to be in the same league as Luther’s translation of the New Testament into German, which I am told is a masterpiece on the order of Shakespeare’s works. He has to inspire more than a fringe to join him. (He actually needs to start a war even if he didn’t intend to, except we soft modern Mormons might be beyond killing each other over religion.) Snuffer needs to step up his game if he is to succeed. Snuffer won’t need a castle to hide in (although maybe some of the ruins out at Saltair might be sufficient for his needs).
Mike, great comment. The comparison between Luther and Snuffer is excellent! You beat me to it!
“Their Old and New Testament is based on the Joseph Smith Translation”. Since the Community of Christ still owns the copyright (called the Inspired Version), I’m wondering if Snuffer had to make any special arrangements to do so.
I know a couple families who are involved in a “fellowship” and have been excommunicated from the LDS church. Both were very active members until their excommunication, and are parents of large families. (I mention that for the sake of your estimate of numbers, which may not account for children) The appeal of Denver Snuffer seems to be 1) he is a serious student of the scriptures and church history, whether you agree with his conclusions or not, he is willing to discuss controversial topics that most church leaders won’t touch; 2) for those who are aware of controversial history, he presents an explanation for how to accept the messiness and still keep a testimony of Joseph as a prophet; 3) no one seems willing or able to disprove his teaching using scripture and historical evidence; and 4) he talks to Christ – who else has a direct line to truth?
What I haven’t seen from Denver is any claim that his conclusions about history came from divine sources. They seem to be the result of his own study, independent of personal visits with heavenly messengers. He didn’t mention in his excommunication proceedings that God commanded him to write PTHG, only that he couldn’t revoke publication without breaking his contract with his publisher. Those people who accept his explanations do so because it fits what they want to believe, along with the desire to talk to Christ themselves someday.
For those of you who are interested to see how these movements play out, there is another voice on the radar – https://onewhoiswatching.wordpress.com/ This blogger is getting more attention as an alternative voice for people trying to make sense of the post-Kirtland Joseph Smith. He has directly addressed and refuted Denver’s teachings, using the scriptures. (It takes a bit of time to rap your head around his paradigm, though. A quicker summary by a different blogger can be found here: https://onewhoissearching.com/2015/02/08/we-dont-need-to-defend-josephs-polygamy/)
What I mean by people believe what they want to believe is based on the different responses people give to the same information. When I gave a book from OneWhoIsWatching to my Snuffer friend, he stopped reading when he disagreed with the idea that Joseph DID practice polygamy. He then told me he would rather believe the guy who claims to see Jesus than the one who doesn’t. When I gave the same book to my Dad, who is an active member that likes Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling, he returned the book after reading that Joseph’s polygamy was the result of the condemnation the church was under, NOT something God wanted the people to embrace. (FYI, the polygamy section is a very small part of a very large book,) Neither person told me whether they thought the interpretation of church history based on scriptural prophecy was a valid interpretation because they disagreed with the polygamy part and didn’t care what else the author had to say. That was a lesson to me.
Markag, I don’t know. The announcement made a point that one of the D&C sections would not be included because the LDS church holds the copyright.
Mike, apparently Snuffer tried to get a Greek scholar to do a more accurate translation of John’s gospel. After the scholar declined, Snuffer tried to do his own translation from the original Greek and then it later morphed to an “inspired” translation (meaning, lots of stuff added).
Ranae, thanks for your perspective. I’ve appreciated the commentary on Denver Snuffer at the “Watching” blog. Apparently there’s enough similarity between his viewpoint and Snuffer’s that he has to be fairly explicit about the differences. I’m still in process of wrapping my head around both ideologies, though. I agree that someone’s choice in ideology ultimately falls outside the realm of pure logic, especially in the Mormon religion where we rely so heavily on personal revelation (which is tied at least in part to our feelings).
MaryAnn, there are actually huge differences between Snuffer and Watcher, but when Watcher tries to explain his “slam dunk” reason for believing Snuffer is a false prophet, it usually doesn’t come across very well. Apart from that, the main difference I see is that Snuffer believes everything Joseph said or did until his death was inspired,and the Lord is waiting around for someone to pick up the pieces and act before He will give any other instructions. I think his new Revelation of John’s gospel seems like an attempt to include Nauvoo doctrines into the standard works because they can’t be supported otherwise. This is also why he is revising section 132 instead of leaving it out entirely.
Watcher’s premise is that Joseph laid the “foundation” for the Great and Marvelous Work, but when the church didn’t live the higher law and build Zion, it was rejected, and what we see from Joseph later is the result of the condemnation of the church, that the Lord allowed/led Joseph to take upon himself the sins of the people, by acting our THEIR sins, in a way that would allow him to be an intercessory sacrifice so the church would have a chance to repent instead of being wiped off the earth (similar to Moses when the children of Israel refused to meet God). Building the Nauvoo temple was the last chance for that generation to repent, and they didn’t do it. Watcher believes the restoration is a future event, and we have to wait for actual servants of God who preach repentance and have actual power in the priesthood to set things in motion. This is all documented in the standard works and the JST, once you know what to look for. The Great and Marvelous Work is still a future event. That is why he doubted Denver Snuffer even before things started getting interesting (fellowships, temple fund, new scriptures) in the “remnant” movement.
Sorry, if I find this all quite amusing. This is predicted in Scripture. In modern times, we saw it with the bunch in Manti. This is a complete opposite though as they reject polygamy rather than embrace it like most splinter groups. They seem to have more in common wit the RLDS Restoration movement. They still deny Joseph’s Polygamy as well.
I think the more important point may be that there is more than one schism happening in the LDS Church right now. The Church has threats coming from multiple directions and I personally believe the number of schisms will increase with time. There are enough problems in the LDS Church to cause any thinking person to question some of the doctrines taught (e.g. prophet infallibility doctrine) and therefore many in the Church go looking for truth elsewhere whether that be to worldly sources or another prophet that appear to display gifts or fruits. Unfortunately, one of the things we’ve done poorly in the LDS Church is to teach people to become prophets for themselves. Honestly, how many people you know are very confident in their ability to receive communications from God? I don’t know many.
Used to think that religion was a zero sum game. I’m not so sure anymore.
I worry about folks who are trying to wrap their head around something….thats gotta leave a mark.
Is boredom a major problem in the Church? It seems so.
Is boredom a major problem in the Church? It seems so.
Robbie yes boredom is a major problem . Listen to Greg Princes interview with John Delin and you will see that it is a huge problem ,particularly with the rising generation of millennials . However in my mind failure to teach or preach the doctrine is even more deadly. When I was in my 20s we could hear doctrines like “calling and election” taught on multiple occasions in General Confetence and the Improvemebt Era. Now we get warmed over stories about how paying tithing is more important than feeding your family or how staying in the good ship Zion and being obedient is more important than receiving personal revelation. You certainly never hear as we use to from S. Dilworth Young that you should follow the Spirit and if it leads you contrary to church policy ” follow the Spirit”. David O McKay worried that if Correlation were instituted ” it would destroy the church ” . It was and has. Only 30 percent of the membership bothers to show up even on Christmas . 50 percent of RMs go inactive within 10 years . 80 percent of new converts go inactive with in 2 years. We are baptizing the lowest number of converts per missionary in many decades. Yet what do we hear from SLC ? Stay on the good ship Zion. And don’t you dare criticise the brethren even if ( maybe especially if ) the criticism is true. No wonder people who want to connect not with man but God flock in their thousands after a man who dares say he actuallycan testify as to the divinity of the Savior and the efficacy of modern revelation and says the visions and blessings of old are returning and angels are again visiting the earth. We haven’t heard that in General Conference in s very ,very long time alas.
Is it really necessary to always bring up the LDS church and does it give creedance to ones who have left it because it gets really boring to those of us who are working hard at being the best person possible
Actually I haven’t left it. And while I congratulate you for your hard work working smart is more important than working hard. That means following the Savior not any mortal man including Denver Snuffer. It means understanding what Moroni meant when he accused us his modern readers of ” corrupting the Holy Church of God.” See Mormon 8. It means becoming free from the burdens and falsehoods that those who teach the philosophies of men mingled with scripture teach us and learn to receive our own revelation and hear the voice of God speaking to us individually and enjoying the reception of Angels. Sorry but working hard at being the best person you can won’t get you were you want to go. Only being a disciple of Jesus Christ will permit that. Sorry if it is all boring, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t essential for your salvation.
It seems that it is very difficult to leave Mormonism, a lifetime of investment in the religion makes it almost impossible for anybody to contemplate the possibility that it was not based on truth. This leads people to try to find any means to remain a believer, even if they have to reconstruct history, rewrite the narrative just to fit your desire to still believe it. I see this happening with Denver Snuffer, he is brilliant and provided a plausible option for those who felt betrayed by the LDS branch but still want to hold on to the faith. But ultimately it will lead to the same place where you began, it is a dead end, unless they are able to see Christ themselves nothing will satisfy, because that is what Denver is preaching and almost promising to this group. It is going to create even more pain for those who had already been abused by the LDS Church, it will be double disappointment eventually.
FDMD. You are partially correct. If we seek the face of the Savior and fail it will be a disappointment. If however we succeed and realize the promises made by Peter, John ,Nephi Moroni , Joseph Smith and Marion G Romney how wonderful will it be. The problem is as Joseph said we set up stakes and refuse to recognize that Gods love for us and willing ness to bless us is beyond what we are willing t believe or accept. Just to be clear I personally know a number of people who have had this experience and will tell you it is accessible to anyone willing to pay the price.. Unfortunately in our toxic environment we reject out of hand anyone who teaches that God does love us as much as he says he does.