Critics of the Joseph Smith claim that there are anachronisms in the First Vision. I asked the late Dr. John Pratt about how he handles these problems with anachronisms.
GT: So, the next question is, we kind of have a little dispute between Dan Vogel, who’s not a believer, and then Steven Harper, who is a believer, as to whether there was actually heavenly visitation. So, Dan would say it was just more like a born again, experience. There was no real vision in 1820, whereas Harper would say, yes, there was. That’s were God and Jesus appeared.
John: You need to tell Dan, that he can pray about this and get his own testimony.
GT: (Chuckling) Okay. Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen.
GT: But, the issue is, and this is where Dan and Steve would disagree. It appears that Lucy probably joined the Presbyterian Church, and then Joseph said, “I had a vision, and Presbyterianism that is not true.” But, that didn’t happen until 1823.
John: Let’s talk about history. See, now let’s talk about science and religion, which is history. It’s not as good as science, but it does its best with records. For instance, weather records. Now, we’ve got science and history combined with weather records. You’re taking scientific methods, records on a day. You can combine astronomy with history and say there was an eclipse of the sun in ancient Assyria on such and such a date. We can go back and calculate that. Then, you can compare that to the records of many Bible events. But, historians that’s lucky when they have science to work with. Usually all they have is records of diaries and stuff, which is good. But there’s something better. I’m so glad I don’t have to depend on just so and so said this, about that, and this guy was preaching it, and it’s probably this and more likely–you read those papers carefully, and they’re going to be filled with likelys and perhapses, and ways where they say, “Well, I never said that was the day. I just said evidence is leading that direction.”
John: I’m saying the date of the First Vision was Sunday, the 26th of March, 1820, and it’s written in the stars, if you will. It’s in the Book of Enoch. Enoch gives a 10-week prophecy…
What are your thoughts about the date of the First Vision? Did Joseph simply conflate some events, or did the vision even happen?
The late Dr. John Pratt grew up a member of the LDS Church for decades, but recently has joined with some other restoration movements. He shares with us his journey with the Denver Snuffer movement.
GT: So, I definitely want to go there, but I want to talk about that time where you’re a good upstanding LDS [member], because it sounds like you’ve left the LDS [Church] and you’ve joined another movement or two.
GT: So, can you fill us in there?
John: Oh, on the leaving part? I grew up in the LDS Church. As time went on, I noticed it changed. When were little kids, we were singing a song about we’re marching back to Missouri. Then, wait a minute. Then the 10th Article of Faith, Zion will be built on this, the American continent. And when we have talks in conference through church everywhere, on Articles of Faith, it’s never that one. It’s always faith, repentance, baptism.
GT: We’ve gotten away from going back to Missouri.
John: When was the last time you heard a talk in church about we’re going back, that Zion will be built on this, the American continent?
GT: Probably the 70s.
John: Yeah, probably the 70s.
John: So, all my life, I’ve noticed little changes and just sort of hoped that it was always the prophet, and that it was all okay. Then, they started getting so much that I did a lot of research and realized they were farther off track than I had ever thought. But, still, they were the best I knew and so I was a member up. It hasn’t even been a year since–I wasn’t excommunicated. My membership was withdrawn. Excommunicated is such a harsh word. But, anyway, so that has happened, because I have realized…
GT: So, this is really a recent then.
John: This is recent.
GT: Oh, I thought you were affiliated with Denver Snuffer.
John: Oh, well that, too. I have, yes. But I wasn’t kicked out for that. He said he doesn’t actually start a church.
John: People knew I was in his group, but it wasn’t–this other one that we’re going to talk about at some point with the gold plates and the new church, I was actually baptized and joined that church. That’s when I crossed the line, because if you look at definition of apostate, number one definition if he joins another church, by definition, is apostate.
GT: I talked with Denver Snuffer awhile back, and he said that there’s been a little bit of a witch hunt looking for his followers, because he said that you could be baptized. I’m trying not to misquote him. But you could be baptized because it’s not a church. Right? You can get baptized into Denver’s movement or something else still be a Mormon.
John: I can explain that. There’s a ton of stuff in the LDS Church where they’ve conflated things and confused things. People think you join the LDS Church when you’re baptized. There’s nothing in baptism about joining any church. John the Baptist was baptizing people. They weren’t joining a church. They were repenting of their sins, and they were turning to God. But they weren’t joining a church. There’s no covenant made at the time of baptism. It’s the same. The time you join the church has a lot more to do with when you’re confirmed. When you’re confirmed, then they say, “We confirm you to be a member of the Church.” We kind of tend to do those on the same day, and they’re kind of mixed together. But technically, the baptism is not joining a church. So, Denver’s doing baptisms, but he’s not started a formal institution.
GT: So, he’s not doing confirmations. Is that right?
John: There’s no confirmations.
GT: It’s just a baptism. Is it for remission of sins?
John: I can answer that. This is my answer. He hasn’t said this. I’ve learned this for myself. Let’s go back to Jesus. So, why did Jesus go to John to be baptized? Nephi says it was to [fulfill all righteousness.] Well, John asked him, “Why do you come?” And he said, “To fulfill all righteousness.” Then, Nephi in the Book of Mormon explains what that means of he’s an example and stuff. We’ve been happy with that because it is required. Baptism is required to enter into the kingdom of God. He is setting an example. That’s nice, but I learned one more thing on my own, and that is, Jesus was acknowledging publicly, the authority that John the Baptist had. John the Baptist held the keys to the kingdom until Jesus did. He had read. Remember in Section C, it talks about when the angel came to John when he’s eight days old, and says he was blessed to–something like, “Wrench the keys of the kingdom away from the Jews.” He got the keys of the kingdom. Jesus is acknowledging him. If you think about it, anybody that’s baptized at any church, tacitly is acknowledging that the guy must have some authority to do this. So, I wouldn’t be coming to him. Even if they think no authority is required, there’s some reason they’re coming. I’m just saying people who are baptized into Denver’s group are acknowledging him as a legitimate head of a dispensation. I believe that’s what he is. He has his own dispensation going.
What’s your take on the Snuffer Movement? Why don’t LDS talk about going back to Missouri anymore?
As a TBM I used to look to Missouri for signs that the 2nd Coming was near. The way I looked at it was simple: if the End was near, you’d see the Church setting up an infrastructure in Mizzu.
Now that I’m beyond that thinking I still wonder what the Church is going to do. We spend hundreds of millions on temples to impress ourselves and the world that we are growing and vibrant. Why not do some “if we build it they will come” projects in Jackson County? I’d love to see that.
I wonder how many TBMs still believe the Adam-Onidi-Aman narrative? Is that still a thing?
Well, where I grew up in Utah County we were talking about Missouri throughout the 80’s and 90’s and into the 2000’s. So I don’t know these people who haven’t heard about it since the 70’s. I wasn’t even born then and I heard about it plenty at Church – along with getting planets and all of the other stuff we claim we don’t teach. I got pure, unadulterated Mormonism ;-).
Up until recently, the only historic sites in Independence Mo. connected to the early Mormon presence that were identified were the Temple Lot and the Old Courthouse. Now there are numerous ID plaques.
I’m sure that LDS visitors to Jackson co. outnumber Community of Christ tourists; even though it’s their headquarters. My family was there in 2015 and, as an ex-RLDS, I spoke with several LDS members who were totally bewildered after touring the CofC temple and the Temple Lot church. I told our mission pres. we’d love to someday serve there as a Senior Mission couple.
I’m sad to hear John passed away. I may not have agreed with his conclusions but I can appreciate someone who would study things out and change his believe at the drop of hat if he found new evidence that he was wrong.
We haven’t stopped talking about Missouri, but we certainly talk about it less then we did in the 70s. And I think it’s mostly because we realized that by talking about it we were making it less likely to happen. The Community of Christ and the Temple Lot church saw us as gunning for them and remained defensive and protective of their turf. Now that we have toned down the rhetoric, we have a good relationship with the Community of Christ (not so sure about the Temple Lot church) and the likelihood that they will sell us key properties in Jackson County is significantly greater than it was during the 70s.
Note also that Kansas City was the largest metropolitan area in the US without a temple when its temple was announced and the Church kept it away from Jackson County because (as I see it) they did not want to restart the “redeeming Zion” rhetoric. The underlying desire to redeem Zion is still there–we have just modified our strategy for realizing it.
I hate to sound like “Back in my day….”
But back in the 70s, it seems to me the rhetoric was different. I agree with Last Lemming that we talk about Missouri differently. Now maybe it’s because I have lived in different places. In the 1970s, I lived in Davis County, a farming community with lots of pioneer farmers around me. In the 1980s, I moved to New England, and the rhetoric was much different. Moving back to Weber County in the late 80s-mid 90s, moving to Missouri rhetoric was much less urgent. Back in Davis County (but closer to SLC), the Missouri rhetoric was quite different in the late 1990s. I’ve been in Utah County for the past 20 years, and it seems more like the New England non-emphasis on Missouri than the “let’s get ready to build Jerusalem in Jackson County” of the 1970s Davis County.
When I first got married in 2008, my wife’s cousin in Logan was seriously thinking of moving to Missouri. No job, no house, nothing. Hey, the Second Coming was happening soon and obviously we would gather in Missouri. Her husband gradually talked her our of it.
In June 1980 my wife and I moved from Vancouver BC to Jackson County, Missouri, where I’d been raised. We’d been married for a year. Camped along the way, and we stayed at a campground north of SLC (which as I recall was or had been a cherry orchard). Apparently it was a popular place for LDS ward camping events. Anyway, we were probably the only non-LDS there (but of course didn’t mention that to anyone). One older woman in the office obviously mistook us for a nice, young LDS couple, and when she learned of our destination she went on at some length how very fortunate we were to be making that trip then and not “soon” when mountains would be leveled into deserts and the Kansas plains would become new mountains. Otheres would be fleeing to Zion because of other calamities, so it was good that we’d be there preparing a place for the saitns. We smiled and made our way out of the office as soon as possible. It all seemed very crazy to the two of us life-long RLDS members.
In the intervening years I’ve watched as the LDS presence in the county has grown. When I worked at CofC headquarters I saw lots of busloads of Mormon tourists making a stop in Independence on their heritage trek. Once I even gave an LDS family a tour of the Temple because they’d arrived too late in the day to get a “real tour.” Yes, they were quite baffled by the place, especially why my church didn’t practice any of the ordinance, proxy baptisms, or endowments. Their historical knowledge was quite limited of the Nauvoo dispersal period as well as how , why, and when the Reorganziation came into being. But they were lovely, friendly people who did appreciate the fact the Temple was open to the public. I tried to provide some basic theological reasoning but I’m afraid my explanations just kind of hit a wall.
Rich, it sounds like you were at Cherry Hill Campground, which was not far from my (Davis County) house in the 1990s. I’m sure there were preppers and it sounds like you ran into one at Cherry Hill, but in my experience, those people weren’t mainstream like they were in the 1970s.
Would it be presumptuous to move to Jackson Co or buy land there right now? I thought I read somewhere that it would/will be sort of an invitation-only kind of thing.
Ya know? I see the appeal of this take on baptism—to separate it from induction into the organization and make it solely about the symbolism and the personal connection to God. It reminds me of that scene in God’s Army 2 when the recent concert wanders out into the ocean by himself to feel clean again. From what I understand about John the Baptist, that sounds more like what he was up to. And of course it’s ludicrous to apply that sort of thinking to eight-year-olds.
Is there really a witch-hunt inside the church for Snufferites? What would be the point of that?
The church (IMHO) would really like to shuffle a lot of the Missouri history and beliefs under the carpet in order to be mainstream. Adam-Ondi-Ahman is essentially still a farm field, the historic ford, home foundations, well, etc. have yet to be preserved. Haun’s Mill has had zero preservation efforts and there is no signage (you have to navigate by GPS). You’d think they could throw a little of their $100B nest egg to minimally preserve the historic sites here.
Many LDS and other related sects move to the area Without jobs, provisions, savings, etc. having been “called” in their minds to return to Zion. They end up on SP and bishop’s doorsteps. The area is already economically depressed. There aren’t large numbers of people en tow, but there is a steady stream. At least in the 70’s when people were talking about it- everyone frequently communicated that it wasn’t time yet- don’t panic. As SLC stuffs everything Missouri-related in the deepest darkest corners of its closet, the mess is been festering.
It would be interesting to create a list of Missouri/millennial words and run them through the General conference talk texts and see when/how all the rhetoric stopped. Anyone want to make a bet that the song “Adam-Ondi-Ahman” gets cut from the new hymnal? (Crickets).