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?