When Joseph Smith died, it is my belief that the LDS Church began to spiritually decay slowly in the intervening years from that event in time until the present day. I also believe the LDS Church will continue to decay in perpetuity unless some drastic course corrections are made by the leadership. They alone seem to have the power to fix this downward spiral since the culture and much of the doctrine that exists in the Church is governed supremely and solely by the cult of personality.
Many in the LDS Church have come to see that we have arrived in an era of treating symptoms, not root causes. In my ward, we have the “don’t leave the Church” lesson on what seems a monthly basis. “Don’t research Church history, or gospel topics on google”, “gospel of google!!!, heresy!!!!” or “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith” (cred. President Uchtdorf), or “sing a hymn to stop watching porn”, or “don’t worry about it, you’re going to be exalted, you’re okay… you’re enough… breast enhancement surgery is a-okay” are all examples of treating the symptoms of a religious culture that has been put on faith life support. Ironically, many of these proposed treatments appear to be covering for missteps from past LDS leaders, who cannot be directly refuted (except for Brigham Young of course since he preceded Wilford Woodruff’s infallibility statement and besides, someone needed to get thrown under the bus for the whole blacks and the priesthood fiasco).
The doctrinal mess (see Adam God Theory, blood atonement, polygamy, Willford Woodruff’s and Heber J. Grant’s infallibility doctrine, temple rite modifications, sealing authority, priesthood, priesthood keys, fullness of the Melchizedek Preisthood, etc. ad nauseam) that current LDS Church leaders have inherited unfortunately has only become worse over time due to the inability to admit significant mistakes. Leaders have chosen to double down on past errors with the exception of President Uchtdorf’s admission that in the past leader’s “have simply made mistakes“.
My goal is not to rail on these gents that reside at the top of the LDS corporate structure. These dudes should be pitied more than anything else. How difficult would it be for one of these men to spiritually wake-up in the environment in which they currently find themselves. To be told you are extremely special. To be told that you alone hold all priesthood keys on the Earth. To be fawned over for years and years by Church members. To have your very utterances considered to be scripture. To have it assumed that you meet with angels and deity on a frequent basis. To be God’s chosen mouthpieces. I do not envy these men to any degree. Many of them appear to remain to be humble and seem to genuinely want to help those in need and serve God. If I were in their shoes, I would have probably drunk every last drop of the Mormon cultural Kool-Aid available to me and would have reflected the member’s idolatry to the greatest degree. “Yes, thank you, I am awesome aren’t I. I’m just so righteous, and I sure do hope you keep your eye on me, because that’s the way to salvation” – LDS apostle me.
If we are, however, going to progress, we must correct false traditions and significant doctrinal stumbling blocks. Truth is truth, and lies are lies, and “every one that is of the truth heareth His voice” (modification mine). At this point it really doesn’t matter who created the mess, it just needs to get cleaned-up.
Due to the issues mentioned in the section above, many members are spiritually starving. The list of a) read your scriptures, b) say your prayers, c) attend LDS Church services, d) serve in your calling, e) attend the temple once a month, f) wait to die… just doesn’t satisfy. Don’t get me wrong, a) and b) I believe to be absolutely essential, critical in fact, just not in the way the LDS Church teaches.
In light of this increasing spiritual starvation, many members are waking up to fact that many of our wards have become centers of Babylon worship vs. sanctuaries of light. We prefer to discuss our latest business endeavors rather than Christ. We prefer to discuss the latest ward gossip rather than Christ. We prefer to incorporate lessons learned in Babylon into our gospel discussions rather than searching the scriptures. Gee, I’m so glad I was taught these leadership (management) skills in the Church so I can graduate onto Babylon and incorporate them into my own worldly successes. I’m also especially glad I was taught graduate level classes in Babylonian management at an LDS Church run university. Ironically, many of our desires boil down to the fact that you can buy anything in this world for money, and as long as we are doing the things on the aforementioned list then it doesn’t matter how aggressively we whore after Babylon.
The Church has created a program in which the members will learn to get a better job or start a business. The program includes how to network and how to position yourself in a way where you can essential make more money and become more “self-reliant”. My wife and I were invited to participate in this program, and for the life of me I can’t understand why. We aren’t destitute. We are self-reliant to the degree the Lord blesses us. We’ve never needed to ask the Church for assistance (not that it would be a horrible thing to do so). We depend on the Lord, not the Church. So why would they be indiscriminately asking Church members to participate in the program? The only thing that really makes sense is that the Church is trying to increase tithing revenue for whatever reason, e.g. decreasing tithing revenue, insatiable desire for more wealth and power, etc. The Church has largely become a place where you can “network” and “start a business” or “find a better job”. Christ is increasingly being forgotten or neglected.
Why are people leaving then? They are starving. Many become atheists because their testimonies had root solely in the Church organization. Many leave because they feel they are wasting their time learning unprofitable stuff for three hours each Sunday. Many leave because they aren’t nourished sufficiently to withstand the craftiness of the adversary in our day.
Remnant Movement / Fringe Mormonism
In comes the LDS remnant movements. There have been many LDS splinter groups over the years, but none quite so curious as the LDS remnant primarily driven by the catalyst Denver Snuffer. I would argue there were forerunners to this movement. You of course had Joseph Smith advancing doctrines regarding seeing Christ and the Father in this life (see LDS temple endowment) during his mortal sojourn; however, most of these doctrines have been thoroughly neglected or outright rejected by current LDS thought leaders. You had Bruce R. McConkie advancing similar doctrines, just don’t get on his bad side (which of course is difficult since he’s no longer tabernacled on this Earth). Legend has it that Spencer W. Kimball was expounding on D&C 93 at some stake conference in southern California and how it was a literal promise. You also had authors like Blayne Yorgensen and John Pontius expounding on doctrines such as Calling and Election and the Second Comforter in the 80s/90s.
Then comes Denver Snuffer with his explicitly titled book “The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil”. Denver, like many of the authors before him had become outspoken regarding advanced doctrines. Giving people hope that the Gospel of Jesus Christ still had power, and that advanced blessings and progression were real and possible. Unfortunately, as most readers reading this already know. Mr. Snuffer was excommunicated from the LDS Church primarily because of a subsequent book he wrote called “Passing the Heavenly Gift“.
In the remnant movement, you find all sorts of people who were or are disenchanted with the LDS Church for one reason or another and who are seeking for greater spiritual blessings, real progression, and a deep connection with God. The remnant is kind of a hodge podge of anyone that doesn’t seem to fit into the restrictive mold of the LDS Church, but are still actively seeking its legacy blessings.
A number of individuals within the remnant movement felt inspired to start a scripture project where they would try to correct as many mistakes borne from years of careless scriptural inclusions/exclusions. This scripture project also will potentially include many revelations from Denver Snuffer.
My understanding is that these new scriptures will represent some kind of covenant with the Lord. A law to be accepted by the people of this remnant movement by which they will be governed and held accountable by the Lord.
I’m not sure exactly what to make of the covenant. For me, it’s a little difficult to find an exact scriptural precedent for what is being proposed. Many cite King Benjamin’s sermon as evidence of a similar situation; however, it was in fact the people that drove the covenant after they had received a remission of their sins, and it was not necessarily driven by King Benjamin, nor was it mentioned that it was proposed ahead of time. However, I admit that there could be many things not mentioned in the scriptural record. My intent and point isn’t to squabble over the scriptural record, or oppose what this remnant movement is trying to accomplish. I do feel supremely obligated to discover God’s will to the greatest degree possible in my own life, notwithstanding my extreme weakness.
Based on Mr. Moriancumer’s account…
8 And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.
9 And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.
10 For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
11 And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.
12 Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.
There is an inherent covenant associated with the land upon which we now reside. If one repents, will one inherently be free from bondage as described in verse 11? Perhaps repenting means entering into a group covenant with your peers? Perhaps repenting means entering into your own individual covenant with God?
Furthermore, is the higher law contained in following the spirit to the greatest degree possible, as opposed to trying to perfect the written law? Or do we need to perfect the written law before we can enjoy a greater measure of the spirit? Which is the more important focus at least initially? Is our current scriptural record sufficient for us to graduate to the following the spirit without restriction?
Idolatry vs Receiving
I believe we need to be very very very careful when it comes to entrusting any degree of our salvation to men. Presumably, Denver will be receiving the covenant at some point before the September remnant conference. Even if Denver receives a true covenant from God, it is incumbent upon those involved to make dang sure they aren’t practicing idolatry. Prophets, i.e. those that have progressed further than the rest of us and are called to teach us, are to be received, but never ever ever followed blindly. If you’re not careful, you might be risking a cursing rather than a blessing (see D&C 84).
To be brief, the remnant movement itself should never become more powerful than the spirit in anyone’s life. We’ve seen too much of that with other organizations haven’t we? At the end of the day the remnant movement, or whichever movement, is only relevant to the degree which God makes it relevant in your life. Is God working exclusively in this movement? Is this a zero sum game in which the remnant has all of God’s favor and power? Was this true of the LDS Church 10 years ago? Was this true of the LDS Church 175 years ago?
Where To Go From Here?
Is it more beneficial to prepare for a group covenant, or to diligently seek God’s guidance on how to repent/progress in one’s individual life? Perhaps they can be the same? Maybe God will tell you how to repent in order to prepare for a group covenant? Maybe there are specific things He wants you to do unrelated to the remnant movement. Maybe there are things He wants you to do related to the remnant movement. It’s about what the Lord wants, not necessarily about what you want.
At the end of the day, men and organizations are only relevant to the degree God makes them relevant. At the end of the day, our spiritual connection with God matters most and governs all else. Strengthening that connection, repenting/progressing, passing tests, learning to become like He is, and increasing our obedience to our Heavenly Father’s counsel is the most profitable thing we can do. As always, I could be completely wrong about a lot of this. In the words of LaVar Burton, “You don’t have to take my word for it”. Sage advice from the chief engineer of the Enterprise. Thank you Geordi, thank you. That vision assistance thingy must have been really uncomfortable to wear for 7 seasons.