Denver Snuffer’s “Passing the Heavenly Gift”: Does its publication constitute an act of apostasy?


I am going to try not to expound, teach, preach or do anything else like that with this post.

For those that don’t know, Denver Snuffer, an active member of the church who has written a number of religious books, received and posted on his blog a copy of a letter from his stake president, which was dated August 21, in which he was notified that a disciplinary council for him has been scheduled to take place on September 8.

The council will decide whether the continued publication of his 8th book, Passing the Heavenly Gift, constitutes an act of apostasy.  His stake high council will decide the matter for themselves, as that is how church government works, but since the evidence against him is only this book, which has already been published, the general membership has access to all of the facts of this particular case, too, (if they’ve read the book.)

I thought it would be interesting to take the pulse of the general membership to see what the average Mormon who reads the book will think about it, whether they will say it is apostate literature, or whether they will say it is not apostate.

For the reader’s information, the CHI defines apostasy in this way:

Apostasy

As used here, apostasy refers to members who:

1. Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.

2. Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

3. Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.

4. Formally join another church and advocate its teachings.

Priesthood leaders must take disciplinary action against apostates to protect Church members.  The Savior taught the Nephites that they should continue to minister to a transgressor, “but if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people” (3 Nephi 18:31; see also Mosiah 26:36).

Total inactivity in the Church or attending another church does not constitute apostasy.  However, if a member formally joins another church and advocates its teachings, excommunication or name removal may be necessary if formal membership in the other church is not ended after counseling and encouragement.

Denver’s stake high council has not made a decision, one way or another, so this post is not meant to cast the high council of that stake in a poor light.  It is the responsibility of the leadership to deal with matters of apostasy, so it is entirely within their jurisdiction to call this council.  What they decide is still unknown, and is their business, not ours, as such things are local matters.  If they make errors in judgment, the church appeals system is still available to Denver.

Regardless of their judgment, whether they deem the book acceptable or apostate, because Denver’s writings have apparently affected so many people, I would expect that there will be some sort of polarization among the membership familiar with his writings.

This post, then, is so that people can discuss the merits of Passing the Heavenly Gift and offer their opinions whether it could be classified as apostate literature.  It is not to provide a forum for people to be critical of the church disciplinary council itself and vilify Denver’s stake president and bishop.  They must act in the manner they think most appropriate in matters dealing with apostasy.  The Lord Himself is the one who set up this process, and unrepentant apostates must be removed from the church, otherwise the ones responsible for weeding them out come under condemnation.  This is per D&C 64:12-14.  (I said I would try not to teach, and here I am teaching…)

Anyway, so here is the letter that the stake president sent to Denver:

Click Here

Specifically, the stake president believes Passing the Heavenly Gift “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.”  He wrote that in Denver’s effort to defend the restoration, he has “mischaracterized doctrine, denigrated virtually every prophet since Joseph Smith, and placed the church in a negative light.  The book is a misguided effort to attempt to bridge the gap between the church and its dissidents.”  The stake president believes that Passing the Heavenly Gift “will attract only the attention of those whose spiritual eyes, ears and hearts are obscured from the truth.”  He also wrote that Denver’s work pits him “against the institution of the church”.

So, that’s the stake president’s current take on Passing the Heavenly Gift.  It may be that the high council agrees with him and Denver is disciplined.  It may be that the high council disagrees with him and Denver is not disciplined.  Or, it may be that after the high council deliberates, that the stake president himself changes his mind and no action is taken against Denver.  We’ll see.

Regardless, anyone who wants to, can use this post to give their own opinion on Passing the Heavenly Gift.  If you haven’t read the book, you can get a copy through Amazon.com and/or read some of the customer reviews that are found there.  Here’s the link.

(For those wondering what my own opinion is, since I have not read the book myself, I can’t offer any opinion, one way or another.  So I leave it up to those in the know, who have read the book in question, to discuss the matter, if they want.)

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