What you find most alarming is that customers who couldn't get enough of your product in the 1950s and 60s have simply stopped showing up at your restaurants. They talk fondly of childhood visits to Kentucky Fried Chicken as having been an important focus of family life growing up, but the magic just isn't there for them anymore. What's worse, quite a number of former customers make a lot of noise about their dissatisfaction with your product, which isn't helping. The company goes into full damage control mode on the internet to try and salvage the brand's image.
In the middle of all this trouble, you hear about one of your employees out of Idaho. He is not a member of top management, just a nobody from the hinterlands; but this guy is saying things that are resonating with your customers. It's true, he tells them, their suspicions are correct. Kentucky Fried Chicken has been going downhill ever since the death of Colonel Sanders. But his message to your customers is one of optimism: Don't Despair. Stay with the brand. Management may have made some goofball mistakes over the years, but managers are only human and those mistakes can be corrected. The good news is that Original Recipe Chicken is still available if you look for it.
As a member of the board of directors, what do you about this employee? Well you fire him, of course.
Flubbing The Heavenly Chance
At a time when the information highway has exposed the LDS Church to a great deal of criticism (some of it warranted), God dropped a gift right into the laps of the befuddled leaders which they promptly rejected like it was a hot potato. That gift came in the form of an unassuming man named Denver Snuffer, whose most salient quality is his testimony of Jesus Christ and the Restoration. Brother Snuffer maintains a blog and has written several books about Mormonism. His writings have persuaded a sizable number of disaffected Mormons to stay in the faith. He reminds his readers that the core fundamentals of this religion are true and valid, and that by repenting God will forgive us of our mistakes.
Naturally a heretic like this had to go.
Last week, exactly forty years to the day since he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Denver Snuffer Jr was excommunicated for the charge of "apostasy," a charge that is leaving many people scratching their heads in bewilderment. If Denver Snuffer is an apostate, then everyone of us who embraces the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and the revelations of Joseph Smith must be an apostate, too. That would shrink the membership rolls of the Church considerably.
Snuffer's sin, you see, is that he wrote a book. That may seem incredible to anyone hearing about this for the very first time, but the letter from Brother Snuffer's stake president is very clear about his book indeed being the reason for the action. Snuffer's stake president told him all he has to do to remain in good standing with the Church is to pull the book from publication and disavow its contents. (I wonder if he thinks it's also possible to gather up all existing copies and have them burned in the public square?)
Excommunication is the most severe punishment this Church can inflict on a member, so I'll bet you're thinking this Snuffer character has written a devastating pack of lies regarding corruption and debauchery within the highest echelons of the LDS hierarchy. That must be why they want to silence him.
But no, it's nothing like that at all. In the final chapter of the book, Snuffer comes to the conclusion of his thesis, and here it is: "Joseph Smith was restoring something different than what we have today." That's a conclusion most us would consider self evident and hardly controversial. This is what Snuffer said recently about his motivation and reasons for writing it:
"I wrote Passing the Heavenly Gift as a reconstruction of the events of this dispensation. The framework was primarily the description in the Book of Mormon of the latter-day Gentile behavior. This includes specifically, the prophecies of Christ in Third Nephi. I also used Joseph Smith's prophecies in the Doctrine and Covenants, his sermons and history. Taking this scriptural framework, (not as an historian but as a believer in the prophetic insight about us) I then tracked through our history. I used a lot of primary sources, including journals and diaries of church leaders.
"What I found was that the events in our history could be viewed as an exact match for the prophetic warnings given us in scripture (Book of Mormon/D&C). The result was not history, but truth. If the book is true (and I am persuaded it is the most correct account of our dispensation written so far) then we need to awaken to our present peril and repent. If it is not true then we have nothing to worry about; the church is entirely intact, has the fullness, and all is entirely well in Zion. It would be very exciting if Passing the Heavenly Gift is wrong.
"The trouble is that I don't believe it's wrong. We have very serious issues confronting us, and a great deal of work to complete before we attain unto what the Lord expects of us. Joseph Smith was betrayed and killed as a result of steps taken by church members. True enough it was a mob of Carthage Greys who shot him. But he would not have been in a position to be shot if it had not been for the betrayal by church members. When we (meaning church members) caused or contributed to his death, we offended heaven in a way that required three and four generations to pass before we receive another opportunity from the Lord. With the recent passing of Eldred G. Smith, we have a milestone representing the end of those required generational passings. Now is the first time it is possible for the Lord to recommence the restoration.
"But it won't commence again without us knowing what we lack. Conceit and arrogance will never redeem us from our fallen state. But contrition and repentance might. Passing the Heavenly Gift is intended to inspire those who are downfallen in their faith, and to help those who are prepared to hear it, that we (all of us, including me) are in a fallen state from which we must awake and arise."I think what it was that put Snuffer in the doghouse with Church leadership was his assertion that Joseph Smith's successors sometimes made mistakes. This flies in the face of the image the Magisterium is currently attempting to convey: in the true Church, the leaders are incapable of making mistakes, for if the leaders were ever in error, the Church could not be true. Snuffer, by declaring that yes, general authorities too have things to repent of, has directly confronted Oz The Great And Powerful. He is become Abinadi before the court of King Noah, speaking truths that mere mortals are not permitted to utter.
Doomed To Repeat
I have never been of the opinion that the entire Quorum of the Twelve was behind the ouster of Denver Snuffer from the church. Despite what some believe about the the operation of the institution at the highest levels, the Church (TM) is not a monolithic entity where all are in agreement with one another on all matters. Some time after the notorious 1993 excommunications of the September Six, for example, it was revealed that Boyd Packer had been the instigator behind that unfortunate purge, and that other members of the Twelve had serioius misgivings about Packer's actions. Sadly, they made no attempt to rein him in, just as a decade earlier none of Bruce McConkie's colleagues corrected him when he publicly declared that members should not seek a personal relationship with the Savior. Regarding Packer's rogue action, Steve Benson tells of Dallin Oaks admitting to him with a frustrated shrug, "you can't stage manage a grizzly bear."
The blowback from the September Six excommunications had a very negative effect on the image of the LDS Church after it was picked up by the national media and given wide exposure. Many rank and file Mormons were baffled at the action once they learned that every one of those disciplined had been loyal, believing members whose devotion to their religion had heretofore never been questioned. Their crimes seem to have been that they spoke about teachings that had once been commonly held in the church (such as the doctrine of a mother in heaven), and wondered aloud why the modern leadership insisted on suppressing its history.
Joseph Smith himself had objected to anyone being disciplined over their beliefs, but by 1993 the leadership seems to have forgotten his warning. The backlash of bad publicity the Church experienced after the September Six fiasco left a lasting impression, as many loyal members began to look critically at the leadership for the first time in their lives. The Magisterium had learned a valuable lesson. It didn't pay to excommunicate a believing member simply because he dissented from the views of the leadership. Such extreme measures tended to hurt the brand.
But it's now been twenty years since the September Six debacle, and memories are short. As George Santayana famously said, those who refuse to learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. And this Denver Snuffer affair is poised to come back and bite us all on the butt.
Going after Denver Snuffer is the equivalent of the Holland city fathers coming across the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dike and telling him to scram. Our leaders don't like Denver standing there for all to see and hear; he's calling attention to the cracks in the modern structure. But this foolish act of booting him out is just making the situation more obvious. Those who have read Denver's books and heard his testimony will only be more inclined to distance themselves from the corruption they see at the top of the institution. Denver's entire message is that we should be cultivating a testimony of Christ. The Magisterium's mantra appears to be that we should be cultivating a testimony of them. Whether that is their true intent or not, that is the perception. To the outside observer, that is the product they are selling, and the product has some serious, detectable flaws.
Disobedience Is The First Law Of Church Leadership
For all their preaching to the congregation about obedience, our leaders themselves seem to disobey God whenever it suits them. We know, for instance that when they decided to commit five billion dollars in Church funds toward the building of a lavish shopping center, they deliberately ignored the commandment given in D&C 26:2 and 104:71 where the Lord instructs them that monies placed into His treasury shall “not be used, or taken out of the treasury, only by voice and common consent” of the whole membership.
The leaders seem to have forgotten that church money is held by them in fiduciary trust on behalf of the members to whom that money rightfully belongs. Rather than asking for a simple show of hands, they made an executive decision to spend the money according to their own desires, in violation of God's clear commandments.
In like manner, the leaders of the Church today simply ignore the rules God laid out for them to follow regarding the excommunication of a fellow member. What we do know about the Denver Snuffer debacle is that one member of the Seventy and one member of the Twelve gave the orders to Snuffer's Stake President to move ahead with the decision. This is in violation of the rules initiated by the divine Head of the church in such matters. His law does not permit actions to be initiated from high up in the Church hierarchy.
The scriptures require such actions originate at the local congregation, and only after at least two members of the congregation come forward as witnesses against the accused. In an action involving the stake high council, six members of the council are required to stand as advocates of the accused, and six against. The Stake President is to remain impartial. This almost never happens today as he is usually the guy who brought the action, decides the evidence, prosecutes, judges, and executes the judgement. The scriptures are clear that the Lord designed the procedure precisely to keep all that power out of the hands of one man. Then there's the HUGE problem with the missing Elder's Council which is required, and...
You know what? There are simply too many violations of God's law taking place in church courts these days today for me to enumerate here. Instead of my laying out the list, I think I'll just recommend you read this recent masterpiece, The Law Against Dissent. Then you can figure out for yourself who the apostates are in this action. The irony is making me too dizzy to continue.
There is one more aspect of all this that I don't think Church leaders yet realize: Excommunication as a scare tactic just doesn't work anymore. There was a time when the stigma of being excommunicated from the Mormon Church was enough to keep some people from voicing their opinions, but that is no longer true. This is a vestigial consequence of the September Six affair. As people came to realize that these good members had been dealt with unjustly, excommunication came to be seen as a club that was often wielded indiscriminately by bullies, and not necessarily a sign that the excommunicant was wicked, unfaithful, or lacking the spirit. Many of us are acquainted with people who have been ousted from the corporate Church, yet radiate a spirit of godliness far surpassing those holding title and office within the Church who presided over their departures. This difference is noticeable to all.
Since I am not known for showing the proper deference to Church leaders over their pretended "authority," I am often asked if I am afraid of Church discipline. Answer: not one bit. No one but me has the power to take away my membership in the church of Christ. Jesus himself has removed that authority from the jurisdiction of men (see D&C 10:67-68). If they were to boot me out of their official club, the one organized by corporate charter in 1923 to which none of us are members anyway, I wouldn't even blink.
Let me be clear about something. Although I believe there to be good and just men serving as general authorities in the church today who are doing all in their power to put this ship back on course, the Corporate Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the outfit Denver Snuffer just got booted out of, is not the real church. That organization is irrelevant to me. It has no effect on my beliefs, and no bearing on my salvation.
If I were excommunicated from that club I would wake up the next morning no different than the day before. I would still have my testimony and my priesthood, my knowledge and my love of the gospel intact. There would be nothing about me that would be different. I would continue to keep this blog as before, writing about what I find to be both pure and impure about modern Mormonism.
By the way, none of this nonsense has had any effect on Denver Snuffer either, as evidenced by what he wrote yesterday regarding these Ten Points.