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Association of Mormon Letters

Friday, September 13, 2013


Title: Passing the Heavenly Gift
Author: Denver C. Snuffer Jr.
Publisher: Mill Creek Press
Genre: Religious Reference
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 528
Binding: Paperback
ISBN10: 0615528961
ISBN13: 978-0615528960
Price: $28.85

Reviewed by Russell Y Anderson for the Association for Mormon Letters

(Editor's note: Our good reviewer Russell Anderson has submitted this review, which will be in addition to a forthcoming review by another reviewer. When books are this much talked about, two or more reviews are so very welcome. Thanks, Russell. JN)

“The Lord does still personally appear to mankind. I am a witness to that fact. He first appeared to me February 13, 2003. I have written a book about the topic titled as The 'Second Comforter: Conversing With the Lord Through the Veil.' That book does not contain any details about the Lord's ministry to me, but affirms it took place. For anyone who reads this book I soberly declare: I know He lives. I have seen and spoken with Him.” – "Passing the Heavenly Gift," pages 452-3

In Denver Snuffer's first book on the Second Comforter he tells us that he was told to write it. However, for "Passing the Heaving Gift" he says: "I have been waiting for someone to write this book. It needs to be written. No one has stepped forward to do so. Therefore, I have decided I am to write it. It explains why I remain a loyal member, despite the rough stuff from which the modern church arises."

The information in this book was probably the major factor that led to him being excommunicated on Sunday, September 8, 2013.

There is no index, but I created a list of over 50 topics that I found particularly interesting. I will discuss a few of those topics here. Let me say that this book opened up many areas for investigation and suggested an interpretation of events and actions that I had not considered. Starting with this book, I have had many other fruitful discoveries.

Before this book was published he made some comments about the book on his blog (

"I will have a new book out soon and want to clarify a few things in advance of its release.

"First, this is not a book for everyone. Some people have become aware of problems in church history. They have struggled with what they've learned. As a result there have been crises of faith among some of the brightest and most inquisitive among us. This is a tragic loss. The new book is written to help those who are already aware of problems to come to grips with the issues and see how it all still makes sense. There are those who are perfectly content with the oftentimes fanciful accounts of our history which gloss over problems and ignore contradictions. For such people reading the new book will be startling and perhaps a faith challenging experience. The book will perhaps upset them more than reassure them. I do not want to do that for any Latter-day Saint. I would hope they would decide to pass on reading the book and continue to be content with whatever assumptions please them about our past.

"Second, I am very concerned that many of the most important points of the book will be taken completely out of context and shared by overeager readers who want to show off their new understanding. That can be destructive. The book is prepared carefully, with precepts constructed, historic proof gathered, explanations crafted with care and an overall harmony between parts. Taking some of the information out of context and blurting it out as an isolated event, quote or idea will not help anyone. The unkind person doing so may get to show off, but they tear down rather than build up. None but fools will trifle with the souls of men. (TPJS p. 137.)

"The book will not read like the traditional accounts of what has happened. The point of departure for the book is the scriptures. No historian's theme is used to substitute a retelling of events. Instead the book relies on the scriptures, primarily the Book of Mormon, as the basis from which to construct the events of our dispensation. So far as I know, this is the only time our history has been told with an eye on what the scriptures say about us instead of our own vanity and pride. Therefore, it is quite different than what you've been reading about us in other accounts."

I hope that my quotes below don't violate the principles that he outlines above and provide sufficient context. I agree that the book can be a "faith challenging experience," but it can also provide a more complete understanding of the Book of Mormon and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

* Apostolic witness:
"The connection between heaven and priesthood is set out in D&C 121. The matter becomes even more clear from instructions given to the first Quorum of Twelve at the time they were ordained Apostles for the church. There are two different kinds of Apostles. One is an administrative office in the church. The other is a witness of the resurrection, who has met with Christ. The first group of Twelve Apostles were immediately made administrative Apostles in the church, but were told they needed to go on to become Apostolic witnesses of the resurrection by having Christ lay hands on them. Such an Apostolic witness requires heavenly power. To clarify the matter to those in the first quorum, they were instructed as follows:

[skipped two paragraphs]

"Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in the latter days? (DHC 2:195-196)

"The same admonition was repeated to every new church Apostle until the early 1900's. Because so few had the heavens open to them so as to become Apostolic witnesses ordained by Christ, the instruction was abandoned. Church Apostles now testify oftentimes to "the name of Jesus Christ" with seldom any mention of having seen His presence." (p. 34-36)

"[May 30, 1890; in apostles meeting] . . . Heber J. Grant. Stated that he had never had an inspired dream in his life and that although he had always desired to see his father in dream or vision that he had never been allowed to enjoy this great privilege. He had at all times been afraid to ask for any great spiritual manifestation as he would then be under greater obligation." (p. 246-47)

"Near the end of his life, after twenty four years as church president, he again revisited the topic of spiritual manifestations. One again he expressed his distrust of any such things:

"[October 4, 1942] I have never prayed to see the Savior, I know of men--Apostles--who have seen the Savior more than once." (p. 256)

* Succession:

"Today The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints views Brigham Young as Joseph's legal successor. This is a revision of history. At the time even Brigham Young did not consider himself the legal successor. Instead, he believed the right belonged to one of Joseph's sons, either Joseph Smith III or David Smith.

"'[H]e had never considered himself as Joseph Smith's sole successor, and second, he had long hoped for the Spirit of God to move either Joseph or David to fill the station Brigham believed their father had appointed to them.'(Ehat, Andrew Master's Thesis BYU, 1981, p. 242) Thirteen years after being voted into the presidency, President Young made the following comment in a sermon at the Salt Lake Tabernacle:

"''What of Joseph Smith's family? What of his boys? I have prayed from the beginning for Sister Emma and for the whole family. There is not a man in this Church that has entertained better feelings towards them. Joseph said to me, "God will take care of my children when I am taken." They are in the hands of God, and then they make their appearance before this people, full of his power, there are none but what will say, "Amen! we are ready to receive you"

"'The brethren testify that brother Brigham is brother Joseph's legal successor. You never heard me say so. I say that I am a good hand to keep the dogs and wolves out of the flock. I do not care a groat who rises up. I do not think anything about being Joseph's successor. That is nothing that concerns me.' (The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young, Vol. 3, p. 158)"
(p. 72-73)

"As we saw earlier, Brigham Young initially based his claim to have all the keys upon his ordination to the Apostleship. That ordination did not involve the ceremonies in the red brick store. It happened in Kirtland in February, 1835 rather than in Nauvoo and did not involve Joseph in that ordination." (p. 26)

"None of those who have held the office have ever directly claimed to be a prophet. Rather, others testify they are prophets, and they remain silent on the point. In contrast Joseph directly claimed to be a prophet." (p. 358-359)

* Plural Marriage

Talking about section 132: "The revelation explains that when a woman is given to a man under the authorized priesthood authority, then the man 'cannot commit adultery' because the woman is given to him. (v. 62) The man is "justified" in having the wives. These words of the revelation fall short of an outright endorsement for taking multiple wives. The language only permits it in two narrow circumstances: when the Lord commands, or when someone asks who has the right to ask--but not until after the Lord first approves the request. In contrast, the law which must be obeyed, the law 'no one can reject... and be permitted to enter into [God's] glory' (v. 4) is the everlasting marriage between a man and one woman. (v. 13-20) In all the relevant verses it involves marriage between a man and 'a wife'(v. 13-20)" (p. 149-150)

"Joseph Smith began to teach this principle to a limited number of close associates. Just as it had been a terrible trial to him, he used the doctrine to test others. He asked men to give their wives to him. If, after a soul searching struggle they agreed, Joseph would inform them they passed the test, and seal the man, and his wife to one another in marriage. It was a brutal test, but one that allowed Joseph to weigh the man's heart in the same fashion the Lord had weighted his. By asking a man to give his wife to Joseph, Joseph was able to accomplish several things in one terrible test: First, it demonstrated if the person was willing to accept the doctrine of plural wives. Second, it proved if the man accepted Joseph's role as the Lord's spokesman. Third, it tore at the heart of the man by asking for his wife; a test akin to the one visited upon Abraham when the Lord proved his heart. Interestingly, the testing did not ask for anyone else to live plural marriage. . . . In this manner he introduced the concepts of eternal marriage and the idea of plural wives in one, single ordeal. Brigham Young would later conflate the two, making plural marriage a required part of eternal marriage itself." (p. 158-160)

* Calling and Election:

"Our covenants are meaningless unless they are ratified by heaven. All our oaths, covenants, even our expectations for the next life, must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise, or the voice of God, or we have nothing. (D&C 132:7) As Joseph put it:

"'We have no claim in our eternal compact, in relation to eternal things, unless our actions and contacts and all things tend to this. But after all this, you have got to make your calling and election sure. If this injunction would lie largely on those to whom it was spoken, how much more those of the present generation!'"(TPJS, p. 306)

"He elaborated:

"'1st key: Knowledge is the power of salvation. 2nd key: Make your calling and election sure. 3rd key: It is one thing to be on the mount and hear the excellent voice, etc., and another to hear the voice declare to you, You have a part and lot in that kingdom.'" (May 21, 1843) (TPJS, p. 306)

"To Joseph, this was the gospel. He warned that when men attempt to teach otherwise they should be cursed, no followed:

"'Oh! I beseech you to go forward, go forward and make your calling and your election sure; and if any man preach any other Gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed; and some of you who now hear me shall see it, and know that I testify the truth concerning them. (TPJS, p. 366)'"
(p. 279-180)

"Correlation has eliminated the topic of 'calling and election' from permitted subjects in church teaching materials. Those who have done this, in Joseph's words, 'shall be cursed.'" (p. 441)

"First phase Mormonism sought to revolutionize the individual, taught individual salvation, required individual revelation, and claimed the heavens were again open to all. Joseph taught: 'I advise all to go on to perfection, and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness.' (TPJS p. 364) Fourth phase Mormonism encourages devotion to the institution, offers institutional salvation, claims God has entrusted the power to save or damn to man because keys to the heavenly gift are currently in possession of the church, and the church is Zion. Searching into 'mysteries' is discouraged and, according to church manuals unnecessary" (p. 443-444)

* Nauvoo Temple:

After reading the book, and further study, I came to understand the following: D&C 124 gives great promises from the Lord if the Saints would build the Nauvoo temple and a rejection of the church with their dead if they don't. The standard narrative tells us that it was finished and dedicated before the saints moved West. However, Brigham Young and even Joseph Fielding Smith acknowledge that it wasn't finished. Normally when you dedicate a temple it is to prepare it to be used, but the saints had no intention of using the temple and instead had been working for months to sell the building. So does that mean that the church was rejected? That was very much on the minds of the apostles while they worked feverishly to "finish" and dedicate it. Ezra Taft Benson had no problems telling the church that they had been condemned for 150 years (D&C 84:54-5) for not taking the Book of Mormon seriously, but nobody talks about a rejection because of the Nauvoo temple.

* Gentiles:

"If 'gentiles' refers only to non-Latter-day Saints, then the book warns only non-readers of their impending doom. For those who will receive it as scripture, there is nothing to warn about. Under this assumption, those people who were foreseen by Nephi, Mormon and Moroni and who are addressed in the book's prophecies will never be warned. In fact, all believing readers can take some measure of confidence in knowing everybody around them is condemned, while they can be lifted up in their pride because they are special, even chosen. If that seems like the intent of the prophets of the Book of Mormon perhaps you should read the book again. The idea lacks common sense. The book attacks pride. It does not encourage it.

"However, it is not necessary to use common sense alone. Joseph Smith already answered the question directly with the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer, which he received by revelation. The prayer identifies the church as gentile when it states; 'Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou has give unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles' (D&C 109:60)" (P. 383-384)

"As the title page of the Book of Mormon explains, this book was 'to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile.' It came through Joseph Smith. However much Joseph may be associated with authentic Israelite blood in church teachings, he is identified as a 'gentile' by the Book of Mormon. So are those who receive the Book of Mormon--the Latter-day Saints. Therefore, the conclusion is inescapable that the church is identified in prophecy as gentiles." (p. 384-385)

* Apostasy:

"If Joseph's final dream is a prophecy about the future state of the church after June 1844, then it also suggests the traditional narrative is wrong. There is no official interpretation of the dream. Joseph gave none, as he died later that day. As his final visionary report, however, the interpretation seems to be worth considering." (p. 345-346)

"Christ is not the only one in the Book of Mormon who spoke of the gentile rejection. Moroni spoke directly to the gentile audience who would read the Book of Mormon. Moroni prophesied to us:

"'Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing. And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your church, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.' (Mormon 8:35-36)

"Since Moroni saw us, knew of our deeds, and addresses his warning to those of us who read his record, it necessarily follows he had Latter-day Saint gentiles in mind. His warning could not be more clear. He tells us our churches, 'even every one' of them 'have become polluted.' He did not allow for any exception. There is simply no church belonging to us gentiles that has not become 'polluted' because of our 'iniquities.' If Moroni's words are taken at face value, he is telling us we have filled every church, including ours, with iniquities.

"He elaborates: We love money instead of people (Mormon 8:37, 39) We have secret abominations among us. (Mormon 8:40) He asks us: 'O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God?' (Mormon 8:40) Since he saw our day, it is unlikely he would call any denomination other than the Latter-day Saints the 'holy church of God.' It strains credulity to read this warning as a caution to those who do not accept the Book of Mormon as scripture. At the plainest of meanings, Moroni prophesies we have polluted the holy church of God." (p. 389-390)

"Professor Bloom's 1990 observation is not unlike the view of Elder Orson Pratt, expressed 107 years earlier, in 1873. Elder Pratt was an eye witness to the church's history in phase one and two. He was among the church's first Apostles. He stated:

"'There must be a reformation, there will be a reformation among this people, for God will not cast off this kingdom and this people, but he will plead with the strong ones of Zion, he will plead with this people, he will plead with those in high places, he will plead with the Priesthood of this Church, until Zion shall become clean before him. I do not know but that it would be an utter impossibility to commence and carry out some principles pertaining to Zion right in the midst of this people. They have strayed so far that to get a people who would conform to heavenly laws it may be needful to lead some from the midst of this people and commence anew somewhere in the regions round about in these mountains. (JD 15:360-361) There are scriptures, revelations, teachings, statements, and dreams that suggest the gentile rejection would not only happen, but happened coincident with Joseph Smith's death. The narrative which refuses this idea is perhaps reassuring. But being reassured by a lie does little good. The truth of the answer is left for each of us to decide." (p. 392-393)

* From Denver Snuffer blog of September 4, 2013

"I will say this: The church believes very much the content of the book needs to be withdrawn. They think this because the book brings to light the babylonian methods church leadership uses to make rapid and dramatic changes. We are not now the same church restored by Joseph Smith. 'Passing the Heavenly Gift' shows how that happened. There are social, political and legal forces pulling on the church which the leadership intends to accommodate. . . .

"When I pointed out to the stake president in one meeting that there are dozens, even hundreds of readers whose faith was restored and whose activity in the church was renewed or resumed from reading 'Passing the Heavenly Gift' the stake president had no response. After he received further 'training,' he asked me 'what makes you think the church wants that kind of member?' I understood that to mean that once someone has read the book and come to realize what changes and how changes have come to our church, they are disinclined to continue sleepwalking along with the herd. They understand that all is not well, and view with some healthy skepticism many losses we've suffered in the restoration since Joseph's death. Such people will be difficult to bring along with the current social, political and legal trends if they base their view on scripture and history, as I advocate.

"Therefore, to make what concessions I can, I will state for all you blog readers: 'Passing the Heavenly Gift' contains content that will make your appreciation and acceptance of the efforts of the institution now and in the future to bend its teachings to conform to social, political and legal trends much more difficult to achieve. You will be happier if you don't read the book. You will be more inclined to sleepwalk along with what is progressively distant from the original restoration. You will not detect that these changes mark the downfall predicted in the prophecies of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants. While I cannot withdraw the content, you should not read it if it will upset your worldview."