Encountering Snuffer and ‘The Second Comforter’

The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the VeilThe Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil by Denver Carlos Snuffer Jr.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve been in the room with people who could say with a straight face they have seen the resurrected Jesus Christ. The age of visions, or at least of people claiming them, never ended. It continues, often underground or at a grass roots level. Within Mormonism, a book of some note on this subject is Denver Snuffer’s The Second Comforter: Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil.

Though Mr. Snuffer has since been excommunicated, he wrote this book while still a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In terms of its agenda, The Second Comforter is as much a call for people to join the restored Church as it is an instruction manual for obtaining a visitation from Jesus Christ. Still, the book’s main selling point is this: Snuffer lays out a path which leads from mere hope in God to literally embracing Him and feeling the nail prints in His resurrected body.

In public addresses, Snuffer often showers listeners with all sorts of historical/theological minutia of a scholarly nature. In this book, Snuffer keeps things fairly user-friendly, focusing on The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and temple worship as essentials. One of the things The Book of Mormon does exceedingly well is depict visions and visitations from the Lord. On the downside, both The Book of Mormon and Snuffer’s book engage in relentless restatement of a fairly straightforward gospel. Perhaps this belaboring approach is a byproduct of Snuffer’s training as a lawyer.

In any case, it’s hard to imagine someone missing the point of this book. Also important, Snuffer seems to genuinely believe in this vision-seeking process. Though I have my misgivings about the man and his message, I can state the following from extensive personal experience. In The Second Comforter, Snuffer only teaches and promises what has been routinely taught and promised in mainstream Mormon Sunday Schools, priesthood meetings, and exclusive missionary gatherings for decades.

This was not an enjoyable read for me; let’s just say the dutiful prose doesn’t flow. But it was a worthwhile read. Though The Second Comforter wants for some judicious editing, it makes its point. Believers of The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s visions have a clear call to seek out personal encounters with the divine. And for non-Mormons wanting to understand how a quirky 19th Century New England movement became a global religion, Denver speaks directly to why. Devout Mormons claim to have the ear of the Almighty. Denver Snuffer remains a prominent thought leader within Mormonism. In this foundational book, he describes the richest experience Mormonism claims to offer mortals: receiving a personal visitation from Jesus Christ.

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First Man after First Corinthians 13

Though I speak with the tongues of Spielberg and Kubrick, and have not First Man, I am become as The Black Hole, or Red Planet.

And though I have the gift of Roddenberry, and understand Arrival and The Martian, so that I could span gulfs, and have not First Man, I am missing out.

First Man suffers long, and is our kind of kind; First Man envies not; First Man vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,

Does not behave itself unseemly, understandably seeks its own, is not easily provoked, and thinks no evil;

Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in truth;

Bears many things, believes many things, hopes many things, endures many things.

First Man never fails beyond redemption.

For we know in part, and we worship the past in part.

But if that which is perfect should come, then that which is made great again in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away many childish things.

For now we see through smart devices frantically; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall we know even as also we are known.

And now abides The Right Stuff, Apollo 13, Gravity, and First Man, these four; but the greatest of these is First Man.

Strangite Mormonism gets Due Attention

“God Has Made Us a Kingdom”: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons by Vickie Cleverley Speek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Early on in my reading of Vickie Cleverly Speek’s book about Strangite Mormonism, I found myself dismayed to the point of almost tossing the book out. Given its highlights and summary structuring, the book initially came off to me as a tawdry sequel to Nauvoo Mormonism. All the rumor, scandal, esoteric rituals, and political machinating virtually designed to end in assassination—all combined to make me groan at how quickly history repeats itself.

Make no mistake, Ms. Speek’s writing led me to this disenchanting early impression. In “God Has Made Us a Kingdom”: James Strang and the Midwest Mormons, Speek treats the Strangite movement as the protagonist. The movement’s head, James Strang, while central is not the book’s focus. We see the entire movement born, grow, and then fall apart.

When James Strang is mortally wounded by assassins later in the book, it felt matter-of-fact to me. As if, of course that was going to happen. Nothing especially insightful, just a rehearsal of the same story we saw with Joseph Smith in Nauvoo in the early 1840s. As I said, it read like a tawdry sequel.

Fortunately for me, I kept reading. In the chapters following Strang’s death, as his kingdom on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan quickly falls apart, Speek does something very compelling. She spends several chapters detailing the fate of each of Strang’s polygamous widows. The book takes on an increasingly personal feel, with a clear picture of individual human cost. Yet at the same time, through these women’s eyes, and through the perspective of Strang’s children, this splinter sect of Mormonism comes into focus.

Speek presents us with a movement made up of zealots, opportunists, and a great many sincere followers who do all the heavy lifting for the first two groups. She also makes a strong case for polygamy being at best a secondary reason for Strang’s downfall and his movement’s failure. The communal approach, known to the devout as consecration, may have been the fatal civic ingredient. The grievances and atrocities perpetrated against Strangite Mormons receive due attention as well.

For Mormon history enthusiasts wanting to get inside the mind of James Strang, this book may be the wrong choice. Rather than a biography of the man, this is a study of his kingdom overall. Honestly, I don’t feel I know James Strang much better than before I read the book. The Strangite movement, however, has become a moving human affair for me, rather than a footnote to the Brighamite Mormonism I was raised in. Likely the book’s greatest contribution, that is a good reason for reading to the last page.

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