And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh.
Louis Naegle was excommunicated from the LDS church last Thursday night. You may recognize his name from the beginning of the book, Preserving the Restoration by Denver Snuffer. It was there that Louis published his testimony to the world. He has now been excommunicated for that testimony.
A friend of mine wrote the following about the situation. His write-up, plus the linked documents, provide a fascinating look into current actions of the LDS church against faithful members, and even their families, for the crime of "apostasy." I added some comments of my own at the end.
- Letter from Stake president notifying Louis of his disciplinary council. (Apr 24)
- The letter Louis sent to his Stake president in response to his notification. (Apr 28)
- Letter from Stake President responding to Louis’s requests. (May 5)
- Louis’s 15-page document that he presented to the Stake President to be read in his council. (May 11)
- Letter from the Stake President notifying Louis that he was excommunicated. (May 12)
- Louis met regularly with his Bishop since last fall to discuss matters concerning how he felt about the gospel and the church, including his testimony found in Preserving the Restoration. Although the Bishop was not in agreement with many of Louis’s actions or beliefs, he never threatened or belittled Louis, but rather listened respectfully to him. As far as Louis knows and was told, the Bishop did not personally seek any disciplinary action against Louis nor did he notify or ask for recommendations from the Stake President. Louis wishes not to fault his Bishop.
- Someone other than his Bishop notified Louis’s Stake president concerning Louis’s testimony found in Denver’s book, which precipitated the Stake President interviewing Louis. Louis had two visits with his Stake President prior to receiving a letter from him concerning the disciplinary court. Louis personally respects his Stake President and considers him a good man. His communications with Louis during their meetings were much different than the words and tone of the letter he received from him announcing his disciplinary council. In fact the words and tone were so different, that except for the last sentence that was written in the letter, the rest of it seemed to Louis to be following a text given to the Stake President from a General Authority or lawyer of the Church. See the attached copy of the letter to get your own idea about that. It is worth the read.
- Not only was Louis targeted for Church disciplinary actions, but his son, who had been serving an LDS mission, also was targeted and labeled an apostate and sent home (on April 22, 2016) dishonorably from his mission for being associated with his dad, even though his son did not endorse his father’s testimony nor has he read any of Snuffer’s books or participated in any activities associated with Snuffer. See Louis’s court letter for the details surrounding his son’s treatment by his mission president. One thing not mentioned in the Louis’s court statement is that the mission president called his son into his office on a Thursday and told his son he had a plane ticket for him to go home the very next day (on Friday). That means the Mission President (or his superior) had already decided to send Louis’s son home before even talking to him. And as you’ll read, there were ward members in his mission boundary that knew his son was going home before he even did.
- The fact that Louis’s son was targeted by his Mission President at nearly the same time that the Stake President decided to take action against Louis may also indicate that a General Authority was involved in orchestrating all these events since it is extremely unlikely that the Stake President and Mission President planned their separate but similar actions by coincidence.
- The Stake President required that Louis sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) if he was to attend the council. In the end, Louis decided not to sign the NDA and therefore did not attend the council. However Louis was able to submit a statement to be read in the council, which Louis provide the Stake President and which is attached.
- It was also unusual (but perhaps not exclusive) that the Stake President required that Louis provide him with the names of his witness along with the name of their bishop and stake.
- Louis’s response letter to the Stake President’s notification letter is actually a well-thought out and level-headed argument/statement. It’s worth the read (the first paragraph of the third page really highlights how much lack of due-process occurs in these councils even though I suspect the Stake President actually thinks he's doing a good and honest thing). Louis’s court statement is also well-done.
This ends what my friend wrote. The following are my own thoughts:
If this disciplinary council were being held for actual sin, rather than imagined offenses against church leaders, it would have been handled quite differently. Had Brother Naegle been on trial for, say, adultery, there would have been no NDA, or severe limitations on witnesses, or time limits, or prohibitions of questions, etc. Everything possible would have been done to defend Brother Naegle, and excommunication would have been reluctantly applied as a last resort.
But trials for Apostasy now follow a particular formula designed to confine and limit the accused, and dispatch the verdict as quickly and efficiently as possible, while maintaining some semblance of pretended fairness, strictly for public image purposes.
The NDA proves, however, that it's all just a show. The LDS church absolutely doesn't want anyone to find out what actually happens behind closed doors, even if the accused wants it public. The point is to silence, neutralize, and eliminate anyone with "dangerous" ideas, to keep such ideas from spreading. Such an approach shows the church is not prepared to defend its teachings, and it considers its members unprepared as well.
Those who are secure in their understanding do not fear ideas.
I also find it interesting that the accused is expressly forbidden to ask any questions of the council.
The combination of these conditions reveals the absolute fear controlling these proceedings. Fear that the accused will bring "unapproved" witnesses, fear he will ask questions the council can't answer, fear he may make speak undeniable truth, fear any of this will become public, fear the accused will speak longer than 45 minutes, fear the utter ridiculousness of the circumstances will be manifest.
The fear even extends to family members of the accused. Two capable and prepared missionaries were sent home, not for any real offenses or sin, but out of sheer fear they might be spreading contamination.
Therefore, I find the claims of love rather curious, because such love should diminish or even destroy fear.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
When Moroni discusses the Brother of Jared's experience with the Lord, he makes the point that we Gentiles will not receive what the Brother of Jared saw until we lose our iniquity and become clean before the Lord (Ether 4:6).
When Moroni discusses the Brother of Jared's experience with the Lord, he makes the point that we Gentiles will not receive what the Brother of Jared saw until we lose our iniquity and become clean before the Lord (Ether 4:6).
He then makes the following curious statement:
And he that will contend against the word of the Lord, let him be accursed; and he that shall deny these things, let him be accursed; for unto them will I show no greater things, saith Jesus Christ; for I am he who speaketh. (Ether 4:8)
I thought it odd the word used was "accursed" for those who contend agains the word of the Lord. So I looked it up in the 1828 Webster's Dictionary and found the following definition for "accursed:"
Separated from the faithful; cast out of the church; excommunicated.
Therefore, according to Moroni, those who contend against and deny the word of the Lord are to be excommunicated.
Louis Naegle was charged with apostasy for declaring the word of the Lord. Here is the primary statement from his testimony (emphasis mine):
I know God the Father and Jesus Christ live. I have seen them. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I have been in his presence also. I believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. I have had my eyes opened and my life changed through its message. I also know from my own sense of reason, from the testimony of the Holy Ghost, and from God declaring it to me by His own Voice that Denver C. Snuffer, Jr. is an honest messenger, sent by Him, and telling the truth.
The stake president explicitly stated that it was this testimony for which Louis was to be tried and punished. In the final analysis, one man declared the word of the Lord, and one man contended against it. Therefore, who was really excommunicated from the Lord's church last Thursday night?
And finally, there's a comparison that must be made. I hesitate to even make it because the mere mention is an overused, trite exaggeration, designed to elicit drama and emotion. But I am not using the comparison in that way at all. I'm simply comparing facts and circumstances. The comparison that must be made is to the Catholic Inquisition.
The purpose of the Inquisition was to root out heresy, ensure orthodoxy, and maintain the absolute control of the church and its authorities. The stated purpose of punishment, taken from the handbook, was as follows:
...for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit.
In other words, the purpose was to make public examples of apostates, thus using fear to keep the masses controlled and dependent upon the church.
As Inquisitive excesses grew, rules changed to the point that the accused were not allowed to defend themselves, and any attempt to make a defense was considered proof of apostasy. Family members of the accused were punished as a means of controlling the accused. Evidence and witnesses were carefully controlled, and eventually not even required at all to substantiate charges. Mere rumors became adequate evidence to charge, convict, and punish. The wealthy became prime targets because upon their death, their wealth became property of the church.
The Inquisitors who carried out these activities were granted absolution by the Pope. In other words, they would not be charged with sin, even when they tortured and murdered the accused. The Pope assured them God would hold them guiltless, even for directly defying the Word of God. Therefore, they felt no particular need to obey scripture, instead obeying a handbook given them by their higher-ups, who claimed to hold keys.
Just as with totalitarian political states, Christians living under the Inquisition became hyper-vigilant to never appear unorthodox in any way, and be very careful about ever discussing ideas with anyone. They remained ignorant, scared, and outwardly devoted to the church, for fear of consequences. They paid, prayed and obeyed, like good followers.
Of course, such religion never has power to produce faith or actual redemption. It is, rather, a hollow imitation consisting of behavioral rules, outward rites, cultural expectations, fear, and punishment. It is a means of control, dominion and compulsion. (D&C 121:37)
Rend and Receive
Back to Moroni for a moment:
Back to Moroni for a moment:
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you—yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel (Ether 4:15).
If we have not yet received the great and marvelous things, hid up from the foundation of the world, what does that say about our unbelief, our hearts, our minds?
And when a man is punished for declaring he has received such things, what does that prove?
God help us all to rend our veil of unbelief, open our hearts and minds, and receive what He offers, before it is everlastingly too late.
Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show unto you the greater things, the knowledge which is hid up because of unbelief.
Postscript May 31, 2016: Someone who claims to know, has accused me of dishonesty in what I wrote, and in posting allegedly inaccurate items written by my friend. I therefore asked my friend to look into the accusations and verify the information.
I apologize for the exhaustive nature of what follows, but it's important to set the record straight and put these accusations to rest. The short version is that the original piece is an accurate representation. If you want the long version, this is what my friend gave me after verifying the facts (written in blue):
I was informed (and subsequently read their comments) that some people have questioned the validity of my remarks concerning Louis Naegle’s son being targeted by the church. I’d like to address their comments. I hope to address them in a spirit of kindness. I am saddened that some people have judged Adrian Larsen as lacking integrity for posting the words which were mine. I wish to correctly represent the events as I understand them.
So I could be as accurately informed as possible, I have spoken to Elder Naegle and re-spoken to Louis concerning the events surrounding Louis's son. I am solely responsible for how I understand and share these events.
Below is an outline that updates my earlier points concerning Louis’s son. I will state the facts as I understand them and I will add personal commentary concerning some of them. My personal comments are indicated and given in parenthesis
My main point regarding Louis’s son was how terribly I believe he was treated by his mission president, which also correlated with Louis being excommunicated from the church. The response comments I read disregarded the unusual actions I outlined that the mission president did in regards to interviewing Elder Naegle and arranging to have him sent home without first speaking to him. I also indicated that the excommunication of Louis Naegle and the sending of Elder Naegle home were orchestrated from someone at church headquarters rather than being just coincidental separate events under normal procedures of their respective Stake and Mission Presidents. I still maintain these beliefs. I also now believe that the church authority that was involved that influenced the mission president was President Russel M. Nelson, and I will explain why at the end of my comments.
The main focus of objection that some readers had to my comments were concerning Elder Naegle’s prior involvement with Denver Snuffer. I stated that he did not endorse his father’s testimony, did not read Snuffer’s books, nor did he participate in any activities associated with Snuffer. I will update these remarks from what I learned from Louis’s son.
- Elder Naegle chose to go on a mission for the LDS church even though he knew his father believed there were problems with the direction the church was going. He was not deterred by the feelings his father had about the church. Elder Naegle was committed to serving an LDS mission faithfully. Louis honored his son’s decision and financially supported him on his mission.
- Elder Naegle kept his commitment and served the LDS Church with full purpose of heart. His mission president recognized his dedication and assigned him as a trainer after being on his mission for only five weeks.
- Elder Naegle was successful in baptizing converts into the LDS church. He never taught anything about Denver Snuffer. He was dedicated to the Church. He was adamant about this. He finds it unbelievable that someone would think, let alone say that he was on his mission to spread the "Denver doctrine."
- Prior to his mission, Elder Naegle knew of Denver Snuffer and had even talked to him through association with his dad, who was a friend of Denver’s. Elder Naegle attended two of Denver’s lectures at his father’s invitation, and he also happened to meet Denver at a gathering in which Denver showed up unexpectedly. On the day he left for the MTC, Louis took his son to see Denver to say good bye and the three of them had friendly talk for awhile. Louis’s son confirmed that he had never read any of Denver’s books other than a few chapters of his first book. He found Denver sort of interesting but never considered himself a Snuffer follower. He attended the two meetings at the request of his dad because he thought it would be interesting. It was not because he was a disciple of Denver. Both Louis and he believe that any remarks made by other people concerning Elder Naegle’s involvement with Denver Snuffer are from people who simply don’t know what they are talking about. Regardless if Elder Naegle met with or heard Denver Snuffer speak, or whether he decided to go with his dad to any of Denver’s lectures does not make him a so-called "Snuffer follower." Elder Naegle said he was fully committed to the LDS faith before and during his mission. Anybody claiming otherwise is ignorant or lying.
- Elder Naegle received three Snuffer books from his father while on his mission, but did not read them other than portions of Snuffer’s first book (which Denver wrote as a fully faithful LDS member, and which has never been criticized by the church). He did not promote the books to anyone and kept them secured in his suitcase and they were never out for reading. He never taught “Snuffer doctrine”. (Personal note. The term “Snuffer Doctrine”, is purely rhetorical language used by one of the respondents to connote some sinister teaching exclusively taught by Denver Snuffer. It is a ruse. I am not aware of anything called the Snuffer Doctrine. If one was to define so-called Snuffer doctrine, it would be to seek the Second Comforter. This is not Denver’s doctrine however. It (along with Calling and Election made sure) was was taught extensively by Joseph Smith. Elder McConkie taught it (Calling and Election) in general conference in the 70’s and spoke about it in the books he wrote. I get the feeling that those opposing Elder Naegle don’t know the history of Calling and Election and the Second Comforter being taught by people other than Denver Snuffer.)
- Elder Naegle did not mention, let alone promote the name or person of Denver Snuffer while on his mission, to either his companions or to the members.
- While on his mission, Elder Naegle was asked by his District Leader about the subject of “Making one’s Calling and Election Sure”. Elder Naegle discussed this subject along with the Second Comforter with his District Leader and his companion for perhaps one half hour at the DL’s request. These subjects were new to both these missionaries. Elder Naegle did not mention Denver Snuffer during this discussion. He explained what he knew about the subjects from what Joseph Smith and the scriptures said about them. He did not consider himself a big expert concerning these topics.
- The DL wanted to confirm these new teachings with his mission president so he called him to ask him about the Second Comforter and Making one’s Calling Election Sure. He did not call to talk about “Snuffer Doctrine” as implied by the DL’s father. The DL did not call the mission president to expose some wrong doing of Elder Naegle, or that he was talking about Denver Snuffer; or to get Elder Naegle in trouble. The DL just wanted his mission president’s take on these subjects that Elder Naegle talked about. The mission president told the DL and companion that these teachings were way above their head and not to think about them.
- After the meeting with his companion and DL, the mission president called Elder Naegle into his office. Elder Naegle had no idea that his mission president called him into his office to receive a reprimand about talking about “Calling and Election” with his DL and companion. Elder Naegle considered himself a very faithful missionary, more so than other missionaries he observed. He had no idea that the mission president had anything negative to say to him, especially since he was actually being very successful as a missionary. (Personal note: It is at this part of the story that it becomes clear that the church was targeting Elder Naegle.) The mission president laid into him for discussing with the other two missionaries about “Calling and Election”. This caught Elder Naegle totally by surprise because he had hardly said anything to them about it, and it was during normal one-on-one time with the DL, and he spoke to him about it because the DL asked him about it, not because he was promoting the information.
- Even more surprising was that the mission president started using the words “Denver Snuffer” without Elder Naegle ever mentioning his name before to him or to the two missionaries. Yet here was the mission president talking about Denver Snuffer. Even more eerie to him was that the mission president started talking to him about all the stuff his dad was involved with in connection to Denver Snuffer. If was as if the mission president was reading an FBI file the church had prepared on his dad and Denver Snuffer. His mission president accused him of teaching about Denver Snuffer against the earlier instruction given to him to not to teach about Snuffer. Funny thing was that the mission president had never before mentioned to him anything about Denver Snuffer. (Personal note: It appears that the mission president was actually having phantom memories about cautioning Elder Naegle about speaking about Snuffer.) It was a complete surprise to Elder Naegle, and even very upsetting, because the mission president kept making comments to him that simply were not true. (Personal note: All this indicates that the Church had earlier contacted the mission president to keep his eyes on Elder Naegle and that the church had kept files on both Denver and Louis, which they supplied information from to the mission president)
- The biggest surprise came when the mission president told him that a plane ticket had already been acquired and he was going home the next day for apostasy with a dishonorable release.
- Elder Naegle never confessed to the mission president (as claimed by someone) that he was teaching so-called Snuffer Doctrine. He only confirmed that he had spoken to his DL and companion, at the DL's request, about making one’s Calling and Election sure. He did not consider talking to the DL about this as something taboo. (Personal note: I would think that most informed members of the church, including virtually every mission president would not think it inappropriate to talk with a mission companion about this scriptural subject, certainly not something worthy to be sent home for. If so, this is a radical departure from years past. My own mission president spoke about these subjects to the missionaries.)
- Elder Naegle and the DL are actually on friendly terms with each other and have had friendly communications with each other since he’s come home. Elder Naegle doesn’t feel at all that the DL had mal-intentions against him when speaking to the mission president. From what Elder Naegle can tell, the DL considered him an excellent missionary and felt badly that Elder Naegle was sent home. Elder Naegle believes the DL would feel sad and very uncomfortable that disparaging remarks have been made against him by his family members or anyone else.
Personal Notes from the author: From talking to Louis’s son, it was clear that he believed he was working as an honorable missionary for the LDS church and that he was not out talking about Denver Snuffer. Any prior activities with his dad concerning Denver Snuffer did not change his mind about severing faithfully for the LDS church. There are strong indications that Elder Naegle was singled out weeks or months prior to being released, as being a possible apostate because of his relationship with with his dad. There are reasons to suspect that the church authority who was influencing the mission president to do what he did was Elder Russel M. Nelson. The reasons for this include the following:
- Elder Naegle mentioned that his mission president would often make the point to the missionaries that the church authority he reported to was President Russel M. Nelson.
- According to Denver Snuffer, Russel Nelson was directly involved with instigating his excommunication.
- Russel Nelson was the presiding officer of the “Strengthening Church Members Committee” (SCMC; the committee that spies on members to ferret out secret apostates). The information that the mission president presented to Elder Naegle was of a nature which suggested a report had been prepared by the SCMC for the mission president to use.
- The treatment Elder Naegle received from his mission president was uncharacteristic of normal operating procedures of a mission president. The most reasonable explanation for this is because of the instructions he was given from the church authority that he reported to.
I believe Elder Naegle was the victim of abusive behavior of church officials. I find it odd that anyone could justify this abuse against a young man who was faithfully serving the church, even if they do feel that he was guilty of some type of association with Snuffer. I wonder if these people have personal problems with Louis Naegle. What if someone searched for suspicious things in their life? Would that person care if people tried to expose their oddities, inadequacies or shortcomings without understanding all the facts? Does the church approve of all their behavior? Why would any of us throw a brick at a glass house? I find it very sad. In this dynamic world of personal beliefs, I hope kindness can still prevail, especially among those who consider themselves followers of Christ.