Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book Review: The Second Comforter, by Denver Snuffer Jr.

It was around page 350 of this 426 page book about how to actually meet Jesus in this life that I realized that the author wasn't actually going to tell us a single thing about meeting Jesus in this life. 

I could sense that it was coming on. What gave it away? I think it was a combination of the glacial pace and/or the 'footnotes' which were often lengthier than the actual text itself, in which the author frequently would quote entire swathes of scripture when attempting to reference one or two sentences. "This is the type of guy that would do this, just because he can," I thought. And I was right.

Backing up a little bit, I came across this book from reading some other book on temples, and it was highly rated on Amazon and is from a relatively unknown but somewhat interesting-sounding LDS author (a convert in the 70s, at the time of writing the book he was a high council guy in a stake in Sandy). And the premise sounded awesome: the author claimed to have actually met Jesus and would explain all about it in the book. 

The book is laid out like an 'instruction manual' on what kind of person you need to be to have a personal manifestation of the Second Comforter. And it's dry. Oh my, but it's dry. So very, very, very, dry. The many footnotes. 

The author is a little bit...well, look, I'm sure he's a nice guy. He's apparently an attorney, and he was an institute and gospel doctrine and seminary teacher for approx 30 years or so, so he definitely knows his scriptures. But he's a little bit weird. Like, in one part he talks openly about doing the temple work for 11 deceased relatives and he says that afterwards they followed him out to his truck and told him that, with him, they were a quorum, because that makes total sense. If 11 deceased ancestors are going to be allowed to manifest themselves to you, what better message to deliver then to point out that there are 12 of you, and what better place to do it then at your truck in the parking lot?

OK, so, but the guy does know his doctrine pretty well. I bookmarked and wanted to comment on the following things:

  • He has the right attitude about the book. He frequently says, "I'm just a guy, I'm no one special, nothing in particular qualifies me to write this, doctrine can only come from deity or those in authority, and I am neither, so throw this book away if you don't like it." That's the right attitude to have.
  • He kind of warns the readers about the book on page 18, when he quotes Joseph Smith as saying "If God gives you a manifestation; keep it to yourselves." Then again, he wrote an entire book (indirectly) about his manifestation, and the thing with the 11 guys was a manifestation of sorts, so yeah.
  • He goes off on a tangent about Nephi, and had some really good contextual insights. He said that Laman had to be the one to try to get the plates of brass first, and they had to try and fail to buy them second, so that when Nephi finally got them third, Laman & Lemuel and the rest of the family couldn't really have claim on them as was the tradition at the time. The plates stayed with the People of Nephi.
  • I was dismayed recently to see that several people have posted cell phone videos of the temple ceremony on YouTube. To those types of people, he said, "Interlopers do not gain blessings from God. Those who think publication of the Temple rites accomplishes something are mistaken. They have only proven themselves unworthy of the blessing of receiving more. They disqualify themselves from receiving further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord. Those who attempt to gain sacred knowledge by secretly spying on the rites and publishing them have gained nothing. The symbol is not the real thing. Is it ritual to prepare the faithful to receive the real thing. Without faith, real intent, and seeing the underlying higher reality which the rites symbolize, they have gained nothing. Sacred knowledge cannot be stolen. It is unavailable that way."
  • He had an interesting insight into why prophets tend to be more elderly. He said, "Such people will have vanity and self-pride at an all-time low as a result of declining health and advancing age. Their circumstances in this life fit them uniquely and wonderfully, to give heed to the Lord's prompting and to find little worth in acclaim from the world. An approaching veil into the next life is certain to bring with it a sensitivity to the Lord which the very same man may not have had even ten or twenty years earlier."
  • Elsewhere he talked about the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity and how that is what modern "Christian" churches use to qualify churches as actual "Christians." But then he quotes someone as saying, "If in order to be a true Christian one must conceive of the Christian God in precisely the terms of Nicene orthodoxy, then all Christians who lived before the fifth century and all those on at least one side of the filioque dispute since the 8th century (long story) must be excluded as Christians as well. Moreover, it is contradictory for Protestants to insist on the doctrine of sola scripture-that the Bible alone is sufficient for salvation-in one context, and then to turn around and add nonscriptural requirements for salvation, like acceptance of councils and creeds, in other contexts. -Stephen E. Robinson
So the book, while it had several interesting insights, was so very slow and mainly extremely obvious and dry. You could probably think up about 10 of its main points off the top of your head. Keep the commandments, have faith, have charity, etc. And while I technically sort of "get" why he apparently didn't want to talk about his encounter with Jesus, especially if 1) it actually happened, and 2) he was commanded not to talk about it or just didn't feel it appropriate to do so, I disagree with his actual action 3), which is to go and write an entire book about it without actually talking about 'it.' It's like writing about a near-death experience but when you get to the part where you die, you just add a footnote that says "the details of this are personal and are unnecessary to the point I'm trying to make in this book." Which is exactly what he did here. A single footnote that basically said, "None of your beezwax."

Because, in theory, if you had just spent the last like 10 days trying to read a really dense book so you can get to the really cool ending, that kind of thing would tend to be really massively disappointing, and stuff.


Anonymous said...

I think the purpose of the book was to convince and encourage people to believe that they should take the doctrine of calling and election seriously. And to believe it is possible for average joe's, not just for general authorities. I don't think the purpose was to give a detailed description of the experience. The fact that you don't find his writing to be profound just shows he is an average joe and should give hope to all average joes... assuming he is telling the truth.

Christian said...

Anonymous - I agree with everything you said. Still disappointed to not get details though, and wish he would have said that right up front. "Guys, don't get your hopes up." That kind of thing. Would have made the ending not disappointing.