Daniel Peterson wrote an article in the Deseret News (published September 5, 2013) tacitly refuting Denver Snuffer's claim that the “transfiguration” of Brigham Young into Joseph Smith was exaggerated or contrived. I was impressed with Bro. Peterson rendition of the event.
However, digging deeper into the sources he cited, I was saddened to discover Bro. Snuffer's account, more than likely, is the more honest, accurate one. This morning I wrote a “rebuttal” to Bro. Peterson's article in the “comment” section of the Church-owned Deseret News, but, apparently, my submission was not “accepted”. (I was constrained, coincidentally, to two hundred words or less!)
Thank you, Bro. Peterson, for your well-written piece. Very inspiring!
However, Sis. Jorgensen's paper deserves careful scrutiny. It glosses over many damning discrepancies in the "faith-promoting witnesses" she cites. Richard S. Von Wagoner's paper "The Making of a Mormon Myth: The 1844 Transfiguration of Brigham Young" reveals that several LDS leaders -- including Elder Orson Hyde, as president of the Quorum of the Twelve -- claimed to be an "eye witness" to this event and spoke of the "transfiguration" in glowing terms, when, in fact, these leaders weren't even there! Their "testimonies", quite frankly, are nothing short of lies and embellishments, akin to the stories told by Elder Paul H. Dunn.
How very sad.
It seems the tale simply "grew" organically from the collective sentiments, personal impressions, heart-felt yearnings and -- perhaps -- even spiritual sensitivities of those present (and, apparently, even of those who weren't!). Could several people have simply "seen" (or "remembered") what they "wanted" to see or remember?
I would have said much more. (But, alas, 200 words is not enough!) Both Jorgensen's paper and Von Wagoner's research reveal that Snuffer is indeed correct: there will always be opposing “witnesses”. Two sides to every story. Differing accounts. Reasons to believe and disbelieve. It is given to us to choose. We have agency.
Joseph Smith was so “believing”, he even believed in things that weren't true. (Was this a defect in his character?) He also believed in things that were true, even when they could not be seen except with the “eye of faith”.
We tend to err on the side of not believing. We don't believe until we see. (And, even then, we sometimes still don't believe!) So which is worse? To disbelieve until we see (and since we cannot see everything that truly is), therefore not believe all that could and should be believed? Or to believe all that is true (and even some that isn't) because we are willing to believe even what we cannot see?
One practice leads to greater knowledge, even by faith. The other doesn't. One is preferred by God. The other isn't. One will make you (sometimes) look like a fool. The other will make you, in fact, a fool.
Dumbo's misplaced belief in a feather inspired him to fly. So was his faith misplaced? Christ mixed dirt with saliva and anointed a blind man's eyes with the salve, allowing him to see. Was this earthy ointment what healed him? Or was it the power of Christ? Was the man's faith misplaced?
Sometimes believing in something that isn't allows (or enables) us to have faith in something that is. It is better to err on the side of “believing”, like a child, even in fairy tales.
Otherwise, the whole world might remain blind.