‘The Lord has extended his hand again’ — hundreds gather, canonize new scriptures for growing Mormon offshoot

(Nichole Blanchard | Idaho Statesmen) Calen Smith puts a nametag on his son, Isaac, as the family arrives for a Remnant movement conference at Eagle Island State Park on Saturday, Sept. 2. Remnant followers are part of an offshoot of the LDS Church.

Boise • Almost 600 people collected at Eagle Island State Park near Boise on Saturday afternoon, their picnic blankets spread on the grass and camping chairs dotted between white plastic seats in rows across the lawn.

Quietly and casually, they made history.

There, under the shade of tall trees and a handful of canvas tents, Remnant movement followers — who advocate a return to the teachings of Mormon founder Joseph Smith — canonized their new scriptures, a reworking of the LDS Church’s signature text, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Crowd members were asked to stand if they accept the scriptures as an expression of their faith. All but a few rose from their seats.

According to members of the movement’s scripture committee, “nothing like this has been seen in orthodox or Protestant Christianity in nearly 350 years.” In the run-up to canonization, followers’ feelings ran the gamut.

“There are a lot of people who are excited, but I’m thankful,” said Utahn Alan Van Leer. “There’s been a lot of work by a lot of people to get things back to the way they were. And my attention, my focus tends to be more on Christ.”

Lynette Norton, of Preston, Idaho, was one of those excited by the new scriptures.

“We’re filled with a lot of joy and anticipation,” Norton said. “We’re excited that the Lord has extended his hand again.”

For Norton, the Remnant gathering was “a breath of fresh air” from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — yet a bittersweet community in some ways.

“There’s a mourning, a loss of your culture,” Norton said, “but also an excitement that something new is there.”

The schismatic Remnant group is believed to have some 5,000 to 10,000 followers in the U.S. and several other countries — and keeps growing. Insisting that the Salt Lake City-based LDS Church has strayed from Smith’s preachings and practices, these believers meet in small “fellowships” to worship, study, pray, ponder and partake of the sacrament (or communion).

Julia and Robert Frost traveled from Mesa, Ariz., to support friends, not to be part of establishing new scriptures, they said. The couple speculated that there would be as many Remnant adherents in opposition to canonizing the scriptures as there would be followers in support of the move. To the Frosts, though, that was beside the point.

“I’m just anxious to read things in a format that Joseph Smith delivered them,” Robert Frost said.

That notion is the basis of the Remnant movement, loosely led by Sandy, Utah, lawyer Denver Snuffer.

Excommunicated in 2013 from the nearly 16 million-member LDS Church in 2013 for “apostasy,” Snuffer maintains that he has met Jesus face to face — and Remnant followers believe the same is possible for them.

“Not everybody [here] agrees with everybody,” Julia Frost said. “But there is a commonality that there are more things possible, that everybody is entitled to access the spirit.”

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