A crowd of almost 600 people collected at Eagle Island State Park on Saturday afternoon, their picnic blankets spread on the grass and camping chairs dotted between the 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, followers of the Remnant movement — who believe in the original teachings of Joseph Smith, prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — canonized its new scriptures, a reworking of the Book of Mormon and its Doctrine and Covenants.
The crowd was 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,” making the afternoon affirmation unique. In the run-up to canonization, followers’ feelings ran the gamut.
“I think 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, was one of those excited by the new scripture.
“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 LDS church and a bittersweet community in some ways.
“There’s a mourning, a loss of your culture, but also an excitement that something new is there,” Norton said.
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 followers in opposition to canonizing the scriptures as there would be followers in support of the move. To the Frosts, that was beside the point.
“I’m just anxious to read things in a format that Joseph Smith delivered them,” Robert said.
That notion is the basis of the Remnant movement, led by Sandy, Utah, lawyer Denver Snuffer. Snuffer maintains that he has met Jesus face-to-face — and Remnant followers believe the same is possible for them, not just for the higher-ups deemed eligible by hierarchical churches.
“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.”