To my dear friend, John Dehlin

imageDear John,

I understand that you have recently been excommunicated.

You may recall that several years ago, I and my husband offered to help you with your podcast. At the time we were proposing to ask if Gladys Knight might be willing to be interviewed. For the longest time, my Dropbox included items from Mormon Stories.

Actively Agitating to Encourage People to Doubt their Testimonies

We didn’t help much. In fact, a few years ago when I tumbled across your rambling youtube video describing the dozens of reasons people leave the Church, I didn’t even recognize that you were someone I had corresponded with in the past. In those days a friend, presumably influenced by your certainty, was confidently proclaiming that President Monson was senile, along with a variety of other items from your general direction. At that time I, in good faith, participated in your survey that attempted to update the research that had shown why people leave the Church. I even sent it to my ward list.

I got two responses. One was from a man who had decided to give up trying to be a good Mormon, explained to me a variety of reasons he doubted. I corresponded with him and explained that the doubts he had were specious (they were, honestly) and expressed my hope that he would work his way past those doubts. The second response was from a long-time friend who warned me that your survey was bad stuff.

President Monson Senile

When Conference rolled around, I was intrigued. How would the Church handle President Monson’s senility? As I saw President Monson confidently address the conference multiple times, I was amazed to see how well he was handling the alleged dementia I’d been told he was suffering from. That was years ago now. He has continued to discharge his opportunity to address the Church well. If he’s senile, may I be that senile when I get old. Heck, may I be privileged to only be that senile now.

Doubting God, Christ, and the Atonement

I hear that you doubt the existence of God, the need for a Christ, specifically the need for a god to perform some act or sacrifice to restore us to the presence of that God in whom you don’t necessarily believe.

I suppose you have never experienced God, then.

Beyond the need for a Christ and Atonement, which is pretty standard Christian fare, I suppose you have never felt the enormity of the good God has done, freeing you from a past eternity of vague being and gifting you spiritual life, gifting you the chance to taste of physical life. I’m guessing you have therefore never fallen to you knees in gratitude, exclaiming something to the effect “I [now] know that [I am] nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (c.f., Moses 1:10)

I was amused by something my autistic brother wrote in an essay about his autism, to the effect that he had not believed in a God until he experienced God, which lack of belief in God had made our mother’s task of raising my brother much more difficult when he was younger.

I will note, as did President King, 1 that it is strange to see you claiming a desire to remain a member of a Church when you do not believe in the core truth claim of that Church, namely that there is a God, that Christ is our Savior, and that the atonement is literally the mechanism (and the only mechanism) by which we may return to God.

I haven’t ever had the luxury of denying there is a God, for He has spoken to me in ways I cannot deny. He told me to stop kicking against the pricks when I had doubts as a teenager. He told me my faith was enough when I was a doubting female missionary in the MTC en route to Italy. When I was torn about what form of birth control to use during the early months of my marriage when I would be working with cesium, he spoke the cryptic answer “eight,” and my son was conceived exactly eight months later (the brochure for the birth control had claimed a year). He gave me a dream that foreshadowed the death of that son, the birth of my autistic daughter, and the birth of a neurologically-typical daughter after that, though it wasn’t until I was sitting at breakfast with my three daughters and experienced what I had dreamed so many years before that I understood the message.

The answer I might rank highest in my personal list of favorites was the “No” He uttered when I asked if I should take a certain job opportunity. I argued with Him about that one. It wasn’t His job to tell me no, I told Him. And yet, had I not heeded that “No,” I would not now be married to the amazing and gentle Bryan Stout. I’d be happy to talk with you about the details of that sometime, if you’d like.

Supporting Ordain Women

Let’s ratchet way down on the list, now. Dear Kate Kelly and her muse, Nadine Hansen, have made an amazing amount of noise about the issue of how women are treated in the LDS Church. Specifically, as you know, they have proposed that the only way woman can ever truly become equal to men in LDS circles is for women to be granted the priesthood. 2

It appears that Kate and Nadine and other supporters haven’t ever bothered reading the Doctrine and Covenants. I mean, at least the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price include stories. Stories in volumes of scriptures are a bit like pictures in books – they make it so much easier to understand what is going on.

Yet Kate, Nadine, and supporters such as yourself are smart. You aren’t the kind of people who “need” to have pictures in your books, or stories in your scriptures. So I don’t know why you all remain apparently ignorant of D&C 28:

4 And if thou art led at any time by the Comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of commandment unto the church, thou mayest do it.

5 But thou shalt not write by way of commandment, but by wisdom;

6 And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church;

Now, I know you and others have given yourselves a pass on this, because you are convinced that President Monson is senile. Yet let us consider, for fun, the possibility that a loving God might have a reason for restricting priesthood to men. Is there any evidence for why restricting priesthood to men might have benefits?

In fact, mainstream Christianity has performed this experiment for us over the past decades. We can study the various denominations that have opened their priesthood to women and observe the results. People who barely know how to spell the word “Mormon” observe that these denominations have declined in the number of adherents. In no case is there evidence that membership increased in the aftermath of the change. The Church of England, in particular, shows a long and steady decline in the fifty years since admitting women to its clergy. Active membership comes in at roughly 2%, more than an order of magnitude lower that the participation of Mormons in their faith community. The only bumps on the Church of England graph are the annual count of actual members, when the “bump” is the over-estimate from the period before the actuals are tallied. If you’d like the references for these statistics and studies, I’m happy to provide them.

So, perhaps, a loving God might be happy to retain a differential status between men and women that is correlated with increased rates of participation.

Kate and her organization claimed they were only asking President Monson and the other leaders to pray about the matter. This indicates they don’t understand the nature of the English language, which seems odd for professionals. Yet they did get the response to their speaking. The response was that the priesthood, as requested, may not be shared with women at this time.

I don’t know what faithful reaction to such an answer might look like for Kate and her followers. But I know what my response would be. I wouldn’t have published that last “conversation.” I would have attended my disciplinary council, particularly once my volunteer staff informed me that there was at least one person willing to pay my way to Virginia so the experience wouldn’t even have to come out of my own pocket. 3 I would have written an article on my website that explained my realization that I had overstepped the line between advising and commanding the leadership. And I most definitely wouldn’t give a press conference where my dress advertised that I couldn’t possibly be wearing temple garments.

I mention these things by way of advice, because I do have experience with autistic people who honestly don’t understand how such social situations are to be negotiated. 4

You and others might not actually be autistic or in other ways socially impaired. Unfortunately, that means you don’t have the excuse and concomitant expectation of leniency an impaired individual can rightly command.

It’s a bit like the story of the pastor who returned from the Holy Land in the early 1900s, when unusual weather conditions had rendered the Red Sea little more than a long puddle. The pastor confidently proclaimed to his congregation that it wasn’t a miracle that Moses and the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea without drowning. The pastor was therefore shocked to hear exclamations of praise from the pew in the back. He attempted to calm the shouting woman, becoming irritated. Then she ceased her songs of praise long enough to explain, “Praise God, who could drown and thereby thwart the armies of Pharaoh in a mere puddle.”

So you can either claim impairment and sympathy for inability to understand or you can claim full function and willful opposition. You can’t claim to be fully functional *and* inspire sympathy.

Speaking of Stories

Dear John. You have made quite a fuss about how the Book of Mormon has historicity problems and the Book of Abraham isn’t what it claims to be.

First off, you do know that Joseph didn’t read the words off the plates and the papyrus, right? The process by which he performed the “translation” was to put the seer stone(s) in his hat, block out the light, and read the words that appeared on the stone. This process, intriguingly, is completely consistent with the Old Testament temple practices, particularly the veil in the temple made from the skin of a [badger/dolphin/dugong].

Further, according to the account of one early neighbor of Joseph Smith, an account of the Urim and Thummim being discovered, along with the method by which they were to be used (placed before the eyes with the head covered with animal skin) was contained in the 116 lost pages (see Don Bradley for more info). 5

This process would be perfectly capable of producing whatever text God and the appropriate prophets wanted, independent of the adequacy of the original text at hand.

This is particularly interesting, since the Book of Mormon folks are constantly whining about the weakness of their written language. It was a source of centuries of angst. Yet I can imagine those ancient angsting prophets paired up on the other side of the veil with William Tyndale. In that case, it would be no wonder that so much of the text as transmitted via the seer stones resembled the King James Bible, which in turn had been largely derived from the late and martyred Tyndale.

In the process, I can imagine them attempting to get Tyndale to spell out the word “alpaca” and having Tyndale say, “horse is good enough.” Or them trying to explain the exact metallurgical make up of their weapons, and having Tyndale pass along “steel swords.”

The things I love in the Book of Mormon are many. For one, I adore Heleman 5:12 and the description of a tsunami/hurricane and storm surge. I’ve done the computer search for “whirlwind” in the Bible, and the only biblical reference to whirlwind is clearly speaking of a desert storm.

I love the Queen of the Lamanites, who was clearly engaging in a series of levirate marriages by which the right to rule the kingdom was being transmitted. Such marriages had been outlawed in the Western world by a series of ecclesiastical and legal shifts around 1050-1100 A.D., and so they were unknown in Joseph’s world. Nor would this marital mechanism be something Joseph Smith would be able to learn about from the Bible accounts of Tamar and Ruth. The dude didn’t even know there was a wall around Jerusalem. He wasn’t the kind of scholar who could have cobbled together a plausible socio-economic fabric for an ancient kingdom lasting a thousand years.

I’d completely be with you on the Amlicites versus Amalekites screw-up, but that one was clearly an error introduced by the printer. If you haven’t studied the Skousen version of the Book of Mormon text, it’s a treat. Complete with Tyndale-era grammar.

You have objected to the DNA evidence, or lack thereof. There are perfectly valid explanations for this, as you know. At least, I would suppose that you would have actually researched these things before mouthing off on the internet about how this is a major challenge to historicity.

Speaking of DNA, let’s talk about Joseph and his dozens of “wives”

Since Joseph and his practice (or lack of practice) of polygamy is a particular passion for me, I was almost sad to see that this hardly features at all in your discussion with Dr. King. And then you did toss it in, stating as fact that Joseph had dozens of wives, some of whom were the wives of other men.

So I realized it isn’t that this “fact” doesn’t bother you. It is that this is one of the challenges to your testimony that is so ingrained that you no longer even question it. You take it for granted that all educated people know that Joseph was a abusive opportunist who slept with women independent of whether their youth, marital status, or advanced age would appear to make sleeping with them ethically problematic.

Oh, and it went without saying that you presume Joseph betrayed Emma in all this sleeping around.

Meanwhile, you and almost everyone else ignore the data that show how unlikely it was that Joseph was having sex with anyone, much less those who were stupid young, icky old, or married to someone else.

First, there is no credible DNA evidence proving Joseph was parent to any child born to a woman other than Emma. The one case where he might be related occurs in a case where the descendants of the woman and Joseph have common ancestry. And there was a good reason that had nothing to do with biological paternity that would cause a dying Sylvia Sessions [Lyon] to tell her daughter Josephine that Joseph was her father. If you aren’t familiar with the DNA data or the explanation for Sylvia’s dying confidence to her daughter, I’d be happy to fill you in.

Second, there are likely only two children born to any polygamist prior to Joseph’s death, the children born in February 1844 to 1) William Clayton and Margaret Moon and 2) to Joseph Bates Noble and Sarah B. Alley. The children born in 1842 to Sarah Peak Noon and Mary Clift (and the possible child miscarried by Eliza Snow) were likely engendered by seducers who had been taught by John C. Bennett that “spiritual wifery” or illicit intercourse was acceptable. Mary Clift testified that her child was engendered by Gustavus Hills, one of Bennett’s seducers, Eliza Snow’s November poem about the vile wretch who feel on the blood of innocence “side by side and face to face” is pretty graphic, and if Heber C. Kimball was told he couldn’t marry the two Pitkin spinsters, why would Joseph command him to marry an abandoned English convert who had children by the husband who had abandoned her? Honestly, it seems most likely that Sarah Peak Noon had been seduced by one of Bennett’s followers and gotten with child, with Kimball merely stepping in as protector, only becoming a true “husband” after Joseph’s death.

So between Joseph, the dozens of men Joseph permitted to contract plural marriages, and the nearly one hundred women involve in these plural unions, we only can confirm two children actually born into this marriage system, and one of the two fathers documented a discussion where Joseph opined the engendering paternal parent might have to be excommunicated.

The three additional men who appear to have engendered a child prior to Joseph’s death did so around May 1844, months after two fellows had apparently produced children on plural wives without suffering any ecclesiastical sanction.

I’m happy to continue this line of discussion any time, demonstrating that the common presumption that Joseph was a seducing liar who betrayed everyone is absolutely without solid foundation. 6

So what about marriage in heaven?

The whole thing about Mormons is this idea that marriage lasts into eternity, that in the highest heaven the work of God is continued by those joined in the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage.

Here is the rub regarding marriage between individuals who are of the same gender.

There is a joke told, of a man who had only one leg and who therefore wanted some early Mormon leader (Brigham Young?) to heal him and bless him with a second leg. In response, the leader responded, “But if I bless you with a second leg in mortality, you’ll have three legs in eternity. It is better to go through life with one leg than eternity with three.”

Are some people attracted to others who are of the same gender? Heck yes. Am I one of those? Surely have been. I am more attracted to men, statistically, but I could have been happy with a “right person” who was the same gender I am.

What of those who are 100% attracted to those of the same gender, and completely not attracted to those of the opposite gender? It’s a bit like a married person who finds themselves possessed of a burning desire to bed someone to whom they aren’t married. That desire, in my experience, can be overwhelming, a passion that displaces almost all, that can leave one insensate, hardly able to respond.

Yet is it better in life to marry someone of the same gender and thereby spend all of mortality in a union that cannot endure into eternity, or is it better to forge a single life in mortality, trusting in God that eternity can hold all the joy any other faithful believer can enjoy?

Two legs on earth or three legs in heaven?

It’s a fundamental part of the Mormon eschatology and cosmology, this concept of heterosexual dual-gender partnerships under God’s authority, freeing individuals from their eternal but vague existence as mere “intelligence” by gifting them spiritual life.

Overturning this is not a mere matter of tolerance, it would require fundamental restructuring of Mormon doctrine regarding the afterlife.

Could we encourage our members to perform ceremonies uniting same-gender couples? Yes, but it would be like that 19th century leader giving the man a third leg in heaven. Given our beliefs about eternity, it is not a right thing to do, to pretend that there is no consequence to such marriages.

Of course, to the rest of the world, Mormon beliefs regarding the after life don’t matter a whit. Therefore, I would hardly expect the rest of the world to legislate and behave according to Mormon eschatological tenets. In the same vein, I would expect Mormons to be kind and generous to all, independent of their beliefs and behaviors, so long as these were acceptable according to the law of the land.

Obviously it would be wrong for an individual to force themselves maritally upon an objecting individual of the same gender. It takes two to marry or even righteously couple.

Similarly obviously, it would be wrong for a corporation to deny same-gender families housing and services.

The grey middle ground is how the rights of individuals and small groups with conscientious objections should be weighed against the rights of individuals with “undesirable” characteristics in the eyes of the objectors. 7

I remember as a small pre-schooler knowing that the two fellows living in the house that shared the driveway with us were gay. So gay couples were among the families that existed in my knowledge base from my earliest formative years. I do think that less harm is done by association with gay and lesbian couples than some might have imagined in a prior age.

Yet if we honestly believe that God’s true eternal destiny for the most faithful of his followers is to eventually enter a heaven where only heterosexual family topographies are accepted, then there will remain tension.

At this point we come back to D&C 28, where it is not permissible anyone other than God’s appointed revelator to alter doctrine.

If you want to go off and engage in your own definition of compassion, you are free to do so. But if you are so dedicated to your version of compassion that you value that more than your membership in the Church (evidenced by that matter of becoming a minister in another Church for the express purpose of performing marriages in conflict with Church doctrine), then at least you should be willing to understand why a reasonable leader might perceive this as rejection of the doctrine, privileges, and core eschatological beliefs of the Mormon Church.

Is it “true” or not?

Dear John, you have taken umbrage with the common phrase “The Church is true.” You have equated the Church’s claim that it is true with a corollary that all other belief systems are therefore abominations.

Let me suggest a parable, of sorts. When I was a young child, my dad would stop by the discount Hostess store. He’d usually buy this weird caramel-colored bread that Mom would then use to make peanut butter sandwiches. In my memory they didn’t even have jam or jelly, just plain old creamy peanut butter.

One particularly time, however, Dad came in the front door with a box of Ho-Hos. “Whose my friend?” he sang out. A passel of dark-haired children, including myself, gathered around, like seagulls being offered bread crumbs. We each took the proffered silver packages, tore them open, and bit down on the delightful chocolate covered cream cakes (even if they were past their expiration date). In this instance, the contents of the box were true to the labeling on the outside.

However after the box was empty, my Dad saw fit to use that box to store nails. I don’t know how many times I went down to the basement and saw the box sitting by the radial arm saw, thinking that I’d found a stash of Ho-Hos. My disappointment when I learned the box only contained nails was always poignant, particularly because there was one time when the box I found down there actually did contain Ho-Hos.

It’s not that nails aren’t useful, in many ways even more useful than Ho-Hos. But in my disappointment, abomination might not have felt like too strong a word.

The question with respect to other Churches is not whether they are abominations, but whether they answer the functional requirements of Mormon eschatological thought. When a Mormon says the Church is true, they are either parroting back a phrase that they haven’t examined or they are saying the Church is aligned with God’s mission of saving each individual through the entire history of the world if they are willing to accept salvation, a mission that requires proxy baptism, that requires that we love one another so deeply that we can melt the hardened hearts of our dead, a mission inspired by God’s overwhelming and individual love for each and every one of us, a love that God, a personal god intimately concerned with our doings, demonstrates regularly to so many Mormons on a constant basis.

The term “abomination” in the Book of Mormon serves roughly the same purpose as the term “eternal damnation,” discussed in the Doctrine and Covenants. Which is to say that God will use words to help scare us towards Him, if that’s what it takes. But you should know Mormon doctrine well enough to know that Mormons, alone of all religions, have a mechanism (baptism by proxy) for saving everyone in the human family who wants to embrace salvation prior to final judgement, even if the remorse required for any necessary repentance occurs after this life.

You know, as non-Mormons might not, that these proxy ordinances do nothing to constrain the eternal individual in whose name the ordinances are performed. If Mormons are wrong, performance of these ordinances does nothing but 1) teach Mormons that all mankind throughout all generations are their kin and 2) keep Mormons busy away in their temples, where they aren’t bothering anyone else.

Speaking of All Mankind…

Dear John, I think I’ve addressed almost all your key objections, save one. You have hammered on the silly things people came up with to explain why the prophet wasn’t letting Blacks hold the priesthood. I think it’s pretty clear that Joseph Smith had no problem with the idea of Blacks having full rights to the highest blessings of Mormonism. Brigham made some policy decisions and people in the 1800s said some speculative things.

Once Blacks no longer had full privileges, the United States entered an era where the nation was nearly ripped apart over whether or not states could permit slavery. Secretary of War, Floyd, attempted to divert the state’s right issue by declaring war on polygamy, the other of the “twin evils of barbarism.” But Brigham refused to be manipulated into conflict, even though defiance cost the Saints dearly.

The bigotry arising from slavery and its abolition created terrible scars. A brief study of the Norfolk 17 demonstrates the terrible damage inflicted when equality is sought using political force. 8

As to the state of Mormon hearts, my grandmother was so offended at the possibility that her daughter would marry a Chinese man that she honestly suggested the problem would be solved if the Church would revoke the priesthood authority of all non-whites. And she was a “progressive” Democrat.

So many have presumed that Mormon leaders retained the priesthood ban because they were stupid, that they got this wrong, and that therefore all other politically incorrect stances are subject to revision (being faithful in marriage, being modest, discouraging marriages that aren’t consistent with Mormon eschatology, sustaining the prophet as God’s mouthpiece and authorized to lead as Moses led).

But what if God forced the leaders to retain the priesthood ban, much the way Socrates forced a young man’s head under water. There was never an actual eschatological requirement that Blacks be barred from priesthood and the temple, theories about fence-sitters in the war between God and Lucifer notwithstanding. But having been populated by bigots, and having grown up in the midst of a uniquely bigoted time and place in the world, God’s fledgling but true Church (as Mormons think of themselves) was likely to incur a rich history of horrific abuse, as we have seen in so many other communities.

Perhaps God would retain His Church pure of the likely rich history of actual abuse, at the price of keeping our Black brothers and sisters from our influence until we could be trusted to embrace them without significant stupidity, only admitting them to our presence when most of us could be trusted to wear the history of the ban like a hair shirt.

If one looks at the future century, Blacks in the world are projected to increase from roughly 1 billion of 7 billion to 4+ billion of 11 billion, at which some demographers expect world population to level off.

I don’t know about you, but I can imagine God keeping us from actually committing heinous acts for a century of bigotry by imposing a ban. In this view, His purpose would have been ultimately to serve the future tens of billions of that race, knowing that the thousands who might have embraced the full gospel (and suffered abused of which reports would endure for all recorded time) would have the chance to be saved posthumously. Thus no eternal harm done, except to those who keep straining at this gnat.

Reproving Betimes with Sharpness

Dear John, you have proposed that true love would manifest like the long and patient experience you had with President Jensen, who admitted to Dr. King that he was not courageous enough to take disciplinary action against you.

Again, let us remember D&C 121, where The Lord counsels that transgressors are to be unmistakably corrected soon after their infraction (betimes with sharpness), afterwards showing forth an increase of love.

Unfortunately, you have been let to behave as you would for so long that it will be nigh unto impossible for your leaders to express love in a way you will be willing to accept.

You have opined that they were imperfect. Their imperfection may not have been in disciplining you, but in letting the corruption fester for so long that it destroyed you and so many others.

But William W. Phelps came back after attempting to get Joseph Smith killed. So did Orson Hyde. Even John C. Bennett may have attempted to return, based on his December 1843 visit to Nauvoo and attempt to apologize in Boston.

There may be a time when you stop hating me for being arrogant. You might stop hating Dr. King and posting his professional rating url for sympathizers to abuse.

I hope that day comes, whether in this life or the next. I believe in the Mormon story, that you and I and all mankind fought for the right to come to this earth, fought to support God’s decision to provide us a Savior, who would provide an atonement, in accordance with God’s wisdom and in opposition to Lucifer’s “great idea.” You have been my friend for an eternity. You have even been a friendly acquaintance here on earth. I hope in some eternal realm to find you at my side again.

Love,

Meg Stout

Notes:

  1. Based on the transcript of the recording he asked you not to make – I guess such things might be legal in Utah, like no-fault divorce after 6 weeks, versus the year it takes in my state of Virginia, where recording someone who requests not to be recorded isn’t legal…
  2. See my critiques of the six discussions/conversations posted by those seeking female ordination:
    Critique of Discussion One
    Critique of Discussion Two
    Critique of Discussion Three
    Critique of Discussion Four
    Critique of Discussion Five
    Critique of Conversation Six
  3. Open Letter to Kate Kelly
  4. This reference to autism is prompted by John’s extreme difficulty, during the recorded interview, understanding what was being requested.
  5. Also see How Joseph Interpreted the Plates.
  6. To learn more, read my series regarding the possibility of A Faithful Joseph.
  7. See the recent news conference regarding balancing religious rights with LGBT rights.
  8. See my post on the Norfolk 17 and Virginia’s Campaign of Massive Resistance.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

58 thoughts on “To my dear friend, John Dehlin

  1. I will be honest and say that I didn’t read the whole thing. My own faith in the Church and knowledge of J.D.s arguments are sufficient that it would just be a Choir practice. However, I read enough of it to congratulate you on a well written response. It seems to have touched on the foundational problems that so many of his supporters want to ignore or reject exists. Good job.

  2. Well written Meg. I considered writing a letter to a someone in my ward that left the church as a John Dehlin supporter. However, I decided to not write her anything since I doubt she will read it. Kudos to you for writing your thoughts, but I doubt it will make a difference. In saying this I’m not trying to discourage you from sending him the letter. I suspect leaving JD alone is the better option at this time.

  3. Well written, Meg. One of the enjoyable things about living in Utah is the availability of attending multiple scholarly Church conferences throughout the year. Even BYU Education Week has many such classes if one chooses wisely. I did see John Dehlin while attending “The Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology.” a few years ago at Utah State University. I found it odd that he never attended another conference of any type since then. Well, I should clarify that he may have attended BYU Education Week, but with the sheer numbers on campus at the time I might have missed him. Also, I will have nothing to do with Sunstone now. Nonetheless, I found it striking that someone with so many questions would not be attending everything available with the most up-to-the-minute answers to those questions, well before book publications, etc. Now, he might certainly attend much and disagree with the answers, but at least he would learn the force of others answers to his questions and engage these instead of just lumping them altogether under the pejorative “apologetics,” of which he lacks understanding anyway. Asking questions is only useful up to a point. 2+ year old children have the technique down pat and ask upwards of 200+ questions per day (at least in England, somewhat more than in the U.S., and of their mothers and not so many of their fathers). As parents/caregivers we are often complimentary of this inquisitive age of children, but who has not been exasperated by a child firing one question after another, all the while paying no attention to our answers? If you stop a 2-4 year to inquire of them why they are not listening to your answers, the usual reply is “huh?” (My youngest grandson has this down pat). This technique has been adopted well by many on the outskirts of Mormonism. Eventually, most children grow up. They learn that questions need to be prioritized, there are no current acceptable answers (for them) to many questions, they learn to research on their own, and life must just go on without personal omniscience of most things. Now that John Dehlin is officially outside of the circle of LDS membership, will the nature of his inquisition change? Will he establish a separate and useful life apart from the Church to which his connection has been severed? Time will tell. I doubt it. Nonetheless, my recommendation to him (which he will never know of) is to simply get a life. To me, there is nothing else in the world comparable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all that stems from it, and all of very significant importance. For all of us, even the youngest and most fortunate, we don’t have that many decades of life left. He who dies with the most toys is still dead, and owns nothing. There are so many facets to our religion, that extend so deep, that It is easy to focus on it with every spare moment. Also, there is the behavior aspect of Gospel teachings which, to understate the matter, takes up a bit of time. But, gee whiz, there are so many other wonderful and time consuming adventures out in the wider world that if there was no Gospel/Church history/Church doctrine to explore one could spend thousands of lifetimes exploring everything else. I suggest John Dehlin give it a try.

  4. Having read the 38 page transcript of the discussion between John Dehlin and Dr. King, there were several distinct theological points where John asked his (no doubt sincere) questions. Thus by virtue of releasing the transcript to the New York Times, John has effectively entered these questions into evidence in the court of public opinion regarding his excommunication.

    Dr. King avoided being dragged down rabbit holes, for the most part. An unfortunate side effect of his success is that he was not able to enter into the record (which should never have been recorded, transcribed, or released) any responses to John’s questions.

    I do hope John, in some future curious day, will bother reading what I’ve written. In the mean time, this is also for those who are honestly curious and might not find responses elsewhere.

  5. Good letter. The only part I think that really doesn’t belong is the aside about autism. It’s surely written out of part frustration/part get-an-insult-in.

    It’s definitely not polite to tell someone you either have a mental disability or are willfully ignorant, know what I mean? But of course, JD employs a similar inpolite, feigning polite tone in virtually all his discourse about our faith.

  6. Thanks for writing this, Meg. I’m going to have to spend some time noodling over your section on race and the priesthood, but I found this whole post to be very smart and thought-provoking. Reading this makes me miss my days back in Annandale — so many smart folks to talk with and bounce ideas off of.

  7. I mentioned autism specifically because there was a lot of discussion in the transcript with Dr. King saying he hoped John understood what he needed to do and John expressing frustration that he wasn’t sure what the boundaries were.

    This is similar to the frustration autistic people express when rules are not consistent or rules change (as has happened now, with a different Stake President in a position of stewardship relative to John).

    It could be that John just isn’t able to pick up on the social clues for some reason. In that case, he is to be excused in heaven for an honest inability to understand the proper boundaries, a kind of divine IEP (to use an acronym all-too familiar to parents of handicapped kids).

    If John isn’t actually impaired, however, he is being obtuse/malicious.

    There is a continuum between impaired and obtuse/malicious, but these are definitely the two options that contribute to the kind of behavior John exhibited in the transcript. I must admit that the fact of publishing the transcript inclines me to suspect the root cause is John being obtuse/malicious.

  8. Hi Shane! Always good to hear from folks I actually know (rather than the various iterations of anon).

    We miss you too!

  9. I Wanted to thank you and others for responding to my comment on apostates. I will discuss it further another time.

    Regarding Gay Marriage, I support the LDS churches right to their position, even though have no problem with Gay rights, including marriage. It is hypocritical for any group to impose its will on a private church organization.

    Though the political battle is fun to watch, it is not my fight and I respect both sides of the conflict. I have a few Gay friend and many Mormon friends. That being said, I believe you will be surprised at the changes that will take place over the next couple decades. As the older generation in the church pass away and the younger generation become the leaders, your concept “it would require fundamental restructuring of Mormon doctrine regarding the afterlife.” will begin to take place.

    Why will this happen? because the church values growth more than its doctrinal position. The Baptist church is loosing members in droves with there hard line Fire and Brimstone approach to Gay rights. The LDS church takes a much softer approach but eventually that will not be enough. I predict that within 30 years, Maybe even 20, the first actively gay couple with be allowed to stay members and not be excommunicated. The Church will “Leave it in the lords hands to be sorted out in the afterlife”. Then as the members become accustomed to it, Gay couples will be baptized. I don’t know how far it will go, temple marriage may not be in the cards, but it is irreversible.

    Most smaller LDS breakoffs will not follow the trend. The FLDS church does not care so much about their growth, they would rather be the few that stay on their straight and narrow path. They like being isolated. Not so with The LDS Leadership. It will make the transition.

  10. Dear Meg.
    I happen to have a soft spot in my heart for John because there have e been times I have felt estranged by the status quo of the LDS community and can identify with many who have been treated in an un-Christlike way for extended periods time and received their first relief from him.
    Nevertheless, his pushing the boundaries of gender roles out of place seems to have backfired as he seemed to have allowed his talent for “mothering” to gain precedence over his capacity to reason like a man. I can only pray that the fact that a woman can bring to light a condition where “one who, based of here-say, cries senility, does so because they themselves are the victim of symptoms of that very condition condition”.

    I myself, wept as I read about his upcoming church court. I read a considerable comments on line very carefully. What upset me was the fact that he apparently was being asked to dismantle the entire “ministry of comfort” being offered by his web service. This, to me, seemed like asking one to summarily dismantle the kind of service which according to Matthew 25:31-46.

    However, on a personal level grateful to you for using the internet in an inspired way which allows for more light than heat to attend our collective reflections on these kinds of occurrences. I remember reading one comment made by a person which suggested that the brethren calling John to court, “simply did not understand how the internet works” and though this may be true in regards to demanding that he “dismantle his web ministry to the outcasts” I give me great joy to see observe that, thanks to people like you, the web does not have to be all on the side of John’s adamant sense of evident folly.

    This is my first reply on the web in years so I am a bit unsure how to proceed. Since I figure the web is a place where everything is subject to being picked apart, I hope that my negative comment on you logic concerning speculation as to why the priesthood was denied to the blacks, can be construed as an attempt to increase the eventual effectiveness of you much needed effort to defend truth.

    This is my question and I hope you will feel free to email me if it seems worth you time so that you can see that our purpose to publicly synchronise our individual testimonies with communicable truth is one and the same.

    It would seem to me that the strength of the initiative to reduce the saints capacity to thrive was based of a sentiment which would have been stifled rather than enhanced by extending the priesthood to the blacks since the “twin vestiges of barbarism” cited encompassed slavery rather than integration. Though I tend to agree with you overall perception on the time line between public sentiment and the timing of the revelation to extend the privileges. I think that the initial hinge point of you reasoning could be benefited by further clarification.

    Notwithstanding this observation. I am very much in awe of your nice blend courage, timeliness, talent and humour which has altogether brought a considerable amount peace to my neurotic soul.

  11. I listened to John Dehlin’s webcast and believe he feigned Loving the church and wanting to stay a member as a means to an end. I felt it throughout video. He has an agenda, I think some of it is good. Open dialogue and transparency is vital to free agency, but his method is hypocritical. He is playing a political game.

  12. “Having read the 38 page transcript of the discussion between John Dehlin and Dr. King, there were several distinct theological points where John asked his (no doubt sincere) questions. ”

    You’re generous, Meg.

    John knew he was recording the whole thing. He was playing to an audience, which certainly includes the readership of the New York Times.

  13. Let me add just a bit more to what I just posted. I haven’t read the transcript myself; I don’t have a strong stomach. But an acquaintance who has, who I find reasonably trustworthy, describes it as 30 pages of Dehlin trying to get the stake president to say what Dehlin would love to have the NYT report.

  14. Farren – I think that your statement here is debatable:

    “The Baptist church is loosing members in droves with there hard line Fire and Brimstone approach to Gay rights.”

    Articles such as this one seem to indicate quite the opposite:

    http://thefederalist.com/2014/08/21/how-to-shrink-your-church-in-one-easy-step/

    I am certain that there are cases where a specific stance will influence a specific sect in losing some of its membership. But, I would appreciate it if you could provide some statistics that back up this position in regards to the Baptist (I assume the Southern variety) church. Most of what I have seen thus far points to the opposite. Thanks.

  15. “As the older generation in the church pass away and the younger generation become the leaders, your concept “it would require fundamental restructuring of Mormon doctrine regarding the afterlife.” will begin to take place.”

    I’ve heard this idea repeated many times. The problem I have with it is that I’m not aware of any significant previous restructuring of basic Mormon doctrine. Sure, there have been new commandments introduced and what-not and new vistas opened regard established Doctrines but nothing that would contradict anything in the Book of Mormon, for example.

    No doubt there will be new approaches to tackling problems specific to the concurrent culture, but I doubt the basic tenets of the gospel will ever change.

  16. I myself have suggested ways the Church might accommodate the cultural shift towards accepting same gender relationships, but I agree that it seems highly unlikely that temple marriage would ever be opened to same gender couples. Therefore the tension would continue to exist. It would only be the location of the tension that would shift.

    Twenty years ago people were predicting that garments would consist of a thin armband, and various other “progressive” ideas. This hasn’t proven to be the case.

    I enjoyed the article in the Federalist regarding decline in membership for those denominations that have embraced every liberal whim (ordination of women, open acceptance of same gender relationships and non-celibate gays and lesbians as clergy).

  17. “Why will this happen? because the church values growth more than its doctrinal position.”

    That statement is fundamentally false. Doctrines and policies may change (ceasing polygamy in 1890, the 1978 priesthood revelation, etc.) but only inasmuch as the Lord reveals them to His prophet. The revelations of the LDS church are the bedrock on which the church rests regardless of growth or otherwise. If the Church caters to the whims of popular opinion in order to “ensure” growth then its foundations will begin to crumble. Although our growth may level off and though we stand against the current of popular and shifting opinions, we will continue to reap in fields that are white while maintaining our doctrinal integrity.

  18. Kent Budge, you’re friend is trustworthy indeed. The transcript reflects an anxious man with an agenda and a recording device fishing for quotes. This clandestine recording against the wishes of Pres. King is especially hypocritical given the letter Dehlin wrote to his bishop last year wherein Dehlin goes to great lengths to ensure that the bishop doesn’t release the letter to anyone else: “Finally, as a person who claims to believe in being honest and charitable, we would like to respectfully ask you to please keep the contents of this email between us.” (Dehlin later published the letter.)

    Obtuse/malicious/impaired, whatever the true cause may be, are good descriptors of Dehlin’s questioning about how to properly make restitution. Imagine a man who’s caught having an affair questioning his wife in this manner:
    “Ok, so no kissing either?”
    “So, don’t talk to her, ever ever?”
    “Is seeing her once a week too much? Once a month?”
    “But, I tell her nice things about you. And, I treat you great. Are you only considering the hurtful things I do?”

    Clearly, restitution and repentance were never paths Dehlin seriously considered. I appreciate your article Meg.

  19. Meg,

    I’m pretty sure there is no “article” in the Federal Register regarding the “decline in membership for those denominations that have embraced every liberal whim.” The Federal Register is a publication of the US Government where all Government agency rules, proposed rules, and public notices are published for the purpose of informing the public. I think you must be referring to the article that was published on a private website “The Federalist.” There is a significant difference.

    [Thank you for the catch – I updated my comment – Meg]

    Beyond that, with the exception of a few quibbles that are too minor to mention in any detail, I enjoyed your post. It does a good job of organizing the issues and problems with JD’s position. Thank you for taking the time.

  20. FWIW–I don’t think prior evolutions in LDS teaching/practice are comparable to the Church’s position on marriage as being between a man and a woman.
    –The priesthood ban, from its institution, had an expiration date. The only theological “expiration date” that comes with our teachings about gays is that, at some point in the hereafter, gay people won’t be gay anymore.
    –Adam-God was never endorsed by the united 1st Pres/Q12, the way the Proc on the Family has been.
    –We still claim we were actually right about the whole polygamy thing.

    I don’t see the Church liberalizing just because society liberalizes. In the period from 1833 to 1860 or later, Mormonism became consistently less popular-but rather than drifting with the wind, Mormonism’s leadership ranks replenshed themselves with those who had been proven through the sociological/democratic/military failure known as Zion’s Camp (or their hand-picked successors) and the Church became–if it were possible–even more nonconformist than it had ever been.

    Prop 8, and its analogues throughout the nation, is the Zion’s Camp of the 21st Century. Those who put their shoulder to the wheel are the future of this Church. Those who publicly grumbled will be permitted to stay in the wagon; but as far as opportunities to occupy the driver’s seat–you can stick a fork in ’em; they’re done. They will never be trusted with any authority at the levels where Church policy is actually influenced.

    That’s what’s so maddening to social progressives. They have done very well at (for lack of a less-sinister sounding word) infiltrating American institutions (entertainment, news casting, publishing, academia, numerous churches) and turning those institutions’ resources to the support of the progressive agenda. The weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over the Kelly/Dehlin brouhaha is a symbol of their dawning realization that the LDS Church is proving frustratingly resistant to the tactics they’ve traditionally used.

    The scary thing is that once these libertines understand that they can not meaningfully infiltrate Mormonism; they’ll revert to the century-old tactic of subjugating us through brute force. It won’t be pretty.

  21. Excellent post. I extremely enjoyed reading this post. Thanks Meg, well written and so insightful.

  22. Mike,
    Their are many issues that have caused the decline of the baptist church in an age where controlling what young read, or watch is nearly impossible (science, sexuality, restrictions, intolerance etc). Perhaps “loosing members in droves” is excessive wording, but baptists are alarmed. Loosing membership nearly every year since 1990. And when most of those members are young people you have a problem that will multiply. You will loose their posterity too.

    I believe it is easier to convince young people to follow god when the doctrine makes sense. Most biblical doctrines can be validated with reasoning. It is becoming harder and harder for Youth and College students to accept the the anti-gay argument. They have gay friends.

    These articles are easy to find with google searches:
    -DECLINING SOUTHERN BAPTISTS DOUBLE DOWN ON HOMOPHOBIA
    -Five Reasons Why Most Southern Baptist Churches Baptize Almost No Millennials
    -Baptists, Just Without the Baptisms
    -What Southern Baptists must do to slow their decline

    I believe the problem will get bigger

  23. However, we’re not the Southern Baptist, and while the LDS church isn’t growing like it used to, as Richard Ostling notes:
    “If present growth rates proceed, the LDS church is destined one day to surpass the United Methodist Church as America’s third largest religious body behind the Catholic Church and Southern Baptist Convention.”
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionqanda/2015/02/how-did-the-romney-era-affect-his-mormon-church/#ixzz3RO5ZUhoM

    We’re still growing, and doing a better job of retaining young people than most other churches (though we can always do better).

  24. There is a reason cultural changes won’t ever drive doctrinal change. I call it the “Moroni Principle.” Total conversion creates a willingness to be a church of one if necessary. We affirm we would hold true to our doctrine not matter the pressure even to threat of fiery death. Declining membership will be seen as a rejection of God and only serve to make us think the end is just getting closer and closer.

  25. To Ivan’s comment, “We’re still growing, and doing a better job of retaining young people than most other churches (though we can always do better)”, there is a series of posts by John Gee (BYU professor) addressing this. I think that there might be about a dozen or so, mostly in December 2014 and January 2015. His site does not have too many posts, so it should not be too hard to find them. He draws mainly upon non-LDS sources in this series.

    http://fornspollfira.blogspot.com/

  26. Not long ago Dehlin was hardly a household word to most Mormons but his recent notoriety has made him much more visible. Yesterday I overheard a conversation between a clerk and someone he knew. “What are your plans for retirement?”
    “I’m going to leave the Church and start making money by blogging on the internet.”
    His friend responded with a shocked expression, then a laugh.
    So Dehlin threatens to become a joke.

  27. When you use the word “enormity” to describe God, you are only bolstering the argument that he is evil. It makes me not want to take your writing seriously.

    The word “enormity” has a very specific meaning, and always has a negative connotation.

  28. Re: enormity

    Interesting, I hadn’t realized that enormity is often used to describe negative largeness relative to the norm. And yet it is not exclusively used in a pejorative fashion:

    Usage Discussion of ENORMITY

    Enormity, some people insist, is improperly used to denote large size. They insist on enormousness for this meaning, and would limit enormity to the meaning “great wickedness.” Those who urge such a limitation may not recognize the subtlety with which enormity is actually used. It regularly denotes a considerable departure from the expected or normal . When used to denote large size, either literal or figurative, it usually suggests something so large as to seem overwhelming and may even be used to suggest both great size and deviation from morality . It can also emphasize the momentousness of what has happened or of its consequences . from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enormity

    I was using enormity in the sense of “something so large as to seem overwhelming”

  29. Re: enormity

    Likewise, it is not uncommon to here the phrases, “enormity of the decision” or “enormity of their situation” when in neither case is there anything inherently evil.

    Rather, it is clearly relating to the momentousness of what has happened, or may happen, and the associated consequences. Really quite common in literature.

  30. Good post, Meg! I especially appreciated your analogy of the priesthood ban being a hair shirt that we have to wear. I think many church members are indeed striving to be extra, extra not racist to try to make amends. I believe I see that happening in my ward; I have only heard one or two examples of unconscious racism. But then, I’m in a New York City ward.

    Regarding your suggestions that Mr. Dehlin and Ms. Kelly may be mentally challenged: is that meant to be a sort of wry insult, a la Jonathan Swift? or, do you really think they may have autism spectrum issues happening? Considering how much harm they done to the some of the most vulnerable people in the church, I just find their actions so contemptible!

  31. Before anyone can proclaim that LDS doctrines are everlasting and don’t change with public pressure or changing times, one must be able to define what is doctrine. This is a problem I have struggled with for years. I would love to hear some definitions from this site. I have found when the church changes an unpopular policy or tradition that to many was considered concrete doctrine, faithful member simply write it of as not doctrinal. So what is doctine and what is the litmus test? Is the Family Proclamation considered Doctrine.

    I remember about twenty years ago attending a special adult meeting to address sexual deviancy among church members. A church directive was read from the pulpit condeming oral sex as a gateway to greater deviancy. We were told faithful members would not participate in such acts. The same is true with playing games with face cards (poker cards). Spencer W. Kimball was adamant on this point and even spoke of it during general conference. Then theirs the baby admonition, the Lord expects LDS couples to have as many children as the mother can physically and emotionally handle.

    Though I am not insinuating that either of these admonitions are actually church doctrine, neither of them are spoken of anymore to my knowledge . Any 25 year old mormon would likely not even heard of such a directive. so does that mean these unpopular directives are fine to disobey today. shouldn’t young people have a list available of do’s and don’ts that were never repealed. Or do we simply let them fade away as if they were never uttered.

    Please do tell me what is Doctrine and what is not and how can you tell the difference BEFORE it is changed?

  32. I introduced the “Moroni Principle” to counter the notion that “the church values growth more than its doctrinal position.”

    So, doctrinal position. That has been a popular subject, and mutability of the position has been the watch cry of those who see in the historical record, under their magnifying glass, a human-led world and church; and looking forward, under the same magnifying glass, see a human-led future.

    This is not compatible with the God-led world view. The Mormon faith sees the hand of God in all world players, Mormon and non-Mormon alike. Cultural pressure didn’t change the doctrine on the priesthood, God-motivated cultural pressure changed the people to accept the doctrine which had been withdrawn for a time. From the faithful perspective, Meg makes the case for the hand of God in all the decisions on polygamy.

    A case could be made that the “doctrine” on marital sexuality hasn’t changed either. Perhaps we have merely rejected the counsel of God on the matter and so it counsel is withdrawn until we have suffered enough to see the error of our ways and the counsel will be given again. The doctrine, “to be carnally minded is death, and to be spiritually minded is life eternal,” does this not apply to adopting the ways of the world in our marital sexuality? Focus on the flesh will always take our mind off the spiritual. The spread of pornography has demonstrated that sexual stimulation forever seeks to push eroticism to greater and greater extremes. Is this not a timely warning from God’s servants?

    I don’t see any change of core doctrine since the death of Joseph Smith, though I do see focus and refinement and restraint in the exposition of it by our leaders. God wants us to arrive at these conclusions independent of our leaders spelling it out. But we do believe that the spirit will lead us to the same conclusion in time.

  33. To Mary, my supposition that Kate and or John might be impaired a la autism was based on a careful reading of the 38 page transcript, where Dr. King appears to be hinting that John should be able to figure out how to be faithful without Dr. King providing a legalistic framework.

    The challenge for an austistic person (or what used to be described as aspergers, high-functioning social blindness, a diagnosis that has been deprecated in the most recent DSM) is that they actually can’t just “get” what it is that they need to do. So they ask for exact delineation of which actions are appropriate and which are not.

    If John and Kate and others find that the possibility of their being on the autism spectrum is horrific, then the alternative is that they do, in fact, understand the nuances of their activities. In which case, they are, in fact, intentionally working to effect the ends that have resulted from their actions. In this case, as you suggest, their actions have been contemptible.

    To Farren, it appears you do not have a good feel for the hierarchy of doctrine.

    The two great commandments are to 1) love The Lord your God with all your heart, might, mind and strength. The second it like unto it, t 2) love your neighbor as yourself.

    The Folkway of avoiding Face Cards

    With regards to face cards, let us look at the history of that. Tarot cards, centuries ago, were first developed for simple game play. Over time, however, tarot cards became involved in fortune-telling. Thus, you won’t find many LDS homes where there are several decks of tarot cards available for a quick after-meal game. [My home is an exception to that rule, for what it’s worth. Several decks of tarot cards, un-known decks of face cards, hundreds of board games, including cthulhu figures and 20-sided dice and dozens of books on how to play different card games. But I digress.]

    When Brigham Young was in charge of the Saints in the west, there was a healthy contingent of miners living in the same general area. There were also soldiers. The establishments of the “gentiles” tended to feature drinking and gambling (with face cards) and the possibility of women willing to provide sex for money. When it came to the drinking, Mormons tended not to imbibe much, even though Brigham allegedly had the most extensive wine cellar in the west (I believe this was for discharging entertainment duties rather than for personal consumption). As for sex outside of marriage, Nauvoo had seared the Mormon consciousness regarding whether sex outside of marriage was acceptable (as in, it was absolutely not acceptable). Of the triad of attractions, then, this left the gambling.

    The gambling in question was almost entirely poker, and poker was played using standard face card decks. If the Saints would therefore avoid face cards, they would not be sucked into past-times that might drag them into sinful ways.

    The ban on using face cards is very analogous to the suggestion that people avoid tatoos and extraneous piercings. It is a situational folkway to help the faithful avoid the prevalent sins of a given culture in time.

    Non-Procreative Sex

    In the 1970s, as the sexual revolution was expanding into the suburbs, the leaders of the Church became aware that various members of the Church were engaging in non-procreative sex within the context of marriage.

    Sex (procreative or not) outside the context of marriage was clearly wrong according to Mormon doctrine. But what, then, of non-procreative sex within marriage?

    Apparently inquiries were made. I was too young to be privy to any such inquiries directly, but I have heard from older friends and therapists that this did occur, apparently in the context of temple recommend interviews. The apparent finding from this “study” was that oral sex (in particular) was engaged in by many as a part of their marital activities. There were also many who told those asking that it was none of their business. Apparently in the 70s or early 80s, then, the leadership decided that oral sex wasn’t going to be a thing they made a big fuss about, even though it made the older members of the leadership uncomfortable.

    You, Farren, appear to have come across a decades late redux of the oral sex inquiry. Either that or, when you say twenty years, you actually mean 1975-1985, rather than 1995. As for oral sex being a gateway sexual behavior leading to gross sexual deviancy, I think the consensus is that pornography is the gateway sexual activity that leads to moral decline. Oral sex may or may not objectify one’s partner. It clearly is a sexual activity that can’t engender children, but foreplay doesn’t engender children either, and I have never heard that general foreplay is to be avoided by married persons.

    On the other hand, I have heard of generic Christians who will consider themselves celibate even though they are engaging in a wide range of non-procreative activities, to include oral sex, anal sex, frottage, etc. This, for example, appeared to be behind the activities of on LDS leader (Carrington, I believe) who was excommunicated in the 1800s. Carrington hadn’t understood that having sex with a woman wherein full procreative contact was achieved was still sex even if he didn’t transfer his seed to the woman (aka, Onanism).

    A side discussion here is the generic discussion of sex. If we only were to consider procreative sex to be “sex,” then it is, by definition, impossible for activities between individuals of the same gender to be “sex.” This is why we see the language regarding how we arouse one another to shift from “sexual intercourse” to “sexual relations.” Activities that are intended to arouse and gratify sexual urges outside the context of marriage are to be avoided. Indirectly, activites that arouse and gratify sexual urges within the context of marriage are permitted, so long as both husband and wife are mutually brought together in the practice of these activities. In this sense, men and women, in the context of marriage, can righteously become significantly informed in how bodies function, that this aspect of their union may become a true joy and pleasure that strengthens their mutual bond.

    Do I need to point out that sexual relations that includes additional people who aren’t part of the marriage isn’t appropriate?

    Making Babies

    There was a joke that might have been an actual instance, where someone asks parents of many children whether they are Mormon of Catholic.

    “Neither,” the parents replied. “We’re just irresponsible.”

    Since Malthus (who was Catholic, I believe) there has been a perception in the world that having lots of children is wrong, due to the impact on the population.

    The Mormon folklore that making as many babies as feasibly possible is the entire point of marriage isn’t doctrine. We are to be wise stewards of our resources. Despite what you may have be taught, birth control is perfectly acceptable as one means of husbanding our resources.

    Going back to the 1970s, I know our Stake had one conference where all the children were not allowed to attend the general session. Since my mother was comfortable sharing all manner of information with us, she conveyed the purpose of the conference, which was to make sure the hundreds of Saints in attendance understood that sexual relations were not to be used only for the purpose of making babies. Sexual relations were also to be used to strengthen the bonds between husband and wife.

    On the other hand, it is true that young couples are encouraged to have children earlier rather than later. I think when such guidance comes from the leadership, it is based on inspiration rather than calculation. However for those of us who have studied the results of behaviors, it turns out that two things are highly correlated with faith in God and activity in religious organizations . These two things are:

    1) Keeping sexual activity within the bounds believed to be acceptable to God.

    2) Being married and having children.

    When people engage in sex that is not acceptable in their faith, they wander from their faith. This is highly correlated with people leaving religion, where smoking and drug use and alcohol use are not correlated with people leaving religion.

    As for the assertion that expanding the range of acceptable sexual behaviors should reduce the number who leave, the actual finding is that Churches that embrace non-traditional sex (e.g., ordaining non-celibate clergy who are gay or lesbian) have gone into massive decline, losing large percentages of their members. So merely asserting that God accepts all manner of odd sexual behaviors doesn’t seem to convince parishoners.

    Given the strength of the prohibitions against use of alcohol, smoking, and drugs in LDS circles, it’s possible that an extensive study of those behaviors would show higher correlation with inactivity and secularization than found in general Christian religions.

    As for marrying early and having children early, this means Mormons are much more likely to remain active in the faith community, even if they stopped after having one or two children. Being married and having children in the context of a faith community also means these children will be raised in a community where they can gain access to all manner of important supports. They will (more likely) have a mother and father who are faithful to one another (correlated with success in adulthood). The will have access to adults other than their parents who care for them over multiple years (also correlated with success and normalcy in adulthood).

    As for those couples who continue to bring forth children after reaching replacement (2.1 children), we can look to the larger social situation. Most western nations have fallen below replacement if one considers their total population and average fertility rates. According to economists, this does not bode well for the economic future of these nations. Thus it isn’t so much a matter of whether an individual family has only 2.1 children, but whether an entire society is above replacement. Given the large number of people who are not reproducing to replacement, there is plenty of room for Mormon families to have more than 2.1 children, if they feel so inspired.

    Getting back to basics

    The core doctrine of the Church is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. There are various teachings that support these core doctrines. Sometimes those teachings include avoiding gambling and avoiding getting tattoos. At other times those teachers include urging young people to not put of marriage and children, also urging them to keep passions and activities within the bounds God has set. At other times the teachings include engaging in sexual relations with one’s spouse even when making babies isn’t the end-goal of the activity.

    It is the perogative of Church leaders to outline those folkways they feel inspired will strengthen and protect the faithful. These folkways aren’t doctrine, so if they change, there is no reason to suppose that God has changed.

    Which harks back to the whole discussion of autism. Because it is (in my experience) the autistic among us who can’t deal with change, who can’t differentiate between shifting folkways and fundamental changes in doctrine (which was only occurring in Joseph’s day, relative to restoring the full doctrine to a people who only had the partial doctrine remaining). Those unable to handle acceptable change then teach those who might have been able to handle change that these changes are wrong. Thus does discontent spread among the autistic, the malicious, and the underinformed.

    So I imagine the pertinent question God will propose to those who have wandered will be, “My sweet one. You left me. For which of these three reasons did you leave? For if you were just autistic, I can overcome that. If you were just underinformed, I can overcome that. But if you actively want to leave, knowing what that means, being without any impairment that I can heal, then I cannot overcome that.”

    Thus in the final day, those sons and daughters who will “fall” are the ones who are actively malicious, even after they know all. Thus are they sons and daughters of perdition, reveling in the fall of man, rejoicing in the “freedom” this gives them from God.

  34. Joel Winter or Meg Stout

    What is the litmus test to determine doctrine? can anyone tell me? Must it be proceeded with “thus saith the Lord”? Must it be canonized? Is The temple endowment a doctrine of christ though the scriptures are mute on the subject? Is there someone Gutsy enough to make a list of doctrines?

  35. Meg,

    It appears you and I both have had the experience of having an autistic child.

    I haven’t watched Dehlin’s podcasts or read the transcript of his disciplinary council, and I cringe from the thought of doing so. Do you really think he might be autistic? I seems doubtful to me, or at least doubtful that this is his only problem.

    Overall, I liked your last comment very much.

  36. Hi Farren,

    I’m surprised you had time to read my response before asking for a definitive list of doctrine. You did read my comment, did you not?

    The dictionary describes doctrine as:

    1. A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma.
    2. A rule or principle of law, especially when established by precedent.
    3. A statement of official government policy, especially in foreign affairs and military strategy.
    4. Something taught; a teaching.

    Thus there are different meanings when someone says “doctrine.”

    Mormon doctrine includes the following:

    All individuals have existed for all eternity and will continue to exist for all eternity.

    God (aka Heavenly Father) is our spiritual father. We each have a spiritual mother. Though we “existed” before, our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother brought us into spiritual life.

    The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, who is fully aligned with the will and purposes of God the Father.

    Jesus Christ was the only physically begotten son of God the Father. As a spirit, Jesus volunteered to be our Savior in accordance with God’s plan that would permit us to take on physical form. Lucifer (much like John Dehlin) didn’t understand why we would need a Savior. Lucifer convinced the “third part of heaven” to rebel against God and refuse physical life.

    When we are born into physical life, we are unable to return to God except with the assistance of our Savior. Jesus came to earth to give us two gifts: 1) resurrection (which all who are born will receive, even the sons and daughters who decline to return to God, those known as the “sons of perdition”) and 2) an atonement which would heal all that keeps us from returning to God.

    For our part, we signal our acceptance of the atonement by being baptized. In Mormon theology, that baptism must be performed in the physical realm, but may be done by proxy, allowing deceased individuals who were not baptized in life to accept a mortal baptism that had been done on their behalf and thus meet this requirement.

    Further, we enter into covenants with God and our families to be bound to them. This is consistent with the Abrahamic Covenant and the manner in which Malachi prophesied we must turn our hearts to our fathers (ancestors) and that the ancestors (us) must turn their hearts to their children (our descendants). This is also reflective of the vows the Saints entered into in the 1830s & 1840s to not leave anyone behind (first in the flight from Missouri, then in the flight from Nauvoo).

    Thus we love God enough to desire with all our being to return to Him and do all we can to support His purposes. Next, we love all mankind as we love ourselves, doing all we can to help them desire to return to Him and support His purposes. Beyond that, we perform the saving ordinances for them and bind ourselves to them through covenant, weaving together the family of mankind into one whole.

    That’s it. From these hang all the law (teachings) and prophets (various prophetic writings).

    Now if you had some Church leader who told you it’s doctrine to avoid eating sugar, or shun face cards, or avoid reading 50 Shades of Gray, etc., I would suggest that they are using one of the alternate definitions of doctrine which have to do with case law or policy or random teachings, all of which can change without invalidating the truth of the Gospel.

  37. I’ll bite as well.

    “Doctrine” is intended to mirror eternal truth and may do so imperfectly as far as human words and understanding limit, and therefore requires adjustment, but what follows has not changed since the time of Joseph Smith’s death.

    I believe:

    1 In God, our “Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” Further. I believe that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also, but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones but it a personage of Spirit.”
    2 Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ as he said he did.
    3 God is the “framer of heaven and earth and all things that are in them”
    4 “All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”
    5 “Marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of his children.”
    (4 and 5 were not explicitly taught as revelations by Joseph in this language because it had not been corrupted or lost and did not need to be restored)
    6 God gave to us “commandments that [we] should love and serve him, the only living and true God,” and that “this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it…”
    7 In loving my neighbor as myself; namely, “in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, [I] may say that [I try to] follow the admonition of Paul—[I] believe all things, [I] hope all things, [I] have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, [I] seek after these things.” Loving myself includes caring for my body as the Lord has counseled in the Word of Wisdom.
    8 All people “will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.”
    9 “Through the atonement of Jesus Christ that all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.”
    10 In a universal resurrection, “in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”
    11 “In [our] Father’s house are many mansions” which are characterized in three great divisions called kingdoms: “And the glory of the celestial is one, even as the glory of the sun is one. And the glory of the terrestrial is one, even as the glory of the moon is one. And the glory of the telestial is one, even as the glory of the stars is one; for as one star differs from another star in glory, even so differs one from another in glory in the telestial world;
    12 “The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
    13 “A man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.”
    14 “In the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”
    15 “In the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.”
    16 “The Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; [I] also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”
    17 “All that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and [I] believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
    18 “In the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.”
    19 “In being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.”
    20 Further, I “claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of [my] own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
    I have a testimony—an assurance these things are revealed eternal truths—through personal spiritual experience with all of these things; excepting that I have not personally experienced prophecy, vision, healing (personally), the interpretation of tongues, and the fulfillment of prophecies regarding the future of the earth.
    Given the canon of scripture, inclusive of the doctrine taught in the temple endowment—since the early days of the church—this is the “core doctrine” still today. This our prophets teach–the more simply the better. Upon this our prophets (and we) expound—sometimes to their (and our) peril and our chagrin. This our prophets exhort us to live, so that we may have joy—and all do; in measure equal to their living.

  38. Meg Stout,
    Thank you for your lengthy reply. I hope I have not been misunderstood. I am not questioning the wisdom of one church doctrine or another. Or one Folkway or another. I am questioning the church teaching that Gods doctrines are eternal and unchanging. If the list only includes 1) love The Lord your God with all your heart, might, mind and strength. And, 2) love your neighbor as yourself, then no christian church has changed its doctrine. If that is the case then the oft heard statement, The church policies may change but the Restored gospel doctrine’s never change, is a ruse, a cliche.

    I was hoping for something that would be viable like the articles of faith but address church doctrinal positions in current conflicts.

    Perhaps a direct question would be appropriate.
    -Would baptizing an active Homosexual be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?
    -Would ordaining a woman to the priesthood be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?
    -Would changing the sacrament prayers be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?
    -Would baptizing a 6 year old be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?
    -Would a woman being sealed to more than one man be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?
    -What is the power that Jesus used to heal people. Faith or the Priesthood or both. what is Gods Doctrine on the matter?
    -Is the Negro race the seed of Cain, or is the statement that “the seed of Cain were black”, not referring to the Negro Race.

    Of course I could go on. I guess my point and problem is that if the church can classify almost everything as non-doctrinal when it needs to make a change to appease the world, What is real.

  39. Sorry about my last post. I started it and didn’t finish it, When I did finish you two beat me to the mouse click on post comment. Thank you.

  40. Hi Farren,

    You asked:

    -Would baptizing an active Homosexual be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?

    I assume by this you mean a homosexual who is arousing and gratifying sexual urges, rather than one who likes to run and climb mountains.

    At this time, it is not permitted for those who openly confess to arousing and gratifying sexual urges outside the bounds of heterosexual marriage to be baptized.

    Mormonism, unlike other Christian denominations, has an eschatology that elevates heterosexual relations to the realm of highest divinity. Mormonism has also taken a rather hard stance regarding the acceptability of sexual relations outside the bounds of marriage. Therefore I think the probability of seeing a change in this doctrine (doctrine as policy) to be low.

    -Would ordaining a woman to the priesthood be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?

    No.

    That said, demanding that the Prophet “make it so” is contrary to the case law position God laid out in D&C 28. Ordaining women to the priesthood before the due time of The Lord is akin to opening Christmas presents before December 25.

    As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I myself have voiced blessings and presided over organizations in the Church. Ms. Kelly’s assertion that priesthood ordination is required for women to be treated well by men is false logic.

    -Would changing the sacrament prayers be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?

    [I have no idea why someone would want to change the sacrament prayers…]

    It would not be OK for someone to come up with alternate words on purpose and voice these words rather than the approved and prescribed words.

    That said, I understand that when the sacrament is blessed, it is no longer required that the presiding priesthood leader make a big fuss when the individual blessing the sacrament makes an error, presuming it isn’t a gross error. Something about a recent change to the Church Handbook of Instructions.

    -Would baptizing a 6 year old be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?

    I’ll refer you to Mormon’s letter to Moroni regarding the evils of baptizing infants.

    I’ll also refer to the case law doctrine laid out by God in D&C 28. For someone to baptize a 6-year-old in defiance of the Church policy would be contrary to eternal case law, at the very least.

    Why would someone baptize a 6-year-old? The only reason that comes to my mind is the imminent death of the child, with a parent who is so concerned about the eternal state of that child that they don’t wish to trust God’s promise to save those younger than the age of accountability. And so the decision to baptize a 6-year-old, beyond being in defiance of the case law in D&C 28, is indicative of a lack of trust in God.

    Currently there is a neural change that occurs circa age 8. I can imagine some environmental alteration that shifts this neural change to age 6. In which case I can imagine the Church altering policy to identify the age of accountability to age 6. Until such time, however, it would not be permissible to baptize a child at age 6.

    -Would a woman being sealed to more than one man be against the eternal laws of God and church doctrine?

    Of course not. This occurs all the time (posthumously).

    What remains to be seen is whether God will permit women to remain sealed to more than one man in the resurrection (assuming there were any women who did want to remain sealed to both (say) Joseph Smith and the man with whom they spent their entire reproductive life. This is the actual case with my ancestor, Elvira Annie Cowles. On the records of the Church it shows her sealed to both Joseph (in life) and Jonathan (posthumously). Her dying words indicate that she was content to let Joseph decide what would be right, which I think is indicative of her dying hope that she might spend eternity with Jonathan.)

    There are some societies where women are married to more than one man. If the Church were ever to open marriages to admit polygamy (polygyny and polyandry), then such marriages (one woman, more than one man) might be possible to solemnize in the temple.

    So I’d count this as doctrine as policy. But for someone to solemnize such a marriage in opposition to standing policy would run contrary to the case law doctrine in D&C 28.

    -What is the power that Jesus used to heal people. Faith or the Priesthood or both. What is Gods Doctrine on the matter?

    Healing comes through faith. Not just faith in Jesus Christ (though such faith healings are effective and permissible), but faith in His power, which includes the priesthood power of Christ (the so-called Melchizedek Priesthood, because Melchizedek was such an outstanding individual who wielded the power of Christ, which is more than “mere” faith).

    If I, as a woman, insist on voicing a healing blessing on my child rather than asking my husband/home teacher to do so by the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood, then I have not faith but hubris.

    But, again, healing is accomplished by God. Our faith is to call forth those blessings God is willing to grant us. Because there are times when the healing is not within the scope of what God wills for that person. Thus, whether the blessing is voiced by the power of faith in Christ or the power of Christ through faith, nothing will happen that isn’t within the possibilities that align with God’s will.

    -Is the Negro race the seed of Cain, or is the statement that “the seed of Cain were black”, not referring to the Negro Race.

    Obviously (to me) those now considered Black are not uniquely identical to those who descend from Cain.

    Joseph Smith ordained black men to the Melchizedek Priesthood. Based on Emma’s offer to Jane Manning, Joseph Smith was willing to be sealed to a black woman, joining her to his family.

    A black fellow circa 1846 (name escapes me) started claiming powers and visions that were beyond what was appropriate (and he was also forcing his prior wives to watch while he had sex with subsequent wives). This situation gave rise to Church authorities voicing the racist comments of the 1800s, speaking of how the Black race was accursed. Brigham made a political decision regarding how Blacks were to be handled when brought to Utah, and from that point Mormons became roughly as racist as other Americans.

    At a certain point, however, the prophets desired to revoke the priesthood ban, and it appears that they were prohibited from doing so at a time that might have been considered politically convenient.

    This is the extension of D&C 28. Not only are we prohibited from commanding the prophet, the prophet is prohibited from commanding God.

    I don’t know where you grew up, but in my household, the day when the Blacks might receive the priesthood was looked upon as a day of rejoicing, a day we longed for, a day we prayed for. We waited anxiously for God to allow the prophet to grant us all this great blessing. And so we, as the majority of Church members, were excited and thrilled when the ban was lifted.

    I have reason to know that in the 1960s, the lifting of the ban would not have been met with excitement.

    Which is better, that faithful black saints be granted the priesthood in 1963 and subjected to the vitriol of bigoted “Saints” in that racially-torn environment, or that faithful black saints be forced to wait for fifteen years, until a time when the Saints almost universally longed for the ban to be lifted?

    You appear to be sympathetic with those who believe it is political pressure that causes the Church to modify policy. In this, you see the Church as a backward and laggard organization led merely by men.

    Alternately, you could see the Church as led by a God who cares both for those currently in the Church and those who might join the Church, willing to guide us in a fashion that minimizes actual damage to those willing to trust God.

    If you want to argue the reason for the ban in the first place, or argue that God should have allowed the ban to be lifted much earlier, then I leave you to confer with God on these points. I do trust that if it were merely a matter of the will of the prophet, the ban would have been lifted during the administration of George Albert Smith or David O. McKay.

  41. Dear Meg
    After reflecting at length on what I had posted yesterday, still caught up in the urge to appy the best of my writting talents to the situation at hand. I decided at length that God, who we can fully expect to have been inspiring a very prayerfull President King, must surely have know that the transcript would be released. Having thus justified my every doutfull motive, and feeling that I was truly out of depth with the issues at hand, I proceeded to avail myself of the wonders of modern day google technogy and carefully read the entire doucument twice.
    Being a very meticulous person by nature, and having understood from the document itself that even before the highly questionable disclosure of the document that 100,000 or so matches came up on google when you serch with the filters “King and “Dehlin” I resolved to read the whole thing very very carefully at least five times before expressing myself further.
    Before I could do that, the same spirit which seemed to compell the companions of Job to express their views freely, began to get the better of me also and I spent the better part of the afternoon composing an in depth document which, if it has any real value, should probably be preseted in browse-able lhtml. (I may do that on a private web page in a few days.. One of the things I would particularly like to do is include personal comments on
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YltEym9H0x4
    since it think that a central issue in the NYTimes transcript has to do with how the need for some kind of a forum for expressing doubt is essential to John based on experiences he has had in his profession as a heath care therapist… please wait till I can post html on that web on that)

    I woke up about 1 am and decided to start over with
    something a bit more personal in the way of “personal testimony” which touches just a bit on the topics of conflict with authority and the influence of the spirit as one even semi sincerely ponders just how far to popogate ones own “reasonable doubts”. The title I have given to this quite personal “historical essay” is entitled:

    Reasonable Doubts

    I had the wonderful experience of serving the role of a Spanish speaking investigator in the MTC in Provo, Utah about 20 years ago. We were instructed to express “reasonable doubts” without crossing over to be like modern day counterpart to one of several book of Mormon “anti-christs”. It was pretty much left up to us to know exactly where to “draw the line”.
    Now previously, in Mexico I had had an experience knowing a couple of missionaries, one who had gone to an MTC in Guatemala and whom many of us admired, and another from Mexico city. I will get to the details of that in a bit, but first I think it expedient to interject, for the sake of providing the requisite cultural setting, an incident which happened several years later in my life which illustrates how the spirit can heal conflicts with authority.

    It is no big secret in Mexico that there is, at times, a considerable amount of acrimony between the culture in the North where people of are classified as “Nortenyos” and the culture of the south which produces those known as Chilangos”. I hope that the what follow will illustrate this situation rather clearly without heaping any newer, fresh acrimony on top of old.

    I had had a sharp and somewhat public disagreement at one time with my bishop, (probably over something having to do with me as the pianist getting scrunched to suit his rather ignorant leadership persona to the detriment of worship) who had come to northern Mexico from a state just south of Mexico city. We had stake conference and I was in the choir, seated just behind the mission president and his wife and next to the stake patriarch who was also in the choir.

    My dear bishop walked in with a countenance quite overcome with evidences of discord and personal frustration and, considering myself to be a bit gifted in terms of acting ability I decided to fortify my position in the rather public controversy I was having with this man by radiating as much peace, love and domestic tranquillity amid the upper hierarchy as possible. (Fortunately, for me, in my life conflicts with “straw boss” authority figures seem to occur almost exclusively during interactions with “the lowerarchy”)

    All seemed to be going according to plan, and I must say that as the conference progressed, the countenance of my dear bishop began to soften under the influence of the spirit of that meeting, finally radiating more hope, enthusiasm and love for the gospel better what I was able to fake, sitting on the stand – because of the following:

    The key speaker was a general authority from Mexico City and the crux of his message was that if we apply the articles of faith to our missionary efforts, we are likely to have much more success.

    He chose to illustrate his point by relating how he had been taking a taxi in Mexico City when the cab driver asked him where he was going and he replied that he was attending to some church business. The cab driver, who had materials of his own religious affiliation visible in the cab, replied, “Oh, well I suppose there is nothing we can talk about there since we have little in common”.

    The particular article of faith the speaker specified at this point was “We believe in worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege…” accordingly, in response he opted to take exception to the cab drivers pessimism by stating that they had much in common and began to explain our teachings in regards to the importance of the family.
    By now I had envisioned in my mind a friendly, naturally outgoing “chilango” cab driver skillfully negotiating his way through the rapid, crowded, Mexico City traffic in an under-powered, slightly beat up “bocho” (VW Beetle), trying to fulfil his duty to, perhaps the society of the local “kingdom hall” while doing his very best to come across as agreeably as he could with every prospective repeat customer.

    The speaker drove home his point by relating the cab driver response: “you know, that is the first reasonable I think I have ever heard said by a Mormon”.

    Immediately this brought to my mind a whole host of “chilango” R. M.s who had done their best to set the poor cab driver strait in the past. I totally lost my composure, as I doubled over in my chair up there on the stand with intense laughter…

    So years earlier, before offering my rather distinctive acting talents to MTC Provo. We had a “nortenyo” bishop who actually had lived in the U.S. and he made a comment how an investigator had approached him, apparently favourably impressed with this bishop’s character, wanting to know more about the church. Our bishop said that had directed this man to the missionaries and never heard for this man again. When he asked the missionary from Mexico City how things had gone, the reply was “Oh I sent that fella all the way to zion”.

    So fast forward to the MTC Provo. I am receiving the discussion which includes the invitation to baptism. One of the elders seems to be daydreaming to the point where I get the feeling he would rather be somewhere else. They get to the place in the discussion where they are going to invite me to be baptised and we all start to feel the spirit. The daydreaming elder starts to spark to life in a way that calls to mind all of the most noble instincts of a true and faithful pointer/retriever hunting companion. I think to myself, “you know, this would probably be a very appropriate time to express a doubt.” – I have in mind a particular one which pushes the envelope just a bit in regards to being reasonable and I proceed point up the contrast between Jesus, the pure lamb of God being baptised by John, and Mormon writing to his son about how if a person dies thinking that innocent children need to be baptised, that person must surely be sent to hell.
    (Actually, Nephi gives a pretty convincing reconciliation early on in the Book of Mormon as he expound on what it means to “fulfil all righteousness”, but the poor elders are totally unprepared to respond and the following Sunday, their instructor, who happens to be the organist in my ward, approaches me saying that he told them that they would never be able to answer that question. I decide that this is not the proper time to enter into a discussion on woes of having MTC Mexico located in the heart of “Chilangolandia DF” (Federal District) which, when I was still in Mexico I had gone so far to suggest as evidence of “biggest mistake God had made since placing the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden of Eden” (Yes God certainly does move in some very mysterious ways).

    So the next week, two sweet sisters are practising the same discussion. We get to the same point and I am starting to feel the Spirit… “pretty strong”. The discussion seem to be proceeding quite rapidly even for my normally alert mind in such settings, as I seem to a bit overcome by a “stupor of thought” while prayerfully pondering whether to repeat the shenanigan which had been so effective and seemed so appropriate just one week before. Presently the sweetest of the two sweet sisters is looking directly at my eyes, asking me in a very angelic way if I would like to get baptised. My eyes well up with tears and I find myself nodding my head in the affirmative while helplessly and rather emphatically muttering the word “si”.

    The only reasonable doubt I have about this today is whether or not that incident reflects an instance of what many of us brethren have come to classify as “hormonal revelation”, but I think that even a highly sceptical mental heath care provider like John Dehlin would be constrained to admit that experiences such as these, when viewed in a truly objective manner, unequivocally can be perceived as constituting “pretty darn good therapy” all reasonably conceivable doubts notwithstanding.

  42. You wrote:

    “I proceed point up the contrast between Jesus, the pure lamb of God being baptised by John, and Mormon writing to his son about how if a person dies thinking that innocent children need to be baptised, that person must surely be sent to hell.”

    I don’t get why this is a doubt. It’s not like Jesus was being baptized as a child, since Jesus and John were roughly the same age, and John wasn’t a child at this point.

    If I were teaching an investigator who raised this “doubt,” I would indicate confusion about the thrust of the question. Depending on the nature of the question, the answer would probably cover something about the nature of the conflict in heaven, where Lucifer desired to eliminate choice that could potentially lead an individual to fail to return to God, while Christ and God knew that no individual can be forced to heaven.

    I would also probably gush about how pleased I was that this investigator had clearly read Moroni 7-8, and wonder out loud if they had read Moroni 9, which plainly illustrates the terrible plight a civilization faces when they freely choose to turn their backs on God.

    As for John and his belief that there needs to be a safe place to express doubt, I feel like I would be facing a marriage therapist who encourages the individuals he counsels to make detailed lists of the aspects of their partner they find disturbing, asking them to meditate on these, to set up meetings with friends for the express purpose of enumerating their spouses faults, and even facilitating informational meetings about how to instigate legal proceedings to punish the spouse and initiate formal separation/divorce proceedings.

    Now let us presume that this therapist is particularly focusing on, say, white people who have married minority spouses. Citing a few instances where bad things hd happened, this therapist then makes it a point to suggest that all such inter-racial marriages are flawed. For those content, he suggests that they simply don’t know enough to be unhappy, and suggests that for their mental well-being, they really need to open their heart and mind to the possibility that they are trapped in an abusive and loveless marriage/relationship, and that it is absolutely necessary for their mental health to proceed with therapy.

    Which this therapist, then, promotes himself as being uniquely qualified to dispense.

    John may very well feel that all Mormons need therapy to permit their doubts to emerge, and he may very well feel that any individual would be happier outside Mormonism than they could possibly be in Mormonism. But then I am left wondering:

    1) Since when was John Dehlin God?

    2) If John feels this way, why is he making a media circus of being released from any obligation to “be Mormon”?

  43. Dear Meg

    I feel a bit intimidated by your intellect and very grateful for you reply. In my early 30’s I went though a painful divorce, had some therapy outside the church and spend several years studying pop psychology and preparing myself for a day when I would have to confront the issues of marriage again. The divorce cut me off from the kind of acceptance I had received much more easily before through the chruch and the therapy I received outside of the church, encouraged by a member of the high council, a therapist I knew personally, I received much help.
    One time, when I asked my therapist point blank how she classified my condition, she responded, quite reluctantly that I had a sort of “rescuer’s complex”. This condition probably persists today and so you can probably imagine how I feel about hundreds of John’s supporters who may be at a point in their lives where they depend in part, on him and on the church.

    It had not occurred to me till after I made my last post, how your prolonged, up close experience with autism qualifies you to empathise with our dear friend John’s professional concerns.

    While participating in a wide open forum such as this, it is not my intent at all to defend any particular point but rather seek a synergy of resources the way that our experience in the church teaches us which can serve which highlights the apostle Paul’s observation that “the letter killeth but the spirit maketh alive. (see also section 50)

    I regret, in some ways having to refer to the NYTimes transcript but I don’t think he really wanted to leave the church or draw others away. The transcript seem to conclude with a hope that things might still be resolved.

    I have not kept up very close on anything he has released since then. I suppose that the excommunication came after his breach of confidence.

    I have been on the receiving end of church discipline, receiving sympathy from a former general authority in the process. In my case. the breach of confidentiality went the other way. the bishop making a public announcement of my confession 5 day later from the pulpit with enough specifics so that people who knew me, knew who he was talking about.
    I think john is probably very wounded right now and quite likely to make use of whatever weapons, defensive or otherwise he has at his disposal. I don’t know if you remember how for a time Elder Richard G Scott was pointing out the inherent difference between men an women. (yeah, I know John blurs the borders a bit) but basically Elder Scott points out that, whereas women simply tend to tell the truth. Men can pretty much be counted upon to try to present themselves as closely aligned with the truth as possible – going on to say that when making interviews to select a new stake president, he always took time to interview some of the sisters.

    I distinctly recall how when he mentioned this particular phenomenon in general conference, citing the responses of Adam and Eve to God, right after the partook of the fruit, the tabernacle was filled with laughter and is seems to me the only time I can remember when it was pretty much just the women who were laughing.
    I think that this excommunication is going to be reviewed as something quite conspicuous for a long time. I also consider that what is interchanged on the web now is going to remain in the forefront on search engines for quite some time as well.
    So I would like to help in any way I can to help rally the resources of collective knowledge of latter day saints on the web and the influence of the spirit to formulate a sense of goodness which can endure, thus promoting a bit of the legacy of how this inspired diversity works in our organisation when all is at it should be in this respect.
    The scope of what is encompassed is vast. Yours has been the first response I to a post on the web I have ever received. It gives me courage to go ahead and dedicate my brand new web page to “the cause”.
    Feel free to send me an email and I will give you a first look before going further. In a few days I intend to have an html document you can navigate though quickly to get the a quick and comprehensive overview of what it is all about.
    I hope I answered you question about our dear friend John’s present motives in an agreeable way, which, if it is a cop out, can in some respect be considered justifiable when considering the immediate situation.

    Music an culture/

    In my last post a related an incident where the influence of music made a huge difference. In the manual we have of John Taylor, there is mention of a time when to men came to him with an argument that had been keeping them at each others throats for years. They both resolved that they would abide by whatever decision was made by the prophet.
    He, in turn, simply insisted on singing until they were both moved to tears and embraced.
    By the way. When our dear friend john says “If God does exist, he has a lot of explaining to do” my web document proposes that he read the bhagavad gita and attending the krisna temple in Spanish Fork which, like the City Creek investment. Also received funding from our church – to the tune of 15,000 dollars.

    The teacher of world religions at BYU used to send his students there by assignment. As a gospel doctrine teacher in Sunday school I soon learned that when talking about sacrifice and devotion to God, there was a pretty fixed limit as to how far I could go in that direction without creating lots of discomfort. But in the setting of a beautiful, well established culture, such things could be openly talked about without restriction.

    Either john has made great sacrifices so far, or he directly confronting them right now. I really feel we should pray for him the way Alma prayed for his wayward son who later left a great legacy up though the coming of the Savior.

    Many of the issues raised by John are bound to intensify and my “testimony” is that, collectively, as latter day saints, we posses all of the crucial ingredients to confront them.
    One of the talk which inspired me most last conference was one which was given in Chinese regarding how Jesus forgave the sins of the man let down through the roof after seeing the faith of those who brought him.
    Though John may not accept the need for the atonement, he does seem to sincerely believe in Jesus as a person who did live and whoset the ultimate example for how humans ought to live if there is to be any continuing hope for mankind.
    One thing our dear friend john can hardly afford to do right now is stop offering hope.
    Please excuse me for interrupting discussions on doctrine with a discussion on strategy instead.
    whew, Rescuing is hard work!

  44. Dear Meg.
    Sorry for avoiding all of your observations.
    My heart and soul is really full of one thing right now.
    Nevertheless, I would like to synchonise though I almost always need time for things to sink in.
    The missionaries in the MTC were barely learning to converse in Spanish. My “Doubt” really nothing serios for me. My first post this morning was broken into parts and I may have not made the setting clear.
    About 20 years ago. the MTC was inviting Spanish speaking member. (I had been a member for 20 years) to act in the role of investigators and express a few reasonable doubts. I seem to be an expert in having doubts but that doesn’t bother me too much.
    lest you thing I am all on the side of John. I was trying to chide him a bit for making his doubts the centre of focus. I am very curios about your observations about autism at this point because I feel it is the nature of a child to be able to balance doubt with faith and thus gain working knowledge very efficiently. I am wondering if autistic children are hampered in this respect because it would seem to me that if they have a hard time adapting to change, they also would have a hard time balancing a healthy smidgens of doubt with workable faith.
    Did you read the part near the beginning of the transcript where John say. “I hope there is a God”
    This is a deep (and very important) issue because the “trial of our faith” which St Peter insists if far more precious than gold” surly must contort us humans in many different flavors across the broad spectrum of humanity. If there is any literature on line about autism which you might think applies to john in regards to the trial of faith, please feel free to send me a link for further study.
    On a personal note, I am trying to develop some kind html management tool to put together what I want to call a “belief system editor” which overlaps between child learning psychology, religion, and politics etc. I believe that such tools might be of great advantage given the new communication tools we have today.
    I made a post yesterday in another place on you web which treated the topic of the propriety of reading anti-Mormon literature. it also has some rather personal accounts of my experience.

    Regrading Jesus having need for baptism.
    I am working with a Raspberry Pi on line which is kind of slow. Boy there are some incredible tools coming out for tablets computers and a large percentage of children in LDS famlies in Mexico have one. Often people will go without food to but a table.

    Ok I downloaded the Book of Mormon to my raspberry pi as HTML from gutenberg.org did a search with the same midori brouser i am using to write this and got the following
    (this was an historic event for me, I don’t know to make links yet so here is the whole thing I would like to have though the instructor at MTC could have given rather than just saying “you’ll never be able to answere that”
    2 Nephi 31:5
    5 And now, if the Lamb of God, he being holy, should have need
    to be baptized by water, to fulfil all righteousness, O then, how
    much more need have we, being unholy, to be baptized, yea, even
    by water!
    2 Nephi 31:6
    6 And now, I would ask of you, my beloved brethren, wherein the
    Lamb of God did fulfil all righteousness in being baptized by
    water?
    2 Nephi 31:7
    7 Know ye not that he was holy? But notwithstanding he being
    holy, he showeth unto the children of men that, according to the
    flesh he humbleth himself before the Father, and witnesseth unto
    the Father that he would be obedient unto him in keeping his
    commandments.
    2 Nephi 31:8
    8 Wherefore, after he was baptized with water the Holy Ghost
    descended upon him in the form of a dove.
    2 Nephi 31:9
    9 And again, it showeth unto the children of men the
    straightness of the path, and the narrowness of the gate, by
    which they should enter, he having set the example before them.
    2 Nephi 31:10
    10 And he said unto the children of men: Follow thou me.
    Wherefore, my beloved brethren, can we follow Jesus save we shall
    be willing to keep the commandments of the Father?
    2 Nephi 31:11
    11 And the Father said: Repent ye, repent ye, and be baptized in
    the name of my Beloved Son.
    2 Nephi 31:12
    12 And also, the voice of the Son came unto me, saying: He that
    is baptized in my name, to him will the Father give the Holy
    Ghost, like unto me; wherefore, follow me, and do the things
    which ye have seen me do.
    2 Nephi 31:13
    13 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall
    follow the Son, with full purpose of heart, acting no hypocrisy
    and no deception before God, but with real intent, repenting of
    your sins, witnessing unto the Father that ye are willing to take
    upon you the name of Christ, by baptism—yea, by following your
    Lord and your Savior down into the water, according to his word,
    behold, then shall ye receive the Holy Ghost; yea, then cometh
    the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost; and then can ye speak
    with the tongue of angels, and shout praises unto the Holy One of
    Israel.

    I am not sure how John is making a media circus and I am not asking you to point me there. I guess in a way I am (ab)suing your web to make a bit of a circus of my own. but as I said. I will probably have my own web soon.
    I am sure that he feels free to say things now that he hadn’t said before.
    The culture in Mexico is altogether different in the Church than it is in the U.S.
    About six weeks ago an former Bishop who is more or less the favoured speaker called by the bishopric to speak in sacrement meeting bore his testimony that “the … ward” (that ward) was the best ward on the face of this earth. he also testified that the bishop was the only one who could receive revelation for members of the ward. which is a flat contradiction of a talk given by president Ering in the last October conferece when he spoke, with tears in his eyes of the need for the flow of continual revelation in the church.
    So there was I time when I told a bishop (who is now excommunicated.. and we are dealing with the next suitable replacement.) that if He excommunicated me
    it would free me up to say whatever I felt like saying about the abuses and that I could even go on line.
    I had a lot less problems with him after that.

    So now dear meg you are starting to get some “mormonstories” content on your site.

    I noted earlier that what is recorded here is likely to become quite conspicuous… if for no other reason than when I went on line to see how the church court decision had turned out, The search engines brought me here. In other words, like it or not. you an I are also part of that circus.

    So I can fully understand your feeling bitter and betrayed. I would be curios to know more about why you feel John is trying to act like God and if that might relate in anyway to something that relates to autism.

    I sincerely hope we can listen to each other carefully and combine our capacity to heal thereby. There is something about John’s character that touches my heart very deeply. In a way, he doesn’t strike me so much a wolf in sheep’s clothing as he does a confused puppy clothed in the garments of Jesus. This is called a “persona”, and yes, he might be taking it a bit to seriously right now.
    I think if he were a wolf he would have been detected much sooner so I very very curios about the autism hypothesis.
    hey, does that give you how my “belief system editor” built around hyperlinks might work?
    Oh boy! now that his Mormon coat has been removed, poor poor john has become our guinea pig.

  45. Hi Richard,

    In reading the transcript, Dr. King did not respond to the “doubts” John Dehlin entered into “evidence.” He had two reasons: 1) to engage John would have been disastrous, even if John hadn’t been recording the encounter, and 2) I’m not sure Dr. King necessarily has answers to some of John doubts that he would feel comfortable giving the imprimatur of being posited by a Stake President.

    My post here is an attempt to answer those doubts. Since I’m no one of importance, no one will suppose that I actually speak for the Church. So in a way, it is “safe” for me to venture various opinions.

    I should probably record an audio track, so that it is better understood how I mean what I wrote here. I had the opportunity to listen to my son-in-law read my post out loud, and when he did, the sarcasm was thick enough to cut.

    Good luck with your online venture. No need to send me content for review – feel free to post what feels good to you.

  46. Thanks so much Meg for your kindness. There were years in Mexico when people were all very afraid that I would speak in church. This anti intellectual attitude forced a few of my close friends (one who in now a doctor) out of the church. I asked God what I could do with my talents and He asked me to learn to play the piano. Then there came a time when local bishops even tried to squelch than.
    I don’t know how you feel about John as a person but since the search engine brought me to you site so directly I think it is quite probable that he, or someone quite close to him will be captivated by the title of this post.
    It will be at least Monday till I get my site up so if you are willing to go back and forth with me a bit here it might be helpful.
    I prayed before looking for the transcript and the impression I received was that President King was aware of going on. I have not much regard for most bishops in Mexico, though the ward I attend about twice a month and where I have my records is a rare jewel. But I have had very very good relationships with Stake Presidents and Patriarch a really do trust their inspiration.
    I think the doubts expressed by John are quite unsophisticated. (steel rusts)
    I don’t know my way around you web site very well but if you look for the post on the propriety of reading anti- mormon literature I made a post there.
    Regarding the brown seer stone and the book of Abraham I have my own theory based on the studies of Abraham Maslow about “self actualised individuals” who have “peak experiences”. There is a book entitled “Werner Erhard, the Transformation of a Man the Foundation of EST” which talks a lot about peak experiences saying that one can have a peak experiences while contemplating just about any object.
    I read lots of Hugh Nibley book, including the one on the book of Abraham which really didn’t’ give very direct answers though it did give a lot of incite into the nature of Egyptian theology and I do believe that it if not at all absurd for one who has studied the nature of peak experiences to understand that having the artefacts and studying them was essential for the insights and revelations which came as a consequence. The life of Werner Erhard shows some parallels with that of Joseph Smith. It seems to me that there are hierarchies of knowledge distribution which are independent of authority structures and that God uses these things to benefit mankind in many ways we do not understand. For instance. the book about Werner definitely came into my life at a time I really needed that knowledge and Werners own assessment was that God found a man who needed that knowledge and gave it to him so that he could share others.
    I could go on about how I have seen knowledge about the use of herbs seem to come that way. I read in an MIT magazine where IBM is now gathering information from face-book traffic to find out what people are actually using to get well and that this information promises to be much more effective than what is sponsored by laboratories.
    The point is, that I think there is a natural cross over between how Joseph Smith received revelation trough artefacts and how other do as well. I seem to have a gift for finding water underground. These phenomenon have been studied at various levels of valid reason and some that seem quite reasonable to me overlap into the problems concerning Joseph Smith.
    By the way, did you know that Hugh Nibley wrote a rebuttal to Fawn S. Brodie’s book which he called “No Mam, That’s Not History”? At the time the church was pretty much in denial about Joseph’s other marriages and so I don’t know how objective the book might be. I don’t think he had access to many records.
    One point I would like to make about Hugh Nibley is that by understanding ancient cultures we can add a lot of stability to our own belief systems. There was a time I wanted to connect with some geeks in Salt Lake and the only one I could relate to happened to be from India. A very nice fellow. All his mormon co-workers liked him and when he found out that I lived just a mile from the Krisna temple in Spanish Fork he recommended I go there.
    I kept going there on Sunday evenings hoping to catch him there and in the process I started to have conversations with the director. As I studied the ancien vedic tradition I realised that not only did these explain the wonderful, peace embracing culture I had imbibed while in Vietnam without being able to attribute it to Buddhism, but that there was a lot of crossover into the kinds of things Hugh Nibley talked about.
    So I asked the director if he had ever heard about a Mormon by the name of Hugh Nibley. He smiled really really big and said “He Likes Us”.
    I really do believe that God puts these hard to answer questions straight in front of us without recourse to a the kind of authoritative answers Bruce McConkie tried to give is with his book “Mormon Doctrine” so that our hearts, as individuals could be made to stretch back into ancient times to the point where our thinking could be enriched. I think it is absolutely wonderful that we have memory devices today costing less than 10 dollars which will store thousands of books worth of information and that access to these things is suddenly affordable to vast new numbers of the human population.
    The controversies we are dealing with now, put us at the forefront of the future of the entire world. oppressive government may rage but vedic tradition which puts the Brahman class above the rulers as demonstrated by mechanisms which allowed Gandhi to work so effectively with so little, pretty much runs through all other cultures as well. I think the question Joseph reflects on in section 121 is pretty telling “how long can rolling waters remain un-pure”?
    I would like to tools which are now in the hands of the poor to add depth, serenity and wisdom to controversies such as the one that seems to you and me together on this occasion.
    Thanks so much for all that you stand for.

  47. Meg, I rmember watching/listening to a Powerpoint presentation JD did early in his “Stay LDS” schtick. It addressed the priesthood ban and BY’s attitudes towards blacks. it was in the 2006 to 2008 time frame, if my memory is correct.

    The content and his tone of voice made it clear to me that John was at that time a non-believer in the central truth claims of the church. yet, he refused for years to put his personal beliefs/stance in any _text_ format online. Nothing you could copy/paste or link to. He was careful, _for years_, to leave no citable trail of his personal beliefs. You had to listen to the poscasts, or read a transcript of a podcast, to understand where he personally stood. it was not until 2014, possibly as early as 2013, that he finally “put it in writing” and started to leave a citable, copy/pastable trail of what he personally believed.

    So, back to the BY Powerpoint. It was way back then that I could see he was disingenuous, and talking out of both sides of his mouth. In text, he would write that he was trying to keep people in the church, but in the podcasts, his message was “You don’t have to believe. I don’t believe either.”

    His text-based statements of non-belief also coincide somewhat with KK’s rise to notoriety, so I wonder if there is a connection there.

    My conclusion, after seeing how he manipulatingly dodged excommunication with his previous SP, and his attempts at manipulating his current SP, is that John is not stupid, and he is not on the autism spectrum. His successfully obtaining degrees in counseling/therapy are evidence that he is not lacking in emotional/psychological understanding and nuance which is characteristic of being on the autism spectrum. He is not “mind blind” which is another characteristic.

    Prior to my realization of his disingenuousness, I had some sympathy for him. According to his earliest online story, his view of the church was negatively impacted when he was a missionary, in a mission that was poorly administered, and many of his fellow missionaries were out of control, and engaged in unrighteous behavior including phony and improper baptisms.

    I too served in a “wild and wooly” mission in the 80’s and similar things disturbed me. IE, John’s tales of missionary shenanigans, and administrative misfeasance rang true. A handful of times on my mission, starting with my MTC experience, I would have bought my own ticket home had I not had a powerful experience (prior to my own baptism) from the Holy Ghost confirming to me the truthfulness of the Restoration.

    Fer garsh sakes, if the church weren’t T-R-U-E, the missionaries were so bad, they would have ruined it by now!

    So I can understand, and fully sympathize/empathize, whichever is the proper word, that some Mormons have had, and will continue to have, experiences in the church, and as part of official church programs/policies, that will eventually drive them out of the church if they don’t have a Spirit-borne(born?) testimony of the truthfullness of this thing we call Mormonism.

    What I experienced on my mission could have been classified as cognitive dissonance (how can the church be true if what I witnessed was going on?), but my testimony led me to conclude that _people_ had screwed up, not God. Or maybe some policies were wrong, or were wrongly implemented or applied.

    If JD and others like him haven’t had powerful spiritual confirmations of the truthfulness of the Restoration, it’s totally understandable to have experiences with less-than-perfect members, missionaries, mission presidents, local leaders, etc, etc, to become disaffected to the point of leaving.

    That said, my sympathy for JD dimished greatly when I saw how disingenuous he was being, and how he was using the stumbling blocks of offenses and anachronisms to over-ride or nullify people’s testimonies. He, like many bitter ex-mormons deny the possibility that God can use imperfect flaw-ridden people to accomplish his work. They deny the possibility that a testimony can even possibly trump cognitive dissonance. They deny the possibility that the wisdom of God overrides the wisdom of men, and appears foolish to men. They demand clear cut logical answers in contradiction of clear Bible teachings that God does not always and not immediately and not clearly reveal his purposes and reasonings.

    They pretend to know what God should be like, “if there is a God.” Yet the Christian “God” they demand does not fit the descriptions given in the Bible.

    The memory of the deep hurt I suffered on my mission ( a hell of a lot of “friendly fire” from fellow missionaries) constrains me to still hold a modicum of empathy/sympathy for John and all those who get hurt or betrayed or even merely confused in the church.

    But comparing his presentations/podcasts to his statements made in hard-text, and his more recent behavior and starments over the past 1.5 to 2 years, I also conclude that JD is a crap-weasel, and has for _years_ been a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  48. Seeking for legalistic loopholes, such as demanding official boundary lines between doctine and policy, merely in order that one can get away with as much as possible, is also crap-weasel behavior.

    Dr. Bruce Charlton discusses the tactic in a recent essay
    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-liberal-loophole-approach-to.html
    “The Liberal loophole approach to interpreting the Bible versus common sense (with respect to the Leftist agenda for the sexual revolution)”

    He uses other examples besides the sexual revolution. He illustrates that the “loophole” method of interpreting scripture is a wrong and unwise appoach:

    Such a method is adept at exploiting inevitable imprecision, magnifying disagreements over translation judgements, encouraging disputes historical over historical practices – and so on.

    In the end an atmosphere of the desired uncertainty is manufactured, and used to justify new practices.

    *

    But if we really want to know how the Bible wants people to behave, then the method is entirely different, much simpler, much surer. We would not ask what is forbidden by Scripture; but instead ask how the God wants us to behave as revealed in Scripture.

    In relation to sexuality, what is encouraged? The answer is very obvious: celibacy, or sex between man and woman within marriage. That is what God wants us to do. Obviously! If we start asking whether other types of sexual arrangements are absolutely forbidden under all circumstances, then we have already left the path of wisdom.

    And with the priesthood – there is nothing whatsoever in the Bible that could be regarded as a positive encouragement to establish priestesses in the Christian church. If we ask whether priestesses are therefore absolutely forbidden under all circumstances and for all time, then we have already left the path of wisdom.

  49. Meg, i also admire and congratulate you for your time, efforts, and patience assembling and writing doctrinally and scripturally sound rejoinders (especially in your OP here, and in your very patient replies to a couple commenters) to many of the issues that struggling/questioning members have. I’m confidant your answrs pave over many bumps in the road. I dont remember the exact saying, but someone said something about how a vigorous defense allows space for faith to grow, or for truth-seekers to see a possibility that they may investigate. it may have been the guy who wrote Shaken Faith Syndrome.

    And concurrently true is the need for a Sprit-based testimony in order to stay in the faith. Scripturally concordant answers to the faith-challenges/questions/confusion/anachronisms create a space or interval for the opportunity to obtain a Sprit-borne testimony. But intellectual persuasion, no matter how logical and no matter how scripturally based, nor emotional persuasion is a sufficient anchor. Eventually, everyone reaches some kind of trial for which the anchors of Spirit-borne testimony, _and_ a deep personal conversion are required. I add the latter because merely _knowing_ is not enough, as evidenced by the apostasy of most of the 3 and 8 witnesses.

  50. Dear Meg.
    Well you can probably tell that my rescuer complex is going full tilt.
    Unusual circumstance over the last few weeks had me isolated with one of my favourite books. “Personality Theories” by Barbara Engler.
    Now that I know you have read the transcript. I wonder how willing you might be to collaborate on what might be going on with our dear Friend.
    I have a sister who thinks I have a “messiah complex” but she still enjoys reading some of the stuff I write.
    Well I do think that God talks to me when a am trying to solve problem that concern others, particularly when there are Lots!
    I really am starting to appreciate the fact that our dear friend John went down the list of things was not going to have to change – stuff like gay marriage etc that I consider yuck.
    This helps me focus down on what may have been the real “non negotiable” which got in the way of reconciliation.
    As I was pondering that. the phrase “fictional finalism” coined by the renown child neurologist Alfred Adler came to mind. (Adler is briefly mentioned in the movie “What About Bob” starring Bill Murray)

    Here is a quote from
    http://www.nndb.com/people/256/000097962/
    Adler felt that if we could help the individual identify fictions that were dysfunctionally inaccurate, and help them develop a new one, a new self-image and goal, they would lead a happier more productive life.

    The key word pair here is “dysfuntially inaccurate”
    fiction here means that. not having access to a perfect knowledge, of things we must make due with the best guess we can arrive at in order to move ahead in life. This necessity begins very early in life and I think it is just another “fiction” to believe that it will ever end.
    It does not appear that President King intent is to punish our dear friend john for what he has done. He mainly wants to protect the essential fiction which has proved functionally accurate for millions perhaps a thousand or more coming directly under his line of responsibility and authority.
    President King suggests that it is not a 4 to 5 kind of thing. that is. if more are being helped by an alternative fictional finality then the appropriate thing to do is to create a schism allowing john and his followers to worship their own version of devotion to evident truth over individually un-ascertainable confluence of testimony of “eternal fictions” which historically appear to be in flux. That’s kind of a cross hatch. maybe what follows will help clarify
    There is a highly pertinent video about this matter on youtube by Kevin Krout who asserts that, Bruce R. McConkie, on his death bead laments, “we should have told them about the changes”
    Changes which are becoming quite apparent, now that so many of us have access to the internet and are charged with doing our missionary work with people who have access to search engines and information net works, that those who knowingly made the changes didn’t have to deal with.
    However. those changes, to me, do not present and insurmountable obstacle since they do not cut nearly as deeply as doubts being trumpeted by our dear friend John. The way I see around this is to tell my friends to
    get baptised,
    receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,
    study and ponder diligently and responsibly,
    pray often with sincere faith in Christ
    prepare for the temple and ponder there anything you are still concerned about.
    and perhaps the hardest, and where John may have stepped way over the line.
    Treat the things you receive in the temple as sacred.
    Blessed is the man that walketh not in the council… nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. Psalm 1:1
    Yes, we can still agree with President king that it is not a 4,5 sort of thing.
    So I think we can break the things which have to do with flux of certain doctrines within the church, away from the issue of having a forum where ones own personal fictional finalisms can enjoy functional benefits of flux.

    These entries always end being much longer than what I would like them to be. I will be working on my own web but I really wanted to suggest that you or others who may be following this and have read the transcript might like to check out Alfred Adler on line and see if that helps you to see a bit more clearly, a part of what our dear friend John may be trying to defend.

  51. Hi Bookslinger,

    I agree with much of what you wrote. Though I will note that Joseph Smith himself is the one that instituted the language promising that women could become priestesses. I think the fellow you are quoting isn’t Mormon, so he’d just figure that is one of the reasons Mormonism is not the true religion.

    For me, I like to imagine that John has become trapped in a rigid manner of thinking, which if not autism, at least functions much the same. Despite the fact that my OP can be read to be highly sarcastic, I do hope he returns some day, even if that day is after this life. I have reason to think that this hope is harbored by all who consider John their spirit brother (rather than merely the agent of confusion who has torn loved ones from the gospel).

    To Richard Edmiston,

    I think you might be misunderstanding what Millennial Star is. This is not my personal blog site (though I do a lot of posts here). Despite the large number of posts you find here during the past week that discuss John Dehlin, we M* bloggers actually don’t spend a lot of time delving into John’s business.

    I am not sure what to make of your comments above, where you suggest that Joseph’s experiences are like peak experiences others have documented. There’s something about the way you put this, as though Joseph’s description of what occurred might only be valid if it happens to correlate with something that some non-Mormon scholar has described.

    I love John, because I do consider him to be my spiritual brother, and I do believe that I spent an eternity with him (and a lot of others) in loving companionship. That said, I do not particularly care to spend the time you appear to be embarking on, exploring the youtube assertions of people claiming Mormonism has been changing in secret ways that have been withheld from the membership or what Alfred Adler says about “fictional finalism.” What you plan on posting may well illuminate truth for some. But these things are not “my squirrel,” as my mother has been known to characterize my passions.

  52. Dear Meg
    I can sense that the things that seem to obsess me right now don’t really fit in. Also I am sorry for all the sloppy writing. I am more of a reader than a writer.
    I will make this short then get back to working on my web which I hope you will find interesting.
    My goal is to make it possible for people who like to investigate in depth before they but in (Like Brigham Young who I think investigated for two years) can find answers to everything)
    There is something about this in my patriarchal blessing about this.
    The part about peak experiences has nothing to do with how I received my own testimony which was pretty much by doing everything I was invited to do by the missionaries I an so indebted to.
    I have had peak experiences of my own and I think many people do when they are in the temple.
    Many I will just conclude by suggesting that artefacts that Joseph acquired which lead to the book of Abraham are in some ways like the temple is to those who wonderful experiences there.
    I believe that God works though means we do not fully understand to reveal truth to men and that evidence I wish to present with links (elsewhere) so that people can know that in a very large context the things we may consider peculiar are not so odd. Hugh Nibley’s work was largely about that and he was kind of a mis-fit professor at BYU who was hard to get rid of because like John, he had lots of help.
    The church leaders turned to him when they were having a hard time defending the discovery of the documents from which Joseph claimed to do his work. He really didn’t want to get into that because I think he knew that his observations would not fit the pattern people were looking for material which was more like what Bruce R. McConkie (not sure on spelling) was trying to produce who often used the words, “in the final analysis” while Hugh like to ask questions to get people to think more.
    I’m pretty sure that John would have liked to have had the time to go into some of these things in his interview. I really think he wants to believe in God with a clear convince that satisfies the huge outreach of his profession – giving mental heath care to latter day saints with issues which trouble them deeply.
    I may try to contact John personally and I want to be well prepared.
    It would be nice some kind of tie with people like you who love him and have received strong testimonies though far less convoluted means.
    I will be looking at the millennial star a bit more passively but I would like you to know that if people come to you with tough issues I will be more than glad try to help.

  53. a few typos
    Who like to investigate in depth before they buy in…
    Maybe I will just conclude by suggesting..
    those who have wonderful
    like John, he had lots of popular support
    from which Joseph claimed to have translated the book of Abraham.

    Maybe when I get my web up someone will offer to help me edit.

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