Brilliant insights from Rosalynde Welch on Mormon Stories

This brilliant article by Rosalynde Welch needs to be read far and wide.

Unlike many of the people panning Rosalynde’s article in the comments, I actually have listened to many Mormon Stores podcasts. Some of them are really quite good — others clearly celebrate and openly encourage apostasy while subtly moving the listener to adopt an alternate religion around John Dehlin’s questioning of the Church. As others have noted, John Dehlin’s project could not exist without the Church (so he can continue to criticize it), but the Church will continue to exist without John Dehlin. Other followers of Dehlin — and he appears to have at least hundreds — may want to consider the cautionary tales in the Book of Mormon regarding priestcraft. Rosalynde concludes the following:

And indeed we see, in the website’s archive of “Member Stories,” that every narrative sounds the same notes, as surely and predictably as an LDS testimony meeting: beginning from a state of closed naïveté, a precipitating crisis, moving through confusion and rupture, finding Mormon Stories, and ultimately achieving openness and health. “Health” appears to be the dominant value in the community and the ultimate good, replacing the traditional Christian categories of truth and salvation: the archives, for example, are organized into narratives of Individual, Marital, Community, and Family Health. The website contains language assuring the reader that Mormon Stories is not and will not become a religion in itself. These assurances are at once grandiose and unnecessary, since the community evidently lacks the moral gravity necessary to anchor a religion. I have nothing against health, but it is far too comfortable and anodyne a concept to capture the soul.

I see nothing sinister about the predictability of these narratives and their relatively insipid moral grounding; my quarrel is only with the intelligence of their discourse. Mormon Stories seems like a textbook liberal mini-institution, a lot like a high school gay-straight alliance and about as important. And if it is founded on contradictory projects, well, the same can be said about much of Western civilization. Contradiction can add interest and energy to a project; incoherence can also eat itself from the inside out. I doubt anybody knows which will be the fate of Mormon Stories.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

39 thoughts on “Brilliant insights from Rosalynde Welch on Mormon Stories

  1. I thought Rosalynd nailed it on the head. I also like your observation that JD could not exist w/o the church, but the Church will go on w/o him, whatever happens.

  2. I too have listened to many of Dehlin’s podcasts. They helped me in a time when my faith was weak and I was struggling in the midst of a faith crisis. I have enormous respect for what he is trying to do. While I may not agree with his particular views on many issues, I think the aim of Mormon Stories – which I perceive to be fostering and promoting discussion and exchange of ideas through interviewing people from all across the faith spectrum – to be a fundamentally good one.

  3. Sadly, she’s being attacked a lot on Patheos. On another blog, several gasped because I felt Dehlin should be exed. The reality is, when someone publicly attacks the Church, its teachings, and helps people out of the Church, they are an enemy to the Church. The Church is not a social organization for anti-Mormons, and Dehlin clearly has shown and said 1) he does not believe, 2) he is agnostic, 3) he’s actively helping ease people out of the Church, 4) Mormon Stories begins from a neutral point and moves negative, which helps people in faith crisis to not find answers or solutions within the Church, but only find friends who will help them on the road to disbelief and apostasy.

    Dehlin should be interviewed by church leadership regarding what he’s doing. I’m sure there are many afraid to touch this, as the media would jump on it. But no organization can survive, if it allows its enemies to remain within.

  4. Rame, a couple points. First, I think he was interviewed by Church leadership, and I don’t know what happened. But his ecclesiastical leaders are very aware of what he does. (I know this because I used to be friends with John Dehlin on Facebook and I saw his updates, but then he unfriended me, so I don’t know the last part of the drama, which he publicized regularly). Second, I think it is a good idea to shy away from saying who should and should not be exed. From my secular perspective, and without having authority over him, I would agree with you. But the whole concept of authority is extremely important. I can tell you from personal experience (on a High Council and in a bishoptic) that people with authority really are given revelation on these things. Bishops, stake president, high councilors receive instructions on these matters, and very often the instructions are quite clear. So, I think our default position should be: if he has not been exed, there is a reason for it beyond our understanding. We simply don’t have the authority to speak about his status with God and with the Church.

  5. For me, I see such events in our days as a Wheat and Tares issue. We are now beginning to be able to distinguish the wheat from the tares. It is not that all LDS must think alike, but there is a line one should not cross. That line is the line of apostasy. While Dehlin is having his heyday right now, he may soon find himself in obscurity, just like others, who in the past have chosen to provoke a response from the Church.

    I think he is clearly different than a Joanna Brooks, for instance. She has issues with the Church, but has a testimony of key parts of it. She sees much value in the Church, and discusses it, even while noting there are areas in which she struggles. Dehlin, OTOH, does not believe, and does not see value in the Church. He does not seek to inspire anyone to remain within its walls, but just to give them his own version of Limbo, where they can rest from the Church, until they are ready to move completely away from it.

  6. Geoff, I’m also on a high council (and previously on 2 bishoprics). I do agree with you that his bishop/stake president will have to make that decision in the final run.
    That said, I know an apostate when I see one. He’s crossed the line over the last year or so. For me, I believe it is just a matter of time before he’ll have to deal with his authorities and membership issues. That, or he’s going to have to back pedal in order to get back on the right side of the line. If he does that, I have no problem with him continuing LDS, just as others with questions remain as LDS and I have no problem with them.

    The Church shows remarkable restraint with its critics. And it should. However, eventually there is a line that when crossed, marks the point where the Church has to step in. The Church is more patient than it was in the past, which is a good thing. But eventually you get to a point where you have to let loose of your internal enemies. I see that in John Dehlin’s future, if he doesn’t back up from where he is going.

  7. It is true church critics cannot exist without the church! It is also important to realize that the church creates most of this niche for it’s critics not the gospel. It is well within the church’s power to to silence most of the criticism. Since they don’t shall we assume God wants it this way?

  8. “I know an apostate when I see one.” Wow! You didn’t even need charity or a court of love to arrive at that finding. After 2 bishoprics is that how they think?

  9. “Since they don’t shall we assume God wants it this way?”

    Wow! You don’t even need to have a minute of self-reflection to arrive at that finding! If you think that’s a serious conclusion, I’ll invoke Goodwin’s law and refer you to the Holocaust. If you want to suggest that some people might believe it was God’s divine punishment, consider murder, rape, child molestation, slavery, etc.

  10. Don’t miss DKL’s rebuttal:

    Plant me in the camp of those who find Welch’s post lacking clarity. That’s not to say there aren’t valid criticisms of the Mormon Stories project, because there are, but I’m not really seeing them here, and as a general Mormon Stories supporter myself, I find that her descriptions of what it achieves (and/or seeks to achieve) miss the mark.

  11. Agreed. I’ve had some personal experiences with Dehlin and Mormon Stories, and we have an alternative jack-Mormon prophet on our hands here who thinks he knows better than the LDS prophets. Two thumbs down, from me. I predict he’ll get harmful enough for the church that action will have to be taken, same with Sister Joanna Brooks. Both of them give a vibe to me of trying to create new religions that I would describe as “Mormon Unitarian Universalism.” Wolves in sheep’s clothing!

  12. They dress up their messages better than the antichrists in the Book of Mormon did, but fundamentally they’re not that different in their worldviews and messages. Scriptures being written about today’s church would likely frame them in a similar light as Nehor, Korihor, etc.

  13. From experience I know stake presidents in courts receive revelation. I am of the opinion that dealing with anyone’s testimony for the worse is an extremely serious sin.

  14. Ram,

    Dehlin has actively disbelieved the foundational claims of the LDS church for many years. I picked up on it several years ago. He’s just now being more open and blatant about it.

    Before I realized that Dehlin wasn’t an apologist, and was no longer a believer, I felt a kinship to him because we had both been hurt from the chaos, mismanagement and missionary shenanigans we encountered on our missions. I came to realize the church was still true in spite of those things. He apparently concluded that the church couldn’t be true because of those things, and other “messy” items of church history.

    Another Nibley-fan in the West Stake once told me, “You don’t get excommunicated for personal apostasy. You get excommunicated for teaching/promoting apostasy.”

    I agree with you that Dehlin has crossed that line into teaching/promoting. I agree with the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” label too. And I also agree with Geoff B that Dehlin’s priesthood leaders will receive revelation as to when to pull that trigger.

    If Dehlin’s premise had remained what he led readers to believe it was in the beginning, “Stay in the church while you resolve these issues, there are faithful answers, or at least plausible answers that provide space for faith”, then there would be no problem.

    But his premise quickly changed to “Stay in the church *even though* these issues have no acceptable answers.”

    But that “even though” (whether implicit or explicit) leads doubters to immediately think “Why stay in the church if those things ‘disprove’ the church’s claims?”

  15. Howard, it comes across as a rhetorical question, and rather harsh, not a “real” question. If you meant it as an honest question, it was unkind. Chris ….

    I think Geoff B. has the right of it.

  16. I want to give a shout-out to Trevor (comment #12). This is a model, in my opinion, of how to disagree without being disagreeable. This is a touchy subject for a lot of people, but Trevor shows how to make a point succinctly, links a rebuttal, and does it all without insulting anybody. Thanks Trevor. Oh that more comments were like this!

  17. So, I think our default position should be: if he has not been exed, there is a reason for it beyond our understanding.

    This strikes me as reasonable as well as applicable to the obliquely related Maxwell Institute upheaval–if certain persons have been canned, there is a reason for it we may not understand.

  18. Two issues I have with all of this. One, as an active, mostly believing member of the church, I have found a lot of value in listening to John’s podcasts, including an ability to understand those who have left the church for reasons of their own. It has expanded my pool or circle of empathy, and as such, has done me a lot of good.

    Second, unless you come onto the bloggernacle or read Dialogue or Sunstone and the like, there typically is not a space for people who are actively questioning the church’s foundational narrative. While I still mostly believe it, I feel that Mormon Stories has helped me to stay in the church despite my issues with things like polygamy. Even the ones by the apostates have helped me, in the sense that by listening I found myself faced with a choice as to what I believe. Going through the struggle has helped me to strengthen my faith in many respects. Therefore, all this talk about John being a wolf in sheep’s clothing is missing the mark. Yes, John does have some un-orthodox views regarding the church, and he does advocate those views, but I think that comes more from a personal conviction than a desire to cause souls to stray. Let us be careful in ascribing motives to others. You can disagree with his views, I’m fine with that! You can even say his views are dangerous. But to call him apostate, anti, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing is going too far.

  19. Personally, I got a lot of positive insight out of reading and watching “The Godmakers,” and I met people on my mission who investigated and joined the church partly due to questions raised by “The Godmakers,” which was heavily promoted at that time in Australia.

    So I guess that means Ed Decker was a stand-up guy to whom labels like “apostate” and “anti” didn’t apply?

  20. Geoff, I appreciate the shout out, and I also appreciate that attention was brought to a comment written by I-feel-inclined-to-voice-my-differing-opinion Trevor as opposed to Someone-is-wrong-on-the-Internet! Trevor

  21. Jacob M, #20:

    It depends on the state of the person/seeker/questioner when they first stumble upon Mormon Stories, and in what direction they want to go.

    In other words, a “dynamic analysis” is necessary in this, not a “static analysis.”

    If that person already actively disbelieves [the church’s foundational truth claims], and wants to know how they can stay in the church as a “cultural member” or “New Order Mormon”, then Mormon Stories seems to help them stay in the church. And staying in the church, even while privately disbelieving, is generally a good thing.

    If that person already actively disbelieves, and wants to formally leave the church, but also wants to maintain relations with friends and family who remain in the church, then Mormon Stories seems to help them leave the church, and maintain relations with people. If they were going to leave the church anyway, then Mormon Stories is neutral in that dynamic.

    But the situation in which Mormon Stories is a “bad thing”, is when a questioning person (“doubting” in the soft sense) wants to get answers to the sticky/messy issues of history and/or doctrine that the antis like to throw in our faces. Such a person may be going online with the question “How does one resolve the issue of _fill_in_the_blank_?” Be it polygamy, priesthood ban, Mountain Meadows Massacre, Book of Abraham, DNA, whatever.

    Instead of offering pointers/links to faithful resources, Mormon Stories intead tells such a person “Hey, don’t worry about it! Lots of us have concluded that there are no ‘faithful’ answers to those issues, and that the critics of the church are right. But, most of us are going to just keep on going to Sunday meetings as a cultural Mormon, because it’s part of our _culture_.

    And in that latter situation, Mormon Stories promotes disbelief. That is not just apostasy, that is promoting apostasy.

    In my opinion, the “… but stay in the church” phrase, as a suffix or subordinate phrase to the “go ahead and disbelieve, we don’t believe either” line does not excuse or justify the latter.

    The “… but stay in the church” thing does not turn “go ahead and disbelieve” into anything less apostate.

    “… but stay in the church” is the sheep’s clothing. “go ahead and disbelieve” is the wolf inside.

    I’m someone who got disaffected and left the church for 15 years. I originally started following his blogs to learn how to deal with challenges that come to members both from within and from without the church. But when I finally realized what direction Dehlin was going in, I stopped following Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters. Maybe he’s now doing a better job of pointing/linking to _faithful_ apologetics, if that’s what they seek, but that’s not the overall sense I get from his current stuff.

    So… suckering people in, thinking they’ll find “answers” to the tough questions, and then eventually hitting them up with “ehhhhh… go ahead and disbelieve, we don’t believe either” is another reason I am willing to apply the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” label.

  22. I think that calling Dehlin a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ is a bit harsh. Not because I don’t think he poses any danger to any group of the church whatsoever, but because that particular analogy implies motive. It implies that Dehlin is secretly an antimormon whose primary aim is to destroy people’s testimony. I can’t see Dehlin in that light. However much damage he may do (and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think he causes that much truly significant damage to church members), I really don’t think it is intentional. He aims to help people who are struggling with faith crises, and people who have already dealt with faith crises and no longer truly believe much of what the LDS Church teaches.
    I guess what I’m trying to say is that when describing someone as a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, how much damage they do really isn’t the issue. What is important when slapping that label on someone is their motivation. The fact is, wolves don’t try and help sheep who are struggling. Wolves don’t try and help sheep maintain good relationships with their family and friends. Wolves don’t try and promote awareness and sympathy for sheep who undergo enormously unsettling and tormenting crises in a community that doesn’t have much tolerance for doubt or disbelief.
    I don’t see Dehlin as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, for the simple fact that his intentions are honourable, noble and, I believe, sincere. Perhaps he does some damage to some people’s testimonies. But he is trying to help the sheep, not slaughter them from the inside. Perhaps he could be compared to a clumsy shepherd, who does his best to help the sheep out of genuine concern for them, while occasionally giving them the odd bump or bruise and hurting them accidentally as he fumbles about trying to help the sheep that he sincerely and genuinely cares for. But what he most absolutely is not is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    I’m intrigued by the possibility some have suggested of Dehlin and his followers breaking away and forming a rival church. To be honest, such a suggestion makes me laugh. I find such a possibility most remote. While I can see the Mormon Stories community becoming more organised and built up, perhaps developing into a robust and thriving orgainsation, it really could never become a seperate church. That is because it has no organising common principles or beliefs. Amongst the Mormon Stories ranks there are atheists, agnostics, unitarian universalists and even a smattering of (more or less) true believing mormons. The single thing that Mormon Stories followers have in common is the experience of a faith crisis within the LDS Church (and some have never even had a faith crisis). It is built around the LDS Church. So I find the prospect of them becoming a church in their own right laughable. Some kind of ‘anti-church’, maybe. But an independent religious organisation? Don’t make me laugh.

  23. I do think Dehlin and Brooks have a form of love, and that’s really what makes them so dangerous, both to themselves and others. They clearly both see themselves as extremely compassionate people who are reaching out to succor those whom the LDS church and culture has abused.

    However, their form of love is what I would call secular love, not gospel love. Their love wants people to feel completely comfortable now, rather than working toward gospel growth. Their love is an unhealthily enabling love, a love that accepts and encourages and embraces things that are not good, such as people’s doubts and homosexuality, etc.

    It is, in fact, this “love” that constitutes the sheep’s clothing of these two antichrists and causes them to deceive both themselves and others. However, the real Intel Inside these two is good old-fashioned Ezra Taft Benson pride. This pride is the wolf underneat the sheep. Dehlin and Brooks both apparently feel that they know better than the church, the general authorities, the scriptures, and the Lord himself on matters of faith, repentance, etc. With their movements to embolden and strengthen people in their doubt and homosexuality (you have to admit, both are gay activists and enablers), they are trying to provide a substitute for the actual atonement, which would help people move PAST those human weaknesses and heal from them. That is why I call them antichrists, in the Book of Mormon sense rather than the biblical sense.

    As far as starting a different religion, it depends on how you define it. Mormonism has given rise to more than 100 splinter groups, most of which still retain many ties and commonalities with the true gospel. In my opinion, Dehlin especially is very close to carving out a different form of Mormon, even if such people continue participating in mainstream Mormonism to a degree. I believe we will, in the future–and this is not necessarily directly related to Dehlin or Brooks, but could be–also see more and more people in homosexual relationships try to participate in the church, even though they do not have full fellowship. I believe they will do so primarily with an agenda to change the church, rather than to let the church change them. And I also think all these groups (Dehlinites, gays, etc.) will increasingly hold alternative forms of community and even worship, so they have one foot in the church and one foot out. To me, this is crossing the line into a distinct religious identity and organization, even if many connections remain.

    For example, I was totally sickened by the recent alternative gathering in the Kirtland temple (mainly gays and gay enablers, I believe; I do not recall if Dehlinites were involved). To me, this stinks of apostasy just as much as the attempt to take over the Kirtland temple back in Joseph Smith’s day.

    I think Dehlin and Brooks are basically creating the modern-day equivalents of Zoramites, the order of Nehor, etc. Their methods and messages are much more sophisticated than in ancient times, but the underlying motives and outcomes are the same.

  24. Wow, Christopher. That’s rather harsh, although I can understand your point of view. I think you are right to say that they want to help people be comfortable with where they are, and even perhaps that this ‘secular love’ is different from ‘gospel love’, which helps people overcome where they are in move in the direction where they should be moving. However, I disagree that this makes them ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. Again, as I said, they are exhibiting love – even if it is the wrong kind of love, I do believe their intentions are honourable. In that sense I am not prepared to call them ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. They’re something in sheep’s clothing, and probably not sheep, but to call them ‘wolves’ implies that they have malicious intent, which I cannot accept.
    Regarding a new religious movement, I was not suggesting that no kind of religious organisation would develop around Dehlin, merely that it could not really be considered a new ‘church’ in any conventional sense, primarily because it is defined and united solely by its relationship with the LDS Church. So while I’m open to the possibility of some kind of organisation developing around Dehlin, I am highly sceptical that it could ever be an independent ‘church’ in its own right. I think an organisation focused on helping people (or trying to help people) who have had what they perceive as a negative experience with the LDS Church as being far more likely.

  25. Mormonbrit, I really enjoy your comments here. To read an argument that (some) of the Dehlinites are wolves in sheep’s clothing, consider this:

    My position is a bit different because I joined the church in my 30s after making many mistakes in my life. I believe in “big tent Mormonism,” which I take to mean that there are many, many paths to the true gospel and I hold out hope that all people with eventually get on the right path (because it took me a long time to find that path).

    I would submit, however, that there are two approaches when dealing with people who have problems with their testimonies. One is to do your home teaching, offer service, be a sincere listener, talk about the Savior and try to bring the Spirit to the people who are disaffected. The other is to take a more secular approach that may show love but ultimately doesn’t bring the Spirit. This second approach involves acknowledging criticism of the Church’s leaders and (sometimes) saying, “yes, this is true but there are still good reasons to go to church.” This second approach may temporarily keep people in church but does not deal with the underlying issue, which is that our church is about faith in things that are often difficult to see without the Spirit. It seems to me that the Mormon Stories approach is the latter. Church leaders have asked us to use the former approach (although there is clearly room for discussing secular issues).

  26. OK, maybe goats in sheep’s clothing, rather than wolves. I’ll admit that Dehlin and Brooks both have plenty of good traits, probably even a majority of good in some areas. I don’t follow Dehlin anymore mainly because he’s ousted me from all his forums (we have a history–at first, I thought he was the bomb), but I follow Brooks, and she’s interesting and heartfelt, I admit, even when incredibly wrongheaded from a believing Mormon perspective.

    However, they are both marching to a secular humanist drumbeat, not a gospel one. I could back off from an implication that they are consciously malicious, which makes them perhaps less evil than the Book of Mormon antichrists who knew what they were doing, but they are certainly both deceived and delusional in some of their outlooks and efforts, and to me this makes them overall goats even if they manage to bleat like sheep some of the time. In my opinion, they are both more prone to turn others into goats or speed that process than provide any help in the sheep direction.

    And yeah, for now Dehlin is more of a shadow organization within the church as opposed to a completely separate splinter group, although I can imagine that happening too. I could see a future pro-gay Mormon schism on the order of Community of Christ, and no doubt the Dehlinites and Brookites would help create that schism and flock to it.

  27. There may come a time, and perhaps soon, where there needs to be a “regulation” (to use a Book of Mormon term) in the church, where the prophet and apostles need to set things more in order. How would they do it? My guess is that it might be by being more precise in the questions in the baptismal/temple rec interviews, and more restrictive in what an acceptable answer is. It might be by adding (or modifying) those questions to worthiness interviews for more callings, and not just for temple recommend interviews.

    The baptismal and temple-rec interviews have changed since I first joined the church. And as I understand it, so has the endowment ceremony and the initiatory. So things can change.

    The clarification of qualifications for missionary service is another example of a “regulation”. I say “clarification” as opposed to “tightening” because the “higher bar” put forth in 2002 was, in effect, what was already officially in place, but the new stricture was “and now we mean it.” No more wink-and-a-nudge and off you go on a mission. They actually started enforcing requirements that were given only lip service earlier.


    Back to discussing who is and who is not an apostate… Like Geoff B says, church leaders will know if or when to pull the trigger on any excommunications. From my current position, I have no grounds to complain that someone else is still a member.

    Mormonbrit: It is possible for disillusioned members such as Dehlin to harbor maliciousness. The more obvious DAMUs and NOMs illustrate it quite well. It’s very easy when you’re hurt for whatever reason.

    I had a lot of hurt when I got disaffected back in the 80’s. Most of it was from the mission experience, but also from some members in the ward I was in after I got back. The interesting thing is that I still had a testimony of the truthfulness of the church, the foundational claims, as they say. But, I couldn’t see any way to prevent from being hurt further while staying in the church. I had my own issues with sin, but the hurt and the psychological/emotional damage from others was real.

    During the mission, I knew the mission would eventually be over, so I just suffered it and soldiered on. But when I couldn’t get away from hurtful people (or who I thought were toxic) in the ward, I knew (or at least believed) that I couldn’t survive in the church.

    If I had not retained a testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and the modern LDS church being the official legacy of that, and the repository of the true priesthood, I could easily have decided to work against the church in order to “save” others from being hurt like I was.

    I didn’t know how to resolve “bad things and people in the church” with the fact that “the church is true.” But knowing the latter, I decided to strictly avoid fighting against or talking against the church.

    Perhaps I, and many others, are being too judgemental of Dehlin. We don’t know the content of his heart. We can only go by his actions and words. So I’ll say: “I don’t like his actions and his words.”

    But he has admitted to believing that the LDS church is “just another church” as any other, no “official-ness” from God, no exclusive claim on priesthood. To her credit, Brooks does acknowledge those basic things.

  28. I don’t see Dehlin as much different from The Society for Humanistic Mormonism, which “is the first official religious institution of its kind and is organized as a world religion separate from any other Mormon denomination. Seeing that there was no such religion or institution to meet the needs of Humanistic Mormons the Society was founded on Sept. 15, 2010.

    “The Society for Humanistic Mormonism is similar to Unitarian Universalism (inasmuch as we accept all religious or non-religious identities/memberships) and The Society for Humanistic Judaism (which sees religion as something more than a belief in the supernatural but a tie to a person’s history, culture, and the future of a group of people as its core identity). So it is with The Society for Humanistic Mormonism as it is tied to a culture, a history, and a connection to the Mormon people.”

  29. Firstly, Geoff, thanks for the kind words. I enjoy commenting here.
    I also believe in Big Tent Mormonism. I like the Community of Christ’s description of what they believe the church’s role should be. They said in one of their recent revelations that was recently added to their version of the Doctrine and Covenants that the Church should provide both light for guidance, and space for the personal faith journey. In other words, I think that while the Church and its leaders certainly have a role in teaching and providing guidance and light in order to lead people to a closer, more loving relationship with others and God, I also believe that there should be a strong emphasis on the need for maturity and people taking personal responsibility for their beliefs, through the process of personal revelation, which I see as being absolutely central to what is at the core of Mormonism.

    Christopher, OK, I can deal with goats. Just don’t go accusing them of being malicious wolves. Also, have you (or anyone else) considered the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ (AKA the ‘gay Mormon Church’)? They recently sort of died out in 2010. Just thought that if we’re going to consider the Dehlinites starting some new splinter sect of Mormonism, it would be useful to consider the similarities, differences and comparisons with that church.

    Bookslinger, I disagree that there need to be more precise temple recommend questions. I think we need to take very seriously Joseph Smith’s statement: “I cannot believe in any of the creeds of the different denominations, because they all have some things in them I cannot subscribe to, though all of them have some truth. I want to come up into the presence of God, and learn all things: but the creeds set up stakes, and say, ‘Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further’; which I cannot subscribe to.”
    While one way of reading that is that Joseph was basically saying that all Christian churches (except the LDS church) were in a state of apostasy, I personally think it would be more accurate to read it as a denunciation of the creed system in general. Whether we like it or not, the questions as they currently stand in the temple recommend interview do constitute a ‘creed’ of sorts, assent to which is necessary for full fellowship in the Church. While I do think that there has to be some level of basic uniformity in what members believe, and we do not have to compromise on the ‘truth’, I still nonetheless believe that going through a detailed checklist of what members believe about detailed points of doctrine is both unnecessary and undesirable. I think the current temple recommend questions basically cover what it means to describe your beliefs as being generally ‘Mormon’. I consider behvaiour to be more important when entering the temple than specific beliefs about the particulars of the gospel.
    Regarding Dehlin, I do agree that it is possible, and quite common, for disillusioned members to harbour malicious feelings towards the church. I just don’t see that in Dehlin – and even if he does harbour malice towards the church as an institution (which, again, I think is unlikely) I certainly do not see him harbouring malicious feelings towards the actual members of the church. I have seen him do nothing but try to help the members of the church. Granted, that ‘help’ may have sometimes damaged their testimonies and often does not exhibit the ideal ‘gospel love’ that Christopher described, but I nevertheless feel that, in his mind, he is striving to do what he perceives as being most beneficial to church members. His intentions are, I believe, genuine, sincere, and (for the most part) admirable. Though, like you say, we can never know for sure what the contents of his heart are.

  30. Under Bookslinger’s proposals, I run the risk of losing access to the temple or becoming unable to baptize my daughter. I’m not sure how that helps me maintain a desire to conti ue onward in the Church, nor how it helps my fellow ward members. Obviously, I’m in favor of enlarging the tent of Zion.

    And I still don’t understand why there is so much cynicism about the motives of the people in Mormon Stories. John’s been about as open and public about his faith journey as anybody I can imagine, as well as the changing agenda of his projects over the years. Go listen to the speech he gave after Laurel Thatcher Ulrich talk in the Boston conference and tell me you are still skeptical of his intentions.

    Surely there can be plenty of room for disagreeing with his execution or goals without acusing him of having hidden motives or bad intentions.

  31. I’m with you, Trevor. I also think there would be a risk for many people (including even, possibly, myself, depending on exactly what questions are asked and what areas are explored) becoming unable to hold a temple recommend or fully participate in the Church. While that kind of purge (or ‘regulation’, as Bookslinger puts it) might, in some way, ‘purify’ the Church, separate the wheat from the tares and divide the ‘sheep’ from the ‘goats’, I doubt that it would benefit the church to simply eliminate and excommunicate all those who have questions or doubts or even openly reject certain particular aspects of the church’s teachings. There are many people who make many valuable contributions and service to the church despite having doubts about some of the church’s doctrines.
    And I also agree that Dehlin’s motives appear, to me at least, to be genuine, heartfelt and admirable. While he may have done some damage to a few people’s testimonies, I don’t see any reason to condemn his intentions or motives as being malicious or malevolent in any way – he appears to me to be someone who’s just trying to help people, even if the help he gives may be somewhat misguided.

  32. Trevor/Brit: I don’t think I actually proposed anything, or said any changes need be done.

    I’m taking a guess, that if there is any “tightening” or “regulation” (in the BoM use of the word) to be done, it may be in the baptism/temple rec interviews. I’m not proposing any specific changes, just guessing that that’s where it would be if the Brethren do change things.

    And my reason for guessing it would be there, is that that’s where changes have been in the recent past, and since I first became involved with the church in the 1980’s.

    Things that have been added are questions about homosexual activity, committed a serious crime, and the temple rec question about family abuse (though I forget the exact current wording, the net effect is ‘are you beating your wife or kids?’)

    Missionary application interviews (via bishop and stake pres) are other examples of recent changes.

    I don’t see the baptism/temple rec interviews as creeds either. They are more “orthopraxy” (behavior, actions) than “orthodoxy”. The questions of sustaining Joseph Smith and the current prophet are pretty wide open questions as is.

    mormonbrit: I’m aghast that you interpreted regulation as “purge”. I did not say that, and I certainly did not mean that. That is not the meaning I glean from the Book of Mormon use of the word. Nor was it the meaning of the word in Joseph Smith’s day. I’m also offended that you describe what I said as “eliminate” and “excommunicate”. Heaven forfend!

    I now realize that you guys, being younger, may not be as familiar with the changes over the years as I thought. So I may have assumed too much knowledge of church history (over the last 30 years) on your part.

    As an aside, I would also like to point out that the church does not excommunicate people for personal apostasy. Someone could privately tell their bishop and stake president that they no longer believe any of the church’s foundational claims, and they would not be in risk of their membership. It is for _promoting_ apostasy (teaching/publishing), getting others to disbelieve, that gets someone’s membership in jeopardy.

  33. I apologise, bookslinger, if you found my comments offensive, or if I misrepresent my views. Because you speculated that the church “needs” to put in place a “regulation”, I assumed you were in agreeance with the concept of ‘raising the bar’ in the temple recommend and baptismal questions. It appears I assumed too much, and for that I sincerely apologise. I personally would view any kind of further probing into the specifics of what a member believes in order to gain entry to the temple with great alarm.

    Regarding excommunication, I agree that (to my knowledge) nobody has ever been excommunicated for personal, private apostasy, I was under the impression (and please correct me if I’m wrong) that disbelief in certain of the most fundamental doctrines of the gospel (eg. belief in God) could possibly result in some kind of disciplinary action, eg. disfellowsipment or probation.

  34. Since I first read this post not quite two weeks ago I have discovered why tall oak trees with their shallow roots came down during the recent derecho in the Mid Atlantic states. They were not uprooted. The trunks were broken the same as if someone had taken a chain saw and cut them. As the clean up has proceeded it is clear the trees broke because they were hollow on the inside. They looked strong in every way.

    It struck me that it is usually weakness on the inside that brings down most institutions and governments that look strong. We need to strengthen each other in every way we can. I don’t have any answers. But I do know arguing among ourselves will not make us stronger.

  35. Thank you for your insight, Yvonne. While it is true that infighting and arguing within an organisation can weaken a religious movement (a house divided cannot stand), do you not think that another way of looking at it would be to say that friendly dialogue and loving discussion is beneficial within a religion as it helps the religion to respond to a world that is constantly changing and ensures that all points of view are considered so that the right course of action is taken?

  36. mormonbrit, please excuse my anal-retentive defense of my statement, as I feel that you still mischaracterize what I wrote. I did not speculate that the chuch currently needs (present tense) a regulation. To repeat the phrase in question:

    ‘There may come a time, and perhaps soon, where there needs to be a “regulation” (to use a Book of Mormon term) in the church, where the prophet and apostles need to set things more in order. ‘

    I thought the introductory clause, “there may come a time” adequately indicated that I was speculating on a possible future, not making a pronouncement on the present.

    I should have further clarified that I believe the Brethren (that is the Prophet and apostles) would only take such action under the direction of the Lord.

    As to whether “disbelief in certain of the most fundamental doctrines of the gospel (eg. belief in God) could possibly result in some kind of disciplinary action, eg. disfellowsipment or probation”, my understanding is no, it would not result in such action, unless the person actively promulgated, or taught/promoted such disbelief to others.

    There does seem to be a question about whether blogging one’s disbelief constitutes teaching/promoting apostasy. I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know how church leaders view that.

    However, if one admitted such disbelief in their temple rec interview, they might be denied a temple rec, and thereby not be elligible for callings which require a temple rec.

    Most, if not all, of the baptismal/temple rec interview questions are in Gospel Principles manual, and Preach My Gospel, which are both online.

  37. Bookslinger, thank you for the clarification. It was my mistake, for which I apologise profusely.
    Regarding discipline for disbelief, what I meant to suggest was that a person who disbelieves some of the church’s core teachings would not be able to fully participate in some aspects of church practices. The temple recommend interview was actually what I had in mind.

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