It is worth reminding ourselves that when somebody is brought up for Church discipline, we are only hearing one side of the story. The Church does not discuss reasons for discipline because of the charitable policy of personal privacy. Only people looking for publicity with an aim to embarrass the Church will make disciplinary councils public. So, if you have heard about the impending Church discipline against John Dehlin it is because he publicized it (with a press release, no less!).
Very often, we do not see the Church’s side of the discussion. So in the interest of fair disclosure, I would like to draw your attention to this post, which actually cites the reasons for John Dehlin’s possible excommunication. (Reminder: John Dehlin has not been disciplined yet. His council will reportedly be held on Jan. 25).
They are (in summarized form):
1. Promoting atheism/agnosticism.
2. Denying or doubting the divinity of Jesus and the reality of the Atonement.
3. Denying the Restoration of the Gospel.
4. Denying the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
5. Denying the inspired calling of Church leaders.
6. Being ordained a minister in another faith.
That last one really is a doozy. Does anybody reasonably expect that you can remain a member of the LDS faith when you have been ordained a minister of another faith?
As Stephen Smoot points out in the linked post:
No rational, sensible person could find this stance from President King objectionable. If you’re going to openly and repeatedly criticize a group or organization you belong to, you can claim no special protection or exemption from losing your membership with said group or organization. Contrary to the caricature I’m seeing online (mainly amongst Dehlin’s supporters), this issue is not about an oppressive hierarchy restricting freedom of expression or thought. Nobody is stopping Dehlin from expressing his criticisms of the Church. He’s free to do so as he pleases. It’s rather all about the fact that the Church has a right to disassociate itself from those whom it deems unfit for membership. It has the right to establish the terms on what kind of behavior is and isn’t acceptable for individuals who want to claim membership. Dehlin has been informed that his behavior, in the eyes of the Church (or at least his ecclesiastical leaders), is unacceptable, and constitutes apostasy, and has been given the opportunity to change his behavior. If Dehlin refuses the terms offered to him, which it appears he has, then he himself is responsible for the consequences.
So I don’t want to hear any indignant cries that Dehlin is being persecuted or punished for merely having questions. This is not about Dehlin’s doubts or concerns. It’s not even about Dehlin publicly announcing his doubts or concerns. Instead, it is all about Dehlin’s actions. He has been exhibiting apostate behavior and promoting apostate views for some time. He has been given the opportunity to recant and repent, and has refused that opportunity. President King’s actions are entirely reasonable and justified given the facts of Dehlin’s behavior. So I must ask: why all of the outrage over Dehlin’s disciplinary council? It is truly baffling to me.
Please read the linked post for more details and to see the copies of the letters from Stake President Bryan C. King. Also keep in mind that we would not have copies of these letters if they had not been provided by Dehlin. (Again, the Church keeps these councils private).
My opinion: a disciplinary council is a serious thing, and I don’t relish the thought of Dehlin or anybody else being subject to Church discipline. But we must remember that Church discipline is the first step toward true repentance. Because Church councils are private, we do not often hear about the people who face Church discipline, make changes and return to the Church in full fellowship. But anybody who has served on high councils can tell you that it happens all the time. We can only hope and pray that this happens in Dehlin’s case (if indeed he faces Church discipline on Jan. 25 as publicized).