From John Dehlin’s stake president

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).

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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.

35 thoughts on “From John Dehlin’s stake president

  1. My favorite excerpt from the ecclessiastical correspondence:

    “I acknowledge that you have the right to speak your mind and to criticize the Church and its doctrines if you so choose. It is just that you do not have the right to do so while remaining a member of the Church in good standing.” — President King

    As for John Dehlin having himself ordained a minister of another faith, I presume that was for the purpose of performing marriages between couples for whom members of the Mormon Church do not perform marriages? In that case, it would appear that he has set himself up to be more “compassionate” and right thinking that the Church. The comforting thing is that if he were to be found in need of having his Church membership revoked, he is not without religion entirely.

    As for working for Microsoft and MIT, as Dehlin cites, I suppose they don’t require proper grammar and spelling? That has always been one of the prime reasons I don’t take Dehlin seriously.

  2. Just to clarify, the Salt Lake Tribune noted that Dehlin got a certificate from the online Universal Life Church, and has since returned it.

    I think what bothers me most about Dehlin was that in his “press release” about his council, he attributes it to two reasons: his support of gay rights, and his support of Ordain Women. From what I’ve seen, that’s all the major media outlets report on, without mentioning his statuses and podcasts that ridicule almost LDS beliefs, demean LDS leaders, and uses hashtags like ‘#monsonhasdementia.’ I’m trying not to judge, but I feel like he’s playing a clever game.

  3. Deny the Book of Mormon?
    Why not? No one can find any location for cities that supported armies in the Tens of Thousands.
    Do you really, honestly believe American Indians descended from a couple dozen Israelites who came here on boats a few centuries before Christ?

    This is a witch hunt, plain and simple.

  4. The really funny thing is that neither the SP’s August 2014 letter, nor the one from this month, mention either OW or gay marriage as a grounds for action.

  5. Thank you Geoff for the link to that has the pdf of the letters. I prefer going to the source rather than reading others interpretation, ie John Dehlin’s.
    However I do mourn for him. I interpret his actions as that he feels he is under attack. When in reality he is the one doing the attacking. Granted his attack is subtle and involves splitting hairs. I only hope that over time he can see the church thriving in spite of his beliefs and criticism. Time and experience may help him understand the need for a perfect Savior and a church filled with flawed people.

  6. Mr. Holmes appears to well understand Dehlin’s position. If we are inclined to discount and denigrate the teaching of LDS leaders, then from a personal perspective, association in the Church is purely a social function, like membership in the country club. And why not speak out against country club rules? Members of such organizations find it useful and advantagous to associate in such social groups. But it has nothing in particular to do with their religious devotion.

    Dehlin and other “popular” dissenters have always become victim of their own success. In such instances, Church discipline can free them from covenant obligations of Church membership and afford opportunities to explore unconstrained in matters obviously of more importance to them than membership in the Church.

    Unfortunate for these, sometimes this proves to be problematic, since it was notoriety as dissident Church members that won them public popularity and adulation in the first place. Afterward many of them seem to sink into virtual obscurity.

  7. John Dehlin is a heretic. I doubt even he would argue with that. The question is whether such heresy as JD is wont to exercise should be met with excommunication.

  8. We’ll be hearing from John Dehlin for a long, long time. I believe he will use his academic background and professional training to offer the intellectual cover for state-sponsored actions that, in the long run, will be very painful for the LDS Church institutionally and for Mormon families individually.

    But as far as his influence within Mormonism–his influence has peaked (or seems very likely to do so, before the month is out); and that, at least, is a blessing.

  9. Jim Holmes, it’s not a witch hunt. I direct you do Doctrine & Covenants 134:10, “We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct, according to the rules and regulations of such societies; provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing;”

    The LDS Church gets to make up the rules that govern itself — as does any church. For Mormons, those rules come from the Lord via His prophet. We covenant at baptism and then re-covenant later on in the temple to be obedient. The Stake President is totally within the rights and required as a judge in Israel to make sure the members of his flock, the people over which he has stewardship, are abiding by the rules and doing what they have covenanted to do.

    Clearly John Dehlin has violated those covenants, openly, and in big and numerous ways, and has taken others along with him. You don’t get to claim you are a member of the LDS Church and then encourage people to, “transition out of orthodoxy”, which is what Dehiln said he would continue to do, at the end of his press release yesterday.

    John Dehlin, at this point, is finally being held accountable for his actions. We believe in accountability in this Church. The Book of Joshua, also tells us, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This sentiment is repeated in the Book of Matthew (6: 24) and in The Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 13:24), “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Finally, from this last conference, Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the 70, in his talk, “Which Way Do You Face?”, stated, “Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments.” This disciplinary meeting will allow John Dehlin to decide whom he serves, and which way he faces.

    In the end, every single one of us will have to declare who we serve and which way we face as well. We cannot continue to believe that we can embrace the philosophies of the world as truth and not be held accountable for that.

  10. We’ve recently quite enjoyed reading Proverbs. My daughter was quite sad when she realized we were coming to the end.

    Time and again Proverbs admonishes the parent that “sparing the rod” risks spoiling the child. It is clear to me that to allow John Dehlin to remain in the Church without discipline, in light of his actions, is to assent to his damnation in the eyes of God without attempting to offer correction.

    Now everyone who doesn’t believe in the Mormon Church may state that the Church is wrong to exclude John Dehlin, since they don’t believe in what the Church represents. However it doesn’t make sense to me why those who choose not to associate with the Church would insist that the Church retain individuals who persistently attack the fundamental well-bring of the Church.

  11. The actions of those such as Kate Kelly and John Dehlin ring true of those associated with highly narcissistic, attention grabbing personalities. It seems as though these types of personalities will do anything to stay relevant and hold themselves up as martyrs for their causes. I’ve seen this with the liberal to moderate feminists who write books and blog but do so in a very self-congratulating, elitist way that sets themselves up as so-called leaders of various movements. They fancy themselves too much to let the opportunity for publicity go to waste.

    Narcissistic personalities have quite grandiose and inflated ideas about themselves, and it is apparent in the press release John Dehlin put out (after the pattern of Kate Kelly) I mean, who does that if they really are humble and want to stay in the church for the right reasons? Just thinking out loud here.

    They are, indeed, legends in their own minds.

  12. “Do you really, honestly believe American Indians descended from a couple dozen Israelites who came here on boats a few centuries before Christ?”


    I can think of no reason why I, as a faithful Latter-day Saint who believes in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, should.

  13. An additional point re Dehlin: a couple of years ago he successfully appealed to the Church to block publication of a critical article about to be published at the Maxwell Institute, and he was far from shy about the victory. I remember reading a blog post in which he boasted to Dan Peterson (after the latter’s termination from the Institute) that the Brethen evidently valued his (i.e. Dehlin’s) work more than Peterson’s.

    Which is to day that both Dehlin’s fondness for free speech and dissent, and his opposition to the Church “hierarchy,” are quite selective. Posing as a martyr does not become him.

  14. Ed, just a point on that: Dehlin claimed that a GA helped block the critical article, but that was never confirmed by anybody. Given Dehlin’s tenuous history with the truth, I don’t think we should believe him on this issue.

  15. Geoff B.,

    Fair point–Dehlin may never had the degree of official support of which he boasted. He did, however, truly or falsely, boast of having such support. Having done so–having publicly claimed that Salt Lake had, at his request, shut down his critics–any current protestations of suffering for free thought or expression are pretty hollow.

  16. Ed, yes. He is OK with shutting down an article critical of him but not OK with the Church (a voluntary organization) deciding to expel him as a member for opposing everything the Church stands for. And of course he claims his views are being censored while encouraging censorship where it benefits him.

  17. I’m just surprised this didn’t happen long ago. Dehlin’s case seems much more clear cut than most.

    I try to live the Gospel and not offend (but probably rarely succeed – particularly on the not offending part). I’m reminded on one of President Kimball’s comments (paraphrased) in Faith Proceeds the Miracle that one should usually be in the middle. There have been big egos on both the political left and right, and the ultra orthodox and the more nuanced within the Church – I think it is a good idea to avoid directly supporting anyone who makes their living whipping up people to a frenzy – whether that be Dehlin and Kelley, or Skousen and Beck, or any number of politicians today.

    Being in the Church obviously wasn’t doing Dehlin any good, maybe being out of it will provide him with a bit of clarity. In any event a Church Council doesn’t change anyone’s eternal status it merely is an attempt to make their earthly status match their eternal one. If the Council manages to do this by following the promptings of the Spirit then the goal is accomplished; if not the actions have no efficacy in the eternities. Either way it is up to the person to work out their own salvation. Dehlin has apparently opted to attempt to do this on his own. The Church is merely formally helping him to do so.

  18. Out of curiosity, has anyone seen this blog post? Along with being excommunicated, I wonder if the publicity stunt with publishing his SP letter and putting out a calculated press release has to do with increasing his profits:

    “Dehlin, through his Mormon Stories and Open Stories Foundation, lets the cash roll in.

    That’s right, this guy profited off of and capitalized on the faith crises and religious doubts of vulnerable members of the Church, collecting donations on his website and charging entrance fees to his talks and conferences.

    And what does he do with the money? He enrolls in a psychology Ph.D. program at Utah State University where he continues his streak of questionable behavior that any reasonable person would deem antimormon. He conducted and published results of research that had a blatantly antimormon tone, skewing statistical numbers and conducting “surveys” that presented inquiries in a fashion where the unknown answerer behind the glow of a computer screen had to answer questions formed in a tone that inevitably accommodated Dehlin’s antimormon postulates.

    So we have ten years of controversial interviews that gradually became increasingly antimormon in tone, getting a graduate degree with blood money while basing his research on contentious topics that dripped with antimormon commentary, and making public statements that are antithetical and in direct opposition to church teachings. That’s only half of the story.”

    Thoughts on his profiteering on vulnerable members who are struggling in their faith? Would he do this to amp up his future as a counselor, ensuring he has fresh clients?

  19. Globetrecker:

    Thoughts? Yes. Not mine, but those from a Broadway play . . . or something: “But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.” I suppose it is not for me to apply those words to Dehlin’s situation, but I don’t hesitate to conclude that every inhabitant of “Zion” could benefit from serious motive-checking.

  20. No surprise that Dehlin will be excommunicated. The unfortunate thing is that this is being billed as “Mormon Church Threatens to Excommunicate Prominent Member For Supporting Gay Marriage” in my New York Times “breaking news” update.

    I wish there was a way for the church to clarify that it doesn’t excommunicate people for supporting gay marriage. That misrepresentation is much more harmful than actually excommunicating Dehlin for apostasy.

  21. And Nate, that is exactly what JD has planned on, and is counting on. He wants to give the church a big of black eye as he can. Kate Kelly did the same thing last year. If you remember her headlines were all along the line of: “LDS Church excommunicates a woman for asking questions about priesthood ordination.” And because the church does not make comments JD will get to spin this, and spin it he will. I hope that eventually the Church will make some sort of statement that clarifies everything, without breaching privacy.

  22. JA: after KK’s excommunication, the church published something in the Newsroom section of the church website concerning generalities of priesthood ordination, etc. There were also some conference talks about the subject of priesthod and women, role of women, etc., which did not mention KK but discussed the general without the specific.

    Weren’t there also articles in the Newsroom on what constituted apostasy?

    I look for further generalized press releases, and future conf talks that address the matter without mentioning KK or JD by name.

    My personal opinion is that KK had, and demonstrated, more “intestinal fortitude” in openly confronting the church than JD ever did. And that JD was a teensy bit jealous and then became more open and plain in opposing the church, finally putting things in writing that he had previously sort-of hid behind the gossamer curtain of podcasting, which required hours of listening and transcribing for anyone who would have wanted to call him to account for spreading apostasy.

  23. @JSH, regarding why this didn’t happen with JD long ago. I’m of the opinion that the main reason is that in order to proceed, someone would have had to listen to and transcribe scores of hours of podcasts, and then pour over them again, highlighting and creating pull-quotes to show to ecclesiastical leaders to use as evidence that JD was leading people astray. The same would have had to have been done in regard to verbal presentations at various symposia.

    Either such transcribing was finally done, or else JD made sufficiently plain and direct statements in text on his various websites and Facebook pages to give his local priesthood leaders something upon which they could take action.

    As I understand it, the church does not excommunicate anyone for personal apostasy. It is only for _spreading_ or _advocating_ apostasy (ie, “leading others astray”) that the church officially gets involvled.

    I think we’re on the same page on this. One can believe what one wants and remain a member of the church. It is only after they start teaching it to others or advocating it (things contrary to the teachings of the church), *and* after they have been notified to desist, *and* they keep on doing it, does the church take action.

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