John Dehlin’s new plan: his own church of ‘cyber wards’

Tucked away in this sympathetic article about John Dehlin are details about his post-Church discipline plan: starting his own church for people “transitioning away from Mormonism.”

From the article:

Whatever the outcome, Dehlin plans to capitalize on the momentum.

In a year-end podcast, the charismatic host promised even more support for those “transitioning away from Mormonism,” including interviews, podcasts, websites, workshops, radio/TV programs, books and more academic research. He offered to help listeners create “Cyber Wards” of like-minded friends and is opening his private counseling practice to help “progressive and post-Mormons.”

The article points out that Dehlin made $90,000 per year in 2013 and that his donations are up since then, so he is doing well financially.

The Book of Mormon appears more and more prophetic. Here is what 2 Nephi 26:29-31 says about priestcraft:

29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.

31 But the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish.

Thus are the scriptures fulfilled before our eyes.

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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.

38 thoughts on “John Dehlin’s new plan: his own church of ‘cyber wards’

  1. Of course he isn’t starting his own church. He’s just trying to replace the social and support infrastructure available in the Church with something else as a means of helping people to transition out of the Church into something of a counterfeit.

  2. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus several times used the phrase, “…they have their reward”. The passages are telling commentary on what is most meaningful and important to me. It also reminds me that stories in the SLTrib have specific interest in appealing to a certain specific audience, and that they have their reward.

  3. I will stand by the headline on the post that says he is starting his own church. There is a long history of Church dissidents leaving to get their own followers. Whether or not they actually form a government-sanctioned church is besides the point: they are united in a counterfeit ideology. As Bruce Nielson points out, their unified ideology is rejectionism, i.e. rejection of the LDS church. Dehlin and the Dehlinites could not exist without the Church as the starting place of the things they are rejecting. So, the Church of Dehlin is definitely a church, regardless of whether he goes to the government to form his own church in a legal sense.

  4. The story of Nehor is also instructive: From Alma chapter 1:

    “2And it came to pass that in the first year of the reign of Alma in the judgment-seat, there was a man brought before him to be judged, a man who was large, and was noted for his much strength.

    3 And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church; declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular; and they ought not to labor with their hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people.

    4 And he also testified unto the people that all mankind should be saved at the last day, and that they need not fear nor tremble, but that they might lift up their heads and rejoice; for the Lord had created all men, and had also redeemed all men; and, in the end, all men should have eternal life.

    5 And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.

    6 And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching.”

  5. Sounds parasitical. You can’t just transition out of something, you have to transition to something.

    Still, if Dehlin wants to milk ex-Mormons, its no skin off my nose.

  6. Adam G, from sad experience I can tell you that many people who would not necessarily be ex-Mormons become ex-Mormons because of Dehlin’s “labor.”

  7. Other people have left the church thinking that they are somehow important; from Oliver Cowdrey to Ed Decker and now John Dehlin. I figure the same exact thing will happen with Dehlin as everyone else. They have their moment in the sun and then they disappear from the church community into obscurity.

  8. Nate, good one.

    It is worth pointing out that Jung’s preferred religion became sexual libertinism. He wrote his wife in 1910: “The prerequisite for a good marriage, it seems to me, is a license to be unfaithful.”

  9. Reminds me of a favorite bit of dialogue from Wallace and Gromit’s “A Close Shave”:

    “He’s malfunctioning.”
    “Malfuntioning. Preston is a cyberdog.”

  10. The fact that he makes money doesn’t really bother me any more than someone who writes a book or produces content for a living. That fact alone doesn’t really bother me.

    Where I think that information matters is that it draws into question his sincerity in his desire to retain his membership and in his motivation in his attention seeking behavior – particularly when you combine that with his clear disdain for the church, leaders, and doctrine.

    I also bristle at the idea of his behavior of creating/cultivating a faith crisis (for money) and now being poised to start a counseling practice(for more money) focused on helping people/marriages who are struggling to transition out of the church because of the crisis started and/or fueled by him. That’s what you call a conflict of interest.

  11. Interesting how “helping people stay LDS” morphed into “helping people leave the church”.

    I think I wrote a few years ago (or at least I thunk it if I didn’t actually write it) that what he called “keeping people in the church”, seemed more like “inching them towards the door.”

    About ten years ago, a friend described how this sort of thing was going to happen. Instead of members being clustered around the middle of a “faithfulness” spectrum, there would be a division, with two clusters or humps on the spectrum, one cluster towards the more-faithful end, and one cluster towards the less-faithful end. And that it would be hard to stay in that middling position.

  12. If this doesn’t make his excommunication meeting just a formality, I don’t what would. Seems that there are a lot of Mormons who consider themselves active that are becoming insubordinate and care for politics over the Spirit. The thing is, I don’t run into members like this in real life and so hopefully its a loud noise signifying the Internet’s amplification.

  13. Bookslinger wrote:

    “About ten years ago, a friend described how this sort of thing was going to happen. Instead of members being clustered around the middle of a “faithfulness” spectrum, there would be a division, with two clusters or humps on the spectrum, one cluster towards the more-faithful end, and one cluster towards the less-faithful end. And that it would be hard to stay in that middling position.”

    Hugh Nibley has written extensively about the doctrine of the “two ways,” a doctrine that has been around as long as there has been writing. The point is that in all times people will either draw closer to God or farther away from God. And the difference between the two positions will become increasingly clear to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. In our little Mormon on-line world, we have seen dozens of people who were in the middle 10 years ago moving one way or the other. Unfortunately, it is mostly the wrong way, but there have been a few cases of people drawing closer to God, and that has been nice to see. I continue to hold out hope that Dehlin’s followers will see that his way offers them nothing of substance.

  14. This little piece of info seems to be conveniently buried or not acknowledged by his followers:

    “The podcasts had become popular, so Dehlin approached his former listeners about launching a foundation to produce more interviews if they would financially support him as he pursued his graduate degree.

    “Your donations will go toward tuition, groceries, insurance and any other expenses I incur,” the podcaster told them. “What I’ll give back is building resources to meet your needs.”

    Good grief, man.

  15. “The thing is, I don’t run into members like this in real life and so hopefully its a loud noise signifying the Internet’s amplification.”

    I thnk — I hope — that this is right.

    I’ve about come to the conclusion that most letters to the editor pages, and most online comments sections, are doomed to devolve into freak shows. This is particularly true at sites whose comments policy tolerates pseudonymity.

  16. I walked away from the Church over 30 years ago, having been influenced by some to the “September Six”. Two years ago, I returned. From personal experience, I can tell you this — it’s not good “out there”. It’s a spiritual wilderness.

  17. The whole “keeping people in the church falls apart” when you consider that John has admitted that more people have left the church because of his work than stayed. That has been my experience as well. I don’t know anyone who he saved from leaving, but I have several family and friends who have left in large part because of his work. Perhaps they would have still left, but he certainly has accelerated it and they are much more hostile toward the church and the believers in their life now (and I attribute that part almost exclusively to John). People who were once kind and tolerant are now so entrenched in his doctrine and we are the bad guys. It has definitely caused strain in a few relationships. Of course, he would say the bad results are the church’s fault and that he bears no responsibility.

    The other part of the “keeping people in the church” argument that I have a problem with is that it presumes that membership in the church is the ultimate goal. He probably views the church that way (only caring about membership numbers), but there’s a difference between being active in the church and being active in the gospel. The church wants the latter since that is what brings salvation. While there might be people who are active in the gospel thanks to his work, I think they are probably few and far between and probably were more influenced by his earlier stuff with people like Bushman rather than his recent work that is much more biased against the church. My observation is that the people saying they are still in the church have done so because he has convinced them to be more of the variety that attends but doesn’t believe (or that they simply are members in name only who don’t attend or contribute like him). It is these people who are now threatening resignation because they revere him more than the doctrine taught by prophets, seers, and revelators. In the end he has not done them any good and they would likely have been better off working through issues with people inclined toward belief rather than John (speaking from my opinion and what I think the church should want). Of course John would see it differently because of his disdain for the church and its doctrine.

  18. The talk that I think sums up John the best was “which way do you face?” by Elder Lynn Robbins.

    One of John’s biggest (and most appealing) false doctrines in my opinion is that of promoting “self contentment rather than self improvement and repentance.” I think that’s what these cyber wards will likely promote – a community where any disagreement they (or the world) have with the church is the church being wrong rather than looking inward to see if there is a change that needs to be made to understand God’s will and doctrine better.

  19. MAC, good comments. It is quite easy to imagine what the Dehlinite “cyber wards” will look like. All you have to do is visit the many internet sites that already exist, everything from the “questioning” sites in the Bloggernacle to the ex-Mormon sites. Nothing new will be created under the sun.

  20. The fact that he is making money doesn’t bother me so much, after all, my father was in CES for years and supported his family as a Gospel instructor. The following link is illustrative of what priestcraft is and discusses elements of priestcraft I hadn’t considered before:

    “Can a person receive a salary in CES and not be involved in priestcraft? Yes, definitely. Can a person publish, get pay for continuing education, or take advantage of other opportunities and not be involved in priestcraft? Yes, they can. It is a matter of the heart. What is the motivation? What President Kimball said is a key in this area. When our hearts are set on money, it clouds our view and leads to bad decisions.”

    Maybe Dehlin’s heart is not quite set on money so much as the other elements that Bro. Paul V. Johnson discusses in the article.

  21. Okay, but $90K in a year?

    As a wise man once said, “at some point, you’ve made enough money”.

  22. Yawn.

    I trust in a future when an omniscient God who loves us all will force us to see reality as it was, rather than how we pretended it was. Many will experience pain in that day. Some will be unable to overcome and reach out for salvation, either by humbling themselves or by forgiving themselves.

    If John brings himself to be on the side of God once all is said and done, I will welcome him with open arms.

    If John fails to return to God through either pride or inability to live with a God who holds him to account for his wrongs, then I will mourn the loss of a brother I have loved for an eternity, with whom I stood, side by side, in a day when we fought against the lies of another who would deny God and His Salvation.

  23. Meg, I also trust in such a future. In the meantime, the Book of Mormon has specific warnings about the different ways in which our beloved brothers and sisters will fall prey to the different tricks Satan has up his sleeves. It behooves those of us who can see the tricks to warn others who may not be able to see them.

  24. It would be cool if comments could show the editing process, as we work through the various ways we’re trying to express what we mean to say.

    I don’t disagree with you at all that John Dehlin is intentionally casting a snare for the unwary. In fact, an original version of that comment likened John to a specter arising from the murky depths of the river of filthy water, dragging hapless individuals away from the iron rod to the sound of jeers from the great and spacious building. This is actually what prompted me to write about Sandy Petersen’s Cthulhu venture, to show that holding to the rod can be bodaciously fun and delightsome.

    But then I decided that I didn’t want to publicly focus on John as slimy evil agent of deception, but on the John who I do love and hope to meet again at the feet of our mutual Savior.

  25. I suggest checking out the Guidestar, a site for checking the legitimacy of non-profits:
    Sign up for free to review the 990 Forms. Note that John has yet to actually file the 2013 990 Form with the IRS (according to Guidestar, which is quick to upload them when they are filed) and there are discrepancies between John’s self-reported financial statements (including quick-book reports) on the Open Stories Foundation website and the few 990 Forms that he has filed. Also, you will note on the 990 Forms that by 2012, his board of directors (that used to include people such as Joanna Brooks) had completely dissolved. He calls all of the shots along with a self-proclaimed Mormon therapist who uses OSF to advertise her practice. He says on the OSF website that in 2011 he waited to pay himself back wages until a board was formed. Now, he is voting by himself to give himself additional back pay. Interesting. Also, why every year is there over $10k in “client-management software” expense? Odd. The list goes on. Even by his own accounting, with the benefits he expenses out, he took in well over $90k in 2013. Who is to say what he did with the $65k plus that was sitting the checking/pay pal accounts at the end of that year, let alone what self-dealing he did last year. A non-profit should never be someone’s personal piggy bank.

  26. A Facebook pal linked to an article on newsroom that provided results of a study of American religions that showed that LDS members are variously more likely to be charitable, more likely to stay in the Church as they reach adulthood and more active in practicing their religion.
    There are those who go against the trend of hastening. I’m reminded of taking a hayride with a group of children. They must be warned to hold on to a support as the tractor pulling the wagon starts up and begins to accelerate. The hay is slippery and they could fall off if they don’t heed the warning. Dehlin is like the rascal who jostles and distracts the other children. If he falls off himself he runs alongside and tries to pull others off.

  27. Attacking the LDS church as a nonprofit is a good business. Dehlin has proven it, and so have over seven hundred “anti cult ministries” whose sole purpose is attacking anything and everything LDS.
    Not one of these anti Mormon ministries brings anyone to Christ. They all try to lead people out out of the evil clutches of Mormonism.

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