The Church responds to Dehlin’s comment on disciplinary council

The Church issued this statement:

Holding a disciplinary council for a member of the Church is not something that any local leader takes lightly. Such councils are always held in private, and the member is always invited to be a part of that discussion. The decision as to whether to hold a disciplinary council, when and for what reasons rests with the local leader who knows the individual best. Local leaders operate under general principles and guidelines of the Church.

Such councils are always far better when all involved respect the principle of confidentiality. At the very least, this principle helps those members who wish to return to full fellowship at a later date. When the member has chosen to air their grievances in public, the Church reserves the right to correct the public record. In this case, attempts have been made to create the impression that the disciplinary council convened on Sunday, February 8, 2015, and which has resulted in a loss of Church membership or excommunication of Mr. Dehlin arose largely because of his views on same-sex marriage and priesthood ordination for women. Although his stated positions on those subjects are not consistent with the Church’s teachings, they were not cited in the local leader’s letter delivered to Mr. Dehlin on February 9, which spelled out the reasons for the local council’s unanimous decision, as follows:

Disputing the nature of our Heavenly Father and the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Statements that the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are fraudulent and works of fiction.
Statements and teachings that reject The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as being the true Church with power and authority from God.
In his letter the local leader stated, “I want you to know, Brother Dehlin, that this action was not taken against you because you have doubts or because you were asking questions about Church doctrine. I also want you to know that I acknowledge your right to criticize the Church and its doctrines and to try to persuade others to your cause. Our Heavenly Father has given us moral agency to decide how we will live our lives, and cherished free speech rights in this country allow you to openly state your opinions. But you do not have the right to remain a member of the Church in good standing while openly and publicly trying to convince others that Church teachings are in error.”

View local leader’s letter courtesy of the Deseret News

Church discipline is not designed to be the end of the process, but the beginning of the road back to full fellowship. One who leaves the Church is always welcome to attend weekly worship services and is always welcome to return to Church membership through the grace and Atonement of Jesus Christ.

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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.

27 thoughts on “The Church responds to Dehlin’s comment on disciplinary council

  1. This is a very welcome clarification. However it gives rise to more unfortunate questions. Can people really be excommunicated for “Disputing the nature of God…claiming the Book of Abraham is fiction…rejecting the LDS church as being THE true church?”

    This is clarified somewhat in the Stake President’s original letter which says: “this has come because of your categorical statements against church doctrines AND their wide dissemination via your internet presence which has led others away from the church.”

    I was under the impression that disbelief was not an offense punishable by excommunication, only the dissemination of that belief with the intent to lead others astray. I’m pretty sure this is still the case, but this makes it unclear.

  2. Nate, I think that is a very good and fair question. Here is my take: JD has been dancing with discipline for seven years. It is not as the Church decided one week to discipline him and then carried it out the next week. He has spent literally hours and hours with church authorities discussing his concerns. At the end of the day, he was excommunicated for much, much more than just his beliefs (or lack thereof). I can tell you as a gospel doctrine teacher that there are all kinds of people who lack beliefs of various kinds, and they don’t get excommunicated for that.

    So, to answer your question fully you need to read the entire history of the JD case. Any fair-minded person will come to the conclusion that the Church absolutely bent over backward to keep him in the Church and that his excommunication was not about beliefs. Here is a good summary of the history:

  3. OK, I understand that. And I found a link to this on the newsroom website:

    “apostasy…the repeated, clear and open public opposition to the Church, its leaders and its doctrine. If someone seeks to teach as doctrine something that is contrary to the Church’s beliefs, attempts to persuade other Church members to their point of view or publicly insists the Church change its doctrine to align with their personal views, they would be counseled by a local Church leader and asked to cease that practice. If they fail to do so, Church discipline may follow.”

    I just wish they had included this phrase in the Dehlin clarification.

  4. I think it’s worth noting that disciplinary letters are not judicial opinions. They don’t establish precedent. They are not intended to guide the behavior of other Mormons; nor are they intended to raise specific issues for appeal; and their authors generally have little-to-no training either in legal argument or in public relations. Frankly, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the caliber of the post-disciplinary letters released by Dehlin, Kate Kelly, and Denver Snuffer.

    It has become fashionable, of late, for excommunicants (and their sympathizers) to profess a wide-eyed “golly gee willikers, I just don’t know how this happened to little old me!” schtick; but I daresay that where the Lord is concerned, someone who responds to a whispering of the Spirit by playing dumb or producing a legalistic treatise on procedural due process has already lost the argument.

  5. In my opinion his leaders waited too long to discipline him. He’s led a lot of people astray with his apostate activities.

  6. Mr. Dehlin should have hired Mrs. Kelly’s renowned legal counsel, Nadine Hansen, to have aided his defense. My, how much more interesting it all would have been.

  7. I find it sad that this spectacle has been so effective in distracting so many people from the simple truths of the Restored Gospel. We have so much more to think and talk about. JD left the church a long time ago–the Disciplinary Council was a formality. He really didn’t leave his local leaders any other viable options. Kudos to the Stake President for being able to articulate this in a letter that was so well-written.

  8. Dehlin recorded the proceedings of his disciplinary council and sent the NY Times a transcript, which they published on their website. I’ve read some of it. My cursory analysis is that it makes Dehlin look very manipulative and deceptive, while the Stake President consistently refuses to play his “game.” I know the bloggernacle will be analyzing it to death in the coming weeks, but I hope M* contributes to that particular conversation.

  9. I’m disgusted that John Dehlin secretly recorded his confidential interview with his Stake President, especially when the Stake President said several times about it being confidential and not to be recorded. It sure makes JD look like a Korihor with all his mental gymnastics.

    He sent his secretly recorded interview to the NY Times. Slimy move!

  10. I’m reading the transcript now. Pres. King states pretty early on that he does not want the proceedings recorded. Dehlin has just violated the Utah wiretapping statute–a Class A misdemeanor if not done for commercial gain, and a third degree felony if done for commercial gain. See Utah Code Ann 77-23a-4(1), -(10) and Utah Code Ann 77-23a-3(13).

  11. @Globetrecker, I 100% agree.

    I feel that, no matter how you feel about Dehlin’s mission or his excommunication, everyone should agree that recording the meeting and delivering a transcript to the media was unacceptably low. Not only does it consitute a breach of trust, but it shows that Dehlin is (almost?) entirely without moral character. Media outlets quoted him as urging his followers not to direct personal attacks at President King, but what other outcome could their possibly be? It shows once more his fundamental dishonesty.

  12. I was surprised to see that the Trib wasn’t carrying the transcript. But apparently, John is miffed at Peggy Fletcher-Stack because she dared to run an article last week noting that Dehlin gets paid handsomely for his antics. This could be the ending of a beautiful relationship.

  13. I’m sure Dehlin taped the council knowing that there was little chance President King would press charges. A Class A misdemeanor isn’t trivial, but I’m sure Dehlin would consider it worth the added oxygen.

  14. I looked for the transcript. I could only find a recording from August. I don’t know if Pres King asked for no recordings then, or just the recent council in February. Either way, it comes down to, the Church has the right to decide who is in it’s membership.

  15. While the news is disappointing to LDS members but an outrage to outsiders (and to some insiders as well), JD no doubt played to their anticipated reactions and support. The truth is, like Reid says, JD left the Church a long, long time ago. His breach of confidentiality and show of poor faith demonstrate he has no regard for the priesthood or the Church. I skimmed through parts of the script, feeling like a dirty spectator who shouldn’t be “listening.” Like someone who knows full well he is on camera, JD doubtlessly attempts to goad the stake president and elicit comments for his audience to analyze in the event he is excommunicated. Otherwise, why would he post it the day after being ex’ed? He had a shrewd plan to cover his bases. It’s the opportune time to play the victim. Though he doesn’t now, he should be ashamed of himself. That said, I do hope someday he humbles himself and returns to the fold.

  16. Here’s something John Dehlin could have done to show he was repentant.

    He could have asked me to participate in one of his Mormon Stories interviews.

    I have publicly written analyses of many of the “doubts” he expresses in this interview, about priesthood for women, same-gender unions in eternity (and here in this life), about Christ, atonement, the reality of God, Joseph’s plural wives, historicity of the Book of Mormon, the process by which we obtained the Book of Abraham.

    If John Dehlin wanted to show he valued his Church membership enough to talk openly about the possibility that he’s been wrong to proclaim his doubts and foster doubts in others, then he should have asked me to engage in an interview on his Mormon Stories podcast.

    Perhaps we could even have discussed how his foundation (and how many people are actually on his board of directors?) might go about labeling and updating the content to add value that demonstrates his desire to remain a member in good standing (or at this point, become a member in good standing).

  17. Clark, thanks for reminding us of that almost 10-year-old interview with John Dehlin. It is interesting to ponder how much he has changed and how much the Bloggernacle has changed since then.

  18. Wow. How much has changed since then. I found myself seeing him much more charitably in that early interview.

  19. Meg to be fair he has had on believers including apologists. I think that often he’s been rather snarky to them. Often they’ve held up quite well. I rather liked his interview with Brant Gardner for instance (who I think’s done some great work on the Book of Mormon)

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