59 comments for “A Sad Day

  1. It is a sad time when anyone is excommunicated. I don’t think John left the Stake President with much choice except to excommunicate him…

  2. My 17-year old son texted me from school this morning to ask “What was the decision for Dehlin?” I told him, and when I picked him after school the first thing he said was, “It’s like the day the music died, only it came in two steps.” [the first step being Kate Kelly]

  3. John Dehlin no longer has any obligation to live a single one of the many covenants he once made with God within the body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has been “released from his contract” to put it today’s vernacular. He is free of it! Without a doubt, this is the single greatest act of mercy that John Dehlin will ever receive.

  4. My thoughts are with his Stake Presidency. God bless the folks that accept their callings and that live their lives trying to minister to others in the Lord’s way

  5. It’s sad but …… frankly if the truth claims of the Church were actually …. would there have to be this action? Would the leaders feel threatened by a podcaster who did not have some good points?

  6. I’m not sad for John. He seems quite comfortable.

    I’m sad for the Church. I wish that the Church felt secure enough in itself that it could afford to tolerate even outspoken heresy and disagreement. The Church appears weak. And, gauging by how much difficulty local leaders have in dealing with faith crises, it may be.

  7. I feel sick about this. I can’t believe that for all the teaching, emploring and pleading we do for reconciliation – reconciliation with each other, reconciliation between faith and intellect, and most importantly reconciliation to God through Christ – we can’t even figure out a way to reconcile our supposed “Visitors Welcome” church with a brother who runs a friggin’ podcast. I feel like I’m in middle school again.

  8. it could afford to tolerate even outspoken heresy

    Just wow. Is that what you think churches should do? I thought the job of the shepherds was to rid us of the wolves in sheeps clothing… and that is what they did.

  9. But faith and repentance can turn the darkness into glorious light. Let’s pray that this experience can be the catalyst not just for John but for all of us to return to those first principles–and then all of us might just have a prayer of a chance of making it.

  10. Jesus reserved his strongest condemnation for those who offend His “little ones.” Releasing John from the church is an act of mercy.

  11. I think it is a very sad day today, regardless of which side you agree with. Today, one side decided that its differences with the other were so far beyond reconciling that it stopped trying. Which side is which will be determined by individual views, but I hope we can all agree that this was a tragedy.

    God has told us (or Joseph Smith, depending on your views, but I believe it is God):

    “[L]et every man esteem his brother as himself.
    “For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
    “Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (Doctrine and Covenants 38)

    Today we have lost one of our brothers. Today we are not God’s. And it breaks my heart.

  12. Joel, ernest question, do you think excommunication is ever appropriate?

    Assuming you think it appropriate for say adultery, why couldn’t we say with the same logic that you wish the church was confident in its own beliefs on sex to permit adulterers to remain in the church. (I recognize of course not all guilty of adultery are excommunicated)

    In any case like it or not it does seem in keeping with what Joseph Smith and Brigham Young did. For instance the case of Dehlin doesn’t seem that far removed from the Godbeites in the 19th century.

  13. What about some sadness for the parents, spouses, grandparents, siblings and friends of those who Dehlin helped to lose faith and leave the church. These are tragedies for which tears of sadness have fallen but there have been no headlines to announce them.

  14. Susan, I do think most of us would be just as sad for all of those stories as we are for this one, if we knew about them. Whenever there are unreconciled divisions, we mourn.

    I mourn for my mother and father, whose differences in belief tore their marriage apart. I mourn for my two sisters, who cannot reconcile past the judgment they perceive in one another’s eyes, or even worse, the familiarity. I mourn for Oliver and Joseph and Emma, who could not find common ground in their beliefs on the extents and limits of marital bonds. I mourn for John W. Taylor and Joseph F. Smith and Richard R. Lyman, who could not agree on what it meant to be apostles of Jesus Christ, and to follow God’s revelation. I mourn for Kate Kelly and President Thomas Monson, who cannot reconcile their beliefs on the nature and importance of gender.

    But I hope that in Christ all of these one day will be reconciled, as well as all those stories I do not know. I hope that God isn’t worried about who we are, but who we will become, and that we’ll reach that road together.

  15. Clark,

    Yes, I recognize that excommunication has a place. But whatever the list of appropriate applications may include, I think it’s wrongheaded to kick people out for having “incorrect” beliefs (the definition of heresy I’m using) and expressing them without shame. “I want the freedom to believe as I please, it feels so good not to be tamelled.” Joseph Smith.

    An exception might be if you were in a position of authority purporting to speak for the Church. In that case, conceivably, you could be cloaked in “sheep’s clothing” and excommunication might be necessary for clarity. Here, I can’t imagine that anyone thinks that John pretends to speak for the Church.

    I agree that this is not unprecedented. Your citation to the Godbeites example is interesting and apt. But there’s also a long tradition of leadership roulette when it comes to excommunication for apostasy. Contrast your example with the anecdotes of Joseph Smith and Pelitiah Brown, and David McKay and Sterling McMurrin.

    I hope the tent Is big enough to accommodate even a heretic’s table in the back, especially if it’s adequately labeled and even stigmatized to avoid confusion. That table represents to everyone that we have the freedom to believe as we please. It feels so good not to be tramelled.

  16. Sorry Kaimi, I’ll try and keep that in mind. One can be sad for the situation and the emotions in play yet also have hope that the break with the church may shock people enough to come back or remember the influence of the spirit they once had in their life.

    I’ll hold off talking about the other issues. I’ve not really been on blogs much the past four or five years so I’m sure every perspective has already been made. Kristine over at BCC said how tired she was of it all. I’ll try and keep that in mind as well, even if much of this is new to me since I’ve been out of the loop.

  17. Frankly, I don’t know how I should feel about those who left the church over Dehlin’s podcasts. What was their life like before they left? Were they suffering in silence every Sunday because of a burning need to discuss their doubts and heterodoxies but with no place within their immediate families (ward or literal) to turn? Were they believing Mormons whose testimonies were so shallow and brittle that the discovery of Book of Mormon anachronisms or Joseph Smith’s polygamy left them with no choice but to leave? And what are these people like now? Are they happier, now that they’ve been able to eliminate the cognitive dissonance of before? Might they return at some point, having explored their doubts, with a greater tolerance and appreciation for their true blue believing neighbors? And what of the folks who left as a result of their brittle testimonies? What lies in store for them? Might they return at some point, with a broader and more flexible testimony capable of expanding and contracting as necessary while at the same time being centered in the Savior’s message?
    I don’t know the answer to those questions, and so I don’t really know how to feel about those people. It’s difficult to evaluate a person’s faith journey based on a snapshot in time. What I do know, however, is that it didn’t have to happen this way. What this entire unfortunate episode illustrates in my mind is how we as a church — and I’m not just talking about the general authorities, we as members as well — we need to do a better job of trying to hold on to our doubting and questioning brothers and sisters (even the ones whose constitutional make-up requires them to do their doubting and questioning in public) rather than allowing them (or forcing them) to leave. In the future, I suspect that if we want to prevent people from leaving the church, especially over foundational questions about God, Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith, then we’re going to have come up with something better than simply sidelining the guy asking the questions.

  18. In this time of mourning that Kaimi wants, can we be honest? As I understand, John Dehlin WAS NOT excommunicated for heresy, or simply having unconventional thoughts or asking questions on certain matters. Rather, he was excommunicated for something much worse. I’m sad for him and his family and the stake presidency and high council, and wish all of them well.

  19. I agree with ji’s point on the need for honesty about what happened. My reading of the Church’s statement from yesterday is that Dehlin was excommunicated for public expression of doubt or disbelief (i.e., “Given Y, I doubt or disbelieve that X is true.) regarding the divinity of Jesus Christ, the historicity of the Book of Mormon and the exclusivity of the church with respect to truth and authority. (And yes, given the context, you’d probably have to qualify the “public expression” part with something like “repeated and blatant.”) Whether you want to call that heresy or not (I personally don’t understand why it fails to satisfy that definition) I think is beside the point.

  20. No man is an island,
    Entire of itself,
    Every man is a piece of the continent,
    A part of the main.
    If a clod be washed away by the sea,
    Europe is the less.
    As well as if a promontory were.
    As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
    Or of thine own were:
    Any man’s death diminishes me,
    Because I am involved in mankind,
    And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
    It tolls for thee.

  21. As an active Mormon who listened to most of the Mormon Stories podcasts, I felt that they were a tremendous education which gave me a number of perspectives on many important issues, and helped me to have empathy for my fellow Mormons. They only increased my faith in Joseph Smith and the restoration, and inspired me to be an active latter-day saint. I express my support to those who are saddened by John’s excommunication, but have faith that Christ’s love will prevail in the end.

  22. For all you who claim that he strengthened your testimonies (and stories of those losing the faith because of him are 5 to 1 who didn’t), the good news is he will still continue doing what he has done. He just won’t be doing so under an official membership status. Sounds like a win-win. He wasn’t excommunicated because he expressed questions, but because he expressed unbelief with open rebellion about the most basic truth claims of the Church that are required for baptism and membership.

  23. @Kaimi should quote the rest of that scripture:

    8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

    9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

    10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

  24. Jettboy, your last sentence is interesting to me: “He wasn’t excommunicated because he expressed questions, but because he expressed unbelief with open rebellion about the most basic truth claims of the Church that are required for baptism and membership.”

    Just out of curiosity, do you see a difference between “public expression of unbelief” and “expression of unbelief with open rebellion” (as you put it) and if so, what is that difference? Also, do you really mean that those beliefs (i.e., Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling, Jesus Christ’s divinity and the historicity of the Book of Mormon) are preconditions to membership? If so, then why do we ask those questions (with the exception of the Book of Mormon question) in the temple recommend interview since, according to your understanding, everyone, even non-temple recommend worthy members, must adhere to them? Is that aspect of the temple recommend interview just superfluous? If so, shouldn’t we be having periodic “membership interviews” for all of the members where we ask those foundational belief questions regardless of whether you want to go to the temple or not? And what of the fact that we don’t even mention the Book of Mormon in the temple recommend interview questions? Does that mean that that belief is more or less important than the other beliefs that are mentioned in the interview?

  25. Owen,

    I assume your quotation of those verses is meant to insinuate that John made baptismal covenants to “stand as a witness” and has since violated them. (Maybe I totally misread you.)

    Be that as it may. How would that relieve others from their inclination–perhaps even a sense of obligation–to empathize? Surely, “those that mourn” can include those whose sad experience is the consequence of their own choices. Pain is pain.

  26. Zjg (28) I don’t think Dehlin’s stake president was terribly articulate on this point. I think the distinction is between teaching and persuading one to accept ones positions as opposed to simply expressing those positions. While perhaps there’s still a bit of a blurry line there it does seem a fairly easy to understand distinction. Lots of people express doubts on things. Attempting to persuade seems a different aim.

  27. Clark Goble (31), I agree with you here. There’s certainly a distinction between advocacy and colloquy and sometimes no doubt colloquy can, by virtue of repeated, relentless expression of certain positions, cross that blurry line you mention into advocacy. When it comes right down to it, though, I guess that when I survey Dehlin’s “oeuvre,” I just don’t see the advocacy. Or, if it is advocacy, then it’s really, really poor advocacy. (For example, it strikes me that an advocate for Dehlin’s statements of unbelief would have treated the interviews with folks like Bushman and Givens and Hancock and others very, very differently.) This might be my own bias, though, since I tend to view advocacy through a lawyer’s lens, and that isn’t necessarily how everyone views it. In other words, I completely recognize that reasonable people could disagree (and obviously have disagreed) with me on this.

  28. I tend to see Dehlin as changing his views especially within the last year. I don’t claim to have remotely listened to everything he’s done of course. It does seem to me that more recently he’s moved into advocacy although I recognize not everyone agrees. I’m rather sad for that as I think whatever his doubts his aims were quite different 10 years ago. He wrote in an interview I had with him 10 years ago (back when I still blogged at M*)

    There was a time when it would have been really unhealthy for me to do a podcast like this. I was angry at the church. I was angry at Joseph Smith. I was angry at church leaders. As I look back on this now…I see it as a natural venting, but also, frankly, as immaturity….as I struggled to deal with the realism of life…that things aren’t always as they seem, or as they should be.

    Today, I can honestly say that I’m not angry…and even sympathize with the Church and its leaders. How incredibly hard it must be to steer a church of 5 million active members….from all over the globe….of all different ages and backgrounds and levels of orthodoxy. Their job is extremely hard….so I no longer feel a sense of anger or outrage. That makes a huge difference in my tone and approach.

    So instead of mocking, or skewering, or criticizing….I am trying really hard just to UNDERSTAND. I’m less and less interested in judging, or criticising, or even correcting….as I am understanding, and listening. That’s how we grow closer as people, and grow forward in a productive way. So that’s how I approach things. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has good reasons for the things they do or think or feel (I believe…at least for the most part)….and everyone feels healed a bit when they have someone listen….and are not judged for their stories.

    I wonder if he agrees with that view anymore. I don’t think he does but again I can respect those who think he’s still doing that. Personally I’m sad at the tone his interviews have taken. Not because they offend me. (Personally I enjoy debating and understanding these issues in discussions with atheists – I almost prefer atheist discussions in some ways precisely because they are challenging) But rather because I’m sad at what he’s cutting himself off from and because I think in a certain way he’s returned to that anger he once saw as immature.

  29. #11 Jax:

    John Dehlin isn’t a wolf. Is it the job of the shepherd to leave the 99 and throw the 1 off the cliff?

  30. zjg, the best explanation of his apostacy and advocacy is the following:

    The fact of the matter is he did more than have doubts and ask questions. Form the above post:

    “Dehlin has also repeatedly made it clear that he remained in the Church in part so that he could more easily influence it and its members to his way of thinking.6 Dehlin seems to be aware of the predominantly critical and negative nature of his writings on the LDS Church. In 2010 he confided to an audience of hostile ex-members “I would guess that many more people have left the church than have stayed because of my Internet work – and I’m perfectly happy if they’re happy.”Much of his online activity adopts the role of “exit-counselor” as he moves members away from belief. John states in his 2014 Mormon Stories End-of-Year Update that his goal moving forward is to “serve/support those who those [sic] transitioning away from Mormon orthodoxy.” No organization can be expected to permit someone who claims membership to simultaneously seek to undermine the organization and its goals and disparage it.”

    Wiggle room to claim he is trying to help people stay in the Church? Sure. He is good at weezle language. Yet, he is also clearly stating he doesn’t have a problem as a person helping them leave the Church, thus trying to play both sides. Besides that he clearly doesn’t believe in the Church of Jesus Christ’s basic tenants such as not believing in God and Jesus Christ as Savior, that Joseph Smith was NOT a prophet and there are NOT prophets on the Earth today that hold the authority to lead the Church. Those are beliefs, by the way, that must be acknowledged as true to be baptised a member of the Church. Publicized declarations of those unbeliefs should also put a person’s membership into question. The question about the historicity of the Book of Mormon is a red herring, although it is admittedly increasingly showing up to be an important point of faith requirement considering it was listed as one of the reasons for his ex-communication. Even if that wasn’t a bullet point, the others are equally problematic and objectionable.

  31. In the interview yesterday, I didn’t hear much sadness. Seemed like John pretty much had all this worked out ahead of time. He knew what he would say and knew how he would capitalize (literally) on these events. According to him, his family has never been happier or more healthy as they spend their Sundays out hiking and having deep discussions away from the boring nonsense of Mormondom. What exactly are we mourning then? That they’re happy following this path? I just don’t get it. Isn’t that one of the things others dislike most about Mormons, that we’re always condescendingly sad that they aren’t Mormons too? Again, how do you mourn with someone who isn’t mourning?

  32. The parable of the 99 sheep and finding the lost 1 becomes less useful to the situation when:
    1) the 1 makes his disinterest in communing with the other 99 clear;
    2) the 1 insists the other 99 and shepherd need to move to where he is; and
    3) the 1 actively shows the 99 where the holes in the fence are to facilitate more of them running off

    Sorry, too many people close to me have been collateral damage in Dehlin’s self-aggrandizing drama, and I’m glad I dropped out of his fan club when I did. Owen’s questions are spot on.

  33. 4) the 1 claims there is no shepherd

    Alma 36:14 comes to mind. If one assumes Church leaders really believe what they profess about the consequences of unbelief, isn’t it amazing how forbearing they were in this case?

  34. Owen,

    I can speak for myself.

    (1) I bet John is sad, even if he is coping well. I take him at his word that he didn’t want this.

    (2) But beyond that, this probably is even more painful to many observers who (a) are a disillusioned that the Church isn’t as big of a tent as they’d hoped, and (b) are disappointed at the ugly Schadenfreude of so many members to seem to REJOICE at the scene of brother Dehlin’s head on a spike.

  35. #39 Roman:

    I’ve never heard Dehlin encourage anyone to leave the church. He seems to want people to choose whichever path works best for them.

    In fact, ironically, if not for these disciplinary meetings that started last year, he and his whole family would probably not have gone inactive, and he never would have started saying harsh things about church leaders on his Facebook feed.

    When you choose to treat someone as your enemy, it often becomes self-fulfilling prophesy.

  36. Jettboy (36), I skimmed the article you linked to. The article’s logic appears to be that because apostasy constitutes “opposition to the church or its leaders” and given that Dehlin made repeated public expressions of unbelief, he engaged in apostasy. But that raises at least two questions: Does public expression of unbelief regarding core principles of the church constitute opposition to the church? For example, if I declare that I disagree with a core aspect of a political candidate’s platform, does that necessarily mean that I oppose that candidate?

    But frankly, that’s just a legalistic exercise in interpretation, and in my opinion isn’t even the most important question here. The more important important question is whether, as a normative matter, such public expression should constitute apostasy, because after all, that’s really what should be driving the outcomes here considering the discretion that is given to the local leaders. And that normative question is a difficult one, because while such public expression no doubt imposes costs on the church, it also almost certainly holds out the possibility of benefits as well. For those reasons, I’m not as ready and willing as you are to conclude that any public expression of unbelief is grounds for apostasy. But I suspect we’re going to have to agree to disagree on that point.

  37. John isn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s a sheep who found out some troubling things about the shepherd and shared them with the herd. The shepherd had three options: (1) convince the other sheep that John’s concerns were inaccurate or invalid, (2) convince John to stop telling the other sheep about his concerns, or (3) take away John’s sheep status in hopes of undermining his credibility.

  38. Owen,

    Very good point. There is no shepherd.

    Fred F.,

    No, Dehlin had enough common sense not to openly advocate leaving the church. But he sure created an exit narrative for people to buy into, as attested to by many people on his sites thanking him for opening their eyes and easing their way out. As can several loved ones of mine. And having created demand, he managed to monetize that. Yay for capitalism.

    As to your counterfactual that he and his family would not have gone inactive, I find that highly speculative, especially in light of his do-not-contact request to his bishop in January of last year. That request seems to have been the catalyst for the process which culminated this past week.

    “When you choose to treat someone as your enemy, it often becomes self-fulfilling prophesy.”

    Seems to me that Dehlin received plenty of leash for the past decade, asserting many times that his local leaders knew what he was doing and that they were fine with it. He even claimed top cover from a General Authority when he shut down a FARMS piece that was critical of him. Then he said he was returning to full activity and outraged a sizeable portion of his followers who felt betrayed and pulled their support.

    Sorry, the “Church is out to silence me” martyrdom narrative that he’s packaged for his devotees and the media is hard for me to accept. The inevitable outcome of his increasingly antagonistic statements towards the Church and those who don’t share his views for several years indicate that this is where he wants to be.

  39. And I realize that my last comment is clumsily trying to summarize an action-packed decade, and I’ve contributed to distraction from the OP — so I’m going to bow out in respect for those that mourn. There will inevitably be further post-mortems on the topic for me to engage in.

  40. Susan 16 – Having left the church myself I find it highly insulting to think that a man I’ve never meet like John Dehlin could of influenced that (even if I did listen to his Podcasts). I’m a big girl. I can think for myself. I left because Mormonism made me very unhappy, I found it too controlling and too different in terms of organisation to what I found in the New Testament and the Jesus of Nazareth narrative there. I just wanted mainstream Christianity without any add ons. I fully respect those who are still LDS and recognise it is their root to God. We are all very different and taking a religious pluralist view, I sincerely respect an LDS view of the divine. There are many reasons people are leaving the LDS church, especially where I am in the UK. John Dehlin I don’t believe has heavily influence any fellow ‘leavers’ I know. Free Christian churches in the UK provide happy warm communities that costs less time, money and have services children love to be part of. It’s fun to be at and one is able to participate in soup kitchens, food banks etc. doing the work of charity I think Jesus advocated. Dehlin shouldn’t be held responsible for my families weeping. My faith is up to me not them! It’s easy to dump the reason for leaving on Dehlin instead of asking the question, if people have doubts why don’t they want to stay LDS anyway? The answer to that is simply, LDS membership for many is hard work and many times not the happiest of experiences.

  41. Dehlin served a mission in Guatemala, right during the culprit of frivolous and meaningless baptisms practiced globally, especially in impoverished areas of third world countries.

    The level of cold blooded corruption he witnessed there was probably the catalyst for the rest of his journey. In my opinion, the Church failed him. From my limited perspective, it seemed there was a time he really tried hard to comply, except when it became impossible due to the immorality of some of the church positions per his own convictions.

    I am not going to say his podcasts “strengthened” my testimony. Rather, I am going to say that he was a voice of empathy in the crowd of brainwashed zombies I found myself among after I had experienced similar things with the leadership on my own mission. A kindred spirit that allowed me to know I wasn’t alone and someone else was perfectly aware of the stench of dishonesty and corruption that lie beneath the veil of deception of the LDS conversion machine. I myself am one of those converts, so I know well. And so, he went on to provide that space and support the Church has failed to provide.

    I am grateful for his voice and for providing a forum to all those who have serious questions and are constantly silenced, verbally abused, isolated, discriminated against, pointed at, harassed, threatened, or grieved in any other way by the “all is well” crew of their local congregations and of LDS leadership in general.

    The following is a smidge of the things he witnessed and endured; experiences he shared for which I will be forever grateful. It doesn’t even begin to give context to Dehlin’s point of view. Taken from his letter to Elder Oaks.

    …They [his fellow missionaries] would go out to a soccer field and begin to play “futbol” with the youngsters who were hanging around there. After an hour or so, these zone leaders would say to the young people, “Hey guys…want to go over to the church and cool off?” Then they would ask these children their names and birthdays, put them in white clothes, line them up, and proceed to baptize them. They would usually do so without missionary discussions, interviews, church attendance, parental permission, an opening or closing hymn or prayer, or fellowshipping by a church member. It appeared that these young people had not even expressed a true desire to be baptized.

    …Some of the parents in the neighborhood, once they had found out that their children had been baptized into a foreign religion without their permission, became very upset.

    Baptism became a method by which one progressed up the leadership ladder. Quality (the legitimacy of baptism) was seldom, if ever an issue. We were taught by the president himself to find your “golden family” in the morning, and to baptize them that afternoon.

    The primary goal that our president established in our mission was for every companionship to baptize at least once a month. There were always four AP’s called to assist in achieving this goal. During a given month, two assistants would stay in the capital close to the mission home to assist the president, and two would travel around to the remote regions of the mission and visit the various areas in which baptisms had not yet been performed during a given month. Upon arriving in such an area, these “traveling AP’s” would ask to visit the investigators of the companionships, and literally attempt to compel these investigators to be baptized on that day, at that moment. They would use any form of pressure or persuasion available (such as presents of chocolate, gum, or ice cream) to convince these people to be baptized. I know this because I was a first-hand witness on several occasions.

    During the month of March, 1990, towards the end of my mission, there were a few companionships in my zone who had not yet had a baptism. After giving me a harsh reprimand during a zone conference interview, the president told me to plan on going with the AP’s the following day to see how a good mission leader should encourage an elder to achieve success with his stewardship. The president even told me to call ahead to the missionaries in the two areas that hadn’t baptized yet, and have them fill up the font in preparation for the AP’s visit.

    The following day, I was picked up by the AP’s. On the way towards our destination, I was informed that they had been instructed by the president to take me to the two “unproductive” areas in my zone (Fraijanes and Barberanas), and to find someone to baptize in each area that day. In Fraijanes, the AP’s tried to persuade and to pressure the investigators to be baptized, but their usually convincing rhetoric wasn’t successful.

    In what I perceived at the time to be a state of panic, they drove up to a remote, isolated shack on a hill, found an eighty year old partially blind lady without shoes, and literally brought her in a somewhat forceful manner to the van, and placed her in it. Then, they drove to a trail, walked her down the twenty minute path towards the river (she was praying to Mary on the way down), had her strip down and change into her baptismal clothes in front of all the townspeople who were washing their clothes in the river, and baptized her. There were no discussions, no interview, no song, no talk, no members, and no church attendance.

    … After the baptism these same AP’s located the nearest telephone, called the mission president, and said, “President, we have witnessed a miracle today.”

    I was so troubled by this that a week later, I set up an interview with the president to confess what I had seen on that day. Instead of showing alarm or concern for what was going on, he began to literally yell at me for not supporting my leaders, for kicking against the pricks, and for having a bad attitude. Accusing me of trying to destroy the mission, he reprimanded me in a way never before done by anyone in my life, and sent me on my way.

    I went to visit my first mission president in Salt Lake City. I was truly interested to hear how his last few months in Guatemala …it surprised me to hear that due to his overwhelming success as a mission president, he is now sitting as an advisor to the missionary board for the church.

    He knows too much and is unwilling to be silent about it to remain a member.

  42. The excommunication of John Dehlin may have been inevitable. But my heart goes out to him and his family and extended family.

    I think the church’s message is very clear. You can doubt and have questions. But do it quietly. Do it alone. If you dare to speak out about those questions publicly and/or you have the courage to come to a conclusion as to what those answers may be, then you are at risk.

    John’s voice has provided me hope over the last 5 years.

    That voice still speaks today. The church cannot silence it. They can only try to build walls around it and try to deflect members from discovering it. But it still exists nonetheless.

  43. 7MormonQuestions, from what I can see the Church doesn’t seek to silence either the questions or John. While I haven’t followed the case and will confess a lot of ignorance, it seems to me the Stake President in the transcript was emphatic that he thought John was a good guy, good neighbor and that he had the full right to speak as he wanted.

    We can debate the rest and not knowing his Stake President I don’t know how much inspiration was behind the decision. Although I tend to give leaders the benefit of doubt. So hopefully the SP was earnestly trying to do the will of the Lord to help John come back into belief and full fellowship.

  44. I think we might be mistaken in looking for some kind of precedent or principle to be derived from JD’s excommunication. Remember, these are supposed to be private, individual affairs conducted by local leaders. This is not the federal judicial system.

    We can speculate and talk all we want, but JD’s situation shouldn’t apply to us anymore than if he had been excommunicated quietly and privately for adultery or some other sin.

  45. 7mormonquestions: I don’t think the message is, “do it quietly, do it alone. If you dare to speak out about those questions publicly and/or you have the courage to come to a conclusion as to what those answers may be, then you are at risk.”

    Dehlin has played both sides of the fence for years. That doesn’t preclude our hearts going out to him or his family, but I say those who have doubts should NOT stay alone or quiet, but a vast crowd of people isn’t the way either. There are countless people (including leaders) who are willing to listen and lend whatever aide they can. Some people think that Dehlin was merely providing a neutral forum for those who may have been struggling. I don’t quite see it that way. Ultimately, his local leaders (with perhaps some guidance from higher up) didn’t see it his way either.

  46. @clarkgable and @TerryH

    My perspective is simply that. My perspective. I have been wrong on other things in the past and I am sure I will be wrong on something in the future.

    And even though I agree that in John’s case, his history has put him on both sides of the fence and it is not simple, it doesn’t take away from my perspective.

    I have too many examples of asking questions or pointing out facts and inconsistencies are not welcomed and sometimes shut down with force within the context of the church, leaders, and members.

    I am not saying that an individual leader or member can’t be supportive. But those are not the rule in my life experience.

    So, even though John’s story is complicated. It felt like one more example to demonstrate why one needs to be cautious and protect themselves when being willing to question and doubt.

    Just my perspective.

  47. I share the perspective of 7mormonquestions.

    I’m concerned about what local leaders will take from this. You can say that John’s is an extreme case; and I agree. But, as Oliver Wendell Holmes quipped, hard facts make bad law. And I think it’s naïve to say this isn’t quasi-precedential.

    I find the stake president’s narrowly tailored grounds for John’s excommunication to be haunting: He publicly stated his disbelief and openly assembled with other non-believers. The Church insists (I think for political reasons) that it was nothing more than that.

    Boy, if local leaders understand unashamed statements of disbelief to be sufficient grounds… Let the roulette begin.

    That’s what saddens me.

  48. 7, I do think the Church should make a better place for doubts and questions. I’m not at convinced Church is the place for that. I’m not sure what the solution to this is. I actually have quite a few sympathies to the aims John had. At least initially. I think my problem was more that he shifted from trying to give a place to both doubters and believers into being dumfounded at believers. That doesn’t necessarily mean the project was bad. Just that perhaps he wasn’t the best figure to do it anymore. I wonder if things would have turned out different if he had a co-host on with him in his interviews who was a believer and perhaps toned down his own emotions a bit at times.

    Don’t get me wrong. I know that’s hard to do. Despite trying, I know I can’t do it consistently. I get shrill at times myself. It’s easy to lose ones cool. But then I don’t think I’d be the ideal person to do a show like that either. I just wish it was balanced not just in terms of having some believing guests but also in terms of how the interviews proceeded.

    As for being supportive, I think in general Mormons should do better. But then I think in general people should do better. There’s a reason that in our broad American culture it’s generally thought one shouldn’t discuss politics or religion in mixed company. It’s hard for most people to be loving or supportive on issues they have deep emotional responses to. This is less a Mormon issue than it is a human issue. I’m not saying Mormons shouldn’t be trying to be better. We should. But it’s hard to ascend above one’s natural man.

  49. @clarkgoble.

    I appreciate your balanced response. I particularly liked you statement, “people should do better”. I agree this is not exclusively a mormon problem.

    Which I think supports my point. When one has questions and doubts it can be a challenge to find a safe place to express them, especially to someone(s) who are so invested in their personal perspective and they are in the position of power.

    I agree with you that It is hard for all of us to ascend about our own natural man.

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