John Dehlin’s Possible Excommunication From LDS Church

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John Dehlin
Image via nbcnews.com

UPDATE: Read this article that covers the final decision from John Dehlin’s disciplinary council.

UPDATE: John Dehlin’s disciplinary council was postponed until yesterday, February 8. Dehlin attended the council at a North Ogden stake center while about 100 people held a vigil outside the building expressing their support for Dehlin. James Jenkins, a public affairs representative for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the North Utah area, stated that Dehlin’s local leaders did not come to a decision Sunday night regarding Dehlin’s membership in the Church. Jenkins said, “President King will take some time to pray about the decision and will notify Brother Dehlin in the coming days.” 

John Dehlin released a press release on Thursday stating that his stake president has called him to a Church disciplinary council for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for alleged apostasy.

In his press release Dehlin states that he will likely face disfellowship or excommunication, in part for the content he includes on his Mormon Stories podcast. Several of Dehlin’s podcasts include strong criticisms of some of the official positions the Church takes on different moral issues, such as same-sex marriage and the ordination of women to the priesthood—both of which Dehlin publicly supports. Dehlin also states publicly his criticisms of the Church’s “approach to LGBT members, feminists, intellectuals, as well as its lack of transparency regarding finances.”

Dehlin has released a series of letters he has received from Bryan King, the Stake President of the Utah Ogden Stake of which Dehlin is a member of. Deseret News states that Dehlin and King started conversing after Dehlin updated his online bio in April to say,

I believe in many of the central, non-distinctive moral teachings within Mormonism … but either have serious doubts about, or no longer believe many of the fundamental LDS church truth claims…

Over the summer of 2014, King placed Dehlin on an informal probation and in August asked him to commit to four terms, according to Dehlin’s press release.

Deseret News quotes King’s letter, which outlines that Dehlin must “publicly renounce and apologize for the false concepts you have widely expressed regarding God, Jesus Christ, the Atonement, the restoration of the Gospel and the Book of Mormon; cease providing a public forum for any person who is critical of church doctrine; stop promoting groups or organizations that espouse doctrines contrary to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; resign your status as an ordained minister of another faith.”

Dehlin also outlines the terms he was asked to commit to in his press release as the following: “(1) censoring and removing all past episodes of Mormon Stories podcast that were not favorable and/or faith-promoting to the church, (2) agreeing to never again interview anyone for Mormon Stories podcast who expressed doubt, disbelief, or criticism of the LDS church or its leaders, (3) to never again voice any public doubt or criticism of the LDS church or its leaders, [and] (4) to cease my public support of same-sex marriage, and of the Ordain Women movement.”

On August 10, Dehlin responded to King’s letter stating that he could not commit to the terms. On his website, Dehlin informs leaders and the public that he will continue to value his moral convictions, stating,

I would much rather face excommunication than disavow my moral convictions. In the coming weeks, months, and years ahead, it is my intent to provide increased support to Mormons who are transitioning away from orthodoxy.

Now five months later, Dehlin states that he has received another letter dated January 14, 2015, informing Dehlin of a Church disciplinary council which will be held on January 25 at 6:00 PM.

Church leaders say that disciplinary councils are held prayfully and that the process is inspired. The councils can result in no action taken, or in disfellowship or excommunication from the Church. LDS.org states that the process is set up to ultimately help the member to receive forgiveness, peace, and strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, saying,

Church discipline is designed to help Heavenly Father’s children in their efforts to be purified from sin through the Atonement, return to full fellowship in the Church, and receive the full blessings of the Church.

Church leaders have indicated that when an individual is excommunicated, he or she is no longer a member of the Church. This means that he or she is denied the privileges of Church membership, which includes wearing the temple garment, and paying any tithes or offerings. Although the Church still invites these individuals to attend public Church meetings, his or her participation in such meetings is limited. If the disciplinary council for Dehlin results in excommunication, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of his membership forever. Individuals who are excommunicated are encouraged to repent and rely on the Savior until they can qualify for baptism and become a faithful member of the Church again. The choice to return to full membership is the individual’s choice.

Out of respect for individuals involved and because local Church leaders (on a ward or stake level) initiate the council, the Church does not typically comment on disciplinary councils.

However, on Thursday, Church spokesman Eric Hawkins released a statement saying, “we respect the privacy of individuals, and don’t publicly discuss the reasons why a member faces church discipline. Those reasons are provided to a member by their local church leaders. It’s my understanding that in this case the reasons have been clearly spelled out in letters to John Dehlin. In the interest of honesty and transparency, he may choose to make those letters public.”

Click here to learn more about the Church’s disciplinary councils.