The Excommunication of John Dehlin: Who Gets Preferential Disciplinary Treatment from the LDS Church?

By now, I thought there would be between 500 and 1,000 supportive comments from faithful listeners on John Dehlin’s blog podcast in which two dozen of John’s past interviewees pay tribute to John’s wonderful Mormonstories legacy, each vouching for John’s wonderful character and noble intentions. Some even testifying that John’s wonderful work had kept them in the church!

This unusual online testimony meeting podcast consisting of an eclectic group of passionate supporters, has now been posted for ten days, during which time, there has been a huge national media feeding frenzy to drive even more than the tens of thousands of people that normally listen, to John’s podcasts each month.

Within hours of John’s public pronouncement that a church court was going to be held, he had shrewdly notified the national media, of the travesty. He has obviously been preparing for this day for a very long time. The media connections were in place and ready to rock.

His plight of the unwarranted victimization by the cruel and unfeeling church, needed to be publicized, and within hours, the national press had picked up the story. The story traveled far and wide in the electronic media and then followed in the more traditional venues. Along with stories being carried by such news outlets as the Washington Post, New York Times and the Huffington Post, John made appearances and gave interviews wherever he could, he needed to get the word out about the spiritual abuse he was suffering from!

These interviews included Tribtalk for the local audience and NPR for the national non-Mormon audience, and anywhere else that would give him a public voice.

Of course the real reason John was being called into the disciplinary hearing was for apostasy and for publicly rejecting the basic truth claims of the church including the historicity of the Book of Mormon. He has also made it known that he does not believe in the anthropomorphic God of Mormonism. In fact, he questions the existence of any God for that matter…. but John knew that the national media might consider an excommunication for apostasy to be justified and, well, a real mundane yawner that might not interest the general public all that much, so he needed to find something much sexier to build his victimization story around. Something the national media could really get their teeth into.

He needed something that would get traction from passionate special interest groups, so he presented the controversy to also be largely about his advocacy of gay and LGBT rights and his support of the ordain women movement. His spin resulted in many headlines that looked something like this:

“MORMON LGBT RIGHTS ADVOCATE JOHN DEHLIN FACES EXCOMMUNICATION”

“Mormon gay-rights advocate John Dehlin faces excommunication”

“The Mormon Church Is Still Excommunicating People Who Advocate for Gay Marriage”

“Mormon scholar faces ban from church for stances on LGBT and women’s rights”

As you can see, many of the headlines focus on John’s involvement as an advocate of gay and LGBT rights as well as his support of the ordain women movement. Those issues obviously had little if anything to do with the upcoming discipline.

Nevertheless, John’s strategy worked, his publicity campaign lit the media fire he was hoping to achieve.

Additionally, John always reminds people that he loves the church, does not want to destroy peoples faith in it, and is personally responsible for talking countless people into staying in the church after their crisis of faith (that many experience after listening to John’s faith destroying podcasts)

With all of this publicity and increased notoriety, I was shocked to note that after ten days, and in the mist of the media frenzy that John has created, there are only 41 comments of support on the John Dehlin testimony meeting podcast.

What?

Just 41 comments!

This is extremely unusual for one of John’s podcasts.

It is not uncommon for one of John’s podcasts to harvest literally hundreds of comments within two or three days.

One can only speculate why this lack of response from loyal followers anomaly is taking place.

Is it that John’s following are in  mourning over the pending excommunication, perhaps sitting in sackcloth and ashes, emotionally distraught, unable to muster up the strength to type in a few words of support?

Perhaps.

Is it just that his loyal followers are burned out with the ongoing drama that has lasted for about ten years?

It could be.

Is it that perhaps some of them have become a little disenchanted and embarrassed when he reminds everyone how much he loves the church while planting his tongue firm into his cheek? Is it possible that some of his followers are realizing what a disingenuous, self serving and shameless  publicity whore he appears to have become?

Is it possible for a hugely popular poster-child of any cause to begin annoying their constituency, and perhaps over sell their product?

john dehlin

Perhaps some of his supporters who have faithfully been compassionately contributing $10 or $25 or $100 per month to his podcast, thinking he was a starving graduate student, were shocked to find out that he pays himself about $90,000 annually out of about $134,000 in donations that his non-profit organization garners from loyal readers. (according to Nathaniel Givens  See also the following source )

$90,000

(don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge John for finding a way to generate revenue from being critical of the corporate church. Heck, if someone offered me that sum in gratitude for the criticisms I have made about the modern church, I would probably take the money with a smile on my face. My problem with John has to do with someone making money for destroying faith, while mocking God and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I just don’t think that should be so profitable)

Reading what the unusually sparse number of comments have to say about John, gives one pause because of the diversity of his following, how differently they view him, and how their comments don’t appear to substantiate his claims about how he encourages people to stay in the church…

One person commented:

“This knowledge has helped reaffirm my reasons for leaving the church.”

Wooops.. how did that comment make it past moderation? I thought one of John’s carefully planned media takeaways is that he does not try to destroy faith but rather, he helps people in a faith crisis learn how to stay in the church!?!?  Hmm…

“Thanks John for being there for our family. I attribute my lack of depression , while we are leaving mormonism,” ooops, another one! He helps with depression while people leave the church. Where is the moderator?

Didn’t these commenters get the memo? John helps people stay in the church despite their loss of faith, not leave it!

John is also very good at helping Christians transition out of Christianity:

“I’m a nevermo and avid long time listener to Mormon Stories. I first found this podcast during research for my anthropology degree on religious subcultures… I’ve been listening regularly ever since. It has helped to spark a deep an abiding fascination with LDS history and culture. I draw great inspiration from these interviews, and it has helped me in my transition out of being a believing Christian”

Here is how John’s message is affecting others of his growing list of non-Mormon listeners:

“I’m a Byzantine-rite Catholic and an occasional viewer of Mormon Stories, I can ‘testify’ that Mormon Stories has done more to help me understand Mormonism than about anything else I’ve come across during my time of living in east Idaho.

I am both saddened and sickened that John Dehlin is facing a disciplinary council for the wonderful work he does with Mormon Stories. I know the ‘official’ reasons that John Dehlin is facing the disciplinary council is because he supports same-sex marriage and the Ordain Women movement.”

Isn’t it wonderful that the church has an ambassador like John Dehlin who is helping non-members to understand more about Mormonism and Christianity!

Wow, John’s carefully crafted message seems to be working and providing a wonderful lens for non-members to accurately perceive what the real issues are, don’t you think?

Despite John’s admissions that he questions the existence of God, many of his followers see him as a great spiritual leader who has Christ-like qualities:

“John, you are more like Jesus than the Mormon leadership are. You stick to the truth, you choose the right whether it is orthodox or not. You would be the man who protects the woman taken in adultery. The Mormon leadership would go ahead and stone her!!!. You would heal the lepers, the Mormon leadership would declare them unclean. Mormonism is the church of the Pharisees and you have the Christlike strength to stand up to their manifest wickedness.”

One of my favorite quotes is someone who hails John’s work as a “Marvelous Work and a Wonder” ! LOL I had no ideas that Isaiah was speaking about the great work that John Dehlin is doing… 😉

I think my cognitive dissonance reaches its highest level when I see comments from people of faith like this one:

“Honest followers of Christ will continue to support you in this worthwhile cause.

“’For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.’”

Honest followers of Christ will continue to support John Dehlin? John doesn’t even believe in Christ for hell goodness sakes!

I suspect that even John Dehlin gets a little disoriented when he reads comments from passionate Christians that just don’t get what his message is.

Here is a comment that really hits the nail on the head:

“One of the things I find disturbing about Mormon stories is that it really seems so one sided. The topics that the podcast ask followers to comment on or highlight only allows for criticism and complaints about the church.”

One only needs to look at who John Interviews most of the time and how he acts as a cheerleader when people question the basic truths of the restoration, to know what John’s motivation is.

Anyway, I personally enjoy listening to some of the interviews and feel that much information covered needs to be addressed. My beef with John is that I find him disingenuous about his motives and I think he is clearly trying to destroy faith, lead people out of the church, and to cause the church embarrassment and humiliation.. He wants to do all of this  while enjoying the perceived credibility from viewers that comes with being member of the church in good standing. He is a wolf that wants to use church membership as sheep’s clothing. I find that incredibly obnoxious.

But I am digressing from the real topic that I want to address in this post.

Preferential Treatment

The topic I want to bring up has to do with why some people get preferential treatment from the hierarchy  of the LDS church when church discipline is in order.

I confess, I have been the recipient of preferential treatment from the church with regard to disciplinary action.

A few decades ago, when I was speaking at firesides about the apostasy of the modern corporate LDS church, someone called church headquarters to complain about the offensive and disruptive things I was speaking about. I was called in by my Stake President in North Salt Lake and he lovingly and somewhat sheepishly mentioned the complaint that had been registered and said that the brethren asked him to ask me to tone it down a little.

Nothing was ever mentioned about a possible disciplinary council if I refused to desist in what I was doing. 

I left his office scratching my head as to why my membership had not been threatened. Why had I not been summoned to a disciplinary court? It seemed like he was more concerned with not offending me than in giving me a stern warning.

A few years later I sent a scathing letter to my Bishop and Stake President in Idaho, accompanied with a booklet I had published, documenting the total apostasy of the restored church.. In the letter I demanded that they take my name off of the rolls of the church and I told him how disgusted I was at the recent disciplinary actions relative to the “September Six”.

A few days later I got a call from my Stake President, who had never met me, telling me that he could not in good conscience remove my name from the rolls of the church until he met me.

When I met with him he had the booklet I had authored on his desk and he fingered through it to show me he had read it. He had highlighted a large portion of it in yellow (he worked for the church education department and said the information I had compiled was quite interesting, but he refused to discuss it with me) he then showered me with love and praise for having studied the scriptures and church history so much. He said he wished all members of the church would study the scriptures and history of the church so seriously. He said what a loss it would be for the church to loose such a valuable and valiant soul and reminded me that I needed the church also. He then pleaded with me to reconsider my request and stay in the church.

Again, I left scratching my head at how inappropriately I was being treated. Didn’t he understand I was an apostate?

At about the same time I was being showered with love and praise for my research and the critical booklet it produced, by my Stake President, a good friend of mine living in southern Utah was being excommunicated by his Stake President for sincerely asking questions about controversial issues. (he had not been publicly voicing his concerns like I had been)

I have often wondered if my preferential treatment had anything to do with the fact that I had a father and six uncles that had all served as mission presidents and stake presidents and regional representatives and that one of my uncles was the regional representative over the region my Stake President served in. (that uncle later became a GA)

My point is that not all dissenters are treated equally.

There are lots of things that are taken into consideration by the leaders of the church before they decide to marginalize someone and take measures that could diminish the person’s reputation in the church and community.

I got preferential treatment from my Stake President and I don’t think it is because I am extremely charming… although I must say, that I am extremely, extremely, charming. 😉

So what about John Dehlin?

How come he got a free pass for ten years?

Why didn’t the church excommunicate him ten years ago when he should have been excommunicated and could have been dealt with without creating such a circus?

He is also quite a charming dude, but I don’t think it has to do with that.

Had the church treated him like they do most dissenters, he would not be creating such a media shit-storm right now. He would have been cut loose very quietly when he had no following, and long before he could catch the current wave of special interest passion that he is riding right now.

Those who have been following John Dehlin are aware that he has “friends” in “high places” at the church that have been running interference for him for many years. The question is, who are these friends of his? Why have they been running interference for him against the better interests of the corporation?

The long delay in dealing with John Dehlin could potentially result in many more members of the church leaving it or refusing to pay a full tithe, or any tithe. It could result in the loss of Millions of dollars worth of tithing revenue, not to mention the a long term PR nightmare and tarnished image problems that cannot even begin to be calculated. Arguably, we could end up with fewer high end shopping malls because of this fiasco.

Regardless of whether or not John’s current following is getting tired of the drama, John has succeeded in bringing controversial issues to light. There are many, many Mormons that are beginning to ask tough questions and experience varying degrees of a faith crisis.

John is at least partially responsible for putting enough pressure on the church to publish the recent historical essays. I recently read the letter that a young couple sent to their Bishop informing him that they no longer believe. The striking thing about the letter is that they attributed their loss of faith to the historical essays that the church has recently published, rather than to anti-Mormon literature. They claimed they were never willing to believe anti-Mormon literature because they viewed it as non-credible, but when they read all of the disturbing information that the church is now publicly acknowledging, they completely lost faith and felt betrayed, feeling that this information has been denied and covered up for years.

How is it possible that John Dehlin had so much pull at church HQ that he was able to avoid excommunication for ten long embarrassing, faith destroying years while highlighting the stories of disaffected Mormons and anti-Mormon-exMormons? How was he able to get the high powered LDS apologists at FARMS publicly humiliated and fired?

I have to wonder if the key to John’s connection with people in high places has something to do with the fact that John Dehlin has an older brother by the name of Joel Dehlin who was once  the CIO of the Mormon Church.

One has to wonder how much this connection has to do with how well John Dehlin is connected to the Mormon Church. Does it play into the preferential treatment he has received and his long overdue disciplinary council? I think it may interrelate in two possible respects:

The first is obvious. Joel rubbed shoulders with people in high places at church HQ and formed strong bonds of friendship and loyalty. There are obviously strong connections there that may have softened the hearts of some of the leaders towards Joels brother John.

The other not quite so obvious possibility is that, John Dehlin may have been privy to some dirt on the church through his brother Joel and perhaps the brethren did not want to piss him off for that reason. It is not unlikely that Joel was exposed to some very disturbing information about the inner workings of the church, as a result of his position at the church, and he may have shared it with John, not realizing how John would respond to it. Perhaps that is what motivated John’s crisis of faith years ago.

As my wise father used to warn me, “don’t ever go to work for the church, it will destroy your testimony.”

This is all speculation of course.

All we know for sure is that a disciplinary council that should have taken place a long time ago, is going to now take place and because of the delay in taking this action, it has and will cost the corporate church dearly in many ways.

But here is the real story behind the story. The all-knowing God of Israel always takes that which is evil and uses it for good.

The great crisis of faith that many Mormons have and will experience as a result of Mormonstories and John Dehlin, is causing many people a great deal of indigestion. While some simply loose faith and leave the church, others begin searching for deeper answers. They quit taking the scriptures for granted. Many are starting to dig in and begin truly reading God’s word as if their salvation actually depended upon it.

Great things are going to come out of this.

While some will fall by the wayside, others will make it through the refiners fire and be purified as gold.

Although some will not have oil in their lamps during the awakening, some will.

The person who mockingly said that John is doing a Marvelous Work and a Wonder has probably unwittingly stated a truth. The actions of John Dehlin and others who are trying to destroy faith in the Book of Mormon and the restoration, are being used by the Lord to separate the sheep from the goats and to prepare the elect for the Marvelous Work and a Wonder that is beginning to shine forth for the last time.

 

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