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  1. Well, it was just a matter of time, no? My very best wishes to John Dehlin, and the rest of the panel. And if anyone hasn’t read it yet, this is a good time to read Martin Luther King’s book of essays / sermons called “Strength to Love”. It’s perfect for occasions like this one. God bless, and thank you all for your openness and your willingness to be authentic and to serve those who are ostracised.

  2. The Mormon Church’s excommunication process is a staged play. It is a scheme whereby the accused is being punished for his own good. The jurors of the loving faithful are witnesses for their own good (fear) and the system is like a Soviet rehabilitation gulag. And the Authorities look on with beatific smiles, white hair glistening and their tempers glowering underneath their supposed benevolence.

    1. Joe,

      first off let me say that I am saddened by John’s excommunication as I am for all who are excommunicated; secondly, I want to stress how challenging it is and how seriously those who participate in disciplinary councils take the responsibility of weighing somebody’s membership in the balance – having sat on many councils I can honestly say it is an incredibly humbling experience and none of the brethren that I know has ever been anything but sincere and thoughtful in their deliberations.


  3. I’d like to thank the panel for their thoughtful responses. It pleases me when events and experiences in our peculiar tradition are analyzed using a variety of lenses, including: post-modernism, psychology, sociology, theology, history, ethics, etc. The discussion, among other things, fosters a heightened self-awareness. Thank you for your ministry.

  4. John helped me 10 years ago when I started a faith transition. I agree with him on most of his views and beliefs. To me, it appears that he has changed his approach quite a bit since the time we spoke 10 years ago.
    Back then, the focus was really on the individual and how they can best deal with their faith transition and grapple with the hard issues involved with church history etc.
    Now, he’s switched to a more activist role. He is actively pursuing and encouraging change within the church. This, more than anything, is the reason for the excommunication.

    1. Thanks for the insight Legrand. I got the feeling that a lot of people back what one of the speakers said when laughing about the comment, “So, they excommunicated him just because he has an opinion?”
      I have my own opinions and some of them aren’t the same as my LDS brothers and sisters, but I don’t go around kicking against the pricks, trying to change the church from the outside. There are reasons the church is organized the way it is.

      1. “Kick the can”, a religious prose that discusses how to avoid pain.

        We could title this discussion, “Don’t play kick The Rock”, or, “The Painful Game of “Kicking the Kingdom”.

        When I was young, we played a game that you may have participated in as a youth. The game is called, “Kick the Can”.

        The can of choice in the past was a Folgers Coffee can. That has been replaced, in our day, with plastic containers that aren’t suited well for getting the distance needed to continue the game.

        To keep this discussion more fun and light, I will try to avoid attempting heavier subjects, other than to say that we didn’t play, kick the rock! Kick the rock immediately brings pictures to ones mind of kids in casts, with broken toes and feet. Some rocks, such as the ones we refer to as pebbles may be appropriate for a kids game, but larger rocks, such as boulders, are best to avoid, especially in the realm of kicking.

        A couple weeks ago, I was preparing a Gospel Principles lesson on the Millennium. Toward the beginning of the lesson content, in the manual, was a wise suggestion to avoid speculation. Early on with my lesson preparations, were thoughts of how do I avoid speculation, when there was so much to speculate about!

        In retrospect, I discovered that it is fine to speculate, or, more appropriately, to “wonder” within the walls of our private spaces, but in public it is wise to keep discussions strictly to the revealed Word. Of course, it is best, altogether, to run from the words that “somebody”, even “religious authorities” once said, or wrote in a book that has since been clarified, retracted, discounted, or put into the “we just don’t know yet” box.

        During my lesson on the Millennium, I wrote a word on the chalkboard, “speculation”. We were to “stick with the material in the manual”, and if any comments were outside of that realm, I put a mark under the word, speculation.

        Some of the lesson content was humorous, such as, “We will wear clothes during the Millennium”, which may have brought to some minds news reports from the 60s (my that was a long time ago!) which some class members may have felt the need to debate, but hopefully helped us just laugh at ourselves.

        I will admit, regrettably, that I have led many past religious lesson, discussions, in which I stated my “wonders”, but have since learned that the Spirit thrives in an environment where we stick to the very basic “knowns” and “not even go there” when connecting kicking with rocks.

      2. John Dehlin not only walked the tightrope he was walking between the two lives he actively sought to live; he actively lit the fuse of his excommunication when he made it clear through his own words that he refuted many of the key core doctrines of the Church regarding the Book of Mormon, the nature of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and his actively seeking to lead others astray from the Church.

        Clearly John cannot have it both ways, and in reading from other correspondence he had with Brent King (his stake president), he was looking for a way out, and through his clear and deliberate choice, he forced the stake president’s choice on the matter, and his excommunication came about, because THAT WAS EXACTLY WHAT JOHN WANTED.

        Let me repeat that: John was excommunicated because THAT WAS EXACTLY WHAT JOHN WANTED. So, at the end of the day, there will be no crying for John, because this is what he chose, and at the end of the day, what people choose is what they usually get, often of their own deserving.

        1. Tim, do you have a special faculty for having infallible insight into the inner thoughts and motivations of your fellow human beings?

          1. Infallible, no. However, John’s own behavior and shifting attitudes and yes, even loyalties, or perhaps the better word would be spiritual core center had changed, and in the process, his motivations had also adjusted in the process.

            If you’ll remember, he was also making close to $90,000 annually from his podcast work; this was in addition to his pursuit of his PhD, which was no easy feat. That being said, if you refer to Rollins Rule #4 (of 4), we’re reminded that “if in doubt, follow the money”, it is not a stretch to understand that the allure of $90,000/year can often cause many people – whether male or female – to lose track of their origins, or where their spiritual or moral bearings. My fear is that John may have lost his way. I hold no ill will toward him; never have, and only with him peace in the hope he has a desire to return to the fold.

          2. Well, I read what you said in reply and stand by my original comment. In Australia we say, “Play the ball, not the man.” When people run out of rational rebuttals of someone’s position, they generally start saying unpleasant things about them as people, and many of those are mere speculations…particularly when it comes to black-and-white statements about what motivates a person or how they think. I really don’t think that’s a helpful approach.

  5. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this conversation. While it feels at times like the official church is drifting towards ‘the drunkards of Ephraim’ foreseen by Isaiah, I love the observation that each of us individually still gets to live like we believe Jesus would want us to. Brian, you were a great moderator.

  6. This is where the dogmatic talks comes in. Here it is suggested, implied and said that those who are hostile to others are the conservative branch of people. But no one recognizes that the hostility goes both ways–just consider for a moment Kate Kelly’s latest article wherein she suggests there’s no way of the millions of people who thrive in the Church can be as talented as she. It only amounted to ridiculous bigotry. To talk condescendingly as if you have the answers to this problem while only using dogmatic lines is furthering the problem. For instance, you keep dogmatically saying that there is hostility and I think even the word violence is used, when someone is excommunicated for promoting a cause that leads more people out fo the Church than keeps people in it. But that’s just dogma. Most LDS don’t see it as anywhere near hostile, but view it as an act of love, which may seem strange to you…but then let that sink in. Thus, the whole basis for wanting a change is based on that which you say you want changed.
    It’s not as if John didn’t attack leaders of the Church, didn’t call members things like pathological liars, deceivers and all that. It’s not as if John didn’t express sympathy for the difficulty his SP’s family went through because of the whole event, then turned right around and posted a deceptively recorded conversation on the site that is frequented by people who are unsympathetic and often hostile to the SP.

    The problem is you are arguing for this in a divisive way–“they need to change. We are enlighted.” You do nothing more than come off as unsympathetic and unapologetic people who view everyone else as the problem. With that said, yo make some pretty decent points, but you miss the boat on the whole.

    I know you don’t prefer open dialogue and thus won’t allow this post to show, but hopefully someone reads it.

      1. Well go figure. I’ve tried to reply to Open Stories things before and each and every time they do not let my comments pass moderation. I guess I normally swear too much or something.

  7. Dan, your sentiments around the 1:00 mark in the podcast made me think about this quote I recently read: “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” ~Nelson Henderson

    I think we as humans all want to be able to experience and live out what we see is the best of what could be in the institutions we live in. Religion, politics, family, relationships, culture, society, you name it. The desire is the same in all of those. We want to live in and have for ourselves and our loved ones the way we see things should and could be. So pain and suffering comes when that desire is never met, time and time again, due to the reality that exists in its place. But what you talked about made me think, “what if living in the shade of that realized desire has never been what our purpose is for in the first place?”

    What if our whole purpose is not to sit on the top of a ship and enjoy the horizon after finally reaching it, but instead to be the hands below that work to row and steer (and help to course correct) the ship ever closer to the horizon, not with the desire and intent to ever actually reach it, but to simply get it ever closer, knowing that those who came before us and those who come after us will also do the same?

    I mean, if we used our gifts and efforts with the desire (and understanding that this is the actual purpose of all of us) to be a part of the process of getting the ship closer, then the blows and hurt and pain of not seeing the horizon reached to sit back and enjoy could have no effect on us because we understand that is not what our purpose is for. It’s not even for our children to be able to sit back and enjoy. Granted, they’ll enjoy what all we did to move the ship forward, just like I enjoy from those who came before me, but there will always be forward work to do. They will have their own work not yet realized to row and steer with the same understanding in mind: get ever closer. That’s all. After all, a horizon is truly never reachable, but used to direct and guide.

    Because when you think about it, every institution on this earth that I named earlier is a human one. Even divinely led and inspired institutions are not without the human element in them that exists. And so as long as that is the case (and it always will be while we are in this earthly state), we will never see a complete actualization of what truly could be. We will always be lacking in some way until we reach divinity ourselves. So if I understand that, I understand my institution better. Then I can better understand my purpose in it as well. And that is not to sit in it’s fully developed shade (and suffer when the shade isn’t as full as I think it should be or am working for it to be). It’s to continually plant the trees, and be happy and glad in the planting. And that understanding can give me joy in the work without pain in what it still lacks.

    That’s what the process of evolution is. And I can either be perpetually in pain because evolution hasn’t been fully realized to completion for me to enjoy, or I can be glad and find joy in the evolutionary process itself, and understand that my being a part of that continual process IS all of God’s purpose for me and for all of us.

  8. Dan,
    Please post a link at the top to the article you mentioned by U. Carlisle Hunsaker. I read it tonight and it blew me away. I am going to have to read it many more times to fully grasp it. One quote from it that struck me so deeply was, “Our history, individually and collectively, is in many ways the story of our struggle for autonomy as well as a witness to our fear of it, and our efforts to flee its demands.” It made me think that if we are truly meant to follow Christ and act as He did, then we must decide to follow God’s will even when we feel as though He has withdrawn His spirit from us as Christ experienced on the cross. Thank you for sharing this Dan. You are a great inspiration to me as someone who will live his life just as Brother Hunsaker explains it should be lived, “Uncertain of the outcome but anxious to try”.

    1. Post

      Just added links to Hunsaker article, Greg. Thanks for reminder!

      I’m so glad that piece connected with you, and this discussion, as well. Thank you, too, for your kind words to me.

      All best!

    2. Parts of the Hunsaker article reminded me of the following quote by Jules Renard which appeared in Julian Barnes’s excellent memoir, “nothing to be frightened of.”

      “You tell me that I am an atheist [apostate?], because we do not each of us seek God in the same way. Or rather, you believe that you’ve found Him. Congratulations. I am still searching for Him. And I’ll carry on searching for the next ten or twenty years, if He grants me life. I fear not finding Him, but I’ll carry on searching all the same. He might be grateful for my attempt. And perhaps He will have pity on your smug confidence and your lazy, simple-minded faith.”

      Jules Renard’s journal entry, January 7th, 1903.

      1. That’s powerful. I would that more looked at the wrestle for truth and the wrestle of faith with less condemnation as well as less pride in their own sense of settled accomplishment of both.

      2. Great quote, thank you. It reminds me of an interesting comment by a Catholic on a bickering Christian forum (the usual thing – “the right way to believe” – who’s in, who’s out – who’s Christian, who’s not – so tedious). I wish I had a link but he said he had children himself and his love for them and acceptance of their gifts to him (which included some pretty unpalatable sandwiches) was unconditional, and in the spirit in which these things were given, and that he can’t imagine a God who is somehow petty about what people try to offer him, or that his own Catholicism was going to be some kind of sticking point with God in the end for being “wrong”, any more than any other “brand” per se (as opposed to self-righteousness about allegedly being in the “right” brand).

  9. You guys are radical!

    You linked to and mentioned a paper written by U. Carlyle Hunsaker, a former LDS Institute Instructor at the University of Utah.. It is a good paper. I’m sure you know that Elder Packer was very offended by that paper: so much so, that he had Brother Hunsaker removed from his position at the Institute.

    Pushing the envelope. Never thought Mormon Matters would be able to do it. Good for you!

  10. It seems evident to me that John Dehlin (and perhaps this panel)has never read Armand Mauss’s wonderful article in the April 1990 issue of Sunstone titled Alternate Voices: the Calling and Its Implications. Under the heading of Decalogue for Dissenters,brother Mauss gives us ten principles to follow when we want to be an alternate voice. Brother Dehlin seems to have ignored all of those principles. He has constantly poked his thumb into the eyes of his leaders or thumbed his nose at them. He has acted like a homicidal maniac who dares the police to shoot him while pointing a loaded gun at them. The police have finally shot him. It is sad but nevertheless predictable.

  11. I really appreciated this podcast. It crystalized what I have believed all along.

    1- God’s children can either choose to be part of the Priesthood restoration or not. FLDS chose not. Community of Christ not (by the way I love the peace message of the C of C). They chose another work be it good, bad or indifferent along with the rest of the world.
    2- Those of us who believe that we have been called to this (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) Priesthood work recognize that it is Christ’s work made ours through covenant with him and the Father with a man Prophet to represent them in this world.
    3- With John and Kate’s choice, they have chosen another work outside of the restored Priesthood. Be it good. bad or indifferent.

    Mormon Stories et.al. has brought comfort to many that stood in need of comfort a Christ-like work, but it took them out of the restored Priesthood scope of work meaning bringing the saving ordinances of the gospel to the world. In John’s case, although noble as it might be, it took him outside of the Priesthood realm. I am sure he will go on to many great and wonderful things in this life and who knows as he said to told Doug Fabrizio, maybe he’ll find his way back. I sure hope so. The laborers ar few.

    So we all choose as pointed out in the pod cast. It may be in the church or our actions/choices may take us out. It does not make one bad or good, it simply no longer makes them part of the Latter Day Priesthood work.

  12. Food for thought for the last two posters here: What if you’re wrong? Just assume that possibility exists for one moment… despite of your cultural and social programming. Funny that: In intellectual circles, acknowledging the possibility of being wrong is called intellectual humility. In fundamentalist religious circles, it’s called lack of faith. Hmmm.

    Who was it that said: Religion is the enemy of God?

      1. Dear Corrado: There are many perspectives with regard to dissent that cannot be totally encapsulated according to someone’s “ten principles”. Nevertheless, the issue(s) surrounding JD’s excommunication for me is more about whether his excommunication is not so much about dissent, but rather a matter of how Christianity is defined and actualized within the total context of Mormonism’s dynamics of power, authority, doctrines and policies.

        Also, stating that JD “has acted like a homicidal maniac who dares the police to shoot him while pointing a loaded gun at them,” is not a judgmental nor accurate metaphor that I would be comfortable using. Was Jesus a homicidal maniac when he exposed the errors of the religious leaders of his time? Was Martin Luther a homicidal manic when he posted his his nine-five theses? How about Gandhi, Mandela, Rosa Parks, etc.? To be sure, I am not suggesting that JD is as eminent on the world scene (and I am sure he wouldn’t either), but rather someone who was at least a voice for many, many people who have questions and concerns with regard to the Mormon church.

        “Know the truth and the truth will set you free.” This is a divine tenet my gospel and I am not alone:

        “I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. We should, of course, respect the opinions of others, but we should also be unafraid to dissent–if we are informed. Thoughts and expressions compete in the marketplace of thought, and in that competition truth emerges triumphant. Only error fears freedom of expression… This free exchange of ideas is not to be deplored as long as men and women remain humble and teachable. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences. … We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” Hugh B. Brown

        “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.” J. Ruben Clark,

        “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” Joseph Smith Jr.

        If, however, dissent is relevant to you then indeed how can there be any notion of honest, informed *consent* without the allowance of dissent? To think otherwise is fascist.

        As I have already suggested in another post, John Dehlin is not, nor ever was distributively threatening much less crazy (“a homicidal maniac”) except to those who are not desirous to determine truth by following the Socratic principle of following the evidence wherever it leads, or at the very least are not tolerant of other opinions (bigoted!); who feel insecure or full of pride, and hence repulsed by the possibility that they may have been duped, and/or are secretly disturbed within themselves that they may be living in a house of cards, but lack the courage to honestly and openly confront these haunting thoughts.

        Would that more LDS leaders could live by the sacrosanct principles of “The glory of God is intelligence.” and “Perfect love casteth out all fear.”

        Notwithstanding my verbose response, peace, and as always, Corrado: Tante belle cose to you and the family!

      2. John did not start out confrontational; he was sincere, knowledgeable, well-meaning and had great guests that drew an impressive following, which to me as a profiler of sorts (with a good track record) sent up red flags on that alone.

        The problems began being noticed in John as his reputation and – for lack of a better word – his fame spread within the LDS community spread, it gradually became less and less about the Gospel and the Church and more about John Dehlin.

        Just as the late George P. Lee had lost the spirit of his calling as a General Authority piecemeal with one bad choice after another until such time as he was called to account for it that culminated in his excommunication on 1 September 1989,so too, did John Dehlin either fail – or more likely ignore – to see the warning signs that could have prevented from choosing the path of confrontation that ultimately led to his excommunication last month in Utah.

        Rollins’ Rule #4 states, “If in doubt, FOLLOW THE MONEY…” As John’s income from the Mormon Stories Podcast series was going upwards of $90,000 annually – all this while working on his Ph.D. in counseling no less, I cannot help but feel that John had lost his focus where it counted most, namely serving others instead of self.

        In light of his excommunication, and living in of all places, Logan, Utah, John may have NO CHOICE but to leave Logan and ESPECIALLY UTAH, as nobody there is going to feel comfortable going for counseling to an excommunicated Latter-day Saint for any level of counseling,especially with the Gospel such a key core doctrine to their lives such as it is…

        I hope John finds his peace, and wish him well to that end…

    1. Anyone that is honest has broached the question of being wrong. My spiritual experiences tell me otherwise. I am where I need to be. Others may find another path. The Church has brought me to Christ and the Priesthood.

  13. I was deeply saddened by John’s excommunication. I had found my way out of the classical literal Mormon mindset a few years before I discovered Mormon Stories but the podcast gave me a place to commune with like-minded believers. Life as a post-literal Mormon can be a bit lonely and I am grateful for the community that John has established.

    After a week of reflection, I am really quite intrigued on where things will go from here. Observing Church PR’s handling of the excommunication, along with the dissonance displayed by the recent and unprecedented Oaks\Christopherson press conference, is telling. There is not consensus on many of these modern moral dilemmas at the top of the Mormon hierarchy and even if there were, the alternative voices are now loud enough among the membership that some serious wrangling is occurring at the top. Watching revelation come from the bottom-up in an organization that had evolved into a top-down command structure over the past 100 years is something to watch.

    After a week of mourning, I am ready to enjoy the ride again. God certainly moves in mysterious ways!

  14. It seemed to be mostly about the groups self importants as nothing of John actions and position were discussed in relation to the exc..

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