Mormon Church Expels Outspoken Critic

John Dehlin Says He Was Ousted for Backing Gay Marriage and Gender Equality

The New York Times/February 10, 2015

By Laurie Goodstein

John P. Dehlin, the founder and host of a popular podcast for Mormons who question their faith, announced on Tuesday that a 15-member church disciplinary council had unanimously decided to excommunicate him for apostasy.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormon Church, confirmed that he had been expelled and maintained that it had done so because Mr. Dehlin led members astray by publicly proclaiming his disbelief in Mormon scripture and basic doctrines. But Mr. Dehlin said the reason the church expelled him now, after years of monitoring his “Mormon Stories” podcast and Facebook page, was his outspoken advocacy for same-sex marriage and the ordination of women as priests.

In an extraordinary step, Mr. Dehlin released to reporters what he said was a transcript of a recording he surreptitiously made of the confidential meeting last August in which his local church leaders laid out the grounds for disciplining him. The transcript shows that the church leaders were troubled that Mr. Dehlin had made statements on Facebook and in podcasts that questioned such things as the existence of God, the Mormon Church’s claim to be “the one true church” and whether the Book of Mormon and other church scriptures are true and historically accurate.

But they also told a combative Mr. Dehlin, according to the transcript, that it is indeed a problem that he has openly supported both same-sex marriage and the group Ordain Women, which pushes for gender equality in the church, because both are contrary to church teachings. The founder of Ordain Women, Kate Kelly, was excommunicated last year, and some of the group’s leaders say they have also faced church discipline.

A church spokesman would not comment on Mr. Dehlin’s recording of the meeting.

In the letter to Mr. Dehlin informing him of the excommunication on Monday, Bryan C. King, president of the North Logan, Utah, stake, or church district, wrote that Mr. Dehlin has the right to state his opinions openly. “But you do not have the right to remain a member of the church in good standing while openly and publicly trying to convince others that church teachings are in error,” Mr. King wrote.

Mr. Dehlin and his wife, Margi, faced a disciplinary council of 15 men on Sunday evening in a closed hearing at the North Logan Stake Center. Mr. Dehlin said he had presented five witnesses: his parents, a neighbor, a former professor at Brigham Young University and his brother Joel, formerly the church’s chief information officer — all believing Mormons.

Outside the hearing, hundreds of his supporters held a candlelight vigil. Mr. Dehlin is known not only for his podcast, but also for research he has conducted for his Ph.D. thesis on psychological problems and suicide among gay Mormons. He also counsels Mormons, gay and straight, who have struggled to reconcile their lives with church teachings. One of them was the neighbor, who testified at the disciplinary council that Mr. Dehlin had helped save his marriage.

“I still love the church,” Mr. Dehlin said in an interview on Tuesday. “I still love its members. I still consider myself Mormon in the same way that a Jew would consider himself Jewish even if he doesn’t believe or follow everything. I look back on my time with the church with gratitude, and I look forward to many more days trying to promote healing and growth with unorthodox Mormons.”

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