John Dehlin Faces Excommunication

A scene from John Dehlin’s upcoming disciplinary council, probably.

After years of palling around with anti-Mormon apostates (e.g. Tom Phillips, Simon Southerton, Brent Metcalfe, Jeremy Runnells, Grant Palmer, etc.), systematically undermining Church teachings on the law of chastity and the role of the priesthood, flaunting his disdain and contempt for the Brethren, openly deriding the Prophet, condescendingly talking down to Church members and scholars who remain faithful, and using asinine “monsonhasdimentia[sic]” hashtags, John Dehlin is finally facing a disciplinary council.

I am not a prophet, but I don’t think it takes any powers of clairvoyance to predict what the outcome will be.

Frankly, it couldn’t come too soon.

Sorry, but you’re not going to see any crocodile tears from me on this. It’s no secret that I have been openly critical of Dehlin’s frequently baldfaced attacks on the Church, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Brethren. Dehlin is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a snake in the grass, and has been responsible for leading many people out of the Church with his silver-tongued flatteries and deceptions. Seeing as how he shows no signs of contrition or intention to change his apostate behavior, I think it is long overdue for him to either A) grow a spine and withdraw his membership from the church he no longer believes in, or B) lose his church membership that he’s exploiting to gain additional unsuspecting followers.

One thing I can guarantee is that Dehlin will milk the free publicity for all it’s worth. Expect snappy soundbites and memes from Dehlin and his followers in the press and online, which will all basically end with “Church bad. Dehlin good.” Expect rallies, protests, petitions, etc. (I won’t be surprised if we even see a “mass resignation” or two involving a cadre of Dehlin’s followers.) Expect a vigil on the night of Dehlin’s court hearing. (Why else would Dehlin provide his supporters the time and location of his council?) Expect tedious, lugubrious, and melodramatic posts at Feminist Mormon Housewives and Rational Faiths on how Dehlin’s excommunication just proves the Church despises truth, goodness, decency, and puppies. Expect op-eds from Joanna Brooks, Jana Riess, and Peggy Fletcher Stack on how Dehlin’s excommunication signals how intolerant the Church is. (Because, remember, in our post-post-modern “big tent Mormonism” world if you don’t accept everyone, even people trying to fundamentally destroy the Church from the inside out, you’re a bigot.) Expect an unabashedly pro-Dehlin interview with Dehlin on RadioWest. In short, expect Dehlin to go down in a blaze of PR glory.

Of course, none of this is new. Any student of Mormon history will know the name William S. Godbe. He was the founder of the so-called Godbeites, a 19th century Mormon splinter group. Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton characterized the movement this way.

[T]he most serious threat to the Mormons in the 1860s came from divisions within their own ranks. In 1869 William S. Godbe and a number of disaffected Mormon businessmen and intellectuals . . . urged the church to adapt to the new era by participating in mining and trading. Godbe and his friends were disillusioned with several aspects of Mormonism, especially the “interference” with what they regarded as private concerns. They dabbled in spiritualism and criticized the frank materialism and authoritarian leadership style of Brigham Young. When Godbe and his associates were expelled from the church, they established the New Movement, often known as the Godbeites. As a religion the movement soon floundered, but its periodical, Utah Magazine, continued and later, as the Salt Lake City Daily Tribune, became the most effective organ of the territory’s Gentiles.

(Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints [University of Illinois Press, 1992], 176.)

John Dehlin is another sad example in the long line of defectors and dissidents who have tried, and failed, to steer the Church away from its divinely mandated mission. The Dramatis personae and the scenery might change, but more often than not the tactics, aims, and criticisms of these apostates are the same. So, too, is the outcome. Dehlin, like his apostate forerunners, has followed “after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol.” It was only a matter of time before he be called to account for his actions, as this idol “waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall” (D&C 1:16).

[Note: Because there’s some misunderstanding, allow me to clarify the picture above. As I commented, “The image is a joke. I’m using it sarcastically. It’s meant to undermine or make fun of the fanciful caricature people sometimes have of disciplinary councils as something like the Spanish Inquisition.” I am NOT mocking Dehlin. I am mocking the misunderstanding many people (especially non-members) have about the nature of disciplinary councils. As another poster said, “We have to have a sense of humor about how the world misunderstands us.”]

36 thoughts on “John Dehlin Faces Excommunication”

  1. Excellent assessment of the whole situation. I agree on all counts. While I am sad for Dehlin and his family, he has no right to continue trying to tear the Church down from the inside. What always baffles me is the commenters on his blog who frequently say that he is the reason they have chosen to stay in the church, most of whom claim to be barely hanging on to their faith. Really? What objective person could spend five minutes on Dehlin's blog and feel any support for the idea of staying in the Church? It's speculation, but I believe many of those commenting are supporters of Dehlin (including other apostates and those who no longer affiliate with the Church) who say those things just to promote greater sympathy for Dehlin andor to lure others into believing Dehlin's work is actually accomplishing something good. In any case, he has done this to himself and it's about time the Church responded. He is absolutely a wolf in sheep's clothing.

    • How is speaking the truth tearing the church down? I have listened to John for over a year and nothing he has ever said that I have heard, was untrue. Your statement should say "John has no right to continue trying to expose the lies that THe Cult of Latter Day Saints tries to hide behind"

    • Speaking the truth? Please. He cherry-picks a mixture of truths, half-truths, bald-faced lies, and rumors, which he then distorts and twists into biased attacks on the Church. The irony is that Dehlin has no credentials or expertise to speak with any sort of authority on most of his pet topics–but he portrays himself as an expert and his followers eat it up. Like most of his like-minded predecessors, he will eventually fade into irrelevancy. By the way, your statement that you've never heard him say anything untrue says a lot. I have heard him say both truths and untruths–but it is patently obvious what his agenda is, and he has no business staying in the Church.

  2. Kevin, please. Dehlin is a master of the one-sided argument. He never, and mean NEVER, interacts with facts that contradict his chosen narrative. This is especially true on issue such as Nauvoo era polygamy and the Book of Mormon. Seriously, have you ever seen him attempt to address the work of Brian Hales, Brant Gardener, Jack Welch, John Gee? Nope, he whistles right past those works with a nary a nod to their existence, let alone an acknowledgement that they contract his chosen story line. John Dehlin is a self-promotion media whore. He has his reward.

    • You've nailed it. Well said.

      And when he does try to engage with these and other faithful scholars' work, he more often than not constructs mere straw men arguments, either out of ignorance (think of his dreadfully unaware interview with Michael Coe) or spite (think of his gratuitous slamming of Gee and Kerry Muhlestein in his interview with his pal Brent Metcalfe).

    • @Office Staff

      Please… now you are just being dishonest. John Dehlin had Brian Hales on Mormon Stories. And he has had other LDS apologist on MS as well.

      The problem with addressing an apologists argument is that their arguments are non-nonsensical. Let's demonstrate this using Brian Hales. Brian tries to defend Joseph Smith Jr's marriages as non-sexual. But Brian openly admits that JS had sex with ~10 of the women. We know this because the sexual encounters are reported in the history. So how hard is it to assume that Joseph Smith had sex with all ~35 of his plural wives? Just because it isn't reported, doesn't mean we cannot make a conclusion. Especially when the accounts we have say things like, "JS marriages were marriages in the full since of the word." And especially since most people don't go around advertising their sexual adventures.

      One final example: If you look up "horses" on FAIR, some apologist say that horses really means tapirs or deer ( This is just plain ridiculous. It is not unfair to point out the silliness in an apologist's argument.

      We could go on all day long with the silliness behind many apologist arguments.

    • I am well aware that Hales appeared on Mormon Stories. Then, a few weeks later, another guest apearred (whose name escapes me now), and he made several assertions that are quite explicitly contradicted by Hale's documentation. Dehlin never challenged him on them. This means two things: (1) Dehlin is not intelligent enough to recall the contradictory information (doubtful) or: (2) Dehlin deliberately ignored the contradictory information because it did not support his preferred narrative.

      Regarding your rather bizarre aside about "horses" and "tapirs", the argument is not silly at all and the fact that you think it is simply shows the shallowness of your own understanding of what's being argued. Also, you really ought to look at some of the work of Mark Wright, a trained expert in things Mayan. See if you can find the photos of ancient Mayan pottery decorated with designs of men riding….deer. Truly amazing stuff if you actually have the mental faculty to understand it.

    • The guy was Alex Beam, author of "American Crucifixion."

      And you're exactly right that Dehlin either was "not intelligent enough to recall the contradictory information" or "deliberately ignored the contradictory information because it did not support his preferred narrative."

      "Also, you really ought to look at some of the work of Mark Wright, a trained expert in things Mayan."

      I was Mark's research assistant, and can confirm his expertise in Mesoamerican archaeology and anthropology. He's also all around a really good guy!

  3. Unless you're actually an ex-mo troll instead of a faithful member of the Church, you should probably change the image associated with this post. The Church has gone to great lengths to emphasize the "Love" aspect of disciplinary councils, even calling them "Courts of Love". My own Stake President used those very words to describe the meeting at the last disciplinary council I attended, just last week, as a member of the High Council. The image you've chosen undermines all that effort, and in fact, the true nature of the councils. I very much doubt that your hateful and vindictive feelings are shared by the leadership of the Church.

    • The image is a joke. I'm using it sarcastically. It's meant to undermine or make fun of the fanciful caricature people sometimes have of disciplinary councils as something like the Spanish Inquisition.

      It was either that or a picture of someone being burned at the "stake" (Get it? Because "stake center"!) But I've already used that schtick before, so I opted for something new.

  4. I just don't understand the LDS church's desire to excommunicate people who disagree with either it's doctrine or church leaders. How does it help anyone to excommunicate people like Dehlin? It doesn't help bring Dehlin closer to the Lord, or increase the odds that he will repent of his unbelief. It isn't going to prevent existing church members from listening to his podcasts.

    If anything, excommunicating Dehlin just creates a bigger news story and attracts even more interest in Dehlin's podcasts and beliefs.

    Why can't the LDS church allow critics to remain members? The Catholic church, for example, hardly ever excommunicates anyone these days, even those who support beliefs the church is adamantly opposed to (e.g. birth control, gay marriage, female priests, etc).

    Perhaps there was a time when excommunicating someone would impinge their ability to communicate and influence other church members. In the age of the internet and modern media this is no longer valid.

  5. Surkanstance, if Dehlin was content to keep his doubts to himself that'd be exactly what they do. If all he had were hard questions and he was seeking answers, that'd be exactly what they do. But Dehlin is just asking "hard questions" (whatever that means), he's also providing his own answers, and those answers are inevitably the most uncharitable, unflattering, least supported ones. And then he goes out and tries to get people to agree with him. That is apostasy, and he should be excommunicated for it. I have a very dear friend, someone whom I loved deeply (and still do) who left the church because of John Dehlin. I have no sympathy and no tears for the man. I have even less for self-proclaimed martyrs.

  6. When you are baptized, you promise God that you will support him and your fellow members in the work of salvation on the earth. If you are breaking that promise, you are better off being released from that promise and obligation. It is a matter of restoring your integrity, and being judged by a different Terrestrial standard.

    As for the illustration, it is only a bit worse than the way the PBS program "The Mormons" portrayed the scene of a stake high council disciplinary hearing as a dark, austere star chamber. We have to have a sense of humor about how the world misunderstands us, something we can recommend to our Muslim neighbors.

    • "We have to have a sense of humor about how the world misunderstands us."

      This guy gets it. Thank you!

      The world does misunderstand what a disciplinary council is like, and I was mocking that misunderstanding, NOT Dehlin.

  7. Hey, Smoot, you are the least Christian, most black hearted excuse for a human being I've ever had the misfortunate not to be able to avoid.

  8. Its been years since I left and the vast majority of the time I remain happily unaware of what is going on within the Mormon church. Sometimes, I even get a little sentimental when I think about the good times I had during my mission, or at BYU, or when I was in Boy Scouts.

    But every few months or so the church will make national news (usually for doing something backwards or morally repugnant, and which they will be backtracking on or denying within a few decades) and I find myself poking around LDS blogs and websites a little bit and am almost always take aback a little bit because I completely forget how self righteous, arrogant, and mean spirited many Mormons can be. I strongly doubt you realize how the rest of the world interprets posts and comments like this one. I'm not saying to stop; I guess we all reap what we sow. But a little self awareness is always a good thing.

    • I'm flattered that you think my blog is important enough to be recognized by the "world." I would consider myself lucky enough just if I get out of the little Mormon corner of cyberspace know as the "bloggernacle" (which I'm actually not sure if I'm even a part of to begin with, to be honest).

    • I wasn't saying it was. But the attitudes portrayed in this blog and within the comments section is in no way unique to the Bloggernacle. They are quite prevalent within LDS and Utah culture; Utah County in particular.

      Mormons have a reputation for being polite with a pleasant but shallow affect. This is the face they often present to those outside of their faith and it has worked well for them as they have taken efforts to improve how they are perceived by the public over the past 50 years. Blogs like this one however, show a more honest side to how Mormons think and talk to each other. Though it is true that this blog has little appeal beyond your target audience of devout, conservative Mormons; it is still visible to the public and can easily be seen by anyone who has taken an interest in John Dehlin due to the recent national press coverage. The attitudes you have expressed will be seen by non-members. And the picture it paints is far more damning of you and your church than it is of Mr. Dehlin.

      Here's an example of what I'm talking about:

    • Alright, brother. At least then you'll be getting the attention you want. And that's what this is all about. Right?

  9. Those who blame John Dehlin for the things coming to light about the Church are about as mindless as those declaring tree tops whipping above the forest is what is making the wind blow.

    He is not the cause of the exodus. History is and history can be ugly when it lay there unvarnished.

    Rather, John has worked to ease the pain of disaffected members like myself. We discovered a man we KNEW was a prophet of God convinced a fourteen year-old girl that being sealed to him would guarantee her family's exhaltation. And there is plenty more where that came from.

    However, John has also helped members in crisis rekindle their sense of community, helping them find joy in Church activity again Many are still active because of John. Many are even still married because of John. Personally, I think they would be better out, but John doesn't work that way.

    It seems now a reality check is in order. John is not the reason for the hemorrhage. He is treating it. But the Church is a wounded animal incapable of realizing they are mindlessly slashing defensively at a true benefactor.

    They are blaming people like John for their pain.

    • Holy land of Oz, Batman, talk abut a straw man. No one is blaming Dehlin for the things coming to light. In fact, most of these things have been known for decades. He's not exposing anything that a little reading wouldn't have revealed to you twenty or thirty years ago. And there is no "exodus" any more now that there has been in the past, that's a convenient fiction that Dehlin and others of his ilk like to foster because its bolsters their opinion of themselves and their perceived power.

      And if you really "knew" that Joseph was a prophet, then the Helen Mar story really shouldn't bother you because IF he was a prophet then everything he did was in furtherance of divine mandates he was given. It's just that simple.

      John is not "treating" anything. John is a wolf who simply chooses the bleed the sheep dry before devouring him.

  10. As a member I'm a bit put off by the author and others in the comments. Their smug remarks are far from compassionate and Christ-like.

    As for the comment about there not being an need step outside your local ward. Our family has moved frequently for business over the years and we are seeing wards change dramatically. Even our own family has become one where only a handful are still active believing members.

    Times are changing, and it's more important than ever for both sides to work together to be a better force for good in the world, instead of fighting about these ridiculously petty things.

  11. Unfortunately for the members of the church, the truth is on the critics side, not on the apologetics side. At this point, the critics can just sit back and watch the exodus of members from the church. Why? Because the truth always wins in the long run. Dehlin has the truth on his side and is behaving in a truly compassionate way to help struggling members make faith transitions. Someday, even the author of this blog may seek out Dehlin's help, if the author has a truth crisis (e.g. is everything I thought I believe not truem).

    During April's General Conference, expect more talk about the dangers of the Internet, no new temple announcements again (this is due to the decline in membership), and possibly an announcement/revelation that members in the U.S. will now need to get married before they get sealed. The latter is strictly political, not an act of love that will bring families together, as the leaders will claim.

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