Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sit Down, John!

One of my favorite musicals is 1776. Perhaps it is because of my love for this country and seeing it reenacted on stage, perhaps it is the humor, perhaps it is the fact that this is the one time I seem to be rooting for John Adams, I do not  know for sure. But I will always remember the fact that John Adams stands alone at the beginning championing independence for the United States, and the Continental Congress joins together in a song and sings "Sit Down, John!" Luckily, John did not stand down but carried through the courage of his convictions.

This week another John is being told that he must either sit down or be cast out. John Dehlin, Mormon Stories founder, has been summoned to a disciplinary council that will determine whether he will be disfellowshipped (not allowed to participate fully, but retain his membership) or excommunicated (have his membership stripped). The hearing is scheduled to occur one week hence. I assume that John will be excommunicated, I would be shocked if he did not.

The reason that John has been called into council are numerous, but they ultimately come down to three things: 1) John is not a believer and he and is network are hostile to the believing LDS world 2) John openly supports same-sex marriage, which is openly against church doctrine 3) He also supports Ordain Women, which advocates for the ordination of women within the LDS Church.

I am just going to focus on the first point, I have commented on the others in previous other blogs. John calls himself an "Unorthodox, unorthoprax Mormon" on his blog, which basically means that he does not believe at all in the central claims of Mormonism. So, the real question is not why the Church is going after John; the question is why he himself has not just resigned from the Church.

There is no reason to call yourself a Mormon or anything else if you do not believe in the central tenets of the organization. John himself has said that he does not believe and is critical of belief: there is no room for such people in this church or any church. John wants to play victim, but he is not one. Anyone who has done the same things he has done would be excommunicated; he just seems to have gotten leaders who have been patient with him up to this point. But, patience can only last so long.

Let me make this clear: John is not on trial for having doubts or not believing. Most, if not all, members of the Church, have doubts or questions. That is the Lord's way: faith seeks knowledge and knowledge never comes without questions. That is not what John is doing. John has made his conclusions, and is kicking against the pricks and fighting against the church. It will be a great day for the church when he is no longer a part of it. In fact, John isn't really in the church anyway as he no longer even attends as well as not being a believer. Farewell John. Have a nice life.


  1. What evil has he done that he should be cast out from the community and slain, spiritually?

  2. Log,

    He can't be slain spiritually if he does not believe. What he has done is started a business off a church that he does not believe in.

  3. Tarik,

    What is the minimum creedal statement of belief one must affirm in order to avoid being excommunicated?

    Is it just to excommunicate a man not for any sins he has committed - such as murder, theft, adultery, and so on - but for expressing his beliefs?

    Did not Joseph say this?

    "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 trammelled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine."

    1. Log,

      I agree with you that no one should be excommunicated for their beliefs. I was strongly opposed to the ouster of Denver Snuffer. Joseph Smith said that and I agree.

      However, the main point i was making here was why does John want to stay in a church that he has no belief in? It would be one thing to have a small disagreement on a matter, but John shares no beliefs with the LDS faith, so there should be no reason to feel resentful if he is in fact excommunicated.

    2. Because he's a member of our tribe, our family; a Nephite who ceased to believe in God was still a Nephite until he dissented over to the Lamanites. I seem to recall David O. McKay offering to go to bat for Sterling McMurrin, an atheist, if his head were to be placed on the chopping block.

    3. Good comment. As I said on the post, the problem is not with John Dehlin's lack of belief. It is the fact that he made a business out of it and is openly hostile to belief. It would be one thing if John were merely a doubter. He is not a doubter, he is a full fledged non-believer. And he is encouraging others to disbelieve while being a member. That is the root of the problem.

  4. Tarik,

    Why not try this?

    D&C 121
    41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

    42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

    43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;

    44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.

    When this is tried, what we see in Helaman 5 is the result.

    Whenever we cut off a member for their beliefs rather than any actual sins, we are admitting we lack pure knowledge. Dogma is not pure knowledge, neither is tradition, neither are manuals, neither is power / compulsion / coercion / dominion / authority in the form of threats, commandments to shut up, and subsequent excommunication. Each such excommunication is a shame to us when seen through the lens of D&C 121.

    1. Log,

      I agree with your assessment. However, John has been talked to about this for over a decade now. He is becoming a problem, and something has to change.

  5. Tarik,

    Even if what you say is true about John, for I don't understand why he wants to remain a member either, but the same could be said of all the leaders of the Church.

    For it's clear that Church leaders, especially top ones, don't believe in the tenets of their faith and scriptures either and constantly preach and practice contrary to what the scriptures say.

    So no leader in the LDS Church has any room to judge or condemn John, no matter what he believes or does.

    The Church leaders have their own reasons for staying in a Church they don't really believe in, but John at least follows the Church's scriptures alot more then any leader does.

  6. We have to remember that we're only hearing John's side of the story. How do we know he hasn't committed other sins? The church will try to handle this privately between the leadership of the church and John. John, on the other hand, will give us his spin on things.
    And, as Tarik has pointed out, John is about publicity and has turned this into a business.

    "I'm violently opposing church leaders and leading others away while I'm at it, so the church has officially removed me from its membership to make it clear to everyone that I do NOT represent the church or hold any standing with the church" isn't going to cause the sensation he wants. So we're going to get "HEY! The big bad church is picking on me," instead.

    He has committed serious sins. Questioning is fine. (See Genesis 15:14, Abraham, the great patriarch had questions. The difference is the quality of heart. Abraham believed God. John doesn't believe God. John believes his wallet and social media ratings.) Failing to sustain church leadership and complete apostasy constitutes breaking covenants. Excommunicating a person from the church releases that person from those covenants. Not only does it protect the church from clowns like John, but it gives them the opportunity to repent, change, clean things up and have a fresh start or at least removes the weight of those broken covenants from over their head on judgement day. The fact that John keeps saying he's "being threatened with excommunication" shows a big lack of humility and sincerity. He's better off excommunicated and without the condemnation of his shattered covenants than remaining in the church. It's a kindness, not a threat.

    Removing someone's name from the records of the church does not stop them from attending meetings or from meeting with church leadership towards his exaltation. He is still of the blood of Israel by lineage and he will be welcomed back into the church if he so desires it and is willing to make the changes necessary to really be part of the church. The church is not kicking him out of our tribe. He already left. The only way to give him a fresh start is to end the old start. If (when) that start is ended, he will have the ability to pick a camp. The church won't force him either way.

    Log, "44 That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death." What if that's referring to the cords of spiritual death? Excommunication could be seen as a means of declaring him spiritually dead. The church isn't killing him, they're just checking his spiritual pulse and declaring it dead. What if that scripture is counseling leadership to work with him after the excommunication to help him return. REALLY return, with his heart and mind, not just on record? What if this scripture means loving him through this death?(not that it really matters until he's willing to be humble and return anyway...) He had the power to make choices, the church declaring the consequences of his actions is not maintaining power over him by the priesthood. He had the ability to act, now he has to deal with the consequences of those actions. Accountability sucks, but that doesn't mean the church is putting this on him. He put it on himself. John is an agent, the church is not acting upon an object, their evaluating the acts done by John and deciding the state of the contract between the two parties.

    Log, you also asked at what point someone should be excommunicated for apostasy, in my eyes, the answer is when the only way someone can truly get their acts cleaned up and return is to have a fresh start or when their covenants are so shattered that it'd be better for them to die having had them completely removed than to die with those covenants condemning them.

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  8. Hello Tarik! I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on this post and I look forward to reading some of your other posts as well. This subject in particular can be tricky; we never know the whole story. As Kaitlyn astutely pointed out, we don't have all the details about the extent of John's transgressions, etc. However, I have enjoyed reading the back and forth discussion in the comments. I am especially intrigued by the "clear" evidence, as referred to by DeeLyn, that the top Church leaders do not believe in the Church nor the scriptures?? LOL that would be news to me. Thanks again for referring me to this blog, Tarik.