A popular Mormon podcaster is worried that the Church of Latter-Day Saints is inching him toward excommunication over disagreements on gay marriage and the ordination of women. John Dehlin says he is being accused of apostasy for holding views contrary to the Church’s teachings. His initial disciplinary hearing is scheduled for January 25, after which Dehlin fears he will be excommunicated if he doesn’t meet the Church’s strict demands of taking down several controversial podcasts from his site, the Mormon Stories Podcast, and ceasing his public advocacy on behalf of same-sex marriage.
But Dehlin isn’t willing to be silenced. His website lists many podcast categories, including “Ex-Mormon stories” and “homosexuality,” alongside “faith promoting stories” and podcasts about Church founder Joseph Smith. “While my family and I would prefer to be left alone by LDS church leadership at this time, I would much rather face excommunication than disavow my moral convictions,” Dehlin says. Shutting down debate on the issues he advocates for, Dehlin says, will inevitably put the Church at odds with its younger generation.
The belief structure of the Mormon Church means that excommunication doesn’t only have repercussions in this life, but also after death. For believers like Dehlin, excommunication means that he is not only cut off from worshipping in temples with his loved ones, but also that he will not be able to spend eternity with them.
“I worry they are shooting themselves in the foot here,” Dehlin told NBC news. “A friend of mine said that excommunication is a 15th century solution to a 21st century problem.”
Another advocate of women’s equality in the church was excommunicated in June. The Church told Kate Kelly, the founder the Ordain Women group pushing for women in the LDS priesthood, that she was being kicked out for “conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church.” At the time, Kelly was told that she may be considered for readmission to the church if she stopped public advocacy for the issue, even if she chose to privately retain those beliefs.
“Excommunication in our church is akin to spiritual death,” she wrote on her site at the time. “The life-saving ordinances you have participated in like baptism, confirmation, and temple sealing are moot. In effect, you are being forcibly evicted from your forever family.”
Updated, 10:15 p.m.: LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins provided a statement to Daily Intelligencer via e-mail. “We respect the privacy of individuals, and don’t publicly discuss the reasons why a member faces Church discipline,” Hawkins said. “Those reasons are provided to a member by their local Church leaders. It’s my understanding that in this case the reasons have been clearly spelled out in letters to John Dehlin.” E-mail correspondence with church leaders posted to Dehlin’s site lists a number of reasons for excommunication, including the social advocacy Dehlin said he was informed about in a verbal meeting. The e-mails also say that Dehlin questioned the existence of God and other fundamental Church teachings.