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Mormon critic John Dehlin is excommunicated

First Published      Last Updated Mar 23 2016 07:30 pm

Podcaster insists he still considers himself LDS, says he was punished for expressing doubts.

Mormon critic John Dehlin no longer is a member of the Utah-based faith he has known all of his life — he got word this week he has been excommunicated — but the podcaster still considers himself a Latter-day Saint.

"Mormonism is my heritage, culture, tribe and identity," Dehlin told KUER's RadioWest on Tuesday. "I don't believe it can be taken from me in a process like this."

The LDS Church disciplinary council held Sunday in northern Utah, he said, was "a troubling and sad process, very emotional."

After the three-hour-plus hearing, Dehlin and his regional lay leader, North Logan Stake President Bryan King, emerged with differing views about the reasons for the church's sanctions.

The official charge against the founder of the "Mormon Stories" podcast was "conduct contrary to the laws and order of the church," but a letter from King called it "apostasy" and cited evidence for the unanimous decision:

• Dehlin's teachings disputing the nature of God and the divinity of Jesus Christ.

• His statements that the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham — part of the LDS canon — are fraudulent and works of fiction.

• His statements and teachings that reject The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as being "the true church with power and authority from God."

King further notes that the Cache Valley-based podcaster has "spread these teachings widely via the Internet to hundreds of people in the past" and that Dehlin has said he plans to "continue to do so."

The action was not taken because Dehlin had doubts about the faith or its history, the LDS leader wrote, but "because of your categorical statements opposing the doctrines of the church, and their wide dissemination via your Internet presence, which has led others away from the church."

Dehlin is free to criticize the church and to share his opinions, King wrote, but not "as a member in good standing."

Dehlin, who expected to be ousted, maintains the apostasy charges stem from his "unwillingness" to censor his podcast, his public expression of his doubts about the religion and his visible advocacy for civil same-sex marriage and the ordination of women to the all-male LDS priesthood.

"My wife, Margi, and I are proud to stand in support of both free expression and gender/marriage equality within Mormonism," Dehlin said in a statement. "While we are saddened that the LDS Church has chosen to excommunicate me for publicly supporting these values, we support the church's right to make this decision."

LDS Church headquarters noted in a statement Tuesday that the decision to hold disciplinary councils "rests with the local leader who knows the individual best. Local leaders operate under general principles and guidelines of the church."

Citing Dehlin's public pronouncements, the statement goes on to dispute the reasons the podcaster gave for his excommunication.

"Attempts have been made to create the impression that the disciplinary council ... which has resulted in a loss of church membership, or excommunication, of Mr. Dehlin, arose largely because of his views on same-sex marriage and priesthood ordination for women," the statement said. "Although his stated positions on those subjects are not consistent with the church's teachings, they were not cited in the local leader's letter."

In a recent Trib Talk, Mormon apostle D. Todd Christofferson said members are free to disagree with the faith's stance on same-sex marriage and ordination of women without jeopardizing their LDS memberships or temple privileges.

"We have individual members in the church with a variety of different opinions, beliefs and positions on these issues and other issues," Christofferson said. " ... In our view, it doesn't really become a problem unless someone is out attacking the church and its leaders — if that's a deliberate and persistent effort and trying to get others to follow them, trying to draw others away, trying to pull people, if you will, out of the church or away from its teachings and doctrines."

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