John Dehlin and Church Discipline: Risk of a Slippage into Irrelevance

On the John Dehlin massacre…
Interesting to speculate on who is being massacred, John or the Salt Lake Church massacring itself.
When I first read that the church is about to excommunicate John a part inside me got angrily aroused with a fury not unlike that which caused me to write a series of hostile blogs last summer agreeing with and advocating every thing Kate Kelly was advocating. I wrote them with what for me felt like a more open hostility. As I’ve stated before, I was actually daring the church to take action against me and hoping they would. It didn’t work cause, as Lietta has heard me say mucho times, I’m only a small minnow in a big pond now matter how hard I try to splash.
But I’m not going to do that again. This is not about me or the ax I grind. With the passage of time it becomes (at least it feels that way) easier to resist the urge to say or write much – which in its own way feels healthy for me as part of this “escape velocity” I have achieved. That anger once served me well as the hot-fuel-driven thruster cylinder to get me close enough to orbit without the need for all that flaming. Now all it seems to do is scorch my already-tarnished armor.
So my internal perception is that the Salt Lake church is not for me a real church as I would define church.  My definition of what it means to be spiritual, religious or piously conjoined with something divine of which I am a part (which includes but does not surpass the divinity of my relationship with Lietta) is mine to own. I  put that definition to uses I deem appropriate.
A consciousness or realization that Salt Lake Mormonism is not religion in any way useful to me engenders an increasingly calming sense of letting it all go … none of it is worth the expenditure of emotional energy in general, nor is anything about this 21st-century version of Joseph Smith’s 19th-century fundamentalist copycat creation possessed of anything of social merit for me.
The neighborhood in Spokane where we live includes active Mormons; dignified human beings whose dignity is based on literal acceptance and moral application of a mythical narrative that has never had any basis in fact. I respect them and honor them for their adult dignity, faithfulness, sincerity of belief and all that goes with human behavior and human self-satisfaction in feeling good about who they are. 
But despite my “increasingly calming sense of letting it all go,” the Dehlin affair summons an urge to rant (I can’t help it.)

It is the superstitious pipe dreams upon which the narratives were used to hypnotize me as a child and keep me tethered for years as an adult that have no socially redeeming value once I separated them from my own belief and consigned the same to my internal file cabinets labeled “disbelief.” My own adult dignity, faith sense, sincerity of beliefs and all that goes with my own human behavior, self-satisfaction in who I am, what I am like and how I feel in the presence of my most beloved is that which matters now.

Regarding John Dehlin, I see the Salt Lake Church taking itself so seriously as to publicly shame itself in a pious and self-righteous action of rigid theological and dogmatic inflexibility.  Nowadays long-time negative concepts regarding apostasy are only significant within the cultist belief  framework  that constitutes the Church. Such stuff in truth lacks the seriousness and epochal impact the leadership apparently believes it will accomplish with this  unabashed legalistic posturing; a posturing they have to know will be done on a massive public stage of attention.
I suspect that they are making of Dehlin a martyr in ways far more significant and ferocious than they realize. Because he is in fact a much more public figure than any of the previous excommunicated heretics or categorical apostates, the church is making itself look silly. John will exceed the September Six, Brodie and Brooks in becoming like them an icon of significance.
If the church proceeds as appears, it will in my opinion,  be elevating something that in its importance doesn’t have to be much above the trivial in terms of public significance. That triviality as inflicted on a public personality like John Dehlin runs the risk of snowballing a publicity slide into a serious loss of relevance.
The damage the self-conscious church feared in the Book of Mormon Broadway portrayal, or the soap opera life-like accurate portrayals of Mormon-related mind think in Big Love might very well pale because the Dehlin affair with its related publicity.

Excommunicating John for the reasons given has the potential of triggering a publicity-driven perception of religious silliness. It might pale in comparison with the cartoonists-bombings by Muslims in Paris, but nevertheless there is a risk of diminished respect – an almost future knee-jerk tendency to dismiss Mormonism; of any sense of the Mormon Church being anything other than perhaps the richest, most influential but-still-an-eccentric-cult in the country.

The risk is now very real and much worse than picking on Kate Kelly for her feminist attitude about Church and priesthood authority.

This, in my opinion, is releasing the brake on a boxcar already on a downhill track that slides toward irrelevance in the public eye.
I know my emotions are involved so my rhetoric is running wild and I can’t help it. I’ve learned it from personal experience and my humiliation in those moments seemed and felt intense as I took myself too seriously and was unhappy that no one else did.
However, in my opinion, the Church is taking itself far too seriously … and somewhere millions won’t see it that way … and will be doing nothing more than what is done when exaggerated self-seriousness is apparent: rolling eyes, chuckling or trying not to giggle.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


  1. Gina Colvin blogs
    I like this quote:
    “I could not have designed a more successful bad publicity campaign for the church myself. A witch hunt that tracks down and silences popular LDS voices who speak up for a better religious experience runs counter to all natural human feeling and in the long run (as has been the case time after time after time) the LDS institution will find themselves on the bad side of history. They will not find themselves heroes, the church won’t be better for having lost those who can think critically, the faith will not be elevated by John’s expulsion or April’s censuring. Rather we will all find ourselves with years and years – even decades of bad public, and agonised internal feeling to manage.

    A word to LDS Inc. You don’t have enough public credibility or moral authority to win in the competition for hearts and minds writ large. Yes, you might have the silence and the support of the conforming majority within the church who believe the organisation needs no alteration. But if your calculations are made by measuring the feelings of the internal majority your formula is off. In the case of John Dehlin over 160 media organisations have taken John’s story off the wire in the last few days- some of them major news services – and the church comes off in this affair to millions and millions of people (all potential converts) as little other than petty, fearful, and insecure.

    Is this really how Zion is to be established?”


  2. Is this really how Zion is to be established?
    Is this really what it means to “befriend” the Constitution of the United States wh. enumerates freedom of religion and freedom of speech?
    Fearful. Narrow minded. Controlling. UnChristian.


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