As the creator of a popular online forum for Mormons, John Dehlin tackles some of the more uncomfortable issues for believers, including the Church’s stand on gays and lesbians. Dehlin is an ally of the LGBT community, and that’s too much for the LDS leadership. Dehlin has received a letter from the head of his Church region threatening Dehlin with excommunication.
“Because of the love I have for you, I have become concerned about some of your recent statements and actions regarding this church and your place in it,” the letter, which Dehlin shared with The New York Times, reads.
It’s not an isolated threat. Within a day, Kate Kelly, who founded a group promoting the ordination of Mormon women, received a similar letter, suggesting that that LDS headquarters are clamping down on anyone it considers out of line.
Despite his conservative upbringing, Dehlin has become an ally of LGBT Mormons and ex-Mormons, with his dissertation in psychology exploring the pain the Church’s policies have inflicted. His speech at a TED Event at Utah State University last fall has been viewed more than 39,000 on YouTube. His Mormon credentials are impeccable, including a stint as the Church’s Chief Information Officer.
Dehlin, who is married to a woman and has four children, believes that he is fostering an open dialogue among Mormons who are struggling to reconcile their faith with the Church’s position on hot-button issues, including LGBT rights.
“I worry that the church is kind of shooting the messenger,” he said. “They’re shooting the people who are trying to help and be part of the solution.” It’s not just his position on LGBT rights that has gotten Dehlin in trouble; he also questions many “truth claims” of the Church.
The Mormon Church insists the letters to Dehlin and Kelly are just an amazing coincidence. “Local leaders have the responsibility to clarify false teachings and prevent other members from being misled. Decisions are made by local leaders and not directed or coordinated by church headquarters,” the Church said in a statement.
The moves against Dehlin and Kelly undercut the softer image that the Mormons have been trying to fashion for themselves. The Church has been largely absent from the marriage equality debate, after being burned for its support for California’s Proposition 8 in 2008. The Church’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign features gay believers as part of its effort to convince people of its diversity.
Apparently, diversity has its limits when it comes to opinion. The choice facing Dehlin is to resign or to face a Church trial for apostasy. Dehlin says resigning is out of the question.
“I will not be resigning my membership,” Dehlin told the Deseret News. “I love the church too much to resign from it. My biggest hope is that this goes away.”