A prominent Mormon blogger and podcaster who has delved into topics including LGBT issues and gender equality may be excommunicated.
John Dehlin received word this week that local leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (commonly called the Mormon church) may pursue disciplinary action against him, he told BuzzFeed News Thursday. The news was delivered in a letter — which he posted online — saying that leaders are considering disciplining him "because of apostasy."
Dehlin runs the Mormon Stories Podcast, which has covered an array of topics including gender, LGBT issues, and doubt. He has also publicly supported same-sex marriage and efforts to include women in Mormonism's lay ministry. His views make him part of a small but seemingly-growing minority within the otherwise conservative religion.
Local church leaders have scheduled a "disciplinary council" for Dehlin on Jan. 25. The meeting is a kind of church court where leaders discuss Dehlin's case. The letter states that Dehlin's council may conclude with excommunication or "disfellowshipment," a kind of formal censure that limits church privileges. Dehlin added Thursday that church leaders gave him an ultimatum: take down old episodes of his podcast that are critical of the church, stop interviewing church critics, and stop publicly supporting same-sex marriage, among other things.
Dehlin said he does not intend to comply with those requirements, saying he would "side with my conscience."
However, Dehlin plans to attend the Jan. 25 meeting and argue his case. He also said that while he stopped attending church services in June — after leaders informed him and several other prominent Mormons that they might be punished — he does not want to leave the religion.
"I feel kind of sad," Dehlin said. "I don't think anybody wants to be excommunicated. I love the church. I don't want to be excommunicated, I just want to be left alone."
Dehlin said his podcast has "tens of thousands" or regular listeners, and that his aim has been trying to help those within Mormonism who struggle with doubt and other issues.
"For me the focus, our goal, has always been to alleviate suffering," he said. "It's an act of love."
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said Thursday in a statement that "we respect the privacy of individuals, and don't publicly discuss the reasons why a member faces Church discipline. Those reasons are provided to a member by their local Church leaders."
The proceedings against Dehlin come about eight months after the church excommunicated Kate Kelly, a prominent Mormon feminist.
Kelly's case was the highest-profile Mormon excommunication in recent history and was the result of her work with Ordain Women. The organization had lobbied the church to include women in its all-lay priesthood.
Local leaders within Mormonism are responsible for disciplining members, but the actions against Kelly, Dehlin, and others pushing for greater diversity within Mormonism raised eyebrows last year when they all became public within days.
Dehlin said Thursday that despite potential excommunication, he believes Mormonism will eventually adapt to accommodate people like him.
"I think every major world religion has had to come to terms with modernity," he said. "Mormonism is just a relatively young religion. I think Mormonism will eventually create spaces for heterodoxy."