Because he publicly supports same-sex marriage and the ordination of women, a Mormon podcaster has been threatened with excommunication from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints if he does not revoke his opinions and delete published podcasts that were critical of the faith. The New York Times reports John P. Devlin, host of "Mormon Stories," has been charged with apostasy and will face a disciplinary hearing on Jan. 25. The Utah-based podcaster says the church has initiated several formal investigations into him and his work. Though after the first investigation, he still felt positively toward the church, by the third, he was tired of being harassed.
In a news release posted on Dehlin's website, Dehlin outlines how he's gotten to this point. As a young seminary teacher, some of the Mormon church's teachings were difficult for him to accept as fact, and in 2005, he created "Mormon Stories" in order to bring awareness to the issues, discuss them thoughtfully, and provide support for current and former church members. He writes that though he truly tried to understand the teachings, going so far as to team up with close friends and church leaders, he never felt supported in his efforts, and instead thought the investigations felt "intrusive, threatening, and coercive." He wrote:
I consider it a matter of conscience to continue to advocate publicly for the many LDS LGBT members, feminists, and intellectuals who experience deep and continued marital/familial/social/spiritual/occupational/psychological distress as a result of the LDS church’s history, teachings, and policies. The past ten years of my life have been dedicated to providing support to these individuals, and while my family and I would prefer to be left alone by LDS church leadership at this point, I would much rather face excommunication than disavow my moral convictions.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not allow women in the Mormon priesthood. Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of the church, stated:
Women do not hold the priesthood because the Lord has put it that way. It is part of His program. Women have a very prominent place in this Church. Men hold the priesthood offices of the Church. But women have a tremendous place in this Church.
Last June, Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer and founder of the "Ordain Women" group that fights for the right to include women in the Mormon clergy, was excommunicated from the church for creating the organization. She wrote of Dehlin on the "Ordain Women" website, stating:
This type of courage and unwavering conviction in the face of punishment is inspiring. It is in these trying times we find out what true integrity really is. I hope and pray that John’s leaders do the right thing, by choosing ‘no action’ and sending the message that there is a place for all in the Church. Indeed, there is room even for those with legitimate questions and concerns.
The Mormon church also holds the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman. Hinckley said that though they recognize gays and lesbians as sons and daughters of God, the church can only do so if they do not "act upon these inclinations." He said:
We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation. To permit such would be to make light of the very serious and sacred foundation of God-sanctioned marriage and its very purpose, the rearing of families
Dehlin, who says there is a high suicide rate among LDS LGBT youth, wanted to develop resources for those struggling to stay in the church after experiencing a crisis of faith.
To stay in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the church requested Dehlin remove all podcasts that spoke negatively about the faith; never again interview anyone who doubts or criticizes the church and its leaders; never voice his own doubts or criticism of the church and its leaders; and cease supporting same-sex marriage and the "Ordain Women" group.
Dehlin refused. The podcaster says he and his wife will attend the disciplinary council and he will continue to "provide additional information, comfort, and support to Mormons in transition."
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