The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints Excommunicate Outspoken Member
As reported by Laurie Goodstein in her article “Mormon Church Threatens Critic With Excommunication,” The New York Times, 15, January, 2015, (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/16/us/john-dehlin-mormon-critic-facing-excommunication.html?action=click&contentCollection=U.S.&module=RelatedCoverage®ion=Marginalia&pgtype=article), the Church of Latter-day Saints has threatened to excommunicate member John P. Dehlin for openly questioning the historical teachings and policies of the church, in particular their lack of support for ordaining woman and same-sex marriage.
In 2005, Dehlin sought to explore these issues surrounding the church through a podcast he created named “Mormon Stories” which features hundreds of interviews with prominent church figures, historians, and Mormon researchers. Dehlin’s podcast has grown in popularity, some interviews being downloaded upwards of 50,000 to 100,000 times.
As well as the podcast, Dehlin has also launched a website called staylds.com which is devoted to helping Mormons, who are struggling with their faith, remain in the church. Dehlin has allegedly swayed hundreds of Mormons to remain devout to the Church of Latter-day Saints. Oddly enough, in the article the church expressed concern over Dehlin promoting nonbelief of the Mormon religion.
In a follow-up article published by Laurie Goodstein titled “Mormon Church Expels Outspoken Critic,” a church disciplinary board agreed to excommunicate Dehlin, stating that his public questioning of Mormon beliefs and scripture had influenced members to deviate from the Mormon faith.
This story is a prime illustration of the effect online behaviour can have offline, as discussed in Douglas E. Cowan’s article in our text “New religious movements and the evolving Internet”. In his article, Cowan explains how behaviour online and offline are “inextricably linked” (Cowan). Dehlin’s story exemplifies Cowan’s theory, proving that one’s actions online can greatly affect their personal life. With the boom of the internet, New Religious Movements have had to deal with the influence, both positive and negative, the World Wide Web has had to offer as shown by the Mormon Church’s decision to excommunicate Dehlin.
Was the church’s decision to excommunicate Dehlin harsh and rash? Or was Dehlin out of line establishing online resources that challenged and explored Mormon doctrine? Dehlin openly expressed disagreement and concern about some of the policies practiced within the Mormon faith, which ultimately led to his excommunication. Each party had the right to react as they did, but it begs the question, are churches responsible to listen to its members concerns and questions, or should members not even bother to ask? Given the outcome of Dehlin’s circumstances, the latter seems closer to the truth.
Cowan, D. E. (2012). New religious movements and the evolving Internet. In The Cambridge
Companion to New Religious Movements. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Other related links:
Laurie Goodstein’s article “Mormon Church Expels Outspoken Critic”
John Dehlin’s “Mormon Stories Podcast”