An update on my discussions with Stake President Bryan King (8/23/2014)

John Dehlin Blog, Writings

It appears as though our discussions with stake president Bryan King have abated for the time being, so I wanted to provide a quick update (for those who keep asking).

After sending me this initial letter asking that I resign my church membership or face a disciplinary council, my wife Margi and I met with President King and his first counselor for the first time on 6/29/2014 (at our request).  President King framed this original meeting as an opportunity for him to listen, and so we spent most of our time together with me sharing my beliefs, doubts, and concerns about the church, its history, and its leadership.  I also attempted to explain to him my motivations for Mormon Stories podcast.  During this first meeting President King made it clear to us that he hoped to act swiftly.  He also requested that we not speak publicly about our discussions — which I politely declined to agree to (though I have chosen to largely remain silent over the past few months out of respect for the process).

Over the next few weeks, President King met with several members of my stake who volunteered to speak with him about how Mormon Stories (and our other OSF projects) have helped them in one way or another.  Some were active, believing members.  Others had lost their faith and/or left the church.

On 8/7/2014 President King and his first counselor met with me and Margi for a second time.  During this meeting he provided the following conditions for my continued membership in the church:

  1. “Publicly renounce and apologize for the false concepts you have widely expressed regarding God, Jesus Christ, the Atonement, the restoration of the Gospel, and the Book of Mormon.
  2. Cease providing a public forum for any person who is critical of Church doctrine.
  3. Stop promoting groups or organizations that espouse doctrines contrary to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  4. Resign my status as an ordained minister in another faith” (I signed up here once to be able to marry a friend, though the opportunity never materialized)

During this meeting we asked for clarification on each item above.  Some additional points that President King conveyed to us verbally were:

  1. That simply having doubts or criticisms regarding the church are not (in and of themselves) grounds for church discipline. Instead, that it has been my decision to discuss these doubts and concerns publicly (via Mormon Stories Podcast, via radio and newspaper interviews, and via my Facebook page) that is a primary cause of my membership status being jeopardized.
  2. That my continued public support of same-sex marriage would not allow me (or others in our stake) to remain in good standing with the church, because to him, the public support of same-sex marriage constituted the “support of teachings and doctrines that are not in harmony with the teachings of the church.”
  3. That my public support of Ordain Women would also not allow me to remain in good standing with the church.

When asked for additional clarification regarding his conditions for continued membership, President King requested the following:

  1. That I publicly renounce and apologize for any/all past doubts and criticisms that I have made regarding the church, its theology/doctrine, its historicity, or its policies.
  2. That I do my best to remove any past podcast episodes, blog posts, or Facebook posts that contain the public expression of either doubt about, or criticism of, the LDS church – whether these comments were made by me, or by any of the people I have interviewed over the past nine years.

In a follow-up letter, Margi and I offered the following concessions to President King:

  1. To publicly clarify the sources of my doubts/criticisms (as I have already sought to do here: http://mormonstories.wpengine.com/questions-and-answers/).
  2. To work harder to ensure that the tone and substance of my/our work with Mormon Stories podcast going forward, along with any of the public statements that I make in the future, are as thoughtful, measured, and as constructive as possible.  We were happy to offer this concession, as we had already started moving in this direction (based on feedback from our listeners).
  3. That I would resign from the web site listed above, and seek to find another means to conduct marriages if the need arises.

In that same letter we told President King that we could not concede to his other requests as a matter of conscience (e.g., taking down past Mormon Stories episodes that express doubts/criticisms of the church, ceasing to publicly express or to interview people in the future with doubts/concerns regarding the church, ceasing our public support of same-sex marriage and Ordain Women).

Today we received an email from President King telling us that he was taking a wait and see approach, and that his future decisions will be based on our future actions.

For the record, our plan is to continue doing what we have been trying to do for the past nine years on Mormon Stories podcast: interview Mormons of all types (faithful/believing, struggling, disbelieving) — with as much balance and constructiveness as we are able to muster.  In addition, we are working towards conducting more interviews in the coming months that deal with the practical considerations of those who want to live happy/healthy lives in either a post-Mormon or a post-orthodoxy paradigm.  Some of the topics we hope to focus more deeply on include 1) navigating a mixed-faith or a post-Mormon marriage, 2) raising children in an unorthodox or a post-Mormon home, and 3) how to more effectively communicate with believing family/friends as a non-believer, or as an unorthodox members.

Also, we will unabashedly continue our public support of same-sex marriage and Ordain Women, and I continue to reserve the right to express my beliefs/doubts/concerns regarding the church, its history, and its leadership, as the need arises.

Thanks for everyone’s concerns and support during this difficult time.   In summary, we will seek to be even more balanced and constructive with Mormon Stories podcast, but we do not anticipate that much will be changing on our end in terms of content.  If things change with President King, we will update you as we are able.