Rob from The Normon Podcast interviews John Dehlin about Mormon Stories Podcast, why he started it, and his excommunication. They also discuss changes in society and religion on homosexual marriage.
I find it interesting that the same actions by the church can be have diametrically opposed interpretations depending on the viewpoint. Things that you object to as liberals in the church as too conservative I as a conservative see as extremely liberal especially when compared to the tactics of today’s avowed socialists/communists. I have severe issues with the church always having what I see as non-christian beliefs and teachings. It just took a long time to look at the church with an open mind. I tend to see all sin, except murder, as being between the sinner and God. I object when they insist that I not only tolerate them, but that I must embrace them. Until and unless I reject God, some things are just wrong and society should not be forced to accommodate these sins. When will we be forced to accept, many of these have become normal because people who claim to believe in God have rejected Him and embraced (without remorse ) evil and have made these things normal, many things that God has declared as wrong. I am struggling with the concept of the church being partly true and partly the antithesis of truth. Again y’all see the church as too conservative and I see it as being too liberal. So, do y’all no longer believe in, or believe, God? Is this where your personal disaffection aristes? This is an honest question not a covert accusation. I’d really like to know.
John, how can you go from saying that the church does some good and some harm to saying that it does MORE good than harm? Especially considering that on the harm side of the equation are multiple suicides.How is it possible to quantify and compare these things? How can we say that one is more that the other? By what measure?
George – Because isolation and being alone, with no identity/meaning/purpose/community can also cause suicidality.
I don’t think any of us are smart enough to know for sure what individual or group causes more good vs. harm. We all just have our opinions. But having seen lots of people screw up their lives leaving religion, I believe that it’s not as simple as “get rid of all religions” and everyone is healthy and happy. (And of course I also know many post-Mormons who are super happy/healthy).
Anyway….I’m ok if you and I have different opinions. I’m not asking you to agree with me. But this is how I feel. I feel that religion (overall) has been good for humanity….Mormonism included. AND I believe that religion has caused a lot of harm in the process. But I believe that a lot of the harm associated with religion is rooted in HUMAN NATURE, and thus would occur in atheist/secular groups too (secular people also individually and in groups abuse women and children, steal, lie, form patriarchies, etc.).
Thanks for asking, George. I wish you well.
Thank you very much John, it feels good to get a response from you. I greatly value and appreciate your work, please do not take what follows as a personal attack, it’s more of an expression of my bewilderment at your position.
My question was by what measure can we determine whether the good outweighs the bad or not. Is your response “I intuitively feel that is the case.”? May be I am misunderstanding you?
I don’t know how to make this judgment call but shouldn’t we strive for a more reliable way to do it then just going with a feeling?
If an organization makes a thousand lives more meaningful and at the same time leads one person to suicide, is it a good organization?
If it recruits and retains members without giving them a chance to make an informed consent; if it manipulates, distorts and hides information, practices classic techniques of mind control, indoctrinates children, concentrates power into the hands of the very few, should these factors be accounted for in evaluating whether the good outweighs the bad?
And why is the truth not in the equation? Isn’t it important?
Is it right to put suicides of members hurt by the church on one side of the equation and suicides of disaffected members who lose faith and meaning/purpose/community with it on the other? Isn’t the church itself the cause of the second category of suicides too? Don’t members loose faith and get into a downward spiral because the church is not true, not fair, not open, not tolerant, not accepting? Shouldn’t both of these kinds of suicide be laid at the feet of the church?
Please share your thoughts, I want to understand you better. Thank you. Best wishes.
PS. I understand your thoughts on human nature. May be we should not think here in terms of religious – atheistic dichotomy of organizations? May be a more productive framework to consider these matters is to consider how mind controlling, despotic, oppressive, cultish the organizations are and draw dichotomies along that line? Human nature is what it is and the less cultish the organization the less conductive it would be to the expression of the negative tendencies of the human nature.
Thanks for the interview and these comments. They got me reflecting. One of the many beneficial results of my faith crisis is that I am less naive. I don’t just trust any person or organization to give me my views and opinions and guide me in my choices. I’ve had to learn to form my own views and opinions, to trust myself, and make my own decisions. This hasn’t been an easy, painless learning process! I am grateful for all the good I experienced and received in the church and all the ways it seemed I was able to positively contribute, but one of the many disadvantages of being so trusting and faithful in the way that I was, is that I didn’t know how to make my own decisions very well. When I left the church and no longer had “reliable” spiritual teachers and leaders telling me what to do (I now realize that all church leaders and teachers simply do what makes sense to them, “all stories are false and some are useful,” no human knows “the absolute truths” of the universe if there are any, and their story may not be a good or healthy story for me to adopt), I felt lost for a while after letting go of my Mormon world-view, and sometimes I still do feel lost, as I continue to grow in self awareness and realize how shaky and maladaptive the sense of self was that I acquired while in the church. My identity was the church. I now know more about who I am and who I want to be, and it continues to evolve as I grow and learn and have life experience, but I no longer fear asking questions. A teacher, religious, spiritual, or otherwise can tell me what they “know” or think, and I am no longer uncomfortable checking to see if it makes sense to me, too. And if it doesn’t, I know I can choose to see things differently while still respecting them and their views. That used to scare me! It no longer does. But I don’t know that I will ever be able to shake my distrust of any organized religious institution. I’m buddhist now, but it’s not because I trust the buddhist institution. I don’t. I trust my own ability to hear the buddhist teachings and focus on what makes sense to me and use it to help improve my life and the lives of those around me, hopefully. In this Norman interview of John, which I very much appreciated and enjoyed, there were a few things I questioned, and one of them is that religion has done more good in the world than bad. My main teacher these days, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, would probably agree with you, John. I still don’t think I can agree. To use the flipside of John’s analogy, if you brought together thousands of atheists into an organization as big as the church, with all the financial resources and strength of membership, A LOT of good could come of it and does. Because no matter philosophical or religious views, I believe, from experience and also analysis of what I see in the world, that people are generally kind and simply want to have meaningful connection and not suffer. Maybe I still have my rose-colored glasses on that were given to me in primary as a young girl, but in spite of all the horrible suffering that beings in this world currently experience and those people inflicting that pain, it really seems to me that humans, at their core just want to be happy and not suffer, and most end up choosing kindness and love over malice and hate. I’m much happier being able to have meaningful friendship and connection with people outside of religion than I was inside religion. And I had really good friends in the church! I was super lucky. And I still do have friendships with those church members. But I also have an entire earth family now, many of whom are atheist or fall into that “none” category John mentioned, and I trust them way more than I trust any religious/church leader at the moment. I’m only 36, I have more living to do, more experience to have, more people to meet and learn from, and much more self-awareness to cultivate, so I’m sure my views and ideas around all this will continue to evolve. Hopefully I’ll keep moving toward a “bigger mind” and not get narrow in my thinking ever, about anyone, any thing, any organization, any idea, etc. There’s good and bad, useful and not useful, in all that currently exists, it seems to me. May you and all beings everywhere be well. Much love to you.
Interesting discussion, but again John is incorrect with regards to disciplinary councils and mandatory excommunication. I’ll do something no no here and quote directly from the current online handbook with some editing for space reduction:
When a Disciplinary Council Is Mandatory
A disciplinary council must be held when evidence suggests that a member may have committed any of the following transgressions.
As used here, murder refers to the deliberate and unjustified taking of human life. It requires excommunication. It does not include police or military action in the line of duty. Abortion is not defined as murder for this purpose. If death was caused by carelessness or by defense of self or others, or if mitigating circumstances prevail (such as deficient mental capacity), the taking of a human life might not be defined as murder. Bishops refer questions on specific cases to the stake president. The stake president may direct questions to the Office of the First Presidency if necessary.
As used here, incest refers to sexual intercourse between a parent and a natural, adopted, or foster child or a stepchild. A grandparent is considered the same as a parent. Incest also refers to sexual intercourse between brothers and sisters. It almost always requires excommunication. Bishops refer questions on specific cases to the stake president. The stake president may direct questions to the Office of the First Presidency if necessary. If a minor commits incest, the stake president contacts the Office of the First Presidency for direction.
As used here, child abuse refers to a sexual offense against a child or physical abuse of a child. If priesthood leaders learn of or suspect child abuse, they follow the instructions in 17.3.2. If a minor abuses a child, the stake president contacts the Office of the First Presidency for direction.
As used here, apostasy refers to members who:
Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.
Persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after they have been corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
Continue to follow the teachings of apostate sects (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishop or a higher authority.
Are in a same-gender marriage.
Formally join another church and advocate its teachings…..(cut)
Serious Transgression While Holding a Prominent Church Position
A disciplinary council must be held for a member who commits a serious transgression while holding one of the following prominent Church positions: Area Seventy; temple, mission, or stake president; patriarch; or bishop (but not branch president). The term serious transgression is defined in 6.7.2.
Transgressor Who Is a Predator
A disciplinary council must be held for a member who commits a serious transgression that shows him to be a predator with tendencies that present any kind of serious threat to other persons.
Pattern of Serious Transgressions
A disciplinary council must be held for a member who demonstrates a pattern of serious transgressions, especially if prior transgressions have resulted in Church discipline.
Furthermore, regarding Abuse, in general, the teaching in the handbook:
Abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of others (such as a child or spouse, the elderly, or the disabled) in a way that causes physical, emotional, or sexual harm. The Church’s position is that abuse cannot be tolerated in any form. Those who abuse their spouses, children, other family members, or anyone else violate the laws of God and man. All members, especially parents and leaders, are encouraged to be alert and diligent and do all they can to protect children and others against abuse.
When abuse occurs, the first and immediate responsibility of Church leaders is to help those who have been abused and to protect vulnerable persons from future abuse. Church leaders should never disregard a report of abuse. In addition, members should never be encouraged to remain in a home or situation that is abusive or unsafe.
Victims of sexual abuse often suffer serious trauma and feelings of guilt. These victims are not guilty of sin. Church leaders should be sensitive to them and give caring attention to help them overcome the destructive effects of abuse.”
Then a council ‘may be held’ for things like attempted murder, adultery, spousal abuse homosexual relations (ie. may or may not be necessary)
So it’s simply incorrect what John says around 34min mark that apostasy is worse than child abuse or pedophilia. There may be people previously convicted of child abuse, excommunicated (90% are) but have now worked their way back into the church, work which requires several years to repent off and needs first presidency approval , however their records are marked as Not to have contact with children, and they don’t have (unless human error happens and a bishop calls him without checking the record, but eventually the higher ups detect that error and notice is given to release them)
So for abuse as defined in 126.96.36.199, a disciplinary council must be held. The outcome is almost always excommunication. I’ve been in councils where a man was only disfellowshipped but because the offense happened decades ago and before they were members. Another also had passed several decades since the sin/event/abuse and was at the time of the sin was an inactive member so he was only disfellowshiped. But all the others I been involved in, well only 3 others that I now recall, were all excommunicated. But then adultery cases and some fornication cases where about 1 every 2 months, year in year out and most of those cases also resulted in excommunited.
However I’ve pointed this out to John before but for some reason, he doesn’t accept it. Don’t know why?
Also, I have issues with the estimates of growth. Because currently in Japan and the USA and places like Australia and Italy, immigration actually helps to keep church growth positive, both from members who arrive into those nations and missionary work amongst immigrants. France and Spain are probably also high growth due to immigration but I don’t have data for these countries. But yes, amongst locals, like anglo USA/Australians and ethnic Japanese in Japan, yes growth is stagnant amongst those groups.
Regarding OT polygamy….that polygamy was practiced is in accordance with the text, I can find no reference to God commanding or endorsing polygamy. Actually it was Sarah who gave her servant to Abraham because she was barren and wanted to have children “through” her maid. At the end of the day the Abrahamic polygamy only brought division, dysfunction and sorrow to all concerned. It would be of some interest to me if someone could come up with a specific reference in the OT that God authorized or commanded Abraham or any other to practice polygamy.
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