Why was Kate Kelly Excommunicated, but You Have Not Yet Been?

John Dehlin Blog, Writings

In Kristine Haglund’s recent article in Slate Magazine regarding the end of the “Mormon Moment,” she wrote:

“Around the same time that Kelly was excommunicated, the host of the popular Mormon Stories podcast, John Dehlin, was threatened with disciplinary action as well. Unlike Kelly, he was not excommunicated, perhaps in part because he initially kept details of his interactions with church leaders out of the media.”

While I really enjoyed the article overall — and feel that it was a very important piece of writing — I did feel the need to correct Kristine’s misstatement….since in reality, I explicitly declined my stake president’s request to be silent, and have written publicly about my  interactions with him (Kristine has since corrected the statement, which I super-appreciate  — Thanks, Kristine!!!!).

Anyway, I wrote the blog post below as an attempt to explain my opinion as to why Kate Kelly was excommunicated and I have not been (to date) — not just in response to Kristine’s article, but also because many people continue to ask me about my status with the church.

Anyway…here are the top 8 reasons why I believe Kate Kelly was excommunicated, but that I have not yet been (Please note that Kate has offered her own explanation as well, which I think is a fabulous response):

1) Kate Kelly and Ordain Women reached more people both within and without Mormonism in a more visible way than I have to date with my podcast and other efforts (media-wise), and I think that this matters (i.e., effectiveness/media exposure matter). A lot. I believe that the more effective you are at garnering media and membership attention, the more “at-risk” you are to the brethren.  Don’t get me wrong…..Mormon Stories Podcast has reached A LOT of people (certainly numbering in the hundreds of thousands at this point), but it has reached very few people outside of Mormonism.  Ordain Women, on the other hand, has garnered significant international attention.

2) I think that the Ordain Women actions on temple square were very embarrassing to the church in a very public and (to some) in a very sacred and inappropriate setting (for what, in effect, was a public protest). I think that this had something to do with it.

3) I believe that the topic Kate Kelly represents (gender equality) strikes fear in the hearts of the patriarchy more than almost anything else. For example, at the end of the day, literalistic faith claims (one of my main concerns) can be maintained regardless of evidence….mostly because it’s impossible to prove a negative (i.e. that Joseph DIDN’T see God). As another example, in the mind of the brethren (I’m guessing), LGBT issues only affect a relatively small percentage of the membership in super tangible ways.

When it comes to gender equality — there really is no escaping it. As my friend Heather Olsen Beal likes to say….[in]equality is not a feeling.  It can be measured.  And the inequality is systematic.  And drastic.  And we’re talking about over HALF of the active membership of the church who is directly affected by this (and all the membership, of course, if you think more broadly…since sexism hurts men too). But make no mistake.  At its very core, the LDS church is a patriarchy….and opposing patriarchy strikes at the very heart/soul of the current church power structure (and family structure) in a way that almost nothing else has so far (or can). Men love their power, basically….and don’t want give it up.

4) I think that I benefitted hugely from timing. I believe that the backlash against Kate Kelly‘s excommunication was very strong and negative for the church, and I think that this negative backlash may have given the “brethren” pause to do it a second time with me — at least within the same short timeframe. While I do believe that a disciplinary council for me is inevitable, I believe it likely that Kate‘s backlash persuaded the brethren to delay my own disciplinary action…just to diffuse the tension, and to avoid this looking like another “September 6.” Remember…others (like Brent MetcalfeGrant H. Palmer, etc.) have been disciplined over the years with much less fanfare. But effecting discipline on a group of people, within a short time frame, often has more severe repercussions (I believe). I’ve also heard people speculate that the Meet the Mormons movie timing might have affected things a bit (this is total speculation).

5) My situation was also different from Kate in that (as I understand it) her leaders worked with her over a period of months in some capacity. In my case, I received my letter threatening a disciplinary council HAVING NEVER MET MY STAKE PRESIDENT. I think that once I brought this fact to light (thank you New York Times!!!), it was super embarrassing to President King, and I believe that this (in effect) shamed him into making it appear as though he was giving me due process (i.e., showing charity or a good faith effort at rehabilitating me). I believe that his is what the last few months have been for him.  I also believe that he sincerely wants me to “repent.”

6) I think that my male-ness/privilege/power certainly has/d something to do with it. Perhaps President King feels more respectful towards, or more threatened by, or more fearful of me than Kate Kelly‘s bishop did of her — at least in part because of my gender. Or maybe Kate’s leaders felt more fearful/scared/disrespectful of her because she is a woman.  I don’t know…I’d only be guessing here.   But I’d be a fool/blind to think that gender doesn’t matter int his regard.

I also think that the differences between Kate being tried by a bishopric vs. me being potentially tried by a stake high council are potentially very meaningful in this case. Who knows if some on my stake high council, for example, support me (vs. not)?

7) I do have some friends/family in relatively powerful places who I know intervened with top-level GA’s on my behalf. I think that this may have made a difference.  I believe it to be very likely that my stake president was told to ” step back” by someone above his pay grade (even if in an indirect way).

8) I think that there have been some things that happened on the local level, in my stake, and in Cache Valley, that likely influenced the decision. For example, my stake president happens to be colleagues with at least a few very close friends of mine. Also, there have been a few prominent families in my stake who have spoken out to my SP about their support of me, and I think that this may have made a difference.  I believe that my stake president may be fearful of what will happen in our stake if he takes action against me.  Again…I’m speculating here.

If you forced me to speculate….my guess is that a disciplinary court will be held for me within the next 1-12 months…and that they have only been delaying because of some of the reasons mentioned above. In other words…the delay is due to their desire to protect themselves and their power, and to minimize the possible collateral damage to the church…and not for any other reasons….and certainly not because they are operating in accordance with God’s will.

I could be wrong…but that’s my impression.