Prominent Mormon activist in Utah says faces possible excommunication

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 15, 2015 7:56 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - A prominent Mormon activist who has gone against the church by supporting same-sex marriage and questioning church doctrine said on Thursday he had been summoned to appear before a council where he could face excommunication.

John Dehlin, founder of the Mormon Stories website and podcast, said in a statement he was asked to appear before a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints disciplinary council on Jan. 25 in North Logan, Utah, on a charge of apostasy.

Dehlin, 45, who says he still loves the Mormon church but acknowledges many areas where his beliefs stray from orthodoxy, has faced disciplinary action in the past.

His struggles with the church have become one of the faith's most high-profile cases of threatened discipline, due to his role as the outspoken founder of "Mormon Stories," an online discussion forum and podcast.

In another prominent case of church discipline, feminist Kate Kelly, who is the founder of the website Ordain Women, was excommunicated from the church last June after church leaders found she violated the Utah-based faith's "laws and order."

"It is a very stressful time for my family, I don't think anyone wants to be excommunicated, but if I have to choose between my conscience and excommunication, I would choose my conscience," Dehlin, who lives in North Logan, said in a phone interview.

Dehlin said he has learned he likely faces official censure or excommunication, and that the church has found fault with a number of his positions.

He said those positions include his support for gay marriage, his 10 years of work on "Mormon Stories," his support for the movement to ordain women, his publicly expressed theological doubts, and his criticism of the way the church deals with gay and lesbian members, feminists and intellectuals.

Last June, after he had been threatened with disciplinary action and possible excommunication, Dehlin revealed that he had received a temporary reprieve because church leaders wanted to "de-escalate" things with him.

Dehlin, like Kelly, has received support in the online world of Mormon-themed blogs and social media sites, commonly referred to by Latter-day Saints as the "bloggernacle."

Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said the church does not publicly discuss the reasons why a member faces discipline.

"It's my understanding that in this case the reasons have been clearly spelled out in letters to John Dehlin," he said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)