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Mormon critic John Dehlin says he'll face church disciplinary council

According to a press release issued Thursday by John Dehlin (shown here in a 2007 file photo), his local LDS Church leader in Logan, Utah, has summoned him to disciplinary court on Jan. 25 for alleged apostasy.
According to a press release issued Thursday by John Dehlin (shown here in a 2007 file photo), his local LDS Church leader in Logan, Utah, has summoned him to disciplinary court on Jan. 25 for alleged apostasy.
Tom Smart, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon critic John Dehlin issued a press release Thursday saying he will face a church disciplinary council on Jan. 25 for his "alleged apostasy."

Dehlin, who runs a website called Mormon Stories, also released three letters sent to him by his local LDS Church leader, North Logan Utah Stake President Bryan King.

"The stake presidency is considering formal disciplinary action in your behalf," said the latest letter, dated Jan. 8 and apparently hand-delivered on Wednesday, "including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because of apostasy."

The letters reveal that King placed Dehlin on informal church probation during the summer and asked for his absolute commitment to four steps.

King said he had concluded that Dehlin "must 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; cease providing a public forum for any person who is critical of church doctrine; stop promoting groups or organizations that espouse doctrines contrary to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; resign your status as an ordained minister of another faith."

Dehlin released a letter he wrote to King in August in which he said became a minister of the Universal Life Church Monastery so he could perform weddings for friends.

In the same letter, Dehlin offered to clarify the sources of his "doubts/criticisms," be more constructive in future statements on Mormon Stories podcasts and resign from the Universal Life Church ministry.

LDS Church leaders have emphasized that questions are welcome in the church, as King does in his letters to Dehlin. But leaders also maintain, as King's letters do, that disaffected church members should not encourage others to follow them.

Dehlin's letter to King said he would not agree stop making public statements critical of church doctrine or practices. In fact, Dehlin said in his release posted on Facebook and his website that "In the coming weeks, months, and years ahead, it is my intent to provide increased support to Mormons who are transitioning away from orthodoxy."

He said he still has doubts "regarding key elements of orthodox LDS theology," that he supports same-sex marriage and ordination of women to the priesthood and that he publicly has criticized the church's approach to several issues.

LDS Church disciplinary hearings can end in no action, probation, disfellowship or excommunication. Dehlin said in June that hearings with local church leaders prior to 2014 ended without sanction.

Dehlin said that he continues to love the church "but would prefer to be left alone by LDS Church leadership at this time."

Dehlin's interactions with King began after he updated his online bio in April.

"I consider myself to be an unorthodox, unorthoprax Mormon," Dehlin wrote, in part. "I believe in many of the central, non-distinctive moral teachings within Mormonism ... but either have serious doubts about, or no longer believe many of the fundamental LDS church truth claims..."

King referenced that statement in his first letter to Dehlin, in June, when King mentioned the possibility of church discipline. The men met later in June and again in August.

LDS Church discipline differs from that in other faiths and is intended to help members progress, according to a page.

The church generally does not comment on disciplinary councils because they are private and are initiated and conducted by local leaders.

On Thursday, church spokesman Eric Hawkins released the following statement: "We respect the privacy of individuals, and don't publicly discuss the reasons why a member faces church discipline. Those reasons are provided to a member by their local church leaders. It's my understanding that in this case the reasons have been clearly spelled out in letters to John Dehlin. In the interest of honesty and transparency, he may choose to make those letters public."