I hope that I can give some insight into the strong feelings associated with this story without breeding the contention that frequently accompanies religious conversations. I only began listening to The Mormon Stories podcast regularly about a month ago, but my exposure to it has been so positive and reaffirming. A week ago, listening to the Radio West story on New Order Mormons I felt a pang of regret for leaving so decisively. That regret has obviously dissolved since then.
Where I am now with Mormonism is the culmination of many years of intense prayer and thought. I started having questions in college after becoming close with a gay friend almost a decade ago. I had my big crisis of faith shortly after moving to Provo in 2007. I “came out” to my family about not being Mormon in 2010. I resigned formally in April of last year. At this point, I feel as if I will never finish leaving. I’m alright with that. I was raised LDS and it has shaped much of my life and worldview. I will always be a product of Mormonism, and I feel its influence in my life daily. Many may say that my opinion on The Church’s policies and doctrine is moot because I no longer have a stake in it. To them, I respectfully disagree. My mother loves the church. My father continues to believe it in spite of his excommunication. My sisters are active, enthusiastic members. My nephew will be raised in it. I have wonderful friends who have found their peace and purpose in it. I’m convinced that the social nature of my local ward is a primary contributor to my neighborhood being so friendly. As long as I have a stake in the well-being of my loved ones and community, I have a stake in the church.
John Dehlin has not created a crisis of faith for others, he has mitigated ones that already existed. He has fostered much-needed support for those of us who felt we lost a sense of community when our integrity could no-longer continue to ignore inconsistencies The Church presents. His candor gave me permission to ponder the difficult parts of Mormonism, but his tone and example gave me the tools to let go of anger associated with them. He addresses the duality of The Church which has allowed me to appreciate how it has blessed me in the past, how it continues to bless others, and not to judge where another person is in their spiritual journey.
John is the embodiment of one of my most firmly held beliefs which is that you can’t fully love something unless you know it. The good and the bad. John’s curiosity has meant learning every nook and cranny of Mormon history and culture, and he has stayed. The Church has a fiercely loyal, however unorthodox, ally in John Dehlin, but doesn’t seem to appreciate their need for him. Something I have heard repeated on the Mormon Stories Facebook page and blog comments the past couple of days is, “If there is not room in The Church for John Dehlin, there is not room for me.” I don’t believe The Church realizes what they would be doing by disciplining John & Kate with excommunication. In my opinion, this move could force many members further into isolation and secrecy. It would be breeding resentment that comes from being compelled into a state of cognitive dissonance.
I feel angry about this news because John has been diplomatic and respectful, but in return, he’s being punished. I feel sad because a couple years ago, a friend shared this message of him explaining why he stays in The Church and he is being threatened with removal from it. But mostly, I feel discouraged because for all the progress The Church has made, however slow, this is a big step back to 1993.
My thoughts and prayers go out to John, Kate, their families, and The Church. I hope that, when all is said and done, the good that comes out of this is greater than the pain and confusion it has caused.