More than a year after his excommunication, a Cache Valley psychologist, podcaster and LGBT advocate says he is not happy with the way The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints handled his excommunication appeal and is demanding accountability from the First Presidency.
John Dehlin — creator of the “Mormon Stories” podcast and a psychologist who helps clients experiencing faith crisis — told The Herald Journal he was informed of the First Presidency’s decision to sustain the 2015 excommunication of his church membership from his local stake president, not the First Presidency itself.
Dehlin further confirmed this to the newspaper by providing an email chain between him and his local stake president in July and August 2015, in which the stake president was given “direction to inform you and not release the letter.”
Dehlin speculated over why the LDS Church decided to handle the most recent decision this way.
“I feel like I was excommunicated because I wouldn’t go silent, and I think that’s embarrassing, honestly, for the church in the 21st century for excommunicating people for not going silent,” Dehlin said. “I would like that letter with documentation so they can be held accountable.”
The newspaper contacted LDS Church headquarters in Salt Lake City and a spokesperson referred a reporter to the church’s official website answering questions on the way the church handles disciplinary hearings, excommunication and appeals of those decisions.
The website says excommunication appeals are “uncommon” but doesn’t say whether or not a person is notified directly by the First Presidency in any way once a decision on the appeal is made.
“We have no further information or comment regarding appeals,” wrote Karlie Brand, a spokeswoman for the LDS Church, in an email.
Asked why he has not said anything publicly about the status of his excommunication appeal until now, Dehlin said he would have liked to wait until the First Presidency sent him a letter confirming his excommunication appeal had been denied.
Dehlin talked about why he feels it’s so important for LDS Church leadership to give him a letter notifying him of their decision to uphold his excommunication.
“For me, it’s a sign of respect and responsibility,” Dehlin said. “If we’re going to discuss something as important as membership, I think it’s reasonable to expect a direct exchange.”
Dehlin also talked about the broader significance he hopes his excommunication appeal had on the church.
“It’s really important to understand I didn’t necessarily appeal because I neither wanted to remain a member or expect them to make changes,” Dehlin said. “I appealed to make sure the First Presidency was accountable for the decision, that they couldn’t just blame local leaders. For me, what’s important is just to understand that the LDS Church at the highest level is accountable for that decision; it’s not a local decision.”
Dehlin was and is critical of LDS Church practices, in particular with the way the church handles its LGBT members and members who question aspects of the church doctrine.
The psychological research Dehlin conducted when he was a doctoral student at Utah State University also takes issue with the church. Dehlin’s research, in part, found that attempts by Mormons to change their sexual orientation are both “ineffective and harmful” and that 70 percent of mixed-orientation marriages of LDS members lead to divorce. Dehlin was recently invited to Durham University in the United Kingdom to share his research.
Dehlin also has a big presence on the internet, giving interviews to the news media, uploading his talks and presentations online and as well as his “Mormon Stories” podcast, which examines LDS members and their experiences with the church.