On Mormon excommunications and official Church apologies

We're sorrySometimes I'm too freakin' busy to write my own posts, so I invite guest bloggers to share their experiences and thoughts. Sometimes, though, I don't write my own posts because somebody else has already said what I wanted to say better than I could ever say it.

Today it's both, so I direct your attention to Katie Langston's thoughtful and thought-provoking post yesterday about Mormon excommunication.

I have avoided looking at the comments, but I can imagine that they're pretty polarized.

Many liberal Mormons are going to be mad because Langston acknowledges there is indeed a time and a place for excommunication. "I’ll say right up front that I believe there are instances where excommunication makes sense," she writes. "I’ve seen lots of comments to the contrary, that no one should ever be kicked out of church for any reason.  That’s simply not possible, or even advisable.  There are dangerous people in this world: people who abuse trust and power, who exploit the most vulnerable.  It is important to protect the community from those who would cause intentional harm."

But conservative Mormons will be ticked by what she does next, which is to dissect the proper conditions for legitimate excommunication:

Excommunication on grounds of “apostasy” is tricky business.  Are there times when it might be appropriate?  I’m not willing to say, unequivocally, that there are not.  But I will say that as if we are going to do something as drastic as cut off fellowship, we had better have a darn good reason for it.

And someone pointing out the problems in our community is not that reason.

The church made it clear that the reason they excommunicated Kate [Kelly] and John [Dehlin] isn’t their ideas. It’s that they expressed their ideas publicly, and other people agreed with those ideas.

Yes. That is the heart of the matter. Is our church so uncertain of itself that it cannot handle criticism?

John and Kate pointed to gender inequality, to policies that hurt gays and lesbians, to problems and cover-ups in Mormon history. But as Langston notes, all of those things have actually happened or are still happening; the two excommunicants did not create those problems. And while it's fine to have issues with the methods they used in calling attention to the problems, the mistakes themselves were already there.

Langston points also to a disturbing tendency that may lie behind Elder Oaks's recent statement about apologies. (I'd like to note, before I get into this, that when I first heard that Elder Oaks had said the Church neither seeks apologies nor gives them, that surely he was misquoted. Surely there was additional context that indicated he understood that no institution, however inspired, was above apologizing for its mistakes. But as the Salt Lake Tribune clarified in the aftermath, Elder Oaks only made the same point more forcefully in a Trib Talk two days later. So I stand corrected -- at least one general authority of the church apparently does not feel that the Church will ever stand corrected.)

It's fine for the Church to emphasize looking forward in hope and faith. I believe we all should do this. But forward movement does not preclude institutional repentance for the mistakes of the past. As Langston points out, it also communicates the Church's disappointing reluctance to acknowledge -- let alone seriously address -- the very real problems that the excommunicated individuals pointed out.

. . . this is my fundamental objection to these prominent excommunications.  They have occurred in a context where the leadership will not even consider their part in neglecting people in faith crisis or refusing to create viable feedback mechanisms to bring honest concerns to decision makers.  They will not consider that these alternative communities have gained traction because decades of secrecy and denial have left people with literally nowhere else to go.  They will not consider their own role in creating what is apparently such problematic behavior that it deserves excommunication, because they will not admit that they have made mistakes.



  1. Wow, thanks for the thoughtful engagement of my post, Jana. I’m honored.

  2. It is obvious from my reading of Katie Langston’s remarks she has a very poor understanding of apostasy. When apostasy is taking place in the church it is for two reason and that is to destroy the church and other peoples beliefs. I could quote the scriptures dealing with what the Lord says about apostates but I know it would mean nothing because the idea seems to be, “I am such a fair person I don’t know how or why anyone could be excommunicated for apostasy.”
    How do you allow someone trying to destroy the very fabric of what the church teaches. to continue to do so. They were counseled but they chose to ignore it because they know better which is typical of apostates.
    If I have a complaint about something in the church I go to find out why something is the way it is and then give my view. I don’t go into rebellion and do everything I can to destroy the Lord’s church or other peoples beliefs. This is what these two are doing. Somehow they have come to the conclusion the Lord is wrong and I am going to show you that he is wrong. But who really loses in the end? The church will be here and these two people will be gone.
    The sadness is the two can’t see it but all you have to do is look at the history of people who rebelled against the church and caused problems for awhile. Where are they today? Gone, not to be heard from lately. But that is what the Lord promised to the rebellious. I would hope these two and I am sure there are many others get their heads straight and don’t fall for the fantasy of notoriety because that will fade just like everything else that fights against the Lord’s church.

  3. “Public questioning” is a euphemism for inviting doubt. When doubt is invited the spirit withdraws. By withdrawing the spirit from their conversations it was destroying their faith and those that participated with them. Hence johns questioning the divinity of the church and the role of the savior was expressed reason for releasing him from the covenants he made earlier.

  4. ListeningClosely
    “When apostasy is taking place in the church it is for two reason and that is to destroy the church and other peoples beliefs.”

    How does one know what the intent of the person accused of apostasy is? Apparently, there is an element of “eye of the beholder” involved. It would seem that excommunication involves someone making a judgment of intent and what is in someone’s heart. A member could have lots of questions and doubt, have no desire to sway people, (so he/she stays silent in church) but decides to develop a blog to have conversations with others struggling with the same questions and doubts.

    #1 On the one hand, the church urges us to pray, read the scriptures and search for “truth” –develop our own testimonies. Other denominations don’t put so much emphasis on personal revelation. But what happens if that personal revelation leads one to a different conclusion of some church leaders? The church provides no space or place where people can sincerely, intelligently discuss differences, because there can be no individuality in faith views.

    #2 The church increasingly develops a “pattern/form/cookie cutter” by which members should adhere–white shirt, no beards, mission/marriage etc. as well as correlated teaching material. Diversity in thought, appearance is discouraged.

    #3 The church doesn’t present an accurate historical record in teaching materials. Small example, in Relief Society manuals, Eliza Snow has been referred to as one of Brigham Young’s wives while it omits that Eliza Snow was Joseph Smith’s wife and that she is buried per her request as Eliza Snow Smith. The church has also taken measures to suppress researchers and writers from talking about their work such as Linda Newell’s research into Emma Smith and subsequent book, “Mormon Enigma” and others who’ve been excommunicated.

    #4 The church lays foundational claims of inerrancy, including its leaders–“the prophet will never lead the church astray” all while it continued a “policy” with justifications of why black males could not hold the priesthood.”

    The end result is that it understandably cannot claim inerrancy. Of course not, being that it is lead by mortal, imperfect, fallible men. But it maintains so despite the evidence.

    To maintain that the church doesn’t offer apologies goes against everything I was taught and taught to others. Great leaders are humble and meek, willing to admit mistakes and offer apologies for policies/procedures that might’ve caused pain and suffering. Yes, we move on, but if we can’t/don’t acknowledge and learn from the past we are doomed to repeat it.

    The world and the church need rebels as a check on the potential misguided abuse of power. For example, Joseph Smith and Jesus served as “rebels” in their days, upsetting the status quo.
    We also need rule-followers and obedient people. We need both kinds in the church. The “product” will be better if we can learn and accommodate both.

  5. Why the attempts to divide Jana? Excommunication certainly isn’t a “conservative Mormon” vs “liberal Mormon” type of thing.

    If we believe the gospel is true, and we know that certain people are leading others away from it, then we are obligated to remove them from the flock in order to protect and love our fellow members.

  6. Maddy,
    You want it your way and if it isn’t then we look for things that make other things look suspicious to the human eye. Apostasy is exactly what it is. God in the Old Testament made it clear that it is not tolerated and also in the New Testamrnt. There is no doubt as to the feelings of apostates. They want to tear down what the Lord has set up and turn it into their own way because they are turning away from the Lord. When people are malcontents they look for things to rebel against. It is obvious to me by putting Jesus in to the category of a rebel you either don’t understand who he is or overlook it purposefully to make your point. The real rebels were the Pharisees and Sadducee trying to take over and change the teachings of God.
    Jesus persecuted no one. He just taught the truth and the Pharisee and Sadducee rebelled against him trying to kill him. No different with Joseph Smith he received revelations from God and set the truth forth and if someone doesn’t believe it then he can believe whatever he wants to. The rebellious go out to forcibly destroy those who would not succumb to their authority. The same with Joseph Smith, he didn’t go out of his way to fight against those who were against him. The perpetrators always seek to confront the peaceful ones. The Sadducee and Pharisee went out of their ways to confront Jesus and the same with Joseph Smith.
    We have a right to believe what we want the Gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that. If you don’t believe that Jesus Christ was our Savior that is your choice but why go out of your way to confront people who do believe that he is their Savior. If I don’t believe a doctrine I don’t go around trying to destroy others beliefs because of it. I also would leave a church who I couldn’t put my 100% faith into and find one I could. The choice is yours. That is why we are here, to make choices and suffer the consequences of those choices whether they be right or wrong.

  7. Listening Closely,

    Reading your comment, I have new sympathy for the ancient Jews.

    Who should they have listened to? To their church leaders, who DID hold keys of the priesthood (at least Aaronic), and who represented the Lord’s organization on earth? Or, should they have listened to the apostates who their church leaders were calling disobedient, radical heretics — e.g., Jeremiah, John, Jesus?

    As a matter of principle, should they have felt free to rely on their own judgment? Surely not, for as Elder Oaks has taught: “…it is common for persons who are violating God’s commandments or disobedient to the counsel of their priesthood leaders to declare that God has revealed to them that they are excused from obeying some commandment or from following some counsel. Such persons may be receiving revelation or inspiration, but it is not from the source they suppose. The devil is the father of lies…”

    I agree with you, the Pharisees and Sadducees were, in fact, the ones rebelling against God. I just feel bad for the members in the pews. Because they had no justification to ever disagree with them. As far as they were concerned, the Pharisees and Sadducees spoke for the Church. And just as you equate them now, Church = God.

    Those poor people.

  8. “When apostasy is taking place in the church it is for two reason and that is to destroy the church and other peoples beliefs”.

    You are arguing using the either-or fallacy on a topic where, given the amount of grey area, its usage is quite inappropriate. I could go many different directions from here, but perhaps let me try to get right to the point.

    Imagine that someone, through faithful study, has found out that historical and scientific evidence has disproven a literal belief in the LDS church’s truth claims far beyond a reasonable doubt. They discuss those issues with others as a means of coping. In that process, they have come to the conclusion that they cannot maintain honesty and integrity and continue to propagate historical inaccuracies and obfuscate scientific findings and instead speak honestly with others about what they have found.

    Now, please explain to me, how this person can tell others about what they found without being labeled an “apostate” by the LDS church. If you are unable to answer this question, then I would argue that your definition of “apostate” is anyone who disagrees with the LDS church, regardless of if their information is credible or not.

    Hopefully this exercise can help you see that there are those who went through a painful discovery process. They don’t seek to destroy the church, but rather value honesty and integrity. Their hearts are broken because of the faith they lost and their hopes diminished. Their reward? Getting a label of “apostate” and de-facto social shunning because they no longer fit the cookie-cutter mold.

    The church will ultimately head in the direction that John Dehlin advocates. Of that, I have no doubt because that change is necessary for it to remain relevant in this rapidly changing world. How exactly the changes will look, I do not know. But take my word, you’re in for a lot of big changes over the next 10-20 years.

    Best of luck to you.

  9. “When doubt is invited the spirit withdraws.”

    Doubt is quite simply the result of reasoning and coming to the realization that something doesn’t make sense. Galileo doubted the geocentric model because it didn’t make sense scientifically. He was labeled a heretic by the church, when in fact, his heliocentric model was scientifically accurate and of course is common knowledge today. Using your logic, please explain to me how “the spirit” played a role in Galileo’s doubting.

  10. Listening Closely, what are you listening closely to, exactly? How could you say that Joseph Smith didn’t fight against those who fought against him? I can think of three examples just off the top of my head… Do you know your church history? Are you just being selective? I am honestly asking.

    It seems you are of the ilk who believes “When the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done.” Your statements seem based more in the type of belief you advocate, your qualification of what makes a person appropriately faithful, as in unquestioning obedience to authority more than obedience to God. Perhaps you remember that talk by Benson? The one President Kimball was so upset about? (14 fundamentals in following the prophet,) The one they asked Benson to apologize for?

    You keep conflating church leaders authority with Jesus’ teachings. They are not the same thing. It is possible to question church authority while following Jesus. Historically, that is how changes have always been made in the LDS church, and those changes were almost always preceded by excommunications. (Helmuth Hubener comes to mind.)

  11. The major difference, of course, is that the Church of Jesus Christ has living prophets and apostles!

  12. Which would be considered worse?

    To not apologize for doing something that is wrong, or to apologize from something that God says is right, but others think is wrong?

  13. The Church Handbook of Instruction gives 3 definitions of apostasy. the first one is – “Repeatedly act in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders.”

    if one believes, as I do, that the Church was objectively wrong in supporting Prop. 8 because it went against scripture in doing so, one can be labeled an apostate and be ex’ed even if the claims are objectively true. This is scary since it presupposes that the Church is always, definitionally, correct. The prophets have NEVER claimed infallibility and Elder’s Uchtdorf’s recent talk confirms this.

    With this definition on the books, there is no such thing as “loyal opposition”. I am thankful that the Lord withdraws his recognition of acts of unrighteous dominion by leaders who dare punish those whose only sin was to speak the truth.

  14. The church wasn’t led by prophets in previous dispensations?

    Now, you might say that there were little apostacies along the way. But was it ever the place of members to entertain that possibility, much less share their concerns with others?

  15. Apostasy is often illustrated in the scriptures as those who reject God’s prophets.

  16. I don’t think the prophet is infallible, but if I was standing face to face with God, and he asked me whether the prophet’s viewpoint or mine was correct… well, I’d want a pretty undeniable spiritual confirmation if I’m going to presume I’m right.

  17. Can’t disagree with that. It’s true by definition, right.

    I just feel bad for those people who rejected the prophets–like Abinadi, for instance–out of loyalty and trust in their key-holding priesthood leaders who were telling them to reject those prophets. (Remember, Alma didn’t need to be ordained because he already had the priesthood, according to Joseph Fielding Smith.)

  18. What about Emma Smith? She completely disagreed with the church, founded another church with her and the Prophet Joseph’s family and was engaged in lawsuits with Brigham Young and the LDS church for almost all of her life after Joseph died. She denied that Joseph was a polygamist on her deathbed, which was either a lie, or she deluded herself.

    But is she forgotten? Heavens no. We teach all sorts of wonderful lessons and make references to her all the time with absolutely no mention of her long fight with and departure from the church. Unfortunately, I think we selectively choose information about “apostates” and use it to our advantage to try and tell a part of the story that fits in with what we want to believe. It is a kind of beatification of Emma and Joseph in this case. We present them as unblemished Saints.
    We are similarly selective with our official stories about the three witnesses to the B of M.
    I love the church. And I do believe in excommunication–especially in the case of child abusers, rapists and other violent criminals.
    I am not convinced that John Dehlin and Kate Kelly were trying to destroy faith and the church, nor that they are even doing so today.

  19. Is it apostasy to make up some practice like no pants in church for women or men must wear a white shirt uniform? It certainly isn’t a doctrine. In fact, it isn’t even a policy. And yet there is serious pressure from many church leaders to conform with these Utah cultural ideas that church leaders have somehow nearly canonized.

    Teaching some cultural thing like this and more or less enforcing it in the church as if it came from the Lord seems like apostasy to me. Kind of a philosophy of men that has been mingled into nearly a doctrine, doesn’t it?

    Apostasy kind of depends on your perspective.

  20. True, the concession that our leaders are fallible is only technical. For all intents and purposes, we must act as if they’re infallible.

    After all, who are we to ever conclude that an apostle or prophet might be wrong on a given issue. On every question, it inevitably comes down to trust in my judgment versus deference to the Lord’s anointed–that quandary answers itself.

    Practically speaking, fallibility comes into play only when we need to explain Adam-God theory, or other issues in the distant past.

  21. Joel points out something which I find fascinating–which is that the most common narrative in the scriptures, whether it be Jeremiah in the Old Testament, Jesus in the New Testament, Abinadi in the Book of Mormon, or the story of Joseph Smith, is that of religious leaders fighting the status quo, outside the current religious power structure of their time. Our church was born out of this exact narrative. But what happens when the church then becomes the power structure? When the church becomes a force proscribing this and that with more and more rules and less and less tolerance for ideas and beliefs outside of its own? Look, I’m well aware things are never as black and white as that. The church is wonderful and beautiful in so many ways, and does so much good–but sometimes I wonder, “Are we the Pharisees now?”

  22. “Flunking Sainthood”…finally the meaning of this phrase distills on my mind like the morning dew. I finally realize why Jana so aptly named this blog. Many readers and authors on this blog maybe flunking sainthood, but for the most part, everyone is doing post graduate work on rationalization. Most of these comments are a mass of confusion and intellectual nonsense.

  23. “The major difference, of course, is that the Church of Jesus Christ has living prophets and apostles!”

    And how exactly do you establish that without circular reasoning (begging the question)?

    Bill: “God must exist.”
    Jill: “How do you know.”
    Bill: “Because the Bible says so.”
    Jill: “Why should I believe the Bible?”
    Bill: “Because the Bible was written by God.”


  24. “This is scary since it presupposes that the Church is always, definitionally, correct.”

    You nailed it, my friend. That is really what apostasy comes down to… the church is always right, and if you disagree [publicly], then you are an apostate.

  25. I would argue that Oaks is just as ready for excommunication as Dehlin and Kelly as he is doing the same thing they did- teaching doctrine that the Church is fighting against. If the Church as no need to repent, then neither do we.

  26. I wasnt talking about Galileo or the catholic church. I was talking about john and the church of jesus christ. Different circumstances.

  27. God disnt write the bible. It was distilled by prophets that received the word of god in person or thru spiritual means. I worship the god of Jacob, the god of Isreal, the god of abraham, the god of joseph smith…

  28. GP and Ron,

    We’re clearly talking past each other.

    GP refers to principle-based decision making, where the ethical action is independent of who the actors are.

    Ron views this through two other lenses: (1) Divine command, where the who is all that matters. And remember the immutable premise here, the Church = God. (2) Ends justify means, at least relating to the actions of the Church itself.

    Ron’s is the quintessentially Mormon approach.

    GP (and Katie L. and Jana), you’re talking to a wall.

  29. I usually like your articles, Jana. But your reaction here is knee-jerk. Take gay marriage or any other red-meat issue out of it. The guy had a podcast about his disagreements with church doctrine. This wasn’t about political opinion. It is core theological doctrine. Preaching false doctrine is apostasy, and should result in an expulsion. Disappointing, I guess I’m still going to wait for a rational Mormon in the journalism industry.

  30. So quick to label someone I guess..if your going to label me a wall in public then I have the right to correct the record. Were not talking about a wall, Its the iron rod I hold to.

  31. Jana,

    If you continue this serious of posts on excommunication, perhaps a topic might be how we define “preaching” / “teaching” false doctrine.

    That seems to be a crux of disagreement.

    I always thought it meant to present false doctrine as if it were doctrine. Others, like B and John’s stake president, appear to believe that it includes the EXPRESSION of (1) one’s ideas that are contrary to Church doctrine, along with (2) the reasons that those ideas are held—even if you make clear that you’re not disputing what the doctrine is.

  32. There is a difference between “pointing out problems” and apostasy. You are not allowed to define doctrines of the Church as “problems” even if there are a lot of people who disagree with them. JD clearly did not believe in basic tenets of the Church and tried to persuade other people to not believe those basic tenets. He can self-identify as a cultural Mormon all he wants, but his religious beliefs clearly are not Mormon.

    The Church stays informed on what people consider to be problems. General authorities and officers of the Church travel the world and talk to members. The Correlation Department has a Research Information Division that does research. And clearly Church leaders read the news about the Church. I also believe that they frequently communicate with our all-knowing Heavenly Father through revelation. Consequently, Church leaders know what is going on better than bloggers do. I trust Church leaders to make decisions on Church policies (like being able to excommunicate members for apostasy) much more than I would trust a blogger or anyone else.

  33. You’re right. Insensitive use of a figure of speech. Nothing personal intended.

  34. I agree with the sentiment of your comment, but I would disagree on your proposed definition of apostasy. The reason I disagree is that it would mean that even if someone officially joined another religion they couldn’t be considered to have apostatized unless they taught that the other religion’s teachings were LDS doctrine. I believe that apostasy should be defined as actively advocating teachings that are contradictory to the doctrine of the Church, regardless of whether the individual presents them as doctrines of the Church. The defining characteristic of false doctrine is that, from the Church’s perspective, the doctrine is false.

  35. Very true. We should act as though the Church is always correct, even when we suspect it is wrong. It is up to God to correct the Church, not the Church’s membership.

  36. @ Notsosure: I agree that if someone teaches that women must no wear pants or men must wear white shirts as Church doctrine on the same level as, say, the Word of Wisdom then that person is teaching false doctrine. If they didn’t stop when a priesthood leader corrects them, they would be committing apostasy.

  37. @ Fred M A common theme with the Pharisees, the priests of king Noah, and the story of Joseph Smith is that following the prophet always involved sacrifice and ridicule from the broader society. I find that following the teachings of the Church as taught by the Church’s general leadership seems to pass the “does it require sacrifice and ridicule from the world” smell test more often than not. It’s not a perfect test by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe it is definitely helpful. Of course, spiritual confirmation is much more helpful.

  38. Listening Closely wrote: “How do you allow someone trying to destroy the very fabric of what the church teaches, to continue to do so.”

    This makes me think deeply. I have this crazy notion that truth can never be harmed or destroyed – it’s much stronger than that. And what is not truth *ought* to be destroyed. I’m guessing (perhaps naively) that we all are united in wanting to find truth, and exposing un-truth because it’s damaging (if someone’s entire testimony is built and precariously balanced on something untrue, their faith will fail them, sooner or later.)

    What I’m driving at is this; John Dehlin couldn’t possibly harm the very fabric of what the church teaches, if those fibers are true. So I don’t understand the fear that seems to be behind ousting him.

  39. “If we have the truth, it cannot be harmed by investigation. If we have not the truth, it ought to be harmed.”

    J. Reuben Clark

  40. Not all apostasy is without purpose or fore-pattern. Apostasy comes as judgment upon the Lord’s covenant people as a curse for not living righteously or for wanting only what feels good Isa 28. Any people (covenant or otherwise) can slip. Humble followers of God apologize when appropriate. Messiah warned us with the parable of the Wheat and the Tares to allow the so-called tare to grow with us lest the wheat be destroyed too (Matt 13:24-30). If we are the wheat, then plucking out a tare sounds like excommunication to me.

  41. Thank you Joel. I knew I was pilfering someone else’s words, but didn’t take the time to look it up & properly cite them. Sorry J. Reuben. 🙂

  42. I was just pointing out that Jen is not alone.

    A member of the first presidency agrees with her. In fact, so does another first presidency member, Hugh B. Brown: “Only error fears inquiry.”

  43. The funny thing is that there is no agreement among faithful Mormons as to what constitutes doctrine on any matter. Unless the Church is willing to define doctrines then they should stop calling excommunications like Dehlin’s and Kelly’s apostasy. They should call Kelly’s and Dehlin’s excommunications what they are – failure to do what the Bishop or Stake President told you to do.

  44. Dan,
    “tried to persuade other people to not believe those basic tenets”

    Umm on what basis do you make that claim?

    Have you listened to Dehlin’s podcasts? Mostly his podcasts were simply interviews of people on both sides of the “divide.” He actually said repeatedly he wants people to make their own decisions and follow their own path. He was a supporter/advocate of ordaining women and legalizing same-sex marriage but according to leadership those were not the grounds used to “ex” him. Good thing, because there are many who’ve publically advocated for those things who haven’t been ex’d. He has said repeatedly he supports people who continue to actively believe and participate in the church. He also supports those who don’t. Mostly his podcasts were simply interviews of people on both sides of the “divide.”

    “General authorities and officers of the Church travel the world and talk to members”
    ” I trust Church leaders to make decisions on Church policies (like being able to excommunicate members for apostasy)”

    You do realize that, ostensibly, it was the local leaders alone who excommunicated Dehlin. There exists great variability (in knowledge, skills/strengths, philosophy etc) among local leaders in case you haven’t noticed. I’m guessing there are Stk Pres. who might not have excommunicated Dehlin. So, it would appear sometimes/often it is “being in the wrong place at the wrong time” phenomenon.

    Perhaps some people visiting Dehlin’s program learned things which led them to leave the church. But there are many leaders as well as rank-and-file whose (immoral, bad judgment) actions might cause someone to leave the church.

  45. Different details, but the parallels are very relevant.

    Scientific evidence does not support the LDS church’s unique church claims, not the least of which is that the American Indians were descendents of Jews. There aren’t really any bombshell answers to wait for… the verdict is in and the evidence simply does not support this claim. I could go on and on, but this is just one example.

    John, like Galileo, could not in honesty continue to propagate certain truth claims of the LDS church when he knew that the church’s correlated story of its origins at times is whitewashed or altogether incorrect. Doubting is simply your reasoning kicking in when things don’t add up. It takes humility to realize that you are wrong and courage to act upon the new-found knowledge, especially when you stand alone and do it at the expense of personal relationships. And for that, I respect John and commend him for his integrity.

  46. You missed the point. I was pointing out your usage of a logical fallacy and cut-and-pasted an example that I found online.

  47. I’m surprised at how many people mention John as preaching, yet when I ask them for examples of John preaching, they come up empty. I’ve listened to over a hundred of John’s podcasts and while he has stated his own beliefs over time, I have not heard him preach a single time. And I have yet heard him state anything of substance that is false. I challenge you to give an example to back up your claim.

  48. “JD clearly did not believe in basic tenets of the Church and tried to persuade other people to not believe those basic tenets.”

    Give me one example where John tried to persuade other people to not believe the basic tenets.

  49. “What I’m driving at is this; John Dehlin couldn’t possibly harm the very fabric of what the church teaches, if those fibers are true. So I don’t understand the fear that seems to be behind ousting him.”

    Good comment Jen. I wholeheartedly agree. I’d love for the church to open up a little bit and relax. Yes, there are some uncomfortable things in the history. But for heaven’s sake (and our sake), address them head-on.

  50. John both took credit for, and to an extent, celebrated, people leaving the church.

  51. I think BG is being hyperbolic, perhaps intentionally. But BG does have point, no?

    Of course, there are simple and surface-level doctrines that are easily articulable. Gospel Principles type stuff.

    After that, doctrines increasingly become hard to nail down in detail even when leadership may agree on general notions.

    Just think of the modern-day prophets who have attempted to spell out Mormon doctrine only to find the Church distancing itself from them–Parley Pratt, Joseph Fielding Smith, Bruce McConkie.

    And what’s doctrine today may not be doctrine tomorrow. You’re a smart guy. I won’t insult your intelligence with examples.

  52. Many of us aren’t as smart as you think, what are some of the examples of where the church is distancing itself from previous authorities…..??
    You mention Joseph Fielding Smith, this one is curious, his picture hangs in most church office buildings, they have buildings named after him, and the church used the Joseph Fielding Smith manual as the course of instruction for priesthood and Relief Society last year.

  53. “fallibility comes into play only when we need to explain Adam-God theory…”
    Great line…..maybe one of the better ones in this comment section….
    Joel….please, we need to hear an explanation of the Adam-God theory….
    and what did you mean by fallibility, the theory? or your future explanation?

  54. Nobody Important – 36 years in the Church, Seminary Grad, RM. Take the WoW – probably the most common definition is from the Temple Recommend questions, but read the actual canonized revelation and it is not that. Next time you are together with family ask them to define the doctrine of the WoW and the purpose of it. Everyone will give a different answer. Pretty much every church ‘doctrine’ is like this.

  55. Adam-God

    The Oath of Vengeance

    Penalties in the Temple

    Blood Atonement

    Spencer Kimball’s views on Lamanites and the American Indians

    Ezra Benson’s views on the Civil Rights Movement

    Pretty much all of the statements on homosexuality


    Joseph Fielding Smiths views on evolution

    Birth control was evil until it became a “decision with the Lord”

    Sexual practices between husband and wife are no longer a worthiness test.

    I’m sure there are others.

  56. “I consider myself to be an unorthodox, unorthoprax Mormon. I … either have serious doubts about, or no longer believe many of the fundamental LDS church truth claims (e.g., anthropomorphic God, “one true church with exclusive authority,” that the current LDS church prophet receives privileged communications from God, that The Book of Mormon and The Book of Abraham are translations, polygamy, racist teachings in the Book of Mormon, that ordinances are required for salvation, proxy work for the dead).” John Dehlin from his bio on the Mormon Stories website. He isn’t harming the church. He is harming the testimony of his thousands of listeners. This is from a letter his stake president wrote him: “I am focused on five core doctrines of the Church: (1) The existence and nature of God; (2) Christ being the literal Savior of the World and his Atonement being absolutely necessary to our salvation; (3) the exclusive priesthood authority restored through the Church; (4) The Book of Mormon as scripture and the revealed word of God; and (5) the governance of the Church by doctrine and revelation through inspired leaders. As you know, and as my letter outlined, in the past you have written and spoken out against these core doctrines on numerous occasions and in numerous public contexts.”

  57. If it is “up to God to correct the Church, not the Church membership,” as you put it, then why do research at all? Why listen to complaints of members at all? You appear to have been a member for a long time (as have I)–surely you know that dozens of changes have been made in church policies and practices (and even things that were considered “doctrine” at the time) because members complained and pointed out things they didn’t think were right. Things that perhaps the leadership should have seen on their own, but for some reason they didn’t. The design of garments, many things now out of the temple ceremony, sisters not being allowed to give prayers in sacrament meetings, etc., etc. Not to mention the complaints outside the church which led to revelations ending polygamy and the priesthood ban. The WoW itself came because someone first complained! There is a rich history of members complaining and the church leadership listening and making changes. And I’m thankful for it. The Lord works in mysterious ways…

  58. I concur with BG’s list.

    Allow me to refine a bit. The Church didn’t distance itself from those individuals, but rather from their attempts to articulate “doctrine.” Regarding Joseph Fielding Smith, I’m thinking of “Man, his Origin and Destiny.” David O. McKay said that “the Church has officially taken no position” on evolution, that Smith’s book “is not approved by the Church”, and that the book is composed entirely of Smith’s “views for which he alone is responsible.”

    Church manuals: I think the Church selects fungible quotes from those leaders about innocuous concepts of our correlated curriculum. It’s easy to find quotes from any of the past presidents about praying with your family, reading the scriptures, etc.

    On the other hand, it’s pretty hard to find anything in those manuals relating to the particular opinions they were famous for. Brigham Young and Blood Atonement, Adam-God, Communitarianism, Polygamy. Joseph Fielding Smith and extreme position on Evolution. Ezra Benson and communism, etc.

  59. Sure. Here goes:


    Brigham Young taught that Adam had been a mortal man before he was exalted to become the immortal Michael, who helped create the world and started our race upon it. He taught that Adam—as opposed to Elohim–is the literal father of Jesus and serves as OUR Heavenly Father. Put simply, according to President Young, Adam is “our Father and our God, and he only God with whom we have to do.” Subsequent presidents Taylor and Woodruff taught it as well.

    You can see where Brigham might have gotten that idea. It ties into the Apotheosis concept that we refer to when we casually speculate about being exalted and having own planets and be the Gods of those planets.

    By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Orson Pratt, Talmage and Widstoe, won out on the doctrine that we now espouse today.

    Probably because fundamentalists still rely heavily on the doctrine, Pres. Spencer Kimball expressly rejected the Adam-God theory during the 1976 General Conference: “We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine.”

    Pres. Spencer Kimball, “Our Own Liahona,” October 1976 General Conference.


    I don’t mean that the leaders are imperfect people. That should go without saying.

    The theological concept is that, because God has no choice but to communicate through people, he renders his earthly mouthpieces literally incapable of erring when they purport to communicate doctrine. Put simply, you can know that when you hear it from them that you’re hearing it from God himself.

    The Catholic’s belief in the Pope’s infallibility is one of protestants regular criticisms.


    There’s a decent FAIR article about how Mormon’s reject the tenet.

    The article includes a few helpful quotes. For instance, B.H. Roberts explained the difference between pronouncements and sermons of individual leaders versus what the Church adopts as cannon:

    “Relative to these sermons [Journal of Discourses] I must tell you they represent the individual views of the speakers, and the Church is not responsible for their teachings. Our authorized Church works are the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In the Church very wide latitude is given to individual belief and opinion, each man being responsible for his views and not the Church; the Church is only responsible for that which she sanctions and approves through the formal actions of her councils. So it may be that errors will be found in the sermons of men, and that in their over zeal unwise expressions will escape them, for all of which the Church is not responsible”

    This 2007 press release of the Church reinforces the idea that “doctrine” is established by express, unanimous pronouncements of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve:

    “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.” (My emphasis.)


    The B.H. Roberts quote above was in the context of discussing Brigham Young’s teachings, including the Adam-God concept.

    The Church’s new article on Blacks and the Priesthood also relies on the concept, suggesting that even ideas taught over the pulpit during general conferences by prophets were the mistaken ideas of those culturally influenced, mortal men alone. Thus, we now “disavow” them.


    I think Boyd Packer expressed it best, the Lord will not let the leaders err to the extent of causing irreparable harm to the kingdom:

    “Even with the best of intentions, [Church government] does not always work the way it should. Human nature may express itself on occasion, but not to the permanent injury of the work.

    A good example is the blacks/priesthood issue. It only took 100 years, but now it’s all fixed. And no permanent harm was done. We never lost the sealing keys. And anyone who wasn’t endowed or sealed during that time can have that done posthumously now, through vicarious ordinances in the temple.


    “Follow the prophet; follow the prophet; follow the prophet; don’t go astray. Follow the prophet; follow the prophet; follow the prophet; He knows the way.”

    And I think it’s common to believe that if we follow the prophet, and he happens to be incorrect, then our obedience will absolve us. Sort of a celestial Nuremberg defense.

    That’s my understanding, anyway.

  60. Doh!, screwed it up again. I’ll stop playing around with bold formatting.

  61. Joel, thank you, well written response….I’ll leave a few thoughts this evening.

  62. I like the way Joel frames the debate, because he sounds like he’ll be with us at the end of the world when all things are restored and sorted. There will be no need for a restoration of all things unless there is an apostasy which precedes the restoration.

    I am an Ephraimite, in the best sense, so I will stay with my tribe until then. One of our more insensible ideas is related to apostasy (the topic of this blog). Insanity is to believe Isaiah 28 and Jeremiah 23 are talking about any other people than ourselves given some of the other things we espouse. If Isaiah’s message is for us, as we believe, then he is warning us (especially us). If we are God’s covenant people, then we had better start thinking about the ways we have departed from God like our brethren the Jews departed (gradually) before us. We know how they slipped and we can recite scriptures about it. Right?

    Jews, by the way, are very good at recognizing their own problems and discussing them. Mormons? Hmm…we don’t discuss things, but we do a pretty good job of suppressing things especially by peer pressure. I talked to a man who was in council with President Kimball when the 15 discussed how to handle Adam-God “and other false doctrines”. President Kimball’s wording was very precise and full of purpose. When pressed, he personally couldn’t disbelieve the ideas of Brigham Young, but he was sure the matter had to be “taken off the table” so that we regular members would not be dissuaded from our testimonies. That kind of nanny protectionism of our fragile spirituality is precisely because we do not discuss the pros and cons of an argument. Until lately we had no idea Joseph actually had 40 wives; some of them as young as 14. What? We (we are to blame not our leaders) have opted for committees, correlated curriculum and PR to speak for our beliefs, and thus we have had the tidy truth on our side. It was very comforting until recently.

    So…does the current “Google apostasy” in the church have a God-driven, God-purposed agenda to get us off our backsides? Is it healthy to assume all we gotta do is follow the prophet without knowing (really knowing) why we should do it? Will we fly to pieces like glass if we admit our 2nd prophet taught Adam-God openly and willfully stopped ordinations of our black brethren?

    According to my dear Jewish friends, the God of the Torah tells us more than any other thing to NOT FEAR. Because the more we fear, the more we lie, and the more we lie the more evil we do.

    There is nothing to fear from those who are struggling to understand like Dehlin and Kelly. The more we combat them, the more they and we will fear. The more we fear, the more apostasy we will reap.


  63. “Imagine that someone, through faithful study, has found out that historical and scientific evidence has disproven a literal belief in the LDS church’s truth claims far beyond a reasonable doubt. They discuss those issues with others as a means of coping. In that process, they have come to the conclusion that they cannot maintain honesty and integrity and continue to propagate historical inaccuracies and obfuscate scientific findings and instead speak honestly with others about what they have found.”

    First of all, the proper “protocol” for those who are having difficulties with their faith is to speak with your bishop (aka local pastor). The reason for this is because the bishop has been trained in helping members take whatever steps are needed for them to resolve their dilemma and mend their “broken heart”. In fact before any official measures are taken the bishop will **always** meet with the individual member to discuss the issue and what the next step should be.

    The second thing I’d like to point out is how an organization would be affected if it allowed a “well intentioned” outspoken apostate individual to remain affiliated and participate in church functions. To do this I’ll use another well known organization such as Alcoholics Anonymous, whose generally understood purpose is to help cope with addiction and improve the lives of those who participate in their program:

    Imagine that (similar to your exampled individual) there was someone who was participating in the AA program but had recently “found out that historical and scientific evidence has disproven a literal belief in the [AA’s] truth claims far beyond a reasonable doubt (I still don’t really understand this statement, beyond reasonable doubt for who?)”, and decided to share this information with other participants. Participants who, keep in mind, have faith/trust/belief in the 12 step program and are finding success with it. What should the AA moderators do about the individual? Assuming the issue cannot be resolved would it be wrong for them to ask (and later demand) the individual leave the program?

  64. “we don’t discuss things, but we do a pretty good job of suppressing things especially by peer pressure”

    “the more we fear, the more we lie, and the more we lie the more evil we do”

    Amen, brother Jonathan! Sing it.

  65. The problem for a lot of us is that we did not voluntarily join the Church. Your analogies would be much stronger if the membership of the Church was voluntary. I didn’t know of many 8 year olds who refused to be baptised – I know I just went along with it. I could also get behind your ‘just leave if you don’t believe’ argument if leaving did not strain or destroy most of the relationships a person has made throughout his life. Yes, organizations have a right to control their membership, but an organization with effectively forced membership of youth coupled with high exit costs is in need of review and reform.

  66. ‘… the proper “protocol” for those who are having difficulties with their faith is to speak with your bishop” … the reason for this is because the bishop has been trained in helping members take whatever steps are needed for them to resolve their dilemma and mend their “broken heart”.’

    My bishop didn’t want to talk about the church truth claim issues with me – probably because he knew that diving into it would have affected his own testimony. From there, I spoke with my SP and a GA regarding the issues, and they had no answers of substance. They just told me to read my scriptures, pray, attend church, etc. No amount of that regiment will change facts, and they were simply unable to stand up to a serious and well-intentioned inquiry on all of the issues I brought up to them. It was really sad… they didn’t even try to debate me on substance; they just sat there quietly and took it in. They knew I was right and didn’t have a good answer.

    Regarding leadership training, as someone who has served in leadership positions, I know that the church does not train local leadership on these issues. They just leave it up to each leader to figure it on on their own. Go ahead, ask your bishop or SP what kind of training they get for questions like this. It’s all hush-hush… no direction top-down.

    Your comparison with AA is a false analogy. I really don’t have any issues with the LDS church’s efforts to improve the lives of others. I still retain the good principles that I received from the LDS church: service, love of my fellow man, etc. However, their claim of a literal and historical BoM and BoA along with other sketchy history sprinkled with problematic doctrines doesn’t work when it claims to be the “one true church”. AA doesn’t claim to be the “one true” anything. If the LDS church was open-minded on theological positions and allowed a very broad range of beliefs, then I’d probably still attend. Perhaps it will get there at some point (look at the Community of Christ [RLDS] church for a peek into the future for the LDS church). But for now, trying to attend with such rigid belief in easily disproved claims would be really unhealthy. Try to imagine attending an institution 3 hours a week where they repeatedly tell you that you must believe that the sun revolves around the earth – because “the spirit” told them that it was “true”. That’s a way you can imagine it would be for me (and others like me) to attend.

  67. Any imperious declaration, pro or con, about my faith’s truth claims are suspicious and something I treat with due caution. As this momentous “Google Apostasy” rolls out, there are many who “know” we have a false religion like they know the sun does not revolve around the earth, and it is always by their diligent study which they know it. Hmm… All history, religion and philosophy is subjective. ALL of it. There was a fine podcast by Mormon History Guy Russell Stevenson a year ago with a Dr. Harper. Harper was interviewed about his book dealing with the differing versions of the First Vision. Differing versions of the First Vision should be a big problem right? For Harper (and for me now) it’s not a problem. Listen how Dr. Harper talks about our unique legacy from Joseph Smith especially in the way we assimilate truth with a process (or term) called “epistemology.” He boiled it down to the phrase “by study and by faith.” It takes both elements of faith and study to understand what one believes as truth. Hear the podcast for yourself: http://mormonhistoryguy.com/2014/03/

  68. Yes, I completely agree… you should treat such statements (pro or con) with caution. This is definitely the right attitude to have for anyone who has serious questions.

    In my case, I looked past the conclusions of others (pro or con) and did my own research into the raw data and original sources. I wanted to see what was really out there without someone telling me what to think. What I found was that the apologetic answers (e.g. FairMormon) just aren’t rational to me on nearly all of the topics… while I find those who present historical and scientific evidence (without an agenda) as being logical and balanced. In the case of critics, I don’t always agree with their claims either. For example, I don’t agree with 100% of the claims/allusions in the critical CES Letter (cesletter.com), although the vast majority of it is historically and scientifically accurate… and it is an excellent summary of the church’s issues.

    Anyway, if you can make it work for you and come out as a believer, then more power to you. I wish circumstances were different for me, but the amount of evidence against the church’s claims is more than enough to be convincing that it isn’t what it claims to be.

    Best of luck to you.

  69. Kristine, your comment reminds me of a phrase I ran across, reading about Juanita Brooks – “Loyal dissent”
    There’s no such thing anymore – almost an oxymoron in Mormonism. I especially liked this quote, “Juanita’s life derived its suspense from her insistence upon nonconformity within a church which emphasized obedience. She was an inside dissenter.”
    We must get over this aversion to dissent. It’s killing us.

  70. The church does not claim the american Indian are literal descendants of the Jews. Lehi and Ishmael both claim their genealogy through Joseph, they were literally descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh. Yes, the D&C and BoM both refer to Lamanites as descendants of Jews….why? Because Lehi was a citizen of Jerusalem living in the land of Judah, citizens rightfully referred to themselves as Jews even though not genetically. Paul in the New testament claimed the same thing….Acts 22:3 “I am verily a man [which am] a Jew, born in Tarsus”..yet when he gave his tribe…….Philippians 3:5..”Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin”…….not a Jew!! Yet he claimed it…..
    Many noted people in the church have explained this for years yet it still comes up and is repeated by critics and those looking for excuses.

  71. Is Ezra Taft Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals” included in the Gospel Doctrine curriculumn this year?

    Consider this example:
    First Presidency Letter, 1949 George Albert Smith:
    “”The attitude of the Church with reference to the Negroes remains as it has always stood. It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes may become members of the Church but that they are not entitled to the Priesthood at the present time. “

  72. The D&C, BoM, prophets, and the general church membership believed that the Lamanites were descendents of the Jews. The Book of Mormon was to be preached to the Lamanites as the “lost tribe of Israel” and Joseph Smith directed that the American Indians (as Lamanites) be converted. The original story fits together well, because that is what was clearly taught.

    Fast-foward to today. DNA evidence shows absolutely no evidence of Middle Eastern intermixing for any of the migrations mentioned in the BoM. The church realized this and changed the BoM title page in 2006 to back off of the claims made up to that point. So now the story changes.

    This is a common pattern with apologetics on most church issues I’ve come across. I really wish I could get a straight story and honesty behind a story that does not change. Don’t “we believe in being honest”? Aren’t prophets and apostles supposed to speak for God? Why is God making things so confusing?

    The church needs a reboot… this kind of reasoning is simply not tenable in this day of age and it’s coming to a head right before our eyes.

  73. Maybe the issue keeps coming up because that response is nifty but ultimately unpersuasive. OK, so we’re conflating the tribes by colloquially referring to them all as Jews. We’re still talking about children of either Leah or Rachel. What am I missing?

    Is the idea that Lehi was an Asian who happened to be living in Jerusalem? If not, I think this is a distinction without a meaning difference.

    Honestly, it strikes me as the type of hyper-technicality–mixed with academic-sounding pretension–that prompts so many to roll their eyes at FAIR/FARMS. And it’s amusing to hear apologists insist that a troublesome issue has been “debunked” or “dealt with” because you know they’re referring to this type of sophistry and argument dwelling in the thick of thin things.

    It REALLY doesn’t help the cause, IMHO.

  74. The problem isn’t semantics over which tribe of Isreal Mormons think populated the Americas. It is that Midle Eastern DNA is not identified in Native American populations.

  75. Yes, but what do you think about disloyal dissent?

  76. Just to be clear, that particular line of reasoning has never been followed by anyone. So maybe post a link to the straw man fallacy, OK?

  77. There is no straw man in my reply. My point is quite simple; logically prove that the LDS church has prophets and apostles without circular reasoning. Of course you cannot… the whole concept of prophets and apostles (and by extension anything theological) is entirely circular. One justification gets layered upon another until you find yourself back where you started from and were trying to prove.

    Let me put it to you another way. If you were born into another religion, then you more than likely would follow that religious tradition. If you were born in the wilderness and somehow were brought up without human interaction, I doubt that you would believe in anything theological except for perhaps a worldview you prop up yourself to explain the world around you (e.g. thunder is a manifestation of the gods’ anger).

    In short – you believe what you believe because others have told you what to believe and it resonates with you (possibly because it played a direct or indirect role in your upbringing and/or the doctrines sound good). But there is no logical basis to “prove” anything theological…

  78. I suppose your reasoning would be concretely true if there were no such powers as God and the Holy Ghost. Abraham rejected his father’s traditions when he received revelation for himself. He passed his wisdom down to us, that’s true, but we can always go to the “oldest book in the world [HG]” for ourselves any time to break any undue influence of others.

  79. The feelings of the HG (“the spirit”) are not unique to the LDS faith as is so clearly demonstrated here:


    Once again, any attempt to somehow claim a uniqueness to “the spirit” would only be circular. What makes your feelings and surety more authentic or unique than those in the video who came from other faiths? Why would God toy with his children in such a way?

    I have nothing against “the spirit” as it relates to humanity. I have felt “the spirit” many times as a devout member of the church both in theological and secular contexts… and I continue to feel it even now whenever something resonates with me. The problem (and circular reasoning) is promoting such emotions to become a substitute for logic and reason, especially when it can be so unreliable within a faith or even lead individuals to make different faith choices entirely.

    Have you ever heard of a PH blessing not coming to pass? I have seen dozens myself… and it’s always chalked up as not being God’s will. How could a PH holder giving a blessing under the influence of the spirit say something that was incorrect? Is God testing our faith by giving an incorrect direction? Why did Joseph Smith claim that a revelation of the devil tricked him into trying to sell the BoM copyright in Canada?

  80. OK, go for it… prove the Holy Ghost without circular reasoning. Would a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist understand such a concept or is it unique to Christianity? Is the Mormon Holy Ghost better than the Holy Ghost from broader Christianity? It’s all circular… the HG is [to you] what it is because that’s what you’ve been told from someone else. The odds are that you would not have come up with it on your own. If you feel that your experience is somehow unique or more special, then please explain why using specifics; especially in light of the same feeling felt by those with other beliefs:


  81. GP, your response to my earlier comment (which criticized your use of the straw man fallacy) is to demand that I “logically prove that the LDS church has prophets and apostles without circular reasoning. Of course you cannot…”

    So this is now the burden of proof fallacy. My suggestion would be for you to try to avoid fallacies of any sort. Fair enough? There is a logical problem with asking me to “logically prove [a specified proposition] without circular reasoning,” since to employ circular reasoning would not be a logical proof either.

    In the comment to which I replied, you characterized LDS belief in prophets and apostles as based on circular reasoning. I replied that your comment was an example of the straw-man fallacy because no one actually articulates the line of reasoning which you mocked. That observation stands.

    (I notice that my comments are now being held for moderation. Perhaps this is applicable to everyone’s comments, but in the absence of any statement from the site host, I am at least considering that it is specific to me. If so, I protest.)

  82. Author

    Just to reassure you, trytoseeitmyway, I haven’t done anything to moderate or hold your recent comments. (In fact, I’ve been having a hard time lately just keeping up with reading all the comments.)

    I do know that RNS was having problems with spam on the site a couple of days ago, so maybe there’s just a sitewide delay. In any case, it isn’t personal.

  83. trytoseeitmyway – The irony here is that you are actually the one committing the burden of proof fallacy by asking me to prove that the LDS prophets and apostles are of God when you are making the claim. The burden of proof lies with the person making the claim, not the skeptic. Go look it up.

    If you claim that there is such a concept as prophets and apostles of God that can logically and rationally be proven, then prove it. Undoubtedly it will be circular… most likely appealing to the HG as Jonathan did.

    To be clear, I have no problem with someone believing in something. I actually believe that the variety of religious beliefs and cultures help to make this world a very interesting place (so long as the differences can remain peaceful and tolerant). Yes – that includes members of the LDS faith of which I retain close relations in family and friendships. I’m just pointing out that the belief is circular and not based on logic or reason. Appealing to an authority (especially when the very foundation of that authority is unproven) isn’t persuasive in an argument except for perhaps those who share the same belief.

  84. Apologies for the length of this post, but I would be excommunicated if I do more than two, and I do not desire this fate for simply expressing my opinions… 🙂

    Jana, you cited Katie Langston and then continued as follows:

    ” ‘The church made it clear that the reason they excommunicated Kate [Kelly] and John [Dehlin] isn’t their ideas. It’s that they expressed their ideas publicly, and other people agreed with those ideas.’

    “Yes. That is the heart of the matter. Is our church so uncertain of itself that it cannot handle criticism?”

    Langston’s statement is inaccurate. Neither Kelly nor Dehlin were excommunicated for expressing their ideas publicly or for mere criticism, but rather for specific actions which stood in open opposition and even defiance of the church, and for drawing disciples unto themselves to do the same.

    It wasn’t that long ago that Ordain Women was expressly asked not to march on Temple Square during General Conference, but Kelly was more than happy to invite one and all to “Come stare down the patriarchy! ‪#‎literallyandfiguratively‬” in her March 13, 2014 Facebook status.

    “Come stare down the patriarchy!”? Does this sound like something a faithful Latter-day Saint would ever speak with regard to the Lord’s anointed, let alone as a rallying cry for a General Conference demonstration?

    It’s not just the ideas. It’s not just expressing them openly. It is the divisive, in-your-face, disrespectful expression of those ideas while rallying others to do likewise.

    I’m not sure if Dehlin’s actions are any better or worse. To the best of my knowledge he never organized demonstrations against the church or its policies, but he provided a forum for rampant sowing of seeds of doubt, preying upon those undergoing a crisis of faith, and fueling the crisis with his own scorecard of outright disbelief of the core doctrines of the church, earning an income from the effort to boot! While many have defended him that he didn’t deserve the decision which was rendered, the fact of the matter is that an investigator of the church could never pass a baptismal interview if his views aligned with Dehlin. He doesn’t deny that he doesn’t believe that the church is true. Odd that he would even lift a finger to remain in it considering his passions in areas of disagreement.

    Jana, you write “John and Kate pointed to gender inequality, to policies that hurt gays and lesbians, to problems and cover-ups in Mormon history.”

    There are areas in the church where discussing gender inequality is a worthy pursuit. There are other areas where the arguments tread onto ground which can only be covered by revelation, not mortal concensus. Learning the difference between the two and respecting those differences is wisdom. With regard to gays and lesbians, again we enter the realm of scripture and revelation. We don’t negotiate morality with God. The church has done a decent job in attempting to stand by its principles while recognizing and accommodating certain societal realities within the God-given parameters of those principles. While one can have compassion toward those who feel hurt by adherence to God-given doctrines, one cannot set aside those doctrines simply because they fall out of favor in certain circles. As for the Mormon history question, I recommend people read “Rough Stone Rolling” and make up their own minds. Most of the blogosphere has become so polarized that the chances of emerging with anything resembling rational thought and objectivity are practically nil.

    Specifically with regard to Dehlin, he seems so desperate to have his excommunication associated with Ordain Women and sexual orientation that he’s been personally passing out the crosses, nails, and hammers for his self-martyrdom. Run of the mill apostasy just isn’t so sexy, and fifteen minutes can be so fleeting.

    If forums such as this offered a “like” or “agree” button, I would press it for Listening Closely Feb 24, 2015 at 5:51 pm; Tim S Feb 26, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    Jen K writes, “John Dehlin couldn’t possibly harm the very fabric of what the church teaches, if those fibers are true. So I don’t understand the fear that seems to be behind ousting him.”

    It’s not fear at all. The use of the word “fear” seems to be commonplace in progressive politics to describe philosophical opponents who simply do not believe as they do. The AA analogy previously given is as good as any. When people perpetually agitate and stand in opposition to the teachings of any given organization, the organization has the prerogative to determine whether that person may continue doing so while claiming membership in the organization.

    Notsosure writes, “Is it apostasy to make up some practice like no pants in church for women or men must wear a white shirt uniform? It certainly isn’t a doctrine. In fact, it isn’t even a policy. And yet there is serious pressure from many church leaders to conform with these Utah cultural ideas that church leaders have somehow nearly canonized.”

    There is no “practice like no pants in church for women.” Traditionally LDS women have worn dresses and skirts, and have probably done a fair measure of mutual reinforcement among each other, but there is no ban on pants. I feel badly for the LDS women who have worn pants for years, but suddenly have been made to feel self-conscious about it because activists have turned their regular preferred attire into a symbol of protest which they may not identify with whatsoever. Likewise, while there has been unquestionably a measure of cultural pressure on the matter of white shirts, they are also not required. I noticed recently with a smile that our entire Elders Quorum Presidency wore colored shirts on a given Sunday. I’m afraid there shall be no canonization of stricter fashion ideas anytime soon.

    GP writes, “My point is quite simple; logically prove that the LDS church has prophets and apostles without circular reasoning.”

    Speaking for myself, I find that when I apply the doctrines and teachings received from living prophets and apostles, I receive blessings in my life. These blessings are evidence to me that the LDS church has true prophets and apostles. Perfectly logical for me and my house.

    GP continues, “The feelings of the HG (“the spirit”) are not unique to the LDS faith as is so clearly demonstrated here”

    LDS theology doesn’t dispute the existence of feelings of the Holy Ghost outside the LDS faith. In fact, if such were true, no one could ever feel the Holy Ghost prior conversion and baptism. There’s the “power” of the Holy Ghost, which manifests itself to all, and the “gift” of the Holy Ghost, which is a constant companion to those who are baptized and confirmed if they permit Him to do so.

    More GP: “Have you ever heard of a PH blessing not coming to pass? I have seen dozens myself… and it’s always chalked up as not being God’s will. How could a PH holder giving a blessing under the influence of the spirit say something that was incorrect?”

    Because, as critics of the church from within and without never weary of reminding, the church is comprised of mortals capable of error. Sometimes we are not worthy vessels to be in tune with the Spirit. Other times we may just simply want something very badly though it is not divinely destined.

    Spencer W. Kimball gave perhaps the greatest sermon ever on this topic:

    “The power of the priesthood is limitless but God has wisely placed upon each of us certain limitations. I may develop priesthood power as I perfect my life, yet I am grateful that even through the priesthood I cannot heal all the sick. I might heal people who should die. I might relieve people of suffering who should suffer. I fear I would frustrate the purposes of God.

    “Had I limitless power, and yet limited vision and understanding, I might have saved Abinadi from the flames of fire when he was burned at the stake, and in doing so I might have irreparably damaged him. He died a martyr and went to a martyr’s reward—exaltation.

    “I would likely have protected Paul against his woes if my power were boundless. I would surely have healed his “thorn in the flesh.” [2 Corinthians 12:7.] And in doing so I might have foiled the Lord’s program. Thrice he offered prayers, asking the Lord to remove the “thorn” from him, but the Lord did not so answer his prayers [see 2 Corinthians 12:7–10]. Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been eloquent, well, handsome, and free from the things that made him humble. …

    “I fear that had I been in Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, I might have deflected the bullets that pierced the body of the Prophet and the Patriarch. I might have saved them from the sufferings and agony, but lost to them the martyr’s death and reward. I am glad I did not have to make that decision.

    “With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the agony in Gethsemane, the insults, the thorny crown, the indignities in the court, the physical injuries. I would have administered to his wounds and healed them, giving him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved him from suffering and death, and lost to the world his atoning sacrifice.

    “I would not dare to take the responsibility of bringing back to life my loved ones. Christ himself acknowledged the difference between his will and the Father’s when he prayed that the cup of suffering be taken from him; yet he added, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” [Luke 22:42.]”


    And for Latter-day Saints and non-Latter-day Saints alike, perhaps the greatest difficulty in all aspects of faith is that last line from the Savior, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

  85. This platitude salad sums up the problem: Too much talking; not enough listening.

  86. “All is well in Zion.” Speak it into a recording device and then listen to it repeatedly until you’re convinced.

  87. TomW: ‘As for the Mormon history question, I recommend people read “Rough Stone Rolling” and make up their own minds.’

    I agree. For those interested in learning more, there are many more great books out there that go into other details of church history, but RSR is a great starting point and is fairly comprehensive. What I really wish (and I would expect) is that the church would actually teach the true church history IN CHURCH. Members should not have to buy extra-curriculum material in order to learn a true and comprehensive history of the church’s roots and the character of Joseph Smith.

    TomW: ‘LDS theology doesn’t dispute the existence of feelings of the Holy Ghost outside the LDS faith. In fact, if such were true, no one could ever feel the Holy Ghost prior conversion and baptism…’

    I may not have been clear enough in my response or you may have missed my point. But what I was trying to say is that individuals in other faiths have the same moving experience that the LDS church attributes as the HG. This moving experience tells those individuals that their own [non-LDS] faith is “true”. In other words, this does not fit the model in your response where you are trying to guide the phenomenon of the HG to fit tightly within the LDS paradigm (i.e. if the “HG” leads you towards the LDS church, then it is the HG; however, if it leads you away from the LDS church then it is either you speaking to yourself or it is the devil). If you watched the YouTube video link I provided, this message is very clear and I have yet to hear an explanation of why people are led to a different faith by a feeling that matches the description of the LDS feeling of the HG. Without using circular reasoning, what makes the LDS HG more authoritative than other similar feelings of affirmation to those of other faiths? And using a physiological feeling (the “HG”) to establish real-life tangible truths is also circular. There is no repeatable proof. Contrast that with something like gravity. You drop a ball and it falls to the ground each and every time you do it. Repeatable. Proven. Yes, you may have personal experiences that you identify as being from the HG, but it is not reliable enough to establish as a proof (far from it). That was my point.

  88. Well said, GP.

    One could even draw on Alma’s analogy of the seed growing into a tree, which you know is good because of the sweet fruit it produces. (Alma 32.) What conclusion does that justify? It tells you that your tree is a genuine fruit tree. Not that yours is the only fruit that exists. Not that it’s the sweetest, unless you’ve also tasted all of the others.

    I planted an apple seed. It grew into a tree. The apples are the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I know my tree is true. Do I really have reason to know that apples are THE true fruit — or even the most true?

  89. Thanks Joel. Yes, the claim to exclusive authority is a tall order to fill. With difficult church history becoming more well-known, I wonder if this will be a claim that will ultimately be retreated from. Time will tell…

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