Ep 82 – Excommunication

Panel Discussion

Posted June 12th, 2014

Glenn, Bob, Matt, Scott, Tom, and Jake talk about excommunication in general, and discuss the recent news of pending church discipline against John Dehlin (Mormon Stories), Kate Kelly (Ordain Women), and Rock Waterman (Pure Mormonism).

  • Chris W

    When your leaders require inequality you should question Their incentives.

    When your leaders require bigotry you must question Your allegiance.

  • Doug

    You think this matters to only 5,000 people? There are roughly 15,000 wards and branches in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Wouldn’t you guess that, on average (with wide variation), one person per congregation is a fan of at least one of Mormon Stories, OW, or Pure Mormonism?

    You’re suggesting that the size of the facebook communities basically reflects their following, and that these three individuals’ following basically overlap. I’m not so sure that’s the case. A Venn diagram of Mormon Feminists, Mormons exploring uncorrelated history, and neo-fundamentalist Mormons probably has decent overlap, but it’s by no means perfect. You think that the FMH group is as familiar with Rock Waterman as Kate Kelly?

    I think you’re also discounting the number of people who once were touched by the influence of John Dehlin, but maybe no longer actively participate in the online Mormon community. I think those people would still take an interest in church disciplinary action against John.

    • Doug

      Most of the episodes of Mormon Stories have been downloaded 40,000 to 50,000 times, some significantly more.

      • Those numbers are like Mormon Church member numbers. I’m included in there because I subscribed a long time ago and my computer still downloads the latest version of every Mormon Stories release, but I haven’t listened in a while (sometimes I still do if the topic interests me). I wonder how many people download and listen in the first week rather than the cumulative number of downloads per episode over 5+ years?

        In the same way the Church touts its 12 million number, we all know it’s less than half who are active by a low bar standard and then probably one tenth that take it very seriously. So… what Glenn said, we think there’s roughly a rolling 5,000 people who are really active in the Mormon podcasting world. But we certainly could be wrong.

    • Glenn

      For sure if you are talking about the number of people who have ever listened to Mormon Stories and appreciated what John has done, it is far far more than 5,000. And the number of people who take an interest in this is likely an even larger number, because that will include people who only know these people/organizations as fringy danger zones that try to pull them fron the straight and narrow iron rod. Don’t misunderstand how we feel about John et al — his (and their) impact and influence over the years has been incredibly significant and valuable to all of us. But I would guess that the majority of John’s audience over the years now have more of a psychological distance from Mormonism where this sort of news doesn’t quite hurt as much. We may be wrong on that, but I think the 5,000 number was meant more to represent that smaller demographic who are incredibly and actively upset by this. The ones who might rally together for a visible show of solidarity. That group isn’t nearly as big as those others I mentioned. Just our opinion. But I sincerely hope it doesn’t come across as minimizing anything that John, or Kate, or Rock have done. They are awesome.

  • Scott Evans

    I was excommunicated… For moral reasons, rather than apostasy, but the Court of Love was a big deal. They offered disfellowship but I’d been agnostic for years so I took advantage of the situation and just had them excommunicate me.

    I live in Minnesota so my stake building was two hours away. That was a LONG drive there, but extraordinarily short return trip. No more self imposed guilt, no more Sundays wasted, no more tithing. It was a strange, scary, and then awesome day.

  • Robert

    2012 election is over. Purge mode activated.

  • Natachu

    So I haven’t finished the episode nor taken the test but do I get cred if I still have my church court summons and this episode made me pull it out and compare. It is so fascinating to compare with Kate’s … I was getting called in for homosexual behavior and there was no option for me to send something in my behalf and certainly no paragraph expressing any kind of love, but the bare-bones legalistic languange is pretty much EXACTLY the same:

    The Stake Presidency is considering formal disciplinary action against you, including the possibility of disfellowshipment or excommunication, because you are reported to have been guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the Church.

    You are invited to attend this disciplinary council to give your response and, if you wish, provide witnesses or other evidence in your behalf.

    The disciplinary councill will be held on blah blah at blah blah time in the High Council Romm of the Stake Center on Blah Aveneue.

    {my stake president)

    So cool I just realized mine was a Stake High Council not a Bishropic considering action so that gives me even more cred.

    • Natachu

      Oh yeah and that was 1995, almost 20 years ago.

    • Matt

      That is interesting. I still find he idea of excommunication odd. Did you attend your counsel?

      • Natachu

        Yeah I think it’s weird too. You guys said it’s only going to have an effect on a small number of people, but I think this threat for John and Kate will sound weird to EVERYONE who is not a Mormon who hears about it. It’s not going to help their recruiting efforts, that’s for sure.

        Yeah I did attend. At the time I felt guilty for what I had done and thought I was taking the steps necessary for repentance. So it was interesting to hear you guys talk about how people on the High Council take it so seriously and that sometimes it’s a very spiritual experience.

        I was hoping for some new kind of guidance … some new magic key to become straight, but it was obvious that none of those guys had a clue what to say or what I was going though. Same old shit, pray, read the Book of Mormon, pay your tithing. But since I was repentant, they only disfellowshipped me.

        Six months later when I publicly came out of the closet word got back to them and they held a 2nd court. At the time (I think the policy has changed since then) they told me I wasn’t worthy to just resign, they had to have another court. So I told them to have it without me. Sometime later I got the excommunication letter, and yes, the language was also almost identical to the Big Love clip, don’t have that letter handy (oh yeah, just remembered … I burned it), but that language sure sounded familiar. But I do feel cool to have been excommunicated. It’s like a special gold star I have that not many people get. 🙂

    • natachu

      Ok so maybe not that cool that I got the letter from the Stake President and not the Bishopric … just learned from a quote from Kate Kelly on the daily beast that it only takes three people — a local bishop and his two counselors to excommunicate a woman .. or at least a non-priesthood holder. Is that really true? If so that’s really fucked up. Whoever it was on the High Council, is that your understanding, too?

  • Allison

    A small part of me wonders if this is all a big prank by some clever, heartless sociopath…

    I’m glad that you guys took somewhat of a humorous tone for this episode. I mean, there was definitely some recognition of the seriousness of it, and I know it is very serious to the three people being summoned, but it was nice to be able to laugh about some aspects of it too.

    • Matt

      We’re glad you recognized we find this serious. We were concerned our discussion would come off as. I think I can speak for the entire quorum in saying we are very saddened, disappointed, and angry at the action the church is taking against people we consider friends.

      We all respect and appreciate the work that John Dehlin in particular has done over the years. Many of us count John as a personal friend. We have shared ideas, projects, goals, and visions as well as meals with John and truly hope he and his family can avoid pain and find the comfort and peace they deserve.

      We don’t personally know Kate Kelly, but she is certainly a friend of close friends of ours and we have only good feelings towards her as well.

  • sd

    I found the discussion to be a good balance. Great job, Glenn, Tom, and crew.
    Incidentally, someone posted this online. It is a newspaper article from 1977 about a man who spoke out against the Church’s policy prohibiting black men and boys from receiving the priesthood. Food for thought. http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1454&dat=19771015&id=oh1OAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QhMEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6904%2C3033393

  • Brad

    These actions just make the church look small. They will not engage the debate regarding controversial issues. Instead they avoid them and penalize those that ask sincere questions publicly. The church caused this by whitewashing history. Now it is the rotting carcass in the room.

  • Polly Anna

    1. You guys are such dorks for thinking you’d be on the list. You only have 383 likes on facebook.

    2. For those of you keeping score at home (none of you) Bob is my favorite infant to hate 😉 and Tom is my favorite infant to love. Jake is the funniest imo.

    Another funny episode guys.

    • Don’t let your lack of cred get in the way of your profuse love for me… listen to your cred-less heart; it knows who your favorite is.

    • Natalie Glaus

      I laughed out loud and choked on my own spit with point 1 – only 383 likes on FB!!!

  • Phil

    As always, a great discussion. John Dehlin is an amazing, courageous pioneer who certainly does not deserve this mean vindictive persecution. His legacy will still shine, long after the corrupt cabal cease to occupy their red thrones in SLC!

  • Vic Ferrari

    In my TBM days I sat on several stake-level church courts. Even in that mode, I could never understand how excommunicating someone was a part of the repentance process. In my limited experience, these courts are very emotional, excruciating affairs. I don’t envy anyone who goes through it. Well done, boys, on addressing this both intellectually and humorously.

    • Scott Evans

      My understanding was that excommunication was part of the “repentance process” in that it allowed the sinner to “start over” In other words, if truly repentant, would be baptized again, thus washing them completely clean of all sin in the eyes of God.

      Additionally, remaining a member was actually worse if they continued to sin. By their thinking, being a member and (major) sinning willfully continually heaped damnation to your soul.

      BS of course, very very few excom’s ever come back. Once out, most realize the craziness that it was before.

  • We know Boyd K Packer was (mostly) behind the Sept 6. I wonder if it will turn out that his is like, his last dying action. Knowing he has one foot in the grave, he wanted to go out with a bang.
    Or maybe Bednar is behind this?
    Whatever the case, I have a feeling we will later find out that it was only one or two of ‘The Brethren’ who made this happen, perhaps behind the backs of the others (as was the case with Sept 6)

    • Michael Carpenter

      I don’t think Packer is cognizant/aware enough to be behind this. Maybe Oaks (would be ironic, given his reputed statement about Packer in ’93) but Bednar is a good guess, too.

      • That’s true…he(Packer) possibly could have directed someone under him to carry out this action, but your right that he probably doesn’t have the fight left in him and it’s more likely someone like Bednar.

  • I know that if I was John (and man, I think we are all jonesing to know what the P stands for?!?!) I would be kind of happy about the ex communication. He is not really a believer, so wouldn’t think the action to be legitimate, and this only raises his profile and makes him a martyr for the cause.
    Kate Kelley on the other hand, she is such a true believer, my heart goes out to her, it must be hard to have the institution you love reject you.

  • Michael Carpenter

    First, nice job getting this out so fast. Second, you guys got some of the mechanics of church discipline wrong.

    Before you get to the actual disciplinary council meeting, the individual has (or should have had) multiple conversations with the bishop or stake president.

    One thing I was disappointed that you missed is the misogyny angle. Here’s Kate Kelly, being called in for wanting equality for women, but she does NOT need to go to the stake president, like Dehlin does. The bishop can excommunicate anyone who does not hold the Melchizedik Priesthood. So, women and Aaronic Priesthood dudes only need a bishop’s court.

    Isn’t that just an example of what Kelly finds wrong about the church and they are just reinforcing it???

    Also, the high council is NOT split into “for” and “against” in the way you represented it. The D&C (sorry, too lazy to look up the section number) specifies that at the beginning of the meeting lots are drawn. In all my experiences, numbered slips of paper were put into a bag and we drew out. Odd numbers are responsible to defend the rights and image of the church. Even numbers are responsible to protect the accused from defamation and see that his best interests are discussed. But, perversely, (as you discussed) those best interests might be “excommunicate him so he can fully repent.”

    (I might have the odd/even backward, but whatever. Look it up.)

    Lastly, Tom seemed to be talking about his experience in a disciplinary council that was reinstating someone who was previously excommunicated or disfellowshipped, but the rest of the infants seemed to think it was a council to decide on the discipline for the individual. The two are very different — there are some common elements, but the way it runs (especially regarding contrition and restitution, paying tithing, trimming facial hair, etc.) is completely different.

    I’ve been on disciplinary councils both at the ward and stake level and there are some seriously strange shit going on. (Like 70 year old men asking for details about a sexual encounter — creepy.)

    Anyway, I sometimes yell at you guys when I’m listening, but only rarely do I get worked up enough to actually type it and let you know.

    P.S. Hi Randy.

    • Michael Carpenter

      D&C 102

      See, I did your homework for you. I’m really a nice guy.

      • Wait, how did we get the mechanics wrong if Dehlin never even met his SP before getting the letter? Those are the most recent mechanics independent of the ones we think we know… point being, there are no mechanics to get wrong if each time I hear about them, they’re typically at odds with the last excommunication story I’ve heard.

        But you’re right that not covering the misogyny angle was a miss even if ultimately inconsequential and kind of surface level misogyny, lol. That is, just because dudes get 12 other dudes to waste time in a room with them doesn’t mean they have any better chance in terms of the outcome. But I guess one could argue that women are easier to ex because logistically, that is true. But I’d be curious to know if we have any evidence to support that, as a result, women get ex’ed more or get worse results? I really don’t know, genuinely curious on that one.

        • Michael Carpenter

          On John and his stake president, I don’t understand his statement that he never met his SP. Last I heard, John had weekly meetings with his stake president to discuss his beliefs. Maybe a change in the stake presidency, but John’s beliefs have been discussed in that stake president’s office. It is possible that the old stake president left notes and then when the pressure came down from the top, it all broke loose. It is certainly a breach of protocol (according to the CHI) that the SP did not discuss this with John. (I need more info from John on how he has never met his stake president. It doesn’t line up with the last reports I heard.)

          Kate Kelly has had numerous discussions with her bishop about the subject of OW. The fact that this is the first time that he’s taken umbrage and the fact that he records are being held in her former ward are only evidence that the impetus for this is coming down from on high and is not a “local matter” no matter how much Mike Otterson claims to the contrary.

          I actually think that a bishop’s court is LESS likely to excommunicate a person than a high council court is. Does that give women an advantage? Maybe. But, it is probably (in my experience of sitting in bishop’s courts AND high council courts) because the bishop is less confident/cocky in his judgement. (Plus, there’s a “gang mentality” that affects the high council that is less of a factor when there are only 4 men in a bishopric doing the court.)

          The misogyny of it is that there is less respect given women. Even for MP holders, the bishop usually has the initial discussions and investigation, then says, “well, I’ll have to send this *up* to the stake president.” But, for a woman, he just deals with it. No sense in bothering the important big men in the stake just for a lowly woman.

          Oh, and I need to check the CHI, because I thought that the summons had to be delivered by two Melchezidek priesthood holders, but maybe there’s a certified letter option. (That’s nothing to do with your podcast, just a thought I had about how the news has been reported.)

    • Tom Perry

      So explain to me how what you describe and what I describe in reference to the council being split is completely different? You mentioned the drawing out numbers. That is precisely how it was done in my stake as well, so what am I missing? Is it because I left out the specifics of how the council was split? And because I didn’t exactly specify that the odds protect the church and the evens find ways to help him/her be ex’d (or vice versa). What I hear you saying here isn’t all that different. Maybe the way I spoke of it was just too simplistic for your taste. But I certainly didn’t think it earned a caps lock on the word NOT. I think you are being a bit nit picky, rightfully so since you have your own experiences that you can contrast from, but come on…

      And yes, a church court on ones reinstatement of membership isn’t exactly the same as a excommunication court. Maybe I wasn’t as clear in separating the specifics in the differences as I could have been, my apologizes. But in the moment I felt like there was enough similarities between the two that I thought it was relevant to share.

  • ChrisWir

    If anyone wanna have a go, here are some addresses:

    For Kate’s Bishop:

    Bishop Mark M. Harrison
    Vienna Ward
    2719 Hunter Mill Rd,
    Oakton, VA 22124

    For Kath’s Stake Pres:

    President Scott M Wheatley
    Oakton Virginia Stake
    2719 Hunter Mill Rd
    Oakton, VA 22124

    For John’s Bishop:

    Bishop Hunt
    North Logan 4th Ward
    2750 North 800 East
    NORTH LOGAN UT 84341-1506

    For John’s Stake Prez:

    President Bryan C. King
    North Logan Stake
    2750 North 800 East
    NORTH LOGAN UT 84341-1506

    For the First Presidency:

    Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints
    Office of the First Presidency
    47 East South Temple Street,
    Salt Lake City UT 84150-1200

  • ChrisWir

    And, if anyone wanna write something that could be read by Kelly’s church leaders do so here:

  • Jennifer

    You guys really do a great podcast every time. Even when the subject matter doesn’t really interest me I end up learning a lot and enjoying myself at the same time.

    My husband and I listened to this and we both had the same question: what would you guys prefer instead of ex-communication for people who don’t toe the line?

    I recently read a book on Amish history and it surprised me how Amish church groups break away from each other over bonnet size or whether a buggy should have a roof (but almost never over doctrine. Go figure)! They believe that this maintains the integrity of the core group.

    If a Mormon starts a blog or writes a book or starts a group that is at odds with the dogma/authority of the church, what should the church do about it? At what point does the hive take precedence over the bee?

    My sister belongs to Calvary Chapel and when a friend of hers started an at-home Bible study group on her own and the pastor found out about it he told her to stop or she would have to leave the church, so this is not something only Mormons do. On the other hand, there are a billion Protestant churches one can go to when upset with a pastor. She and her family did leave the church, BTW.

  • Heather

    Another great pod cast. My husband and I were given the choice to be invited to a court of love for apostasy, or to resign. We’d already had our letters typed up so we just handed them our letters right then and there.

    Thanks for the great episode. =)