I realize that any attempt to negatively paint an individual with broad strokes is bound and determined to upset if not infuriate those who support or agree with the doctrines or principles of that individual. To make the statement that “John Dehlin is wrong” is sure to fall into that category. What I wish to present is opinion at best and is not meant to be an exhaustive condemnation. So why compose such an article with subsequent support if the end result is sure to bring hell fire and contempt? Because some things are just that important to say, to clarify, to testify against.
First let me introduce John Dehlin to those who are unfamiliar with who he is and what he is about. John Dehlin, to the best of my knowledge, is currently a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. However, recent reports are that whatever membership that still remains is simply a formality as John has been on the path towards leaving the faith for sometime. John is a an avid blogger and has participated in media coverage on Mormon's as some kind of informal representative of the Church. Among John's blogs are Stay LDS, Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters. All of these sites feature an unhealthy dose of wolf in sheep's clothing type articles. Boasting the idea of creating online environments that include “A Global Community for “uncorrelated”Mormons” and with posts entitled, “Understanding Atheism after Mormonism” John Dehlin's deception is that this is all paths that conflict with Mormonism are a good thing, a healthy thing. The underlying message of his blogs are “Its good to encourage people to not agree with the church, it is good for people to become atheist, and then enlightened.” John's most public flaunting of his disagreement with the church has been with the site Mormons for Marriage, another blog promoting disagreement with the Church's position on Prop. 8 in California and voicing an opinion that clearly opposes the official position of the Church on the issue of homosexuality. Constantly calling for church reform as if it is a political organization that would be better if they followed his doctrines.
Supporters of John Dehlin claim gratitude for how his podcasts and blogs have helped them navigate the trial of their faith – a role I believe assigned to bishops, stake presidents, and centered in God. The reality for an overwhelming majority is that John Dehlin helps them feel comfortable with wanting a lack of faith in the Mormon Church. I understand that anti-Mormonism is found all over the internet. However, most anti-Mormon sites tend to declare themselves to be such. John feels that if he adds the adjective “Mormon” in front of his sites that he represents the truths that Mormonism fosters but nothing could be further from the truth. One can easily judge John Dehlin as an enemy of the church by his own words, but perhaps a more inconspicuous judgement comes in studying those who agree with him. The commentary from his supporters praise his Mormon fault finding and contempt for those who are classified as True Believing Mormons or TBM's. Defining people as New Order Mormons (NOM's) or as TBM's is an admission of sorts. In saying that NOM's are people who are “uncorrelated,” they are inherently and distinctly different from people who actually believe the faith they belong to.
At the heart of John Dehlin's faults is one overriding misguided “search for the truth.” John takes the position that he will find the truth through challenging the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. His assumption is that Mormonism is incomplete if not outright wrong. In trying to understand why someone would take such a strong position against the church I considered many motivations. I realized that John has gained popularity as well as the recognition of the world due to his very vocal opinions. Recently John has amassed so many followers that he has become financially supported by them. Like Nehor in the Book of Mormon, John's false teachings will keep him on the same path.
When Christ was ministering on the earth, He encountered scribes and pharisees who also sought to challenge his teachings. In Luke 20: 19-23 we read, “And the chief priests and the scribes the same hour sought to lay hands on him; and they feared the people: for they perceived that he had spoken this parable against them. 20 And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. 21And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Cæsar, or no? 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?”
At other points in the New Testament the pharisees are described in opposition to Christ as being those that “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 14:20) and with each time Christ perceived their minds and hearts as one seeking to deceive, not as an honest seeker of truth. I keep thinking that the mindset of one who constantly challenges Christ's church is similar to those who constantly challenged Christ.
God is the source of all truth. While we recognize that it is through a variety of sources that we are exposed to that truth, and that occasionally those sources including those outside of the Church, truth is still the noblest of pursuits. President Joseph F. Smith testified, “Our hope of salvation must be founded upon the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, for we cannot build upon error and ascend into the courts of eternal truth and enjoy the glory and exaltation of the kingdom of our God. I have no fears in my heart, or mind, that that which is called "Mormonism" -- which is indeed the gospel of Jesus Christ -- will not bear the scrutiny of science and the researches of the learned and literate into all truth. The gospel of Jesus is founded in truth. Every principle of it is susceptible of demonstration beyond any just reason for contradiction. The Lord is doing his work and will do it, and no power can stay it. We believe in all truth, no matter to what subject it may refer. We are willing to receive all truth, from whatever source it may come; for truth will stand, truth will endure."
If God is the source of truth, then he would establish a church that centers on those truths. It would also be God's will to see that church and its members increase in knowledge and wisdom in the pursuit of the truths taught in His church. Christ himself would also teach the way by which truth is to be obtained. John Dehlin teaches that we are to contradict and challenge the Church if we are to find truth. Christ taught, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17) Christ constantly disagreed with and condemned the Scribes and Pharisees for their doubt and their desire to discredit Christ. Eventually their anger increased to the point that they sought Christ's life all because they posed a threat to their power and position. John's path mirrors those whom Christ condemned. While he does not seek the life of any individual, he does seek to destroy Christ's church.
Christ taught, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” Does John Dehlin do some good, perhaps. However, the overwhelming and even obvious goals of Dehlin and his websites contradict church teachings, promote fault finding, as well as evil speaking of the Lord's anointed. The devil mixes his lies with the truth, even teaches men his “reasonable doubt” mingled with scripture. Is John the Devil? No, of course not. Some will feel that these comments are harsh, others will agree. I am not looking for either. If John is going to put out venom for the church that I love, if he is going to offer ways to usher people away from the Church, or even promote principles in opposition to what I consider to be the true church of Jesus Christ, then I simply offer my opinion to contract such vitriol.
President Uchtdorf's First Presidency Message for July 2011 teaches about being committed to the gospel of Christ. He wrote, “As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have committed to walk in the path of discipleship. We have committed to follow the example of our Savior. Imagine how the world will be blessed and transformed for good when all members of the Lord’s Church live up to their true potential—converted in the depth of their souls and committed to building the kingdom of God.” Does John follow the example of the Savior in the pursuit of truth? Is John converted to the Lord's Church? Does he seek to build up the Kingdom of God? No to all three questions. Even if Dehlin is on the records of the church, he does not speak for the church, he does not represent what a church member is to be. He is entitled to his opinion and people are entitled to agree with him. Let the world know that he does not speak for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He represents a bastardized perspective that a vast majority of church members including church leadership do not endorse or share. He cunningly leads people away from the truth and does so to gratify his intellectual pursuits and obtain financial and social power.
Like Nehor in the book of Mormon, John Dehlin will try to derail the work of Christ and his church. Remember, "no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing." John Dehlin is certainly no hallowed hand. He will become bitter and angry as does any other apostate. Such is bound to happen as he choses to abandon his covenants. In the end, he will be a phase, his movement will loose ground. Satan will abandon him just like he uses and abandons everyone else who follows after him.
So, how then is John Dehlin “wrong” as the title of this article asserts? He is wrong in that he is not on the Lord's side, the right side. He seeks to not be part of the Lord's church and he encourages others to do the same. “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” (1 Nephi 14:10) Make no mistake about it, this is where John wants to be. The church is not kicking him out, He wants to leave the faith. But make no mistake about it, John Dehlin will fade away. They all do.