Mormon News, February 9–13

In the News

John Dehlin, host of the popular Mormon Stories podcast, was excommunicated this week by the LDS Church. In a letter from his stake president that Dehlin made public, he was told that thetemple-door excommunication was because of three principle reasons: 1) His skepticism in the divinity of Jesus Christ, 2) His belief that LDS canon is fictitious, and 3) His disbelief that the LDS church is the true church, “with power and authority from God.” Dehlin also released transcripts of previous conversations with his stake president, Bryan King, where it was clear Dehlin’s support for marriage equality and the Ordain Women organization were also contributing factors. Perhaps the most prominent reason for Dehlin’s excommunication was his sheer visibility and popularity. According to Dehlin, he offered to resign his membership quietly sometime last year, but King told him that was not an option because of Dehlin’s influence and name recognition.

Dehlin’s excommunication sparked a dividing line in online Mormon forums, especially on social media like Facebook and on LDS-themed blogs. Many people supported Dehlin unequivocally, and repeated a popular criticism of excommunication by calling it a “sixteenth-century answer to a twenty-first century problem.” John Dehlin, they said, filled a need by listening to struggling members that the LDS Church for generations refused to fill. Others took issue with Dehlin and insisted the LDS Church has the right to police its own boundaries. Dehlin, they reminded readers, does not believe in the divinity of Mormonism, LDS scriptures, and very publicly states that the religion is, in essence, little more than an invention of Joseph Smith. Still others took issue with Dehlin personally, insisting he was not the “martyr” his supporters portrayed, while still critiquing excommunication as a practice and questioning the wisdom of the LDS Church’s decision.

Peggy Fletcher Stack this week explored how the Book of Mormon surpassed the Bible in LDS consciousness. Although Mormons today might take it for granted that the Book of Mormon has always sat atop the LDS canon, for the majority of the church’s existence, the Bible was more frequently quoted and utilized. While the Book of Mormon was an important symbol that God communicated with founder Joseph Smith, its content was less important than the Bible, and Smith himself tended to favor the Bible when quoting from scripture. LDS apostle and church president Ezra Taft Benson, Stack explains, changed all of that. Benson loved the Book of Mormon, and its talk of “secret combinations” and conspiratorial plots would have appealed to his notoriously anti-Communist sensibilities. Since the 1980s, the Book of Mormon is more oft-quoted and more cited than the Bible by Latter-day Saints, both leaders and lay members.

 On the Blogs

It’s not quite a traditional LDS-theme blog, but the Dallas Morning News arts blog featured a post by Tommy Noel, a Mormon journalist with the paper, who shared his thoughts on what it was like to be LDS and to see the Book of Mormon Musical. Noel started out by pleading with readers not to tell his conservative fellow Mormons that he both saw and loved the Book of Mormon Musical. Throughout, Noel is good natured about the ribbing in the musical and appreciated the jokes and puns that he believes most non-Mormons in the audience would not get. The Book of Mormon Musical will visit Utah for the first time this year since its Broadway debut in 2011. It will be interesting to see whether Utah-based Latter-day Saints will be as open to the story as Tommy Noel.

News update by John Hatch, acquisitions editor