Mormon man known for running website for members questioning faith could face excommunication

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SALT LAKE CITY — A lifelong Mormon well-known for running a website that provides a forum for church members questioning their faith said Thursday he is set to be kicked out of the religion.

John Dehlin of Logan said a regional church leader informed him Wednesday night that a disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 25, at which he's likely to be censured or excommunicated.

He said the letter cites his website Mormonstories.org and his public support of same-sex marriage as reasons for accusing him of apostasy, defined by the church as "repeatedly acting in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the church or its faithful leaders, or persisting, after receiving counsel, in teaching false doctrine."

Excommunication is rare and brings down the harshest punishment available on a church member.

Dehlin says he would like to remain a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but won't give up the website or pull back his support for gays and lesbians. He has faced church discipline multiple times over the past decade.

"I still love the church, I still love Mormonism," Dehlin said. "But I would certainly rather be excommunicated than violate my conscience."

Officials with the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints didn't immediately have comment Thursday. Church leaders have previously declined to discuss Dehlin's case specifically but have said the church welcomes questions and sincere conversations about the faith.

However, they said they have concerns about members who distance themselves from doctrine and encourage others to follow them.

Dehlin's hearing comes seven months after the church excommunicated Kate Kelly, founder of a prominent Mormon women's group that staged demonstrations in a push to permit women to join the faith's lay clergy.

That move sent ripples throughout Mormon communities around the country and was described by scholars as boundary maintenance and a warning to others.

Scholars say Kelly and Dehlin are the most high-profile examples of excommunication proceedings since 1993, when the church disciplined Mormon writers who questioned church doctrine, ousting five and temporarily kicking out a sixth person.

Dehlin, 45, is a married father of four who has been a Latter-day Saint his entire life. He is a doctoral candidate in psychology who previously worked in the high-tech industry.

He said the letter he received also cites his support of Kelly's group, Ordain Women; his criticism of the church's lack of transparency about finances; his criticism of church's approach to gay and lesbian members; and his doubts about orthodox Mormon theology.

Dehlin said he has no regrets, especially about the website he launched in 2005 to help Latter-day Saints suffering in silence. He called excommunication a century-old solution to a modern problem.

"The church is losing a lot of members because they discover these difficult issues," said Dehlin. "The church has reached a breaking point: they don't know what else to do other than cut off the sources of information. It's a desperate move."

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